Ridgewood bar out of control, residents say

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Neighbors say that Suad Sports Cafe is “unable” to keep its patrons in check.

A Ridgewood establishment has sparked concerns among residents, causing them to lose sleep—literally.

Neighbors say that the patrons of Suad Sports Cafe, a bar located on 60th Lane and 71st Avenue, have been a menace to their quality of life—acting inappropriately at all hours of the day, and what one neighbor suspects as possible illegal activity.

Nancy Watson, a longtime neighboring resident, recently started a petition against the bar, which has garnered around 70 signatures so far.

She also submitted a letter to the public forum of Queens Community Board 5’s meeting this month, regarding events that have left people on the block feeling uneasy.

“Although the business has been around for 10+ years, over the last two years things have changed significantly for the worse,” the letter said. “Almost every single evening/night, there are several cars blocking the crosswalks, making it difficult and unsafe for pedestrians. This especially affects seniors and children in the area.”

It is not uncommon to see cars illegally parked near Suad Sports Cafe.

In addition to the illegal parking, Watson said she has seen patrons of the establishment driving irresponsibly, including revving their engines, performing burnouts, and speeding around the block.

“Someone’s going to get hit by a car… there are children and elderly people in the neighborhood,” Watson said.

“They are probably driving drunk, or just sleeping in their cars to sleep it off,” she continued. “It’s not even young guys. It’s just so bad.”

Watson sent a collection of photos to CB5, which show blocked crosswalks, large groups of men congregating in the middle of the street, men urinating on people’s stoops, excessive garbage, and what she claims to be the appearance of  a man ingesting an unknown substance in public.

“Now we have rats. I have never seen a rat in my yard, and a couple of weeks ago, I had four,” Watson said.

“You see them running rampant because they put garbage out on the sidewalk days before their garbage truck shows up.”

Adding to the sanitation and hygiene issue, Watson said that the security cameras outside her home captured a man urinating on her stoop—directly facing the camera.

It has also been reported that the patrons have publicly urinated on other people’s stoops, cars, trees, and plants.

Another neighbor, who requested to remain anonymous, said that despite the fact that she lives toward the end of the street, her household still faces “a fair amount of abuse” from the bar’s patrons.

“I called the cops two weeks ago on one guy who was actually going to the front of people’s houses, looking at the doorbells, and making notes of the names on people’s doorbells. On Thursday afternoon, I called the cops again, because a family was sitting on our stoop and just observing who exits the houses near us… who goes in, who goes out,” she said.

“We don’t want to be robbed. We don’t want to have our property vandalized,” she continued. “I’ve been reaching out to 311 and 911, but this bar just doesn’t want to go away.”

The resident said that their loud and disruptive behavior continues into the wee hours of the morning, making it impossible to sleep or relax.

Due to the loud noise and smoke smells, neighbors do not want to open up their windows to get fresh air, like they normally do.

“They are just a shady bunch of people,” the resident said.

“If you come here on a Saturday night into Sunday, you will see $20 bills, $100 bills shredded up and down the street,” she continued. “You will see playing cards, either whole playing cards or shredded ones that are bent because they’ll gamble, they’ll get into fights, and then they’ll bring the fighting all the way down to my side.”

Watson and other neighbors believe that the bar should be shut down, but CB5 said that the first step would be to have their liquor license revoked if there is evidence of illegal activity.

“First, we go to the [104] Precinct, see what the Precinct has, and then we notify the State Liquor Authority,” Vincent Arcuri, chairperson of the board, said at the last meeting. “If they’re up for renewal, we send them a notice saying they’re not getting renewed by us, and they ask for a hearing.”

Suad Sports Cafe last notified CB5 of their intent to renew their liquor license in January of this year.

Although residents say they’ve seen officers ticket and tow some illegally parked vehicles, many of them feel as though the police are not doing all that they can to put a stop to the commotion.

“The cops have not been able to provide the relief we were hoping for either,” Watson wrote in her statement to CB5.

“I have pictures of multiple cars parked illegally every single day and very few getting ticketed. After many 311 calls about the parking issues, the cops have towed cars on a couple of instances. All the while talking and laughing with the patrons,” it continued. “This seems to have emboldened the crowds even more, now anyone complains about anything to these guys, they say, ‘go ahead and call the cops.’ They won’t help you.”

The anonymous resident said she spoke with Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, the new commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, about the persisting issue at a community meeting.

“We’ve been trying to have the precinct work with us, but the police are limited in what they can do. From what I was told the last time I called the cops on these people, it literally has to escalate to such a level. Basically, they can’t do anything unless somebody gets hurt,” she said. “We are trying to prevent that from happening…You claim at the meeting that you want us to work alongside you guys, what is it that you need in order to shut this place down?”

Officer Michael Berish of the 104th Precinct said that police were informed of the location about a month ago.

“We’ve done enforcement there and we are working on things to correct the situation,” he said.

When interviewed by the Queens Ledger/Glendale Register, a man who identified himself as the owner of Suad Sports Cafe declined to comment.

Richmond Hill drama group to perform “The Spongebob Musical”

 

“When the smallest of us are underestimated in the wake of a catastrophe, a town learns that it is the size of one’s heart that matters when dealing with grief and overcoming it.”

This is how Liam MacLarty, the director of  Richmond Hill’s Holy Child Jesus Teen Drama Group’s performance of “The Spongebob Musical,” summarized their upcoming summer production.

The show will begin this upcoming week, and the performance — which MacLarty describes as “very timely and really, very heartfelt” — is designed for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.

“I’ve noticed a lot of times when I tell members of the community that we’re doing ‘Spongebob,’ everyone thinks it’s the cartoon, but it’s not,” MacLarty said. “It’s this unique animal of joy and love. This is a show for everyone. If you are 100 or if you are one; if you are young at heart or if you are old at heart.”

With the mission statement in the script being “to find and spread joy whenever possible,” the group’s 27 cast members, ranging from ages 13 to 19, and crew are creating a humorous yet meaningful and relevant production. Performances run from Sunday, Aug. 4 through Thursday, Aug. 7 at Msgr. Murray Hall. Tickets are $15.

“The Spongebob Musical” is the 42nd production for the HCJ Teen Drama Group, which began in 1972 with the goal to “get kids off the streets,” MacLarty said. They have hosted a production annually every summer, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the group created “QuaranTeen Drama: Theatre Workshops” to continue to encourage people in the arts. During this time, online workshops were held, with Broadway actors and other professionals in the industry making appearances. This is MacLarty’s second full show as director, after serving as assistant director since 2013.

“[Directing] is kind of like being the captain of a boat,” MacLarty said. “You can steer it, you can brace for impact, but at the end of the day, the wave is going to take you where you are going to go.”

The show’s leads are Niko Rissi, 18, who plays Spongebob and Jonathan Kamprath, 20, who plays Patrick. Kamprath falls within the age range for the production because his birthday happened during rehearsals.

For Kamprath, who is originally from Richmond Hill, this is his fifth show, and his second playing one of the lead characters. However, Rissi, who is from Manhattan, only joined this year due to Kamprath’s friendly persistence.

“Jonathan lived around the area, and had been telling me about these shows for a while, so finally I just said, ‘Screw it, I’m going to come out and do this,” Rissi said with a laugh.

Currently enrolled at SUNY Cortland and studying musical theater, this is hardly Rissi’s first time on the stage. However, he shared that he is among some of the nicest people he has ever met while with the HCJ Drama Group, and that it is clear that “they all want to be here and we are all excited to see what this turns into.”

His joy in playing Spongebob comes from his unwavering happiness in the face of adversity or hardship.

“No matter what is thrown at him, he’s going to overcome it, and he’s going to overcome it with a smile on his face, which I can’t say everyone will. He is going to do it all with a smile, no matter if the world’s going to end.”

Kamprath’s dedication to HCJ Drama Group can be seen clearly in his commute — he is currently living in Pennsylvania, and has been either commuting from the Keystone State via the Trans-Bridge bus line or temporarily with Rissi.

“I had been trying to get Nico to do this show for years, and he finally said he wanted to do it,” Kamprath said. “And, quite honestly, Spongebob is one of my favorite shows. I thought if I were going to do it, I better do it now.”

Despite the numerous shows he has been in “The Spongebob Musical” has been his favorite so far. He loves Patrick’s innocence, pointing out how the starfish makes a “very selfish, selfish decision,” in the performance, but that he doesn’t recognize it.

Most of the props were made by members of the drama group, as they creatively crafted costumes out of egg cartons, computer wives out of discarded keyboards and volcanoes out of jungle gyms. Despite the comical constructions fabricated by the crew, MacLarty emphasized that it does not limit the performance to a younger audience.

“A lot of people think that it’s a very silly cartoon show. But really it’s about everybody coming together after a cataclysmic event — they think the world is ending. There’s a subplot of the media, that everybody is angry at them, and then the mayor is cracking down on people,” MacLarty said. “It’s really very timely, and really very heartfelt.”

Both Nikki and Kamprath are hoping to continue their acting careers into their professional lives. Their dynamic will be clear on the stage, sharing a friendship that goes beyond sharing the spotlight.

“To have him be the Spongebob to my Patrick has just been great,” Kamprath said.

Tickets can be purchased outside Msgr. Murray Hall at Holy Child Jesus Parish at 111-02 86th Ave. in Richmond Hill before and after each mass on July 30 and July 31, as well as in the cafeteria of the parish from 7:00 – 9:30 from July 31 through Aug. 3. Seating is reserved. For more information, email [email protected]

Help the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Woodhaven Make a Difference: The Woodhaven Beat

Today you have an opportunity to help change someone’s life, and it won’t cost you a penny. All you need to do is tell someone you know about the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women right here in Woodhaven.

Perhaps you know a woman who never got the opportunity to finish high school. That diploma can often be the key to a better future. It can open the door to better job opportunities or maybe even a promotion in a current job. Or maybe a high school diploma can even be the first step in going to college.

This September, the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women will begin holding open registration for their tuition-free classes for the 2022-2023 school year. While there is a $30 fee to register, there is no fee for any of the classes or the books.If anyone has any questions the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women in Woodhaven can be reached by phone at 718-738-0588 or by email at [email protected], or you can visit their website at www.ssndecwomens.com.

To ensure the safety of all students, you must have proof of vaccination in order to attend classes at SSNDEC Woodhaven. And for all dates and times listed below, please arrive on time and wear a mask.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center offers classes to prepare women to take the TASC (formerly the GED).

Classes begin in September 2022 and continue until June 2023. To register, come to the center (located at 87-04 88th Avenue, across from St. Thomas the Apostle Church) on Wednesday, September 14th or Thursday, September 15th between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm.These classes are for women who are 20 years of age or older; committed to working toward their high school diploma; and can attend classes from 9 am to 1:30 pm Monday through Thursday. They should also have sufficient background and reading and writing skills in English to work on the high school equivalency curriculum.

And if you know someone whose English skills need some work, or perhaps they cannot speak the language at all, the School Sisters also offer ESL (English as a Second Language) courses.Again, these classes are tuition-free and are offered on six levels, from Introductory to Level 5. Classes are scheduled between Monday and Thursday, 9 am to 3 pm (the schedule will vary depending on the level of the class).All women must take a placement test to determine the best level to begin. This test will be given on Monday, September 12th at 10am. Please do not bring children to the test. Students who take the placement test can register the very next day (Tuesday, September 13).

What a difference you could make in the life of the person you share this information with. And not only will it make a difference in the life of that person but the impact will be felt by their children and the entire family.

Changing the lives of women and their families was exactly what SSNDEC Executive Director Sister Catherine Feeney had in mind when she and her fellow sisters opened the educational center back in 2003 in Ozone Park. In those early days, the center had just over a dozen students and it was strictly a GED (high school equivalency) program.

In short order, they also saw a need for an ESL class so that they could better serve a larger segment of the community. The classes were such a hit that they soon needed to find larger quarters and that’s what brought them here to Woodhaven, taking up residence in the former convent that was the home to the nuns that taught in St. Thomas the Apostle.

After the move to Woodhaven, the School Sisters had the room to expand. And with convenient access to transportation (they are near the J train and the Q56 bus along Jamaica Ave., the Q11, Q21, Q52Ltd, Q53Ltd, and QM15 along Woodhaven Blvd. and the Q24 along Atlantic Avenue) they were able to greatly increase the number of women they could help.

Well over two thousand women have been helped by the School Sisters in the years since they opened their doors. And as a byproduct of these classes, their children and entire families are helped. As a result, this can only help improve our neighborhood.

I have been honored to witness the students of SSNDEC over the years and watch them thrive in the warm, encouraging environment provided by the teachers there. I’ve been told that many students have heard about this wonderful program through the pages of this newspaper from friends or family. Now it’s your chance to help someone!

Astoria Figures: The Woman Leading Hour Children

The fastest Alethea Taylor has ever driven is 125 miles per hour, and it was only for a second or so.

“When I got close to 100 and the car started bucking, it was really scary but exhilarating,” she says. “I stayed at 90, where I felt comfortable.”

She’s as new at racecar driving as she is at leading Hour Children, the 35-year-old organization founded by Sister Tesa Fitzgerald that takes incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in New York State under its wing.

 “I love to drive and experience the freedom behind the wheel,” says Alethea, who joined Hour Children in January as the second executive director in its history.

Mind you, she doesn’t push her leased 2021 Infinity SUV past the legal speed limit despite her daily commute from Hackensack, which she says, takes 30 minutes when there’s no traffic. Which is, of course, never.

It’s the same with her job. She’s taking things at a patient pace, spending time working side by side with staff members at Hour Children’s thrift shops, communal house, food pantry, low-income housing complex and jail and prison programs.

“I’m getting to know how things operate,” says Alethea, who wears her black hair short and her heels high. “I want to see the employees’ and clients’ issues and struggles, and I want them to know me.”

Although Alethea never envisioned herself running Hour Children, she has spent her entire life preparing for the position.

“I didn’t choose this path,” she says. “This path has chosen me.”

Alethea, who is from Browns Town, Jamaica, spent her childhood alternating between her grandparents’ farm and her mother’s apartment in Kingston.

“My father really wasn’t in the picture,” she says.

When she was 8, her mother moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where the family, which eventually numbered five children, lived in a one-bedroom apartment. The children slept in two queen-size beds, a bunkbed and a crib, and her mother slept in the living room.

“I’ll never forget when the plane landed, and I ran to my mother,” Alethea says. “She had come here before us, so I hadn’t seen her in a year.”

Coming to New York was, to say the least, a difficult transition for Alethea.

We had accents and didn’t dress like the other kids – our  mother made our clothes,” she says. “We were devout Apostolic Pentecostals – we stayed with people of our own culture. And even though we lived in a community that was predominantly of people of color, people would say things like, ‘You came over here and took our jobs … go back to your own country.’”

Alethea became a dedicated student (she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in women’s studies from Stony Brook University, a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from New York University, a doctorate of rehabilitation from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and is a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor).

After her first graduation, she went to work for Greenhope Services for Women, which helps formerly incarcerated women who have substance abuse and mental health issues.

Through the years, she worked for Greenhope off and on. When she left it to become a full-time professor at Hunter College, she was the executive director.

“I had worked with Hour Children when I was with Greenhope,” she says. “When five people I knew came to me over a period of three months last year and said I should work there, I took note.”

With Hour Children, she declares that she has found her life’s purpose.

“I want to bring choice and voice to women, who, if they had the opportunities and support, may have made different choices,” she says. “Women who now need their voices heard and who want to – and will – make meaningful choices if given the opportunity.”

One of her priorities will be creating a day-care center for tots through teens, a project her predecessor pushed.

“I also want Hour Children to take more of a lead on social issues connected to our mission,” she says, adding that she has been doing some internal restructuring, placing a priority on inclusion and diversity.

To accomplish all of this, she’s working a superwoman schedule. She laughs when asked whether she puts in 80 hours a week.

It is, she says, far more than that because “I have a lot to catch up on.”

She also has been evaluating her own life. She’s hoping to buy a house in New York City, probably in Queens, that’s spacious enough to accommodate not only her (she’s divorced and doesn’t have children) but also her mother and stepfather.

Lately, she’s been taking some breaks. “I realized that I can’t teach women to take care of themselves if I don’t take care of myself,” she says.

Hence the racecar driving. She’s also exploring kickboxing but admits that she’s not very good at it.

She insists that she’s not the least bit tempted to show off her speed skills on her daily commute.

“I don’t drive fast when I’m in public,” she says as she exchanges her heels for flip-flops for the drive home.

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

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