QUEEN SANTA SIBYL
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December 16, 2017
CONGRATS! JACOB RIIS'S LEGACY LIVES ON AS HE HAD ATHE IDEA TO PUT UP THE FIRST PUBLIC CHRISTMAS TREE IN 1912. BRING SOME OF YOUR CHILDREN TO ROCKEFELLER CENTER! HOHOHO! RIIS ADVOCATE
Astoria middle school receives funding for improvements
by Benjamin Fang
Dec 15, 2017 | 699 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thanks to funding from a local legislator, IS 141 in Astoria now has the funds to complete three important projects for the school. State Senator Jose Peralta handed off a $105,000 check to the school last Thursday morning. The money will be used to level off 38th Street and create a new garden. IS 141 will also build a new gender-neutral bathroom on the first floor and add interior security cameras. “The idea here is to ensure you have a great learning environment,” Peralta said to dozens of students gathered at the announcement. “You are the future of our society. What you learn here will mold your minds.” In the last year, Peralta has earmarked funding for other local schools in his district to add air conditioning, upgrade public address systems and renovate an auditorium. Principal Miranda Pavlou said six years ago the school created a garden in the front of the school, which won praise from the community. She said she wanted something similar for the 38th Street side. “The side of the building is a little bit dilapidated,” she said. The new garden will have an educational component, she said. Students will study what kind of flowers they need to put where, and if the plants are receiving enough sunlight. The gender-neutral bathroom has been on her wish list for more than a year. Pavlou said IS 141 is a Respect For All school, so creating an inclusive environment where students feel comfortable is a priority. Pavlou said next on her wish list is creating a more student-friendly cafeteria, which currently sits about 400 students. “We want to design something that’s more friendly for the children, so the lunch period becomes a real joy to eat and communicate with friends,” she said. She noted the school building is old, but the staff takes good care of it. To be able to do extra projects like the garden and bathroom will lead to better learning, she said. “The children need to come here and feel comfortable, safe and be in a beautiful environment,” Pavlou said. “The same way we want our homes to be beautiful, this is their home. That is what I want to create for them everyday.”
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LatoyiaArias
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December 15, 2017
This capital investment of millions of dollars will go far toward guaranteeing our children learn in offices with present day labs and studios, coursework writing service uk with a la mode technology and with the quality play area space.
City opens new insurance center in LIC
by Meghan Sackman
Dec 15, 2017 | 155 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pictured is Betsy Pavon of the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit (left) and Dr. Sonia Angell of the Health Department outside the new health insurance enrollment center in Long Island City.
Pictured is Betsy Pavon of the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit (left) and Dr. Sonia Angell of the Health Department outside the new health insurance enrollment center in Long Island City.
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The city last week opened a new health insurance enrollment center in Long Island City. Located at Queensboro Plaza, the center is the third GetCoveredNYC enrollment center in Queens. GetCoveredNYC was started in 2016 to help city residents obtain health insurance, with specialists helping individuals from a wide range of incomes figure out which insurance plan is best for them. “We want you to know that it’s easy to enroll,” said Regina Schwartz, director of the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit. “Eight out of ten people qualify during open enrollment for financial assistance, and for many New Yorkers it’s low to no cost.” Schwartz said this is an important time to fight for coverage for every New Yorker should have. “The federal government is trying its hardest to keep you from getting the insurance and the health care that you deserve,” she said. “We should continue fighting for our rights, and the best way to do that is to enroll in health insurance.” Last year 600,000 New Yorkers were without health insurance, and although 46,000 of those individuals have received coverage since the start of open enrollment in November, there is still a lot that needs to be done. “No New Yorker should be uninsured,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, deputy commissioner for the Health Department. “It’s critical now more than ever that residents understand health insurance options and they get access to coverage. “But what is really important to know is that regardless of your immigration status, we’re still here to serve all New Yorkers,” she added. “So those opportunities are at your fingertips.” The center will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and there is open enrollment until January 31. To make an appointment or learn more, New Yorkers can call 311, text CoveredNYC to 877877, or visit NYC.gov/ACA.
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The Family At Home in the Kitchen
by Nancy A. Ruhling
Dec 15, 2017 | 147 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Peter with his parents, John and Litsa.
Peter with his parents, John and Litsa.
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Peter thought he was going to have a career in medical research.
Peter thought he was going to have a career in medical research.
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Ovelia is at 34-01 30th Ave.
Ovelia is at 34-01 30th Ave.
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“Would you like me to make breakfast?” Because the asker is Peter Giannakas, the chef at Ovelia, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.” “I’ll just fix something simple,” he says as he begins frying organic eggs in Greek olive oil. “A traditional Greek family-style breakfast.” Within minutes, he brings the platter of eggs to the table. Then he presents country-style pork sausage made with leeks and orange zest; grilled halloumi cheese from Cyprus; grilled pita bread seasoned with salt and pepper and oregano; a dish of deep-fried boiled potatoes, onions and red and green peppers; and tomatoes and cucumbers dressed in olive oil and oregano. Simple? “This is how we usually eat,” he says, popping a potato into his mouth. “We share and mix and match everything.” By “we” he means his family: his parents, John and Litsa, and his older brother, Chris. Restaurants run in their family. John and Litsa owned an eatery in Athens, Greece, which is where they are from. Litsa and Chris joined him a year later, and after Peter was born, Litsa became a stay-at-home cook while she raised the boys in Astoria. “We were fortunate – and all a little pudgy,” says Peter, a muscular man with dark brown curls that can’t stop themselves from peeking out of his knit hat. John worked in other people’s restaurants throughout his career. Eleven years ago, when John was near retirement age, the family opened Ovelia, the Hellenic grill house and bar on 30th Avenue at 34th Street. They named it for the ancient Greek ritual of roasting a lamb on a spit over an open flame, which Ovelia does out on the sidewalk on Greek Easter and August 15, the Greek Orthodox feast day of Dekapentaugusto, which also happens to be Peter’s (Panagiotis’) name day. “My father, who is 72, has been cooking for at least 40 years, and my mother, who is 66, has compiled recipes from both their moms,” Peter says. In a neighborhood saturated with Greek restaurants, Ovelia has made a name for itself with its traditional Mediterranean menu. It’s known for its feta cubes (deep fried, crusted with sesame seeds and drizzled with Greek honey); skirt steak marinated with Greek coffee; lamb tigania (pulled leg of lamb, warm and tossed with kefalograviera cheese and served with fries); and Monastiraki Bifteki (a kebab of ground beef, pork and lamb placed on a flat skewer and flame-broiled over a grill). “Monastiraki Bifteki, our signature dish, is not usually seen in Greek restaurants in America,” Peter says. “The name Monastriaki refers to an area in Athens where there’s a row of restaurants that serve it. It’s also a homage to the city my parents are from.” Despite their culinary credentials, nobody in the family had planned to open a restaurant. Ovelia came about because Peter and Chris were driving by and saw a “For Rent” sign in the window. “It had been a café that wasn’t doing well,” Peter says. “Before that, it had been a hardware store that specialized in plumbing supplies. I remembered it from my childhood.” In short order, the brothers had signed a lease, and after renovations, they opened it in 2006. Although Chris gave up his career as a paralegal in a law firm to run the restaurant with his parents, Peter stayed on the sidelines. He was working on a master’s degree and thought he was headed for a PhD and a career in medical research. “I started helping out at Ovelia,” he says. “I took it upon myself to design the brunch menu. I wanted it to 'Greek-ify' all my favorite foods. When it was introduced, it quadrupled our business. I was hooked.” Peter, who is 38, didn’t mind giving up his other career. “I was getting tired of science,” he says. “The rewards were few and far between. I’m a very social person, and I had had enough of spending ten hours a day in a lab.” Peter, who grew up cooking with his mother, was no neophyte in the restaurant business. He spent six years working part time for Taverna Kyclades on Ditmars Boulevard. He started as a busboy when he was 15 and eventually became the manager. At Ovelia, he headed straight to the kitchen to begin learning from the gas burners up. “I have an affinity for cooking,” he says. “Even when I was a kid, I could taste the flavors before I created a dish. Our goal at Ovelia is to be as different as possible and to create traditional and unique dishes.” Working the kitchen, he says, is exciting. “I like the intensity,” he says. “When the orders pile up, I’m at my sharpest and most confident.” Peter loves the fact that Ovelia is all in the family. “Chris and I push each other,” he says, adding that they share a two-family house they recently bought in East Elmhurst. “We give each other a kick in the ass when we need it.” Although Peter spends about 60 hours a week at Ovelia – “I’m lucky because I work only five days a week” – he doesn’t want to be known only as a restaurateur. “When I have free time, I go fishing at Gantry Park on the East River or at Costco,” he says. “I also write poetry, which I have been doing since I was 13. It’s a way to communicate things I cannot say to people face to face.” The down time gives him a chance to think of new ideas for Ovelia. “We’re always evolving,” he says. “We’ve thought of opening more restaurants, but it has to be the right situation and right for the whole family, just like Ovelia was.” As brunch crowd arrives, Peter clears the plates from the table. “Ovelia is a labor of love,” he says, heading toward the kitchen. “I love our neighborhood, and we hope to be a part of the community for at least another 20 years.” Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nancyruhling and visit astoriacharacters.com.
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