You have the chance to change a life

You have the opportunity to help change someone’s life, and it won’t cost you a penny. All you have to do is tell someone you know about the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women right here in Woodhaven.
Perhaps you know a woman who never got the opportunity to finish high school. That diploma can often be the key to a better future, it can open the door to better job opportunities or maybe even a promotion at a current job. A high school diploma can be the first step in going to college.
In less than a month, the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women will begin holding open registration for their tuition-free classes for the 2021-2022 school year.
To ensure the safety of all students, you must have proof of vaccination in order to attend classes at SSNDEC Woodhaven.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center offers classes to prepare women to take the TASC (formerly the GED). To register, visit the center at 87-04 88th Avenue across from St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Monday, September 13, between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The classes are for women 20 years or older, who are committed to working toward their high school diploma and can attend classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
They should also have sufficient reading and writing skills in English to work on the high school equivalency curriculum.
If you know someone whose English skills need some work, or perhaps they cannot speak the language at all, the School Sisters also offer ESL (English as a Second Language) courses.
Again, these classes are tuition-free and offered at six levels, from Introductory to Level 5. Classes are scheduled between Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The schedule will vary depending on the level.
All women must take a placement test to determine their level. This test will be given on Tuesday, September 14, at 10 a.m. and again in the afternoon at 1 p.m.
What a difference you could make in the life of the person you share this information with. Not only will it make a difference in the life of that person, but the impact will be felt by their children and the entire family.
Changing the lives of women and their families was exactly what SSNDEC executive director Sister Catherine Feeney had in mind when she and her fellow sisters opened the educational center in 2003 in Ozone Park.
In those early days, the center had just over a dozen students and it was strictly a GED program.
In short order, they also saw a need for an ESL class so they could serve a larger segment of the community. The classes were such a hit they soon needed to find larger quarters, and that’s what brought them to Woodhaven, taking up residence in the former convent that was the home to the nuns that taught in St. Thomas the Apostle.
After the move to Woodhaven, the School Sisters had the room to expand. And with convenient access to transportation – it is near the J train and the Q56 bus along Jamaica Avenue, the Q11, Q21, Q52Ltd, Q53Ltd, and QM15 along Woodhaven Boulevard, and the Q24 along Atlantic Avenue – they were able to greatly increase the number of women they could help.
Well over 2,000 women have been helped by the School Sisters in the years since they opened their doors. And as a byproduct of these classes, their children and entire families are helped. As a result, this can only help improve our neighborhood.
I have been honored to see the students of SSNDEC over the years thrive in the warm, encouraging environment provided by the teachers there.

If anyone has any questions or would like to RSVP for the open house, the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women in Woodhaven can be reached at (718) 738-0588 or email at [email protected] Visit their newly renovated website for more information.

Sad milestone for old Avenue Diner

Last week, I saw the following message posted by a good friend on Facebook: “Feeling a bit bummed. One year ago yesterday was an end of an era for me. Missing all of my Woodhaven family and friends; wishing you all the best!”
This was written by Paul Vasiliadis, whose Avenue Diner closed one year ago after a long struggle with COVID-19 and New York City.
There were many replies from friends and family and customers and staff. Wanda Flores, longtime waitress at the Avenue Diner, said “I miss you and Mr. Jimmy [Paul’s father] every day. You always gave your best and that is why you are so missed. Love you always.”
Former customer Wilda Melendez said: “It breaks my heart when Nadira and I walk past the diner and there is nothing there. It truly was a family diner. It was a light in our community. You and your family made it that.”
And another customer, Daisy Croke posted: “We miss you too. Woodhaven is not the same without you.”
It’s not easy to watch bad things happen to good people. And Paul and his father Jimmy and the rest of the staff of the Avenue Diner were good people who had become family to many people here in Woodhaven.
I never met a more hardworking man than Paul Vasiliadis. In over 11 years operating the diner, Paul took off a total of 30 days. That’s 30 days off out of 4,150, covering weekends and holidays and snow days.
That covers all the days he woke up, his body sore and tired, and yet he still came in day after day, making Paul Vasiliadis Woodhaven’s Iron Man.
In the early days of COVID-19, when restaurant after restaurant temporarily closed, The Avenue Diner remained open. It was a struggle, but Paul kept at it and the many customers who depended on the diner, particularly seniors, were never disappointed.
But the City of New York was relentless in their harassment of small businesses over signage and other minor issues, hitting essential businesses like the Avenue Diner with onerous fines that made it impossible in many cases to survive.
Their fines and harassment may have not closed all the businesses, but it certainly set them up to perish once COVID-19 came along. And even then, the city was unstoppable when it came to penalizing and punishing small businesses like the Avenue Diner.
Young men can ride bikes and ATVs up and down our streets, terrorizing pedestrians, but they won’t catch a fine from our city. People can defecate on Forest Parkway, and there will be no one coming along to write them tickets.
Our city doesn’t like moving targets. Hardworking people who show up to their businesses day in, day out to serve our communities are easy targets for income by our greedy and heartless city.
And so, I see Paul’s words and I am sad. But I am also angry because it didn’t need to be this way. The Avenue Diner may have been foiled by COVID, but it was the city that weakened them enough to allow that to happen. Never forget that.
On his next to last day in Woodhaven, residents, customers and friends gathered outside the eatery to let Paul and his staff and his family know how sad we were and how much we were going to miss them all.
“You were the first business I engaged with when I came here and you were so supportive. I will never forget the conversations we had, they meant so much to me,” said Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.
Paul’s wife, Alexandra, and their three children Demetra, Andreas and Eva, and his father Jimmy were touched by the gathering of residents, many of whom were there right from the beginning.
My wife and I were blessed to be there that day, in March of 2009, when the Avenue Diner opened. It was filled with hope and optimism, they had already put in so much work just to reach opening day.
I wonder if they would have stuck with it had they known how hard it was going to be, and already I know the answer is yes. People who are successful have a special work ethic, and Paul Vasiliadis embodies that and he will succeed again.
We should have a city that supports and lifts up and rewards people like Paul. I guess this was just a long way of saying that this city stinks and I miss my friend.

The first and last thing you see in Woodhaven

There will be a homecoming this Sunday at Emanuel United Church of Christ as Father Elias Mallon returns to Woodhaven to speak at the 10 a.m. service.
Father Mallon grew up in Woodhaven and went to St. Elizabeth’s and then Archbishop Molloy High School. He was ordained in 1971 and has spent his life involved with the study of Roman Catholic-Christian-Muslim dialogue and peace building in the Middle East since 1985.
He has published many articles and two books on Islam, including the award-winning “Islam: What Catholics Need to Know.” His travels on the subject have taken him around the world.
He’s excited to be coming back to his childhood home, and although Emanuel will be somewhat new to him, Father Mallon has vivid memories of the area around the church.
“Some of my unhappiest times were spent near Emanuel Church,” he said, laughing. “St. Anthony’s was across the street and that’s where the ballfields were. And I hated playing baseball. I was so bad, teams used to fight to put me on the other team!”
But he does share one fond memory of St. Anthony’s.
“In the winter, they used to hose it down and turn it into a skating rink,” he recalled. “I liked that a lot!”
Sitting at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, Emanuel United Church of Christ has the unique distinction of being either the first or last thing people see when entering or leaving Woodhaven.
Over the years, Emanuel has been an integral part of the fabric of Woodhaven, opening its doors to welcome many community groups. Through their generosity, Emanuel has become known as “the friendly church.”
Emanuel has been part of Woodhaven for so long that it’s surprising when you dig into their history and find out it started out in Manhattan before branching out to Brooklyn in 1877 to serve a population that was rapidly expanding east.
During World War I, many of the congregation’s elders began leaving Brooklyn for the wide open spaces of Queens and Long Island. Emanuel soon followed, merging with a separate mission from Richmond Hill and purchasing a plot at 89th Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.
The 89th Avenue church building opened in 1924, and it lasted a little over a decade.
A year after its 60th Anniversary, in 1938, the City of New York took over the property and tore down the church as part of a project to widen Woodhaven Boulevard. For those familiar with the area, the old church sat at 89th Avenue at what is now the middle of Woodhaven Boulevard.
The congregation received $136,000 from the city, bought a nearby plot of land on 91st Avenue, and built the beautiful church that has welcomed travelers to Woodhaven ever since.
It is a true community church, serving as the focal point for Anniversary Day Parades, Boy Scout meetings, and as a place where community issues are hashed out during meetings of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.
More recently, Emanuel opened its doors as a COVID vaccination center so that locals and seniors could be protected against the deadly virus.
Emanuel has also hosted meetings and events of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society for the last 29 years. And we have some good stuff planned in the coming months, so if you’re not on our mailing list, contact us at [email protected] and get added.
Whenever the community has needed help, the folks at Emanuel have always generously opened their doors. They serve as a mirror for our community, reflecting the best that Woodhaven has to offer, where caring for your neighbors and caring for the community is more important than caring for oneself.
It is that strength that has kept Emanuel alive and well into their 144th year, and we thank them for all that they have done for our community.

Here’s to another 100 years in Forest Park

For over a century, the carousel in Forest Park has been part of growing up in Woodhaven, Glendale, Ridgewood and many of the nearby neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn.
In many families, several generations have fond memories of riding on the carousel, and have passed on the tradition by taking their own children or grandchildren for their first ride.
A few summers ago, the operators of the carousel added the Woodhaven Express Train. Last summer, they introduced the Frog Hopper to Forest Park. So with a few rides to choose from, along with a basketball shootout and a ring-toss game, it has been transformed into a mini-amusement park.
And so, while the carousel itself will always be known as the Forest Park Carousel, the entire site is now called the “Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village,” and it officially opened its gates for 2021 on weekends…for now. Understandably a soft open after the past year.
We were very fortunate the day that New York Carousel Entertainment was selected to be the stewards of our historic carousel’s future. They have been committed to the growth and well being of the carousel site, while at the same time remaining reverent of the carousel’s past and the feelings that the people of Woodhaven have for it.
Artistically, the Forest Park Carousel is particularly notable as it was the handiwork of the legendary master carver Daniel Muller. Muller came to the United States from Germany as a child in the 1880s. As a young man, he and his brother worked for Gustav Dentzel, a renowned carousel builder in his own right.
Dentzel’s father built carousels in Germany going back to the mid-18th century. Muller took advantage of the opportunity to learn all of these old-world skills from Dentzel, and blended it with his own realistic style to carve out a name for himself. In 1903, D.C. Muller and Bro. Company was founded.
Muller’s carvings were notable for being very beautiful and realistic. In some cases, the carvings were militaristic, with horses sporting bugles, swords and canteens.
Over 14 years, D.C. Muller and Bro. created over a dozen carousels but, sadly, today only two remain: one in Cedar Point, Ohio, and the one right here in Forest Park.
The Forest Park Carousel contains three rows of carvings. The outer row contains 13 standing horses, three menagerie animals and two chariots. The inner two rows each contain 18 jumping horses for a total of 36.
While the Forest Park Carousel is often referred to as a Muller carousel, you will also find a few carvings from Dentzel and Charles Carmel, another notable carousel artist of the same era, on the inner two rows.
The Forest Park Carousel recently underwent a major overhaul. Many of the century-old gears and bearings were carefully replaced, a repair job that took months and required that the carousel be taken completely apart piece by piece.
“We did this so it can run for another 100 years in this very spot,” says David Galst, managing director of New York Carousel. “We know that people are very protective of this carousel, and we want it to last forever.”
The Forest Park Carousel has also established themselves as a friendly partner in the community, working with several charitable groups and organizations, including the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.
We came so close to losing this carousel a few years ago. It’s mind-boggling to think of how lucky we’ve been and how good this has turned out. So it’s on all of us to support this great New York City Landmark this summer to make sure that it stays healthy and sticks around for another century for future residents of Woodhaven to enjoy.

Garden proves that Woodhaven always remembers

The Garden of Remembrance is one of Woodhaven’s oldest Memorial Day traditions, spanning at least seven decades.
Created by American Legion Post 118, the Garden at at 91st Street and 89th Avenue consists of white markers with the names of soldiers killed in action, as well as members of the Post who are longer with us.
Over time, the Garden has grown to a few hundred markers. And in recent years, as members of the post grew older, the honor of erecting the Garden passed to the Junior ROTC of Franklin K. Lane High School.
Last year, due to COVID-19, the Garden of Remembrance was not erected, the first time in 70-plus years it was not on display for Memorial Day.
And it appeared that due to the cancellation of after-school programs over the past year, the Junior ROTC was not going to be available and the Garden would not see the light of day for the second year in a row.
It’s a quirky thing about the ending of traditions. They don’t end with any fanfare, there’s never any announcement. There’s never even any acknowledgement that something special is ending.
The people who were used to a tradition being a part of their lives quickly become used to the tradition going away. It just stops one year and then stops for another.
And then it fades away. Like Anniversary Day Parades. Like Rollback Days.
That’s why it was important for the Garden of Remembrance to be assembled this year, especially right now, coming out of a long dark year in which so many of us have lost so much. We couldn’t afford to lose this unique and beautiful tribute. We couldn’t take that chance.
And so this past Saturday, a group of local residents had the honor of taking part in this tradition, joining members of Post 118 to place the white markers in the front yard of their headquarters at 91st Street and 89th Avenue.
It was a very hot morning and there was a lot of work to be done. Using stakes and ropes to line up the markers, we started in one corner and slowly made our way across the yard.
Each marker has a name and a story of its own, and behind every marker is a family that grieved. Some of those families are no longer around, but many are. In fact, one of the volunteers had the honor of installing the marker dedicated to her great-grandfather.
Back in 2017, I received an email from a man whose uncle, Lieutenant Harry Schmitt, was killed in a plane crash in July 1958. He was stationed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware at the time. He was just 19 and looking forward to a trip back home to Woodhaven.
Harry Schmitt went to St. Thomas the Apostle and Franklin K. Lane and had a job delivering the Leader-Observer. In a tribute to this young man, the Leader wrote: “As a boy, Harry had become known to everyone in the office. From the first day when he took his papers out on his route, his spirit of affable friendliness endeared him to everyone.”
That Memorial Day, we looked in the Garden of Remembrance for a marker with Harry Schmitt’s name and we found one.
We sent pictures of it to the family and they were very touched. It meant a great deal to them that over the decades, Woodhaven remembered. Year after year since his death, American Legion Post 118 honored Harry Schmitt and all the other heroes that were no longer with us.
The following Memorial Day, 60 years after young Lieutenant Harry Schmitt perished, his family returned to Woodhaven for the Memorial Day ceremony. Post 118 added a nice new nameplate to Harry So it was important that the Garden of Remembrance returned this year. It was important to show that Woodhaven always remembers.
If you pass by the Garden, please take a moment to stop and look at all the markers. Try not to notice that some of the rows are slightly out of alignment or a bit askew, starting off closer together than they end up.
Take notice of the names and remember. Woodhaven always remembers.

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.

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.

Rediscover Woodhaven’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.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing