I started the #Queenscapes hashtag as a response to an Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project on January 1st 2014. If I remember correctly it was #WHPResolution and my resolution was to visit every single Queens neighborhood and sub-neighborhood and feature each one on the Instagram social media feed.
As a proud lifelong Queens resident the idea was to capture all of Queens' various landscapes in hopes of learning more about the terrain I was so innately connected to, hence the name Queenscapes. With no photography experience, I grabbed my IPhone 4S and ventured out and captured a different Queens landmark every day for 30 days straight.
Eventually, as folks starting noticing, I slowed down and started noticing some things myself. I noticed after living in Queens for 35 years that this borough was more than just its varying landscapes, more than just being the borough with the distinction of having the most neighborhoods in all of New York City. I noticed that what makes Queens special was and still is the story of the diverse people and cultures that occupy these 109 square miles.
So today with a strong sense of reminiscence after the completion of OUR 1718th post dedicated solely to the borough of Queens on 07/18, I am grateful. Grateful for all the folks who have followed and validated this Queens kid's journey and exploration of his hometown. Click on our logo on the Queenscapes instagram page for today's special photo story commemorating the day that matches our zip code - #718.
Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez
Back in 2012, our own Creative Director Dee Vazquez, TV/Radio Personality, and Co-Founder of "Women on the Move" created the "PROFILE" interview series. Dee created this series while a co-host of the DJ Kay Slay show at Sirius in New York City, in an effort to create something that showcased rappers more humanly.
Said Jeff Leed's formerly of the NY Times / LA Times, "A simple but engaging Q&A. Dee Vazquez invents her own sort of Proust questionnaire."
In the video below shot in the hallway of Sirius, Dee shot fellow Queens kid and Rap Pioneer, the late Prodigy for an honest and insightful 4 minute short on May of 2012. Click on the link to learn what is Prodigy's most iconic line and the last book he read at that point in time.
The #CapturedInQueens profile series started on Instagram back on January 2015. This series was meant to help the Queenscapes audience attach faces to the multitude of diverse cultures and stories of the world's most diverse place on earth, the Borough of Queens.
Today, we feature Bilal Karriem an African American Muslim who resides in Jamaica, Queens. Currently, African-American Muslims constitute 20% of the total U.S. Muslim population, and a good portion of that number reside in the borough of Queens. I photographed Bilal this past Saturday at the Islamic Circle of North America at Iftar.
Iftar is the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset.
Saturday’s Iftar was sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the South East Queens Muslim Collective (SEQMC) in collaboration with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Bilal Karriem is a Union Rep at SCO Family of Services and the Youth Chair at Community Board 12 which serves the Southeastern section of Queens. Bilal is a Muslim African American form Jamaica, Queens. He attended, P.S. 40, I.S. 8, Campus Magnet High School and Borough of Manhattan Community College where he studied Computer Programming and Business Administration. He considers his community work in Queens a hobby and also admits to rooting for the New York Knicks. Bilal believes that most people would be surprised to know that he laughs at almost anything. He hopes that Queens can maintain its diversity, and that in its growth it doesn't lose its current residents. #CapturedInQueens.
Words and photograph by Adolfo Steve Vazquez
"Queens (as the world's) Village: Know your Neighbor" is a socially interactive photography project detailing the neighborhood of Queens Village. It exposes and addresses the issue of cultural indifference by educating and uniting the diverse business owners and residents in a series of workshops and final exhibit at the Queens Village Library.
The final exhibit featured two separate galleries, the main gallery covered four separate cultural groups in Queens Village, The Hernandez Family, The Kerkluti family of Neron's Pizza, The Rai Family, and the Martin Van Buren High School basketball team, as well as a group gallery of photos culled from the hashtag #QueensWorldsVillage on Instagram.
Exhibit debuted at the Queens Village Library on April Saturday 8th 2017, and also featured music by local DJ DubbCity mulitcural dances from the performers of the Queens Dance Project, owned by Jennifer Alvarado, Queens Village native, as well as vendor info tables from Supreme Head Cutterz & Queen of Astoria.
Photography project won a 2106 Neighborhood Grant award form the Citizens Committee of NYC for the purpose of improving and unifying one of Queens' most culturally diverse neighborhoods through the power of positive imagery and perspective.
All proceeds of photos purchased on www.queenscapes.nyc/store will go directly to the Queens Village based organization QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community.)
For more info please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words & Photos by Adolfo Steve Vazquez
This past Saturday June 3rd, we were lucky enough to attend coach Ron Naclerio's free youth basketball clinic at Benjamin Cardozo High School, located in Bayside Queens. Coach Naclerio has been the head coach of the Cardozo H.S. boys basketball team for 35+ years, and this past season he became the winningest coach in New York City varsity PSAL history.
Beyond his resume as a decorated NYC basketball coach and 2x PSAL Champion, coach Naclerio is an excellent skills trainer and is renowned as a dribbling and ball handling coach not only in NYC, but all over the country. He's worked with the likes of Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Joakim Noah to name a few.
Also on hand for Saturday's clinic was Kyrk Peponakis, the former head coach of the Queens College men's basketball squad for 19 years, and current Cardozo junior varsity coach & Billy Medley, longtime Cardozo assistant coach of the boys varsity team.
The clinic featured a full schedule from greetings and introduction to stretching and warm-ups to working different stations and finalized with some games and a shooting contest.
As an added bonus, ex-Cardozo star and current Monmouth University basketball player Ray Salnave spoke with the kids, shared some personal stories of his playing days at Cardozo and also stressed the importance of schoolwork.
At the end of the 4 hour camp, Coach Naclerio mentioned that he will be holding a similar clinic at Cardozo sometime in September. We strongly suggest all parents with young children with an interest in sports to inquire about attending this (to be announced) upcoming Fall clinic. For more info keep a close eye on Coach Naclerio's Twitter page @CoachRNaclerio and/or email him at email@example.com or e-mail Coach Peponakis at firstname.lastname@example.org. #QueenscapesEndorsed
Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez
With summer approaching fast, we wanted to clue you all in to some amazing programs being presented by a couple of awesome organizations, right off the beach in the Rockaways.
These projects were brought to our attention by long time Rockaway resident and Rockaway Artists Alliance member Tracey Greene.
First program up is the "BLVD Project" brought to you by the folks or In Good Company Hospitality Group. The "BLVD Project" is an open air gallery geared for muralists and street artists to help transform 400 square feet of fence on Beach 108th Street in Far Rockaway. Event started yesterday Memorial Day to kick off the summer season, and will run into Labor Day in September. In Good Co. is still currently looking for artists to participate in project. Please e-mail Tracey Greene ASAP if interested @ email@example.com.
Second program is the opening of "You are Here" a visual display of different perspectives of the now ever changing Rockaways. "You are Here" is presented by the Rockaway Artists Alliance. The Rockaway Artists (RAA) is a non-for-profit 501(c)(3) arts organization headquartered on the Rockaway peninsula. RAA's mission is to encourage and engage residents of its community, particularly its youth and seniors, in the arts and cultural activities.
The Queenscapes team will also be on hand at both venues looking to sign up and give more info to folks interested in participating in our upcoming project, "Hope of Hammel Houses." "Hope of Hammel Houses" is a socially interactive photography exhibit detailing said neighborhood. The project aims to empower the people of this NYCHA development by exposing them to positive imagery of their hometown. Although primarily geared to the youth and residents of the Hammel Houses in Far Rockaway, photographs and all images hashtagged #HopeofHammelHouses are welcome.
Words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez
Living in Astoria in the 90's I never really paid much attention to the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Astoria, a small church on located Crescent street, on the corner of 30th Road. However with the arrival of The Astoria Performing Arts Center, Inc. (APAC), a not-for-profit organization, in 2001, and the amazing productions this location produces, folks are now starting to pay attention to the small church nuzzled in the heart of Astoria.
Our Editorial Director, Daniel Vazquez attended the show Raisin last weekend currently playing at APAC, and provided the write up below:
Raisin, the Tony award-winning musical based on Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal Raisin in the Sun, hasn’t seen a stage in forty-two years. Under the direction of Dev Bondarin, the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC), located in the auditorium of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Astoria, Queens, has resurrected the musical in a production which the New York Times has heralded as “adventurous theater in Astoria.”
Set in segregated 1950s Chicago, the story focuses on Lena Younger, who is due insurance money following the death of her husband, and the debate between herself and her son as to how to their family should spend the money. Examining the tension surrounding race in America through the lens of one black family’s struggle in the face of change, Raisin is a timely and thoroughly entertaining production that makes excellent use of its limited space. It is an absolute delight on all fronts, from casting, acting, singing, musical direction, and choreography, to set, costume, sound, and lighting design. With Raisin, APAC proves that Astoria, as it turns out, is a surprisingly fit location for a full Broadway experience.
"Raisin," runs only until this Saturday May 27, and tickets are still available right now. All performances at 30-44 Crescent St. (at 30th Road), Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. Catch this show now before its too late! #QueenscapesEndorsed
Intro by Adolfo Steve Vazquez, Review and photos by Daniel Vazquez
Author Amy Jo Martin said, "Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage."
Yesterday was all about exposing the many voices of Astoria, giving these voices a platform.
No press. No advertisements. No word of mouth. A community event consisting of approximately 75-85 attendees, that was organized almost entirely through social media.
Awesome attending last night's opening reception to the #HiketoHellgate17 photo exhibit at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, as we not only put faces to the photographs featured, but personal stories to the photographs as well. To all participants and attendees last night, thank you all for sharing your photos, thank you all for sharing your stories.
Congratulations again to all the featured photographers:
Sutton Strother, Angel Baez, Celeste Collins, Liz Wick, Belinda Mims, Les Skolnick, Bryan Balbuena, Jenny Wilkens, Gaurav Raje, Sara Moss, Rich Orlina, Lizzie Butler, Tara Kutsi, Julianne Landkammer, Alex Agisilaou, Helen Karhan, Pavan Preenja, Edina Bektesevic, Laura Picallo, Kristy Whitwell, Kristine Hizon, Stevem Bornholtz, Lauren Kearney, Laura Bartolomeo, Marisa Petsakos, Tiina Kukkonen, Theo Sahos, Kerri Lines, Zarina Mustapha, Jesse Armas and Andre Legaspi.
Exhibit will be showing to general public at the Greater Astoria Historical Society located at the Quinn Building, 4th Floor, in Astoria, NY, until the 2nd week of July.
I met Johanna Gregory last Spring 2016 at a Citizens Committee of NYC workshop in Manhattan. Johanna approached me after I spoke about Queenscapes in one of the workshops many amazing community group building activities. Johanna wanted to know how we could bring a photography program to the Hammel Houses in Far Rockaway, where she was the President of the Tenant Association. She liked the idea of introducing a visual program that would help boost the morale of her community and promote a positive perspective to a mostly disregarded section of Far Rockaway. Johanna mentioned that most of the kids in Far Rockaway are either pre-occupied in buying the latest Air Jordan's or caught up in gang violence. I will never forget how genuine her concern was to me, how much she cared about her neighborhood, and that she genuinely felt I could make a difference.
After a couple of phone conversations, and a visit to the Hammel Houses, I came up with a proposal titled, "Hope of the Hammel Houses." This program focused on involving the youth of the Hammel Houses to take and gather photos of their neighborhood for a community exhibit that would debut in Far Rockaway. Johanna loved the proposal, but we never got far with trying to get funding through NYCHA.
In January 2017, I submitted the Hammel Houses proposal to the Citizens Committee for their annual Neighborhood Grant series. Last week, I was overjoyed to learn that our proposal was accepted and I would be getting funding to work at the Hammel Houses.
Excited, I immediately reached out to Johanna. After a couple days of her not returning my phone call, texts or social media messages, I went on line and learned that she unexpectedly passed away this past February.
I learned of her passing from a blog written by Milan Taylor, the Founder of the Rockaway Youth Task Force. Writes Taylor, "Ms. Gregory had an ear to the ground and could support her community in ways that others could not. Ms. Gregory was a fixture in our organization and was present at everything from garden dinners to organization meetings. She even reached out to the East Rockaway Growing Coalition to help support Hammel residents in improving their own community garden. She believed in the power of community organizing and food justice...."
So with a heavy heart, we will carry on and do the work Johanna and I envisioned in her hometown, a place she really cared about and fought for. Johanna, thank you for trusting that we would represent your neighborhood the right way, and thank you as well for being one of our earliest and truest supporters.
- words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez