[EPISODE] Astoria, Queens
Join me this week as we journey to Astoria.
My guests will be Bob Singleton, Executive Director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, and Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts.
The show begins with Jeff introducing the first guest, Bob Singleton, who discusses how he first was able to move from Pittsburgh to New York City through an education from NYU and how he transitioned from finance to becoming a historial, working as a bookkeeper in SoHo in the 80s. He talks about how first became affiliated with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, being involved in for about twenty-five years. The two get started with the pre-America history, the neighborhood once being a home of Native cultures, going into its history as a trading port during the colonial era. They then travel to the American Revolution, the neighborhood being a British foothold and then to the 19th century, discussing Stephen Hasley, who saw opportunity in the budding Hallet’s Cove, changing its name to Astoria.
This segment begins with Bob talking about the mission of the Greater Astoria Historical Society and a few upcoming opportunities. The two jump into the middle of the 19th century and focus in particular on Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, an immigrant who came with his family, who is mostly known for making pianos under ‘Steinway & Sons’ and becoming established members of the community. They then talk about a few historical landmarks within Astoria itself and how it shifted into modern times through the expansion of the subway system and becoming a commuter city. Bob outlines the motion picture history of the area and names key names and players, the city being a backdrop for several films and the neighborhood’s silk industry even playing a role in costume design. The segment ends with the ethnic history of Astoria, which is especially noted for its wide-selection of restaurants, behind which are cultures from all around the world.
Jeff introduces the second guest of the show, Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, reflects on growing up in Queens and discussing her artistic journey, starting with ballet, transitioning in piano and soon splitting and stretching her creative impulse into drawing and writing. She talks about her history studying music in Europe and then deciding to work toward supporting other creative minds with a website. Hoong Yee then went into how she got into writing children’s books and her future in the field as well as getting approached to assume the title she has today twenty years ago. She talks about the mission of the Queens Council of the Arts and how they go about giving out grants to support local artists in Queens.
The final segment begins with Hoong Yee discussing basing the Council in Astoria and how she feels about being in the neighborhood, particularly loving the diverse choice of food, and what excites her about the area, Yee being fond of the creative tension in the area, watching the clashes of cultures and generation gaps. She talks about what surprises her about Astoria, curious to see how the city will make sense of the growing gentrification, as well as voicing her desires for the area including independent bookstores and less franchises talking up real estate. The show ends with Hoong Yee adding in how artists searching for a foothold in Queens can come into contact with her.