Feb. 24, By Christian Murray
The second annual Skillman Avenue Mardi Gras took place Saturday night and party goers were able to enjoy a break from the cold weather to get a taste of New Orleans—at least Sunnyside style.
The evening kicked off at Murphy’s Lobster Grill where attendees paid $5 to sign up for the event, which entitled them to $3 pints (on New Orleans beers) at the nine Skillman Avenue establishments that participated.
While many of Sunnyside’s veteran pub crawlers attended (see photos), there were many new faces in the crowd.
Two couples in their twenties were among the first to sign up for the event. They had just moved to 47th Street (btw. 43rd Ave and Skillman) from Manhattan last week. “We saw the signs in the restaurant windows and had to check it out,” said one of the men.
Meanwhile, a group of four women made the trip from Astoria after hearing about last year’s event. They, too, were early arrivals.
However, the party didn’t really begin until ‘Mardi Gras Mike’ arrived, who walked into Murphy’s in his bright gold pants, gold shoes, purple jacket & hat—with several balloons in hand.
Mardi Gras Mike (also known as Michael Kilpatrick who lives on 47th Street) has gone to Halloween and Mardi Gras parties for the past 15 years in similar outfits as he was wearing on Saturday.
The sign up period for the event began at 3:30 and ended at 5:00 pm. By the time it was done, about 250 people registered. Many were drinking at Murphy’s Lobster Grill, with some eating oysters and other shellfish.
At Murphy’s a three-piece jazz band arrived—consisting of trumpet, tuba and trombone players. The band, called the Elad Cohen Brass Band, spent most of the evening following Mardi Gras Mike and several masked revelers up and down Skillman Avenue in and out of the various bars.
The band began by going up Skillman into the Brogue, Copper Kettle and, then, Aubergine.
The band performed a set in each venue. Its version of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ led to sing-alongs at several venues.
At about 7:30 pm, Mardi Gras Mike led the band into Aubergine and some older sober patrons look quite stunned at to what they were seeing. Several people inside a Skillman Avenue laundry mat were quite puzzled when they saw Mardi Gras Mike and the musicians walk by.
The band marched on down to Flynn’s Garden Inn where a much more seasoned crowd awaited. There were Flynn’s traditional patrons at the bar, with the back section filled with a large number of party goers wearing beads. The place was packed.
At Claret, the bar was busy by about 8:00 pm, with many of the attendees drinking Hurricanes, a traditional New Orleans drink made with rum and fruit juice, while others were eating traditional New Orleans food such as spicy jambalaya and shrimp gumbo.
At the Dog & Duck, which brought on its own jazz band at 10 pm, the restaurant was selling duck gumbo and po boys.
Quaint too put on a New Orleans style spread.
Over the course of the evening, the event brought in more than 500 people, according to Justin Costello, an owner of Claret. He said “half the attendees register, while the others come out later in the evening and take advantage of all the fun then.”
The event was organized by the Skillman Project, a business association comprised of nine bars and restaurants stretching from 46th St. to 52nd Street, which was formed in 2012 and holds four major events per year.
For all 50-plus photos ( provided by Julio Martinez) please click here
Feb. 21, By Christian Murray
It’s not just the north side of Queens Blvd that is being targeted by burglars.
On Feb. 19, one apartment building located on 43rd Street (by 47th Ave.) was struck twice—with two separate units being hit. In both incidents, laptops were taken, according to police.
The police said the first incident occurred at 8:00 am when an unknown suspect broke through the front of a second floor apartment and took off with a MacBook among other items.
The victim of the second incident, which was reported at 1:30 pm, discovered that she had been burglarized the hard way.
She arrived home and noticed police activity relating to the burglar of the second floor tenant. She then walked into her apartment and found that she had been ransacked.
“They probably used a crowbar to get into my apartment,” the woman wrote in an e-mail. “The whole wooden beam of the door was smashed.”
The woman said her laptop and charger was stolen as well as a giant ball of knotted necklaces. She said that it was inexpensive and poked fun at the thief: “haha! good luck trying to untangle that!” she said in an e-mail.
The victim said she wanted people to keep their eyes open for burglars. “[This} is a beautiful town and it’s our job to support each other,” she wrote.
Feb. 21, By Christian Murray
The Department of Transportation plans to review the parking rules on Roosevelt Avenue between 50th and 59th Streets.
Currently, there are “no-parking” signs along that section of the Avenue between 4 pm and 7 pm on the east bound side of the street.
Business owners, such as Dan Connor and James Jacobson of Donovan’s Pub, have complained that many of their customers have been ticketed while frequenting their establishments after work.
They claim that tow trucks line up at 3:59 pm just waiting for their next victim—and that it’s just one big cash cow for the city.
“We continually hear complaints from business owners along Roosevelt Ave and it seems so unfair to the community and such a negative impact on businesses,” said Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2.
Conley presented the case to Queens DOT Commissioner Dalia Hall on Tuesday at Community Board 2’s monthly Transportation Committee meeting.
Hall said she would investigate whether the parking measures were necessary and recognized the complaints presented by the board on behalf of business owners were valid.
Conley said that the Roosevelt Ave is no longer viewed as the major thoroughfare of yesteryear. He said in recent years the idea has been to calm traffic down on Roosevelt Avenue for safety purposes and promote motorists using Queens Boulevard.
Subway riders will soon be able to tap into Wi Fi and cell service at every underground station in Queens by June.
Starting in March, construction will begin on a project that will bring free Wi-Fi and cell service to every underground station in the borough, according to Transit Wireless, which is providing the service.
“Providing cell phone and data connectivity to our Queens customers is the latest step in keeping everyone connected and bringing a new level of security with the ability to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency,” said MTA CEO Thomas F. Prendergast in a statement.
The Queens service represents the second phase in the MTA’s plan to bring Wi-Fi to subway commuters.
During the first phase of the project, Transit Wireless brought the service to 36 stations in the Chelsea, Midtown and Upper West Side neighborhoods of Manhattan.
The second phase, which will bring Wi-Fi to Queens, will also include 11 stations in Midtown Manhattan.
Phase two is expected to be completed by June of this year and will serve about 250 million riders annually with cell service on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon Wireless as well as Wi-Fi.
Feb. 16, By Christian Murray
A splinter group within the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce has formed that aims to topple its leadership.
In recent weeks, Rigo Cardoso (the treasurer), Luke Adams (former chamber marketing director) and Patricia Dorfman (a past board member) have formed a “Friends of Business” coalition and are calling for the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce president Swain Weiner to be ousted.
The trio have canvassed Sunnyside and convinced more than 30 business owners to sign a petition that calls for greater transparency within the chamber and more networking events.
The coalition held a non-chamber event Tuesday evening at Quaint Restaurant, located at 46-10 Skillman Avenue, that was attended by more than 50 people—including four past chamber presidents, Dorfman said. She said the event was held since business owners want networking functions—something the chamber under its present leadership– has failed to organize.
The Friends of Business coalition formed after Cardoso got into a public spat with Weiner last month when he called into question Weiner’s leadership after Adams was laid off from his chamber marketing position due to a lack of chamber funds.
At the time, Cardoso claimed that there was a shortage of funds due to the lack of fundraising events and an “unenergetic effort to recruit new members.”
Weiner refuted these claims arguing that there had been several chamber fundraisers and that Cardoso was making a public issue about the matter in order to promote his ambitions of being president of the chamber with the election coming up in April.
Furthermore, in an interview, Weiner appeared mystified by the petition and formation of the coalition. “If these people who signed the petition are members [of the chamber], they should help me put on more events if that is what they truly want,” he said. “If they are not members [of the chamber], they should join and help set things up.”
Furthermore, he said, “If people are unhappy with the way I run things they can vote me out in the election in April. But why are they dragging my name through the mud? I haven’t done anything to hurt anyone. “
However, Cardoso claims that Weiner doesn’t have Sunnyside’s best interests at heart. He said that Weiner, who sells commercial real estate for Greiner-Maltz, is just here to sell big properties and then leave. He said the president should be someone who lives or owns a business in Sunnyside.
Meanwhile, Luke Adams said: “Ira Greenberg and Becky Barker did a great job when they were president and they live in the area…All he [Weiner] wants to do is sell a lot of our property.”
However, Weiner said, “No one had an issue with it when I was voted president,” he said. “Now all of sudden they do.” Furthermore, he said, “I do business in North West Queens.”
Meanwhile, a week ago, former president Ira Greenberg resigned from the chamber board amid controversy. Greenberg stepped down after claiming that Weiner was using his status in the chamber—and chamber stationery—for his own commercial interests, according to several sources. Greenberg sent a copy of the following letter to members of the board, which had been distributed to local businesses.
Weiner said he was not going comment about Greenberg’s departure, although he said that there was “plenty of stuff that I can throw arrows at Ira about.” He said that maybe “I was a little bit too aggressive [using his chamber ties] but we all make mistakes.”
He said that he can’t understand why people just don’t call him if they have a problem with him as opposed to making a public issue out of every issue.
“I have worked at many places and donated my time to many groups and I have not seen behavior like this,” Weiner said.
Cardoso is currently in the process of notifying those existing chamber members—many of whom signed the petition–to make sure they mail in their ballots when they are sent out in March.
Too often, he said, the ballots are mailed out and members just don’t respond and they don’t vote. He said he wants to make sure members take time out to participate.
“It’s time for a change and some new blood in the chamber,” Adams said. “There are a lot of good people in this neighborhood and we need them now.”
Feb. 16, By Christian Murray
A woman jumped off a Sunnyside building to her death yesterday.
The police said that a female in her 60s jumped from an unknown floor from an apartment building-located at 41-00 43rd Avenue at 8:15 am Saturday.
The police were not sure what floor of the six-story building she leaped from.
EMS arrived on the scene only to find her dead on the sidewalk outside the building.
The police did not release her name.
Feb. 12, By Christian Murray
In the 1990s, Brendan Fay attempted to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade along Fifth Ave. under a gay and lesbian group banner. Fay, who is gay, was greeted to a very cool reception. The police pounced, the handcuffs were slapped on and he got the message: not wanted.
So Fay, along with a number of other members of the LGBT community, established the St. Pat’s Day for All parade in 2000–in Sunnyside.
However, since its founding, the parade has morphed into much more than an Irish and gay festival. Hispanic and black groups now march; children’s groups march; seniors march; and so, too, does the local canine club.
The 15th St. Pat’s Day for All parade is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 2, at 1:00 pm. More than 1,500 participants are expected to make the walk, which will begin at the corner of 47thStreet and Skillman Ave – and end at 58th Street and Woodside Ave. If the weather is good, Fay said the number of participants could reach 2,000.
“Sunnyside and Woodside should be very proud of the parade, since many people from around the world have got to know the neighborhoods because of it,” Fay said. “The parade still remains the city’s only all inclusive St Patrick’s Day celebration.”
The parade has grown since its inception and has become a big family affair. “Hundreds of children march every year,” said Kathleeen Walsh D’Arcy, who is the co-chair of the parade. This year, she said, more than 150 children who play Gaelic football for Shannon Gaels are expected to participate while many children from scout and youth groups throughout Queens will be marching too, she said.
The parade still maintains its strong Irish roots. This year there will be four pipe bands, dancers from the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, and several traditional Irish musicians from the tri-state area.
The FDNY pipers, which came for the first time last year, will be bringing a larger contingent this year as well as a vintage engine.
There will be giant puppets—with the help of the Puppeteers’ Cooperative in Brooklyn—and the popular stilt walkers who represent Swim Strong, which is a non-profit group that provides swimming lessons at affordable rates.
Fay expects as many as 100 organizations to march—ranging from groups consisting of 2 people to 150 people.
- The Keltic Dream Irish Dancers, a group of about 35 African-American children (aged 7-12 year) from PS 59 in the Bronx, who have learned Irish dance
- Shannon Gaels
- Girl Scouts of Sunnyside and Woodside
- American Red Cross Youth
- School marching bands
- Sunnyside United Dog Society, whose members walk their dogs in the parade
- Senior citizens, representing Sunnyside Community Services
- Dignity NY
- Queens lesbian and gay pride committee
Local city and state officials have all confirmed that they will be attending, Fay said. So, too, has the public advocate and city comptroller. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is not going to participate in theFifth Avenue parade due to its exclusion of gay groups, is expected to participate but has not yet confirmed.
Fay said former State Sen. Tom Duane and Terry McGovern have been named this year’s grand marshals.
Duanne, a resident of Chelsea, was selected due to his strong commitment to human rights, Fay said.
Duane, who served in the state senate from 1999 to 2012, first introduced New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2001 and championed other pieces of legislation protecting the LGBT community.
Meanwhile, McGovern founded the HIV Law Project in 1989, where she served as its executive director until 1999, and is now a professor of public health at Columbia University.
Fay said that parade organizers have a limited budget and expect the event to cost about $12,000. He said the pipe bands cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 each and then there is the cost of a sound system, renting a truck and distributing posters.
Fay said that Councilmen Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer provide some city funding. He said that the group also holds two private fundraisers per year and sells ads in its journal.
Other sources of funding include donations from local businesses.
Not too late to participate
Fay said that there is still plenty of time for groups that are interested in participating in the parade to sign up. He said he wants as many groups as possible to participate– of all backgrounds. “We err on the side of inclusion.”
Feb. 11, By Christian Murray
An Indian restaurant offering a wide selection of dishes opened at 42-02 Greenpoint Avenue on Sunday.
The restaurant, called BBQ Hut, serves Indian/ Pakistani and Bangladeshi food–and is owned by Mohmod Ali, who has lived in Sunnyside for the past five years. This is Ali’s first restaurant.
Ali, who is from Pakistan, said he opened the restaurant because he keeps hearing people in the neighborhood say there was a shortage of good Indian/Pakistani food. “Many people like Indian food,” he said. “People just keep saying it.”
The restaurant charges prices such as $7.00 for a curry chicken dish and $9.00 for chicken tikka masala (click for menu). Both dishes come with rice and salad. There is also an extensive vegetarian menu.
The restaurant does not serve alcohol.
Ali said the restaurant has space for about 30 diners. It also offers take out and free delivery.
The location was formerly occupied by a Thai restaurant, which went out of business.
Feb. 15, By Christian Murray
Skillman Avenue will never be confused with Bourbon Street, but on Saturday, February 22, it will be alive with the sights, sounds and tastes of the Big Easy.
A number of Skillman Avenue establishments have organized a Mardi Gras Bar & Restaurant Hop from 3:30 pm until late that evening. Each bar/restaurant will be decorated with festive beads, hats and masks and will be offering $3 pints on select beers.
This is the second Mardi Gras organized by the Skillman Avenue businesses, with the event last year attracting more than 600 people.
Participants are required to register at Murphy’s Lobster Grill, located on the corner of Skillman Ave. and 49th St., between 3:30 and 5pm. Upon registering, participants are asked to donate $5 to help landscape Skillman Avenue or provide canned goods that will be sent to St Raphael’s food pantry.
Registrants will receive a wristband entitling them to $3 pints of Abita, a popular New Orleans craft beer, all day. The bars will also offer a pint of pilsner for $3, although that beer has yet to be selected.
The event is being organized by the Skillman Project, a business association comprised of nine bars and restaurants stretching from 46th St. to 52nd Street, which was formed in 2012 to hold such festivals.
New Orleans music will also play a large role in the event.
There will be a three-piece New Orleans-style jazz band that will be going in and out of the different venues during the festival. Some venues will have additional music.
Several of the bars/restaurants will serve New Orleans-style food as part of the Mardi Gras.
Last year, Quaint served jambalaya, while The Dog and Duck served special duck gumbo.
Feb. 7, By Christian Murray
A new sneaker store that sells all the big name brands opened Wednesday.
The store, called Robert and located on Greenpoint Avenue (btw. 46th and 47th Streets), sells a variety of sneakers from manufacturers such as Nike, Jordan, Puma and Timberland.
The store is being run by Kum Lee, whose father Robert founded the company more than 20 years ago. There are two other Robert stores, one in Jackson Heights and the other in Corona.
Lee said his family decided to open a store in Sunnyside since many of the family’s customers were coming from Sunnyside. “We wanted a store that was close to them,” Lee said.
Lee said he is in the early stages of figuring out what type of shoes Sunnysiders wants. “Do people want shoes for basketball or running?” he asked. “We are trying to figure that out.”
The store sells sneakers for adults and children. It plans to introduce a dress shoe section next week just for adults.
Feb. 6, By Michael Florio
Western Queens elected officials are looking to stamp out pedestrian fatalities on Northern Boulevard.
The officials are calling for Northern Boulevard to be incorporated into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative, a policy which aims to bring traffic fatalities down to zero by measures such as redesigning high-risk streets.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Marge Markey held a press conference Thursday where they called on de Blasio to deem Northern Boulevard one of the city’s most 50 dangerous streets. By doing so, the city will look to redesign the boulevard and introduce slow zones as part of Vision Zero.
“We are calling for the administration to include Northern Boulevard, all of Northern Blvd stretching down to Jackson Heights and Corona, as one of its 50 locations that it will zero in on,” Van Bramer said.
Several pedestrians have been killed on Northern Boulevard in recent years. Between 2010 and 2012, five people have been killed. Meanwhile, in December, Noshat Nahian, an eight-year-old boy, was struck and killed at 61st Street and Northern Blvd while crossing to get to PS 152.
The press conference was held at Northern Boulevard and 48th Street at the location where four pedestrians were struck by a car—including a 7-year-old girl—while waiting for a bus on Saturday. The driver who fled from the scene was later arrested.
The Vision Zero initiative is a broad strategy and includes the help of the police. The police aim to clamp down on speeding and other types of dangerous driving.
As part of combating traffic fatalities, Gianaris discussed a bill that he has introduced in the state senate that would make it a felony if a motorist killed someone while driving without a valid license.
“They kill far too many people and just get a slap on the wrist,” Gianaris said.
Noshat Nahian, Gianaris said, was killed by an unlicensed driver.
The chance that Northern Blvd is included in the list of the city’s 50 dangerous streets appears high, since the well-known corridor is already on de Blasio’s radar.
“They are well aware of Northern Blvd,” Van Bramer said. “The mayor announced [the] Vision Zero task force at P.S. 152.”
Feb. 5, By Christian Murray
The owner of a Queens Blvd thrift shop that is closing this week said he has not given up on Sunnyside.
Alaa El Mihdawy, who has run “One of a Kind Thrift Shop” at 45-05 Queens Blvd for the past 20 years, said that he is searching for new space in Sunnyside while he also opens a new store in Astoria this month.
El Mihdawy said the main reason he is closing his Queens Blvd store is that the rent is too high. “It was $7,000, including real estate taxes,” he said, adding that the rent kept creeping up 5% each year.
“That’s a big nut to carry,” he said.
El Mihdawy, however, is reluctant to leave Sunnyside and has plans to open another store in the neighborhood.
“I have built a lot of close friends over the years,” he said. “It’s like I have family here.”
The Queens Blvd store was best known for its selection of books that were placed out front, which often featured subjects such as cooking and philosophy. Inside, shoppers often sought leather jackets and vintage clothing.
El Mihdawy said he is looking for space on 43rd Avenue and other sections of Queens Blvd—since there are already two thrift shops on Greenpoint Ave.
He said he looked at the space where the Meat Boutique was located but was disappointed to find that the rent was similar to what he is paying now.
El Mihdawy, meanwhile, is expected to open a 5,000 sqf. space on Ditmars Blvd/31st Street in two weeks. He did not disclose what his new rent is.
Feb. 4, By Christian Murray
The police are searching for a man who followed a 65-year-old woman into her Sunnyside apartment, threw her on the ground and punched her in the head—before fleeing without taking any property.
The police said that the incident occurred on Thursday, January 30, at about 6:00 pm in the vicinity of 50th Street and 43rd Avenue.
The suspected allegedly approached the woman as she was entering her apartment and once inside, he threw her to the ground punching her in her head. The victim sustained bruising and swelling to her lip. The suspect fled on foot without taking any property.
The police described the suspect as a white male, about 170-190lbs and between 50 and 60 years of age. He was last seen wearing a baseball cap, dark clothing, and white sneakers.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).