After a long day at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park or a Mets game, it’s a tradition to stop by the Lemon Ice King of Corona. It has been a staple in the neighborhood for more than seven decades. The Lemon Ice King is in a way a representation of the American Dream: its roots are humble — it got its start in a garage — and later grew into one of NYC’s most iconic dessert joints.
Michael Zampino, the current owner of the Lemon Ice King, talked with Epicenter-NYC about its long history.
“Nikola Benfaremo, he started in the garage next door while his son was fighting in World War II for America. When his son Peter got out of the service, he worked over here as well, and he’s the guy who took it to the next level where we are at now,” he says.
Zampino knows the story well, he’s been a part of the Lemon Ice King for most of his life.
“I was a neighborhood kid that started my first job, then unfortunately, when Peter Benfaremo, his wife got sick, he kind of handpicked me to sell me the store,” he said. “I was working for him for 10 plus years at the time and I’ve been here ever since.
On hot summer days the Lemon Ice King draws crowds from near and far. Customers have 50 flavors to choose from, including peanut butter and fruit cocktail, but the most popular flavor has always been classic lemon. A small is $2, a medium $3 and a large $4 — a steal, all things considered.
Seth Goldman, an NYC taxi driver, has been coming to the Lemon Ice King from Manhattan since the 1970s.
“Whether we live in Manhattan or the Bronx or Queens [it’s important] to support a small business, and this is a small business.” he said.
It was loyal customers like Goldman who helped the Lemon Ice King remain standing through the pandemic, despite being located in the city’s Covid-19 epicenter.
“I did close for the first five days. But I say I didn’t close because I was in here cleaning up,” Zampino said. “Even during those days, people were knocking on the window saying, ‘Are you open? Could I get an ice?’ So, it made me open up.”
As the pandemic dies down and the city has been gripped by an exceptionally hot summer, business is better than ever for the Lemon Ice King, and Zampino hopes it will stay that way for a long time.
“We’re still open after 77 years and plan on being open for many, many more years to come.”
4 REASONS PEOPLE REFUSE THE COVID VACCINE
By S. Mitra Kalita
One of the doctors who has been invaluable to Epicenter’s vaccine efforts is Mark Horowitz, a family doctor in downtown Manhattan. On Monday, as I was on The Brian Lehrer Show talking about the disconcerting uptick in Covid cases, notably in undervaccinated neighborhoods, he called in.
The people who are not getting their vaccines now are not hesitant, Dr. Horowitz said. They are “vaccine refusers.” He then proceeded to give us the four characteristics of what he’s seeing among patients, which I share here because each feels highly refutable — if we approach the refusers from a place of understanding and expertise.
What they say:
“It’s not FDA approved.”
What we might say:
Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he is confident that FDA approval is coming as all data has been “positive.” Further, the government is taking its time so as not to sow further mistrust.
What they say:
“I am worried the vaccine will affect my fertility.”
What we might say:
I’m a big fan of showing, not telling. Here’s a fertility expert from Mount Sinai with some data on the effect of vaccines on sperm and egg production. Bottom line: you’re all good.
What they say:
“I am worried about coronary disease.”
What we might say:
Here is what Harvard Medical School says: “The vaccine is safe and advised for people with a history of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.” It goes on to cite the American Heart Association.
What they say:
“I already had Covid and thus I have immunity.”
What we might say:
Reinfection is rare, but possible. That’s the word from Gavi (the vaccine alliance that works with the World Health Organization) that has definitely recommended that people who have had Covid still get the vaccine; “having had Covid-19 is no guarantee against catching it again.”
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AT YOUR LEISURE …
Every week, neighbor and author Radha Vatsal will be providing her recommendations for what to read and watch throughout the summer.
As billionaires zoom off into space, it’s interesting to think about the beginnings of human-controlled space flight. For an introduction to the topic, I suggest Tom Wolfe’s compulsively readable The Right Stuff, originally published in 1979. Meticulously researched, The Right Stuff tells the story of the beginnings of the United States’ space program. The book “started as a series of pieces in Rolling Stone magazine in 1972 about the Mercury Seven astronauts, [and] became a commentary on the country’s can-do spirit and the breadth of its ambition… Wolfe always dove into unique ecosystems in order to present a macro view of American life.”
The narrative begins with an account of hotshot navy pilots, some of whom would later be selected for the country’s fledgling space program. “The Navy would compile statistics showing that for a career Navy pilot … there was a 23% probability [of dying] in an aircraft accident…” The pilots who enlisted were made to test the limits of the machinery they were flying, and the code they lived by was that “there are no accidents and fatal flaws in the machines; there are only pilots with the wrong stuff.” Imagine the horror of the “best of the best” when they are selected for the prestigious program that will take them into space only to discover that they wouldn’t be flying those machines at all. In fact, their role on the spacecraft could be performed by an ape, which was what happened when Ham the chimp was launched into space in a dry run for Alan Shepard’s historic flight in May 1961.
The Right Stuff was adapted into a movie with the same name in 1983, starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Dennis Quaid, and directed by Philip Kaufman. While it bombed at the box office, it was nominated for eight Oscars, winning four of them. In 2013, the film was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,”
Next week, I’ll be writing about Hidden Figures, another highly readable book that was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie, and tells the story about the Black women mathematicians who worked for NASA.
ON THE POD
Make sure you have a listen to our latest episode where our founder, S. Mitra Kalita, speaks with Gary Bagley, the outgoing executive director of New York Cares, about life during the pandemic. Tune in tomorrow for a discussion about what to make of Eric Adams, how to cover his ascent, and the history women and people of color might make in the City Council.
OUT & ABOUT
Films on the Green
The free French film festival is back after a pandemic hiatus. Centered around the theme “music and cinema,” the foreign films will be screened at parks around the city through July 30. Next up is “Interstella 5555,” at Washington Square Park on Friday, July 16 at 8:30 p.m. Screenings will also be available online. View the entire lineup and learn more here.
Latin American Foto Fest
The Bronx Documentary Center’s Annual Latin American Foto Festival features work by award-winning photographers from Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and El Salvador. The photos selected are from long-term projects that focus on social issues. The opening reception is Thursday, July 15 at 6 p.m., and the exhibit will run through August 1. Learn more and RSVP here.
Celebrate French national day
In honor of Bastille Day, the Consulate General of France in New York and the Committee of French Speaking Societies are hosting a free celebration at SummerStage in Central Park this Wednesday, July 14, at 6:30 p.m. There will be a jazz performance headlined by singer Kavinta Shah and a dance party with tunes by famed house music DJ, Joachim Garraud. The evening will close with a screening of the French comedy, “My Donkey, My Lover & I.” Admission is on a first-come-first-serve basis, with doors opening at 5 p.m. Learn more.
Open Boulevards Performance Series
Open Boulevards is a new initiative by the Department of Transportation to transform our city streets into cultural destinations. Now through October there will be performances at 10 Open Boulevard locations through the five boroughs. The next takes place Saturday, July 17 on Woodside Avenue at 76th Street in Queens. See the complete event schedule and follow its Instagram page for the latest updates.
The running of the goats
Riverside Park’s goats are coming back for the summer, and they will be welcomed with fanfare tomorrow, Wednesday, July 14 at 11 a.m. at 120th and Riverside Drive during a ceremony that includes live music from saxophone duo Peter and Will Anderson, speeches from elected officials and a performance of “Lonely Goatherd” by New York’s Own Women’s Choir, The SoHarmoniums. Five goats will remain through the summer, tasked with eating invasive and unwanted greens like poison ivy and lesser celandine. Learn more about the tribe — that’s what a group of goats are called — here.
GIVE & GET HELP
Grants for artists
Cycle two of the City Artists Corps Grant is now open. The program is a $25 million recovery initiative for local artists who were impacted by the pandemic. The one-time $5,000 grants will be given to more than 3,000 artists to help sustain their work and also engage the public. Artists in any discipline can apply. Have more questions? Flushing Town Hall is holding an info session tonight at 5 p.m., register here.
The application deadline for cycle two is Tuesday, July 20, at 10 a.m. Learn more and apply here.
Eat at Comfortland
The 24-hour Astoria staple beloved for its decadent donuts, sandwiches and slushies is honoring its staff on Monday, July 19, for their hard work and dedication over the past year. The employees will get 100% of the sales that day.
Upward Brewing Company
Come for the 1970s ski lodge vibe and stay for the crisp beers. The brewery, located in Livingston Manor (about a two-hour drive from Manhattan), is much more than just that.
Located on a 120-acre preserve aptly named Beer Mountain, there is ample hiking, and it’s both dog and kid friendly.
Upward Brewing’s kitchen serves locally sourced, elevated bar food — think kimchi fries and trout nuggets — with plenty of vegan-friendly options available.
We want to see, hear, feel, support your art and response to this moment. To submit a poem, short story, artwork or any shareable experience, email us. If your work is selected, you will receive a $100 stipend and become part of our growing network of artists.
This week we welcome artist Derick Melander. Melander creates large, geometric sculptures from carefully folded and stacked second-hand clothing. The garments are sourced from local communities and the resulting works function as collective portraits.
He sorts the clothing by hue, color, value or intensity to create patterns and gradients. These works often take the form of columns, walls and enclosures, typically weighing between 800 pounds and 2 tons.
The making of Ceaselessly Broken and Reconstituted
Melander earned his B.F.A. from School of Visual Arts in New York City where he was the recipient of the Chairman’s Grant. His work has been reviewed by the New York Times, Vogue, GQ and NPR. He has shown extensively around the U.S. with solo exhibitions at the University of Maryland and special projects for Scope Art Fair, San Francisco, and New York City. Internationally, Melander has exhibited with Starstreet Precinct in Hong Kong, the YIA Art Fair in Paris, de Warande in Belgium, and Museum Rijswijk in The Hague. He recently completed a commission for the Chapman Perelman Foundation and was a visiting artist at Fashion Institute of Technology.