New bubble tea shop opens its doors in Ridgewood

Tsaocaa strives to bring quality food and drink to locals

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

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: https://www.onlineorder.abcpos.com/sushiyoshiridgewood/88b2a8c6856849daac58da72b81a3553.

Robbery pattern plagues Ridgewood, Bushwick

Perps targeting intoxicated people, police say

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

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.

Group criticizes DOT rollout in Ridgewood

Residents hope for pedestrian ramp at Stanhope & Fairview

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

As of Dec. 1, the troublesome intersection near Grover Cleveland Park in Ridgewood, where a man was killed in 2019, has brand new crosswalks and stop signs.

After spending the better part of 2022 fighting for these safety signals and pleading with the Department of Transportation (DOT), Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman have achieved their “Crosswalk Fantasy” at Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue.

The duo co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee in response to the man’s death and a public unease about the lack of safety in that intersection.

It wasn’t much longer after their celebrations, which included a “Party at the Crosswalk,” lots of signage and high visibility workwear fashion statements, that a local civic group pointed out what they saw was missing: a pedestrian ramp.

Juniper Park Civic Association took to Twitter on Saturday, Jan. 7 to point out the omitted part of the job and call on Councilman Robert Holden to take action.

“Kind of weird to see supposed safety advocates ‘proclaim a crosswalk fantasy realized’ when there’s no pedestrian ramp here. Half-assed @NYC_DOT jobs should never be celebrated,” the group tweeted. “@BobHoldenNYC hopefully will see that the job gets done.”

Juniper Park Civic Association took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the incomplete project.

During their communication process with the DOT, Galpern and Kauffman turned to local leaders to help spearhead their efforts, including Holden and Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5 – both of whom penned letters of support for the implementation of crosswalks and stop signs at the intersection.

Daniel Kurzyna, Holden’s chief of staff, said that from his recollection, he does not remember the topic of a pedestrian ramp coming up explicitly, but only because he thinks it’s a given that a ramp should be installed, also.

“Naturally, when a crosswalk is installed, it should be paired with a pedestrian ramp…We’ll be reaching out to the DOT about this,” he said.”

Galpern and Kauffman told the Queens Ledger that they asked the DOT for a “redesign of the intersection,” which should have included the pedestrian ramp.

“We’d be thrilled if [Holden] sent the DOT a letter of support for a pedestrian ramp,” they said.

Pedestrian ramps are a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and the DOT says on their webpage that “any alteration triggers the obligation to provide ADA-compliant ramps to the maximum extent feasible.”

Despite some pushback from Twitter user, @BushridgeBrigad, who accused JPCA of mocking the Crosswalk Fantasy Committee, the civic association maintains that its criticism is of the DOT for not completing the job.

Christina Wilkinson, JPCA secretary, said she takes issue with the Committee’s signage that was left up weeks after their “Party at the Crosswalk.”

“It should be noted that bolting laminated signs to public property and flyers on poles is illegal, could result in Sanitation fines and illegal postering makes it harder for community groups to maintain the cleanliness of the neighborhood,” she said.

In another Twitter reply, JPCA argued that it’s a positive thing that more safety measures were implemented, but “no community minded group posts illegal signage bragging about a routine civic request being fulfilled.”

Kurzyna assures that Holden is committed to ensuring the safety of those in the area.

Our office is actively reaching out to the DOT to inquire about the progress of installing pedestrian ramps at Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue,” he said. “The installation of crosswalks at this location was an important step forward, and we will continue advocating for better measures that keep our community safe.”

New Citi Bike stations ‘on hold’ for District 5

CB5 votes to send letter to DOT requesting input

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

The original proposal for the Citi Bike expansion in District 5, circulated by the DOT.

As the implementation of new Citi Bike stations for Queens District 5 comes closer, the debate on where they should go continues among members of the community.

Following an eventful Transportation Committee meeting of Community Board 5 on Nov. 29, the incoming installations are now “on hold” pending community feedback — much to the dismay of some residents.

The committee resolved that it would pen a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), requesting that the board be able to play an “active role” in the implementation of the program and the placement of these stations. In the interest of preserving as many parking spaces as possible, the committee stated a preference for stations on sidewalks, daylighting and no parking areas.

At CB5’s monthly meeting on Dec. 14, the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of submitting the letter, in hopes that they can figure out a way to make the Citi Bike system work for everyone.

CB5 voted in favor of sending a letter to the DOT, requesting that they play an active role in the implementation of the program.

“A lot of people in the community have various opinions on it, and everyone just wants to make sure it’s implemented in a way that provides the maximum benefit, while minimizing any consequences or downstream negative effects,” Eric Butkiewicz, a Middle Village resident and chairman of the Transportation Committee, said in an interview.

He said that the DOT has scrapped the original map of the draft plan that was circulated earlier this year, in wake of the pause for community input.

The installation of the stations will be delayed until at least January, but it’s not certain as to when residents will begin seeing more Citi Bikes.

“I think this is the proper way to do it. [The DOT] is open to community feedback and how they go about putting these stations within the grid, and I think that’s where we come in as a Community Board…what works and what doesn’t,” Butkiewicz continued. “It seems that the DOT has scrapped or put aside locations in the previous plan that were right outside businesses, which they thought were a good idea. Once they consulted or heard feedback from those local businesses, they found out that it would conflict severely with the ability for them to operate.”

While Butkiewicz feels the recent conversations around the Citi Bike installation have been productive, other locals feel disappointed in the new plans and left out of the conversation — including Rachel Albetski, an urban planner who resides in Ridgewood.

She and another resident attended the last Transportation Committee meeting to engage with board members and publicly discuss Citi Bike in a positive light to demonstrate that many locals are in favor of the expansion happening as quickly as possible.

“As soon as the door was opened to let us into the meeting, we were immediately questioned by the District Manager [Gary Giordano] where we were coming from and who we’re associated with…I was really taken aback,” Albetski said in an interview. “I’ve never ever been treated like that at a public meeting.”

Albetski claimed that she was told the entry restrictions were COVID-related, and that she did not see a Zoom link immediately available as a remote option.

She was eventually let into the meeting and shared her thoughts about Citi Bike to all who were present.

“I just wanted to give a positive voice to someone who is pro Citi Bike, and part of that stance is being in favor of seeing them in the roadbed and not on the sidewalk. Once they’re on the sidewalk, you’re further congesting sidewalk space…sidewalk space is at a premium and they’re already congested. It just doesn’t make sense to put Citi Bike on the sidewalk,” Albetski said.

She argued that the discussion at the meeting to go back to the drawing board in terms of placements of the stations was confusing, and said that this would only delay the project from community members who will benefit from more Citi Bikes now.

“That process should be open to more people besides the ones in that room because I don’t really think that it’s completely representative of what everyone in the actual broader community thinks. You’re saying that no one wants this and that the community is against it, but there’s actually a broad swath of people out there that really want to see it,” she said. “It’s just good to have another option for people when they just want to get around within their neighborhood, and it’s a great supplement for trips that would have been made by transit or car.”

Various letters of support from locals were submitted to the public forum of the recent monthly board meeting, as well as another letter questioning whether or not the CB meetings are actually public.

In reference to the Transportation Committee meeting, Giordano said that all members of the public who wanted to be let in, were indeed permitted to enter.

“I had some concern about additional people coming, to the point where it would be unsafe — especially with COVID,” he said. “We didn’t have anyone standing outside not able to get in.”

All members of the community were then encouraged to become involved in future meetings, reiterating that every meeting — both committee and board meetings — are open to the public.

Stop signs, crosswalks added to intersection of Stanhope St. and Fairview Ave.

Safety signals approved by DOT following group’s activism

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Residents rallied earlier this year to express their concerns of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. Photo: Erik Augustine

Following residents’ months of advocacy and pleading with the DOT, new stop signs have been implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood.

As of Dec. 1, crosswalks are now at the intersection.

Residents say the intersection, just steps away from Grover Cleveland Park, has been a danger to pedestrians and the community at large for as long as 20 years.

In late 2019, a man was hit by a car and killed at this intersection, and other residents have said they felt unsafe crossing the street due to the lack of safety signals.

In response, Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee early this year.

The goal of the organization is to raise awareness of the intersection, get the community involved and make requests to the DOT in hopes to achieve the goal of stop signs and crosswalks at the T-shaped intersection.

Crosswalk Fantasy Committee has been advocating for safety signals at the intersection since early this year.

“It just became this glaring, strange void in city infrastructure. You could just stand there for minutes upon end and never get any reprieve from drivers,” Kauffman said.

“We felt like it was going to be important to amplify the voices of the neighbors here and their experience of the street, because unlike someone sitting at an office at the Department of Transportation receiving a uniform request, these people are actually on the ground experiencing the dangers of being a pedestrian in their own area.”

Galpern shared that she and Kauffman both became passionate about making the intersection safer, and wanted to put in the work to get the safety signals implemented.

The team was in constant communication with the DOT since March, submitting requests, making phone calls and sending their petition — which garnered over 600 signatures following the rally they held at the intersection on March 19.

They also spoke with Community Board 5, who submitted a letter to the DOT on their behalf. They also received support from community leaders such as Juan Ardila, Councilman Robert Holden and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

In addition to the standard bureaucratic, straightforward ways of getting the request off the ground, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee wanted to execute their mission in a creative and engaging way.

“I loved the idea of a more creative approach to this, doing something more colorful and not making a civic duty so dreary in our neighborhood. I thought it should be more engaging and I think we came over our desire of making this a more pleasant experience,” Galpern said.

Kauffman considers their initiative to be a socially engaged art project, as seen by the compilation of artwork, audio recordings, photos, postcards and more they’ve put together.

Inspired by the role of a crossing guard, Kauffman has a personal goal of being an Artist in Residence of the NYC DOT.

Becca Kauffman admires the role of crossing guards, and sees this project as a performance on the street in a public space. Photo: Erik Augustine

“I’m really intrigued by the crossing guard as a utilitarian role. It also is a performance on the street in public space, and I think of it choreographically like a dance…kind of like a mime act in a way,” they said.

“I wanted to perform as a crossing guard at the intersection. I think of it as a sort of like theatrical intervention at this rally and march that we organized together. We had a bunch of volunteers too, and we all donned high visibility workwear.”

Crosswalk Fantasy Committee received an email from the DOT on Aug. 4 saying that after “months of evaluation,” the stop signs and crosswalks were approved.

On Nov. 17, the new stop signs were implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. The crosswalks were painted shortly after, following a “high priority” ranking by the DOT.

The crosswalks were painted on Dec. 1.

The pair feel that the crosswalks are essential, as cars appear to miss the new stop signs or are ignoring them.

In celebration of the new safety signals, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee plans to host a “Party at the Crosswalk” on Sunday, Dec. 18. The community at large is welcome to attend.

For more information and updates about Crosswalk Fantasy Committee’s activism and the status of the intersection, follow the group on Instagram @crosswalkfantasy.

Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization; Group devotes itself to serving the people

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Zine designed by Rashid Johnson, founding member of RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated.

Dedicated to serving the community through empowering people, Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO) chapter seeks to further expand their mission and engage local residents.

The PSO essentially formed in 2020 as a result of a split in the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), when it was discovered that two members were counterrevolutionary, and did not align with the group’s mission. The United Panther Movement (UPM) served as their principal mass organization.

The NABPP reconstituted as the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP), as did the UPM to PSO.

Tea Bee, a Ridgewood resident who co-founded the PSO Ridgewood chapter in 2021, explained that the organization’s origins are in Newark, New Jersey, where the first PSO chapter was formed in 2020.

Bee said that one of the group’s primary initiatives is their Serve the People program, which is their vehicle to connect with the people, get to know them and build relationships with the community of Ridgewood.

PSO Ridgewood holds this event every weekend at Rosemary’s Playground, where members distribute free COVID tests, snacks and informational materials as well as have meaningful discussions with those who stop by. They hope to expand the program in a similar model to Newark’s.

“We have really been looking for our niche, what it is exactly that we want to do with our Serve the People program, because we want to do more,” Bee said.

“In Newark right now, they have a free breakfast program every Saturday. They also have a dinner program every week in one of the housing projects there. That’s what we’re building toward, having a set program.”

PSO Ridgewood’s table at their Serve the People Program in Rosemary’s Playground.

As a former abortion nurse and currently transitioning into working in outpatient care, Bee understands firsthand how essential it is for people to take control of their health, and encorporated that into PSO Ridgewood’s course of action.

PSO has worked on developing the People’s Health Education Program, which is a collaboration with New York City Socialist Rifle Association.

“It started off with just first aid training, but then I got involved and said, ‘What if we build beyond this and make it more holistic, more comprehensive, really teach the people and empower people with the skills, knowledge and resources they need — not just to take better care of themselves, but also each other, the community,’” they said.

“It’s especially important in these times of constant crisis and constant trauma, somewhat to the point where we’re all so desensitized,” Bee continued. “How do we better take care of ourselves and each other?”

Through that program, PSO Ridgewood was able to obtain free COVID tests in bulk from the city.

This Saturday, Oct. 29, the People’s Health Education Program will host a free first aid class from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Mayday Space, located at 176 St. Nicholas Avenue in Bushwick.

Guests will have the opportunity to learn CPR, how to stop severe bleeding, how to give narcan and more.

Free COVID tests, masks, first aid supplies, food and drink, childcare and political education and discussion will be offered, as well as a raffle and Halloween party with a DJ.

Bee also strives to share their knowledge and experience from working in reproductive healthcare, as well as spread mental health awareness.

Nat Winn, a social worker and member of PSO Ridgewood, advocated that the community learn how to deal with mental health crises without getting the police involved.

“The goal is to provide these skills so we don’t have to involve the police, and crisis doesn’t lead to imprisonment, because so many people in the prison system have mental health diagnoses or death,” he said.

“People were explaining to me recently that in some poor neighborhoods, there aren’t any clinics anymore. There are hospitals, but most hospitals are bordered along wealthier neighborhoods,” he explained. “This is a way that we, as the community, can address some of those glitches and some of the malfunctioning of the system. As healthcare workers, we feel we can provide these basic skills.”

Another issue PSO seeks to address through their activism is the mistreatment and neglect of Rashid Johnson, one of the founding members RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated at Sussex 1 State Prison in Virginia.

Johnson was convicted of murder in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison, but maintains his innocence.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2022, and was not provided with cancer treatment, or even visits to a radiologist for some time.

Bee has also been informed that Johnson does not have access to any of his personal property, including hygiene supplies, his radio and TV.

PSO encourages all supporters to get involved and take action to help assist Johnson, such as by joining the Kevin Rashid Johnson Defense Committee, making phone calls to the prison in his defense and sharing his story on social media and through word of mouth.

Zine artwork designed by Rashid Johnson.

Johnson is the writer of RIBPP’s Ten Point Program, which are essentially the beliefs one should align with if they plan to get involved in the organization.

“Since the time [he was convicted], he’s turned his life around. Rashid has dedicated his life to the things that he has talked about: serving the people and creating a better world,” Winn said.

“The Ten Point Program talks about healthcare for everyone, decent housing for everyone and the right to not be hungry for everyone,” he continued. “Not only for Black people, but for everyone. And that’s what Rashid has dedicated his life to.”

Bee emphasized that PSO is a voluntary organization, and those who join do not have to be a far leftist to join, but they should be in unity with the Ten Point Program.

“Ultimately, we’re here to do life-affirming work, and to uplift life and to cherish life,” they said.

“Obviously, we focus on the lives that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against violently, but we’re here to uplift life. That’s our mission.”

For more information, visit @psoridgewood on Instagram, @pso_ridgewood on Twitter or email [email protected] with any inquiries.

Contemporary classical music comes to Ridgewood with ‘Laminaria’

By Stephanie Meditz

[email protected]

Laminaria combines evocative contemporary classical music with costumes and other visual elements.

With Halloween around the corner, Ridgewood’s live music scene shifts towards dark themes reminiscent of the horror genre.

This Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m., Concetta Abbate and her 10-piece chamber orchestra will perform her folk-horror epic, “Laminaria,” at Footlight Underground at the Windjammer.

Through music and vocals, Laminaria tells the story of an underwater sea witch who emerges to the surface and ascends to the sky in death, only to be pulled back into the ocean.

The musical arrangement depicts the plot with its contrast between low, ominous notes and whimsical, borderline comedic elements.

“I always have a hard time explaining my genre,” Abbate said. “I think our ensemble is just covering all ends of the spectrum, music-wise. There are moments that sound a little more like a traditional cinematic orchestral score, and then there are parts of it that sound like you’re at a free improvisation show, and then there are parts of it like you’re listening to a rock band.”

Abbate, a classical violinist and vocalist, will be accompanied by an orchestra consisting of woodwind, string, brass and percussion sections.

The ten piece chamber orchestra consists of woodwind, string, brass and percussion sections.

Laminaria’s vocals and simplistic lyrics were inspired by medieval Gregorian chants and closely resemble incantations.

The orchestra also includes an array of homemade instruments played by Skip La Plante that create haunting sound effects without the use of technology.

“It’s really dipping into a lot of musical worlds and soundscapes,” Abbate said. “I think that’s what makes it so exciting because it’s really unexpected.”

Laminaria will be accompanied by modern dancers from Wendy Osserman Dance Company in Manhattan later this month. Photo by Alice Teeple.

The word laminaria means “kelp” in Latin, which is used to induce labor.

Kelp is also notorious for the destruction of boats and is known in New Zealand’s folklore as “the devil’s apron,” which is the title of Laminaria’s first movement.

“For me, this sea witch is trying to emerge and is kind of stuck in this crux between living and not living,” Abbate said. “I think there are also more tangible messages in the piece about access to healthcare and our mental health systems being so broken. So I think that this metaphor of this substance that is used to induce a change in life, whether it be birth or death, really encapsulated a lot of the message of the piece.”

Abbate was inspired to compose Laminaria during the COVID-19 pandemic when she watched many horror movies in quarantine.

“I started to question why I was so interested in horror movies and I realized that it’s a cathartic way to process traumatic events,” she said. “ And a lot of the time, the monster in the movie represents the trauma in itself, and it’s the physical embodiment of whatever real, terrifying thing is happening in your life.”

Abbate drew upon her own experiences of witnessing loved ones struggle with mental health issues and the healthcare system’s inability to help them.

“It literally looked like demon possession to me because when you’re a child, you don’t know the medical terminology for things,” she said. “And so I wanted to, in this piece, explore that childlike understanding.”

“I think the piece can be taken on many levels,” she continued. “You can come in and watch it and it could just be this silly, fun horror thing. Or if you wanted to seek out the deeper, cathartic meaning in it, if that feels relevant to the audience, I think that that part of it is also there.”

A native New Yorker, Abbate holds a master’s degree in music education from Columbia University.

She grew up on Long Island and has lived in multiple boroughs, but she now resides in Glendale.

“[The Windjammer] is just such a great local spot to get people in the neighborhood to know about the work,” she said. “I think it’ll be really fun at Windjammer.”

Tickets are available on a sliding scale starting at $10 at https://withfriends.co/event/15003568/laminaria or $12 at the door on the night of the performance.

After Laminaria’s Oct. 15 performance at the Windjammer, Abbate will perform the piece on Oct. 21 and 22 at Theater For The New City in Manhattan, accompanied by a modern dance routine choreographed by Wendy Osserman.

“When we did the first show, people were crying at the end of it. It’s a very moving experience to come and see this piece.”

Group holds Free Store pop-up in Ridgewood

Woodbine seeks to build autonomy, community, resilience

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Neighbors of Ridgewood and its surrounding areas arrived on Woodward Avenue last Saturday for an afternoon of giving back, taking what’s needed and engaging with the community.

Woodbine, a local organization powered by volunteers, identifies itself as an “anti-capitalist hub in Ridgewood, experimenting with free cultural programming to build autonomy, community and resilience.”

Staying true to its mission, the group held a Free Store pop-up in their space located at 585 Woodward Avenue, in which folks could donate items they no longer needed, but were too good to throw away.

The pop-up attracted a countless number of people, and many donated their gently used clothing, kitchenware, tools, electronics, books and toys for others to take home.

 

Woodbine’s Free store event was a success, and the group hopes to host another in November.

“Activities at Woodbine are meant to help us become autonomous from the state and from capitalist markets, which we see as oppressive systems that prioritize profit over people’s well-being. We can only become autonomous from these systems by taking care of each other and organizing ourselves collectively and cooperatively,” said Ella Fassler, an organizer at Woodbine.

“Free stores encourage us to pool our resources together to try to build resilience and to meet each other’s wants and needs. They are meant to encourage people to reimagine other possibilities for organizing the economy and social life,” she continued. “What currently exists is one way to organize a society of many, and it disproportionately benefits the wealthiest and whitest people. We envision a world where everything could be free and built on voluntary exchange of labor, resources and knowledge.”

The Woodbine collective says that their model of a pop-up free store model builds community in a novel way, since the opportunity invites participants to come together on a given day and interact with one another.

In addition, the Free Store offered various services and skill-sharing opportunities, including clothing repair and alterations, bicycle repairs and tune-ups and weight training tips.

Events of this nature have proven to be successful for Woodbine, as shown by their twice-weekly food pantry that’s been active since March of 2020.

“We run a free community refrigerator, we organize yearly seed exchanges right before spring planting season and in the past we’ve done a number of clothing swaps,” Fassler said.

“But this was the first event of this scale we’ve tried, in part inspired by our partners at the Fenix Taxi Stand and Bushwick Ayuda Mutua who have been doing a lot of free distribution events of clothes and essential goods the last two years.”

In addition, Woodbine runs fitness training sessions at their gym, organizes several soccer teams, holds Sunday dinners, arts and figuring drawing workshops, a weekly screening series, sewing workshops, poetry readings, a weekly research seminar and discussion group and kids workshops. All programs are free or by donation.

The group hopes to have another Free Store event in November to continue to engage the community.

For more information about getting involved with Woodbine, send an email to [email protected] or write to them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Ice Cream Window: ‘Different, but still the same’

By Stephanie Meditz

[email protected] 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ice Cream Window served scoops of happiness to the community such that it became a permanent fixture. 

Intended as a three-week pop-up in Karlssonwilker design studio, the shop brought Ridgewood’s original immigrant populations together by experimenting with traditional cultural flavors in its ice cream. 

Karlssonwilker, originally headquartered in Manhattan, moved to Ridgewood when a developer bought out multiple neighboring properties. 

“We knew that our days were numbered as well, and that they would tear down these whole buildings and build a skyscraper,” said Elisabeth Smolarz, Karlssonwilker photographer and founder of Ice Cream Window. 

Born in Poland and raised in Germany, Smolarz knew of the large Polish and German-speaking communities in Ridgewood, as well as its overall population increase over the last few years. 

With the help of some friends in the area, she bought the new Karlssonwilker design studio space on Woodward Avenue, along with the apartment above it. 

While renovating the building’s facade, Smolarz recalled her time living in Gowanus and saw the need for some kind of outdoor component. 

“It had a bench outside. It was very dark inside, so I would oftentimes sit outside and work or read,” she said. “What was lovely about that, being outside, was that I met all the neighbors immediately. I knew everyone on my block within a few months.” 

This goal is what prompted the installment of a window, and for a while, Smolarz wondered what to do with it. 

In 2019, she visited Lady Moo Moo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, an ice cream shop that serves its ice cream out of a window for customers to eat outside. 

“I tasted the ice cream and said, ‘Wow. This ice cream is amazing. I think this is the best ice cream I’ve ever had,’” Smolarz said. 

Smolarz’s daughter was born in January 2020, followed by the start of the pandemic. 

“Motherhood just became extremely lonely,” she said. “There were no mom groups. We had a digital one and it was nice, but you just couldn’t really connect with anybody.” 

During her many walks with her new baby that summer, she thought to follow Lady Moo Moo’s business model and temporarily use Karlssonwilker’s window to serve ice cream at a social distance. 

In August 2020, Ice Cream Window was born as a pop-up, with the ice cream delivered by Lady Moo Moo. 

Smolarz met many of her new neighbors in Ridgewood, and after the pop-up ended, they approached her on the street and asked when she would sell ice cream again. 

By popular demand, she agreed to reopen the shop for at least another year. 

Smolarz solicited the help of other local businesses such as Topos Bookstore Cafe, Millers and Makers, Porcelain and Plein Air to turn Ice Cream Window into a permanent shop. 

This past summer, Ice Cream Window collaborated with the longtime Ridgewood staple, Rudy’s Pastry Shop to sell ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. 

“That’s what’s beautiful about Ridgewood, that it is a community,” she said. “You can ask anyone for help, and people will help you.” 

Smolarz gives back to the community in various ways, such as cooking traditional Polish dishes at Woodbine’s free Sunday dinners. 

Most notably, though, she works to ensure that Ice Cream Window brings something new to Ridgewood without alienating its longtime residents, rather making them feel at home. 

“The flavors relate to the community, and to us personally,” she said, referencing her husband and the Karlssonwilker team. “We kind of channel our childhoods here.” 

Waldmeister, a traditional German flavor, has been well loved in Ridgewood for a long time.

For instance, one of Ice Cream Window’s specials is waldmeister, or sweet woodruff, a popular German flavor that was served in Ridgewood a long time ago. 

Ridgewood’s older Gottschee population can easily recognize the pumpkin seed oil that distinguishes Ice Cream Window’s styrian ice cream. 

“We have family in Vienna…so we first found out about it in Vienna when we were cooking dinner and then they served us vanilla ice cream with roasted pine nuts and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil,” Smolarz said. 

Whenever she goes to visit them, she brings back authentic pumpkin seed oil for the ice cream. 

Ice Cream Window serves huge amounts of joy through one small window.

Hris, a flavor based on an Icelandic malt chocolate candy, is a nod to Hjalti Karlsson’s Icelandic heritage. 

Smolarz’s favorite flavor, “mak,” is based on a Polish poppy seed roll with a sugary lemon glaze called makowiec. 

Ice Cream Window also offers linden-flavored ice cream reminiscent of Smolarz’s childhood, but only during certain months in the spring.

“There was this moment, like end of May, early June, when all the linden trees were blooming in Ridgewood,” Smolarz said. “And I just love the smell so much. So during that time, we always make linden ice cream just to celebrate the season.” 

Other flavors in the rotation include dulce de leche, lucuma, lychee, matcha and red bean along with the typical vanilla and chocolate. 

Because Ice Cream Window uses such a small space within Karlssonwilker, its flavors are on rotation. 

“We’re trying to have flavors that kind of go beyond what’s familiar to us,” Smolarz said. “We kind of think, what else would the community like? And it’s very easy, Queens is the most diverse place on this planet, I think.” 

Ice Cream Window’s Instagram account, @icecreamwindow, has been an important tool to learn more about community members and foster a fun atmosphere. 

As a photographer for Karlssonwilker and photography instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Smolarz loves to see customers post pictures of their ice cream. 

The star of the account, however, is a bright orange puppet, lovingly called “the window puppet,” that makes an appearance in every post announcing the flavors of the week. 

“Maybe next year when we get really good at puppetry, we’ll have a puppet theater for the kids,” Smolarz said. 

Because of her own daughter, Smolarz always works to include children in the fun of Ice Cream Window. 

She especially loves to see them try new, unknown flavors when vanilla or chocolate are not offered. 

“It’s always very sweet how, next time they come, they say, ‘I want a scoop of lucuma,’ or ‘I want a scoop of waldmeister,’” she said. “This is what’s amazing about ice cream. It just brings you a lot of joy.” 

Ice Cream Window will continue to serve joy to the Ridgewood community on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. until the temperature drops.

Relatives of killed DoorDash worker demand justice; Tran family speaks out

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Locals built a memorial for Be Tran at the intersection of Myrtle and Seneca Avenues in Ridgewood.

Anh Tran wanted nothing more than for her 74-year-old father, Be Tran, to come home to Flushing and relax on the evening of Aug. 14.

She pleaded for him to stop working as a DoorDash driver so she could take care of him — in return for all the years he did the same for her.

“Don’t worry,” her father said to her in a text message.

Little did she know that those would be the last words she would ever hear from him.

During what is believed to be his last food delivery of the night, Be Tran was struck by a hit-and-run driver in a black BMW with Florida license plates at Myrtle Avenue and Hancock Street in Ridgewood.

Tran was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect is still at large and the case is being investigated by the NYPD Highway Collision Investigation Squad.

Tran’s death sparked feelings of shock, anger and sadness within the community, and activists rallied to demand more action from the city they live, work and commute in every day.

Nearly two weeks after the hit-and-run collision, community members and volunteer activists Chong Bretillon and Elizabeth Amber Gomez organized a candlelight vigil with the Tran family to honor his life and legacy.

“Thirteen nights ago on this very street, a man I called father, a man who spent his lifetime paying for his family, building and living the American dream, today we have gathered to celebrate his life,” Anh Tran said to the small crowd at the vigil.

“The cruel individual who killed my father and inflicted this pain upon my family and I is still out there,” she continued. “We have been shedding light and raising awareness about this horrific tragedy through the news, media and social media to bring justice and a semblance of peace in our hearts.”

Tran and her sister, Tina expressed their gratitude to the community for the endless support, including the memorial built by local activist groups on Myrtle and Seneca Avenues and all the donations that went toward their father’s funeral.

Tran started a GoFundMe page for her father on Aug. 15, where she described him as a “kind, caring, charismatic, funny and extremely hard-working individual.”

Close to 900 people donated — from other local DoorDash drivers to Tran’s high school classmates from Vietnam — to support the family, quickly raising over $40,000.

Early last week, Tran’s funeral was held at Quinn-Fogarty Funeral Home in Flushing.

His younger sister, Truyen Swinger, flew to Queens from her home in Florida when she heard the news about her brother.

She, Tran and their six other siblings were born and raised in Vietnam. Swinger said that Tran was in law school before he was drafted to the Vietnam War, where he served as a lieutenant.

“We went through thick and thin together…we survived the Vietnam War before we came to America,” Swinger said.

“My brother is a very hard worker and a very devoted father. This loss is just such a shock.”

Truyen Swinger and Anh Tran demanded justice for their brother and father, Be Tran.

Swinger said that “something must be done” for street safety citywide, especially to protect the elderly and disabled, and wishes people would drive slower and more carefully.

Her words struck up conversations on possible options for the DOT to implement to end traffic violence and accidents.

Juan Ardila, the Democratic candidate for Assembly District 37, which represents parts of Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Woodside and Ridgewood, pointed out that there are five roads at the intersection where Tran was killed, and only four traffic signals.

“We all deserve to have safe streets and be able to work with peace and dignity. Especially coming from an immigrant background, where being a delivery worker is one of the few occupations that is attainable for working class people,” Ardila said.

“This is something that impacts all lives…immigrant populations, people of color and working class people,” he continued. “We need to ensure that we are responsive to this situation, that we understand the need and the demand because right now, we are asking for robust infrastructure and robust protection,” he continued. “It’s the No. 1 rule to look out for each other.”

Bretillon argued that this incident is being underrepresented, and believes that if it were a gun-related matter, it would have made state or national news.

Transit activist Chong Bretillon co-organized the vigil and advocated for the Tran family.

“Traffic violence happens every single day in this city and disproportionately impacts senior citizens, immigrants and people of color. The police do not enforce dangerous driving behavior, such as speeding and failure to yield. The DOT designs clearly dangerous intersections and terrible curb conditions despite years of complaints, crashes, injuries and deaths,” she said.

“Mr. Tran was a delivery worker and essential worker. Unlike people who work in offices, schools or buildings, his workplace was the streets. He brought hot, fresh food to people who are safe in their homes, who order online, who aren’t even thinking about the dangers that delivery workers face,” she continued.

“Lack of safe infrastructure and lack of speed limiting street design means delivery workers are placed in unsafe conditions every single day. Not only that, but they’re vulnerable to violence, robberies and assault by other people. Their bikes are often stolen and lastly, they’re subjected to harassment and ticketing by the NYPD themselves.”

Anh Tran said that she wishes it didn’t take someone losing their life to resolve these issues.

“I just hope this incident can actually bring light to this, and hopefully they can take this seriously,” she said. “We don’t need any more New Yorkers to get killed, and I wouldn’t want any other family to go through what I’m going through.”

Tran said that she and her family will not stop searching for justice, and had just four words for the person who killed her father, “You will be caught.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing