Photos By Walter Karling
Photos By Walter Karling
The Middle Village Relay For Life began with a small, albeit passionate, band of a few dozen people who used the Juniper Valley Park Track for an “all-nighter campout” to raise awareness, and some money toward cancer.
A group of individuals made up teams with names like “Pin Heads” who were bowlers, and AK96, to solicit money for every lap around the track a team walked throughout the afternoon, night and morning on a weekend in June.
From its beginning 19 years ago, Maspeth’s own Leslie Orlovsky led the event for The American Cancer Society.
She and some volunteers engaged: Maspeth Federal, O’Neill’s, the Queens Ledger, Senator Maltese, the Glendale Kiwanis and Maspeth Moose Lodge.
That helped it grow from a dozen teams with 100 participants to a festival of luminaries, camp sites and music for 1,500 people with 75 teams, raising $220,000.
Since its inception, Middle Village has raised $2.6 million.
Last week, on March 2, the kick-off for the June 25 Relay for Life was held at O’Neill’s in Maspeth.
Fifty people attended: some cancer survivors, some who have family members afflicted and some who just want to be involved in an epic community event.
So far, the sponsors this year remain Maspeth Federal and include AllState/Kevin Spann.
To get involved call 347-675-5337.
To kick off the 2022 event, Relay Lifers Laura Hatton, Debbie Kuber, Marsha Fromowitz, Miguel Melendez and the Vegas were among those who spoke.
Maspeth Federal’s senior bank officer, Kristen Sapienza, announced a $10,000 donation from the bank to the Relay event.
There are a few meetings/events prior to the June 25 Relay for Life at Juniper Park. Team captain meetings are scheduled for March 24, April 19 and May 19.
By Jessica Meditz
The City Tutors, a nonprofit dedicated to providing tutoring and mentorship services to historically underserved communities, recently announced their partnership with Bloomberg LP on their City Mentors Program.
The City Mentors Program was founded as The City Tutors’ second initiative, offering tailored professional mentorships for college students and recent alumni across the five boroughs.
The program is free and acts as a self-paced program where a student, recent graduate or career changer can sign up and ask for a mentor from their area of interest.
In partnership with The City Tutors, Bloomberg provided 100 mentors from across its divisions, including finance, data, marketing, sustainability and technology, to work with City Mentees.
Garri Rivkin, founder and executive director of The City Tutors, said the desire to widen students’ perspectives is what helped the partnership with Bloomberg LP come to fruition.
He emphasized that in order to provide that, a wide breadth of choices are needed and Bloomberg was the outlet to fulfill that.
“Bloomberg is an obvious choice because it has deep ties and has so many areas that it covers,” Rivkin said.
“We were fortunate that we were able to make the connection through some of our other partners and build our relationship to the point that we now have 100 mentors.”
There is a 600-person mentor pool in the City Mentors Program. When an applicant submits their form, potential mentors that can best suit their needs are identified, and mentees select and connect with them.
All sessions are held remotely on Zoom, lasting between 30 minutes and an hour.
In addition to one-on-one sessions, the program also hosts virtual events with corporate partners including Sidley Austin LLP, Citi, Shearman & Sterling, Riskified and ViacomCBS.
“The big thing for us is exposure, making sure students are able to get connected with somebody who is going to give them insight into the field, but is also going to become a possible contact for them,” Rivkin said.
“That way, the information that folks typically just assume people have as they go into decision making is available to the communities that are most in need.”
The City Tutors was formed as a startup at CUNY Colin Powell School for Civic And Global Leadership.
Having served as director of academic support there, Rivkin spearheaded the organization and initially developed a presence in the Harlem area and eventually, across the entire city.
As an immigrant from Lithuania and a CUNY alumnus himself, Rivkin knew the struggles of having little to no guidance when it came to his academic and professional success.
“My journey was atypical. As a student, I was around other students that I didn’t realize were having a lot more trouble,” he said.
“There were a lot of students who had competing priorities, and the hiddenness of resources along with the fact that they didn’t meet a professor who took an interest in them, made them stop or delay their graduation,” he continued.
“Or they were not positioned for the next step forward in what we typically think of as the ideal timeline.”
Rivkin has always been interested in education and how people learn, and naturally gravitated toward teaching.
He has worked at CUNY and across other institutions, community colleges, vocational schools and private schools. He also worked in career services as a supporting career counselor and running a resume clinic.
Seeing the disparities in resources provided to students seeking professional assistance and tutoring was the starting point for building The City Tutors.
“It was in response to the fact that there were gaps,” he said of forming the nonprofit.
“There were opportunities to leverage resources better, and there was a lot of interest in students using their own knowledge to support their classmates that could actually serve as a way for them to more practically and impactfully use their skills and their content knowledge that they wanted to use once they got into the workforce. It also allowed for the community broadly to be involved in the process.”
Rivkin connected with other working professionals who wanted to devote their free time to give back to the community through tutoring, which also leveraged their professional experience in support of students.
“Having access to information about what kind of work and how it can complement their education is what was an important thing to kind of bring together, and it was something that was lacking in the system.”
Since mid-March 2020, the City Mentors Program facilitated 1,770 mentorships and over 3,500 sessions. The City Tutors program delivered 4,000 hours for 400 students over the last year.
Rivkin said he’s grateful to be able to provide students and professionals with resources he and others did not have access to when he attended school.
“As someone who didn’t have anybody around me who could help, and who was around a lot of people who were having the same situation, having a formalized structure that can work and build on the resources being channeled into the public spaces, creates enough space for students and learners in New York to move forward on their journey professionally and intellectually,” he said.
Almost 80 percent of students fully vaccinated
By Evan Triantafilidis
Maspeth High School held an all-day COVID-19 clinic, offering vaccines, boosters, and both rapid and PCR tests for students and community members.
The mobile vaccine van, operated by the New York City Department of Health, was parked outside the school last Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with students voluntarily lining up after school to receive their first, second, or booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine.
Recently released data from the health department shows that 82.5 percent of students at Maspeth High have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 78 percent are considered fully vaccinated.
The school reported only six cases of COVID-19 during the month of February, which is a 97 percent reduction in cases compared to January.
Justin Spiro, a social worker at Maspeth High, said that the vaccine clinic was an opportunity to increase accessibility to the free shots.
“It’s not just about servicing the school, but the community as well,” Spiro said.
For Jakub Sulinski, a senior at Maspeth High, nearly half of his high school experience has been during the pandemic. He says that his school has done an adequate job of providing students with resources, even when remote learning was the only option.
“A lot of people didn’t like Zoom and stuff like that, but I feel like people would have gone mad if it wasn’t for it,” Sulinski said. “The socializing keeps us sane.”
He said that the cancellation of the Regents exam in January added to the craziness of his last year of high school.
“Two years just disappeared,” Spiro said. “But we have to do what we have to do to help society as a whole.”
By Jessica Meditz
Known for its eye-catching architecture, swanky cafes and rich cultural history, Ridgewood is a community appreciated by lifelong residents and first-time visitors alike.
But for residents who live and work on Woodward Avenue, it’s a nightmare.
614 Woodward Avenue is a large, corner side abandoned property that is boarded up with construction fences and sidewalk sheds.
It is owned by Silvershore Properties, a company whose former owner, Jonathan Cohen, was labeled “New York City’s worst landlord” by Attorney General Letitia James during her time as the former public advocate of NYC back in 2017.
Since 2018, the property has racked up 28 violations from the Department of Buildings, adding up to a total of over $200,000 in fines.
The tickets are issued to Silvershore Properties as well as another individual named Dawny Martinez.
As per the Department of Buildings, both parties failed to show up in court and pay their fines.
In the meantime, the property has acted as an unofficial dumping ground for people to leave their trash, inviting rats and other creatures to wreak havoc.
Gary Giordano, district manager of Queens Community Board 5, said the site has been an issue in the community for several years, ever since Sehy Carson Funeral Home went out of business.
“I remember we had to get the Department of Buildings over there because people were squatting there. We eventually got that taken care of, but I don’t know of any real legitimate use of that property for more than seven years,” Giordano said.
“I will say that I have not known it to be the dumping accumulation problem it has been lately,” he continued.
“When I started at this job 32 plus years ago, nobody was complaining about illegal dumping.”
Giordano said that he has reached out to the Department of Sanitation to clean up the mess, and they do, but people continue to leave their garbage there.
Angela Mirabile, executive director of Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC), a nonprofit that focuses on preserving Ridgewood, said that she’s received numerous complaints from residents about the site and its sanitation issues.
She is unsure of who is dumping there, and explained that most of the trash left on the sidewalk there is regular household garbage, and not something that Sanitation would not pick up.
Another issue at the location is graffiti, which GRRC has helped clean up as part of one of their routine programs.
“Normally, with a construction fence, we would give it time for them to do whatever they’re supposed to be doing because the fence is usually a temporary thing,” Mirabile said.
“But that fence has actually been up there for a very long time. So we figured it would help to have the graffiti removed because people are dumping garbage there,” she added. “Sometimes they think that nothing is going on and they dump it, so if we painted over it, it would give it a better look.”
Mina Takla, who owns Aghapy Food Inc. Deli & Grocery across the street, said that 614 Woodward has looked the same since he opened up shop seven years ago.
“People constantly throw their garbage and other stuff in front of the building and I don’t know why,” he said. “I think if somebody fixes it or takes care of the building it’s better for everyone who lives and works here, because it’s a problem.”
Another resident, who requested to remain anonymous, has remained on top of the issue that the property presents to the neighborhood by taking photos, making 311 reports and keeping in contact with community members who are part of the Community Board, the Neighborhood Association and local realtors who are concerned about showing homes in the area.
“I’ve contacted the realtor who is trying to sell the property whose documentation is hung up. It’s old information showing the building in an entirely different state, and they’re asking more for it than it would ever sell,” she said.
“So they’re clearly not really trying to sell it. I’m concerned for the Catholic charity building next door that’s had scaffolding on their building this entire time. It really seems like a hardship on their quality of life,” she continued.
She said it appears that Silvershore Properties keeps opening new LLCs in order to shuffle around losses. While it remains unclear what their strategy is, the resident said it can be categorized as an acceptable loss.
“I think it’s just criminal negligence for the health and safety of this neighborhood. It’s absurd how much trash children are exposed to, and that they can’t even walk a normal path to the park because the sidewalks are unusable,” she said.
“By having the scaffolding up for an extended period of time, on an unoccupied building without lights, it becomes an area for all kinds of criminal activities, like the shooting we had. It’s criminal that Silvershore treats this like a financial instrument, whereas we have to live with this health hazard.”
A Google search will reveal that Silvershore Properties is “permanently closed,” and the phone number listed is disabled.
Jonathan Cohen or any representative from Silvershore Properties could not be reached for comment.