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New hospital head seeks to reveal hidden gem

Long Island Jewish (LIG) Forest Hills recently announced that Queens native Lorraine Chambers Lewis has taken the reins as the hospital’s new executive director, a position she says she will leverage to provide quality care to the diverse community while growing the hospital’s profile.
A local hospital that has over the past year become well known for its efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic’s ravaging effects on the community, Chambers Lewis said her current priority is getting the word out to the community that the hospital has a plethora of other services.
“In terms of our vision in what we would like to do and continue to grow is our presence in the community,” she said. “For folks to really see us as that go-to place when they need acute care, but also addressing their chronic needs.
“We’re building our ambulatory presence in the area, and we really want folks to understand what we do here,” Chambers Lewis continued. “I think there are still so many folks who don’t understand the gem that is here in Forest Hills. We have a lot going on that we’re excited about.”
As a leader, Chambers Lewis brings decades of experience in a diverse variety of roles, many of which saw her serving on the front lines of healthcare, having worked in emergency medicine, critical care, internal medicine and occupational health.
Her first role in healthcare started as a nursing assistant at a skilled nursing facility when she was 18 years old, followed by work as an emergency medical technician on a college campus in an ambulance.
From there she became a physician’s assistant, a role she served in for 28 years.
In 2002, she became a supervising physician assistant for LIG Medical Center, where she oversaw the daily operations of the hospital’s emergency department fast track, before becoming a corporate director of Northwell Health’s Employee Health Services in 2007.
In that role, she helped develop and launch a COVID-19 employee vaccination program that has immunized more than 50,000 staff members, as well as Northwell’s first injury management and prevention program for employee safety.
Chambers Lewis said that having this diversity of experience, including working as a frontline and emergency healthcare worker, has given her a unique perspective on healthcare work, which enables her to view a patient’s perspective with a wider lens.
“I think that in my clinical career, I’ve had the honor of being a part of these different environments that give me a full 360 degree view to the experiences that the patient goes through,” she said.
In her new role, Chambers Lewis succeeds Susan Browning, who led the Queens hospital since 2015, but is now taking on the role of senior vice president of Business Development for Northwell Health.
“Our community has been a strong advocate and partner in all that we have thus accomplished at LIJ Forest Hills,” Browning said. “As we continue to move our many initiatives forward, including the broad expansion of our ambulatory network, this partnership will remain critically important.”
Touching on some of the challenges that she faced as the hospital’s administrative head, Browning noted that “LIJ Forest Hills serves the most diverse patient population in arguably the entire country.
“Add to it that the demographics of Queens is constantly changing and you can imagine the challenge of trying to meet the health care needs of patients coming into our hospital,” she added.
The community’s diverse population is an aspect that Chambers Lewis has a particular sense of connection with. A first-generation American born to Jamaican parents, Chambers Lewis said that she understands the trials that people can face when dealing with health issues in an unfamiliar environment.
“We prioritize being sensitive to what people are feeling and the differences in how everyone addresses healthcare or addresses pain, what they communicate, what they don’t communicate,” she said.
Serving the community is a nearly equally diverse workforce according to Chambers Lewis, which she believes is equal to the task of meeting those challenges.
“We speak hundreds of languages, from every corner of the world there is someone who works here,” she said. “Having a diverse workforce puts us in a really great position to meet the needs of the community best.”
While there are many priorities Chambers Lewis has set for her hospital, tackling the coronavirus pandemic that is seeing a resurgence remains at the top of the list.
After more than a year of hard-earned experience, however, she is convinced that her team is more than up to the task of doing so.
“This community was hit very, very hard and the team here had to learn and adapt in a time where there was no vaccine,” Chambers Lewis said. “We didn’t know where this was going, how contagious it was and the treatment has evolved so much.
“The team feels much more prepared and I think that’s what’s changed,” she added of potentially facing a second wave of COVID. “Even if something changes again, we know how to pivot. We won’t get caught off guard.”
Chambers Lewis said prioritizing the mental wellbeing of staff members is also a priority for her team.
“We have to prioritize and make sure that we are taking care of our team members,” she said. “We are going to get a better outcome and it is going to be better for them.”
COVID is still a top priority at the moment, but Chambers Lewis stresses that there are still other health issues that residents need to prioritize and encourages people avoid using the pandemic as an excuse to not tackle other needs.
“I worry about advanced illness and advanced diseases not being diagnosed, not being addressed,” she said. “We want to make sure that people know there are still things to take care of other than COVID.”
Chambers Lewis can often be seen roaming the halls of her new hospital, saying hello to patients and getting to know her staff members. She can also be spotted at various local events around the area.
“In Queens, I think it’s really important to be a part of the community, for people to see you,” she said. “I would like to learn more about this part of Queens. I think there’s always an opportunity to learn more, so I may ask a lot of questions sometimes and hopefully folks will see value in that.”

DOT, NYPD celebrate Queens Blvd. bike lane

Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT), NYPD, and local government officials gathered Thursday at the intersection of Yellowstone Avenue and Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills to celebrate the installation of a new protected bike lane.
The infrastructure project is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ongoing Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Known locally as the Boulevard of Death, Queens Boulevard has a storied reputation for fatal traffic accidents. The new bike lane is separated from traffic by plastic pylons. Work is ongoing.
In addition to the bike lane, the Queens Boulevard redesign is adding new loading zones and parking spaces along nearby Ascan Avenue and Austin Street in the hopes of easing congestion on the arterial boulevard.
“By combining strong, targeted enforcement with the kind of bold engineering changes that have led to a dramatic drop in fatalities and injuries on Queens Boulevard, we’re protecting cyclists and promoting the sustainable mobility that’s an essential part of New York City’s recovery,” explained Kim Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner of Education and Outreach at DOT.
Thursday’s event in Forest hills also coincided with the beginning of a month-long free helmet giveaway sponsored by DOT. Free helmet fittings will be available during select times at parks throughout the city, includingThomas Green Park in North Brooklyn.
In New York State, helmets are required for all cyclists under the age of 14.
The Forest Hills event also turned its attention to the question of traffic law enforcement, particularly as it pertains to electric scooters. The proliferation of e-bikes and electric scooters has been an issue throughout the city with scooters, many of which are unlicensed, travelling at speeds over 40 miles per hour in bike lanes.
Electric scooters are not permitted in bike lanes, and unlicensed scooters are illegal to operate anywhere in the city.
NYPD officials at the event detailed strategies to combat these issues, including the implementation of more traffic enforcement agents and traffic safety personnel throughout the city.
Additionally, DOT and NYPD are working together to circulate literature that enumerate the differences between bikes and electric scooters.
“Ensuring the safety of cyclists within New York City is at the foundation of the NYPD’s Vision Zero program”, said Chief of Transportation Kim Royster. “As the city continues to reopen, the NYPD will be continuing our bicycle safety citywide initiative aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians.
“Education and enforcement action will continue to be aimed at drivers that make the choice to block lanes and fail to yield to our most vulnerable road users,” Royster added.
So far, there have been fewer bike fatalities year to date in 2021 compared to 2020, with ten and 18 fatalities respectively. With the mayor’s office pursuing the goal of 30 miles of new bike lanes citywide by the end of the year, Vision Zero advocates are hopeful that those statistics will continue to decrease.
However, concerns remain regarding how the installation of bike lanes, particularly protected bikes lanes that occupy a full lane of traffic, will affect car traffic, buses, loading zones, and parking.
In Forest Hills, residents have raised concerns about the additional burden the Queens Boulevard renovation project will place on already busy nearby streets.

Plane nonsense

Dear Editor,
Has anyone but myself noticed loud airplane noise? Suddenly, Forest Hills has become an annex to LaGuardia Airport.
Planes pass over 68th Avenue loud and low very frequently, which never used to be an issue. The noise is as annoying as can be.
I was just interested if anyone else is bothered by the noise.
Sincerely,
Jackie (Last Name Withheld Upon Request)
Forest Hills

Live music returns to Forest Hills Stadium

Live music returned to Forest Hills Stadium for the first time since 2019, giving thousands of concert-goers in Queens a reason to celebrate and a brief return to normal.
The historic outdoor venue officially reopened on Friday, July 23, as Brandi Carlile took the stage before 8,000 fans, kicking off the stadium’s summer concert series on a high note.
The 14,000-seat capacity venue, located at the West Side Tennis Club, will soon be hosting additional live performances, after a season of concerts were lost due to the pandemic.
As part of New York City’s “Homecoming Week,” the stadium will also host a free concert on Friday, August 20, as announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.
Mario DiPreta, CEO of the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), says the reopening of the unique venue comes at a time when fans need it most. After hosting a successful first live show back, DiPreta recalled what it was like to welcome live music fans back for the first time in over a year.
“It was amazing to make sure that we could actually do a concert again and get back to some sort of normalcy,” said DiPreta. “The energy was amazing, the crowd was singing to the music. It’s one of the most amazing venues and unique too, there’s not one like it in the world.”
Built in 1923, the outdoor concert venue sits on 13 acres owned by the private tennis club, which played host to the US Open until 1977. It’s where Arthur Ashe became the first African-American to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1968, and it’s where Billie Jean King played while she campaigned for equal prize money and opportunities for women in tennis.
The stadium also hosted legendary musical acts in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Simon and Garfunkel. In 1968, The Beatles were flown into the stadium by helicopter before performing in front of a sold-out crowd.
“It’s where legends walked the grounds, from tennis to music,” DiPretta added.
But following the US Open’s departure to Flushing Meadows in 1978, the structure began to decay and deteriorate, eventually leading to a denial of landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2011.
WSTC even weigned the option of having the stadium replaced with luxury condominiums, before voting the idea down. The stadium was in need of rehabilitation if it was ever going to host live concerts again.
That’s when promoter Mike Lubo made a cold call to the WSTC pro shop, seeking an alternative site for a band to play a gig. Lubo, who grew up on Long Island, was aware of the legendary performances and artists who took the stage at Forest Hills Stadium decades ago.
“In one of the great turn of events, the stadium was not landmarked, which enabled us to come in and do the stuff we did,” said Lubo, now the lead promoter for the venue. “The day after the first phone call, I came out here with a structural engineer.”
Lubo recalls the engineer describing the site as “feeling like a warzone”, and Lubo likened the place to, “a dumping ground for three decades.”
But a commitment was made by Lubo and his team to keep the “bones” of the stadium — built upon first-generation U.S. Steel and poured concrete — and to focus on leading the venue into the 21st century.
After holding their inaugural concert in 2013 with Mumford & Sons, gradual improvements were made to the site’s amenities and safety, including new seats, new aisles and a new world-class stage.
“Our happiest moment was when we finally put real bathrooms out here,” said Lubo.
Now there is a commitment to upgrade the stadium following each concert season. From just one single show in 2013, to well over a dozen just a few years later, the revival of a historic venue is well under way.
But that was all put on pause last March. Live entertainment came to a halt, along with the venue’s expected 2020 concert season. It would be another 16 months before fans flocked to Forest Hills Stadium once again.
“We were probably the first major industry to fully shut down,” said Lubo. “It’s been a long run of scheduling and rescheduling. Our first priority is that the bands, the crew and the fans are safe.”
When COVID-related restrictions were lifted for New Yorkers in June, it allowed for the venue to host live shows once again. Under current guidelines, shows do not require proof of vaccination. Tickets for shows are available at foresthillsstadium.com.
Lubo said it was an emotional return for some when the stadium hosted fans again for the first time in over a year.
“Music and communal gathering is such a big part of what it means to be human,” said Lubo. “I think people really have been missing that in their life.”

UPCOMING CONCERTS
Fri. Aug 20, “Homecoming Week” free concert series
Sat. Aug. 21, Wilco & Sleater Kinney, Nnamdi
Sat. Aug. 28, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid
Thu. Sep. 9, King Crimson, The Zappa Band
Fri. Sep. 10, My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard
Sat. Sep. 11, My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard
Sat. Oct. 2, The Neighbourhood

Live music returns to Forest Hills Stadium

Live music returned to Forest Hills Stadium for the first time since 2019, giving thousands of concert-goers in Queens a reason to celebrate and a brief return to normal.
The historic outdoor venue officially reopened on Friday, July 23, as Brandi Carlile took the stage before 8,000 fans, kicking off the stadium’s summer concert series on a high note.
The 14,000-seat capacity venue, located at the West Side Tennis Club, will soon be hosting additional live performances, after a season of concerts were lost due to the pandemic.
As part of New York City’s “Homecoming Week,” the stadium will also host a free concert on Friday, August 20, as announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.
Mario DiPreta, CEO of the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), says the reopening of the unique venue comes at a time when fans need it most. After hosting a successful first live show back, DiPreta recalled what it was like to welcome live music fans back for the first time in over a year.
“It was amazing to make sure that we could actually do a concert again and get back to some sort of normalcy,” said DiPreta. “The energy was amazing, the crowd was singing to the music. It’s one of the most amazing venues and unique too, there’s not one like it in the world.”
Built in 1923, the outdoor concert venue sits on 13 acres owned by the private tennis club, which played host to the US Open until 1977. It’s where Arthur Ashe became the first African-American to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1968, and it’s where Billie Jean King played while she campaigned for equal prize money and opportunities for women in tennis.
The stadium also hosted legendary musical acts in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Simon and Garfunkel. In 1968, The Beatles were flown into the stadium by helicopter before performing in front of a sold-out crowd.
“It’s where legends walked the grounds, from tennis to music,” DiPretta added.
But following the US Open’s departure to Flushing Meadows in 1978, the structure began to decay and deteriorate, eventually leading to a denial of landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2011.
WSTC even weigned the option of having the stadium replaced with luxury condominiums, before voting the idea down. The stadium was in need of rehabilitation if it was ever going to host live concerts again.
That’s when promoter Mike Lubo made a cold call to the WSTC pro shop, seeking an alternative site for a band to play a gig. Lubo, who grew up on Long Island, was aware of the legendary performances and artists who took the stage at Forest Hills Stadium decades ago.
“In one of the great turn of events, the stadium was not landmarked, which enabled us to come in and do the stuff we did,” said Lubo, now the lead promoter for the venue. “The day after the first phone call, I came out here with a structural engineer.”
Lubo recalls the engineer describing the site as “feeling like a warzone”, and Lubo likened the place to, “a dumping ground for three decades.”
But a commitment was made by Lubo and his team to keep the “bones” of the stadium — built upon first-generation U.S. Steel and poured concrete — and to focus on leading the venue into the 21st century.
After holding their inaugural concert in 2013 with Mumford & Sons, gradual improvements were made to the site’s amenities and safety, including new seats, new aisles and a new world-class stage.
“Our happiest moment was when we finally put real bathrooms out here,” said Lubo.
Now there is a commitment to upgrade the stadium following each concert season. From just one single show in 2013, to well over a dozen just a few years later, the revival of a historic venue is well under way.
But that was all put on pause last March. Live entertainment came to a halt, along with the venue’s expected 2020 concert season. It would be another 16 months before fans flocked to Forest Hills Stadium once again.
“We were probably the first major industry to fully shut down,” said Lubo. “It’s been a long run of scheduling and rescheduling. Our first priority is that the bands, the crew and the fans are safe.”
When COVID-related restrictions were lifted for New Yorkers in June, it allowed for the venue to host live shows once again. Under current guidelines, shows do not require proof of vaccination. Tickets for shows are available at foresthillsstadium.com.
Lubo said it was an emotional return for some when the stadium hosted fans again for the first time in over a year.
“Music and communal gathering is such a big part of what it means to be human,” said Lubo. “I think people really have been missing that in their life.”

UPCOMING CONCERTS
Fri. Aug 20, “Homecoming Week” free concert series
Sat. Aug. 21, Wilco & Sleater Kinney, Nnamdi
Sat. Aug. 28, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid
Thu. Sep. 9, King Crimson, The Zappa Band
Fri. Sep. 10, My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard
Sat. Sep. 11, My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard
Sat. Oct. 2, The Neighbourhood

Movie buffs praise return of films to big screens

Cinemart Cinemas on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills recently reopened, delighting neighborhood movie-goers as well as owner Nicholas Nicolau.
After being closed since March of 2020, the theater finally received permission from the state to open its doors in April, but waited until May. Most COVID restrictions are lifted, but a few still remain in place.
“Despite all the restrictions being lifted, we also learned a lot during COVID and we still require customers to wear masks until they get to their seats,” said Nicolau.
“I think as long as everyone is cleaning up after themselves and using hand sanitizer and staying protected, I think that’s good,” said Valentina Sifontes, who caught a film at Cinemart this past weekend. “it’s just a good experience hanging out with my friends and being somewhere and watching a movie with them.”
Nicolau has worked in the movie business for more than 40 years, and owns two other theaters in addition to Cinemart Cinemas. He said it was hard as an independent business to survive the pandemic, and he had to close Alpine Theater in Bay Ridge.
On top of the pandemic, there has been a push to release new movies on streaming platforms, leaving the future of theaters in question.
“My position is that all of the television and the streaming services are fine with me and should be available to people who chose to stay home,” said Nicolau. “But as a movie theater, we don’t benefit from this in any way.”
Eliana Borukhov and Magghi Mae Blackvargas are longtime patrons of Cinemart Cinemas. Borukhov said she prefers going to the theater over streaming.
“It’s just a different experience.” said Borukhov.
Nicolau immigrated from Cypriot to New York when he was just 12. His first jobs were in movie theaters.
“At an early age, I knew that this business is really something that I felt close to,” said Nicolau. “I started thinking and planning how I could open a small theater.”
Nicolau said independent movie theaters create a sense of community.
“The experience of watching this together and the energy it creates between the people is something that I believe some of us would like to maintain and would be better off with for a healthier society,” he said.

Stained glass brilliance in residential buildings

Stained glass is often associated with houses of worship, but the apartment buildings built in the ’20s and ’30s in Forest Hills and Rego Park feature numerous examples of decorative glass, ranging in styles from Art Nouveau and American Neo-Gothic to Renaissance and Tudor.
“Glaziers were excellent craftsmen, and these local windows stood the test of time and are absolute treasures,” said Jon Schwartz, a member of the Facebook group Historic New York City.
A development boom was sparked by the opening of the IND subway in 1936 and the 1939–1940 World’s Fair. Apartment buildings with ornate and charming details were a draw for residents who lived in congested Manhattan.
“The light from these windows turns these rooms into beautiful sunlit tapestries,” said Forest Hills resident Pat Lannan, who said they are as important to the neighborhood’s history as the brick pavement in Station Square. “It really is the looking glass into the care and craftsmanship to produce these pieces of art.”
At the time, much of Forest Hills and Rego Park offered a country-like setting with open spaces, recreational conveniences, and modern amenities.
On opposite sides of one street are two outstanding examples of Tudor Medieval meets Gothic buildings.
In 1936, The Mayfair House at 110-21 73rd Road was designed by Cohn Brothers and built by Austin Building Corporation. Its sister building, The Windsor House at 110-20 73rd Road, opened in June 1937. It was built by Arende Building Corporation.
North Carolina resident Richard Delaney, who was raised in the Holland House in Forest Hills, remembered The Mayfair House’s large arched lobby windows. One of them features Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Sower,” a popular figure in stained glass.
“I really thought that I saw glimpses of King Arthur, Lady Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot in some of those portals,” he said. “The magnificent craftsmanship, design, and detail that went into creating these lobbies is incredible.”
Completed in 1931, Sutton Hall at 109-14 Ascan Avenue was designed by Constantinople native Benjamin Braunstein, an award-winning architect.
On its largely intact façade are Medieval-style doors and windows with colorful stained glass that includes knights, horses, ships, and castles.
“Its style and architecture, somewhat reminiscent of an Old English Manor, is replete with quaint charm and rustic simplicity,” a prospectus at the time read. “A superb accomplishment, adapted to every element of fine living, Sutton Hall is one of the outstanding examples of artistic residential planning in the country.”
The castle-inspired Valeria Arms, complete with roof turrets and finials, was also designed by Benjamin Braunstein. It was a most desirable address when it opened in 1929 at 77-16 Austin Street.
It features stained glass arched transom windows with crests in two entryways.
In Rego Park is the Spanish Mission-style Marion Court at 62-98 Saunders Street. Completed in 1929 and also designed by Braunstein, it is among the three earliest apartment buildings developed by Real Good Construction Company.
The distinctive Colonnade features arched leaded-glass windows with spun-glass roundels and two stained glass portals of colorful castle scenes, which add character to the first grand scale lobby of Rego Park.
John Morelli of Forest Hills described one that is partially obscured by an exit sign.
“The obstructed one has sails, so it must be a really nice ship which was probably owned by royalty because that’s mainly who lives in castles,” he said.
“Stained glass is becoming a lost art, and I don’t know why,” said artist Carol Gilmore, who works with stained glass. “How can anyone walk into a building and not be in awe of the beauty and precision, and the light that filters through these beautiful glass windows?”
In 2014, Matt Wiederhold created the Facebook group Vintage American Stained Glass.
“Stained glass is fascinating because it would be such a personal choice for someone building a home,” he said. “Why did they choose certain colors, patterns, designs? I feel the windows give a bit of insight to the homeowner, they tell a story of design and artistry.”

Forest Hills honors those who gave all

A group of nearly 100 people gathered at the Remsen Family Cemetery in Forest Hills on Sunday for a Memorial Day Ceremony honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
The annual parade that usually precedes the ceremony was cancelled for a second year due to COVID.
“Today is a moment of remembrance, reflection, and reverence to all those who sacrificed their lives for god and country,” said Michael Arcati, commander of America Legion Post 1424, which helped organize the event. “We are also here today to salute the first responders, doctors, nurses, EMT, police, and community volunteers who carried us through the dark days of the COVID pandemic when we could not leave our homes and death surrounded us.”
The National Anthem was sung by Abby Payne before Captain Joseph Cappelmann took the podium as the first honoree of the day, receiving the Law and Order award for his service to the community. Cappelmann has been the 112th Precinct’s commanding officer since February of 2020.
“We are here to honor all the servicemen and servicewoman who gave their lives to defend our nation and our freedom,” he said. “Despite all the challenges that our nation has faced lately, the American dream is still alive, and we must honor those who gave everything to defend it.”
Fellow honoree Bob Simpson is an adjunct of Post 1424, as well a three-time Purple Heart recipient.
“Someone once said death is not final until you are forgotten,” he told the crowd. “While I breathe, all of you will live on and your sacrifices for our freedom will be remembered. I salute all those brothers and sisters who fought for us and didn’t come back.”
The end of the ceremony was marked by the laying of wreaths and a formal recognition of Post 1424 members that passed during the last year.
Heidi Chain, president of the 112th Precinct Community Council, served as grand marshal with Teresa Amato of LIJ Forest Hills Hospital. Chain talked about the value of sacrifice and paid special homage to her father, a veteran of WWII.
“Memorial Day and every holiday has changed in how we are able to participate because of COVID, but despite that the message in our heart has not changed,” Chain said before quoting former president Barack Obama. “Our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to the patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion to this country that we love.”

Amato, Chain to be honored at Forest Hills Memorial Day ceremony

ER director recalls first wave of COVID cases

On Sunday, May 30, Teresa Amato will be honored at the Forest Hills Memorial Day Ceremony in Remsen Park.
Selected as one of this year’s grand marshals for her service to the community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is the director of the Forest Hills Emergency Room Department and a proud mother of six.
In March of last year, Forest Hills was hit with the first wave of coronavirus cases. While other hospitals in Northwell Health’s network saw a decrease in patients at the onset of the pandemic, for Long Island Jewish in Forest Hills it was the exact opposite.
Typically, the emergency room treats about 100 patients per day, but in March the hospital was taking on nearly 250 patients each and every day. Nearly all of them needed to be treated for coronavirus.
“At the height of it, 95 percent of the patients in the hospital had COVID,” Amato said. “The only sound you could hear in the department was the hissing of the oxygen.”
As patients showed up, Amato said the hospital had to quickly pivot to load balancing as it reached its capacity. Because there were no open beds for patients at Long Island Jewish, they were sent to other nearby hospitals in Northwell’s network.
Amato remembers the “cavalry” of ambulances that helped transfer patients, idling outside the hospital in a line that was so long it wrapped around the entire block.
“You have to have three things to take care of patients,” she said. “You need the space, the staff, and the equipment. We just ran out of space.”
For the first few weeks the entire hospital was running on adrenaline, according to Amato. However, she started to notice signs of fatigue among the staff as time went on.
“Everybody was laser-focused in the beginning,” Amato said. “But as the bombs keep coming and you don’t get sleep and you start to understand the danger, that constant adrenaline paralyzes you.”
The most important thing for her as a leader was to be adaptable, according to Amato. Her office became a changing room for healthcare workers overnight.
Personal protective equipment, like masks and face shields, were stacked up high in boxes along the walls.
The space also served as a place for healthcare workers to decompress during their long shifts and a charging hub for iPads that enabled patients to connect with their loved ones.
Amato recalls an elderly patient who just wanted to see the garden in her backyard one more time before she died.
“Those conversations were really tough and a lot to witness repeatedly,” said Amato. “You really were the eyes and ears to their family, and it felt like you were witnessing a sacred moment.”
When morale was low at the hospital, Amato said she could always turn to the community for support. She is grateful for the validation that the banging of pots and pans from nearby housing gave her nurses, and remembers being in her office the first time she heard people cheering.
“I was so used to everything being wrong, so I ran out of my office and people were screaming thank you and clapping,” Amato said. “It was a real boost.”
Amato worked around the clock until the situation was under control. After six straight weeks of working at the hospital without leaving, she decided to go home and visit her family for the first time since the pandemic began.
The first wave had already peaked at that time, but many including herself were just beginning to wrap their head around the situation.
“I went for a walk with my kids, and I ran into some women that I’m friends with that also live in my part of Queens,” Amato recalled. “They said they’ve seen stuff in the news about COVID, so they asked me how it really was. I didn’t even know what to say or how to explain, it’s like sharing a war story.”

Chain to serve as Grand Marshal
Heidi Harrison Chain will be honored this Sunday, May 30, at Remsen Park during this year’s Forest Hills Memorial Day Celebration.
Serving as the president of the 112th Precinct Community Council for over a decade, she is a lifelong resident of Queens. She will serve as one of the event’s grand marshals.
“As a daughter of a WWII veteran, to be honored in this capacity is a momentous moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’ve participated in this parade for years upon years, so it’s really nice. I can imagine my father will be smiling down on me.”
Chain grew up in Rego Park but now lives in Forest Hills. She serves as a liaison between the local police force and the community.
Her focus is on outreach and providing essential information to residents of the precinct, from run-of-the-mill matters like changes to speed limits to more pressing issues like details on crime suspects.
Chain believes it’s essential to engage Forest Hills through whatever means possible, even if that’s digitally.
“The precinct council has a particularly important relationship to the people because its function is to be an intermediary,” she said. “In order for that to happen people have to be able to easily get a hold of you.”
During the pandemic, that’s exactly what happened. The council shifted gears quickly to address food insecurity because a lot of people were afraid to go outside and get groceries.
“In extreme emergencies cops actually went out and brought food to people’s homes,” Chain said.
Chain believes the annual Memorial Day celebration, which pre-pandemic included a parade down Metropolitan Avenue, is sacred to the spirit of the country and Forest Hills community.
“What we have to do as a society is honor those that died in service of our country so that everybody else can live in freedom,” she said. “We need to understand and honor the people who gave their lives.”

Forest Hills sets stage for Memorial Day festivities

The Forest Hills Memorial Day Ceremony is only a few weeks away, and organizers met together last Wednesday at the American Legion Continental Post 1424 to conduct their final preparations for the event.
The occasion will take place on Sunday, May 30, in Remsen Park and pay tribute to all the men and woman who have died while in the U.S. military. Slated to go on for just over an hour, the event will be filled with music, speeches, and honors.
This year, the ceremony will not only recognize fallen service members but will also honor the sacrifice of frontline workers. Members of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be honored at the event for their efforts in saving the local community from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Arcati is commander of Post 1424 and has been a major force in organizing this year’s ceremony. He served in the navy for a combined total of eight years as both a prosecutor and defense counsel. Specializing in international, criminal, and tax law, he’s been awarded the Bronze Star among other military accolades. It was his goal to extend Memorial Day to as many people as possible. “This event is not just for the veterans but for the community and the service that is central to how it functions.”
Arcati couldn’t envision honoring sacrifice this year without paying homage those who grappled with the pandemic on behalf of Queens, especially those from the volunteer ambulance service. “Like a military they lined up side by side, and put their lives on the line without question,” he said. “These people never asked for a dime, and they need to be recognized.”
Event organizers have also announced their 2021 Grand Marshals for the event. This year there are four honorees: Dr. Teresea Amato, Heidi Chain, Bob Simpson, and Captain Joseph Cappelmann. The selection represents a cross section of public service that is vital to New York, including the director of Forest Hill’s largest emergency room department and the commanding officer of New York’s 112th Precinct.
For many service members Memorial Day is not only a time to honor lost connections but also reconnect with those who have also served. Arcati said he expects to see plenty of familiar faces from Post 1424 at the ceremony. “We have over 100 veterans at Post 1424, and for some of our more senior members it’s the only way for them to socialize and find comradery with their brothers and sisters.”
Vice Commander of Post 1424 Pat Conley has been a member of the organization for over ten years and has seen hundreds of hours go into planning this year’s ceremony. Conley said he’s thankful that the veteran community has been getting their vaccines. “Our members are of all ages and backgrounds, but it’s awesome to see that everyone who needs it is already pretty much double-vaccinated at this point. I think it will be a tremendous celebration and a good day for the community.”
The laying of the wreaths is a pillar of military tradition in the United States and will happen at the end of the ceremony. There are a handful of veterans from Post 1424 that will be honored at that time and have the bell rung in their name as attendees pay their formal respects.
There were countless volunteers who helped make this year’s event a reality, according to Arcati. Whether it was small tasks like putting up flags or bigger responsibilities like manning the grill, he said there was an outpouring of support. “Veterans want to continue serving, even when they’re done with their military obligations, but it’s really wonderful to see people take time out of their schedules to come in and help out.”

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