07/29/14 1:00pm

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Without a doubt, Louis Armstrong is the most famous jazz musician who ever lived in Queens. However, Satchmo often cited a much lesser-known borough resident, Bix Beiderbecke, as one of his biggest inspirations. Known affectionately as “Bix,” this self-taught coronet player had his own, distinctive sound described as “bullets hitting a bell.” He had his heyday during the Roaring Twenties Jazz Era before dying at age 28 in his apartment at 43-30 46th Street in Sunnyside, thanks largely to Prohibition-era alcohol. This Saturday with some help from Sunnyside Shines, Bix’s music and the Roaring Twenties will come to life at the 14th annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Concert.

Check out the full schedule and event details after the jump. (more…)

07/29/14 12:30pm

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The Spot: Murphy’s Lobster Grill, 48-20 Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside.

The Deal: Murphy’s Lobster Grill opened last October, an extension of the owner’s next-door namesake bar. Murphy’s Bar has been a Skillman Avenue staple for the last 10 years.

“When the space next door became available I decided to expand and run a seafood restaurant. There’s none in this part of Queens, and I have experience from my other restaurant in Mineola, Long Island,” says owner Mike Murphy.

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07/21/14 1:00pm

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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’s Two 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.

Details after the jump. (more…)

06/25/14 2:00pm

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Sunnyside shopping has a new bright spot. Last week, the Apollonia Gallery NY opened at 48-14 Skillman Avenue. The venue, where Comic Book Heaven was located for 26 years, sells handmade furnishings, paintings, prints, photos, records, antiques, and other home décor items with an emphasis on promoting local artisans. The owner, Garry O’Callaghan, also indicated that he plans to host salon-like gatherings for musicians, poetry readings and artist talks. A carpenter by trade, O’Callaghan will also display his own furniture, which he’ll make in a downstairs workshop. The store’s title honors Apollo, the Greek god of music and art, but Apollo was also the name of O’Callaghan’s beloved pet dog, which passed away a few years ago.

O’Callaghan’s statement: ”I wanted to create a mythological and magical place like the shop in the Gremlins that gives guests the feeling of being in a secret place where they can find one-of-a-kind treasures. This is also a wonderful way to meet interesting people and celebrate the vibrant local arts scene.” You can visit the gallery Tuesday through Friday, 3 pm to 8 pm, and weekends, 9 am to 8 pm.

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Top photo: Ann O’Connor; bottom photo: It’s in Queens

06/13/14 1:00pm

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There will be dancing in the streets. Many, many streets…bars, cemeteries, gardens, historic houses, malls, parks, nonprofits, restaurants, stoops and triangles, too. On June 21st (aka the longest day of the year), Make Music New York will host a Summer Solstice festival consisting of more than 1,000 free concerts throughout the five boroughs. From 10 am to 10 pm, musicians of all persuasions — hip hop to opera, jazz to punk, high school bands to pop stars — will do their things. Queens, of course, will be in the center of the action. For example, South African artist Toya DeLazy will perform her unique blend of hip hop, jazz and electronica at LIC Landing (52-10 Center Boulevard, Long Island City) at 1 pm. Meanwhile from noon to 4 pm, the Queens Council on the Arts (37-11 35th Avenue, Astoria) will present Reggae artist Desmond followed by Instrumental Jazz Fusion by Mind Open. Six hours of music and dance are scheduled at the Spaceworks LIC Block Party (33-02 Skillman Avenue, LIC). All told, Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Glendale, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, LIC, Ridgewood and Sunnyside will host events.

Click here for a complete list of all performers, venues, and times in Queens.

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06/12/14 1:00pm

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Imagine a large room full of potential Father’s Day gifts, and not one of them is a tie. This Sunday, about 35 local artists will fill the Queen of Angels parish hall in Sunnyside with everything from paintings to postcards to trinkets made from beads, buttons and felt. Organized by the nonprofit Sunnyside Artists, this seventh-annual, all-volunteer event draws about 1,000 patrons and can lead to artists showing their works at local establishments. This year, participants will include regulars, such as Mihai Stancescu, who specializes in frescoes and board paintings with egg tempera and gilding, and Ellen Mandelbaum, a stained glass expert. But there will be some new faces and pieces, such as work by Trevor Sparks and Emily O’Leary, employees at the new Queens Boulevard store Artists & Craftsman Supply. In addition, Murphy’s Lobster Grill, which won Best Entrée at Queens Taste 2014, will provide food.

Details: Queen of Angles Art Fair VII, Queen of Angels Parish Hall, 44th Street and Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, noon to 5 pm, free.

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05/28/14 1:00pm

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The title is rather general: We Women Do It Better! or ¡Nosotras Lo Hacemos Mejor! But the play’s entertaining monologue is rather specific, delving into what, exactly, females do better than males. An attractive psychologist has prepared a workshop on professional growth. As she discusses it, she takes the audience on a tour of a woman’s reality by reminiscing on her own life experiences: childhood, first love, marriage, maternity, infidelity and divorce. With a sharp-tongued, unconventional wit, she analyzes the myths of marriage and divorce, exposes the schemes of seducers, and discovers love at age 50. The Thalía Spanish Theatre will host this Puerto Rican gem, written by Mayagüez native Roberto Ramos-Perea, for almost two months with performances in English and Español.

Details: We Women Do It Better (¡Nosotras Lo Hacemos Mejor!), Thalía Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Avenue, Sunnyside, May 30th to June 29th, performances in English star Kathy Tejada on Fridays at 8 pm and Saturdays at 3 pm. Performances in Spanish star Soledad Lopez on Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 4 pm. $27/$20 students and seniors, special group rates.

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05/21/14 1:00pm

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Jack Eichenbaum grew up in Bayside in the 1950s. He left for academic and vocational reasons in 1963, and when he returned from completing his doctorate in urban geography in 1976, he found a completely different borough. The mostly white, working class neighborhoods of his youth had transformed into multi-ethnic enclaves, creating the world’s most diverse county. Fascinated, he started giving walking tours of his beloved hometown in the 1980s, and in 2010, Eichenbaum was designated the official historian of Queens, as per the borough president’s office. The former city assessor has five upcoming tours, which are famous for the amount of local trivia he shares and the great restaurants he hits afterwards with participants. For more information, please see below.

  • Willets Point, Sunday, May 25th, 4 pm: East of Citi Field is a sewerless, hardscrabble area of auto junkyards and related businesses that has twice beaten back recent attempts at redevelopment. But since it’s located between the world famous baseball stadium and booming Flushing, public and private interests are again trying to transform Willets Point. Eichenbaum will walk from central Flushing to the area, while discussing political, economic and ecological issues and explaining why “Willets Point” is a misnomer. $20.
  • The World of the 7 Train, Saturday, May 31st, 10 am: Eichenbaum calls this full-day program his “signature tour,” although it’s actually a series of six walks (Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona and Flushing) and connecting rides. He focuses on the 7 train’s influence on surrounding neighborhoods. Lunch is in Flushing. Pre-register via jaconet@aol.com.
  • On and Off Jamaica Avenue, Sunday, June 8th, 10 am: After decades of dedication, redesign, and redevelopment, Downtown Jamaica is undergoing a renaissance as the borough’s major transportation center. Eichenbaum promises historic buildings, commercial activity, culture, and a surprise ending. $20.
  • Crossing Newtown Creek: Contrasting Industrial Brooklyn & Queens, Sunday, July 27th, 10 am: See remnants of the intense and largely unregulated industrial development that thrived along Newtown Creek during the late 19th century. See elegant Greenpoint highlights and East River shoreline redevelopment ending with shoreline views from Gantry Park and Hunter’s Point.
  • More Space and New Arrangements in Western Queens, Sunday, August 3rd, 10 am: During the first third of the 20th century, Western Queens nurtured developments where traditional open space/building area relationships were altered to create new urban architecture. Sunnyside Gardens and the Jackson Heights Historic District anchor this tour, which includes Phipps Garden Apartments, various Matthews Flats, the Metropolitan Life houses, and early truck-oriented industrial buildings.

Photo: Alex Engel

05/01/14 2:00pm

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April showers bring…hungry party attendees. Exactly 50 vendors served entrées, appetizers, beverages and desserts to more than 700 attendees in a festive atmosphere during Queens Taste 2014 on April 29. With Fairway Market as the lead sponsor, the Queens Economic Development Corporation hosted this twelfth annual event at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing. Please scroll down for more information and mouth-watering photos.

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Jamaica-based O Lavrador Restaurant served a pleasantly palatable paella.

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Kim Chi Smoke Barbecue offered…well…smoked kim chi.

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La Fusta, an Argentinian restaurant in Elmhurst, fired up the kebabs.

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Desserts galore! Thanks to Take a Break & I’ll Bake.

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Queens Brewery tapped a hometown keg.

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There was also a competition as judged by a team of local foodies and media types. Zenon Taverna, which serves Greek and Cypriot cuisine in Astoria, took Best Entrée honors with a Mediterranean octopus dish, lamb meatballs and taramosalata. Sunnyside’s Murphy’s Lobster Grill, which gave out oysters and clams on a half shell, won Best Appetizer, while DF Mavens, which makes a wide variety of dairy-free ice cream flavors, prevailed as Best Dessert. In the photo are (from left) Elena Papageorgiou from Zenon Taverna, Francis Zalewski from DF Mavens and Michael Murphy from Murphy’s Lobster Grill.

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QEDC also announced the winners of the Eighth Annual Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition, a five-month challenge-and-instruction course sponsored by Citi and hosted by Queens Library. The winners received $10,000 each to jumpstart their businesses. The Food-Based Category honors actually went to a beverage maker, Astoria Distilling Company, which is about to launch a craft spirits distillery with Queens Courage, an “Old Tom” gin with a subtle sweetness derived from botanicals, malts and honey. Gamal Byfield and his martial arts studio, The Branch of Life, took first place in the Community Category. Jaime Montalvo prevailed in the Innovative Category. Montalvo is also known as Soraya Sobriedad, a trim and sassy drag queen who offers tasty recipes for healthy Latin dishes on a her internet cooking show. Seen in photo are (from left) QEDC Executive Director Seth Bornstein; Christopher Murillo from Astoria Distilling; Sobriedad; Byfield; Bridget Quinn-Carey from Queens Library; Ed Odom from Citi Foundation; Ricardi Calixte from QEDC; Sante Antonelli from QEDC; and Michael Gillen from QEDC.

Photos: Dominick Totino

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Hanging about and walking around Queens with a friend one afternoon last summer, our path carried us up Skillman Avenue and past the gargantuan Sunnyside Yards. Luckily, something I’d been trying to catch, as it happens, began to happen when Amtrak 934 sauntered into view.

From Wikipedia:

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track. The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity.

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It turns out that there is an entire industrial sector for whom the manufacture and maintenance of “train washes” is a focal point. It also seems to be the case that having a shiny clean locomotive pays a dividend in terms of aerodynamic drag and that the cleaner your train is, the more efficiently it runs.

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