As soccer continues to grow throughout the country, New York City is providing more space for kids to learn the sport.
On Monday, city officials joined players from New York City Football Club (NYCFC) to debut 10 new community soccer pitches throughout the five boroughs.
The effort is part of the New York City Soccer Initiative, a $3 million public-private partnership launched in 2016 to build, maintain and program 50 soccer pitches in underserved neighborhoods over five years.
In Queens, students from PS 220 on the border of Corona and Forest Hills celebrated the official opening of their new, blue soccer pitch in their school playground.
Two other mini-soccer pitches have already been opened in Astoria and Glen Oaks, and both are highly used, according to Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.
“Programs like these increase opportunities for our children to get involved in sports and fitness,” she said. “We’re excited that these fields will bring this globally loved sport and related programming to even more of our city’s children.”
By the end of 2018, the New York City Soccer Initiative hopes to open 11 new pitches in total, including ones at IS 384 in Bushwick and PS 446 in Brownsville.
PS 220 Principal Josette Pizarro said bringing a soccer pitch to students means they’re able to play and learn about the sport.
“The pitch has now become one of the popular spots for our students, especially during recess and school days,” she said. “Our students of all ages have been able to come down here, and they’re very excited to be able to use the soccer pitch to practice and enhance their skills.”
The new space will aid the school in teaching children about respect, accountability, cooperation and sportsmanship, she said.
“This partnership will strengthen this teaching and support our efforts to ensure students are active and living healthy lives and lifestyles,” Pizarro said.
New York City FC midfielder Valentin Castellanos joined the Queens students for the opening on Monday. Castellanos, 20, chatted with students in Spanish and took photos with the faculty and staff.
The Argentina native said having more soccer pitches is important for the sport and good for the students.
“Not only does it give them a great spot to play, but great scenery for them to learn the game,” he said through a translator.
He added that in the few months he’s been in New York City, he’s seen the sport grow.
“I truly believe that in a few years, the sport will not only be a major force in New York, but a major force throughout the country,” Castellanos said. “The U.S. will be a big market when it pertains to soccer.”
To mark the 90th Anniversary of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School & Catholic Academy, the school reconnected with alumni from various decades for an alumni party at the West Side Tennis Club on Saturday night.
The day started off with tours of the Forest Hills school and an alumni mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church before a night of dinner and dancing.
Principal Anne Zuschlag said the party is part of a campaign to create a connection between the school and its former students.
“We’ve been an institution in our community for 90 years, but we’ve never really made the concerted effort to reach out to our alumni,” Zuschlag said. “We know about them, they stop by to say hello, many are still in the community, but we really want to start a formal process.”
Kathy Scapp, OLQM’s administrative secretary, worked with interns and the diocese last summer to gather alumni information. They took names from handwritten rolls from as far back as the 1940s and put them into a spreadsheet before sorting through the information.
“We sent out 2,700 invitations and many responded,” Scapp said. “We asked that if they could not make it, they could update their contact information, so we hope that this is the jump-off point for the alumni association.”
Students from as far back as the class of 1946 attended Saturday's event, with some traveling from as far away as Texas and Florida.
“It’s been very positive and everyone’s been very excited,” Zuschlag said. “All the alumni are telling stories and meeting up with people who they haven’t seen in a while and sharing memories.
“It’s nice to see their joy in reconnecting with people, especially with the different generations,” she added.
AnnMarie Foertsch has been teaching at the school for 36 years, and is now teaching alongside former students.
“It’s very interesting that someone I had in kindergarten is now my colleague,” Foertsch said. “We have parents who then bring their children to the school, so now you’ve taught parent and child. It means we’re doing something right.
“When I ask people what’s different, a lot of people talk about the vibrancy,” she added. “Years ago, you just went in and did your business, but there is all of the colors, brightness and cheeriness in the classrooms that we take for granted.”
Denise De Maria, who still lives in Queens, said she’s gained perspective of the school’s changes from fellow students who left town and returned for the party.
“I’ve been in and out of the school since I’m right here, but I can now see it through the eyes of the people who are only now coming back after 30 or 40 years,” De Maria said.
Samuel Picker Square is a small green space marked by a sign and a stone at 69th Avenue and Burns Street in Forest Hills. It is around the corner from Forest Hills Stadium and the Chatwick Gardens apartment complex in an often overlooked spot.
The stone reads, “This Sitting Area is Dedicated to the Memory of Samuel Picker; Outstanding American, Community Leader and Dedicated Legionnaire; 1921 – 1981; Forest Hills Post 630, The American Legion.”
Nearly 37 years after Samuel J. Picker passed away, his memory is being resurrected thanks to his family and friends.
The former Forest Hills resident wore several hats in the 1960s and 1970s. He was Queens County American Legion Commander, governor of District 20-K of Lions International, Queens Cancer Crusade committee member, and president of the National American Legion Press Association.
He served as Grand Marshal of the American Legion County Parade in Ridgewood in June 1971, which began with exercises at the War Memorial on Myrtle Avenue and attracted 15,000 people.
He also served as president of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, which donated dogs to blind people after they were trained at the foundation’s center in Smithtown.
Picker was the owner of Continental Hardware at 102-01 Metropolitan Avenue. In 1977, he founded and served as first president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce.
In 1978, Lieutenant Governor-elect Mario Cuomo presented him with the Henry G. Wenzel Medal of the American Cancer Society at the Biltmore Hotel dinner dance.
At 61, the Korean War veteran passed away after a bout with prostate cancer.
“Samuel Picker was a really nice man,” said Jimmy Civita, whose father, Benny Civita was the founder of the Friends of the Legion. “He did a lot for Vietnam vets. When they came back, he helped them find jobs. Our families knew one another, and they came to many gatherings at our house.”
The Picker family once lived above Continental Hardware. After Picker passed away, his son Alvin ran the shop with his brother and sister until their mother sold it.
“It was well known in the community, and we owned it for nearly 40 years,” said the 62-year-old Alvin, who now lives in Buchanan with wife Dorene and daughter Helen. “Working in the store as a young guy, we would go to Manhattan once a week and load up our station wagon with supplies. Many hardware suppliers were on Delancey Street and Ludlow Street before it got ritzy.
“The Lions Club did lots of things for charity,” he continued. “I still remember him collecting glasses and having bags and boxes that were donated to people who couldn’t see.”
Alvin attended the Samuel Picker Square dedication ceremony, which was held a couple of years after his father passed away.
“It was very emotional, and I was very proud to see that his name will be there forever,” he said. “His name will always be remembered in Forest Hills.
“He was just so community minded and wanted to do good things with his life besides having a business and a family, he wanted to give back,” he added. “He could make a speech, fill a room, and bring people together.”
In December 2015, 69-year-old Virginia Spolan suffered a heart attack so traumatic that she doesn’t remember any of the details.
Instead, she found herself waking up from a medically induced coma two months later at North Shore University Hospital.
In December 2017, she underwent surgery to install a device that artificially pumps her heart. While she can still walk, everyday tasks are a struggle for her.
“I have 11 grandchildren, and I’d like to be here to see them get married and have grandkids of their own,” Spolan said.
On October 10, also known as Organ Donor Enrollment Day, Spolan joined doctors at North Shore University Hospital to urge New Yorkers to register as organ donors.
“I would like to get a heart,” she said. “I’m always looking at the phone and waiting for the call.”
Spolan moved to top of the organ recipient list after suffering two infections from her left ventricular assist device, but she has no idea when she will receive a new heart.
More than 120,000 people across the country are awaiting organ donations. But Dr. Lewis Teperman, director of transplantation at North Shore, said deceased donors only provide about 18,000 organs a year.
“What that means, quite simply, is that we don’t have enough organs to fill the need,” he said. “We know that transplantation works, but we need the donors.”
New York has one of the lowest rates of donor enrollment. The United Network for Organ Sharing reports that more than 7,550 New Yorkers are waiting for kidneys, and 324 are waiting for hearts.
“One of the things that is important for recipients is that they can go back to providing for their communities, and that may be in a supportive role such as a grandparent helping with the grandkids or for younger people being able to get back to work and being able to live,” said Dr. David Majure, medical director of Northwell’s Mechanical Circulatory Support (LVAD) Program.
“It’s very difficult if you’re on dialysis or if you have limitations from heart failure or if you have a failing liver to be in society,” he added. “By giving these organs, you’re able to help people get back to being functioning members of society.”
Transplant recipient Shari Schnall underwent the process with Teperman 13 years ago. She said there are a lot of misconceptions about organ donation, and notes that most religions support it.
“I’m alive because of my donor,” she said. “It’s an amazing gift that you can give that’s unlike any other. It takes two minutes of your life to sign up.”
Like Spolan, Bellmore resident Simone Tibbits requires a transplant. The 40-year-old was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008, shortly after giving birth. She has been on dialysis since 2011, and on the kidney transplant list since 2015.
There are approximately 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, and many wait anywhere from five to ten years for a kidney from a deceased donor.
“We see so many terrible things in the news these days,” said Dr. Elliot Grodstein, a surgical oncologist at Northwell. “The best part of my job is seeing people who make the decision to donate in order to help save a life.
On Saturday, the first-ever Eeeeeatscon was held at Forest Hills Stadium. The event featured a curated group of restaurants and products and all-day panels led by industry pioneers and leaders.
Forest Hills resident Mike Arcati attended with wife Delia, friends Justin and Julissa of Rego Park, and Jonathan, who made the trek from Seattle. Among the foods they enjoyed was pesto pizza.
“Just being there to hang out with other foodies under the historical Forest Hills Stadium was fulfilling in itself,” he said. “I explored more of the stadium that I have not seen even after attending concerts.”
Evan Solomon and his wife Karen, also of Forest Hills, wanted their children Jasper and Michael to experience the festival.
“I liked the whole layout of the event, including going up on stage and seeing what is normally the VIP rooms for the attractions,” he said. “It's nice to know that people realize that an event doesn't have to be in Manhattan or Brooklyn to be popular and successful. We have great space right here in Central Queens.”
It was a large family-and-friends affair for Roxanne Krawczyk of Forest Hills.
“After trying about half the vendors, I definitely have a list of restaurants I would like to visit to try their full menu,” she said. “The tacos from Casa Enrique will definitely be on my mind, and the dumplings from Dumpling Galaxy were also incredible.
“With so many restaurants in the boroughs, it’s hard to discover it all, but this event gave you the chance to learn of places located so close by,” Krawczyk added.
Eeeeeatscon was also a draw for young couples. Doris Lee traveled from the Flatiron District and attended with her boyfriend and two friends.
“I really appreciated how clean, modern, and Instagram-able everything was,” she said. “Highlights included the free stuff, such as from the Amex Gold Lounge, as well as the speaker series.”
There were approximately 30 food vendors, and guests dined on blankets and at picnic tables. The Albi Room presented by Showtime and Shameless offered cocktails, and the Kidding Photo Booth by Showtime let attendees put themselves on the set of Jim Carey’s new series.
The Stella Artois Airstream Café featured bocce, while the Zagat studio enabled visitors to explore Zagat throughout the years and pin their favorite restaurants on a map. Children were entertained in the Kids Area and in the Edible Schoolyard, with hands-on gardening and cooking activities.
“It was a nice day, with a really nice vibe, and it was great to see a lot of like-minded people enjoying such good food,” said Jeff Zilberstein, who brought his wife and two children. “Most of the time these events take place and food is an afterthought, but having food front and center was kind of a cool and unique experience.”
Jordan Salcito, founder of Drink RAMONA, used the event to launch RAMONA Sicilian Lemon.
“Every time I went to a ballgame or what calls for a traditional 'beer' moment, I opted for water since I've never enjoyed a cold, refreshing beer in the romantic, traditional sense,” he said of the inspiration for his product. “It led me to realize that no delicious, wine-based, all-natural, and organic version of a spritz existed. I figured we might as well make one in a ready-to-drink format.”
Caviar presents The Wine Room hosted panels like “The Breakfast Club: Best wines to drink before you eat today” and “Fluent Not Affluent: A discussion about making wine more accessible and less stuffy.”
The “Eat Like A Champion” panel featured Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, and “How The West Was Won” featured chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who influenced the Los Angeles restaurant scene.
“Origin Stories” was a discussion with Tim and Nina Zagat and The Infatuation co-founders Chris Stang and Andrew Steinhal on brand-building and valuing community.
“The core principle was listening to people and having them share their experiences and give restaurants ratings for food, décor, service, and cost,” Nina Zagat explained. “Going out to eat is a great joy in life, and it’s more fun when you read about a place and you get to see all the little perks.”
“Zagat built real relationships with the community,” added Stang. “We had this whole idea of not wanting to feel so serious, but if it’s fun and funny, it feels more inclusive and more accessible and relatable.”
Gregory Lasak ended a 14-year tenure as a Supreme Court Justice just last month, but he is already looking for the next challenge.
Lasak announced on Tuesday that he will run for Queens District Attorney in 2019.
“My experiences make he uniquely qualified for this position,” he said during a phone interview shortly after the announcement was made public. “I know the office, from the personnel to its strengths and weaknesses.”
Lasak is a lifelong Queens residents. Born and raised in Woodside, he attended Holy Cross High School and graduated from Queens College. He raised his family in Richmond Hill.
After graduating from New York Law School, he went to work as an assistant district attorney in Queens at the age of 24. Over the next 25 years, he would rise in the ranks to chief of the Homicide Bureau and executive assistant for the Major Crime Division.
A video announcing his candidacy features Dwayne Palmer and his brother, Lamar. At the age of 19, Lamar was wrongfully arrested for the robbery and assault of a woman in Queens Village. He was looking at nine years behind bars.
Dwayne reached out to Lasak, and against the wishes of his own office, the police and court system, Lasak agreed to reinvestigate the case, eventually exonerating Lamar.
Overturning wrongful convictions would become a hallmark of Lasak's career, as prisoners, lawyers and others began reaching out to him to reopen their case. His work would eventually earn him accolades from Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project.
“You shouldn't be afraid to have your conviction scrutinized,” he said. “That could be you or me in that cell, it's just the right thing to do.”
If elected, Lasak would work to make the DA's office more reflective of the population of Queens County, and that means diversifying the staff. He would also stop prosecuting low-level arrests like possession of small amounts of marijuana and fare-beating to free up resources to prosecute violent crimes and other major offenses.
Lasak says he isn't worried about changing the culture of assistant district attorneys who may be focused on securing prosecutions.
“When I worked in the DA's office, I led by example,” he said. “I'm not worried about changing the mindset.”
Lasak said his days working on wrongful prosecutions taught him to not be afraid to question how things are being done.
“You are going against the detective who investigated the case, the district attorney who wrote it up, the grand jury who decided there was enough evidence, the judge in the case, a jury of peers, and the appellate judge who upheld the ruling,” he said. “That's a lot of people to go against.”
Another person he will have to go against is Councilman Rory Lancman, who recently announced that he would also be running for the seat. The current district attorney, Richard Brown, has until spring to decide if he will seek re-election.
Lasak said his qualifications speak for themselves.
“My experiences make he uniquely qualified for this position,” he said. “He's a career politician, I'm a former prosecutor and judge with decades of experience.”
With its third annual event scheduled for August 2019, the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema has rebranded itself as the Festival of Cinema NYC.
Festival organizers said the rebranding will allow the festival to expand its appeal by attracting more attendees and filmmakers from around the world.
“With Regal being our big sponsor now, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that we’ll have a broader appeal,” said executive director Jayson Simba. “Our original idea was to get people to Kew Gardens, but we just weren’t getting enough people.”
Once the festival changed its location from the Kew Gardens Cinema to the Regal UA Midway this past August following a deal with Regal, there was a lot of confusion.
“People were wondering why the festival was called Kew Gardens although we moved it to Forest Hills, and we just didn’t want to change it because it was homage to our roots,” he added. “We’re so grateful for everything Kew Gardens has done for us.”
Festival of Cinema NYC accepts films and media of all lengths, genres and subjects. Each year, there are over 15 categories including Best Feature and Short Narrative, Best Documentary, Best Animation, Music Video & Experimental and Best Web Series.
Past panelists and jury members have included Anna Garduno, executive producer at Netflix, Charles E. Williams, two-time Emmy award winner at CBS, and Doug LeClaire, founder of Asbury Shorts USA.
According to FilmFreeway, a website that tracks and helps to promote film festivals and creative contests, the former Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema rose to the rankings of one of the site’s “Top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals.” Based on attendee reviews, the festival was in the top 2 percent of more than 6,000 film festivals and creative contests around the world.
Currently, festival organizers are trying to attract more sponsors to grow the festival even further. They’re hoping the festival can expand to additional venues in Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Long Island City, Astoria and beyond.
Next year’s festival will take place from August 2 to August 11 at the Regal UA Midway, as well as at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The festival’s 2019 call for submissions is now open.
“We’re figuring out how to expand and keep it fresh and new,” Simba said. “We’re trying to make the festival bigger and better as we go into our third year.”
Prepping for the Open House: This is your one chance to really get to know a school from the inside out, not just from administrators, faculty and teachers, but current students and their parents. We talked to admissions directors from several schools who offer tips on going in prepared. Find the open house date for your preferred school in our schools list.