NYC hasn’t forgotten about freestyle

Exploring the story of freestyle music from yesterday into today

By Jessica Meditz

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Most popular in the late ’80s into the ’90s, freestyle is a niche genre of music that’s unique to just a few major cities — namely, New York.

There are already a million things that make New York the best, most unique city in the world.

Another thing to tack onto that list is the fact that most of us have either grown up with or been exposed to freestyle music at some point in our lives — while folks from other places may not be able to say the same.

Freestyle, also known as “Latin freestyle,” “Latin hip-hop,” and even “heartthrob” or “club music” in cities like Miami, is a genre of electronic dance music that was born out of major cities like NYC, Miami and Philadelphia.

There’s some debate as to when freestyle music actually began, and people will give different answers.

Some believe freestyle music emerged around 1983, when Shannon’s “Let the Music Play” became a hit. Others feel the true birth of freestyle was in ‘86, when Sa-Fire dropped “Don’t Break My Heart.”

Either way, what is known as post-disco served as the precursor to freestyle, and the genre was widely appreciated by predominantly Italian-American and Latino audiences until the late ‘90s, when Rockell’s “In A Dream” blasted from car speakers and in nightclubs.

Although the genre never really died, that was the golden era of freestyle.

But many artists still make an effort to keep freestyle alive and thriving, including Joe Zangie, an Italian-American freestyle artist born in Camden, N.J.

Zangie’s been a part of the freestyle music scene since 1994 when his first single, “In My Dreams,” was released under Tazmania Records. He was 18 at the time.

Zangie grew from a kid who was peer pressured into doing music, to a guy passionate about all things freestyle — doing performances, creating songs and making friends along the way.

“Freestyle just puts me in a good mood…it’s the type of music you listen to when you want to put your windows down, your music up and drive. It’s such a vibe. I love the beats and the production of freestyle. It could be anything lyrically, but the tracks and the production of the beats is what I love about freestyle the most,” he said.

“I think many people feel nostalgic in a way when they listen to freestyle,” he continued.

“A lot of times, people will relate to freestyle songs, right to their own personal life. All the lyrics in freestyle are like love songs; it’s either somebody getting dumped, or somebody falling in love. There’s no in between, it’s got to be about love.”

Freestyle artist, Joe Zangie.

Staying true to this sentiment, Zangie released his newest single, “Love You Like Wow,” under Fever Records in May of this year.

“Love You Like Wow” is a fun, upbeat track that puts a more modern twist on the traditional freestyle sound, but still features some of the same nostalgic, distinctive beats — especially toward the end.

Shortly after its release, Zangie shot the music video for his single on the Wildwood boardwalk with Robert Barrera of REBolution Media.

“That was crazy because I had to stay up all night. We wanted to get those shots with no one around on an empty boardwalk,” he explained. “We were out filming at like five o’clock in the morning.”

“Love You Like Wow” was well-received by both his peers and fans, reaching No. 1 on all the freestyle charts.

Zangie is proud to be a part of the reason why people still know about freestyle, passing it onto future generations.

“I don’t think that I would have wanted to do a new record this year if I didn’t feel like there was a reason to put it out. I do see these sold out crowds, these big venues that we do these shows in, and you do see the younger kids coming with their parents, and they might even be the grandkids. There’s definitely a new resurgence in it,” he said.

“For the people who don’t know freestyle, I think that if they’re exposed to it, they’ll hear it and say, ‘I like this.’ There’s nothing in freestyle that’s going to make you not want to listen to it,” he continued. “It’s feel-good music. And who doesn’t want to feel good?” 

Zangie recently participated in the Freestyle Beach House concert at the Coney Island Amphitheater on Sept. 3 — performing alongside big names in freestyle including TKA, Judy Torres, Brenda K Starr and Cynthia.

Also at the show were his close friends and fellow freestyle artists: Noel, best known for his 1987 hit, “Silent Morning,” and Rockell, who he’s collaborated with and even refers to as being “like family.”

“When I met her, we just became best friends. I’m still really tight with her; I know her family, she knows my family and I’m actually her son’s godfather,” he said. “It’s just been great.”

After recording nine singles with Tazmania/Metropolitan Records and touring with Denine and Collage as a vocalist for Collage, Zangie went on to tour and record a version of the smash hit, “Can’t We Try,” with Rockell.

They continue to perform together.

Zangie has two upcoming performances in Staten Island: Freestyle for a Cause on Oct. 1 at Nuvo, and Ultimate Freestyle on Nov. 19 at the St. George Theater.

Although freestyle is a niche concept to most or something from the past, many people have been exposed to it in the present day — possibly unknowingly.

In 2021, a TikTok user by the name of @groovy_mal shared a video of her hair routine, where she styles her hair in a ‘70s, Farrah Fawcett-esque feathered look. The background song in the video is Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s 1985 bop, “I Wonder If I Take You Home.”

The video has 6.2 million likes and over 30 million views, and in the nature of TikTok, other users attempted the same hairdo on camera with the same song playing in the background.

Although the creator missed the mark by using an ‘80s freestyle track to accompany her ‘70s-inspired hairstyle, she did expose a brand new audience to the song produced right here in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Locally, freestyle music continues to play on local radio stations, such as 103.5 KTU, where Judy Torres stars as an on-air personality.

Michael Perlman, a resident of Forest Hills and a columnist for this newspaper, grew up during the golden era of freestyle. He said that without KTU, freestyle would probably be forgotten.

“I am a huge freestyle music fan. I was raised to freestyle hits in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I remember its revival in the late ‘90s and early 2000s,” he said.

“Thanks to KTU 103.5, my mom and I won tickets to a freestyle concert at Brookhaven Amphitheater in 1999. My mom asked me at the end, ‘How did you like seeing all of the singers who you grew up with?,’ he continued. “It’s very sentimental and true to our NYC roots.”

Angelica Pizzonia, a baker from Williamsburg, also feels nostalgic when listening to freestyle, and relates it to her Italian upbringing.

“Freestyle tells a story, which may not be your own story, but you can relate to the words the artist is saying. My sister introduced it to me. It reminds us of summertime in Brooklyn…hanging out on the stoop, having block parties, going to the Italian feasts…Just pure old school living,” she said.

“We weren’t teenagers during the prime era of freestyle but my uncle and his friends kept it going and passed it down to us. We share such a strong love for it and we still listen to it with our friends and family,” she continued. “My mom always says it reminds her of a dance version of her oldies doo-wop music. She loves all the stories the artists tell about young love. Freestyle music will never die.”

Maspeth Lions host First Annual Bocce Tournament

All proceeds from event go to charity

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Lance Lovejoy, Jack Leone, Vincenzo Gattoni, Joe Cucchiara, Mike Vastarelli & son, Joe Papavero.

Cigar smoke and Frank Sinatra songs were in the air in Frank Principe Park last Sunday.

The Maspeth Lions Club gathered on the court in anticipation of their First Annual Bocce Tournament.

The game of bocce that folks know and love today stems from Italy, hence why you may hear exchanges of “Come stai?” on the court. 

The game involves eight colored balls, typically red and green, and another smaller white ball, called the “boccino.”

At Sunday’s game, a younger player asked about the rules — to which another player replied, “You throw the ball and hope it gets closer to the other ball.” 

“We chose bocce because anybody can play the game. Young, old, you don’t have to be in the greatest shape; you can play outside on a nice day…it’s nice,” said Joseph Papavero, president of the Maspeth Lions Club. “A big thank you to Councilman Bob Holden and the Parks Department because the courts were redone just in time for the tournament.”

Aside from the game itself, another highlight of the event was the food donated by local establishments, including Frank’s Deli, Mario’s Meats & Deli, Iavarone Bros., Rosa’s Pizza, 69th Street Beer Distributors and Jim Von Eiff State Farm Insurance.

In addition, the bocce tournament was sponsored by Maspeth Federal Savings, Papavero Funeral Home, Maspeth Contracting and E3TECH, LLC.

All the proceeds from the event went to charitable causes both near and far — from the St. Stanislaus Sports Program to the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund.

In addition to raising funds for charity, the Lions took the time to enjoy the day and see it as a bonding experience.

“I used to play bocce all the time when I’d go upstate in the Catskills for 20-something years and we always had a tournament. It’s something I play with my kids too,” said Mike Aylward, a member of the Maspeth Lions Club.

“I’ve been a proud member of the Maspeth Lions Club for 30 years and I love it,” said Robert Marchese, membership chairman. “This is a fantastic turnout and to raise money for charity, this is a great event and project.”

After all was said and done, only one team walked away victorious from the tournament — this time it was the father-son duo of Jack and Mark Leone.

“We’re thankful to be a part of the Maspeth Lions Club, and we hope to be here again next year.”

NYC Health + Hospitals Elmhurst turns 190

By Stephanie Meditz

[email protected]

Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur, Helen Arteaga and Dr. Mitchell Katz wished Elmhurst Hospital a happy 190th birthday.

Last Thursday, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst brought community members together to celebrate its 190th anniversary.

The celebration reflected on the hospital’s long history of serving all people regardless of class, race and immigration status, especially during times of citywide need.

Even before COVID-19 took the world by storm, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst has helped the community fight numerous pandemics, including cholera, dengue fever, yellow fever, Spanish flu, polio and smallpox.

“It was very clear from our birth that Elmhurst was ready to fight every pandemic that hit our beloved New York City,” CEO Helen Arteaga said. “There was always a sense of responsibility in being determined and defenders of our communities, especially communities of color…Communities and groups that were told they were not good enough, that were told they’re not welcome, that were told they’re not American enough.”

NYC Health + Hospitals president Dr. Mitchell Katz ascribes his current position to his passion for giving all patients the highest quality of care in the simplest way possible.

“The single most important thing will always be the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, the tech, the person cleaning the room, the dietary person and the interaction with the patient,” he said. “I think Elmhurst really demonstrates that, that Elmhurst really is about providing the very best care for the individual.”

Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur, CMO, has 52 years of experience working at Elmhurst Hospital.

In 1964, she was the second resident in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine when she was assigned to Elmhurst.

Although the hospital was practically empty after her initial assignment, the hospital now hosts 785 workers with diverse skills, such as psychologists and nurse practitioners, and between 350 and 400 residents and fellows.

“I’m so proud and happy to say who we are here and how much we are able to provide our services to the community,” she said. “We are really and truly excited to use the best care of medicine in this borough.”

Joann Gull, CNO, also noted Elmhurst Hospital’s significant growth during her 51 years of working there.

“When I originally came, I had the normal plan of staying a year or two and then moving on. But what I found was something that was amazing. It was the culture of the institution, the mission, the people who we got to work with, having the experience of taking care of patients who were really in need…that, I think, was the secret sauce of Elmhurst that so many of us stayed all these years,” she said.

Moshirpur also noted the immense support given to the hospital by senators, borough presidents and other elected officials.

Joann Gull, Dr. Mitchell Katz, Helen Arteaga and Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur thanked Queens Borough President Donovan Richards for his generosity towards Elmhurst Hospital.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards donated $7.5 million to Elmhurst Hospital during his first 19 months in office.

“This is a hospital made up of immigrants and working class staff who serve the predominantly immigrant and working class residents of Elmhurst and our neighboring communities,” he said. “No matter what your socioeconomic status is, no matter what your zip code is, no matter if you’re documented or undocumented, if you’re a United States citizen or not, you get quality service here at Elmhurst Hospital.”

Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, presented on Elmhurst Hospital’s long journey from its founding to the present day, with special attention to the several pandemics that the hospital has fought.

Judith Berdy gives the crowd a history lesson about Elmhurst Hospital.

“These patients have nothing. They have very few visitors and, trust me, Dr. Katz will attest to how many lockdowns and quarantines we have,” she said, “Mentally, it really has been exhausting. We provide what we can for our residents. Health + Hospitals does a great job.”

Despite NYC Health + Hospitals.Elmhurst’s advancements in technology and the copious New Yorkers it has helped, its 190th anniversary is only the beginning.

“Let us imagine that new AI technology is accessible for all, that we have a state of the art emergency room, that we have a beautiful building full of light for our behavioral health towers…let us imagine Elmhurst speaking more languages than Google…let us be unstoppable in removing social and racial barriers for healthcare,” Arteaga said. “Our big dreams are just like New Yorkers’, and we are New Yorkers. So New York, we either go big or we go home, and I don’t think we’re going home.”

The forgotten art of advertising thermometers

From functional thermometers to collectible art

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Lawrence Brown Prime Meat Market circa 1940s, Rego Park.

Some vintage items may be collecting dust, but think twice about tossing them — since they may hold artistic, historical and financial value.

Such is the case of long-forgotten “advertising thermometers,” which were advertised in newspapers in the late 1890s, while keeping in mind that Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the modern thermometer in 1714. These relics could be found locally and nationally.

In the 1890s, America was largely rural and other than postcards and trade cards, it was generally a challenge to advertise, but thermometers engaged the public in a unique way through design and could be readily observed and utilized.

In the 1920s, as towns and cities across America evolved from rural to more urbanized destinations, the analog thermometers became even more prevalent.

They were a popular form of advertising for everything from bakeries to liquor stores to meat markets, and from food, automobile, healthcare and photography industries to World’s Fair expositions.

Most came with hangers to display inside or outside a home.

After the 1980s, they dwindled in popularity, and increasingly so as a result of mass advertising and detecting temperatures through digital technologies.

Today, there is an average of 11,000-plus advertising thermometers on eBay at any given time, and they are indeed a hot commodity, which capture nearly every theme and size imaginable and sell anywhere from 99 cents to $8,345.

1942 Art Deco Coca-Cola advertising thermometer.

Some standout thermometers are a die-cut 1910s “Drink Moxie,” a St. Bernard washed coal, a girl drinking Coca-Cola in 1939, Snow White cream soda, OshKosh B’gosh Work Wear, a Norman Rockwell-themed 1984 General Motors Parts, a cartoon-like Nesbitt’s Orange Soda and “Plant Coker Hybrids.”

Decades ago, a business owner could not have predicted that what was offered to patrons as a promotional means, whether free or as a bonus alongside a purchase, would hold a high value for today’s collectors.

Often for local brands, rare early wood thermometers could be circular and nine to 12 inches in diameter, whereas a rectangular model could be astonishingly up to six feet.

Most frequently, they were 17 inches.

Empire State Building advertising thermometer.

Diverse shapes initiated character with round signs bearing clock-like hands, whereas others were vertical rectangles or squares.

Sometimes they resembled the products that they represented such as a bottle of soda.

It was the thought of advertisers that it would remain on display in a shop longer than a more predictably shaped advertising thermometer.

The outdoor models, which rose in popularity in the 1920s, especially for rural areas, enabled residents to determine not only the temperature, but wind direction.

Advertising thermometers can be found in styles including Colonial, Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Early models were manufactured from tin and wood, which somewhat transitioned to porcelain.

In the 1940s, Masonite was the preferred choice for drugstore advertising thermometers.

Some manufacturers’ names can be discovered in classified ads, if not evident on advertising thermometers.

An ad published in The New York Sun on Aug. 15, 1897 read, “Wanted — Our line of advertising thermometer novelties for 1897-1898 is now ready. We pay liberal commission to competent salesmen. Send 10 cents in stamps for catalogue, sample and terms. Taylor Bros. Co., Rochester, N.Y.”

“Where the good thermometers come from” was their slogan.

Taylor Instruments was founded by George Taylor, a Stoddard native in 1851.

In the early 20th century, their factories were not only in Rochester, but in Toronto, London, New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

The firm evolved into what is presently known as Taylor Precision Products, which is acclaimed in measurement products.

The Feb. 22, 1899 edition of Printers’ Ink — A Journal For Advertisers, featured a Taylor Bros. Co. ad, where an excerpt reads: “The wood thermometer has been used as an advertising medium for a number of years and is to-day a staple article. The force of the wood advertising thermometer lies in being able to read weather temperatures at a greater distance than is possible with small thermometers.”

It continues, “By omitting the words usually printed upon one side of the thermometer scale — ‘Zero,’ ‘Freezing,’ ‘Temperate,’ etc., and alternating the figures of the scale on either side of the tube, makes it possible to use figures more than twice as large.”

An illustrated Taylor Brothers Co. ad ran in The Magazine of Business in 1905, which read: “What will you give your customers this year? The best thing to keep your name before them is an Advertising Thermometer. More valuable than calendars or novelties because they are appreciated and work for you every day for years. Better pay 12 ½ cents for an attractive 7” x 2” aluminum thermo with your ad on (see cut) than one-half as much for a one-man or one-year advertisement. Our 56 page Catalog B of other styles free.”

Another ad, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Jan. 11, 1925 read, “Fastest selling advertising thermometer calendar combination, 17c, metal back, three colors, uncond. guarantee, money making sideline. Newton Mfg. Co., Dept 17, Newton, Ia.”

This firm was founded in 1909.

From 1940 to the early 1970s, a dominant manufacturer was the Pam Clock Company, which produced advertising thermometers and clocks for large firms, and epitomized the industry. Coca-Cola and RC Cola were among thousands of organizations that appointed the firm to illuminate their image.

“Go For Bunny Bread” and “Ask For Valvoline Motor Oil” are two classic examples of round Pam thermometers, which consists of a 14” aluminum housing with domed-glass crystal.

The analog dial would be customized by logos or slogans.

Along the lines of the Pam Clock, the thermometer was backlit with super bright LED lamps.

Forest Hills and Rego Park shops earned their spot in the advertising thermometer field.

These collectibles that were distributed at local businesses are hard to find nowadays.

Continental Wine & Liquor Store, Forest Hills.

One example features “Continental Wine and Liquor Store,” which was located at 107-18 Continental Avenue and notes “Next to Forest Hills Theatre” in a nameplate accompanied by Art Deco detail.

It also ensures prompt deliveries and features a vintage phone number with a prefix: BOulevard 8-8865/8866.

The backing is wood and it features a carved frame that supports a colored mirrored surface.

The charming imagery consists of a woman sitting with her cat in front of a fireplace, and above the mantel are two candlesticks alongside a built-in thermometer. The manufacturer likely felt that this relaxing scene would complement any home’s décor while drawing one’s eye to the business.

Sometimes advertising thermometers tell a story that extends beyond a business, as in the case of the rare “Tilden Dairy and Delicatessen” collectible. This cherished business was located at 73-06 Austin Street and reads, “Everything from soup to nuts.”

Tilden Dairy & Delicatessen at Tilden Arms, Forest Hills.

Besides a thermometer, a three-minute sand glass was attached, which came in handy in the kitchen.

It dates to the time when Austin Street was nicknamed “The Village.”

This business was named after Tilden Arms at 73-20 Austin Street, a Georgian Colonial apartment building, completed in 1931.

It takes an advertising thermometer to inspire further research, where one learns that it was named after “Big Bill” Tilden, who won the U.S. National Championships, with wins in Forest Hills in 1920, 1924, 1925 and 1929. That included the first year at Forest Hills Stadium.

He holds a record for the most men’s singles titles and was the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920.

Advertising thermometers are bound to come in unique shapes. A classic example is a supersized ornate brass key that supports a thermometer.

It reads “1939 World’s Fair” and embossed on top is a depiction of the Fair’s symbolic Trylon and Perisphere monuments, which reflects the multicultural and innovative “World of Tomorrow” theme and could also be found at the Trylon Theater, on stationery, on cakes and on other forms of advertising countrywide.

1939 World’s Fair key thermometer with Trylon & Perisphere monuments on top.

Continuing the innovative theme, along with “Peace Through Understanding” is a 1964-1965 World’s Fair thermometer, which featured an embossed brass Unisphere, mounted on wood.

1964 – 1965 World’s Fair advertising thermometer.

Some advertising thermometers take the viewer to the great outdoors, as in the case of the circa 1940s “Lawrence Brown Prime Meat Market” thermometer, which features a watercolor-inspired scene of a Tudor cottage and a lush garden overlooking a lake with ducks.

This neighborly business was situated at 92-07 63rd Drive in Rego Park and memorializes the vintage prefix phone number found in HAvemeyer 4-0850.

The frame features unique Art Deco motifs.

In the 1950s, it became “Consumers Meat Market,” which longtime and former residents recall more so, but that too is long-gone.

“I enjoy looking at the wide variety of these thermometers available on the second-hand market,” said David Barnett, co-founder of Noble Signs and the New York Sign Museum.

“They showcase many styles of design and lettering. Some were distributed to shops and others as keepsakes directly to consumers. The practical value of a thermometer in a pre-digital age helped increase the likelihood that the advertisement would be saved instead of discarded.”

Now if you are not a collector, perhaps the foundation for an intriguing journey is about to begin

CPC gives thumbs up to Innovation QNS

Commissioners voted 10-3 in favor of controversial project

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Rendering of 38th Street Plaza by Innovation QNS.

The City Planning Commission gave a thumbs up to the large Innovation QNS project proposed for Astoria, despite a big thumbs down from Community Board 1 in June.

The proposed $2 billion development would build 12 towers between Northern Boulevard and 37th Street, some up to 27 stories tall, along with two acres of open space and 2,800 housing units — 700 of them permanently affordable — or 25 percent.

The commissioners voted 10-3 in favor of the proposal, advancing it to the next step of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application process.

Kaufman Astoria Studios, Silverstein Properties and BedRock Real Estate Partners are the developers behind the project.

Tracy Capune, vice president at Kaufman Astoria Studios, sees the CPC’s nod to the project as a significant stepping stone to providing benefits to the community.

“The need for affordable homes, family-sustaining jobs, public open space and expanded services for immigrants, seniors and young people has never been greater, and [the] overwhelming approval of Innovation QNS by the City Planning Commission is an important step toward delivering all of that and more for our neighbors in Astoria,” she said.

“We look forward to working with Councilmember Won and our neighbors in the weeks ahead to ensure City Council approval of this $2 billion investment at a critical moment for our community.”

Moments before the CPC voted, Chairman Dan Garodnick recommended the commission vote to approve Innovation QNS, citing thousands of job opportunities, affordable housing, public open space and many amenities.

“The affordable housing component of this project that will be created without public subsidy would be considered the largest privately financed affordable housing project in Queens in generations. At a time when our housing crisis is more pronounced than ever, that is a big deal and a big opportunity to take the pressure off the rents in this and surrounding communities,” Garodnick said.

“Innovation QNS is a unique opportunity to create nearly 3,000 homes including hundreds of permanently affordable homes that will change the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, providing them with stability in a vibrant neighborhood — where little of that stability currently exists,” he continued. “We should not let such an opportunity pass us by.”

Now, it’s up to the City Council to vote on whether or not to approve Innovation QNS; however, Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents Astoria in District 26, has been vocal about her disapproval of the development project since the beginning of her time in office.

Usually, the City Council votes in accordance with the position of the councilmember who represents that district.

Won criticized the developers of Innovation QNS for “disregarding” the voices of locals and not considering the community’s need for deeply affordable housing.

“I have requested for the development team to return to the community again with modifications and we will not settle for a plan that is below 50 percent affordable. Nearly 70 percent of renters in this part of Astoria are already rent-burdened or severely rent-burdened, with a current average rent of around $1,800. There are 54,000 eviction cases filed in NYC this year alone. I cannot in good conscience add more market-rate luxury housing in my district where it continues to produce an upward trend in rising rents,” she said.

“I refuse to inflict greater displacement and increase risk for evictions for working class families in my district. The developers are still offering only the minimum of 25 percent affordable apartments, calling on the city to utilize public dollars to provide any additional affordability,” Won continued. “My apprehension for this project remains and I have serious concerns that this project will displace many immigrant and working class residents that call this part of Astoria home, as landowners worry about their profit margins.”

Last month, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards also said “no” to the project; however, his input merely served as a recommendation.

In his recommendation, Richards called for an increase in the number of affordable housing units as well as expanding the lowest affordable income band to individuals or families earning 30 percent area median income (AMI).

Rendering via Innovation QNS.

“New York City is in the throes of a housing crisis, with Astoria families feeling that crush harder than most, but we have an incredible opportunity before us to reverse this tragic trend. I stand by my recommendation that certain commitments be made by the Innovation QNS development team to meet this moment,” he said.

“I have a deep respect for the City Planning Commission and its work, and I am hopeful [this] vote will lead to a healthy dialogue and community-first solutions as Innovation QNS proceeds to the City Council,” Richards added. “I remain in close contact with the developers, my fellow elected officials and all our community stakeholders, and will continue to push for true community-first solutions on the issues of affordability and equity.”

An ongoing critique of Innovation QNS is that the developers failed to engage in adequate, robust community outreach before moving forward with the application process.

Even CPC Chair Garodnick acknowledged in his opening remarks that the development team could have done a better job with this, and encouraged all future applicants to keep comprehensive community engagement at the “forefront of their minds.”

Evie Hantzopoulos, an Astoria resident, a member of CB1’s Land Use Committee and an activist with Astoria Not For Sale strongly believes that the Innovation QNS team has not done enough to improve their community outreach.

At a town hall meeting held at Kaufman Astoria Studios back in April, Hantzopoulos referred to their community engagement efforts as “a joke,” and told them outwardly that they are not being transparent.

“They’ve spent their time trying to get people to sign postcards to send in favor of it. That’s not outreach. They’re not trying to understand what the community wants and needs,” she said. “They already have their plan. They’re going through with it. Anything they do is perfunctory.”

As for her reaction to the CPC approving the plan: “disappointed, but not surprised.”

“We are going to mobilize and make sure that the voices of people who are going to be most affected are being heard,” she added.

Farihah Akhtar, an Astoria resident and organizer at CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, described Garodnick’s praise to the community members who came out to raise their voices against the project as “hollow and a slap in the face” to those fighting gentrification and displacement.

“Billionaire developers are enabled by our broken city planning and land use process and this has festered for decades. New York City is facing a major housing crisis, but what we need are deeply affordable units…these units are out of reach for working class and immigrant communities that have traditionally called Astoria home,” she said.

“NYCHA residents, with median incomes of approximately $20,000 per year, would not even meet the income requirements to apply for the affordable housing lottery,” Akhtar added.

“We will continue fighting. Astoria and New York City deserve real affordable housing and meaningful community engagement. This project is wrong and no amount of rationalization makes it palatable to our communities.”

Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (9/29)

CTE Shop Class: Now It’s High-Tech

By Mike Porcelli

In my continuing mission to advocate for the availability of career training best suited to students, I constantly encounter groups dedicated to helping them discover their best career paths. Every school and family of young students should take advantage of the career exploration counseling services offered by these organizations. They represent many industries; most are widely available, and many are free to use.

This week, I introduce you to: – a nonprofit committed to career exploration and workforce development for students and professional technicians in automotive, aviation, collision, diesel, marine and other mechanical technologies. It is composed of students, working technicians, instructors and industry professionals committed to empowering the industry workforce.

TechForce inspires young people to explore the technician profession, supports students obtaining the technical training to become workforce-ready and connects techs with resources, mentors and employers to advance their careers. They champion students through their technical education and into the trades by offering career exploration tools to middle and high school students and guiding future techs through their education, career development and job placement. 

It is a hub for career exploration, workforce development and job placement of professional technicians, and is the largest nonprofit scholarship provider for those entering the industry. Since 2007, they’ve awarded over $17,000,000 in scholarships and grants to more than 40,000 aspiring technicians.

In order to better reach the students who can most benefit from their services, TechForce has built the first-ever social network dedicated to aspiring and professional technicians. The network is free to join and allows techs and students to connect with industry events, scholarships, and jobs, all while having fun. Explore TechForce’s social network at:

TechForce and other such career development organizations recognize that students are all wired differently, that many can be better off not incurring the debt of a 4-year college degree, and there are many different paths to career success. It’s time for our schools to acknowledge these facts and restore respect for technical education, the skilled trades and the essential workers who keep America moving by expanding CTE programs nationwide.

In order to accomplish their goal to be the champion for all technicians, TechForce collaborates with every willing school, company, association and nonprofit across all industry sectors to identify solutions that help current and future techs successfully navigate their career paths, from entry to placement. They currently have working relationships with over 300 Partner Schools in the TechForce Network.

Readers should participate in local school board meetings to demand that school systems join with TechForce and similar services to maximize the development of every student’s natural abilities and talents so they can have successful careers.

For our economy and society to continue to prosper: schools must develop each student’s individual natural abilities and talents – whatever they are.

Academic & Trade Education are Two Sides of a Coin. This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.

Mike Porcelli: life-long mechanic, adjunct professor, and host of Autolab Radio, is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late. 

Myrtle Ave Fall Street Festival brings locals together

By Billy Wood

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The smell of different foods mixed in with the sounds of music and children walking the streets with face paint means only one thing — the Myrtle Avenue Fall Street Festival was in full force.

On Sunday afternoon, the 30-year tradition, which is organized by the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) continued their biannual event.

This is their third event held post-COVID since returning Sept. 2021.

While the events have been fun for locals and vendors the festival has yet to hit the same heights prior to the pandemic.

“The amount of vendors have gone up from 60 percent last year to 70 percent this year,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue BID.

He also said that many vendors have either gone out of business or had supply issues that contributed to the recent low turnouts.

While they continue to recover from the pandemic, locals still took to the street to witness the festivities firsthand. People enjoyed food from all over the world as they watched others compete in a friendly dancing contest.

The children were literally bouncing off the walls from the different types of bouncy houses on Myrtle Avenue.

“This is my first time coming to this street festival in a long time,” said Luis Condo, a local resident for over 20 years. “It is good to see my daughter enjoying herself and that things are starting to get back to normal.”

Renz enjoys seeing the community coming out and going to these street festivals because it gives locals a good taste of the different stores that are available in the area.

Although the event just ended, the Myrtle Avenue BID is already setting their sights on next year’s street festivals as they want to be back to where they once were.

Renz would like to thank all of those who came out and all of the sponsors that helped support the Fall Street Festival

“Shop local and support local,” Renz encouraged the Ridgewood community.

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