Big Fat Disclaimer: If you’re looking for the real news story re: last night’s meeting, try one of the local news blogs (DNAinfo/LIC-Astoria or Astoria Post should have something soon). What follows is a general recap of the issues that were raised.—Tracy Infield
1 Western Queens Gazette publisher Tony Barsamian noted that there are a lot of people flooding into Astoria and wonders if we really are having more burglaries and robberies or does it only seem so because we’re hearing more about it? Precinct deputy inspector Kevin Maloney acknowledged a recent spike, especially around the Steinway/30th Ave areas. Note: Lock those windows by the fire escape! Note too: The 114th has community meetings the fourth Tuesday of the month.
2 The next woman did not have a question; in fact, I had a hard time following her. But something about child custody, Brooklyn, and (I think) Michigan (?). Aravella Simotas handled this one by sending a staffer over to investigate further privately.
Then NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer spoke, then State Senator Jose Peralta. Stringer mentioned the recent agreement with ExxonMobil to increase transparency re: its hydraulic fracturing practices.
3 Then came a dad with an urgent question for Corrections regarding his son at Rikers. No one on the panel from the DOC, but again a staffer was sent to further discuss the matter with him privately.
4 Then a community spokesman from Ravenswood Houses: “Sanitation is pounding on us—we need to find you a home.” Issue is sanitation trucks blocking fire hydrants, the smell of trash, and more. Department of Sanitation community liaison Iggy Terranova responded that they are very aware of the problem and concerns. If I recall correctly, they are looking for an alternate home for the trucks, but a suitable space is hard to find. (They thought they found one, but apparently is was in CB3 territory.)
5 My notes for this one say “not a question.” Basically a 28th Street/Ave homeowner who noted the middle class is collapsing. He and his wife own their home, but taxes are bad… no increase in income… a daughter heading to college… who’s going to be left to patronize the businesses here if the middle class is squeezed out? You can sympathize with everything he said—a lot of us are in the same boat—but unfortunately this is just a bigger issue than anyone here can respond to/handle on the spot.
6 I don’t even want to talk about #6: Let’s just say he has issues with the judiciary system. He said his question was for Aravella Simotas but after several minutes it seemed pretty clear that, again, this was… not a question. Not surprisingly, Simotas recognized him (from previous complaints). After he said his piece, he didn’t leave or sit down, he went to the back of the line for another go.
7 A man representing Friends of Astoria Heights Park; my notes say “mudslides?” Further investigation (Google) revealed this recent article in the Queens Ledger: “Park group pushing for improvements in Astoria.” The man noted everyone they’ve dealt with has been very helpful, and things have improved, but he’s wondering if there’s any way to speed up the progress? (Short answer: No.) Parks rep said he is aware of what is needed, but these things (funding) take time. (Note the Friends have been at this for awhile; see their Facebook page.)
8 Neighbors of Sunset Lounge (32-72 Steinway) are having issues with the noise. I recall seeing this guy at a CB1 meeting. You can’t hear the noise from the front of the premise (on Steinway); the noise is bad on 38th St, where they live. This, too, has been going on for awhile. (He and the owners are texting buddies.) And even when they do lower the music, it turns out that the music was drowning out the rowdies on the roof.
9 Frances McDonald (of CB1 fame) spoke about the Hallets Cove and Astoria Cove developments in Old Astoria neighborhood. Not a problem with developments, per se, but a concern about infrastructure. ConEd rep responded that they’ve done 5- and 10-year forecasts of the necessary upgrades and always try to be respectful of neighborhood needs while making such upgrades.
10 Rod Townsend query: Have we given any thought towards expanding bus routes? More QNS to BK? DOT rep response: Yes, they’re looking into it. I believe he said Q19 is going down to Hallets Cove, and they’re making progress on a route that goes from the waterfront to Court Square.
11 Missed this one. It was 8:30. I needed a break.
12 Senior asks about SCRIE program: A.2257—legislation raising the senior citizen rent increase exemption. Good news: Yes there will be an increase. You’ll see it sometime in July.
13 Another repeat customer from CB1 meetings. Issue with chopper/helicopter noise. FAA lady noted unfortunately they HAVE to fly that low to stay out of plane traffic. Something to do with routes. Even when LGA is closed, there’s still JFK. Guy seemed sad but at least he got an answer.
14 DOT query. Cresent and 30th road traffic issues.
15 Return of guy with judicial problems (#6). Moderator requested he let others speak before he spoke again.
16 Teacher at an after-school math program at 21-15 Steinway: The kids get out late; can we get better lighting there and also an additional garbage can? I believe the DOT lady said they can check to be sure the lights there are up to speed. Iggy from DOS said flatly, “We’re not gonna put out more garbage cans.” This was more straightforward than anyone was prepared to hear. People actually started speaking from the audience, including one who went straight up to the mike: Patricia from 28th Ave, who noted there are NONE on that street. Iggy noted they are on commercial streets (Broadway, 30th, etc) She said 28th IS commercial—every block has a business. I believe they made a date to go for a walk on 28th Ave to investigate together. (I wonder if they will?)
At this point, our new Borough President, Melinda Katz, arrived and spoke a bit. Note: If you’ve got a teen that needs an internship, contact her office.
17 Not a question. Industrial real estate broker offered his 2 cents on changing face of Astoria.
18 A question about what kind of pesticides are used. Something about Roundup and vinegar.
19 Matt Callahan from Snowdonia: Does the recently announced “Kaufman Arts District” designation mean we getting arts funding to develop this area? Matt Wallace from Van Bremer’s office and Helen Ho from the mayor’s office answered this one. Short answer: No. Essentially, arts districts operate as non-profits. Moderator sums it up like this: “So no one has any money.”
20 Question about the Steinway Mansion.
21 Guy concerned about a liquor wholesaler moving to 42nd St and 30th Ave by PS 70. Hit out at CB1’s Lucille. Actually, this is a Q for the state liquor board. Man persists that there was bad news about Astoria on channel 11 at 7 and channel 7 at 11 (or some permutation of this), whereupon the moderator said, “I thank you for informing us what’s happening on the news.” (Basically… it was not a question.)
22 Question on status of theater at the Astoria park diving area. Parks and Costas respond. It’s been funded; they’re now in design phases.
23 Return of guy from #6? (Notes are getting scrambled at this point. It’s getting late. I’m hungry.)
24 A woman from Queensview co-op (across from Ravenswood Houses) wants to know why Ravenswood isn’t recycling. It’s hypocritical to fine Queensview for not recycling when across the street they don’t recycle at all. Her issue is not that she wants to stop recycling, but she wants them to do so, as well. Apparently this is a question for NYCHA; no representative on last night’s panel.
25 Woman wants to know if its possible to make a few traffic fixes for people who can’t see over SUVs for oncoming traffic at 28th St and 23rd Ave.
9:30 pm: Meeting’s over! At this point, real reporters and serious journalists swarmed the stage to take (full) names and titles and get direct quotes from the participants. I went home, got wine, and watched Vikings.
In this edition: Clarification on how to pronounce “bao,” an Astoria brick-oven place gets (favorably) compared to the original Patsy’s in East Harlem, and why you haven’t seen much from Club 21 on Twitter. —Tracy Infield
The Bao Shoppe (30-66 Steinway) opened Saturday and the Yelp reviews are in. (Yes, already.) For some reason Yelp has two pages for them—one with a single 3-star review from Phil L. (Astoria) and another with four 5-stars. My favorite (by far) was from Stephanie P, who sprinkles her review with phrases like “HUZZAH!!! *throws glitter*” and “Colonel Sanders totally got schooled.” As the other reviewers noted, there may be a few service kinks to work out, but Stephanie’s not worried: “I’m confident that in 2 weeks they will be kicking bao ass and taking names.”
See also tastoriaqueens review: “Welcome to the neighborhood: The Bao Shoppe”
PS: In case you were wondering, it rhymes with “now” (not “mayo”).
Leli’s Bakery (35-14 30th Ave) got some love this month from Chelsea J. (NY, NY) and Astorian Katherine F. Chelsea, who gave it 4 stars, says it’s “probably up there with La Guli’s and Martha’s for the best bakery in Astoria,” while Katherine (5 stars!) says it’s “way better.”
Basil Brick Oven Pizza (28-17 Astoria Blvd) has also had an excellent March, scoring a place on We Heart Astoria’s list of “Top 10 Pizzas in Astoria,” a 5-star review from Astorian Ryan K., and the highest possible praise from Joe R. from East Harlem, who wrote, “This has to be one of the best gourmet style brick-oven pizzeries in the city. It rivals that of Patsy’s (the original Patsy’s on 1st Ave in East Harlem), Grimaldi’s and Totonnos, which I think are the best pizza places in the city.”
Come to think of it, Basil also had a pretty good February. If Basil is reading their Yelp reviews, this one from Chris V. of Astoria probably kept them warm all through this chilly March: “Overall this is hands-down the best ‘brick-oven’ pizza place in the area… the kind of place that I don’t want everyone to know it’s here because it would be busy all the time because of price and quality BUT I’d rather it be busy then kept a secret and close.” There’s more (much more), but if Basil Brick Oven were my restaurant, I’d print up the whole review and tape it to the big fridge in the back.
Astoria Social Media Twitter Feed Spring Cleaning Alert:
Feel free to unfollow Club 21Astoria (30-09 21st St); it’s closed. I’ve never been, although I’ve always liked their Twitter bio (“Eat like a Czech, drink like a Slovak and party like there is no tomorrow!”) In its place is The Barn—where I suspect you can also eat like a Czech and drink like a Slovak. Photo history on The Barn’s Facebook page shows Club 21 stuff, so I’m guessing it’s the same owners/management.
In this edition: Astorians on Front Toward Enemy, Luludi Living Frames, and a good brunch place that’s “quaint without being too hipstery.” —Tracy Infield
Congratulations to all who received 5-star reviews on Yelp in the past few weeks:
Located in the old Canz-a-Citi space, Front Toward Enemy (40-11 30th Ave) had a soft open 2/12 for friends and family and opened on Thursday, 2/13. If you’ll recall, conditions outdoors that evening were nasty. (Snow, rain, and crazy-deep crosswalk puddling…) But between the advance buzz and Astorians’ love of a good “handcrafted cocktail,” turnout was impressive—as have been most of the reviews on Yelp since then: seven 5-stars, 2 4-stars, and a single 2-star review. Three M. from LIC was there on opening night: “I knew it was going to be good when the manager asked me in out of the cold—before they had officially opened.” Opinions range on its ambiance, from “Folksy atmosphere with great relaxed music and a spectacular vibe” (Drew N., Manhattan) to “I’ll turn my front towards someplace less pretentious” (Elle H., Astoria). Three M thought it “hit a sweet spot between industrial, hip, and polished.”
Opinions also varied on Astorians.com. Philo-Junius, geowrld, and hikaruhana recommend it. HarrisB, confirming the ownership of FTE and Canz are one and the same, doesn’t seem to be buying it: “The owners wanted to keep with the trend of outrageously priced Manhattan and Brooklyn-style hipsterdom. $12 cocktails, stupid name, pretentious in every way imaginable.”
See also: The We Heart Astoria review and a great background piece by Jeanmarie Evelly on DNAinfo, “Canz Gets New Life as Bar With Handcrafted Cocktails, Live Music.”
Owner Dominic Stiller stopped by the C.B. 1 meeting this past Tuesday night to get the go-ahead for outdoor seating at Dutch Kills Centraal (38-40 29th St). This will come as good news to one February Yelper who loved the food and service, but felt the ventilation could use an upgrade. Another recent Yelper gave them a solid 4 stars: “The owners have a great feel for the neighborhood. The menu is always changing and keeps getting better… the perfect fit for the location.” Let’s ignore the 1-star review from the malcontent from L.A. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy you’d want share a communal table with, anyway.
Luludi Living Frames: (23-07 24th Ave) gets nothing but praise from Jaime B. of Astoria, who says they have “some of the prettiest floral arrangements I’ve ever seen” including “moss purses with flowers, tiny terrariums with small plants, bigger terrariums with bigger plants, and just all kinds of other cool arrangements.” (Bonus points for these items being “surprisingly easy to care for—even for renowned plant killers like me and my husband.”) Jaime also recommends “a terrarium class if you’re looking for a fun activity that lets you be creative and have something to take home.”
And yet more 5-stars… for Lockwood (32-15 33rd St) from Astorian Lauren M., who suggests checking it out monthly because “they change inventory and always have something new” … Enthaice Thai Kitchen (33-20 31st Ave) racked up eight 5-star reviews so far this month, and high praise from Anthony F. of Astoria: “This is it. Best Thai in NYC. And I’ve worked on 9th Ave And 45th Street” … Enthaice’s neighbor, Milkflower (34-12 31st Ave) also had a good month, with five 5-star reviews and a nice 4-star from Professor T. of Astoria: “I love the simplicity of this place” … And another Astorian, Clayton M. recommends William Hallet (36-10 30th Ave) for brunch: “The place wasn’t crowded, our waitress was attentive, and the mimosa and coffee kept on coming and were delicious.” He also liked the atmosphere: “Quaint without being too hipstery.”
In this edition: New-ish eateries Marketa and The Burger Bistro get mixed reviews… Sunswick (an oldie but a goodie) had a good month on Yelp… and Simply Cycle Astoria is looking like a good place to get your spin on. —Tracy Infield
Congratulations to all who received 5-star reviews on Yelp in the past few weeks:
City Vape (31-88 37th St) just opened this week and has gotten three 5-star reviews from two guys from Flushing and this one from Manny O. of Astoria: “It’s nice to finally have a Vape store in the area.” Manny also gave 5 stars to Buon Appetit Deli & Caterers (36-12 Ditmars) for their Astoria Park hero—“the most delicious sandwich I’ve had in my entire life.” (!!)
Good luck trying to figure out whether Marketa Astoria is worth your hard-earned money. The new dining spot on the corner of 30th Ave and 28th St (37-17 30th Ave) opened around the holidays to mixed reviews. Of 22 posted by 1/20/14, 12 are 4 & 5 stars; five are 3-stars; and five are 1 & 2 stars. Raina W., a bartender from LIC, was appalled by a $14 Jameson; Jesse N. (Elite ’14 from Astoria) gives it 4 stars and says “prices aren’t unreasonable considering the type of food they offer.”
Sunswick (35-02 35th Street) is getting reviews that will be music to your ears if you want to actually, like, converse with your friends at a bar. Ka Chun N. of Brookyn gives it 4 stars and says it’s “the go-to bar for a non-crowded, low-key conversation.” Kevin C. from Astoria calls it “the platonic ideal of a great neighborhood bar” and gives it 5 stars: “The occasional live music on weekend evenings is always at a reasonable level… it’s not a place like you feel like you should be watching the performer instead of talking with your friends.”
Lisa Eskenazi, owner of the new Simply Cycle Astoria (30-69 Steinway) got a nice profile on We Heart Astoria this week and the studio’s first two Yelp reviews are perfect 5-stars. Bonus: these reviews are not from sketchy beings with “0 friends and 1 review;” they’re Astorians with solid Yelp creds.
The Astoria outpost of The Burger Bistro (37-03 31st Ave) is still pretty new (first review 12/9/13), and should get bravery points for situating itself three short blocks from the very popular Bareburger on 34th Street. Like Marketa, their reviews are mixed: 15 total; nine 4 & 5 stars. They’re mentioned on ThinkAstoria’s January listing of local Groupon deals, so if you want to give it a try yourself, now might be a good time to do it.
Astoria, NY: There’s a new e-cig shop in town, located between Jewels of Buddha and Winegasm. It’s already open, but keep an eye out for a more formal Grand Opening planned for this Saturday. —Tracy Infield
Their opening comes hot on the heels of this interesting article the New York Times, (1/9/13) E-Cigarette Shops Open Even as City Cracks Down:
The Henley Vaporium is one of six e-cigarette shops to open in the past six months in New York City — three in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn and one in Queens. More are on the way this year.
(I’m guessing “the one in Queens” is Vape NY in Forest Hills.)
If want to read about how some of your fellow Astorians feel about vaping in general, check out this recent thread from Astorians.com: Last Gasp (Pun Intended) Anti-Vaping Legislation – Astoria, NY.