Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The 6 Koi Art Show & Fundraiser, Jade Eatery & Lounge, 9/21 opening show & Event through 11/1

For Immediate Release

Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chairman Michael Perlman  (917) 446-7775

Artist & Gallery Owner David Chatowsky  (401) 835-4623

“The 6 Koi” from Rhode Island to Forest Hills: Art Exhibition To Benefit New York Police & Fire Widow's & Children’s Benefit Fund
NEW YORK, NY & NEWPORT, RI (Sept 16, 2019) – “The 6 Koi” exhibit, sale, & fundraiser is running from September 15 to November 1, 2019 at Jade Eatery & Lounge at 1 Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens, NY, which offers a popular gallery where artists gather. 

All are invited to an art show, sale, & fundraiser on September 21 from 5 PM to 10 PM. The exhibit is being organized by artist, humanitarian, and multiple gallery owner David Chatowsky, a Rhode Island resident who is returning to NY for another artistic and humanitarian opportunity.
Ten percent of all sales will benefit the New York Police and Fire Widow's and Children’s Benefit Fund, which provides financial assistance and support to the families of NYC police officers, firefighters, Port Authority police, and EMS personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. This initiative is in partnership with Chatowsky’s friend Lyle Carey, who is running in the NYC Marathon to raise 4k for the charitable cause.
Local historian Michael Perlman said, “On a trip to Newport, RI last fall, I am proud to have met a very talented and unique artist and humanitarian, David Chatowsky, and bring him to Forest Hills, NY on two occasions for highly beneficial causes. The arts are universal and can serve as a platform for committing good deeds.”  All works of art are for sale and will be presented to the buyer by Jade Eatery & Lounge on the day of purchase.   

Patrons enter Jade Eatery & Lounge, which offers a rare koi pond, home to 6 beautiful koi fish. Chatowsky said, “These 6 Koi are the inspiration for my art show. I am very familiar with koi and aquatic plants, since I worked on an aquatic farm in Palm City, Florida in my early twenties, and helped raise koi. I also grew many water plants such as water lilies and lotuses.” 
Acrylic paintings that are on display include “The Jonah Koi,” “The Samurai Koi,” “Koi with Water Lilies,” and “Red and Green Koi with Lotus Flowers.” “I hope my paintings’ variation in sizes and the fact that some are in color and black and white will stimulate the creative process in patrons,” said Chatowsky. 

The exhibition bears the potential to positively impact Forest Hills and the world. Chatowsky explained, “Animals make our lives more interesting. Their colors enrich our landscapes. All animals are here for our enjoyment, and we are their stewards. Therefore, it is our responsibility to create areas within the urban environment for animals, so future generations can be graced by their presence.  It is very important to use the gifts we have been given to bring peace and harmony into this world.”   
Chatowsky feels a bit like Jonah after he exited the giant fish. He said, “Unlike Jonah, I am selling the giant koi fish, which took me back to NYC. My message is not that of repentance, but environmental stewardship.”  

The collaboration between a Rhode Island artist and Jade “signifies the willingness of people working together to create a better future,” according to Chatowsky, who opened his first D. Chatowsky Art Gallery in Portsmouth, RI in 2016, followed by a second in Newport last year. His third gallery recently opened on Block Island. His diverse accomplishments also include permanent mural installations at the Florida Museum of Natural History, owning art galleries in Florida and New York, and coordinating humanitarian art exhibits in Los Angeles and Boston.

For a sneak peek of David Chatowsky’s “The 6 Koi” paintings, visit:

Event page:


“Ian Anderson Presents: Jethro Tull 50th Anniversary Tour” at Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman
Jethro Tull takes the Forest Hills Stadium stage, Photo by Michael Perlman
Forest Hills was on the map for the Jethro Tull tour, where the largely filled stadium was the quintessential venue for a 50th anniversary concert on the mild late summer’s night of September 14. Ian Anderson, who was born in 1947 in Fife, Scotland, is the sole original member of the British rock band “Jethro Tull,” as well as the lead vocalist and a flautist, credited for introducing the flute to rock music. Additionally, he is a multi-instrumentalist, who can also be found playing the guitar, harmonica, bass, and keyboard. 

Ian Anderson's flute & signature one-leg stance, Photo by Michael Perlman
The band debuted at the famed Marquee Club in London, and their success continued with 30 albums that sold over 60 million copies. In 50 years, Jethro Tull performed in 40 countries, performing over 3,000 concerts. Today, Anderson lives on a farm in England, site of his rehearsal and recording studio. 

Ian Anderson plays flute in front of his cultural background video monitor, Photo by Michael Perlman
Anderson’s quality lyrics engaged the audience and his showmanship were distinguished by his eloquence and witty nature. The stage became his dance studio, where he freely moves, and his signature single-legged flute stance was evident from early in his career. Two sets consisted of 18 numbers including “Dharma for One,” “Thick as a Brick,” “A New Day Yesterday,” “Warm Sporran,” and some of the most famous, “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” Traditional and cultural themes were apparent such as in “Bourée in E minor,” a flute-based spin on Bach’s classical piece, “Pastime with Good Company,” a King Henry VIII cover, as well as in “Heavy Horses” which mourns the loss of labor for England’s horses by favored machinery.

Anderson narrated select numbers. Before performing “Warm Sporran,” which has only been played publicly in the last few weeks, he said, “This is a piece that has sentimental value during the years that I spent in agriculture in the highlands of Scotland back in the 80s and 90s. I can often be found back then wandering through the glorious glens of the mountainsides, along the steep river banks, wearing nothing but a warm sporran.”

“This is the oldest theme of all,” Anderson said before performing “Pastime With Good Company.” “It wasn’t written by me, since I was still in short trousers back then in the 16th century when it was recorded as King Henry VIII’s madrigal in merry old England.” 

Jethro Tull, Photo by Michael Perlman
Fans ranged from diehards to first-timers. Eric Schreiber has been tuning in to Jethro Tull since the 1970s. He observed how over 50 years, the band journeyed through folk, progressive, and hard rock phases. He said, “Their trademark sound, which distinguishes Ian Anderson from other frontmen, is his prominent featuring of the flute. For a lead singer to alternate vocals with playing a wind instrument with his level of mastery is impressive. With some bands, the lead guitarist creates the band’s signature sound, but with Jethro Tull, it’s definitely Anderson’s flute and vocals.” He continued, “It was interesting how he chronicled the evolution of the band over the years with all of its members. His current band does a fine job of supporting him and did the music justice.” His favorite numbers were “A New Day Yesterday,” “My God,” “Aqualung,” and “Locomotive Breath,” and in response to the latter, he said, “It was kind of cool that you could see the LIRR from the stadium as that song was playing.” 

Jethro Tull with one of many outstanding backdrops, Photo by Michael Perlman
“When Ian came on stage, the sun was setting, it became dark just like in the theatre, and when he started performing, it was magical,” said Linda Glaser. “When I think of Jethro Tull, I think of Ian playing the flute with his toes touching his opposite knee. It was like time hasn’t moved since the 70s.” As for the band’s rapport with the audience, she said, “It was something I have never seen! Every song had a backup story, and past musicians were presented on video to narrate the songs.” She also fell in love with the venue’s ambiance. “The people we met in our row felt like long-lost friends,” she said. 

Ian Anderson belting a note, Photo by Michael Perlman
Peter Arato considered the high points the instrumentals, such as in “Bourée.” Additionally, he admired how Anderson entertained the crowd with retrospective stories of each tune between songs. He said, “An elaborate backdrop alternated between historic footage of Tull, a psychedelic light show, tributes by other musicians to the band’s 50th anniversary, and folks doing duets with Ian Anderson. The visuals really added to the experience.” His evening was also boosted by the stadium’s character. “There is probably no better or more intimate venue to see an outdoor show than Forest Hills Stadium, with a sense of history from the basic structure to the portraits of legends, both athletic and musical.” 

Longtime fan Steven Rosen sports his Jethro Tull t-shirt
“My memories came flooding back reliving my journey with them over 50 years,” said Steven Rosen, who found enjoyment in what he considers lesser known numbers, “Heavy Horses” and “Farm by the Freeway,” in addition to top hits “Aqualong” and “Locomotive Breath.” He praised Anderson’s rapport and professionalism. “Ian referred to seeing old friends again, which was nice to hear, and also let the applause die down before continuing the concert, which most bands in a hurry to finish do not.” 
Ian Anderson & his band take a bow, Photo by Michael Perlman
For Jane Firkser-Brody, it was a nostalgic night, which was reminiscent of the 1970 Jethro Tull concert at the Fillmore East. “Bourée” was her personal favorite, which largely made the crowd interact. She said, “I absolutely love the sound of a flute, and Ian Anderson plays as good as ever. Even though he is the only original member, his band sounds as if they have been playing together for years. Jethro Tull is made up of excellent musicians!” 

A portion of Kevin Wadalavage's Jethro Tull ticket stub collection
It was Kevin Wadalavage’s 14th Jethro Tull engagement, and he proudly retained his ticket stubs since 1972 at Madison Square Garden. He explained, “The musicians of early Tull, some of which were featured on the screen in the show, including Barriemore Barlow, Jeffrey Hammond, and Clive Bunker, were amazingly entertaining and skilled, and I would invite anyone to watch some of their early concert footage.” He continued, “Ian makes all the classic moves he has made for decades, and that is all we visually focus on with the band while they dutifully execute the notes.” He reminisced, “I first came to Forest Hills Stadium to see The Who in 1971, and having always lived in Queens, it has been a real treat to see the Stadium come back to life. I can see world-class talent and still be home in ten minutes.”

A similar version appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Forest Hills Mystery... "Celebrity Walk"

By Michael Perlman

Every community has forgotten relics which either survive or have been concealed, demolished, or carted away and awaiting rediscovery. The latter is the case with “Celebrity Walk,” a collection of handprints and signatures in cement slabs which existed in the 1960s and 1970s along the perimeters of the lawns in front of one of Forest Hills Gardens’ most historic and storied buildings, the Forest Hills Inn. It evoked the ambiance of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre’s forecourt’s footprints and handprints feature.

“I loved coming up with press-generating ideas, including the creation of a Celebrity Walk in front of the hotel’s sidewalk cafe. Marketing seemed to come easily to me,” said Mark H. Fleischman, former owner of the famed Studio 54 nightclub and author of “Inside Studio 54” which features a memoir of his life. From 1965 to 1968, he co-owned the Forest Hills Inn and served as executive director, although he retained stock in the company that sold to the co-op and rented the restaurants.

Fleischman explained, “It was a real coup when we got Frank Sinatra to put his handprints into a block of wet cement when he headlined the Forest Hills Music Festival at the nearby tennis stadium. As soon as other celebrities heard about Sinatra’s handprints and signature, they agreed to be included in our Celebrity Walk when they performed.”

Other celebrities who followed included Barbra Streisand, Trini Lopez, Woody Allen, and Buddy Hackett. On August 17, 1965, locals picked up the Long Island Star-Journal and read, “The Forest Hills Inn has Frank Sinatra’s and Barbra Streisand’s handprints imbedded on their sidewalk pavement, but it had to get them the hard way. Both stars agreed to make the imprint, but refused to do it at the sidewalk. So wet cement was sent to both stars, the imprints made, and the hardened blocks were then inserted in the pavement.”

The same publication read that on July 8, 1966, Sammy Davis, Jr. was expected at the Forest Hills Inn to place his handprints in the hotel’s “celebrity sidewalk.” Fleischman reminisced, “I was also able to get tennis stars playing for the U.S. Championship to participate in our Celebrity Walk, including Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, John Newcombe, and my hero from Spain where I attended summer courses at the University of Madrid, Manuel ‘Manolo’ Santana.”

In May 1965, the 300-room Forest Hills Inn and the adjoining apartments were sold for over $1 million to Martin Fleischman, who owned the Skyway Hotels at Kennedy Airport, and his son Mark Fleischman, a 1962 graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. At the time, it offered an English pub, cocktail lounges, a formal dining room known as the Windsor Room, a sidewalk cafe, what was originally named “The Tea Garden,” and four social function rooms accommodating 400 guests. “The Inn was a venerable hotel that looked like an English country manor,” explained Mark Fleischman. A draw was also its location in an upscale community and the proximity to Forest Hills Stadium, but yet it was in foreclosure. “I focused my energies with absolute determination and belief in my ability to revive the Forest Hills Inn, while also still committed to my duties as a Naval officer,” he reminisced.

Fleischman said, “Reviving the Inn involved more than just upgrading the food in the formal restaurant, the Windsor Room, and bringing in a new maître d’. I had to change the stuffy attitude of the staff as well and went head to head with the Hotel/Restaurant Workers’ Union.” He hired some new personnel and transformed the Tournament Grill into the Three Swans, an authentic English pub that became a neighborhood success. At the grand opening, local VIPs and politicians attended, including Mayor John Lindsay.

Some local residents recall the existence of a tunnel with a series of catacombs, which may have connected the inn’s basement to the Clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club. Rumor has it that a sidewalk construction project led to the relocation of the handprints, which may have been placed in the inn’s basement in a potentially concealed tunnel for safekeeping, possibly in the mid to late 1970s.

“I am unsure what happened to the slabs of cement, and my partner in charge of construction passed away many years ago, so I wouldn't know who to ask,” lamented Fleischman. In 2015 and 2017, a search began to rediscover and potentially resurrect the handprints at a secure location to be determined, to educate the public and commemorate diverse celebrities while celebrating Forest Hills history. A small but ambitious committee ventured into the Forest Hills Inn’s basement with flashlights and camera equipment, but on both occasions, the search yielded no results.

George Hoban, president of the board of the Station Square Inn Apartments Corporation is a member of the committee that began searching for the handprints. “I’ve personally looked through the bowels of the Forest Hills Inn for the infamous handprints and came up empty every time. I’ve never found photographic proof that they actually existed.” At one point, he said, “I’m beginning to think that the handprints may be an urban legend like ‘Bigfoot’ or the ‘Loch Ness Monster.’”

“It was an honor to be invited by this columnist, Michael Perlman, to explore the basement of the Forest Hills Inn to look for the signature and handprint slabs,” said Bea Hunt, co-chair of West Side Tennis Club Archives Council. “We searched every nook of the basement and learned much of the Inn's rich history. Unfortunately, we did not find any slabs, but I am confident that the search will continue. The West Side Tennis Club is extremely fortunate to have one slab in our archive.” It features the signatures and handprints of three famous tennis players from various decades, Jack Kramer, Bill Talbert, and Manolo Santana.

Upon viewing a photo of the sole cement slab that turned up in the West Side Tennis Club’s archives in more recent times, Hoban said, “The fact that Celebrity Walk existed is a testament to the rich history of the Forest Hills Inn, and we proudly honor that history as we continue to restore the Inn.” He is in favor of resurrecting Celebrity Walk in some form, if many slabs resurface. “We would need the approval and support of the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation and Friends of Station Square.” 

An alternate form of this article has been published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

New Helen Keller Mural Lighting The Way in Forest Hills

By Michael Perlman

The Ascan Avenue LIRR underpass is now a historic passageway, with the “Tribute To Ascan Avenue & Forest Hills Gardens” mural on the east wall, completed in 2017, and the “Helen Keller Forest Hills Tribute” mural, completed on the west wall on June 14. For many local residents and visitors who observed the dedicated and humorous LIRR crew installing the mural within a couple of hours, it was a historic moment. They stood proudly in memory of Keller, an advocate, author, and lecturer who persevered in her mission to remove stigmas associated with sight and hearing disorders despite being blind and deaf.

From 1917 to 1938, Helen Keller resided in a 7-room house, along with her teacher and closest companion “Miracle Worker” Anne Sullivan Macy and her secretary Polly Thomson. Today it is home to The Reform Temple of Forest Hills at 71-11 112th Street. 

Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy, & Polly Thomson's house, 71-11 112th St, Courtesy of Michael Perlman
Helen Keller inside her home, Courtesy of Susanna & Robert Hof
The 48-foot by 4-foot mural on preservation-friendly panels, was designed by Crisp from Australia and Praxis from Columbia, and developed by this columnist. It also became a reality due to the partnership with lead sponsor Council Member Karen Koslowitz, Queens Economic Development Corporation, and The Reform Temple of Forest Hills among local organizations, restaurants, shops, and residents who served as benefactors. 

Helen Keller & dog Sieglinde in bottom row, Anne Sullivan Macy & Polly Thomson in top row, Courtesy of the Hof family
The mural features a hand touching Braille, Helen Keller’s portrait and profile view, her pets, her demolished house, an equal rights voting box, and her feature on a 15-cent stamp with Macy. Her voice comes alive through two of her many quotes, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” and “The millions of blind eyes must be opened.” Her spirit initiates much light through a plaque designed in collaboration with Continental Photo, which features her local to international accomplishments, quotes, signature, and photos. 

Muralists Praxis & Crisp painting a Helen Keller mural panel, Photo by Michael Perlman
The mural was painted at The Reform Temple on June 12 and June 13, and the public had the opportunity to have a sneak peek and hear several presentations at two “Helen Keller Comes Home” events. Guest speakers shared valuable insights, discussing her history and the importance of contributing. 

Helen Keller Comes Home guest speaker panel, Day 1, Photo by Michael Perlman

Helen Keller Comes Home Day 1 attendees, Reform Temple of Forest Hills holding Helen Keller plaque & photos, Photo by Alvin Callo
Helen Keller Comes Home, Day 2 panel & guests, Photo by Alvin Callo

Teamwork was essential for every aspect of the project. Transporting the mural panels from the temple to Ascan Avenue nearly did not transpire in time, until Home Depot donated their services. Home Depot Assistant Manager Christina Strongilos said, “A mural commemorating Helen Keller was installed in Forest Hills, thanks to the Glendale Home Depot which came to the rescue when there was no other way to get the mural panels there. A great job to our very own department heads Fredy and Drew who made it happen!” 

Home Depot dept heads Drew & Fredy load Braille mural panel on flatbed, Photo by Michael Perlman
Helen Keller mural fans & benefactors
Reform Temple congregant Barry Joseph co-founded Girl Scout Troop 04281 last February, which consists of fourth and fifth graders who meet at the temple. “This season, they are working on a badge to learn more about their neighborhood and create something to teach others. They came up with the idea of creating Helen Keller playing cards that could be shared with people who came to the mural painting events at the temple. I was really proud of them for doing something to teach others about local history that was also connected to art and human rights.” 

LIRR staff displays Helen Keller mural panels, Photo by Michael Perlman
“Murals are not just artwork, but at their best tell a story,” said congregant Barry Wollner. “The Helen Keller story is worth telling and those who know her story will reflect on her life. Parents and their children will walk by the mural, and it will encourage discussion and result in a visit to the library to learn more about her life.” 

LIRR crew along with Crisp & Michael Perlman
The temple’s Rabbi Mark Kaiserman organizes the annual “Helen Keller Shabbat of Inclusion” featuring a guest speaker facing challenges but permits will power to lead the way. “The mural offers a real artistic and social benefit to Forest Hills, and it is an honor to have Crisp and Praxis’ beautiful art fill our town. Helen Keller was not Jewish, but embodied the blessings and values of our faith and every faith; the idea of overcoming incredible obstacles and working together with the community and living her life to making it a better world. She chose to become an ambassador across the planet, traveling places that many of us would never dream of, to reach out and inspire people.”

Rene David Alkalay, who contributed on behalf of Red Pipe Cafe and Genesis Society, said “I hope we can continue to maintain growth through the arts and find ways to communicate with one another.”

On behalf of benefactor West Side Tennis Club, archivist Bea Hunt explained, “West Side came to Forest Hills in 1913, four years before Helen Keller. She had friends in the neighborhood including the Marsh family who were Club members.” Hunt is determined to further research if Helen Keller ever visited the Club.

James Ng represented benefactor Elmhurst History & Cemeteries Preservation Society and called it an “honor to participate.” “I like to volunteer to make sure our history is preserved, since if you lose it once, it’s lost forever. When I watched the movie ‘Miracle Worker,’ the actress who played her was Patty Duke, who was born in Elmhurst. Also, I worked for a company that sold American Sign Language interpreting services to hospitals, so in a way, Helen Keller provided me with that avenue of work.”

Alexa Arecchi, Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi stated, “Helen Keller is truly the embodiment of what you can achieve when you persevere and don’t let people get you down or tell you otherwise. I am sure it would have been easier if she resigned to what many thought would be her fate – life in an asylum, but she knew that she was destined for more. That is a mindset, where we can all take our daily lives to achieve what we want. Hopefully when people pass the mural, they will be inspired and feel the same things.”

On behalf of the Queens EDC, tourism director Rob MacKay explained, “Whenever anyone hears that Helen Keller lived in Forest Hills, it will create pride. Hopefully it will become instagramable, since many people pass by murals and take photos and get the word out for free on the internet.”

Benefactors Rob Hof and his wife Susanna Hof of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty were in attendance. He shared his family photos featuring Helen Keller. “My mother’s family was geographically proximate to Helen Keller’s house in a home where the John Alden building stands today. My mother and her siblings would walk from PS 3 to home, and would have milk and cookies daily with Helen. My grandparents were also dear friends. They were all members of the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills across the street from the Reform Temple. As a young child and into the sixties, my grandmother would read letters from dear Helen to my siblings and I. Many stories always had the characteristics of gentleness, wisdom, and progressive ideas.” Rob’s maternal grandfather was Robert E. Marsh, VP of Cord Meyer Development Company, who helped secure Keller’s house. Rob added, “Helen nicknamed her house ‘castle on the marsh.’” 

Helen Keller, Courtesy of Queens Community Board 6
 “Like Helen Keller, I am deaf-blind,” signed Lesley Silva-Kopec. “Deaf-blindness has a wide spectrum of hearing and vision loss. I have Usher syndrome, which is genetic. My transition from deaf to deaf-blind was difficult. It took many years to embrace myself as a deaf-blind person. When I accepted my deaf-blindness, my burden eventually lifted off my shoulder and I felt free. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that people are 100 percent accepting and kind. For the most part people are helpful, but I still get the looks, since I am sighted and I use a white cane. My cane helps me see what I may not see due to the blind spots and the dark areas. I also have two wonderful dogs that help me. My husband is also deaf-blind. We still experience oppression, but have to stay positive and support each other.” She then explained, “What the city lacks is the Support Service Provider (SSP), also known as a sighted guide. I am currently working with the Mayor’s Office for people with disabilities to have SSP, so they can have autonomy life. It serves as an extra pair of eyes, and is helpful for activities that may not be safe for deaf-blind people.”

She continued, “I am so touched that Helen Keller was chosen to be painted on the Ascan Avenue LIRR underpass. It is a place where I walk with my dogs, so it’s going to make my walk extra special. “ 

“I brought my niece today, since she really didn’t know anything about Helen Keller,” said Leslie Brown, Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce President. She explained, “On 72nd between 110th and Queens Boulevard was the Seeing Eye Dog Foundation, where dogs were training. There was a cornerstone that read, ‘The house that love built – Helen Keller.’” Then the house was demolished. “My mother wanted my sister and I to search through the rubble and find the cornerstone.”

Benefactor Helen Day, VP of Richmond Hill Historical Society said, “It is fabulous to bring Helen Keller back to life and create a special remembrance of where she lived for so many years. She was a person on the world stage, and to come from so far away to a great city of the world and become a part of this great community really needs to be remembered.”

Muralists Praxis & Crisp with historian & mural developer Michael Perlman, Photo by Linda Perlman

Helen Keller's quote & signature, Feb 24, 1920

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Helen Keller Mural Painting Event on June 12 & June 13 / Mural Installation Day on Ascan Ave, June 14

Helen Keller in 1913, Bain News Service, publisher, Library of Congress 
"Helen Keller Comes Home" - You are invited to the Helen Keller tribute mural painting event at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills at 71-11 112th St, which was the site of her house from 1917 to 1938.

Guests will be escorted in a group, so please arrive on time & specify which date you will attend. RSVP required via messenger or email

**June 12 at 3 PM 

**June 13 at 11 AM

Event page:

The much-anticipated mural will be painted by international muralists Crisp (Australia) & Praxis (Columbia), & you will have a chance to watch the 48 ft x 4 ft mural being painted on preservation-friendly panels. An informative plaque with Helen Keller's signature & photos will also be unveiled. Historian & mural developer Michael Perlman will be on site.

On June 14 at 9 AM for an approximate 5 hours, the LIRR will install the Helen Keller mural panels on the west wall of the Ascan Avenue underpass. This project is funded by lead sponsor CM Karen Koslowitz & local residents & organizations. This is history-in-the-making!

Helen Keller's life & local to international accomplishments: By Michael Perlman

Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy, & Polly Thomson's House, 93 Seminole Ave later renumbered 71-11 112th St
A most courageous 20th century figure, Helen Keller (1880 – 1968), was an advocate, author, and lecturer. From 1917 to 1938, she resided in a brick-gabled and limestone 7-room house at 93 Seminole Avenue, later renumbered 71-11 112th Street, which she nicknamed “our castle on the marsh.” Today the site is The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, which annually hosts the “Helen Keller Shabbat of Inclusion” featuring a guest speaker, who despite facing a challenge, lives their life to the fullest.

After Keller contracted Scarlet Fever, she became blind and deaf at 19 months. She was examined by Alexander Graham Bell, telephone inventor and pioneer speech teacher for the deaf, who referred her to Perkins School for the Blind. At 7, she met Anne Sullivan Macy (1866 – 1936), who was partially blind. “Miracle Worker” Macy lived with her in Forest Hills, becoming her teacher and closest companion, and she later lived with secretary Polly Thomson (1885 – 1960). She had 8 dogs, mostly Great Danes, including Sieglinde and Hans. Keller and Macy would attend Sunday services at First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills.

Keller mastered the manual alphabet and learned to read Braille and print block letters. At 9, she began to read lips and communicate. As a graduate of Radcliffe College in 1904 at age 24, she became the first deaf and blind individual to earn a Bachelor of Arts.

In 1913, she began lecturing on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind, and her objective of removing stigmas associated with sight and hearing disorders took her worldwide. Traditionally, such conditions resulted in placing the blind and deaf in asylums. Braille became the international standard in 1932. She also advocated for labor rights and women’s suffrage. Keller’s published works include “The Story of My Life” (1902), “The World I Live In” (1908), “Out of the Dark” (1913), “Midstream” (1929), and “Helen Keller’s Journal” (1938). She wrote "Into The Light," a popular column for The Daily Star, a Queens newspaper. 

Helen Keller inside her home, Courtesy of Susanna & Robert Hof
On her home’s lawn, she celebrated birthdays by coordinating large parties for the blind, and held fundraising tours to benefit the American Foundation for the Blind. Her home’s guests ranged from journalists to scientists to social workers. 

In 1917, she welcomed members of the Rainbow Division of Camp Mills, which consisted of 1,200 soldiers from 27 states, who came in through Station Square. She explained, “The Star-Spangled Banner was more than 100 years ago dedicated as a symbol of freedom. We have since that time lived for that flag and for freedom, and I am proud to meet you, who are now ready to die, if need be, for it, that there might be equal rights for all men and women alike. That flag stands for a nation that obeys laws that honor women and protects virtue, and may you soldiers teach that lesson, so that it will be observed in every nation.” 

From 1920 to 1924, Keller and Macy partnered for an educational vaudeville act. At the 1925 Lions Club International Convention, Keller stated, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” and challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” In 1926, Keller and Macy lectured at the Forest Hills Theatre to over 1,000 guests, to aid in the relief and education of the blind through the American Foundation for the Blind, as part of a national campaign. Edwin Grasse, a blind organist, violinist, and composer accompanied Keller, as organist Samuel Pearce of The Church-in-the-Gardens played.

In 1924, Keller delivered a Thanksgiving address to children of The Church-in-the-Gardens. An excerpt read, “What we think in our hearts, and do, first for the other fellow, and then for ourselves, is the thing that makes us happy, and life worth living. Because people care, the blind receive their sight, and the dumb find their tongue.” She also spoke at The Community House, becoming the first woman to address the Forest Hills Men’s Club in 1928, after being encouraged by its president Homer Croy, a local notable author, screenwriter, and humorist.

In 1931, with her Great Dane by her side, she presented “How Parents Can Help Their Children” at a Public School 3 Mothers Club meeting, and advised parents to encourage their child to discuss their studies, problems, and interests, but not to criticize and pretend an interest, since insincerity will refuse their confidence. Rather, sympathy will gain their confidence.

After the Continental Avenue subway opened in 1936, she wrote with excitement, “Polly and I went to town by the new subway just opened from New York to Forest Hills - that brings me into closer contact with people.” 

Helen Keller's quote & signature, February 24, 1920

Mark Twain called Keller “one of the two most interesting characters of the 19th century” alongside Napoleon. Between 1946 and 1957, she went on tour 7 times and visited 5 continents, totaling over 30 countries. She encountered world figures including John F. Kennedy, Charlie Chaplin, and Grover Cleveland. She worked with seven American presidents and was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. She was also the recipient of the Lions Humanitarian Award for her lifetime service in 1961, and was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame at the 1964 - 1965 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Keller once said, “The millions of blind eyes must be opened. Society is always creating too much trouble for philanthropy to patch. One must attack social problems at their roots.” Other inspirational words are “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” She also stated, "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." 

Helen Keller & dog Sieglinde in bottom row, Anne Sullivan Macy & Polly Thomson in top row, Courtesy of the Hof family

Leads: Muralists Crisp & Praxis, Coordinator & Historian Michael Perlman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Sponsor Council Member Karen Koslowitz, Queens Economic Development Corporation, Long Island Railroad, Plaque design by Victor Kun & Sofia Monge of Continental Photo

Benefactors: Christopher Dukas, Cinemart Cinemas, Denise De Maria, Edwin & Katherine Wong, Elmhurst History & Cemeteries Preservation Society, Frank & Regina Carroll, Genesis Society, Gloria Piraino & Jim Bennett, Helen & John Day, John Beltzer, Knish Nosh, Oliloli Studio, Portofino Ristorante, Red Pipe Cafe, The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, Roast n Co, Rubi Gaddi Macaulay, Steven G. Schott, Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty; Susanna & Rob Hof, West Side Tennis Club 

~ Created June 2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019


For Immediate Release
Contact: Chairman Michael Perlman
Rego-Forest Preservation Council

MUST BE MOVED ASAP in Effort to Spare “Endangered Species” from Oblivion!      

   NEW YORK, NY (April 4, 2019) – Citywide patrons, preservationists, & community groups are disheartened that the classic Shalimar Diner at 63-68 Austin Street in Rego Park, NY has officially closed its doors in November 2018 after 45 years. Demolition plans have been announced, but Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council has launched a movement to grant the Shalimar Diner a new lease on life. 

The asking price for the classic structure is ZERO DOLLARS, although a buyer must come forward within 30 days to transport the diner either within NY or out of state, and is responsible for rigging and lot acquisition costs.

Diners were manufactured to move, and the Shalimar was prefabricated by the popular Kullman Dining Car Company. It features stonework, arched windows, & stainless steel. The Shalimar was one of numerous freestanding Greek family diners dotting the tri-state area. In 1974, it was delivered on a flatbed truck, and a diverse menu has been delighting palates ever since for family occasions, friend gatherings, first dates, and community meetings. It was an “ultimate public institution” where patrons at nearly any hour would sit elbow to elbow at the counter or comfortably at a booth or table. The diner has even been in the spotlight for a number of productions including the CBS drama “Blue Bloods” and the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill.

Preservationist Michael Perlman achieved success in sparing other classic diners such as NYC’s Moondance Diner and Cheyenne Diner by brokering deals to have it transported on a flatbed, earning him the nickname “Diner Man” by the NY Observer.   

 A party who is interested in receiving the Shalimar Diner for free & transporting it with the help of a highly successful diner rigger, must contact Michael Perlman ASAP at 

Shalimar Diner photos copyright Michael Perlman:   


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Behind The Lens with Photographer Joe Raskin

By Michael Perlman

Joe Raskin & his father Jack in Rochdale Village, 1980s
One of the most active urban explorers and gifted citywide photographers of our generation is Joe Raskin, a native of Queens. When asked to estimate how many street scenes he has captured citywide over the years, he said, “I've posted over 48,000 photographs on Wandering New York (his photoblog) over the last seven years, but that's just a drop in the bucket, considering how long I've been taking pictures. It’s easily well over triple that number.” The city becomes his canvas, as he largely documents buildings of varying architectural styles that are most classical, followed by subways and commuter rail lines. Every so often, his eye will turn to nature. 

Joe Raskin & Creative Musings on Mass Transit at the NY Transit Museum, 2016 photo by Marc A Herman
“Ideally, I am out every day of the week in one part of the city or another, and I spend two to three hours each day, not including travel time,” said Raskin. Even in the rain and snow he can be found with a camera in hand. He said, “Creative expression is a wonderful thing, and it always feels great to be out and about taking photographs.” His achievements continue with his subway history book, “The Routes Not Taken, A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System.” 

A charming Forest Hills Gardens home

Brownstones in Park Slope
Raskin uploads photos in at least 10 Facebook groups, where some are posted nightly, drawing quite a fan base. Besides Wandering New York, his work can be viewed on Instagram under @rochdalian and on It can also be spotted on NY1 and channels 2, 7, and 11. Raskin made appearances on In Transit on NY1, BronxTalk on the Bronxnet network, and on the Single Shot show on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

One may speculate how his passion originated. First off, he looks up to his father Jack, who passed away six years ago. He recalled, “My dad was always taking a lot of family pictures, so he's the one to credit. I began using his 35mm cameras in the late 1970s.” Secondly, Raskin embodies the spirit of some of the past generation’s most highly regarded photographers. He said, “Berenice Abbott, Arnold Eagle and Todd Webb's work has an immense effect on me, with Abbott's in particular. They made it easier to focus on subjects and appreciate the everyday scenes of life in the city.” 

Ridgewood Rooftops,  Mathews Model Flats
For 33 years, Raskin resided in Rochdale Village, Sunnyside, and Astoria, and now calls Chelsea home. Prior to retirement, he served as Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations at the MTA. Now he considers his hobby as his “current job.” Raskin is a graduate of York College, where he majored in Political Science, and achieved a Masters in Urban Studies from Queens College. “I took a photography class at York, which certainly enriched my interest, but I would describe myself as being self-taught,” he said.

Some of Raskin’s most memorable experiences transpire when he encounters people in a diverse range of neighborhoods. He said, “I get into conversations about their communities, and for the most part, they are curious about my work and enjoy that I'm taking pictures there. I'll point out that it is what people usually do in the touristy areas of town, and explain that I’m not a real estate agent or working for one. Generally, they appreciate that, and even suggest other places for me to look at.” He continued, “I also value it most when someone sees a photo that triggers a pleasant memory.” 

Fall foliage along the Franklin Shuttle
A No 7 train approaches the 52nd Street, Lincoln Avenue station in Woodside
“My original camera was a Kodak Brownie, followed by a Kodak Instamatic,” said Raskin. Today his cameras of choice are a Panasonic Lumix and Casio Exilim, and even his Samsung Galaxy phone. Then the question becomes safeguarding a massive photo inventory. He said, “I store them on a lot of flash drives. It's much better to be redundant when it comes to storage. I don't trust the Cloud as the only place.”

Raskin’s explorations take him through the Rego Park Crescents, a most enjoyable enclave. “It’s hard not to get a little bit lost there,” he chuckled. He can also be found wandering through the Forest Hills Gardens, as well as photographing houses north and south of Metropolitan Avenue. Raskin said, “Both communities are consistently beautiful. Although there are some new buildings, much hasn't changed in decades, and hopefully it remains that way.” 

Rego Park rowhouses
Rego Park houses
Among his favorite photos are ones captured along and from elevated subway lines. “It's a great way to get a real slice of life look at the city,” he said. Also in high ranks are houses in Glendale, Ridgewood, Astoria, and Woodside.

Being a history buff, he explained, “What's most meaningful is knowing how these buildings and streets tell the story of how the city grew and expanded from just the downtown areas in each borough. That's also what is most meaningful about the subway photos.” The architectural styles that he finds most intriguing relate to photographing classic city housing, such as Art Deco Bronx apartment houses, row houses such as Mathews Model Flats, brownstones, and townhouses. “All of them definitely add to the spirit of city life, especially when they are well maintained,” he said. 

Townhouses on the Upper West Side
One must wonder if there are there any neighborhoods that Raskin has not documented. He explained, “There has to be some that I've missed. I'd like to think that at some point I've walked on every city block. If there's a to-do list, I'd like to go inside buildings such as the Flatiron Building and take pictures from them.” 

Alleyway from Pelham Parkway

Grand Concourse Historic District
Over the years, Raskin has learned how each community varies and how each section of a neighborhood can offer a spirit of its own. He said, “For the most part, the stereotype images of each community are wrong. I've learned not to take any neighborhood for granted. If it wasn't for my photographic trips, I may never know much about areas like Stuyvesant Heights and Longwood.”

In the long-term, Raskin would like to publish his photos in several books. Sharing his wisdom with younger generations, he says, “Be curious and follow your vision of what you want to do.” 

A similar version of this feature appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: