Here are the winners of AOC’s Congressional App Challenge

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The winner of the Congressional App Challenge in New York’s 14th congressional district is Michael Batavi from the Bronx High School of Science.

Batavi designed CrownCatch, a mobile app designed to help users minimize their risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 by providing news from reputable outlets, notifications of local case counts and encouraging people to socially distance through a points system.

Check out a video demonstrating the app here.

“Michael’s application was unique, navigable and had a real potential to scale up,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said. “He also thoughtfully considered behavioral psychology when designing a points system that would incentivize users to observe COVID-19 public health guidelines.”

The runner-up in the 14th congressional district is Christopher Schack, who designed Ability Tester, a website with five tests to measure a user’s short-term memory, vision, hand-eye coordination, motor skills and reflexes. Watch how the app works here.

The winners are traditionally recognized with a reception in Washington D.C. This year, the ceremony will be held virtually due to the pandemic.

Sunnyside Community Services offers free ESOL classes on January 12

Image courtesy of Sunnyside Community Services
Image courtesy of Sunnyside Community Services

Sunnyside Community Services will begin teaching English to New Yorkers in January through a series of free classes.

Between January 12 and March 25, SCSNY will hold online English for Speakers of Online Languages (ESOL) classes.

The classes will have four levels: Beginning I, Beginning II, Intermediate I and Intermediate II. Participants will be offered a choice between morning and evening sessions.

The free classes will use Zoom, Google Classrooms and other platforms.

Classes are three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. Morning sessions are from 9 a.m. to noon, and evening sessions will be from 6 to 9 p.m.

Every year, about 450 students take ESOL classes offered by Sunnyside Community Services. The sessions are funded by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development.

Classes are limited to 35 students per class. Registration is accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The deadline to register is December 30.

Register online here.

Submit your entry to the Thanksgiving Day Showcase


State Senator Michael Gianaris is now accepting entries for his annual Thanksgiving Day Showcase.

Young people from kindergarten to sixth grade from across the district can submit an essay, poetry, artwork or other creative depiction showing what they are thankful for this time of the year.

“This year has been so difficult in so many ways, and this annual program is, I hope, a small sense of normal for families in our community,” Gianaris said. “During these challenging times, it is important to reflect on that for which we are grateful.”

Submit entries on Gianaris’s website, Entries are due by November 23.

Woodside on the Move co-hosts school supply drive


With schools officially reopened at least partially, local groups are helping students get ready for the new year.

Last week, Woodside on the Move teamed up with Mount Sinai Queens and State Senator Michael Gianaris for a school supply drive.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis,” the state senator said, “but Queens has risen to the challenge and our neighbors have answered the call of those in need.”

Michael Vaz, executive director of Woodside on the Move, joined Gianaris and Caryn Schwab, executive director of Mount Sinai Queens, at the drive.

“Working with a school age population is challenging in these unique times,” he said, “but through partnership with Senator Michael Gianaris and Mount Sinai, we are ensuring that all young people in our community have the school supplies they need to succeed.”

Acting BP Lee is accepting applications to join CEC 30


Acting Borough President Sharon Lee is looking for two dedicated parent volunteers to fill two vacant positions on Community Education Council District 30.

Lee is accepting applications from education-minded individuals until Friday, August 7.

CEC 30, which includes Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Astoria and Long Island City, is responsible for advising and commenting on educational policies and providing input to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Each CEC oversees elementary and middle schools in their respective community school district. There are seven community school districts in Queens.

To read more about the role of CECs, click here.

CEC members meet for public meetings every month, and visit schools to see what their educational needs are. They also review the district’s educational programs, approve zoning lines, and submit a capital plan to the chancellor after holding public hearings.

The CEC membership application is available online here and can be returned by email to

Van Bramer explains why he voted ‘no’ to the budget

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File photo

On Tuesday night, the New York City Council voted to pass the $88 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021.

For weeks, advocates marching and protesting across the city have called for defunding the NYPD by at least $1 billion. The demonstrations have resulted in an occupation of City Hall Park, where activists called on the City Council to decrease the police budget significantly.

However, as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson later admitted, negotiations for the $1 billion in cuts fell short.

When the vote for the budget came, 37 members voted in favor, while 12 voted against. Sunnyside Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer was one of the no votes.

“The people have demanded a real $1 billion cut to the NYPD, but also a reimagining of public safety in this city,” he explained in a statement. “Sadly, the most historic part of this budget is how it fails to meet the moment.

“As a person who benefits from white privilege, I have a particular obligation to meet this moment and to use my power and privilege to end white supremacy and a police state that brutalizes black and brown bodies,” he added.

Van Bramer noted that over $350 million of the cut is through overtime reduction goals. However, he said based on history, the reduction is more of a “suggestion” because NYPD blows through overtime numbers.

The councilman added that the budget should have eliminated more cadet classes and actively reduced the headcount of uniformed officers.

On moving school safety officers out of the NYPD to the Department of Education budget, Van Bramer said those changes happen over two years, and does nothing for students who feel over-policed and criminalized.

“It’s not a cut,” he said. “We should have gone much further and invested more in education and programs that build up communities.”

Virtual Queens Parent Advisory Board Meeting on Thursday

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The next Queens Parent Advisory Board Meeting will be conducted virtually on Thursday, April 30 from 6 to 8 p.m.

The Department of Education will discuss remote learning, cancelled tests and other changes to the academic calendar due to COVID-19

Come equipped with questions because after the presentation, parents will be able to ask administrators about these changes.

This is a good chance for parents to learn about how virtual learning will progress moving forward.

PS 151 opens new schoolyard


After decades without proper play space, the kids at PS 151 near the Boulevard Gardens apartment co-ops in Woodside finally have a full schoolyard.

The brand-new yard features different types of colorful jungle gyms, basketball courts, a turf field and so much more.

For 21 years, trailer classrooms for the special needs students at PS 255 sat in the yard. The trailers were not good for learning, and the lack of a schoolyard made recess a dull affair.

In fact, current Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, who reps Woodside, was a student at PS 151 when the trailers went in. He’s now in his 30s!

Faculty, staff, parents and especially children were thrilled by the yard opening last week.

For more reaction and information, check out the article in this week’s LIC/Astoria Journal newspaper.


Corner by St. Sebastian’s school finally gets all-way stop


The corner of 57th Street and Woodside Avenue has been a dangerous spot for Woodside residents.

It was the site of a fatal incident last year, and at least a dozen people have been injured here over the past few years.

After a concerted push by community board leaders, elected officials and school administrators, the Department of Transportation has finally installed an all-way stop sign at the intersection.

As you know, this corner is not only near St. Sebastian’s Catholic Academy, but PS 11, Doughboy Park and other schools nearby. Cars often use 57th Street to cut through Woodside down from Queens Boulevard.

Thanks to advocacy from residents, this intersection will be a little safer for everyone to cross.