Annual Queens Museum symposium stimulates and educates

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By Tequila Minsky

TimesLedger Newspapers

Hosting topical symposia puts the vital relationship between the Queens Museum and the local Haitian community on display.

Last week’s featured the museum’s L’Education du Regard (Educating for Deeper Understanding) program, an annual event has been held there for over a decade, initiated by architect and urban planner Etienne Telemaque and later joined by artist Patricia Brintle.

“I handle art and Etienne handles architecture and other content,” said Brintle, a Whitestone resident and painter who wrangles other artists to participate so a mini-exhibition is also part of the symposium.

Brintle expounded on the topics of years’ past — water systems, electricity, transportation and sanitation. The symposiums all add breadth to understanding the issues.

One year, there was a heated discussion on the importance of parks with the focus on Martissant Park. The issue raised: why put a park in the middle of a slum?

Experts reiterated how putting a park in a “terrible area” breathes air (and life) both literally and metaphorically into its neighborhood. It’s also about saving the environment.

In the case of Martissant Park, situated in the poor, crowded neighborhood of Martissant, there is a medicinal garden, an educational environmental center on the premises, and people can get cuttings from the gardeners.

“Our audience of Haitians and friends are happy that people care and that there are symposiums about these subjects,” said Brintle. “For a lot, they’re hearing about a particular issue for the first time.”

This year’s “Le Champs-de-Mars: A Public Sector to be Preserved Absolutely,” held on June 3, focused on an area of Port-au-Prince that is a series of downtown parks split by wide boulevards, almost like the Washington Mall in function.

Found there are statues of Haiti’s founding fathers: Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines on horseback, Alexander Petion, and Henri Christophe, collectively known as Place des Héros de l’Independence (Place of the Heroes of Independence). It is also where the wonderful history museum Musee du Pantheon National Haitien is located and the site of the destroyed-by-earthquake demolished National Palace.

Artist and author George Patrick Gaspard spoke of how in his growing-up years Le Champs de Mars (Chanmas, in Haitian Creole) existed as a Sunday park of walking, congregating, children riding bicycles and breathing fresh air.

During the afternoon, Haitian authors Gaspard and Eddy Mesidor, caricaturist Castro Desroches, and poet Janie Bogart sold and signed their books. A last minute cancellation of scheduled speaker Patrick Durandis, Haiti’s Director General of the Institute of Saving the National Patrimony ISPAN, disappointed attendees but the show went on.

The program became a panel and general discussion with attendees adding their opinions of what needs to be done to restore the area to its former stature in Haiti’s urban life. Preservation is not fostered in the population of Haiti, says Brintle, on the need for education in this regard.

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Source: Times Ledger

Douglaston residents protest for a safer Northern Boulevard bike lane

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

Nearly 100 members of the Douglaston Civic Association marched along the protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard Saturday demanding that the city make what they see as common-sense changes.

The city Department of Transportation installed the bike lane last summer after Community Board 11 approved the plan in June. But then they decided the project was not safe and developed an alternative plan that would widen an underutilized sidewalk to include the bike lane.

“We’re not against bike lanes, we’re just against what they did here,” Douglaston Civic Association President Sean Walsh said. “It has had a tremendous impact on traffic and safety, creating blind spots for both cyclists and motorists. I’m afraid somebody’s going to get killed out here. We’re here to tell the mayor and the City Council enough is enough and it is time to stop this lunacy.”

The DOT moved to bring safety improvements to Northern Boulevard after 78-year-old Michael Schenkman was struck and killed by a car while cycling to the Joe Michaels Mile bike path in August 2016.

“The installation of the two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Northern Boulevard last summer allowed DOT to immediately deliver critical safety benefits for the community and all street users.” a DOT spokesman said. “The project has brought vital traffic calming to this Vision Zero corridor while creating a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists traveling between Bayside and Douglaston.”

But Walsh is concerned about vehicles crashing into the protected bike lane. While he admits it is difficult to determine just how many incidents have occurred since last summer because the 111th Precinct accident statistics are difficult to decipher, he maintains it is an ongoing problem.

“I know of 17 vehicles that have had accidents at the barriers that I’ve confirmed or seen myself,” Walsh said. “Some say even more have crashed here.”

Although he did not offer any proof, Bernard Haber, a retired engineer who drafted Community Board 11’s alternative plan, marched in Saturday’s protest.

“The most important thing is the design of having the barrier at the Cross Island Parkway, right in front of the entrance and two exits. It’s very dangerous,” Haber said. “Any highway engineer would never design something like this. Why this was put this way, I don’t know.”

Haber agreed with Walsh that the community supported bike lanes.

The community board and the community are all in favor of bicycle lanes — we’ve established bicycle lanes all over in Douglaston and Bayside,” he said. “We approved them all. This one is a bad one.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Hundreds gather to support Flushing man seized for deportation

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By Tequila Minsky

TimesLedger Newspapers

Nearly 100 people, including immigration advocates and elected officials, gathered at Foley Square in Flushing Monday morning, joining a rally called by the Asian American Federation and member organizations to protest the separation of Flushing resident Xiu Qing You from his family.

On May 23, You reported to Immigration and Custom Enforcement on what he thought would be a simple application interview for a green card. That day turned into his family’s current nightmare when his wife, Yu Mei Chen, was asked to leave the room and You was taken into custody and transported to a New Jersey facility run by ICE, where he is slated for deportation.

Shortly after his arrival into the United States from China 18 years ago, You applied for asylum fearing persecution for his Catholic faith. It was denied. Since then, he married and has two children — ages 4 and 6 — all of whom are U.S. citizens. There has been a deportation order in place since 2002.

At the rally, Jo-Ann Yoo, of the Asian American Federation, noted how You built a life for himself in this country, started a business, paid taxes and became an employer, contributing to the economy.

“He now has been sitting in detention for almost a month under the stress of deportation,” she said. “One of the dads who didn’t get a (Father’s Day) call yesterday was Mr. You.”

Yoo said that 70 percent of Asians are immigrants, and reminded the crowd how important immigration issues are to the community.

“We are here to fight so Mr. You doesn’t become part of this country’s shameful deportation statistic,” she said. “We demand that Mr. You be reunited with his family while his attorney completes his asylum appeal.”

You’s lawyer, Yee Ling Poon, briefly listed the legal strategies, including reopening his asylum appeal for fear of persecution and trying to get an injunction for a stay of deportation in federal court. She mentioned the toll of splitting up this family and the pressure and distress experienced by his wife.

You’s wife stood in the front row, clutching a photo that reminded her of her family in happier times. The photo also displayed a message: “Let our father go home!”

Others held signs in support of You that read, “Families belong together,” “Stop bullying immigrants,” “Dividing Families will not strengthen America,” “No borders on stolen land,” and “Abolish ICE,” among others.

John Park, of MinKwon — a Flushing-based social and economic justice organization — spoke eloquently and emotionally about how this is not just an Asian or Latin issue, but a crisis that affects all immigrant communities.

“Today is all about the family. It is like torture on a minute-to-minute basis that your family could be torn apart,” he said, addressing Yu Mei Chen. “This is not just about today, but about keeping the pressure on, supporting the families in our community, today, the next day, until we fix this, until we get this president out.”

Among elected officials who spoke at the rally was Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), the first Chinese-American to represent Chinatown in the City Council. She spoke about her own family’s immigration journey to the United States — her undocumented father brought the family from Hong Kong so they could have a better life.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) issued a statement Monday in support of You and his family.

“This case is the latest example of how the administration’s cruel immigration policies are destroying lives. Xiuqing You is a hardworking individual who wants nothing more than to better the life of his family and have his shot at the American dream,” she said. “Detaining him as he appeared for his scheduled adjustment of status interview is unjust, and I will be leading a letter to ICE on his behalf.

“You has no criminal history and poses no threat to our city or nation. His wife and 4- and 6-year-old daughters are distraught by his absence and will suffer financial hardships if they are not reunited with him,” she added. “In the wake of Father’s Day, I renew my call for the administration to stop separating families. Destroying the lives of families and removing parents from young children is mean-spirited and wrong. I will be closely monitoring You’s case in the days ahead.”

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) also released a statement Monday demanding You’s release from ICE custody.

“Mr. You is part of a sad and frankly un-American trend that has seen many people who are just trying to make a life in the U.S. end up behind bars,” Johnson said. “We must fight these un-American incarcerations. They hurt not only the You family, but all Americans who care about decency and justice. … I want the You family to know that New Yorkers are here for you. We will stand together so that our voices are heard. Our message is simple: Innocent families should never be kept apart by the U.S. government.”

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Crowley faces off against Ocasio-Cortez in his first primary challenge in 14 years

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

When U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) faces challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Tuesday’s congressional primary, it will be a match of old school vs. new school. Crowley, 56, represents New York’s 14th Congressional District and holds the fourth-highest ranking position in the House Democratic leadership. Ocasio-Cortez is an insurgent progressive from the Bronx, a 28-year-old who organized for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) during his failed bid for the presidency in 2016.

The difference between the two was clear during their one and only debate last Friday on NY1. Crowley, who is being opposed in a primary for the first time in 14 years, came under attack for leading the Queens County Democratic Party while holding office.

“I just think it’s completely inappropriate to be chairman of a local Democratic party,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders was the head of the national (Democratic Party) while responsible for their own endorsements and the endorsement of others.”

Crowley was unapologetic, saying during his time as head of the Queens Democrats he had helped many candidates of color get elected, ensuring the district’s and city’s leaders represent their constituencies.

“I am very proud of my record of electing progressive Democrats in Queens County whether it’s in the judiciary or elected office,” he said. “Virtually every person in Queens County is a Democrat, in no small part because of my efforts.”

Crowley said he helped elect U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), the first Asian-American sent to the House of Representatives from the East Coast and that he supported Francisco Moya when he became the first Ecuadorian-American elected to state office in the Assembly. Moya is now in the City Council.

“But I also take it on the road nationally helping Democrats win, because I think it is critical — facing what we are today with this president — that we win back the House of Representatives at all costs,” Crowley said. “We have to win, because if we don’t, serious damage will be done to our democracy.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she has rejected all corporate money and is the only candidate in the race who supports “improved and expanded Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college and the abolition of ICE.”

Crowley explained that abolishing ICE would not solve the problem of taking the power out of the hands of Attorney General Jeff Sessions or President Donald Trump.

“We know it’s about making change in Washington,” he said. “It’s about Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives. That is what I’m going to do this November.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Actor Robert Davi has stayed true to his Queens roots

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By Greater Astoria Historical Society

TimesLedger Newspapers

In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.

Born on June 26, 1951 and raised in Astoria, Robert Davi is an actor, singer, writer and director perhaps best known for his vivid portrayal of a colorful assortment of Hollywood villains, thugs and tough guys. In a film and television career spanning over 40 years, Davi has appeared in TV series from “Charlie’s Angels” and “St. Elsewhere” to “Criminal Minds,” among the 130 films on the silver screen he has performed in alongside greats from Marlon Brando to Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis. The native Astorian is also a critically acclaimed singer, known for bringing his own unique depth and character to Frank Sinatra classics.

Born to an Italian-American mother and an Italian immigrant father from Sicily, the future actor grew up speaking his father’s native tongue at home. After graduating from Hofstra University, Davi moved to Manhattan where he studied under legendary acting coach Stella Adler. He made his motion picture debut in “Contract” on Cherry Street, a 1977 crime thriller starring Frank Sinatra. His film credits include opera-singing goon Jake Fratelli in the 1985 adventure comedy “The Goonies,” villain Frank Sanchez in the 1989 James Bond thriller “License to Kill,” and more recently, a New York mobster in the 2012 crime biography “The Iceman.”

Throughout his career, Davi has stayed true to his Queens roots, working alongside numerous other movie and TV luminaries with strong ties to the borough. In his Hollywood career, these include the legendary James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli and fellow actor Christopher Walken, both fellow Astoria natives, as well as Rodney Dangerfield of Kew Gardens. In his singing career, he has performed to sold-out crowds in Las Vegas with comedian Don Rickles of Jackson Heights.

In 2007, the seasoned actor made his directorial debut in “The Dukes,” a 2008 comedic parable of lost fame starring Davi alongside Chazz Palminteri as a washed up musical duo who attempt a bank heist. The film won awards at the Queens International Film Festival and the Monte Carlo Comedy Film Festival, and the new director Davi was also awarded Best First Time Director and Best Screenplay awards in the Monte Carlo Festival of Comedy.

The versatile Davi was first praised for his singing in high school, and as a teenager auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera and received classical voice training. Later in life, in 2011, the actor from Queens released an album titled “Davi Sings Sinatra — On the Road to Romance.” The compilation of 12 Sinatra tunes was released to widespread positive reviews, with none other than Quincy Jones proclaiming, “I have never heard anyone come this close to Sinatra’s sound – and still be himself. Many try, but Robert Davi has the voice, tone, the flavor and the swagger.” His album reached No. 6 on the Billboard jazz charts.

Aside from his numerous recognitions as an actor, director and talented singer, Davi has received the George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award from the Hofstra University Alumni Association. In 2004, he was even recognized as Citizen of the Week by a radio station in Los Angeles for rescuing a young girl from a house fire. Davi has five children, and he spends his free time volunteering with numerous charities, including the Dream Foundation, the Humane Society and the Exceptional Children’s Foundation.

Compiled by Dan McDonald for the Greater Astoria Historical Society. For further information, contact the Society at (718) 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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PS 79 celebrates Flag Day with patriotic performance

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By Carlotta Mohamed

TimesLedger Newspapers

In a longstanding tradition for over 100 years at PS 79 Francis Lewis in Whitestone, students dressed in red, white and blue observed “Flag Day” June 14 with a patriotic performance followed by a flag planting in the yard.

Flag Day is celebrated nationwide commemorating the adoption of the U.S. flag, also known as “Old Glory,” on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress, according to the American Enterprise Institute. In observance of Flag Day, approximately 1,200 students from pre-K through fifth grade come together every year displaying patriotism in the schoolyard with parents, teachers, and faculty members in attendance.

“It’s a celebration for our children where they can see that despite all of our differences…when they look around at our community and population, we have very different cultures and ethnicities,” said Principal George Carter. “It’s something we could all come together around and celebrate our flag, and be proud of who we are, where we are, and how we come together as a people.”

Laura Jean Ballon, a former veteran who served in the armed forces and reserves from 1983-1996 and a fifth-grade teacher at PS 79 for 26 years, organized the event with a performance from the 54-member student drill team marching in cadence with the American Flag, commemorating the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces.

“Flag Day is a very special day and it’s in my heart because I served in the military back in the ‘80s,” Ballon said. “This is my 14th year celebrating Flag Day with the drill team. The children have worked very hard from 7 to 8 a.m. four days a week for the past month.”

Children sang patriotic songs such as “This is My Land,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “I’m Proud to Be an American.”

Sarah Kaplan, 19, of Long Island City, sang the national anthem, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “Journey From the Past” from the musical “Anastasia.”

“With all of the drama going on in our country right now, it’s nice for us to come together and represent love and show our love for the land we all share,” said Kaplan. “It’s my third year singing at the celebration, I’m thankful for our country being the land of the free and home of the brave.”

Looking in from the sidewalk, Ana Chevalier, 43, said it was her fourth year coming to the celebration.

“They worked so hard and it’s important for the children to feel proud of the country and people who fought for them, their freedom and to be brave,” Chevalier said. “It’s a very beautiful celebration.”

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

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Ryan MS 216 falls short in citywide hoops finals

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By Robert Cole

TimesLedger Newspapers

Although the middle school athletes from George J. Ryan MS 216 in Fresh Meadows fell short of their goal to capture the citywide middle school basketball championship trophy, the smiles that broke out on their faces as they received their runner-up medals and trophy revealed that they are CHAMPS.

CHAMPS, which is an acronym for “Cooperative, Healthy, Active, Motivated, Positive, Students,” has served middle school athletes throughout the city for 15 years, offering a variety of athletic activities throughout the academic year.

“The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for all middle school students to participate in before and after school sports programs regardless of their athletic ability,” CHAMPS coordinator and basketball commissioner Alan Semel said. “It’s great that middle school students have the opportunity to participate in sports and life-time fitness, it gives them a chance to participate in competitive basketball that teaches them a lot and prepares them for high school.”

The Ryan MS 216 team came into the game with high hopes after winning its semifinal game on Thursday, which put them into their first championship game. But they ran into a tough, athletic IS 323 team from Brooklyn that also had their eyes on the championship prize.

The boys from Ryan could not overcome some championship nerves and early pressure from the Brooklynites, and ultimately lost 49-39 contest.

The defensive pressure from IS 323 led to five steals in the first quarter, which turned into to seven points. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn defense held the Ryan offense to two points, scored by the team’s leading scorer Kelyn Sanches, who finished with 11 points. The Brooklyn champs fed off the energy of their defense and exploded on the other end of the court, draining three three-point baskets and closing the first quarter with three dunks by Diovion Famikinde to take a 22-2 lead into the second.

Ryan eventually settled into the game behind the play of their center Mohammal Shah, who finished the game with 10 points. But the Queens champs still trailed 30-12 at the half.

Despite the deficit, the Ryan players stayed together and continued to fight, eventually cutting the deficit to 45-37 in the fourth quarter, after Kelyn Sanches drained a jumper.

“It was a slow start, but I am really proud of how the team fought back, they did not give up, they kept grinding it out to cut the lead to eight points, from being down 22, and they gave themselves a chance,” Ryan coach Paul Vigoda said.

Vigoda instructed his team to foul on the defensive end of the court in an effort to keep IS 323 from running out the clock, but they could not complete the comeback and were handed a hard-fought 49-39 defeat.

“We all did an amazing job over the past two years, and I hope everyone does well in the future,” said Sanches, who expects to be a team leader next year as an eight-grader.”

Despite the loss, Vigoda said he could not be happier with his team’s effort.

“I have been doing this for 15 years now. We went to the final four in 2016 and this was my first time in the finals. I could not be more proud of the team. They did a great job,” he said.

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Van Bramer: DOT plan for bike lanes in Sunnyside lacks support to move forward

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

When Gelasio Reyes was struck and killed by a drunk driver at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and 39th Street in Sunnyside in April 2017, it set off a chain of events rarely seen in the tight-knit neighborhood. Twelve days later, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) spoke at a rally for the 32-year-old father of three and a second cyclist who was critically injured at the same intersection just days later.

“This is not a Vision Zero success story,” Van Bramer said at the time. “We’ve had one man killed here and now another man is fighting for his life. We need DOT to immediately conduct a serious, comprehensive study. It has to be made safer right away. We can’t wait months or years.” Standing next to Reyes’ widow Flor Jiminez, Van Bramer demanded a protected bike lane be built on 43rd Street from Queens Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue.

“For me, the most important duty as an elected official is to protect lives. Each time someone dies in a crash on our streets, it must be our duty to respond and improve safety,” Van Bramer said Tuesday in a statement provided exclusively to TimesLedger Newspapers. .“After Gelacio Reyes was killed, I called for a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue. I continue to believe a protected bike lane would make this street safer. To be clear, I support a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue.”

In November the city Department of Transportation unveiled its plans for protected bike lanes on 43rd Avenue and Skillman Avenue that would eliminate 158 parking spaces in the neighborhood. Small business owners slammed the plan immediately, saying such parking losses would destroy the neighborhoods economy.

“DOT’s initial community outreach, including a meeting with PS 11 parents, was disastrous, making the process even more painful. I wanted to have a meaningful period of community engagement so all could be heard and no could say anything was rushed,” Van Bramer said. “And we had that process, often difficult, and sometimes ugly. But we had it.”

After a contentious town hall meeting, a workshop and numerous community board meetings that pitted Sunnyside residents against cyclist groups and safe streets advocates, the DOT revised the plan twice and Community Board 2 voted against the proposal by a vote of 27-8 earlier this month.

“I reject the vilification of cyclists and I believe bike lanes make the streets safer for everyone — cyclists, motorists and pedestrians,” Van Bramer said. “Many residents in the community, new and old, believe the proposed safety improvements would be a welcome addition. We are a community of neighbors — and everyone’s opinions matters — whether you’ve been here six months or 60 years. But the DOT’s plan, while changed a few times, still failed to gain enough support among residents, community institutions, elected officials and Community board 2.”

Now the neighborhood awaits the city’s next move. On his weekly radio interview on WNYC last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “I have no problem saying when we’ve come to the judgment that it’s about safety, that even if there is opposition or concern, we’re going to make that judgment in the name of protecting lives.”

Van Bramer remains committed to what he said as he stood next to Reyes’ widow, a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue.

“But I don’t believe we can move forward with this DOT plan at this time. I urge all of us to listen to each other, respect our differing viewpoints and, above all else, put the safety of each other first,” Van Bramer said. “The quest for safer streets must continue and what has emerged from this process is apparent near unanimity among opponents of this plan for a protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard in CB2. That’s some progress, but I hope we can continue to do more to build even more support for comprehensive street safety measures, including protected bike lanes.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Gingerbread Players to bring second edition of ‘Shakespeare-aoke’ to Forest Hills

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By Julia Moro

TimesLedger Newspapers

The Queens theatre company Gingerbread Players is preparing for its second edition of “Shakespeare-aoke! The Ultimate Shakespearience,” at St. Luke’s Church in Forest Hills on June 30 at 7:30 p.m.

The night features short performances from members of the community who wish to recite, read or act out one of Shakespeare’s many works.

The event was originally put on to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616. With the huge turnout and the noticeable appreciation of Shakespeare, the Gingerbread Players decided to hold this event again.

“Open mike is such a popular thing these days, karaoke is really big, and I thought why should it only be for pop music. Why can’t we do something where people can come and perform without committing to the burden of regular rehearsal schedules?” asked Louise Guinther, co-ordinator of the event and a member of the troupe.

John Fallon, a member of St. Luke’s Parish, performed at the first “Shakespeare-aoke.” He said that he enjoys the freedom of the open mike since you get to choose what to perform and how to perform it.

“To me, it’s very New York” said Fallon.

On top of the Shakespearean performances, the food and refreshments will also follow the same Elizabethan-era theme. The refreshments are included in the admission price of $10 to reserve a spot to perform and $5 to come in and watch the show.

For more information, visit the website, www.gingerbreadplayers.org

Reach reporter Julia Moro by e-mail at jmoro@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4574.

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With time running out in Albany, Peralta urges passage of school zone speed camera program

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

With the legislative session in Albany scheduled to end June 20, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) rallied with colleagues and Safe Streets advocates urging passage of his bill that would expand and extend the New York City school zone speed camera program. The proposal would add 150 monitoring devices to the current 140 speed safety cameras operating under a pilot program approved in 2013.

The program is set to expire next month unless the Legislature acts within the next five session days on the schedule. Only 7 percent of public schools in the five boroughs currently benefit from the life-saving technology, which reduces speeding by 63 percent and lowers pedestrian injuries by 23 percent at locations where they have been installed, according to the city Department of Transportation.

“This is about protecting children. Who does not want to protect children? Who does not want to save lives?” Peralta said. “We need to ensure streets are safe when New York City schoolchildren travel to and from school every day. My bill will make city street safer for kids. If we do not act, the cameras will go away in July and our kids will return to unsafe streets when they go back to school in September.”

Peralta’s bill would enable 290 speed cameras to operate within a quarter mile from a designated school, beginning one hour before and running until one hour after a school day. Devices would also be operational during student activities and up to 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the activities. Additionally, Peralta’s proposal calls for the installation of warning signs within 300 feet of a monitoring device, and prohibits the installation of a camera within 300 feet of a highway exit ramp.

“The school year is about to end, but that’s no excuse for reckless driving that could end life,” state Sen. James Sanders (D-S. Ozone Park) said. “An expansion of the school speed camera program will cut down speeding, and save lives on city streets. Drivers will think twice about speeding and disobeying traffic laws by schools when they spot the cameras and the warning signs. Those that don’t … their vehicles will have cameras snap their picture and be finalized with a fine.”

On June 7, the City Council approved the home rule request required for the state Legislature to pass the bill. Peralta hopes his legislation is debated and voted on before the session ends. The bill has 33 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, which is more than enough for the Senate to pass the bill.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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