Victoria’s Diary: What a day it was

With Joan Hamburg holding up a recent edition of amNewYork Metro

As I made my way through the rain on a drizzly Thursday morning going up the stairs to the 2 Penn Plaza offices, which serves as home to 77 WABC Radio for a few more months, I was filled with joyous anticipation.

It was the beginning of the day where I would meet my longtime idol Joan Hamburg, then lunch with Barbara Askins, the dynamic leader of the iconic 125th Street BID, at Red Rooster — my favorite restaurant in Harlem — before heading back to my Bayside office to prepare for a debate sponsored by the Queens Courier with the candidates running for Queens Borough President. Our media company was co-hosting it at the beautiful, unique co-op, the North Shore Towers. What a day it was!

At WABC, I was humbled to be interviewed by Joan Hamburg, the legendary broadcaster whom I grew up listening to.

After I was buzzed into the recording studio, I was directed to the waiting room, where surprisingly there was a video screen welcoming Eric Adams, the current Borough President of Brooklyn who was to be a guest on an upcoming show. I took a snapshot of my friend and texted it to him.

As Joan’s producer Jennifer Grod led me down the corridor to be interviewed, I literally bumped into Curtis Sliwa, who looked older than I remembered but was still wearing his iconic red cap and jacket of his trademark Guardian Angels group. He was rushing to record his radio show, but we still had time to reminisce about our mutual friend Paul Carlucci, a former executive of the New York Post who had negotiated a dozen years ago to acquire the Queens Courier. We obviously rejected the offer. 

I was thrilled to talk with Joan about our latest acquisitions: amNewYork Metro and Metro Philadelphia. But I was also anxious to talk to her about being on my Power Women Podcast

After our introduction, we launched into a mutual admiration chat. She was so impressed with our news leadership in New York City. 

WABC was recently purchased by John Catsimatidis and the offices of the once legendary station looked like a ghost town. On the walls leading to Joan’s studio were portraits of stars like Don Imus and Sean Hannity, among others who had made WABC the “go-to” New York radio station. Joan has reigned there for decades, during which she brought to her recording studio the stars of New York City. 

I can’t wait to hear the broadcast we did together. Her show is aired on Saturdays. Keep you posted!

From there, I was off to Harlem to have lunch with the woman who everyone calls “Switzerland,” because she is beloved from every corner of Harlem.

Not only did Barbara knock on the doors of every landlord on 125th Street to create the BID, she has led it for decades. She knows everything and everyone on 125th Street, which is home to the legendary Apollo Theatre. When I saw a run down and rusted gated building on the street, she immediately said with anger and frustration, “that building is owned by the city and has been vacant for years and that’s disgraceful!” I took a photo of it and sent it to my editor of amNewYork Metro Robert Pozarycki, to see why!

We made It through the rain into the Red Rooster restaurant, where I had happily enjoyed lunch (and written about it) a few weeks prior. We found a quiet table in the corner, but within minutes I noticed these women walking through in stunning red dresses and red suits. It was a sea of red! 

Being curious, I asked one of the women and Barbara figured out that they were probably coming from the Apollo Theatre that holds “Dining With the Divas,” an annual fund-raiser that advances women’s leadership through arts and education. This year’s event was chaired by a powerful threesome: Betsy Cohen, Joan Haffenreffer and Carolyn Minick Mason.

I saw my old friend Philippa Karteron and her daughter, who was wearing a gorgeous red feathered jacket, in the crowd.

I was so delighted also to see Hope Knight, Queens’ own President and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. I even met the woman who is the director of Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Knowing I had to get back to Queens, I reluctantly left the crowded room filled with enormously successful women gathered from around the country. 

Getting back to my Bayside office, I reviewed with my Queens Courier reporter Angélica Acevedo the format of the debate she would be moderating later that evening.

Before heading to debate, I stopped for dinner at the Towers Restaurant in the North Shore Towers, where the debate was held. I was joined by former Borough President Claire Shulman, who on Feb. 23 will celebrate her 94th birthday. She still works every day leading the Willets Point Redevelopment Corporation. Remarkable!

Debby Markell, chair of the political committee of the North Shore Towers board, was co-hosting the debate with the Queens Courier. Chair of the Queens Republican Party Joann Ariola joined us for dinner, too.

Matt Silverstein, district leader from Bay Terrace, came late but arrived for dinner just before we walked down to the movie theatre where the debate was held.

I was happy to see Jill Davis, our talented editor of the North Shore Towers Courier, the Le Havre Courier and the Cryder Point Courier, the monthly news magazines for these unique co-op buildings, covering the debate with our other reporters. 

North Shore Towers’ three buildings have their own cable channel, where the debate would be broadcast for those who missed it in person.

I was happy to introduce all of the candidates as they took the stage: Councilman Costa Constantinides, former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Councilman Donovan Richards, retired NYPD Sgt. Anthony Miranda, and longtime prosecutor James Quinn. Each convincingly made their case to be selected as the next Queens Borough President. 

The special election that is scheduled for March 24 comes after former Borough President Melinda Katz was elected to be the borough’s District Attorney. Claire, who was Borough President for 16 years, spoke about the power and influence of the office that can effect everyone living in the county. 

So, make sure your voice is heard and come out to vote on March 24. 

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