Where creativity and giving back come alive
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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 [email protected] 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.