Sitting on a park bench, eating a hot
dog, a longtime Flushing resident philosophizes about global politics and the finer points
"Who needs Windows on the World," he says, staring up at the
Atlantic ocean. "I got a much better view right here."
Two women in spandex proceed to rollerblade around the world in 80
"Ya see what I mean," says the man on the bench, wiping the
crumbs off his chin.
Meanwhile, a couple, walking hand and hand, start having an argument.
"Just forget it," the woman says, dropping the mans hand,
and walking toward the plaque at the edge of the Unispheres fountain.
The man pauses for a moment, looks up at the Unisphere, and then back down
to the ground. "Im sorry," he tells her.
"Do you know what it says on that plaque," I say to the man on
"Peace Through Understanding."
1 p.m. A Taxi on Queens Boulevard
"You know," said the driver, while making a left turn from the
right lane. "Most cabbies dont like Queens."
Looking up from the Daily News, I wait for an explanation. I force this
issue. "Why is that?" I ask.
"Because they dont understand it," the driver says.
"They say, you just cant make any money in Queens."
Merging onto the Long Island Expressway, and turning off the radio, the
"But I," he pauses for a moment, while changing lanes. "I
have found the secret. The secret to making money in Queens."
The driver, as if he were rehearsing this dialogue for a play, waits for
"Whats the secret?" I ask.
"Cant tell ya," he says, extremely satisfied.
"Come on," I press the point. "This is strictly off the
record. Im not going to tell anyone."
"Cant tell ya," he repeats again, signaling for the exit.
2 p.m. Steinway Street:
Dubbed the "Worlds Largest Shopping Mall, " Astorias
Steinway Street, a cornucopia of larger stores and small shops, is a shopaholics
dream come true.
Standing at the intersection of Broadway and Steinway Street, you see a
flow of shoppers heading in and out of The Wiz. The scent of gyros and souvlaki wafts
along Broadway, mixing with the bubbling cheese that tops Politos Pizza and the
sweet and sour scent of a local Chinese restaurant.
On the long stretch of sidewalk that leads to an intersection at 31st
Avenue, a Nine West shop boasts its newest line of shoes. Students from local schools stop
at The Gap to check out the latest denims, and a slim Pakistani man huddles at the corner
of a storefront, peddling big name perfumes at rockbottom prices.
The myriad shopping possibilities equals the diversity of this community.
Steinway Street has always been a reflection of its neighbors.
Its alive and vital on this sunny afternoon. And Steinway Street
continues to pulsate with excitement and enterprise long after the sun goes down.
3 p.m. Astoria Studios
Its mid-afternoon and already the line snakes along 36th Street,
turning the corner at 34th Avenue.
Its the busiest day of the weekthe day the Cos steps
onstage at Astoria Studios to tape a live-audience episode of his hit TV show.
These fans of Bill Cosby are true-blue, faithful viewers of reruns
featuring Heathcliff Huxtable and his brood of feisty offspring. Theyve come to
Astoria on this day to catch a glimpse of the Cos and his new show.
The Astoria Studios complex is as old as the memories of its neighbors.
The Marx Brothers filmed here, along with W.C. Fields andyes, Rudolph Valentino.
Neil Simon put his Brooklyn memories onto celluloid at the Astoria
Studios. And in short time, Bert, Ernie and Big Bird called the studios home.
The Sesame Street gang was joined, recently, by a loveable bear as the
cast of "Bear in the Big Blue House" moved to Astoria. And lets not forget
Lifetimethe "channel for women"which was born at the Astoria
Astoria Studios reach has spread throughout the immediate area,
resulting in the purchase of abandoned factories and unutilized parcels of land. The
neighborhood has prospered as a result, as new blood filters into the old neighborhood in
the form of young studio employees.
Back on line, it doesnt matter if theres rain, snow, sleet or
pavement-melting heat the faithful come to the Astoria Studiostickets in
handto wait on line for a glimpse of the Cos.
Thanks, Doctor Huxtablewere all better for your being here.
4 p.m. The Playground
Drugs and comedies unfold daily on
the playgrounds stage.
Its 4 p.m. at Austin Park, and the sun is beating down as
children play and parents watch.
All ages of children cruise around on their bicycles, proving their
prowess to their moms and dads. Most of the children are well behaved, sans a boy about
five raising hell and chasing every girl in the park. The boys mother didnt
have too hard a time tracking down the mischievous child; she just followed the
overwhelming sounds of loud crying and screaming.
The sounds of children and parents are soon drowned out by the deafening
sounds of the Long Island Railroad passing by. The loud train makes more than one child
cry, and causes others to frolick in puddles.
Luckily, a hot dog stand soon opens shop, just in time for me and everyone
else to stuff their faces. Soda and chocolate milk are the beverages of choice.
The basketball and handball courts fill up as noon approaches. The first
eight or so arrivals at the basketball courts join a pick-up game, playing for not only
exercise, but bragging rights. On the handball courts, two teenage boys show off their
backhand as a girl walking her small dog and an older man feeding pigeons watch.
5 p.m. On the Q17
Mass transit isnt just a
means to an end, its an adventure.
Its a dreary, rainy day, and the Q17 is like the calm before
the rush hour storm.
Most passengers on the bus stare wearily out the windows, blurred by
intense rain. Two teenage girls discuss pimples and the Internet, loudly giggling and very
much in contrast to the seemingly exhausted older passengers.
The bus driver discusses the severe weather with a woman who has just
boarded. Another man inquires if anyone has change of a dollar. Someone complies.
A child rests in his mothers arms, shamelessly picking his nose. A
man is forced to stand, but passes the time happily in conversation with the woman in
front of him.
The bus slowly becomes filled as it nears Main Street the last
stop. As I get my transfer ready, yawns are aplenty from the wearisome travelers.
As the commuters get ready to step out of the bus, they, as do I, get
their umbrellas ready and head home.
6 p.m. Lucille Roberts in Bayside
Over pulsing house music, gym rats from the lobby to the locker rooms of
Lucille Roberts in Bayside can hear the unmistakably husky (and slightly hoarse) voice of
instructor Lisanne Lobello. "Come on, Tuesday," she shouts. "Lets
Lisannes 5:45 kickboxing class has about 30 people in it- many of
them refugees from Dina DiMarcos packed-to-the-max 7:15 class.
"Last week there were over 100 people in Dinas class,"
says Lucilles employee Ilene Goldberg. "My girlfriends and I were taking the
class out in the lobby."
While kickboxing seems to be the craze everywhere these days, Lucille
Roberts Ki-Bo classes are a phenomenon.
"They really target your hips and thighs," says member Annette
Upstairs, members can be seen working their biceps and triceps on Lucille
Roberts machines designed especially for womens bodies. Others run the treadmills,
climb the stairmasters, or ride the bicycles.
"I love the machines," says member Mary Ellen Seizenger, working
her inner thighs on whats often called the birthing table. "Thats what I
Accessible only to females, the gym is a pink and yellow shrine to
"I prefer not having guys around," says one sweaty member.
"I like to know that when Im on the floor doing donkey kicks, no ones
checking out my---."
7 p.m. Angelos Pizza
Angelos Pizza has been a Kew Garden Hills fixture for over 30 years
and the pizza is as good as ever.
At 7 p.m., the eatery is packed; the lines for ordering only get longer as
the hungry await a fresh pie from the oven. Customers stomachs growl almost as
loudly as they do.
The hectic atmosphere is heightened as the phone rings and take-out orders
are filled. In the back, Italian is not spoken but shouted.
Once fed, the large crowd mellows out and enjoys their cheesy meals. An
older man sits, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the Yankees game on the television.
Many read the paper, and as it gets later, the garbage and street are filled with losing
The manager strikes up casual conversation with customers, reveling in the
Yankees dominance. When a police car passes by, the crowd empties out a little as
cars are moved from in front of the hydrant.
Teenagers park their bikes outside, and spend the evening chomping down on
pepperoni slice. In the restaurant on the other side, waitresses take orders from dining
lovebirdsmany of whom are resisting garlic bread.
8 p.m. Community Board Meeting
In a red brick church in Flushing, Community Board 7 holds its monthly
meeting. People of all backgrounds and ages sit intermittently in folding metal chairs,
listening to speakers make their cases at the lectern. Some of the seated are still in
their work clothes; others are retired and come in with the aid of their walkers.
Tonight CB7 will vote on a variety of issues, following a short discussion
period. Tonights discussion centers on Flushing Hospital and potential threats to
the community if it closes.
A hospital union member makes an impassioned plea for the Governor to look
into issues surrounding the running of the hospital.
On the sidelines are the people who make everything run smoothly. A young
woman hands out an agenda for the evenings events and issues. Everyone stops at her
table when they walk in, to find out whats going on that night.
More often than not, its not earth-shattering issues that are
brought to light. But to the people who live in the Flushing community, they are
9 p.m. Aqueduct
There are few more exciting ways
to spend an evening losing money, than at Aqueduct.
Its a buck to get in and a buck to park in the lot
complete with sections named after famous racehorses such as Native Dancer. There are
yellow taxicabs, Jaguars and Chevys littering the lot. At the entrance, a sign reads
"Racing Fans Only."
In the bandstand, men crowd in front of television screens listing pay
outs and odds for the upcoming race. Below, thoroughbreds are led by their grooms into the
tack area for some last minute primping before jockeys climb onto their backs.
The jockeys are up and the fillies make their way to the starting gate.
The bugle player in a red jacket heralds the start of the race. The horses are in the
gate. And theyre off! As they come around the stretch, the crowd moves closer to the
fence for a better look. "Come on Stellar Daughter, come on girl," shouts a
middle-aged man in a gray tam.
As the horses make their way to the finishing line, Stellar Daughter falls
behind as the second horse lurches forward to the finish line.
10 p.m. The Supermarket
Hey, come hell or high-water, youve gotta eat. So with the cupboards
bare, youre off to the supermarket to that land of a thousand choices, and
one open checkout.
At 10 p.m. the place is still too busy. It used to be that Friday night
and Saturday morning were the times to avoid supermarket shopping. But since most stores
are now open 24 hours, people have adjusted their lifestyles to shop when they absolutely
must. Anxiety sets in shortly after we begin to cruise the aisles so many choices.
Low-fat, no-fat, chopped, chunked, whole and thats just the pet food.
A young man stands puzzled in front of 50 types of disposable diapers. He
watches the plastic packs, as if waiting for one of them to say, "Me! Its me
she wants!" He gives up and in desperation reaches for his cell phone to call home.
Better right than sorry.
Rotisserie chickens are spinning on a spit behind the deli counter. There
are a dozen kinds of apples in the fresh produce section and in the dead of winter,
watermelon slices and strawberries remind us of spring at exorbitant prices. We
stop to buy a few lottery tickets (please, get me outta here!), as we spot a line at the
We head to the checkout and wonder why 21 registers are closed. Two boys
run circles around the checkout as an older boy kicks around a large beach ball. A man
signs a credit slip to pay for his groceries with a charge card. Ah, modern money!
This is definitely not the way your grandmother shopped.
11 p.m. Arraignment Court
Its much too cold, sitting in the wood-paneled courtroom in the
basement of the Kew Gardens Criminal Court building. But Arraignments Court is notorious
for its bone-chilling reception to spectators and suspects alike.
Its just after 11 p.m. The middle-aged woman standing before the
judge looks like anybodys mother. How could she be here?
This cant be. Anybodys mother a drug smuggler? Caught bringing
hundreds of kilos of cocaine into Kennedy Airport and Queens. The woman now speaks
to the court, aided by an interpreter. Over and over, she insists she knew nothing of the
killer cargo that was stashed in secreted compartments in her designer luggage.
The womans shoulders slump as the judge orders her held in lieu of
$1.5 million bail.
The night takes on a humorous edge as a prostitute a male dressed
as a female hooker cries to the judge.
Someone stole his shoes. And his time spent locked up with male prisoners
was more than he could handle. "Why," he asks, "was I not put into a cell
with females to wait to see a judge?"
The judge explains, "Its simple. Youre physiologically a
male. Therefore you must be housed with other males."
The hooker wipes away tears and adjusts a pageboy wig as the judge says,
12 a.m. Firehouse
Just back from a run, this team of Queens firefighters breaks-up to take
care of in-house chores and local inspections.
Some of the firefighters stay behind to clean the "rig," tools
and equipment. Others participate in "house drills" practice runs in
rooms designed to duplicate local houses. These drills familiarize firefighters with the
layout of buildings to better enable them to handle a fire.
One man is placed in a Watch Area behind a computer and next to a
telephone. Their duty is to coordinate incoming calls, advise others of a fire and
coordinate multiple response units at area blazes.
Still other firefighters take on the job of making the meal. But it never
fails, firefighters said.
"Get a really good meal and you get a job."
Then its into the garage where they don fire gear and jump onto the
"There are lots of ruined meals," they said. "Lots."
"Oh, well," they added. "Theres always the