Year in Review: Queens’ top stories from November 2021

Voters head to polls on NYC primary election day
Voting stations at P.S. 166 in Astoria in the primary election on June 22. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

As 2021 comes to an end, QNS has compiled a list of the biggest stories, events and people of Queens that grabbed our attention this year.

Here’s a look back at the top stories for the month of November.

Oldest gay bar in Queens to remain in Jackson Heights 

Friend’s Tavern will remain a cornerstone of the Jackson Heights gay community after the owners purchased the Roosevelt Avenue building it has operated in for more than three decades. (Photo courtesy of Queens Chamber of Commerce)

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in November at Queens’ oldest gay bar, Friends Tavern, that will remain a cornerstone in the Jackson Heights community after the owner purchased the building in which it has operated for more than three decades. 

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz had connected the owner, Eddie Valentin and his business partner Casimiro Villa, with the Queens Chamber of Commerce. That led to an introduction to representatives from TD Bank and a mortgage.  

For three decades, Friends Tavern has been a refuge for the LGBTQ community, not only from the U.S. but from many countries around the world. According to Valentin, they’re looking forward to the next 30 years of creating friendships and giving love back to the community. 

Forest Hills and Rego Park residents reject demolition of Tower Diner & Trylon Theatre

Tower Diner (left) and the Trylon Theater that houses the Ohr Natan Synagogue (right) on Queens Boulevard (Photos courtesy of Michael Perlman)

During the Community Board 6 Land Use Committee hearing held in November, Forest Hills and Rego Park residents were opposed to the demolition of the Tower Diner and Ohr Natan Synagogue to make way for a mixed-use development on Queens Boulevard. 

The applicant, RJ Capital Holdings under Trylon LLC, presented a redevelopment plan to erect a 15-story building on the triangular block of the Trylon Theater that houses the synagogue at 98-81 Queens Blvd. and Tower Diner at 98-85 Queens Blvd. 

The developer is seeking to construct a 153,000-square-foot development, which includes 144 total units with 44 of those units as affordable housing under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program, 136,000 square feet for residential space, and 17,400 square feet for commercial space, with 45 parking spaces, including bicycle parking on site. 

Regal opens new 4DX Theater at Tangram in Flushing 

Regal’s new 4DX theater at Tangram in Flushing will open its doors for the first time on Friday, Nov. 12. (Photo courtesy of Tangram)

Regal welcomed movie-lovers back to its new state-of-the-art 4DX theater at Tangram in Flushing for the first time in 35 years.

Downtown Flushing has been without a movie theater following the closure of the historic RKO Keith Theater. Regal Tangram, located at 133-36 37th Ave., is the first movie theater to open in Flushing since then and became the borough’s first 4DX movie theater.

The theater has seven screens, a 4DX auditorium with groundbreaking cinema technology, and a full-service bar and signature concession stand favorites along with a kitchen serving hot food.

Schumer’s rally for Queens City Council candidate called off due to protester’s threat

A Felicia Singh rally with Senator Chuck Schumer was canceled in Belle Harbor Sunday, Oct. 31, after a protestor allegedly made threats on the Rockaway Boardwalk. (Photos courtesy of Singh and Ariola campaigns)

In the race to represent Council District 32, the last Republican-held seat in Queens, Democratic candidate Felicia Singh canceled her rally in Belle Harbor after a protester allegedly made threats on the Rockaway Boardwalk. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who endorsed Singh’s campaign, had left Belle Harbor before the rally after his security team deemed it unsafe. Singh had posted on Twitter that “one of the protesters was heard saying he wished he had a gun and that all Democrats should be shot.” 

According to Singh, they were met with aggressive and hostile supporters of her Republican opponent, Joann Ariola, who was seeking to replace term-limited Councilman Eric Ulrich to represent the district. 

Ariola’s campaign dismissed the alleged confrontation saying, “We have no knowledge that any such thing happened, but it has nothing to do with our campaign in any case we certainly do not condone threats of violence from anyone, in any party.” 

New LIRR station opens near Belmont Park

Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin and Acting MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber host a ceremonial first train ride and ribbon-cutting at the LIRR Elmont station, the first new Long Island Rail Road station in nearly 50 years. (Photo credit: Marc A. Hermann/MTA)

Southeast Queens leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul celebrated the opening of the new Long Island Rail Road station near Belmont Park in time for the New York Islanders’ first home game at UBS Arena. 

The first new LIRR station sits between Bellerose and Queens Village at the Queens and Nassau border. 

The LIRR Elmont station, the first new Long Island Rail Road station in nearly 50 years, has opened. (Photo credit: Marc A. Hermann/MTA)

The station will help reduce travel times and is expected to increase the number of event attendees who use public transportation, helping to alleviate traffic congestion in the surrounding communities. 

The station initially offers eastbound service to the new home of the New York Islanders and service will increase next summer when the westbound platform opens.

Five arrested after riots erupt in Middle Village following Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

A car was spray-painted in Middle Village riot following Kyle Rittenhouse trial result on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of Holden’s office)

Police officers arrested five individuals in Middle Village following the verdict of the high-profile Kyle Rittenhouse trial in November that sparked riots in the neighborhood. 

A jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide and other charges relating to the 2020 shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin. According to police, about 40 to 50 people were gathered in Crowley Park in Elmhurst going from town to town wreaking havoc. 

Law enforcement had observed a group of people marching through Middle Village, screaming and throwing garbage cans into the path of police vehicles to prevent officers from following them. The group also ran up to several houses to remove American flags, break mailboxes and damaged multiple parked cars. 

BOE releases unofficial election results for races in Queens

Voting booths at the Dayton Tower West polling site in Rockaway Park on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

New Yorkers went out to cast their votes during the consequential general election in November, which included voting for who will become the next mayor of New York City, as well as other citywide races for comptroller and public advocate.

In District 19, three candidates — Democratic candidate and former Councilman Tony Avella, Republican candidate Vicki Paladino and Conservative candidate John-Alexander Sakelos — looked to replace term-limited incumbent Councilman Paul Vallone.

In District 32, three candidates — Democratic candidate Felicia Singh, Republican candidate Joann Ariola and Community First candidate Kenichi Wilson — also battled it out to represent the southern Queens area.

Queens residents also voted for borough president, having to choose between Democratic incumbent Donovan Richards and Republican candidate Thomas Zmich.

Off-duty cop busted in Ozone Park for selling steroids in under cover sting: DA

An off-duty cop out of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn, was arraigned at Queens County Criminal Court in November for selling steroids from the parking lot of the Coliseum Gym in Woodhaven. 

Police officer Maurice Lemelin, 33, a Queens resident, was charged with possessing and selling a controlled substance after he allegedly sold anabolic steroids to an undercover detective in a sting operation in October and November, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. 

Lemelin is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 27, 2022. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison. 

Affordable housing lottery launches for Gotham Point dual-tower project in Long Island City

A rendering of the Gotham Point Hero Building. (Photo courtesy of VUW studio)

Plans were unveiled for the dual-tower residential project, Gotham Point, located in the Hunters Point South neighborhood of Long Island City. 

The development, announced two years ago, consists of two towers that will include 1,132 total residences with 75% of units priced at affordable rates, senior housing, shared amenities, community facility and retail space. 

Gotham Point’s South Tower, or Parcel G, will be 33 stories tall and is estimated to be completed this year between Second Street and Newtown Creek. The North Tower, of Parcel F, will stand at 57 stories and is expected to be completed in 2022. 

Gotham Point South Tower’s 33rd floor rooftop Amenity Terrace (Photo courtesy of VUW)

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