Friday, November 30, 2007

Changing Face of Corona

by Channtal Fleischfresser and Laura Isensee

Corona's changing demographics have affected Corona's politics and culture. Watch what longtime Corona residents have to say about the shifts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Black and White Flight in Corona

Between the bodegas, Latin restaurants, markets, and food carts selling tacos and empanadas, it’s hard to walk down the street in Corona these days without hearing mothers speaking Spanish to their young children or the sounds of Latin beats emanating from the music stores along Roosevelt Avenue.

Since the 1950s this community – less than six miles from Manhattan – was home to sizable Italian and African-American populations.

But in recent decades, the face of Corona has changed dramatically as Hispanic immigrants have settled in the neighborhood in increasing numbers, while white and African-American members of the community have moved out.

Click on the graphic to see how the neighborhood has changed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Koreans Support Other Ethnic Groups with Scholarships

Koreans in western Queens not only look out for each other, but they support neighboring ethnic groups, according to leaders of the Korean American community.

“We try to make more relationships with other cultures,” said Keun Ho Shin, 61, whose Korean American Association awards 20 scholarships to students of any ethnicity at Newtown High School in Elmhurst.

“The purpose of the association is to improve relationships with the community, no matter what ethnicity,” said Shin, owner of Cody Printing Corp. in Woodside.

The association is made up of Korean business owners, churches and individuals, and serves a community of over 100,000 in western Queens. Korean leaders break the language barrier and act as a bridge to service departments like police, fire and sanitation, according to Shin.

"[Our goal is] to get the proper service and give them the right direction,” said President Sean Shin, who translates police fliers and and community notices into Korean.

In a step beyond matters of service, John Park, 56, of Jackson Heights, encourages Koreans to take interest in their surrounding community and exercise their rights to vote. He is president of the Korean American Empowerment Council, a non-profit organization created 1998.

"We need strong friends, we have to grow up together," said Park. "I try to make [Koreans] ask, expand, [and] be open."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

110th Precinct reaches out to Chinese and Korean communities

The 110th Precinct in Elmhurst began a new initiative to reach out to the Asian community in September, after persistent under-reported crime and low meeting turnout among the Asian community (particularly among Chinese and Korean residents), according to police.

“If you saw one Asian face it was a lot,” said Debbie Pagano Cohen, community council officer. “It was time to focus on that. For such a large population, we don't see them at meetings."

The precinct began to translate meeting notices in Chinese and Korean, mailing them to key Korean and Chinese churches and businesses in September. Monthly community council meetings, and fliers on crime prevention and personal safety are also translated into Chinese, Korean (and Spanish).

September's community council meeting was catered with Chinese food (sponsored by Commerce Bank on Queens Boulevard). In October, approximately 120 Asian residents attended the community council meeting at the Elmhurst library, strategically located in a predominantly Asian neighborhood.

"It’s working," said Cohen. "Asian people are finally coming to the meetings.”

The next community council meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday, November 14, back in its usual location at St. John's Hospital. There will be no Chinese food.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Adult Home in Elmhurst Offers New Program to Promote Independence

Two blocks from Moore Homestead Park in the heart of Elmhurst, the entrance to the Queens Adult Care Center is littered with cigarette butts, and people who appear to have nothing better to do than smoke them. Neighbors surrounding the 361-bed facility complain that residents beg for money, urinate in public and sit on parked cars.

Under new management since 2002, the facility has undergone renovations and is now seeking to broaden enrichment programs to transition some residents to the point of independence.

A newly constructed kitchen and laundry room remain untouched, behind two locked doors on the second floor. Barbara Faron, chief executive officer of Federation of Organizations (an independent not-for-profit welfare agency that provides onsite programming, social services and advocacy), said these facilities were designed to reintroduce basic life skills.

"Our primary focus is to work with the people in the adult homes to improve their quality of life, as they see fit," said Faron. "We are in the public sector, where consequences of long-term, serious mental illness and poverty converge."

The classes plan to bring together small groups of residents to teach how to shop for food, budget money, make nutritious decisions, and prepare a simple meal. Many advocacy groups for the mentally ill emphasize independence and employment as primary paths to recovery.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A tasty and crowded Chinese eatery in the heart of Elmhurst

My go-to spot for an inexpensive and fresh lunch is Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House on Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst. For $2.25, I order fresh pork and chives friend dumplings and a wonton soup.

"It's really good, fresh, homemade and amazingly cheap," said Johnny You, 31, chef's assistant/expediter at David Burke & Donatella Restaurant on the east side of Manhattan. "I don't know how they survive. The hand-drawn noodles are the best I've ever tasted."

Teenagers come on their way home from school or after hanging out at Broadway Park to eat along the wrap-around bar or the single communal table. Mothers stop by with young children and take orders to-go. I have never seen the shop empty, and during peak times, there is a line out the door. The items on the menu are limited to dumplings, buns and soup.

Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House
80 Whitney Avenue
Elmhurst, NY 11373
Open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Privilege Care Offers Immigrants Low-Cost Health Care

The Privilege Care medical clinic in Elmhurst, Queens, offers a private, low-cost alternative for undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for Medicare and Medicaid and receive little to no preventive care, but few immigrants know about the clinic.

“We’re not looking to make money off of people who don’t have money,” said Joshua Farkovitz, 29, administrator of Privilege Care, which opened in September 2006. “We offer access to care for a reasonable price,” he said.

Farkovitz said Privilege Care offers high-level patient care where patients’ wait time is less than 45 minutes, as opposed to Elmhurst Hospital, where a walk-in visitor can wait between two and seven hours before receiving care.

Farkovitz said he takes whatever patients can afford to pay. He said he breaks even, charging what it costs to provide a service to “cash-only” patients, who do not have an insurance provider.

“We’ll take $20, we’ll take $10 if that’s what they have,” he said.

For full article, please email channtal at gmail.

Fighting Graffiti at 110th Precinct

There is an understated beauty to the graffiti along the Long Island Railroad as it cuts through Corona and Elmhurst, Queens, along 45th Avenue and 94th Street. The pedestrian walkway over the tracks, across from the construction site of the Corona Park High Schools, is nearly covered in graffiti markings. But here, as in other parts of town, it gives buildings a derelict, untended air.

One person keeping tabs on graffiti is Police Officer Christopher Skinner, graffiti coordinator for the 110th precinct. He mobilizes area residents, including young people, to clean up graffiti in Corona and Elmhurst, preserving the neighborhood through community action.

“As the city gets cleaner,” said Skinner, “graffiti stays the same. Some see it as art. It’s not art, it’s vandalism.”

For full story, please contact channtal at gmail.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Building Continues at Potentially Toxic Site in Elmhurst

In response to the potentially toxic soil underneath the construction site of the Corona Park High Schools, located at 45-10 94th Street, I ventured over and received a hard-hat tour of the four story building by George Mantis of M.A. Angeliades, the contractor for the project.

Mantis dismissed the claim that seepage from the demolished factory on Corona Avenue at 90th Street - which as of Monday, currently had Stop Work Order posted - has contaminated his construction site's already-tested soil.

A project of this enormity takes up to two to three years to complete, but union workers are logging double and triple shifts to make the deadline, according to Mantis. Approximately 250 construction workers were on the site working on various levels and sections of the former leather factory. The project began in July 2007 and faces a staggering completion date of August 2008.

"I want to cry every time we come here," said Mantis. "It's impossible to do this job in 13 months."

Although only a shell of the school is erected, teachers and principals have been assigned and the doors must open next August. The building will house several high schools, alleviating the overflow of area students.

"We are surgical, and always on time," said Mantis. "[An unmet deadline] hasn't happened in 15 years, and I hope this is not going to be the first. That's why I'm here."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Kids Join NYPD Explorer Program to Volunteer (Not Become Cops)

The NYPD Law Enforcement Exploring program is open to those under age 21 as an introduction to the police department, but only about five percent become police officers.

"Most kids that are showing up are kids who want to be part of community," said Officer McKenzie.

At the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst, a group of about 10 to 15 explorers meet once a week to volunteer their time for community service, including graffiti clean-up, feeding the homeless, and visiting hospitals. The program is run like a mini police department, where explorers learn police jargon and how to respond to the scene of a crime. The explorers are currently in the middle of flag football season against other precinct explorers. They also take field trips to museums on a monthly basis and march in uniform in parades.

According to McKenzie, the program attempts to break down the fear kids may have of the police. "Sometimes they think we're the enemy," said McKenzie. "[We just want] them to feel comfortable talking to the police."

Charles Rivera, 18, has been an explorer for almost three years. Rivera is currently a full-time student at John Jay, and said he hopes to join the NYPD or FBI after graduation.

"It’s a great program for teens 14 to 21, [and] kids in high school that want to learn more about the police department and help the community. It's good for college applications and job applications," said Rivera.

Officer McKenzie said it didn't bother her that 95 percent of the explorers don't become police officers. "I like successful kids who are moving on and doing positive things," she said.

For additional information, please contact Officer McKenzie at 718.476.8271.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Daily News: Critics say Elmhurst school site too toxic

Oct. 30, 2007 -- The Daily News reported that toxic chemicals may have contaminated the industrial area designated to house three high schools next September in Elmhurst.

Environmental experts are waiting to confirm whether toxic chemicals (a mixture of mercury, lead and other toxic chemicals) have leeched from the soil under a former factory (located at 90-15 Corona Avenue) into the soil under the proposed "Arts and Leather" high school (located at 45-10 94th Street).

The full article is available in The Daily News.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Tai Chi Is Winning Over Converts To Exercise

Tai Chi seems to be growing in popularity for young and old, thin and overweight, and sufferers of disease or abuse. Different various ethnic and age groups find the practice appealing.

“The gamut of interest runs from children to college students,” said Dino Blanche, a 47-year-old, African-American Tai Chi instructor in Elmhurst. “As people's health conditions are growing troublesome, with obesity and diabetes, it’s not just for the elderly.”

Researchers have studied the health benefits of Tai Chi, ranging from reduced blood pressure and heart problems, improved functionality for chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis and osteoarthritis, to general stress management.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines moving meditation, exercise and self-defense. It was founded on the Taoist belief that good health results from balanced chi (life energy).

The full article is published in the Queens Chronicle.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's Not His Father's Neighborhood

Joe Neufeld runs the funeral parlor his father opened in 1940. The Neufeld family has been rooted in Elmhurst since 1900. Though he now lives on Long Island, Neufeld said he would return to Elmhurst tomorrow if his wife, Claire, allowed it. But, he also said he sees problems in the community he loves.

Neufeld said he worries about the negative ripple effects of overcrowding and overdevelopment on infrastructure, schools and traffic.

In addition to over-development, houses crammed with people and illegal basement apartments have added to overcrowding. Queens Community Board 4 District Manager, Richard Italiano, cited a laundry list of stresses on the community services, including cramped schools, overflowing garbage and burdensome traffic.

The full article is published in the Queens Tribune.