BY DOMENICK RAFTER
When I was a young boy growing up in Queens, long before the luxury of Google or Siri, trying to find information was somewhat more work-intensive. In the front hallway of our Ozone Park home, my mother would have the Yellow Pages and the White Pages stacked by the foot of the stairs – both the borough-wide pages, with their photos or colorful drawings of Queens icons like the Unisphere – and the smaller, more localized directory, often recognizable because of a local landmark on the cover. In our case, Woodhaven’s FDNY call building at Park Lane South and Woodhaven Boulevard.
Starting in 1991, the brainchild of former publisher Michael Schenkler, the Queens Tribune set aside its last January edition each year to publish a reference guide for the people of Queens to use. And it’s become a staple of the borough itself.
Some may argue that the dawn of internet search engines and voice-activated personal assistants would make an issue like this obsolete. I suggest you try to asking Siri or Cortana where the nearest Queens Library branch is. There is a 50/50 chance you’ll get airfares to London Heathrow Airport and directions to Windsor Castle before a list of library branches. We know what you’re looking for and instead of fighting with a computer, why not pick up this guide when you need a number or a street or web address?
And yes, the people of Queens still do just that. As a matter of fact, I have confirmed that one of our competitors uses our Blue Book in their office; copies of several of the listings don the newsroom wall. Several years ago, I peeked into the window of a bank branch in Ozone Park and to my surprise saw our Blue Book on the shelf of the bank manager’s office.
The editorial staff at the Queens Tribune begins working on the Official Guide to Queens from the moment the previous issue hits the stands. Copies of the book can be seen on all of our desks, marked up to note changes that have occurred over the course of the previous year.
If an elected official opens a new district office, we make note of it. If a senior center or firehouse closes, we make a note of it. We receive emails and phone calls and even faxes asking us to update our listings, and every communication with one of our readers is a reminder of how important the Official Guide to Queens has become. We take that responsibility seriously.
And for me there’s a personal connection. Each year on the last Thursday of January, my mother would come home with the paper, place it on the kitchen counter and I would skim through it, see what was new, what remained the same and what information would be relevant for me. Then, I would put it next to the phone books at the foot of the stairs where it would sit in a convenient place for me to grab if someone asked “Is there a municipal parking lot in Downtown Jamaica?” or “What is the number to the community board’s office?” As I got older, and made the decision this was what I wanted to do, the possibility that I would one day be editing this guide never escaped me.
I, along with the rest of the staff of the Queens Tribune, am proud to give to you the 2016 Official Guide to Queens. Make use of it and do not hesitate to give us feedback, for tomorrow we start on 2017’s guide.
Reach Domenick Rafter at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, firstname.lastname@example.org.