Radioative Ridgewood

Time to break out the hazmat suits!

I was pleased as punch a few days ago when I learned some lovely news about Ridgewood, the Queens neighborhood that my girlfriend Michele and I live in.  The Environmental Protection Agency just added a block of Ridgewood as a Superfund site.  In fact, the EPA announced that this spot has the highest radiation levels anywhere in New York City.  As announced earlier this month on the EPA’s website:

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has added the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company site in the Ridgewood section of Queens, New York to the federal Superfund list of hazardous waste sites. The soil and nearby sewers were contaminated by radioactive material from past industrial activities at the site. Testing indicates that there is no immediate threat to nearby residents, employees or customers of businesses in the affected area along Irving and Cooper Avenues. Since exposure to the radioactive contamination may pose a threat to health in the long-term, in December 2013, the EPA took action to reduce people’s potential exposure to the radiation and address the potential health risks from the site.

“The now-defunct Wolff-Alport Chemical Company operated from 1920 until 1954, processing imported monazite sand and extracting rare earth metals. Monazite contains approximately 6% to 8% thorium, which is radioactive. Radiation can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer such as cancer of the lung or pancreas.”

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

According to The Forum West local free newspaper, regional EPA administrator Judith Enck stated that “the EPA would be seeking out those legally responsible for the contamination and holding them accountable rather than forcing taxpayers to pay the price of the clean ups.”  Hmmm, good luck with that.  I seriously doubt that the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company is going to be of any assistance in cleaning up their mess. Are they even still in business? I’ve never even heard of them before. If another company bought up the assets, I’m sure the present owners’ legal council would argue that they were immune from liability for any number of reasons. This is the sort of thing that could be stuck in the courts for years, if not decades.

As you can imagine, I’m none too thrilled with this. After all, I’m only 37 years old and I’ve already had cancer twice in my life (and I don’t even smoke). Finding out I live in the same neighborhood as a radioactive site is the last thing I wanted to hear.

Not to get political, but this is the exact reason why I get so angry when pro-business legislators, supported by massive campaign contributions from corporations, cut back on the EPA’s funding and budget, or gut regulations against polluting.  Inevitably they argue that too many environmental regulations are “bad for the economy.”  Yeah, well, a significant percentage of the population coming down with serious illnesses is probably bad for the economy.  Our overtaxed health system having to then treat all of those sick patients is also bad for the economy.  But y’know, in the end, when politicians say that something is “bad for the economy” that is usually just a euphemism for “it’s going to cut into the profits of our corporate puppet masters.”

I’m sure some people reading this are probably muttering “That dirty commie!”  Well, let me tell you, I am definitely no fan of communism.  In a completely unregulated capitalist society most of the population is slowly exploited, left to attempt to live on starvation wages, with no health care and no protection against pollution and crime.  In a communist society, on the other hand, you probably have a good chance of getting shipped off to a labor camp, if not being executed outright as a “dissident” or “enemy of the state.”  So, yeah, I’m not a huge fan of either extreme.

There is nothing wrong with free enterprise, just so long as it does not exploit people.  That is why I think labor unions play a key role, but it is also important that they do not become too powerful.  You really need a balance between management and labor, so that neither group becomes too influential or authoritative.  Along those same lines, a certain amount of laws, of government regulation & oversight is necessary.  Without it, individuals and corporations are both going to run unchecked and claim victims, whether it’s by knocking over the corner liquor store or dumping toxic waste in someone’s backyard.  There is no liberty or security.  But too many laws, too many regulations, are a surefire recipe for also strangling freedom and innovation, as well.  It’s a case of anarchy versus a stifling, oppressive, wasteful bureaucracy.

Heh heh, I’ve probably managed to upset quite a few people by now.  That’s the great thing about being a moderate nowadays; you are almost guaranteed to piss off nearly everyone on both sides of the political spectrum.

blah blah blah

Oh, man, give me a soapbox and do I ever go off!  But getting back to where I started, I’m none too thrilled at the notion of possibly glowing in the dark because decades ago Wolff-Alport decided the cheapest, easiest way to deal with their trash was to dump it down the drain. That’s the problem with selfish, short-sighted thinking. Eventually it will lead to really crappy unintended results. And by the time that happens the people being affected, the ones getting bit in the ass, are those who had nothing to do with causing the problem in the first place.

Well, that’s enough out of me.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off buy a Geiger counter.

Nettie and the vet

As I’ve mentioned before, one of our cats, Nettie, is a part-Persian, part-Siamese with long fur.  It is recommended that long-haired cats have their fur combed or brushed at least once a week, because otherwise it will get tangled in knots.  Unfortunately, Nettie very seldom will allow me or my girlfriend near her with a brush or comb.  If we do try to brush Nettie’s fur, she starts to bite, claw, and kick at us.  So we long ago gave up on brushing Nettie regularly.

As a result, after several months, Nettie’s fur will become terribly tangled up.  This means we have to take her to the veterinarian for grooming.  In practice, that means she needs to receive a “lion cut,” which means the groomer shaves off all of her hair except for around her head, her paws, and the end of her tail.

We usually wait until the summer for Nettie to get groomed, because in the hot weather her long fur makes her more likely to get overheated.  Plus that’s when she sheds a lot.  We didn’t have the opportunity to get her groomed until this week, though, which is a lot later than we usually prefer.

In order for a vet to do a grooming, the animals must be up to date on their shots.  So a couple of weeks ago I took Nettie to the vet for an exam and vaccinations.  As soon as I took out the cat carrier, both Nettie and our other cat Squeaky bolted.  They know that as soon as they see the carrier, it means a trip to the vet is on hand for one of them.  Well, humans hate having to go to the doctor, so it’s no surprise that cats do, as well.  The last couple of times, I took out the carrier the night before, so that Nettie would get used to seeing it out.  That makes it somewhat easier to then get her into it the next morning, although both times she certainly struggled.

Anyway, this Monday I brought Nettie back to the vet to be groomed.  She was given a bath and a shave.  When she came back home, she was very shy and quiet, something which she normally isn’t.  I think the combination of the trip to the vet and having all her fur taken off left her feeling very vulnerable.  It’s now a couple of days later, though, and I can see she’s slowly getting back to her old self, giving me attitude and slapping me on the ankles when I pass by her.

In any case, here’s what Nettie looks like after her grooming:

Nettie after her "lion cut" grooming, looking rather annoyed that I'm taking a photo of her in this state
Nettie after her “lion cut” grooming, looking rather annoyed that I’m taking a photo of her in this state

Now if only I could manage to take Squeaky to the vet.  She really needs a check-up and, yep, a bath.  Squeaky is a sweet cat, but she smells.  She won’t let us pick her up and give her a wash here at home.  As bad as it is getting Nettie into the carrier, Squeaky is a dozen times worse.  In the past, every time she needed to go to the vet, my girlfriend and I spent almost an hour chasing her around the apartment before we finally managed to grab her up and cram her into the carrier.  It is not a pleasant experience!

By the way, the vet we take the cats to for their check-ups and grooming is Antelyes Animal Hospital in Middle Village, Queens.  They are very good and do excellent work.  The doctors and staff are friendly & helpful, and treat their animal patients extremely well.  I think that all vets are expensive, but Antelyes’ prices appear to be on the more reasonable side than some other establishments.  So if you happen to live in the area, I definitely recommend them.

Eddie’s Sweet Shop

By popular demand (well, one person asked for it, so that’s good enough for me) I am going to talk about another old time ice cream shop located in Queens: Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Forest Hills.  I wanted to do a write-up about this place before the end of the summer, anyway.

Eddie’s Sweet Shop is located at 105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills NY 11375.  I’m not sure exactly how long they’ve been in business, but according to their Facebook page, Eddie’s is “a century old.”  Believe me, it shows… and I mean that in a good way!  Eddie’s is a really old fashioned looking ice cream parlor, with classic-looking wood-paneled décor, a marble-topped counter with stools up front, and a decades-old cash register.  It’s incredibly charming and intimate.  The ice cream is delicious and, if the hype is to be believed, home-made.  It certainly tastes better than most of the store and chain brands out there.  In addition to their sundaes and milkshakes, Eddie’s has a large glass counter full of candies for sale; nothing fancy, but it’s a charming addition to the ice cream.

Eddie’s is located across the street from Cinemart Cinemas, a really cool second-run movie theater, and the Theater Café, a film-themed casual dining restaurant.  Often my girlfriend and I will catch the bus to Forest Hills, go to the Café for dinner, catch a movie, and then afterwards cross the street to get dessert at Eddie’s.  We’re usually not the only ones who have that idea, as Eddie’s often gets extremely packed when the movies let out.  This is especially true in the summer.  But even in the middle of the winter, when it’s freezing cold outside, movie-goers will flock to Eddie’s for ice cream afterwards.  That’s how good the place is.

This is the kind of place you would have expected a young Peter Parker to hang out in during his teenage years (remember, Spider-Man is from Forest Hills).  Or, as my girlfriend once suggested, Eddie’s is where Archie would take Betty and Veronica for an ice cream sundae while futilely attempting to decide for the umpteenth time which of those two beauties he wanted to pledge his heart to.  In other words, Eddie’s is like something out of an old comic book, or maybe a time warp.  It really has to be seen, because it’s sometimes difficult to believe that places this cool still exist.  If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend stopping in for a scoop or two.

Below are some photos I took at Eddie’s Sweet Shop last summer.  I haven’t been there in a few months, but hopefully I’ll have another opportunity before the end of the summer.

eddies sweet shop 01

eddies sweet shop 02

eddies sweet shop 03

eddies sweet shop 04

Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor

Last week, for my birthday, my girlfriend and I went to Jahn’s, a restaurant & ice cream parlor located in Jackson Heights, Queens.

The original Jahn’s opened up way back in 1897.  By the mid-20th Century, Jahn’s had locations all over New York City, as well as Long Island, New Jersey, and Florida.  Unfortunately, within recent years, only two Jahn’s ice cream parlors remained, the Jackson Heights one, and a location in Richmond Hill.  And in 2007, the Richmond Hill Jahn’s closed.  All of the old fashioned period décor was bought up by a collector in the Midwest.

So the last remaining Jahn’s is the one in Jackson Heights.  There was a fire at that location a few decades back, so regrettably the look of the place is more 1970s than turn-of-the-century.  Putting aside the minor issue of appearance, Jahn’s is a fabulous place to visit.  The food is, I will admit, your typical diner fare, i.e. good but nothing especially outstanding.  No, really, the reason to visit Jahn’s is the ice cream.  They have a huge menu of delicious sundaes.  And the serving sizes for the ice cream are huge.

My girlfriend, who grew up in Queens, introduced me to Jahn’s a couple of years ago.  We’ve been there a few times.  Usually we go for a light lunch or dinner, followed by ice cream sundaes.  This time around, I got a pizza burger, and my girlfriend had a quiche.  Then it was time to dig in to the ice cream.  Afterwards, we were stuffed.  It was a nice way to spend my birthday, having sundaes with my girlfriend.

I didn’t bring my camera along with me, but below are a few photos from a prior visit.  My girlfriend took a few pics with her cell phone camera, so I’ll probably post those later on Facebook.

Jahn’s is located at 81-04 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights NY 11372.  It is well worth a visit, especially on hot summer days like these.  The ice cream sundaes are the perfect way to beat the heat.

Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor
Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor


Ice cream sundae menu
Ice cream sundae menu


Ice cream and french fries
Ice cream and french fries