Monday, August 29, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pictures of the Day

Remember to send your own pictures of the day in to

Now that we have a respite from the stormier pattern we were in for the past couple of weeks, what better time to clean out the storm pic inbox and post my last remaining ones?

Thanks to David for this first stunning rainbow shot:

And I snapped this one myself on August 19th:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Top Five Takeout Foods in Forest Hills

Hey, I, like many others, love to have a delicious home-cooked meal every so often. Nothing can really beat that (I just had one last night). But let's face it. We're New Yorkers, and many of us just don't have the time to sit down to such a quality home-cooked meal very often.

So, the fact is, takeout is an essential necessity to survival in the Big Apple. Unfortunately for us Forest Hills remains quite challenged when it comes to takeout options. It's like we've been left behind while the rest of the city has continued around us. While our sit-down dining options have vastly improved, not so much takeout. It's not that our takeout isn't good, it's simply virtually non-existent when it comes to high quality options.

 But there are some excellent options, if you know where to find them.

Thus here are my choices for the Top Five Takeout Foods in our 'hood that you can quickly grab and go. These are not desserts, mind you. Those I may do in another post given how many new dessert places have opened here in the past year.

These are ranked in order with one being the best:

1. Chicken tacos from the Mexican Cart in front of Citibank on 71st Continental Ave. - It's saying a lot, I think, that the best Mexican takeout food in Forest Hills can be found at a food cart. But that is the rather sad state of affairs when it comes to our options in FoHi. You'd think by now someone would have figured out that there's a huuuuge demand for a takeout Mexican food place somewhere around Austin St.
Geez, the amazing 5 Burro Cafe is packed past midnight on weeknights! (I should note here that I used to be a huge fan of Chipotle, but, sadly, I haven't been back since the chain's recent problems. Just seems to me if you're a restaurant chain, you have one purpose: to serve safe, quality food to your customers.)

Some of La Boulangerie's grab-and-go selections
2. Pastrami Sandwich from La Boulangerie - Everything comes together just right for this excellent sandwich at our lovely French eatery, just off of Austin Street. They'll make it for you either warmed up so the cheese melts a bit, but I prefer it cold. Either way, you'll love it.

3. Shake Shack Burger - Well, pretty much anything from Shake Shack is great. That's a given. Shake Shack is rapidly becoming a staple New York City eatery - they're opening all over the place - but since they just opened here they do deserve to be pointed out as filling that huge need Forest Hills has for excellent, higher quality food to go. And their options go beyond just the burgers. If you want a hot dog, they've got that too.

4. Chicken Salad Hero from Mr. Vino's Cucina - Well, they've got the chicken salad in their display case, always kept very nicely chilled. And I think it's excellent - not too overly flavored, just nice and mayonnaisey with a hint of some light spices. Grab one of their breads from the front counter and they'll make it up to your liking. Nice, fast and always good quality.

5. A falafel from Pahal Zan - They've been around the longest of any of these others places on my list. This is not the greatest falafel I've ever consumed (that'll be pretty much any place I've eaten in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem) but, hey, it's what we have here, and that's what matters. They will, of course, fix it up just the way you want it. I'd suggest having them add the egg plant and all the other fixin's.

So, there you have my choices. You'll note some seemingly no-brainer takeout cuisines are sorely missing from this list. Chinese food? Hello? There are some, but they're really not that great to merit being put up here. Pizza? There are some good ones, but they just don't make my list this year for those in the Central FoHi area around Austin.

If a great make-your-own salad joint moved into the 'hood that might be a no-brainer and probably shoot up to the top of the list pretty quickly, by the way.

Let's revisit this topic a year from now and see if much has changed. It will be a good barometer of how the neighborhood continues to evolve as younger and younger residents move in, appalled as they are by the millionaire lifestyles of the rich and famous that populate our more slender borough to the west.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Austin Space Before Photos

The developers of the new coworking space opening in Forest Hills emailed me some shots of how the space looks now. It will be located at 108-14 72nd Ave., 2nd Floor.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Subway Construction Update

Thanks to the anonymous commenter who recently responded to my post about the seemingly endless subway work that has been impacting the express train service on most recent weekends. I found the original press release he or she was referring to about some of the benefits of the work, and thought I'd share it here:

$205.8M in Contracts Approved to Install Communications-Based Train Control System

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today gave preliminary approval to two contracts totaling $205.8 million to Siemens Industry Inc. and Thales Transport & Security for the installation of a Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signaling system on the Queens Boulevard Line, one of New York City Transit’s busiest subway lines. The signaling system, which is currently in operation on the Canarsie L Subway Line and being installed on the Flushing 7 Subway Line, enables the MTA to address overcrowding and record subway ridership by operating subway trains more closely together, adding passenger capacity to the century-old subway system.
CBTC allows NYC Transit to operate more trains per hour, thereby increasing passenger capacity; provide improved and more reliable service; and make more efficient use of its track and car fleet. The system is more flexible than the current block signals system because CBTC continuously updates train positions, distances and travel speeds, allowing for faster and more efficient operations. Continuous updates allow the subway system to recover quickly from delays and restore consistent wait times at subway stations.
The installation of CBTC will keep the signaling system in a state of good repair and will also enhance safety for customers and employees alike. With CBTC, NYC Transit can program a work zone so trains cannot exceed a set speed, making the work zone much safer for workers on the tracks.
The signals system also can provide real-time travel information that can be shared with customers on public address systems and electronic screens such as countdown clocks or data-driven mobile apps.
CBTC will be installed on local and express tracks serving the E SubwayF SubwayM SubwayR Subway lines from north of the Kew Gardens/Union Tpke E SubwayF Subway station to north of the 47-50 Sts/Rockefeller Ctr station on the FM Lines and south of the 50 St C SubwayE Subway station. It is the first phase in a project that will ultimately update the signaling system for the entire Queens Boulevard Line. QBL West Phase 1 represents a change from MTA’s other CBTC projects, which have been installed on single subway lines such as the L Subway and 7 Subway. QBL West Phase 1 encompasses four subway lines with multiple train overlays.
“The communications-based train control signaling system is a vital part of our plan to address issues of overcrowding, record ridership and service delays,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “CBTC represents the MTA’s efforts to bring advanced technology to a century-old subway system that, in some parts, has not been updated in decades. On the L SubwayLine where CBTC has been installed for several years now, we have seen improved service and we have been able to increase capacity significantly. Once we’re done installing CBTC on the 7 Subway Line, those customers will also benefit from similarly improved and increased service, and the Queens Boulevard project is a continuation of our efforts to make those improvements system-wide.”
Design work on QBL West Phase 1 is estimated to begin later in 2015, with major installation work estimated to start in mid-2017. Once complete, NYC Transit will be able to run more frequent subway service with fewer delays, which will be a major benefit to E SubwayM SubwayF SubwayR Subway customers who commute to some of Queens’ most populated neighborhoods, major commercial destinations, and areas in Central Queens that are undergoing significant residential and commercial development. On the L SubwayLine, ridership has increased by 27 percent since CBTC was installed in 2007; capacity also is expected to increase on the 7 SubwayLine once CBTC becomes operational in 2017.
The Transit Committee of the MTA Board approved the 67-month contracts to Siemens Industry Inc. and Thales Transport & Security Inc., currently the only two MTA-qualified vendors for CBTC projects. The Siemens contract is for approximately $156.2 million; the Thales contract is for $49.6 million.
It also approved a separate $1.2 million contract for Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. to develop and test CBTC software and systems with the goal of qualifying an additional supplier for future CBTC projects. This process widens the pool of vendors to compete for such projects and increases the potential for cost savings for the MTA.
These contracts are scheduled to be considered by the full MTA Board on Wednesday. They will be fully funded by the MTA, with portions funded by the 2010-2014 Capital Program and other existing programs. Integral portions such as car and wayside equipment installation are scheduled to be funded in the 2015-2019 Capital Program.
Please click on to view a video presented today at the Transit Committee about the benefits of CBTC.

Coworking Space Opening in Forest Hills

I have been contacted about a new coworking space opening soon in Forest Hills with the goal of bringing technology, creativity, and innovation to central Queens.

The Austin Space is described a premier coworking space located in central Queens, coming soon in October 2016.

The organizers see the workspace as "perfect for freelancers, contractors, independent business owners, startups, remote workers, or just anyone that wants a space away from home."

And they have a Kickstarter campaign to get this workspace up and coming:

Here's some more detail from their website:

Conveniently located in the heart of Forest Hills and right by Austin Street and 71st Continental Ave, The Austin Space is a spacious two floor collaborative workspace with an outdoor patio, lounge areas, and meeting rooms. It is a premier shared office space located in central Queens. The workspace is located one block from the E, F, M, R trains – a 15 minute subway ride from Manhattan – and one block from the Long Island Rail Road, connecting individuals to Long Island.

This workspace is perfect for freelancers, contractors, independent business owners, startups, remote workers, or just anyone that wants a space away from home. We hope that this space can turn into a thriving community for inspiration, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lightning Strike in Forest Hills

Thanks to Carlos for sending in this amazing pic. He took it around 6 p.m. yesterday at Queens Blvd. and 70th Ave. as the lightning struck in the vicinity of Gerard Towers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Stormy Hills

Some pics as the tropical summer storms rolled in this afternoon

The New York Times Gives Forest Hills Some Love

A nice write-up in The Times recently about our nabe: Forest Hills, Queens: City Life in a Suburban Setting

 I think it is pretty accurate. I love the fact they point out how quick and easy the commute is into Manhattan, a huuuge benefit of living here that often goes overlooked and underreported. It's faster to get into midtown from here than it is from many other parts of Manhattan!

I would just dispute the woman's quote about "there is life after Manhattan." I live in Forest Hills and spend a TON of time in Manhattan. I think my life living here very much continues to include both. It's not an either/or.

My only complaint these days about this is the very, very obnoxious concentration of MTA subway work onto the seemingly endless stream of weekends as of late, something that has been disrupting express service waaaay too frequently. This is a city for public transportation, not for automobiles.

It would be one thing if the express service was simply replaced by only local service, as it has been for many, many weekends. But the frequent 'bunching' of trains as we approach Forest Hills on the weekends, leading to extra travel times, is a real problem.

The MTA should remember that on the weekends many of us urban-dwellers need, depend on, and require the subways just as much as on the weekdays. This is not the NYC of the past. Demographics and subway usage has changed. The subway is no longer just a necessary-evil to be avoided at all costs. For many of us it is our first choice in getting around the City because it is usually so convenient.

Who at the MTA came up with the warped idea that enjoying our City life is any less important than working in the City? Quick and easy access to Manhattan to enjoy all it has to offer us on the weekends is one of the major reasons many of us call Forest Hills home. The current situation is a real quality of life issue and needs to be addressed.

Bath & Body Works to Reopen in the Fall

Wow! I've gotten a lot of reader emails and comments about what happened to Bath & Body Works on Austin Street. I had no idea this place was so popular! (And I am very much into soaps, the higher end the better, it's a thing of mine.) Anyway, the store is just currently undergoing a renovation and will be reopening in the Fall (I've been told October, but such dates can, of course, change)...

New Cuban Restaurant for Former Family Restaurant Space

A reader tells me that the former Family Restaurant space on Queens Blvd. will become a Cuban restaurant similar to Guantanamera in Manhattan. They told her they hope to be open in about two months. UPDATED: She also told me she thinks they may be the same owners as Guantanamera (not Family Restaurant)...