Group holds Free Store pop-up in Ridgewood

Woodbine seeks to build autonomy, community, resilience

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Neighbors of Ridgewood and its surrounding areas arrived on Woodward Avenue last Saturday for an afternoon of giving back, taking what’s needed and engaging with the community.

Woodbine, a local organization powered by volunteers, identifies itself as an “anti-capitalist hub in Ridgewood, experimenting with free cultural programming to build autonomy, community and resilience.”

Staying true to its mission, the group held a Free Store pop-up in their space located at 585 Woodward Avenue, in which folks could donate items they no longer needed, but were too good to throw away.

The pop-up attracted a countless number of people, and many donated their gently used clothing, kitchenware, tools, electronics, books and toys for others to take home.


Woodbine’s Free store event was a success, and the group hopes to host another in November.

“Activities at Woodbine are meant to help us become autonomous from the state and from capitalist markets, which we see as oppressive systems that prioritize profit over people’s well-being. We can only become autonomous from these systems by taking care of each other and organizing ourselves collectively and cooperatively,” said Ella Fassler, an organizer at Woodbine.

“Free stores encourage us to pool our resources together to try to build resilience and to meet each other’s wants and needs. They are meant to encourage people to reimagine other possibilities for organizing the economy and social life,” she continued. “What currently exists is one way to organize a society of many, and it disproportionately benefits the wealthiest and whitest people. We envision a world where everything could be free and built on voluntary exchange of labor, resources and knowledge.”

The Woodbine collective says that their model of a pop-up free store model builds community in a novel way, since the opportunity invites participants to come together on a given day and interact with one another.

In addition, the Free Store offered various services and skill-sharing opportunities, including clothing repair and alterations, bicycle repairs and tune-ups and weight training tips.

Events of this nature have proven to be successful for Woodbine, as shown by their twice-weekly food pantry that’s been active since March of 2020.

“We run a free community refrigerator, we organize yearly seed exchanges right before spring planting season and in the past we’ve done a number of clothing swaps,” Fassler said.

“But this was the first event of this scale we’ve tried, in part inspired by our partners at the Fenix Taxi Stand and Bushwick Ayuda Mutua who have been doing a lot of free distribution events of clothes and essential goods the last two years.”

In addition, Woodbine runs fitness training sessions at their gym, organizes several soccer teams, holds Sunday dinners, arts and figuring drawing workshops, a weekly screening series, sewing workshops, poetry readings, a weekly research seminar and discussion group and kids workshops. All programs are free or by donation.

The group hopes to have another Free Store event in November to continue to engage the community.

For more information about getting involved with Woodbine, send an email to [email protected] or write to them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Royal Star Theatre brings Peanuts to life onstage

By Stephanie Meditz

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Royal Star Theatre taking their final bows after a performance of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Last weekend, Royal Star Theatre brought audience members back to their childhoods with its production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

The four-show run at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica was the company’s first full fledged production since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her directorial debut with RST, Alison Kurtzman made the difficult choice of what show to put on after two and a half years away from the stage and ultimately made the perfect decision —  a lighthearted, universally loved production with a small cast.

“We put a lot of thought into what was the right show to do in terms of what cast we would have available, how comfortable people would feel coming down to audition or coming to see a show, all that casting,” she said. “It was just really exciting to be able to kind of help this and be the first show back.”

“I don’t think people realized how much they missed this until they came back to it,” she continued. “It’s just a really exciting time for all of us, and it’s really great to be able to be back in some semblance.”

The musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” consists of a series of vignettes that depict Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts in adorably funny situations that align with their infamous traits.

For instance, Linus van Pelt (played by Danielle Fleming) and his signature blanket led a lively dance number,”My Blanket & Me,” but not before he attempts and fails to walk away from it.

Lucy van Pelt (Aglaia Ho) stomped around and demanded the other Peanuts to participate in a survey to measure her crabbiness level.

Daniel Kuhlman especially shone in the titular role — from start to finish, he emulated an anxious child with every stumbling step and pout when the cute little redhead once again did not notice him.

“Most of Queens’ community theaters are just coming back this summer, so everyone was just so excited to be here that it wasn’t hard to get excitement out of the cast,” Kurtzman said. “It really didn’t take much to get them to have that exuberance.”

It was no small feat for this cast to adopt children’s body language in a convincing way —  the Peanuts are all children (or dogs), but RST’s cast was made up entirely of adults.

“Characterization is super important in this musical because you’re remaking these beloved comic strip characters and all these specials that people watch around the holidays onto the stage,” Caitlin Leahy said, in reference to her role as Snoopy. “You have to be larger than life, especially since it’s a stage production.”

Leahy, who wanted to play Snoopy as soon as she found out about the show, screamed when Kurtzman called to tell her she got the part.

“I feel like Snoopy and I have a lot in common,” she said. “Very effervescent personalities, but Snoopy can be very sassy at times, so I’m trying to bring out that side of me more…There are a lot of times where Snoopy has this switch between being a calm and stoic personality and switching to this very funny, comedic, almost predatory dog who still has animalistic instincts. ”

Leahy, the youngest member of the cast, attended high school at The Mary Louis Academy and returned to its stage as a college student.

“As I’m still in the area for college, I’m always passing by,” she said. “I’m officially an adult now onstage, and it feels different because I’m working with different people and it’s a different production. And while the change was pretty drastic, I’m still at where I started my theater experience in freshman year.”

Although this was Leahy’s first show with RST, she had arguably the most difficult stage directions in the show, between standing atop her doghouse, chasing metaphorical sticks on all fours and finding a balance between human and canine movements.

The performance was held at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica.

Daniel Kuhlman (Charlie Brown) likewise had a difficult role to play, given that his character was likely everyone in the audience’s favorite.

“I think more than trying to copy any previous idea of what Charlie Brown is, I tried to look at it more from ‘What does a seven-ish year old with anxiety look like?’ and just sort of use that as a base and go from there,” he said. “And then make sure that whenever I’m rehearsing lines at home or when I’m running the songs, I’m always keeping in mind that I am an anxious, very young child.”

Although Kuhlman never studied theater or pursued it as a career, it has been inseparable from his everyday life.

He posts niche theater content on his TikTok account, @dankuhlman, which boasts 12.9k followers.

“Anyone who knows me…knows that, at any given point, it’s not ‘What’s your next show?,’ it’s ‘What are you in rehearsals for right now?’” he said.

Royal Star Theatre dedicated its run of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to Natalie “Cookie” Knisbaum, one of RST’s founding members who died recently.

To learn about Royal Star Theatre’s upcoming productions, visit their website at

High Line-esque linear park to come to Queens

Opposition says QueensWay is not the way

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Eric Adams paid a visit to Forest Hills for the announcement.

After over a decade of advocacy, the QueensWay is slated to make its way into Queens.

The city plans to spend $35 million to begin phase one of construction for a linear park along 3.5 miles of abandoned railroad tracks that run through Central and Southern Queens, Mayor Eric Adams announced last Friday.

Adams and other elected officials gathered on Trotting Course Lane in Forest Hills, just where the Metropolitan Hub, a portion of the QueensWay will be situated, to make the announcement.

QueensWay will be built along the former Rockaway Beach Branch line, which has not been utilized in more than 60 years. Once completed, the project will connect the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, and provide a 47-acre park and seven miles of greenway.

“Phase one will convert abandoned railroad tracks which have been used as a dumping ground into a five-acre linear park and provide a safe way for residents to walk, jog or to enjoy the open space. We’ve learned during COVID-19 how important it is to have good quality open space, and it can’t be just in one part of the city…This park is going to be the center of the lives in this community,” Adams said.

Along with benefitting physical and mental health, Adams cited air quality improvement, increased visibility for small businesses, creativity and better accessibility to public transportation as upsides to the park’s development.

He added that linear parks have proven to be successful, as seen by the Highline on the west side of Manhattan.

“We can have High Line and High Times in the outer boroughs as well, and that is why we’re bringing [QueensWay] to this amazing community here in Queens,” Adams said.

“Because of the density of our city, linear parks penetrate deep into neighborhoods, and don’t just focus on one particular area, allowing us to go further in open space. It allows eyesores like what’s behind us to go from an eyesore to an oasis.”

Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, who represents the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill in District 29, has been a key force in getting QueensWay off the ground — advocating for the project since her days at Community Board 6.

“I can’t believe that we’re here today…We are facing a once in a civilization public health challenge to save our planet from destruction within, and today’s investment by Mayor Adams in a linear park right here in Forest Hills, Queens is a huge step and meeting this challenge,” Schulman said.

“It was 10 years ago that two friends and constituents…brought me their dream of creating a linear park where our kids could play, seniors could exercise and get fresh air and bicyclists could have safe bike paths. There were many obstacles to overcome, but I was determined when I took office in January that I would bring this extraordinary vision to fruition,” she continued. “The QueensWay will now become a reality.”

Approximately 322,000 people live within a mile radius of the QueensWay.

The proposed project would connect residents to 10 bus lines and four subway stations.

In addition, there are 12 schools within a five-minute walk of the QueensWay and two Little League field complexes directly adjoining it.

A map of the proposed QueensWay.

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar expressed her support for the plan, as she represents District 38’s neighborhoods of Glendale, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, and Woodhaven.

“This is a great day for my district. It’s a great day for South Queens,” she said. “QueensWay will draw 1 million visitors every year. It will generate $2.2 million in new revenue…also, all the major thoroughfares in my district will be connected to QueensWay. That includes Rockaway Boulevard, 101st Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. This is extremely exciting for my district.”

The announcement was met with some criticism and slight heckling from advocates of the QueensLink, a proposed 3.5-mile long transit and park corridor in the same space, which would connect northern and southern Queens.

The plan calls for both transit and park space in the community, and puts forth the argument that building only the park would “block any future use of transit on the line and deprive Southern Queens residents of a faster commute and less traffic while reducing pollution and carbon emissions.”

“We can have both, but if they design the park first without knowing where the train’s going to be, they might have to tear up the park to put in the train later. It makes no sense,” Miriam Bensman, senior adviser at QueensLink, said.

“They’re talking about transit, but they’re not doing anything about it. So the key is, if you really do care about public transit, and it’s not just a campaign slogan, then you need to take it seriously and study the integration of a Transit Link, which would be a subway and a park,” Rick Horan, executive director of QueensLink, said.

“Our goal is to try to see if there’s enough value in this project to get it there. But the only way we can do that is to study it,” he continued. “So we’ve been promoting an Environmental Impact Statement for QueensLink, which includes rail entry.”

QueensLink penned a letter to both Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul last month in support of an EIS for the project.

Fifteen local elected officials signed off on the letter, including Rajkumar, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Assemblyman David Weprin — who were all present at Friday’s announcement.

Rajkumar told The Queens Ledger that she is still in support of the QueensLink, and that both plans are needed for residents of Queens.

“Together, these plans both create green space and meet our transit needs. Constructing the QueensWay while also reactivating the rail line to create the QueensLink is perfectly feasible,” she said.

“Rail service combined with greenway, known as ‘rails-with-trails,’ is incredibly common: there are 343 rails-with-trails in the United States alone, with a combined length of almost 1,000 miles,” she continued. “In fact, building the QueensLink along the QueensWay would be very similar to plans to add rail service to Atlanta’s BeltLine elevated park. I continue to support an Environmental Impact Statement on the QueensLink, which would fill our transit desert with a vital north-south Subway corridor.”

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