City announces Open Boulevards program

A new city program will expand 10 multi-block corridors to create dining destination experiences throughout the city.
“Open Boulevards” builds off last year’s successful “Open Streets: Restaurants” program, which transformed miles of restaurant-heavy streets into open space for diners, cyclists, and pedestrians.
In addition to creating extra space for dining, Open Boulevards will feature cultural activities, community-based programming, landscaping and other beautification, and art installations.
“As a Brooklynite, I know that Open Streets like Vanderbilt Avenue have already illustrated how this city can thrive in this recovery,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman. “Open Boulevards will give us a chance to further expand those success stories, driving even more business to vibrant communities and of course, great dining.”
“We’re pleased to support the new ‘Open Boulevards’ plan that will not only expand the City’s café culture across the five boroughs, but also add new arts, culture and community elements that will help boost New York City’s reawakening and attract visitors this summer and beyond,” said Fred Dixon, President and CEO at NYC & Company.
The City will mark Open Boulevards with branded light pole banners and gateways at entrances and public tables and chairs. Restaurants on Open Boulevards will receive free barriers to ensure safety for roadway diners and pedestrians.
In Queens, the program will include Ditmars Boulevard from 33rd to 36th streets and Woodside Avenue from 76th to 78th street.
In Brooklyn, Open Boulevard will include Vanderbilt Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Park Place, and Fifth Avenue from Dean Street to Park Place, Sterling Place to Berkeley Place, President Street to 3rd Street, and 10th Street to 13th Street in Park Slope, and Fifth Avenue from 39th Street to 41st Street, 45th Street to 47th Street, and 55th Street to 59th Street in Sunset Park.
More information, including days, hours, and operating partners, can be found at nyc.gov/openboulevards.
“The Open Streets program offers much needed recreational space to Queens residents looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors and experience the vibrancy of our neighborhoods,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “The Open Boulevards program is a natural expansion of Open Streets and is a great way to make these destinations even more attractive.”

Parks cuts ribbon on Almeda Playground renovations

The Parks Department recently celebrated the total reconstruction of Almeda Playground, an $8.1 million project funded through the Community Parks Initiative (CPI), the city program aimed at building a more equitable park system.
Almeda Playground has been completely renovated with upgraded features and amenities. This playground now features a more inclusive play area, outdoor classroom, spray showers, adult fitness area, basketball and handball courts, shaded seating areas, and more.
As requested by the community, the project also enhanced the playground’s greenery.
Launched in October 2014, CPI is the Parks Department’s first major equity initiative that includes a multi-faceted investment in smaller public parks located in the cCity’s densely populated and growing neighborhoods with higher-than-average concentrations of poverty.
“Since its launch, the Community Parks Initiative has taken transformative steps towards creating a more accessible parks system for all New Yorkers,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “It’s outstanding to see these underused spaces transformed into community assets.”
Almeda Playground, located on the Rockaway peninsula, is named for nearby Almeda Avenue. The area was spotted by Henry Hudson in 1609 and served as home to a small tribe of Canarsie Indians.
The playground opened in 1965, and serves as a recreational space for the students of P.S. 42 and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need for access to fresh air and recreational resources,” said Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers. “As a mom myself, I understand firsthand how important it is for us to have a safe space for our children to exert energy and make new friends.”

Preserving the memory of Arnold Stone

The two-story “Floating Leaves” sculpture at the shuttered Parkside Chapel at 98-60 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park was recently relocated off-site. Now, the Rego-Forest Preservation Council is working to secure a new home for the piece by the late sculptor Arnold Stone.
Stone, an award-winning artist and dentist, passed away at the age of 49 in 1971. But his memory is very much alive thanks to daughter Paula Stone Borge and stepson Robert Andrew McKie, who are preserving his artwork and sharing stories.
A native of Boston, Stone lived in Flushing and Bayside, before finally settling in Sea Cliff on Long Island.
“The town was filled with sailors, musicians, painters, sculptors, and writers,” Stone Borge said. “Children were free to explore the many parks and beaches and ride bicycles everywhere. Our living room was always filled with a diverse group chatting about the social and political concerns of the day.”
Her room overlooked her father’s studio, where “Floating Leaves” was created.
“I think the contrast between the strong straight-edged lattice and the flowing leaves filled with streaming water is like modern architecture set among natural elements,” Stone Borge said of the artwork.
“I felt happy falling asleep to the sound of his sledgehammer hitting the anvil,” she added. “I loved the cozy feeling of knowing he was in the studio, doing something he loved.”
Her father created many smaller sculptures for private collections and public space, but “Floating Leaves” was his largest public work. She explained his passion for fountains.
“It provides a lovely atmosphere for reflection and meditation and symbolizes the flow of life,” Stone Borge said. “His goal with this fountain was to provide a simple, beautiful, peaceful space for feelings and thoughts.”
She and her brother take pride in being the stewards of some of his sculptures.
“But he made so many, and we do not know who bought them and where they are,” Stone Borge said. “We would love to know who has the largest anti-war piece, a soldier’s head mounted on two large wagon wheels balanced by two bowling balls below, and we would like to know about a very tall life-sized “Metamorphosis.”
“We would like to know about any of his works, since we have no records,” she added.
Stone Borge said she admired her father’s love of life and curiosity about everything.
“He helped me learn how to find joy and wonder in almost everything, and to approach life with empathy, affection, humor, and gratitude,” she said.
McKie remembers Sea Cliff in 1958 for its great mixture of residents.
“On our street, we had a Wall Street lawyer living next to a plumber, who in turn had a concert violist as a neighbor,” he recalled.
McKie pointed out that while Dr. Stone served his dental practice patients with care until his death, his heart was not in it.
“He would often duck out between scheduled patients to work in the studio,” he said. “His arms became very muscular with all the metal and stone work. He would work long hours in the studio, often just dashing to eat quickly and return.”
McKie hopes “Floating Leaves” finds a special home, as it was designed to fit a corner alcove.
“As for other works, I would love to see them on public display permanently,” he said. “I would consider giving up ‘Mississippi Jury’ to the right venue.”
McKie also owns one small painting from of a series of clowns and mimes, an alabaster hippopotamus, an oil painting of a hippo, a bronze seagull, and his stepfather’s record collection.
Many friends from his Sea Cliff days have pieces of Stone’s artwork, including Jerry Zimmermann.
“Arnie will never die,” Zimmerman said. “He is a force in all of our memories. The 50 years from his passing seems like an instant relative to the force of his being.”

Forest Hills residents launch group focused on Black issues

Residents from Forest Hills hosted the first virtual meeting of the Color of Justice (COJ) last week.
“Forest Hills is a nice place to live,” said COJ president Titilayo Yasukawa. “But far too often Black concerns get overlooked or outright dismissed by other organizations. So we decided to create our own space that empowers its citizens to find solutions through political, civic and legislative engagement.”
The goals of COJ include educating residents about local government, community issues, legislative policy, and civic organizations, as well as local elections and candidates running in them. Bigger goals will tackle social justice, inequities in education, housing, public health, and more.
They are currently seeking to fill the positions of secretary and treasurer on its board.
“Our first objective is to build membership and to educate on the local political process,” said COJ’s vice president Gideon Zvulon. “We want to facilitate access to local government and encourage civic engagement, because it is at this level where critical resources for our community are distributed. We need to ensure that we have a seat at the table in those discussions.”
The upcoming local elections were a major topic during the inaugural meeting.
“In order to affect change that would affect yourself, or your community starts at the local level,” said Zvulon,. “Our clear and initial choice is to get people involved locally. Secondly, educating people to know politicians who have the best interests at heart, instead of just the ones you know by name.”

To learn more, contact [email protected]

DOT celebrates new bike rack, 34th Ave Open Street

A ceremony to mark the installation of a new bike rack in Jackson Heights turned into a heated debate about the city’s plan to make the Open Street along 34th Avenue permanent.
The rack at the intersection of 34th Avenue and 81st Street is the 1,000th new bike rack installed in the city since the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a plan last year to install 10,000 new bike racks across the five boroughs by the end of 2022.
DOT previously installed bike racks along 34th Avenue at 69th and 77th streets. The agency is seeking suggestions for other locations to install bike racks across the five boroughs.
“We have seen an uptick in cycling during the pandemic,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman last Wednesday afternoon. “Maybe you are just out for a ride, but some people are using their bikes to get places. And when they get there, they need a place to park their bike.”
Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzales-Rojas said her nine-year-old learned to ride a bike on 34th Avenue during the past year.
“My child has a bike and rides it safely on 34th Avenue, and now he has a place to park it,” she said.
A 1.3-mile stretch – or 26 blocks – of 34th Avenue from 69th Street to Junction Boulevard is off-limits to vehicles from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m except for local and emergency purposes. Cars and trucks using the street are required to drive at 5 MPH.
The Open Streets program was originally set to end on October 31 of last year, but it was extended indefinitely. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation making the program permanent.
The stretch along 34th Avenue is part of 83 miles of Open Streets across the five boroughs, the largest program of its kind in the United States.
“Open Streets transformed our city and changed the way we came together as communities,” said de Blasio. “Our urban landscape will forever play host to joyful gatherings of families, pedestrians, cyclists, and small businesses.”
At last week’s event, Gutman called 34th Avenue the “gold standard” of the Open Streets program. He said the closure of the street not only provides open space in a neighborhood with a severe shortage of parks, but allows for activities like yoga, performances and games for kids.
Borough President Donovan Richards said it’s a model that should be replicated throughout the city.
“We reimagined what our streets look like coming out of this pandemic,” he said. “This is an opportunity to reshape where we head as a city and a borough.”
But not everyone is in favor of making the 34th Avenue Open Street permanent. A group of residents called 34th Avenue Compromise argues closing the street has affected the quality of life for people who live along the avenue.
At every intersection, there are metal barriers to prevent cars from turning onto the 34th Avenue. Paolo Peguero says whenever she needs to drive down the street to get home, she has to stop her car, get out and move the barrier, and then move it back.
“When we try to move the barriers, we are confronted,” she said.
Peguero said elderly and disabled residents have trouble moving the barriers. She said she has also heard stories of Access-a-Ride drivers, for-hire car services, and delivery workers refusing to pick up or drop off in front of buildings because of the hassle of moving the barriers.
The barriers are put in place every morning by members of the 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition. That group, along with another called Friends of 34th Avenue Linear Park praised the announcement that the program would become permanent.
But Gabi Bhart of 34th Avenue Compromise contends those groups only represent a small number of Jackson Heights residents.
“The majority of Jackson Heights residents do not support this,” she said.
Both Peguero and Bhart say there was very little outreach to the local community on the part of DOT and the city before it was announced the closure would be permanent.
They would like to see the hours of the closure and the length of the Open Street reduced. The two lanes of traffic on 34th Avenue are separated by a median, and the group would like to keep one side open to vehicular traffic to alleviate congestion on surrounding streets.
Members of 34th Avenue Compromise are planning a march on May 22 to call attention to their concerns.
Gutman addressed some vocal members of the group at last week’s press conference. He promised that all community concerns would be taken into consideration.
“The idea is not to have one plan dictated from City Hall, but do what the community wants,” he said.
As a member of the board of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gutman was instrumental in the creation of the waterfront open space that is used by thousands daily.
“Believe it or not, that project was extremely controversial,” he said. “But we worked it out.”

Celebrating another year, this time in person

Last May, a group of us gathered in front of Eleanor Shannon’s house on 84th Street in Woodhaven to wish her a happy 99th birthday.
It was the scary early days of the pandemic and we were masked, gloved and so socially distant we had to speak loudly to make sure she heard us sing “Happy Birthday.”
At the end of the gathering, we all promised that we’d gather again in a year to wish her a happy 100th birthday. That’s no small vow to make in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the end of which was nowhere in sight.
And yet, there we were a year later on 84th Street, singing to Eleanor on her 100th birthday and gathering a few days later with family and friends to celebrate her centennial.
Eleanor Shannon was born to Catherine and Edward Shannon in Greenpoint, and lived for a time in Howard Beach. After her father’s tragic passing at an early age, her family moved to Woodhaven. That was in 1933 and she’s called it home ever since.
Her first home in Woodhaven was on 80th Street, and she remembers a neighborhood with streets so lined with trees you could walk an entire block on a sunny day and not leave the shade.
She worked for a time as a bookkeeper in a chemical company, where she met her future husband, George Errante. But before they got married, there was a little matter of a Second World War to get past.
Upon his return from service 36 months later, Eleanor and George were married and soon had two children, Robert and Lorraine.
Eleanor began getting involved in our community volunteering in numerous organizations dedicated to the interests of local children, such as the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and The Mother’s Club of St. Thomas the Apostle, to name a few.
She has been a regular member of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association from the beginning, and she also got involved in local politics, eventually becoming a district leader, a position she held for decades.
And in 2011, Eleanor Errante was honored by the WRBA as Woodhaven’s Woman of the Year, an honor that was as much for her lifetime contribution to our community as it was for her current and ongoing activities.
“Eleanor is an outstanding example of a community-focused individual, fighting on behalf of her community and the 38th Assembly District for over half a century,” said then-assemblyman Mike Miller.
And she’s not done fighting. In recent years, Eleanor was an outspoken critic of the city as they stood by and allowed a derelict building to shut down both our local volunteer ambulance corps and our senior center.
In 1994, at the age of 93, Eleanor led a rally blasting the city for actions harmful to our community.
Eleanor didn’t let her age stop her then and she doesn’t let it stop her these days either. In fact, it took a world pandemic to keep Eleanor inside.
Steve Forte, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, says that Eleanor has been and still is an “unbelievable leader fighting for her neighborhood.”
Janet Forte said the one thing most people don’t know about Eleanor is that she has a terrific sense of humor.
“She absolutely hysterical, a funny lady who always says exactly what’s on her mind, but always sweet and caring and complimentary,” she said.
Sure enough, at this past weekend’s party, she was joking around with her friends and family and making them laugh. And with the recent announcements from the CDC and the rules and guidelines loosening up quite a bit, it was easy to laugh and have fun in a group setting again.
It was easy to look around the room and see faces, actual faces, smiling and laughing and realize that things were going to be okay after all.
Eleanor Shannon Errante has lived through some interesting times, and on behalf of all the residents of Woodhaven, we wish her a very happy and healthy 100th birthday and look forward to gathering in front of her house again next May to celebrate her 101st.

Forest Hills sets stage for Memorial Day festivities

The Forest Hills Memorial Day Ceremony is only a few weeks away, and organizers met together last Wednesday at the American Legion Continental Post 1424 to conduct their final preparations for the event.
The occasion will take place on Sunday, May 30, in Remsen Park and pay tribute to all the men and woman who have died while in the U.S. military. Slated to go on for just over an hour, the event will be filled with music, speeches, and honors.
This year, the ceremony will not only recognize fallen service members but will also honor the sacrifice of frontline workers. Members of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be honored at the event for their efforts in saving the local community from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Arcati is commander of Post 1424 and has been a major force in organizing this year’s ceremony. He served in the navy for a combined total of eight years as both a prosecutor and defense counsel. Specializing in international, criminal, and tax law, he’s been awarded the Bronze Star among other military accolades. It was his goal to extend Memorial Day to as many people as possible. “This event is not just for the veterans but for the community and the service that is central to how it functions.”
Arcati couldn’t envision honoring sacrifice this year without paying homage those who grappled with the pandemic on behalf of Queens, especially those from the volunteer ambulance service. “Like a military they lined up side by side, and put their lives on the line without question,” he said. “These people never asked for a dime, and they need to be recognized.”
Event organizers have also announced their 2021 Grand Marshals for the event. This year there are four honorees: Dr. Teresea Amato, Heidi Chain, Bob Simpson, and Captain Joseph Cappelmann. The selection represents a cross section of public service that is vital to New York, including the director of Forest Hill’s largest emergency room department and the commanding officer of New York’s 112th Precinct.
For many service members Memorial Day is not only a time to honor lost connections but also reconnect with those who have also served. Arcati said he expects to see plenty of familiar faces from Post 1424 at the ceremony. “We have over 100 veterans at Post 1424, and for some of our more senior members it’s the only way for them to socialize and find comradery with their brothers and sisters.”
Vice Commander of Post 1424 Pat Conley has been a member of the organization for over ten years and has seen hundreds of hours go into planning this year’s ceremony. Conley said he’s thankful that the veteran community has been getting their vaccines. “Our members are of all ages and backgrounds, but it’s awesome to see that everyone who needs it is already pretty much double-vaccinated at this point. I think it will be a tremendous celebration and a good day for the community.”
The laying of the wreaths is a pillar of military tradition in the United States and will happen at the end of the ceremony. There are a handful of veterans from Post 1424 that will be honored at that time and have the bell rung in their name as attendees pay their formal respects.
There were countless volunteers who helped make this year’s event a reality, according to Arcati. Whether it was small tasks like putting up flags or bigger responsibilities like manning the grill, he said there was an outpouring of support. “Veterans want to continue serving, even when they’re done with their military obligations, but it’s really wonderful to see people take time out of their schedules to come in and help out.”

104th Precinct Police Blotter (??-5/9/2021)

Monday, May 3
Hussein I. Kadouh was arrested at Jefferson Avenue and Wyckoff Avenue for menacing by Detective Clarke.

Tuesday, May 4
Wendy Estevez was arrested at Myrtle Avenue and Cypress Avenue for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Martinez.
Alyssa McCormick was arrested at 55-09 66th Street for misdemeanor assault by Officer Baltusis.
Michael R. Walker was arrested at 1713 Madison Street for criminal mischief by Detective Wright.
Divine Espinal was arrested at 1639 Centre Street for criminal mischief by Officer LeBlanc.

Wednesday, May 5
Anthony Sanzone was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Detective Lodato.
Keithisha Rudolph was arrested at 690-80 Myrtle Avenue for possession of burglar tools by Detective Wright.
Derlin Sanchez was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for criminal contempt by Detective Scrimenti.
Manuel A. Inoa was arrested at 714 Cypress Avenue for trademark counterfeiting by Officer Valdemar.
David Almagharbi was arrested at 55-10 Myrtle Avenue for trademark counterfeiting by Officer Valdemar.

Thursday, May 6
Brandon Difo Lopez was arrested at 58-02 Metropolitan Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Officer Kardonov.
Mohammed Al Sayidi was arrested at 69-12 Grand Avenue for child endangerment by Officer Caldelaria.

Friday, May 7
Christian Adames was arrested at 52-26 70th Street for grand larceny by Officer Jaswal.
Emmanuel Duran was arrested at Metropolitan Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard for driving while intoxicated by Officer Troia.
Isabel Abreu was arrested at 60-89 54th Street for misdemeanor assault by Officer Bogel.
Terrel Norman was arrested at 60-30 Maurice Avenue for strangulation by Detective Scrimenti.
Sarah Feist was arrested at 60-89 54th Street for misdemeanor assault by Officer Bogle.
Michael Lanzo was arrested at 78-16 Cooper Avenue for misdemeanor assault by Officer Chowdhury.
Natalia Domiguez was arrested at 78-34 Cypress Hills Street for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Guierrez.

Saturday, May 8
Amr Hassan was arrested at Metropolitan Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard for possession of a forged instrument by Officer Martinez.
Steven A. Bono was arrested at 57th Avenue and 72nd Place for grand larceny by Officer Lin.
Radames Santiago was arrested at 66-09 Hull Avenue for driving while intoxicated by Officer Hendrick.
Christian P. Nugra-Sanchez was arrested at Myrtle Avenue and Forest Avenue for possession of a forged instrument by Officer Bonilla. Victoriano Amaro was arrested at 74-17 Grand Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Shoy.

Sunday, May 9
Guikkermo Payano was arrested at 1618 Jefferson Avenue for criminal contempt by Detective Bublin.
Daniel Tucker was arrested at Borden Avenue and Maurice Avenue for aggravated unlicensed operator by Officer Martinez.
Anna Sibiga was arrested at 62-25 65th Street for criminal mischief by Officer Heinlein.
Edwin Romero-Lunavictoria was arrested at Myrtle Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard for driving while intoxicated by Officer Lipori.

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