the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Neilochka from the Block


Neil’s Mother:  Why are you taking your camera with you just to walk down the block?

Neil:  Maybe I’ll take photos of Valentino’s.

Neil’s Mother:  Who wants to see photos of Valentino’s?

Neil:  You’d be surprised at what crazy stuff people find interesting.  Besides, it’s my blog.  I can do what I want.

Neil’s Mother:  Wouldn’t you rather wait and take photos at the museum tomorrow?

Neil:  The museum?!  Boring!  EVERYBODY takes photos at the museum!

1)  Here is Valentino’s, the best pizza in Queens —





2)  Sophia likes to make fun of Flushing as a big nothing, but look at this — 


— the crappy little local liquor store next to Valentino’s has Le Beaulolais Nouveau 2006!  Hah, Sophia!  I don’t see that sign in REDONDO BEACH, home of the ubiquitous fish taco.

3)  At the famous “National Wholesale Liquidators” —  


— I saw this perfect Christmas toy for a neighborhood where 3/4 of the residents speak another language.

This is the local police precinct — 


— the 107th Precinct of the NYPD, which moved to this location when I was younger. 

I remember there being a big uproar over the structure on the roof, because local residents thought it was a huge satellite antenna.  Residents stormed a community council meeting because some crackpots thought the police were spying on them or the government was doing some top-secret experiment in Flushing.  Others worried about getting cancer from the high voltage of the electricity. 

Eventually, it turned out that the structure was none of the above — but an incredibly ugly SCULPTURE foisted on the precinct because the City had begun forcing new municipal buildings to include shitty pieces of art by out-of-work New York artists.  After it was learned that this was just an awful piece of modern art, there were protests to get rid of the eyesore, but like the old adage goes — you can’t fight City Hall. 

Today, most current residents take a weird pride in the monstrosity, like it is their Eiffel Tower.


  1. Charming, but single

    I love this little peek into your old ‘hood. And that pizza looks divine.

  2. JanePoe (aka Deborah)

    Wow! This is the NYC you don’t get to see in the travel books!!

    you might just be the next Rick Steves! much peace … JP

  3. Lucy Stern

    Nice pictures. My husband grew up in Levitown, Long Island, New York…

  4. Dagny

    I love Elmo but bilingual Elmo? Love it even more.

    And tell the crackpots that you usually have to stand right next to the antenna to be in danger of getting cancer — or at usually within a 10 to 25 foot radius of it. (One day I will get rid of that weird info I picked up at my old job. Until I find some new stuff, it looks like the info is here to stay.) You’ve got to measure the distance geometrically. At least that’s what the wireless companies tell the citizens and the regulatory agencies. Not saying what’s going on with the folks directly below the antenna. If it was a stream, it would probably have three-eyed fish like in The Simpsons intro.

    On a final note, thank you for making me hear my mother’s voice in my head. “No one makes pizza like they do in New York.”

  5. better safe than sorry

    love it!
    these are pics that make up a neighborhood.

  6. ajooja

    Ohhhhhhhh, shit! I want a bilingual Elmo bad.

    If they sold them around here, it would sound like that mumbly guy Boomhauer from “King of the Hill.”

  7. Jakob

    How many Americans actually believe that pizza was invented in the U.S.?

    How are the cells in the precinct? Comfy? Can you order a pizza with your call?

  8. Allan

    Thanks for the tour of your neighborhood.

    Take the camera to the museum, if only to take pictures of all the people taking pictures of the paintings and stuff.

    People are far more interesting than the objects in the museum.

  9. Rhea

    I most appreciate the tip on the pizza place.

  10. nelumbo

    What a neat tour of your ‘hood, especially the modern art story. I think it’s all a lie, and you’ve been brainwashed by aliens.

  11. plain jane

    Yes, I would rather see photos of your neighborhood (and your childhood bedroom) than the museum. This is the stuff I wish travel books would include (well, maybe NOT your bedroom).

  12. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    A walkabout a neighbourhood with a back story is always so interesting. Was the first photo the orig. Valentino?

  13. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I feel a new assignment coming on. We’ve shown you our beds, we’ve shown you our fall leaves, and apparently someone has shown you their rack, so now will it be neighborhoods?

  14. Otir

    Neil, you should have taken a picture in the museum… Don’t you know we only have one mom? (this is a sephardic joke, sorry, it doesn’t translate in English anyway, too bad!).

  15. Churlita

    Awesome pics. I love it that your mom tries to direct what goes on your blog. I think you should have spin-off blogs – Sophia, your mom and your penis could all start their own.

  16. Danny

    I want that pizza! You can’t find decent pizza in L.A. to save your life. Did you grow up near the grounds for the 1964 World’s Fair? Wasn’t that in Flushing? That place is burned into my brain as my first childhood trauma for the simple fact that my whole family went there on a legendary trip when I was 5 years old and LEFT ME AT HOME! So now seeing photos of the rotting Unisphere fills me with perverse pleasure.

  17. Tuck

    ..ah, I long for the Valentinos of yesteryear…the elementary school lunch special..2 slices and a fountain coke for $1. How much now? $6.50? Also, some might argue that it was Gloria’s Pizza in downtown Flushing that was the best. Also, a long gone memory of yesteryear….now it is the home of Mrs. Lee’s Bee-Bim-Bop shop.

  18. Cover Your Mouth

    That sculpture is great. I was in Kansas City this weekend visiting the fam and cursed myself for not bringing along my camera to shoot photos of some KC public “art” to post on my blog. A piece by the airport is particularly blog worthy . . . looking like a metal billboard stand that has had the billboard torn off and has rainwater leaking from it. It’s a “fountain” apparently. It’s hilarious.

  19. kristen

    I thought your local police station was into some serious satellite television, you know on the off hours or something. I think it’s hysterical that it’s public art.

  20. Jakob

    I just don’t think I’m ready to go to New York. Maybe when I turn 75. No: “Kansas City here I come”. And I would like to see what’s left of New Orleans. And of course “Sweet Home, Chicago”.

  21. bookfraud

    love the pics of the hood, but i’m with sophia. queens, feh.

    the sculpture looks like the bottom of a child-proof medicine cap. they should have told everybody it was super-secret, and let the conspiracy nuts go nuts.

  22. Mo

    So Sophia stayed home, right? I wasn’t sure. You never directly said.

  23. Michelle

    I was a Queens girl! My favorite pizza spot is Singha’s near Woodside. Yum. I think I might take a little trip this weekend. -=o)

  24. Megan

    I love New York. My husband was born in Queens.

  25. maitresse

    This was such a great post– I’m going home in less than 3 weeks and I’m getting totally stoked for New York pizza and bagels and all the ass-ugly buildings you pass on the LIRR en route to Penn Station… I’m in a New York State of mind, baby!

  26. maitresse

    oh, and I’d like to add that, underneath my Paris-by-way-of-Long-Island facade, I too am Queens (my parents done borned me in Forest Hills). Word.

  27. psychotoddler

    Didn’t National Wholesale Liquidators used to be Wainrights?

  28. Neil

    Psychotoddler – Absolutely! I used to buy my K-tel records there.

  29. psychotoddler

    I thought K-tel records were not available in any store! I used to buy my Matchbox cars there. They had a great toy department.

    Plus those quarter horse rides out front that my mom would never pay for. Until I was 10 I didn’t even know they were supposed to move.

    I was in there recently after when my dad was in the hospital–the place is scary now.

  30. Neil

    It is a phenomenally succcessful shlock chain. They are all over the East Coast.

    And we are aging ourselves with K-tel records. I wonder if anyone under 30 even knows what we are talking about.

  31. Neil

    Welcome Queens Residents! The last thing I expected when I wrote this was to be linked at, New York Weekly Restaurant Roundup.  Most of my readers are from around the country, and wanted to show them a piece of Queens. Valentino’s has been the one constant in an always changing neighborhood.  It has been a hangout and a local fave for decades.  I live in Los Angeles now.  Do you know hard it is to find good pizza?  Let’s not even talk about the bagel situation.  People think the piece of dry bread they get at Starbucks is a BAGEL!

    Whenever someone visits New York and talks about some pizza place or some Chinese or Greek or Italian restaurant in the city, I always tell them to come to Queens! There is a lot more to Queens then the airport and the U.S. Open.

  32. Stu S

    Host Deli used to be over there too, by the former Wainwrights and the old Five and Dime. Was that a Kresge or Ben Franklin?

  33. Neil

    Stu, we sound like a two senior citizens sitting on the park bench reminiscing about the old days and the five cent hot dog at Nathan’s!

    It was McCrory’s. The entire block is dumpy now and half the stores are closed. I think the landlord is hiking the rents, with the aim of bringing in something big, like a Kmart. It is a perfect place for it.

    (excuse us, other readers, as we talk Queens talk)

  34. Stu S

    McCrory’s — right!

    Yeah — complete alter kokered.

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