The Inaugural Corona Mile Race

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Last Thursday morning I received an email by Kevin Montalvo Founder of Queens Distance Runners (QDR) to notify me that on behalf of QDR, he wanted to honor me at their Inaugural Corona Mile as a “Community Champion” for leading the way in the work we have done in Corona and Queens abroad.

Paired with the fact that I have been wanting to participate in a QDR event for the longest time and looking for opportunities that allow me to prove that Queenscapes practices what we preach as a community organization that promotes healthy lifestyle initiatives, this was a no-brainer for me to accept. So I agreed be a part of the race, and was excited for the chance to actually run with the folks of the world’s greatest borough for the first official race I have ever run.

Also, I figured it’s only a one mile race, how difficult could it really be? Even though, saying that I’m a little out of shape is a huge understatement, even I had to be able to pull this off.

Plus I had a little extra motivation as I had my colleagues and close friends, Ashley Dean, the Founder of the Queens Hip Hop Festival and Ruben Ramales, Managing Director of American Institute of Architects of Queens also selected as Community Champions of the Corona Mile as my racemates. To make things more interesting I made it a family affair by enlisting my sons Roman and Saul to join along with me.

The night before race day, I realized that the weather for the Corona Mile was not going to be agreeable. With thunderstorms predicted all morning, it wasn’t just getting wet that worried me, but also the safety of my two young children.

We played it by ear the next morning, and right after a real lengthy downpour, and a break in the rain, we rushed over to the Unisphere to be ready for the start of the race. Unfortunately, we did not beat the worse of the rain, and the prospect of the piece of cake run I envisioned this to be, was washed away in the deluge that ensued.

But we ran anyway with a bunch of other dedicated and brave runners, through the thunder and lightning and completed what we set out to accomplish, together.

Words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez Photo by Elitefeats

#FMCoronaPark18 Photo Exhibit Recap

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 “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King

While community building has always been one of the tenets of Queenscapes, lately it seems like it stands at the very forefront of what we do today.

With the culmination of the two part program #FMCoronaPark18, one of our  biggest accomplishments with the project is not just the community engagement and healthy living initiatives we successfully reached, but also how we managed to continually foster the already thoughtful and caring Queenscapes community.

Even though a goal for each project is to reach out to as many new folks, to expand and tap into as many diverse audiences as possible, in Queens and beyond, we really care about our original core of supporters that have followed us from our early days, when we were just pictures on Instagram.

It is because of the original diehard Queens enthusiasts, the original Queens kids, that helped us build the steam that is currently still flowing from one project to the next.  It is because of the select few that spread the word wide enough, that we feel we must stay loyal to the continual building of our community instead of simply taking and posting nice photos of Queens.

So it was an honor to be able to have these same core group of followers along for the ride into the Queens Museum a couple weeks ago. It was an honor to have their photos alongside mine in a space that has always been a goal for me to eventually exhibit in.

Special shout-out to Charles Valencia of Jackson Heights, but currently in Glen Oaks. Charles has followed me for over 4 years, consistently offering feedback, and participating in as much Queenscapes IRL events as he possibly can.

Just a couple weeks before the exhibit, Charles approached me to get some advice about an idea he had for his old neighborhood.  A lifelong Queens native, he wanted to give back to his community he loved and lived in, in the best way he knew how. I was honored that he thought of me to present his idea, impressed with his plan, and overjoyed that we inspired him enough to take action in his hometown.

Fast forward a couple weeks later, and Charles Valencia of Jackson Heights, becomes the random (key word) Grand Prize winner of the #FMCoronaPark18 Photo Contest acquiring two round trip tickets on a Delta Airlines flight.

Just recently back from a family vacation to Seattle, Charles is pictured above being embraced by his daughter and surrounded by his wife and son, at the announcement of his prize. Fitting for a guy who embraced the idea of Queenscapes early on, and helped us create the community he currently strives in. Well deserved Charles.

Photo and words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

A Story of Socrates Sculpture Park

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As a resident of the nearby Astoria Houses for a significant amount of my formative years in the late 1990’s, the unfinished Socrates Sculpture Park felt like my own personal sanctuary.

I am thankful and grateful that even though Socrates’ programming has evolved tremendously, (and lately more so under the helm of Astoria kid Audrey Dimola), the landscape of the place is still very raw, still very unfinished.

It was in this landscape that I learned to appreciate the natural terrain of Queens. In all its abandonment, I was able to appreciate how peaceful Socrates was and how it was so unlike the rest of the urban Queens I was familiar with. I loved looking across the East River and unto the shape of Hallets Cove, the skyline of the massive 22 building Astoria housing project.

I remember first distinguishing low and high tides from the waves crashed against the base of the park, or didn’t at all. It was easier to figure out when the tide was low because it made the stench in the air unforgettable.

While most would say Socrates is located in an area that exhibits the worst of Queens’ nature, it was the nature I knew. It’s where I was able to slow down the rapidly moving parts of my neighborhood. Socrates was where I found peace.

So while this Saturday, Socrates’ expects to be a lot more lively with Video Music Box coming into town for “Ralph McDaniels’ Hip Hop in the Park,” it’s still essentially the same park I remember it to be as a kid.

I’m also honored to be a part of the day’s programming and look forward to engaging with the crowd, and hearing everyone’s own stories of growing up in Queens, and learn more about how they were influenced by Hip Hop and the legendary Video Music Box.

Photo and words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

#CapturedInQueens - GeeQue                                 

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"Loyalty is still the same, whether it win or lose the game; true as a dial to the sun, although it be not shined upon."

While my love of Queens comes from the fact that this town is the only home I know, my loyalty to this place started with rooting for the New York Mets, (the only professional sports franchise in Queens), as kid.

But while I consider myself a true diehard, nobody is more loyal to the New York Mets, than Jason “Gee Que” Gomez. 

As of July 18, 2018, Gee has attended 35 games. 35 games in 3 1/2 months for a team in last place. Each year he usually attends 60-65 games, regardless if the Mets win or lose. It really doesn't get more diehard than GeeQue.

A tried and true Uptown Manhattan kid, Jason doesn't correlate his loyalty to the New York Mets with Queens either. He just loves the Mets.

Gee's obsession with the orange and blue started when he was first exposed to baseball at 5 years old by his mother when she first enrolled him in little league. He also remembers right around the same time his mother would also take him to Shea Stadium, where he was captivated early on by likable superstars, Mookie Wilson, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.

Fast forward 30 years later, and Gee is still here, still rooting, even harder than he ever has, true as a dial to the sun. 

Check out our #CapturedInQueens feature on @queenscapes for more cool facts on GeeQue.

Words and Photos by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

 

 

 

#FMCoronaPark18 Photo Walk Recap

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Two weeks ago on Saturday afternoon on June 30th we ventured out with a group that consisted of almost 50 participants total, to venture out to explore the underappreciated and underexposed Southern section of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The photo walk was the first event of a two part program, titled #FMCoronaPark18, and was created by the Queenscapes team in collaboration with the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Community Advisory Board, the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Park, the New York City Parks Department, and the Queens Museum as an initiative to help re-establish NYC parks as viable resource for the general public and to promote healthier communities within the boroughs.

While we were excited to host this photo walk, our first of 2018, we were a little concerned with the weather forecast, days leading into the event. Local stations advised that everyone should stay home and stay cool. We even threw the idea around of postponing the walk, considering that even though we expected a few brave souls to march on with us, that our overall engagement and impact would be affected significantly.

I’m glad to say we choose not to postpone. While the number of participants was lower than we expected, the folks that did come quickly became acquainted and comfortable with each other. The heatwave that everyone was scared about, became the cause we rallied around. 

We made multiple and additional stops along our walking route, and we checked in with each other as the heat intensified throughout the day. We kept an eye out on the older participants and made sure we communicated with everyone as much as possible.

I also really believe because we were so united in the beginning of our meet, it lead us to be entrusted with the safety of a minor teenage girl.

Her mom introduced herself briefly to me, and plainly stated that she wanted her daughter here by herself. She expressed that she wanted her daughter to break out of her shell and felt that this photo walk was the perfect opportunity. 

So even though we certainly did not reach the numbers we projected, 140 registered on Eventbrite, I do not believe without the heatwave, we would not have had a reason to be as united as we were. Or maybe it was because most of the day's participants were Queens natives, and we inherently, are tougher than most.

Folks, we invite you all to the second half of #FMCoronaPark18, a two-day pop-up photo exhibit that starts on Saturday, July 21st, 2018.

Click on the Queens Museum link below for more details:

https://www.queensmuseum.org/events/fmcoronapark18-pop-up-photo-exhibit

Photo by Mike Shain Words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

 

Goodbye Ben's Best of Rego Park

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Melville, Long Island, Clifton, New Jersey. Some town in Pennsylvania, and some other place in Connecticut.

I remember even partially the names of these locations, because it came as an impromptu announcement from each customer that walked into Ben’s Best Kosher Deli on its last day, in its last hour, this past Saturday night.

Jay Parker, son of Benjamin Parker, the original owner and founder of Ben’s Best, was quoted as saying, “I don’t depend on the local people.” Although it is typical for destination restaurants, just like Ben’s to rely on out of the borough or out of town customers, I always felt there was a sense of injustice that not enough Queens residents just walked into the place located conveniently on Queens Boulevard.

You couldn’t get past the door before you were bombarded with old relics and news clippings that linked Ben’s Best to New York City, pieces of history that permanently cemented the restaurant in the fabric of Queens. Back in the day, Ben’s even sponsored a little league team in Rego Park for years.

David Sax, author of “Save the Deli” said, “Ben’s Best is one of the last remaining old school kosher delis left in New York, the last one in Queens, and also just one of the best and tastiest delis anywhere.”

And even considering all that, Queens still couldn’t care any less.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to Jay Parker through a third party, a meeting with the intent of helping the restaurant get some social media exposure. Jay was grasping at straws even then, desperately looking for alternative ways to get some buzz for his deli. I thought it was ironic, yet tragic that Ben’s Best should’ve been closer to landmark status in Queens, instead of being treated like the infamous chopped liver they carried in their displays.

I wish the social media influence of Queenscapes would’ve made the difference back then, wish we could’ve knocked some sense into the Queens community and keep the old place open.

I’ll always remember our conversation on cameras that ran way too long two years ago, and him remembering me because I was the guy who adjusted a broken automatic lens, manually.

Pictured above is Jay Parker personally greeting his last customer at Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen located at 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, N.Y. established in 1945.

Photo and words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

Vote Ocasio-Cortez - Inspired by Jennifer Mason

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Although I am not a fan of politics, and have very little interest in participating in political events, I still root heavily for individual causes. I root for folks that still have the capacity to be inspired. I root for these folks, and I root for their stories.

I root for folks like Jennifer Mason.

I learned of Jennifer through Instagram. After going through the dozen or so images hashtagged #Queenscapes, a photo that she took really caught my attention, and after another round of elimination, was eventually chosen as the Queenscapes #IconicQueenscapes feature of the week.

After selecting her photo, I sent Jennifer a direct message to ask for permission to repost her photo and also for some basic background info to add to the caption. Here is Jennifer’s response in its entirety:

“I was born on Long Island, New York and now live in lower Manhattan. My family have been New Yorkers for generations, having built their lives in Italian communities around the city.

I am a casual photographer and after becoming disillusioned with my career in the fashion industry, I was looking to be involved in something more uplifting.

I’ve followed the campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for months and have really been taken in by her pursuit of progressive, humanist policies and complete rejection of the corporate-bought political machines that usually run things around here. I finally found the nerve to volunteer in May and joined the photography team covering her run for Congress in New York’s 14th district, which includes many neighborhoods in Queens.

My hope is by sharing what I’ve documented on Instagram that fellow New Yorkers will see some of the hustle and the heart that has gone into this campaign and maybe a few will be intrigued enough to learn more, to volunteer, and if I’m lucky, even decide to vote Ocasio this Tuesday, June 26.

Deep in the communities of the toughest city on earth, hope still lives here.”

To view Jennifer’s full gallery of the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez campaign go to her Instagram page @jennymie. I dare you not to be inspired.

Photo by Jennifer Mason Words by Jennifer Mason Adolfo Steve Vazquez

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I was approached by the folks of CIANA, which stands for the Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans, almost a month ago, because they were looking for help to get the word out for their recently launched “Learning for Life” fundraiser to expand its overly popular and successful Elementary After School Tutoring program.

A little history on CIANA: The Non-Profit company was founded in 2006 by Emira Habiby Browne as a model of immigrant integration that begins immediately upon entry into the country. CIANA helps immigrants and their families successfully integrate into American society while maintaining pride in their cultural heritage through a variety of free programs and services.

What piqued my interest immediately about CIANA, was its founder. Emira is Palestinian-American who was born and raised in the Middle East, speaks Arabic fluently, has traveled extensively, and lived in several countries in Europe and the Middle East. I thought it was pretty cool and fitting that Emirah’s background story looked a lot like the current stories of the people she set out to help and service in Queens today.

Yesterday, while I couldn’t meet up with Emira, I was finally able to find some time to come to the CIANA facility, conveniently located in the heart of Astoria. My timing was key as I was able to speak with Maria Eliades, Volunteer Communications & Media Relations Officer, Kylen Button, Program & Administrative Manager, AND even catch some of the kids and parents for their annual End of the Year party for their Elementary After School program. The same program that CIANA is looking to expand with its “Learning for Life” fundraiser.

Pictured above is Mohammed, his family is from Bangladesh and he has been coming to CIANA’s Elementary After School program since early 2017. What struck me about Mohammed was that although he seemed wise beyond his years and was very mature in his demeanor, he was just a little boy, a little boy who clearly felt comfortable and safe in the sanctuary of this place.

With its dedicated staff, volunteers, and interns which speak over 20 languages, it’s easy to see why kids like Mohammed would feel right at home at CIANA.

Facing reduced federal, state, and city funding, CIANA’S Elementary After School Tutoring program needs help though. Currently the program is at capacity, serving twenty students from every borough in New York City, but many more students are waiting to claim their place in the program. With its “Learning for Life” fundraiser, CIANA hopes to raise $10,000 by June 27, 2018 to hire a Program Coordinator, offer more days for tutoring, and accept more children into the program.

If you are interested in learning more about CIANA go to https://www.cianainc.org. If you want to donate to CIANA go to https://www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/1465449

Photo and words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

Meet #FMCoronaPark18 Co-Host - Roy Martinez

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I first met Roy Martinez years ago, in the early days of Queenscapes. Roy has not only been a faithful follower of our Instagram page for a long time, he has also attended some of our most memorable real life events that we have organized in the past.

Although Roy is much younger than I, I have always thought of him as being much wiser than his years suggest. He has a real appreciation of Queens history and is prideful of his hometown. Roy is also an amazing photographer, who has a knack for capturing the nuances in architecture and landscape photos. To boot, Roy understands the value of community and how the stories of the folks who live here make for richer, fuller photos. He understands that photos that provide both depth and context can be used to enrich the communities we live in.

With that being said, we are extremely happy to announce that Roy will be collaborating with us, serving as one of our co-hosts to this month’s #FMCoronaPark18 Photo Walk at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Roy will be on deck to help folks focus on the photo categories that will ultimately decide whether you will be eligible to be featured for a two day pop-up exhibit at the Queens Museum on July 21st & the 22nd.  

I figured a good way to introduce Roy to you guys a little early, would be with a #CapturedInQueens profile. People of Queens, meet Roy:

Main Street - 

Roy Martinez @corrduroy, is a photographer and currently a student attending York College majoring in Communications. Roy is Mexican-American from Elmhurst, Queens New York. He attended P.S. 19, I.S. 227, and High School for Arts and Business before being accepted to York College located in Jamaica, Queens. On his spare time he enjoys casually reading and educating himself in historical New York events and listening to underground Hip-Hop. Roy believes both of these things have a strong correlation to his photographic style. His favorite sport teams are the NY Mets and the Mexican National soccer team. Most people don’t know that he is a perfectionist, and he constantly goes back to tasks that he has completed to make sure everything is just right. Roy says of his vision of Queens, “It’s the foundation. From its dynamic presence of ethnicities and cultures to its deep roots in Hip Hop. In the words of the late Prodigy - “Meanwhile back in Queens the realness the foundation If I die I couldn’t choose a better location.”

Click on the link below to register for the #FMCoronaPark18 Photo Walk on Sat, June 30th fmcoronapark18.eventbrite.com

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

The Erosion of Summer at Rockaway Beach?

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Yesterday, I got the news about the beach erosion in the Rockaways from a friend on social media. Not at all versed in the affects of beach erosion I thought the issue would be a quick fix. My thinking was that although significant portions of the beach would be closed entirely from the shore line to the boardwalk, that it couldn’t possibly be closed more than a couple weeks. I thought wrong.

What is beach erosion? As per Wikipedia, beach or coastal erosion is the wearing away of material from a coastal profile including the removal of beach, sand dunes, or sediment by wave action, tidal currents, wave currents, drainage or high winds.

As reported by the New York Daily News, New York City Parks Department will shut down an 11 block stretch of the most popular part of Rockaway Beach.

According to the Parks Department, the beach will be closed between Beach 91st and 102nd Streets. They clarified, stating “A combination of erosion, plus a dune that was installed to protect against storms, have shrunk the beach, making it too small to safely welcome sun seekers.”

And even with Wikipedia’s definition of what beach erosion is, and the Parks Department explanation of the problem, I don’t think I still fully know what’s going on and why it can’t be fixed before the summer’s end.

One thing is for sure though, as reported by CBS New York, The Army Corps of Engineers won’t even start working on the issue until next year.

So while each year, my family and I, (the three kids pictured above included) love going to the Rockaways every summer, I already cringe at how overcrowded Rockaway Beach gets every year. This year I could only expect for the mass of folks that go to Rockaway to double in size with this new projected beach closure.

While the proximity of the Rockaways to our home has kept us faithful summer Rockaway Beach goers, the summer of 2018 may just be the year we stop going.

 

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

 #FMCoronaPark18 Photo Walk Tour

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Overjoyed to announce today that we will be presenting a photo walk tour at the New York City's 4th largest park and the largest in the borough of Queens, Flushing Meadows Corona-Park, next month on Saturday June 30th 2018 at 12:00 noon.

#FMCoronaPark18 is a photo walking tour geared towards Queens residents of all ages with an appreciation of Queens and its neighborhoods. #FMCoronaPark18 looks to highlight the very underrated and underappreciated section of Flushing Meadows Park.

Throughout walk, we will offer prizes to participants who correctly answer local Queens trivia. Lastly, #FMCoronaPark18 also looks to showcase the park's natural beauty and it's diverse and varied history, through an accompanying Instagram photo contest.

Photo contest is open to all participants of walking tour as well as anyone who uploads photos taken within Flushing-Meadows Corona Park under category guidelines and also applies the hashtag #FMCoronaPark18 to photos on Instagram. All photos new or old will be accepted, but it is important that hashtags are applied to each photo on Instagram with the correct spelling of the hashtag. (Misspelled hashtags will not be counted.) While there are no restrictions on what kind of cameras can be used, we highly suggest that mobile devices and photos be uploaded day of event.

Here are the photo categories:

1. Best stand alone shot of landmark within park.

2. Best portrait against landmark backdrop.

3. Best action shot or candid of parkgoer.

4. Best shot of a hidden gem within Flushing Meadows Park.

Along with the winners of photos in these 4 categories above, we will also select an additional 40 photos hashtagged #FMCoronaPark18 to be featured at the Queens Museum for a two day pop-up exhibit.

Deadline to enter photo contest will be Saturday, July 7th. Winners to be announced on Monday on July 9th 2018.

Photo walk presented by Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Community Advisory Board and NYC Parks with support from the Parks Build Healthy Communities Grant, led by Partnerships for Parks and made possible by Building Healthy Communities, an initiative of the Mayor's Office and the Fund for Public Health NYC.

Photos and word by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

 

"HOW WE COPE/ HOW WE CREATE" #CapturedInQueens 

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As I briefly mentioned last year on this blog, I started the #CapturedInQueens portrait series back in 2015 primarily to bring attention to all the amazing regular folks that make the Queens community such a great place.

And it actually came on Audrey Dimola's suggestion a month or so back to have me take portraits of the attendees and participants of her latest program, "HOW WE COPE / HOW WE CREATE: Intersections of Art & Mental Health/ Mental Illness" to add another dimension of engagement for her event. Along with the regular questions we ask folks that take part in our #CapturedInQueens portrait series, we added two very pointed questions raised by Audrey in "HOW WE COPE / HOW WE CREATE":

1. How much of how we suffer makes us who we are and results in the art we create?

2. How much of these feelings are the natural experiences of the artist, and when is it time to seek help?

While we understand not everyone suffers from mental illness, there a bunch of people that suffer from issues that are not always obvious, not always visible from the surface, and with this latest portrait series, we are attempting to keep the conversation going and bring awareness to a very sensitive topic. 

If you are not from Queens, and are not familiar with Audrey Dimola, here's a brief rundown of all the roles she holds: Audrey is a Writer, Poet, Curator, Community Organizer, Arts Crusader AND Director of Public Programming at Socrates Sculpture Park. To me though, I believe what makes Audrey really special is the commitment she has shown to destigmatizing mental illness.

She has arranged many open and honest multidisciplinary performances and presentations about the too-often stigmatized topic of mental illness, particularly in connection to creativity as an outlet, outcome, or survival mechanism all through out Queens.

After admiring all the inspiring stuff Audrey has created in Queens over the years, I got a chance to finally meet Audrey last March for the #HiketoHellgate17 photo walk I organized along with the Greater Astoria Historical Society and Michelle & Erica of @AStoryofAstoria. With barely a couple days notice she agreed to speak on behalf of herself and Socrates Sculpture Park to say a couple of extremely kind words to kick off a really engaging community event.

So its needless to say I am honored to be working with Audrey again, and look forward to collaborating with her again in the very near future.

 I'll finish with this quote, "Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

 

Queens Community House's - Community Builder of the Year Award

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Queens Community House (QCH) is a multi-site, multi-service settlement house that serves the diverse neighborhoods of Queens. As per their website, "They serve residents of all ages, races, faiths, and ethnicities while supporting the viability of the borough as a whole."

QCH was formed in 1975 (as Forest Hills Community House) to help heal the wounds of a neighborhood conflict. Today they offer a broad network of comprehensive services at 29 sites in 14 different neighborhoods in Queens.

Today I am beyond humbled and honored to announce that the Queens Community has selected me to receive their 2018 "Queens Community Builder" award.

I don’t remember exactly when I became a photographer, or a social media influencer and how or why those things eventually made me into such an effective community builder. I can tell you where I come from though.

I can tell you I’m from the heart of South Ozone Park, the outskirts of Richmond Hill, the first building off the East River in Astoria Houses, to a brief stay on the 41st side of Queensbridge, to historically suburban yet urban Saint Albans, to the border of Ridgewood & Glendale right off Myrtle Ave, to Queens’ largest most diverse town, Queens Village, and currently a resident of Fresh Meadows. I can tell you at every stop, my love for Queens grew, as did my curiosity to our history. I am grateful for the amazing people at Queens Community House for this honor, and grateful for all the amazing and supportive folks of the many neighborhoods of Queens. 

I look forward to celebrating this award with our team as well as the Queens community in Forest Hills on Wednesday May 2nd 2018 for Queens Community House's "2018 Spring Event - Celebrating Local Champions Reception". QCH's Annual Spring Event, is one of the borough’s premiere events of the year honoring an outstanding leader in the community who has distinguished themselves in the worlds of community development and philanthropy. 

This year, they will also be honoring St. Luke's Episcopal Church, located in Forest Hills, NY. 

Click on the link below to celebrate with us:

https://www.qchnyc.org/events/2018-spring-event-celebrating-local-champions-reception

Remember each purchase helps the Queens Community House provide individuals and families with the tools to enrich their lives and build healthy, inclusive communities.

Come by for an after-work, networking cocktail party. Socialize and enjoy delicious hors d'oeuvres, wine, beer, and dessert.

TICKETS ARE $100 each.

#QueensLocalChampions #Qnsmade

If you have any questions, please contact Director of Development, Sabrina Flores, at 718-592-5757 ext. 246 or sflores@qchnyc.org.

words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

Speak English!

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Maybe this bothered me because I am the son of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants to this country. Or maybe because I am sensitive to the fact that my Dominican born and raised mother, who graduated from college in the United States, is still chided constantly about her accent and occasional lack of syntax.  

Or maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and was ill prepared for the long commute to work today. Maybe.

I couldn’t ignore the fact though, that I saw this sprawled in a part of Queens that was able to successfully alter the development of a public housing project back in the early 1970’s. A housing project that was intended to bring folks in primarily of minority races. Bringing in minority and new immigrant people into this section of Queens, into Forest Hills. People that potentially did not speak English.

While I’m a huge fan of Forest Hills and the various cultures it is surrounded with, there is an air of exclusivity that you cannot shake. I understand that I have been privy to many varied facets of life in Queens, (partly due to the platform I created), but I also understand innately, that I will never attain the privilege of the folks from here, of here.

Or maybe, just maybe, this inflammatory statement was written by some passing fool who didn’t understand or appreciate the impact it could cause, or how it would affect the minds of thousands of proud and diverse Queens residents, including myself for the remainder of their day. #Qnsmade

words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

#MujeresExhibit18 Instagram campaign 

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Almost a month ago I was contacted by Jackson Heights resident and artist Ricardo Andres Verdesoto Rugel to help him find exhibit space for his phenomenal photo series titled "Mujeres." We have a some prior history with Ricardo here at Queenscapes, as he was one of the artists that participated in our two part "Queens for Puerto Rico" #QU4PR fundraisers last November 2017. Ricardo donated three large portraits of his "Mujeres" series and I knew automatically that these amazing photos should eventually be displayed on their own.

Since we were in the month of March, I came up with the idea to tie in Ricardo's photo series with a Women's History Month theme. I turned over the reigns of my Instagram page to Ricardo for the week, allowing him to showcase one photo a day with his artist process in an effort for him to get enough exposure to get a venue to showcase his work in his adopted hometown of Jackson Heights, Queens. We titled the Instagram campaign #MujeresExhibit18. 50% of all photo proceeds were to be donated directly to Voces Latina, a Jackson Heights based non-profit agency that provides HIV/AIDS and Violence preventive and intervention services to the immigrant latina community in a culturally sensitive manner. 

If you haven't seen Ricardo's photography previously and you haven't seen my Instagram posts championing his work, here are your deets: The "Mujeres" project emphasizes on showcasing soccer jerseys as day-to-day lifestyle essentials, while working in collaboration with industry leading multicultural millennial women in New York City and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ricardo adds, 

"Fútbol is known worldwide to be predominantly considered a "man's sport," but in my eyes there hasn't been enough attention brought to the women who are fans of the game - especially underrepresented minority women. 'Mujeres' emphasizes on showcasing soccer jerseys as day-to-day lifestyle essentials, from the die-hard fan to the casual fan to wear.""I want to influence change, and rewrite the way we think about who the fans of the game are. It has become a movement, embracing female empowerment in diversity."

Within two days of our Instagram campaign to get Ricardo's work shown, he was invited by a longtime Jackson Heights community icon, the Arepa Lady to showcase "Mujures" for a two day pop-up shop on Saturday March 17th & Sunday March 18th. These dates were special because it coincided with the closing of the Arepa Lady's first brick and mortar location. (They'll be opening up shop again in 2 months at a bigger location at the corner of 37th Ave & 77th Street.)   

Recapping quickly, the 2 day pop-up exhibit of "Mujeres" was a awesome success. It garnered a bunch of attention and opened doors for Ricardo to show his work again and with more detailed programming. Thank you immensely to all the folks at Arepa Lady for believing in this project, to all the amazing people who came out and attended the exhibit, and last but not least all the positive and tremendous support and feedback we received on social media.

I'll end this piece with a quote from the comedian Amy Poehler that, to me, most aptly fits the power of teamwork and is still my main motivation behind IRL community driven events, “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” 

words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez photo by Ricardo Andres Verdesoto Rugel

 

"Waging Peace: 100 Years of Action" - Review 

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Two weeks ago I was invited to the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College by Christy Bencosme, to attend their latest exhibit, "Waging Peace: 100 Years of Action."

"The  Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College was founded in 1981, but the Queens College Art Collection reaches as far back as the 1930s, with the founding of the College in 1937 during the Great Depression. The Museum has a distinguished history due to its founders. Ternbach, a noted art restorer who settled in Queens after escape from Nazi persecution in Vienna, attracted eminent donors like Norbert Schimmel, Jack and Belle Linsky, and Charles B. Rogers, who were patrons of the Metropolitan Museum, National Gallery of Art, and Smithsonian Institution; Leon Pomerance, Ernest Erickson and Syril and Walter Frank of the Archeological Institute of America; Hans Arnhold, founder of the American Academy in Berlin; and Elie Borowski, founder of the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem."

Bencosme, a staffer at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum appealed to me to come out to Queens College, in hopes of bringing more awareness to our current politic climate.

My responses to event invitations are always uniformly and unequivocally the same, I'm honored every single time. Even though it feels like lately I can't make all my committments, I'm always immensely grateful that Queenscapes is considered a cultural presence in Queens, and I try my best to make sure I return the favor and oblige each and every request.

With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised at finding this jewel of a Museum tucked inside the confines of Queens College, then amazed by the powerhouse exhibit that is "Waging Peace." Here's some info the Museum provides: 
 

"Waging Peace: 100 Years of Action" is an interactive exhibition organized by the American Friends Service Committee. Using provocative stories told by those who have fought against injustice, this exhibition demonstrates the effectiveness of nonviolence to build justice, overcome oppression, and to prevent violence. Through displays of historic artifacts and interactive media visitors explore the main themes of the exhibition: 1) Building Peace, 2) Ending Discrimination, 3) Addressing Prisons, 4) Just Economies, 5) Immigrant Rights and 6) A Call to Action. The GTM will expand on the exhibition themes by including historical posters, photographs and documents from the museum collection and the QC Civil Rights Archives. These materials offer firsthand accounts of the fight for social justice by Queens College students and faculty.

I attended this exhibit this past Saturday with my two young sons, Roman & Saul, ages 12 & 11 respectively and I am happy that I made the decision to bring them along. "Waging Peace" is an elaborate piece of work, that shows the slow progression of global equality in the world, and along the exhibit, asks it audience to get involved and help find an answer. 

I was particularly floored viewing the timeline upstairs, which left my wondering how even with all our advancements in so many faucets of life, we are still dealing with discrimination in our country, on a very real level.

In short, "Waging Peace" is one of the most insightful and educational displayed works I've seen in a really long time, and is a MUST see for audiences of all ages. Christy, thank you immensely for the invite and also for shedding light on an exhibit, and on an institution that I will surely be visiting again.

"Wages of Peace: 100 Years of Action" is up until March 17th and is free and open to the public at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Klapper Hall, inside the campus of Queens College in Flushing, Queens.

words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

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Tiffany Smith is an interdisciplinary artist from the Caribbean diaspora who works with photography, video, installation, and design to create photographic portraits, site responsive installations, user engaged experiences, and assemblages focused on identity, representation, cultural ambiguity, and displacement. Using plant matter, design and home decor elements, pattern and costuming as cultural signifiers, visual references from an array of multi-cultural influences, derived from her upbringing between Miami, Florida, Nassau, Bahamas, and Jamaica inform images and installations that examine their subject’s individual narratives. Smith’s practice centers on what forms and defines communities of people color, in particular; how they are identified and represented, and how they endure.

I met Tiffany Smith last summer on a freelance assignment for the Queens Times Ledger to cover her installation in Malba, Queens for the Malba Arts Project, aptly titled,  "Meet Me in Malba: Carribbean Queen of Queens Edition." While I did some research on Smith's work, I wasn't sure what to expect from this installation. The minute I got there though, I knew I was in for a treat. Tiffany successfully transformed one of Queens' least ethnic neighborhoods into a full Caribbean oasis. If you didn't feel the vibes after entering her sailboat on the lawn, the house's visual and audio delights sold you and right before you left, Smith's homemade Carribbean curry got you hooked on the entire experience.

This Saturday, Tiffany is back in Queens to take part in a panel discussion titled " Claudia and Me" at the Queens Library Central Branch located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd, in Jamaica, Queens this Saturday March 10th at 2:30pm as part of programming for the exhibition "Citizen" at St. John's University. #IWD2018 #PressforProgress

About International Women's Day (8 March) International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

 

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Charlie Eisenbach is the unofficial photographer of both the Boys & Girls Archbisop Molloy High School basketball squads and runs a page dedicated to the Girls squad. Charlie took on the impromptu role when his daughter Averianna made the girls varsity team. Molloy is located in Briarwood, Queens and has been around since 1957 as boys catholic school until 2000 when it finally became co-educational and opened its doors to women.

The school has long been known for its dominant athletics program in New York City. Legendary baseball and basketball coach Jack Curran ran their program for over 50 years and produced two LeFrak City Queens born and raised future NBA point guards Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson.

Today, the school continues its rich tradition in basketball dominance with the two basketball players shown in the photo above, Moses Brown, McDonalds All-American and the #1 ranked high school center in NYC is from Hollis, Queens and is pcitured in the foreground and Cole Anthony, who is being recruited by Duke, Kansas,  & Georgetown, is the son of former NY Knicks guard Greg Anthony and hails from Jamaica, Queens is shown here in the back.

Back to Charlie:

This photograph is one of many great photos taken by Charlie which he features on both his personal Instagram page @kickhisasscbass as well the unofficial Molloy girls page @amhs.girlsbasketball.

By day Charlie, the Brooklyn native is a veteran employee of the City of New York Department of Sanitation, and how I came to learn about Charlie was through the photography he took of his DSNY co-workers. Via his personal page, Charlie posted images that showed an incredible insider perspective that could only be captured by one of its own. 

To this day Charlies DSNY images are one of my favorite original photo stories that I have discovered on Instagram. I feel like I learn something new about his co-workers and the job, even though he doesn't provide much written context. His photos really tell a story on their own, highlighting the humility, strength and toughness of his co-workers. He is currently putting together a pitch deck for a coffee table book of these DSNY photos. 

I consider Charlie a friend and have been fortunate to call him a supporter of Queenscapes for a while now. He attended our first photo walk in Long Island City back in 2015 and was the also the featured lead for our collaborative photo exhibit, #RootedInQueens16 that exhibited at the now shuttered QNS Collective also in L.I.C. 

If you are a fan of portraits, or can just appreciate a good photo please check out Charlie's work now on his primary Instagram page now @kickhisasscbass. #BrooklynQueensConnection

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Over the years, and seemingly without much strategy, Queenscapes has and continues to evolve from my own personal Instagram photo project to a virtual cultural quide of Queens. It's been an amazing transformation to watch firsthand how many folks refer to the page and directly inquire with me about the latest happenings in Queens. 

I've been extremely fortunate to have built a network of a few Queens based influencers in many different fields. For them I rely on a lot of the material I post on Queenscapes. But these amazing and generous few are not the only sources I rely on for Queens news, upcoming events and even the basis for own group photography exhibits.

Our main source for most Queens news is simple: Queens newspapers. I spend more time perusing local Queens publications than actually taking photos. The Queens Courier, The Queens Chronicle, The Times Ledger, The Queens Tribune, The Queens Examiner and even the Queens Library Magazine are all on my go to list each week.

So while we already give you photography and culture and event updates at Queenscapes, we will now also give you some Queens news.

#QnsWeek will be offered by us via our Instagram story feed and will consist of all the stories we feel should be highlighted in Queens each week, along with upcoming special event updates. With the new Instagram "highlight" feature, it allows us to archive and keep these stories available long past the usual 24 hour viewing period.

So far the feedback has been super positive and we hope to get more in depth each week. We are relying on you to tell us about the things you want to see more of in Queens. This feature just like everything else we do, is for you. 

Words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez Photo provided by Times Ledger newspapers 

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“Every ending has a new beginning.” For the last Instagram post of 2017 (and fittingly the 1799th 😉) I announced that the end of 2017 also marked, the beginning of the end of me and my family's time as Queens Village residents.

We always pride ourselves in saying that the Queenscapes project is about covering every single neighborhood in Queens, but Queens Village has and will always be especially significant to us. It is the neighborhood in which the inspiration for the idea of #Queenscapes was berthed, and also where we held our first publicly funded photo workshops and community exhibit for our project “Queens (as the world’s) Village: Know Your Neighbor.”

 Roman and Saul Vazquez enjoying New Years Eve Dinner.

Roman and Saul Vazquez enjoying New Years Eve Dinner.

It’s in Queens Village that we first tackled the notion of a diverse yet divided cultural oasis. Queens Village allowed us in, and the folks over at the Citizens Committee of NYC and the Queens Library enabled us to make a difference. 

So as an ode to our limited time left in Queens Village, or Q.V., as it is affectionately known to long-time residents here, I will offer you a closer personal perspective, a much more intimate look than you usually see on this page, into my last days and my family’s last days as a current Queens Village residents with the photo series titled, #AdieuQV.

From today Sunday, December 31st up until Wednesday January 31st 2018, I’ll post one photo a day on Instagram, to also be shared on Facebook and Twitter offering a candid look at our little section of Q.V. 

So while we will still look forward to all our amazing (and more publicly funded projects) to debut in 2018, we’ll slow the clocks down a bit to reflect and reminisce and to show our gratitude for our time here. 

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez