The Paper a quarterly guide to astoria, queens
Back the Business
11 Places in Queens You Must Not Miss
Local Maker Profiles
volume 06 | april 2018
PHOTOGRAPHY: NIKI LOKI
EDITOR’S NOTE Volume VI is all about adventure! We were inspired by that first feeling of spring… wanting to explore and try something new (and maybe quite possibly never ever see that winter coat again). We’re hoping this issue will inspire you to head outside and explore your neighborhood or other places in Queens that remain on your to-do list. Queens adventurer Joe DiStefano shares 11 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss (take a gander on page 25). Want to stay closer to home? Take a long bike ride with friends (we’ve got ideas on page 8) or try a local business you’ve never thought to frequent before. Speaking of which, in this issue we’re shining a spotlight on our friends affected by the MTA train shutdown currently happening in Astoria. As a small business owner myself, I know how hard the day-to-day struggles are, let alone a massive disruption. We’re ready to Back the Business, and we want you to join us. Check out page 20 to learn more about the people that run your favorite spots on 36th & 30th Avenues. As a community, we have the opportunity to support these individuals, and what better way to do that than a contest, complete with prizes?! Get all the details and follow us on Instagram @weheartastoria to share your support and progress. #WHABackTheBusiness While we support our local business owners, we also want to support local artisans. Our friend, and expert photographer, Matt Dutile has profiled local makers. We can’t wait for you to see his beautiful portraits and learn how this group of people keep our art scene growing and thriving. And while we’re on the subject of adventure, I’m about to embark on my most exciting adventure to date: a baby girl! And while my wife and I are super excited about our expanding family, it means pulling back in other areas. I’m sad to report that Volume VI is our last issue… for now! We’ve totally fallen in love with making The Paper, and I hope we’ll be able to publish once more. But for now my car is more car seats and laundry, and less The Paper pick up machine. Even though this endeavor is coming to a close, we can’t help but celebrate all that We Heart Astoria has accomplished over the past eight years. Springtime has always been special to us because that’s when we celebrate our birthday! Learn more about the team behind the blog (and this paper) on page 5. We hope you’ve enjoyed joining us on our Paper adventure. TTFN, Mackenzi
Mackenznit'sure Big Adve
8 things you didn’t know about WHA
adventure is out there
artistic expressions gift guide
back the business
11 places in queens you must not miss
Contributors FOUNDERS Mackenzi Farquer Emily Rios WRITERS Meg Cotner Lindsay Goyette
on the cover: M AT T D U T I L E
CONTRIBUTORS Joe DiStefano Matt Dutile Niki Loki DESIGN & ILLUSTRATION Kristen Long COVER PHOTOGRAPHY Matt Dutile BUSINESSES Albatross Bar Astoria Coffee Astoria Park Big aLICe Brewing Co. Chela & Garnacha Diamond Dogs Cypress Hills Taxidermy Fifth Hammer Brewing Gantry Park Grand Wine & Liquor Hunter’s Point South ICON Astoria ICONYC Brewing Katch Astoria Kurry Qulture LaGuardia Landing Lights LIC Beer Project Mad Donkey Museum of the Moving Image MOMA PS1 Noguchi Museum OK Cafe Off the Hook Queensbridge Park Redken Saloon Salon Rockaway Brewing Company Rubie’s Costume Co. Salt & Bone Smokehouse Schmidt’s Candy Store Sek’end Sun Smiling Hogshead Ranch SingleCut Beersmiths Socrates Scuplture Park Steinway & Sons Factory Sweet Afton The Bonnie The Paint Place The Shady Lady The Ramp Tony Vaccaro Museum Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram William Hallet Zombie Gnome Bench
Matt Dutile is an Astoria-based travel and lifestyle photographer. He grew up in a small New Hampshire farm town before venturing west seeking buried treasure, as most explorers do. He spends his life doing what he loves; traveling the world, making people laugh, and capturing the energy of the moment forever. He believes that great photography is not just about captivating images, but creating an enjoyable experience for both client and crew. You can see more of his work at mattdutile.com.
8 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT WHA
8 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT
In honor of We Heart Astoria’s 8 year anniversary/birthday (we turned 8 on March 15), here are 8 tidbits about the WHA site and staff.
The original founders of We Heart Astoria used to write together for a blog called Joey in Astoria, one of the first true blogs about the neighborhood. That blog is still online, though it has been dormant since 2010… the year WHA was founded.
WHA founder & staff member Meg is an OG blogger (she started blogging in 1996) and started writing about Astoria in 2006. A singular experience in the neighborhood was the time she ate casu marzu, a Sardinian cheese fermented with insect larvae, at an unnamed Astoria Italian restaurant.
WHA founder Judith continues her work as a marketing genius and is a mom to two beautiful daughters, Edith and Layla. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
Our might-as-well-have-been-a-founder, Emily, came up with the original idea to pair the Best of Astoria project online with the annual Best of Astoria Bash, which is now an annual highlight in the neighborhood.
WHA founder Mackenzi used to be a stockbroker, became a designer, operates a small retail empire, and is the owner of We Heart Astoria.
We love stories of strange and awesome things, and one of the strangest was sharing the video and news of the Astoria Scum River Bridge, installed by local prankster Jason Eppink on December 30, 2009. He created a 7-foot long footbridge out of recycled materials and placed it over the scummy water expelled from a leaky pipe under the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct approach at 33rd Street and 23rd Ave. It was de-installed on March 20, 2010.
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE
By far, the most popular post each year among our readers is our annual list of street fairs in Astoria and LIC (look for the 2018 version again this year).
We Heart Astoria has published close to 3,000 posts in its lifetime. Overall, food (restaurants, closings, openings) remains the most popular subject, followed by news of subway and MTA shenanigans.
The most original espresso and tea latte menu in Astoria
22-04 33rd Street Astoria, NY 11105 (718) 440-8789
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE
social res with us on tu en v d a r u o y Share VENTURES. D A A H W # g ta using the hash
As the weather starts to warm up, we all start to emerge from our hibernation holes of Netflix and Seamless. It’s time to go outside and get reacquainted with the real world and the neighborhood. With the addition of Citibike and the Ferry to Astoria & Long Island City, it’s never been easier to
get out and explore. With that in mind we’ve gathered local biking enthusiasts to buildout three different bike path experiences, and just like a kid’s book, you get to choose your own adventure. From a day full of culture to a day of tasting some of the best brews made locally, you can’t go wrong!
E SAFETY BASIC BIK on the road. Don’t be a fool
ntage of 1. MAKE A PLAN: e greenways, take adva re r-f ca to es lan c ffi ble. From shared tra ake you feel comforta m ll wi at th s ad ro d an bike paths ECK: the 2. DO A PRE-RIDE CH brakes, and make sure , es tir ur yo k ec ch e, Before you start a rid for your height. seat is at a good level : 3. WEAR A HELMET C: FI t your brain. 5. RIDE WITH TRAF Don’t be dumb, protec rection as to ride in the same di law by d ire qu re e ar Bicyclists If there is no 4. OBEY TRAFFIC SIGNALS: ke lane when available. bi a e are considered us t us m d an , rs ca ht as possible. Same car laws apply to bikes, FYI you rig e th to r fa as e rid usable bike lane, a moving vehicle. : KS AL EW D SI 6. STAY OFF ren), the u are riding with child yo r (o d ki a e ar u yo s Unles strians. sidewalks are for pede S: 7. USE HAND SIGNAL e er to let drivers know wh ls na sig nd ha e us t us Bicyclists m right arm GHT turn, extend your RI a r Fo g. in go e ar they nd and bend upward. ha t lef ur yo ise ra R O straight
ACTED: 8. DON’T RIDE DISTR and , and Mary DON’T text ul Pa r, te Pe of ve lo e Guys, for th the road phones; be present on ad he ar we t n’ do so Al ride. not your ffic around you. This is eo and be aware of the tra own personal music vid
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE
CULTURAL EXPLORATION Long Island City and Astoria are home to great spaces to experience the arts! From modern art to movies, this bike path is perfect for getting your daily dose of culture. TOTAL BIKING DISTANCE: 3.3 miles Total Biking Distance w/ #SELFIESTOP at Welling Court Mural Project: 4.7 miles
FIRST STOP - MOMA PS1
LONG ISLAND CITY (22-25 Jackson Ave) NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK STATION - Jackson Ave & 46t h Rd HOT SPOT FOR COFFEE: LIC Corner Café (21-03 45th Rd, Long Island City) HOT SPOT FOR BRUNCH : LIC Market (21-52 44th Dr, Lon g Island City)
HOT SPOT FOR BREAKFAS T: Court Square Diner (45-30 23r d St, Long Island City) WORTH A STOP: Book Culture LIC (26-09 Jac kson Ave, Long Island City)
I MUSEUM H C U G O N P O T S D SECON TURE PARK & SOCRATES SCULP
PRO-TIP: From MOMA PS1 this is an easy walk and well worth the time. A great selectio n of books curated for every type of reader, PLUS a pletho ra of great gifts. Book Cultur e LIC is one of our favorite add itions to the neighborhood.
(9-01 33rd Rd) NOGUCHI MUSEUM 3 min walk) sy ea (32-01 Vernon Blvd) (an & 12th St SCULPTURE PARK ay dw oa h St Br N - Vernon Blvd & 10t IO AT ST CK DO KE NEARBY CITIBI er and Skyline great shot of the East Riv #SELFIESTOP: Take a ulpture Park. Sc tes to your back at Socra
ILLUSTRATION: KRISTEN LONG
ll growing, so hot spots ming area of town is sti co d an up is Th P: TI PROver, check out the hard to come by. Howe ll sti are ks rin e/d ffe gan baked goods. for food and co Ave) for coffee and ve th 34 2 (90 fé Ca a ale charming Flor de Az llington Court and and go .4 miles up to We e bik the on ck ba p Ho ram Story. #SELFIESTOP: s. Perfect for your Instag observe fantastic mural
FINAL STOP - MOMI
MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMA GE (36-01 35th Ave) NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK STA TION - 34th St & 35th Ave, 35th Ave & 37th St HOT SPOT FOR COFFEE: Menú Astoria (34-56 33rd St) HOT SPOT FOR DRINKS: Mar’s (34-21 34th Ave) HOT SPOT FOR DINNER: We Heart Astoria favorite Chela
& Garnacha. (33-09 36th Ave)
PRO-TIP: Always add the grilled
cheese to your tacos. SO worth it!
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE
BREWERIES & BAR FOOD PICK YOUR ADVENTURE: Strictly LIC or Astoria with a side of LIC
STRICTLY LIC Total Biking Distance: 2.1 miles This bike path will take you to the big brews in Long Island City. Don’t forget that if you feel a buzz, DON’T get on that bike. Several of these spots are walkable. We suggest Citibike for this trip, just in case you need that Uber/Lyft to get you back home. START AT LIC BEER PROJECT (39-28 23rd St, LIC) NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK STATION: 24th St & 41st Ave HEAD OVER TO BIG ALICE BREWING CO. (8-08 43rd Rd, LIC) NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK STATION: 11th St & 43rd Ave
ASTORIA with a side o f lic
er’s Choice): 4.1 miles Total Biking Distance (before Bik City. Don’t forget that the big brews in Long Island to you e tak l wil h pat e bik is Th spots are walk-able. We on that bike. Several of these get N’T DO z, buz a l fee you if yft to get you back home. t in case you need that Uber/L jus , trip this for e ibik Cit t sugges oria) ERSMITHS (19-33 37th St, Ast START AT SINGLECUT BE Ave) d 23r (closest is Steinway St. and *No Citibike Dock stations nearby ANY (45-13 34th Ave, Astoria) ICONYC BREWING COMP Street STATION: 34th Ave & 38th NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK take home a a backpack and make sure you PRO-TIP: Emily says, “Bring al brews!” loc e p saisón, it’s one of my favorit full or half growler of Hib-Ho EEN DAY DRINKING HOT FOOD SPOTS BETW h Ave, Long Island City) Homemade Taqueria (4509 34t d Cart; Steinway & 34th Ave) Mahmoud’s Corner (Halal Foo inway St, Astoria) Mama’s Empanadas (3241 Ste St, LIC) BEER PROJECT (39-28 23rd BACK TO BEER WITH LIC STATION: 24 St & 41 Ave NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK ictly LIC for addresses) DEALERS CHOICE: (see Str Rockaway Brewing Company Big aLICe, Fifth Hammer, or
THEN TO FIFTH HAMMER BREWING (10-28 46th Ave, LIC) NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK STATION: 45th Rd & 11th St ROCKAWAY BREWING COMPANY (46-01 5th St, LIC) NEARBY CITIBIKE DOCK STATION: 46th Ave & 5th St HOT FOOD SPOTS BETWEEN DAY DRINKING LIC Flea (5-25 46th Ave) Starts back up later this spring. Tons of food vendors await you. LIC Bar (45-58 Vernon Blvd) Cyclo (5-51 47th Ave) Petey’s (46-46 Vernon Blvd) IL Forno Pizza (343 2nd Ave)
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE
PARKS & REC This path is perfect for frequent stops at parks or for those of you that just want to get moving. This path stays mostly on Vernon Blvd, which has dedicated bike paths. TOTAL DISTANCE: 3.8
PARK A I R O T S A START atSt, Astoria) (19 19th TATIONS: ASTORIA E DOCK S IK IB IT C Y NEARB d & 19th St Ditmars Blv th Ave 19th St & 24 Blvd S. & Shore k ar P Astoria oyt Ave S. 21st St & H
BIKERS REST STOP
PARK (32-01 Vernon Blvd) OR rnon Blvd and 21st Street)
QUEENSBRIDGE PARK (Ve #SELFIESTOP: Gantry Park
ILLUSTRATION: KRISTEN LONG
P AT O T S L A N I F SOUTH T N I O P s ' ) HUNTER Center Blvd 4th Ave on
(4-09 47th Rd, Long Island City
(5 AND CITY IONS: LONG ISL OCK STAT D E IK IB IT NEARBY C ve & Borden A Center Blvd Ave 5th St & 51st R RIDE RATE YOU B E L E C O ST HOT SPOT ) DRINKING r Blvd, LIC te n e C 10 2(5 g LIC Landin IC) 4 51st Ave L Dr, LIC) Alewife (5-1 g (4-40 44th in il a S n si a B Annabelle LIC) n! 01 43rd Ave, d Manhatta Z Hotel (11s of LIC an ew advi d at an re , g n statio ftop for ck o o d ro e e ik th ib to it by C entary ead up with a near er complim ff ly o d PRO-Tip: H n n e ie ev fr e ey h retty bik your bike. T Z Hotel is p k and tie up ar p to ts o ditional sp sts. bikes to gue
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31-84 33rd Street, Astoria, NY 11106 (917) 832-6364
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34-04 31st Ave, Astoria, NY 11106 email@example.com 929-522-0061
artistic expressions local maker profiles
LOCAL MAKERS PROFILES
Alice Lipping @aliceabstract
I’ve been living in Astoria for about 15 years and love being a part of such a great community full of so many creatives!
PHOTOGRAPHY: MATT DUTILE
Alice’s paintings convey emotion through color interactions and trigger memories of a time and place specific to life in New York City. Her process of multi-layering creates depth and movement, fusing the act of painting with an experimentation of various
materials to produce texture or it’s appearance, drawing the viewer in. In addition to her paintings, Alice has been making handpainted, one-of-a kind Christmas Ornaments and Wearable Abstracts Jewelry as a means of making Art accessible to all.
ELISA CARLUCCI @ELISA_CARLUCCI
“I’ve lived in Queens a long time, and residents are true NY’ers who love diversity and value quality of life over having a fashionable address. I wake up to birds chirping and live in a small-scale neighborhood that welcomes everyone. I know so many creative people in Queens, it’s true what they say about some places, and ‘the artists come first.’ I wouldn’t live anywhere else in NYC.” Astoria-based Designer and sculptor Elisa Carlucci creates furniture and lighting for luxury brands and interior designers. The beauty of form is the central theme in her work. After years of designing for brands such as Tiffany & Company, Calvin Klein Home, Pottery Barn, Target, and Victoria Hagan Home, Elisa began her own design studio in 2012. In 2016 she launched her first collaboration with Los Angeles-based Quintus, a collection of 10 pieces of case goods and upholstery that is sold to the interior design trade. Her latest furniture collection is launching on March 21, 2018, at “West Week.” Her design work has been featured in Elle Decor and Interior Design magazine, and the collection is represented at ten showrooms throughout the country. Elisa received her bachelor of arts in illustration from Parsons School of Design in New York in 1996.
BEBE FEDERMANN @bebe_federmann
“I’ve recently moved from Brooklyn to LIC to be closer to my studio. Living and working in Queens allows me more space to spread out (pottery is not only a messy business, but also requires a larger area to set up kilns and keep separate areas for working). In some ways Queens is still a hidden gem, allowing easy access to the city as well as the beautiful beaches of Long Island.” Bebe Federman keeps her pieces simple and functional while still creating unique modern designs. She strives to use the least amount of resources while still creating a body of work that has appealing forms, colors, and textures. Her tableware and home decor shares one common trait: To enhance the joy of eating, drinking, and celebrating the home. Made in small batches and limited editions, these handmade wares are made to be used, whether it is for a special gathering or as your everyday tableware.
LOCAL MAKERS PROFILES
GABRIELE PERICI @gabrieleperici
PHOTOGRAPHY: MATT DUTILE
Gabriele Perici spent most of his youth in Italy. He received his degree from Rome University for contemporary painting and restoration. He returned to the United States and attended Miami Dade University. Inspired by his many travels around the globe, Perici has to come to embody the surrealist style that has been captivating art collectors around the world. Throughout his many trials, Perici has found the inner peace and happiness that his soul inspires him to paint.
artistic expressions GIFT GUIDE
Want to support local artisans in Queens? Check out a selection of items from our featured artists.
1. "Jaded” Acrylic on Wood Panel 30" x 30", $1,500.00 2. Hand Painted Wearable Art Pendants, $35 (more styles available)
3. Bubble Glaze Plates & Platters: $35-$195 4. Marbled Coffee Mugs: $48 each
(dennis miller associates dennismiller.com)
The Luca Side Chair, Walnut or Oak: Price upon request The Rosa Side table, Brass steel and Marble (24” diameter, by 25” H.): Price Upon Request
Various styles and prices (Astoria Art Custom Framing NYC 34-04 30th Ave, Astoria)
WHA_Ad_0Fin.qxp_Layout 1 4/2/18 3:18 PM Page 1
Betsey Johnson Handbag Evil Queen Candles
Le Lis Maxi Dress
Seychelles Sandals Species by the Thousand Crystal Sets
And be on the lookout for our new holistic wellness and crystal offerings! Mention this ad and get 10% oï¬€ any regular price purchase! (VALID THROUGH JULY 31, 2018)
BACK THE BUSINESS
THE BUSINESS Amidst a Major Subway Shutdown, #WHABacksTheBusiness
Every Astorian has been affected in some way by the MTA-mandated shutdowns of the 30th Ave and 36th Ave stations. For many residents, it’s meant a longer commute, more crowded stations, and an overall disruption to your routine.
out of the way. Who’s up for a fun challenge? Here’s how it will work: Starting April 23, cut out the attached Bingo Card, and stop by as many of the participating businesses as possible. Once you’ve enjoyed your drink, meal, haircut, or grabbed a great bottle of wine, get a stamp at your point of purchase. Once you’ve received four or more stamps, take to social media and (humble) brag about your adventures! Post a photo of yourself (clearly showing the number of signatures you’ve received) and include the hashtag #WHABacksTheBusiness. We’ll be raffling off some sweet prizes, including gift certificates from the participating businesses.
While the shutdowns have certainly caused headaches for residents, the impact they’ve had on businesses have been even more profound. Many business owners have reported a decrease in foot traffic, resulting in lower customer turnout and shrinking profits. But this is NOT another “gloom and doom” article. What is this? A call to ACTION! To support our friends and neighbors who keep our neighborhood buzzing, we’re launching #WHABacksTheBusiness. The goal is simple: we want Astorians to lace up those sneakers and visit our neighborhood small businesses that we all know and love, but are maybe currently a little
We all know and love so many incredible businesses throughout the neighborhood, so get out there and support them, Astoria!
For more information, check out the blog at weheartastoria.com.
Some local business owners reflect about our Astoria community, and what it means to have the support of the neighborhood
THE CHELA & GARNACHA CREW AND FAMILY “We love 36th Avenue because of the diversity of people, cuisines, and ideas. On 36th Avenue between 31st Street and 36th Street you have the option of eating Mexican, Brazilian, French, Venezuelan, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, American, Spanish food and more. There are so many wonderful options to choose from. The cultural diversity is what makes 36th Avenue so special.” “The main highlight of being an Astoria business owner is the great customer base. Whether we are doing deliveries, takeout, or serving in our restaurant, our customers are warm, friendly, and patient. We couldn’t ask for a better group of people to provide delicious food for.” The shutdown on 36th Avenue harshly affected our late Autumn and Winter months severely. The foot traffic around the area was noticeably different. January was one of our worst months since we opened in Summer 2014. We are lucky to have phenomenal customers, loyal enough to stick by us through this rough patch.”
GRAND WINE & LIQUORS OWNER BOB BATTIPAGLIA
PHOTOGRAPHY: NIKI LOKI
“My store has been here in Astoria for over 75 years. I am the third generation running this business. My grandfather started as a small neighborhood store. My dad expanded it and grew it to the business it is today.” “The highlight for me in owning a business on 30th Avenue has been meeting and getting to know many of the other business owners on the avenue. We have formed a bond that is very strong. The subway shutdown has forced us to get together and in doing so we have found that we all have the same challenges and the same goals. There are so many wonderful people I have met and that has truly been the silver lining during this terrible situation.”
BACK THE BUSINESS
SALT & BONE SMOKEHOUSE GENERAL MANAGER BOBBY BODELL “30th Avenue has a sense of community unlike many other places I’ve worked. Businesses around here interact positively and help one another rather than compete with each other. Bars around here support each other and work toward creating a community rather than just a sterile, strip mall type avenue that you might find elsewhere. It’s really a special community and I feel really privileged to be a part of it. We are trying to put together a block party, once the weather gets nice again but before the train comes back, on the stretch of Newtown Avenue that runs between us and Key Food. We would invite all of the local businesses, and hopefully get some people from Astoria that don’t normally come around here to come hang out and have a good time. Hopefully that would put the businesses that people have temporarily forgotten back into their minds, and let them know that if they want us to still be around in 6 months, we need their support! Every guest counts and we want all of the potential guests to know and understand that.”
KATCH ASTORIA GENERAL MANAGER ROSEANN McSORELY
“Our customers make 30th Avenue a special place to own a business. They are so wonderful and supportive—30th Avenue is a special place because of the people that live around the area.” “The MTA needs to consider helping the business owners who are losing business every daydue to the closures—some are down as much as 70 percent and others are closing shop.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER A native Hungarian, Niki Loki has been shooting professionally for 5+ years. She specializes in portrait and street photography with a nod to the American Dream. For her, photography is all about the moment and capturing it without words. You can see more of her work at nikiloki.com. 22
BACK THE BUSINESS
WILLIAM HALLET OWNER GEORGE RALLIS
“Since the shutdown we are down 30 percent compared to the same time last year. You would think those in charge would have put more thought into the effect this shutdown would have on the community as a whole, not just businesses but those who have to walk the extra distance to get to a train.”
ASTORIA COFFEE OWNER ELIZABETH WICK
PHOTOGRAPHY: NIKI LOKI
“Ever since we moved to Astoria, we’ve lived on or near 30th Avenue. With the coffee shop right there too, the proximity fosters a real closeness and connectedness with our neighbors and our friends. There’s always someone around to celebrate some achievement with, or to lend a helping hand if need be. We are so grateful for the relationships we’ve fostered thanks to 30th Avenue and Astoria as a whole. “While it’s been difficult to lose the regular traffic, it’s been an incredible feeling to see our regulars coming in still. They no doubt go out of their way to include us in their day. Many have been coming in for years or even since we opened. It’s been these kinds of things that have characterized much of this experience with the subway closure.”
BUSINESS William Hallet
BINGO Astoria Coffee Free Space! Go to any of your favorite 30th/36th Ave buisnesses!
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11 PLACES IN QUEENS
1 1 PLAC E S IN
YO U M UST NOT M IS S by Joe DiStefano I thought I knew a lot about the World’s Borough before writing 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss, but I learned even more about New York City’s most majestic borough while working on the book. A Middle Village taxidermist, an Elmhurst Thai temple, Rego Park’s punk rock pioneers, and Astoria’s originator of the phrase Made in the USA are just a few of the things I discovered. One of the last things I learned though was the meaning behind the number 111. In Cologne, Germany, where my publisher Emons is based, 11 is an especially significant number. The Cologne Carnival, or Kölner Karneval, begins at 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month. Eleven is far too few entries for a guidebook, but just right for this article. So herein find 11 of my favorite places in Queens, to find out the other 100, you’ll have buy a copy of the book.
CYPRESS HILLS TAXIDERMY
Hard by a cemetery in Middle Village stands an attraction that looks like it belongs in a museum rather in a working class Queens community. Lions, bears, and deer—lots of them—stand behind the glass of the studio of John Youngaitis’ Cypress Hills Taxidermy. The shop, named for its original Brooklyn location, was started by his father in 1958. “I call it the museum without glass,” one of New York City’s last taxidermists says. “A zoo you ain’t getting that close. A museum they’ve got glass in front of it, so this is the museum without glass.” 71-01 Metropolitan Ave, Middle Village, NY 11379, (718) 827-7758
LAGUARDIA LANDING LIGHTS
If hearing a plane roaring overhead on the streets of downtown Flushing is the closest you’ve come to a jumbo jet you might want to head this unusually named New York City Park. Really it’s a series of nine parcels that lay along the path to LaGuardia, and yes they are home to lights, but the real attraction here are the planes that skim the treetops when Runway 4 is in use. The best vantage point is 79th Street and 25th Avenue. Note that Runway 4 is not always in use, to ensure optimal plane spotting you should download the Plane Finder mobile application. 79th Street and 25th Ave, Elmhurst, NY 11370
LHASA FAST FOOD
There are more than a dozen restaurants in Jackson Heights that specialize in Tibetan cuisine. There’s only one that will make you feel like you are on a trek to a Himalayan hideaway. Find Lhasa Fast Food, named for the country’s capital, tucked behind a cell phone store. Despite the name the fare is anything but quick service. It’s well worth the wait for juicy steamed beef momo, which are just as popular in Jackson Heights as they are back home in Tibet. Chu-tse momo, a variety that adds green chives to the mix are excellent as is thenthuk, a soup whose noodles take the form of irregular swatches of chewy dough. 37-50 74th St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
11 PLACES IN QUEENS
“Sitting here in Queens, eating refried beans,” The Ramones—punk rock pioneers—sang on a “We’re a Happy Family.” Who knows whether the quartet ever ate frijoles? One things for sure though, before they became The Ramones, Jeffrey Hyman (Joey), Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee), Tamás Erdélyi, (Tommy), and John Cummings (Johnny) did do a lot of sitting around in Queens. Specifically at the Thornycroft Ramp and the adjoining roof where they would often hang out instead of attending class at nearby Forest Hills High School. The foursome’s hangout has been immortalized by a mural painted by Lower East Side artist Ori Carino. It was commissioned in 2016 by the Queens Museum in honor of the 40th anniversary of the band’s first album. 66th Ave between 99th and 102nd Sts, Rego Park, NY 11374
RUBIE’S COSTUME CO.
Whether you can’t wait until Halloween or you’re in the market for a $1,000 Darth Vader getup or a Spongebob Squarepants piñata, Rubie’s Costume Co. has you covered. The world’s largest manufacturer of Halloween costumes has its roots in the novelty section of Ruben and Tillie Beige’s candy store. Those novelties—plastic dog poop and whoopie cushions—are still sold, but these days Rubies is all about Halloween and even features a 15-foot high robotic ogre that greets guests when they enter the shop. 120-08 Jamaica Ave, Richmond Hill, NY 11418, (718) 846-1008
SCHMIDT’S CANDY STORE
Underneath the J train in Woodhaven stands a shop that offers a window into the past. With the exception of the ice cream parlor seats that have been removed little has changed at this 92-year-old institution that Margie Schmidt’s German immigrant father founded. Sure salted caramel and other newfangled treats have joined the lineup of old school classics like raspberry jellies and chocolate covered marshmallows but Easter remains the shops busiest time of year. “When you turned 10-years-old, you had to start putting chicks and rabbits in a bag and counting to 12,” Schmidt says with a laugh. “If you could count to 12, you got a job here—that was the rule.” 94-15 Jamaica Ave, Woodhaven, NY 11421, (718) 846-9326
SMILING HOGSHEAD RANCH
Did you know Long Island City is home to a ranch? You won’t find any livestock on it though, unless you count earthworms. That’s because despite the name, Smiling Hogshead Ranch is actually one of the smallest urban farms in New York City. Located on a patch of abandoned rail yard at the intersection of Pearson and Skillman, this vest pocket farm that grows everything from basil and thyme to carrots and cherry tomatoes was founded in 2011. When spring comes you can become an urban farmhand during Terrific Tuesdays by helping to harvest the produce. Afterward enjoy a potluck dinner. 25-30 Skillman Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101, (347) 509-4464
STEINWAY & SONS FACTORY
Manufacturing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Steinway Street, yet the thoroughfare is named for the family that popularized the phrase “Made in the USA,” Steinway & Sons, producers of the world’s finest pianos. Steinway Street was the heart of a company town that was founded in the late 1800s. These days, the company still makes pianos in northern Astoria, using the same processes Henry E. Steinway pioneered. A tour of the sprawling plant offers a fascinating glimpse into old world craftsmanship. Tours: September through July Tuesday 9:30 a.m.–noon, reserve in advance via phone or e-mail, (718) 721-2600, firstname.lastname@example.org
TONY VACCARO MUSEUM
Long Island City has long been known for its arts scene and is home to MoMA PS 1, the Noguchi Museum, and Sculpture Center. One of the hood’s most intriguing photo collections isn’t housed in a traditional museum at all though, it’s in an Italian restaurant. You’ll find photos depicting a who’s who of 20th-century celebrity—from actresses like Sophia Loren and Shirley MacLaine to artists Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keeffe and political figures like JFK—lining the walls of Manducatis Rustica. Each was shot by Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro, who has photographed some 2,000 of the world’s most famous people, for such magazines as Flair, Look, and Time. 46-35 Vernon Blvrd, Long Island City, NY 11101,(718) 937-1312
WAT BUDDHA THAI THAVORN VANARAM
Perhaps you know Elmhurst for its superb Thai dining, but did you know it’s home to a Thai Buddhist temple? The first floor is a brick box much like the neighboring apartment buildings, but it’s surmounted by architecture more commonly seen in Bangkok than in Elmhurst. Around the back find a giant reclining buddha and other statuary. Doff your shoes and enter the temple where you’ll find the Emerald Buddha in the third floor shrine room. On April 15 the temple celebrates Songkran (Thai New Year). The festivities include a giant Thai buffet, live music, and a beauty pageant. 76-16 46th Ave, Elmhurst, NY 11373
ZOMBIE GNOME BENCH
What started out as a present from Chris Carlson to his wife turned into one of the most whimsical pieces of street furniture in New York City. Carlson had intended to sneak the bench—inscribed with what is surely the most uplifting sentence Charles Bukowski ever penned—into a public park. Instead he added it to a growing collection of garden gnomes, including some rather macabre zombie gnomes. Nevertheless with its inviting quote: “You are marvelous. The gods await to delight in you,” it’s one of the coziest places to sit for a spell in LIC. 10-50 47th Rd, Long Island City, NY 11101
Queens-based food writer, culinary tour guide, and consultant Joe DiStefano has been exploring the borough’s diverse global cuisines for more than a decade. He has long been a champion of the bustling Chinatown that is downtown Flushing and is fond of referring to it as “America’s Greatest Chinatown.” He is the founder and publisher of the Queenscentric food blog CHOPSTICKS & MARROW, and author of 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Gourmet, Food Republic, and Serious Eats. His clients include Starbucks, the Boys Club of New York, Hormel, The Food Group, and Next Restaurant. Follow him on Twitter @JoeDiStefano and on Instagram @joedistefanoqns, just make sure to eat lunch beforehand!