Candlelight vigil at Juniper Valley Park: 21 years since 9/11

By Stephanie Meditz

Deacon Paul Norman opened the vigil with a prayer.

Although they could not see the 9/11 Tribute in Light through the rain, Middle Village residents held the Twin Towers’ memory in their hearts on Sunday. 

The 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee of Queens held its annual vigil in Juniper Valley Park to honor all the lives that were lost 21 years ago. 

The vigil consisted of prayers, music, poems and the reading of the names of the men and women who died. 

“We come remembering those who lost their lives in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania,” Deacon Paul Norman said in his opening prayer. “We are mindful of the sacrifice of public servants who demonstrated the greatest love of all by laying down their lives for friends.” 

The speakers at the vigil recounted the fear and horror of Sept. 11th, the grief for all the people who died and the renewed strength and unity of New York City in the days that followed. 

“On this day 21 years ago, life as we knew it was forever changed,” said Frank DeBiase of the 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee. “The days that followed were filled with a sense of immense loss, grief and sadness. Yet, through the smoke, through the debris, through the unending agony of uncertainty, rose a spirit the likes of which many had never seen before and few ever thought possible.” 

“Many of us lost a friend, a relative, a neighbor or co-worker on Sept. 11, 2001,” he continued. “Many have perished and many continue to suffer from having been exposed to the toxic environment in and around the World Trade Center site. It is with this in mind that we gather in this special place each year to honor their memory and to pray for their families, our city and our great nation.” 

This is precisely why Al Haag and his family attend the vigil every year. 

“It’s important to come back every year to pay our respects,” he said. “One of my close friends passed away. He was a firefighter…so we come every year. I think we missed one so far.”

Leonora Norman recalled her own fear for her father and brother, both of whom were in the city that day. 

“My brother, now he’s a captain in the fire department, back then he was in 238, and his lieutenant died. And so he was called in afterwards, and we were worried about him,” she said. 

“My dad worked back in New York,” she continued. “They had all those people down in the basement of that building waiting to be cleared to go home, and he remembered covering his mouth, seeing the filaments and everything in the air.” 

Heather Arzberger, chairperson of the arts department at Christ the King Regional High School, accompanied the reading of the names with a beautiful flute melody, followed by the playing of “Taps” in honor of veterans. 

“If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., you should put it on your to-do list,” DeBiase said. “Walking past the wall and seeing over 52,000 names of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is such a moving experience.” 

There is a Sept. 11th memorial garden at Juniper Valley Park that the 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee works with JC Landscaping and the NYC Parks Department to maintain. 

Several elected officials and community leaders attended the vigil, including Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar; Councilman Bob Holden; commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman; Community Board 5’s District Manager Gary Giordano; Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Congresswoman Grace Meng. 

Also in attendance were the Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 32, the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club Chapter 16, the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corp, members of the NYPD and fire and Emergency Medical Services. 

“The torch is ours to carry,” DeBiase said in his closing remarks. “It is up to us to ensure that future generations never forget, and more importantly, always remember those who perished on and as a result of that horrific day and those of us who proudly honor their memory.”

104 celebrates National Night Out Against Crime

Officers of the 104 Precinct had fun with local children in Juniper Valley Park.

NYPD precincts across Queens and their surrounding communities gathered in parks for National Night Out Against Crime.

The event, which takes place on the first Tuesday of every year, is meant to enhance the relationship between locals and law enforcement.

Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, the new commanding officer of the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, said that his first NNO at Juniper Valley Park with the 104 was a great time and success.

This NNO was Deputy Inspector Coleman’s (left) first with the 104 Precinct.

“In fact, it’s the largest community turnout that I’ve personally seen at any National Night Out, I’d estimate approximately 1,300 members of the community attended. And it’s such a good display of civics because it shows how the neighborhoods of the 104th Precinct are so engaged and supportive,” Coleman said.

“This event is about the police and the public coming together regarding a shared common cause and responsibility regarding public safety,” he continued. “Ultimately, in order for the police to be effective, we need the support, cooperation and assistance of the communities we serve.”

The officers of the 104th Precinct expressed their gratitude for members of the community who contributed to the event’s success, namely Jon Kablack, who serves as president of the 104th Precinct Community Council.

Jon Kablack

Additionally, the precinct presented a Civilian Accommodation award to the 104 Civilian Observation Patrol, the oldest civilian patrol organization in the State of New York.

Local elected officials and over 50 local businesses and community groups participated, including the Ridgewood Kiwanis, Glendale Kiwanis, The Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, O’Neill’s Restaurant, Bridie’s Restaurant, Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Broadway Stages, New York and Atlantic Railway, Juniper Park Civic Association and Mobile Gas of Glendale.

‘It’s only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But they like it)’

Rolling Stones tribute band brings “Satisfaction” to Middle Village

Satisfaction: The International Rolling Stones Tribute Show rocks the house down at Juniper Valley Park.

By Stephanie Meditz

Satisfaction, the International Rolling Stones Tribute Show brought the sound of the iconic English rock band to Juniper Valley Park on Thursday night.

The show was the third in a series of free concerts held by Councilman Robert Holden in partnership with Queensborough Performing Arts Center and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

The band, led by frontman Chris LeGrand, celebrated 60 years of the Rolling Stones with a set that took the audience back in time to 1965.

Originally from Texas, LeGrand started the show 22 years ago when he realized that The Rolling Stones did not have a tribute show like other iconic bands, such as The Beatles.

Billy Amaral came to the concert fully decked out in Rolling Stones gear.

He had been a musician throughout his life, primarily playing the bass guitar in his 20’s, but he had never been a frontman until he started Satisfaction.

“When I started this show, a lot of my friends said, ‘I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to pull this off,’” he said. “And I was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna give it a shot.’”

After he recruited other members, the show started doing small performances until it eventually grew in popularity and became an international sensation.

Satisfaction has performed about 4,000 shows both in the U.S. and overseas. While on tour, the group plays upwards of 150 shows per year.

Earlier this year, the group performed with Beatles tribute band Abbey Road in a show called “Beatles vs. Stones — A Musical Showdown.”

Their setlist at Juniper Valley Park featured The Rolling Stones’ most iconic hits, including “Sympathy For The Devil,” “Paint It, Black,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Honky Tonk Women,” and the band’s namesake, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

“It was one of the first songs I heard by The Rolling Stones when I was a little guy,” LeGrand said. “And it just was so powerful, and it still is.”

Songs by The Rolling Stones similarly resonated with many of the concert’s attendees, who came dressed in their favorite merchandise.

Ozone Park resident and longtime Stones fan Billy Amaral donned a t-shirt commemorating the band’s 60-year anniversary and a bandana covered in their famous tongue and lips logo.

Lynn O’Brien trekked to Juniper Valley Park from Manhattan to see the show.

Lynn O’Brien also showed off the logo on her shirt and necklace. A friend of the band’s, she rushed to Middle Village all the way from Manhattan on her motorcycle to see them perform.

The concert was a lively tribute that included several outfit changes by the frontman and a solo by Dom Lanzo, the current Keith Richards of the group.

When he addressed the crowd, Robert Holden recalled Satisfaction’s performance in Forest Park last year and said it was “like being at a Stones concert.”

The councilman also noted the striking resemblance between LeGrand and Mick Jagger.

LeGrand was fully aware of the resemblance and even took it into consideration when he first started the show.

“I’ve always had these looks follow me around all my life,” he said. “So I decided it was time to put the voice and the looks to use and see if I can make this happen.”

LeGrand, the show’s only remaining original member, feels lucky to have built a career out of performing the music he has always loved for fans who love it just as much.

Pol Position: What does a socialist look like anyway?

Last week, dozens of people overheard a verbal exchange be- tween a staffer from City Council- man Bob Holden’s office and a State Senate candidate at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village.

Japneet Singh, the Democratic candidate running against Senator Joe Addabbo in a primary in the neighborhoods of Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Ozone Park & Rich- mond Hill, was at an ‘80s night performance in the park talking to concert-goers and apparently giv- ing out campaign literature.

After all, when there is a crowd in one place it’s a good place to maybe pick up some votes, right?

The staffer began the kerfuffle, claiming that the concert was a private event in the park and cam- paigning should be done outside the park.

Singh told her that he was just socializing with friends, but she

was insistent and apparently stayed right on his tail.

Singh remained in place, and said, “We’re in the park—at an event funded by taxpayer dollars.”

As Singh and his campaign man- ager, Julien Segura, walked away, they heard a man yell, “Don’t vote for socialists.”

Singh says he attempted to talk to the man and was interrupted again. “Don’t get him started. Don’t talk to him. You don’t get to talk to him.”

The staffer pointed up and down at Singh… “This is what a socialist looks like.”

I guess we were mistaken. And all this time we thought all social- ists had three eyes in their heads.

Singh and Segura continued talking to folks in the park after- ward.

Yikes… That’s politics. Makes you think about running for office, huh?

Middle Village Relay For Life raises $78K

Cancer survivors, caregivers, family, friends, prominent community figures, and even pets gathered in Juniper Valley Park on Saturday to stand up against cancer.

For the 19th year, the American Cancer Society hosted the Relay For Life of Middle Village, which honored locals who have been affected by cancer, as well as those who have donated to support the cause.

Collectively, the Middle Village Relay For Life raised well over $78,000 for cancer research, patient care programs, and other valuable resources.

The list of sponsors includes local businesses and organizations such as Maspeth Federal Savings, Kiwanis Club of Glendale, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Move to the Melodie, Main Street Radiology, Cord Meyer Development Company, Ridgewood Moose Lodge 1642, and O’Neill’s Maspeth.
Maspeth resident Leslie Orlovsky of the American Cancer Society, who led the event, said that the overall goal of the Relay For Life is to support groundbreaking cancer research, to ultimately find a cure.

“I know a lot of survivors, and people who are close to me that have lost their battle to cancer,” Orlovsky said. “And I’m so thankful for the science and the recent breakthrough cancer research we have seen. I hope we are close to a cure.”

New York City Councilman Robert Holden was in attendance, and reminisced about the event’s past successes and celebrated the promising future for cancer research.
“I thank everyone who’s here and is keeping the faith. There have been great strides this year in the fight against cancer, with some major breakthroughs,” he said.

Since the event was held at the Multi-purpose Play Area/Field 8 of the park, it was much smaller than years past, but Holden said that he can “almost guarantee” that it will be back at the Juniper Valley Park track and field next year.

Melissa Alke-Sparnroft kicked off the event by sharing her cancer story with the crowd, which was followed by a series of walks and team laps around the track. There was also a relay, fun and games, a Zumba dance class taught by Melodie Mattes, and the Luminaria Ceremony in the evening.

Alke-Sparnroft, a resident of Ridgewood and a mother-to-be, is living proof that cancer does not discriminate.

Her journey began in 2018 when she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, and began going for yearly blood work and ultrasounds.

In 2020, she was due for her annual appointment, which got canceled due to the first COVID-19 panic.

In June of that year, Alke-Sparnroft found out she was pregnant with her first son, Jackson, but she had a stillbirth in October.

Right around Christmastime, she got the call from her doctor that she had papillary thyroid cancer.

“That just goes to show that cancer doesn’t care,” she said. “I ended up having surgery in February 2021 to get my thyroid and a few lymph nodes removed… I went into isolation for a week.”

Although it was one of the most difficult times in her life, Alke-Sparnroft is pleased to say that the medical procedures worked, and she and her husband will soon welcome a child into the world.

“I’m really thankful for science because without it, the researchers and the doctors would not have been able to basically find a way to cure this type of thyroid cancer,” she said. “You also really have to be your own advocate and use your voice. Go to your recommended cancer screenings. You have to take control and go to it.”

“When you’re in those really difficult times, you have to do what you can to keep moving forward,” she continued. “My personal motto is ‘Day by day, sometimes hour by hour, and sometimes it’s even minute by minute.’ You have to do what you can, holding onto some sort of hope for the future and moving forward.”

Juniper track construction sees further delays

By Jessica Meditz

Renovations to Juniper Valley Park’s track and field were put on the back burner when a large concrete clog in its main drainage line was discovered.

The project cannot resume until the concrete clog, as well as additional damage to a smaller section of pipe, is repaired.

Supply chain issues and a lack of registration with the comptroller’s office has shut out park goers from the facility for well over a year.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Queens Community Board 5, said that the change order was registered with the comptroller’s office in mid February, which was primarily for the subcontractor hired by the contractor, Applied Landscape Technologies, to remove drainage pipe from the site and replace it.

The contractor is supposedly working on getting permits from the Department of Buildings and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Giordano said they will need a temporary sheeting permit from the Department of Buildings, because the main sewer connection is 26 feet underground.

“That way, after the area around the pipe is excavated, the metal sheeting will prevent the rest of the Earth from covering the pipe again so there is room to work on it,” Giordano said.

Giordano said that it’s “hopeful” the contractor will start work in late March or early April.

“I am told that Applied Landscape Technologies is really on the ball with this, so if they can get their permits and start working, I would hope that they could start working by late this month or early April,” he said.

Giordano said that the long term closure of the track and field affects not just Middle Village, but its surrounding communities whose residents also use the facility.

“Soccer is more and more popular, and children and teenagers need to be able to run around and get some exercise. So now, the prime place for playing soccer in our neighborhoods is not available,” Giordano said.

“It’s forcing the soccer teams that had permits there to try to get permits elsewhere, which costs a lot of money. Children have a hard time not being able to practice close to home,” he continued. “Local football and soccer organizations are closed out of there, not to mention all the people who simply love to walk or jog around the track.”

Giordano added that if Applied Landscape Technologies can get back to work as planned, there is hope that the project will be completed before the end of 2022.

Middle Village Relay Kicks Off

Relay for Life Scheduled for Juniper Park in June

Senior Bank Officer at Maspeth Federal Kristen Sapienza with Leslie Orlovsky

The Middle Village Relay For Life began with a small, albeit passionate, band of a few dozen people who used the Juniper Valley Park Track for an “all-nighter campout” to raise awareness, and some money toward cancer.
A group of individuals made up teams with names like “Pin Heads” who were bowlers, and AK96, to solicit money for every lap around the track a team walked throughout the afternoon, night and morning on a weekend in June.
From its beginning 19 years ago, Maspeth’s own Leslie Orlovsky led the event for The American Cancer Society.
She and some volunteers engaged: Maspeth Federal, O’Neill’s, the Queens Ledger, Senator Maltese, the Glendale Kiwanis and Maspeth Moose Lodge.
That helped it grow from a dozen teams with 100 participants to a festival of luminaries, camp sites and music for 1,500 people with 75 teams, raising $220,000.
Since its inception, Middle Village has raised $2.6 million.
Last week, on March 2, the kick-off for the June 25 Relay for Life was held at O’Neill’s in Maspeth.
Fifty people attended: some cancer survivors, some who have family members afflicted and some who just want to be involved in an epic community event.
So far, the sponsors this year remain Maspeth Federal and include AllState/Kevin Spann.
To get involved call 347-675-5337.
To kick off the 2022 event, Relay Lifers Laura Hatton, Debbie Kuber, Marsha Fromowitz, Miguel Melendez and the Vegas were among those who spoke.
Maspeth Federal’s senior bank officer, Kristen Sapienza, announced a $10,000 donation from the bank to the Relay event.
There are a few meetings/events prior to the June 25 Relay for Life at Juniper Park. Team captain meetings are scheduled for March 24, April 19 and May 19.

Person robbed at gunpoint near Juniper Park

A gunpoint robbery took place on the night of November 9 in Middle Village near Juniper Valley Park.
Officer Michael Berish of the 104th Precinct shared details of the incident at last week’s Community Board 5 meeting, as well as a meeting of 104COP/G-COP in Glendale.
He said two people met near the park on Lutheran Avenue with the agreement that the victim would test drive a vehicle he might buy from the suspect. Instead, the suspect pulled out a gun and demanded cash, stole it, and then drove off in the car.
“It is a robbery pattern that is taking place going around the city,” Berish said. “We’ve seen it throughout all of Queens North in all of the precincts, as well as some of Brooklyn North.”
At the CB5 meeting, Berish also shared crime statistics for the whole precinct. Over the last 28-day period, the 104th Precinct has seen a 3 percent decrease in overall crime, with a 30 percent downward trend for robberies specifically.
This did not add up for Patrick Trinchese, who has lived in the neighborhood for 43 years.
“Growing up in this neighborhood, to sit here and say crime is going down is absurd to me,” he said. “I want to know whether they’re going down in number and they’re shifting in severity. This was always a good area for grand theft auto and grand larceny, but it seems that there’s more violent crimes.”
Berish said there has been a “slight uptick” in violent crime throughout the precinct. In a two-year time span the precinct has seen an increase of 1.6 percent, but over the last five years there has been a decrease of 1.6 percent.
A Middle Village resident who has lived in the area for over 20 years said he wasn’t aware of the recent robbery, but isn’t surprised it occurred.
“A lot has changed in the neighborhood over time,” said the resident, who asked that his name be withheld. “About 10 years back is when it really started to get bad. It used to be once a month that the cops would come by, now every other day I hear sirens, so it really would not surprise me at all if there was a gunpoint robbery right here.”

Two arrests in attack of firefighter in Middle Village

Two teenagers who were part of a crowd who attacked a 44-year-old man who was walking his dog near Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village have been arrested.
The names of the 14-year-old and 15-year-old suspects are being withheld by police because of their age. Both have been charged with gang assault.
The assault took place on Friday at 10 p.m., when the victim confronted a group of people lighting fireworks, yelling and screaming. A verbal dispute escalated into a physical encounter.
A video captured by a bystander that was posted to the Juniper Park Civic Association’s Facebook page documented the moments leading up to the assault. The victim can be seen backpedaling away from the crowd as members of the group take away his dog and press closer.
Seconds later, the off-duty firefighter was tackled to the ground and driven into the concrete by an assailant who managed to wrap his arms around both of the victim’s legs.
What appears to be a group of about ten men in their early 20s descend on the victim, who is physically overwhelmed by the crowd and unable to escape, unleashing a series of kicks and punches.
The victim sustained cuts and bruising, but refused medical attention.
“Last night, things spun completely out of control,” said Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa. “You had upwards of 200 young adults rampaging through the park at different intervals, and then descended on a man walking his dog.
“Thugs and ‘thugettes’ know there are no consequences for their actions because almost nobody gets arrested any longer in this city,” continued Sliwa. “We’re going to try to bring some civility to a park that was always known as a peaceful sanctuary for the people in Middle Village and Glendale.”
While acts of violence are unusual, fireworks and late-night parties are not, said Paul Howells, a Middle Village resident who is fed up with the excessive use of fireworks throughout the summer in the park. “These people come around in cars, set them off and just leave all the trash there.”
Matthew Wenz, an 18-year-old student who will be attending Adelphi University in the fall and lives near the park, could not believe that kids from his neighborhood would attack a civil servant.
“It’s disgusting,” he said “It’s a horrible attack that shouldn’t happen anywhere, never mind this neighborhood.”
Councilman Bob Holden was quick to react following the attack and condemned the crowd’s behavior. Before being elected to the City Council, Holden was the longtime president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.
Holden met with the 104th Precinct’s commanding officer and representatives from the Parks Department to demand immediate action to keep the park safe.
“Quality-of-life crimes, like unreasonable noise, lead to more serious crime and it must be shut down so that our parks are peaceful and safe,” Holden said. “Deputy Inspector [Louron] Hall assured me that enforcement will be stepped up with added measures taken so that there will be no more incidents like the one at Juniper Valley Park.”

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