It is the original world music. Klezmer is a genre of mostly celebratory dance tunes of the Ashkenazi Jews that spread from Eastern Europe to the rest of the planet in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its name comes from the Hebrew words “kli” (tool or utensil) and “zemer” (to make music). Currently, Alicia Svigals (above) is without a doubt the world’s most accomplished klezmer fiddler. In addition to founding and leading the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, she has played with — or composed for — violinist Itzhak Perlman, playwright Eve Ensler of the Vagina Monologues, the late Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsburg, and even Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. This Sunday, she brings her talent and some friends (Brian Glassman on bass and Christina Crowder on accordian) to the Queens Botanical Garden, where she will make beautiful music in the Oak Allée alongside the bee, ornamental grass, perennial, rose, and woodland gardens.
More information and two more photos on jump page.
In 1885, Lewis H. Latimer began working for his old company’s rival, Thomas Edison. He first became a member of the engineering department at the company’s Manhattan headquarters at 42 Broad Street. He worked in this capacity until 1890. He was out, front and center in the department, doing what he did best, drawing the devices and electrical systems that would make Edison the leader in electricity. But while he was all about the work, some of the workmen still couldn’t believe they were seeing a black man in his position. For more on this remarkable man’s early life, please see Part One and Part Two of our story.
He had to take the time to prove himself to almost every new workman and new hire in the company. Some just couldn’t believe he could do the work, and didn’t want him near their projects. They couldn’t believe a “colored man” would be in his position, and he had to patiently prove to them that he was an expert in his field. One by one, he won them over by his expertise, and they soon realized that not only was he good, his abilities were far ahead of almost anyone else in the field, period. (more…)
Brooklyn has hipsters. Queens has Hip-to-Hip. This theater company, which specializes in family-friendly productions, performs Shakespeare classics for free in various public spaces throughout the borough each summer. This year, Hip-to-Hip will put on the Bard of Avon’sTwo Gentlemen of Verona, an early slapstick comedy about love, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness…and a dog, and Cymbeline, a late romance/fairy tale about a king, his only daughter, an evil stepmother, and a forbidden love. The professional actors will perform in repertory, and 30 minutes before each performance, they will host “Kids & The Classics,” an interactive workshop for children of all ages.
Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, Hiram S. Maxim and Lewis Howard Latimer. These four men were the greatest inventors and innovators of their day. They were all born in the late 1840s, and came into their own as self-educated inventors after the Civil War. They were responsible for two of the most important inventions and innovations of the 19th century: the telephone and incandescent electric light, as well as many other important inventions. But our history books, generally speaking, only celebrate the achievements of Edison and Bell. The life and career of Lewis Latimer is intrinsically interwoven with the achievements of Bell, Maxim and Edison. They would not have been the successes they were had Latimer not worked with them. The fact that he was African American, the son of former slaves, is only the beginning of his story.
Last time, we met Lewis Howard Latimer. His parents were the property of two different slaveholders in Virginia. They managed to escape north to Boston in the 1840s, where Lewis and his brothers and sister were born. His father, George Latimer, was arrested as a fugitive and was almost taken back into slavery, but Boston’s very activist Abolitionist community rallied around him, both legally and financially, and they were eventually able to buy his freedom. The name “Latimer” was attached to legislation in Massachusetts which essentially forbade tax payer’s money from being used, via the courts and law enforcement, in the capture and return of fugitives. Unfortunately, that was overturned by the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. (more…)
Yesterday the Department of Housing Preservation and Development released a Request for Proposals for a new mixed-use, mixed-income development with approximately 200 new affordable apartments in Flushing. The site in question is Flushing Municipal Lot 3, at 133-45 41st Avenue bordered by College Point Boulevard, Main Street, and the Long Island Rail Road. (The city currently owns the site.) Here’s the kind of proposals the HPD is interested in: “The goal is to develop a transit-oriented, mixed-use, mixed-income development that will expand affordable housing opportunities in the neighborhood, while supporting the vitality of existing commercial and cultural uses.” The city will hold a pre-submission conference regarding the RFP on August 6th, and will accept proposals until October 10th, 2014.
In other Flushing housing news, the city just announced it is accepting applications for affordable senior citizen housing at 45-25 Kissena Boulevard and 137-47 45th Avenue. The applicant must be 62 years or older, and preference is given to current NYC residents. Check out pricing and application details after the jump.
Though this modest two-story frame house with yellow siding at 149-14 Roosevelt Avenue, between 149th Street and Place, remains unmarked by a plaque or medallion of any kind, this is the home where former First Lady Nancy Reagan spent the first two years of her life.
Ann Frances Robbins was born on July 6th, 1921 at Sloane Hospital for Women in NYC to Kenneth Seymour Robbins and actress Edith Luckett. The two divorced in 1928 and when Edith married neurosurgeon Dr. Loyal Davis, 7-year old Ann “Nancy” took on his last name. The family moved to Chicago and Nancy Davis later attended Smith College in Massachusetts. She was bitten by the acting bug and made it to Broadway before embarking on a succession of B-films in the 1940s and 1950s, including “Hellcats of the Navy” with husband Ronald Reagan.
Nancy Davis met Ronald Reagan because of the Hollywood blacklist of suspected Communist sympathizers. In 1949, an actress with the same name appeared on “the list” and Davis enlisted the aid of Screen Actors Guild President Reagan. The two hit it off and were married until Reagan’s death in 2004.
This Friday, all are invited to bring a mat and enjoy sunset yoga in Flushing Town Hall’s garden. Yumcha Yoga Studio teachers will lead a series of poses, followed by kirtan singing from the Indian bhakti devotional tradition. Inner peace will certainly be in the air, but the event will also informally kick off the Northern Boulevard venue’s summer activities program. This jam-packed schedule includes dance performances and concerts featuring R&B, Jazz, country, drumming, and African-based music. Details are on the jump page.
The next time you go into a bathroom on a train, or turn on the air conditioning, take an elevator, or more importantly, the next time you turn on an electric light, you should thank an African American inventor named Lewis H. Latimer. None of those things would have been possible without his inventive mind, yet he remains unknown and off the list of the great American inventors. Did you learn about him in elementary school? Is he a household name like Thomas Edison, with whom he worked closely, and called a friend? No. The fact that he is more or less forgotten by most is one of the great flaws in our selective history. Why isn’t he up there with Edison, Bell, Otis, Westinghouse, Firestone, and the other greats of the 19th and early 20th century? Did you know he lived for a time in Flushing, Queens? (more…)
Bowne Park, the 12-acre Flushing park bounded by 29th and 32nd avenues, 155th and 159th Streets, is set for a $2,450,000 upgrade. Plans for improvement are in response to resident complaints of garbage, dead wildlife and subpar maintenance by the Parks Department. Queens Courier breaks down the improvements to come: $1,450,000 will go toward upgrading the water fountains and filtration system in the park’s pond, as well as the restoration of the asphalt pathways and lawn areas. And $1,000,000 will be used to upgrade the playground and install new play equipment with safety surfaces and benches.
Last year, the Parks Department renovated the existing bocce court in the park and added a second one to the tune of $500,000. It’s unclear when this second phase of renovations will begin, or how long construction will take.
A massive, mixed-use development that will bring retail and office space as well as condominium units and open public areas to downtown Flushing broke ground today. Elected officials and community leaders joined project managers and business leaders to celebrate the first construction phase of Flushing Commons, a sprawling development on a five-acre site located near 39th Avenue, Union Street and 138th Street. The proposed $850 million project includes a 1.5-acre town square consisting of an open space with a fountain and plaza that will be large enough to support community-sponsored cultural events and performances; 1,600 parking spaces with short-term parking at below-market rates; a 62,000-square-foot state-of-the-art YMCA featuring a swimming pool, basketball courts, a running track, an exercise room and daycare; 36,000 square feet of community space; 235,000 square feet of retail space; 185,000 square feet of office space; and roughly 600 residential condominium units. Sounds like there is something here for everyone. The project is expected to be completed by 2020. More images and a rendering of the final project after the jump.