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33rd Anniversary Edition


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Published every week by MARK I PUBLICATIONS, INC.

MARK WEIDLER President & Publisher

SUSAN & STANLEY MERZON Founders Raymond G. Sito General Manager Peter C. Mastrosimone Editor-in-Chief Liz Rhoades Managing Editor Anna Gustafson Senior Editor Michael Gannon Associate Editor Paula Neudorf Associate Editor AnnMarie Costella Reporter Terry Nusspickel Editorial Production Manager Rya Botlander Editorial Production Assistant Jan Schulman Art Director Moeen Din Associate Art Director Ella Jipescu Associate Art Director Ehsan Rahman Art Department Associate David Abramowitz Corporate Sales Lisa LiCausi Office Manager Rosemary Ray Accounting Stela Barbu Administration Senior Account Executives: Jim Berkoff, Beverly Espinoza

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Interns: Kasey Schefflin-Emrich, Jason Pafundi Office: 62-33 Woodhaven Blvd. Rego Park, NY 11374-7769 Phone: (718) 205-8000 Mail: P.O. Box 74-7769 Rego Park, NY 11374-7769 Fax: (718) 205-0150 E-mail: Web site: © Copyright 2011 by MARK I PUBLICATIONS, INC. All rights reserved. Neither this newspaper nor any part thereof may be reproduced, copied, or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilming, recording or by any information retrieval system without the express written permission of the publishers. This copyright is extended to the design and text created for advertisements. Reproduction of said advertisement or any part thereof without the express written permission of MARK I PUBLICATIONS, INC. is strictly prohibited. This publication will not be responsible for errors in advertising beyond the cost of the space occupied by the error. Bylined articles represent the sole opinion of the writer and are not necessarily in accordance with the views of the QUEENS CHRONICLE. This Publication reserves the right to limit or refuse advertising it deems objectionable. The Queens Chronicle is published weekly by Mark I Publications, Inc. at a subscription rate of $19 per year and out of state, $25 per year. Periodicals Postage Paid (USPS0013-572) at Flushing, N.Y. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Mark I Publications, Inc.,62-33 Woodhaven Boulevard, Rego Park, N.Y. 11374-7769.



• • • • • • • • •



• New York City Panorama................................... 5

• Self-guided tours of Victorian homes .............. 19

• Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden ........................... 6

• Neir’s Tavern .................................................... 20

• Noguchi Museum .............................................. 7

• Whale watching ............................................... 22

• Rocket Park mini golf ........................................ 8

• Junior’s Cafe .................................................... 22

• Ethnic restaurants in Queens ............................ 9

• VP Records ...................................................... 23

• Steinway piano factory tour............................. 10

• Museum of Comedy ........................................ 24

• The Archives at Queens Library ...................... 10

• Turn the Page... Again ..................................... 26

• Fisher Landau Center for Art ........................... 12

• Richmond Hill Archival Museum...................... 26

• Professionally led walking tours ...................... 14

• Fort Tilden........................................................ 27

• Max & Mina’s ice cream .................................. 15

• Houdini’s grave ................................................ 28

• Monthly poetry readings .................................. 18

• Brookville Park ................................................. 28

• Family Research Center .................................. 18

• Armstrong House ............................................ 29



33rd Anniversary Edition


e all know Queens is a special place to live in, with its extensive parks, iconic Unisphere and an international community that rivals the United Nations. There are also lesser known treasures that even the most diehard Queens native may not know about. For our 33rd anniversary edition, we decided to focus on 24 of these Hidden Gems in Queens. You may have heard of some and yet don’t know much about them or what makes them special, but we guarantee there are some terrific places and things to do you’ve never even heard of. That is about to change. Two locations in Flushing Meadows Park are easily accessible and very special. Did you know the New York City Panorama, a scale model of the city, was built for the 1964 World’s Fair? The Rocket Park mini golf at the New York Hall of Science is another standout that opened two years ago. All ages enjoy the course while learning some out-of-this-world space science. The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden harks back to a different era when people cooled off without air conditioning. Today beer

is still served up with hearty food and entertainment at this 101year-old survivor. If you’re looking to take a factory tour, the only one offered in Queens is at the Steinway Piano facility. It’s fun and informative. Museums off the beaten track include the Louis Armstrong House, the Museum of Comedy and the Richmond Hill Archival. Wanting to learn more about Queens or your family tree? First, go to The Archives at the central branch of the Queens Library for terrific reference material about the borough. Then make an appointment at the Family Research Center, where researchers will help you discover your roots. Queens is brimming over with art museums. Take a look at two of the more specialized: the Noguchi Museum, which is a restful spot to see the works of the great Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, and the Fisher Landau Center for Art, which features contemporary art lovingly collected by Emily Fisher Landau. If you like walking tours, try a self-guided trek to see the stunning Victorian homes in Richmond Hill, go on professionally led

tours of Queens sites led by borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum or join in the food-themed walks sponsored by NoshWalks. Speaking of food, Queens is chock-full of interesting ethnic restaurants where you can dine on yak, try vegetarian specialties prepared at a Hindu temple or go to a Korean eatery with a “dancing” octopus dish. Probably the borough’s oldest restaurant, Junior’s Cafe, offers wholesome Italian fare and more. Have we whet your appetite? After dinner, don’t overlook Max & Mina’s ice cream and Nier’s bar, where Mae West got her start. Interested in shopping? Read about VP Records, a unique store in Jamaica, and a used book shop in Bayside staffed by the mentally disabled. For the more adventurous, Queens offers whale watching trips from Rockaway and the many activities at nearby Fort Tilden. These stories are just some of what you can peruse in this edition. We are proud of our borough and proud of being here for 33 years. We thank our readers and advertisers and look forward to Q our next 33 years.

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A little piece of heaven at QMA New York City Panorama gives a bird’s eye view of five boroughs by Liz Rhoades Managing Editor

he Queens Museum of Art is filled with paintings and other works of art, but there’s nothing more compelling for both out-of-towners and New Yorkers alike than the Panorama. The brainchild of Robert Moses that was built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows Park, the New York City Panorama was a very popular attraction, drawing 1,400 people a day to its home in the New York City Pavilion. Visitors boarded simulated helicopters for a nine-minute ride around the model that included a piped-in narrative by broadcaster/traveler Lowell Thomas about the wonders of the city. Passengers entered the helicopter cars at the Verrazano Narrows. The cars rose two feet, just high enough to clear the model. As they flew over the city, the lighting changed to evening as planes from the two airports flew overhead. The model, which measures 180 by 100 feet, was built to a scale of one inch to 100 feet and included all 835,000 buildings,


streets, docks, bridges and airports in the city. Believed to be the world’s largest scale model at the time, the Panorama took three years to complete, about as long as it takes to build a major skyscraper. The exhibit cost $672,662 to construct; today it would be more than $3 million. The miniature buildings are made of wood or plastic and the 35 bridges are brass. Moses envisioned the Panorama as a tool for urban planners following the fair’s closing, but that never happened to any great extent. It remained open to the public after the fair closed and became a permanent installation when the art museum opened in 1974. Today, the helicopters are long gone, but a ramp system allows visitors to follow the same route as they walk up and down an incline. Lights simulate daylight and darkness and the planes continue to fly. The model was last updated in 1992 with 65,000 additional buildings at a cost of $1 million. Museum officials have decided to keep the city as it was in 1992, including the now-gone Elmhurst twin gas tanks off the

Part of the New York City Panorama, a scale model of all five boroughs at the Queens Museum of PHOTO COURTESY QMA Art. It was built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Long Island Expressway. But QMA Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl said that when the Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan is completed, the World Trade Center towers will be removed to reflect a new beginning. As a way to raise money for the museum and update the Panorama, two years ago the QMA started an adopt-a-building program. Businesses and homeowners can now adopt their buildings or houses. The cost ranges from $50 for an apartment or $250 for singlefamily houses to $10,000 for naming rights to landmark buildings or new developments. Participants get a deed from the museum

showing their ownership. Among the first ones to take part were the Mets, who paid for a model of Citi Field, and Borough President Helen Marshall, who signed up for her East Elmhurst house. The Panorama is a popular trip for school children and is used as a tool to learn geography, map reading and urban planning. Youngsters especially love to try to find their homes in the scale model. The Queens Museum of Art is located off the Grand Central Parkway. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for chilQ dren and seniors. There is free parking.

33rd Anniversary Edition


QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011 Page 6




Suds and more at Bohemian Garden It maintains a unique status in the history of NYC beer establishments by Jason Pafundi Chronicle Contributor

city’s oldest beer garden is not in Manhattan or TForheBrooklyn, but right here in Queens. over 100 years, the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden at 29-19 24 Ave. in Astoria has been serving up traditional Czech and Slovak food and entertaining visitors from near and far. Opened in 1910, the venue is run by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria. It’s a fraternal organization dedicated to education and preserving Czech and Slovak communities in the area. Think back 100 years when there was no air conditioning or television to entertain the masses. To beat the heat and relax, residents throughout the city depended on beer gardens, where they could have a mug of suds, maybe listen to music and cool off under the trees in a park-like setting. Today, the hall offers Sunday brunch, live music, ethnic festivals and Saturday night poker, and hosts the Astoria Market, which is filled with handmade, vintage and baked goods The next market will be held on Sunday, Nov. 20 from 1 to 7 p.m. “One of the best parts about living in Astoria is this place,” said Dan Adsit, who lives within walking distance. “We sometimes come for brunch, we come to the market, and it’s a great place to have a beer with friends after work.” Indeed the beer is a big reason so many people frequent the Bohemian Hall. The menu features seven Czech and Slovak beers, along with ales from Belgium, Germany and the United States. “Not a lot of places in the city, especially in Astoria, serve these beers,” said Izzy Frank, a Bayside resident, who meets co-workers for drinks every Friday. “I happen to be a big fan of Brouczech beer, and this places serves it nice and cold.”

The food offerings are just as diverse as the beer. Traditional Czech and Slovak dishes like roasted duck with red cabbage and dumplings and roasted ham with sauerkraut and dumplings are served alongside cheeseburgers, hot dogs and French fries. “The menu is different than most bars and pubs we’ve come across,” said Kelly Martin, a teacher from Astoria. “My husband and I recently moved here from Virginia, so we are trying to eat at different places and eat different foods. This is definitely different and that’s a good thing.” In addition to the hall and beer garden, the society runs a Czech and Slovak school intended for children ages 5-13. The program’s curriculum incorporates the Czech and Slovak national standards for elementary schools to teach all aspects of the two languages, including grammar, reading, writing and communication. There are culturally rich activities that provide students with opportunities to understand the fundamentals of each country’s history, geography and ethnic lifestyle. The program uses genuine Czech and Slovak textbooks and materials to promote learning. In the late 1800s, many Czech and Slovaks emigrated from what was then Austria-Hungary and made their way to America. Some found a home in Astoria, and in 1892, the society was formed, named after the medieval kingdom of Bohemia, which forms the western part of the modern-day Czech Republic. In 1910, the society raised funds for a home for the Czech people in the community. Thus was born the Bohemian Hall. It’s such an important institution that Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, held a conference there in 2000. The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden is open Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturday from noon to 3 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 1 Q a.m. For more information, call (718) 274-4925.

Enjoying the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden last summer. PHOTO COURTESY BOHEMIAN BENEVOLENT SOCIETY

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Artist, LIC’s legacy alive in museum The Noguchi offers an oasis and more just steps off the beaten path by Paula Neudorf Associate Editor

n a city teeming with millions, sometimes visiting a museum can feel less like a way to soak in some culture while pondering life’s mysteries, and more like a solo war waged against crowds that could have moonlighted with Attila the Hun’s hordes. But not so at the Noguchi Museum, nestled along Long Island City’s waterfront on 33rd Road, at Vernon Boulevard. One


The Noguchi Museum, located in a quiet spot near the waterfront in Long Island City, offers a respite from New York’s crowds.

of the only museums in New York dedicated to the works of a single artist — Isamu Noguchi — it’s also notable for its emphasis on sculpture. The building and grounds of the museum itself were designed by Noguchi, and are a large part of its appeal. “People have this sense of oasis when they get here,” said Jenny Dixon, the museum’s director. Describing the small garden on the premises, Dixon said, “It’s a very peaceful, tranquil place to hang out.” Visitors are welcome to bring a book or just relax amid plants from New York and Japan, all chosen with care by Noguchi. The famed sculptor was born in Los Angeles in 1904 to a Japanese father and American mother. His eclectic background — the artist lived in Japan until he turned 13, studied sculpture in Paris as a Guggenheim Fellow in the 1920s and eventually moved to New York during the Depression — is reflected in his wideranging art. His sculpture includes small pieces as well as large-scale public works. He designed sets for famed dancer Martha Graham, as well as gardens, playgrounds,

furniture and lighting, all in a distinctive, minimalist style that made use of a broad range of materials. In 1960, Noguchi established a studio in Long Island City, at a time when very few people lived in the neighborhood and most artists were flocking to SoHo. “He came here because of the access to materials and workers and tools,” Dixon said. An artist who was more than comfortable going against the grain, he envisioned Long Island City as an arts center long before anyone else did. Across the street from his studio, “Noguchi looked at what was a junkyard and a gas station,” Dixon explained, “and conceived and considered a museum.” It was established in 1986, two years before the artist died at the age of 84. Today, the Noguchi is one of several museums in a neighborhood with a thriving community of artists. It devotes itself primarily to exhibiting works by its namesake from a considerable permanent collection, and also looks to contextualize Noguchi’s legacy by promoting contemporary sculpture and design.


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“There’s a wonderful texture here that doesn’t exist in other parts of the city,” Dixon said of the impetus for the show. The museum wants “to make sure that it does remain a good place to be” Q for artists and residents. The Noguchi Museum is located at 9-01 33rd Road. Hours: Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets: general admission $10, students and seniors $5. Call (718) 204-7088.


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To that end, the museum, in partnership with the Socrates Sculpture Park, recently enlisted four artist-led teams to craft urban designs that would allow Long Island City to grow without destroying its essential qualities, a project called “Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City.” These proposals are now on view at the Noguchi through April 22, and large-scale prototypes of the designs will be displayed at the nearby Sculpture Park next spring.



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Rocket Park Mini Golf at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Park is a creative way PHOTO COURTESY NYHS to teach science and entertain at the same time.

ou don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy the New York Hall of Science’s Rocket Park Mini Golf in Flushing Meadows Park. The nine-hole course opened in 2009 and, although it costs extra to participate, the lessons learned are well worth it. With two authentic NASA rockets looming in the background, the mini golf course shows that the same laws of motion and gravity that guide the path of a spaceship also control the motion of golf balls on Earth. So, everyone learns a little science while having fun whacking the ball at each themed hole. Hole 1, an updated version of the traditional windmill, delves into a spaceship’s launch window of opportunity while Hole 2 looks at escape velocity during blastoff. Hole 3 examines zero gravity, while Hole 4 explores the Earth’s orbit. Other topics include space docking, space junk, gravity whip, re-entry angle and splash down. You’ll have to go there to find out the details. When the course opened two years ago, one of the first visitors was Bayside astro-


naut Ellen Baker, a physician who flew in space three times. She called it a very clever way to teach kids. The outdoor area uses bright colors, popular in the 1960s when the World’s Fair ran at Flushing Meadows Park in 1964 and 1965. The Hall of Science building was built for that fair and then expanded later. Kids and space buffs also love to explore Rocket Park, which includes two genuine NASA rockets that were installed as part of the World’s Fair. One is a Titan II that stands 110 feet high and is topped with a fiberglass Gemini space capsule similar to those used at the beginning of the U.S. space program. The 102-foot Atlas rocket features a Mercury capsule model similar to the one that carried astronaut John Glenn into space in 1963. Both rockets were restored in 2003 in a two-year project that cost $2 million. Admission to Rocket Park Mini Golf is $6 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. General admission to the HOS is $11 for adults and $8 for children and seniors. The mini golf area is open April to December, weather permitting. Call for Q seasonal hours at (718) 699-0005.

ANNIV page 9



Unusual cuisine to tempt the palate Borough restaurants offer yak, boar, live octopus and light veggie cuisine by AnnMarie Costella Assistant Editor


One can find both traditional and exotic cuisine at the Himalyan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights. every day from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Established in 1993, the Temple Canteen in Flushing feeds thousands of customers every week, offering vegetarian

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33rd Anniversary Edition

The menu features a wide range of “veggie-meats and fish” that substitute for duck, lamb, chicken, ham, shrimp and cod along with other vegan choices, fresh salads and an assortment of desserts. The restaurant, established in 1998, is dedicated to meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, who died in 2007. His pictures and teachings are displayed throughout the eatery which is owned and operated by his students. The Oneness-Fountain-Heart is located at 157-19 72 Ave. and is open every day except Wednesday. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday its hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. It can be reached at (718) 591-3663. At Sik Gaek Chun Ha, a Korean restaurant with locations in Flushing and Woodside, you can order an octopus dish called san-nakji, but be forewarned its feistier than your average serving of cephalopod. Killed just before it is served, its tentacles are chopped into pieces and put on a plate while still moving. “With a little bit of oil and plenty of vegetables, let a[n] octopus dance on the hot plate,” the eatery says on its website. The restaurant also ser ves beef intestines soup; pork belly cartilage stir fr y; marinated sea snails with noodles; and spicy chicken feet, among other fare. Sik Gaek Chun Ha is located at 161-29 Crocheron Ave. in Flushing, which can be reached at (718) 321-7770; and at 49-11 Roosevelt Ave, in Woodside, which can be The tranquil ambience of the Oneness-Fountain-Heart restaurant reached at (718) 2054555. They are open perfectly compliments it’s light vegetarian dishes.


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or those who are tired of the standard burgers and fries, spaghetti dinners or sandwiches, there are plenty of eateries in Queens with unique fare to get your taste buds tingling. At the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights, one can find a wide variety of Nepali, Tibetan, Indian and Bhutanese dishes. As the eatery’s name indicates, those include yak, a hard to find meat, that is popular among diners and often sells out, according to owner Tsepak Dorjee. “It is close to beef, but it has 40 to 50 percent less cholesterol,” Dorjee said. “The taste is different. I can’t really describe it.” Also on the menu is goat bhuttan, which is the liver, heart and stomach of the animal, stir fried with butter, green chilies, onions, tomatoes and Nepali herbs; and sandeko bandel, sliced roasted wild boar served with lemon sauce and Sichuan pepper. “If you want to try something new, this is the best place you could go,” Dorjee said. “Most of our customers love to have exotic food.” The restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for $9.99 on weekends from noon to 4 p.m., and the dishes vary from week to week. There is live music, both traditional and western, Thursday through Monday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., which Dorjee said his customers really enjoy. “They have a good time,” he said. “They spend sometimes three or four hours here. They eat. They drink. They dance.” The Himalyan Yak Restaurant is located at 72-20 Roosevelt Ave. and is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 11 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from noon to midnight. It can be reached at (718) 779-1119. The Oneness-Fountain-Heart vegetarian restaurant in Flushing provides “a peaceful oasis where you can enjoy food that nourishes body, heart and soul.” Relaxing music plays in the background at the eatery, which is painted light blue and features simple, white tables and chairs. The trickle of a decorative fountain adds to the tranquility in the relatively small space.

Indian cuisine at reasonable prices. It is part of the Hindu Temple Society of North America and is located in the basement of its community center. “We have a huge, extensive menu,” said Yuma Mysorekar, president of the temple. “If they don’t know what they want, we explain to them what the food is and the ingredients.” Customers place their orders and are given numbers, which are called when the food is ready. All the meals are made fresh to order and the spiciness level can be adjusted to suit a customer’s taste. “It’s very inexpensive,” Mysorekar said. “An average meal is about $5 or $6 and you get a good, heavy, sumptuous meal.” The item that is most surprising to patrons, according to Mysorekar, is the paper dosa, a kind of thin pancake made from rice batter and black lentils, which can be stuffed with a number of fillings including potatoes, onions and other vegetables. “It is at least a foot or a foot and a half long,” Mysorekar said. “It’s beautiful and very tasty.” The Temple Canteen is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is located at 143-09 Holly Ave. It can be reached at (718) 4608493. “It’s like an all-day picnic,” Mysorekar said. “The more, the merrier.” Q

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After nine months it’s a Steinway Piano maker is the only factory in Queens that offers public tours by Kasey Schefflin-Emrich Chronicle Contributor

ach one takes nine months to create, much like a baby, and also much like a person, looks different from the next one but has much the same interior mechanisms. These are the finely crafted Steinway pianos, made in Astoria, at the only factory in Queens that offers tours to the public. The 19th-century factory is occupied by skilled artisans who handcraft each instrument. Since 1853, Steinway & Sons has been known for setting an unsurpassed standard for sound and beauty. Founded by German immigrant Henry Steinway, the facility adheres to many of the same methods passed down from previous generations. “It’s a hand-built recipe that has stayed the course,” said Michael Anesta, who leads many of the fascinating public tours. Each excursion leads visitors through four floors, giving a look at each step of the piano-making process, from creating the frame to tuning the keys. An estimated 1,100 instruments will be produced by the shop this year. Work on a piano begins with the conWorkers at the Steinway Factory place layers of compressed struction of a curved outer shape, wood into a rim press, giving a piano its familiar shape. called the rim, made by gluing approxiPHOTO COURTESY STEINWAY & SONS mately 16 layers of maple together and


bending the bundle in a metal press to form the piano-shaped structure. This technique was developed by the company and according to Anesta, any piano other than a Steinway made over the last 150 years is basically a copy, with regards to its shape. Not that there are many; 98 percent of pianos used in concerts in North America are made in the Astoria factory, he said. After staying in the press for one day, the rim spends 56 days drying before the next step in production. Meanwhile, workers construct the structural elements of the piano, including the soundboard and the keys. After the rim is set to go, it goes to the “belly department,” where workers custom-fit the musical components into the structure. The strings, for example, are wrapped around pin blocks and on a cast iron plate, which support the tension. Each day about four pianos are strung. The last step is installing the keys and the mechanisms that make them produce sound into place, and then ensuring the piano’s sound is flawless. Tuners tweak the keys to see that they are the same height and go up and down at the same speed. Other details that go into the piano include applying coats of lacquer and

satin finishes. Despite the outer appearance of the instruments, Anesta said they are identical within. “They are exactly the same inside with regards to the size, color, and finish,” he said. After roughly nine months, each piano is ready, made up of 12,000 individual components. “It’s twice as many as an automobile,” Anesta said. Anesta encourages people to take the tour because it is a rare opportunity. “You can’t see this anywhere else,” he said, noting that the factory is already booked up until next year. “People think it’s Disney World,” the guide added. The tours are offered on Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Reservations are required and should be made well in advance. To make a reservation call (718) 721-2600. “Our factory tour follows the process of making a piano literally from stacks of lumber in the yard to a complete piano in our shipping department,” said Anthony Gilroy, director of Marketing and Communications at Steinway & Sons. “Even for someone who doesn’t play the piano, anyone who takes a factory tour to see how our majestic instruments are built will leave with a new appreciation of what goes into making a Q Steinway.”

History comes alive inside The Archives Research division at Central Library makes it easy to look back in time by Kasey Schefflin-Emrich

33rd Anniversary Edition

Chronicle Contributor

Ever wonder what your neighborhood looked like 100 years ago? You can easily find out by heading over to the Archives at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica. The Archives, formerly known as the Long Island Division, include a plethora of documents and records, related to the history and development of Queens as well as the other three counties that comprise Long Island geographically — Brooklyn, Nassau, and Suffolk. These materials include books, periodicals, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photographs and maps. The division, created in 1912 to house special collections, is well-known by scholars and genealogists, but not necessarily by the average Queens resident. “It’s a hidden treasure,” declared Queens Library spokeswoman Joanne King, who has worked for the library system for 15 years. “It’s amazing to see how much Queens developed,” King said, adding that she is surprised at how much the ethnic demographics of certain areas have changed over time. While the department has been given some exposure in the past, King believes it is sure to receive much more in the coming year. In January the division will be celebrating its centennial. The facility also allows people to trace their ancestry, find a former classmate in a high school yearbook, learn about prominent individuals in Queen, and gather information about a specific community or building through the use of Sanborn maps. The latter are the most common sources visitors use, according to Librarian Ian Lewis. Sanborn maps, first created in 1867, are large-scale

visual representations of cities and towns made for the initial purpose of assessing fire insurance liabilities. These maps show detailed information about buildings and structures, including even the locations of windows and doors. “People use them for legal reasons,” said Lewis, who has been with the Archives since July 2009. “Either they want to show proof that something existed or want to make changes to property.” Photographs are another popular feature of the division, with people wanting to find images of the old days for birthday parties and high school reunions. Sometimes, researchers just come to get a glimpse into what life was like during a certain period of time. King said they often get visits from novelists who are writing a story set during a specific era and need to know how people lived then. Whatever the reason someone comes in, the main goal of the room is constant. “Our primary mission is to preserve public memory, and [the] Archives will continue to make resources available to future generations,” King said. The staff is now working on digitizing all the information, which King said will take years. Grace DeSagun, an image technician, said they are using an overhead digital camera and a book scanner, both funded through a grant. But, that is not to say the material in the room will be eliminated in the future. “It will be more widely available, for people who can’t be physically here,” King said. Lewis thinks making the information accessible on the web will actually encourage people to visit the room in person. “It’s a promotional tool to get people to come here,” he said.

Copies of the Sanborn maps at The Archives in the Central Library allow visitors to explore their neighborhood and PHOTO BY KASEY SCHEFFLIN-EMRICH buildings from the past. The Queens Central Library is located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica. Library hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday from 1 to 9 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. It is open to all individuals, even non Queens residents. Q

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Museum offers singular vision At Fisher Landau, Emily Landau’s modern art collection is free to all by Paula Neudorf Associate Editor

f you’re looking for a greatest hits collection of modern art, you could do no better than to visit the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. But if you want a lovingly and expertly assembled mix tape of the same, think about heading instead to the Fisher Landau Center for Art. On display at the Long Island City museum, open since 1989, are revolving exhibits of highlights from Emily Fisher Landau’s 1,500-piece collection. Landau, who is still collecting at age 91, has been going strong for the last several decades. In the 1980s, she became something of a champion of contemporary art, a role she plays to this day.


A visitor and one of Francois-Xavier Lalanne’s bronze “Troupeau de Moutons” (“Flock of Sheep,” 1977) take in the sculpture “City” (1989), by Jon Kessler, which has been promised to the PHOTO BY PAULA NEUDORF Whitney Museum of American Art.

The center, which charges no admission, “is like a gift,” said Nicholas Arbatsky, the museum’s director. “Ms. Landau’s trying to do something for the art community, for the local community.” Among the many works in her collection are over 40 pieces by Jasper Johns and 18 by Robert Rauschenberg. The number of famous artists represented is astonishing: Kiki Smith, Matthew Barney, Sherrie Levine, Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger, the list goes on and on. “She’s concentrated on many things,” Arbatsky said. “It’s been a pretty wild journey for her.” Now on view at the museum are selected pieces out of a total 367 that Landau is giving to Works from “Legacy,” a gift Landau is giving to the Whitney. From left, “City of the Whitney Museum of American Art. These Man” (1981) and “Diderot’s Last Resort” (1994) by Richard Artschwager; can be seen by appointment only until Dec. 4, “Two Languages (Begin)” (1989) by John Baldessari; and “Untitled [Pledge]” because the center is busy installing its next (1988) by Barbara Kruger, on display at the Fisher Landau Center for Art. exhibition, a solo show of painting and sculpture PHOTO COURTESY FISHER LANDAU CENTER FOR THE ARTS by Donald Baechler. The opening reception for the Baechler exhibit, which will to what’s inside. But enter, and you’re greated with airy, lightfilled rooms and a friendly staff. A complete lack of text next run through April 1, 2012, is on Dec. 10, from 2 to 5 p.m. And always on the horizon is the Columbia University to any of the works — handouts with descriptions are availMaster of Fine Arts show, during which graduate art students able instead — encourages a more relaxed approach to taking it all in. This is a great stop on any tour of the area, and a desdisplay their work, later in the spring. Q “It’s a good contrast to our openings,” Arbatsky said of the tination in its own right. The Fisher Landau Center for Art, located at 38-27 30 St. Columbia shows. “There are literally thousands of people in Long Island City, is open Thursday to Monday, noon to 5 here ... [and] the demographic gets about 20 years younger.” Regardless of your age, visiting the Fisher Landau is a p.m., from Dec. 11 on. Through Dec. 4, visitors can view by lovely experience. From outside, the unassuming building, on appointment only. Call (718) 937-0727 for more information. 30th Street between 38th and 39th avenues, gives no hint as Admission is free.


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QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011 Page 12

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From food carts to old rail lines, tours for all Expeditions allow residents to explore boro’s nooks and crannies by Anna Gustafson Senior Editor

ong after the sun has set and darkness falls on Roosevelt Avenue, residents from all pockets of the city have begun to explore the streets of western Queens that teem with vendors serving up dishes of pork and pineapple or cubed beef in a wine sauce, usually to lines of hungry residents just returning home from long hours at their service jobs. “Every place we go to on the midnight tour is a hidden gem,” said Jeff Orlick, a 29-yearold Woodside resident who leads this group of urban explorers on his newly created “midnight street crawls.”


Jack Eichenbaum leads a tour that included stops at Victorian homes in Richmond Hill. COURTESY PHOTO

These crawls are expeditions for the adventurous, people who want to venture into a place — around Roosevelt Avenue from about 90th to 111th streets — that Orlick calls “the wild west for foodies.” The number of tours in Queens is a long list — and for good reason. From the food carts manned, or, perhaps more accurately, womanned, by immigrants from places like Puebla, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador, to Orthodox neighborhoods in Kew Gardens Hills and churches that helped Flushing become a booming black community long before Harlem, there are a nearly endless number of places that residents can explore on tours given by people who have had long love affairs with this borough. Orlick originally started giving informal food tours when he moved to Woodside and wanted to meet others who enjoyed exploring the cultures of Queens through food — especially since many of his friends wouldn’t make the subway trek from Manhattan or Brooklyn. In September, he started leading them professionally. Individuals can book the midnight street crawls for $48 on Saturday or Sunday nights beginning at 9 or 10 p.m. He’s also offering “tastes of the world” tour, on which residents will eat their way through Little Manila in Woodside, make stops at Tibetan joints in Jackson Heights and dive into Ecuadorian and Colombian places along the way.

Residents gather outside a food truck on a midnight food tour led by Jeff Orlick. “Food is an expression of culture, and on these tours, there’s an amazing display of culture,” Orlick said. Jack Eichenbaum, the borough’s official historian who has a PhD in urban geography and has led tours of the borough for decades, offers tours that explore everything from the Victorian mansions in Richmond Hill to Flushing’s history as a haven for religious expression. “Many of the people who come are


unfamiliar with those areas,” Eichenbaum said. “Just as there’s a Manhattan overflow into Queens, to places like Sunnyside and Long Island City, finally people in Manhattan are becoming interested in other boroughs.” Eichenbaum, a Flushing native who temporarily left Queens in the 1970s for a teaching gig at the University of Washington in Seattle, began to offer tours for visiting academics not long after he returned to Queens continued on page 30

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On Saturday, December 10th at 2 P.M. within All Souls Chapel, the United States Marines will collect presents to be distributed to children across the metro area.


33rd Anniversary Edition

Christmas songs by Hank Johnson of Jazz Bone Records, Michael Serao, VP. of Quontic Bank, Costa Constantinides, Democratic District Leader and Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr.


At this time of economic pain it is up to us to make the Holidays a time of Joy for children.

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C M ANNIV page 15 Y K



A little shop with big flavor in Queens Everybody screams for Max and Minna’s ice cream on Main Street by Jason Pafundi



33rd Anniversary Edition

“Now you can go to almost every city, every state and you’ll f ind a quaint ice n a world of big-box corporate stores and cream manufacturer making something national franchises, a tiny ice cream shop that’s different and brings a different taste on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills still to the table,” he said. “When we started stands tall. doing it, we had no idea that it would Max & Mina’s, located at 71-26 Main St., morph into this.” is a family-owned store and wholesale busiBecker said that they are always looking ness known for its adventurous and often to bring new tastes to the market, and wild flavors. mentioned apple cobbler, pumpkin rum “Our main goal is for people to expand cake, caramel apple and candy apple as their taste boundaries and not limit them- some of their latest offerings. selves on the basic ice creams,” said Bruce The ice cream is kosher and some of the Becker, who owns the store with his brother, more unusual flavors they’ve featured include Mark. lox, sweet and spicy Cajun, wasabi, beer and The business, according to Becker, is carmel nuts, corn on the cob and pizza. based on family recipes. Their grandfather, As much success as they have had sellMax, was an organic chemist and often ing ice cream from the store, Becker said developed different flavors of ice cream for the majority of their business comes from the two brothers to try as children. wholesaling. The f irm has provided ice “He was able to break down properties, cream for companies and events all over and he made some funky stuff for us as the city, including movie premieres and kids,” Becker said. “He basically just threw a corporate parties. bunch of stuff in there. He had no bound“We sell to Bloomingdales, Dylan’s aries.” Candy Bar, burger places and steakhouses,” Their grandfather’s recipe book, which he said. “Our taste isn’t just confined to Becker kept in a safety deposit box for over a [Queens]. Wholesaling provides a lot more decade before looking at it, served as the ice cream to people than the store.” basis of the business the brothers would start According to Becker, despite the dismal and name after their grandparents years later economic climate, the store hasn’t seen too as adults. much of a downturn in business. Becker said the number of similar ice “We’re sort of bucking the trend,” he cream businesses across the country and said. “We have a customer base from being called “the future of ice cream” by the everywhere.” Travel Channel are testaments to the hard Becker said that because his business is work he and his brother have put into the selling ice cream from a store and also operation. wholesaling, it changes the equation. “A lot of people are struggling out there and small businesses are really having a hard time, but we’re sort of the exception,” he said. “If we were just selling to the public, we would be struggling.” Becker said that in this economy, a lot of family businesses have been eliminated, so “when you see a first-generation family enterprise stay together and then become a second-generation business, it’s a testament [to all the work].” His children and his nephews, he said, enjoy working at the store. “And I feel the same love to be around it as they do.” He noted that the business is outgrowing its space in Flushing and that “when the time comes, we will look and evaluate what the next step will be.” Store hours continuing through the winter, now Bruce Becker, who co-founded Max & Mina’s ice cream with his in effect, are noon to 8 brother, Mark, in their Kew Gardens Hills shop. The brothers p . m . S u n d ay t h r o u g h Q COURTESY PHOTO Thursday. specialize in unusual flavors. Chronicle Contributor

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Queens Library has

33rd Anniversary Edition

Sign up for your FREE Library Card in person or online.

Use Queens Library computers for the Internet, or bring your own laptop for free wireless access. Computer access is free for Queens Library card holders.

Replacement of a lost library card is subject to a fee. Queens Library is an independent, not-for-profit corporation and is not affiliated with any other library system. QUEL-056002

0549_9.833 x12.083_Page1-4/11

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PHONE (718)

Central Library Children’s Library Discovery Center Arverne Astoria Auburndale Baisley Park Bay Terrace Bayside Bellerose Briarwood Broad Channel Broadway Cambria Heights Corona Court Square Douglaston/Little Neck East Elmhurst East Flushing Elmhurst* Far Rockaway Flushing Forest Hills Fresh Meadows Glen Oaks Glendale Hillcrest Hollis Howard Beach Jackson Heights Kew Gardens Hills Langston Hughes Laurelton Lefferts Lefrak City Long Island City Maspeth McGoldrick Middle Village Mitchell-Linden North Forest Park North Hills Ozone Park Peninsula Pomonok Poppenhusen Queens Village Queensboro Hill Rego Park Richmond Hill Ridgewood Rochdale Village Rosedale St. Albans Seaside South Hollis South Jamaica South Ozone Park Steinway Sunnyside Whitestone Windsor Park Woodhaven Woodside

89-11 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica 11432 89-11 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica 11432 312 Beach 54 Street, Arverne 11692 14-01 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria 11102 25-55 Francis Lewis Boulevard, Flushing 11358 117-11 Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica 11436 18-36 Bell Boulevard, Bayside 11360 214-20 Northern Boulevard, Bayside 11361 250-06 Hillside Avenue, Bellerose 11426 85-12 Main Street, Briarwood 11435 16-26 Cross Bay Boulevard, Broad Channel 11693 40-20 Broadway, Long Island City 11103 218-13 Linden Boulevard, Cambria Heights 11411 38-23 104 Street, Corona 11368 25-01 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City 11101 249-01 Northern Boulevard, Little Neck 11363 95-06 Astoria Boulevard, East Elmhurst 11369 196-36 Northern Boulevard, Flushing 11358 86-01 Broadway, Elmhurst 11373 1637 Central Avenue, Far Rockaway 11691 41-17 Main Street, Flushing 11355 108-19 71 Avenue, Forest Hills 11375 193-20 Horace Harding Expressway, Fresh Meadows 11365 256-04 Union Turnpike, Glen Oaks 11004 78-60 73 Place, Glendale 11385 187-05 Union Turnpike, Flushing 11366 202-05 Hillside Avenue, Hollis 11423 92-06 156 Avenue, Howard Beach 11414 35-51 81 Street, Jackson Heights 11372 72-33 Vleigh Place, Flushing 11367 100-01 Northern Boulevard, Corona 11368 134-26 225 Street, Laurelton 11413 103-34 Lefferts Boulevard, Richmond Hill 11419 98-30 57th Avenue, Corona 11368 37-44 21 Street, Long Island City 11101 69-70 Grand Avenue, Maspeth 11378 155-06 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing 11354 - off Northern Blvd. 72-31 Metropolitan Avenue, Middle Village 11379 29-42 Union Street, Flushing 11354 98-27 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills 11375 57-04 Marathon Parkway, Little Neck 11362 92-24 Rockaway Boulevard, Ozone Park 11417 92-25 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach 11693 158-21 Jewel Avenue, Flushing 11365 121-23 14 Avenue, College Point 11356 94-11 217 Street, Queens Village 11428 60-05 Main Street, Flushing 11355 91-41 63 Drive, Rego Park 11374 118-14 Hillside Avenue, Richmond Hill 11418 20-12 Madison Street, Ridgewood 11385 169-09 137 Avenue, Jamaica 11434 144-20 243 Street, Rosedale 11422 191-05 Linden Boulevard, St. Albans 11412 116-15 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Park 11694 204-01 Hollis Avenue, South Hollis 11412 108-41 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, Jamaica 11433 128-16 Rockaway Boulevard, South Ozone Park 11420 21-45 31 Street, Astoria 11105 43-06 Greenpoint Avenue, Long Island City 11104 151-10 14 Road, Whitestone 11357 79-50 Bell Boulevard, Bayside 11364 85-41 Forest Parkway, Woodhaven 11421 54-22 Skillman Avenue, Woodside 11377

990-0700 990-0767 634-4784 278-2220 352-2027 529-1590 423-7004 229-1834 831-8644 658-1680 318-4943 721-2462 528-3535 426-2844 937-2790 225-8414 424-2619 357-6643 271-1020 327-2549 661-1200 268-7934 454-7272 831-8636 821-4980 454-2786 465-7355 641-7086 899-2500 261-6654 651-1100 528-2822 843-5950 592-7677 752-3700 639-5228 461-1616 326-1390 539-2330 261-5512 225-3550 845-3127 634-1110 591-4343 359-1102 776-6800 359-8332 459-5140 849-7150 821-4770 723-4440 528-8490 528-8196 634-1876 465-6779 739-4088 529-1660 728-1965 784-3033 767-8010 468-8300 849-1010 429-4700


= subway

= bus

F Across from the Jamaica bus terminal F Across from the Jamaica bus terminal A Q22 N, Q Q18, Q19, Q69, Q102, Q103 Q16, Q76, Q31 Q6 Alternates: Q7, Q111, Q113 Q13, Q28 LIRR Q12, Q13, Q31, Q43, Q79 F Q20A, Q20B, Q44, Q60 A, S Q21, Q53 M, R Q101, Q104 Q4, Q27, Q77 7 Q23, Q48 E, G, M, 7 B61, Q19A, Q39 LIRR Q12, N20/21 Q19, Q49, Q72 Q12, Q13, Q76 M, R Q29, Q53, Q58, Q59, Q60 A, LIRR N31, N32, N33, Q22, Q113 7, LIRR Q12, Q17, Q19, Q25, Q27, Q34, Q44, Q66, QBx1 E, F, M, R Q23, Q60, Q64 Q17, Q30, Q88 Q46 Q55 Q17, Q46 Q1, Q36, Q43, Q76, Q77 Q11, Q21, Q41 7 Q19B, Q32, Q33, Q66 Q20A, Q20B, Q44, Q64 7 Q23, Q66, Q72 Q5 A Q8, Q10, Q112 M, R Q38, Q72, Q88, QM10, QM11 F Q66, Q69, Q101, Q102, Q103 Q18, Q58, Q59, Q67 Q13, Q28 M Q29, Q38, Q54 Q16, Q20A/Q20B, Q44 Q23, Q54 Q30 A Q7, Q8, Q11, Q21, Q41, Q53, Q112 A Shuttle Q21, Q22, Q53 Q25, Q34, Q64, Q65, Q74 Q20A, Q20B, Q25, Q65 LIRR Q1, Q27, Q36, Q88 Q20A, Q20B, Q44, Q74, Q88 M, R Q11, Q38, Q53, Q60, Q72 J, Z Q10, Q55, Q56 M B13, B20, Q39, Q58 Q3, Q85, Q111, Q113 LIRR Q85, Q111 Q3, Q4 A, S Q21, Q22, Q35, Q53 Q2, Q77 Q111, Q113 Q7, Q9, Q10 N, Q M60, Q69, Q100 7 B24, Q32, Q39, Q60 Q15, Q15A, Q76 Q46 J Q56 7 Q18, Q32, Q60

* Queens Library at Elmhurst will be closed effective November 7, 2011 to build a new library. The closest libraries are: Jackson Heights, Lefrak City and Rego Park. * Transportation routes subject to change without notice.

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QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011 Page 18




Chinese poet Yang offers poetry nights Monthly sessions reflect freedom she sought in the United States by Jason Pafundi Managing Editor

hen Susan Yang came to the United States from China in 1989, one of the things she was most looking forward to was the opportunity to express herself freely, a freedom not allowed under Communist Chinese rule. The way Yang, 49, chose to take advantage of that freedom was through poetry and more than 20 years later, she is still writing and reading poems. That passion is on display 11 times a year at the Fresh Meadows Bar nes & Noble at 176-60 Union Tur npike, where Yang hosts a monthly poetry open-mic night. The readings are held on the second Monday of each month from 7:30 to 9 p.m., except December, and are open to anyone who wants to read. “Every time is a different crowd, sometimes as big as 50 people,” she said. “Sometimes we have groups of students, sometimes groups of Spanish poets. We have a variety of different people, different styles and different participation from all different cultures.” As host, Yang reads her own poetry as a way to encourage first-time readers, who she said are shy and unsure of the quality of their writing. “Some people have never read in public before,” she said. “They call themselves ‘closet poets’ and they need a lot of encouragement.” Yang is especially thankful to the bookstore for providing space and the opportunity


to host this event, and though it is open to anyone who wants to read or listen, there is one rule — no profanity. “There are poets who want to freely express themselves with profanity, but they can’t do it here,” she said. “This is a rule we have to obey, especially because there are often children who come to the readings.” Despite the jitters of first-time readers and the randomness of the audience, Yang said there is always a poem that stands out during each program. “Every time I host this event there is always someone who reads an amazing poem,” she said. “I ask them to send me a copy of the poem so I can read it again and again and again.” The poet said there are so many people who don’t know that they have amazing talent and that it is a “great bond to share this kind of passion with a total stranger.” Yang said that though it’s easy to tell that most of the poets are beginners, they “write from the heart and it’s very touching to hear people’s raw material. Nobody is an expert in poetry because it is a free style.” Her birth name is Xia and she came to the United States after the Tiananmen Square uprising. She said she gave up an important government job in China to come here. Now, Yang works as a real estate broker and massage therapist. “I’d probably have a lot of power now in China,” Yang said. “I’d probably be as corrupt as other government officials, but I

Susan Yang, left, hosts monthy poetry readings in Fresh Meadows. With her is poet Huang Ziang, COURTESY PHOTO who spoke at a recent session. don’t regret anything. I don’t have the power I’d have [in China], but I have freedom and choice.” She hopes to eventually build up enough interest from the local community to increase the frequency of the event. “A lot of people don’t realize that they

can benefit from just listening to poetry,” Yang said. “It’s a great way to just feel inspired.” For more information about the readings, those interested should contact Yang at susanthewinner or call Q (718) 454-6868.

A (family) tree grows in Queens Mormon-operated center provides keys to personal, family histories by Michael Gannon Associate Editor

33rd Anniversary Edition

Iris Zamora was interested in genealogy long before she even knew what it was. “I began interviewing my grandparents when I was 8 years old,” Zamora said. Now she heads up a group of volunteers at the Family Research Center at 40-24 62nd St. in Rego Park.

It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church, and is dedicated to helping others to write books or trace their family trees. “I was interested long before I joined the church,” she said. “It was a natural fit, because the church believes that the family is eternal. Preservation of family is very important to us. We’re happy to help people, to give

Iris Zamora of the Family Research Center in Rego Park, at one of the nearly 20 stations where people can look up and trace their family histories. The center and ones like it around the world are a major part of the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter PHOTO BY MICHAEL GANNON Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.

anybody the opportunity to look through records to find their families.” She said they cater to people working on family books or family trees, historians and other researchers. “Some people may be looking for family medical histories or looking into legal matters,” Zamora said. Their building on 62nd Street has a history of its own. The Bulova Watch Co. had it built, along with surrounding buildings and recreational facilities, in the 1940s. It housed a program to train men returning from World War II who looking for work in the art of watchmaking. A bronze plaque in the main research room is an award for architecture presented to Bulova in 1945. The center houses rolls of microfilm and microfiche, and the machines to look through them. Researchers are able to obtain records for local residents for a cost of $5.50. They also have computers on site, and offer free assistance to those who would like to do their own research at home on their own computers. Zamora’s family actually found some interesting roots on its own tree. “When I married my husband, we had heard stories of a man named Juan de Zamora who was a conquistador,” she said. They found out her husband is descended from Spanish royalty. “It isn’t really a lot, but it is good for conversations,” she explained. The center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Thursday; 1 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays; and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. It can be reached by telephone at Q (718) 478-5337.

C M ANNIV page 19 Y K



In Richmond Hill, a glance back in time On neighborhood tours, residents can explore area’s Victorian homes by Anna Gustafson Senior Editor

alking down the streets of northern Richmond Hill, it’s easy to believe you’ve gone back to a time when carriages jostled around the neighborhood and men in top hats and women in long skirts spent their Sunday afternoons in Forest Park.


Many of the houses from the turn of the 20th century include large porches and towers.

Massive Victorian homes, almost doll houselike with their wraparound porches and turrets, line the streets marked by giant oak and chestnut trees, their leaves now exploding into colors almost as vibrant as the houses around them. For residents used to the borough’s many garden apartment complexes or the unremarkable mid-century two-story dwellings that dominate many neighborhoods, a stroll around Richmond Hill will help to awaken the inner architect. There are a number of tours easy for residents to take on their own — all you’ll need is a pair of walking shoes and some time to gaze at the neighborhood’s homes, many of which are in the Queen Anne mode. The houses are large, spacious structures that were built in an elaborate style unveiled at the Great Centennial World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876. Richmond Hill, once a rural haven dominated by farms, began to develop after the railroad station opened at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Babbage Street. Its population continued to grow when the elevated train line came to Jamaica Avenue. The houses that began to pop up in the neighborhood around the turn of the century were, and remain, characterized by expansive verandas, balconies on the upper floors and towers topped by finials. The homes are so unique that many north Richmond Hill residents have long lobbied for the area to be landmarked, though the city’s Landmarks continued on page 30

Page 19 QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011


This home at 108th Street and 86th Avenue is representative of many of the old, PHOTOS BY ANNA GUSTAFSON beautiful homes that line the streets in north Richmond Hill.

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owner, David Eng, whom I knew from the music business, told me the bar was in rom the outside, Neir’s Tavern could trouble, and we couldn’t let a historic place be just the saloon it was built to be like this go under.” 182 years ago — a watering hole up He and partners Alex Ewan, Eppy top and a stable below, tucked into the cor- Epstein and Andy Bigan “took a crash ner of 78th Street and 88th Avenue. course in owning a bar” and went to work But go inside, and it is a remarkable on saving one of the oldest watering holes study in contrasts. in the United States. The long, classic mahogany bar, tin ceilThe bar opened as The Blue Pump ings and fine, hand-crafted woodwork pro- Room in 1829, across from the Union vide a stalwart salute to the history of the Course Race Track. It was sold in 1835 and bar and its Woodhaven neighborhood. renamed The Old Abbey. But the old gas Neir’s website says lamps above the bar that Louis Neir purwere long ago retrofitchased the establishou can’t pick ted for electric wiring. ment in 1898. He The back of the room expanded it to include up this place where a young Mae a bowling alley, a balland move it West used to perform room and hotel rooms now hosts poetry readupstairs, renaming it to Manhattan.” ings, open mike nights Neir’s Social Hall. and a karaoke machine. The Neir family sold — Loycent Gordon, co-owner of And while they still it in 1967, at which Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven sell the same whiskey point it became The and pints of beer served to the likes of W.C. Union Course Tavern. Fields and Fred Trump (The Donald’s Upon purchasing it in 2009, Gordon and father), those glasses now are complement- his partners shut down for eight months of ed by Buffalo wings and culinary concoc- painstaking restoration, including the 150tions from Chef Daniel LaRosa which year-old bar. include ingredients like Chipotle honey “It’s a single piece of wood,” said bar mayonnaise. manager Nancy Kennedy. “That’s how you “The one thing that will never change,” know it’s original.” says co-owner Loycent Gordon, “is that Gordon said the stables are long gone, as this is a neighborhood bar.” are any peepholes, sliding panels or hidden Gordon and four partners took over the rooms that may have been created during bar in 2009. A member of the FDNY with the days of Prohibition. Engine 314 in Rosedale, Gordon also is a Hollywood certainly has heard of Neir’s. music producer and his four partners all are The barroom is featured prominently in producers, promoters or musicians. the 1990 movie “Goodfellas.” “Someone told me this is the most It was there that director Martin famous bar that you’ve never heard of,” Scorcese f ilmed the famous “Get your continued on page 30 Gordon said. “Back in 2009, the building Associate Editor



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Whales, dolphins and fish, oh my! Rockaway-launched cruises seek out marine life in the Atlantic Ocean by Kasey Schefflin-Emrich Chronicle Contributor

If you’re hankering for a whale of an adventure, try a sea cruise next summer from Rockaway to see the large mammals and their dolphin cousins just miles off the Queens coast. Beginning June 15 and continuing through Sept. 15, five days a week, adults and children can board the American Princess, a boat that departs from Riis Landing, and sail out into the Atlantic Ocean in search of the distinctive sea life. The cruise leaves the dock at noon and lasts approximately four hours.


Dolphins are a common sight during the cruises. PHOTO BY MITCH WAXMAN

The 95-foot aluminum vessel holds 250 passengers, but this past season, its first, the ship averaged 75 to 100 people per cruise according to Tom Paladino, owner and captain of the American Princess. Paladino expects those numbers will likely increase the next time around. “We just started,” he said. “It’s going to explode next year.” Paladino reflected on the good reception the trips received in the first season, saying “it’s a nature tour and people love it.” The cruise is for all ages, including children, who interact with a naturalist on board and assist the crew in taking the official whale and dolphin count. “I think children sometimes get more out of it than the adults,” Paladino said. He said that 70 percent of the boat’s voyages yielded sightings of whales and dolphins, and even sharks, turtles and sunfish. Over the span of the journeys the craft carried out this year, 1,000 dolphins were seen. Other boats in the water act as spotters for the American Princess, leading Paladino to areas where animals are most likely to be found. The captain enjoys the unpredictable nature of these expeditions. “It’s very exciting,” Paladino said. “Every time is different. You don’t know what to expect.” He said the most impressive sight he has observed involved a group of whales standing on their tails a mere 10 feet away from the boat.

One of the whales spotted by passengers aboard the American Princess last summer out of PHOTO COURTESY AMERICAN PRINCESS CRUISES Rockaway. “It was absolutely breathtaking,” he said. Paladino encourages people to take the adventure because it is a rare opportunity. “It’s a great thing,” he said. “You don’t have to go to Cape Cod and travel f ive hours by car anymore. You can go right here in Queens.” To make a reservation, which is highly recommended, call (718) 474-0593 or visit Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the cruise, but

on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets cost $25 for children five to 12 years old, $40 for adults and $35 for seniors 62 and older. The boat is handicapped-accessible, and children’s strollers are permitted on board. While beverages and coolers are not permitted, there is a snack bar stocked with beverages. Riis Landing is located at Beach 169th Q Street and State Road in Breezy Point.

LIC eatery dishes up atmosphere Junior’s Cafe may be oldest in borough, offering great food & staff by Liz Rhoades Managing Editor

ou may have passed by Junior’s Cafe hundreds of times on the way to Costco in Long Island City and never given it a second thought. From the outside it looks like just another corner bar and grille. Well, think again. This drinking hole and restaurant is a neighborhood landmark that has been around at least 83 years, serving up delicious Italian fare by a friendly staff that makes everyone feel at home. Junior DiCaprio, 75, has owned the establishment for 12 years and says it has changed hands numerous times over the decades, but has always offered Italian food. Its history is murky, but dates back at least 83 years to when the building was constructed. The owner thinks there’s been a restaurant at the site for at least 90 years and he is joined in that belief by Danny Padula, 92, who worked there for many years as a waiter before retiring.

33rd Anniversary Edition


Junior’s Cafe on Vernon Boulevard at 46th Road in Long Island City.

Both men grew up in the neighborhood and Padula has lived next door all his life. They know the place used to be called Stephanie’s but don’t remember any of the earlier incarnations. With the borough’s oldest restaurant, Niederstein’s of Middle Village, having closed in 2005 after a 150-year run, DiCaprio thinks Junior’s Cafe may now be the oldest still in business. His restaurant is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. It’s still a neighborhood hangout with lots of interesting characters, and the gentrification of the area hasn’t really affected Junior’s yet. “We are starting to get young people,” DiCaprio said. “We don’t bother anyone.” On the contrary, Junior’s staff is extremely friendly, from bartender Jimmy, waitresses Jasmine, Ursula and Theresa (Junior’s granddaughter) and kitchen staff Ruben, Antonio and Santiago. Some diners eat there four days a week. Owner Junior DiCaprio, left, with retired waiter Danny Padula in Junior’s Cafe. DiCaprio claims he has the best pizza in It may be the oldest restaurant in Queens. PHOTOS BY LIZ RHOADES town and his other Italian specialties range from calamari to shrimp scampi. He also serves steaks and give back to the community. Every summer the antique car enthusiast holds a car show chops. The owner has been in the restaurant business all his life as well as a block party on 46th Road, where he provides and prides himself in purchasing all the cafe’s produce, free food and T-shirts. “I know a lot of people and we have meat and seafood. “Nothing is frozen, I do all the shop- reunions every summer,” DiCaprio said. The unpretentious eatery also has a large back room for ping,” he added. “No one ever complains about the food.” Padula agrees. “Everything is good here,” he said. “I eat private parties, featuring wall-to-wall, hand-painted murals of Italy by artist Frank Latorre. here a lot.” Junior’s Cafe is located at 46-18 Vernon Blvd. No reserDiCaprio is the father of six daughters and has 20 grandchildren. Aside from his granddaughter working vations are required. Stop in and see Junior. He likes meetQ there, his wife, Kathy, keeps the books. And he likes to ing people and never takes a vacation.

ANNIV page 23



VP Records makes music and history Jamaica store boasts classic and contemporary Caribbean sounds by Michael Gannon Associate Editor

P Records may not be one of the oldest businesses in Queens, but it already has an impressive history. It started selling reggae and calypso music in Jamaica (the one in New York) in 1979 in the days of vinyl LPs and 45s. More than 30 years later it has expanded to music producing, Caribbean fashion, CDs and DVDs. And yes, the vinyl records have come back strong. “Vinyl never really went away,” said Paul Shields, the senior engineer for the record company, with a broad smile. Vincent and Patricia Chin brought the business to Queens from Kingston, Jamaica and instantly became a neighborhood f ixture at 170-21 Jamaica Ave. The VP record label — derived from the first letters of the founders’ first names — started up in 1993. Vincent Chin died in 2003. And in a time when record stores and video stores have fallen to the Internet, VP thrives. “You can f ind everything here,” said customer Dennis Por ter. “You have reggae and calypso and soca,” he said. “They have DVDs and CDs. He also pointed


to a store display for singer Alborosie, from Italy, and performers from Germany. “Reggae has gone around the world, and it is all here,” Porter said. And he led the way to a separate part of the store that has both new and classic songs on the vinyl. “Hugh Mundell was one of my favorites,” he said, picking up the 45. “He died in 1982 at the age of 22.” And the eclectic collection of artists is not limited to music of Caribbean origins. A display of Christmas CDs also includes the likes of Mariah Carey, Jessica Simpson and Patti LaBelle. The eastern portion of the store displays shirts and fashion accessories. The VP record label, which has been honored by Billboard magazine, now is run by the Chins’ sons, Randy and Christopher. And while the record store has withstood the assault of technology, the recording business has thrived because of it. “This is an old two-track machine,” Shields said, patting what looks like a museum piece on the way into a studio with all the modern technological wizardry at his fingertips. The store can be reached at (718) Q 297-5802.

Page 23 QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011


Dennis Porter seeks new music on CDs and classical raggae compositions from his youth in the racks of PHOTO BY MICHAEL GANNON VP Records in Jamaica.


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Belly laughs abound at comedy museum ‘Sillie Sallie’ Elkordy displays props at her monument biz and performs Chronicle Contributor

n the movie “Patch Adams,” Robin Williams’ character is a medical student and then doctor who uses laughter to cheer up sick patients and others who are less fortunate. Sallie Elkordy does the same thing, except people call her “sillie” instead of doctor. When she is not performing for the sick, Elkordy runs the Museum of Comedy in Ozone Park. Located at 80-60 Pitkin Ave., across the street from Mokom Sholom Cemetery, the museum is housed in the Ottavinich which Elkordy’s father owned. Inside the museum, there are a wide variety of items — everything from a picture signed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, creators of the “Flintstones,” to a vintage George Burns doll complete with tuxedo and cigar and a Henny Youngman pocket jester, which looks like a tape measure but has jokes where the numbers would appear. No matter what the item, Elkordy hopes they fall in line with the museum’s motto, “Veni, Vidi, Risi” — I came, I saw, I laughed. The collection’s proximity to a


cemetery is ironic considering that Elkordy, 51, is very much alive. The laughmeister started out by performing at hospitals and homeless shelters with some fellow comics, but after doing hundreds of unpaid shows, the others stopped returning her calls. Part of the reason she opened the comedy museum was to help pay the comedians who performed with her. “I went nonprofit as a museum because I had a huge collection of funny stuff, and this would provide me a way to raise money to pay the comics,” she said. “I’m a very, very bad fundraiser but a very good fun raiser.” Elkordy said she had ended up paying out of her own pocket for over 550 shows and was writing 15 letters a day to get money for the comedians. At the museum, which is only open on Mondays from 1 to 5 p.m., Elkordy displays a part of her large collection. “We do not have the funding to encase the many artifacts, nor do I have the funding to frame the many pictures we have,” she said. “We do what we are able to do without funding.”

Sillie Sallie’s said her real purpose, though, is to “get out and cheer people up.” “We are very good at what we do, and we transform people,” she said. “When I see 400 toothless men laughing, it really makes my day. There are 400 men and two teeth among them, it’s just funny. These are my peeps.” Elkordy’s son, Abbas Octavious Elkordy, aka Joyboy, started performing during his senior year of high school when he was 17. His specialties are impressions and body language humor, and, now 20, he is in college and still performs every chance he gets. “Go on YouTube and watch his graduation speech — it’s off the freakin’ chart,” Sillie Sallie said. “There is also a clip of him performing at the Comic Strip, and it was good.” The comedian said that though she’d always wanted to be part of a comedy team, she never envisioned it being with her son. “We were working on a routine together that we mess around with all the time,” she said. “We may be performing together here soon.” In addition to her comedy

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Turning the page on mental illness Bayside bookstore helps disabled workers integrate into society by Kasey Schefflin-Emrich Chronicle Contributor

ince its inception in February 2010, the Bayside bookstore Turn the Page...Again has given a new life to used books and the employees who work there. The shop, which is believed to be one of only two secondhand bookstores in Queens that sell and accept used books, is situated between a hair salon and a dentist office at 3915A Bell Blvd. It is operated by the nonprofit organization Transitional Services for New York, which provides housing and support services for the mentally disabled. TSINY employs 14 individuals at the store with mental disorders who have had difficulty finding long-term employment as a result of their condition. “It gives them the opportunity to grow, learn more skills and get back into the workforce,” said store manager Elle Fliegel. The skills the employees gain emerge from the various tasks they are responsible for on a typical day, which include organizing and categorizing books, cashiering, computer work and dealing with customers. These duties are an attempt to give the workers a sense of normalcy and a chance for a better life, according to TSINY Chief Executive Officer Larry Grubler. “The goal of the bookstore is to give individuals who have a mental illness the opportunity to get real-life work experience and then go out and gain employment,” Grubler said. The employees work 10 hours a day for a


The Turn the Page...Again bookstore has helped employees Kathy, left, and Maureen, right, gain PHOTOS BY KASEY SCHEFFLIN-EMRICH valuable working experience. period of six to nine months, with the hope that they will have moved on to another job by then. The staff at the bookstore assist workers in finding employment, which Grubler says has been more successful than he imagined almost two years ago. Since the store opened, eight employees have found jobs geared to their vocational goals. Employers hiring them include TGI Fri-

day’s, Sunrise Cinema, senior programs, Elmhurst Hospital and retail stores. Working at Turn the Page has been a positive experience for Kathy, a former receptionist, who has been there since August. She said she likes the “hands-on” environment and the friendliness of fellow staffers. “If you don’t know something they help you out,” said Kathy, who hopes to become a

salesclerk in the future. Maureen, from Springfield Gardens, who has been at the bookstore for the last seven months, said the job is very rewarding. “It supplements my income, but it also has exposed me to different kinds of books,” she said. “It has given me a wider appreciation for literature.” In addition to helping the workers, the bookstore offers a home to countless used books ranging from classics to romance novels to cookbooks in relatively good condition at low prices, with no book going for more than $5. There are usually special sales going on such as $1 for cookbooks and buy three novels for a special price. The shop also offers special amenities to customers, such as allowing them to create a wish list if they don’t see a particular book they want in stock. When and if the book is donated, staff members contact the readers and set a time for them to pick it up. “One customer has a wish list a mile long with pages and pages of classics in alphabetical order,” Fliegel said. Besides the list, the store offers coffee and snacks such as donuts and cookies. It even has a corner devoted to children’s books with tables and chairs. “I see parents and kids in the store all the time,” Grubler said. Turn the Page Again is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call (718) Q 767-2341

From a funeral home, a glimpse into the past Richmond Hill Archival Museum has extensive collection of memorabilia by Anna Gustafson Senior Editor

33rd Anniversary Edition

Inconspicuously tucked away in a room of the Kearns Funeral Home, the Richmond Hill Archival Museum at first appears to be a modest affair — glass cases and bookshelves line the walls, from which yellowed faces in black and white photos stare at visitors, their perfectly coiffed Victorian up-dos and hard stares forever frozen in time. But upon further inspection, it becomes clear that residents could lose themselves in the museum for hours while perusing stacks of Richmond Hill High School yearbooks dating back to the turn of the 20th century,

Jacob Riis and his family pose for a photo on 115th Street in Richmond Hill in 1909. The picture is one among many on display at the museum.

photos of World War I soldiers and famous residents — journalist Jacob Riis, radio pioneer Alfred Grebe and “Skippy” cartoonist Percy Crosby, for example — and a wide range of items representing a rich neighborhood history. “It’s a wonderful place,” Ivan Mrakovcic, president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, said of the museum, located on the first floor of the funeral home at 85-66 115 St. “It’s very homey, and we’ve had so many interesting things donated by people from around here.” Residents can see a carriage jack from the late 1800s, a vintage cheerleading outfit from Richmond Hill High School and a radio from the mid-1920s that was donated by the Grebe family. Richmond Hill Historical Society President Ivan Mrakovcic stands in the group’s The Grebe radio factory was once located archival museum, which holds a wide range of photos and items that piece together on the Van Wyck Expressway in Richmond a colorful narrative of the neighborhood’s rich past. PHOTOS BY ANNA GUSTAFSON Hill, and Alfred Grebe, who was born in Richmond Hill and died in Hollis, set up a network called the Atlantic Broadcasting Corporation, which he operated until he sold it to CBS in 1929. Books written by former Richmond Hill residents Anais Nin and Amelia Edith Barr line the shelves, and a number of Percy Crosby’s “Skippy” comic books are preserved in a glass case. Crosby and his family moved from Long Island to Richmond Hill in 1900, and he documented many of his childhood escapades in Queens in his cartoon strip and 1929 novel. Residents who wish to spend time in the museum should contact the historical society at (718) 704-9317 or “Skippy” comics author Percy Crosby moved to Richmond Hill in 1900 Q visit the website at and later wrote about many of his childhood adventures in the strip.

C M ANNIV page 27 Y K



The fort where the boardwalk ends Less than a mile from Jacob Riis is one of Queens’ most remote spots by Paula Neudorf Associate Editor

hile some say it’s not the desolate, solitary expanse of yore, Fort Tilden, a beach and former military base facing the Atlantic Ocean on the Rockaway Peninsula, is still about as remote as it gets in New York City. You can do like the hipsters from Brooklyn do and ride your bike there, though public transportation will get you within walking distance and parking is available off-season, between Sept. 16 and March 14 — during high season, drivers can park at nearby Jacob Riis Park. “Once you’re there, it’s like you’ve left the city,” said Christine Mullally, the education director of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, which calls three old fort buildings home. Fort Tilden is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, encompassing 26,000 acres that stretch across both New York and New Jersey. “It’s one of the largest urban national parks in the system,” said Jennifer Bethea, a Gateway park ranger. Built in 1917, the fort was strategically placed to defend New York Harbor. First outfitted with cannons and guns, it eventually became home to several nuclear missiles before it was decommissioned in 1974. Now, the complex of barracks and shelters, just a few hundred yards from the beach, are mostly empty, though they are fascinating to explore. Walk the “Back Fort,” the old paved roads that wind their way through the base, and you’ll reach Fort Tilden’s undisputed highlight: Battery Harris East, the only bunker that is possible to climb, via a winding wooden staircase. From the top, you’ll get a panoramic view of Jamaica Bay, New York Harbor and Manhattan in the distance. Besides the Rockaway Artists Alliance, Fort Tilden is


The beach at Fort Tilden is more tranquil than at neighboring Jacob Riis Park beach. also home to the Rockaway Theatre Company, which is putting on the play “A Decade of Dynamite” between Nov. 18 and Dec. 4. The RAA is also unveiling a new show, a multimedia exhibit called “Gifted,” on Nov. 19. It will run through Dec. 18. If you are planning a visit, note that the only concession is a food truck sometimes parked at the fort’s entrance. There are bathrooms on-site, open daily. Rangers and other organizations offer nature walks, history tours and talks throughout

Page 27 QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011



the year, like a recent evening of stargazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association. Check the New York Harbor Parks online schedule of events ( or call the park rangers at nearby Floyd Bennett Field, at (718) 338Q 3799, for more information. For more on Fort Tilden, visit For the Rockaway Artists Alliance: (718) 474-0861, rockawayartists For the Rockaway Theatre Company: (718) 374-6400,


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Peace and nature fill Brookville Park Space has many amenities, special events, trees, wildlife and sports by AnnMarie Costella Assistant Editor

rookville Park is a quiet oasis in western Rosedale. Its natural beauty is defined by numerous trees, ponds, walkways and wildlife. It also features a host of amenities including basketball, bocce and tennis courts, a playground, bike paths and a picnic area. “It gives you a sense of tranquility,” said Fred Kress, president of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces, adding, “It’s a jewel because it’s peace and nature in the middle of all this congestion and overwhelming building that’s going on.”


One of the many bike paths in Brookville Park.

The 90-acre park, which extends from Brookville Boulevard and 232nd Street to 149th and South Conduit avenues, may be small by borough standards, but that doesn’t make it less special for the many residents who stroll its grounds every day. The park is named after a brook, which winds around the bike paths and empties into Jamaica Bay. Squirrels scamper in the grass, climb trees and gather nuts. There is also the occasional pheasant or hawk and ducks can be seen floating on the lake, where people still go fishing as they did in the 1930s and ’40s, according to Kress. The wildlife hardly seems distracted by the low-flying planes from nearby JFK Airport, which comprises just about the only noise one hears while walking through the park. Brookville Park is located within the Atlantic Flyway, the aerial path stretching from the eastern coast of Florida to Nova Scotia along which millions of songbirds, seabirds, birds of prey, and waterfowl as well as butterflies, some species of bats and dragonflies travel every fall and spring. “It is a place of serenity where you can go and watch the pond and the ducks and the turtles,” said Kangela Moore, president of the Friends of Brookville Park. “I have these gorgeous pictures of sea turtles sitting on the rocks, and you never know what kind of wildlife will pop up.” Moore’s group meets once or twice a week at the park for beautification projects including painting benches, the bocce ball courts, and the wooden bollards located along the 147th Street side of the area. FOBP also holds

Gorgeous autumn foliage and a winding brook make the perfect setting for a walk, bike ride or picnic. PHOTOS BY ANNMARIE COSTELLA

numerous community events at the location including a Christmas tree lighting and Halloween and Earth Day celebrations. The group, formed in 2008, held its first tree workshop this year, in which residents learned about the different varieties of trees in the park and their care. The group holds its annual mulchfest in January, when people bring in their old Christmas trees and the city’s Parks Department grinds them up into woodchips residents can use as mulch for their plants. Some 65 trees were recycled this year thanks to FOBP, Moore said. She added that Brookville Park is her

favorite borough green space, not only for its natural beauty, but because of the heartwarming way in which community members interact with each other while they are there, especially parents spending time with their children at the playground. “It’s a great park, a beautiful park,” said Bill Perkins, president of the Rosedale Civic Association, who visits regularly with his children. “It’s a safe place in the community. There are a lot of activities and a lot of people in the neighborhood who put a great deal of effort into taking care of the park and Q keeping it nice.”

Houdini’s final resting place is in Ridgewood His grave attracts curiosity seekers, vandals, magicians and many others by AnnMarie Costella

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Assistant Editor

For those who crave a taste of the unique, the macabre or the supernatural, there is a place in Queens for you: the gravesite of an iconic figure, a man many even believe might be able to contact the living after death — Harry Houdini. The master magician famous for his daring escape routines is buried in Ridgewood at Machpelah Cemetery. Over the years, the large regal burial site has attracted curiosity seekers, vandals and a group of magicians who perform an annual ceremony in his honor. Houdini — born Ehrich Weiss on March 24, 1874, — started his magic career as the “King of Cards,” but his major success didn’t begin until he started experimenting with escape acts. The most famous was the Chinese Water Torture Cell, a locked glass and steel cabinet filled with water in which Houdini would hang upside down and have to hold his breath for three minutes to escape. The gravesite contains flat stone markers denoting Houdini’s grave and those of family members. At the head of the plot is a semi-circular wall with steps on which sits a statue of a mourning woman. Above that is another stone on which Houdini’s name is carved with a colorful stained glass emblem that recognizes him as the president of the Society of American Magicians from 1917 to 1926. A bust of Houdini crowns the gravesite, making its reappearance for the first time in more than 30 years. In 1975, vandals destroyed the original statue and subsequent replacements were either stolen or broken, but an exact replica made of heavy concrete was installed in September courtesy of the Houdini Museum of Scranton, PA. It was approved by the surviving members of the Houdini family and the manager of the cemetery. “It is a very important and revered site for any magician,” said Dick Brookz, co-executive director of the museum. “We asked

ourselves, ‘What would Houdini have wanted?’ and I’m sure he would have wanted the bust and the gravesite taken care of.” Brookz noted that during Houdini’s lifetime he donated money to cemeteries around the world in order to restore and maintain the final resting places of other magicians. In 1996, magician David Copperfield carried on Houdini’s tradition by donating $10,000 to help repair the damage to his idol’s grave. The museum and its team of “Houdini Commandos” now visit the cemetery periodically to ensure its cleanliness and safety. “We figured it was the least we could do,” Brookz said. Although numerous famous people are buried in Queens, Brookz said Houdini’s site is special and different because the magician was well-known worldwide. “When we speak at schools and colleges and we mention the names of some of Houdini’s contemporaries, no one knows who they are,” Brookz said. “Very few people have ever achieved the legendary status of Houdini.” The SAM used to hold its annual Broken Wand memorial ceremony on Oct. 31, the date of Houdini’s death, but because the event became such a public spectacle and seemed to be leading to more destruction of the site, the cemetery is closed on Halloween, and it was changed to the date he died based on the Hebrew calendar, which varies from year to year. Individuals standing in a semicircle around his grave read excerpts from his 1926 burial service, after which a wooden wand is snapped in half over the gravesite, a symbol of the death of a magician and the loss of his power. Each year since Houdini’s death, a seance has been conducted as a tribute and test. During his lifetime, the magician made it his mission to expose clairvoyants as charlatans and frauds, and those efforts continue to this day. Houdini claimed that if he, the world’s greatest escape artist, could not come back from the grave, then no one else could. So far, no one has been able to contact Houdini during the

Harry Houdini’s grave at Machpelah Cemetery in Ridgewood. PHOTO BY ANNMARIE COSTELLA

seances, Brookz said, but during the ceremony on the 50th anniversary of his death, a photo of the magician fell off a wall. In 2006, Larry Sloman and William Kalush, wrote a book called “The Secret Life of Houdini,” in which they theorized that the magician was fatally poisoned by a vengeful clairvoyant and did not die from a ruptured appendix as long believed. They wanted Houdini unearthed from his grave so tests could be performed. Many deemed the request a publicity stunt, including Brookz, and nothing ever came of it. Houdini’s grave is near the front entrance of Machpelah Cemetery, located at 82-30 Cypress Hills St. in Ridgewood. The cemetery is open every day from 8:30 a.m to 4 p.m., except Saturdays and Jewish and legal holidays. Street parking Q is also available.

C M ANNIV page 29 Y K



It’s a wonderful world at Armstrong’s house Take a tour of the jazz great’s home in Corona, a museum that’s growing Editor-in-Chief

t may not hop like a mid-century swing joint, but there’s a lot goin’ on at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, a must-see for everyone from hep cats to historians. The museum just got a massive addition to its collection of memorabilia honoring the jazz legend, a set of audio and video recordings and other unique items bequeathed by a fan from Sweden, Gosta Hagglof, who died two years ago. Hagglof was such a follower of Satchmo that he’s been called “the Swedish oracle of Louis Armstrong.” On Dec. 6, the museum will hold its first gala, celebrating 25 years of preserving and promoting Armstrong’s legacy. The event will honor jazzman and producer George Avakian, trumpeter Jon Faddis, who’ll perform, and James Muyskens, president of Queens College, which operates the museum. And a new visitors’ center is being planned across the street from the house, with construction expected to start next summer. It will feature a multimedia exhibit and jazz-themed cafe that also will be used for film screenings


and band rehearsals. That’s the latest news. But it’s the trove of artifacts and the unique look at Armstrong’s life they offer that make the museum a jewel in the crown of Corona, and Queens. Though modest in size, the home is opulent, and its collection of Armstrong’s belongings and other memorabilia fascinating. The public gets to see the house on guided tours that start every hour on the hour, the last of the day beginning at 4 p.m. The exhibit area and garden may be explored before or after the tour. No appointment is necessary, except for groups of eight or more. Visitors are first brought to the living room, where the modernist furniture appears a little small because it was made to f it the stature of the jazz great, who was 5foot-4, and his wife, Lucille, who was 5 feet even. On the walls hang portraits of the couple, who moved there in 1943. Fine art from Japan, Africa and other places they traveled to graces the walls and a display case. The kitchen is top-of-the-line for the mid-20th century, with a sixburner double oven, a dishwasher

and cooking tools built into the countertop. The cabinets shine in a bright turqoise one would never see today. Visitors even get to see the couple’s most intimate rooms, the master bedroom with its reflective wallpaper and a first-floor bathroom covered in mirrors and featuring a tub made of European marble. The last room on the tour is the den, where Armstrong’s reel-to-reel tape recorder and other audio equipment are located. The room holds hundreds of his recordings, along with five gold-plated trumpets and some manuscripts — Armstrong being a prolific writer as well as musician. Homemade recordings of him singing, playing the trumpet and having whimsical, laughterfilled conversations with Lucille delight the visitor. Aside from the tour, one can visit the gift shop, in what had been the garage, and, when the weather’s good, the backyard garden. World-famous and wealthy, Armstrong “could have lived anywhere,” as the museum puts it at But he chose Corona. “We don’t think we could be more relaxed and have better

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Louis and Lucille Armstrong, in the den that’s the last stop on tours of their old PHOTO COURTESY LAHM home.

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Page 29 QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011


QUEENS CHRONICLE, Thursday, November 17, 2011 Page 30

C M ANNIV page 30 Y K

Victorian homes in Richmond Hill

Queens tours

“Eighty-sixth avenue is one of those amazing places,” Mrakovcic said. “At 110th Street and 86th Avenue, it’s one of those blocks where no one’s put up a fence.” The Richmond Hill Historical Society recommends three tours around the area. For one, begin at the Buddy Monument at Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South and walk west on Park Lane South to 105th Street. Turn left onto 105th Street and proceed to 86th Avenue. Turn left on 86th Avenue, walk to 110th Street and turn left to return to Myrtle Avenue. For another tour, begin at Park Lane South and Metropolitan Avenue in Kew Gardens. Walk south along Forest Park and, at 112th Street, turn left and go to 85th Avenue. Turn left and walk to the Long Island Railroad trestle. There is a small park just beyond the LIRR spot where one can rest. For the f inal tour, begin at Jamaica Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard and proceed north on Lefferts Boulevard, passing the Richmond Hill library. Cross Hillside Avenue and continue on Lefferts to 85th Avenue, passing the Church of the Resurrection — the first church built in the area. Turn left on 85th Avenue and walk to Myrtle Avenue. After hitting Myrtle, walk along Myrtle to 84th The houses are almost dollhouselike, such as this Avenue and walk back to Lefferts one at 107th Street and 86th Avenue. Q Boulevard on 84th Avenue.

continued from page 19

continued from page 14

Preservation Commission has not been on board, its members saying the district is too large and would contain too many multifamily homes. Ivan Mrakovcic, president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, said residents are now planning to fight for smaller areas to be landmarked, including on 105th Street between 86th and Jamaica Avenues.

around 1980. In 1981 he did his for the public tour under the auspices of the Queens Historical Society. He offers tours throughout the borough — and city, including along the phantom railway lines from central Flushing to Queens Village, and another that walks the East River shore between the Queensboro and RFK/Triboro, bridges. The expedition along the river includes views of the former Steinway piano factory, the Socrates Sculpture Park and ante-bellum mansions in Astoria. His next escapade in Queens will bring residents into Flushing’s Chinatown. It will

Neir’s Tavern continued from page 20

shinebox” scene, where wise-cracking mobster Billy Batts meets an unfortunate end at the hands of Oscar winner Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito. More recently, they hosted a scene from the upcoming Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy movie “Tower Heist.” “Ben Stiller and Tea Leone shot a scene sitting here,” Gordon said, indicating a nearby table. But within the walls adorned with framed, yellowing newspaper clips and paintings of racehorses that used to ply their trade across the street, Gordon and his wife Aisha’s love of and passion for

Established In 1973

be held Sunday, Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested in attending should meet on the second floor of the New World Mall, outside of the restrooms. Individuals can enter the mall between the 7 subway stop on Main Street and Macy’s on Roosevelt Avenue. NoshWalks also offers a number of food tours throughout Queens, and the rest of the city. The last one in 2011 was Nov. 12, which took place along the 7 subway line in Woodside, when residents sampled Filipino barbecue and wandered through the neighborhood’s Little Manila and Little Dublin. More about NoshWalks can be found at For information about Eichenbaum’s tours, visit the historian’s website at To learn more about Orlick, go to Q

music and the performing arts is on grand display. Aisha Gordon emcees the poetry readings, or Tongue Challenges, as well as musical jam sessions and open mike nights. And at a recent show of hands, she determined that all but one of the poets was from Queens. “The open mike is for singers, musicians, comedy — whatever your talent is,” Loycent Gordon said. “I have friends from the firehouse who have come by here, but most of them live on Long Island. The neighborhood is always what supports a neighborhood bar. That’s why we want to offer the neighborhood the things that we do.” And is Neir’s a hidden gem? “You can’t pick up this place and Q move it to Manhattan,” he said.

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