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Flushing playwright writes memoir

By Daniel Offner

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Growing up in Flushing had a profound impact on Alvin Eng, a local author, playwright, performer, educator, and punk rock raconteur, whose family was one of only a few immigrant Chinese families to move into the community at the time.

His parents were from a different generation. They had an arranged marriage and moved to New York from a different part of the world, during a time when U.S. laws restricted Chinese immigrants from becoming full-fledged U.S. citizens. Here they faced numerous obstacles all while raising five kids and operating a successful hand dry laundry business at 29-10 Union Street.

Eng said he didn’t learn how to speak and write Chinese as a kid, because he was desperate to try and fit in. His first experience with the literary world came unexpectedly when he was just a 17-year-old reporter working for the Flushing High School newspaper.

Thanks to a chance interview with a music pioneer, he quickly found himself deep in the heart of New York City’s burgeoning punk music scene in the ‘70s.

“I was very lucky. David Johansson of the New York Dolls and Buster Poindexter, let me interview him at 17 and that changed my life,” Eng said. “All the misfits at that time went to the punk rock world.”

Known for being rebellious and loud, it was the perfect place for a teenager. Eng was enamored by the culture and began incorporating it into his work.

He began writing plays in the ‘80s, after being invited to a production of David Henry Hwang’s Broadway hit, “M Butterfly,” and once again, his life was forever changed.

It was not long after that when Eng wrote his first stage play, a punk-rap musical entitled, “The Goong Hay Kid,” which he performed at a number of small venues across NYC including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 1994.

His next production was titled, “The Flushing Cycle,” which he went on to perform at Queens Theatre in the Park in 2000 and the Pan-Asian American Theater. His performance, in essence, would form the basis of his forthcoming memoir about his childhood, which is told through a series of spoken-word monologues and poems.

Eng said that he lost his father when he was just 14, which dramatically changed his relationship with his mother. He took care of his mother for a long time, and in 2002, when she died, he decided he would write a little more about her.

His next play, “The Last Emperor of Flushing,” was based on his mother, whose real-life relationship played a tremendous influence on his work. Since 2005, he has performed the play to several crowds all across New York City and other parts of the country.

“I wrote about a lot of issues I faced as an Asian-American,” Eng explains. “But I didn’t want to only write about identity issues.”

In that regard, he went on to write a series of “portrait plays,” which explore and dramatize the parallels between portraiture, history, and power as manifested in the convergence of different disciplines, eras and cultures.

As both a theatrical practitioner and professor, Eng found himself intrigued by the under-chronicled influence China played on Thronton Wilder’s classic production, “Our Town,” which became an unexpected catalyst for his psyche-healing pilgrimage to the City University of Hong Kong.

There, both he and his wife, Wendy Wasdahl, led a Fulbright Specialist devised theater residency to teach Chinese students how to write and perform English language plays in response to Wilder’s theatrical masterwork.

It was thanks to this residency that in 2011, the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, extended an invitation to Eng to come and perform “The Last Emperor of Flushing” memoir monologue in his family’s ancestral Guangdong Province.

His latest work, “Our Laundry, Our Town” is a prose-style memoir of his life, from his childhood in Flushing to his productions on the Downtown Stage and beyond.

“In some ways, my parents’ arranged marriage was the ultimate tragic opera in that I never once saw them dance or engage in any amorous way that went one breath or gesture beyond the bare-bones necessities of running our laundry and our family,” Eng said. “In another sense, theres was an unmitigated immigrant success story in that they both ventured to the other side of the world at a time when our race was legally blocked from becoming U.S. citizens for almost an entire century, and propsered. Against mountains of society, institutional, and legal obstacles, they raised five children and maintained a successful mom-and-pop Chinese hand laundry business for three decades, as well as two homes.”

His book, which explores his parents relationship and growing up in Flushing, Queens, will be released by Fordham University Press on May 17.

Eng said that following the book’s release, he plans to host readings featuring excerpts from the story. The first, he said, will take place at the independent bookseller’s Kew and Willow, located at 81-63 Lefferts Blvd., in Kew Gardens on May 26.

In terms of what comes next, Eng said “we’ll see. I would love to see if a film could be made out of this.”

For now, Eng is busy working on a new performance piece entitled “Here Comes Johnny Yen Again (Or How I Kicked Punk),” The title, which takes its name from character created by William S. Borough’s, explores the impact that opium played on the Chinese Diaspora and the NYC underground punk culture through the dual prisms of the character––immortalized by the Iggy Pop/David Bowie classic “Lust of Life”––and his grandfather’s opium overdose on the streets of Chinatown.

The first workshop performances were performed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while additional performances planned for April were cancelled.

He is also in the early stages of writing a new play, entitled “AARP (Asian American Rock Party) Presents a One-Night Reunion of G.O.D. (Goddess Of Democracy),” which features original new music and is told, chanted, ranted and sung from the perspective of “Goddess of Democracy,” an early ‘90s alt-rock band that performed in the wake of the 1989 Tianmen Square uprising.

To find out more about the author, visit his website alvineng.com.

Two women shot in Ridgewood

Neighborly checkup on domestic dispute turns deadly

A 51-year-old woman is dead and a 48-year-old woman is in critical condition following a domestic dispute that has police on the look out for a 55-year-old male named Pedro Cintron who fled the scene in Ridgewood early Monday morning.

Officers from the 104th precinct responded to 66-17 Fresh Pond Road at approximately 8:15 a.m. on Monday morning, where they found the 51-year-old victim, later identified as Migdalia Ortega, shot in the head, and a 48-year-old woman with two shots in her torso.

Police say a domestic incident between the 51-year-old woman and Cintron in their third floor apartment led to the 48-year-old woman, who lives on the second floor, to check on her upstairs neighbors.

The 48-year-old woman was then shot and as she fled to her apartment, Cintron followed her and continued shooting, according to NYPD Deputy Chief Julie Morrill. Police added that there had been no prior history of domestic violence between the two.

Cintron fled the scene, and there are no arrests as of press time.

During a press conference with law enforcement, it was revealed that the deceased victim was a civilian member of the NYPD with 11 years of service in the information technology bureau.

Assistant Chief Galen Frierson added, “There’s no words to describe exactly how we feel. We feel deeply for the family and we’re here to support them in anything they need.”

Community discusses Bus Network Redesign

As part of their public outreach efforts, the MTA is holding workshops in each community district — from Astoria to Rockaway — to hear feedback about their Queens Bus Network Redesign Plan.

After an 18-month pause on the project, which was initially developed in 2019, the MTA released the most updated draft.

They said in a presentation that after the recent public outreach has been completed, that feedback will be analyzed and implemented into a proposed final plan.

The goal of the Bus Network Redesign is to modernize the city’s bus network and provide faster, more efficient service to the nearly 800,000 customers who rely on it.

The plan is slated to eliminate a total of 1,685 bus stops, as well as offer 85 routes to the borough.

Residents of Community District 5 — which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth, had the opportunity to provide feedback to MTA representatives at last Wednesday’s virtual workshop, and many of them were quite skeptical about the plan.

“The proposed change to the Q39 removing all service in Ridgewood removes access to several colleges not served by the Q67,” one concerned resident said. “Q67 frequency is 30 minutes, which does not improve Q39 service. The only option would be the Q58, which is already overcrowded, and transfer to the Q39 somewhere.”

The proposed Q39 would be extended north to Astoria via 21 Street and Astoria Blvd, replacing Q103 service there, and providing new connections across western Queens.

It would also terminate in Maspeth instead of serving Ridgewood, which would be provided by the potential Q67 bus. It will also no longer operate on a 24-hour timeline.

As part of the plan, the MTA created online profiles for each individual bus route in Queens in order for customers to analyze the proposals in depth.

The profiles suggest alternate connections by bus and train to compensate for any service that was changed or eliminated, as well as average stop spacing, total length, proposed frequency and span, and a map to provide a visual guide for the route’s changes.

Another Ridgewood resident pointed out that a stop on Menahan Street and Fresh Pond Road along the Q58 has been skipped as a result of nearby construction and stressed that it needs to be addressed in the new plan.

The same resident also brought up an error in the MTA’s plan regarding the QM24 and QM25 buses, which say there will be a stop on Fresh Pond Road and Gates Avenue, however, there is currently no bus stop at Gates Avenue.

“I think that was just an error because there is a stop at Fresh Pond and Grove, and that would make perfect sense to keep the bus stop there. But if you remove the bus stop at Bleecker Street and move the Grove stop, it’s such a tremendous difference to be able to walk all the way over to Gates Avenue,” she said.
Lucille Songhai, an MTA representative, said she and other employees will continue to do research regarding the road operations, which will likely be reflected in the final plan.

MTA representative Daniel Randall reminded all attendees that the current plan is merely a draft at this point, and that all feedback, questions, and concerns are welcome.

“All this feedback is very useful,” he said. “You know your communities better than we do.”

Randall added that “the fact that you’re naming economic institutions, schools, and local infrastructure is really helpful because that will inform the next phase of this plan.”

More information about the Queens Bus Network Redesign Plan is available on the MTA’s website for anyone to view. Community members can register for any of the MTA’s virtual bus workshops through June 2 as well.

New e-bikes added to Citi Bike’s fleet debut in Astoria

Jason Subratie said he could barely sleep the night before meeting the new upgraded e-bike that he would be using as his primary mode of transportation around the city.

The young Manhattan-based entrepreneur says he discovered Citi Bike’s fleet of e-bikes last summer and has been riding ever since.

From delivering food orders to earn money, to visiting family members in Queens and Brooklyn, Subratie has even come up with a slogan for the bike-share company owned by Lyft.

“Why walk when you could use a Citi Bike?” Subratie said with a laugh. “I literally don’t believe in walking anymore, unless it’s out of the network. And I stay pretty much in the network.”

Subratie biked to Astoria last week to help welcome the new and improved line of e-bikes being added to Citi Bike’s fleet, and was one of the first New Yorkers to take the new model out for a ride.

Standing in the shadows of Astoria Houses, the debut of the new e-bikes came with celebration from community leaders and Citi Bike officials, who also noted the reduced fare program for residents of New York City Housing Authority.

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, CEO and founder of Astoria-based nonprofit Urban Upbound, led the collective remarks with some reflection on the place he’s called home for his entire life.

“The transportation burden on this community was quite great,” Taylor said. “So, to have us here today offering a transportation alternative is really historic.”

Laura Fox, the general manager of Citi Bike, outlined some of the new features of the revamped e-bikes, which include a longer-lasting battery life up to 60 miles and a reflective-paint that is highly-visible at night.

“When we thought about the design of the new bike, we tried to simplify all the features, give it double the battery length, make a larger motor so you can get up those hills a little bit faster and easier, and really create a great, simple experience,” Fox said.

The nation’s largest bike-share network was purchased by Lyft in 2018, and now has over 1,500 docking stations and 25,000 bikes across New York City and Jersey City.

The partnership of Citi Bike and Healthfirst, New York’s largest non-profit health insurer, will offer $5 monthly memberships for NYCHA residents and SNAP recipients, with e-bike fares starting at $.05 cents a minute under the reduced fare program.

As someone who was born and raised in multiple NYCHA developments, Migel Santino, vice president of Healthfirst, says he understands the challenges that many NYCHA residents face.

“Those challenges stem from unequal access to resources, which makes life more difficult,” Santino said. “I will say that it is always important to have a program like this but it is particularly important as we are still working our way through the pandemic.”

As the new e-bikes hit the streets for their inaugural rides, Subratie was still elated with joy to be one of the first New Yorkers to ride the newest addition to Citi Bike’s lineup.

“I ride e-bikes all day, everyday,” he said. “I appreciate the upgrade.”

Pol Position: Mayor Adams’ approval ratings dip

In his first 100 days of office, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has made public safety and homelessness a key priority for his administration.

Only a couple of months into his term, the Adams administration dealt with devastating lows, from the fatal apartment fire in the Bronx to the senseless stabbing of a woman outside her Chinatown apartment, and celebratory new highs, like partying with recording artist A$AP Rocky and model Cara Delevigne.

Adams’ celebrity status has certainly granted him access to some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including comedian/actor Dave Chappelle, who he visited in a Los Angeles hospital the night after he was attacked onstage by an armed assailant.

It even earned him the nickname, “The Swagger Mayor” by The New York Times.

But while he was speaking at a Cryptocurrency convention in California, new polling data from Quinnipiac University revealed that hizzoner’s approval ratings have dipped about three percent since February.

“Mayor Adams gets a positive score on his job performance, but it’s tepid. The biggest weight on his numbers: crime. It’s by far the most urgent issue and voters are holding him accountable,” Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Mary Snow said in a statement about the new poll data.

Adams, a former police captain, has been outspokenly leading the charge against crime in the face of a string of high-profile reports including the Sunset park subway shooting, the death of 12-year-old Kade Lewin, and a string of hate crimes.

In regards to how his administration is handling crime, Adams polled much lower than he did back in February, dropping from a positive 49 percent to a negative 37 percent.

“In the wake of April’s mass shooting on the subway along with an increase in major crimes, confidence slips in the Mayor being able to reduce gun violence,” Snow added.

Based on the data, only 34 percent of those polled approve of the Mayor’s $99.7 billion executive spending plan for the 2023 fiscal year, which essentially cuts funding for departments like Education while increasing funding to the NYPD and Department of Homeless Services.

The Mayor’s handling of the homeless crisis in New York City, such as the increased implementation of encampment sweeps citywide, has also netted him a negative 31 percent approval rating, according to the Quinnipiac polling data.

However, some of his decisions have been quite favorable to those polled, including his efforts to increase the number of police officers in the subways. Based on the polls, an overwhelming 86 percent majority of voters support having more cops working mass transit.

Adams has also said that he is looking towards ways to implement metal detectors at the access points to the subway system, in order to screen for potential weapons, a proactive measure that would aim at decreasing criminal violence on the subway before it happens.

According to the polling data, 62 percent think that adding metal detectors would quell any reservations that they have about taking mass transit, while 35 percent feel it’s a bad idea that could cause potential controversy over an individual’s right to privacy. The feasibility of affording and setting up an automated system, however, would be costly and take several years to roll out.

“I am less than six months into my administration, and so throughout these six months, it’s going to be a roller coaster, but at the end of it, we’re going to turn this city around,” Adams told CBS 2 News in response to the most recent polling data.

Considering how he has played into his role as the “broccoli mayor,” it could very well be that his actions while leaving a bad taste in the mouths of some voters presently, will turn out to be a great benefit to the City in the long run.

Chipotle unionizer returns to work

Brenda Garcia, a 31-year-old Chipotle worker from Queens, returned to work last week, just days after she says she was fired for speaking out on the fast food chain’s scheduling practices and speaking with her co-workers about forming a union.

The Flushing resident and single mother of one says she was fired after she called in sick, despite having three sick days to use. In response, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ filed charges under the National Labor Relations Act, accusing Chipotle of firing her for union activity.

Four days later, Garcia returned to work at 136-61 Roosevelt Avenue, with the backing of local Councilmember Sandra Ung.

“This shows that when we speak up we can make a difference,” said Garcia. “Chipotle must respect workers, give us the opportunity to grow and respect our right to organize a union. I’m ready to get my job back and to keep fighting for the shifts and a schedule that I need to survive and to support my son.”

Councilmember Ung added, “I’m delighted to be here to stand alongside Brenda as she returns to work after being unjustly terminated. I thank 32BJ for amplifying Brenda’s story, and for all it continues to do to support the fight for fair working conditions for working-class people.”

In a statement to The Queens Ledger, Chipotle says Garcia was never terminated, but rather requested two weeks off.

“Ms. Garcia was never terminated, however, on April 18, she requested two weeks off,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer. “We are pleased that she returned to work exactly two weeks later on May 2.”

Among the provisions of the city’s Fair Workweek Law is that employers must offer more hours and additional shifts to current employees before hiring new help. Last year, the city filed a lawsuit alleging that Chipotle had violated the Fair Workweek Law almost 600,000 times in a two-year span.

Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ, says the union still has a complaint filed against Chipotle alleging anti-union intimidation tactics and for creating an atmosphere of surveillance.

“We are glad in this case that Chipotle made this decision to bring Brenda back,” Bragg said. “But the charge of alleging anti-union intimidation, threats and creating an impression of surveillance remains. This is why workers need a union at Chipotle.”

Ruhling: The Planet Proponent

The planet is weeping when Kayli Kunkel opens the door to her store, Earth & Me.

It’s raining cats and dogs and elephants and lions.

She sighs –she’s holding an event later, and this May monsoon isn’t about to stop sobbing any time soon.

The planet’s perpetual peril pains Kayli.

Kayli, whose face is defined by horn-rims and a sense of urgent earnestness, grew up in the Mississippi River bluff town of Dubuque, Iowa, where she spent her spare time playing on the beach and riding the waves in a pontoon boat.

“My dad took us on hikes, and we were always catching frogs and tadpoles,” she says. “We always had pets, and once we even brought home a wild rabbit. I liked to watch Steve Irwin’s nature shows on TV.”

Kayli tried several pursuits before she focused her passion on the planet.

For pretty much the first decade of her life, she was a dancer, stepping and spinning her way around the Midwest, winning competitions.

Later, she devoted herself to show choir, performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as well as at Carnegie Hall.

But she also was interested in writing and storytelling, which is why she majored in graphic design and magazine journalism at Drake University, which is in Des Moines, some three and a half hours from the house she grew up in.

“My biggest goal was to be an art director for a major magazine,” she says, adding that she stayed in Des Moines to take a job with the media conglomerate Meredith Corp.

As magazines around the country started folding like dinner napkins, Kayli shifted to a career in content marketing, which she pursued for a couple of years before coming to New York City.

“My partner, who I’m still with, was studying architecture and got a job here,” she says. “I was ready for a change, too.”

When the pandemic hit, Kayli was the marketing director for a software company, a job she was laid off from in June 2020.

Because everyone was staying home and doing things like making sourdough bread and masks between Netflix binges, Kayli literally tried her hand at home goods.

(The colorful coasters she created out of vintage yarn are for sale at Earth & Me.)

“I also joined the social justice protests,” she says. “I decided to open a zero-waste store that carries handmade eco-conscious items produced locally. This happened two weeks after my job ended.”

She began researching local sources and products and started doing pop-up stores that summer.

She opened her first Earth & Me (it is so named because she wanted to put herself in the  equation) in a small space on Astoria Boulevard in December 2020.

In September 2021, she opened an expanded Earth & Me on Steinway Street that includes a café with home-baked goods, an outdoor events space, vintage clothing and kitchenware and a substantial stock of hand-made refillable items that range from soaps and pastas to spices and teas.

“The idea of the refills is rather like the old milk deliveries,” she says. “You buy the product, and when the bottle’s empty, you bring it back or we pick it up and deliver a refill. Right now, we are local deliveries only, but we are going to expand to include all the boroughs. The items are transported in an electric van.”

She estimates that her refills have reduced the use of plastic bottles by the thousands.

Earth & Me looks like an old-time grocery store: The bulk items are displayed in glass bottles and glass canisters.

There are shiny silver scoops and funnels for the dry goods.

“There are no stores in Queens that offer these refills,” she says. “And there are very few in New York City. I want to make refilling as convenient as going to the bodega.”

Earth & Me and Kayli are all about saving the planet and building a like-minded community.

The shop’s cards are made of recyclable paper, and the products’ packaging is recyclable as well as compostable.

Next to the counter, there’s a plant propagation wall, where customers can rehome greenery.

“Our customers also donate clothing to SCRAP to be recycled,” she says. “We get about three to four bags a day. I’m proud to say that we’ve kept over 1,000 pounds of textiles out of the landfills.”

For Kayli, who lives in a Jackson Heights apartment with her partner and her dog, recycling comes naturally.

She composts and produces so little garbage that her trash can, which is only 2 feet tall, gets full enough to empty only every three weeks or so.

“We are conscious about what we buy,” she says. “And we only buy what we need.”

For the planet’s sake, she hopes her sustainable practices catch on.

“Typically, I’m in the store every day,” she says. “I knew what to expect from running a small business because of my parents, who each had their own company.”

Kayli has plans to expand Earth & Me.

She talks about refill pop-up stores, diffuser bars with signature scents and a line of skin-care products.

“But these,” she concedes, “are way down the path.”

She looks out the front door at the raindrops splashing on the sidewalk.

The showers aren’t expected to let up until early tomorrow morning.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at [email protected];  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,  astoriacharacters.com.

Perlman: Celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s 200th Birthday

By Michael Perlman

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Most recently at the Church-in-the-Gardens Community House, local residents among scholars celebrated the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., “the father of American landscape architecture.” His other titles are social critic, journalist, and public administrator. Guests gave a champagne toast to Olmsted’s legacy and enjoyed a cake bearing his photo. This event was coordinated by the Forest Hills Gardens Foundation, and furthermore, Olmsted’s anniversary is being celebrated in parks and communities countrywide.

Olmsted was born on April 26, 1822, in Hartford, Ct., and passed away on August 28, 1903, in Belmont, MA. Among his most significant accomplishments are the landscapes of Central Park, Riverside Park and Drive, Prospect Park, Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Long Island, Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway, Morningside Park, Downing Park in Newburgh, the U.S. Capitol, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. His son, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr, designed Forest Hills Gardens, along with principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury.

“Frederick Law Olmsted was a Renaissance man,” Justin Martin, a Forest Hills Gardens resident and author of “Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted,” a definitive biography, said. He delivered a slideshow presentation and engaged his audience of over 50 attendees with his encyclopedic style approach.

Martin explained an early experience that would shape Olmsted’s achievements. “When he was growing up in Hartford, his family was in the habit of taking horseback excursions into the countryside. He would sit up in front with his father on a saddle. For hours on end, his family would travel through the countryside, in silent contemplation of nature.”

When Olmsted was 14, he dropped out of school and began seeking a profession. A solid one was being a surveyor, but he did not take it seriously. Martin explained, “pretending to learn the profession, he was in the habit of sneaking off, going hiking, and wandering around in the woods.” Then his father decided that it was time for his son to settle down. Martin continued, “he arranged for him to move to NYC and get a job at a milkshake firm, but he hated the 9-to-5 hours.”

Olmsted also explored farming. “It made sense, since 70 percent of the population in this era was involved in agriculture. He bounced around from state to state and farm to farm, before encountering a very attractive situation in Staten Island,” Martin said.

That is the site of Olmsted’s farmhouse at 4515 Hylan Boulevard and farm, which was home from 1848 to 1855. Tosomock Farm is where he began experimenting with landscaping and agricultural techniques, resulting in improvements that influenced his later countrywide designs. Today this rare survivor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is awaiting significant restoration. Martin serves on the board of an organization committed to restoring it. He said, “we are also hoping to open it as a museum dedicated to agriculture and its most famous resident.”

Olmsted pointed out that England was in the seat of scientific farming, and he could learn some agricultural best practices that he could bring home to Staten Island. His father always had a soft spot for farming. Back at Tosomock Farm, he encountered George Putnam, who later published “Walks and Talks of an American Farmer,” Olmsted’s book, which chronicles his England walking tour.

In autumn 1852, Olmsted as a farmer, set off to the south, spoke everywhere, and produced a superb series of dispatches that placed the new New York Times on the map. Martin said, “He recently visited model farms of England and had his own operation in Staten Island and paid people to work for him, in contrast to slavery. He found the south to be an image of surpassing natural beauty.” After leaving Staten Island, he relocated to Manhattan and acquired a position as an editor and writer for Putnam’s Monthly.

After the Crash of 1857, he was jobless. He continued, “Olmsted was forced to take a modest job, where he was to drain swamps on a scruffy piece of land, very prosaically named for its position in the middle of NYC, called Central Park. He was to clear this piece of land for someone else’s design.” The original plan for Central Park dates to 1858. The amateurish design was eventually scrapped.

Olmsted would team up with his senior partner, landscape architect Calvert Vaux, who explained that in his native country of England if one wishes to have the best design, hold a public competition. “There were 33 contestants, and 32 rated somewhere between a B minus and a flat F, but the Olmsted and Vaux design received an A+,” Martin explained. It was a massive undertaking. “As each section would open to the public, people from various backgrounds were mixing and mingling in the park,” Martin said. In Olmsted’s generation, people came of age in the 1840s and were very committed to social justice. As for landscape architecture, Olmsted finally found a worthy means of addressing a generational mandate via social justice, and he described Central Park as “A democratic development of the highest significance.”

During the Civil War, Olmsted made his way to Washington D.C. and headed the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a predecessor to the American Red Cross. “This organization supplied immeasurable aid to wounded soldiers,” said Martin. He oversaw the creation and operation of field hospitals and medical boats and established quarantine procedures.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, communities countrywide began clamoring for parks to be built. He explained, “Communities wanted their ‘Central Park.’ It was like a dam bursting. The natural team to turn to was Olmsted & Vaux, and they produced a series of masterpieces across the country. Their sophomore initiative was Prospect Park.”

Olmsted, with his stepson John Charles working in the firm, designed masterpieces including a park system for Boston known as the Emerald Necklace, Cherokee Park in KY, and the grounds for the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1895, Olmsted’s final major commission was the Biltmore Estate. “The client was George Washington Vanderbilt II, the wealthiest person on earth,” said Martin. That was when his son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. collaborated on this project, serving as an apprenticeship. “He urged him to review and train yourself, and if you don’t get it now, you never will,” continued Martin.

A few years later, Olmsted passed away, and sons John Charles and Flo, Jr. stepped into a ready-made profession. They coined a landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Brothers, and followed in their father’s footsteps by designing 20th-century countrywide masterpieces encompassing parks and private estates. Flo, Jr. became the firm’s public face. Martin said, “They refined and refurbished their father’s parks. Parks are like living artwork that are never really completed.” With the advent of automobiles, they repurposed horse-drawn carriage roads. They also focused on new areas that were unexplored by their father, such as corporate campuses.

Whereas Olmsted Sr. produced a manifesto calling for a national park service, Flo, Jr. helped shape its mission statement. His excerpt read, “Promoting public recreation and public interest through the use and enjoyment by the people of natural scenery and objects of interest.” Flo, Jr. was involved in the design of national parks including Acadia, The Everglades, and the Great Smoky Mountains, which included creating pathways to scenic overlooks and enabling hiking. Martin said, “The Olmsted Brothers was much more involved with urban planning for cities and their future direction. Flo, Jr. would draw up plans for Utica, Detroit, Rochester, and New Haven, and famously be involved in the McMillan Commission, which was an effort to beautify public spaces in Washington, D.C., known as the National Mall.”

In 1908, the Russell Sage Foundation embarked upon its first major project to create a model community in Queens, it was natural to turn to Flo, Jr. Martin said, “For the Forest Hills Gardens, he would closely apply his father’s design principles, such as intense attention to detail and a real commitment to nature and democratic spaces.”

Martin explained, “As you travel through our neighborhood, bear in mind that with Olmsted and his grand 19th-century designs, you can draw a direct line to Forest Hills Gardens, designed by his son.” Bruce Eaton, Forest Hills Gardens Foundation president, presented a Forest Hills Gardens video drawing the eye on outstanding characteristics and featured vintage and recent photos of the earliest planned English garden community. He pinpointed a lasting impact of the Olmsted’s, such as curved streets and shared green spaces. He also cited Martin’s article for “Cottage Living” in 2007, where he explained, “While Flo designed Central Park for a much larger geography, Flo, Jr. incorporated small parks into the Gardens. He believed that the larger the park, the more likely that visitors would not connect and move about behind a veil of urban anonymity.”

Some communal spaces are Station Square, the Tea Garden, Greenway Terrace and Flagpole Green, Olivia Park, and Hawthorne Park. The clip also featured the irregularity of intersections, so visitors will not know what to anticipate. In some cases, homes do not face a main artery. Curved streets with Tudor and Arts & Crafts homes, appealing vistas, and diverse monumental trees and plants are everlasting trademarks that reflect the Olmsteds’ legacy.

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Wendell: Remembering Woodhaven’s Lt. Harry Joseph Schmitt

He was a Woodhaven boy. He lived on Jamaica Avenue. He attended PS 97 and Franklin K. Lane High School and picked up a few bucks delivering The Leader-Observer.

As a young man, he went to Queens College where he excelled in the classroom and on the baseball diamond. He was honored as a distinguished military graduate and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force, where he trained to be a pilot.

He was just 23 years old and his future was bright, but Woodhaven was still close to his heart. While stationed at an Air Force base in Dover, Delaware, as a radar observer, he kept an old postcard of Forest Parkway in his locker.

He kept in touch with his folks regularly and they spoke about his next visit to his old hometown. In fact, his bags were already packed and he was ready to go on leave.

And he would be bringing home a surprise for his family, the young woman who he was planning to make his wife.

But Harry Schmitt never came home. In July 1958, he was killed while on a routine flight over the Atlantic off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey

As with any accident, the details of what happened are as murky as the waters Harry Schmitt’s plane crashed into. It appears that the pilot did not realize how low he was flying. In fact, he may have even skipped the jet across the top of the ocean.

The pilot ordered Harry Schmitt to bail, but because the plane was so low when he ejected, his parachute never opened. The Air Force speculated that he was killed instantly but we’ll never know for certain as the young man from Woodhaven was never found.

It was front page news here in Woodhaven. Lt. Harry Joseph Schmitt was remembered at a Solemn High Mass of Requiem at St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

The Leader-Observer expressed their grief and fondly remembered the boy who delivered this newspaper.

“From the first day when he took his papers out on his route, his spirit of affable friendliness endeared him to everyone,” the paper recalled in an editorial.

They remembered his cheery greetings whenever he entered the newspaper’s office on Jamaica Avenue, and they shared how friendly Harry was to all of the customers on his paper route.

“The memory of Harry Schmitt’s grin and exuberant ‘Hi!’ will never be forgotten,” the Leader wrote.

But as the years went by, it would appear that the memory of young Harry Schmitt began to fade away in Woodhaven, but he was never forgotten, certainly not by American Legion Post 118.

Starting in 1961, our local American Legion has been honoring its members in their Garden of Remembrance, which was planned to be a “miniature Arlington Cemetery,” with a marker honoring residents of Woodhaven who died in service or afterwards.

It is a beautiful sight, a field of crosses filling the front yard of the post, each marker representing someone who is no longer with us. A ceremony is held every year in honor of those that the markers represent.

And every year since 1961, Harry Schmitt has been part of that Garden of Remembrance; a cross bearing his name has been on display, with all the others, every Memorial Day.

The Schmitt family left Woodhaven just a year after young Harry perished and they were unaware that the Post had continued to honor Harry in their garden each year. It touched them deeply that their Harry had never been forgotten.

In 2018, 60 years after Harry was lost, the Schmitt family returned to Woodhaven for Memorial Day services at the Post. Harry’s sister Margaret was presented with a memorial flag while everyone observed a moment of silence.

During the ceremony, Commander John Lawless asked everyone to look at the Garden of Remembrance. “Sadly, each year, our garden grows,” he said.

Each new marker is a new name that will forever be remembered and honored by American Legion Post 118 and the residents of Woodhaven.

Please note that American Legion Post 118 will be hosting a Memorial Day Observance at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue on Thursday, May 26th starting at 6:30 p.m. And on Memorial Day itself, resident will begin gathering at 10:30 for the annual Memorial Day Observance outside the post, in front of the Garden of Remembrance.

Jastremski: Nasty Nestor is no fluke

There are always certain types of guys that fan bases just love falling in love with.

The classic overachiever, the home grown star or maybe it’s just someone oozing confidence and swagger.

It’s pretty obvious to point out the type.

Last year, the Yankee fan base fell in love with Nestor Cortez.

Cortes came out of nowhere. He pitched with the Yankees in 2019, left the team in 2020 and returned in 2021.

Cortes profiled as your classic lefty journeymen pitcher and I’m sure his return to the team wasn’t exactly celebrated.

However, midway through the 2021 season, the Yankees needed someone to step up in their rotation.

Nestor Cortes took on that role.

He went from being the really good long reliever to a pitcher Aaron Boone could rely on more and more starting out games.

The Yankees would not have made the postseason last year without his contribution to the rotation.

Cortes won over fans with his strong performance, but it was more than that.

Nestor Cortes has a flair and a presence on the mound. The way he changes speeds, the funky leg kick and then you throw in the mustache!

How can you not love Nestor Cortes???

Heading into the 2022 season, I wondered if Cortes could do it again?

After all, I remember Aaron Small and Shaun Chacon. Small and Chacon were instrumental in the Yankees division title in 2005 and were both cut mid way through 2006.

A month plus into 2022, Cortes has made it clear. 2021 was no fluke.

Cortes is the first pitcher in Yankee history with at least 40 strikeouts and 6 runs or fewer allowed in his first 6 games of the season.

On Monday, Cortes took a no hitter into the 8th inning against the Texas Rangers and was sensational.

Believe it or not, I received a text from a Yankee fan telling me he’d prefer Cortes start the Yankees playoff game over ace Gerrit Cole!

I’m not willing to go that far, but I am willing to say. Nestor Cortes is for real.

The stash, the leg kick, the swagger.

I’m sold. Nasty Nestor is no fluke.

You can listen to my podcast New York every Sunday & Thursday on the Ringer Podcast Network, You can also check us out live Tuesday nights after Yankee & Met games on Spotify Live with your calls. Plus nightly on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

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