New Library Opens at Samaritan Daytop Village Shelter in Queens

By MOHAMED FARGHALY mfarghaly@queensledger.com

Samaritan Daytop Village, in collaboration with United Way and NYC Department for Social Services, launched ‘The Bookmark,’ a new library at Boulevard family shelter in Queens on May 29. Courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

A new chapter in literacy and community support unfolded on May 29 as Samaritan Daytop Village, in collaboration with United Way and the New York City Department for Social Services, unveiled ‘The Bookmark,’ a vibrant library nestled within the Boulevard family shelter in Queens.

Designed to serve 199 families residing at the shelter, The Bookmark offers an array of literary resources aimed at enriching the lives of children and parents alike. From a diverse collection of children’s books to designated reading spaces and computer terminals for older youth and adults, the facility promises to be a sanctuary of learning and relaxation.

The facility, serving 199 families, offers books, reading spaces, and computers. Courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

The grand opening ceremony witnessed a heartwarming moment as DSS Administrator Carter, Samaritan CEO Mitchell Netburn, and United Way CEO Grace Bonilla came together to read the beloved children’s book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” to the shelter’s young residents.

The creation of this haven for literature owes its existence to a $10,000 grant from United Way of New York City, part of a broader initiative aimed at enhancing access to books and literacy-based activities in underserved communities. In line with this vision, The Bookmark represents a cornerstone of a larger endeavor to ensure that every child in shelter environments has access to the resources necessary for their educational and personal development.

“We are grateful to partner with trusted organizations to advance education equity and empower all children and adults with increased access to the world of literature and books,” Grace Bonilla, President & CEO at United Way of New York City said. “These community libraries are foundational for ensuring that all New Yorkers can thrive as the libraries are planting seeds for future economic mobility.”

In a statement, Mitchell Netburn, CEO of Samaritan Daytop Village, expressed gratitude for the collaborative effort that brought The Bookmark to fruition, emphasizing its significance in promoting academic advancement and fostering social and emotional well-being among shelter residents. Netburn underscored the library’s role as a model for similar initiatives across New York City, thanking United Way for their generosity and support.

“Thanks to the generosity of United Way and the partnership with the New York City Department of Homeless Services, our families have a space where children and their parents can spend quiet time, research, read, and engage in activities,” Netburn said. “This new library adds to our Afterschool Zone initiative at the Boulevard shelter, which gives children a leg up academically, promotes intellectual learning, and expands their social and emotional learning opportunities.  Together, this library and the Afterschool Zone serve as a model for other family residences in New York City. We are grateful to United Way for making this possible.”

United Way’s $10,000 grant funded the project, aiming to enhance literacy in marginalized communities. Courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

Similarly, Joslyn Carter, DHS Administrator, highlighted the transformative power of reading, describing it as a conduit to imagination and relaxation. Carter commended United Way of New York City for their contribution, recognizing The Bookmark as a vital resource for children and families seeking solace and inspiration during challenging times.

“Reading is fundamental. Reading is one of things that can take you to a place of fantasy, where you can just relax and hear stories,” Carter said. “That’s the opportunity that we need to give to children and families, and here it is, the chance to do just that in this beautiful space. As soon as I walked through this door, my spirits were lifted. We could not have done this without the generosity of the United Way of New York City – thank you.”

Leaders praised the initiative’s potential to support educational and emotional well-being in shelter residents. Courtesy of Anat Gerstein, Inc.

The unveiling of The Bookmark marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to provide holistic support to families experiencing homelessness, reflecting a shared commitment to nurturing a culture of learning and resilience within communities across the city.

The Woodhaven Beat: Patriotism in Woodhaven

By Ed Wendell

There were quite a few good signs of patriotism around Woodhaven over the past few days, providing much-needed hope and encouragement in these divisive times.

Let’s start with something that happened last week at the Memorial to local soldiers from World War 2, which has sat at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue for nearly 70 years. The flagpole’s pulley was broken; the flag was hanging from just one grommet, and it could not be raised or lowered anymore.
American Legion Post 118 attempted to fix it but it was apparent they needed outside help. In stepped the L.S. Sign Company in Ridgewood, whose owner Bernard Giarraputo is the son of a World War 2 Navy Vet.
They came with their truck to Woodhaven, fixed the pulley and raised the flag, free of charge. It was a wonderful act of generosity and patriotism and our community is grateful for their help and friendship.
Now, when American Legion Post 118 holds their annual Memorial Day Observance at Forest Parkway this Thursday May 23rd at 6:30 p.m., the American flag will be flying properly. We hope you will be there to see it.

The team from L.S. Sign Company in Ridgewood, who responded to a call for help from American Legion Post 118 and repaired the flagpole and pulley, free of charge, in time for the annual observance of memorial Day at Forest Parkway, which this year will happen on Thursday, May 23rd at 6:30 p.m.

One day after the flagpole was fixed, residents gathered in Forest Park, to decorate the Memorial Trees, which were planted in the aftermath of World War 1 in memory of the many young men lost in that brutal war.
Week after week, residents of Woodhaven nervously looked to the front page of the Leader-Observer to see, under the headline of Taps, the latest names of the dead. In all, 70 young men from Woodhaven left home to fight over there, never to return.
It was decided to plant oak trees in their names, along Forest Park Drive across from the old Golf Clubhouse (now known as Oak Ridge). And families would decorate the tree that was dedicated to their loved one each Decoration Day (as Memorial Day was formerly called). And for years, Woodhaven’s Memorial Day parade ended in Forest Park, amongst the Memorial Trees.
Over time, the tradition faded away and was largely forgotten. But in 2015, the tradition was revived and every year since then, residents have gathered in the park to decorate the trees that remain. It’s a good feeling, decorating the very same trees that residents from Woodhaven decorated over 100 years ago, linking two eras of our community together in a very special way.
And this year we were pleasantly surprised to see more than a dozen young oaks planted in place of those oaks who had been felled by time. Those new oaks have been adopted into the Memorial Tree Family and we hope the tradition of decorating them will continue for many more years to come.

Residents from Woodhaven who came out to decorate the Memorial Trees in Forest Park, a local tradition that dates back over 100 years. The oak trees along Forest Park Drive were planted in the aftermath of World War 1 to commemorate the lives of local men who went off to fight and never came home.

And the very next day, another long standing Woodhaven tradition made its annual return. American Legion Post 118’s Garden of Remembrance was again erected in their headquarters’ front yard on 89th Avenue and 91st Street.
Erected with fine precision by Franklin K. Lane’s Junior ROTC, led by Master Sergeant Eddie Carr, the Garden is a ‘cemetery in miniature’ as it used to be called when it started, sometime just after World War 2.
The post’s front yard is blanketed with markers commemorating not only those who were lost in battle, but also those who were members of the post and who are sadly no longer with us.
It will be in front of this beautiful tribute that American Legion Post 118 will observe Memorial Day on Monday, May 27th at 11 a.m. Afterwards, everyone is invited inside for refreshments and, again, we hope you will join us.

Members of Franklin K. Lane’s Junior ROTC, led by Master Sergeant Eddie Carr, erecting American Legion Post 118s Garden of Remembrance, a tribute to those who are no longer with us. It will be in front of this beautiful tribute that American Legion Post 118 will observe Memorial Day on Monday, May 27th at 11 a.m. Afterwards, everyone is invited inside for refreshments.

These are the traditions that unite us and bring us together, something sorely needed during a time when more and more people feel divided and apart from one another. It is a time when we come together to pledge our unity, not only to our flag and country, but also to each other.
It is a time where we need to embody the old saying “I may disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it” instead of declaring others to be your enemy because they disagree.
It is a time where we stand in front of a monument with the names of those who gave their lives in order for us to live freely in this great country we live in. Let us not have their sacrifices be in vain.

Honoring Our Veterans with a Woodhaven Memorial Day Tradition

by Ed Wendell

Just over one hundred years ago, a beautiful tradition was launched in Forest Park, the creation of a living, breathing memorial to 70 young men from Woodhaven who lost their lives in World War 1.
Although our country’s time in the war was brief, we suffered many casualties and Woodhaven was hit very hard. Week after week, the front page of the Leader-Observer announced the names of the newly dead and wounded.
It was a dramatic turnaround from the early days of our involvement in the war when the newspapers and the public were quite enthusiastic, seeing our young men off with rousing cheers and festive parades.
In the days and months after the war ended, residents of Woodhaven wanted to create a unique monument to the young men whose lives were lost. The idea they finally settled upon was original indeed, and the press stated that it was the first of its kind in the United States.
In May of 1919, fifty-three trees were planted along the road entering Forest Park at Park Lane South and Forest Parkway, each in the name of a soldier that perished. Over time, as more names were added to the Honor Roll, the number of trees grew to approximately 70.
And every Decoration Day (as Memorial Day was originally known) families would gather in Forest Park and decorate the memorial trees. A large granite monument with a plaque listing the names of the dead was erected atop that hill, across from the golf clubhouse.
The residents of Woodhaven referred to that hill as Memorial Knoll and the annual parade would end there, amongst the memorial trees.
Chairs would be set out on the lawn in front of the clubhouse and hundreds and hundreds of veterans, family members and residents would march up that hill to pay tribute to the dead. According to reports in the Leader, veterans from the Civil War marched up that hill and took part in ceremonies there.
It was a beautiful tradition that faded away due to a series of events triggered by the widening of Woodhaven Boulevard in the late 30s or early 1940s.
You see, the old American Legion headquarters sat on the old Woodhaven Avenue and it had to be torn down to make way for the 10-lane Woodhaven Boulevard.
The city reimbursed the Legion and they built a new headquarters at 88th Avenue and 91st Street, behind PS 60, where it sits today.
And since they had a nice new building with a lovely front yard, they decided to move the monument from Forest Park to its current location. If you’ve ever been to a WRBA meeting or at the Senior Center, then you’ve seen this monument. It’s still there, listing the names of these young heroes.
But once the monument was moved, the parade route was switched and as families moved away or died off or just plain forgot, the tradition of decorating the trees disappeared.
But the trees are still there.
Sure enough, time has been harsh to the trees and many of them have fallen. But quite a few of these trees have passed the century mark; they still stand proudly on Memorial Knoll, high above Woodhaven.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and American Legion Post 118 worked together to revive the tradition of decorating the trees in 2015. And they have been decorated every Memorial Day since then.
This year’s Memorial Tree Decorating is tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 17th at 6 p.m., we will be meeting right outside Oak Ridge (weather permitting). E-mail us at projectwoodhaven@gmail.com if you’d like to participate.

A Beacon of Hope for Veterans Battling Addiction

 

Mohamed Farghaly

Samaritan Daytop Village’s Ed Thompson Veterans Program stands as a beacon of hope for veterans battling addiction and grappling with the aftermath of war.

MOHAMED FARGHALY

mfarghaly@queensledger.com

In a quiet corner of Queens, lies a haven dedicated to healing the wounds of war that linger long after the battlefield fades from view. Samaritan Daytop Village, Ed Thompson Veterans Program located at 130-15 89th Rd, in Richmond Hill stands as a beacon of hope for military veterans grappling with the harrowing effects of drug and alcohol dependency, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other life challenges.

The organization is nationally recognized for its pioneering efforts in providing specialized treatment tailored to the unique needs of male veterans. Offering residential addiction treatment, Samaritan Daytop Village understands the profound bond shared among military comrades and leverages this camaraderie to facilitate recovery.

“Most of what we do here is based around community activity,” Roger D Walker, Program Director of Ed Thompson Veteran Program said. “We believe that community is the antidote to a lot of ailments, folks involved together, so everything we do is around that thing.”

Mohamed Farghaly

Located in Queens, New York, this haven offers specialized treatment tailored to the unique needs of male and female veterans, including mental health counseling and equine therapy.

At the heart of Samaritan Daytop Village’s approach is a commitment to evidence-based treatment grounded in the Sanctuary Model. This therapeutic philosophy acknowledges the prevalence of trauma and its profound impact on all facets of human existence. Emphasizing principles such as safety, respect, empowerment, and mutual self-help, the program fosters an environment conducive to healing and growth.

“Stabilization is a big part of what we do,” Deirdre Rice-Reese, Assistant Vice President of Residential Treatment said. “We make available medication that a person may need to help quell those urges and cravings for substances. We’ve developed a change team to monitor progress over time in specific areas like increasing retention.”

One of the hallmarks of Samaritan Daytop Village’s approach is its focus on community-based interventions. Recognizing that isolation can exacerbate the challenges faced by veterans, the organization strives to create a supportive network where individuals can draw strength from one another. From communal gatherings to leisure activities, every aspect of the program is designed to nurture a sense of self and camaraderie.

“Once they have dinner, there’s a house meeting at six o’clock, then general cleanup, just to get the kitchen and stuff clear,” Walker said. “Then at downtime, watch TV, hang out, go in the backyard.”

The residential facilities at Samaritan Daytop Village provide a structured yet nurturing environment where veterans can embark on their journey of recovery. Each day begins with morning meetings and group sessions aimed at fostering a sense of solidarity and shared purpose. Throughout the day, residents engage in a variety of therapeutic activities, from equine therapy to recreational sports, aimed at promoting physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

“Therapeutic recreation dosing is critical,” Walker said. “They are a very competitive group of veterans. They are often playing intramural basketball against some of the others.”

Central to the program’s success is its holistic approach to treatment, which encompasses not only addiction recovery but also mental health support and medical care. A team of dedicated professionals, including nurses and case managers, ensures that residents receive comprehensive care tailored to their individual needs. From medication management to access to on-site medical clinics, every effort is made to support veterans on their path to recovery.

Beyond its residential facilities, Samaritan Daytop Village extends its services into the community, providing support to veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Through partnerships with VA hospitals, treatment courts, and other agencies, the organization ensures that veterans receive the care and assistance they need to rebuild their lives.

“We serve whoever has served, it’s not characterized by your discharge status which is helpful,” Rice-Reese said. “A lot of our discipline veterans are discharged in the military for alcohol and substance use disorders or mental health disorders which is not fair to them.”

 Trevor Badel, a former Army serviceman, has found refuge and support at Samaritan Daytop Village. Having spent three years in the program, Badel emphasizes its vital role as a lifeline for veterans in need. Recognizing the scarcity of veteran-centric programs, Badel sought help at Samaritan Daytop Village, where he found a comprehensive array of services, including mental health counseling and equine therapy sessions.

Mohamed Farghaly

With a commitment to evidence-based treatment and community-based interventions, Samaritan Daytop Village fosters an environment of healing, camaraderie, and growth.

“I just needed help at the time because I served in the Army, this place serves veterans,” Badel said. “I believe there wasn’t any other veterans program other than this one.”

For Badel, this program isn’t just a place of refuge; it’s a community of support and understanding that has provided him with the tools to navigate life’s challenges and envision a brighter future.

As Memorial Day approaches, Samaritan Daytop Village remains steadfast in its commitment to honoring the sacrifices made by those who have served their country. From participating in Veterans Day parades to hosting events for Veterans Treatment Courts, the organization continues to advocate for the well-being of veterans both within its walls and beyond.

Looking ahead, Samaritan Daytop Village is dedicated to its mission of serving those who have served their country. With upcoming initiatives ranging from therapeutic trips to West Point to community outreach events, the organization continues to be a beacon of hope for veterans in need of support. For those who have served their country with honor, it offers not just treatment but a path to healing, dignity, and hope.

Big Turnout for Mother’s Day 5K at Forest Park Despite Rain

By Britney Trachtenberg britt@queensledger.com

Despite the rain on the morning of Sun., May 12, Run Hustle Run hosted their 4th Annual Queens in Queens Mother’s Day 5K Run/Walk at Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village. Forty people attended the event, which is their biggest total yet. This is also the first year that Run Hustle Run hosted the event at this park.

Run Hustle Run is one of the only running groups based in southeast Queens. Wil Pierce of Richmond Hill, Charlie Mercado from Richmond Hill, and Jason Nazryk from Briarwood founded the group in 2016 after they coincidentally signed up for the following year’s New York City marathon. Pierce said, “We figured we should train together and through that, we were like ‘let’s open it up and invite other people to run with us and see who comes.’ It was a cold Feb. Tues. night when we started and it was kind of beyond our wildest dreams that people showed up and we’ve been growing ever since.”

“We were founded just to offer health and wellness to the southeast Queens neighborhood,” said Erin Clarke, captain.

In previous years, the running crew gathered at Alley Pond Park and Cunningham Park for this event. The running group chose to meet at Forest Park because it is closer to where they typically run. “We heard from the people in our group that they wanted something a little closer to home so we thought it would be a little bit nicer to have it here,” said Clarke.

Attendees gathered under tents near the Forest Park Bandshell Parking Lot. Clarke checked each person’s registration and gave them a number. The adjacent table had Dunkin’ coffee, munchkins, BJ’s wholesale kosher cookies, Wellesley Farms water bottles, and Wellesley Farms black-and-white cookies. 

Thanya Valdobinos of Flushing started running in June 2023 and heard about the 5K event through Instagram. She said, “I got the Brooklyn half coming up so I figured it’s a great experience.” When asked what inspired her to start running, she said, “To be honest, to keep myself healthy, but also for my mental health. It really does wonders, like, the endorphins after a run, and it brings the community together.”

The event participants gathered for a group photo at the starting line. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg

At 9:00 a.m., Pierce thanked everyone for coming out despite the rain. He said, “The flowers need water and we’re all flowers.” Mercado added, “We appreciate the women out here and the ladies and the mothers who are doing what they do.”

Clarke led the participants in a series of stretches. She encouraged mothers and daughters to lean on each other for balance during the first exercise. They raised each leg and rotated it in both directions for five seconds each. Then, they brought each leg back and held it above the ankle for ten seconds. Next, the attendees walked for ten seconds to work out their calves. They squatted ten times to stretch their glutes and did toe touches and high knees for ten more seconds. Clarke said, “Now that we’re a little warm and we’ve stretched out, it’s time to get this run on!”

The participants split into two groups: people who ran and people who walked. Jenny Reyna from Ozone Park led the walking group. Since 2019, Reyna has participated in runs with Run Hustle Run.

The course started at the Forest Park Bandshell Parking Lot. Attendees went past the PFC Lawrence Strack Memorial Pond and turned onto Woodhaven Blvd. Then, the participants made a right on Forest Park and moved past the Ed Salvinksi Promenade and the George Suffett Bandshell Park. During the course, the walking group stopped to take a selfie on the trail. The path looped around to the Forest Park Bandshell Parking Lot for the finish.

The walking group stopped to take a selfie on the trail. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg

People who completed the 5K received a pink medal that read “Queens in Queens.” 

Attendees wore their Run Hustle Run t-shirts and medals for a group photo. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg

Cynthia Rodriguez from Jamaica attended the event with her family. Though she volunteered with Run Hustle Run, she ran part of the course with her relatives. Amy Rodriguez heard about the running crew while en route to Cynthia’s house. Amy said, “I saw a bunch of people running so I stopped by and asked them what that was about so that’s how I heard about Hustle. They told me to come to the barber shop on Tuesdays.”

Run Hustle Run meets every Tues. at 7:00 p.m. in front of the Hustle Barbershop in Richmond Hill. The running crew gathers every Sat. at 9:00 a.m. near Sweet Leaf in Long Island City and every Sun. at 8:00 a.m. at the Hustle Barbershop. Clarke said, “Our runs are open to walkers [and] runners of all fitness levels.”

St. John’s Evangelical Church Sees 180th Anniversary

By Britney Trachtenberg britt@queensledger.com

St. John’s Evangelical Church in Glendale is approaching their 180th anniversary. Led by Pastor Matt Staneck, the parish has delivered the gospel of Jesus Christ through three themes: education, human care, and music. Throughout its history, the church has seen changes in locations and initiatives, but that has not stopped the parish’s momentum.

In 1844, the church opened its doors at 10 Eyck St. in Williamsburg as the German Evangelical St. John’s Church. In the 1920s, many congregation members moved to Glendale. The Brooklyn parish began a relationship with the Glendale parish. In 2013, the congregation moved to 88-24 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale. The move helped to revive and change the congregation.

Pastor Staneck said, “When we talk about changing the church that means still holding onto the gospel. Even if those things look different, we have to find ways to do things that are important to our identity as Christians and people who are a part of St. John’s.”

St. John’s has three main themes: human care, education, and music. Pastor Staneck said, “The word ‘evangelical’ comes from Greek, which means ‘good news’ or ‘gospel.’ The reason for the themes is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The parish helped food insecure community members through a hot breakfast served on Sunday mornings. The initiative stopped due to volunteers passing or moving away. In recent years since the pandemic, the church has operated an edible garden in the summers. From June until August on Wed. nights, parishioners plan to harvest and give produce to their neighbors. Pastor Staneck hopes to expand the garden in the future and get more people involved.

The church used to operate Christian day schools in Queens and Brooklyn that served students in kindergarten through eighth grade. In 2013, the colloquial schools closed. However, the parish is searching for new ways to educate Christian children.

St. John’s has a pipe organ through which they play music. Pastor Staneck hopes to develop a more active music ministry that incorporates the main messages from his sermons.

He said, “A big part of the gospel message is the daily dying and rising based on Jesus Christ’s rising. This means getting out of your own way and into the spirit of having God lead. Even in times of trouble, we die and rise each day as people of hope.”

When asked about advice for people in general, Pastor Staneck said, “There’s a lot of wisdom in moving one day at a time.”

John Adams High School Students Teach Children in the Challengers Division

By Britney Trachtenberg britt@queensledger.com

The families of the Challengers Division of W.O.R.K.S. Little League gather for a group picture. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg.

Baseball players from John Adams High School visited the Challengers Division of W.O.R.K.S. Little League on Sat., May 4 to teach children how to play the sport in Tudor Athletic Field.

John Adams High School students Yanko Pineda, Braylin Matteo, Kenny Perez, and Chris Polo helped the Challengers learn the fundamentals of baseball during three innings of play. Topics included catching the ball in the outfield. 

Chaluisant stands with Pineda. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg.

In 2011, Walter Chaluisant and Terrence Flanagan founded the W.O.R.K.S Little League Challengers Division, which gives children a sense of community. The division is open to children with physical or developmental conditions. The kids enrolled in the program are split into two teams: the Bulldogs and the Wildcats. The Kiwanis Club of Ozone Park-Woodhaven sponsors the Bulldogs while The Kiwanis Club of Maspeth sponsors the Wildcats.

Chaluisant said, “A lot of these children when we originally started thirteen years ago were from New York Families for Autistic Children. Now, we got different kids from different places.” Then, he said, “We know all the kids here. It’s all about kids getting out and playing baseball. It’s really about the interaction for a lot of these parents with other children. Other parents too.”

The Challengers practice on Sat. mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in Tudor Athletic Field. “This field used to be dirt. Every time it rained at night, me and my partner would come and make the field playable. Four, five in the morning, we’d get here. The best thing that happened to us was making the field turf,” said Chaluisant.

The division does not have outs, strikes, or keep score during practice. Instead, the division focuses on the joy of playing baseball. Chaluisant greeted each family by name as they arrived at the field.

The practice started with the Bulldogs at bat and the Wildcats in the outfield. Lisa Kruger called each batter up to the home plate. She coached the Wildcats along with her husband, John. Each player swung their bat until they hit the ball. Afterward, their parents helped them run to each base.

The last batter gets a home run to end that team’s turn at bat. The high school students lined up to give each Challengers player a high five.

Chaluisant said, “This way, somebody gets a hit or a home run every at-bat. There’s no winners. There’s no losers. You know what actually, the winners are the kids.”

Players in the outfield do not have specific positions. Instead, players can try each position and see which one they enjoy most.

Rosanne Honan-Delgado of Forest Hills found out about the Challengers through a Facebook page called Queens Special Kids. “A couple of the parents had posted about W.O.R.K.S. Little League, so we were really interested. We were looking for more socialization, having Riordan get out there, and so we’re looking forward to it.” When asked if Riordan has a preference for a specific position, Honan-Delgado said, “he seems to gravitate towards first and second because he likes talking to other kids. I think it’s teaching him a lot of patience. I think it’s also teaching camaraderie, like working with other kids [and] working with adults. I think he’s learning, besides the fundamentals, [how to] be part of a group.” She discussed how the Challengers Division has helped her as well. “It’s nice to have a community. It’s nice to be with other people who understand your child.”

Kruger’s twin sons played in the Challengers. “My husband and I used to chase them all around until the morning because they were inattentive [and] not focused. [They] just wanted to run, run, run, run, run. We just kept bringing them back year after year.”

Chrissy Gibson of St. Albans said that her son, David, made progress during his time with the Challengers. She said that it taught him hand-eye coordination, participation, social skills, and self-resolve. 

Right-handed pitcher Pineda can throw at ninety miles per hour at eighteen years old. He earned a full-ride scholarship to Dominican University. He learned to share love by helping out with the Challengers.

Neir’s Celebrates Historic Designation With Community Block Party

By Britney Trachtenberg britt@queensledger.com 

Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven hosted a community block party on Sat., Apr. 27 to celebrate their Queensmark Historic Designation, given to the bar by the Queens Historical Society. 

Previously, the New York City Landmarks Commission denied Neir’s Tavern landmark status. According to community bar owner Loycent Gordon, the commission said that the bar did not meet the necessary level of significance. Gordon said, “Today, we are going to change that.” Attendees met his words with car honks and applause. 

The speeches started at 2:00 p.m., given by Neir’s Tavern Ambassador Club President Richie Salmon, Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society President Ed Wendell, Gordon, Queens Historical Society Board President Rob McCay, Executive Director of the Queens Historical Society Jason Antos, Councilwoman Joann Ariola, and a representative from Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.’s office.

First, Salmon thanked the attendees for coming out to support the community bar. “We’re all here because of [Loycent],”. He said. “Neir’s would not be here …[if not for] him. We wouldn’t be having this [if not for] him. Everybody says that DeBlasio saved Neir’s. Loycent’s the one that saved Neir’s.”

In 2009, Gordon bought Neir’s Tavern to save the historic bar from closing down. As of Apr. 27, the bar is halfway to their 195th Anniversary, which will happen in October.  

After approaching the stage, Gordon asked for his son, Evan, and wife, Aeisha. Evan’s birthday occurred on Sun., Apr. 28, one day after the celebration. Gordon commented, “First, he was in the stomach and then we had him in the basket, all right here at Neir’s Tavern. Now he’s running around Neir’s Tavern.” In true community spirit, he invited the crowd to sing happy birthday to his son. Evan thanked the attendees for the birthday wishes.

Gordon referred to the Woodhaven community throughout his speech. He said, “Neir’s Tavern is not mine. Neir’s Tavern is yours. I did this to help save one of America’s oldest taverns because it needed help, but I always tell people ‘I can’t eat all the burgers and drink all the beer.’ I need your help. We need your help.” He spoke about the community’s role in the bar’s success.

He said, “Neir’s is what you decide to do with it, not just what I decide,” Gordon said. A driver honked his car horn in approval. He continued, “You see something wrong, you see something needed, you say ‘We don’t have to wait for someone else to save us.’ We have the ability to stand up to what we see is wrong and say ‘No. Not this one. Not Neir’s Tavern.’” He added, “I’ve witnessed people like Richie [and] I’ve witnessed people like Swim Strong Foundation who are doing good work in the community and I’m so happy I have an ability to actually create a vehicle for you guys to do all your fundraisers, all your family get-togethers, and it makes me smile because it makes me believe that community in the sense of taking care of each other still exists today.”

Gordon thanked supporters of the bar. He thanked the Neir’s For Years community members, Neir’s Ambassadors, and customers for their support. Then, he gave shout-outs to government officials: Queens Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s office and State Senator Joseph Addabbo’s office, State Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.’s office.

Previously, the Senator gave Neir’s Tavern the first Empire Business Award of New York. 

Then, Gordon expressed his gratitude for the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, Forest Hills Hospital, Gotham EMS., the Jamaica Hospital, and the Kiwanis Club of Ozone Park-Woodhaven. He mentioned Queens Civil Court candidate Shairfa Nasser-Cuellar as well. 

Lastly, Gordon said “I want to just thank the Neir’s Tavern team who’s inside right now working very hard, so give them a round of applause so loud they can hear you.”

McCay and Antos stepped onto the stage to give Gordon the Queensmark Historic Designation plaque. Initially, the Queens Historical Society used to give the award to buildings and homes with architectural value. Recently, the organization started giving the award to local businesses with historical value. Antos said, “We hope that these plaques help preserve the business, bring awareness to the business, and help it in its quest to achieve some sort of landmark status.”

Councilwoman Ariola said, “In the last round before this past election day, Neir’s was one block out of my district. Now you’re in the heart of my district.”

A representative from Congresswoman Velazquez’s office gave Gordon a congressional record. The representative read a section of the record aloud for attendees, which said that Gordon immigrated from the country of Jamaica to Queens at ten years old.

The representative from Senator Addabbo’s office thanked Gordon for contributing to the community.

After the speeches, members of Gotham EMS gave CPR demonstrations on adult and infant mannequins. They educated the crowd on the signs of a stroke.

The event featured a bouncy house, face painting, and a raffle. Attendees lined up outside the bar to receive free hotdogs, chips, and bottles of water. 

Gordon said “At least once a year, we have a block party and invite everyone to come out. Our advertising is this. Being a community gathering place, we help people eat and drink and have a good time.”

Neir’s Tavern hosts community events throughout the year such as food drives and cancer awareness events. The bar has karaoke nights, trivia nights, open mics, and even a writers’ circle that meets once a week.

Remembering School Safety Agent Orville Williams

By Ed Wendell
Orville Williams was only 25 years old, not much older than the students that passed by him in the hall every day. He had been working as a school safety officer for just over 2 years at Franklin K. Lane and was well-liked and respected by everyone who knew him.
“He was a big man with a big heart. He treated kids fairly and encouraged them to do their best in school,” is how one assistant principal described him.
It was shortly before 3 pm and the hallways were full of students looking forward to the end of the day. They were joking and laughing and there was probably some pushing around and shouting, as kids tend to do.
A small skirmish broke out between two teenage girls, which Safety Agent Williams responded to and diffused, something he had done numerous times since he started the job in 1997.
Once that situation was quelled, Williams ran to help stop another fight, this one between two groups of students in the schoolyard. As Williams ran down a stairwell towards the exit, he suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed.
He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Of Agent Williams, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said “He died trying to protect the children of our schools. His death is even more tragic because he was young himself and he had so much more to give to his family and his city.”
Nearly twenty-five years have passed since that awful day at Franklin K. Lane but School Safety Agent Orville M. Williams has not been forgotten and will be honored this coming Saturday at 1 p.m. when the corner of Dexter Court and 85th Drive will be co-named in his memory.
The street co-naming is part of an ongoing effort by the Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson to honor the memory of fallen police officers around Queens. A few weeks ago, we saw Officer Arthur Kenney (who was killed in the line of duty in 1926) honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
And later this year, Sergeant Thomas Francis O’Grady will be remembered when Eldert Lane and 87th Avenue will be co-named in his honor. O’Grady was seriously injured in August 1916 when responding to reports of a stabbing at Dexter Park. His horse slipped on the cobblestones; O’Grady was thrown from his horse which then fell on top of him. He died 5 days later from his injuries.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society was happy to support this effort by the Newtown Historical Society, who also enlisted the support of Councilwoman Joann Ariola, Councilman Robert Holden and Community Board 9, led by Chairperson Sherry Algredo.
Together, the street co-namings will shine a light on three sad moments in our community’s history. And they also provide some comfort to the families these officers left behind, letting them know that we have not forgotten their loss.
But I believe that these efforts have another effect, which is to acknowledge the risks that every current member of the NYPD takes every time they put on that uniform and go to work. Every day they leave for work they know there is always the possibility that the unthinkable could happen, and they might not return home at the end of their shift.
And yet, they push aside those fears and get dressed and head to work, serving and protecting the people of New York City. Every single day.
And in an era when some people do not feel the same way (sadly, this includes some elected officials around the city), these street co-namings serve several purposes.
First, to honor those officers who lost their lives while on the job. And also to show every officer currently serving that we understand the risks that they face, and the fears that they must quell to do their jobs. And we appreciate them for taking on such a difficult job.
We hope you will join us 1 p.m. this Saturday at Dexter Court and 85th Drive to honor the memory of School Safety Agent Orville Williams, gone nearly 25 years, but never forgotten.

100 Years of the Forest Park Bandshell

By Ed Wendell 

The bandshell in Forest Park, which turns 100 years old on June 15th, is named after famed bandleader George Seuffert Sr. who founded The Seuffert Band and initiated free concerts in Forest Park way back in 1898.

Seuffert (pronounced SOY-fert) was born in Brooklyn in 1875. His family emigrated from Germany and lived in Brooklyn and eventually settled in Ridgewood. Musically inclined from a young age, Seuffert founded the Concordia Band at the age of 19. Within a few years, in 1897, it would be renamed The Seuffert Band.

George Seuffert Jr, conductor of The Seuffert Band from 1931 through his death in 1995, a total of sixty-fours years over which they played in Forest Park many hundreds of times, most typically on Sunday afternoons at 3 during the summer. Here George Jr. is shown at 19, 28 and 78 years old.

 

At that time, many of the small parks around New York City featured small bands, and Forest Park was no exception. The Seuffert Band played a pivotal role in providing musical entertainment to residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Forest Park. Initially performing in an open space called Music Grove, they proved so popular that a wooden bandstand (a circular kiosk) would be constructed in 1914.

In their early years, The Seuffert Band wore military style outfits and favored patriotic marches, especially those composed by close family friend John Philip Sousa. A new bandstand made from concrete would be built on the same spot as the old wooden one in 1924. When it opened, it was said by George Seuffert Sr. that its acoustics were the finest in the country.

Meanwhile, Seuffert’s son George Jr., was a musical prodigy from a very young age. With a bandleader as a father and John Philip Sousa practically an uncle (George Jr. later recalled that Sousa liked taking him out for ice cream), it wasn’t surprising that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

When George Seuffert Sr. wanted to take a break from conducting and return full-time to his career as a banker, George Jr. stood in for his father as conductor of the Seuffert Band for the first time at the age of 17. And two years later, in 1931, he officially took over as The Seuffert Band’s full-time permanent conductor. It was a position he would hold for the next sixty-four years.

And over the course of those sixty-four years the Seuffert Band led by George Jr. would grace the stage of the Forest Park Bandstand at Music Grove (as it was popularly known) many hundreds of times, most typically on Sunday afternoons at 3 during the summer.

Concerts were partially paid for by the City of New York and both Seufferts were so well-known and respected that private donations and sponsorships were not hard to come by.

George Seuffert Jr. emphasized a blend of classical and lighter music in the band’s programs, following John Philip Sousa’s philosophy that band music should entertain first and educate second. The Seuffert Band’s concerts introduced many listeners in Forest Park (including many of you reading these words right now) to new musical experiences.

“We introduce people to music that they may be unfamiliar with, and that they may someday wish to hear at the opera or the philharmonic,” George Jr. once recalled.

The Seuffert Band pressed their musical talents to vinyl in 1961 (album donated to the Woodhaven Historical Society by Neir’s Ambassador Ina Henderson). This music will be played from the stage of the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell in Forest Park during 100th birthday celebrations on Saturday, June 15th.

Though George Jr. was firmly in charge of the Seuffert Band, George Sr. was welcomed back to Music Grove every summer for a concert on or about his August 22nd birth date. It was always big news when George Sr. returned to the Forest Park Bandstand, his last appearance coming in 1964, just weeks before his passing at the age of 89.

The Bandstand would undergo renovations in 1979 and upon reopening, it had been named for George Seuffert Sr. The Seuffert band, led by George Jr., took the stage in Music Grove to celebrate the honor paid to their beloved founder and former bandleader.

But the music came to a halt when George Seuffert Jr. passed away in 1995, just days from his 83rd birthday and the band disbanded due to a lack of a successor.

The Queens Symphony Orchestra took over performances at the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell. They have continued the tradition of musical excellence in Forest Park, including celebrating significant milestones like the bandshell’s 100th birthday on June 15th.

The history of the bandshell and the Seuffert family’s legacy underscores the significance of community music and cultural heritage in public spaces like Forest Park. We extend a warm invitation to everyone to join us in celebrating the 100th birthday of The George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell at Music Grove on Saturday, June 15th (times to be announced).

For further details and information about the event, please feel free to reach out to the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society via email at projectwoodhaven@gmail.com. We look forward to seeing you there for a day filled with music, memories, and celebration!

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing