The Oratorio Society of Queens — which includes more than 125 chorus members and top-notch string and wind sections – will offer its time-honored, annual holiday concert at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center this Sunday.

Founded in 1927, this group is the borough’s oldest nonprofit dedicated to the arts, and this is its signature show. The first half will feature portions of Handel’s “Messiah” with Maestro David Close, a 40-year veteran, and soloists Geraldine McMillian (soprano), John Easterlin (tenor), Vaughn Fritts (bass-baritone), and OSQ’s Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens.

After the break, the audience will listen — and sing along — to Christmas favorites such as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Il est né le divin enfant,” a traditional French carol by John Rutter, and “Gesù Bambino,” which Italian organist Pietro Yon allegedly wrote while riding an NYC subway. There will also be a rollicking version of the Caribbean ditty “The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy.”

The second half will also feature Jewish songs such as “Ocho Kandelikas,” a Ladino tune which celebrates Chanukah and its story of hope and redemption, and “The Lamp kept burnin’ on” by Long Island composer Linda Tsuruoka. Guest cantor Jerry Korobow will play guitar and lead the chorus and orchestra in a lively and spirited “Al HaNissim.” All the details are on jump…


Most people are not aware that New York City had a ring of forts built around its ports and harbor to protect the city from invaders. After the War of 1812, no invader ever managed to attack our city by sea, but the forts remained, nonetheless. They are among our most interesting historic sites, but we rarely hear about them, unless one is threatened by something worse than foreign invaders, and that’s an attack by the bloodthirsty pens of budget cutters.

Many of these forts were quite extensive in their day, housing men, armaments and supplies. But over the years, as they’ve been decommissioned and scaled down, most of them now are only a fraction of their original selves, leaving perhaps one or two buildings intact, if that. Fort Totten is different, and that makes it one of New York City’s most fascinating ex-military sites.


Oakland Lake, at 46th Avenue and Cloverdale Boulevard, is the largest of a number of small “kettle ponds” left over from the passage of a glacier that stopped its southern progress in the middle of Long Island 15,000 years ago. According to the NYC Parks Department, it was once thought to be fully 600 feet deep, but the lake bottom was found to be just 20 feet in 1969. Similar to what was done with Kissena Lake, Oakland Lake was surrounded with a concrete lining and “citified” in the 1930s. After lean years in which the lake’s condition deteriorated, a revitalization effort was spearheaded by local resident Gertrude Waldeyer, whose Oakland Lake and Ravine Conservation Committee raised $1,000,000 to restore the lake to its natural state. It is now home to catfish, sunfish and carp. Oakland Lake has taken its place, along with other Alley Pond lakes such as Potamogeton Pond, Turtle Pond, Decodon Pond, Lily Pad Pond and Muskrat Pond as small glimpses of real wetland in the big city.


One of the great things about New York City is that somewhere in the five boroughs, you can find just about anything. When it comes to architecture, that is certainly true. It’s really not surprising that there is even a cobblestone house in the city, a vernacular style of construction that usually is found in more remote rural areas. This one is a city landmark, and stands in Bayside, at 35-34 Bell Boulevard.


Brooklyn has hipsters. Queens has Hip-to-Hip. This theater company, which specializes in family-friendly productions, performs Shakespeare classics for free in various public spaces throughout the borough each summer. This year, Hip-to-Hip will put on the Bard of Avon’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, an early slapstick comedy about love, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness…and a dog, and Cymbeline, a late romance/fairy tale about a king, his only daughter, an evil stepmother, and a forbidden love. The professional actors will perform in repertory, and 30 minutes before each performance, they will host “Kids & The Classics,” an interactive workshop for children of all ages.

Details after the jump.


Build it higher, and they will come. The Bayside Village BID just received $20,000 to explore converting a municipal parking lot on the corner of 41st Avenue and 214th Place into a multilevel parking structure. A feasibility study, supported by city funds obtained by Council Member Paul A. Vallone, will identify issues, estimate expansion costs, examine local financial impact, analyze the supply and demand for spaces, and determine possible mixed-use options. The revamp would ease congestion mostly for Long Island Railroad commuters, Bayside businesses, and Northeast Queens residents. It would be a multi-year undertaking that would include public meetings with civic groups, advocacy groups, and Community Board 11.

“Nestled in the heart of my district, the Bayside Village BID on Bell Boulevard is a vibrant area filled with small businesses that serve my constituents. It is no secret that the popularity of this commercial hub makes parking difficult for those commuting via the Long Island Railroad and customers frequenting stores,” stated Council Member Vallone. “Potentially expanding the municipal parking lot on 41st Avenue could greatly alleviate parking concerns and ensure continued success for the businesses that call Bell Boulevard home. This study is a step in that direction.”

Photo via Weinberger Properties


It’s time to hit the pavement. On July 6th, the 2014 Tour de Queens by Jamis will take bicyclists on a fun-filled, family-friendly trek through the borough. An estimated 20 miles, the route will begin in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and take participants through Flushing, East Flushing, Murray Hill, Auburndale, Bayside, Bayside Terrace, Beechurst and Whitestone with a rest stop in Little Bay Park. It’s not a competitive race–riders will pedal en masse at about 10 mph as a rolling parade with an NYPD escort. There are no street closures, but volunteer marshals will block (or “cork”) traffic intersections for safe passage. Details after the jump.


The Lawrence Cemetery is a quiet spot located in a shady corner of 216th Street and 42nd Avenue in Bayside. In fact, the Lawrence family used it as a picnic ground they called “Pine Grove.” But is it haunted? This Saturday, a paranormal investigation group will demonstrate and explain the tools and techniques used to discover paranormal activity and then perform an investigation. The Bayside Historical Society, which is organizing the event, has performed these ghost hunts before and assures that it’s not scary. Plus, the cemetery is a fascinating, landmarked venue where Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence, who was NYC’s mayor from 1834 to 1837, is buried. It is also the final resting place of Colonel Frederick Newbold Lawrence, a Civil War veteran who went on to be president of the New York Stock Exchange from 1882 to 1883.

Details: Paranormal Investigation of Lawrence CemeteryBayside Historical Society, 208 Totten Avenue, Fort Totten, Bayside. Event is by reservation only at (718) 352-1548 and will be rescheduled in the event of rain, June 7th, noon, $10.


Founded in 1927, the Oratorio Society of Queens is the borough’s oldest performing cultural organization. This year, David Close, the artistic director and conductor, is celebrating 40 years with the community-based chorus. In other words, it’s time to sing. This Sunday, the society will offer its spring concert with Maestro Close conducting more than 125 people through everything from solo recitals to orchestral performances. Anton Bruckner’s Mass in F Minor will be the centerpiece, but attendees will also get to hear opera highlights and the best of the country’s musical heritage, reflecting a wide range of music that is the American choral experience.

Details: Oratorio Society of Queens Annual Spring Concert, Queensborough Performing Arts Center, 222-05 56th Avenue, Bayside, May 18th, 4 pm. $30/$25 seniors and students with ID/$10 children (12 and under).