Cub Scout Soap Box Derby

Scouts prepare at the 2013 Soap Box Derby

Scouts prepare at the 2013 Soap Box Derby

Queens Cub Scouts will compete in the annual Soap Box Derby on Sat., April 12, at 11 a.m. at P.S. 144, located at 93-02 69th Ave., in Forest Hills.

More than 50 packs from across the borough attended the derby last year, bringing in their own team-designed racing vehicle.

So if you are a scout, parent or if you are just looking for some high-intensity downhill competition, this might just be the best way to spend your Saturday afternoon.

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Breakfast with the Easter Bunny

easter-bunny-breakfastThe Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills is hosting their annual Breakfast with the Easter Bunny this Sunday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Mercy Church Lower Hall, located at 7001 Kessel St.

For just a $5 entry fee, patrons of the annual Kiwanis celebration are invited to all you can eat pancakes, sausage and beverages.


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Flushing food tour with Friends of Station Square

Joe Distefano

Joe Distefano

Join The Friends of Station Square and tour Downtown Flushing with food personality Joe Distefano this weekend on April 11 and 12 as he leads two groups to some of the neighborhood’s more hidden foodie treasures.

Unearth regional Chinese and Korean eateries around the neighborhood as Distefano and the group visit 10 diverse sites with tastings and a group discussion at each.

Tickets are $100 and space is limited, so participation is on a first come first serve basis, according to the receipt of payment.

Funds raised by the tours will also benefit Friends of Station Square.

For complete details and to sign up, please visit Friends of Station Square website and click on the box on the left.

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Zac Brown Band to kick off a “full concert season” at Forest Hills Stadium

The Zac Brown Band will kick off a new concert season at the Forest Hills Stadium, photo courtesy

The aging classic Forest Hills Stadium, a storied New York venue, is looking to reestablish itself as a destination for entertainment. To kick off what is promised to be a full concert season: A June 21 performance by the Zac Brown Band, according to the AP.

The stadium was the original home of the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup, and in the 1960s it played host to several notable live acts. Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, The Talking Heads and The Who – they all played there, according to the stadium website. Oh, there were two consecutive, sold-out Beatles shows in 1964, too. And they arrived to the shows in a helicopter. Cool, right?

Ok, so maybe all of that is old news, but when you really think about it, the names in that list are the names today’s musicians look up to, so there’s a chance Zac Brown and his band won’t be the only decent headliner gracing the grass this summer.

While all of this sounds like good news – and it is – there are some issues in need of address that were brought up by a few concertgoers who attended an August 2013 Mumford & Sons show. For one, it seems that show was oversold to the point where, “The stairwells were packed and dangerous,” according to Bronx-based Yelper Angela G.

“I really thought at one point they would shut down the show because of the overcrowding.  I really thought the fire department would have deemed it unsafe and well beyond capacity,” she commented.

But interlaced with the complaints about over-crowding, it seems like the overall concert experience was good, even from Angela G’s perspective.

Avid Yelp reviewer Lindsey S. said, “Since it used to be a tennis stadium, it totally gives you that AMPHITHEATER vibe and it’s just mind-blowing to see a WALL OF PEOPLE cheering for the band!!!! Since the venue is designed to be elevated towards the back, EVERYBODY had a good view of the band. I actually looked around 360 several times just to see the wall of people bouncing up and down in unison. I see a huge potential in this venue.”

She goes on…

“Sure, they do have a lot of kinks to iron out; but it was their first time in 20 yrs. There are bound to be some mistakes and under-preparation here and there. I am not willing to measure the venue with the same metrics as I would with other venues with longer history.”

Tickets for the ZBB show are set to go on sale March 22.

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Friends of the QueensWay unveil initial parkspace renderings

Rendering provided by the Friends of the QueensWay

Rendering provided by the Friends of the QueensWay

The Friends of the Queensway and Trust for Public Land released preliminary concept designs of the proposed QueensWay “highline” parkspace today in preparation for upcoming community workshops this month.

The nearly 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Line tracks, from the Rockaways to Forest Hills, has become a heated topic of discussion for community boards, civic groups and the residents and business owners with adjacent property lines.

The Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay chose New York firms WXY architecture + urban Design and dlandstudio from 29 proposals from around the world to draw up the greenspace plans, and now it is left up to the residents to make the finishing touches.

For those living in Forest Hills, the park advocacy groups will present dozens of their conceptual images on March 24 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, located at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave., in Forest Hills.

“From the beginning of this project, we have been in awe at the amount of enthusiastic support, and stimulating ideas thousands of residents have contributed,” said the Friends of the QueensWay and Trust for Public Land in a statement regarding the workshops last week. “As we embark on this next round of community meetings, we look forward to compiling additional input that will help bring us to the next phase of the project.”

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council, have funded the study through a $467,000 grant, along with an additional $140,000 from the city Department of Environmental Protection.

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More details surface in string of Forest Hills burglaries

Captain Thomas Conforti of the NYPD’s 112th Precinct told the 112th Community Council last Wednesday his officers have uncovered a pattern in a string of burglaries that have been plaguing Forest Hills since September.

While burglary isn’t something unheard of in Forest Hills – there have been 14 burglaries in the neighborhood so far this month – one particular modus operandi has been coming up with notable frequency in recent months.

“This is a very distinct pattern,” Conforti said. “They’re going to the back of the building and climbing up the fire escape.”

In every reported burglary, small items were stolen, according to Conforti. These items include laptops, iPads and jewelry.

In the seven months have passed since the pattern emerged, 27 apartments have been burglarized through open fire escape windows, according to Conforti. In all of these cases, multiple apartments were entered, with as many as seven and as few as three apartments being burglarized in a single day.

One of the challenges in addressing this problem for the 112th Precinct, Conforti told the council, is the infrequency of the incidents.

“What makes it difficult is that it’s not something that happens every day,” Conforti said.

Conforti believes that because his officers have been able to establish a pattern in these burglaries, it could help them thwart this burglar or team of burglars, and they believe another string of burglaries is imminent.

“He’s going to hit us again in a week or so and we have to be prepared,” Conforti said. Still, he added, “I am very confident that in a matter of time we will be able to bring this [to justice].”

Conforti said his best advice is for buildings to install security cameras, for people to remember to lock their windows and for people to be vigilant.

“If you see someone climbing the fire escape, it’s probably them,” Conforti said.

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Many in Forest Hills Use Garbage Cans To Save Parking Spaces

Police say they will be ticketing homeowners if garbage cans are used in spots where it is legal to park.

It’s difficult enough to find a parking spot on Forest Hills streets in any kind of weather. But when piles of snow take up valuable parking real estate on residential Manse Street or Ascan Avenue, some have taken to their private spots on public streets.

On Ascan near Metropolitan Avenue, parking spaces are being saved by garbage cans.

with garbage cans in order to “save a space” in front of their house.

Some snoopy bloggers have been trolling side streets and noticed dozens of spots being saved. And we all know that when one person on your block sees fit to do it, others will seem to follow. On Manse Street near Selfridge a number of spots are taken up by garbage cans.

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Queens Native Opens Bar on Metro

Glendale native Timothy Ducey recently got into the business of entrepreneurship after purchasing the Taphouse on Austin Street in Forest Hills and opening his very first bar, Acey Ducey’s on Metropolitan Avenue.

After working for the former Morrison’s Bar and Restaurant in the Acey Ducey’s location at 101-17 Metropolitan Ave., it was no coincidence why he revitalized the neighborhood staple under his own name.

“Having the business on Austin Street as well as here, it’s a half-mile away in distance but it’s two totally different venues,” Ducey said. “Over here is more of people going out to dine with an older crowd, whereas on Austin Street you get more of a younger crowd.”

Ducey said that while the neighborhood has been a quiet alternative to the busy Austin Street, he said he is confident he has chosen right for his flagship startup.

“With all of the quality places opening up, I feel that this place will be busier than it is now,” he said. “As long as you can provide a quality product and keep changing, people will appreciate that over here.”

The seasonal beer menu currently offers up a few Belgians, however it is mostly American craft beers along with a handpicked wine list.

“We’re really trying to make this a traditional American tavern,” he said.

Aside from their extensive drink menu behind the original imported Irish mahogany bar, the sandwich list is a far cry from the traditional bar food.

Marvin Camacho, executive chef at the Buoy Bar Waterfront Grille in Point Lookout and now Acey Ducey’s head chef, has been in the hospitality industry since he was about six years old and the restaurant industry for several years.

“He (Ducey) really gave me free reign of the kitchen to develop it from getting the equipment put together, to the menu, costing it out and hiring the staff,” Camacho said. “I think we’ve got a good thing here.”

Sandwiches include the Ace of Steak, a skirt steak sandwich on a ciabatta roll, Weiner Schnitzel, grilled salmon and a sandwich named after Ducy’s friend called the Grilled Gullen, a grilled gruyere cheese and bacon sandwich.

“In America, it’s a melting pot, so we focused on different themes,” Camacho said. “I was able to take his ideas and capture them perfectly.”

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Joe Abbracciamento plans on closing shop

After serving the Rego Park community for more than 65 years, Joe Abbracciamento’s Restaurant and Catering will close its doors for good on March 2.

John Abbracciamento, who works as the restaurant’s head chef, said on Sunday that he and his wife have decided it’s time for them to retire; both themselves and the restaurant.

“This is my father’s establishment,” Abbracciamento said. “It was established here in 1953 and basically we’ve been running it ever since. Dad passed on in 1999, but this has always been his place, his dream, his sacrifices.”

John and his brother Joseph have kept the place alive ever since.

“We kept it going and now it’s time,” he said “I’m turning 60 and that’s where we’re going with it.”

Joe Abbracciamento originally opened the doors to his restaurant in 1948, then located at Pitkin Avenue on Cross Bay Boulevard, before moving to the current location at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard in 1953.

Ten years after settling into the current location, the catering arm of the restaurant was established, and the Abbracciamento family has been serving up traditional American-Italian food ever since.

As one would expect from a traditional American-Italian restaurant that saw Queens through its heyday, the Abbracciamento restaurant has a lot of history, and its closing marks the end of an era.

“It was established in the 50s, and when Queens was Queens in the 60s and the 70s with high-powered net-worth people that lived in this area, they all came here,” said Abbracciamento. “From all the judges and senators to the president, they were here. The place has a very big affection for Geraldine Ferrarro, her family has always supported us through the years.”

Abbracciamento has dedicated his entire life to the restaurant, having worked in some capacity or other in the restaurant since the early 60s.

“My father lived up here in Middle Village, and he’d send me down here at 12 or 13 years old,” he recalled. “He’d give me the keys to the place and he’d tell me, clean everything up, make sure the place is ready and put that pizza oven on.

“Still to the day it scares the hell out of me,” Abbracciamento added. “That brick oven where you have to pull the damper and light the gas, and he always used to say don’t forget that you’re going to explode.”

While the future of the space, Abbracciamento said there will never be another restaurant there as long as he continues to own the property.

“It has been a nice run, and a lot of happiness,” he said. “Hopefully, we did our job for them and no other way could I say thank you very much for all of this.”

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Engineering For Kids in Forest Hills Hits Home

De Chen demonstrating how a robotic airplane works.

Engineering for Kids is bringing a unique curriculum to the children of Queens – and it’s right here in the heart of Forest Hills.

The new center at 116-16 Queens Blvd. held an open house recently, welcoming parents and children to come and explore classes like Lego robotics and electronic game design.

De Chen, CEO and owner of Engineering For Kids, hopes to introduce children ages four to 14 to engineering in a fun and creative way, with the hopes of creating a science, technology, engineering and math enrichment program, also known as STEM.

“Parents want their kids exposed to things that they aren’t exposed to in school,” Chen said. “All of these things that we are teaching them at a young age, we are inspiring them to do this in the future. Normally, kids won’t get to see engineering classes until college.”

Along with engineering classes, the center also helps foster creativity, as they allow the children to decide what to build and design.

For example, in their electronic game design class, children create video game heroes and villains and even get to design the world or map for the program. The center also helps enhance children’s social skills through a series of hands-on learning activities.

“It helps them build friendships and it helps them with the concept of teamwork,” said Lupita Chen, program director and teacher for the center. “We always tell them that engineers don’t work alone. They have a huge team working with them.”

While the Engineering For Kids organization has over 60 locations throughout the United States, and even some internationally, this is the first center of its kind in Queens.

“There is a strong initiative by [President] Obama to push STEM because we are competing against China and India,” De Chen explained. “Obama is trying to push for more math and science, and a lot of schools want to incorporate STEM in their curriculum, but you don’t see it in the classroom yet.”

As they filtered in and out of the facility, each child was as eager as the last. “I’ll make sure to finish all my homework early on Wednesday,” said one child that signed up for a weekly afterschool class.

The Chen’s think their open house was successful, not only because kids registered for their classes, but because they were eager to learn engineering.

“Our idea behind Engineering for Kids was to inspire,” said Chen. “The kids are the reward.”

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