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Do it for exercise, personal records, and a good cause. This Sunday, the second annual Forest Park Toy Drive 5 Miler will lead participants up and down small hills and past some beautiful fields on the wide, tree-lined road inside Forest Park. Presented by the Queens Tourism Council and Queens Distance Runners, this fun run has a charitable aspect, too, as harriers are asked to bring Christmas toy donations, which the Queens Centers for Progress will collect and distribute to needy children. There’s also a social side, as refreshments and food will be served afterward. And for those with competitive spirits, Ricardo Cuahizo won the men’s division last year in 28:11, while Blanca Lucero finished first among the women with a 34:46 time. They are presumed to defend their titles. Plus, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who had a fine showing last year, is expected to return.

Details: Forest Park Toy Drive 5 Miler, the course loops twice through the park, starting and finishing at Forest Park Drive and Woodhaven Boulevard, Kew Gardens, December 7th, 9 am (registration at 8:30 am), $25/$30 on race day, and the first 50 registrants will receive Queens Distance Runners t-shirts. Plus, racers are asked to donate toys. Register here.

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Describing it as “vandalism,” “a blight,” and “a crime,” civic and political leaders from the Richmond Hill/Woodhaven area helped launch an anti-graffiti initiative with a press conference (below) and demonstration (above) on Wednesday. City Council Member Eric A. Ulrich, who represents these neighborhoods, announced that he had allotted $25,000 to eliminate graffiti at six major corridors — Woodhaven Boulevard; Jamaica Avenue; Atlantic Avenue; 101st Avenue; Liberty Avenue; and Rockaway Boulevard. The borough’s only Republican council member directed the funds to the Queens Economic Development Corporation‘s Neighborhood Development Division, which promotes economic growth by supporting community businesses. QEDC will sub-contract with Ridgewood-based Magic Touch Cleaning to carry out the initiative.

Saying this was a priority for him, Council Member Ulrich stated that he planned to seek more funding for this program in the future. QEDC Deputy Director Ricardi Calixte opined that graffiti is bad for business. He stated, “This type of vandalism has a domino effect, discouraging shoppers, encouraging lawlessness, and deterring investment.”

See a photo from the press conference after the jump.

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After its frame was built in 1890 and its hand-carved horses and menagerie animals were added in 1903, the Forest Park Carousel has had a tremendous ride. It operated at Lakeview Park in Massachusetts from 1903 until 1971, sustaining severe damage in a 1966 fire. In 1973, the merry-go-round moved to Forest Park, where it dazzled riders with its intricate designs and sweet-sounding A. Ruth & Sohn band organ until closing in 2009. It re-opened in 2012 with a new operator, New York Carousel Entertainment, and was designated a New York City landmark a year later. Now this whirligig, which features 36 jumping horses, 13 standing horses, two chariots and three menagerie animals, is fighting a debilitating and deadly disease. This Friday, the Forest Park Carousel will host a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association’s  New York City Chapter. For $10, visitors get unlimited carousel rides, Cido the Clown and face-painting or they can enjoy individual rides for $3. NY Carousel will donate 100 percent of proceeds from the rides to the nonprofit health organization. The event is the brainchild of Alzheimer’s Association volunteer Carol Lacks, who lives nearby and has fond childhood memories of riding the carousel.

Details and another photo after the jump.

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For a little while now, the Department of Transportation has considered installing Select Bus Service along Woodhaven Boulevard, an initiative to reduce travel time by creating dedicated bus lanes. But over the weekend the Daily News reported that the DOT is also considering a Bus Rapid Transit route, a bus-only lane separated from traffic by landscaped medians or other barriers. While BRT corridors exist in cities like LA and San Francisco, it has not yet been implemented in New York. (Select Bus Service may provide “dedicated” bus lanes, but they are unprotected, meaning that cars and trucks often drive in.) The DOT hopes to present a conceptual plan for the corridor, which stretches from Roosevelt Avenue all the way to the Rockaways, by the end of the year. The whole process would take four years total.

Second Avenue Sagas has this to say about the news: “This is certainly optimistic news for anyone who’s been hoping for better bus service. Woodhaven is a key artery with very high bus ridership figures, and reallocating street space would benefit the many in this instance. New Yorkers could finally see that real BRT can happen here, and such a move could set the stage for future bus lanes.” There’s also skepticism, though, as the plan would require the approval from a number of community boards and is asking to completely take away a lane or two of traffic. As Second Avenue Sagas points out, we are still a year or two away from the upcoming battles.

City Eyes Bus Rapid Transit to Speed Up MTA Rides [NY Daily News]
For Woodhaven, DOT Again Focusing on Real BRT [Second Avenue Sagas]

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The Department of Transportation reached out to community leaders from Community Boards 5, 6, 9 and 10 about implementing Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard, reports the Forum Newsgroup. As the Forum says, “It was a positive discussion focused on safer streets, cleaner air, better quality of life and better traffic flow that will soon be opened up to the public.” Through SBS, the city hopes it can increase the speed of bus service by at least 15 percent and boost ridership as much as 10 percent. According to earlier reports, construction on SBS could start as soon as January 2015.

The DOT plans to hold a larger public meeting in April for more input on ways to improve bus service and the pedestrian use of Woodhaven Boulevard. The city has tried to address congestion on Woodhaven since 2009; so far the DOT installed a curb extension on the southern part of the boulevard and widened some medians. The thoroughfare is the site of 293 total crashes since February 2012.

City Solicits Civics Help for Safer Woodhaven Boulevard [The Forum]
City Planning Underway for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Wikipedia

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The Department of Transportation is testing out different safety initiatives for Woodhaven Boulevard, a highly-trafficked thoroughfare that is the site of many accidents. Queens Courier reports that the DOT is three years into a five-year study. So far, the DOT added extended sidewalks and medians from Queens Boulevard to 62nd Road, made southbound traffic on the service road at the intersection of Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard a “must turn right” lane, and shrunk the two lanes of the service road into one. At a community meeting held this month, the DOT reported that since the improvements, crashes are actually up on Queens Boulevard to 62nd Road. Accidents at Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard decreased 29 percent.

The DOT will continue to implement safety changes — the service roads between Atlantic Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard will be changed into one lane of traffic and one parking lane. They also hope to create a northbound dedicated bus lane from the Belt Parkway to Liberty Avenue.

Woodhaven Boulevard Safety Still in Flux [Queens Courier]

Photo via Google Maps

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It dates back to 1903. It has 36 jumping horses, 13 standing horses, a piping organ, two chariots and some menagerie animals. It’s located in a 544-acre park. And it’s ready to raise funds to fight a debilitating and deadly disease. This Friday, an open party at the Forest Park Carousel will feature Omar Olusion’s Magic Show, face-painting, food and other activities as well as rides on the city’s oldest merry-go-round. The operating company, NY Carousel Entertainment, will donate all proceeds from circular trips on this work of art to the Alzheimer’s Association’s NYC Chapter. The idea for the event comes from Carol Lacks, a Kew Gardens resident and Alzheimer’s Association volunteer who has fond childhood memories of riding the carousel.

Details: An Evening on the Forest Park Carousel to End Alzheimer’s, Aug. 9, 6:30 pm, Vicinity of Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive, Forest Park, $10 for unlimited rides and face-painting/$3 for an individual ride, all proceeds from rides will go to the Alzheimer’s Association’s NYC Chapter, free parking near carousel.

Photo: NY Carousel

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Happy birthday from local opera lovers! The Queens Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the bicentennial of famed Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s nativity and the group’s own 60th anniversary by offering two free concerts this summer. On July 30 at St. John’s University, the borough’s only professional orchestra will perform Viva Verdi & Friends, a show which includes selections from such classical Verdi operas as Aida, Falstaff, La Traviata and Rigoletto. A second Viva Verdi & Friends will take place in Forest Park on Aug. 4. Led by music director Constantine Kitsopoulos (seen conducting with back to camera in above photo), the performances will feature solos by soprano Victoria Cannizzo, mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti, tenor Benjamin Werley and baritone Avi Albrecht.

Details: Viva Verdi & Friends, St. John’s University’s Great Lawn, 80-00 Utopia Pkwy., Jamaica, Tuesday, July 30, 7 PM, free. (Rain location: Marillac Auditorium).

Additional details: Viva Verdi & Friends, George Seuffert Bandshell, vicinity of Forest Park Drive and Woodhaven Boulevard in Forest Park, Sunday, Aug. 4, 5 PM, free.

Photo: Queens Symphony Orchestra