56th annual Maspeth tree lighting awakens holiday spirit

By Jessica Meditz

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L to R: Grace Meng, Kristen Sapienza, Maryanna Zero, David Daraio, Michael Terry, Robert Holden, Tom Rudzewick. (Photo: Zachary Simonetti)

Last Friday, the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce brought holiday cheer to the neighborhood with its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Held in Maspeth Memorial Square, a sentimental corner of the neighborhood, locals gathered with their loved ones to sing Christmas carols, watch live performances and wait patiently to meet Santa.

Musician Robert Laucella serenaded the crowd with classic Christmas songs, including “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Michael Terry, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce thanked the audience for their enthusiasm as well as the event’s sponsors: 69th Street Beer Distributor, Barbara Pryor, Blossom Nails, Croce Entertainment, Duffy’s Floor Service, Jim Von Eiff Insurance Agents, Maspeth Federal Savings, Maspeth Town Hall, Michael Falco, O’Kane Realty, Papavero Funeral Home and this newspaper, the Queens Ledger.

Congresswoman Grace Meng spoke at the event, feeling gratitude for the district she represents, along with the holiday season being back in full swing.

“Thank you so much to the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, Maspeth Federal Savings and all the sponsors for making this event possible. Every year, our community gets to come together and watch this amazing Christmas tree get lit,” she said. “You can’t get a better view of the Manhattan skyline than from right here in Maspeth, so I’m proud to represent Maspeth and other parts of Queens.”

Councilman Robert Holden wished the crowd an enjoyable holiday season and encouraged folks to shop locally on Grand Avenue.

He also shared his plan, along with the help of Meng, to cap the Long Island Expressway to “unite Maspeth like the old days.”

“It would be one Grand Avenue — not upper, not lower, but one continuous shopping area and maybe a park or a parking area for cars to help the storekeepers,” he explained.

To add to the Christmas spirit and sense of community, dancers from The Queens Movement Studios performed an upbeat hip-hop routine for the audience.

The St. Stan’s Players followed shortly thereafter, singing and dancing to “We Need a Little Christmas.”

In the spirit of giving, two raffles were held, and two lucky winners got to go home with a brand new bicycle and a VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch.

The highlight of the evening was when Santa Claus arrived, greeting all the children with gifts and a warm smile.

Santa came for a visit at the end of Maspeth’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. (Photo: Zachary Simonetti)

Although the tree lighting ceremony occurs annually, a Middle Village resident named Angelina said events like the tree lighting are essential to the community.

“They really put a lot of effort into it year after year,” she said. “With all the craziness going on in the world, this is something that is done for the children in our community to bring them happiness and spread holiday cheer. I am thankful to be a local and be able to go to these events every year.”

Maspeth Starbucks files for union

Employees participate in national strike

By Jessica Meditz

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Employees of Starbucks’ Maspeth location participated in a strike outside the store.

Maspeth’s only Starbucks store, located inside the Shops at Grand Avenue, has become the third one in Queens to file for a union election with Workers United NY/NJ, the independent union representative of Starbucks Workers United.

Fifteen of the location’s 16 employees signed union cards, as well as penned a letter to Starbucks’ president and CEO, Howard Schultz. In their efforts, they join fellow workers from 30-18 Astoria Blvd. and 22-28 31st St. in Astoria as Queens locations to unionize.

In their letter, the employees claim they have experienced mistreatment from managers and district managers, that they are understaffed, underpaid and not given enough hours to work.

“Concerns have been voiced over and over again during our time with Starbucks. However, no changes have been made whatsoever, which is why we have decided that unionizing is our best and only option at this point,” the letter said. “We are the ones who run your stores, we are the ones that do our best to treat the customers with kindness and warmth, and we are the ones who can make your sales happen, yet we are being treated as if we are not the ones who are the reason this company still stands along with your customers.”

Last Thursday, Nov. 17, employees of the Maspeth Starbucks store joined fellow Starbucks workers within Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island, as well as over 110 locations across the country, in Red Cup Rebellion, a national unfair labor practice (ULP) strike.

The strike took place on the same day the company gave out red cups with the purchase of any seasonal drink, and called on Starbucks to “begin bargaining in good faith and fully staff all stores.”

Employees of the store gathered outside at 7 a.m. to demonstrate, and handed out Starbucks Workers United branded cups to passersby.

Employees of the Maspeth Starbucks participated in a strike outside the store on Red Cup Day, giving out Starbucks Workers United cups.

“I think the most important thing that motivated people to be here today in this weather was the misbehavior from our district manager. She is very manipulative and has always been condescending to her staff,” an employee named Azim, who requested his last name be omitted, said.

“This is not the feeling in just this store. If you go to any of the Starbucks in this district, I think everybody would resonate with that.”

Azim has worked at the Maspeth Starbucks for three years, and has been with the company for a total of seven.

He added that people’s schedules often get rejected, and folks aren’t working enough hours to pay their bills, and that the store is quite short-staffed, with claims that there are sometimes just two employees working the floor during the busiest rush.

Another employee, Kelly, who also requested her last name be omitted, said that being located across the street from Maspeth High School causes the busy rush hour in the morning, making the job much more difficult while being short-staffed.

“We should not be told by DMs that we should move up in the company for more money if that is what we need, that we need to motivate partners not to call out or pick up more shifts than scheduled, and proceed to compare our work with other fast food workers,” the employees said in the letter to Schultz. “We should not be told that our pay is more than enough compared to others when at the end of the day, we are still at only a dollar and change above minimum wage.”

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment with regard to the Maspeth location.

Back in April, Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery located at 61 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, Manhattan, won their union election, becoming the first flagship store to unionize with Starbucks Workers United/Workers United.

The location has been striking for over 20 days after the company failed to provide information regarding confirmed reports of bed bugs at the store and to set a bargaining date to have workers’ needs met.

According to data from More Perfect Union Action, a registered District of Columbia 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, workers at 345 Starbucks stores in 39 states have filed to unionize.

Those workers follow in the footsteps of employees of Starbucks in Buffalo, N.Y., whose Elmwood Ave. location made history as the first unionized Starbucks location in the country.

Starbucks employees are demanding that the company meet with them to improve standards in staffing and scheduling, along with other bargaining proposals, such as for workers to have the ability to wear union gear on the clock, no dress codes, and a commitment to non-discrimination.

Grand Avenue sees death of two truck drivers

Two dead in separate Maspeth incidents on same day

By Jessica Meditz

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One of the crashes occurred at the intersection of Borden and Grand Avenues in Maspeth. Photo by Robert Baranja.

Two truck drivers died within hours of each other in two separate incidents on Wednesday while working on Grand Avenue in Maspeth.

The first crash occurred at around 2:50 a.m. on Nov. 9, when 49-year-old Chad Hallenbeck of East Durham, N.Y. was struck in front of 56-05 Grand Avenue by a 2007 Chevy sedan going westbound, according to police.

When officers from the 104th Precinct responded, they observed Hallenbeck unconscious and unresponsive, lying on the roadway with severe body trauma.

Emergency Medical Services pronounced him dead at the scene, and transported the operator of the sedan to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, where she is listed in stable condition, having sustained minor injuries.

Following an investigation performed by the NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad, the vehicle operator was identified as a 43-year-old female, who remained at the scene.

It was determined that while traveling westbound on Grand Avenue, she crossed over the double yellow line into the eastbound travel lane — striking Hallenbeck and his parked and unoccupied tractor trailer.

No arrests were made and the investigation remains ongoing.

Later in the day at around 10:40 a.m., about a mile down the road at the intersection of Grand and Borden Avenues, a truck driver operating a 2023 Freightliner Truck crashed into the cement pillar in front of Maspeth Federal Savings Bank. The collision also left the shelter for the Q58 and 59 buses shattered and destroyed.

Photo by Robert Baranja

Police say the driver, 50-year-old Stephen Roy Bennington of Croydon, P.A. experienced a medical episode behind the wheel.

He was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, where he was pronounced deceased.

Robert Baranja, who works in Maspeth nearby, said he saw the crashed CVS Health truck when he stepped outside of work.

He was pleased to see the site cleaned up quickly and the FDNY’s timely response.

“It’s unfortunate what happened, but the fire department is right there,” he said. “The bridge and the LIE are right there too, so as far as the location where it was, it could have been a lot worse.”

According to the DOT, Maspeth is ranked No. 4 for highest freight activity out of the city’s 21 established Industrial Business Zones.

The Maspeth Industrial Business Zone is home to more than 850 industrial businesses.

Jim Regan inducted as Maspeth Kiwanis president

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

By Jessica Meditz

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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.

Maspeth honors Mary Anne Verbil Walter with street co-naming

By Stephanie Meditz

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The community joined friends and family of Mary Anne Verbil Walter to commemorate the street co-naming in her honor.

The community took to the corner of 58th Avenue and Brown Place to honor Maspeth’s own Mary Anne Verbil Walter, a beloved teacher, Girl Scout troop leader and avid volunteer.

Named in her honor right beside the house she called home, “Mary Anne Verbil Walter Way” symbolizes her impact and legacy on the neighborhood — as did the large crowd that gathered to celebrate her street co-naming.

Verbil Walter taught at various schools in Queens and Brooklyn — Blessed Sacrament in Jackson Heights, St. Stanislaus Kostka in Greenpoint and P.S. 89 in Elmhurst. 

She found creative ways to make learning fun for her students, such as collecting paper crowns from Burger King for the Epiphany procession and dressing up as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus during Reading Week. 

She was recognized by the United Federation of Teachers for her dedication to the profession. 

Her generous heart and dedication to service extended well past the classroom. She took part in multiple committees, including the annual Giving Tree that provides food and gifts for families in need at Christmastime, Thanksgiving food drives and several after-school programs. 

Her daughter, Rachel Walter Riebling, recalled that one year, her mother “worked her magic” and brought Christmas to a student whose father lost his job days before. 

“Everyone else’s committee would have four people. She would have 96, because everyone wanted to be with her,” Maegan Walter-Garvey said of her mother. “She just had a passion for teaching and she went above and beyond.” 

She remembered that her mother would always leave the house with wet hair because she was constantly on the move to plan and organize events. 

Although Verbil Walter was never a Girl Scout herself, she became a troop leader as a teenager so that her younger sisters would have a troop. 

The pastor from the Maspeth Methodist Church asked her to help run the troop temporarily after the former leader quit. 

She ultimately led Girl Scout Troop 4734 for 30 years and touched the lives of all the children she met. The Girl Scouts she led went on to register their own daughters in the same troop. 

“All these people have been reaching out to me lately just remembering her taking them to camp for the first time,” Walter-Garvey said. “She treated everybody’s child like her own and did everything she could to make every experience special.” 

Walter-Garvey recalled that her mother helped her run Girl Scout troop meetings months before she died. 

Verbil Walter’s four daughters — Maegan Walter-Garvey, Sarah Walter, Rachel Walter-Riebling and Hannah LeFante — are all still involved with the Girl Scouts even though they live in different states. 

Verbil Walter’s daughters, Sarah Walter, Hannah LeFante, Maegan Walter-Garvey and Rachel Walter Riebling recited the Girl Scout promise.

At the street co-naming, they recited the Girl Scout promise as an homage to Verbil Walter’s life of service to both her community and country. 

She and her Girl Scout troop placed flags on veterans’ graves before Memorial Day, and she became the Girl Scout representative in the United Veterans and Fraternal organization of Maspeth. 

Verbil Walter was also in charge of the Veterans’ Day essay contest held in conjunction with the Memorial Day parade. 

“She would get so excited when the essays would come in, and you would see the pride on her face as the next generation of patriots stood before her,” Sarah Walter said. 

“Her favorite part of that was meeting the kids…she loved actually getting to talk to the kids about their essays,” Walter-Garvey said. “She was the queen of personal relationships.” 

Verbil Walter was a lifelong advocate for her community. In her freshman year of high school, she started the Mission Club, which raised money for both UNICEF and the school. 

“Mom went out of her way to make sure that everyone was included, felt welcome and felt special,” Walter-Garvey said. “She befriended everyone.” 

Walter-Garvey recalled the time her mother invited two Duane Reade employees who were foreign exchange students to her home for Thanksgiving. 

In addition to her community service and humanitarian efforts, Verbil Walter was a devoted wife and mother. 

“We are the lucky ones. We were blessed to have this beautiful woman as our mother,” Walter Riebling said. “She was always there, no matter what. Swim meets, recitals, games, presentations, spelling and math bees, Mom was there. When you had a bad day at school or work, Mom was there. When you needed to vent, Mom was there. She was truly the most selfless person.”

Her four daughters took turns with the mic, sharing a heartwarming speech with the crowd.

Since Walter-Garvey followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher, the two would go shopping for classroom supplies together. 

She joked that, if her mother saw her picture on light posts in Maspeth, she would have ripped them down and insisted that she did not need recognition. 

She also followed her mother and father’s example of what a marriage should look like. 

“We have always professed that the husband and wife team of Mary Anne and Mike was the best that Maspeth has ever produced,” Walter Riebling said, quoting Ken and Barbara Rudzewick. “To use a baseball analogy, Mary Anne was the leadoff and Mike was the cleanup hitter.” 

Maureen Tompkins, a lifelong friend of Verbil Walter, came up with the idea of a street co-naming in her honor. 

“The day of Mary Anne’s funeral…I listened to this eulogy and I said, ‘I know people that know Mary Anne will never forget her, but what about the rest of the community? We have to do more. It can’t end here,’” she said. 

Also in attendance was Mary Ann Todzia, who recalled that Verbil Walter would constantly reach out to her regarding community efforts, such as sending Christmas cards to veterans. 

“Whatever we were doing, she was there. I knew I could count on her. I knew I could ask her for advice,” she said. “She’s probably sitting on a fluffy cloud with her group of veterans doing something good.” 

The street co-naming was presented by Councilman Robert Holden, who hopes the community will be inspired by Verbil Walter’s life of service. 

The family was presented with a City Proclamation and a DOT street sign identical to the one that hangs on the corner of 58th Ave and Brown Pl.

“She only wanted to bring people together, whether that was in her home, school, church, community of Maspeth, The American Legion or Girl Scouts,” Hannah LeFante said. “She always showed us how family is not always what you are born into. She made every person feel important, special and loved.”

Middle Village resident spreads good luck through jewelry

‘A little extra protection neva hurt nobody,’ says Erma Camporese

By Jessica Meditz

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If New York had a personality, it would be seen in Brooklyn native and Middle Village resident, Erma Camporese.

Simultaneously blunt, yet as kind as they come, Camporese, 57, is known and loved by the local community.

Her wit, humor and textbook New York accent has earned her the title, “The Queen of Graham Avenue,” where she was born and raised.

You are likely to spot her at Anthony & Son Panini Shoppe at 433 Graham, where she frequents.

As an Italian-American, whose family comes from Sanza, she’s naturally very superstitious.

This motivated Camporese to start her own jewelry business, Creations by Erma, in which she specializes in evil eye jewelry.

“Everyone has a different symbol for the evil eye. But at the end of the day, the evil eye is the evil eye. Whether you believe in the Turkish evil eye, the Italian horn, it’s all the same meaning,” she explained.

“You’re not wishing bad, but you’re not wishing good either.”

Camporese’s jewelry spreads both good luck and positivity.

Camporese views the evil eye as a form of protection when someone wears it, leading her to make her business’ slogan: “A little extra protection neva hurt nobody.”

She emphasizes that the stylistic spelling of “never” is on purpose.

“I never use the letter ‘R’ when I talk. I used to have the word, ‘never,’ and a friend told me I had to get rid of it, because it’s not how I talk,” she said.

Camporese offers various creations in her online shop, including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, keychains, eyeglass holders, wind chimes and rosary beads.

As a small business owner based in Middle Village, Camporese is proud to have over 4,000 followers on Instagram (@creationsbyerma), and her TikTok by the same name is not far behind.

She attributes much of her online success to the help of Nicolas “Nico” Heller, better known as “New York Nico.”

The social media personality is nicknamed the “Unofficial Talent Scout of New York,” and he and Camporese quickly became close friends.

“Believe me when I tell you I’m not conceited, but I became an overnight success. [Heller] always used to joke around and tell me he wanted to make me famous, and I’d just tell him to leave me alone,” she said with a laugh.

“On Labor Day weekend last year, I let him put up a skit, where I was being serious the way I was talking to him,” she continued. “About a half an hour later, he was like, ‘Have you looked at your phone?’ When I went to get my phone, I had like 1,000 messages.”

The two continue to collaborate and upload humorous skits to social media.

Camporese’s personality shines through her social media.

In the past, Camporese participated in a New York accent challenge with Heller, as well as commercials for companies including Bumble and Vitaminwater.

“I love Erma, the Queen of Graham Avenue. She is so Brooklyn, it hurts,” Heller said.

“I love that she is embracing the fact that she has a talent and is creating content of her own. I hope to see her on the big screen one of these days.”

In addition to her online presence, Camporese strives to be present in the community at various events across Brooklyn and Queens.

This Saturday, Creations by Erma will have a pop-up stand at the St. Stan’s Fall Festival in Maspeth, where she will sell her work.

On Oct. 22, she’ll participate in the Party in Pink Breast Cancer Fundraiser at P.S. 128 in Middle Village.

Camporese said she’s very big on paying it forward, which includes spreading awareness and donating funds for cancer research to NYU cardiac research in memory of her brother, Nelson Camporese.

She’s also a member of the Maspeth Lions Club and Our Lady of the Snow Ladies Auxiliary.

Everything Camporese does, including her jewelry and online content, is in the name of “amore,” or love.

“Sometimes I like to mind my business, but my personality sells, so I’ve been told,” she said. “Allowing my life to hold protection has shown me such great opportunities. Paying it forward is a big thing for me, I view that the good we put into the world is the good we receive.”

“Protection is for everyone, and I am ecstatic to share my work.”

Maspeth Lions host First Annual Bocce Tournament

All proceeds from event go to charity

By Jessica Meditz

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Lance Lovejoy, Jack Leone, Vincenzo Gattoni, Joe Cucchiara, Mike Vastarelli & son, Joe Papavero.

Cigar smoke and Frank Sinatra songs were in the air in Frank Principe Park last Sunday.

The Maspeth Lions Club gathered on the court in anticipation of their First Annual Bocce Tournament.

The game of bocce that folks know and love today stems from Italy, hence why you may hear exchanges of “Come stai?” on the court. 

The game involves eight colored balls, typically red and green, and another smaller white ball, called the “boccino.”

At Sunday’s game, a younger player asked about the rules — to which another player replied, “You throw the ball and hope it gets closer to the other ball.” 

“We chose bocce because anybody can play the game. Young, old, you don’t have to be in the greatest shape; you can play outside on a nice day…it’s nice,” said Joseph Papavero, president of the Maspeth Lions Club. “A big thank you to Councilman Bob Holden and the Parks Department because the courts were redone just in time for the tournament.”

Aside from the game itself, another highlight of the event was the food donated by local establishments, including Frank’s Deli, Mario’s Meats & Deli, Iavarone Bros., Rosa’s Pizza, 69th Street Beer Distributors and Jim Von Eiff State Farm Insurance.

In addition, the bocce tournament was sponsored by Maspeth Federal Savings, Papavero Funeral Home, Maspeth Contracting and E3TECH, LLC.

All the proceeds from the event went to charitable causes both near and far — from the St. Stanislaus Sports Program to the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund.

In addition to raising funds for charity, the Lions took the time to enjoy the day and see it as a bonding experience.

“I used to play bocce all the time when I’d go upstate in the Catskills for 20-something years and we always had a tournament. It’s something I play with my kids too,” said Mike Aylward, a member of the Maspeth Lions Club.

“I’ve been a proud member of the Maspeth Lions Club for 30 years and I love it,” said Robert Marchese, membership chairman. “This is a fantastic turnout and to raise money for charity, this is a great event and project.”

After all was said and done, only one team walked away victorious from the tournament — this time it was the father-son duo of Jack and Mark Leone.

“We’re thankful to be a part of the Maspeth Lions Club, and we hope to be here again next year.”

Maspeth honors Squad 288, Hazmat 1 firefighters 21 years later

Memorial ceremony remembers those lost on 9/11

By Jessica Meditz

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The young nieces and grandchildren of deceased firefighter Dennis Carey of Hazmat 1. (Photo: Walter Karling)

In true “Maspeth is America” fashion, residents gathered on Grand Avenue to remember Sept. 11, 2001, 21 years later.

At a ceremony held by Maspeth Federal Savings at Maspeth Memorial Park, the community honored the firefighters of Squad 288/Hazmat 1 who perished in the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.

Squad 288/Hazmat 1 had the single largest loss of firefighters of any FDNY firehouse.

Kenneth Rudzewick, emcee of the event, cited the importance of holding memorial ceremonies like this one every year, “We gather here in Maspeth and across America to mark the unfinished work of remembering. There will never be a time when this work is finished.”

“I’m sure you, as I do, remember what you were doing and how you received the dreadful news on 9/11. That day changed the lives of everyone in America,” he continued.

Like Rudzewick, other longtime guests took part in the event — including Msgr. Joseph Calise of St. Stan’s; Vincent Tomeo, retired high school teacher and poet; Bill and Liz Huisman, a husband and wife musical duo; Mike Aylward, who read the names of the fallen first responders; John Christ, who performed “Taps” and Kathleen Nealon, who sang the national anthem.

Kathleen Nealon and the St. Stan’s Players sing the National Anthem as two members of the audience salute. (Photos: Walter Karling)

“It’s an honor to sit here today in memory of all those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as those who continue to die of 9/11-related illnesses,” Nealon said. “I keep them and their families in my prayers always. God bless them and God bless America.”

The memorial especially honored Maspeth residents who perished as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Firefighters lay the wreath in honor of Squad 288/Hazmat 1.

Local elected officials joined the community in remembrance, including Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Councilman Robert Holden and State Senator Michael Gianaris.

They discussed the importance of not only remembering and honoring the lives lost in the present, but also how to carry out their memory to future generations.

“For these memories to live on, for the sacrifices to be remembered, they have to be taught…I saw as the flags are being laid so many future generations here, and it’s on us to make sure they don’t forget what happened,” Gianaris said.

“It’s important to learn the lessons of those days, the lessons of sacrificing for freedom, the lessons of selflessness and of giving one’s life to save others,” he continued. “As time goes on, it will be on us to find people who didn’t experience it, who will continue to teach the lesson.”

Holden echoed his sentiment, and emphasized his wish to see the Maspeth firehouse recognized as a landmark.

He alongside the Juniper Park Civic Association have fought for this, however The Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down their request, because it has been less than 30 years — much to his dismay.

He also reminisced on the sense of solidarity among New Yorkers and Americans following the attack, and hopes to see it return.

“Remembering the days following 9/11, everybody was together, everybody was cheering on first responders. Everybody was thanking them. We were united; we were a true United States,” he said.

“We have to get that back again…in my lifetime, I’ve never seen us so divided. We probably haven’t been this divided since the Civil War,” he continued.” So we have an urgent responsibility as elected officials to unite our constituents on a common cause to keep us safe.”

Maspeth Federal Savings celebrates 75 Days of Giving

Lucky local wins Ford Mustang Mach-E

By Jessica Meditz

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Last Wednesday, Maspeth’s music lovers of all ages traveled back in time to a night of doo-wop classics and ‘60s hits.

The Crystals, The Happenings and Bobby Wilson graced the stage of Maspeth Federal Savings’ culmination of their summer concert series—as part of their 75 Days of Giving initiative.

With flashy lights and even pyrotechnics coming from the stage, concert-goers danced the night away and sang along to the nostalgic tunes.

The Crystals sported sparkly dresses, living up to their name. They opened up the concert with the well-known “Chapel of Love,” made famous by The Dixie Cups in 1964.

The Crystals. (Photo: Jessica Meditz)

Led by Brooklyn’s own Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew, an original member of the group, The Crystals went on to sing other classics such as “Rescue Me,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “He’s A Rebel.”

After The Crystals closed out with a soulful expression of “I’ll Be There” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the Maspeth Federal Savings team took the stage to announce the winner of a Ford Mustang Mach-E, the grand prize of their 75 Days of Giving celebration.

“Maspeth Federal has been here for 75 years serving these great communities, and we’re so proud to announce that we’ve raised over $20,000 for charities during our 75 Days of Giving,” said Thomas Rudzewick, president and CEO of Maspeth Federal Savings.

“We’re very proud to announce that there were over 3,000 entrants to win this beautiful Ford Mustang Mach-E,” he continued. “I’m so thankful for this great event and 75 years of serving the community.”

After an intern from Maspeth Federal spun the canister with the entries, Rudzewick announced the winner as Martyna Kowalski, a nurse in the area and a customer of the bank.

The Happenings, led by Bobby Miranda, kept the excitement going with their matching red jackets and enthusiasm.

The Happenings, led by Bobby Miranda.

They serenaded the crowd with hits such as “See You in September,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Go Away Little Girl,” and closed out their performance in true “Maspeth is America” fashion with “God Bless the USA.”

Bobby Wilson, the son of famed soul singer, Jackie Wilson, closed out the show performing hits of his father’s, as well as other R&B and doo-wop classics.

As part of their 75 Days of Giving, Maspeth Federal Savings put on other concerts throughout the series: Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra, a polka music band; The Chiclettes, performing rock & roll, motown and disco hits; and Louis Del Prete, a singer, dancer and musician performing music throughout the decades.

Additionally, the bank awarded other prizes throughout the 75 days, including a Roku, Apple Watch, iPad and Mets tickets.

Bobby Wilson. (Photo: Jessica Meditz)

They also initiated a sense of community through giving out gift cards to local businesses, such as Aigner Chocolates, Valentino Food Market, O’Neill’s Restaurant and Eddie’s Sweet Shop.

“The 75 Days of Giving was a tremendous success,” said Jill Nicolois, assistant vice president and community affairs director at Maspeth Federal Savings.

“To say [the winner of the car] is excited would be an understatement. We are so thrilled for her,” she continued. “It was great to see people excited to come in and anticipate things, and to serve the neighborhood.”

Maspeth Federal Savings continues to host community events, including the upcoming Movie Nights featuring “Luca” and “Encanto” on Aug. 19 and 26, respectively, the annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Sept. 10 and the Smile On Maspeth Carnival on Sept. 18.

Wild West shootout in Maspeth

By Daniel Offner
[email protected]

Gunfire erupted in the early morning on Saturday, June 11, at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 58th Avenue in Maspeth, sending people scrambling for their lives. Police responded and made an arrest, recovering a firearm from the scene.

The incident occurred at approximately 6 a.m., when a man, who was described as disheveled with ripped clothing, reportedly walked into Pat’s Service Station on Rust Street. Witnesses said he was robbed of his wallet and cellphone and asked to use the phone at the station.

Kevin Coyne of Pat’s Service Station said that a man walked in with scratches all over his face claiming he just got beat up and mugged. “A couple of minutes later I heard shots,” he told The Queens Ledger.

According to eyewitnesses, the man then ran off and gunfire erupted.

“This is out of hand. Maspeth is supposed to be a safe place,” one eyewitness to the event said. “Police showed up rather quickly, but nonetheless there are so many guns on the street, what are they going to do?”

While attempting to close the roadway to secure the crime scene, a 67-year-old man driving a 2020 Tesla T2 traveling westbound on Rust Street was directed by officers to stop his vehicle. According to police, the driver inadvertently pressed on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, causing him to veer right. The car then mounted the sidewalk and proceeded to collide with the rear of an uninvolved and unoccupied truck at the location.

According to eyewitnesses, the car drove underneath the truck and decapitated the driver who is reportedly in critical condition.

Police indicate that the operator of the vehicle is likely to die as a result of sustaining severe head trauma as a result of being pinned inside his vehicle. FDNY personnel were able to extricate the driver and EMS transported him to Health and Hospitals-Elmhurst in critical condition.

Juan Gonzalez, 31, of Brooklyn, was subsequently arrested at the corner of 59th Avenue and 58th Place, around 8 a.m. According to investigators, he allegedly discharged his firearm following a dispute. The firearm was later recovered at the scene.

Gonzalez faces charges of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, criminal use of a firearm, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a disguised gun, and the possession of a large-capacity ammo feed device, according to a DCPI spokesperson.

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