The old TV show “Naked City” famously told us there are eight million stories to be told in New York, one for every resident. That would be about 2.3 million for Queens, a bit more than can be told in one edition of one weekly newspaper. But in this, the Queens Chronicle’s 36th Anniversary special supplement, “Our Borough, Our Lives,” we relate the tales of 26 people from our shared home in a way that television would not.Many of the subjects are well-known, many are not. And even those who are talk about aspects of their lives and their communities that aren’t necessarily in the public eye.
Bob Holden and his pal Pete Savage were walking up Eliot Avenue in Middle Village one day in 1968 looking for girls — they were 16, what else would they be doing? — when they saw two up ahead near Lutheran Avenue, going the same direction they were.
Savage went up the block to check them out. He came back quickly with a blunt report.
There was never much doubt that Dr. Vince Parnell Jr. would go into medicine, just like his father, Dr. Vince Parnell Sr.
“My father was a physician who practiced at Flushing Hospital for 30 years,” the younger Parnell said. “So I think to some extent, if your dad’s a fireman, you want to be a fireman when you grow up, and something like that was my pathway.”
After more than 70 years of painting, artist Marion Maas has put away her brushes.
Until recently, she painted every day — and her Rego Park home can prove it.
At the age of 33, lifelong Whitestone resident Jason Antos has already published five books on the history of his native borough, but even more amazing is what piqued his interest in the subject in the first place.
“My love for local history started in elementary school,” he said. As youngsters were wont to do back then, Antos and his childhood friends spent much of their time playing in the street.
A blizzard was making its way through Queens in March of 1983 as Mary Ann Carey waited for Community Board 9 to take a vote on whether or not it would hire her as the new district manager for the area.
“Everyone kept leaving because of the blizzard,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘Oh no, that was one of my supporters’ as they left.”
For outside observers, the worst crisis to ever befall the small community of Broad Channel might seem like it happened two years ago. But for lifelong residents like Dan Mundy Sr., Hurricane Sandy was just the latest in the many crises the small community in the heart of Jamaica Bay has had to weather throughout its history, including a time when the very existence of the neighborhood was at stake.
And Mundy was there for many of them.
Millicent O’Meally has lived in Flushing for more than 50 years. The changes she has seen — from sleepy community to fast-paced transit hub — are dramatic and life-changing.
“I enjoyed downtown when it was like a little country-type location,” O’Meally said. “There were little shops you could go in and out, even to get food for dinner. It was quaint.”
One traditional restaurant has an unlikely modern fan base.
Papa’s Kitchen, a petite eatery that feels more like a family’s home, is on Woodside Avenue and 66th Street, close to the heart of “Little Manila,” on Roosevelt Avenue.
As a young man growing up in Ozone Park, Joe Addabbo Jr. had more reason than most to stay out of trouble. While most kids might be worried about parents, principals or even police catching them doing something wrong, Joe Jr. was also concerned about public perception. Whether boyhood mistakes like putting a carelessly thrown baseball through someone’s window or more serious teenage risks such as alcohol or drugs, he had an extra reason to steer clear: He didn’t want to cause his father, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Addabbo, to lose an election.
“I was afraid to walk on my neighbor’s lawn because it might cost my dad a vote,” Addabbo said. “I felt that because of who my father was, I had to show respect to the community.”
Down Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, past the trendy joints such as Woodbines and Alobar, the neighborhood begins to look more like it did 30 years ago — industrial and urban — drastically different from the modern greenspace waterfront and shiny towering apartment buildings.
But behind a brick-layered warehouse used by the Department of Transportation is a cultural oasis that won’t be found in TimeOut New York.
Growing up an Italian boy in 1940s Glendale, a heavily German neighborhood, wasn’t easy for Vincent Arcuri Jr.
Old German women threw rocks at his mother over her nationality and called her a Gypsy because she had seven children.
There’s a reason they say hard work, laser-like determination and people skills can lead to great success in business: because it’s true. Just ask Thomas Chen.
Chen came to the United States from Taiwan in 1982, when he was 27, with just a few dollars in his pocket and no English skills whatsoever. Settling in Elmhurst, he was alone for his first year here, having left his wife and their young son back home. His first job was ironing shirts and pants in a garment factory in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
It took a year on Long Island — a detour from what would become teacher Larry O’Connell’s 26 years at Forest Hills High School — to realize his love for Queens.
“I was much more comfortable with the Queens kids,” O’Connell said.
Like a sensei teaching his students not just the moves of karate but the philosophy behind the art, master musicians Joe and Jeanette Fuoco will instruct you about far more than the right notes to play if you venture into their Glendale center.
The Fuocos are not just top-notch musicians — he can play any instrument and began performing and even teaching in kindergarten, while she’s the best rhythm guitarist he’s ever heard — they’re true community people who love the area they grew up in and have served for decades. Both hail from Ridgewood and went to Christ the King High School in Middle Village, where they met back when Jeanette’s last name was Piccininni.
When Elly Berkovits Gross was 15 in 1944, she and other Jews were transported in a cattle car from the ghetto of Cehei in Romania to the Auschwitz-II/Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.
Having hidden away a small pocketknife she happened to receive at a family wedding, she poked holes in the compartment so she, her mother and her 5-year-old brother could breathe.
Queens resident Paul Feddern served his country as a soldier in the Vietnam War and now serves his community as a prominent member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32. Born in Glendale in 1947, he now resides in Forest Hills.
“It’s a very nice place to grow up,” he said of the borough. “I’ve been in Queens all my life.” Feddern is on the board of directors of the VVA, and served as the vice president of Whitestone-based Chapter 32 for the past four years. Just last weekend, he and his brother, Russ, who fought in Vietnam as a Marine, served as the grand marshals in the Queens Veterans Day Parade, held in Middle Village.
Carolyn Scarano has lived in Astoria all her life, and there’s nothing that could ever change that.
“I just love it. It’s such a diverse community with so much culture,” she said.
He’s 81 and fighting to remain in the house where he was born. The Willets Point area — never a real neighborhood — is special to Joe Ardizzone and he wants to live out his life there.
The only resident in the 60-acre site is battling the city and developers, who want to transform the Willets Point area into a mixed-use development, using the Citi Field parking lot for a mall and parking garage and adding shops, restaurants and parking to Ardizzone’s area off 126th Street.
It’s not every mother who could find the fortitude to send her child out into the world all alone — 6,000 miles away, no less — in search of a better life. But Pari Golyan knew what was best for her family and today it is clear that the risk paid off.
And she didn’t do it just once or twice. One by one, she sent her three eldest sons from their native Tehran, Iran to New York City to further their educations and improve their chances for success.
He rarely speaks above a whisper, but Carl Clay, founder and executive producer of Black Spectrum Theatre, a community-based professional company in Southeast Queens, manages to get the job done.
Perhaps it’s his love for what he does. As he states in the introduction to his autobiographical work, “Poor-Ducing Theatre & Film at Black Spectrum,” in the theater “you can move at top speeds and roll in and out of the cloud of your mind and travel to places and meet people from every culture in the world without leaving the ground.”
When future rabbi Sharon Ballan was growing up, her mother told her she could be anything she wanted: a doctor, a lawyer or an Indian chief. Even so, “rabbi” was never on her radar.
But years later, in 2009, Ballan was ordained, and she became the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in Flushing soon after.
Just how crazy was David Berkowitz, the .44 Caliber Killer who terrorized Queens and the rest of the city for more than a year beginning in late July 1976? Crazy enough that for months before the man who killed six and wounded seven was caught, he taunted the police and the press with letters filled with insane rants such as “I am the ‘Son of Sam.’ Sam loves to drink blood. ‘Go out and kill,’ commands father Sam. ... Police, let me haunt you with these words — I’ll be back! I’ll be back! To be interpreted as — bang, bang, bang, bang.”
Berkowitz favored killing young women, often as they sat in cars with friends or boyfriends. Two of the people he murdered, Christine Freund and Virginia Voskerichian, were killed in Queens, while another young woman here was rendered a paraplegic and other victims suffered various wounds in his attacks.
Even though he spent the first four years of his life on an Air Force base in West Germany, John McEnroe is arguably the greatest athlete in Queens history.
The hot-tempered Douglaston resident won his first Grand Slam singles title at the 1979 US Open, defeating his good friend Vitas Gerulaitis in straight sets. At just 20 years old, McEnroe became the youngest player to ever win the tournament’s singles championship. He would go on to win 27 singles and doubles titles that year, an open-era record at the time.
Sister Maura Clarke, while serving as a missionary in Central America, wrote the following:
“There are so many deaths everywhere that it is incredible. It has become an ordinary daily happening. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I am at peace here.”