Queens’ top news stories of 2022

By Jessica Meditz

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Given the events of the two years previous, 2022 was a year of opportunity for many.

It had its ups, but also its downs – and the borough of Queens was no exception.

The beginning of the year started with discussions of innovations in transportation, with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement to move forward with the Interborough Express as part of her 2022 State of the State.

The proposed 24-mile Interborough Express would use existing tracks to connect 17 subway lines, four commuter rail lines and dozens of bus lines, with end-to-end travel time expected to be less than 40 minutes.

The year began with discussions of innovations in transportation, with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement to move forward with the Interborough Express as part of her 2022 State of the State.

It would extend from Co-Op City in the Bronx to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and could serve as many as 100,000 riders per day.

“It’s time to invest in the bold, cutting-edge infrastructure projects that will make a real difference in the lives of everyday New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve reliable public transit that connects them from work to home and everywhere in between. The Interborough Express would be a transformational addition to Brooklyn and Queens, cutting down on travel time and helping neighborhoods and communities become cleaner, greener and more equitable.”

The conversation extended to more Queens residents advocating for the use of abandoned rail lines – such as the QNS plan, a proposal to reactivate and repurpose freight rail along the Lower Montauk Branch which runs through central Queens; and the QueensLink, a proposed 3.5-mile long transit and park corridor in the same space, which would connect northern and southern Queens.

The latter became a controversial issue in September, when Mayor Eric Adams came to Forest Hills to announce that the city plans to spend $35 million to begin phase one of construction for the QueensWay, a linear park along the 3.5 miles of abandoned railroad tracks, in place of the QueensLink.

Eric Adams paid a visit to Forest Hills for the announcement.

Friends of the QueensLink argued that the implementation of the QueensWay would shut out any future use of transit on the line and deprive Southern Queens residents of a faster commute and less traffic while reducing pollution and carbon emissions.

“They’re talking about transit, but they’re not doing anything about it. So the key is, if you really do care about public transit, and it’s not just a campaign slogan, then you need to take it seriously and study the integration of a Transit Link, which would be a subway and a park,” Rick Horan, executive director of QueensLink, said.

“Our goal is to try to see if there’s enough value in this project to get it there. But the only way we can do that is to study it,” he continued. “So we’ve been promoting an Environmental Impact Statement for QueensLink, which includes rail entry.”

An advancement in transportation that came to fruition was the completion of the massive Kew Gardens Interchange project after what feels like forever – 12 years, four phases and $739 million later.

The Kew Gardens Interchange is the complex intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike. Its reconstruction allows for faster travel, safer merging and exiting and more reliable connections for travelers to get to JFK Airport and other prime destinations.

12 years, four phases and $739M later, the massive Kew Gardens Interchange project is complete.

The interchange serves nearly 600,000 vehicles daily.

Within the political sphere, the gubernatorial election between Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican Lee Zeldin was a hot button issue statewide, but also in Queens – with a rise in fears of crime and Zeldin’s tough-on-crime campaign approach.

While Hochul came out victorious, Zeldin’s visit to Glendale and another to Middle Village resonated with many locals.

Lee Zeldin paid a visit to Glendale during his run for Governor.

Even neighborhoods that were once considered “more tame” by residents, such as Forest Hills, were the setting for true crime stories right here in Queens.

The spring for Forest Hills was particularly somber this year, following the grisly killings of two individuals: Orsolya Gaal and Zhiwen Yan.

Gaal, a 51-year-old mother of two from Forest Hills, whose body was discovered in a sports duffel bag near Forest Park in April.

David Bonola was sentenced to 25 years in prison following the murder of Orsolya Gaal.

Forty-four-year-old David Bonola of South Richmond Hill was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the slaying, and police say the pair had an on-and-off romantic affair for two years while Bonola worked at her home on Juno Street as a handyman.

The community came together to mourn the life of Zhiwen Yan, a food delivery worker who worked at Great Wall Chinese Restaurant in Forest Hills and resided in Middle Village with his wife and three children.

The community showed much support for Zhiwen Yan’s family during their time of grief.

Yan, 45, was fatally shot on the night of April 30 while riding his scooter on his way to deliver food in Forest Hills.

Glen Hirsch, 51, of Briarwood was charged for the killing, but eventually got out on bail and then committed suicide before he could do his time.

The murder of 61-year-old FDNY EMS worker, Alison Russo-Elling, in Astoria shocked the entire city.

The murder of Alison Russo-Elling left Queens in a state of shock.

The 25-year veteran of the FDNY, who responded to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, was brutally stabbed in September near EMS Station 49 in an unprovoked attack.

Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was charged with murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

In terms of Astoria news, Innovation QNS – a project that seeks to rezone five city blocks to build a mixed use residential and commercial district in the neighborhood – was definitely the most talked about issue.

Rendering via Innovation QNS.

The project quickly became a controversial topic among residents, as concerns about displacement, lack of affordable housing, gentrification and not enough community outreach arose.

Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents that section of the district, pushed for 55 percent affordability for the 3,190-unit project recently, but indicated her support for the project at 45 percent affordability after negotiations with developers.

The project was ultimately passed by the City Council in November, with 46 votes in favor and one against. Its plan now features 1,436 affordable units – more than double the 711 units originally approved by the City Planning Commission.

“From Day 1, I have stood with my community in demanding deeper affordability from this development–and because we held the line, the Innovation QNS project has doubled the number of affordable units than initially offered, from 711 to 1,436 affordable units,” Won said in a statement.

More recently, locals clamored at the announcement of a new 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the New York City Football Club – slated to open in Willets Point in 2027.

The plan – spearheaded by Councilman Francisco Moya – includes 2,500 affordable homes (with no market rate components), a 650-seat school and a 250-room hotel.

Mayor Adams’ office projects that the development will bring in $6.1 billion in revenue over the next 30 years, as well as over 14,000 construction jobs and 1,550 permanent ones.

Friends, foes of Drag Story Hour show up in Jackson Heights

Proud Boys make appearance outside children’s event

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Protesters of Drag Story Hour were outnumbered by supporters, about 30 people compared to 200.

In response to a group of people openly against Drag Story Hour and their shared plans to disrupt the children’s event once more, supporters of the initiative showed up to defend it last Thursday, Dec. 29.

Both sides of 81st Street – the site of the Queens Public Library in Jackson Heights – were filled with passionate crowds up and down the block.

One could spot on the left side of the street individuals holding signs that read “Stop Drag Queen Story Hour” and “Groom dogs, not kids,” some donning Proud Boys gear. The right side of the street featured a sea of rainbows along with signs that said “Drag the bigotry away” and “Libraries are for everyone.”

Protesters of Drag Story Hour were outnumbered by supporters – approximately 30 compared to 200 people – as library goers looked over the interaction from a bird’s eye view through the building’s top floor windows.

Back in November, Jackson Heights elected officials held a community rally outside the same library, denouncing hate and expressing their full support of Drag Story Hour – which was also met with backlash from counter protesters.

“There are many parents, myself included, who are choosing to raise their children in Jackson Heights because we want our children immersed in diversity,” State Senator Jessica Ramos said in a statement. “I’ll welcome the joy that Drag Story Hour offers over the bigotry of a loud, select few any day.”

While the Drag Story Hour event took place, LGBTQ+ supporters used their own bodies as shields to prevent the children and parents from being seen by the other side of the street. A performer read “‘Twas the Night Before Pride” outside the library’s doors as children listened and engaged.

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz poses with a young supporter of Drag Story Hour.

In response to the reaction from counter protesters and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments seen throughout the city, such as Manhattan Councilman Erik Bottcher’s home and district office being vandalized after openly supporting Drag Story Hour, Bottcher, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Councilman Shekar Krishnan and Councilwoman Crystal Hudson released a joint statement condemning homophobic and transphobic actions.

They argue that Drag Story Hour, founded as a nonprofit in 2015, engages children in arts and crafts, as well as imaginative storytelling – while simultaneously teaching acceptance.

“It is particularly disturbing that these anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters have focused their harassment in Jackson Heights and Chelsea, two neighborhoods with historical importance as safe communities and centers of organizing for the LGBTQIA+ movement in New York City,” they said in the statement.

“The harmful, homophobic, and transphobic extremism targeting Drag Story Hour events and the New Yorkers who support them, including Council members, is vile and dangerous. We will not stay silent or accept these shameful attempts to intimidate and spread hate, especially after recent incidents that have devolved into violence and put New Yorkers in harm’s way,” it continued. “This City Council is proud to support children’s programs that promote inclusivity, literacy and joy.”

People on both sides of the issue clashed at last week’s protest, and some interactions did get physical.

Several NYPD officers were at the scene.

One individual was arrested that day, a 32-year-old Forest Hills resident named John Curry.

Police say Curry was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration. It is unclear if he is against or in favor of Drag Story Hour.

After the event began to fizzle out, NYPD officers escorted a group of people in Proud Boys gear to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station, where they were permitted to ride for free, a video posted by TikTok creator, @brennalip, revealed.

The videographer questioned, “Proud Boys don’t have to pay for the fare?”

One of the individuals responded, “We’re special, thank you. Appreciate it, from your taxes.”

Before the clip ended, an NYPD officer appeared to motion the videographer and other individuals to back up and pay for the fare themselves, which the creator questioned.

“Is that the situation you’re saying?” they asked, to which the officer replied, “That is correct.”

TikTok creator @brennalip posted a video revealing the NYPD permitting a group of people donning Proud Boys gear not to pay the MTA fare.

Many social media users expressed their angry reactions to the situation, some even calling on Mayor Eric Adams to respond.

State Senator Jessica Ramos shared an update to Twitter on Jan. 2.

“Just spoke to the precinct. They said they had to escort the Proud Boys [because they] were picking fights [with] people on the street like vendors as well as reporters,” Ramos wrote in the tweet.

“Still, this wouldn’t look so hypocritical if [the] NYPD would stop arresting people of color over a $2.75 fare.”

Husband charged with hitting wife with SUV, stabbing her​​

By Alicia Venter

[email protected]

Stephen Giraldo, 36, has been charged for allegedly hitting his wife with his SUV — with their three children sitting in the car — and then stabbing her with a knife, according to the Office of the Queens District Attorney. The incident took place outside of her Flushing residence.

Sophia Giraldo, the defendant’s 41-year-old wife, has been left with severe neurological damage, broken bones in her leg and a stab wound that punctured her liver.

Giraldo, of 144th Street in Jamaica, was arraigned on charges of attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first and second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.

According to the charges, Giraldo entered the driver’s seat of a white Ford Explorer parked near the intersection of Parsons Boulevard and Sanford Avenue in Flushing at approximately 5:20 a.m.

The three children, ages 11, 9 and 6, were seated in the car.

The victim walked in front of the vehicle, and the defendant allegedly told the children to “keep your seatbelt on” before accelerating, striking the victim.

After the collision, the car turned onto its side; the defendant allegedly crawled out of the passenger side window of the vehicle and stabbed his wife with a knife.

The defendant was on the scene when police arrived.

“The brutality of the attack, and the fact that it was committed in full view of the victim’s three young children, stirs heartbreak and outrage in all of us,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz in a statement. “My thoughts are with the children.”

Giraldo has been ordered to return to court on Jan. 12. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Carrol has been formally charged with the crime, but he has not been found guilty of committing the crime.

Maspeth Federal Savings becomes an official bank of St. John’s Athletics

Maspeth Federal Savings (MFS) is now an official bank of St. John’s University Athletics, strengthening its visibility and connection across the St. John’s community with basketball game sponsorships and plans to launch an on-campus ATM and co-branded debit card.

The partnership between these two storied New York institutions began in 2018.

MFS has several initiatives reflecting the challenges and values that define young New Yorkers, including their interest in entrepreneurship and environmental, social and governance (ESG).

According to NASDAQ, 40 percent of Gen Zers make financial decisions driven by companies with purpose.

MFS Gen-Z focused programs include: financial literacy seminars to nurture Gen Z’s high entrepreneurial ambitions—more than 70% of people aged 18–24 plan to start a side hustle—and combat the growing amount of financial misinformation targeting youth across social media; robust summer internships providing opportunity and education; sustainability programs including community Recycling Days and electric vehicle charging stations in MFS parking lots; and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee to effect positive change across the MFS community as well as Bank-On certified products to help ensure access to safe and affordable banking for all.

“Many of us at Maspeth Federal Savings are St. John’s alumni, so this initiative is near and dear to our hearts,” said MFS President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Rudzewick. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the next generation as they make plans for tomorrow, be it starting a business, buying a home, planning a trip or pursuing further education.”

Sponsored games include Sunday, Jan. 29 vs. Georgetown at Madison Square Garden.

January’s tipoff marks the 121st meeting of one of the BIG EAST conference’s greatest rivalries between St. John’s and Georgetown.

In their last showdown, the Johnnies topped the Hoyas 90-77 in Washington, D.C.

An additional sponsored game will be held at Carnesseca Arena on February 18th, 2023 against the Creighton Blue Jays.

Launch dates for the debit card and on-campus ATM, located in the Marillac Dining Hall, will be announced in 2023.

“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with Maspeth Federal Savings and further the connection with our campus and fanbase,” added Kevin Waters, St. John’s Sports Properties General Manager. “We look forward to working with them on their creative approach to our partnership.”

For more information, contact Gloria Benfari, MFS Vice President & Marketing Director, at [email protected].

Maggie’s Little Theater to open Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’

By Stephanie Meditz

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Rehearsals for The Mousetrap began in November and took place both in-person and on Zoom.

On Feb. 11, Maggie’s Little Theater in Middle Village will open the curtains on its production of Agatha Christie’s 1952 murder mystery, “The Mousetrap.”

The whodunit follows Mollie and Giles as they open their guest house for the first time, only to find themselves snowed in with a murderer. 

Producer and founding member of Maggie’s Little Theater, Dolores Voyer, said that several of the show’s rehearsals took place on Zoom to protect the cast from COVID-19.

“We rehearsed in person most of the time, but when we started this show, our director [Thom Harmon] suggested…to have certain rehearsals not in person. Things that don’t need to be in person, individual work between the director and an actor…don’t need to be on the stage,” she said. “We wanted to keep everybody as safe as possible…when we’re in the theater on the stage, the actors are free to and often do wear masks.” 

This past summer, Maggie’s Little Theater put on a production of “Kiss Me, Kate,” its first performance since before the pandemic. 

Last summer, Maggie’s Little Theater put on its first performance since before the pandemic, Kiss Me, Kate.

“I didn’t realize during the pandemic how much I missed it until we started again, and I think that a lot of people feel that way,” Voyer said. “We kind of got used to being in our own little bubbles, and now that we’re able to safely come out and enjoy live theater again, it’s such a great feeling to be able to collaborate with people and to bring something to the audience.” 

Voyer is especially grateful for the cast of The Mousetrap and their motivation to produce quality work for the audience. 

“This cast is wonderful. We are really lucky to have a couple of longtime veterans of community theater in Queens as well as several people who are new to Maggie’s Little Theater…they’re very dedicated, they’re very interested in the process,” Voyer said. “The amount of chemistry between the actors has really developed so nicely.” 

Cast members who are recurring Maggie’s Little Theater actors include Bernard Bosio, Sarah Nowik and Mark York.

Although Maggie’s Little Theater typically produces more musicals than straight plays, it is primarily interested in producing shows that the audience would like to see. 

Maggie’s Little Theater’s production of Kiss Me, Kate was directed by Bill Logan and choreographed by Amanda Montoni.

“We’ve done some straight plays that are well known, some that are a little less well known,” Voyer said. “This one is kind of both well known and not, because it’s Agatha Christie but it’s a show that’s never been produced on Broadway.”

The Mousetrap has been running in London for 70 years, but it has not seen a Broadway stage in that time per Agatha Christie’s wish. 

The show’s original contract states that it could not move to Broadway or be produced as a movie until it closed in London, and it has not closed. 

“It debuted in 1952, and Agatha Christie herself thought it wouldn’t run more than a few months, but except for the pandemic, it has run continuously from 1952 until now,” Voyer said. 

Performance dates for The Mousetrap are Feb. 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available at https://www.maggieslittletheater.org and are $20 for adults and $18 for children 11 and under and seniors over 65.

Vintage postcards celebrate New Year’s traditions

By Michael Perlman

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Several decades ago, postcards were a unique work of art, which could be found at your corner pharmacy, but today vintage ones are found on eBay and at estate sales and postcard shows. They represent nearly every theme, including hometowns, hobbies and even New Year’s.

In 1873, the first American “picture postcard” was designed.

Today, a significant number of postcards from the late 19th and early to mid-20th century exist in an excellent state with fine penmanship and a one-cent stamp for domestic mail and two cents for international mail.

Deltiology is the collection and study of postcards, which derives from “deltion,” a Greek term for a writing tablet or letter. A postcard collector is known as a deltiologist.

Most New Year’s postcards are colorful lithographs that seem realistic, and a majority were published between 1898 and 1918.

Those from the 1920s to the 1940s were published in fewer quantities.

Some postcards offered a New York City theme.

One celebrated urban innovations and buildings that were regarded as landmarks.

A postcard recognizing the approach of 1906 features photos of significant landmarks; the Times Building, the New York City subway, the Flatiron Building and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument within large block letters of the year, was adorned with holly.

It was published by Franz Huld of 246 Fifth Avenue as part of Series 1906, No. 1.

He is regarded as a significant American publisher who experimented with views, commemorations, comics and novelties.

Earlier on, the postcard trade was largely based in Germany and Holland.

It is all eyes on Times Square in a selection of postcards. A white border postcard features a black and white printed image of shoulder to shoulder attendees.

It is captioned, “They definitely met at the Astor on New Year’s Eve.”

It was photographed from a once ornate Times Building and faces the Studebaker Building.

A Chevrolet illuminated sign reads 12:00. To its left is the legendary Beaux Arts style Hotel Astor, which was in operation from 1904 to 1967.

Times Square became the scene of New Year’s Eve celebrations in 1904, and the first ball drop dates to 1907, which was erected by New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs.

Other festive events were captured on hand-colored lithographs, including the Tournament of Roses on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California.

It features an exquisitely decorated high school float with roses on trees, floats and vines that unite the unique costumed marchers.

Poetry and inspirational quotes can be found on early 20th century postcards.

A circa 1910 postcard features an illustration of an elegantly dressed woman holding flowers and sitting on a ladder, with flowers growing around the ladder.

It is titled “A Glad New Year” and reads in a creative font, “As you climb the ladder of success, With heart that’s kind and humble, You’ll surely reach the topmost rung, And never get a tumble.”

It becomes a musical production on an Auld Lang Syne postcard, which bids farewell to the old year and is interpreted as a call to remember long-standing friendships.

It features the complete lyrics on a banner with a watercolor background, and two men on top wearing suits with a top hat and a traditional hat, shaking hands.

Another New Year Greetings circa 1912 postcard reads: “We’ll take the Grand Tour round the sun, Nor mind the wind and wet, And may we say when it is done, ‘The happiest journey yet.’”

The poem is complemented by a child in a raincoat and a rain hat on a boat with a backdrop of an early skyline with blues and golds.

This signed postcard was the result of a significant American illustrator, Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (1865 – 1934), whose style has drawn much admiration, making her a most prolific postcard and greeting card artist of her time.

Other postcards offer a romantic theme. Among a most elegant hand-colored lithograph depicts a couple dressed in an evening gown and suit and toasting in front of a picturesque scene of water, trees and a mountain while embracing on a landing in front of a mansion with a balustrade.

It is trimmed in gold leaf.

Another chromolithograph postcard from circa 1910 focuses on a Colonial era couple dancing at a ball, kicking their feet, with Impressionist musicians playing the violin and outlines of couples dancing in the background.

A gold frame with graceful ornamentation can be found within, where candlelight sconces are tied to the detail.

This embossed postcard was published by E. Nash Co. under the New Year Postcards Series, and was also a well-known illustrator of high-quality holiday cards and based in Manhattan.

A most famous publisher was Raphael Tuck & Sons, and the firm was considered “Art publishers to their majesties the king and queen.”

Postcards by this firm are most desirable and operated from 1866 to the 1960s in London and at 122 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

One postcard depicts an elegant couple ringing in the new year by looking into each other’s eyes as the man is pulling off a page of a calendar to reveal Jan. 1 under an elaborate Victorian style band with golden four-leaf clovers and under a Roman numeral clock.

Clocks that struck midnight were a popular theme, as in the case of an embossed gold, pink and blues accentuated 1907 postcard designed in the Art Nouveau style.

Some outstanding features were torches with ribbons, leaves and floral motifs.

A bottom inscription reads, “P. Sanders, New York,” which references the publisher. Illustrated holiday postcards were his specialty.

The advent of the automobile is celebrated in colorful postcards that were futuristic yet graceful.

A young couple, facing the camera, rides in a two-seater in “A Prosperous New Year” circa 1910 postcard.

The woman wears a traditional coat with a floral hat, beside a man in a well-appointed coat tipping his hat. The same couple was depicted in at least one variation of this postcard.

A deltiologist takes note of personalized features, including a ribbon and varied rose vines outlining the curves of the car. A young boy with angelic wings blows a triumphant horn in unison.

Prior to the postcard trade arriving in America, production was underway in Europe.

A “Buon Anno” circa 1900 Art Nouveau illustration features a woman pouring water from an urn to extinguish a fire, symbolizing renewal.

It bears the name of author R.M. Orlow. An inscription from publisher Stengel & Co (1885 – 1945) reads “Dresden u. Berlin.”

Real photo postcards, with color-tinted highlights of an image, were often dominated by a sepia tone finish.

It was rare to find the same couple or a group of children featured on other postcards of its kind.

These postcards usually offer an ornate ambiance and one-of-a-kind calligraphy, such as in a Bonne Année card, where a man looks into a woman’s eyes, ready for that New Year’s kiss.

The viewer can encounter timeless romance, and have a taste of Victorian era fashions and furnishings. Unlike completely illustrated postcards, these cards feature images of real people, often in a studio depicting a European setting.

Family bonds were represented on real photo postcards, and some featured calendars alongside portraits that reinforced those bonds year-round.

A baby boy hugs his father in one frame, whereas a baby girl hugs her mother in another.

A greeting, “May the New Year bring every happiness to you and yours,” can be seen daily while checking its 1911 calendar.

Gilded Age accented corners add to its distinction. This divided back postcard was part of the Rotary “Real Photographic” Opalette Series and was printed in England.

The Rotary Photographic Co. was associated with at least 1,422 portraits, was active between 1897 and 1916 and was a foremost real photo postcard publisher.

A hybrid of a romance and humor postcard can be found as a snowman takes on male and female form and engages in a proposal.

At midnight, a couple placed themselves in their shoes in a light-hearted interpretation in this circa 1920s or 1930s W.H.B. watercolor, which reads “Die besten wünsche zum jahreswechsel” or “Best wishes for the turn of the year” in German.

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