Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day - From 1969

Ah, the pleasures of YouTube. Thanks so much to this man and his Super 8 camera, filming the 1969 Thanksgiving Day Parade down Main Street in Flushing. It's from an era when a children's parade still meant a beer truck and go-go dancers.

You can almost taste the excitement.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Great Queens Soup Search -- Cherry Valley

If you went to St. Francis Prep, you knew better than to cut class.

Unless the risk involved a trip to Cherry Valley.

The Whitestone deli boasts a much nicer awning than it did a few years ago, but its selection of sandwiches and snacks lives on as an artery-clogging manifesto to every tempting food known to man (onion rings on my bacon and cheddar sandwich? Why yes, please).

For now, here's the soup scoop:

Cherry Valley Deli & Grill
12-29 150th St.
(718) 767-1937
Soup: Grilled Chicken Corn Chowder

The good news: Where do I begin? With its profusion of red peppers, zucchini, corn and white potatoes, the chowder had volume and enough of a spicy kick to make it really interesting. Fine strips of grilled white chicken are a satisfactory substitute for bacon bits, which many corn chowder recipes call for -- they add a nice, smoky punch without the fat.

The not-so-good news: Pointing out a flaw in this soup is like chastising a supermodel for being born with an outtie belly button -- does it really matter?

But I'll play devil's advocate.

Cherry Valley -- please add more delicious chicken chunks to your already glorious corn chowder soup.


Overall Verdict: Yes, please.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Great Queens Soup Search

For the past few days, two of the most e-mailed articles on the New York Times Web site have been about sex and soup. Sure, this could just be our way of reverting back to the simpler things in life, given the economy – but I like to think it’s something else. Sex has always received its due reward in our society – but soup – not so much.

Think about it. Soup has powers of permutation unlike any other food shy of potatoes or tomatoes. You can eat it cold, hot, from a shot glass or a colossal bowl, thick and chunky or pureed, diluted or buttery and lush. And what other food grants you permission to recklessly combine potatoes, cheese and bacon? Enough said.

As a Queens native and now Brooklyn resident, I have had many, many good soups in my new borough..not so many in my original borough. But I’m determined to change that. Without further ado, here is my first attempt at trying every great soup in Queens. I welcome any and all suggestions or comments.

Tuesday, Nov. 25
Donovan’s of Bayside
214-16 41st Ave.
(718) 423-5353
Soup: Lentil

Brian, my foodie co-worker, has been raving about Donovan’s Split Pea Soup. It was my first trip to the popular restaurant and bar and, based solely on the d├ęcor (which resembles the townhouse Great Room of my pretentious dreams), I fell instantly in love. I had high hopes, but since it was raining, windy and downright glacial, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to find that Donovan’s did the sensible thing and replaced its fragile Split Pea with a hearty, reliable and –sorry – humdrum Lentil Soup option.

The good news: Everyone is spot on about the fresh food at Donovan’s. The lentils were cooked very well and had a creamy, slightly crisp texture. Generous chunks of firm, sweet carrots were a delightful compliment.

The not-so-good news: Eh. I couldn’t put my finger on what my soup was lacking. I knew it wasn’t something major, but it was something. Then, I committed a dining sin and sprinkled just a dash of salt and pepper into my soup – which, sadly, made a big difference.

Overall verdict: I will definitely return to Donovan’s and try other soups. As for the Lentil – it needed red pepper, salt, pepper, celery, cumin, coriander – something – added to the mix to help animate its fresh flavors.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Late Night Subways: A Scary Reality

If you're one people who believe the MTA's proposed changes, coupled with the fact that our economy is starting to resemble a slug drunk on sodium chloride, is not reason to panic -- here are some photos that serve as unnecessary proof.

Really, we can do better than this, right?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shea It Aint So

The QConfidential cartoon for next week's Queens Tribune spins the next item a bit differently. It's drawn by the talented Dom Nunziato who also publishes his own web site Spoil-Sports.

HSBC Field?

With Citigroup losing 89 percent of its value in the last year and competing banks swimming in like sharks smelling blood in the water, it certainly raises the question as to whether Citigroup will even make it out of the off-season to make good on the first of its 20-year, $20 million a year commitment to partner with the New York Mets.

Usually talkative team VP Dave Howard told the Post to seek comment from Citi over the agreement, leading to a speculation that perhaps the Mets may already be bracing themselves for the ax to fall.

I took the liberty of creating this imagined new stadium facade, should HSBC win out in the Citigroup feeding frenzy. At least the colors still match.

Too Many Votes?

According to NY1, Allison Padavan, a teacher in Spain who is also the daughter of State Sen. Frank Padavan, voted via absentee ballot, unsure if she was going to make it home in time to vote.
Well, she did, and voted a second time at her home polling place.
Though not illegal by Board of Elections standards, the voted-twice but only counted-once conundrum does add a new layer to the ongoing recount between Padavan the incumbent and Jim Gennaro, the Councilman vying to replace him.
As of the latest numbers, the difference between the contestants grants Padavan a lead of less than 500 with 8,000 affidavits and absentee ballots being counted.

Proposed MTA Boycott...

C'mon, you saw this coming, didn't you? Some strap hanger would call for a knee-jerk boycott as soon as the MTA said it would increase fares. But who would have thought it would be a man in our borough?

Louis Kenny has the bona fides to complain. He practically lives on mass transit.
The South Jamaica man takes the D and E lines, as well as two buses, to make the 2-1/2-hour commute to his job as a cook at a halfway house in the South Bronx.

Some bloggers have taken up the charge.

Could it actually pan out? With ridership as high as it is, a full-on boycott has a snow-ball's chance in hell. But plummeting gas prices may also have the desired effect.

But how can you boycott the subways? I mean really? There's so much fun to be had there.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hiram Monserrate: Creating A New Politics

Last week, Hiram Monserrate was the man of the hour.

He set the standard by which City Council members will be judged in having input over redevelopment projects in their districts.

Championing low income and affordable housing, the rights of property owners, Monserrate stood up to the Mayor and his high-power Willets Point redevelopment effort, his Queens front headed by Claire Shulman, and prevailed over what appeared to be an unyielding City Hall onslaught.

For months, they painted Monserrate as the renegade, the self-serving politico who was preventing Willets Point, the blighted area north of Shea Stadium dominated by junkyards and chop shops, from becoming a true neighborhood and contributing to the local economy.

Read the full article at the Queens Tribune.

Queens Arm Wrestlers Take Top Prizes

Why just read about arm wrestling when you can watch two guys in action?

Good point.

Here is a video from the Empire State Golden Arm Tournament of Championships at NYC's Port Authority.

Race To Replace Monserrate

Jose Eduardo Giraldo held his campaign kickoff party Nov. 20 at Extravaganza Night Club, 33-15 56th St. in Woodside.

Giraldo, a vice president at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Queens, is running to replace the seat being vacated by Corona Councilman Hiram Monserrate who was elected to the State Senate in November.

The field is shaping up. Monserrate's Chief of Staff Julissa Ferreras, Community Activist Francisco Moya and Carlos Pena have all filed with New York's Campaign Finance Board.

Inside The Board Of Elections: State Senate Votes Prompt Race Debate

By Lisa Fogarty
Nearly three weeks after Election Day, members of the Board of Elections, along with lawyers representing both Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), are still scrambling to determine the winner of the District 11 State Senate seat.

The process, which is usually a fairly quick one, has been dragged out, said George Gonzalez, deputy executive director of the New York City Board of Elections. And lawyers for the Queens Democratic Party and some Board of Election members are pointing fingers at the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

“They’re going through each ballot, disputing many of them,” Gonzalez said. “It’s delaying the process.”
To learn more, see the full article at the Queens Tribune

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Lively Night at CB12

Anybody who has ever been to a Community Board 12 meeting shouldn’t be surprised by any of its shenanigans. And November’s meeting, didn’t disappoint.

Adjoa Gzifa filled two roles, chairwoman and referee.

A resident brought the long-standing complaint that inhabits many Southeast Queens neighborhoods; there is raw sewage in my basement.

James Hunter, a southeast Queens resident lambasted the board for not adequately advocating on behalf of the community.

Gzifa defended the board saying that the board didn’t have any money and “we do what we can do.”

Herlema Owens, another board member, went further and urged people to join the board and “get involved.”

The night was young and there was much to come.

Ladies from the 113th Avenue Block Association came to complain about a row of four houses in their community that could possible house homeless men and those in rehabilitation programs.
Crystal White, said the occupants of the four homes number about 40 men, who were snuck in the wee hours of the morning or waning evening hours.

“This is a block of women and children,” she said.

Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Board 12, said she was abreast of the situation. She said the operators of the houses are dubbed the 113th Ave. Corp, which receive federal funds and operate on private property. Other than community outrage, the 113th Avenue Block Association’s recourse might be minimal.

And the night dragged on.

If developers didn’t get the memo, listen up, unless you’re building a community center, renovating a library or building a school, the neighborhoods confined within the board’s boundaries want nothing you have to offer.

A development company looking to build two buildings in close proximity to Jamaica Avenue was met with a firm no.

A member of the board asked the owner, what would the community receive if they said yes. The owner faltered, he probably didn’t think that far ahead.

One of the buildings he proposed would be a 10 story residential building, with commercial property on the ground floor. Asked by a board member how many units would comprise the high rise, the owner hadn’t thought that far ahead. He said because of the economic downturn he wouldn’t be sure.

Stay tuned.

Flushing Meadows Future

Though many initial planning meetings are often contentious, the meeting held Tuesday discussing the future of Flushing Meadows Corona Park was gracious by most standards.

The only real debate seemed to center around the aging relic from the featured story in the Queens Tribune discusses the meeting, the future and the relevance of the park in the context of life in Queens.

Friday Board of Elections Protest Canceled

Due to a scheduling conflict, the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus Delegation will not be holding their protest Friday at the Board of Elections on Queens Blvd. Stay tuned for additional updates.

Barack's Coattails Cover A Bridge

At yesterday's Triborough Bridge renaming ceremony, the long shadow of President-elect Barack Obama covered nearly every speaker.

Hardly anyone resisted the urge to mention Robert F. Kennedy's eerily prescient remark made to Voice of America in 1968:
Things are moving so fast in race relations. A Negro could be President in 40 years. There is no question about it. In the next 40 years, a Negro can achieve the same position that my brother has.

Governor Patterson first mentioned it. And Kerry Kennedy echoed it.

Yet it didn't have the same effect on everyone. Former Mayor David Dinkins, the City's first black Mayor, could be seen wandering Astoria Park's parking lot, having fled as the pageantry was winding down.

Strange Days at the Queens Board of Elections

I'm guessing members of the Queens Board of Elections never thought their humble headquarters would become the borough's most popular watering hole.

The Gennaro-Padavan ongoing vote recount for the 11th District State Senate seat is causing quite a stir over on Queens Boulevard -- and for good reason. Many Democrats and activists are concerned after hearing reports of ballots being unfairly disputed by reps from the Queens County Republicans, some on the basis of race, they say.

Today, the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and voters staged a mid-day protest in front of the Board of Elections to urge members to count every vote.

And tomorrow -- same place, same time -- Assemblymember Darryl Towns of Brooklyn will lead a delegation from the Black, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus to the Queens Board of Elections to observe the counting.

Assemblyman Peter Rivera, Assemblywoman-elect Grace Meng and State Sen. Martin Dilan are expected to attend.

When: Friday, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m.
Where: Queens Board of Elections
126-06 Queens Blvd.
Kew Gardens, NY

Read the entire Tribune article to learn more

Latest on MTA Proposal to Cut Services

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) released its Final Proposed 2009 Budget and November Financial Plan for 2009-2012 on Thursday morning, unveiling a legion of proposed cutbacks to services – including several that will affect Queens.

"The budget presented today fulfills the MTA's responsibility to put forward a balanced budget for the coming year," said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. "While we attempted to identify the least harmful cuts possible, they will be painful and no one at the MTA is eager to implement them.”

Earlier this month, Sander announced that the agency was facing a $1.2 billion deficit in 2009 and would most likely need to make significant changes – raising fares and tolls or cutting services – to bridge the gap.

The biggest hits to Queens are the expected elimination of both the W Broadway Local Line, which starts at Whitehall Street and runs through downtown and midtown Manhattan and then Queens, making stops at Queensboro Plaza, 39th Avenue, 36th Avenue, Broadway and 31st Street, 30th Avenue, Astoria Boulevard and Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard; and the Z Line, an Express Train that runs through Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens and makes stops at 75th Street, Woodhaven Boulevard, 104th Street, 121st Street, Sutphin Boulevard and Jamaica Center.

Other proposed subway cuts include the halving of two lines: the G Line, which will cut service from Court Square to Forest Hills – eliminating every stop in Queens except for 21st Street/Jackson Avenue and Court Square; and the M Line, which will still make stops between Metropolitan Avenue and Broad Street and will not affect Queens commuters traveling to Manhattan. The Q Train will be extended to Astoria and the MTA will add J Local service.

Other proposed changes include a fare and toll increase of 23 percent, which could raise subways fares to $2.50, an increase in Express Bus fare from $5.00 to $7.50, a 7.5 percent reduction in MTA staff (on top of previous 1.5 percent reduction) and the elimination of the Cross Bay Bridge Rebate Program, which affects commuters from Broad Channel and the Rockaways.

A final plan will be considered by the MTA Board at its Dec. 17 meeting and any changes would take affect in June 2009.

MTA Press Release

From the Notebook: Black20

Buried near the end of the Queens Tribune's Black20 profile, co-founder Nelson Castro admits:

They make some semblance of revenue from bits here and there...

Some of these "bits" come from unique advertising methods. For an online comedy company that has skewed product placement in the past, slamming viewers over the head with overt ads would be a cardinal sin.

So instead, Black20 came up with a covert method when it inked a deal with GPS/Social networking company Loopt.

The product was laced into the company's talk-show spoof "The Middle Show." You can see the results below:

I initially thought fans would cringe, similar to when indy bands allow advertisers to use their songs. But J. Crowley felt the opposite was true.

"The overwhelming response was, 'Finally! Congratulations guys,'" he said. "Our fans know what it's like for us and what a move like that means."

Apparently the prospect for future deals looks slim. Here's to the L.I.C.-based company getting "net_work" syndicated.

Iannece Kicks Off Campaign

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the Reception House in Flushing former Community Board 11 Chair and Northeast Queens Civic Leader Jerry Iannece, officially kicked-off his campaign for City Council in the 19th Council District.

Among the many local residents and supporters in attendance were numerous civic leaders and local elected officials; including: Assemblywoman Ann Margaret Carrozza, Joseph Bechtold - President of the Jefferson Democratic Club, Thomas Bullaro & Joseph DiPietro of the Italian American Community, Warren Schreiber - President of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, Mike Feiner - President of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, Bob Nobile - President of Little Neck Pines Civic Association, Chrissy Voskerichian - President of the 109 Pct Council, Rhea O’Gorman - President of the Station Road Civic Association, Steve Newman - CB 11 Chair, Phil Konigsberg -Vice Chair of CB 7, Frank Skala - President of the East Bayside Homeowners Association and Mike Neibauer - Head of the Queens Independence Party.

Van Bramer Kick-Off Party

Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democratic State Committeeman representing the 37th Assembly District in Queens County, will kick off his campaign for the New York City Council on Sunday, Nov. 23. The kickoff will take place at a fundraising house party from 2-4 p.m. at 39-19 46th Street.

Van Bramer is running to fill the open seat in the 26th Council District, which encompasses Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and parts of Astoria and Maspeth. Councilman Eric Gioia, who currently represents the 26th District, has announced that he is running for higher office and not for re-election to his current seat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anthony Weiner & A Silly Putty Economy


Wednesday morning, the day after the election, Anthony Weiner stopped by for a cup of coffee.

Actually, he was driving on the L.I.E. service road in a sound truck loudly thanking voters for returning him to Congress and decided there may be a free cup of coffee and some actual feedback inside.

It’s been a long time since I’ve interviewed him and since almost all of Wednesday’s discussion was on background or off-the-record, there’s little I can share with you. Except, Anthony is running for Mayor next year.

More follows after the jump. [Queens Tribune]

No Tax Increase Means Less Money?

There's a degree of anxiety about Albany's ability to get us out of this fiscal mess. And rightly so.

To date, no idea trickling out of the state capitol has spared the lesser earners among us.

East River tolls and an MTA fare hike are both sound revenue sources, but they only prop up a system that's wildly mismanaged and underfunded anyway. The Seminal said it right...
Of course, a 28% fare increase —more than a dollar extra for every round trip commute—would effectively (if not officially) be a tax increase. . . except this one would primarily affect the [lower] end of the economic ladder.

It seems like Gov. David Patterson's adamant stance against an income tax increase may only hurt the needier among us. His reasoning seems rather odd...
Mr. Paterson [believes] an income tax increase would do more harm than good by causing people to move out of the state.

Yet maybe a commuter tax hike would motivate out-of-State workers to seek employment out of New York - namely the City?

The math of all of this works out rather simply...
For millionaires, who don’t take the subway all that much—no new taxes; for working class New Yorkers, who do use the subway daily to get to and from work—how does paying an extra $260 per year sound? (That’s per person—if there are kids that use the subways and busses to get to school, multiply accordingly.)

Where's the fairness in that?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bringing Back The Commuter Tax

Bloomberg Budget Director Mark Page today told a hearing of the Council Finance Committee that the administration intends to lobby the State Legislature to reinstate the Commuter tax stolen from the City in 1999. Estimates have the annual value of the tax as high as $700 million. Speaker Silver who was the Democratic architect of the '99 deal to give the money away has indicated willingness to support its reinstatement. The new Senate Democratic Majority is more likely to embrace such a reinstatement than the Bruno or Skelos (who sponsored the '99 repeal in the Senate) Republican team. The Queens folks responsible for giving away some 5 billion dollars in commuter tax revenue since 1999 in what may be the dumbest and ugliest deal in the history of the dysfunctional NYS Legislature and are still thrilling us with their Assembly work today are: Queens Assembly members Vivian Cook, Marge Markey, Cathy Nolan, Audrey Pheffer and Bill Scarborough. The Mayor will need some magic in dealing with Albany to reinstate the Commuter Tax. The City could sure use this one now.

Councilman James Sanders In Accident

Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) was in motor vehicle accident on Saturday afternoon. Sanders is currently in recovery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.
According to Sanders’ District Manager Donovan Richards, who was with the councilman at the time of the accident, they were returning from the Pocono Environmental Education Center in Pennsylvania. Richards, who sustained a head laceration, which required eight stitches, said the SUV traveling on Interstate 87 flipped over the median and rolled four times. He said the cause of the accident were slippery road conditions. A driver was also in the vehicle, but was uninjured.
Richards said they had to crawl out a window.
“The car was totaled,” Richards said. “I don’t know how we made it out.”
Michael Duncan, Sanders’ chief of staff said the councilman was released from the intensive care unit from Columbia Presbyterian.
“He is much better than we thought,” he said. Duncan went on to say that Sanders had no broken bones and hopes to be released in a matter of days.

Don't Leave The Leaves

With the first substantial rainfall of the season, it's a perfect time to get out the rakes.

Though the city suspended it's leaf composting collection, there may be other incentives to clean up after your yard.

Try a fine of up to $100.

Maybe nostalgia feels a bit forced now, but damn if Queens natives Simon and Garfunkel didn't say it best.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Beating Danny's Dromm

In case you didn't know it, gay activist and district leader Danny Dromm is officially running for City Council in the seat currently held by Helen Sears. His new Web site highlights his career, talks about the issues and send links to his blog, which has entries running since July 2007.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Make Tracks To Sidetracks

Dinner Saturday night was at Sidetracks, located just off 45th Street on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. Check out the full review in the Nov. 20 edition of the Queens Tribune.

I started with the Chicken Satay, which definitely needed to be shared. The four pieces of chicken by themselves might have been enough for the ordinary man. Fortunately, I am far from ordinary.

The Surf & Turf special included a 5 oz. filet mignon on top of a bed of wilted spinach with three shrimp stuffed with crab meat and served with whipped potatoes.

The finale was the three layer chocolate chip fudge cake with blackberries on top. Yum.

CitiField Revealed

The future home of the New York Mets looks to be well on its way to being ready for opening day April 13, 2009.

Historic Winners

The Queens Historical Society held its 12th annual 4th Grade Art & History Contest, where 4th graders from around the borough drew pictures of landmark structures and wrote an accompanying essay about the site. The winners on hand for the awards ceremony Saturday are pictured above. The winners are:
Honorable mention: PS 46, Yeon Jun Kim, Kelin Qu; PS 58, Angela Mae Rufo-Bueno; PS 108, Diljit Singh; PS 175, Lily Brickman, Henry Cheng, Maria Marginean; PS 188, Luis Ho Londono; PS 232, Tiffany Chi, Xavier Guadalupe, Jan Nowaczewski; Immaculate Conception, Alice Gomes; and St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Jaycee Chand, Navdeep Singh.

The first place winner, with her representation of the Reformed Church of Newtown, was Angela Mae Rufo-Bueno of PS 58 in Maspeth.

The Discussion Begins

Suppose Senator Clinton Got a Cabinet Post ...
Published: November 15, 2008
Word that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was a contender to become President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state set off speculation in New York about who could replace her. (New York Times)

FHYAA Bantam Champions

Congratulations to the Bantam Girls Shalimar Diner team for winning their division's championship in the Forest Hills Youth Activities Association soccer league.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On The Set

Friday night, with holiday decorations tucked aside in anticipation of tomorrow's holiday kick-off, the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale was turned into a film set as a crew took over the entire ellipse portion of the shopping mall for a new film starring Natalie Portman, currently titled "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits." The film is directed by Don Roos, who directed 2000's "Bounce" and has a long career as a writer, director and producer. The film is due out in June 2009.


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