Senior Job Fair Returns to Kew Gardens

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

Clad in professional attire with a surplus of printed resumes on hand, over a hundred older adults arrived at the senior job fair in Kew Gardens on May 5 in search of their next opportunity. 

After a pandemic hiatus, the yearly job fair for adults 55 and older hosted by State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. since 2011 is back in person. Close to a dozen companies, including New York Life Insurance, Council for Airport Opportunity and Personal Touch Home Care, were present looking to fill vacant roles for a range of positions that they believe seniors are especially suited for.

“Seniors are a valuable part of our population, and we need to ensure that they have the necessary tools to find the work they need in order to sustain independent and healthy lives,” said Addabbo, who represents much of central Queens.

One in four U.S. workers will be 55 or older by 2030, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trend has seen steady growth in the past two decades, due to an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in fertility rates in younger generations. 

Wilda Collado spent 34 years in a travel-heavy role managing accounts in the jewelry business before the pandemic turned the industry upside down. In 2022, she was able to secure a job as a Health and Wellness Coach at Jenny Craig, but her entire team was laid off without notice earlier this month. 

“It’s been really tough,” said Collado, a 55-year-old longtime Jackson Heights resident. “Every time you click on a job on Indeed, it’s like 500 people applied for this job already, or even 1000.”

Adapting to the job hunt in the digital world can be difficult for seniors who first entered the workforce when searching through the classified section of a newspaper was commonplace. Now, there are a slew of job boards online that often require digital savviness to navigate, which many seniors feel they lack. 

At Queens Community Center, which has five older adult care centers across the borough, computer literacy classes are in high demand. A weekly class is held at the Kew Gardens location where seniors have learned how to copy and paste, send emails or search for something on their cell phone, according to the staff. 

“I think it’s crucial to show older adults that we know that they still have things to contribute, and experiences from which they have crucial knowledge,” said Anne Foerg, Associate Executive Director of Older Adult Services at Queens Community House. “Someone who’s an older adult, with experience, can still offer a lot in 20 hours a week. It gives them an opportunity to stay engaged and to stay connected.”

A recruiter for New York Life Insurance Company was seeking sales agents for a hybrid commission based role that includes full-benefits and hefty training. At another table, a representative for New York State Agencies informed attendees about the Emergency Limited Placement (HELP) program which removes the civil service exam requirement for various direct care, health and safety jobs. Various roles are available at the NYS Office of Addiction, as well as a slew of Departments of Health across the city and SUNY schools. 

“We want people who are hard workers, and it’s always a positive, I think I have a wealth of experience, especially in an industry that has a lot of customer service,” said Aaron Miner, a recruiter for the Council for Airport Opportunity, who was seeking applicants for security and customer service roles at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.

Some recruiters also had nontraditional roles available for jobseekers. A recruiter for Jzanus Home Care Inc. informed attendees of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) which pays individuals to take care of an elderly family member or friend. They also offered people interested in working in the homecare industry the chance to complete paid training and get certified as a home health aide. 

“It would be nice if something comes around, and I can get into it, either at home, or go someplace else to do it, like part time or even full time, whatever it works out to be,” said Chuck, a Fresh Meadows resident, who attended the job fair curious about the options for him as a 74-year old retiree. 

Previously, he worked for Verizon as a switch technician for 46 years until he retired two years ago. Now, he spends most of his time running a cat sanctuary out of his house, while also attending various events and classes at the center.

“Science in a Box” kits delivered to District 29

Sun Works kits given to students from three elementary schools

A P.S. 54. student receives her supplies (Photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)

By Alicia Venter

[email protected]

600 STEM Hydroponic Kits, also known as “science in a box” kits, were distributed to three elementary schools in Southeast Queens on Friday, Jan. 13.

The schools that received the kits include PS 54, The Hillside School; PS 99, The Kew Gardens School; and PS 144, The Col. Jeromus Remsen School in Forest Hills.

The hydroponic kits were provided by NY Sun Works — a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools — in partnership with local council member Lynn Schulman.

The kits came equipped with a 10-lesson climate and science curriculum meant to enable students, with a teacher’s guidance, to grow, study and run investigations with plants.

They are designed to expose students to hydroponic farming technology on a miniature, hands-on level.

“Our kids only get one chance at a good education. That is why I am thrilled to partner with New York Sun Works to deliver 600 hydroponic STEM kits to local schools throughout Council District 29,” said Schulman in a press release. “These kits will be paired with a 10-lesson curriculum that teaches students the importance of sustainability and urban agriculture while enhancing their  observation and data collection skills. I look forward to seeing the final results from this unique and vital life lesson program.”

The schools also received the Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum, and teachers are provided the tools to tailor the curriculum to address the needs of the students.

The program will reach more than 1000 elementary-age students at the three schools, all located in the 29th Council District that Schulman represents.

“We are excited to engage young learners in plant biology by delivering hundreds of interactive and innovative STEM kits in Queens with Council Member Lynn Schulman,” said Manuela Zamora, NY Sun Works Executive Director in a press release. “We are fully committed to fostering the love for science to every New York City public school student and these kits are an incredible introduction to hydroponic farming that teach climate and the science of sustainability.”

NY Sun Works first introduced the ‘Science in a Box’ Hydroponic Kit program in September 2020. More than 5,000 kits were distributed last year, for both classroom and at-home learning.

In a 2021 study conducted by social science research organization Knology, the kits and curriculum “embody innovation, flexibility, hands-on learning, and critical thinking.

For more information on NY Sun Works, visit

Massive $739M Kew Gardens Interchange project completed

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

12 years, four phases and $739M later, the massive Kew Gardens Interchange project is complete.

After what feels like forever for many Queens residents, the $739 million Kew Gardens Interchange reconstruction project is finally complete, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week.

The extensive project, which took 12 years and four phases to reach completion, seeks to improve and modernize dated infrastructure and adapt to the needs of the nearly 600,000 vehicles the interchange serves each day.

The Kew Gardens Interchange is the complex intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike. Its massive makeover allows for faster travel, safer merging and exiting and more reliable connections for travelers to get to JFK Airport and other prime destinations, according to Hochul’s announcement.

“The transformation of this vital interchange near one of New York’s major airports is the latest accomplishment in our efforts to modernize the state’s transportation network,” Hochul said in a statement. “The complete overhaul of Kew Gardens Interchange will provide a safer, less congested network of roads — improving the travel experience for nearly 600,000 daily motorists, enhancing quality of life and boosting the regional economy for decades to come.”

Following the announcement of its groundbreaking in 2010, the construction of the Kew Gardens Interchange was split into four phases — the most recent replacing the deteriorated two-lane Van Wyck Expressway southbound viaduct over the Grand Central Parkway with a continuous three-lane viaduct, and constructed new exits to the westbound Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Additionally, the three lanes from the Van Wyck now merge with two lanes from the Grand Central over a longer distance.

The final phase cost $366 million and was funded by the state.

In total, the entire project includes 22 new bridges, three rehabilitated bridges, wider travel lanes, new lane configurations, updated signage, upgraded stormwater drainage and a new dedicated shared use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Some locals who use the Kew Gardens Interchange on a regular basis could not be happier to see it completed, including TikToker Mike Schulte, a Rego Park native and Glendale resident.

In December 2020, Schulte posted a video to his TikTok page, @itsyaboymikeofficial, with clips that showed portions of the Kew Gardens Interchange under construction, along with heavily trafficked roads.

Relating to the shared experience of many New Yorkers in a humorous way, Schulte went on to add captions to his video such as “Is this just in NYC?” and “Do you have roads that have…been under construction your whole life?”

Schulte reminisced on how far the project has come since his video, and applauded all of the workers who made the finished product possible.

“Frankly, it’s really nice to see it finally finished…and still a bit shocking that you can now drive through that area without traffic sometimes,” he said. “As a lifelong New Yorker who’s dealt with his fair share of traffic, it’s refreshing to see a project finally finished and working in the way it was intended.”

Other residents feel differently about the outcome.

Kenichi Wilson, an Ozone Park resident, first vice chair of Queens Community Board 9 and a former chairman of its Transportation Committee, said he feels the new additions don’t adequately address the needs of motorists and that its layout is confusing.

“There’s still some ways that you can’t get off…for example, you can’t go from the Van Wyck to the Grand Central eastbound, which is very confusing, and I don’t know why that was never in the plans,” Wilson said.

He feels that the Interchange is not a driver-friendly route, and actually discourages his daughter, who’s a new driver, from using it out of fear that she’ll get sideswiped or pushed into a wall.

“The Jackie Robinson opens up into that interchange…it’s still a squeeze, a hard right or hard left, that people are sideswiping the wall. Out of all that, couldn’t they improve that? People fear that section right before the interchange because they’re afraid that someone’s gonna sideswipe them or push them into the wall,” he said. “A lot of people in the neighborhood are not happy and they figured, ‘you’re completing it this time, why didn’t you think of the modern problems nowadays?’ It will definitely take some getting used to.”

Construction and revamping were never strangers to the Interchange, as it was built in the 1930s and expanded in the 1960s.

Hampton Court named one of New York’s historic places

By Jessica DeFreitas

[email protected]

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.”

Spirits Alive returns to Maple Grove

By Jessica Meditz

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The Friends of Maple Grove got into character before the tour began.

After a couple years of slumber, The Friends of Maple Grove awakened the spirits of some notable figures who rest in that cemetery.

Last Saturday, residents of Kew Gardens and its surrounding communities were able to embark on a self-guided walking tour of Maple Grove Cemetery known as “Spirits Alive.”

Every year, the event is powered solely by volunteers who commit themselves to playing the roles of the illustrious historical figures by wearing period clothing, memorizing scripts and even adapting the voice and mannerisms of another person.

Decked out in a long black cape, a detailed pink dress and a tiara, Helen Day portrayed Josephine Adams, the wife of a sea captain who went on to discover Swan Island off the coast of Honduras.

Helen Day portrayed Josephine Adams.

The couple ran a successful business selling fruits, fertilizer and other commodities before returning to the U.S.

Josephine’s husband died around 1913 and she returned back to Woodhaven in Queens, where she had family ties.

“It’s a sweet story but amazing…you will see when you look at each one of these stones that each has a story behind it,” Day said.

Day serves as vice president of The Friends of Maple Grove and president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, and is proud to have played a part in the event since 2003.

“I read some of the newspaper articles that contributed to the creation of her script…we look at the facts and we can sort of embellish the story a bit too, so it’s interesting,” she said. “There were so many details that were reported in newspapers back in the day, that you can really get a feel for the people and who they were.”

While some volunteers have been involved in “Spirits Alive”  for several years, others participated for the first time last week.

Colleen O’Driscoll, a Forest Hills resident, played Mary Coward, a descendant of one of the first families on the Mayflower.

Colleen O’Driscoll as Mary Coward.

Her story involves a romance with her true love, Jonathan, who she met as a child. The two were separated during the effects of the Civil War, but found each other again and married at an older age.

Passionate about theater, O’Driscoll was proud to be a part of the event, even though the October cold and mist had already kicked in.

“I love acting and history, and I wanted to do something for Halloween because a lot of times, the Halloween stuff that’s not scary is usually for little kids. But I’ve always been obsessed with history and I love acting,” she said.

“I never grew out of my make pretend thing and it took me until I was in high school to lose my imaginary friends because I just loved making up some crazy scenarios for us to be in,” she continued. “When you’re acting, you get to make believe for a living.”

Floral Park resident Frances Guida portrayed Susan Stowe, the wife of Charles Edward Stowe, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s son. Stowe lived at 35 Slocum Crescent in Forest Hills Gardens.

Frances Guida as Susan Stowe.

Although this is also Guida’s first year participating in “Spirits Alive,” she was thrilled to bring her prior acting experience to the event and entertain enthusiastic visitors.

I was active in community theater in Queens for a number of years when I was younger,” she said.

“I hadn’t done any acting in a while, and I felt that this was something just to wet my feet again and portray someone else,” she continued. “And with the pandemic and everything, it’s just nice to step back into some creative things that I wasn’t able to do for such a long time.”

Carl Ballenas, president of The Friends of Maple Grove, is thrilled to have brought back the event, even on a smaller scale, after the pandemic forced the spirits to remain hidden for some time.

Maple Grove Cemetery hosts a series of events year-round, and with that, Ballenas hopes to change people’s misconceptions about cemeteries and what they have to offer to the community.

“It’s unusual because every town, every village and all the cities have cemeteries. But sadly, they are just ignored because they are places to be afraid of or places to hide from. It’s a place that we can use as an educational tool, and we can learn about our ancestors with this event,” Ballenas said.

“We have a beautiful inscription at the center, it’s a 3,000-year-old Egyptian proverb that says, ‘To speak the name of the dead is to bring them back to life,’ he continued. “So we are bringing them back to life, telling a story just for one day of the year. People won’t forget that.”

Richmond Hill street co-named ‘Ivan Mrakovcic Way’

Last Monday, community residents, leaders, family, and friends gathered at 114th Street and 85th Avenue in Richmond Hill to honor the life and legacy of Ivan Mrakovcic with a co-street renaming.

Mrakovcic, who died in 2020 after battling brain cancer, is remembered for his contributions to the community; he was an architect, preservationist, community leader, historian, activist, and the co-founder and president of The Richmond Hill Historical Society.

He also served as treasurer for the Forest Park Trust, chairperson of Community Board 9 for five years, and as a founding board member of the Friends of QueensWay Park advocacy group.

Arranged by Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, the street where his wife, Laura, and their two daughters, Hannah and Emma, still live was co-named ‘Ivan Mrakovcic Way.’

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz reflected on her time as Queens Borough President and her interactions with Mrakovcic.

“When Ivan came into Community Board 9, we were very happy to have someone show leadership, who understood the community, was able to negotiate and sit down at the table and get things done for the community,” Katz said.

“We didn’t agree on everything. We had our debates and our issues, but at the end of the day, we always supported each other,” she continued. “Ivan cared about the historic neighborhood of Richmond Hill and the history of our community.”

Mrakovcic’s preservation efforts and advocacy led to the establishment of the Historic District in North Richmond Hill on the New York State and National Historic registers in 2019.

In his honor, William Gati, an architect, Richmond Hill Historical Society member, former Community Board 9 member, and one of Mrakovcic’s closest friends, started the

Ivan Mrakovcic Scholarship Fund at the High School For Construction Trades, Engineering And Architecture in Ozone Park.

He did so to pay homage to his friend, and give back to local youth in a way he knows Mrakovcic would have loved if he were still alive.

(Photos By Jessica Meditz)

“It’s all really bittersweet; I wish he were here instead of the street being named after him,” Gati said.
“The reason this is so special is the people that came and were a part of his life, and how he touched their lives,” he continued. “Ivan was very kind, and he didn’t rule with a heavy fist, he ruled with kindness.”

Sherry Algredo, chairperson of Community Board 9, also remembers Mrakovcic for his kind and welcoming personality, and assisted in making the street co-naming happen along with Faiuze Ali, CB9’s Transportation & Traffic chairperson.

“When I first came to the board, Ivan was one of the first people to greet me and make me feel welcome. When he told me about the chicken coop he kept in his yard, I identified with that, coming here from Trinidad and Tobago,” Algredo said. “It resonated with me then, and means a lot to me now as chair of Community Board 9.”

Regina Schaefer Santoro, a real estate agent who works with Mrakovcic’s wife, Laura, said that he will not only be remembered for his contributions to the community and kind personality, but also for how unique and quirky he always was.

“One day, he put a tinfoil cap on his head in the middle of a thunderstorm. We toasted s’mores over it because we lost power while we were away on vacation,” she said.
“He was a crazy, quirky guy; he was the first one to be at a party, and the last to leave,” she continued. “He also always wore the craziest, funniest costumes on holidays. And of course, he was known for his chickens. He was in it to make people laugh.”

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