Queens Botanical Garden Unites Residents at 2015 Winter Solstice Celebration

The Queens Botanical Garden staff welcomed community members and children inside  their gates as they celebrated their 2015 Winter Solstice and Tree Lighting Celebration. According to Regina Forlenza, the visitor services and public programs manager, this is the fifth year that the botanical garden has had this event. “It’s a way of giving back to the community since most parts of the celebration are free,” said Forlenza.

Peter Sansone, the garden supervisor for Queens Botanical Gardens, has been dressing up as Santa Claus and taking pictures with Queens residents of all ages. Each person that takes a picture with santa receives a free candy cane with their photo.

Peter Sansone, the garden supervisor for Queens Botanical Gardens, has been dressing up as Santa Claus and taking pictures with Queens residents of all ages for over four years. Each person that takes a picture with Santa receives a free candy cane with their photo. Approximately 1300 candy canes will be given out this year.

In addition to taking photos with Santa, kids got the opportunity to make botanical craft items to take home for Christmas.

Julia, 6, makes an Christmas ornament using a tangerine, cloves and purplish- red ribbon. She said that it can be used as a Christmas tree decoration and it only took her 10 minutes to make it.

Julia, 6, makes a Christmas ornament using a tangerine, cloves and reddish-purple ribbons. She said that it can be used as a Christmas tree decoration and it only took her 10 minutes to make it.

Samantha, 4, finished making a candle. She took a layer of wax and rolled it around a piece of white string.

Samantha, 4, decided to make a candle for Christmas. She took a layer of wax and rolled it around a piece of white string.

The attendees were also entertained by the comical harmonies of an a capella choir called “The Rough Dozen.” They performed their own renditions of classic Christmas songs such as “Silent Night,” “Rock Around The Christmas Tree” and “The Christmas Song.” Humorous numbers that they performed were “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” sung by Carnell Angel, and “Santa Baby,” sung by David Burkard, the choir’s maestro.

David Barkard, 25,  maestro of the a capella group "The Rough Dozen", leads the 10- member choir as they serenade attendees. Members of the musical group include: Peter Thomas (a.k.a Legend), T.J. Cusack (a.k.a. The Professor), Reinard Bukalan (a.k.a. Beat Catcher), Joey Spitalieri, Kevin Arora, Carnell Angel, Shawn Ho, Carlos Ponce and Chris Sanges.   This is their fourth year performing at the Winter Solstice Celebration.

David Burkard, 25, maestro of the a capella group “The Rough Dozen,” leads the 10- member choir as they serenade attendees. Members of the musical group include: Peter Thomas (a.k.a Legend), T.J. Cusack (a.k.a. The Professor), Reinard Bukalan (a.k.a. Beat Catcher), Joey Spitalieri, Kevin Arora, Carnell Angel, Shawn Ho, Carlos Ponce and Chris Sanges. This is their fourth year performing at the Winter Solstice Celebration.

Once the performances ended, everyone gathered around in Cherry Circle as Santa Claus and “The Rough Dozen” engaged the crowd in one last Christmas song before they counted down to the lighting of the Queens Botanical Garden Christmas tree.

With about 5000 Christmas lights, the 21-foot organic Christmas tree from Vermont shined brightly for the first time at around 5 p.m. This marked the end of the Winter Solstice Celebration.

With about 5000 Christmas lights, the 21-foot organic Christmas tree from Vermont shined brightly for the first time around 5 p.m. This marked the end of the celebration.

Queens community leaders seek to address senior care in immigrant neighborhoods

 

Below is the updated first draft of my issues story. I’m open to any notes you guys have. There’s an obvious key source missing here, but I’m in the process of tracking them down. I have trouble writing a coherent conclusion for a complex topic. Any tips when it comes to wrapping up?

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According to a U.S Census report, the population of Americans 65 and older will double nationwide by the year 2050. As Americans of all ages consider how we’re going to support this aging population, a significant group of elder citizens is being left out of the discussion.

Aging and senior care in immigrant communities is fast becoming a major issue in New York City. Experts say the work must begin now if we’re going to have a system in place before the problem becomes unmanageable. How do we make sure older immigrants have access to high quality, culturally competent care and services that contribute to a better quality of life?

The Queens Coalition for Immigrant Aging (QCIA) says that immigrants now make up around 46 percent of New York’s total senior population. Last month the QCIA, in cooperation with the Queens Forum, hosted a conference titled “Immigrant Aging in Queens: Realities, Challenges and Opportunities” that examined health, economic, housing, and other issues facing immigrant seniors in Queens and New York City as a whole.

Speaking at the QCIA conference was Dr. Joseph J. Salvo, the director of the Population Division for the New York City Department of City Planning. Since 2010, Dr. Salvo has worked with the Census Bureau on compiling data about the residential settlement of immigrants. “Our department’s job is to help the people who help the people,” said Dr. Salvo. This data provides the foundational data necessary to take to city officials and make the case for funding.

A major issue echoed by Dr. Salvo, as well as other experts and community leaders, is the level of English proficiency in immigrant communities. According to Dr. Salvo’s data from the Census Bureau, 58 percent of the population in Queens is foreign-born. Of that 58 percent, at least a third of them are over the age of 65-years-old. For those foreign-born immigrants who are 65-years-old or older, 60.4 percent possess “limited English proficiency.” In other words, they may have a tenuous grasp of the language, but still have difficultly speaking or reading English. This means they’re less likely to know about or take advantage of city services they might qualify for.

Older immigrants face the same challenges as other seniors, except with the added complexities of legal status and language barriers. According to Center for an Urban Future, a non-partisan public policy think-tank based here in Manhattan, 24 percent of older immigrants live in households below the poverty level. That’s compared to 15 percent of native-born older adults. The median income of a foreign-born senior in New York is only $9,900 compared to an average of $18,300 for native-born seniors. Nearly 130,000 immigrant seniors in New York City are living below the poverty line.

In Midst of chain bookstore closures and Amazon market domination, Astoria Bookshop flourishes

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Located between Broadway and 30th Avenue, Astoria has been a central part of the neighborhood since it’s opening in 2013.  Despite Amazon accounting for 30 percent of book sales in the United States and chain bookstores closing their doors, owner Lexi Beach, 34, says customer loyalty and the neighborhood’s general support for small businesses has allowed her business to flourish.

DOT further recognizes South Queens’ need for transportation

The New York City Department of Transportation testified at a NYC Council hearing about providing better transportation options in New York’s underserved areas on Nov. 12, including expanding a pilot program aimed at reducing weekend fares on rail.

According to her testimony, Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recognized that eastern Queens and northern Bronx have the longest commutes into Manhattan and also have commuter railroads running through them, but the high fare discourages its usage.

“To give an example, a trip from Rosedale in Queens to midtown takes 83 minutes on an express bus, but takes only 32 minutes on the LIRR,” Trottenberg said. “Those LIRR trips are discouraged by a $10 fare, compared to $6.50 for an express bus, or $2.75 for the local bus and subway.”

She said the de Blasio administration “strongly supports” expanding CityTicket to address the issue, a pilot program for Saturday and Sunday travel between either Brooklyn or Manhattan and Queens on the MTA Long Island Rail Road, or Manhattan and the Bronx on the MTA Metro-North Railroad. The fare for single-direction one-way travel is only $4.25 compared to the regular $10 fare. However, they are conflicted with the potential consequences to the MTA.

“But we do also recognize that the MTA has indicated that an expansion could entail significant revenue loss,” Trottenberg said. “As a result, the City and the MTA have agreed to explore in the coming months the possibility for expanding CityTicket to better serve New York residents while ensuring it also fiscally and operationally feasible for the MTA.”

The decision to expand CityTicket would provide further incentives for the City to address advocates pressing for the reactivation of Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way that used to extend from the main LIRR train through East Queens and into Far Rockaway until 1962 when it became inactive.  However, a land use debate exists because another group of community users are advocating to use the space to build a linear, elevated park called the QueensWay that models the Manhattan High Line.

According to MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan, the MTA is allowing community users to develop a consensus on what Donovan feels is a political decision.

“If the political process yields a desire for a reactivation of the rail line, then we’d conduct a study of costs and benefits and environmental impact,” Donovan said. “But as of yet that hasn’t happened.”

 

In Middle Village, A Bridal Shop is Beating the Odds

Paisley Bridal, a bridal shop, in Middle Village, Queens, seems out of place on a business strip mostly populated with small chain businesses and run of the mill New York City take out restaurants.  But, Nicole Vega, 31, the owner, has made it work.

“When I first opened up, some of the older people who’ve lived here forever, would say to me ‘Aw, sweety, you’ll be done in six months,'” said, Vega.

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Glendale, the Patriotic

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Residential neighborhoods always tend to hold the best shots for me. You get to see people in their ‘natural habitats’, so to speak. On a recent afternoon in Glendale, I noticed a pattern. Queens may be New York Jets territory, but may well be a Patriots bastion considering the sheer number of American flags I caught. This shot exemplified that fact perfectly, with each house showing their USA pride via a hanging flag.

United States flags adorn row houses in Glendale, N.Y.

United States flags adorn row houses in Glendale, N.Y.

A Little Slice of Guyana Can Be Found in Richmond Hill’s Little Guyana Bake Shop

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — The Little Guyana Bake Shop bakers come in at 4 a.m. to begin making their famous patties and tarts. Shown here are some of the traditional Guyanese and Indo-Carribean baked goods that the store has come to be known for; apple turnovers, pinetarts and guava sticks to name just a few. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — The Little Guyana Bake Shop bakers come in at 4 a.m. to begin making their famous patties and tarts. Shown here are some of the traditional Guyanese and Indo-Carribean baked goods that the store has come to be known for; apple turnovers, pinetarts and guava sticks to name just a few. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

The Little Guyana Bake Shop in Richmond Hill has been serving its loyal customers with arguably the best selection of Guyanese groceries in the area for the past 30 years. The owner, Bayee Mahasse, would even raise the stakes on this claim believing that his store is actually one of the best in the country.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 —  Fresh seafood, like this butter fish, is prepared in the bakery’s own butcher kitchen, located at the back of the store. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — Fresh seafood, like this butter fish, is prepared in the bakery’s own butcher kitchen, located at the back of the store. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — These gilbacker fish were being sold for $6.99 at the Little Guyana Bake Shop. While a lot of people shop here for the goodies, there are also regulars who come on the weekends from all parts of the boroughs to do their weekly shopping here. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — These gilbacker fish were being sold for $6.99 at the Little Guyana Bake Shop. While a lot of people shop here for the goodies, there are also regulars who come on the weekends from all parts of the boroughs to do their weekly shopping here. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

The Little Guyana Bake Shop, though the name may lead you to believe that it only supplies customers with patties and pine tarts, actually sells everything from freshly butchered butter fish to imported ghee (a clarified butter that is used in a lot of Indian and Guyanese cuisine).

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — The Little Guyana Bake Shop sells importer condiments from Guyana as well as common pantry items. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — The Little Guyana Bake Shop sells importer condiments from Guyana as well as common pantry items. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — Not a square inch is spared on the shelves at the Little Guyana Bake Shop in Richmond Hill. The tight corners of the store are piled high with stock overflow, making it both a maze and a puzzle for the shoppers to navigate the store with their metal carts trailing behind. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — Not a square inch is spared on the shelves at the Little Guyana Bake Shop in Richmond Hill. The tight corners of the store are piled high with stock overflow, making it both a maze and a puzzle for the shoppers to navigate the store with their metal carts trailing behind. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — These patties, baked true to the Guyanese recipe that the owner came here with 30 years ago, are one of the Little Guyana Bake Shop’s top-selling products. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, October 30, 2015 — These patties, baked true to the Guyanese recipe that the owner came here with 30 years ago, are one of the Little Guyana Bake Shop’s top-selling products. 2015-10-30 Photo by Johanna Chisholm.

The Little Guyana Bake Shop is an important staple for both the community of Richmond Hill, as well as the larger Guyanese population that reaches throughout the boroughs of New York City. Mahasse said that he sometimes even gets customers from Connecticut – and even Canada – on some weekends!

On the Side — Visiting Sunnyside’s Calvary Cemetery

First Calvary Cemetery sits on the southwestern border of Sunnyside, where Long Island City begins. It was one of the first New York cemeteries established outside of Manhattan. When measured with its sister plot, New Calvary Cemetery, it is the largest cemetery in the United States, at 365 acres, according to the city park’s department.

A visit the day before Halloween failed to turn up anything spooky. No zombies or witches, just a few groundskeepers, and an excellent view of Manhattan.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is one of the largest cemeteries in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt New York City News Service.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt New York City News Service.

Viewed from the shadows, One World Trade Center shined in the sunlight.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. One World Trade Center viewed from First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt, New York City News Service.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. One World Trade Center viewed from First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt, New York City News Service.

The loud rattle of leaf blowers cut through the silence.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. Groundskeeper Ronny Alberto inside First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt New York City News Service.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. Groundskeeper Ronny Alberto inside First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt New York City News Service.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. Groundskeeper Jose Rosales uses the leaf blower inside First Calvarty Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt, New York City News Service.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. Groundskeeper Jose Rosales uses the leaf blower inside First Calvarty Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt, New York City News Service.

But most of the people, that is, the ones buried here, weren’t disturbed.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt New York City News Service.

New York, NY. Friday, Oct. 30. First Calvary Cemetary in Long Island City, Queens. It is the largest cemetery in the United States. 10/30/15 Photo by: Devin Holt New York City News Service.