Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization; Group devotes itself to serving the people

By Jessica Meditz


Zine designed by Rashid Johnson, founding member of RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated.

Dedicated to serving the community through empowering people, Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO) chapter seeks to further expand their mission and engage local residents.

The PSO essentially formed in 2020 as a result of a split in the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), when it was discovered that two members were counterrevolutionary, and did not align with the group’s mission. The United Panther Movement (UPM) served as their principal mass organization.

The NABPP reconstituted as the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP), as did the UPM to PSO.

Tea Bee, a Ridgewood resident who co-founded the PSO Ridgewood chapter in 2021, explained that the organization’s origins are in Newark, New Jersey, where the first PSO chapter was formed in 2020.

Bee said that one of the group’s primary initiatives is their Serve the People program, which is their vehicle to connect with the people, get to know them and build relationships with the community of Ridgewood.

PSO Ridgewood holds this event every weekend at Rosemary’s Playground, where members distribute free COVID tests, snacks and informational materials as well as have meaningful discussions with those who stop by. They hope to expand the program in a similar model to Newark’s.

“We have really been looking for our niche, what it is exactly that we want to do with our Serve the People program, because we want to do more,” Bee said.

“In Newark right now, they have a free breakfast program every Saturday. They also have a dinner program every week in one of the housing projects there. That’s what we’re building toward, having a set program.”

PSO Ridgewood’s table at their Serve the People Program in Rosemary’s Playground.

As a former abortion nurse and currently transitioning into working in outpatient care, Bee understands firsthand how essential it is for people to take control of their health, and encorporated that into PSO Ridgewood’s course of action.

PSO has worked on developing the People’s Health Education Program, which is a collaboration with New York City Socialist Rifle Association.

“It started off with just first aid training, but then I got involved and said, ‘What if we build beyond this and make it more holistic, more comprehensive, really teach the people and empower people with the skills, knowledge and resources they need — not just to take better care of themselves, but also each other, the community,’” they said.

“It’s especially important in these times of constant crisis and constant trauma, somewhat to the point where we’re all so desensitized,” Bee continued. “How do we better take care of ourselves and each other?”

Through that program, PSO Ridgewood was able to obtain free COVID tests in bulk from the city.

This Saturday, Oct. 29, the People’s Health Education Program will host a free first aid class from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Mayday Space, located at 176 St. Nicholas Avenue in Bushwick.

Guests will have the opportunity to learn CPR, how to stop severe bleeding, how to give narcan and more.

Free COVID tests, masks, first aid supplies, food and drink, childcare and political education and discussion will be offered, as well as a raffle and Halloween party with a DJ.

Bee also strives to share their knowledge and experience from working in reproductive healthcare, as well as spread mental health awareness.

Nat Winn, a social worker and member of PSO Ridgewood, advocated that the community learn how to deal with mental health crises without getting the police involved.

“The goal is to provide these skills so we don’t have to involve the police, and crisis doesn’t lead to imprisonment, because so many people in the prison system have mental health diagnoses or death,” he said.

“People were explaining to me recently that in some poor neighborhoods, there aren’t any clinics anymore. There are hospitals, but most hospitals are bordered along wealthier neighborhoods,” he explained. “This is a way that we, as the community, can address some of those glitches and some of the malfunctioning of the system. As healthcare workers, we feel we can provide these basic skills.”

Another issue PSO seeks to address through their activism is the mistreatment and neglect of Rashid Johnson, one of the founding members RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated at Sussex 1 State Prison in Virginia.

Johnson was convicted of murder in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison, but maintains his innocence.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2022, and was not provided with cancer treatment, or even visits to a radiologist for some time.

Bee has also been informed that Johnson does not have access to any of his personal property, including hygiene supplies, his radio and TV.

PSO encourages all supporters to get involved and take action to help assist Johnson, such as by joining the Kevin Rashid Johnson Defense Committee, making phone calls to the prison in his defense and sharing his story on social media and through word of mouth.

Zine artwork designed by Rashid Johnson.

Johnson is the writer of RIBPP’s Ten Point Program, which are essentially the beliefs one should align with if they plan to get involved in the organization.

“Since the time [he was convicted], he’s turned his life around. Rashid has dedicated his life to the things that he has talked about: serving the people and creating a better world,” Winn said.

“The Ten Point Program talks about healthcare for everyone, decent housing for everyone and the right to not be hungry for everyone,” he continued. “Not only for Black people, but for everyone. And that’s what Rashid has dedicated his life to.”

Bee emphasized that PSO is a voluntary organization, and those who join do not have to be a far leftist to join, but they should be in unity with the Ten Point Program.

“Ultimately, we’re here to do life-affirming work, and to uplift life and to cherish life,” they said.

“Obviously, we focus on the lives that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against violently, but we’re here to uplift life. That’s our mission.”

For more information, visit @psoridgewood on Instagram, @pso_ridgewood on Twitter or email psoridgewood@protonmail.com with any inquiries.

Jim Regan inducted as Maspeth Kiwanis president

“We’re going to continue to move forward,” he said

By Jessica Meditz


Regan (L) being inducted as president by Lt. Gov. Rodriguez.

Local Kiwanians gathered for an afternoon of celebration at O’Neill’s in Maspeth to welcome a brand new president.

James “Jim” Regan has stepped up to lead the Kiwanis Club of Maspeth — and as the executive director of Martin Luther School, he’s no stranger to leadership.

He will fill the role of Glenn Rudzewick, immediate past president of the club.

Every term, the acting president runs that Kiwanis club for one year. If they don’t renew, another member must take the reins.

“Kiwanis is all about helping children and our communities,” said Victor Rodriguez, lieutenant governor of the Queens West Division. “Changing leadership kind of encourages people to do different things and share different ideas.”

Also an eventful part of the ceremony was the installation of the Board of Directors: Jim O’Kane, Maryanna Zero, Glenn Rudzewick, Tom Rudzewick, Joan Sammon, Michelle Masone, Geri Hughes-Crowe and Barbara Pryor.

The club’s Board of Directors were installed.

Each member promised to serve their community and live up to the Kiwanis motto, “Serving the Children of the World.”

Upon his induction, Regan reflected on the milestones the Maspeth Kiwanis and other local clubs have achieved for their neighborhoods, and expressed his willingness and gratitude for taking on the role of president.

He emphasized how Martin Luther School’s values are based in reaching out and creating opportunities for leadership service to the community, and he plans to set the same example.

“I have to say Kiwanis is all about community and the people we serve in this community. Being a proud member of this community for many years, I’ve been the executive director of Martin Luther for about seven years now, but I’ve been a member of the staff for 42 With that being said, being a resident here and also being in the community, I understand the importance of a group like Kiwanis and how it has an impact on what we do and who we support,” Regan said.

“Maspeth has certainly been generous in that case, and we’re going to continue to move forward,” he continued. “I also want to thank Glenn Rudzewick, who stepped in last year and has held this leadership role several times. Through his mentorship, I’m much looking forward to what he can do in terms of assisting myself and in my position here.”

On Nov. 13, the Kiwanis Club of Maspeth will host their annual Pancake Breakfast, which will be held at Martin Luther School from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

All funds raised will go toward benefitting local children, seniors and the community in general — from medical and sports programs for young people, to anti-graffiti programs to beautify the neighborhood.

Hampton Court named one of New York’s historic places

By Jessica DeFreitas


Hampton Court invited the community to bask in celebration of its recent milestones over the weekend.

The four-building assemblage, located at 11701 Park Lane South, has been placed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

On Saturday, residents of Hampton Court gathered to unveil the plaques commemorating these achievements followed by a presentation of the community’s history. 

The courtyard, located on Metropolitan Avenue and Park Lane South, is a garden escape within the city.

Formerly known as Kent Manor, the scenic Kew Gardens co-op community is permeated with greenery and flora throughout the entire compound.

Hampton Court, which was built in 1937, housed many German-Jewish immigrants who took refuge fleeing the Holocaust.

Andrea Crawford, president of the Board of Directors for Hampton Court, is proud of the history the community was built on.

She shared how Kew Gardens was developed after its neighboring community, Richmond Hill. 

“The name Kew Gardens came from the fact that all of the buildings had windows which faced gardens,” Crawford said.

She also recalled one of the first residents to ever live there.

“Maryann came here in 1937 with her parents, grew up, got her own apartment, got married, raised her own family and died here,” Crawford said.

Andrea Crawford unveiling the plaques to commemorate the occasion.

Crawford added that 50 percent of Hampton Court’s first residents were refugees. 

The Georgian Colonial-style buildings, designed by Constantinople native Benjamin Braunstein, were different from neighboring buildings, which were built with a Victorian style.

Like many of the residents who lived at Hampton Court, he too achieved the American Dream.

Hampton Court changed its name from Kent Manor when the building management converted from apartment rentals to co-op ownership.

“Hampton Court was grander and more British,” Crawford explained, “But there were many issues because the compound was carved out of the park.” 

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, the city of New York wanted the community to be a part of Forest Park instead of creating housing. 

Residents formed the Kew Gardens Civic Corporation battling legal issues. The city even proposed the land be used for a school instead. 

The landowners proposed that residents pay $600 each for them to agree to start building, but the community came together and refused.

The uprising of residents helped the building of Kent Manor to commence without additional fees to their rent. 

Braunstein’s vision for designing the building’s architecture was to pave the way for immigrants to feel “Americanized,” creating a revival for colonial architecture.

Hampton Court’s wildlife habitat is one of the few of its kind in Queens.

Its plants are purposely placed to attract pollinators, making the compound a glorious sighting for butterflies and rare birds during spring and summer.

Crawford was happy to mention that the buildings replaced gas with electrical units as a way to sustain clean air and the environment.

Santiago Preciado, a historian who gave a presentation at the event, spoke of Hampton Court’s controversial history with land rights.

“Everyone rose up against [paying $600], and essentially, that’s how this became developed in the first place. The property owners held out from 1910 until 1935 when the building started,” he said. “I think that’s really interesting.”

Group calls for regulation of all two-wheeled motorized vehicles

By Jessica Meditz


As locals continue to see more motorized vehicles other than standard cars on the streets, many hope that the operators — and the law — will uphold the responsibility involved with being on the road in any capacity.

In recent weeks, the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) penned a letter to local elected officials Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and State Senator Joseph Addabbo to propose state legislation that would regulate all motorized, two-wheeled and over vehicles.

In the letter, the group called for these vehicles to be licensed, with a metal license plate on the rear, and insured.

They also believe that all operators of such vehicles should be required to pass a written and driving test to be licensed.

The group feels that, if passed, this legislation would significantly reduce the number of traffic accidents and pedestrian injuries.

Charles Ober, the group’s president, said that as a civic association, part of their grassroots mission is to address concerns they’ve heard from members of the community — these vehicles being a common one.

“The basic complaint is they do not follow any of the traffic rules. They are very unsafe, a lot of them don’t even wear helmets. They have passengers on the back of them with no helmets, they snake in and out of traffic, they cut cars off, they go through red lights and don’t stop at stop signs,” Ober said.

“We would like to see that they be registered and insured. This is a big issue, and we think that the state can regulate it better and give the Police Department tools to enforce the law,” he continued. “We’re not trying to force them off the road, we’re asking them to follow the rules.”

According to an infographic from the DOT, Class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes, as well as e-scooters are not currently required to be licensed or registered.

Source: DOT.

For e-scooters and Class 1 and 2 e-bikes, helmets are recommended for all, but required for 16 and 17-year-old riders and working cyclists.

All mopeds must be licensed, registered and insured — however, some residents claim that they’ve seen these vehicles operating with no license plate, as well as illegal e-mobility devices such as segways or electric skateboards.
“We’re concerned that we see unlicensed scooters and motorbikes. I saw a guy on a segway going down Central Avenue, and I saw a guy on a motorized skateboard going in the wrong direction. These vehicles are always just zooming about, zipping across traffic in and out, not stopping for lights,” said Peggy O’Kane, secretary of RPOCA.

“They’re a danger to pedestrians and cars, and they’re a  danger to themselves.”

Her biggest concern is safety and accountability for all.

“People have no sense of obligation that they need to take responsibility. I think if they had to have some kind of insurance, it would be a benefit to everybody, because if they injure somebody — that somebody is straight out of luck.” she said.

At the June 104 Community Council meeting, Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, Commanding Officer of the 104th Precinct, said that when it comes to illegal motorbikes, the 104’s efforts are to remove them from the streets.

“What we do is we set up operations for this kind of thing and try and get them somewhere where there’s a bottleneck so we can enclose them and grab them,” Coleman said.

On Oct. 15, the 104 Precinct took to Twitter to announce the confiscation of several illegal dirt bikes, mopeds and ATVs.

When asked about his thoughts surrounding the issue, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said he “would be open” to further regulation of these vehicles.

“There are motorized scooters all over the place where they shouldn’t be. They’re in parks, on sidewalks, they scare people and they sound terrible,” he said. “I would be open to reasonable regulations for these vehicles.”

A spooktacular Halloween around Forest Hills

Where creativity and giving back come alive

By Michael Perlman


Halloween wonderment on Burns St, Photo by Michael Perlman.

Forest Hills certainly knows how to celebrate Halloween or “Hallowe’en,” derived from “All Hallows’ Evening” in Old English.

Residents can anticipate a number of creative events, spooky decorations and even a humanitarian perspective, whether an event entails homeowners, shops and restaurants, banks, teachers or children enjoying simple pleasures.

Although Halloween is on Oct. 31, some festivities will begin over the weekend or unfold throughout the month.

“We always support ‘Costumed for a Cure’ to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” said Nancy Adzemovic, branch manager of the landmarked Ridgewood Savings Bank at 107-55 Queens Boulevard.

“On Oct. 29 and Oct. 31, employees will be giving out candy and dressing up for donations to support this wonderful cause.”

This tradition originated over three decades ago, where colleagues and patrons have an opportunity to donate and vote for their favorite costumes.

Another bank is Maspeth Federal Savings at 101-09 Metropolitan Avenue, which is hosting a free, family-friendly “Halloween Spooktacular” on Oct. 31 from 2 to 5 p.m., where the staff will also dress up.

“Our event includes a DJ, balloon maker, a hayride, spin art and other activities, as well as free stadium pretzels and cotton candy,” said Jill Nicolois, assistant vice president and community affairs director.

NY1 News will also host the Chip City cookie truck and 112th Precinct Community Affairs officers will attend.

“We work with Croce Entertainment to plan this fun-filled event, and we’re proud to be part of the thriving neighborhood. In addition to our annual free summer concert, we feel this Halloween celebration is a great way to give back to our community,” Nicolois continued.

A must-stop is the Forest Hills Library at 108-19 71st Avenue, where Lucianne Pastorello works tirelessly as a children’s librarian.

For Halloween, she consolidated some of the best book titles for an engaging display.

Halloween books at Forest Hills Library.

On Oct. 31 at 4 p.m., children ages 5 to 12 can design haunted houses, enjoy spooky music and hear Halloween stories. Registration is required.

“The power of creativity and originality captures the attention of my readers. I plan programs based on what parents and kids request, and I pursue that by creating book displays and giving Grab-and-Go craft kits to celebrate their culture and holidays,” Pastorello said.

Halloween is a good time to celebrate while supporting small businesses.

A destination is Jade Eatery & Lounge at 1 Station Square, where festivities will be held all day on Halloween, thanks to owner Kumar and the marketing team.

Halloween at Jade Eatery & Lounge.

Marketing representative Daisy Vera explained, “We plan to distribute around 100 gift bags filled with candies and party favors for kids in costume. We will take it a step further by offering 10 percent off the entire dinner check for every guest. For adults, the first 50 guests get a shot of our special soon-to-be revealed Halloween drink.”

Additionally, for a festive season, the newest treat is the “Pumpkin Spiced S’mortini” drink.

Pumpkin Spiced S’mortini.

“Keeping up with the spirit and tradition, we’ve displayed spooky outdoor and indoor decorations for everyone to be a part of, since Halloween calls for a fun community celebration,” she continued.

Angelina Citrano, co-owner of Eddie’s Sweet Shop at 105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, extends an invite to book your Halloween party before Halloween (closed Mondays) and celebrate in the spirit of “Casper, the friendly ghost,” just like your ancestors nearly a century ago at this historic ice cream parlor and candy shop.

Traditions at Eddie’s Sweet Shop.

“Kids and their families love taking photos in front of our whimsical vintage Halloween windows,” Citrano said.

“When (owner) Vito and I had our boys, we always brought them into the shop and even had Halloween parties with friends, grandparents, nephews and nieces. When my father-in-law had the shop, he would give all the kids a quarter. Later on, Vito and I began giving out Sour Belts, a really special candy that we also sell and kids love them.”

It is a tradition for many businesses along Austin Street and Metropolitan Avenue to distribute candy.

Rachel Kellner, co-owner of the historic Aigner Chocolates at 103-02 Metropolitan Avenue, is also a co-founder of Metro Village of Forest Hills, a small business alliance.

“Our initiative created posters again this year to distinguish which businesses will be participating. There will be at least 20, although many more will likely do so. Kids wait all year to celebrate Halloween, and now that I have a little one, I see the excitement he experiences just thinking about it. We started brainstorming his costume months ago,” she said.

“I love being part of a community that celebrates that joy from the businesses on Metropolitan Avenue to the houses on Burns Street, and all the decorations and candy in between.”

Some apartment buildings really know how to party.

Elsie Stark will portray the “Howard Winter Witch” on Halloween at the Howard Apartments from 5 to 8 p.m.

The Howard Witch

“She will be flying in on her broomstick to land at 99-32 66th Road. The witches are all sisters of the same family,” Stark said.

Since 2015, the Green Witch, the White Rainbow Witch, and the Old Creepy Witch have visited.

She explained, “Every year, the Howard staff follows the witch’s request for setting up the witch’s cauldron and creating a special spooky place for kids to pick up treats and even take pictures with the visiting witch’s sister, either on the lawn or the porch. Our four-legged friends get treats as well. Children are imaginative, and when adults join in, it takes them back to their childhood. It’s a fun bonding experience.”

No expense was spared in the name of creative decorations and neighborliness for some homeowners of Forest Hills Gardens, particularly along the Burns Street rowhouses, east of Ascan Avenue.

A Forest Hills Gardens graveyard, Photo by Michael Perlman.

It is a tradition for huge audiences of children and adults to casually parade around in costume, go trick-or-treating and snap photos in front of Halloween showstopper homes featuring everything from skeletons climbing up facades and graveyards to ghostly encounters in trees and lighting spectaculars.

Nearby, one of the most “spooktacular” homes can be found at 87-23 69th Avenue between Metropolitan Avenue and Sybilla Street.

“We began decorating in 2007 and added more every year, until it grew into what it is now. Halloween is about having fun and not taking the world too seriously,” said Frederic Sandy, who originated the “31 Days of Halloween” and begins decorating on the first day of fall.

“People can stop by anytime in October to take pics. The best gift our community and beyond has given us is their participation in the ‘100 Pumpkin Challenge,’ where we ask folks to drop off their creative carvings, so we can add to our display,” he added. “The more jack-o’-lanterns we receive, the better it makes our house stand out. The first year we did that was in 2020, which symbolized having the community stand together in midst of all the negativity.” Behind-the-scenes, he and his family assemble decorations from the attic and garage.

Frederic Sandy’s 31 Days of Halloween.

“It creates a sea of props. This involves checking lights, changing batteries, replacing damaged props, shopping for good deals and day to day maintenance,” Sandy continued.

Halloween can be very interactive and educational.

Teacher Karen Silverman-Cohen, founder of “Karen’s Art In The Park,” will host a Halloween party at Ehrenreich-Austin Playground for young children on Oct. 28 at 10:30 a.m. for $30. Contact karensartinthepark@gmail.com and pre-register.

“Halloween is a chance for the children and moms to come together. It’s very important after being home for so long to be a part of the community and not feel isolated,” Silverman-Cohen said.

“We will have a book and art project, music, sensory play, bubbles, a take home activity bag and much more. Every class is a learning experience, using all the senses, and is a great way to introduce young children to the art world.”

She can often be found in the park, teaching young children on weekday mornings.

Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (10/27)

CTE Shop Class: Now It’s High-Tech

Think CTE is not important? Think again.

By Mike Porcelli

For several decades I’ve served on trade education advisory boards, where I’ve witnessed the reduction and often destruction of most of those programs. Several no longer exist. It’s a great disservice to students who cannot benefit from the training once provided to previous graduates.

In recent years, I’ve been a member of DOE advisory commissions for the automotive, engineering and construction programs. These commissions, comprised of industry leaders, educators and administrators, advise DOE on ways to improve CTE programs in their respective industries.

Members of these commissions donate their time and expertise to help ensure the programs deliver the type of training needed to properly prepare students to fill the millions of skilled jobs that are growing faster than we can fill them.

We do so in the hope that school systems can increase CTE programs to the level needed to serve the diverse educational needs of students and produce graduates with skills needed by industry.

I commend DOE for creating the commissions and hope our efforts can increase and improve these programs.

Sadly, in conversations with other commission members last week, I learned of the loss of more CTE programs.

Two related how their schools scrapped hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment when they replaced their automotive programs with a graphics department — a mistake that I hope can soon be corrected.

Not because art is not an important educational path for students with the aptitude for it, but because, when we can’t fill the jobs vacated by retiring qualified mechanics, our entire transportation system will literally crash.

While art offers pleasure for people, mechanics provide life-saving essential services that are the backbone of industrial life. Schools must understand this and set their priorities accordingly.

Another commission member related how NASA actively recruits to fill jobs in every trade category, because they can’t launch a single mission without them.

To demonstrate the importance of trade jobs to the space program: no astronaut has ever left this earth — and returned safely — without the work of the mechanics and other trade workers who build and maintain their ships.

Like the skilled worker shortage in every industry, if NASA cannot find enough trade workers, the entire space program will fall behind.

School boards and administrators who have disparaged, disrespected and defunded CTE programs in the past should ask astronauts, airline pilots, truck drivers and ship captains how much their lives depend on the skills their maintenance crews acquired in CTE programs.

They should also ask themselves how safe they will feel flying in planes or riding in cars or elevators that are serviced by technicians who lack the essential skills they could have learned in the CTE programs they’ve disbanded.

Schools must provide CTE programs that produce enough technicians to maintain every type of vehicle — from baby carriages to spaceships.

All our lives depend on it.

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. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-porcelli-master-mechanic-allasecerts/ 

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing