April 11, By Christian Murray
The Department of Education has approved a plan that will see as many as 250 PS 11 students sent by bus to a school in Astoria this fall.
The incoming kindergarten class at PS 11 will be sent to PS 171 in Astoria each day, while a new building is constructed at their overcrowded Woodside school.
The 4-to-5 year-old children will catch a bus at PS 11 (54-25 Skillman Ave.) and will be accompanied to PS 171 (14-14 29th Avenue) by their teachers.
The Panel for Education Policy voted Wednesday to bus the children to PS 171, despite calls by parents and elected officials to keep the children in the neighborhood.
The DOE was forced to relocate the children since the school’s outdated mini building–which caters to more than 200 students—is scheduled to be demolished this summer in order to make way for the construction of an 850-seat building.
The construction of the addition is anticipated to take three years, during which PS 11 will need space to accommodate its students—given the loss of the mini building.
However, since December, there has been a fierce debate as to where the incoming class of students should go.
Many parents want their children to attend school at the former St. Teresa School building in Woodside (50-20 45th Street). Others have suggested space at the new Sunnyside elementary school—located at 45-45 42nd Street– which is opening this fall.
However, both those schools fall within school District 24, while PS11 is in District 30.
The Department of Education has plans to revamp St. Teresa’s school building and use if for children in District 24, which is home to PS 199.
However, none of the parents viewed Astoria as a good location due to its distance.
‘It is unconscionable that in the face of vehement objections from many parents and community members, the Department of Education is moving forward with a plan to bus kindergartners from Woodside to a school almost three miles away in Astoria,” said Congressman Joe Crowley.
Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, the DOE will send the children by bus to Astoria. For the following two years, they will be sent to PS 339, another Woodside that’s being built. PS 339 will be located at 39-07 57th Street, less than half a mile from PS 11.
Crowley, as with this neighborhood’s other elected officials, praised the DOE for the construction of the school building,
“I commend the School Construction Authority and DOE for allocating millions of dollars toward this [school] expansion,” he said earlier this year.
However, “The DOE’s poor planning and judgment will now place a significant burden on 250 of our youngest students and their families,” Crowley said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said: “I am disappointed that the DOE could not find alternative options suggested by PS 11 parents which kept their children closer to home.”
April 11, By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside Center Cinemas sign, which has dotted the Queens Blvd landscape for as many as 60 years, was taken down last night after a building inspector ordered that it be removed.
The sign, according to a variety of unconfirmed reports, was hit by a truck yesterday. One man claimed last night that he witnessed a truck back into it. He said the truck then left the scene.
Rudy Prashad, the theater owner, said he was devastated that it had to come down. He said he isn’t sure what he is going to replace it with, although he said was toying with the idea of introducing a digital sign.
He said that his lease ends this year and that his landlord has not informed him whether his lease will be renewed. Prashad said that if he is able to renew the lease he will in a better position to invest in getting a quality sign.
In the meantime, the theater has reopened. It was closed all day yesterday.
April 10, By Christian Murray
The iconic Sunnyside Center Cinemas sign was damaged this morning and is likely to be demolished.
The building manager Michael Christopher said that a truck hit the sign while it was traveling along Queens Blvd. Another man said later today that a truck backed into the sign.
However, there was no sign of a truck on the scene.
Workers from the Department of Buildings were on their way to the theater to determine whether the sign should be destroyed.
A firefighter who evaluated the condition of the sign said it was rotten inside and would most likely have to come down.
April 10, By Christian Murray
The areas located under the 40th Street and 46th Street subway stations—once known for pigeons, dirty newspaper stands and food vendors– are in for a makeover.
Sunnyside Shines, through a program with the Department of Transportation, will be converting these areas into plazas—through the NYC Plaza Program.
The program provides the BID with the ability to design a new space under the two stations in consultation with the community.
The designs can incorporate features such as planters, bike racks, benches and moveable tables and chairs. The plazas are also likely to be transformed into public gathering spaces.
A public meeting is scheduled for April 30 (see details below) so the public can put forward ideas on both locations.
The DOT, which will fund the design and construction of the plazas, will provide the BID and community with a professional team of designers to formalize the plans.
The program follows the BID’s application to be part of the program last year.
“We are thrilled to bring this innovative program to Sunnyside,” said Sunnyside Shines executive director Rachel Thieme. “We look forward to making these spaces more vibrant.”
Sunnyside’s application included 13 letters of support from community stakeholders—such as elected officials, business owners, property owners, residents and community organizations.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who was an advocate for the program, said: “I am proud that we were able to successfully secure not one but two public plazas for Sunnyside.”
Construction is expected to begin this summer. Sunnyside Shines will be in charge of maintaining the plazas.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris said Sunnyside’s inclusion in the plaza program endorses the fact that the neighborhood has become a destination.
Community Outreach meeting:
Date: Wednesday, April 30
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Sunnyside Community Services Center (43-13 39th Street, Sunnyside)
April 9, By Christian Murray
A 61-year-old East Elmhurst man was charged today for possessing child pornography.
The defendant, Michael Murray, was arrested after police discovered that he had several graphic images of children on his laptop.
Murray was caught after he took his computer to Best Buy at 50-01 Northern Boulevard to be repaired. When the technician booted up the laptop to fix it, he discovered a screen saver that showed 15 images of young girls posing provocatively or engaging in sex acts with adult men.
“The defendant is alleged to have had some very disturbing photographs of children being sexually abused on his computer,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. “These photographs depict real children who will no doubt be emotionally and physically scarred for the rest of their lives.”
Murray is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens and is charged with 15 counts of possessing a sexual performance by a child. He faces up to four years in prison.
Brown said that when detectives went to Murray’s home he admitted that he knew what was on his screen saver.
April 8, By Christian Murray
The president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce was tossed off the board Tuesday in a tense election held at Dazies Restaurant today.
The election was held following months of infighting—particularly after chamber president Swain Weiner laid off the marketing director citing a lack of funds, and for using the chamber’s letter head to promote his real estate business.
Weiner was ousted from the board in a well-executed campaign conducted by a number of disgruntled members and their associates. The rebellious members turned up to the election with proxies from more than 20-member business, most of whom agreed that it was time for Weiner to go.
The group that led to the departure of Weiner also made sure that Chamber Secretary Laura Heim was shown the door too.
To outsiders, the overthrow of Heim was surprising. However, sources said, that she had differences with a couple of people who engineered the coup. Heim could not be reached for comment.
The proxies were what made the difference in the election—since they accounted for the majority of the votes seeking change.
Rigo Cardoso, who is likely to be named president at the next board meeting, along with Luke Adams, the laid off marketing director, and former member Patricia Dorfman had spent the past two weeks visiting businesses to generate the proxies. They had convinced businesses that it was time for a change in leadership.
However, just as the vote was about to take place, Weiner told the 25 who attended the election that he was stepping down as president–although he wanted to remain on the board.
“I think I have had a good run and made some mistakes along the way, but we all learn from that,” said Weiner. He said that he has helped bring some of the organizations in the neighborhood together—particularly Sunnyside Shines, the Boulevard of Bars and the Skillman Project.
While the ballots were being tabulated, members were given the opportunity to present their views on the state of chamber affairs.
Heim said that the chamber is not in a great place right now. “There is so much conflict that no one wants to come [to the meetings],” she said. “I don’t know how to fix it…but it is really hurting business.”
She said that in a small community like Sunnyside people rely on one another.
Dorothy Morehead, who was part of the campaign seeking change, said that she had once been a member for many years and that the chamber needed to bring back some its community-building events.
She said that in the past the chamber would have bus trips to Atlantic City or Amish Country—as well as regular business card exchanges. She said the speakers were interesting and varied—and not just elected officials.
However, Artie Weiner, who is on the board of Sunnyside Shines, said that he was surprised by the level of outrage following some of Swain Weiner’s decisions due to the Chamber’s financial constraints—referring to the layoff of Luke Adams.
“Swain has done the best job with what he has been given and that is not a lot,” Artie Weiner said.
The election has resulted in the creation of an extremely large board. The group that overthrew Weiner and Heim voted to keep the remaining board members and add more.
The board now consists of 22 members. The board will be meeting next Wednesday to announce a new president, which is expected to be Cardoso, and a slate of officers.
Weiner appeared content with the results.
“Hey, I thought I did a good job, but people had a different viewpoint,” Weiner said. “That’s what elections are for.”
Weiner said he was going to continue to be involved in the chamber and the community. “I’m not a sore loser. I’m a big guy. Hey, it was a fair election.”
He played drums as a teenager for the St. Joseph’s Brigade, a Catholic fife, drum and bugle corps. He fondly recalls singing along to his mother’s 45s while he and his seven siblings cleaned their childhood home in Astoria, Queens. (“Top of the World,” by the Carpenters was a favorite.)
And as a fan of musicals, he notes that a high point of his 2010 inauguration into the City Council was a student rendition of “Somewhere,” from “West Side Story.”
Still, Jimmy Van Bramer does not have the standard résumé for someone who has emerged as an important cultural figure in New York City.
No music school degree. No time spent as a corporate bigwig on a major cultural board. No parents with an outspoken passion for the arts.
Nonetheless, as chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee — and now majority leader — Mr. Van Bramer has carved out a niche as the Council’s champion of the arts, one whom cultural organizations have come to rely on as they press their agenda forward with a new administration.
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April 7, By Christian Murray
Tickets went on sale Friday for the 2014 Taste of Sunnyside.
The event, organized by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, will feature more than 25 restaurants and will take place on Queens Blvd (between 45th and 46th Streets) under the elevated 7 train.
The event will feature food and drink from Sunnyside’s diverse restaurants and attendees will be able to sample cuisine from each participating restaurant.
This will be the fourth Taste of Sunnyside and it is expected to draw more restaurants than the three previous events. Additionally, it will be the first time the BID hosts the event outdoors.
“We are really looking forward to this year’s Taste of Sunnyside. From what we can tell, this is the first time that anyone has hosted a large-scale event under the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines.
The space under the elevated train line will be tented and lit, with a stage set up.
Given the neighborhood’s diverse food culture, the selections served by participating businesses are likely to be vast. For example, there will be lobster mac & cheese, Colombian kernel corn and Romanian hors d’oeuvres.
The BID has partnered with Edible Queens on the event as it aims to promote the neighborhood as a dining destination.
The Taste of Sunnyside has traditionally been the BID’s most popular event.
“We have an incredible array of restaurants participating this year and it promises to be a really fun and delicious event,” Thieme said.
Participating restaurants include:
43 Bar and Grill | Ariyoshi | Arriba Arriba | Aubergine Cafe | Bliss 46 Bistro | Bliss Street Station | Bucharest Restaurant | Claret Wine Bar | Copper Kettle | De Mole | Dog and Duck | Don Pollo Peruvian | Go Natural | Lenny’s Pizza | Los Verdes | Lowery Wines and Liquors | Murphy’s Lobster Grill | New York Style Eats | Nita’s European Bakery | PJ Horgan’s | Quaint | Salt and Fat | Sidetracks | Takesushi | Venturo | Williamsburger
The event will take place on Tuesday, May 20 from 5:30pm-8:30pm.
Tickets are $60 for the VIP entrance at 5:30pm and $30 for general admission at 6:30pm.
To purchase tickets and see the list of participating restaurants, visit: www.tasteofsunnyside.com