Maspeth family wants you to remember the reason for the season

By Jessica Meditz

For the past 15 years, the Cotoia family has transformed their own little corner of Maspeth into a winter wonderland.

The holiday season is a time when many people become more grateful for what they have, admire the little things in life and make their loved ones feel special through the art of gift giving.

Seventy-five-year-old Maspeth native Angelica Cotoia — better known as “Mrs. Maspeth” or “the bracelet lady,” wakes up and lives her life like this every day, and the holiday season is just another time to shine.

As an Italian and devout Christian, Cotoia is all about giving to others, keeping tradition and being thankful every day for God.

“I’ve been doing the bracelets for about seven years…I buy them and give them out. They have crosses on them,” Cotoia explained. “I give them to everybody, and there are times when people really need to feel God. I’ll pray with them.”

Each year for the past 15 years, Cotoia and her children work hard after the Thanksgiving holiday to transform their little corner of Maspeth, on Caldwell Avenue and 70th Street, into a winter wonderland.

The Cotoia family. Angelica Cotoia is wearing blue.

Her home, easily spotted by its awning adorned with a cursive letter C, is decorated from top to bottom with multi-colored lights, lit-up candy canes at the entrance, a blow-up Santa Claus, snowman and Christmas tree, a wreath and most notably, in the center, a sign that reads “Jesus is the Reason.”

Her daughter, Christina Dimitropoulos, lives across the driveway from her mother on Caldwell Avenue. They embrace their neighborly setting with decorations that connect the two houses in the middle of the driveway.

Passersby are greeted by Bumble, the Abominable Snowmonster of the North when they walk by Dimitropoulos’ home.

Dimitropoulos’ home features a 20-foot blow-up statue of Bumble, the Abominable Snowmonster of the North from the Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” as well as a light-up sign that says “Celebrate Jesus!”

Her daughters, Paula Behling and Graceann Faulkner, and son Joey Cotoia, also live within the circle, taking part in the decorating tradition each year. Her son, Michael Cotoia, lives in Whitestone, but makes a regular appearance at their Sunday night dinners.

Faulkner’s home on 70th St. illuminates the block with Christmas spirit.

All six Cotoia children were born and raised in that original house on Caldwell Avenue, including Freddy Cotoia, who was killed in 2001.

I lost a son, and I remember telling God, ‘Why did you do this to me? How come you did this to me?’ And God, in my spirit, told me, ‘I know how you feel because they killed my son, too,’” Cotoia said. “That took me to a new place…a place where I could deal with this. Now I’m to a point where I celebrate his life, and he is a part of this life — every single day.”

Freddy is a big part of why Cotoia feels it is essential to keep Christ in Christmas, along with her six grandchildren — all named after the Cotoia children — Michael, Joseph, Gracie, Freddy, Christina and Paula.

We believe the gift from God was Jesus. because it opened the door for gates of heaven. He was a true gift, and that’s why people started to give out gifts,” Cotoia said. “It was just to show love, and God is love. There isn’t anything about God, that’s not love.”

The Cotoia family’s outdoor Christmas decorations are their way of giving a gift to the community during the holiday season, making others smile with special sights and kindness.

In the past before COVID, they would hire a man to sit outside the house and play Santa Claus and purchase gifts for local children. Locals would come to celebrate and donate, and those funds were given to charities, including Boston Children’s Hospital to support cancer research.

Cotoia said she would like to bring that level of community engagement back at a future time.

She’s proud to continue living in the community she’s always called home, and treasures her deep familial connections to Maspeth — exemplified by her family’s longtime businesses, such as Occhiogrosso’s Bakery, as well as her son Joey’s business, J. Cotoia Construction Inc., with the blue van that can be spotted all over town.

In fact, family legend has it that in its early days, this newspaper’s earliest editions were printed in the basement of Grosso’s Groceries on Grand Avenue in the ‘40s, which was owned by her grandparents.

“I really believe that my gift from God is not necessarily money, he gives me enough to pay my bills and I do, then I share with others,” Cotoia said. “He gave me children, grandchildren, in-law children and extended family that I can’t be anything more than grateful for.”

Woman lucky to be alive after Forest Hills car crash, will dedicate her heart to communities

Two heroes perform miraculous rescue on Greenway N

By Michael Perlman

Greenway North in Forest Hills, scene of the accident.

On Aug. 29 at 2 p.m., a kind, healthy and positive-minded woman survived a serious car crash, which resulted in being trapped in an overturned Toyota Prius on Greenway North.

Every day is a blessing, with much to be grateful for, according to Forest Hills resident Eve G. (who requested her full last name be omitted).

She was a passenger who attributes her survival to the miracles of two strangers named Margaux and Brian who did not know one another, but acted on impulse to carry her out of the car at the precise timing.

Furthermore, she owes the miracle to her Catholic faith and the love of her family, beginning with her mother, her best friend.

“I was so happy that morning, when I awoke and put on a brand-new outfit,” Eve said. “I said that today is going to be a big day. I was coming from Jones Beach, going to my home. I was listening to the radio and was very happy.” She last remembers her calling her mother and being close to home. She said, “I’ll be home in five minutes. Don’t worry. I love you, mom.”

The next instance that she recalls is waking up in the middle of the road, with a woman holding her in her arms, comparable to a mother holding a baby.

“I remember seeing the car upside down and all I could do was cry, and I said ‘Thank God I’m alive,’” she said.

Eve was admitted to Jamaica Hospital’s Trauma Center for nearly a week, whereas the driver was evaluated and discharged on the same day.

She sustained a broken leg, a broken neck and one laceration on her head and nearby welts of dried blood, which resulted in being stitched from the front.

She had much to share about the importance of having faith.

“My faith has grown, since I pleaded with God and really asked him to let me live. Here I am telling this story,” she said.

She made gestures as she stated, “I realize that I could have lost my arms, lost my hands, lost my legs, and I could have been paralyzed, but I can move my toes and I’ll be able to walk soon.”

Eve owes much gratitude to her two “guardian angels.”

“For those people to be walking on Greenway North and coming to my aid and removing and holding someone and telling them, ‘Everything will be okay’…a complete stranger…those are heroes, because not everyone can do that,” she explained.

“When I opened my eyes, I saw lots of people staring with their mouths open. Not many people are brave enough,” she continued. “I was held and reassured, and we prayed together until the ambulance came. I don’t know who those people are, but I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

She is also thankful to some hospital staff members.

“They had strong and touching words to say such as, ‘Snap out of it’ and ‘You’re going to be strong,’” she added.

Eve feels that Margaux, whose birthday was on the day of the accident, gave herself the best possible gift in the name of a courageous deed, as in giving birth to a renewed lease on life.

She reminisced, “I had a panic attack in a psychologist’s arms. She is a perfect angel. I remember passing in and out. When I awoke, my vision was blurry. As I was in her arms, Brian said, ‘Don’t worry. The ambulance is here.’”

Not long after 2 p.m., the timing continued to be on her side.

According to Eve, if not for her mailman Kenny, who witnessed the aftermath, her mother may not have been informed at her doorstep about the accident, at least on a timely basis.

Additionally, her cell phone among other possessions may not have been recovered by her mother from a car slated for the junkyard.

“When my mom was frantic, he reassured her that I am okay and standing,” Eve said. Kenny is considered to be a true friend.

In regard to her faith and fate, she thanks her heroes for being in the right place at the right time.

“God had to use these people to come to my aid and serve as angels. He said, ‘Okay, these people will get you out of the car. I know it,’” she said. “They didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t know.”

She is also deeply grateful that she did not take her toy poodle, Winnie, with her in the car, as initially planned.

Eve G. and her dog, Winnie.

Before her accident, Eve never took life for granted.

“I always cherished every moment. I considered myself a religious and grateful person, but now even more so. God gave me a second chance. Now that I’m alive, I will come back stronger. You have to love life,” she said.

She cited the ability to shower, eat on your own, walk and open a door.

She continued, “You never know what tomorrow may bring. One minute you’re at the beach enjoying life, but the next minute you’re at the hospital. I was a completely healthy adult. Within the blink of an eye, your life can radically change, so tell your loved ones, ‘I love you’ and don’t forget to give thanks for everything.”

Eve had the opportunity to reunite by phone with one hero so far, thanks to the power of community behind Facebook groups and NextDoor.

“I was thrilled to hear from Margaux and thanked her. She said, ‘Anyone would have done it,’ but I told her, ‘Not anyone steps up.’”

Furthermore, Eve hopes to reunite with her other hero.

“I want to tell Brian that he’s also brave to remove me. He was comforting as if he knew me. I want to thank him too and give him a hug,” Eve added.

As for her recovery, she explained that the doctors have faith that she will be walking in no time, with the aid of physical therapy. In addition, she makes sure to wear her brace.

A few days ago, after learning about the “It’s A Miracle” TV series, she became an instant fan.

“It reinforces your belief in how there are angels on Earth. They are not just invisible. They are placed here by God to save other human beings. Every day there are miracles. In an episode, a hero threw himself into a river and rescued a boy who was drowning, and another hero knew how to perform CPR,” she said.

Eve’s mother emigrated from Peru, and her father from Guatemala.

She and her mother relocated from New Hyde Park to Forest Hills two years ago, but she long considered Forest Hills to be her home.

She would play at Ehrenreich-Austin Playground and take swimming lessons on Queens Boulevard.

She continues to embrace an active lifestyle and said, “I want to thank God that I am an expert in yoga, since now I am able to hop and stand on my good leg for a long period of time.”

Her interests also include sharing quality family time, Austin Street nightlife, the beach, the gym, Zumba and being a top fan of “Unsolved Mysteries,” where she looks into various cases.

“I also enjoy running on the beach with my dog, Winnie, and going to dog parks,” she added.

She attends Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church (OLQM) and set a goal to attend more often.

“I am a devotee of Padre Pio. Three months ago, I visited the National Centre for Padre Pio, after finding out about him through my church. He performs miracles such as giving a girl a new bladder by interceding through God.”

Eve G. with Padre Pio, weeks before the car crash.

She plans to follow in Padre Pio’s footsteps, who was known for his piety and the quality of his preaching.

“I will be giving as many testimonies as I can at churches, beginning with OLQM and my original church, Notre Dame in New Hyde Park, so people can believe more in God. Testimonies feed your soul that God truly exists. Some people may think that there’s no way I would have made it out alive in a flipped-over car. I am going to speak from the heart with every cell in my body that Jesus exists, since he saved my life.”

Now, Eve finds herself talking to God one-on-one, with an aim of determining upcoming goals.

“He obviously wants me to do bigger things, and whatever that is, I will do it,” she said. “He gave me a second chance and I’m not going to waste it.”

Undoubtedly, Eve is a trooper, who discovers a guiding light in her favorite verse Philippians 4:13, which states, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing