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Why did the chicken cross the road? Well, it was probably to attend a Queens comedy spectacular hosted at a community art space in honor of an urban farm. This Friday, Sunnyside Comedy will present Funny By Nature, a jokefest with an all-star lineup, at Flux Factory, an artist collective/performance venue in Long Island City. The event’s goal is to raise money and awareness for the Smiling Hogshead Ranch (above), a budding, volunteer-led farm near LaGuardia Community College. More details on the jump page.

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There was a time when some Irish people thought that New York City streets were paved with gold. Well, on Sunday, a Sunnyside/Woodside thoroughfare will be filled with innumerable Emerald Isle natives and many other marchers during the St. Pat’s For All Parade. This 15th annual event was founded in response to the never-ending conflict over openly gay participation in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan. Thus, organizers of the Queens march emphasize the diversity of the Big Apple’s Irish and Irish American residents, especially the LGBT community. Beyond the ethnic groups, expect such entities as the Sunnyside United Dog Society, the Ethical Humanist Society of Queens, and veterans agencies.

Details: St. Pat’s For All Parade, Skillman Avenue from 43rd Street in Sunnyside to 56th Street in Woodside, March 1st, 1 pm (assembly and remarks), 2 pm (step off), free.

Bonus details: Lunar New Year, Queens Center Food Court, 90-15 Queens Boulevard, Elmhurst, February 28th, noon to 6 pm, free. Events include a martial arts demonstration with Kung Fu Master Long Fei Yang, Korean and Japanese drummers, tea tastings, and the Dragon Dance. The first 200 people who bring an event social media post (like this one) will receive a red envelope with a prize.

Photo: St. Pat’s For All

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Skillman Avenue in Long Island City, between Pearson Place and 49th Avenue is a fairly desolate spot. The Sunnyside Yards “Yard A” dominates the northern side of the street. On the other side of the vast rail road complex is Jackson Avenue and the Court Square Subway station, the Arris Lofts, and the brand new Pearson Court Square building with its roof top windmills.

A block south, you’ll find the sewage choked waters of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, which provided a maritime link to the Degnon Terminal industrial park (which has been discussed in this post). Skillman Avenue forms one of the borders of the Degnon Terminal, and at the corner of Pearson Place and Skillman Avenue – the tracks of the LIRR’s Montauk Cutoff offered locomotive access to the Degnon Terminal railway tracks. This spur is in place to this very day, and there are rails sticking up out of the modern day asphalt which run up elevations to elevated tracks that connected Sunnyside Yard with the LIRR tracks which run along Newtown Creek, through Maspeth and then towards Fresh Pond. If curious about such things – go here.

That’s a short history of the site, and you won’t believe what’s going on here now.

More after the jump…

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Sunnyside shopping has a new bright spot. Last week, the Apollonia Gallery NY opened at 48-14 Skillman Avenue. The venue, where Comic Book Heaven was located for 26 years, sells handmade furnishings, paintings, prints, photos, records, antiques, and other home décor items with an emphasis on promoting local artisans. The owner, Garry O’Callaghan, also indicated that he plans to host salon-like gatherings for musicians, poetry readings and artist talks. A carpenter by trade, O’Callaghan will also display his own furniture, which he’ll make in a downstairs workshop. The store’s title honors Apollo, the Greek god of music and art, but Apollo was also the name of O’Callaghan’s beloved pet dog, which passed away a few years ago.

O’Callaghan’s statement: “I wanted to create a mythological and magical place like the shop in the Gremlins that gives guests the feeling of being in a secret place where they can find one-of-a-kind treasures. This is also a wonderful way to meet interesting people and celebrate the vibrant local arts scene.” You can visit the gallery Tuesday through Friday, 3 pm to 8 pm, and weekends, 9 am to 8 pm.

Top photo: Ann O’Connor; bottom photo: It’s in Queens

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Imagine a large room full of potential Father’s Day gifts, and not one of them is a tie. This Sunday, about 35 local artists will fill the Queen of Angels parish hall in Sunnyside with everything from paintings to postcards to trinkets made from beads, buttons and felt. Organized by the nonprofit Sunnyside Artists, this seventh-annual, all-volunteer event draws about 1,000 patrons and can lead to artists showing their works at local establishments. This year, participants will include regulars, such as Mihai Stancescu, who specializes in frescoes and board paintings with egg tempera and gilding, and Ellen Mandelbaum, a stained glass expert. But there will be some new faces and pieces, such as work by Trevor Sparks and Emily O’Leary, employees at the new Queens Boulevard store Artists & Craftsman Supply. In addition, Murphy’s Lobster Grill, which won Best Entrée at Queens Taste 2014, will provide food.

Details: Queen of Angles Art Fair VII, Queen of Angels Parish Hall, 44th Street and Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, noon to 5 pm, free.

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Skillman Avenue runs from Hunters Point in western Queens along Sunnyside Yards and then through Sunnyside Gardens, ending at Roosevelt Avenue – beginning and ending with the IRT Flushing Line, from the Hunters Point Avenue station to a point just past the 52nd St/Lincoln Street station. The avenue’s length has varied over the years – it attained its present route in the late 1910s, when it was built out as far as Roosevelt, but the portion adjoining Sunnyside Yards (which opened in 1910) as far as Harold Avenue (39th Street) was known as Meadow Street until about 1920, when Meadow Street was changed to Skillman. Meanwhile, the portion of Roosevelt Avenue under the IRT el was called Skillman Avenue  as far east as the intersection with Woodside and Betts Avenue (now 58th Street) until about the same time.

Skillman is an English name though its progenitors were Dutch. There were Skillmans in England as early as the 13th century; the name derives, like Truman, from the term “believable” or “trustworthy” individual. The first Skillman in America was Thomas Skillman, a soldier/musician under Colonel Nichols in the Duke of York’s expedition to seize New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664. After the Brits took over, Skillman settled in Newtown, married Sarah Pettit in 1669 and raised a family of seven sons and four daughters. All the Skillmans in North America today are believed to be descended from Thomas Skillman.

Today’s Skillman Avenue is a mixture of two definitely distinct parts, from the factories, lofts, plants and railyards of its western end to the small town, residential and somewhat funky atmosphere of its eastern end, a distillation of western Queens.

Today I’ll mention some of the disparate businesses that operated along or in the vicinity of this overlooked Queens route…

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Hanging about and walking around Queens with a friend one afternoon last summer, our path carried us up Skillman Avenue and past the gargantuan Sunnyside Yards. Luckily, something I’d been trying to catch, as it happens, began to happen when Amtrak 934 sauntered into view.

From Wikipedia:

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track. The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity.

It turns out that there is an entire industrial sector for whom the manufacture and maintenance of “train washes” is a focal point. It also seems to be the case that having a shiny clean locomotive pays a dividend in terms of aerodynamic drag and that the cleaner your train is, the more efficiently it runs.

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In 1964, more than 700 college students trekked to Mississippi to join other volunteers and community organizers to register African Americans to vote. Over a 10-week period known as “Freedom Summer,” these activists encountered stiff resistance from the Ku Klux Klan and even all-white local law enforcement agencies that included the murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches and the bombing of 70 homes and community centers. However, their efforts aided the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which registered voters and sent 68 members to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to confront and unseat the all-white state delegation. On February 22nd, Stanley Nelson, a filmmaker and 2002 MacArthur Genius Fellow, will screen his documentary, Freedom Summer, at Sunnyside Reformed Church. He will also be in attendance for a Q&A related to this powerful movie, which won three Primetime Emmy Awards. Freedom Summer debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, but it will make its East Coast premiere in Sunnyside.

Details: Freedom Summer, Sunnyside Reformed Church, 48th Street and Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, February 22nd, 7 pm, free with suggested donation.

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Forget politics, all art is local. And in Queens, it’s also incredibly diverse. On Sunday, thirty-four Western Queens virtuosos will set up tables at the Queens of Angels Parish Hall and exhibit their works as part of a sixth-annual fair organized by SunnysideArtists.org. Expect Simon Donikian (work below) to display his cityscapes, while Ann Cofta will have a table full of eclectic trinkets made from beads, buttons and felt. Mihai Stancescu will bring frescoes and board paintings with egg tempera and gilding. And to add to the fun, Lowery Liquors will give a glass of wine to anybody who makes a purchase. Details: Queens of Angels Art Fair VI, June 9, 1 pm – 5 pm, 44th Street and Skillman Avenue, Sunnyside, Free.