Vicki Schneps, The Empress Of Queens, Compassionate and Caring Overseer
She calls and they answer. She asks and they come. The big and powerful men and women heed the summons of Vicki Schneps who some call “The Empress of Queens.”
But this is no personage of royal blood or manner. Vicki Schneps is as grounded as the person next door. There are no airs, no attitude and no sense of entitlement.
Vicki Schneps publishes some 30-odd publications that cover a good portion of New York’s boroughs and onto Long Island. They are weekly newspapers, diverse publications, and collegiate magazines.
If there is a partisan political bent to any of them, it’s invisible. Vicki talks to and maintains a relationship with all sides of the political spectrum. She placed a call and received an immediate response from Chuck Schumer, the New York Senator and Senate Minority Leader.
Schumer was her main speaker at a forum for business leaders in New York. But while he spoke, the regard in which he held Vicki Schneps was evident. It was a warm and personal relationship with mutual respect.
The walls of her office are almost completely covered with photos of people whom she has met and those that are more personal. One has her holding the hand of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who has since been elevated to sainthood. Her political spectrum crosses lines. On the wall is an autographed picture of President Bill Clinton. Nearby hangs one of his wife, Hillary. Separated by a safe margin from those two is a photo of Vicki with current President Donald Trump. Journalism icon Walter Cronkite, called “The most trusted man in the world,” with Vicki, hangs nearby.
Any news operation is high pressure. Deadlines come one on top of the other. Vicki’s newsroom, responsible for some 30 publications, is constantly humming. She moves easily from cubicle to cubicle, each one representing a publication, as she confers with editors and reporters, keeping up on everything that is going on.
The respect and affection that each employee holds for Vicki is immediately obvious. And she easily returns that feeling. The newsroom almost has the feel of a family gathering in a very large living room.
Today Vicki Schneps runs what could easily be described as a “media empire” of print publications when publications are facing hard times from electronic outlets.
“The rumors of the demise of print publications are greatly exaggerated,” she says. “Especially right here.”
Her flagship publication, the Queens Courier, covers a major portion of the New York City borough from the Atlantic Ocean to the Manhattan border. The weekly newspaper regularly exceeds 100 pages, greater than most of the daily newspapers in The City.
“A bad week for us,” she notes,” is a paper with only 80 pages.” And that rarely happens.
Until recently she also published The Brooklyn Spectator, again the most important newspaper in that borough. She was made an offer “she couldn’t refuse,” and sold it. The paper continues to be the success it was under her ownership.
But all of this began in a very unlikely manner in 1985. Vicki fueled her interest in journalism when she started The Queens Courier in her Bayside, Queens, living room. She had “…a dream and a prayer…” and $250 to launch the venture. Her four children were frequently conscripted to help out.
The premier issue focused on the northeast area of Queens and had ads provided by friends and family. Her personality and drive led to papers covering the majority of four of New York City’s five boroughs. She bypassed Manhattan.
With the sale of the Brooklyn Spectator, she now has a major print presence in three of the boroughs. She has maintained a presence in Brooklyn with the online “Brownstoner,” a Brooklyn based website. She also has nine other digital publications.
Her reach was recently enhanced with the purchase of The Long Island Press that had been a strong daily covering Queens and portions of Long Island. She converted it into a weekly and has seen its strength grow in leaps and bounds.
Always family oriented, her co-publisher is son Joshua whose office is directly across from hers. Joshua has branched out somewhat and founded a major flea market in Long Island City.
Vicki is strongly oriented to local news: “People are interested in what is happening in their own neighborhoods,” she says. I started in Queens and The Courier is focused on the various zip codes and local apartment complexes.”
It seems to be a formula that is working…and working well. So well that a reader spotted a photo of a bank robber and helped police apprehend the criminal. The story ran front page on the Courier blaring “Courier Reader Nabs Bank Robber.”
A Brooklyn native, she graduated from James Madison High School and continued on earning degrees from both Brooklyn College and New York University. After graduation, she became a teacher but never gave up her community involvement.
She protested the conditions at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island where mentally challenged youths were routinely mistreated and lacked proper care. That was a very personal crusade for her as one of her children was at Willowbrook and she could see first hand the myriad problems that were unaddressed.
The school hit the headlines when than local TV reporter, Geraldo Rivera launched a series of exposés followed by a federal lawsuit that ultimately closed Willowbrook.
After the close of Willowbrook, she was instrumental in establishing a group home in Queens and an advocacy group.
Always thinking Vicki holds dinners for advertisers, business people and has them populated by notables and influencers such as Chuck Schumer. She hands out awards for community/business leaders. The presentations are called “Vickis” and resemble Hollywood’s Oscars. This connection with the business community has helped fuel her publications.
More like the Energizer Bunny than a major publisher, Vicki is always on the move putting people years younger than she is behind her. How old? Never ask a woman her age. But Vicki has a cute answer. Her second husband, Stuart Yunis, passed away in 2013 and she feels ready to date again.
She was quoted in a New York Times article saying: “I’m single, I’m putting out the word. I love smart men. There’s something sexy about brains.”
Well, in that case, it’s worth noting that Vicki Schneps has a surfeit of brains of her own.