Top stories to watch for in the greater Ridgewood area in 2022

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The greater Ridgewood area saw a lot of action this year, from a contentious local City Council race to new businesses opening up to residents fighting for more community investment.

Here’s what to look out for in the greater Ridgewood area in 2022.

Local lawmakers push for more testing sites

Councilman Robert Holden announced this week that he’s working with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the mayor’s office to expand testing sites in his district — consisting of Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale, Middle Village, Woodhaven and Woodside. The area is seeing more than 16% of COVID positivity rate amid the citywide surge.

A spokesperson for Holden said that The Shops at Atlas Park would be used as a micro-testing site at the beginning of January.

Holden, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar partnered to bring a temporary testing site to the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, located at 89-07 Jamaica Ave. This site will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rapid and PCR tests are available until the end of the week. 

New York City decreased its testing capacity from 54 to 34 sites, as reported by The City. Now lawmakers all over the borough are working to get more testing in their districts. 

$500,000 invested to renovate Mafera Park

Friends of Mafera Park asked Councilman Robert Holden to replace playground equipment. (Photo by Julia Moro)

The community-based group Friends of Mafera Park worked hard this year to get the attention of local lawmakers in order to secure funding for necessary renovations to the park in Ridgewood.

Local elected officials and residents are working with the Parks Department to decide how to spend the $500,000 in state funds. 

“It is great to see a community playground receive the resources necessary to keep it a safe and fun-filled place for residents of all ages to gather,” state Senator Joseph Addabbo said. “Mafera Park was in need of restorations, and because the residents spoke out and were heard by their local electeds, $500,000 in state funding to reconstruct the park for the betterment of the entire community has been allocated. I look forward to when the renovations get underway and we can give the community a brand new park to visit.”

Linda Byszynski, the leader of Friends of Mafera, said that this funding was a long time coming for the park and for her neighborhood. 

“What has really been wonderful about it is having this grow and bloom. More and more local residents are coming out and showing support,” Byszynski said. “I’m glad that the process is starting to secure funding.”

What will happen to local food pantries as the new mayoral administration takes over?

The Hungry Monk serves about 3,000 families in Ridgewood per week, after reaching 10,000 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Hungry Monk)

Local food pantries like Woodbine, Fenix Community Fridge and Hungry Monk rely on the Pandemic Food Reserve Emergency Distribution Program (P-FRED) to provide for families struggling with food insecurity. 

As the new mayoral administration takes over Jan. 1, these local pantries are unsure that funding will still be allocated to this program — even though they say there is still a great need for it.

Matt Peterson, an organizer at Woodbine, said there is a concern for the future of their pantry without the P-FRED program.

“The line for our food pantry hasn’t shrunk much over the last year, the need and the demand is still high, but donors and suppliers have dried up,” Peterson said. “There’s still a need to maintain this funding and to not abandon these families and communities.”

Peterson said if this funding is allocated elsewhere due to the mayor’s other priorities, they doubt they will be able to maintain the food pantry. 

New businesses popping up, changing the culture of Ridgewood

Lauren Urban (left) and Jessica LaHood (right) opened Get Right Wellness, located at 1025 Seneca Ave. in Ridgewood, which provides accessible and affordable wellness services. (Photo courtesy of Jessica LaHood)

Just this past fall, two psychotherapists and licensed clinical social workers teamed up to open Get Right Wellness to provide accessible, affordable mental health services for the community.

Located at 1025 Seneca Ave. in Ridgewood, Jessica LaHood and Lauren Urban saw a need for wellness and holistic services in their neighborhood.

“We both live in Ridgewood and have lived in Ridgewood for some time and love it here,” LaHood said. “We want to be able to serve our neighbors and make sure they’re getting what they need to be well and access healing. We just weren’t seeing very much of that in the neighborhood.”

Lahood and her partner Urban wanted to take down the barriers to mental health services that prohibits people from getting help. Specifically, the pair have created a fund to cover treatements and services for people in need. This fund allows more affluent customers to donate and cover the costs for those in need.

On top of Get Right Wellness, a new business opened up on Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood to provide art supplies. Tiny Arts Supply, located at 58-42A Catalpa Ave. opened in April in order to make creativity accessible to the neighborhood. The store, owned by Vanessa America, offers many different mediums and even has a section where people can donate new or used supplies.

Vanessa America is the owner of newly opened Tiny Arts Supply in Ridgewood. (Photo courtesy of Vanessa America)

If customers can’t find what they’re looking for, America said she can point them to one of the hardware stores in the neighborhood.

“I really wanted to open a business that would enhance the neighborhood and not take away from anyone’s business,” America said, adding that fellow business owners have been a great help as she embarks on her first business.