#QUCaresDrive18

neirs.jpeg

The idea came to me from my father. Growing up, I remember how vividly he used to view New York City winters for the less fortunate. He constantly referred to the old New York Cares Coat Drive commercial that depicted a shivering Statue of Liberty sitting down holding her knees in a snowstorm.

When the winter season approaches each year the image of a freezing Lady Liberty is the still first thing that pops in mind.

So in an effort to help some of the less fortunate folks in our borough, in our most brutal season of weather, we came up with #QUCaresDrive18.

Starting from last week Black Friday up until next month Friday December 21st  2018, the Queenscapes Team is joining forces with the amazing squad over at Neirs Tavern in Woodhaven for a “winter essentials” drive, i.e., gloves, hats, scarves, canned goods, educational toys for kids, etc, to help benefit the residents of the Restfull Nights Shelter located in Jamaica, Queens.

For our culminating event we are presenting a pop-up exhibit of the 20 best Queens winter photos hashtagged #QUCaresDrive18 on Instagram. All photos submitted via hashtag should also be emailed to queenscapes@gmail.com for consideration.

Deadline to submit photos is Thursday December 13th 2018 at 11:00pmn. Tag and submit as many Queens winter shots as you can, new or old, for a chance to have your work featured in the oldest most significant bar in Queens.

As an added bonus there will be a hand-made painting from artist Brother Jamar up for raffle on exhibit night.

All photos selected and featured on this night will be up for sale and paired with all the  proceeds of the night to go to the Restfull Nights Organization in Jamaica, Queens. Admission to event will also be a small donation of winter essentials.

(Donations can be dropped either at NeirsTavern located at 87-48 78th St, Woodhaven, N.Y., 11421 or the Restfull Nights Shelter, 106-38 150th St, Jamaica, NY 11435. If you can’t get to either place, email us at queenscapes@gmail.com.)

 

Photos and words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

2019 Queens Marathon Committee

QDR.jpeg

Yesterday I received a call from Kevin Montalvo, the Founder of Queens Distance Runners, and also the man behind the annual Queens Marathon.

Kevin reached out to me to invite me on his 2019 Queens Marathon Committee to help him expand his reach to get the word out on next years Marathon.

In 2017, Kevin had almost 200 Kids come out the day before the Queens Marathon to enjoy a Free Kids Run, which eventually convinced him to start the structure to ensure continued Training Runs for Kids, to help the can train like adults. At Queens Distance Runners, Kevin states “they aim to make Race-Day feel sacred, for Runners and for Members of the General Public, to behold what Running 26.2 Miles around Flushing Meadows Park will look like.”

I have seen Kevin and the operation behind Queens Distance Runner firsthand, as I participated in this past summer’s Inaugural Corona Mile at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and can attest to the fact that he runs a top notch operation. Under some really trying circumstances caused by a rain storm, he could not avoid, Kevin was able to run a very engaged and organized event that I was proud to be a part of.

It is because of this and Kevin’s overall dedication to Queens that I accepted to join his 2019 Queens Marathon Committee to help him promote and engage this very important event with the Queens community. We are committed to helping Kevin and the QDR crew get the word out and make sure it’s one of Queen’s must attend events of 2019.

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez



Dia de los Muertos

babies.jpeg

While today is officially Halloween, a day widely recognized as a lighthearted fun holiday, it is also the The Day of the Dead, or as it is known to Mexicans, Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated primarily throughout Mexico. The multi-day celebration starts today October 31st and runs until November 2nd. It focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.  

Yesterday I ventured out to Jackson Heights/Corona, where the heart of the Mexican community is located, to see if I could get more information on Dia de los Muertos celebrations happening locally in Queens.

I was lucky to run into Senora Mary, (pictured above), pronounced Ma-rie on the corner of 89th Street & Roosevelt Ave in Jackson Heights. Senora Mary is a local street vendor from Puebla, Mexico who specializes in soul cleanses, spiritual cures for internal diseases, “mal de ojo” and Tarot card readings.

Along with the myriad of services above, Senora Mary also has a wealth of religious items for sale on her three tables conveniently tucked under the 90th Street – Elmhurst 7 Line station. Due to the upcoming Dia de los Muertos holiday there was some extra special items on display.

The first item that piqued my interest was the steel chain and Santisima Muerte pendant. On one side of the pendant, it featured a skeletal figure covered in a glowing bright purple robe. On the other side is a prayer for the Santisima Muerte.

As described to me by Senora Mary, the Santisima Muerte, or Santa Muerte is a female saint and central figure in the commemoration of Dia de los Muertos. Santa Muerte is affiliated with a wide range of powers, including love, good health, fortune and healing.

The other item(s) that I was intrigued by was the full table of porcelain baby Jesus dolls. The babies came in various sizes, each one white, each one unclothed. It was explained to me that the babies symbolize the birth of Jesus, and while that event represents December 24th, it holds true on days like today, where life is celebrated.

So while I didn’t find the event I was searching for, I found Senora Mary, and her small slice of Jackson Heights. I left her sanctuary with a nose and chest full of incienso de iglesia, (church incense) with some really good vibes and a better understanding of a commonly misunderstood holiday.

words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

Instagram page spotlight - @allthequeenshouses

allthequeens.jpg

While I try to be as diverse and all-encompassing of all the neighborhoods and stories of Queens on the Queenscapes Instagram page, I am always also looking for that IG page that is doing photographically something different and concentrated to one of the many layers of the Queens landscape. The gem of a page, @allthequeenshouses fits that bill perfectly.

But I cannot take credit for finding Rafael Herrin-Ferri’s Instagram page, @allthequeenshouses. For that I have to thank friend and architectural photographer Ines Leong who introduced us around a month ago. Rafael, an architect himself, has been conducting a photographic survey of the housing landscape in Queens since 2012.

From Multi-Family Open-Bay Facades in Queensboro Hill to the Detached Dormer Sliding Down Porch Roof Dwellings that occupy College Point, Rafael has covered a large part of Queens, to date over 5,000 photographs worth of Queens territory.

As quoted by the article written by Teresa Mathew for City Lab 01/24/18 –

“The title of the project refers to a line from the children’s story Humpty Dumpty: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men / couldn’t put Humpty together again.” Herrin-Ferri sees the inability to return something to its original state as a blessing in disguise.”

Finally got the opportunity to meet Rafael last night in Sunnyside, his hometown the last 15 years. We spoke about the motivation behind his project, the struggles of cultural indifference in Queens and even our own families.

I thought it was interesting that Rafael mentioned to me that he only photographs landscapes on overcast days, which as most photographers can attest to, offer the best exposure to extract the detail from your subject.

I look forward to working with Rafael soon, but in the meantime while we figure things out, please go follow https://www.instagram.com/allthequeenshouses/. You’ll thank me later.

Words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez photo by Rafael Herrin-Ferri

9th Annual Hispanic & LatinX Leadership Awards 

Queens-as-the-World-Village.jpg

A couple weeks ago I was notified by Kenny Medrano, Director of Finance, Community Organizing, and Participatory Budgeting in New York City Council’s District 26 that I was selected to receive an award from Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer for my community work with Queenscapes. The recognition, while I was immediately extremely grateful for it, really shocked me. The idea of being honored for something I genuinely enjoy doing and have a real passion for, is still settling in. 

My first question to Kenny, after the shock & awe subsided was, “What do you need from me?” I figured his request was simple enough, “Send me a bio.” So I sent out the standard 3 line copy that I have been circulating all year. 

Kenny responded quickly with, “I need more.” After wrestling with it for a while, I came up with this:

Being a proud product of a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father, provided the ideal foundation for Adolfo Steve Vazquez to flourish in a multicultural Queens. Vazquez’s love for Queens started with his adoration for the hometown New York Mets. His loyalty and appreciation to the borough only strengthened as he moved multiple times as a kid, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Astoria Houses, then Saint Albans.

Upon graduating Long Island City High School, he found a passion for writing. He left L.I.C.H.S as the Editor-In-Chief of their school newspaper “The Skyline” with the intention of creating his own Queens based gazette. However it wasn’t until 2014, after marriage and children, and understanding the value of raising a family in today’s Queens, that he finally thought of an idea that made sense.

The Queenscapes project was a personal venture he created as a means to fully discover his hometown with his two young sons, Roman and Saul. The objective was simple, travel to each and every neighborhood and sub-neighborhood in Queens and document what he learned onto the social media app, Instagram. Very quickly the project caught on, and became popular to not only Queens residents but also with people who grew up here and/or had appreciation for the World’s Borough.

Without prompting, the community rallied around the idea of Queenscapes, and birthed a bunch of Queens based grassroots movements. Today, Queenscapes is a full fledged community organization that looks to shine a light on the undiscovered and underappreciated areas of Queens through photography. Since late 2015, Queenscapes has either created or collaborated on over 30+ events all over Queens.

With his community collaborative exhibits he gives a chance to every Queens resident or visitor with a camera phone and a unique perspective, to be represented. This past November their #QU4PR benefit helped raised over $2,300 for Hurricane Maria relief victims in Puerto Rico.           

To RSVP for event on Monday night on October 15th 2018, please e-mail us at queenscapes@gmail.com or send us a DM with your full name on our Queenscapes Instagram page.

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

The Saint Albans School

foch.jpeg

P.S. 36, The St. Albans School is located at 187-01 Foch Boulevard St. Albans, NY. This District #29 public school provides education to grades K-5. The building itself was erected in 1924 and was the first public school in an area that is home to one of New York City’s oldest and most established American neighborhoods. 

P.S. 36’s demographics are also representative of the area with African American students representing almost 90 percent of the population. 

As per a school quality snapshot provided by the NYC Department of Education only 18% of it’s students met the state standards on the state math test.

Amongst other things, P.S. 36 suffers from a lack of educational resources and a widening student/teacher ratio. It fits the the profile of the performance of New York City public schools based in economically disadvantaged areas. 

Over 70 percent of the student body come from economically disadvantaged background. 

Some background from theatlantic.com:

“The discrepancies (between poor and rich public schools) occur largely because public school districts in much of America, are run by local cities and towns and are funded by local property taxes. High-poverty areas have lower home values and collect less taxes, and so can’t raise as much money as the neighborhoods where homes are worth millions of dollars.” 

“Nationally, high-poverty districts spend 15.6 percent less per student than low-poverty districts do, according to U.S. Department of Education.” 

This from lincolnist.edu:

“Local governments provided 45 percent of public school funding in 2013–14, and more than 80 percent came from the property tax. The federal government provided less than 9 percent of the total revenue of public schools, and state governments contributed 46 percent.”

So while Saint Albans has a very rich history and primarily proud African American (and burgeoning West Indian and Caribbean) culture, it’s current infrastructure doesn’t support its children, the future of Saint Albans. The area’s schools don’t give them the best chance to come back home as adults as accomplished and proud Saint Albans natives.

Ironically, this school, P.S. 36, is the same place I voted for the African American presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday November 4th 2008.

I voted for Obama, along with many of my neighbors in Saint Albans, at the time, to make a difference in our neighborhoods with the hope that the kids from this school, would be able to be have a chance to be as hopeful for their future as the kids are from the other side of town.  

#TransformationTuesday

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

2,000th Post

Roro.jpeg

“Don't worry about the pressure or the responsibility. Just live in it, have fun, and when everything seems to be going right, just stay humble and remember your family.”

Today I posted the 2,000th photo on the Queenscapes Instagram page.

If you have been following Queenscapes since the hashtag started back in 2014, you may or may not have realized that the idea came about as a way for me to connect intimately with my two young sons, Roman and Saul, then ages 9 & 8 respectively, while we discovered our hometown.

The objective was to explore every neighborhood with both of them and to learn as much as we could, and share our findings on social media each day. In the very beginning, we did just that. While they were possibly too young to be aware of exactly what I was trying to accomplish, I made sure we had fun while we did it.

Eventually, Queenscapes gained some media attention, and helped me earn a bunch of freelance gigs. Within a year, it became more than that, and with a lot of help from the Queens community, we were able to pull off some really amazing events in Queens, real community building endeavors.

Before I knew it though, the fun I was having in the beginning with my two sons and this passion project turned into work. Work turned into deadlines that turned into increasing pressure of completing tasks. Today I deal with the stresses of stalled commitments.

More importantly though, I have done less exploring with my sons. One of those sons, is the boy pictured above, Roman Stephen Vazquez, now age 13.

So, I while I’ve used numerous posts lately to mark certain milestones and reflect on how far Queenscapes has come, today I remember my first photos uploaded on Instagram, the first photos I took with my boys as we explored Queens.

 

Words and photos by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

Why Vote?

Ramos.jpeg

For a long time, I firmly held the belief that my vote, or anyone’s single vote doesn’t really make a difference in who ultimately gets elected to office in this country. I applied this logic as the basis for not voting for many years. I used this logic as a rationale that made me feel better for not only voting, but also for not get involved in politics at all.

While I think the integrity of the popular vote is still something that should be challenged, I’ve learned expressly through the recent climate of this country, that there definitely is a greater need for us all to be informed on political matters and the policies currently in place. In the effort of searching this information, you never know… you might even allow yourself to be inspired.

Still not as versed as I would like to be, I am inspired by Jessica Ramos and the campaign she is running for the State Senate’s 13th district.

Ramos is a progressive Democrat born and raised in Queens from immigrant parents, and is focusing on fighting for working families, advocating for labor and organizing her local community. These are some of the reasons why she gets my vote today.

There are also a bunch of other offices to be decided on before today’s end, most notably the Governor of New York state. So, If you have yet to decide whether to vote or not, at least think about reading up on the folks that will potentially make a huge difference in how you live.

You may surprise yourself and get inspired.

Photo and words by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

#Queenscapes reaches 30K

bluegreen.jpeg

30,000 hashtags, wow. That’s 30K in Instagram language, and while I’ve seen a bunch of hashtags explode way past the 100K mark in the same 4 ½ years since I started #Queenscapes, I’m still proud at how far it has come.

While the follower count on IG has leveled off, the growth of the #Queenscapes hashtag has been consistently growing throughout the years, and today, it is basically double the amount of our total follower count on Instagram.

Lately though, with the ease of purchasing followers and the lack of integrity in which some folks use their accounts, your follower count doesn’t measure your engagement to your audience as accurately as the use of an universal hashtag.

A hashtag in our case that is not the easiest to spell out, not the shortest one to type. #Queenscapes with one “s”, not two.

Today, I thank everyone who has every used the #Queenscapes hashtag past, present and future. Because of you I have kept on, because of you I know the Queens community still needs this Instagram page.

(Also stay tuned on our Instagram page for an upcoming #Queenscapes 30K celebration / fundraising event coming soon folks.)

 

Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez

The Inaugural Corona Mile Race

queenscapesrun.jpg

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

recapfm.jpeg

 “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

socrates.jpeg

 

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                                 

GeeQue.jpeg

"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

FMCoronaParkgroup1.png

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

BB25.jpg

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

ocasio.jpeg

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

Ciana1.jpeg

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

roy.jpeg

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?

erosion.jpg

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

fmflyer1.jpeg

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