Rediscover Forest Park’s living monument

Just over 100 years ago, a beautiful tradition was launched in Forest Park. It was the creation of a living, breathing memorial to 70 young men from Woodhaven who lost their lives in World War I.
Although our country’s time in the war was brief, we suffered many casualties and Woodhaven was hit very hard. Week after week, the front page of the Leader-Observer announced the names of the newly dead and wounded.
It was a dramatic turnaround from the early days of our involvement in the war, when the newspapers and the public were quite enthusiastic, sending our young men off with rousing cheers and festive parades.
In the days and months after the war ended, residents of Woodhaven wanted to create a unique monument to the young men whose lives were lost. The idea they finally settled upon was original indeed, and the press stated that it was the first of its kind in the United States.
In May of 1919, 53 trees were planted along the road entering Forest Park at Park Lane South and Forest Parkway, each to honor a soldier that perished. Over time, as more names were added to the Honor Roll, the number of trees grew to approximately 70.
And every Decoration Day (as Memorial Day was originally known), families would gather in Forest Park and decorate the memorial trees. A large granite monument with a plaque listing the names of the dead was erected atop that hill, across from the golf clubhouse.
The residents of Woodhaven referred to that hill as Memorial Knoll, and the annual parade would end there among the memorial trees.
Chairs would be set out on the lawn in front of the clubhouse and hundreds and hundreds of veterans, family members and residents would march up that hill to pay tribute to the dead.
According to reports in the Leader-Observer, veterans from the Civil War marched up that hill and took part in ceremonies.
It was a beautiful tradition that faded away due to a series of events triggered by the widening of Woodhaven Boulevard in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
The American Legion headquarters sat on the old Woodhaven Avenue, and it had to be torn down to make way for the ten-lane Woodhaven Boulevard.
The city reimbursed the Legion and they built a new headquarters at 88th Avenue and 91st Street behind PS 60, where it sits today.
And since they had a nice new building with a lovely front yard, they decided to move the monument from Forest Park to its current location. If you’ve ever been to a WRBA meeting or at the senior center, then you’ve seen this monument. It’s still there, listing the names of these young heroes.
But once the monument was moved the parade route was switched, and as families moved away or died off or just plain forgot, the tradition of decorating the trees disappeared.
But the trees are still there.
Sure enough, time has been harsh to the trees and many of them have fallen, but quite a few of these trees have passed the century mark. They still stand proudly on Memorial Knoll high above Woodhaven.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and American Legion Post 118 worked together to revive the tradition of decorating the trees in 2015. They have been decorated every Memorial Day since then.
It’s a beautiful walk, and as the road from the bandshell to Oak Ridge is still currently closed to vehicular traffic, it’s a walk that can really be savored and enjoyed.
If you’re going to get out and walk in the park any time soon, please consider making Memorial Knoll a part of your route.

Groups spread word about restaurant fund

The restaurant industry was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one dire forecast predicting close to half of all food and restaurant businesses in Queens would shutter by year’s end.
To help revitalize the industry, the Biden Administration created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides grants for restaurants and bars equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
Members of Queens Together and the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) gathered outside The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights last Friday to urge business owners to file applications to get a share of the $28 billion fund.
They handed out flyers in six different languages promoting the fund. Over the next two weeks, they plan to do the same in Rosedale, Jamaica, Laurelton, Flushing, Elmhurst, Astoria, Corona and Long Island City.
“We need restaurants to file the application as soon as possible because it’s a federal program and people across the country will be applying,” said Shurn Anderson from the office of Borough President Donovan Richards.
The application for the grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid if it is used by 2023, can be accessed online at the Small Business Administration website or by contacting QEDC, which will offer filing assistance to business owners.
Through May 24, the SBA will only approve applications from businesses that are majority-owned by women, veterans, or those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Ahead of a full reopening of restaurants on May 19, Jonathan Forgash from Queens Together, a grassroots group created at the start of the pandemic to advocate for the restaurants, painted a picture of an industry in deep distress.
As of last December, he said 92 percent of small businesses couldn’t afford the rent.
QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein said everyone in the restaurant industry has been hurt by the pandemic. He said it wasn’t just the restaurants that were hurt, but their suppliers as well.

Historic Midway Theatre reopening

On May 14, the Midway Theatre at 108-22 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills will reopen its doors. Operator Regal Cinemas decided last fall to close 543 theaters due to the pandemic, and the Midway was one of them.
“I thought they were shutting their doors for good, so this is such wonderful news,” said local resident Christina Gennaro. “The history surrounding Forest Hills is what made me want to move here. Movie theaters like the Midway are living history.”
With a largely intact vertical beacon, curved façade, and whimsical circular lobby with a sweeping staircase, the Art Moderne theater is one of the borough’s oldest, operating since 1942.
The Midway was named after the Battle of Midway in World War II. Opening attractions were the U.S. Navy’s Technicolor short “The Battle of Midway,” as well as “The Pied Piper” and “Just Off Broadway.”
Among the celebrities who made appearances were Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, who conducted a meet and greet.
Over time, it transitioned from a single screen to a quad to nine screens. In more recent times, digital advances and recliners were introduced.
“It holds fond memories,” said Jennifer Vega of the theater. “I’ve went there with my parents and siblings in the 1980s, had dates there in the late 1990s and 2000s, and then watched movies with my son.”
The Midway was designed by America’s foremost theater architect, Scotland native Thomas White Lamb, along with consulting architect S. Charles Lee. Today, Tom Andrew Lamb of White Plains is preserving his great-grandfather’s legacy.
“The most compelling reason that the Midway is worthy of preservation is the history that has taken place in this neighborhood theater,” he said. “For almost 80 years, this place has seen first dates, family outings, and solo trips on lonely nights. In our throwaway world, these spaces hold our collective experience and are repositories of memories.”
North Carolina resident Richard Delaney was six when the Midway opened.
“The opening was a big deal, it was like a black-tie event” he recalled. “It was modern Art Deco and completely different from the 1920s theaters.
“The Midway definitely needs to be preserved” Delaney added. “It’s an architectural treasure that was very ahead of its time.”
Over the years, the Midway hosted a range of events, including anniversary galas, benefits, and floor shows.
“My friends and I were the shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” said Joseph Pormigiano. “I played the criminologist in the floor show,”
Marco Zanaletti is an airline employee from Italy. He has had the opportunity to visit Forest Hills on several occasions.
“I noticed the Tudor-style residential buildings and the Art Deco presence in places like the Midway,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘wow I am in the U.S. and in a real community, not just as a tourist coming to New York shopping along 5th Avenue’ I started to feel a part of New York history around me.”
“The Midway is a landmark in my life,” added Thomas Duffy, whose Midway journey began in 1982 with E.T. “My first date with my longtime partner was at the Midway in 2000, when we saw Down to You. I hope to see a blockbuster or two this summer.”

Digital training for the formerly incarcerated

The Fortune Society is joining the Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry program, an initiative to provide free digital skills and job readiness training to formerly incarcerated individuals.
The program is in partnership with five nonprofits that have successfully developed and delivered high-quality job training to returning citizens, including Fortune Society, The Last Mile, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), Defy Ventures, and The Ladies of Hope Ministries.
The program’s training will focus on fundamental digital skills, such as how to apply for jobs online and create a resume, along with more advanced topics including entrepreneurship and business budgeting. In total, the program will train 10,000 participants this year.
“We have a job readiness program that is three weeks in length, so when people are either coming to us after serving time in jail or prison we put them through this training program,” said Ronald F. Day, vice president of Programs at Fortune Society. “We help them with job search, proper interviewing skills and attire, how to fill out job applications and we connect them with some of the employers we work with.”
Fortune Society has funding to provide fellowship opportunities to serve as transitional work for a program of ten weeks for 21 hours a week at a minimum wage and connect them with their long list of employers that work with the nonprofit.
Headquartered in Long Island City and founded in 1967, Fortune Society is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit reentry service and advocacy organizations, serving 9,000 justice-involved individuals in New York City every year.
“We don’t just do advocacy now, we provide alternatives to incarceration,” said Day. “We work with people who have been arrested for felony charges and try to reduce the chances that they end up with a prison sentence.”
Each year, 600,000 Americans transition out of incarceration and face barriers to reentering the workforce. The unemployment rate for returning citizens is five times the national average, and returning citizens who are Black experience an even higher jobless rate.
The increasingly digital nature of work presents another challenge to workforce reentry, making the employment process difficult for those who lost access to technology while in prison.
“Lack of access to digital skills training and job coaching puts formerly incarcerated individuals at a severe disadvantage when trying to reenter the workforce and increase their economic potential,” said Malika Saada Saar, Global Head of Human Rights at YouTube, a subsidiary of Google. “We are thrilled to work alongside program partners who have demonstrated true expertise and leadership in supporting successful reentry through digital skills training to men and women, mothers and fathers, impacted by incarceration.”
The program is part of Google’s racial equity commitments and builds on the company’s ongoing investments in criminal justice reform. Since 2015, Google has given more than $40 million to nonprofits advancing criminal justice reform, and $60 million to organizations working to expand access to hands-on computer science learning.
Any nonprofit organization offering training to the reentry population can join the Grow with Google Partner Program and access resources, workshop materials and hands-on help free of cost.

NYC needs to restart composting program

One of the best ways for New Yorkers to significantly lower their greenhouse gas emissions is by separating their food waste, and handing it off to the city’s organics collection program, also known as composting.
One-third of the city’s waste stream is made up of organic waste, much of it from food scraps and leftovers.
When food waste isn’t separated from regular garbage, it’s often sent to be burned in incinerators or buried in landfills, where it decomposes in the absence of oxygen and produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is up to 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S., and produced about 15 percent of U.S. emissions in 2018.
Landfills around the country are filling up and becoming more costly for cities to use for their waste. To meet the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, we will need to prioritize composting our organic waste.
New York City has had the largest curbside organics recycling program in the world, serving 3.3 million people, supplemented by many food scraps drop-off sites throughout the five boroughs.
To fund emergency responses to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio cut $28 million for food waste collection and composting from the Department of Sanitation’s budget, which led to the suspension of many related programs in spring of 2020.
The mayor recently announced that curbside organic collection will be starting back up in communities where it was offered prior to the pandemic, but that service wasn’t available in Forest Hills.
All we had available was a weekly food waste drop-off site at the MacDonald Park greenmarket on Sundays, and the volunteer-run Compost Collective on Yellowstone Boulevard and Kessel Street on Saturdays.
Ever since that service was suspended, residents were asked to discard food scraps and yard waste with their trash, which has resulted in a tremendous loss of momentum for these vital programs.
Community outreach will have to be redoubled before their reintroduction. We urge the mayor and City Council to restore funding to composting‬ and recycling programs as soon as possible, and to invest in community education about the many benefits of composting.
Fortunately, another option will soon be available. Starting May 16, Queens Botanical Garden is partnering with volunteers from Forest Hills Green Team and Friends of MacDonald Park, who will staff a Sunday food waste drop-off collection site at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills adjacent to the greenmarket.
Residents will be able to drop off their food scraps between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. QBG will pick up their containers and compost the food waste at their main facility. The finished compost will be returned to the community for distribution at the site.
QBG is seeking other organizations willing to host food waste drop-off locations in their community, perhaps where sites have previously been co-located at some of the 50-plus greenmarkets operated by GrowNYC.
We encourage other local groups to partner in these important efforts towards a sustainable future, and look forward to seeing our neighbors at our new composting site.

Dan Miner is co-chair of the Forest Hills Green Team. Aleda Gagarin is candidate for City Council District 29.

Treatment Choices for Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is one of the most commonly treated diseases. It is sometimes referred to as heartburn, although this is more of a symptom. In line with this, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have become one of the top-10 drug classes prescribed or taken in the United States.
The class of drugs called PPIs includes Prevacid (lansoprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole) and Aciphex (rabeprazole). Several of these medications are now available over-the-counter (OTC), rather than by prescription.
When they were first approved, they were touted as having one of the cleanest side-effect profiles. This may still be true, if we use them correctly. They are intended to be used only for the short term. This can range from 7 to 14 days for over-the-counter PPIs to 4 to 8 weeks for prescription PPIs.

Long-term use dangers
While PPI pre-approval trials were short-term, not longer than a year, many physicians put patients on these medications for decades. And the longer people are on them, the more complications arise. Among potential associations with long-term use are chronic kidney disease, dementia, bone fractures and Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract.

Chronic kidney disease
In two separate studies, results showed that there was an increase in chronic kidney disease with prolonged PPI use. All of the patients started the study with normal kidney function.
In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, there was a 50 percent increased risk of chronic kidney disease, while the Geisinger Health System cohort study found there was a 17 percent increased risk.
The first study had a 13-year duration, and the second had about a six-year duration. Both demonstrated modest, but statistically significant, increased risk of chronic kidney disease.
As you can see, the medications were used on a chronic basis for years. In an accompanying editorial to these published studies, the author suggests starting with diet and lifestyle modifications as well as a milder drug class, H2 blockers.

Bone fractures
In a meta-analysis of 18 observational studies, results showed that PPIs can increase the risk of hip fractures, spine fractures and any-site fractures. It did not make a difference whether patients were taking PPIs for more or less than a year.
They found increased fracture risks of 58, 26 and 33 percent for spine, hip and any site, respectively. It is not clear what may potentially increase the risk; however, it has been proposed that it may have to do with calcium absorption.
PPIs reduce acid, which may be needed to absorb insoluble calcium salts. In another study, seven days of PPIs were shown to lower the absorption of calcium carbonate supplements when taken without food.

Magnesium absorption
PPIs may have lower absorption effects on several electrolytes including magnesium, calcium and B12. In one observational study, PPIs combined with diuretics caused a 73 percent increased risk of hospitalization due to low magnesium.
A significant reduction in magnesium could lead to cardiovascular events. Diuretics are commonly prescribed for high blood pressure, heart failure and swelling.
The bottom line is that it’s best if you confer with your doctor before starting PPIs. You may not need PPIs, but rather a milder medication, such as H2 blockers (Zantac, Pepcid).
Even better, start with lifestyle modifications including diet, not eating later at night, raising the head of the bed, losing weight and stopping smoking, if needed, and then consider medications.
If you do need medications, know that PPIs don’t give immediate relief and should only be taken for a short duration: 7 to 14 days, according to the FDA, without a doctor’s consult, and 4 to 8 weeks with one.

Of Rats & Raccoons

I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to the New York Mets, expect the unexpected. Last week was one of those weeks that kind of had it all.
It started on Tuesday, when the Mets fired hitting coach Chili Davis after scoring a bunch of runs on Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia.
The timing was strange. After all, we are only 20-plus games into a 162-game season. But when you hear about a fake hitting coach named “Donnie Stevenson” (actually Pete Alonso alias), and you combine that with a slow start for a bunch of key Mets, sometimes a minor change at hitting coach happens in an organization.
It wasn’t fair to Davis. But whether it was his old-school hitting mentality that didn’t sit well with the Mets front office or a new owner itching for a change and some big wins, it was quite a way to start the week.
Little did I know the drama for the New York Mets was just beginning.
Friday night’s come-from-behind win against the Arizona Diamondbacks was overshadowed entirely by an argument that “may or may not have happened” in the hallway leading to the Mets locker room.
Clearly at the end of the 7th inning, something was off between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil.
It was obvious watching numerous Mets players run into the dugout at the end of the half-inning that something was going down between the middle-infield duo.
After the game, the explanation from Francisco Lindor was very bizarre. He said the brouhaha was the result of a rat or raccoon scurrying around.
It was comical to listen to Lindor and, to a lesser extent, McNeil try to spread the fairy tale.
It doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure out there was clearly a disagreement between McNeil and Lindor. But guess what? That’s okay.
Here’s a dirty little secret: not every teammate loves one another. At times there are fights and disagreements.
Sometimes two guys blowing off a little bit of steam ends up being the best thing for the team. I’d rather hear about two guys putting it behind them and not about rats or raccoons, but hey, that’s me.
I didn’t love the way Lindor handled the situation on Friday night, but the reality of the weekend is that the argument seemed to bring out the best in the two scuffling teammates.
Lindor hit a game-tying home run on Friday night and McNeil homered on Saturday night, propelling the Mets to victories against the Diamondbacks.
The release of pressure by putting it all behind them is maybe the spark to get them both playing better and more relaxed this season.
The Mets will need Lindor and McNeil to deliver big if this team hopes to win a division title.
You could say the same about Jacob deGrom, who we learned on Sunday will have to spend some time on the Injured List.
It’s only the first month of the season, but we’ve had a little bit of everything from the Mets standpoint.
Fired coaches, phantom coaches, injuries, rats and raccoons, but also a winning record.
Strange times, winning times. Go figure.

You can listen to my new podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night. Download and Subscribe on Spotify and Apple.

Lander attack on speaker may have backfired

Councilman Brad Lander’s bid for city comptroller is looking increasingly more like a long shot.
His chances took a big hit when City Council Speaker Corey Johnson decided to exit the mayor’s race and instead run for comptroller. But is was Lander decision to attack Johnson for “stalling” and “playing politics” on several pieces of legislation that may have sunk his campaign.
Lander didn’t just mention this criticism to a reporter or even bring it up in a press conference, he decided to launch an entire website dedicated to Johnson’s “shortcomings” as speaker.
“What’s the Story,” Corey?” lists nearly 20 pieces of legislation Lander claims Johnson failed to advance to the detriment of the residents of a city looking to recover from a pandemic.
A lot of those pieces of legislation were sponsored by Lander’s colleagues, who he apparently didn’t check with before he put all of this information out on the Internet for the whole world to Google.
Many of them actually endorsed Lander for the position before Johnson announced he would enter the race, but now many of them, miffed that he included their legislation on his website, are pulling their support.
Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose are two of his fellow council members who said Lander’s repeated attacks on the speaker and the work of the City Council caused them to reconsider their endorsements.
They specifically pointed to what they called Lander’s misrepresentation of the progress being made to support paid sick leave for gig workers, citing that the council had already passed two paid leave bills.

“As City Council members, we all know that getting legislation passed requires a lot of time and effort,” they wrote in a joint statement. “Getting support from other council members and the chairs of the committees is important to getting any bill passed. To insinuate that the speaker is currently holding back the bill is not true.
“We recognize that Brad has the right to run his campaign as he sees fit,” they added. “However, we disagree with his campaign’s continuing to misrepresent the work of the council and its speaker. Therefore, we are withdrawing our support for his campaign for Comptroller.”

Councilman Francisco Moya of Queens also criticized Lander for his characterization of the work of the City Council and Johnson after one of the bills he is sponsoring was also listed on the website. He tweeted that he would like to be left out of “this hit job.”

Lander argues the council members are distancing themselves from his critique of Johnson because they fear retribution from the speaker, who controls discretionary funding.
However, with the new budget process already in the works and Johnson term-limited out of office at the end of the year, it’s not clear how much Johnson could actually retaliate against council members who support Lander even if he was inclined to do so.
Even if Johnson loses the comptroller’s race, he presumably has further political ambitions, so alienating potential future political allies by withholding discretionary funds from their districts when he won’t be able to reap the benefits of that carrot-and-stick approach in the future because he will no longer be the speaker of the City Council doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Lander’s colleagues are more than likely calling him out because they aren’t running for comptroller, and therefore have no reason to get embroiled in a heated campaign for an office they won’t hold.

Marilyn Ramdeen, Regional Clinical Director

National Nurses Week from May 6-12 celebrates the contributions and sacrifices of nurses across the globe. One of those is Marilyn Ramdeen, who is regional clinical director for AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY) in Queens.
There are more than 70 ACPNY nurses in Queens in ten ACPNY locations, with new centers opening soon in Jackson Heights and Flushing.
Ramdeen was born in Guyana but raised in New York, and comes from a long line of healthcare professionals. She has worked in healthcare for 18 years, and started her career as a medical assistant before transitioning to nursing. Ramdeen initially had plans to become a pediatrician.
“I come from a family of nurses and healthcare professionals,” she said. “My sister who was already a nurse suggested that I try nursing to see if I like it before I go to med school, and I did then stuck with it.”
Ramdeen joined the Queens Long Island Medical Group in 2006, and stayed on when the practice transitioned to become an ACPNY location.
“Nurses are an unstoppable force,” she said. “We are the heroes of our healthcare system, and I think the past year has shown that even more. It takes a very special person to say that they want to be a nurse and mean it.”
As vaccinations for COVID-19 began, Ramdeen’s team of nurses made a seamless transition to the new duties.
“Two of my offices in Queens are hub sites and four others are testing sites,” she said. “They just jumped right in and it was a pleasure for them to be serving the community, giving everyone hope that there is some sense of normalcy coming around the corner.”
Even though Ramdeen holds a managerial position, she still works on the floor helping patients.
“When it’s vaccination time, I have to jump in and help my nurses out,” she said. “You’re always a nurse regardless of what position you hold, so you can always get down and dirty. That’s when you’re respected the most with your teams.”

More needs to be done for restaurants

If you need any further proof of the toll the pandemic has taken on the restaurant industry, not just in New York City but across the nation, you need look no further than the response to the Biden administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), which launched on May 3.
The federal government funneled $28.6 billion into the fund to help struggling businesses in the restaurant industry recover from pandemic-related losses. Grants are capped at $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
During the first week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) approved 16,000 applicants. Over $2 billion in the first wave of funding started showing up in business bank account earlier this week. That’s an amazingly fast response.
All of those businesses are either owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged. That’s because when the fund was created, a 21-day priority period was created to process applications from those business owners.
After the 21-day period, any restaurant owner is eligible for a grant.
That was a noble aim, as those types of businesses are usually already surviving on slim profit margins, and are affected most by severe economic downturns.
The problem is there may not by any money left in the fund after the three weeks is up. Here’s an excerpt from an SBA press release this week announcing the approval of the 16,000 applications:

“Following the 21-day priority period, established by law in the American Rescue Plan Act, all eligible applications will be funded in the order in which they have been received,” it read. “While the SBA will continue accepting applications from any eligible establishment until funds are exhausted, the number of applications received so far could exhaust the funds authorized to fund the RRF.”

That means if you haven’t already applied for a grant, you are probably out of luck. And even if you have already applied for a grant, if you didn’t do it right away, the money could be gone by the time your number is called, especially if you don’t fall into one of the priority groups.
The RRF was a great first step, but it’s clear now it can only be a first step. While $28.6 billion is a lot of money, more is going to have to be done to help the restaurant industry recover from a year of disruptions and capacity limits.

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