“King of Ridgewood” Joey G Lives On In Community’s Memory

Sanitation Worker, DJ and Local Legend Passes Away at 51

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

In the morning, Joseph Guarisco would wake up early to clean the streets of New York City. At night, he would keep the party going as a local DJ. And in between, he put a smile on the faces of the Ridgewood community with his infectious warmth and charm.

Joseph Guarisco, more commonly known as “Joey G” unexpectedly passed away on March 8 at 51-years-old. Joey G was seemingly everywhere in the community, family and friends recalled. Whether it was neighborhood cleanups, coaching soccer at Christ The King, DJing for Sweet Sixteens or birthdays, Joey G was there and is fondly remembered by members of the Ridgewood community.

Marco Conter, who knew Joey G for 18 years working for the Sanitation Department, said that Jey G was one-of-a kind. He never saw him in a bad mood, always had a lot of energy and would crack jokes about himself.

“He was the only guy who I knew who would sing at six in the morning,” Conter recalled at his funeral, noting how he would still be wiping the crust out of his eyes while Joey G brimmed with energy.

Steven Meditz, who knew Joey G since they were in fifth grade when they attended St. Matthias together, quickly became friends and bonded over their love of music.

“He was larger than life and everybody loved him. He was very involved with everything. Always organizing events, coaching for the kids, DJing, creating events, reunions for St. Matthias and Christ The King,” Meditz recalled in a Zoom interview. “He was always the center of attention.”

Meditz, a fellow lover of Freestyle music (a form of electronic dance music that was popular in the 80s and 90s) even began DJing with Joey G in their highschool years.

He recalled the many late nights carrying the “coffin” of DJ equipment from Fresh Pond Road, and early morning breakfasts at diners.

“He made you feel like you were friends for years. Even if you just met him. He just had that personality, that charisma,” Christina Meditz, Steven Meditz’s wife, who knew Joey since they attended high school together at Christ The King, recalled in a Zoom interview.

 

Joey G with his wife Vicky and his two sons Michael and Nicholas

She sat two seats ahead of him in homeroom class and said that he reminded her of a brother-like figure.

“He reminded me so much of my own brother – it was crazy, resemblance wise, attitude wise. And he acted like a brother, protective and caring,” she recalled.“I would bet my life savings that you would not find someone to find a bad word to say about him.”

Robert Schoemig, the owner of the Avenue Restaurant Bar and Grill in Ridgewood, had many memories of Joey G. They first met at Christ The King but also had many memories of him helping out at The Avenue.

Joey G used to DJ at the eatery and bar during ‘Freestyle Fridays.’ While the music waned in popularity in subsequent years, Joey G would still come out and support the restaurant.

After pandemic restrictions were lifted, Joey G “brought in the troops” to the restaurant and DJ’d to try and help the business. He also came to watch nearly every Super Bowl at The Avenue, regardless of who was playing. During a recent Super Bowl game, which he couldn’t attend, Joey G still sent his kids to go and watch the game to keep the tradition alive.

“He was the party. He was the guy to talk to. If you needed something, he would get up in the middle of the night and come help you, Schoemig recalled in a phone interview. “You know that wasn’t just for me, that was for all his friends. He’d offer the shirt off of his back.”

Arlene Lomastro knew Joey G since her sons worked with him at a local deli in their teenage years and said she remembered him by his respectful nature, big smile and always being a source of laughter and fun.

“Every time he would pass on the truck, he would see me jump off the truck, hug me and just tell his partner. ‘Oh, she makes the best penne alla vodka you ever wonder to taste,’” Lomastro recalled in a phone interview.

Joey G is survived by his wife Vicky and his two sons, Michael and Nicholas; as well as his father Michael, his mother Josephine and his sister Rossana.

A GoFundMe is raising money for the family to deal with expenses, which can be found at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/joseph-guariscos-family.

Pol Position: Allegations against Ardila playing out

Some only seek headlines.

Last week, troubling allegations of sexual assault were lodged against State Assemblymember Juan Ardila in numerous media outlets. The allegations and his responses were followed by Ardila’ allies leaving him high and dry, many asking that he resign. While Ardila says he is innocent, he came out with statements apologizing. The Queens political community remains shocked.

In a Reddit post earlier this month entitled “I was Assaulted by a Queens-based Elected Official”, an attached post claiming “either there are a lot of abusers on this forum or many of you have no idea what it is like to experience this type of situation and figure out how to handle it….”

Some pols we spoke with are curious about the end of the post, which apparently points to the person being somewhat frustrated at the initial lack of response to the post. “Going through the legal system (to handle this) is torture,” the post continued. It concluded with.. “I have first hand experience of this.”

The post has since been deleted.

Numerous Western Queens politicians, political groups like the Working Families Party and even the governor herself have weighed in on whether Ardila should remain in office.

One Pol, Robert Holden, who represents parts of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, and Woodside in the City Council was one of the first officials to call for Ardila’s resignation. It didn’t seem Holden was surprised.

“Juan Ardila’s record of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, antisemitism, reckless driving, and now sexual assault has disqualified him from office,” Holden said in a statement. “His actions are reprehensible and unacceptable, and they should be disavowed at all costs by elected officials, like [Queens Borough President] Donovan Richards, unions, and other groups. Sexual assault must never be tolerated. The Queens Councilman also has called for a police investigation into the claims.

Although the victims don’t seem to be thrilled with the idea of getting the law involved, it might actually come to that.

We were just wondering why this same Councilman seems to have a different standard when it comes to sexual assault allegations against Republican Congressman George Santos, who is currently under investigation for allegedly committing sexual assault against a prospective staffer within his first few weeks in office…. Is it because Santos didn’t apologize?…  Just saying…

Back in 2021, Holden did beat Ardila by just short of a 1,000 votes for the City Council District 30 election. It’s important to Holden and his constituents to hold off progressive legislators in his neck of the woods. Western Queens along with North Brooklyn have been the NYC hotbed for the new progressive (left-left wing) movement.

So maybe that has something to do with it.

City Gate Productions presents “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” in Maspeth

 The show’s titular women will be played by Regina Fischedick, Virginia Harmon, Margaret Leisenheimer, Ashley Gage and Liv Campbell. Photo by Joe Sinnott.

By Stephanie Meditz | [email protected]

City Gate Productions will celebrate Women’s History Month with six performances of Alan Ball’s iconic play,
“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”

The heartwarming comedy will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from March 24 to April 2 at the Moose
Lodge Theater in Maspeth.

The play follows five bridesmaids who are united by their womanhood, wedding garb, complicated relationships
with the bride and desire to escape the festivities.

In addition to irreverent comedy, this character-driven play tells a story of hope, human connection and women
lifting each other up.

“The audience can expect a lot of peeling back of the layers of what it means to be a woman in society,” director
Amanda Montoni said.

“I think the play itself has themes of healing and friendship and is a really beautiful story of women coming together and supporting one another,” Margaret Leisenheimer, who plays Frances, said.

Frances is a devout Christian who initially uses her religion to push others away.

“I think her story throughout the play is finding ways to connect with people on a really human level,” Leisenheimer
said. “Frances really does have a huge character growth throughout this play.”

To get into character, she reconnected with her Catholic roots and composed journal entries as Frances. Although this is her first play with City Gate Productions, Leisenheimer grew up in Maspeth and regularly attended
shows at the Moose Lodge Theater.

She is a Queens community theater veteran — she began acting with St. Mary’s Drama Guild in Woodside at age
11.

“This is kind of my introduction back to plays in Queens as of recently, since graduating from college,” she said.
“It’s really cool to be doing a show in my hometown.”

Leisenheimer was a drama major at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in
Manhattan. She then earned her B.A. in Theater and Performance from Binghamton University.

The cast of “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” has been rehearsing for their run since the end of January. Since the play is driven by character development, the actors have worked tirelessly to capture the true essence of
their roles.

“It’s been wonderful, they’re all rock stars. It’s really great to work with a cast of people that is so supportive,”
Leisenheimer said. “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a really cool space to be a part of, because I always feel like I
can play around and really explore this character with my cast members.”

“I’m blown away by the cast. They have a connection that is very rare to find, especially in local theater,” Montoni
said. “They work so hard. In every rehearsal, they peel back another layer of their characters and they explore their
characters a little bit more. It’s just been a beautiful progression of character development.”

It was precisely this character development and storytelling that prompted her to become a director in 2018.
Montoni feels especially connected to “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” in particular.

“Reading the play as a young adult first in college, I felt seen in a lot of ways. And then coming back and reading
[Alan Ball’s] words as an adult, I’m like, ‘Wow, he hit the nail on the head,’” she said. “Now that I’ve had some life
experience, I feel like there’s someone who has held my hand through the process without knowing it.”

Not only was the play published the year she was born, but the titular dress for this production is based on the one
worn by her mother’s maid of honor.

Producer Thom Harmon worked closely with costume designer Amy Ellis, who made the dresses by hand.

“We knew that the dresses really needed to be special. They’re in the title of the show, and the show takes place and was written in the early ‘90s,” he said.

Although this is not City Gate Productions’ first play since the COVID-19 pandemic, the cast and crew are thrilled
to have live theater back in full swing.

Leisenheimer participated in Zoom workshops during the shutdown, but she said there is nothing like the in-person
interaction that theater promotes.

“The feeling of doing a play in front of an audience, it’s incomparable,” she said. “[Acting onstage] is this really
beautiful community, and it allows us to tell stories of what people might be going through at this point in time.”

As a director, Montoni feels like a part of herself has been restored since live theater’s return.

“I live and breathe theater and creativity, so it’s almost like I feel complete again,” she said. “I feel overjoyed and
just excited to bring theater back to the community.”

Queens-based artist Sandra Vucicevic painted five original abstract portraits of the show’s five titular women. She asked each actress for a few words to describe their character, and she used them to depict the characters’ inner worlds using acrylic paint on canvas.

“It’s not like a real portrait where you could see the face, it’s just my impression of what is going on inside of these
characters,” she said. “I use color to express feelings…different personalities would have different colors.”

Each portrait is specific to the character it represents, but they will all be in the same frame to represent that they are all women who wear the same dress.

Vucicevic’s work will be displayed in the lobby at the Moose Lodge Theater for all six performances. Harmon hopes to collaborate with Queens-based artists for future shows as well, both to support local artists and add
another layer of meaning to each production.

“I’ve been doing all the PR and marketing for the show, which has been a lot of fun. The show really lends itself to a
lot of creative angles,” he said.

“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” will allow audience members to come together and enjoy a comedy, but
also contemplate the play’s deeper meaning.

“It’s an opportunity for people to escape their everyday lives and just get to have two hours…to sit there in
community with one another and experience this thing together,” Leisenheimer said. “I think that’s something that’s
really beautiful, and something that’s hard to come by, especially in a city like New York where everyone’s kind of
doing their own thing and running from one place to another. It’s sort of like this huge deep breath in and exhale,
where everybody gets to experience together.”

Tickets are available for $25/$20 for seniors and students with ID at City Gate Productions.

“It’ll give them a couple hours to actually ponder life, but in an enjoyable way, in a hilarious way. They will be
swept away by the comedy, and faith and hope will be restored if audience members are feeling a little less of that
nowadays,” Montoni said.

Recognizing 50 Years on Community Board 5

 

Paul Kerzner discussing landmark designation at the most recent CB5 meeting on March 8.

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

For over 50 years, Paul Kerzner has devoted his life to taking care of Ridgewood and surrounding neighborhoods.

In the community, he’s known for being the force behind the planting of close to 30,000 trees on blocks since 1983. He is also substantially responsible for District 5 being one of the tenth largest historic districts in the country, following an eight year effort to secure federal, state and city landmark designation status for 2,982 buildings. 

This month marks his 50 year anniversary on Queens Community Board 5, which oversees Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, Fresh Pond, and Liberty Park. Kerzner first got involved in community advocacy as a volunteer for the Office of Neighborhood Services. Before the Community Board existed, it was called a Community Planning Council with half the members it has today and only one committee — land use. 

“We began this work in 1983 when I was 23 and now I’m 72, and we’re not finished yet,” said Kerzner at the most recent CB5 meeting on March 8.

The meeting is held at Christ The King High School in Middle Village, the same building where Kerzner says his love of housing was born. A visit from Rosemary R. Gunning, one of the first female Assembly members, to the political science club Kerzner was a member of in high school, sparked his lifelong passion for housing and tenant protection. 

Decades later, Kerzner encouraged attendees to write to their representatives to help secure landmark status in Districts 2 and 11, which do not yet have city designation. The protection of a landmark designation guarantees that the architecture integrity and uniformity of buildings will not disappear in the hands of new land developers. 

“My whole life has been revolving around protecting neighborhoods, improving neighborhoods, turning neighborhoods around,” said Kerzner in a phone interview. At 72- years-old he still lives on the same block in Ridgewood that he grew up on.

What is now being called one of the “coolest neighborhoods in the world” by Time Out magazine was once a place where residents fled in droves to the suburbs, according to Kerzner. 

“At that time, the deterioration of Bushwick was staring us in the face,” said Kerzner.

In 1968, he got involved with the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association and later went on to form the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation with Theodore Renz, who is the third most long standing member of the board at 47 years. Today, their landmarking work continues to secure landmark status for commercial districts on Myrtle Ave and Fresh Pond Rd.

“I knew right from the get go, that he was very dedicated to the community and wanted to do whatever we could do to improve the community,” said Renz, who has worked closely with Kerzner since they met at a civic association meeting close to five decades ago.

Ridgewood has always been a multiethnic home for immigrants. During Kerzner’s youth, the neighborhood was strongly German, a bit Italian and Irish, and now home to many Polish and Latinx immigrants.

“Now the hipsters are moving in,” said Kerzner, who is concerned about gentrification pricing out long-time residents. While he encourages tenants to buy instead of rent, the rising cost of home ownership is inaccessible for many. In February 2023, the median price for a home in Ridgewood was $925K, up 45.1% compared to last year. 

The Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation is planning to unveil an initiative later this year that will co-op hundreds of six family homes in the neighborhood to make them more affordable for current residents. If they are located in the historic district like planned, the facade will have to be well maintained to meet the landmark guidelines. 

“I want to make sure that we can protect our tenants now,” said Kerzner who says the committee will work with the National Cooperative Bank to pay owners of the properties full market value while giving residents an affordable housing option. “We want to give the tenants an opportunity to own where they live so that nobody can throw them around anymore.”

“He cares about his community, and he is willing to do something about it, not just, you know, say that he cares about the community, he’s willing to put the effort forward to do something to make his community better,” Angela Miralbe, Executive Director at Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation.

Like Kerzner, two businesses in Ridgewood remain anchored in place. Rudy’s Pastry Shop on Seneca Ave, opened in 1934 and Morscher’s Pork Store, open since 1959 and still regularly visited by CB5 members today. 

“If you walk up and down the streets and Ridgewood, you could see the fruits of his efforts,” said Mirabile, who has worked with Kerzner for 41 years. 

Queens Native Climbs the Alvin Ailey Ladder

 

Patrick Gamble, first year member at Ailey ll. Photo by Nir Arieli.

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

At five years old Patrick Gamble put on his first pair of ballet shoes, and has since danced his way into a first year member spot at the critically acclaimed Ailey ll. 

It’s rare for a professional dancer to have started as young as Gamble did. It’s even rarer to begin their professional career at the same company that they took their first dance lesson. Artistic Director, Francesca Harper, refers to this uniqueness as an “Ailey baby,” which she candidly used to describe Gamble and herself during a phone interview.

Gamble’s first glimpse inside an Ailey dance studio was on the sidelines as he watched his older sister and brother take lessons. Looking back at his early years, he recalls his grandmother dancing around the kitchen of the Cambria Heights home he still lives in. He credits those moments for waking up the dancer inside. 

“It’s the one time that my mind goes quiet, because the choreography is in my body. And the music is connected to my body,” said Gamble during a phone interview. “So my music and my body are working as one and my mind has nothing to really do besides watch my fellow dancers.”

Today, Gamble is preparing for a two-week season at Ailey Citigroup Theatre after spending the past several months on tour. On March 22, New Yorkers will be able to see two programs, Poetic Motion and Empowered, composed of 14 performances crafted by an array of choreographers. He is currently in his first season with Ailey ll since earning his degree from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program with a double major in Art History

“As much time and care as I put into it, I want to be able to reflect on stage,” said Gamble. “We are ensuring that every show is going to be a great show.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is widely known for popularizing modern dance around the world after it was founded by Alvin Ailey in 1958. Displaying the African-American experience through modern dance was a cornerstone of his vision. Ailey ll was developed later in 1974 to serve as a bridge between the classroom and professional stage for young dancers. 

“At the moment, he’s with the Ailey company and I think, for historical reasons, for representation reasons, I get a tremendous amount of pride from that,” said Paul Gamble, Patrick’s father, who has lived in Queens for most of his life after immigrating from Panama at a young age. 

“It took him a moment to believe in himself fully,” said Harper, who went from being Gamble’s teacher during his undergraduate studies to directing his professional debut. “But now he’s really starting to kind of open up and be more expansive, and unapologetic in his dancing.” 

Gamble has also appeared on the television shows Saturday Night Live and Gossip Girl as a dancer. But in his appearance on HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness, he got to try his hand at acting, something Gamble hopes to pursue in the future.

He doesn’t shy away from bragging about his Queens roots and love for the borough he grew up in.

“I can go outside and see people that look like me,” said Gamble. “And then I can go to the next town or the next neighborhood over and see people that look nothing like you.” 

In terms of his favorite spot, he says he frequents Brooklyn Wing House on Linden Boulevard “a little too much” for their Buffalo lemon pepper wings. 

“Queens is definitely for the long run,” said Gamble when asked if he would live anywhere else. 

Porcelli 3/23: Artificial Intelligence on CTE

By Mike Porcelli

 

The rapid rise of artificial intelligence is the hottest topic these days. In support of my mission to bring CTE and skilled career training to more students, last week I asked AI for help. The following are Chat GPT’s views on the benefits of trade education:

“Trade education focuses on imparting hands-on training and practical skills needed to excel in specific trades, allowing students to enter the workforce with a robust set of competencies…

A skilled workforce is the backbone of any thriving economy. By providing targeted training in high-demand fields, trade education helps create a pool of qualified professionals who can meet the needs of local businesses and industries…

As technology advances and industries evolve, there is an increasing demand for skilled workers who can keep pace with these changes. Traditional academic education might not adequately prepare students for the realities of the job market… Trade education, on the other hand, equips individuals with practical, job-specific knowledge that is directly applicable to their chosen careers.

Trade education also provides accessible career pathways for a wide range of individuals. Unlike traditional academic programs, which often require years of study and can be financially burdensome, trade education programs tend to be shorter and more affordable. This makes them an attractive option for those who may not have the resources or inclination to pursue a four-year degree. By offering alternative routes to stable, well-paying careers, trade education helps create a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Trade education can empower individuals with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Skilled trades often involve working with one’s hands, solving problems, and creating tangible results. For many people, this type of work can be deeply satisfying and fulfilling. By mastering a trade, individuals can take pride in their abilities and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from contributing to their communities…

Trade education also promotes lifelong learning and adaptability. As industries continue to evolve, the need for professionals to stay current with new technologies and best practices becomes increasingly important. Trade education programs often emphasize continuous learning, providing opportunities for professionals to update their skills and knowledge throughout their careers. This adaptability ensures that the workforce remains competitive and can respond to the changing needs of the job market….

Trade education helps to break down the stigma surrounding skilled trades. For too long, vocational and technical careers have been undervalued in comparison to traditional academic paths. However, as the importance of skilled labor becomes increasingly apparent, society is beginning to recognize the value and dignity of these professions. By promoting trade education, we can create a more equitable and inclusive understanding of what it means to have a successful and fulfilling career.

In conclusion, trade education is of paramount importance in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world. It contributes to economic development by providing a skilled workforce, addresses the skills gap, and offers accessible career pathways to individuals from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, trade education fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment, promotes lifelong learning, and helps break down the stigma surrounding skilled trades. By investing in trade education, we can build a stronger and more resilient workforce that is equipped to navigate the challenges of the modern job market.”

Wow! Chat GPT seems to understand the importance of CTE better than the education officials who have defunded it for decades. Let’s hope they all learn from AI.

 

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/ 

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