The Serious Smiler

It doesn’t matter where he goes – the corner deli, the N train, the organic market – Todd Killian stands out in the crowd. It’s not the way he looks – closely cropped brown hair, dark-chocolate eyes and slender build – it’s what he does. Todd, aka the meet-and-greet guy, smiles a toothy grin and stops to talk to strangers. It works, perhaps because in a way, Todd, too, is a stranger. He has only called Astoria his home for a dozen years, and he was raised…

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The Resident Stargazer

It’s 9 p.m. At 31st and Ditmars, the stars are out. So is The Telescope Guy. “You wanna see Jupiter?” he calls out as people crowd around him on the moonlit sidewalk. “Just step right up. You gotta see this. It’s great.” Patrick Cannon, the resident stargazer, mans his 90-mm silver Maksuktov Cassegrain as though he’s commanding the Starship Enterprise, pointing out the planets and singling out the stars. For the more than two years that the Astoria sky…

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The Answer Man

The black awning says “Halvatzis Realty,” and the open door says, “Come right in.” So everyone does. A neighbor steps in to talk about his girlfriend. She dumped him, just like that, no reason. They’d been together 10 years. Ten years! Can you believe that! “What should I do?” he asks in despair. “Dude, you’ve got to get right back out there,” George Halvatzis tells him. “You’re a nice guy, you’ve still got your hair, trust…

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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…

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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 &…

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