P.S. 122 Gifted Program in Danger of Closing

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P.S. 122 - The Mamie Fay School

P.S. 122 – The Mamie Fay School

It has come to my attention that one of my alma maters is in danger of closing. It’s The Academy for the Gifted and Talented at P.S. 122 in Astoria, Queens (aka The Mamie Fay School – I never did find out who Mamie Fay was), a program I attended from sixth to eighth grade. I loved this school and all the teachers and students were wonderful. I feel I got a great education without my parents having to spend a fortune on private school. We were taking Regents exams in the eighth grade. Plus, it prepared me extremely well for the rigors of Stuyvesant High School. I feel 122 was the best school I attended – better than my high school, my college, my elementary school, etc. It was such a supportive environment.

I don’t know why they’re planning on shutting it down, but apparently they are. I think it would be a great loss for the community. To support the program, please contact one of these representatives:

Councilman Peter Vallone : 718.274-4500 [this is the corrected number]
District Leader Costas Constantinides: costa4astoria@gmail.com
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas: 718.545.3889
State Senator Michael Gianaris: 718.728.0960

3/2/13 Update: I’ve been told it’s extremely important to contact the following individuals:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
(212) 374-0200

Sandy Ferguson
Deputy Chief Executive for Admissions, Office of Student Enrollment
(212) 374-7636

You can also sign this petition: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-academy-at-ps-122/

There’s also a council meeting taking place on Feb. 21st:
“Please come to February 21st Community Council Meeting at P.S. 234 to voice your concern. P.S. 234 is located at 30-15 29th St, Astoria, 11102. Also, contact your local representatives and ask them to support one of the most successful schools in the state.”

3/2/13 Update: There’s an emergency meeting coming up on Wednesday, March 6. Below is the text from the flyer.

Dear School District 30 Residents,
The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing drastic cuts to P.S. 122’s Talented and Gifted program known as “The Academy” and the addition of a zoned middle school program in the same building. The surge in enrollment and overcrowding that would result will take away resources from all P.S. 122 students.
The impact of these actions will be felt beyond the borders of P.S. 122, potentially also affecting local schools such as P.S. 85, I.S. 141, P.S. 150, P.S. 166 and P.S./I.S. 126 in an adverse way.
The impact of the DOE’s proposal will be felt beyond school walls. Many hard-working families have chosen to move to and even buy homes in School District 30 because of its successful schools. Damaging our schools will only serve to break apart our community and could potentially threaten real estate values of our respective neighborhoods.
Our community cannot sit by as our schools’ abilities to serve the needs of all our children are severely diminished. We need your help!
Please join us at the upcoming general community meeting to learn more about the DOE’s proposal, its potential impact, and how we can work to stop it.

Meeting Information
Location :
P.S. 122 (Auditorium)
21-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105
(718) 721-6410

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Time: 6:30 P.M.

Together, let’s protect our schools and our community!

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Ode to Astoria

I’m taking a short break from education issues to explore the town where I was born, raised, and still live: Astoria, Queens. I’ve seen Astoria grow from a working class, mostly Greek neighborhood to a haven for young urban professionals. The Greeks are still here though, and they’ve been joined by large numbers of Egyptians, Brazilians, and countless others. Needless to say, the food here is phenomenal.

Fun fact: Astoria was named for John Jacob Astor, in an attempt to persuade him to give the town lots of money. The ploy didn’t work too well, though – he forked over only $500 and never even set foot in the place.

The weather was so nice last weekend that I took my camera out and photographed some of my favorite local spots. Hope you like them.

A view of Hell Gate Bridge from Astoria Park

A strange Astoria mural - on Steinway Street

My favorite church in Astoria: St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox Monastery

A store window in Little Egypt, Steinway Street

Some local fare - Greek salad at Taverna Kyclades

Tour of the Steinway piano factory. You have to sign up in advance to go on the tour. Their phone number is (718) 721-2600.

Hawks live in Astoria - here's one on my air conditioner!

An old movie, a new old movie, and some really old art

Here’s a recap of my cultural activities from the past few weeks.

I saw Braveheart for the first time in about 15 years. In spite of all the historical inaccuracies, the melodramatic plot, and Mel Gibson’s spotty reputation, I still really like it! It has such a medieval feel about it (whatever that means), and the character of William Wallace is so charismatic. The love story and the execution scene at the end almost brought me to tears.

I also saw the film The Artist recently. I have one word to describe it: charming. It’s shot in black-and-white and has almost no dialogue. The lead actor, Jean Dujardin, is absolutely incredible. I think I fell in love with him and his co-star, the dog Uggie. The movie dragged in parts, but there were enough brilliant scenes to make up for it. I won’t give away the ending, but it was one of the most uplifting I’ve seen in years.

I also saw an amazing exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. I felt like I was in the Uffizi! The pieces exhibited here are really first rate and provide a fascinating glimpse into the ruling families of Italy in the fifteenth century. Most interesting are the realistic warts-and-all portraits of some homely Italian aristocrats, like the following:

Bust of Niccolo di Leonardo Strozzi by Mino da Fiesole

Doge Cristoforo Moro by Antonio Rizzo

An Old Man and his Grandson by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Lastly, I saw the exhibit Transition to Christianity at the Onassis Center on 5th Ave.  The Onassis Center puts on some great shows, and it’s all free!  I’m also sure it has the highest number of security guards per square foot of any museum in the world.  The exhibit provides a good overview of the move from paganism to Christianity in the Hellenistic world in Late Antiquity.  One of the most striking pieces is this beautifully carved head of Venus, with the eyes scratched out and a cross carved into her forehead.

Venus with cross on forehead