Reality House Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Expands Facilities

by Charlie Finnerty

Reality House, Inc., a substance abuse and addiction treatment center in Astoria, are expanding their residential in-patient facility on Astoria Blvd. from 30 beds to 60 and opened a new outpatient office. Specializing in reintegration, Reality House takes a community-based approach to help individuals secure housing, employment and other essential needs to rebuild their life after struggling with addiction. Executive Director Michael Cannaday said he sees reintegration as providing the support needed to ensure the longer recovery process is successful.

“Reintegration is the next step after rehab, it’s not an alternative,” Cannaday said. “Some people go to rehab and they have support in place; they have family, they have support.”

Reality House provides substance use treatment, mental health counseling, housing and employment services for patients, according to Clinical Program Director Roland Smith. While most patients come from Queens, Smith said Reality House serves individuals across the city and offers virtual services for those who want to stay connected to the program remotely. The residential in-patient care program is typically 6 months.

“Because it’s a reintegration program it’s more of a step down from maybe a more intensive residential program,” Smith said. “It’s a lot less restricted. They can be back in their communities, visit their families and work.”

Established in Harlem in 1967, Reality House initially focused on offering culturally-appropriate substance abuse, HIV treatment and prevention, mental health treatment and PTSD recovery for veterans. While veterans are still a central part of their work, Smith said that their services have expanded to be open to all New Yorkers that need support. Expanding their residential facilities will help to better serve those individuals since Reality House regularly has a waiting list of at least 30 people, according to Smith.

Roland Smith at Reality House. Credit: Charlie Finnerty.

Like many staff and counselors involved with addiction and recovery treatment, Cannaday and Smith were both drawn to community-based work after their own personal experiences and struggles.

“The last time I was incarcerated, there was a correction officer who used to walk by everyday and he used to give me the newspaper, he’d give me coffee,” Cannaday said. “When I left I asked him, ‘Why’d you alway give me that stuff?’ and he said ‘I heard you speak before. You’re a smart dude, you’re a decent looking guy. I was invested in you because you have the potential to live next door to me and I wanna know who’s going to live next door to me.’ That sticks with me like a ton of bricks to this day.”

Cannaday said he hopes reintegration facilities like Reality House can become examples for an alternative path for the city and state to support people dealing with addiction, mental illness and poverty that isn’t dependent on criminalization. Particularly after seeing the city’s response to the ongoing asylum seeker crisis, Cannaday said he feels the failures to support those struggling with substances or homelessness is a lack of political will rather than a lack of available resources.

Reality House staff receive a presentation from the national guard. Credit: Charlie Finnerty.

“It just gets so disparaging, when you see how much money we’re utilizing in the state and the city right now, because you know what it says? It says that we have the capability to do something, but we really choose not to do it. And that’s what makes people say, ‘Is this a setup?’” Cannaday said. “You say you want us to turn out better but you don’t want to invest in turning it out and you don’t even have the vision to see how far this impacts society. Most these people have mental health issues that are undiagnosed, especially people of color.”

Reality House can be reached at (212) 281-6004.

The Woodhaven Beat: Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Patrolman Arthur Kenney (left), killed while defending the residents of Woodhaven in March 1926, left behind a wife and a young daughter. Kenney will be honored in Woodhaven 98 years after his death, on Saturday, April 6th, when the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue is co-named in his honor. 98 years after his shooting, New York grieves the loss of another hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.

By Ed Wendell
A tragedy happened in Woodhaven nearly 100 years ago. A police officer from another part of Queens, temporarily assigned here to find one dangerous criminal, lost his life on the streets of Woodhaven, defending our community.
On Saturday, April 6th, ninety-eight years after Patrolman Arthur Kenney died from injuries sustained here in Woodhaven, he will be honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
The ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM and is the work of the Newtown Historical Society, Councilwoman Joann Ariola and the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society. A reception will be held afterwards at Neir’s Tavern.
The Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson have been honoring police officers killed in the line of duty for quite a while and this year they turned their attention to Woodhaven.
Later this year, School Safety Agent Orville Williams, who suffered a heart attack while breaking up a fight between students at Franklin K. Lane in 1999, and Sergeant Thomas F. J. O’Grady, who died due to injuries sustained while responding to a stabbing at Dexter Park in 1916, will also be honored with street co-namings in Woodhaven.
Back in 1926, residents of Woodhaven were living in fear due to a dangerous criminal who had been breaking into residents’ homes and stealing one of the most valuable things many of them owned, the relatively new item every household had to have, a radio.
Reports ranged from 50 to over 100 radios stolen from residents and homeowners began taking down their aerials so it would appear that they didn’t own one. The police flooded the area with plainclothes detectives and uniformed patrolmen to try and corral the criminal the press had dubbed “The Radio Burglar.”
At 2:30 in the morning of March 25th, 1926, police were summoned to a home on 78th Street by a housewife who saw a man acting suspiciously outside a neighbor’s home. When the detectives arrived at the scene, they noticed a flickering light inside the home and one of the officers walked down the alley and into the backyard to investigate.
Detective Frank Donnelly of Long Island City was near the back door when it opened and a man, identifying himself as the homeowner, asked “What’s the matter? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Before the Detective could answer, there was an explosion and he fell, a bullet lodged in his chest. The burglar had shot Donnelly without removing his hand from his jacket pocket.
In the chaos, and under the cover of darkness, the burglar escaped and emerged on 90th Avenue, with Patrolman Arthur Kenney and another officer in hot pursuit. The chase continued past 80th Street, with Kenney closing in, when the burglar disappeared into some bushes.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney followed the suspect’s trail into a dark backyard where he almost collided with a man claiming to be a fellow police officer, also in pursuit.
“I think the man you’re looking for jumped over that fence,” he told Kenney.
Keep in mind that the streets were flooded with plainclothes detectives from all over Queens and they didn’t all know each other. And in that brief momentary pause, the suspect fired his gun from his jacket pocket again, striking Kenney in the neck, before vanishing into the night.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney battled for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries. He was 28 years old and left behind a wife and a young daughter.
His killer, Paul Hilton the Radio Burglar, was captured a few weeks later at the Polo Grounds. He would be convicted and executed for his crimes within a year.

The shooting of 2 police officers in Woodhaven by the criminal dubbed “The Radio Burglar” as it appeared in the Leader-Observer in March 1926. Patrolman Arthur Kenney would lose his life due to injuries sustained that night. Kenney will be honored in Woodhaven 98 years after his death, on Saturday, April 6th, when the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue is co-named in his honor.

And now, nearly a hundred years later, as Woodhaven prepares to honor a hero lost in 1926, our hearts are broken by the murder of another young hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, lost this week.
Diller, just 31 years old, was killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.
One constant in life is that there will always be bad guys on the streets, and we will always need good police officers to combat them. And sadly, another constant is that police officers will be killed while doing that job.
Our prayers go out to the families of all fallen officers like Patrolman Arthur Kenney and Officer Jonathan Diller and to all the officers that continue to put their lives at risk for our safety, night after night, year after year.
They show bravery and courage that, frankly, is sometimes hard to comprehend. And so, honoring their memories while praying for their souls is the very least we can offer.

BQE Redevelopment Initiative Receives $5.6M Federal Grant to Bridge Neighborhood Divides

Examples of treatments that could be applied to BQE North and South. Credit: Department of Transportation

By MOHAMED FARGHALY

The U.S. Department of Transportation has greenlit a $5.6 million grant to propel forward a transformative redesign of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s (BQE) North and South corridors, Brooklyn elected officials revealed.  For nearly seven decades, the BQE, colloquially referred to as the “trench,” has severed neighborhoods like South Williamsburg and Sunset Park, fostering environmental hazards and health concerns due to noise, pollution, and heightened levels of respiratory illnesses.

This substantial grant, announced on March 12, aims to mend these urban scars, fostering community cohesion while mitigating the adverse environmental and economic impacts stemming from the daily influx of approximately 150,000 vehicles along the expressway.

Brooklyn representatives, alongside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition, a consortium comprising 17 community groups spanning northern to southern Brooklyn, have waged a sustained campaign to rectify the infrastructural rifts caused by the BQE’s inception, led by the influential urban planner Robert Moses. In a unified statement on the 12th, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lauded the decision, highlighting their concerted efforts to prioritize the “BQE Connects: Advancing the BQE North and South Corridor Vision” grant.

“This grant is the catalyst we need to finally put together a comprehensive plan to reimagine the entire BQE corridor and to address environmental justice issues that plague the northern and southern portions of the expressway,” the officials stated. “Our offices will work to ensure this is just the beginning of the federal government’s investment in the BQE with fairness and justice at the forefront.”

Echoing this sentiment, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition emphasized a clear vision to reshape the BQE into a space prioritizing the well-being of all affected communities, pledging to advocate for environmentally conscious decision-making in future infrastructure planning.  Notably, the grant’s approval follows Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement, heralding a significant step toward rectifying the historical disunity sewed by the BQE’s construction.

Governor Kathy Hochul and state DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez reaffirmed their dedication to collaborative efforts with the community and governmental stakeholders in this endeavor.  Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi lauded the city’s Federal Infrastructure Task Force for crafting exemplary grant applications, which also secured a $117 million federal grant to advance the QueensWay project, a park initiative situated on a disused corridor of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. However, a contentious $800 million NYC DOT grant proposal aimed at rebuilding the deteriorating BQE Central section, stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, was recently rebuffed. NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez expressed eagerness to explore various initiatives in consultation with Brooklyn residents along the BQE, envisioning possibilities like highway capping, street redesigns, and other enhancements to the corridor.

Notably, NYC DOT has orchestrated workshops to solicit ideas for enhancing areas adjacent to the BQE North and South, emphasizing community engagement in envisioning the future of these regions.  According to DOT’s release, proposed treatments for BQE North and South encompass full or partial highway capping, pedestrian infrastructure enhancements, intersection and ramp optimizations, and under-elevated improvements. At least two proposals, each addressing BQE North and South, will progress to partial design, laying the groundwork for further collaboration between DOT and NYSDOT to foster community reconnection initiatives across the corridor.

Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul aimed financing planning endeavors to enhance the quality of life for residents residing in proximity to the BQE, particularly those hailing from disadvantaged communities. This grant will facilitate the exploration of proposals to revitalize connectivity in the local transportation network, bolstering accessibility to employment, amenities, and green spaces while fortifying safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.

The comprehensive efforts outlined Mayor Adams’ overarching BQE Corridor Vision, underscoring a commitment to collaborate with communities along Brooklyn’s sole interstate highway, redressing longstanding divides and addressing critical infrastructure challenges within the city-owned BQE Central stretch between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street.

QueensWay Receives Major Boost with $117 Million Federal Grant

A $117 million federal grant injects new life into the ambitious QueensWay project, aiming to transform a blighted stretch of abandoned railway into a vibrant linear park and cultural greenway in Central Queens. Rendering of the QueensWay. Credit: Trust for Public Land

By MOHAMED FARGHALY

The ambitious QueensWay project, aimed at transforming a blighted 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens into a vibrant linear park and cultural greenway, received a significant boost with the announcement of a $117 million federal grant.

The grant, part of the “Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program – Neighborhood Access and Equity Program” issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, marks a watershed moment in the initiative’s progress.

Led by the Friends of the QueensWay (FQW) in collaboration with The Trust for Public Land, the project has garnered widespread support from various quarters since its inception in 2011. The conversion of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch into a public park has been championed by local residents, civic organizations, and advocacy groups, with the aim of revitalizing the area and enhancing the quality of life for residents of Queens and beyond.

“In communities like Queens, greenspace is limited, and transportation projects have historically disconnected diverse neighborhoods and discouraged walkability, and QueensWay stands to help change this,” U.S. Representative Grace Meng said.

Mayor Eric Adams hailed the federal funding as a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering community cohesion and investing in transformative infrastructure projects.

“Our infrastructure should be bringing communities together, not tearing them apart, and that’s why we aggressively pursued these Reconnecting Communities grants, to reshape our city in a way that unites us,” Mayor Adams said. “The next phase of the QueensWay will add more greenway miles, vibrant parks, and outdoor amenities to neighborhoods across Queens, and the BQE Corridor grant we won moves us closer to undoing some of the damage that Robert Moses caused and invests in beautiful, interconnected new public spaces.”

The Rockaway Beach Branch, abandoned since 1962, once extended from the LIRR main line at Rego Park through Ozone Park and across Jamaica Bay to the Rockaways. Its construction began in 1877, with services commencing in the 1880s and full completion in the 1910s and 1920s. However, recurring track fires near Jamaica Bay in the 1940s and 1950s made maintenance financially impractical for the LIRR.

In 1955 and 1956, significant changes occurred, New York City acquired part of the line for subway tracks which is now used by the A train, while the LIRR reduced operations due to low ridership. Service ceased entirely on June 8, 1962. Despite numerous attempts to reactivate the RBB, studies consistently deem it infeasible due to high costs, commuter disruptions, environmental impacts, and adverse effects on existing communities.

The $117 million grant will specifically support the Forest Park Pass project, an extension of the QueensWay into Forest Park. This phase of the project will encompass approximately 1.3 miles of greenway, new greenway bridges, recreational amenities, and connections to existing facilities in Forest Park, including Victory Field. Once completed, the QueensWay will comprise 47 acres of new park space and seven miles of greenway, spanning multiple neighborhoods including Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park.

“My thanks to President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg for establishing this transformational grant program and investing $123 million in federal grants to support our city’s growing infrastructure needs, as well as to all of our city, state, and federal partners who went to bat for New York City,” Mayor Adams said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a $35 million investment for the design and construction of Phase One of the QueensWay, known as the Metropolitan Hub (Met Hub). This initial phase, set to transform a vacant city-owned corridor in Forest Hills into a five-acre park with 0.7 miles of greenway, aims to provide residents with enhanced access to recreational amenities and safe transportation corridors.

The QueensWay project has drawn inspiration from successful precedents such as the High Line in Manhattan, the Atlanta BeltLine, and the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C. By repurposing underutilized rail corridors, these projects have not only created recreational opportunities but also stimulated economic and cultural development in their respective communities.

“This innovative project will create a new signature park in the heart of Queens, transforming an abandoned rail line into a vibrant greenspace where New Yorkers can enjoy all the health benefits of time outdoors,’ New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Sue Donoghue said. “With over a mile of new greenway paths for pedestrians and cyclists, the QueensWay will provide new connections between neighborhoods and give New Yorkers a safe way to get around and enjoy the fresh air.”

While the QueensWay project has garnered broad support, potential criticisms include concerns about environmental impact,  accessibility issues, long-term maintenance and funding and levels of community consultation.

With the latest infusion of federal funding, the QueensWay project is poised to enter its next phase of development, bringing to fruition a vision of a dynamic urban green space that promotes health, connectivity, and community engagement.

“Friends of the Queensway has been advocating for our communities and activation of this rails to trails project for more than a decade, and we commend federal and city leaders for collaborating on this extraordinary investment to activate quality park space and parks access,” Friends of the Queensway said.

For more information on the QueensWay project and upcoming developments, visit thequeensway.org.

Queens Chamber Hosts Annual St Patrick’s Day Luncheon

by Queens Ledger Staff  | [email protected]

The Queens Chamber of Commerce welcomed leaders in business, politics and culture from across the borough to Antun’s in Queens Village for their annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon March 13. The event celebrated the contributions of Irish-Americans to Queens with food, entertainment, and recognition of honorees Jack Schlossberg and Mary Murphy.

President and CEO of the Queens Cham­ber of Commerce Tom Grech opened the event by honoring former NYC Council Member Paul Vallone, who passed away in January, before invocations from Bishop Robert Brennan and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik. The luncheon featured traditional Irish fare, performances by Fallon O’Brien of the Hagen Kavanagh School of Irish Dance, music by The Cobblers, and presentation of colors by the 2nd Battalion 25th Marines. The National Anthem was performed by Emily Kightlinger of St. Francis Prep.

Murphy is an award-winning journalist born and raised in Queens. She served as an anchor for PIX11 News for nearly 15 years and received multiple Emmy awards her reporting, spanning the opioid crisis, the September 11th terror attacks, the “Junior” case in the Bronx, the death of Princess Diana, Hurricane Sandy, the Black Sunday fire in 2005, and 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800. Murphy said the stories that stuck with her the most were missing people and cold cases in which families were still looking for justice.

“The main reason I lasted so long on TV is because every day, New Yorkers trusted me to tell their stories and for that I am in their debt,” Murphy said. “They gave me a career.”

Schlossberg, the only grandson of President John F. Kennedy, is an activist and attorney currently serving on President Biden’s reelection campaign as part of their voter protection team in battleground states. In his speech, Schlossberg spoke about his passion for paddleboarding. He can be found in the East River in the early hours of most mornings with a few friends and said it was an essential part of his routine as he prepared to pass the bar exam last year.

With a large portion of his speech focusing on the 2024 election and his belief in President Biden, Schlossberg looked to Queens as an example for what it means to bring the country together at a tense political moment.

“Queens is the most diverse place in our country,” Schlossberg said in his speech. “These days, people like to talk about how divided they think we are. They should come to Queens, because people out here seem to get along pretty well.”

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