A few weeks ago, I jotted a quick response to a New York Times article on Queens Real Estate, “The Tilt Towards Queens” where I suggested that Queens residents might actively challenge external definitions of what success looks like in New York City in an effort to retain those things that make our borough unique and special.
This morning we all awoke to the news that one of our most unique and special landmarks, 5 Pointz, had been whitewashed overnight. With its brilliant images expunged, the building itself is no more than the creaking hull of a ghost ship run aground and wrecked.
Confusingly, the New York Times article – heralding rising rents and monochromatic residential development – generated great enthusiasm, while last night’s whitewashing of 5 Pointz generated tremendous despair. But the connection between the two couldn’t be clearer: 5 Pointz will be replaced by two sky scraping residential towers of the sort described in the Times piece as indicators of the “tilt towards Queens.”
How any of us – or more likely all of us – can hold such contradictory feelings simultaneously is a conundrum that I don’t have the brains to solve. I would however ask that folks might think of five things (or 5 points, if you’ll allow me) about their neighborhood that are important to them, and then actively work to create, protect, or preserve those things.
I’ll start, my 5 things are below. Let me know yours too and we’ll talk about what we care about before it’s gone.
1. Supporting local restaurants that don’t have large advertising or marketing budgets. Many of my favorite places to eat in Astoria don’t, for multifarious reasons, funnel money toward advertising. This makes them no less great: Duzan, Pita Hot, Pao de Queijo, Leli’s Bakery, La Cabana Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna, and so many, many more.
2. Shopping at local markets. Astoria has so many great local specialty markets, that I never feel the need to venture into Manhattan to stand in long lines at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Sorriso Italian Pork Store, Rosario’s, Mediterranean Foods I & II, Parrot Market, Dave and Tony’s Salumeria, EuroMarket, United Brothers Fruit Market, Rio Market, and Elliniki Agora are just a few of my many favorites.
3. Small Business Season in Queens. Small Business Saturday may have been the brainchild of a very large corporation (American Express), but we can perpetuate the spirit of it every weekend throughout the holiday season without any corporate instigation. Last year I started promoting Small Business Season in Queens and intend to do the same this year, to encourage supporting local small businesses and the people they employ during the winter months.
4. Supporting Local Artists and Art Institutions. It may be too late to save 5 Pointz but we Queens residents can’t let this happen again. I make it a point to be a member at as many local art institutions as economically feasible, and would encourage others to do the same, where possible.
5. Understanding the Local Non-Profit Landscape in Queens. As a non-profiteer myself, I have recently committed to try to go deeper in my understanding of the non-profit community in Queens. Issues of particular interest to me are arts, immigration, and anti-violence work, and I hope to add a Queens Giving page to my blog soon to help direct donations to organizations doing great work on behalf of our friends, families and neighbors.