Queens Night Market is thriving post-pandemic

Since it’s opening in 2015, Queens Night Market has built a reputation for its large crowds, diverse vendors, and delicious cheap bites. Although the pandemic forced the food festival to limit capacity and enforce restrictions, it has now returned to full capacity and shows no signs of slowing down.
Queens Night Market founder John Wang and his partner, oral historian and author of the book The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market, Storm Garner, discussed the festival’s origins, success, and cultural importance.
“The really short story is that I was a lawyer, got tired of it, paid off the student loans, and wanted to try something new,” Wang explained. “There were a lot of ideas, but one that seemed really cool was to start New York’s first night market, modeled off the ones I experienced in Taiwan but also something that was uniquely New York.
“We also wanted something uniquely un-New York: being affordable,” he added. “That was the genesis of the $5 price cap.”
Although the food at Queens Night Market is inexpensive, it does a remarkable job of representing the many diverse communities living within the borough.
“The truth is that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx are all diverse, but Queens just happens to be the most diverse,” Wang said. “I think the year we launched was the year that Queen’s was named the ‘World’s Borough.’ It is, by some accounts, the most diverse place in the world.”
“I think it really is something unique,” Garner chimed in. “It felt a bit like an endangered species during the Trump era and certainly during the pandemic, but now it feels like it’s coming back.
“I challenge anyone to think of a place in all of New York, diverse as it is, where you can stand in the same place and within 50 feet of you in any direction talk to somebody whose life story is so different from your own and the person next to them,” she added. “The seven train is often just as diverse, but less happy.”
Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the famous 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the Queens Night Market features over 100 vendors whose artwork, merchandise, and food celebrates the cultural diversity of Queens.
Yet like all of New York City’s institutions, the market was fundamentally challenged by the pandemic. Although many vendors are returning this year alongside the festival, others were not able to support themselves without a year’s worth of revenue.
“One of my favorite vendors, someone who I thought was really nice, lost her ability to be a vendor at the Night Market,” Wang explained. “ They lost their apartment because they couldn’t pay rent and had to move in with extended family out of town. We’ve been trying hard to get them back to New York.”
Despite these hardships, Queens Night Market continues to be a source of great joy for both Wang and Garner.
“There’s usually five or 10 or 15 minutes, usually when I have a beer or wine in my hand, that I can sit back and enjoy what has happened,” Wang said. “You stare around at all the smiling faces and it looks like all of New York City is in attendance.”
“If you come to the Night Market, especially in the last few weeks since the pandemic reopening, I have to say it’s just the most magical feeling,” Garner said. “It’s just so much joy. There are so many uncynical New Yorkers, who I’m sure they’re cynical in most of their lives, but for a few hours on a Saturday night everyone’s nice to each other.”
Queens Night Market is held at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near the New York Hall of Science every Saturday night from 6 p.m. until Midnight. The market’s summer season lasts until August 21 and is followed by a fall season lasting from September 18 until October 30.

Queens College skips in-person graduation

Despite falling case numbers and an ever-growing number of vaccinations, Queens College will host no in-person graduation due to the pandemic. The CUNY school’s decision has generated harsh criticism from parents and students alike.
“For some families, this might be the first kid to ever graduate from college,” explained one distressed parent. “They could plan it in a couple of days. All they need to do is set up a tent and hand out diplomas.”
Last year, Queens College and many other schools cancelled their in-person graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic. At that time, Queens College pledged to offer 2020 graduates a ceremony later in the summer or fall, but that never materialized.
This year, many of New York City’s colleges and universities have returned to in-person graduation ceremonies, including St. John’s, Fordham, and Adelphi. Queens College is currently only planning on screening a graduation video on YouTube in early June.
“I’m a single parent and I’ve put everything towards helping my son graduate,” explained one mother. “Why can’t they organize something just for parents and for the kids to walk and grab their diplomas?”
“While Queens College would love to have an in-person commencement this year, it simply isn’t possible,” explained Maria Matteo, assistant director of Media and College Relations for Queens College. “With approximately 2,500 graduates each year, along with their family members, faculty, alumni, and administrators, we normally exceed 10,000 people on the Quad during graduation. It was not possible to consider an event of that size this year when we factor in the health and safety protocols in place for the benefit of the campus community.
At the end of April and the beginning of May, Queens College held three weekends of photo experiences on campus for both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021,” Matteo added. “Additional photo opportunities are being scheduled on June 28 and 29 for those who were not able to participate during the past sessions. President Wu met student leaders recently to discuss a possible in-person graduation event of some sort in the late summer or early fall. We are considering this, consistent with health and safety factors, and as details are developed it will be shared with the QC community.”
Queens College offered all classes virtually throughout the past school year. Some classes were conducted completely without instructors and relied solely on virtual education modules.
However, the school has organized some in-person events throughout the year, including photoshoots for students and faculty. Some parents are particularly annoyed by the school’s seemingly inconsistent stances.
Determined parents continue to lobby the school into changing its decision, even after the June 3rd virtual ceremony.
“They had an entire year to figure out a contingency plan,” an adamant critic explained. “A graduation can absolutely be put together within two to three days by renting a tent and making an announcement. To not do anything is a mistake, especially since they have plenty of outdoor space.”

All names have been withheld per the request of those interviewed.

Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial vandalized

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park was vandalized sometime between Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
Graffiti vandals spray-painted “Baby Killers” and swastikas, among other things, in the shadow of several wreaths that were placed there last Thursday morning during a Memorial Day ceremony.
The memorial was dedicated on December 26, 2019. It culminated a decade-long push for the $2.85 million monument, which features a curved bench flanked by two semi-closed granite walls.
One wall bears the names of 371 men from Queens who fought and died in the Vietnam War. The second features a timeline of the war and a map of key locations.
An additional plaque honors the lives of veterans who died from illnesses related to their service in Vietnam. It includes the name of Pat Toro, a former president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 who began the push for a memorial in 2008.
He passed away in 2014 due to complications from exposure to Agent Orange during his time in service.

New exhibit features work of BIPOC artists

South Queens Women’s March (SQWM) held the opening night of its inaugural art exhibition “Made in Queens” last Saturday.
The exhibit is on view at King Manor Museum at 150-03 Jamaica Avenue inside Rufus King Park in Jamaica.
“We exist to connect women, girls and gender-fluid people with the tools they need to thrive,” said Aminta Kilawan-Narine, founder and director of SQWM. “This includes access to the arts.”
“Made in Queens” is SQWM’s attempt decolonize the art world. The exhibit highlights local BIPOC artists, one of the least represented groups in the art world.
“We’ve made it a point to use art as a catalyst for social and political change, and as part of healing in our work to curb gender-based violence,” added Kilawan-Narine. “What you will see in King Manor Museum is emblematic of our voice being our power. These pieces literally live out loud.”
The exhibit will feature works by Veli V, Kerry Cox, Amy Simon, Seema Shakti, Amelia Inderjeit, Farhana Akther, Movina Seepersaud, Kim David, Juliet James, Angela Miskis, Maria Liebana, Shristi Sookram, Sherese Francis and Giancarlo Vargas.
It is curated by SQWM board member Fatima Shabbir.
“Art has the ability to heal, provoke, tell stories and build communities,” said Shabbir. Through the selection and design process, I was constantly thinking about art accessibility and community representation. This is an exhibit I wanted to see growing up in Queens and one I‘ve always wanted to participate in.”
The opening night was sponsored by The Nest Restaurant and Bar, Mr. Wonton Queens, High Profile Sounds and Events, and Renee K Productions.
Artists were presented with citations from Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition of their contributions to New York City’s cultural and arts landscape.
Made in Queens will be open to the public from May 16 through September 15 at the former home of Rufus King, a framer and signer of the United States Constitution.
“Once Rufus and Mary King’s bedroom, this room had been a cluttered storage space for decades and we look forward to welcoming more artists and other community members into the space,” said museum executive director Kelsey Brow. “The contrast of contemporary art with the nearly 250-year-old architecture brings such vibrancy to the museum and fits perfectly with our vision of using lessons from the past to shine a light on contemporary issues.”

To view the exhibit, members of the public must book a reservation at kingmanor.org.

Queens College Knights make All-ECC teams

Four Queens College Knights were named to the East Coast Conference All-Conference team.
Freshmen first basemen Reed Hoskins earned a First Team selection. Freshmen outfielder Andrew Smith, sophomore left-handed pitcher Liam Pulsipher, and sophomore left-handed pitcher Dean Fazah made the Second Team.
Hoskins is the second freshmen for the Knights to earn First Team honors. He started in 24 games and in 77 at-bats went on to lead the Knights in batting average (.351), doubles (7), total bases (41), hits (27) and triples (2).
On the season, Hoskins was awarded Rookie of the Week honors in the last week of the regular season.
“Reed was a big part of our success this season,” said coach Chris Reardon. “He transitioned into a new role and excelled at first base and was a mainstay in the starting lineup while batting in the middle of the order for us.”
Smith was a consistent performer in his first year as a Knights as he appeared and started in 21 games either in right field or as the designated hitter in the starting lineup.
He ranked among the top five leaders in several categories, and he produced eight multi-hit performances on the year.
One of two pitchers to be named all-conference for the Knights, Pulsipher was a pillar in the starting rotation. Starting seven games, he produced a 3-2 record pitching 38.2 innings with a second-best ERA of 3.26, with opponents batting only .196 against the lefty.
Among the Knights pitching rotation, he ranks second in strikeout (40), while tied for eighth among conference pitchers.
Nationally he is ranked 42nd in Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings (6.12).
He opened the season with a win pitching 5.0 IP, allowing 4 hits, ER, and struck out five in the Knights 7-4 win over the Cougars.
On April 10, he produced a complete-inning gem, as he shut out the D’Youville College Saints, allowing only three hits and striking out a career-high 12 batters.
Fazah showed his experience throughout the season as one of the backbones in the Knights pitching rotation.
On the season, he appeared in eight games and made four starts to finish the regular season with a 3-1 record. He pitched 32.0 innings, leading the Knights in strikeouts (42) with an ERA of 3.94. He held opponents to a .260 batting average.
Nationally he ranked 41st in Strikeouts Per Nine Inning (12.49).
“In his first year with us Dean showed us his versatility and value throughout the season,” said Reardon. “He could be a spot starter as well as being a relief pitcher out of the bullpen.”

Groups spread word about restaurant fund

The restaurant industry was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one dire forecast predicting close to half of all food and restaurant businesses in Queens would shutter by year’s end.
To help revitalize the industry, the Biden Administration created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides grants for restaurants and bars equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
Members of Queens Together and the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) gathered outside The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights last Friday to urge business owners to file applications to get a share of the $28 billion fund.
They handed out flyers in six different languages promoting the fund. Over the next two weeks, they plan to do the same in Rosedale, Jamaica, Laurelton, Flushing, Elmhurst, Astoria, Corona and Long Island City.
“We need restaurants to file the application as soon as possible because it’s a federal program and people across the country will be applying,” said Shurn Anderson from the office of Borough President Donovan Richards.
The application for the grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid if it is used by 2023, can be accessed online at the Small Business Administration website or by contacting QEDC, which will offer filing assistance to business owners.
Through May 24, the SBA will only approve applications from businesses that are majority-owned by women, veterans, or those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Ahead of a full reopening of restaurants on May 19, Jonathan Forgash from Queens Together, a grassroots group created at the start of the pandemic to advocate for the restaurants, painted a picture of an industry in deep distress.
As of last December, he said 92 percent of small businesses couldn’t afford the rent.
QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein said everyone in the restaurant industry has been hurt by the pandemic. He said it wasn’t just the restaurants that were hurt, but their suppliers as well.

Groups spread word about restaurant fund

The restaurant industry was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one dire forecast predicting close to half of all food and restaurant businesses in Queens would shutter by year’s end.
To help revitalize the industry, the Biden Administration created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides grants for restaurants and bars equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, with a cap of $10 million per business and $5 million per location.
Members of Queens Together and the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) gathered outside The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights last Friday to urge business owners to file applications to get a share of the $28 billion fund.
They handed out flyers in six different languages promoting the fund. Over the next two weeks, they plan to do the same in Rosedale, Jamaica, Laurelton, Flushing, Elmhurst, Astoria, Corona and Long Island City.
“We need restaurants to file the application as soon as possible because it’s a federal program and people across the country will be applying,” said Shurn Anderson from the office of Borough President Donovan Richards.
The application for the grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid if it is used by 2023, can be accessed online at the Small Business Administration website or by contacting QEDC, which will offer filing assistance to business owners.
Through May 24, the SBA will only approve applications from businesses that are majority-owned by women, veterans, or those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Ahead of a full reopening of restaurants on May 19, Jonathan Forgash from Queens Together, a grassroots group created at the start of the pandemic to advocate for the restaurants, painted a picture of an industry in deep distress.
As of last December, he said 92 percent of small businesses couldn’t afford the rent.
QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein said everyone in the restaurant industry has been hurt by the pandemic. He said it wasn’t just the restaurants that were hurt, but their suppliers as well.

New exhibit at Queens Museum examines truth

In Strange But True, a new exhibit opening at the Queens Museum, artist Sydney Shen takes a look at the construction of truth and methodologies used to establish facts, focusing on photographic documentation practices and their power to shape culture norms.
In her work, the New York-based artist often creates sculptures and environments that commingle historical and contemporary symbols.
For her new solo exhibition, she explores various photographic techniques, juxtaposing early medical photographs with contemporary forms, like closed-circuit television, to cull a visual vocabulary focused on our voyeuristic sensibilities of “othered bodies.”
Literally a sideways world, Strange But True is an immersive installation that blurs the line between amusing and sinister, using the distance of metafiction in conjunction with optical manipulations to demonstrate that the study of evidence can never offer a complete and unbiased picture.
Strange But True was in part inspired by Shen’s interest in the philosopher Georges Bataille, whose writings on macabre and taboo subjects have long been a touchstone for her. With this exhibition, Shen contends with a friction that arises between her alignment with Bataille’s sensibilities, and the factual inaccuracies that his assertions can leverage and sustain, from his Western White male gaze.
Bataille was transfixed by photos of “lingchi,” an obsolete Chinese method of execution, also known as “death by a thousand cuts.” He heralded it as a rare depiction of a person in a spiritual state of rapturous suffering.
“Bataille’s flawed interpretation shaped assumptions still held today about Chinese culture, religion, and society,” said Shen. “This leads me to wonder how I can reconcile my relation to these photographs and Bataille, when my own racial selfhood is subject to — perhaps even influenced by — the gaze that the discourse around these photos has perpetuated?”
The role of photography in pathologizing bodies is also connected to the culture of world expositions, which dating back to the 19th century notoriously presented both official and unofficial exhibitions of marginalized bodies, such as foreign peoples, women, and the disabled, as curiosities to be consumed.
The two New York World’s Fairs of 1939-40 and 1964-65 were no exception: the fairgrounds were surrounded by plentiful adult amusements, including sideshows and peep shows, voyeuristic invitations that are inextricably linked to the mechanics and aesthetics of photographic technology.
Both fairs liberally deployed spectacle to promote an unrelenting optimism toward technological innovation.
The 1939-40 Fair celebrated the 100th anniversary of photography and featured an entire pavilion dedicated to the Eastman Kodak Co., where, among elaborate installations, fairgoers were first introduced to Kodachrome color film, billed as a surefire way to “capture life, just as you see it.”

Strange But True is organized by assistant curator Sophia Marisa Lucas and is on view April 28 through August 22.

Author pens book about historic homes of Queens

A new book explores the notable homes across the borough of Queens.
Historic Houses of Queens was written by Rob MacKay, who currently works for the Queens Economic Development Corporation. His interest in writing the book
grew after he became a trustee of the Queens Historical Society.
Queens boasts a rich history that includes dozens of poorly publicized, but historically impressive, houses.
A mix of farmsteads, mansions, seaside escapes, and architecturally significant dwellings, the homes were owned by America’s forefathers, nouveau riche industrialists, Wall Street tycoons, and prominent African American entertainers from the Jazz Age.
Rufus King, a senator and the youngest signer of the US Constitution, operated a
large family farm in Jamaica, while piano manufacturer William Steinway lived in a 27-room, granite and bluestone Italianate villa in Astoria.
Musicians whose homes are still standing in the borough include Louis Armstrong,
Count Basie, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lena Horne.
Through more than 200 photographs, Historic Houses of Queens explores the homes’ architecture, owners, surrounding neighborhoods, and peculiarities.
All the while, MacKay considers that real humans lived in them. They grew up in them. They relaxed in them. They proudly showed them to friends and family. And in some cases, they lost them to fire, financial issues or urban renewal projects.
“This is a true labor of love,” said MacKay, who lives in Sunnyside. I spent a countless weekends on research and writing,” said MacKay, who lives in Sunnyside. “But it was worth it. Queens is such a special place, and its history is absolutely fascinating. It’s an honor and a pleasure to share this information with readers.”

Historic Houses of Queens is currently available on Arcadia Publishing’s website.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing