Yearly Archives: 2012

Queens tech meet-up talks Sandy


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ PHOTO BY ALEXA ALTMAN

Among many affected by Sandy, a common complaint was the lack communication and access to information.

Technology insiders gathered in Long Island City on Wednesday, December 19 for the fifth Queens Tech Meet Up. The monthly event brings members of the startup community together to network and share ideas, predominantly centered on technology’s importance during a time of crisis. The assembly is hosted by the Coalition for Queens, a non-profit group that aims to foster an entrepreneurial and supportive environment among those in the tech community.

The event focused largely on the important role technology played in assisting those affected by superstorm Sandy. Rachel Haot, New York City’s chief digital officer, provided invaluable insight into the city’s plan to become more technologically savvy and how that know-how allowed officials and citizens to remain informed and connected during the natural disaster.

Haot’s agency, which is linked with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, follows a digital roadmap to monitor the state of the digital city. The map centers on five key components en route to preparing the city to live up to its technical potential.

The first area is Internet access – providing easy and free service universally in New York City. The second segment is education – engineering school initiatives, which requires investing funds into developing technologically-focused courses into curriculums. The third piece is open government – discovering ways to enable innovation while maintaining transparency between officials and residents. The fourth area is engagement – keeping people connected with the government through technology, whether by reading tweets or checking agency websites. The fifth and final sector is industry – celebrating tech growth in the city and maintaining initiatives that allow it to continue to grow.

According to Haot, the fourth area – engagement – skyrocketed in the weeks after Sandy touched down in New York. During the storm, the city sent out 2,000 tweets, 3-1-1’s website received 4 million unique visits and the city received 176,010 new social media followers. Haot attributed the boost in online activity to the increased call for information during a time of distress.

“More information calms people down and provides psychological and emotional comfort,” said Haot.

The city is also in the process of integrating new innovations – including allowing locals to tweet or text requests to 3-1-1.

Teen killed by dump truck in Jackson Heights


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Robert Stridiron

A teenage boy was struck and killed by a dump truck in Jackson Heights this morning at the intersection of 80th Street and Northern Boulevard.

The accident occurred at approximately 8:45 a.m. when the rear wheels of a white dump truck towing a green generator hit the teen as it turned onto Northern Boulevard from 80th Street.

The victim was pronounced dead on the scene.

The truck did not stay at the scene, though it is not certain if the driver knew he struck someone. Police are searching for the vehicle.

The victim is yet to be identified.

 

P.J. Carlesimo named interim coach of the Nets


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By Elizabeth Coluccio

Avery Johnson, coach of the Brooklyn Nets, was fired yesterday, according to general manager Billy King, and P.J. Carlesimo will take over on the bench beginning tonight.

The Nets season began well, with the team winning five games in a row. But through November, they have since lost seven out of 10 games, bringing their record to 14-14.

Though the move comes as a surprise to many, there have been signs that team was under duress. The Nets spent $330 million to bring in a new roster this summer as they moved into the Barclays Center. Also, star point guard Deron Williams criticized Johnson’s coaching tactics just over a week ago.

Johnson, who was appointed the position in 2010, coached the team for a little over two seasons. Carlesimo will take over as coach on an interim.

After a decade in Long Island City, Local Project searches for a new home


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Carolina Penafiel-16

At the edge of Long Island City, where warehouses haunt like rusty fossils of an industrial past, obscured by the elevated subway tracks, street art fights for survival.

Encircled in graffiti-wrapped sarcophagi, the low brow legacy of Local Project and 5Pointz await doomsday, untouched by the sterile glass high-rises that erupt from the ground almost monthly — for now, at least.

It’s only a matter of time before the building they share becomes nothing more than piles of scrap metal and drywall dust. Several months ago, the space’s owner announced plans to sell the warehouse to a builder who would turn the space into luxury condominiums – “yuppie projects,” scoff the locals. Local Project, a space for emerging artists to nurture their craft and connect with the public, that shares a building with graffiti holy land 5Pointz, must depart their home in search of new prospects.

Carolina Penafiel, a part-time food stylist and Local Project’s founder, moved to New York from Chile 13 years ago in pursuit of her American Dream.

“I wanted to live like in the movies,” she said.

Penafiel began her career as an artist, but a bad experience during a group show changed her mind. It took too much to be an artist, to open her work to the masses, resting on talent and believing in the message behind her art. Even the title “artist” felt wrong.

“I’ve always done exactly what I’ve set myself to do,” said Penafiel. “Thankfully, I’ve always gotten where I’ve wanted to go.”

Instead, she focused on her administrative skills, training as an independent curator. She fell in love with the process of putting together a show, nurturing artists and watching them develop. One show called “Hot in Hell’s Kitchen,” held at the Fountain Gallery – a center for those struggling with mental illness. The exhibit told stories from the iconic Manhattan neighborhood. Visitors stuck notes to the wall, scribbled with memories from Hell’s Kitchen – “I got drunk,” “I met my ex,” “I kissed somebody.”

Penafiel’s shows center around creating community rather than bringing culture to high society. Local Project’s doctrine of art for the people allows her to build bridges – the most rewarding part of her job. Instead of judging artists based on reputation, Local Project celebrates unknown entities on the rise. Each resident artist is required to spend 40 hours in the building during their two week stint, creating a setting where visitors can dip into the work organically.

Local Project draws tourists from around the world. One artist, keeping tabs on the gallery’s visitors, had a person from every livable continent come see his show in a single day.

“That’s what makes us different from other spaces,” Penafiel said. “You get to come in and talk to the artists. How cool is that?”

Artists of all mediums present in the space. Every Saturday, a DJ spins for a crowd who dance and chat, huddled together in the chilly space. They host video festivals, including one of exclusively horror films before Halloween where the audience dresses as zombies and four times a year, emerging musicians play acoustic sets in a series called “Music under the 7.” Penafiel said they do as much as they can – as much as everyone wants to do.

But now, everything needs to go somewhere else.

They have begun searching for a new space – a topic not easily broached among the staff, unhappy about the move. For years, rumors of the demise of the building on Davis Street swirled. Now they are coming true.

It’s happening all too much in New York City – art institutions knocked down in favor of bourgeoisie-friendly entities. Penafiel mentioned DUMBO, formerly raw, now spotless and new like a suburban art fair.

“Unfortunately, we, the ones who helped bring [LIC] to that level are not the ones that live there or have stores there,” said Penafiel. “That’s just life I guess. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Long Island City.”

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 40. Northwest wind 13 to 15 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 30. Northwest wind 5 to 9 mph becoming light north after midnight.

EVENT of the WEEKEND: Jazz Night at New York’s Legendary Metropolitan Room

The incomparable Stix Bones will be hosting two Jazz Nights during December at the renowned Metropolitan Room in NYC. Jazz Night is a seventy-five minute performance highlighting music from the forefathers of Jazz such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, and original compositions by drummer Stix Bones. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Man dead after train push horror in Queens

A man was killed tonight after a woman pushed him into the path of an oncoming train in Queens, police sources said. The tragedy occurred at the elevated 40th Street station, near Queens Boulevard, in Sunnyside at around 8 p.m., sources added. Read more: NY Post

Sandy Hook funeral-fund scam outrages, feds charge Nouel Alba

The innocent blood spilled on the floors of a Connecticut elementary school was still warm when a Bronx woman hatched a sick scam to profit off the tragedy. Nouel Alba, 37, was busted after allegedly posing as an aunt of 6-year-old Noah Pozner — one of 20 children massacred inside Sandy Hook Elementary School — to collect money for the child’s “funeral fund,” authorities said. Read more: Daily News

Official: Endangered whale beached in Queens dead

A 60-foot whale was found dead on Thursday after getting stranded on a beach in a coastal enclave of New York City that was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy. The animal — part of an endangered species known as finback or fin whales — was severely emaciated but clinging to life when it was discovered Wednesday stranded on the bay side of Breezy Point. Volunteer firefighters sprayed water on the whale as it sat halfway out of the water. Read more: NY Post

Wednesday storm causes more issues for residents of two Jamaica homes

Wednesday’s storm caused more problems for some Jamaica residents whose homes were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Natasha Francis and her two kids are staying with family and friends. She said Hurricane Sandy damaged her roof, and now there’s water everywhere. Read more: NY1

2 armed robbers terrorize Queens shopkeepers

Cops say two men have been very busy this holiday season from terrorizing six Queens shopkeepers. On December 5th, Nisha Sharvo was minding her business behind the back pharmacy counter of Quick Script Drugs in Hollis, when on her security monitors she watched the men hold up the front counter and order staff and customers to the floor while robbing them – all before making a beeline for Sharvo. Read more: ABC Local

 

Controversial Astoria power plant to be dismantled


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Poletti1

After powering down several years ago, a controversial power plant is finally going to be dismantled.

Years of litigation, led by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., ended with the shuttering of operations at the old branch of the Charles Poletti Power Plant on 20th Avenue in Astoria in 2010. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced this week that the defunct facility will be torn down beginning in early 2013. Since the closure of the plant almost three years ago, the councilmember and now borough president hopeful has fought diligently for its destruction — a fight, he said, that was not easily won.

“It’s dangerous, it’s an eyesore and they’re finally going to get rid of it,” said Vallone.

A NYPA spokesperson said they agreed to close the Poletti power plant as part of a commitment to improving regional air quality when plant officials applied for a license to build a new state-of-the-art 500-MW Combined Cycle Project, fueled by clean natural gas. Since 2010, NYPA has been planning the engineering needed for dismantling the Poletti plant and in September 2012 awarded a $21 million contract for its destruction.

The spokesperson added that the plant has never been a safety hazard.

According to Vallone, much of his push to have the plant destroyed stemmed from fear that operations could restart at the facility, as is common practice at many previously shut down plants. While he said Poletti does not pose the risk of exploding, it once ranked as the plant with the worst emissions record of any in the state. He also mentioned a study that claimed the plant’s emissions were worse than those of plants in all other New York City boroughs combined.

“The people of Western Queens can finally breathe a fresh sigh of relief knowing the old Poletti plant will be torn down and never create a dark cloud over their heads again,” said Vallone.

Senator Michael Gianaris, who has also been involved in the demise of the plant, said western Queens residents are rejoicing over the destruction of the city’s biggest polluter.

“Many of us remember all too well the toxic, dirty air emitted by the plant that plagued our neighborhood for decades, and it was thanks to our hard work that the plant finally closed,” said Gianaris. “As we prepare to ring in the new year, I look forward to celebrating the much-awaited deconstruction of this power plant as well as continuing our work to make western Queens a green neighborhood whose residents are healthy and air is clean.”

Astoria is home to five of the city’s major power plants, estimated by Vallone to produce nearly 80 percent of the city’s power supply.

Elderly Queens man missing


| brennison@queenscourier.com

1790-12 107 pct Zhang

A silver alert has been issued for a missing Queens man last seen yesterday morning in Briarwood.

Hong Sheng Zhang, 78, went missing at 11:30 a.m. yesterday near the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Main Street.

Zhang, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is 5-feet-3-inches tall, 120 pounds, with grey shaved hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen wearing a waist length green jacket, a white and yellow baseball hat and yellow pants.

Anyone with information on Zhang’s whereabouts is asked to call 9-1-1.

Sandy changes Hunter’s Point library plans


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Exterior_roof_terrace

Fear of another Sandy is altering plans for the Queens Library’s upcoming Hunter’s Point destination.

The land supporting the 21,500-square-foot facility, to be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue on the banks of the East River, will be graded an extra foot higher to avoid any possible flooding that could occur during another Sandy-type storm. While initial plans already placed the structure above the 100-year-flood line, library officials, architects and members of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) agreed an extra measure of caution was necessary.

“The building hasn’t been built yet,” said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King. “There’s no reason not to make it even higher.”

According to a spokesperson from the DDC, the library, which will sit 150 feet from the shoreline, will be built to withstand dangerous weather, as are other Queens Library facilities.

“Since the lowest floor of the library will be above the level of the floodwaters from Sandy, it is not likely that the building would be damaged by a similar storm,” said the spokesperson. “In addition, the building is designed to withstand winds considerably stronger than Sandy’s. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the project team decided to increase the elevation of the lowest floor by half a foot.”

According to King, none of the branches of the Queens Library existing in the hard hit areas of Arverne, the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel and Seaside suffered structural damage. Aside from broken glass, minor flooding and damage to interior equipment and books, the buildings remained intact. The Broad Channel branch had been graded up, similarly to what will be done at the new Hunter’s Point location, which kept the building from experiencing as much damage as the other branches.

“Anything that could have been done had been done in the sense that any precaution that had been taken when they were built near the beach was taken,” said King. “There are no basements, they were built on one level. They were as safe as they could have been but it was a very extraordinary circumstance.”

Changed to the building’s plan will not affect the timeline, cost or the design at this stage of construction, said the DDC spokesperson.

The structure will feature a cyber-center, roof terrace and communal garden as well as separate reading spaces for adults, teens and children. According to King, the building will place an emphasis on environmental preservation, implementing ecologically-sound features to create an entirely carbon neutral structure.

Cuomo to hold New Year’s open house at Executive Mansion


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo via Flickr/governorandrewcuomo

Want to spend New Year’s with the governor? Well, here’s your chance.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is opening the doors to the Executive Mansion in Albany on New Year’s Day and he’s invited the whole state to join him.

The open house will take place from 1-3 p.m.

All adults over 16 wishing to join the governor must have a ticket to get in and space is limited.

Click here to sign up for the open house

Registration will remain open until 6 p.m. tonight. If the number of requests exceeds the available space, guests will be selected by lottery.

No photos or videos will be allowed.

 

Cards for Christmas: Students help ill boy reach record


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos by Elizabeth Smalios

Bayside youngsters have risen to the challenge of fulfilling a terminally ill Kentucky boy’s dying wish.

Students at P.S. 46 have joined a worldwide initiative to help nine-year-old Dalton Dingus reach a world record for receiving the most holiday cards.

Dingus, who is in stage 4 of cystic fibrosis, skyrocketed to national stardom this month, when thousands of cards poured into his Salyersville home from international and countrywide well-wishers supporting his goal.

More than 1,000 holiday cards have been mailed to Dingus from students of every grade at P.S. 46, according to Janet Elias, the school’s technology facilitator.

“It was overwhelming – the beautiful things they wrote to him. They all told him to be strong and to believe in Christmas miracles. I wanted to cry,” Elias said.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade designed 1,056 holiday cards on the computer, and then printed and mailed the compassionate creations to Dingus on December 17.

“It really means that these kids are so incredible. They have so much love to give,” said Elias, who added their next project is to fashion snowflakes to hang in the Sandy Hook Elementary school’s students’ new academic home.

Guinness World Records said it “currently does not monitor a category” for the task Dingus is tackling, but added the record on track was about 205,000.

According to the “Cards for Dalton” Facebook page, close to 130,000 cards had been received as of press time, with still plenty left to be counted.

The Dingus family is accepting cards until December 31. They can be sent to Dalton Dingus at HC 62 Box 1249 in Salyersville, KY 41465.

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Rain likely, mainly before 9 a.m. Patchy fog before 9 a.m. Otherwise, cloudy, with a high near 45. Breezy, with a northeast wind 11 to 16 mph becoming northwest 17 to 22 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent. Thursday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 30. Blustery, with a northwest wind 18 to 23 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Squirm Burpee Circus… with Handsome Little Devils

A special holiday event for the entire family at the Queens Theatre: the Handsome Little Devils in The Squirm Burpee Circus, an exhilarating, fantastical adventure of classic slapstick comedy, high-skill circus acts and a plot straight out of American Melodrama. Expect The Human Cannon and Chainsaw Juggling! Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Tom Cruise reportedly dating 26-year-old Queens native

After finalizing his divorce from Katie Holmes this summer, Tom Cruise appears to be dating again, but it’s not a fellow actor, it’s a New York City restaurant manager and Queens native. Read more: Queens Courier

Bloomberg ‘cashing out’ of next mayor race

Fat chance Mayor Bloomberg’s vast wealth will influence the competitive race to replace him in City Hall next year. The billionaire mayor has told people that he’s almost certain not to throw his cash into the mayoral race, after leaving the possibility open several months ago, The Post has learned. Read more: NY Post

Whale beached at Breezy Point, Queens, focus of rescuers’ desperate efforts

The thought of another loss in Breezy Point was too much for Diane Bassolino to swallow. The Queens mom, joined by her family, neighbors and local firefighters, battled Wednesday to save the life of a beached 60-foot whale found struggling in the sand. Read more: Daily News

Mom-of-two nurse killed in Qns. hit-run

A Queens nurse was killed by a hit-and-run driver last night after she went shopping near her home, cops and family said. Sheena Mathew, 38, was struck while crossing Hillside Avenue in Floral Park. The mother of two was a registered nurse who worked at New York Hospital Queens. Read more: NY Post

Rockaway bagel shop close to reopening with help from local entrepreneur

The sound of drilling is what you hear now at Surfside Bagels on Rockaway Beach Boulevard near Beach 95th Street. The sound of coffee brewing hasn’t been heard at the well-known bagel shop since it was shut down when Sandy hit. Read more: NY1

No child should have to spend the holidays in a homeless shelter, but that is the reality for a growing number of NY families

’Tis the season to be jolly and this year, more than ever, I want to wish my readers and all New Yorkers much happiness. Because it is not easy for anybody to be joyful when 2012 comes to an end with our city still struggling to reemerge from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and the holidays find the nation horrified and emotionally shattered by the senseless killings in Newtown, Conn. Read more: Daily News

 

Tom Cruise reportedly dating 26-year-old Queens native


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

After finalizing his divorce from Katie Holmes this summer, Tom Cruise appears to be dating again, but it’s not a fellow actor, it’s a New York City restaurant manager and Queens native.

According to In Touch, the 50-year-old “Jack Reacher” star is wooing a 26-year-old brunette named Cynthia Jorge, who works at Beauty & Essex in the Lower East Side.

They first met at the restaurant on December 16, an eyewitness told the magazine.

Jorge handed Cruise her card that night, and the next day he called Beauty & Essex several times asking for her.

On December 18 the two met up, along with some friends, at Le Baron, a nightclub in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where they did some “dirty dancing,” according to In Touch.

“He’s enamored with this woman,” a source told the magazine.

Comptroller Liu delivers State of the City


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Raising the minimum wage, providing free college tuition and ending corporate welfare were among the myriad of topics touched on during Comptroller John Liu’s State of the City speech last week.

After a pre-speech show featuring a children’s choir, interpretive dancers and violinists, the presumptive mayoral hopeful delivered his second State of the City speech this year which focused heavily on ways to aid the city’s working and middle classes to a packed room at John Jay College on Thursday, December 20.

“If we are serious about narrowing the wealth gap we need to have the courage to pay all people a livable minimum wage,” Liu said.

The comptroller said due to the city’s high cost of living, the effective minimum wage in the five boroughs was less than $4, the lowest in the country. Liu called for the current $7.25 an hour rate to be raised over five years to $11.50.

Ensuring more residents graduate from high school and college is one way for more residents to earn a decent living, the comptroller said.

Currently, four out of five high school students in the city do not graduate from college, according to the comptroller. Skyrocketing tuition costs is one reason behind the high number of students without a bachelor’s degree. Liu suggested offering the top 10 percent of students at public schools free tuition at any CUNY school.

“The offer of free tuition would help motivate students and elevate CUNY, one of our city’s most valuable gems, to the level of a competitive prize,” said Liu. “It would also be a lifesaver for many working families who are struggling to send their kids to college.”

Madison Square Garden also found itself in Liu’s crosshairs during the talk.

“Why has Madison Square Garden been awarded a $15 million a year real-property tax exemption?” Liu asked.

Eliminating tax breaks and corporate welfare handed out to big companies would raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the city, Liu said. More than $250 million was handed out last year to a handful “of lucky and well-connected businesses,” he said.

While big businesses enjoy tax breaks, many smaller businesses struggle under the weight of taxes and fines. Liu unveiled a series of proposals to reduce taxes and fines by $500 million for small businesses. Fines doubled over the past decade, Liu said.

“While fines are sometimes a necessary evil to protect public safety and health, they should not be used just to generate revenue for the city,” he said.

NY newspaper publishes controversial map of local gun owners


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Screenshot/www.lohud.com

A New York newspaper is receiving criticism for posting an online map of gun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties as the country debates firearm control following the Sandy Hook shooting.

On its website this Saturday, The Journal News, using data gathered from Freedom of Information requests and Google Maps, published the names and addresses of individuals with permits to own a pistol or revolver, along with an article called “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.”

The Journal News is still awaiting information from gun owners in Putnam County and did not include those with rifles or shotguns since they can be purchased without a permit.

Despite the calls for stricter gun laws, the paper has experienced a lot of backlash from those angry about privacy violations.

Many of those who commented on the article said the interactive map’s publication was irresponsible reporting, and some even called for the publication of the names and addresses of Journal News employees.

“Do you fools realize that you also made a map for criminals to use to find homes to rob that have no guns in them to protect themselves?” said one commenter.

“You have just destroyed the privacy of these law abiding citizens and by releasing this list, you have equated them to that of sex offenders and murders,” wrote another.

In a statement responding to the outrage, The Journal News told ABC News that its readers “are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods,” because of the conversation about gun control following the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

What do you think of The Journal News’ publication of the names and addresses of local gun permit holders? Do you think it should have put the information online?

 

 

 

 

 

Significant winter storm heading to Northeast


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of NWS

A storm system that already brought snow, tornadoes and other severe weather to the central and southern U.S. will hit the Northeast today and tomorrow, further disrupting holiday travel.

Though, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), the snow is expected in the upper Ohio Valley and the interior Northeast, locally it will mainly bring rainy and windy conditions.

In New York City, a wintry mix of rain, snow, and sleet will start this afternoon, but is expected to turn to just rain after about 4 p.m., and could be heavy at times.

The NWS has also issued a high wind warning for the area, from 4 p.m. today until 6 a.m. Thursday, with 25 to 40 mph winds with gusts up to 60 mph. There is also a coastal flood warning from 8 p.m. Wednesday until midnight

The storm’s timing could also impact holiday travelers throughout the U.S.

As of this morning, the storm has already caused the cancellation of over 325 flights around the U.S., reported CBS New York, but at least one airline, US Airways, is waiving cancelation fess for travelers that need to change their flights because of the weather.