New murals at Fort Greene school

Students at Fort Greene Preparatory Academy and P.S. 46 unveiled a new set of murals at their school on Friday afternoon.

20 students from the elementary and middle school campus at 100 Clermont Ave., paired with a professional artist to complete five murals in their cafeteria. 

The completed designs show, from left to right: the logo for Fort Greene Preparatory Academy, a picture of equations floating around a diploma and feather pen, the scales of justice, a musical note surrounded by different social media logos, and the logo for P.S. 46.

Even though Jaiyana Wiley, 13, primarily worked on other murals, she said that the one in the middle, depicting the scales of justice, was her favorite.

“It’s about balance. It’s about everything,” Wiley said in an interview.

Artist Tyronn Kelley, 53, said that while he helped them with some details, the students really did do most of the work. 

“I just kind of enhanced the work. So just to make sure that everything was crystal clear and had depth,” Kelley said.  So other than that they did the work they didn’t leave me much to do.”

“Talented kids man… talented kids,” Kelley continued saying, with a big grin on his face.

Kelley further said that being able to give back and teach kids about art was an honor since art is what he says put him on a positive trajectory in life.

“It only takes like one or two experiences to put that kid on a path to who’s gonna be in the future. So anything that promotes positivity, I just love it,” Kelley said.

The murals were organized by the gun violence prevention group Melquian Jatelle Anderson Foundation. Michelle Barnes-Anderson founded and named after her son was murdered in 2017 at the Farragut Houses.

“So we have tried to do a lot of things in the Farragut/Fort Greene area,” Khadedra Hall, the sister of Barnes-Anderson and Chief Financial Officer of MJAF, explained. “So we were excited, happy, and over the moon that we were able to do our first mural project right here at this school that has not only children from Farragut, but also serves children from Fort Greene.”

Funding for the mural program was awarded to the faith-based community organization BronxConnect by Urban Upbound, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending poverty in New York City. Reverend Wendy Calderón-Payne, the executive director of BronxConnect, contracted MJAF to create three murals.

The second MJAF-organized mural is currently in progress and will be located on Dean Street. MJAF said in an email that they have recruited youth from Pure Legacee in Brownsville, an organization that assists formerly incarcerated or homeless young women, to assist with the project.

The third and final mural is tentatively scheduled to be completed in the Tompkins area due to gang presence. 

“This is something that they will be able to remember for years to come and share with their children. So that’s why we wanted to do a mural,” Barnes-Anderson said. “We didn’t want to just do a painting that could be hung up and taken down. We wanted something that the school would take and cherish and memorize, you know, be memorable for years to come.”

Ardila wins Primary bid for Assembly

Maspeth native Juan Ardila is one step closer to claiming the open seat in the 37th Assembly District, left vacant by soon-to-be retired State legislator Catherine Nolan, who has represented the community for the last 38 years.

The 28-year-old progressive candidate won the 2022 Democratic Primary on June 28, based on unofficial results provided by the State Board of Elections.

Ardila finished the race with approximately 42 percent of the vote—receiving 3,355 votes out of nearly 8,000 local residents who cast their ballots—in a four-way race to represent parts of Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Woodside, and Ridgewood.

Opposing candidates: Brent O’Leary, Johanna Carmona, and Jim Magee each put up a valiant effort, taking a combined 54 percent of the vote, but in the end came up short of victory.

O’Leary, a Hunters Point Civic leader and board president of Woodside on the Move, finished second in the election with just over 25 percent of the vote. The 52-year-old attorney previously ran for the New York City Council seat occupied by Jimmy Van Bramer, finishing in third among 15 candidates.

Considering himself the “FDR Democrat” in the race, O’Leary received endorsements from Citizens Union, Voters for Animal Rights, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Stonewall Democrats.

Carmona, an attorney and former Nolan staffer finished the race just short of O’Leary, taking 19 percent of the vote. A political newcomer, her campaign focused on improving the quality of life for residents and educational endeavors including college access programs.

The 32-year-old candidate also carried the Queens County Democratic Party nod, with Congressman Gregory Meeks and Nolan’s endorsement, among others.

Magee, a prosecuting attorney from Sunnyside, finished last with nearly 10 percent of the vote. The former assistant district attorney ran a campaign focused on restoring judicial discretion over bail, wealth disparity, and improving public transportation.

“I thought the district was more concerned about crime than it apparently is,” Magee told The Queens Ledger.

The lifetime Democrat said he reached out to Ardila on Tuesday night and wished him the best.

“I wish Juan the best,” Magee added. “I’ll make myself available to him if he wants to talk.”

Expecting a low turnout at the polls, only 18 percent of the 43,456 registered Democrats living in the district cast their ballots on Tuesday, according to the New York State Board of Elections. The tally also included 252 blank ballots, 28 void ballots, and 10 write-in candidates.

In his previous run for City Council in 2021, Ardila came up short against incumbent Robert Holden, but the overlapping neighborhoods of Maspeth and Ridgewood in the newly-redistricted 37th Assembly district brought out some 2,000 voters who had voted for him in the prior race.

Ardila was endorsed by the Working Families Party, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, City Councilwoman Tiffany Caban and Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez, and Borough President Donovan Richards.

On election night, all four candidates held watch parties within a half-mile radius of each other in Sunnyside, as canvassers with each campaign made their eleventh hour pitch to any last-minute voters outside the polling site at I.S. 125.

Ardila declared victory roughly an hour and 15 minutes after the polls closed at 9 p.m., celebrating with a group of supporters at Bar 43, on 43rd street in Sunnyside.

“You all believed in something that was inclusive, beautiful, and diverse,” Ardila said. “And that’s what we fought for.”

In his remarks, Ardila said it had been a dream to see progressive representation in Maspeth.

“Let the record show, on June 28, 2022, Maspeth voted for progress,” Ardila said.

He then thanked the other candidates in the running, saying that he remains hopeful to work with them in the future.

“Everybody stuck to their message, even if we didn’t agree on the issues.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary election, Ardila came under fire for traffic violations and tickets reportedly issued to a vehicle he has been seen driving around in.

Ardila told The Queens Ledger that he and his team opted to take the high road, deciding to stick to keeping a tight ship and getting their message across to voters.

“I spoke with my team and we decided not to engage in negative campaigning,” Ardila said.

Thanks to some timely advice from Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, who encouraged running and ultimately winning the race with grace, Ardila managed to pull ahead of the competition without stooping to such tactics.

Phil ‘Scooter’ Rizzuto gets his street sign

Longtime Yankees player, broadcaster gets childhood street corner named after him

Assemblywoman Rajkumar and Councilman Robert Holden present the street sign to the family of the late Phil Rizzuto.

The legacy of Phil Rizzuto, the Hall of Fame major league baseball player and broadcaster whose ball-playing roots began in Glendale, will forever live on at his childhood street corner which was recently co-named after him.

Nicknamed “Scooter” for his strides and speed on the base paths, the 5-foot-6 shortstop would play 13 seasons with the New York Yankees in the ‘40s and ‘50s, before becoming the voice of the team as a broadcaster for 40 years.

Family and friends joined together at the intersection of 64th Street and 78th Avenue in front of the house Rizzuto grew up in, reminiscing on the life and memories of the man whose famous “Holy Cow!” catchphrase would be shouted over the airwaves for decades.

“He was a wonderful dad,” his daughter, Penny Rizzuto-Yetto, said. “I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and the history people have. A lot of work went into this and I am incredibly grateful.”

The street co-naming was brought to fruition by the Newtown Historical Society, New York City Councilman Robert Holden and the Liberty Park Homeowners Association.

The idea was first brought to Holden’s attention last year. It was then up to Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, to collect the required petitions for the street co-naming to be officially recognized.

An old seat from the original Yankee Stadium was purchased by the Councilman in the ‘80s at a yard sale in Glendale, he said. Speaking next to the empty seat on display in front of a crowd of over 75 people, Holden envisioned the spirit of Rizzuto joining the joyous event in front of his childhood home.

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar addresses the crowd at the street co-naming of “Phil ‘Scooter’ Rizzuto Corner”.

“Phil was one of the few Yankees that I really loved,” Holden, a self-admitted Dodger fan, said. “He was an inspiration as an announcer. What I loved about him is he made it really personal and he made it very warm hearted. He was just a great guy and the family knows that.”

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar sported a red Yankees hat in support of the local Queens boy who attended Richmond Hill High School growing up. She praised his heroism, citing the stint in Rizzuto’s career, from 1943 to 1945, when he served in the Navy during World War II.

“Phil Rizzuto was a dynamite in baseball, both as a player and as we all know, a broadcaster,” said Rajkumar. “But he’s more than that, he’s a model New Yorker and an outstanding citizen. This is a man who stopped his Hall of Fame baseball career to put his life on the line for our country in World War II.”

Penny Rizzuto-Yetto, daughter of the late Phil Rizzuto, poses with a cannoli made for the event.

The block party featured a number of musical pieces performed by saxophonist Carl Bartlett, Jr., as well as “Scooter Pies” made by Rolo’s restaurant in Ridgewood, and Huckleberry soda and candy provided by the Newtown Historical Society. Yankee hats were also donated by the baseball team for the event.

Memories were shared by longtime friends of the family, including former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel, and Ray Negron, a special consultant to the Yankees.

“Those of us who fell in love with baseball in the 50’s, we live through those baseball cards,” Appel said. “I still picture in my head, his 1956 Topps card was just a magnificent, beautiful card.”

Negron added that in his nearly half-century with the baseball club, Rizzuto was one of the top three nicest guys he’s met through the sport.

“When Billy Martin got fired in 1978 — and he didn’t quit, he got fired — who sat in his room while Billy cried? Phil Rizzuto.”

Speech pathologist assists locals with disorders

Whitney Thomas, 34, a speech-language pathologist living in Downtown Brooklyn, was originally on track to pursue nursing.

However, she learned about speech pathology during her time in college at Ohio State University, when she had a family member who suffered from a brain injury.

Whitney Thomas, 34, a speech-language pathologist

She attended some of his sessions, and quickly became intrigued by the field from seeing the improvement and growth in her relative’s communication skills.

“I became very intrigued, and started doing more research into the field. Speech therapy covers so many areas, not just communicating… It was also, of course, working with children who stutter, in hospitals with adults who had strokes, and voice patients,” Thomas said.

Thomas works for VNS Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people through high-quality, cost-effective health care in the home and community.

Her work with VNS Health entails interacting with patients 18 and up, and sometimes children on a case-by-case basis, primarily in the Southern Queens communities of Jamaica, the Rockaways, Queens Village, and Richmond Hill.

She engages with folks in an intimate way by entering their homes and working with them in a space that’s familiar and comfortable for them.

“I think that a lot of times, you become part of the family,” Thomas said. “I have a patient who I worked with for several months because she had cancer, and I really enjoyed coming to see her every week.”

“Her family was always excited to see me, and when she had success, they were just so excited to update me on her progress… Even months later, they still keep in contact with me to tell me how she’s doing and send pictures,” she continued. “I like that you really get to know people and their family members.”

Thomas assists people with speaking, cognitive, and swallowing issues caused by cancer, stroke, Parkinson’s, traumatic injuries, and aphasia, a language disorder that impacts a person’s communication skills, among many other conditions.

While there are about 46 million people in the U.S. who have communication and swallowing disorders, Thomas feels that they are extremely underrepresented in society.

“For example, most people have never even heard of aphasia, which is a big one because it’s very typical after having a stroke,” she said. “I think Bruce Willis was recently diagnosed with aphasia, which was actually really helpful in spreading awareness for the disorder.”

She cited Muhammad Ali as a famous example of someone with Parkinson’s disease who had difficulty with speech.

Despite the lack of representation, as well as other obstacles like the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress of managing cases,

Thomas said that she is passionate about her career, enjoys serving the community and gaining more knowledge on a daily basis.

“I’m someone who gets bored easily, so I like being in a career that allows me to always grow or learn new things, which is something I appreciate,” she added.

Food Bank’s mobile pantry to serve Ozone Park

The Food Bank for New York City brought its Mobile Food Pantry Program to Ozone Park last week, along with an $80,000 donation from Stop & Shop to help keep the pantry stocked for weekly distributions through the summer.

Director of Special Projects for the nonprofit food bank Chantel Peters helped oversee the Mobile Food Pantry Program, situated at the corner where 101st Avenue and Liberty Avenue meet in southeast Queens, which is expected to feed 200-to-300 families each week between June 24th and August 26th.

“The Food Bank is here because our communities are struggling during this time and we want to ensure that folks don’t have to make a choice between their normal household responsibilities and food,” Peters said. “We’ve had some hardships throughout the Queens neighborhoods.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, approximately 9.7 percent of Queens residents were food insecure. Today, the Food Bank for New York City projects that number to be nearly 16 percent of the borough, or 360,000 residents, having difficulty putting food on the table.

In 2021, the nonprofit distributed more than 121 million meals.

It’s a “360 degree” approach to tackling food insecurity according to Peters, who said that the Food Bank for New York City is equipped to try and end the cycle of poverty. With tax programs, community kitchens and pantries, along with nutrition programs promoting healthy cooking, the nonprofit aims to get to the root of food insecurity.

Peters said that instead of utilizing large-scale pop-up distributions, the nonprofit decided to do smaller and more dependable distributions in communities throughout the borough.

At the weekly pantries, food including proteins, whole grains, and dairy, as well as culturally relevant Halal food items will be distributed. Fresh fruit, produce and leafy greens will also be available in a farmer’s market style distribution. No identification or personal information is needed for food distribution, all that is asked is the size of the household.

Mohammad Khan, executive director of nonprofit Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol (COPCP), can attest to the rising need of his own diverse neighborhood.

“Ozone Park… where nearly everyone is an immigrant,” Khan said.

The neighborhood of Ozone Park is nestled just to the east of Brooklyn neighborhoods Cypress Hills and East New York, and surrounded by Queens neighborhoods South Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Howard Beach.

“The needs in this community are not just Ozone Park’s needs,” Khan said. “It’s also the needs of the areas around Ozone Park.

In COPCP’s own weekly and monthly food pantries, Khan has seen the lines grow over the past two years.

“The need has grown and we’re here to fulfill that gap,” he said. “We’re here to make sure that our community is taken care of by us.”

Local businesses display their work at QEDC’s Queens Rises Higher

Creativity and dedication shine through the stories of local business owners

By Juan Arturo Trillo

Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District played host to Queens Rises Higher, a street market by the Queens Economic Development Corporation that allows local creators and business owners to exhibit and sell their passions and products.

Market in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District

The market occurred on Saturday, June 25 from noon to 5 p.m., and included live music. The businesses encompassed various sectors, including art, food, and others.

Bianca, founder of Bianca’s Design Shop, said “I just aim to support and be inclusive to all.” Through Bianca’s Design Shop, she creates apparel and accessories that are inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community.

Bianca loves the sense of community which can be found in Queens, and hopes that it continues to remain inclusive.

Gisela’s small business, “Scent by Heaven,” is a small candle store that began in Forest Hills in 2019.

Talisa’s setup for Almonte Studios at the fair

However, candle making had been one of her hobbies before she started the business. It is one of her ways of expressing her creativity.

She started the business so that she could spend more time with her son, who has autism.

Now, Gisela loves that she gets to pursue a passion of hers while also dedicating time to her son.

Illustrator Talisa Almonte founded Almonte Studios, a business where she sells various art prints, earrings, stickers, stationery, and “whatever [she] can get [her] work on.”

Because Talisa does not have a brick-and-mortar store, she appreciates that the fair allows her to connect with the Queens community and other local businesses.

“There’s really no place like Queens,” Talisa said.

Brooklyn school wrestling club finds star support

By Stephanie Meditz

When sixth grade English language arts teacher Victor Perry started a wrestling club with his students, he never imagined that it would catch the attention of the superstars who inspired it.

The Wrestling Club at KIPP AMP Middle School in Crown Heights is both a safe place for students to bond over their love for the sport and a learning opportunity that extends beyond the classroom.

Perry, a big fan of professional wrestling himself, got the idea to start the club when a student overheard him talking about WWE star Bianca Belair’s meet-and-greet in New York City.

Upon learning that this student was also a fan of hers, he took the student to the meet-and-greet, where they won tickets to see her fight at Monday Night Raw that same day.

The idea of The Wrestling Club was born once Perry returned to school and saw that many students were also interested in professional wrestling. The club currently boasts 37 members.

At club meetings, students watch wrestling matches, discuss their thoughts about the outcomes, and analyze the storylines behind each match, paying special attention to each wrestler’s goals and how they achieve them.

For example, after Bianca Belair lost her championship title in 26 seconds, the students wanted nothing more than to see her get her title back.

“When I took the kids to their first event at Madison Square Garden, they got to see Bianca [Belair] fight Becky [Lynch] and she lost, and the kids cried because they had been studying the storyline… and so when she finally got it back at WrestleMania on the biggest stage of them all in the biggest way possible, the kids just erupted,” Perry said. “They finally got to see the culmination of what hard work is and how life can throw us curve balls and catch us by surprise… but the right thing to do is just stay who you are.”

The club received significant attention on social media after Perry posted videos on his Twitter account, “@wallflowerperry,” of the students’ enthusiastic reactions to the matches they watched.

Famous wrestlers including Carmelo Hayes, Ricochet, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Big E have responded to Perry’s videos.

Among the many respondents was WWE superstar Sasha Banks, who expressed her wish to visit the school and meet the students, which she did on her next trip to New York.

“The kids went crazy when I told them,” Perry said. “They were like, ‘Is she really coming?’ and I was like, ‘I have no idea.’ I don’t have a connection to her or WWE in that regard… If she said she wants to come and she means it, she will. And she did.”

During Banks’ visit, the students got to ask her questions, hear about her experiences as a wrestler on the world stage, and even sing and dance with her.

“It was just such a cool moment because it felt like she was a part of the club,” Perry said. “It didn’t feel like it was a celebrity. It felt like she was like, ‘Hey, I’m here, I enjoy wrestling just like how much you guys enjoy it.’”

The “Wrestling Chat With Friends” podcast likewise applauded the club’s mission by giving them a real WWE championship belt, which the students cherish.

Perry hopes to continue bringing new experiences to the club’s members by bringing them to next year’s WrestleMania in Los Angeles, California.

He started a GoFundMe in collaboration with three podcasts, “Black Rasslin’,” “The A Show,” and “The Black Announce Table,” to send as many students as possible. The fundraising goal is currently set at $15,000.

The Wrestling Club not only helps students make friends by bonding over their shared interests, but it also makes them feel more comfortable expressing themselves in group settings and even exposes them to potential career paths.

“I’ve seen kids come out of their shell who I couldn’t get to speak in my class all year,” Perry said. “I think it’s beautiful how this one little thing has become a safe haven for my kids.”

“I think with the kids that I teach and in the area that I teach, they don’t know about the different opportunities that are out there because they haven’t been presented it,” he continued. “And so it’s my job to present to them different opportunities…When it’s time to make those decisions of figuring out what they wanna do in life, they can go back to this place.”

To contribute to Perry’s efforts of educating KIPP AMP Middle School’s students in fun, engaging ways, donate to his GoFundMe at

Working to better the lives of their furry friends

Woman-owned Dog Clothing Business “Le Chien Bleu” opens shop during the pandemic

By Alicia Venter

Tucked away in the boutique-style shops at 145 Front Street, Le Chien Bleu NY is serving loving dog owners throughout the Dumbo area and beyond with custom designs for their furry friends. 

Beginning with a primarily online shopping experience, Lee’s has since expanded her business to offer shipping throughout the world. The store offers tops, jackets, dresses, hoodies, collars, dog beds, toys, and more for pets, each created with quality in mind to promote the quality of each dog’s life.

Le Chien Bleu, which translates to “The Blue Dog” in French, began as a hobby by owner JY Lee. Graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2007, the South Korean native was inspired by a coworker at her previous job as a textile worker to open an Etsy shop for dog clothes.

It wasn’t until she met client Anita Lee that the part-time passion that she ran out of her apartment grew into a full-time business. The owner of a Maltese and tiny poodle mix, Anita Lee’s dog, Benji, has hair instead of fur and needed the protection of clothes against the elements. 

I was online looking for clothes and I couldn’t find anything that was good quality, good fitting, and comfortable,” Anita Lee stated, continuing to share that she thought that independent designers or stylists could provide a service that more general animal supply stores were not. It is through this search that she was introduced to JY Lee, who she purchased custom-measured winter clothes from.

After receiving her purchase, Anita Lee, with her background in business, quickly recognized the growth potential due to the quality of products and offered her services as a partner. 

I ordered a couple of [items] from her and when I saw the product I said ‘oh my God, this girl is so talented. Then I said I had a crazy idea: here’s my resume. Do you want to work together?”

Their partnership combines the creativity needed for designing fashion-forward, stylish clothes as well as the entrepreneurial drive to expand as a business — and, more important than anything to Anita Lee, they are wonderful friends.

We are better than any type of relationship I’ve ever had,” Anita Lee said with a strong laugh.

Starting with the design of her website and pop-up stores in Williamsburg and SoHo, the flagship store opened in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, all the products for JY Lee’s clothes are made in the United States, with the fabrics sourced with “style and durability in mind,” according to their website. 

There are five major categories of fabrics that are described in their entirety on their website: the organic cotton top, the premium cotton top, the classic top, the resort top, and the velvet top.

Each item has a list of features that fully explains to customers the benefits of each fabric. However, this is not the limit for products. Recently, Le Chien Bleu has created a cooling jacket to reduce the effects of New York City heat on dogs because they don’t produce sweat to naturally cool themselves.

The business’s mission statement, as found on their website, highlights the importance of the quality of their products: “​​Creating stylish, practical and top notch quality products in its target markets. Providing market trends so we are able to source the most wanted and exceptional fabrics for your fur babies.” 

With each dog differing in dimensions of neck, back, and girth, it can be difficult to find the perfect size for one’s pet. As such, Lee does not simply sell clothes in different sizes to customers — she will tailor pieces to fit all different sizes of pets.

Among the customers that benefited from this custom, sizing is Alexandria Lau, 38, the owner of a French Bulldog. After following them on social media and “coveting over their products,” Lau soon purchased their products and was not disappointed.

What I like about Le Chien Bleu is that they have awesome unique prints, that are simple and classy, but also trendy and they can be tailored to fit my dog, a French bulldog with unusual proportions,” she shared with The Brooklyn Downstar Star via Instagram. “Now that I’ve received my items, the quality and look is top-notch. Very posh and would be happy to shop there again.”

Though they have certainly grown well beyond JY Lee’s Etsy account, neither partners plan to slow their dreams for Le Chien Bleu. JY Lee, recognizing the numerous exceptional animal supplies brands that are solely online, wants to carry more than her own brand in her next store, located somewhere in the city.

As many of these brands that she deems are high-quality — such as being BPA-free — are owned by women, JY Lee has considered carrying only female-owned businesses. This promotion of the idea of women in business is something Anita Lee greatly supports, stating that “we believe in girl power.”

I raised Benji like a baby,” Anita Lee said. “I believe we already have that clientele that are in the same boat as I am. We want to prolong [our dogs’] lives… to make their lives and human lives better.” 

Le Chien Bleu is open Tuesday-Sunday from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. For more information on Le Chien Bleu, visit their website at or call their store at 908-274-1817.

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