The Octogenarian Activists

On the emerald green front door of Stanley and Kathleen Rygor‘s 1890 cottage, there’s a Claddagh knocker whose well-worn brass shows that it’s no stranger to visitors. “It is an honor to have you in my house,” says Stanley, as he leads the way through the foyer. He doesn’t have to say welcome; the souvenir sign from Ireland — Céad Míle Fáilte – conveys that warm message no less than 100,000 times. Curiously, it is framed by a Celtic cross and a crisscrossed Christmas-red AIDS ribbon. Kathleen is slowly climbing the stairs from the basement, and before …

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The Grandson of Mom-and-Pops

At the checkout counter at Bartunek Hardware, right next to the buzzing key-copying machine, there’s a framed black and white photograph. Among the nuts and bolts of this Astoria institution, it’s not easy to spot. It’s quite likely that most people don’t notice it, because if they did, they’d do a double take. The 11 X 17 image show a balding, bespectacled man standing proudly next to his shiny new 1927 Chevy delivery truck, where “H.M. Bartunek Hardware & House Furnishings” proclaims his profession in bold script. The H stands for …

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The Veteran Bookseller

There’s no bookstore in the Ditmars section of Astoria. We don’t need one. Harry puts the words out on the street. Harry – we all know him as Harry, but for the record, his full name is Harry Fiegelson – is the 82-year-old World War II veteran who sets up a bookstand by the subway stop at 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard. He sells his hand-picked selections for $1.50 each. “We’ve got books today,” he repeats over and over like an old-time carnival barker to all who pass. “Hey, Harry, what have you got today?” asks a man in a&…

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The Madcap Moviemaker

When the DVD starts, so does the laughter. Anastasios Makedon must have watched this, his first film, a million times, but every time he sees himself playing himself in this screwball comedy of house-hunting errors, it cracks him up. “This came out much better than I expected,” he chuckles. “Every single thing in the film is true, and everything is drawn from my experiences as an Astoria real estate broker.” OK, there may be a bit of an exaggeration or embellishment here and there, so if you don’t take him literally, take him seriously while you’re giggling and …

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