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Victoria’s Secrets: One great profile that’s fit to print

Photo by Dean Moses

How special a writer is Corey Kilgannon, a storyteller behind The New York Times “Character Study” column.

We had been talking to each other since April when he had done a story about Bayside, and heard about me and the birth of The Queens Courier, now a part of Schneps Communications and Events.

I was blessed to be profiled by such a talented writer, as “The Community Newspaper Queen, of Queens.” Here are some excerpts from it. Enjoy!

“After starting The Queens Courier in 1985, Vicki Schneps-Yunis has built an empire of free weekly newspapers mostly in neighborhoods outside Manhattan….

“‘The rumors of print’s demise are greatly exaggerated, at least with us.’…

“‘Us’ would be her Queens-based media empire, which dates back to 1985, when she started The Courier in her Bayside living room ‘with four children, a dream and a prayer and $250,” she said.’…

“We’re the real people,” she said of the other boroughs, which along with Long Island is the terrain of Schneps Communications, the media and marketing company Ms. Schneps-Yunis now co-owns and runs with her son, Joshua Schneps, 38….

“This year, the company has added print versions of The Long Island Press and Brownstoner, a Brooklyn-based website. The company now operates some 20 print newspapers, 10 digital publications and employs about 90 staff members….

“Ms. Schneps-Yunis grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, attended James Madison High School and earned degrees from New York University and Brooklyn College before becoming a schoolteacher.

“Her publishing career, she said, grew out of her protesting the Willowbrook State School, the notorious Staten Island home for developmentally disabled residents. Ms. Schneps-Yunis, whose daughter Lara was in Willowbrook’s infant rehabilitation ward, led protests in the early 1970s against deplorable conditions in other wards.

“Ensuing exposés by Geraldo Rivera helped fuel outrage, and a subsequent federal lawsuit helped close Willowbrook.

“‘To see the change, once Geraldo came in, that’s when I realized the power of the press, and I said, ‘I’d like to be in the news business,’ recalled Ms. Schneps-Yunis, who then helped start a group home in Little Neck, Queens, and an advocacy group called Life’s WORC….

“To help keep her papers profitable, Ms. Schneps-Yunis began holding advertiser dinners that have expanded into wider marketing and networking events.

“The events are promoted as awards dinners for ‘Power Women,’ ‘Under 40’ and such categories. Advertisers and others are presented with Vicki’s — a heavy statuette resembling an Oscar or a Tony award….

“As for her own prize, Ms. Schneps-Yunis is looking beyond a Vicki.

“‘I won’t stop until I win a Pulitzer,’ she said.”

Remembering Lily of Sunnyside

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With the sun blasting down on us, Senator Michael Gianaris raised his head to heaven and said, “Really, Lily, we appreciate the sun but could you turn it down a few decibels?”

We heard family friends and community and political leaders tell their tales of the extraordinary, beloved Lily Gavin, hostess/owner of Dazies on busy Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside as we all prepared for the unveiling of a street sign in her honor and memory.

I loved to hear her strapping son speak so lovingly with tears in eyes and choking voice of Lily, a single mother of five now-successful children.

In an era when women rarely worked, Lily took over Maisie’s, a failed pub, with five partners. Within a few years, she bought out her partners and soared to success.

Her restaurant became a destination for all political leaders. When Joe Crowley brought Nancy Pelosi to Queens, it was to a fundraiser hosted by Lily. No one could run for office in her district without Lily’s blessing.

She was a woman who was passionate about her family., her community and her friends. I’m so grateful to have had her as a friend.

Now and forever the block of her cherished restaurant on Queens Boulevard near 40th Road will be called “Lily Gavin Way.”

We all cheered as the plaque bearing her name was revealed and I’m sure Lily too was smiling from her perch in heaven!

The Gavin family with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose bill made the street naming possible, along with state Senator Michael Gianaris, Borough President Melinda Katz and Assembly Members Catherine Nolan and Brian Barnwell.
The Gavin family with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose bill made the street naming possible, along with state Senator Michael Gianaris, Borough President Melinda Katz and Assembly Members Catherine Nolan and Brian Barnwell.

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