Organizers Push Ardila to Resign With Sit-In

The organizers held a sit-in at Ardila’s office on Skillman Ave. in Sunnyside. Photo Credit: @hailieforqueens on Twitter

By Iryna 

Three community members held a sit-in for over ten hours in Assemblyman Juan Ardila’s Sunnyside office last week, in an effort to push him to resign. 

The individuals, including Hailie Kim, former city council candidate in district 26, and Thomas Muccioli, a campaign staffer for Congresswoman Alexdra Ocasio-Cortez, confronted Ardila with a sign that read “Resign Now!” in the office’s lobby. Adam Friedman, a former staffer for Ardila, also showed up and documented the interaction. 

“It was not a comfortable situation for anybody involved, I can say that,” said Kim, a Sunnyside resident, in an interview with the Queens Ledger. “We were there for over 10 hours, or at least 10 hours.” 

The assemblyman, who represents Maspeth, Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Long Island City, was first accused of sexually assaulting two women earlier this March, and since then, countless electeds across the city and state have called for his resignation. Despite the large push for him to step down, Ardila has maintained his innocence and says he will carry on serving his constituents. 

But other elected officials whose districts overlap with his say that a working relationship with him, both in the district and in Albany, has been difficult due to his outcast status. Kim also pointed out that the lack of collaboration has hurt nonprofits and constituents in the district. 

There is an issue of leadership in our district where there was no coordinated effort to distribute discretionary funds to nonprofits in our community and so there were nonprofits who do great work and were zeroed out,” wrote Kim on Twitter alongside images from the sit-in. “This is unacceptable.”

At one point during the day, Ardila says he spoke to the protestors for two hours. Photo credit: @hailieforqueens on Twitter

In May, the New York Post reported that Jeffrion Aubry handled $250,000 worth of discretionary funds from the state budget to support community based organization within Ardila’s district.

Kim also pointed out that during her lengthy stay in the office, only a handful of constituents stopped by the office on Skillman Ave for services.

“This office is not fully functional,” said Kim, who previously worked in the nonprofit sector. “All day, there were not many constituents at all. And especially in a district like ours, it is highly unusual that there are not constantly people there.”

“Three individuals came to my office, and I spoke with them for over two hours, explaining that the allegations were false and that I have never been under any type of criminal investigation,” Ardila said in a statement to the Queens Ledger. “They repeatedly stated that they did not care if I was guilty or innocent, but that I needed to resign regardless.” 

Ardila denied that there were few constituents who came by the office on July 19 when the sit-in was held. 

“No, we were serving many constituents. We had a couple of walk-ins, and a lot of phone calls,” said Ardila in a follow up interview. “I even had to get involved because we were getting a few folks that needed some support. So we were pretty busy throughout the day.”

Ardila confirmed that he spoke to them for “over two hours” while they remained in his office and when it came time to close the office, “they refused to leave.” Kim also said that the conversation “felt like forever” and upon closing, “Juan and his staff stepped over us to leave and we were told if the landlord called the police on us, it would not be their fault.”

In a video of the interaction shared by Ardila, Kim and Muccioli are seen planted in front of the office’s main door as Ardila and his staffer stepped around them to leave for the day. The landlord remained in the office for an unknown period of time after their exit. 

Both Kim and Muccioli also shared their personal experiences with sexual assault with the Assemblyman during the confrontation in an effort to encourage him to take a restorative justice approach to the accusations against him. This approach aims to have offenders take responsibility, admit harm caused and take the opportunity to redeem themselves. 

“We weren’t trying to center the allegations, specifically, we were trying to center the fact that there were things that Assemblymember ought to be able to do that were not being done as a result of these allegations,” clarified Kim. 

Kim previously ran for city council twice in district 26, which includes Sunnyside, against current Councilwoman Julie Won. But she says that this act of protest should not be viewed in an electoral light.

“I want a district where if someone holds an action like this to hold an elected official accountable, I don’t want it to be seen as an electoral choice,” said Kim. “We have the right to express discontent and just want better for our district. And not necessarily just with the intention of running for office.”

Shower Power Addresses Lack of Hygiene Resources for Migrants

The Shower Power team is establishing themselves in Queens at a new location in Ridgewood.

By Iryna Shkurhan |

While many organizations are tackling food insecurity, Shower Power is one of the few providing proper hygiene resources to the city’s most vulnerable one shower at a time. 

Since 2017, the nonprofit has facilitated over 5,000 showers to individuals in need through their mobile shower trailers. They have also distributed over 25,000 personal care kits stuffed with necessary toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant and soap. 

For the thousands of New Yorkers that sleep in a shelter, access to a shower may not be necessarily clean, private or even safe. And for those who sleep on the streets, taking a shower is almost impossible. With self care in mind, Shower Power has been stepping in to provide hygiene resources, and friendship, to anyone in transition to permanent housing.

“Hunger is a major concern, but there’s more to a person. There’s more to their needs, and a lot of places don’t address that,” said Chantal Wallace, a Jamaica native, who joined the organization in 2021. 

Before heading into a freshly cleaned, and ultra private shower stall, a team member hands visitors a freshly laundered towel and a personal caddy filled with cups of toiletries that they  request. New socks, underwear and shirts are also offered up, and gladly accepted by most. 

The shower trailer, and parking lot where it’s located, is ADA accessible.

The city’s homeless shelter population ballooned dramatically in 2022 and reached levels unseen since the Great Depression. Experts attribute the dire crisis to a lack of affordable housing and higher rates of serious mental illness, both of which worsened following the pandemic. Since last spring, 90,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the city and ensued an ongoing struggle to provide adequate housing and resources. 

For its fourth season, which typically lasts eight months, Shower Power landed in Queens for the first time after solely being based in Manhattan. For now, they’re open three days a week in Ridgewood from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. until cold weather will force them to end the season. Last year, they provided free showers up until the second week of November.

Tucked away in the parking lot of Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, the unmarked white shower trailer unassumingly fits three shower rooms with separate entrances, and one larger wheelchair accessible room. These types of trailers have been used in disaster relief, as well as summer camps and music festivals. 

Richard Vernon, the Executive Director of Shower Power for the past year, says that it was a priority to secure a location that was ADA compliant and easily accessible for those in wheelchairs. The church on 70th Ave, with a ramp from the sidewalk leading to the parking lot, fit the bill.  

Dan DeBrucker, the Parish Associate for Community Engagement at Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, heard about their need for a new location through the Supportive Housing Network. The church invited them to use the lot, along with water and electricity to make the shower trailer functional. 

Before moving to Ridgewood two years ago, DeBrucker was a social worker that focused on addressing homelessness and a lack of affordable housing in the Syracuse area. He is also the National Organizer at the Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness. 

“As the community tells us what they’re looking for, we basically don’t say no,” said DeBrucker, who also serves on Community Board 5. “Our best commodity is that we have space.”

When the trailers were stationed in Manhattan, which has a larger concentration of homeless individuals than outer boroughs, they had no issue attracting people. Some days they would even have to turn away shower seekers after serving around 90 people in a single day. But since coming to Queens several weeks ago, they have only had the opportunity to provide a handful of showers. 

The nonprofit provides various free toiletries, as well as new socks and underwear to visitors.

“It’s still in the very early days,” said Vernon, who previously worked in disaster preparedness and recovery with The Salvation Army. “It’s not it’s not like setting up in a busy part of Manhattan. It’s going to take a little bit longer.”

“It always starts like that. But then once that first group comes, then it’s just flooded,” added Luis Melindez, who has been working with Shower Power since 2018. 

The team agrees word of mouth has been the most effective way of bringing in the people that need their services the most, and turning them into regulars. 

“​In this particular area, we’ve been just going everywhere. Any business we see, any place we may see someone that looks like they’re in need of our services,” said Wallace, who oversees community outreach. “We’ve just been going all around handing out cards, flyers, talking to people and just getting the word out that we’re here and we’re looking for people to come.”

But on Friday morning, a group of a dozen migrants from a shelter in Brooklyn walked through the gates of the church’s parking lot led by a volunteer. With lit up faces, the Shower Power team sprang into action. 

While the volunteer took down names, Wallace started pumping various toiletries into disposable cups to fill up the caddies. Melindez guided the men to their private showers and kept track of their time, before cleaning the stall for the next person. Vernon went on the hunt for extra plastic containers where the migrants could store their personal belongings while showing. 

It was a rush that the Shower Power team was hoping for after weeks of low turnout at the new location. 

The migrant men have been sleeping in a temporary shelter at Stockton St. in Bushwick since arriving in the city the last week of June. They say that the location has no showers available to use, and barely functioning bathrooms. 

Since arriving in the city, the men have only been able to take showers at a nearby public pool. But some say that they feel uncomfortable using the showers there out of necessity, instead of related to recreational visits like others. The pool is also located several blocks away from the shelter. 

Souleimane, a 33-year old who arrived in New York from Mauritania last month, shared that his shower in the trailer was great, and much more comfortable than the public pool’s communal showers where he has to pretend he is there recreationally. Prior to his visit to Ridgewood, he was only able to take two showers arriving in the city, and both were at the pool. 

The migrants signed in and selected their toiletries before taking a private shower in the trailer.

“If I knew all your names, I would thank you individually,” said Souleimane through the French speaking volunteer that escorted the group to the site on public transportation. “I would feel comfortable coming here to shower everyday.”

The mutual aid group volunteer, who did not want to be named, is a French teacher during the school year. With some extra time on her hands in the summer, she guided the group to the site since many are still unfamiliar with the city and need translation assistance. 

Sidi, another recent migrant whose journey to New York from Mauritania totaled twelve days, said the living arrangement at the shelter “would be much better” if showers were available on site. While he says that he is grateful for a place to sleep and food to eat, not having a place to maintain proper hygiene is “not a good situation.”

“You know that when you come here, you’re going to be treated well and consistently,” said Vernon. “People show up time after time. Then friendships form, which is part of the idea.”

The Shower Power team says that their organization is about more than just providing showers and toiletries, creating a sense of community where people can return, whether they need the shower or not, is just as important.

“We get attached to the people that come, and it’s not a job for me. We do have relationships with these people outside of our work hours,” said Wallace. “We check on them. We call them, you know the ones that have access to phones, and we make sure they’re doing well.” 

“You get to know their names, their backstories and sometimes they don’t even come here for a shower,” she added. “They just want an ear, and we’re here to provide that for them too, while working of course in serving the ones that do need to take a shower.”

Establishing the necessary trust with the community can be an issue initially. Showering in itself is a vulnerable experience, even more so in public when you need strangers to assist you. And being homeless adds another layer of vulnerability that makes one more likely to experience traumatic events.

“A lot of them are very fearful when we approach them, because of the experiences that they may have had in shelters, or even just people not being nice to them on the streets,” said Wallace. “They’re almost frightful to come, you know, use our services, which is very unfortunate.”

The issue is especially prevalent among homeless women. Wallace recalled that women who would stop by the trailer when it was in Manhattan would feel more comfortable waiting for all the men to finish showering, despite having access to a private shower behind a closed door. 

A study conducted in Florida found that 78 percent of homeless women were subjected to rape, physical assault, and/or stalking at some point in their lifetimes. They also found that physical or sexual assault leads to longer periods of homelessness for victims. 

“That’s why a lot of people don’t like to go into shelters, they’d rather stay outside, as sad as it is,” said Melindez, who heard about shower advocacy when he was coming out of a shelter in Brooklyn three years ago.

Ideally, Shower Power hopes to be able to provide showers year round from a host site that already has a shower space that is underutilized. And their two existing trailers would come in handy during the summer months, when people generally want to shower more. 

“Even now having two trailers is just such a big feat for us. Being able to operate in two locations at a time is amazing because the need is everywhere,” said Melindez. “This is something that needs to be in every borough, with several locations. It’s only up from here.”

‘Matchmaking’ Fair Connects Schools with STEM in District 24

The team at NYC Stem Network.

By Ariel Pacheco |

To provide students in Pre-K-8 with more opportunities in STEM, Community School District 24 held a matchmaking STEM provider fair on Friday, June 9, where representatives from schools were able to connect with STEM providers to lay the groundwork for programs beginning in September of 2023.  

Although the fair was scheduled to be held at PS/IS 128 in Middle Village, it quickly shifted to taking place virtually due to poor air quality in the New York City area. Despite the last-minute shift, about 100 participants were still in attendance.

District 24 covers Middle Village, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale, Elmhurst and Corona.

Schools will be allowed to apply for financial assistance to bring and sustain these programs into their curriculum. The fair was hosted by NYC STEM Education Network in partnership with ExpandED Schools and Community School District 24. There is a total of $25,000 available in funding from ExpandED schools with awards capped at $5,000 per school. 

“STEM education really is just a window into the world,” said Ellen Darensbourg, the Grants Manager and STEM Support for Community School District 24, during the fair. “It really gives our kids a leg up into all the possibilities that are out there for them and it helps make what they learn everyday real and applicable.” 

Emma Banay, the Senior Director of STEM at ExpandED Schools, estimates that they should be able to assist about five to ten schools with the funding allocated to the school district. 

“There’s a real focus on creating high-quality engaging STEM experiences and making sure there is access and equity for those who have been historically excluded,” said Banay. “We want to engage students in a creative, critical thinking way so that they can express who they are and who they want to become.” 

Representatives from schools across the district were able to get detailed overviews from nearly 20 STEM providers in attendance. It was a forum for discussion and the first step towards partnerships between schools and STEM providers. 

Planning for the fair had been ongoing since early March when an initial “needs assessment” was conducted. The needs assessment entailed a survey created in tandem with District 24’s planning team to see what schools were looking for from STEM programs and gave them a setting to have their voices heard. 

“The survey was distributed to teachers and principals across the district to get a better feel for what they were looking for and a better understanding of what was going on in the district,” said Banay. 

Through this needs assessment, the coalition of STEM organizations learned that District 24 needed programming that supported multilingual learners, students with disabilities, and mixed-ability age groups. They also learned that there was a need for in-class programs, field trip locations and programming geared toward professional development. 

City Councilmember Julie Won, who represents District 26 in Queens, was in attendance and spoke about her own personal experience working in tech and how it helped lead her to where she is now. Won worked at IBM for close to a decade in various roles prior to becoming a councilwoman.

“It is so important that our schools have these programs and that our students are getting exposure from early on,” said Won. “I am grateful that everyone is here to make sure that we’re connecting our children to the most holistic education possible.” 

Similar fairs will be held for Community School District 4 in Harlem in August and Community School District 9 in the Bronx in November. 

Fuoco Music Center to Celebrate 50 with Concert

By Iryna Shkurhan |

Walking inside Joe Fuoco’s Music Center is asking to be transported back in time to the days when music was tangible.

Underneath hanging guitars, the walls are packed with grateful letters from past students and yellowing newspaper clips from the days before the internet, when listening to music took more than turning on your phone.

This year, Joe and Jeanette Fuoco marked 50 years of providing the community with a space to take music lessons and acquire instruments. The duo has also been a well-known staple in the community for live performances, ranging from weddings to street festivals and philanthropic events.

“People say to me, did you ever think you’d go 50 years with the business, I say, I didn’t think I’d go 50 years, but I did,” said Joe Fuoco in an interview with the Queens Ledger.

To celebrate the anniversary, they are holding a concert on Saturday, June 10 at 6 p.m outside at Glendale United Methodist Church where old and new students, ranging from eight-years old to 75 will perform. The music will range from jazz to country, and include oldies from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as some originals written by Joe and Jeanette. Proceeds from the event will go to organizations that benefit children with cancer.

“Music has no age. You can learn at any age,” said Joe, who has taught students in their 60s and 70s.

Joe started playing the accordion at four years old, and by 15 he was also playing guitar, the piano and was well versed in music theory and composition. His parents encouraged him to start giving out music lessons out of their home at the time, and he says there was no shortage of students who lined up.

The doors to the original Fuoco Music Center on 71st Avenue and 60th Lane in Ridgewood opened on March 1, 1973. And after a brief stint on Cooper Ave, they bought the building they currently teach out of on Myrtle Ave. in Glendale and have played there ever since.

Since then, Joe says thousands of students have come through their door for music lessons. Today the center has a packed enrollment of about 60-100 students per week, as well as a waiting list. Joe and Jeanette both teach the keyboard, guitar, drums, bass, violin, saxophone and vocals those interested in learning.

“It’s as strong as it ever was,” said Joe on the business. “We do teach just about all the instruments and you know, because, I mean it’s only 12 notes, just a question of finding them on the instrument that you have. That’s all it really is. That simple.”

For the past 50 years, Joe and Jeanette have held down the fort largely on their own. The couple balances running the business side of things, teaching students five days a week and performing live gigs in the community. But to them, it doesn’t feel like work.

In a way, Joe and Jeanette met through music. The two were students at Christ The King High School in Middle Village when they came across each other in the library and began talking about music.

“I really couldn’t do it without her because you just gotta have somebody with you,” said Joe, who will perform alongside Jeanette at the concert.

Around that time, he spent days and nights playing in more bands than he can recall at weddings, parties, clubs and on the radio. The same versatility that allowed him to play in a jazz club one night and in a wedding band the next, showed up as a music teacher that can teach just about anything.

He recalls that some of his students from decades past are now grandparents who bring their grandkids in for music lessons. And many of his former students are in the music business in some way. Whether as recording engineers, songwriters or playing weddings in a band. One of his former students is even traveling from Florida to perform at the anniversary concert.

“They were young kids at the time. And it just meant a lot to them. And in many ways, that’s, that’s better than a hit record, the fact that it made their lives better, you know, that’s certainly something that I felt really good about,” said Joe, who received an outpouring of support when he announced the anniversary on his Facebook page.

According to the couple, they have no plans to stop teaching music and playing in the community any time soon.

Joe says that getting good at playing all comes down to practice, how much you love it, your passion and ultimately some degree of talent. Though, he says that persistence is key.

“I want to make you good,” he said. “I want to make you feel as good as I do when I play.”

5 Community Fridges For Giving and Taking

The NYC Community Fridge Mapping project features 136 fridges across the city and allows anyone to post an update with a look inside the fridge.

By Iryna 

In an effort to address food insecurity during the pandemic, community fridges started by regular New Yorkers popped up across the city. Oftentimes they are regular fridges, colorfully decorated, that sit on the sidewalk. Anyone can open the door and take what they need, no questions asked. And If your circumstances permit, you are welcome to leave quality food items for others. 

The fridge movement is based on the concept of mutual aid, which rejects charity and encourages building interdependent relationships outside of power structures. It is powered through cooperation and the responsibility to take care of your neighbors. 

Currently there are 136 community fridges across the city, according to the NYC Community Fridge Mapping project which tracks their location and status. The site allows visitors to post photos and updates on the contents of a fridge to keep fridge users informed. Fridgekeepers can also add a new fridge or update the status of an existing one. 

There are several fridges that closed operations in the past several months due to various circumstances. But these five locations across Queens are still up and running. 

Fenix Community Fridge

Located in Ridgewood, this fridge is run by Beatriz Perez who started the project in the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, she was working at Fenix Car Service on Seneca Ave where the fridge is currently located. With the recent influx of Latin American migrants arriving in NYC, organizers at the location stepped up to collect clothes, strollers and other necessary goods on top of their regular food distribution work. They regularly post updates on collections and events. You can find them on Facebook at @FenixCFridge. 

Astoria Halal Fridge 

In an effort to accommodate Astoria’s Muslim residents, the fridge only accepts food donations that are designed halal. It is located on 3513 23rd Avenue in Astoria, just behind the gates of the Dar Al-Da’awa Mosque. Once a former church, the location is now under the Muslim American Society of Queens. The weekly stocked fridge was an initiative of Little Egypt NYC, a community seeking to create safe spaces and economic power for the Egyptian diaspora. More information can be found on their Instagram @astoriahalalfridge.

Glennon’s Community Fridge

This fridge has been operated by Becky Glennon outside her home in Rockaway since 2020. For the past three years, Glennon has been providing food despite resistance from her neighbors who tried to destroy the fridge. Last week Councilwoman Ariola and her staff delivered over 2,000 pounds of fresh produce, the largest donation the fridge has received so far. It is located on Beach 92nd Street between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Holland Avenue. 

Ravenswood Community Fridge 

A fridge outside of Hour Children, a nonprofit organization that supports women and families impacted by a mother’s incarceration. It is located near the Ravenswood Houses on 12-14 36th Avenue in Astoria. You can’t miss the colorful fridge with a flying raven and “free food” painted on the door. There is also a space for book donations on the side. Local residents say that the fridge is maintained and utilized regularly. They can be found on Instagram at @ravenswoodfridge for updates. 

Maspeth Fridge

This fridge is located outside of Brothers Wash and Dry, a community space home to music events since the spring of 2019. It is run by Sampson Dahl, who also resides in the former laundromat. More information on the space can be found on his instagram @brotherswashndry or on his website

Gamelan Dharma Swara to Perform ‘Springtime Super Nova’ in Ridgewood

By Stephanie Meditz

Ridgewood-based performing arts ensemble Gamelan Dharma Swara will present traditional music and dance from the Indonesian island of Bali to ring in the spring season with a bang.

On April 15 at 7 p.m, they will perform traditional Balinese gamelan music and dance in their “Springtime Super Nova” at Ridgewood Presbyterian Church’s Stone Circle Theatre.

Balinese gamelan is a type of music characterized by quick tempo shifts and melodic sounds produced by percussion instruments.

“They call this traditional ensemble Balinese gong kebyar,” president Victoria Lo Mellin said. “Kebyar is a term that means kind of like a flowering, a blossoming or an explosion.”

Gamelan famously uses metallophones, or bronze-keyed, intricately carved instruments, as well as several drums, gongs and sulings, or bamboo flutes.

“One of the things that gives gamelan that intrinsic sound is the fact that all of the instruments are tuned in pairs, and they’re tuned slightly apart from each other so it creates this wavelike sound in the air, which is a symbol of the spirits inhabiting the instruments,” she said.

The group will perform three full ensemble works —  two dances and one instrumental piece.

One of the dances will depict the fierceness of a warrior, and the other is about ideal qualities in a king. 

“What I really love about our presentation is that our dancers are female, and it’s kind of subverting this idea of gender identity and really putting this new feminine strength behind those gendered dances,” Lo Mellin said.

The dancers’ colorful costumes and makeup take between four and five hours to put on.

“An audience can expect to see what that dynamic, classic sense of what Balinese gamelan would mean for any person who were to come across it for the first time, even in Bali, those traditional dances that really give Balinese gamelan its characteristic sound, characteristic visual,” she said.

Founded in 1989, Gamelan Dharma Swara is a community-based ensemble, meaning that it consists of members who may not have played instruments or visited Bali previously.


Gamelan music has a very dynamic sound, and is played mostly with percussion instruments.
Photo via

The group meets once a week to learn and eventually perform Balinese arts for the community.

Some members have over thirty years’ experience performing with the group, and others have only joined within the last six months.

Mellin has performed gamelan for over fifteen years, and she has been Gamelan Dharma Swara’s president for seven years.

She got her start in Gamelan Galak Tika, a group based in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I had found gamelan as just a part of my individual study and loved sitting in on rehearsals so much that I wanted Lo Mto learn what it was all about,” she said.

She played the bamboo flute for many years, but she has since picked up several instruments.

Lo Mellin now plays the ugal for Gamelan Dharma Swara, a metallophone that essentially leads the ensemble.

The group performed for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the New York Philharmonic’s Nightcap series on March 18.

In 2010, they were the first Western group to be invited to the Bali Arts Festival as part of their gong kebyar competition.

Gamelan Dharma Swara is currently in residence at Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, and they have been based in Ridgewood since September.

“I think one of the biggest things for this ensemble and one of my goals for this particular performance is to really start integrating the ensemble into the local arts ecology,” she said. “As a resident in Ridgewood myself, it’s the first time in my life where I’m really in touch with small business owners. I run into people every single day where I know the people’s first name. I really wanted to feel as though the community ensemble had that same feel, could really integrate itself into the community. Because I think it’s important the community understands what we’re trying to bring to their neighborhood as well.”

Gamelan is integral to daily life in Bali, and she hopes to break down artistic barriers in the Ridgewood community as well. 

To accomplish this, Gamelan Dharma Swara offers two interactive public workshops per year in which the ensemble explains the way the music is structured.

By the end of each workshop, the group can play a few short pieces that demonstrate some key tenets of gamelan music.

“I think gamelan is such an interesting conduit for community members to find their own artistry…it’s really important for people to feel like, as a community member, they have that kind of potential, that they have a wellspring of creativity,” Lo Mellin said. “We’re offering an alternative culture to find that latent talent. I think everybody has a part that they can bring to the table, and they can challenge themselves to be a performer, and within a very very short period of time.”

The next workshop will take place on April 30 at Ridgewood Presbyterian Church.

The performance will consist of two sets, the first of which will feature Concetta Abbate’s ensemble.

Abbate’s contemporary classical music has a lyrical, narrative quality, which will contrast gamelan’s explosive, dynamic style.

“Through gamelan, you meet a lot of interesting people, and gamelan sort of has been an important part of my communal and social network. I met Concetta through somebody who used to perform in the gamelan,” Lo Mellin said. “The fact that we’re able to bring so many local creative cohorts…into one singular place, I think it’s going to be really exciting.”

Tickets for Gamelan Dharma Swara’s Springtime Super Nova are available for $25 at or for $30 at the door.

“Gamelan is an important interwoven experience in the daily culture of somebody who is Balinese. Gamelan is really integrated into the daily life, and I want the community to feel as though gamelan has a place in that community.”

“King of Ridgewood” Joey G Lives On In Community’s Memory

Sanitation Worker, DJ and Local Legend Passes Away at 51

By Matthew Fischetti

In the morning, Joseph Guarisco would wake up early to clean the streets of New York City. At night, he would keep the party going as a local DJ. And in between, he put a smile on the faces of the Ridgewood community with his infectious warmth and charm.

Joseph Guarisco, more commonly known as “Joey G” unexpectedly passed away on March 8 at 51-years-old. Joey G was seemingly everywhere in the community, family and friends recalled. Whether it was neighborhood cleanups, coaching soccer at Christ The King, DJing for Sweet Sixteens or birthdays, Joey G was there and is fondly remembered by members of the Ridgewood community.

Marco Conter, who knew Joey G for 18 years working for the Sanitation Department, said that Jey G was one-of-a kind. He never saw him in a bad mood, always had a lot of energy and would crack jokes about himself.

“He was the only guy who I knew who would sing at six in the morning,” Conter recalled at his funeral, noting how he would still be wiping the crust out of his eyes while Joey G brimmed with energy.

Steven Meditz, who knew Joey G since they were in fifth grade when they attended St. Matthias together, quickly became friends and bonded over their love of music.

“He was larger than life and everybody loved him. He was very involved with everything. Always organizing events, coaching for the kids, DJing, creating events, reunions for St. Matthias and Christ The King,” Meditz recalled in a Zoom interview. “He was always the center of attention.”

Meditz, a fellow lover of Freestyle music (a form of electronic dance music that was popular in the 80s and 90s) even began DJing with Joey G in their highschool years.

He recalled the many late nights carrying the “coffin” of DJ equipment from Fresh Pond Road, and early morning breakfasts at diners.

“He made you feel like you were friends for years. Even if you just met him. He just had that personality, that charisma,” Christina Meditz, Steven Meditz’s wife, who knew Joey since they attended high school together at Christ The King, recalled in a Zoom interview.


Joey G with his wife Vicky and his two sons Michael and Nicholas

She sat two seats ahead of him in homeroom class and said that he reminded her of a brother-like figure.

“He reminded me so much of my own brother – it was crazy, resemblance wise, attitude wise. And he acted like a brother, protective and caring,” she recalled.“I would bet my life savings that you would not find someone to find a bad word to say about him.”

Robert Schoemig, the owner of the Avenue Restaurant Bar and Grill in Ridgewood, had many memories of Joey G. They first met at Christ The King but also had many memories of him helping out at The Avenue.

Joey G used to DJ at the eatery and bar during ‘Freestyle Fridays.’ While the music waned in popularity in subsequent years, Joey G would still come out and support the restaurant.

After pandemic restrictions were lifted, Joey G “brought in the troops” to the restaurant and DJ’d to try and help the business. He also came to watch nearly every Super Bowl at The Avenue, regardless of who was playing. During a recent Super Bowl game, which he couldn’t attend, Joey G still sent his kids to go and watch the game to keep the tradition alive.

“He was the party. He was the guy to talk to. If you needed something, he would get up in the middle of the night and come help you, Schoemig recalled in a phone interview. “You know that wasn’t just for me, that was for all his friends. He’d offer the shirt off of his back.”

Arlene Lomastro knew Joey G since her sons worked with him at a local deli in their teenage years and said she remembered him by his respectful nature, big smile and always being a source of laughter and fun.

“Every time he would pass on the truck, he would see me jump off the truck, hug me and just tell his partner. ‘Oh, she makes the best penne alla vodka you ever wonder to taste,’” Lomastro recalled in a phone interview.

Joey G is survived by his wife Vicky and his two sons, Michael and Nicholas; as well as his father Michael, his mother Josephine and his sister Rossana.

A GoFundMe is raising money for the family to deal with expenses, which can be found at:

Recognizing 50 Years on Community Board 5


Paul Kerzner discussing landmark designation at the most recent CB5 meeting on March 8.

By Iryna Shkurhan |

For over 50 years, Paul Kerzner has devoted his life to taking care of Ridgewood and surrounding neighborhoods.

In the community, he’s known for being the force behind the planting of close to 30,000 trees on blocks since 1983. He is also substantially responsible for District 5 being one of the tenth largest historic districts in the country, following an eight year effort to secure federal, state and city landmark designation status for 2,982 buildings. 

This month marks his 50 year anniversary on Queens Community Board 5, which oversees Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, Fresh Pond, and Liberty Park. Kerzner first got involved in community advocacy as a volunteer for the Office of Neighborhood Services. Before the Community Board existed, it was called a Community Planning Council with half the members it has today and only one committee — land use. 

“We began this work in 1983 when I was 23 and now I’m 72, and we’re not finished yet,” said Kerzner at the most recent CB5 meeting on March 8.

The meeting is held at Christ The King High School in Middle Village, the same building where Kerzner says his love of housing was born. A visit from Rosemary R. Gunning, one of the first female Assembly members, to the political science club Kerzner was a member of in high school, sparked his lifelong passion for housing and tenant protection. 

Decades later, Kerzner encouraged attendees to write to their representatives to help secure landmark status in Districts 2 and 11, which do not yet have city designation. The protection of a landmark designation guarantees that the architecture integrity and uniformity of buildings will not disappear in the hands of new land developers. 

“My whole life has been revolving around protecting neighborhoods, improving neighborhoods, turning neighborhoods around,” said Kerzner in a phone interview. At 72- years-old he still lives on the same block in Ridgewood that he grew up on.

What is now being called one of the “coolest neighborhoods in the world” by Time Out magazine was once a place where residents fled in droves to the suburbs, according to Kerzner. 

“At that time, the deterioration of Bushwick was staring us in the face,” said Kerzner.

In 1968, he got involved with the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association and later went on to form the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation with Theodore Renz, who is the third most long standing member of the board at 47 years. Today, their landmarking work continues to secure landmark status for commercial districts on Myrtle Ave and Fresh Pond Rd.

“I knew right from the get go, that he was very dedicated to the community and wanted to do whatever we could do to improve the community,” said Renz, who has worked closely with Kerzner since they met at a civic association meeting close to five decades ago.

Ridgewood has always been a multiethnic home for immigrants. During Kerzner’s youth, the neighborhood was strongly German, a bit Italian and Irish, and now home to many Polish and Latinx immigrants.

“Now the hipsters are moving in,” said Kerzner, who is concerned about gentrification pricing out long-time residents. While he encourages tenants to buy instead of rent, the rising cost of home ownership is inaccessible for many. In February 2023, the median price for a home in Ridgewood was $925K, up 45.1% compared to last year. 

The Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation is planning to unveil an initiative later this year that will co-op hundreds of six family homes in the neighborhood to make them more affordable for current residents. If they are located in the historic district like planned, the facade will have to be well maintained to meet the landmark guidelines. 

“I want to make sure that we can protect our tenants now,” said Kerzner who says the committee will work with the National Cooperative Bank to pay owners of the properties full market value while giving residents an affordable housing option. “We want to give the tenants an opportunity to own where they live so that nobody can throw them around anymore.”

“He cares about his community, and he is willing to do something about it, not just, you know, say that he cares about the community, he’s willing to put the effort forward to do something to make his community better,” Angela Miralbe, Executive Director at Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation.

Like Kerzner, two businesses in Ridgewood remain anchored in place. Rudy’s Pastry Shop on Seneca Ave, opened in 1934 and Morscher’s Pork Store, open since 1959 and still regularly visited by CB5 members today. 

“If you walk up and down the streets and Ridgewood, you could see the fruits of his efforts,” said Mirabile, who has worked with Kerzner for 41 years. 

New bubble tea shop opens its doors in Ridgewood

Tsaocaa strives to bring quality food and drink to locals

By Jessica Meditz

Tsaocaa’s menu includes a wide variety of teas.

Earlier this month, residents of Ridgewood extended a warm welcome to Tsaocaa, a brand new bubble tea shop in the community.

Located at 65-07 Fresh Pond Road, the shop sits in a prime location where both longtime locals and passersby alike can stop in and enjoy a cup of bubble tea.

Wendy Lin, owner of the location, first arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong almost 22 years ago, and has lived in Ridgewood ever since.

Loosely translated, “Tsaocaa” means “the holy land of tea,” and the franchise’s website looks at its team members as being on the pilgrimage road. Tsaocaa has over 100 locations across the U.S.

Tsaocaa opened its doors on Jan. 7

Lin feels this sentiment resonates with her own journey in the restaurant industry.

“I really like milk tea; I make myself one every day. But the ones that I make for myself versus the ones at Tsaocaa are totally different, as they use different types of tea, different roasts,” she explained. “Basically what we do is to try to fulfill whatever the Ridgewood area needs, and want to bring something special here.”

Tsaocaa’s menu includes various types of roasts, including sakura, jasmine and green tea. They offer a wide variety of options, including classic and slush style fruit tea, fruit mojitos, milk swirl and milk bubble tea.

Flavors across the menu range from grapefruit, mango, strawberry, kiwi, dragon fruit, lychee, blueberry, peach and many more.

Lin said that Tsaocaa is unique in that its teas not only taste great, but consist solely of pure, natural ingredients. Presentation is also of utmost importance, as their products are also served in an aesthetically pleasing way.

This is not Lin’s first endeavor in food and beverage, as she also owns Sushi Yoshi, which is located at the same site.

Lin’s other food business, Sushi Yoshi, is at the same site as Tsaocaa.

She’s been making sushi at the location for eight years, and its varieties include classic sushi rolls and signature rolls – such as the “Fresh Pond Roll” – which includes salmon, fresh pineapple and crunch topped with avocado and black caviar with mango sauce.

Other options include bowls, burritos, burgers, egg waffles, soups and salads.

Lin said that despite opening up so recently, she already has several regulars who stop by multiple times per week.

She’s thrilled to serve her community.

“I hear so many customers say they’ve been waiting to see this kind of location in the Ridgewood area, and we already have regulars,” Lin said. “That makes me so happy.”

Tsaocaa is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and online ordering options such as UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash – as well as their own online ordering service:

Robbery pattern plagues Ridgewood, Bushwick

Perps targeting intoxicated people, police say

By Jessica Meditz

As the 104th Precinct prepares for what 2023 will bring, its Ridgewood sector still faces a problem carried over from 2022 – a strong-armed robbery pattern.

At the most recent 104th Precinct Community Council meeting, Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, Commanding Officer of the 104, told attendees that the series of robberies spans from the end of November, and consists of about 13 incidents.

They’ve taken place within the confines of both the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood and 83rd Precinct in Bushwick, in the vicinity of Fairview Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, Hart Street and Putnam Avenue.

“This is happening on the midnight shift, really between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” Coleman said at the meeting. “People coming out of bars are kind of being targeted, and there’s two or three guys that approach someone from behind and either punch them or put them in a headlock, and then take their wallet, phone, or belongings.”

The 104th Precinct has been working closely with the 83rd Precinct to combat this issue, including setting up cameras to obtain footage of the perpetrators and deploying officers in the robbery zone.

“We have four brand new police officers in field training, and as of [this] week, we’re getting five new officers from this new class that just graduated,” Coleman said in an interview. “They’re out there visible, there’s foot posts out there with them, and they’re a component of the resources I’m putting in Ridgewood to address the problem.”

Coleman added that spreading awareness to locals is an important part of this action plan, and that the 104’s Crime Prevention Officer has visited nearby bars and other establishments to make them aware.

He also wants people in the community to be aware of their surroundings while they’re out late at night, whether it be for nightlife reasons, or simply coming home late from work.

“If you’re going out at night, you should travel with a group of people to ensure that everyone gets home safely, because all of our victims have been alone,” Coleman said. “I’d recommend, as always, to watch your consumption of drinking…because of the robbery pattern we’re concerned about people walking home. If you’re having a lot to drink, that can be dangerous for yourself, but you could also become the victim of a robbery.”

At the 104th Precinct Community Council meeting, he said that the precinct has a person of interest, and hopes to make an arrest as soon as possible.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing