Chen is president of the manufacturing firm Crystal Window & Door Systems
based in Flushing. He came to the United States from his native Taiwan in 1982
at the age of 27. After working for several years for others and learning
English at night, he started a small manufacturing business in Queens. In 1990,
Mr. Chen launched Crystal Window & Door Systems. The company is now one of
the top 40 fenestration manufacturers in North America with additional
production facilities in Chicago, St. Louis, Riverside, CA and soon to have a
226-acre plant in Benton, PA. There is no
branch in Holmes, NY.Yet, he is
creating a 200-acre space at this location and calling it Crystal Park, located
65 miles North of NYC.
Chen is a longtime patron of the arts, and established a corporate foundation
in 2002 to advance and preserve Taiwanese art and culture. In fact, Thomas Chen
is Vice President of the Taiwanese American Arts Council. For many years, an
art gallery he created within the Queens factory building of Crystal Window and
Door Systems exhibited the works of local artists. Mr. Chen has sponsored
exhibits at Flushing Town Hall, the Queens Museum, and other locations around
the New York metropolitan area.
I had the joyous opportunity to take a Thanksgiving
Day road trip, along with TAAC Executive Director Luchia Meihua Lee, Ken
Howell, Taiwanese artist Catherine Lan and journalist Emily Chang.Prior to Crystal Park’s entrance an art piece
resembling a car sits at the side of the road entitled “Sun in Action” by Lin
Shih-Pao.A logo of crystals designed by Chiehping Chen
greets the main gate.A house rests at
the top of the hill, where we will later meet with his employee and their family.Walking down to the first level, we are able
to look out at only some of what is to come including another stone carving, a
poem by Tingehiam Wang written in Chinese.
Luchia translated for me.
has image, rain has trace,
has sound, water has pattern
people no longer write poems,
come to write,
come to write,
come to write.
cannot take bait as food,
cannot choose vases as home.
only a spine.
anger, no wisdom
jealously, no virtue.
can view artistic wooden paths, a gazebo, hammock hung between two trees, and a
distant chicken coop with the sound of a rooster crowing.It is just perfect as this coming Lunar New
Year marks the Year of the Rooster.
being mobile enough I stayed in the house while the others explored the property.Tom, meanwhile, continued working on the land
digging on a fork lift. “I have watched this mountain land being transformed
from a neglected rural setting towards a future multi-functional park and
future artist village with art, recreation, farm and breath-taking landscape
around the lake”, Luchia said. “I have arranged for many artists to visit since
2014 and were all met with a stunning experience of nature.”
Park carries the dream of Thomas Chen who was born and grew up in a beautiful
southern village in Pingdong, Taiwan,” she continues. “If he had not been an
entrepreneur, he would have been an artist. His Crystal Park will be a retreat
for us to create, exhibit, enjoy and exercise; an artist village for not only
Taiwanese Americans, but for all US artists that have the spirit and need the
space to gain energy.”
Lan grew up in Australia where she learned her art forms and focus on nature.
“It’s another world from New York City”, she commented about Crystal Park,
“where you can get away for the weekend or a one-day trip.I am really excited that I will be able to go
to the park when it is completed, although it is open for visits.I love the fresh air and even more the
inspiration that it will provide me for some of my future works”.
such a large area, there are many places to hike”, Tom said.“It is a great way for me to teach my international
employees about American outdoor culture.” Future plans for this “artist
colony” include gardens, farming areas, artist studio spaces, an art museum and
the commission of outdoor sculptures by Taiwanese and international artists.
Crystal Window and Door Systems is open to the public but only sells to
contractors.Tom said that he welcomes
people to come in and learn about the types of products that would suit them
best for their home.The company is
located at 31-10 Whitestone Expressway.781-961-7300. You can view more about Crystal Park at www.crystalpark.org.
Hanukkah... or Chanukah (we have been wandering for many years in
search of the correct spelling) is the winter holiday commemorating the
restoration of Jewish worship at the temple of Jerusalem when Judah
Maccabee led the revolt against the Seleucid Empire in 164 BCE. Judah
was called “Maccabee,” a word composed of the initial letters of the
four Hebrew words “Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem,” meaning: “Who is like
Having conquered, Maccabee obtained a menorah to serve as a memorial.
A small amount of olive oil was used, and expected to burn for one day.
Instead, the menorah burned for eight days, and to remember this
miaracle, this Hebrew year of 5777, Chanukah begins on the evening of
the 24th of December (Kislev).
With the exception of the High Holy Days, Jewish holidays tend to
follow the same pattern: We fought, we won, we eat. Which traditional
foods are served on this Hanukkah? Think of it as consuming the eight
days of oil—starting with fried pancakes called “latkes.”
Most common are the potato latkes that combine raw grated potatoes
with onions, eggs, and flour (or matzo meal), a traditional Ashkenazi
classic. Why do we grate the potatoes? To remind us of our suffering, of
course! You can certainly bake them, but it tastes so much better fried
Let’s go to our matzo maven Hal Simon, general manager of Ben’s
Kosher Deli in Bay Terrace, who started working there at the age of 16
at its first location in Baldwin, Long Island. He tells me that
latkes are always made with potatoes. However, they can be prepared with
other added vegetables such as zucchini, spinach or sweet potato.
Looking at other countries’ ideas shows that Israelis, for instance,
make theirs using meat. Great for those “meat and potato “ lovers.
Another tradition is “kugel,” or pudding using either potatoes or
wide noodles (“lokshon”). Potato kugel is like having a huge baked
latke. Noodle pudding is prepared two ways: sweet or savory. The savory
version combines noodles, eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and butter.
Oy, the cholester-oil! Butter makes the noodles crunchy along the
bottom. One sweet version uses less butter and adds sugar, nutmeg,
cinnamon and raisins, usually served cold.
It was Herbert Hoover who suupposedly promised “a chicken in every
pot,” but Ben’s took it seriously. Half of a boiled chicken, noodles, a
large matzo ball, peas, carrots, and meat “kreplach” (dumplings) are
actually served in a pot. Ben’s cures their tongue and corned beef on
“It takes two weeks to do this”, Hal said.
Then, of course, there’s brisket (uncured corned beef), pastrami and
turkey. But don’t kvetch if you find that the food isn’t salty
enough—Hal says that you can always add salt.
Ben’s does have desserts of pastries and a few other goodies, but not
“sufganiyah” (fried jelly donuts). According to Gil Marks, author of
“The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” Polish immigrants brought “ponchiks,”
as they called them, to Israel along with the custom of eating them on
Hanukkah. In Israel, however, ponchiks soon took the name sufganiyah
(sufganiyot plural), from a “spongy dough” mentioned in the Talmud,
“sofgan” and “sfogga.”
In 2009, about 18 million sufganiyot were consumed in Israel in the
weeks before and during the holiday, or about three doughnuts per
Israeli, with the Isreali Defense Force alone purchasing around a half
million that year. About 70 percent of all sufganiyot consumed are
stuffed with jelly, but a number of other fillings have become popular,
including halva, crème espresso, chocolate truffle, and numerous exotic
flavors. Jelly doughnuts in Brazil are commonly filled with dulce de
leche (a milky caramel), which recently also became a popular Israeli
filling, known as “ribat chalav” in Hebrew. American Jews have adopted
the sufganiyah, although most tend to stick to the old- fashioned jelly
fillings and a confectioners’ sugar dusting.
I got some latkes to go to make your own noodle pudding at home.
Noticing that I did not have anything similar to cottage cheese, I made
my own using whole milk. I heated it up to an almost boil and dropped in
some fresh lemon juice. Cheese goes to the top, whey to the bottom.
Drain through a cloth, and now you have fresh cheese.
Fish, particularly salmon, is neutral or “pareve.” A combo of smoked
salmon, chopped hard boiled eggs, capers, chopped onions and tomato
would suffice as an appetizer. In fact, you can have that, schmooze with
your friends or family for an hour, and then indulge in Ben’s
Back to Hal, who told me that Chinese restaurants aren’t the only
ones open on Christmas Day. Although the restaurant is considered to be
kosher, they are not closed on the Sabbath. That means that you can dine
there on the first day of Hanukkah. Check the website for specials that
may have nothing to do with the holiday. Hey, you don’t have to be
Jewish to love latkes—all year round.
(correcting story to say Ben’s Kosher Deli in Bay Terrace)
An art project made up of one thousand recycled
aluminum cans is on display at COPE NY located in the former Pfizer Building at
630 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, very typical of visual artist Chin Chih
Yang.It may not be obvious that a 32
foot long LED lighted “arrow” is pointing at an abstract human head, part of an
installation of artists through December 16, 2016.
Chin Chih, who hails from Taiwan, is
quite known for using both crushed and thin strips of aluminum cans to create
his art style.One piece that had been
shown as part of an event through the Taiwanese American Arts Council,
“Pollution Solution” was made up of strips of aluminum cans to create a net and
backed by LED lights. He wrote, “Unfortunately, pollution has become an
integral part of our lives. We ourselves are the only ones who may be able to
come up with a collective solution to this dilemma”.In 2012 Chin Chih presented his
interactive performance art piece, “Kill Me or Change”, in front of the Queens
Museum. 30,000 aluminum cans were dropped on the artist in an effort to call
attention to the effects of over-consumption in modern society.
from the ability to reflect light, Chin Chih sees these aluminum cans as
something close to our bodies as an “everyday use”.“It’s very strong, shiny and beautiful
material,” said Chin Chih.“But, they
are also poisonous to both our bodies and the air around us when recycled.”
opening night, November 19th, Chin Chih donned an “aluminum cape” as
part of his interactive performance.Cans
are collected from all over New York City as well as having it known that he
does so as people collect for him.Where
does he store the tremendous amount of cans?He has a house outside of New York City.