Call for photos

qc_small.gifI’m hard at work at the new Central Queens community site, which I can now officially tell the world will be located at queenscentral.com (get it?), but I’ve got a little problem. I want a banner up top cycling through a few Central Queens photos, but it’s tough to find copyright-free pictures. In the past, I would have just stolen something, but though non-commercial, this is a little too big an undertaking for that. Plus what if I want to stick up a couple of Google text ads at some point?

I’ve taken a bunch of photos of Forest Hills myself, but I’m not a good photographer and I have nothing of Kew Gardens, Rego Park or Briarwood. So I’m turning to you, the Internet. Do you have any good photos of these neighborhoods, and will you grant me unconditional permission to use them in any way I see fit? Take one for the team, if you will? I can promise you will get attribution on the homepage whenever your photo appears, along with a link to whatever you want.

In related news, don’t buy web hosting without first googling for coupons. Seriously, at $48, that was easily the most valuable Google search I ever made.

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Gone Serf-in’?

Serphin Maltese is, thankfully, not my state senator, but he does represent some of Forest Hills as part of his oddly shaped district (warning: PDF), which bizarrely includes some but not all of Forest Hills Gardens, about as cohesive and homogeneous a neighborhood unit as I can imagine. In one of the great paradoxes of local politics, he’s widely known as one of the most conservative members of the New York State Senate despite representing one of the most liberal districts around — he’s been in power since 1989 and has been re-elected nine times. But the tide might be turning. (Oh, God, must resist making horrible “serf/surf” pun.) In 2002 no Democrat deigned to run against him, and he ended up getting a dictatorial 94 percent of the vote. But last year, facing an underfunded unknown whom the Democrats would barely acknowledge, he barely scraped by just 783 votes.

Now rumor has it Eliot Spitzer has decreed Maltese is going down in 2008, and he probably will. But my big question: What took so long? It’s truly amazing how people will continue to vote for someone who doesn’t share their interests or values just because he shows up to cut ribbons and shakes their hand. But that’s politics, isn’t it?

Now to think up a title for this post. No! Can’t use a surf pun! Can’t do it! Can’t do it! Must resist! No — resistance … weakening … I must … but I cannot …

Damn.

Bigger and better things

I am in dire need of a raison d’etre, and I’m increasingly thinking I’d like to start a community website covering Forest Hills. I’m talking blog, message boards, that sort of thing. Frankly, we’ve got nothing. I’ve been poring over sites like the excellent Astorians and QueensWest.com and seething with insane jealousy. I really, really think this neighborhood is worthy of something like that. Forest Hills NY is confusing and had its last post in January, and the Forest Hills Forum is mostly real-estate flames. Meanwhile, we have some excellent local bloggers, like Sarah of Avenue Food, but I don’t know of anyone who’s blogging about Forest Hills on a regular basis.

New York Magazine’s Neighborhood Watch archives have exactly zero entries on Forest Hills. That’s shameful, and we need to fix it. Basically, I’d like to try to build a sense of community around here among people who do more than just complain.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to do this, and I think I can already envision it. My only question: How wide-ranging should this be? I feel like anything covering just Forest Hills would die on the vine — not enough people would be interested in visiting and contributing. But how far do we go? I’m thinking “Central Queens” — but what is Central Queens? The Queens Chronicle, sadly the most authoritative source I could find, defines it as Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Briarwood. But should we cast an even wider net? How about southeast to Richmond Hill and Jamaica? West to Elmhurst and even Jackson Heights?

Would anybody be interested in this? Would you like to contribute? What areas would you like to see covered? Is anybody there? (I would be so pleasantly surprised if I got any answers.)

Suburban Southeastern Queens is hot hot hot!

I have a hard time thinking of a neighborhood less fashionable than Locust Manor, Queens — even the name is terrible — but these days, even Locust Manor merits sexy new condos worthy of being advertised alongside all the Hudson-adjacent Jersey megaplexes in today’s Metro Wednesday real-estate section. Things I especially like about Locust Manor Estates:

  1. The gutsy phone number, 888-FOR-LOCUST
  2. The logo, which seems designed to convey the message, “We’re talking about the tree, not the horrifying swarming insect”
  3. The existence of a “Senior Living” page on its website, which you can bet fellow Metro Wednesday advertiser Trump Tower Jersey City‘s site wouldn’t offer, despite its video of a pretty abysmal-looking Donald on the homepage
  4. The spelling of “Comming Soon” on the aforementioned page

Most of all, though, I like LME’s page on “The Community,” which looks unappealing enough that maybe they just should’ve discreetly left it out. Particularly great is the “Entertainment” section — and yes, those are sarcastic quotes — which lists seven attractions, including a batting range conveniently located right behind my old high school and nowhere near Locust Manor.

Next up to get luxury condos will be — oh, wait. I don’t think there’s anywhere left.

Top of the what?

A couple of years ago, I remember hearing a few scattered panicky reports about the impending sale of naming rights to subway stations. Everything is for sale these days, so instead of getting off at, say, Astor Place, you’d be at Starbucks Junction. The 79th Street station on the 1, 2 and 3 lines could be FreshDirect Central Terminal. (Eat it, Zabar’s!) 71st/Continental Avenue-Forest Hills might become, oh, I don’t know, Stolichnaya Station.

People around these parts talked about it for a few days, like people are wont to do — I’m sure there was no shortage of hysterical phone calls to boring NY1 phone-in shows — and then, like many things, it died out. But a few months ago, I started noticing something, something kind of subtle that I haven’t heard anybody mention. When my morning F train rolls into 47/50 Street-Rockefeller Center, the conductors no longer stop at the name of the station. Inevitably, they announce:

“47/50, Top of the Rock.”

It happens every time. I pass this station every single weekday and many weekends, and I can’t think of a single time since I started paying attention that the conductors have failed to announce Top of the Rock. Sometimes they go into explicit, tongue-tying detail: “This is 47/50 Street, Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock. Change here for the B, D and V trains.” Sometimes they make do with a near-unintelligible “Mumblemumble Top of the Rock mumblemumblemumble.” Sometimes — I dare say often — it’s just, “Top of the Rock,” as if that says it all. Why, it’s almost like somebody instructed them to always say “Top of the Rock,” or else.

And what is Top of the Rock? An observation deck on the 70th floor of GE’s famed 30 Rock building, it’s a major tourist attraction. But there are much bigger tourist attractions in the tourist attraction capital of the world, and they generally only get mentioned at subway stops by completist conductors like the one I caught announcing incorrect directions to a Long Island Rail Road station last month. The Empire State Building and Macy’s rarely get mentions at 34th Street-Herald Square. Heck, Top of the Rock isn’t even the biggest tourist attraction at its station — Radio City Music Hall is a much bigger deal, as are the famous ice-skating rink and Christmas tree in the winter.

But what makes this a really obvious shill to me is the fact that Top of the Rock just reopened a year and a half ago after — get this — a 20-year hiatus. Its revival was much celebrated — in advertisements. The kind of people who run the subway and make the subway run couldn’t have cared less.

So even if nobody’s noticed, it certainly appears that subway sponsorship is here and most likely here to stay. And considering that Top of the Rock isn’t exactly a brand to rival Coke or Microsoft, my guess is it’s coming cheap. If it were going to be much of a financial drain, why would NBC throw away its money promoting New York’s second-highest observation deck when it could promote NBC?

This is only going to get worse, of course. It always does. What’s next? ESPN Zone? Mars 2112? I’m hoping standards continue to drop — maybe then we can get ourselves a Nuts 4 Nuts stop. It’ll smell better than the others, at least.

Wyoming fact!

There is only one four-year university in the entire state of Wyoming. The whole state!

Me: not an original thinker

Evidently, I’m a New Mysterian. I came up with this philosophy completely independently, honest — I had no idea anybody else had ever professed it or even thought of it. I guess everything has already been done, huh? It wasn’t until I stumbled across its Wikipedia article five minutes ago that I realized it was an actual, existing theory with an actual, existing name.

The situation is pretty dire. For one thing, “New Mysterianism” is a surpassingly dumb name that makes me think, above all, of ? & the Mysterians. And it only gets worse. One of the most prominent proponents of New Mysterianism is notorious jerk and admitted homophobe and racist John Derbyshire. And look at this guy, the world’s leading New Mysterian. Does he look like someone you can trust?

It’s enough to make me want to dump the idea, but sadly, I can’t — it just seems so obvious to me. I like to talk about it in terms of cats and calculus. My cat is one of the smartest animals I’ve ever encountered. She’s affectionate. She often exhibits behavior that seems strikingly human. But try as I might, I could never teach my cat differential calculus. At her evolutionary stage, she just doesn’t have the brain power to come close to comprehending it. That doesn’t mean that differential calculus doesn’t make sense, or that it isn’t real. Everybody who has a brain advanced enough to understand it knows that it’s perfectly logical and it works, and that it can explain countless puzzling mathematical problems. But my cat, a member of one of the most intelligent of the millions of species in the world, will never even come close to being able to fathom any of it.

Likewise, it’s arrogant and scientifically specious for us humans to assume that we exist at the highest possible plane of evolution. We can understand calculus, yes, but there must be truths about the universe that we still lack the brainpower to comprehend and will continue to do so for another million years or so. If there were things we couldn’t understand back when we thought at a cat level, what evidence is there to suggest there’s nothing we can’t figure out today?

There is one major problem in the world that nobody has ever been able to solve, and I seriously doubt that anyone — anyone that we would rightfully call a human being — will ever be able to solve. It’s perhaps the only fundamental problem shared by adherents of religious and atheistic philosophies: What happened in the beginning? I once saw a great episode of Kirk Cameron’s The Way of the Master in which one of the atheists being harassed on the street asked his inquisitors that very question. The fair-minded editors took it as an opportunity to cut him off and display Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But that’s not good enough, which is what the atheist was undoubtedly trying to convey. Let’s say God created the heavens and the earth. Well, who or what created God? And who or what created that entity — and so on and so forth? Now, this is hardly an original question, and it’s been answered many times by many religious people over thousands of years: Nothing created God. He has always been and always will be. But if God has always been, why couldn’t a godless universe be eternal, too?

But we have to ask what came first, what happened at the beginning. We have to ask it because our brains can’t comprehend another scenario. We can talk about infinity, but we can’t really understand it. Maybe something did come first, and maybe that thing just happened, just came out of nothing, but that’s an impossible concept to us, too. Either way, we’re left with something beyond the reaches of our mind.

The concept that there are simply things we’re not advanced enough to understand, questions we can’t answer and never will, is the only logical conclusion.

I find it interesting that in the rudimentary research I’ve done on New Mysterianism, it seems to be principally an atheistic philosophy. Why can’t anybody, hardcore evangelical or militant god-hater, be a New Mysterian? Science and religion both leave important questions unanswered. Genesis 1:1 aside, neither one can really answer the fundamental “in the beginning” question. I would think the philosophy would be just as compatible with religion as with science — if not more so, because science by design seeks answers to all natural phenomena, whereas religion tends to be more comfortable with the unknown. Maybe that’s my original contribution to this whole line of thought. If I can’t invent it, at least I can contribute something good.

So I guess I’m a New Mysterian. Ugh. That’s going to take some getting used to. I guess I’ll go out now to buy some crystals and flowing sky-blue robes.