2012: A year in pictures

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A photographic look at the top 2012 news stories in Queens.
A photographic look at the top 2012 news stories in Queens.

JANUARY

Fire bomber charged in hate crime: Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, confessed to a string of five fire bombings, four in Queens and one on Long Island. No one was injured in the attacks and Lengend was charged with a hate crime.

Queens native named Obama chief of staff: Forest Hills native Jacob Lew, an orthodox Jew, was named President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in a ceremony at the White House on January 14. Lew, 56, grew up on Yellowstone Boulevard and graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1972.

Worst landlords named: A list released by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio named the 50 worst landlords throughout the city, including 15 with dozens of properties in Queens. The dishonor roll, based on complaints and violations over the past year, was compiled to warn residents searching for apartments.

Flushing nurses protest: About 200 registered nurses at Flushing Hospital rallied outside the facility after their contracts expired in December. The nurses protested for better healthcare, pay and pension benefits.

FEBRUARY

Giants win Super Bowl: For the second time in five years, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Eli Manning was named MVP of the Giants 21-17 victory.

Con Ed heroes: Four Con Edison employees — John Kane, John McDonnell, Michael Santeramo and Anthony Farmighetti — rushed to the aid of the victim of a violent purse snatching in Bayside before chasing after the suspect.

NY goes Lin-sane: New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin took New York and Madison Square Garden by storm after entering the team’s starting lineup in February. Lin-sanity took over the city as the unheralded, undrafted Harvard graduate played like an MVP and helped lead the Knicks to the playoffs.

FreshDirect heads to Bronx: FreshDirect, an online fresh food grocer, announced they will move their operations from Long Island City and leave the borough for larger facilities in the Bronx, taking with them 2,000 Queens jobs.

MARCH

Heejun Han on ‘American Idol’: Flushing-native Heejun Han sang his way into the hearts of millions of Americans each week on the hit singing competition. Han made it all the way to the top nine before being eliminated.

Peninsula Hospital closure announced: Bankruptcy and instability at Far Rockaway’s Peninsula Hospital forced the medical center to close its doors leaving the peninsula with just one hospital, St. John’s Episcopal.

FedEx moves to LIC: FedEx announced plans to open a new, 14,000-square-foot FedEx Ground distribution center costing $56 million on Borden Avenue in LIC. The facility will be larger and contain more automated package sorting systems than the existing station in Maspeth, allowing the company to better serve the area.

Woodhaven drug ring busted by FBI: A drug ring headquartered in Woodhaven known as the Perez Organization was busted by the FBI for allegedly distributing over 20 kilograms of heroin, possessing a street value of around $2.75 million, to drug dealers in Queens and Long Island.

APRIL

Driver arrested after leaving toddler on empty school bus: A private bus driver was arrested on April 12 after she left her vehicle unattended in Corona with a toddler still aboard. Police broke a window on the bus and removed two-year-old Samantha Bustamante, who they believe was left alone for roughly 15 minutes. Bustamante — who was in good physical condition, according to EMS — was taken back to the 110th Precinct, where she was reunited with her mother. The bus driver, 62-year-old Ana Garcia, was charged with failure to exercise control of a minor.

Hero firefighter saves woman: Firefighter James Goelz became a hero when he made his first on-the-job rescue, saving an elderly, unconscious woman from her Lindenwood apartment, which became a blazing inferno on April 6.

Kung fu fighter thwarts sex assault: Good Samaritan Mike Novak thwarted a sexual assault in Sunnyside on April 8, when he ran to the aid of his female neighbor, who was being groped by a man in the bushes down the block from his house. The 54-year-old kung fu fighter chased the perp away, then pulled the victim out of the bush and stayed by her side until authorities arrived.

MAY

Historic carousel spins once more: The Forest Park Carousel held its grand reopening on May 26 after nearly four years of being shuttered. Hundreds of visitors, both children and adults, were able to take another spin on the historic, century-old merry-go-round.

Bayside cop arrested after heroin bust: Bayside cop Devon Daniels was arrested on May 15 for his role in allegedly aiding drug dealers. The 30 year old, who was assigned to the 111th Precinct, allegedly communicated with the leader of a Jamaica-based heroin distribution organization on numerous occasions to ask for money and to borrow vehicles, authorities said.

Gruesome murder in Bayside home: A Bayside woman was found dead in her basement with lacerations to her neck after the man she lived with allegedly killed her, set fire to their shared home and tried to hang himself in the couple’s bedroom closet. The gruesome scene occurred on May 23, claiming the life of Eun Hee Sin, 57, and sending a 56-year-old unidentified Asian man to the hospital, where he was said to be in stable condition.

JUNE

Queens kid places third in national spelling bee: Bayside Hills whiz kid Arvind Mahankali won third place at the televised Scripps National Spelling Bee for the second consecutive year. The 12 year old’s spellbinding run ended when he misspelled “schwannoma,” a German name-based word that means a type of cancer. Mahankali, a seventh grader from J.H.S. 74, took home $7,500.

First no-hitter for Mets: Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1, when the New York team won 8-0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Santana walked five and struck out eight.

Willets Point development details announced: Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced specifics of the Willets Point project, which includes retail space, a hotel and quicker access to the Van Wyck Expressway. More than 12,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs would come from the proposed Willets Point renovation, he said, which is expected to bring $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years. A new component, Willets West, was also designated from a portion of the Citi Field parking lot to become one-million square feet of space for retail, entertainment and dining.

JULY

Con Ed lockout: As temperatures across the city spiked, Con Edison locked out more than 8,000 workers over heated  contract talks — leaving 5,000 managers responsible for maintaining electric, gas and steam service  for the company’s 3.2 million customers. The power giant blamed the stalemate on leaders of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 1-2 — the union representing roughly 8,000 Con Edison employees — who refused to accept its offer to extend their members’ contract for two  weeks. After a major push to end negotiations from Governor Andrew Cuomo, locked-out Con Ed  workers returned to their posts following a tentative agreement between the utility provider and representatives from the UWUA Local 1-2, ending the month-long stalemate.

Former pol arrested: Former Queens Assemblymember Jimmy Meng, the father of newly appointed Congressmember Grace Meng, was arrested on a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly attempting to scam $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant. Meng allegedly promised the defendant — who sought the former elected official’s help after being charged with state tax crimes — that his sentence would be reduced to one year if he paid prosecutors $20,000 each in bribes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Federal prosecutors said Meng offered to act as the middle man, instructing the individual to conceal and deliver the $80,000 payout in a fruit basket. The government investigation, however, uncovered no evidence the past politician even contacted prosecutors, and officials said Meng planned to keep the bribe money for himself.

Soda ban: Tensions fizzed over when locals expressed their distaste for the city’s proposed ban on large, sugary beverages at a public hearing on July 24.  “Will the government be telling me when to go to bed next?” asked Councilmember Dan Halloran. “Or how big my steak should be? How many potato chips I can eat? After all, it’s all in the name of my health. And clearly the government knows what’s best for me.” The soda ban will halt the sale of sugary bottled and fountain drinks, such as teas, sodas and sports drinks, of more than 16 ounces in every store and restaurant with letter grades, movie theaters, sports venues, delis and food trucks and carts. Diet sodas, calorie-free drinks, and drinks with at least 50 percent milk are exempted from the regulation.

Summer crime wave:  As temperatures soared, so did crime rates. And Queens did not remain bulletproof. Between July 4 and July 7, four deaths occurred throughout the borough, one man critically wounded and an MTA cop suffered a sight-threatening injury. On early Saturday, July 7, three men were fatally shot, and a fourth wounded, in Jamaica. Police said there were two shooters — one of whom fired 63 rounds from an AK-47. This was one of several shootings or stabbings to take place over what was considered the Fourth of July weekend. Councilmember Peter Vallone, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said this spike in citywide crime was due to a decrease in the amount of on-duty cops and a spike in criminals — mainly due to budget cuts. These factors — along with soaring temperatures — were causing a higherthan-normal spike in crimes, Vallone said.

AUGUST

Sikh temple shooting: The August 5 shooting at an Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara that killed six and wounded four struck close to home for the tens of thousands of Sikhs in Queens. Of the at least 300,000 Sikhs in the United States, between 30,000 to 40,000 live in New York City, with the bulk residing in Queens. Elected officials and religious leaders gathered at the Sikh Cultural Society — where thousands of Sikhs congregate weekly — the day after the shooting rampage inside the Wisconsin Sikh Temple to offer condolences to the community and show support. Shooter Wade Michael Page, an army veteran and alleged white supremacist, was killed at the scene. Post-9/11, the country experienced a large spike in hate crimes against Sikhs, said Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition. While incidents have slowed in recent years, Singh said discrimination in schools and the work place still persists.

Fire at home under construction: More than 100 firefighters from 33 units responded to the three-alarm blaze on Tuesday, August 14, at a Douglaston home, which was under renovations. The 39-12 Douglaston Parkway dwelling received 44 complaints since March 2008 from callers saying the ongoing construction work being done at the site exceeded the scope of the approved permit, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB). No one was in the house at the time, and no one was severely injured, an official said. While all complaints made against the home were listed as closed, homeowner David Wei Huang was pinned for two violations from the DOB and 17 from the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Of those violations, nine were still outstanding, according to the DOB, and were related to the ongoing construction. Huang was issued a $2,500 fi ne when construction at the site was found not to be in compliance with approved plans and another $1,200 for failing to safeguard the public and his property. There were other violations for working with an expired permit, the DOB said.

Huntley surrenders: State Senator Shirley Huntley pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records and tampering with evidence in the first degree, which are felonies, and conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor, after officials said she covered up the funneling of nearly $30,000 in state funds to a non-profit she helped establish. Huntley turned herself in to the State Attorney General’s regional office on Monday, August 27, and was arraigned later that day. Voters gave Huntley the boot in September, when she decisively lost the Democratic primary to challenger James Sanders Jr., who was elected to the 10th District seat in November.

 SEPTEMBER

Rare tornado strikes Breezy Point: A tornado struck Breezy Point during a late summer down pour on Saturday, September 8. The twister damaged parts of the Breezy Point Surf Club, but many were thankful the club had been mostly closed up by that point. “We’re lucky the storm hit this weekend and not last weekend,” Councilmember Eric Ulrich said, who surveyed the damage in the area shortly after the storm. “Because last weekend the Surf Club was filled with people.”

“Look!” campaign promotes safety: A Department of Transportation (DOT) campaign to promote safety when texters crossed the street was launched in September. The program includes a sign that reads “LOOK!” in crosswalks throughout the city, to remind pedestrians to proceed with caution. “New Yorkers are driven to distraction with their smart phones, and the simple act of looking can prevent thousands of crashes and injuries every year,” said DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “LOOK! is a message to all New Yorkers that safety is in the eye of the beholder and everyone needs to keep an eye out for each other on our streets.”

Ulrich wins primary: Councilmember Eric Ulrich defeated Forest Hills lawyer Juan Reyes in a Senate District 15 Republican Primary on September 13. In the weeks leading up to the election, the Reyes campaign sent out a string of mailers attacking Ulrich’s reputation in the City Council and made anti-gay statements. Ulrich would go on to unsuccessfully challenge incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo in the general election. The race became one of the most contested in Queens.

Serial arsonist is nabbed: A suspect wanted for setting 13 fi res in Flushing and Murray Hill during a three-week period was arraigned on September 15. Thien K. Dinh, 43, was charged with two counts of second-degree arson, four counts of third-degree arson, 13 counts of fi rst-degree reckless endangerment and thirddegree burglary. Dinh admitted to the crimes, which included a fire at 143-01 45th Avenue near Bowne Street on August 20 that gutted adjacent businesses and totaled the four-story multiple family dwelling.

OCTOBER

Four Richmond Hill High grads die in crash: Four teenagers from South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill were killed in the morning hours of October 8, when the car they were riding in careened off the Southern State Parkway and threw them from the vehicle. The driver, Joseph Beer, 17, survived the crash and only had a learner’s permit, authorities said. The teen was later indicted by the Nassau County District Attorney on a slew of charges that included allegations he was high at the time of the crash.

Cop, driver killed in deadly rampage: An ex-con fatally shot Nassau County police officer Arthur Lopez near the Cross Island Parkway before fleeing on Tuesday, October 23. Darrell Fuller, 33, then took off and carjacked Raymond Facey, who was shot and killed. The incident resulted in a manhunt throughout southeast Queens searching for the perp, who was later found with a bullet wound in his shoulder. He was then taken to Jamaica Hospital before being transferred to Nassau County to be charged.

Cannibal cop: NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was nabbed for plotting to kidnap and eat more at least 100 women. The six-year veteran, who lived in Forest Hills, was charged with accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database to gain information without authorization, and agreeing to kidnap a woman to sell her to an individual for no less than $5,000, according to court documents.

Sandy strikes seaside south: Superstorm Sandy shut down much of Queens beginning on Monday, October 29 and carrying into the next day. Damage was felt, at different levels, throughout the borough. Trees came down on to houses in the northeast, in one case killing a man; parts of Long Island City’s water front arose and flooded several buildings. Rockaway and Howard Beach were some of the hardest hit areas however. The channel in Howard Beach poured on to Cross Bay Boulevard and knocked out some businesses for weeks. In Rockaway, the ocean poured over and met with Jamaica Bay.

NOVEMBER

Breezy Point residents search for hope: During Superstorm Sandy, the majority of Breezy Point homes received extensive water damage, and 111 homes burned to the ground after an electrical fire sparked. Residents, left at a loss, tried to receive as much relief as possible from organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Red Cross, and many more. Kieren Burke was one of many who lost his home in the fire, and he spent some time searching for anything left behind — namely his wife’s wedding ring. Burke spent the storm in his parents’ house nearby, and ran outside once he saw the blazes engulf the streets, but he was only able to save a few things before his home was gone.

Obama visits New York after Sandy: Alongside New York’s most prominent officials, President Obama surveyed damage in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. The President arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday, November 15, and was greeted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan. He then surveyed the damage to the Rockaway peninsula by air, and went through Staten Island on foot.

The Kings of Queens: Over 400 guests gathered at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to mingle at one of the largest networking events in the borough and honor this year’s “Kings of Queens.” The fifth annual Queens Courier event, held on Thursday, November 15 featured special honoree, Steven Lacy, Fox 5 news anchor, and honored dozens of top businessmen throughout Queens.

DECEMBER

Boardwalk future: Sandy ripped mercilessly through the Rockaways, destroying an iconic haven enjoyed by all: the boardwalk. The community came together and urged that their boardwalk be rebuilt better than ever before, so no storm can ever do this again. Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded with a new plan, hopefully to be in place by next summer. Wooden planks will be a thing of the past, and a concrete boardwalk will be put into place. Locals, although pleased, still asked for sea walls to further protect their home.

Bayside murders: A Bayside man was named in an indictment charging him with two separate counts of second-degree murder. Gregory Cucchiara, 36, was charged for beating his mother over the head before submerging her in water, and another 15 months later when he smothered his father to death. He was being held at Rikers Island, and faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted.

Sunnyside vigil: A mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut hit home for Sunnyside residents. Little Benjamin Wheeler, 6, originally from Sunnyside, was shot and killed during the unspeakable tragedy. Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook, selfl essly gave her life to the shooter while trying to save as many students as she could. Her life was also remembered at the vigil by her stepsister, who resides in Sunnyside. The massacre was the second deadliest shooting in our nation’s history, killing 26 people, 20 of who were children.