Yearly Archives: 2013

Police: Suspects wanted for Flushing bank robbery


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy NYPD

Police are looking for two suspects who allegedly robbed a bank at gunpoint Friday night.

About 7:10 p.m., the pair entered a TD Bank on Main Street in Flushing. The first suspect took out a firearm, announced a robbery and ordered a bank employee to the ground, police said. The second jumped over a counter, took $142 and both suspects fled.

One robber is male, around 6 feet tall, and was wearing a blue-hooded wind breaker with an “NY” logo, black jeans and black gloves. His face was covered by a scarf. The second suspect is also male, around 5 feet 10 inches tall with a dark complexion and medium build, police said. He was wearing a hat, sunglasses, a dark jacket, black gloves and dark jeans with dark-colored boots.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

2013: The year in photos


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photos

As we bid adieu to 2013, The Queens Courier brings you a look at the year that was . . . from the selection of a new Pope to the downfall of our elected officials, to tragedy, controversy and everything in between. And as we look ahead to 2014, we wish our new legislators luck and the best year for our readers.

JANUARY 

LIC crane collapses
Seven workers suffered minor injuries when a crane collapsed at a Long Island City building site at Center Boulevard and 46th Avenue on Jan. 9. Later that month, the Department of Buildings issued 12 violations to several parties involved in the collapse, including the crane’s operator, the contractor, the site safety manager and the property owner. (THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman)

School bus strike
On Jan. 16, drivers from Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union walked off the job, impacting 152,000 students, including 54,000 with disabilities. In an effort to cut costs, the city wanted to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years. The union was objecting to the lack of job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones. The school bus finally came to an end in mid February. (THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman)

Marshall’s final State of the Borough
In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, on Jan. 22, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy, honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm—Dylan Smith, the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico in December 2012. Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, also during the address called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

Obama OKs Sandy aid
Exactly three months to the day that Sandy hit, President Obama signed a $50.5 billion Sandy aid bill on Jan. 29. The Senate passed the legislation in a 62 to 36 vote, preceded by the House two weeks earlier. It was the final portion of an approximately $60 billion Sandy relief package. Earlier in the month, the president signed a $9.7 billion aid bill that temporarily increased the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for carrying out the National Flood Insurance Program. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

FEBRUARY 

Ed Koch dies
Ed Koch, the three-term New York City mayor known for his larger than life personality and penchant for the big and small screen, died on Feb. 1 after months of health complications. He was 88. Koch was first elected mayor in 1977 after serving in Congress since 1969 where he represented parts of the Bronx. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in 2010 that the 59th Street Bridge would be named after Koch. The change was met with criticism. (Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office Flickr/ Edward Reed)

Bloomberg’s last State of the City
Addressing a crowd at downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Feb. 14, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his final State of the City address, spent a full hour going over the achievements of his nearly 12 years at the helm of the City of New York, and promised to keep pushing forward during the last 320 days of his administration.(BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Ted Levin)

Mom of slain guardsman vows justice
A Queens grand jury concluded on Feb. 15 that there would be no criminal charges fi led in connection to the death of Army reservist Noel Polanco who was shot by a police officer on the Grand Central Parkway in October 2012. At the end of February, Polanco’s mother announced a $20 million notice of claim to file a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and the officer who shot her son. (Photo via Facebook)

Richards wins special election
A special election was held on Feb. 19 to fi ll the 31st District City Council seat left vacant by James Sanders after he was elected as State Senator in fall 2012. After a heated and crowded race, two candidates declared victory on election night — Donovan Richards and Pesach Osina. A week later, Sanders’ former chief-of- staff, Richards, came out on top, with a wide enough margin to eliminate a recount. (Photo courtesy of Donovan Richards)

MARCH

New pope picked
The Papal Conclave elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first South American and Jesuit Pope, on March 13, after one of the shortest Conclaves in history. He selected the papal name Francis I. The decision came just a day after the voting began, following the official end of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign at the end of February. Pope Francis, 76, is the 266th Pope and the first non-European choice in over 1,000 years. (Photo courtesy The New York Daily News)

Wright named Mets captain
Third baseman David Wright was named the fourth captain in Mets history on March 21, joining the elite group with Mets legends Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and John Franco. Last December, the 31-year-old, who made his major league debut with the team in 2004, signed one of the largest contracts in Mets history: $138 million back-loaded over the next eight years. (Photo courtesy of New York Mets)

Rockaway residents take to City Hall
Scores traveled to the steps of City Hall on March 23 to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city to help Rockaway residents rebuild after Sandy. Shoulder-to-shoulder with elected officials and candidates for mayor and borough president, resident after resident told personal stories of their prolonged recovery and demanded a say in how the peninsula is rebuilt. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

APRIL

FBI arrests two Queens lawmakers
State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Dan Halloran were among six officials arrested by the FBI for conspiring to rig the mayoral election. Smith, a registered Democrat, allegedly bribed county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican. He needed consent from three of the city’s five Republican Party county chairmen. Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county leaders and negotiating payoffs, allegedly pocketing $21,000 in the process. Vincent Tabone, then-vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, and Joseph Savino, then-chair of the Bronx County GOP — who later pleaded guilty — were allegedly part of the conspiracy scheme, officials said. Smith, Halloran and Tabone pleaded not guilty and are still locked in legal battles. (File photos) 

Teacher charged with raping ex-student
Daniel Reilly, a sixth grade English teacher at I.S. 237, was charged with felony second-degree rape for having sex multiple times with a 14-year-old girl he used to teach. The 36-year-old married father from Forest Hills pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in prison and 10 years’ probation. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Queens Courier takes top press honors
The Queens Courier won the New York Press Association’s Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence for the second year in a row. The team of reporters also placed fi rst for Best In-Depth Reporting and second for Best Spot News Coverage for their coverage of Sandy. Writers Terence Cullen, Maggie Hayes and Alexa Altman were each given individual accolades. (THE COURIER/File photo)

MAY

Ex-legislator sentenced to prison
Former State Senator Shirley Huntley was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for embezzling $88,000. Days before she was sentenced, a federal judge unsealed a document revealing she wiretapped several city and state legislators. She lost her Senate seat to James Sanders in a primary election last year. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

 

Teen shot to death on city bus
D’aja “Asia” Robinson, 14, was shot in the head and killed on a Q6 bus in what community leaders called a “senseless act of violence.” She was on her way home from a birthday party when a shooter allegedly fired multiple times into the bus from the sidewalk near Sutphin Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard. (Left photo courtesy of Facebook/Right photo THE COURIER/By Maggie Hayes)

Weiner enters mayor’s race
After resigning from Congress in June 2011 because of a Twitter sext scandal, Anthony Weiner entered the race for mayor. Though he led early polls, Weiner lost favorability with voters after another sexting scandal surfaced. He ended up placing fifth in the Democratic primary election with five percent of the votes. “We had the best ideas,” Weiner said in his concession speech. “Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger.” (File photo)

Queens kid crowned National Spelling Bee champ
Teen whiz Arvind Mahankali won this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30. By accurately spelling “knaidel,” the 13-year-old from Bayside beat 281 contestants and took home more than $30,000 in cash and prizes. It was Mahankali’s fourth and fi nal try at the prestigious, televised contest. The eighth grader at M.S. 74 placed third at the last two Bees. (Photo by Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)

JUNE

New amusement park opens
Fantasy Forest, the borough’s newest amusement park, opened in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It has five rides, including the iconic Flushing Meadows Carousel and the borough’s only roller coaster, which was christened the Corona Cobra Coaster. (Photo courtesy of NY Carousel)

LIC Flea & Food launches
After much anticipation, LIC Flea & Food opened in June. Showcasing some of the city’s fi nest artists and vendors, the brand new market ran every weekend this summer at 5-25 46th Avenue (the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue) in Long Island City. LIC Flea & Food Indoor Holiday Market went on to open indoors in December.

JULY

Retired firefighter rescues toddler on Independence Day
Retired firefighter John Manzione saved a toddler from drowning in Maspeth, preventing an Independence Day tragedy. Manzione, a Maspeth native, sprang into action after hearing screams for help from neighbors. He found the two-year-old boy motionless and initiated CPR until EMS services arrived and put the child on an oxygen machine to help him breath.

 

First-ever MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field
The Mets hosted the first-ever MLB All-Star game at Citi Field on July 16. Mets third baseman and captain David Wright started for the National League and phenom pitcher Matt Harvey was the starting pitcher in his first appearance at the Mid-summer Classic. The last time the Mets hosted the All-Star game was in 1964, the first season for Shea Stadium. Ron Hunt was the only Mets player to start that game. (Left photoTHE COURIER/By Liam La Guerre/Right photo courtesy of the New York Mets)

AUGUST

Pregnant woman killed in Kissena Park by felled tree
Ying Yi Li-Dikov, 30, who was six months pregnant with a baby girl, was sitting on a bench in Kissena Park on Aug. 4 when a 50-foot oak tree snapped eight feet from the ground and struck her from behind, killing her, city officials said. Following her death her family planned to sue the city over the incident. There was also a push to investigate park trees and to review all tree management procedures. Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, and State Senator Tony Avella suggested the city should suspend its Million Tree Program and use the funds for tree maintenance. (THE COURIER/File photo)

Reduction of city restaurants fines
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a deal to reduce restaurant fines on Aug. 18. The City Council and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the joint agreement will reduce fines generated by violations of the city’s inspection system by $10 million per year. Approximately 60 percent of violations will be set to a minimum $200 fine, including low-level violations, which was an average of $295. Fines for the two highest levels of critical violations will be reduced from $349 and $420 to $300 and $350, respectively. (THE COURIER/Photo by Johann Hamilton)

Famed designer Charles Pollock dies in fatal fire
Famed designer Charles Pollock died in a house fire in Jamaica on Aug. 20. Pollock, 83, of Charles Pollock Designs, created one of the best-selling office chairs in history, the Pollock Executive Chair. Pollock graduated from the Pratt Institute, which he attended on a full scholarship. He was featured in publications such as The New York Times for his designs, and his work appeared in various museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and the Louvre in France. (THE COURIER/File photo)

First lady highlights US Open kick-off
First lady Michelle Obama headlined a star-studded 18th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on Aug. 24 to kick off the US Open. Obama was joined on stage by tennis royalty, including this year’s women’s champion, Serena Williams, and men’s winner, Rafael Nadal. The two-week tournament generated an overall economic impact of approximately $720 million for the city, according to the United States Tennis Association, and more than 713,000 fans attended the event. (Photo by Dominick Totino)

SEPTEMBER 

Forest Park rape suspect tied to additional attacks
In early September police tied a suspect to six sexual attacks that took place in and around Forest Park dating back to March 2011, including one on August 26, 2013, when a man tasered and pushed a 69-year-old woman to the ground before raping her. Police describe the perpetrator as white, 30 to 40 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches, with light brown hair. Since the attacks, Assemblymember Mike Miller and Senator Joe Addabbo allocated $250,000 for more than a dozen cameras inside the park and received permission from the NYPD to have the devices installed. (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

 

Back to school
Amid colocations, overcrowding and new schools opening up, Queens kids went back to school. Holding hands with their parents and carrying their backpacks, the children showed nothing but smiles after their first day back to learning. (THE COURIER/File photos)

Queens native goes on D.C. shooting spree
Former Flushing resident Aaron Alexis, 34, went on a shooting rampage on Sept. 16, killing a dozen people at a Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. At least 13 people were confirmed dead, including Alexis, and at least 14 were injured. (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

Fresh Meadows man shoots two
Fresh Meadows resident Sang Ho Kim, 63, shot two employees, killing one, in Savenergy, an energy efficiency company in East Garden City, then fled. His body was found a week later in the Hudson River with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth. A heart condition also contributed to his drowning, police said. (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County Police Department)

OCTOBER

Avonte Oquendo goes missing 
Avonte Oquendo, 14, went missing Oct. 4 and has still not been found. He was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park autistic teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school. There is a $95,000 reward to find him. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)

City Council votes on developments
The City Council voted to approve three major development projects in the borough. The first was the $3 billion Willets Point project, making way for a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center near Citi Field. Then it approved the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to turn the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz into two apartment towers in larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules. The final approval went to the $1 billion Hallets Point Project, bringing thousands of residential apartments, retail space and parkland to the Astoria waterfront. (Rendering courtesy NYCEDC)

Banksy comes to Queens
The ghost-like and notorious British graffiti artist, only known by the name Banksy, hit the streets to tag his way around the Big Apple in October. In a unique show titled “Better Out Than In,” he went around each day of the month and left his pieces for people to find. Banksy made his first stop in Queens on Oct. 14 in Woodside, his second trip was near an auto mechanic shop in Willets Point. On Halloween, Banksy bid farewell to New York City in Long Island City. Banksy posted on his website “And that’s it. Thanks for your patience. It’s been fun. Save 5Pointz. Bye.” (Photo Courtesy Kenny Mendoza)

Queens Museum expansion opening
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and offi cials cut the ribbon on the $68 million Queens Museum expansion project on Oct. 30. The Queens Museum, formerly known as the Queens Museum of Art and located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, doubled its size to 105,000 square feet. Since reopening to the public on Nov. 9, the museum now features new galleries, classrooms, a new wing with nine artist studios and a sky-lit atrium. Queens Museum will also have its own 5,000-square-foot public library in 2015, making room for about 14,000 books. Its expansion was designed by Grimshaw and largely funded by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Bloomberg, the state and City Council.(THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

NOVEMBER

General election
The 2013 general election brought in a slew of freshman legislators. Melinda Katz won the general election and will be the 19th Queens Borough President, replacing term-limited Helen Marshall. Later in the year, Katz appointed longtime Councilmember Leroy Comrie as her Deputy Borough President, who was also term-limited out of his 27th district City Council seat. Union leader Daneek Miller was elected as his successor. Elsewhere in the borough, Councilmember Eric Ulrich was re-elected to represent the 32nd district. Paul Vallone was chosen for the 19th district to replace disgraced Councilmember Dan Halloran, who was arrested in April on corruption charges and didn’t seek re-election, and Costa Constantinides will take office in District 22, where previously Vallones had reigned for decades. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

Typhoon hits locally
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, destroying islands in the eastern Philippines and claiming the lives of thousands of people. Following the storm, which was one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, members of the Queens Filipino community scrambled to get in touch with loved ones at home while organizing donations in the borough. (Photo courtesy of NASA NOAA)

 

5Pointz whitewashed
After a long fight to save 5Pointz, Long Island City’s graffiti mecca, years of art was whitewashed overnight. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action, to the shock and dismay of hundreds of local artists and fans. Rallies were held throughout November to save the site, including a gathering just three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building with its art be landmarked. (THE COURIER/File photos)

DECEMBER

City gets first outdoor studio
Kaufman Astoria Studios celebrated the grand opening of its outdoor film set, the first of its kind in New York City, and a brand new gated entrance on December 3. The brand new outdoor lot, on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues, is expected to bring in more movie and TV productions because it would allow outdoor shoots, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)

 

Great light fight
The brightest house in Whitestone outshone others nationally when it won ABC channel’s Christmas decorating competition, “The Great Light Fight,” on December 9. The Lynch family decorated their house with 300,000 lights and more than 100 animatronics. Kevin Lynch worked from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. for 20 days to create the most elaborate, festive display and the family won $50,000, beating stiff competition from homes in California, Virginia and Georgia. (THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan)

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives 
The Food Network’s hit show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, made a stop in Astoria to feature Queens Comfort. The show’s host, Guy Fieri, visited the 30th Avenue spot in early December. Owner Donnie D’Alessio said he had to shut down the restaurant, prepare eight dishes and remake some of the food several times over, but it was well worth it. (Photo courtesy of Donnie D’Alessio/Queens Comfort)

Bill de Blasio to be sworn in as mayor by former President Bill Clinton


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

FILE PHOTO

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will be sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City by former President Bill Clinton, de Blasio announced Saturday.

“I was honored to serve in President Clinton’s Administration and on Secretary Clinton’s campaign for U.S. Senate, and I am honored again that they will both join our celebration for all of New York City,” de Blasio said. “Wednesday’s ceremony will be an event for every New Yorker from all five boroughs, and Chirlane and I couldn’t be more excited to have President Clinton and Secretary Clinton stand with us.”

De Blasio previously served as Regional Director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration as well as campaign manager for Secretary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign.

On Jan. 1, Clinton will swear in the incoming mayor on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The bible is on loan from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Lissette Ortiz, a senior at Medgar Evers College, will introduce Clinton. Ortiz moved to the United States when she was 15 from the Dominican Republic. She now lives in the Bronx and plans to pursue a career in public administration.


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St. Francis Prep hockey wins with late rally against Xaverian


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

St. Francis Prep hockey head coach Giancarlo Racinelli didn’t know what else to tell his struggling team in the game against Xaverian High School on Friday.

Trailing the Clippers 3-2 with about five minutes left in the game, Racinelli had exhausted his breath, preaching to his team that they weren’t playing their usually formations correctly and needed to find a way to wake up their offense and stabilize the defense.

But realizing that his team wasn’t listening, he decided to try a new strategy: say nothing at all.

“Things began flying off the hinges a bit and we weren’t playing our systems, so the coaches stepped back,” Racinelli said.

With a quiet coach, the Terriers (CHSAA, 3-1) quickly realized they were in trouble of losing to a team that hasn’t won a game for the season yet. They talked among themselves about their errors, and in the last five minutes of the game they scored two consecutive goals to escape Xaverian (0-4) with a score of 4-3.

“Our coaches didn’t say anything, that got us thinking even more like ‘Oh God,’” said forward Tyler Murphy. “You kind of looking to the guys and are thinking they are going to say something, but when they aren’t saying anything then they must be mad, so now we had to do something to fix it.”

The equalising goal came in at 4:52, when Murphy traveled the length of the ice, beating defenders and faked out the goalkeeper before slapping the puck in.

Murphy had taken many shots throughout the game, but his first goal of the night got the Terriers back into the game.

“They [Xaverian] were on the other bench and they were kind of chirping a little bit,” Murphy said. “That kind of got us a little mad, a little pissed off, and made us really want to win the game.”

Three minutes later sophomore Jack Mastronardi, with 2:02 left in the game, blasted a shot into the goal from a few feet away to give the Terriers the lead. St. Francis held the lead in the final two minutes for the win.

“We came out a little weak, but towards the second and third period we started to pick the game up a little bit; we got more energy,” senior captain Theodore Gallucci said. “If we start doing that in more games we’ll hopefully do better.”

The next game for the Terriers will be on Friday, January 3 versus St. Edmund High School.

 

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Op-ed: District Attorney Richard A. Brown delivers year-end message to the residents of Queens County


| oped@queenscourier.com


Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown – who begins his twenty-third year as Queens County’s chief law enforcement officer in 2014 – delivered the following year-end message to the residents of Queens County in which he noted that Queens County was again among the City’s leaders in crime reduction in 2013.

District Attorney Brown said, “During the more than two decades that I have had the honor and privilege of serving as district attorney of Queens County, my office has steadfastly committed itself to ensuring a safe environment for those who live and work in Queens County. Through our law-enforcement initiatives and the utilization of an array of cutting-edge interventions and prevention programs, we have made tremendous progress in accomplishing that goal which, in turn, has contributed greatly to New York City’s historic decline in serious and violent crime. Over the last twenty years, overall crime in Queens is down by 77.7 percent, murders have fallen 78.1 percent, robberies are down 76.3 percent, burglaries are down 78.9 percent and felony assaults are down 40.9 percent.  As Mayor Bloomberg noted earlier this week during his visit to Queens, the drop in crime has made ‘Queens a safer place to live, work and visit than ever before.’”

District Attorney Brown added, “We continue to be, I believe, among the best and busiest prosecutor’s offices in the country.  Last year our office handled more than 70,000 arrest cases – cases running the gamut from quality of life offenses to serious violent felonies.  And, by any standard, we handled those cases efficiently and judiciously.  We have a presence in all of the diverse communities of our county in seeking to prevent crime and in helping to turn young lives around.  In sum, we continue to have the respect of our law enforcement colleagues and the confidence of the people of Queens County.”

District Attorney Brown continued, “In pursuing the office’s core mission to increase public safety and reduce crime in 2013, we have vigorously pursued hate crime cases against those individuals who chose their victims based on religion, sexuality, the color of their skin and other factors.  We have aggressively gone after illegal cigarette traffickers, organized trademark counterfeiting rings and legitimate businesses and franchises that annually cheat the government out of millions of dollars of much needed State and City revenue. On a local level, we have focused our attention on homeowners who impact on the quality of life of their neighbors by illegally sub-dividing their private residences into multiple dwellings that potentially can put the lives of tenants and first-responders at grave risk. We continue to do our part in protecting our younger residents by going after on-line child pornographers, as well as sex traffickers and sexual predators who attempt to meet underage children on-line for sexual relations.”

District Attorney Brown added, “The Queens County District Attorney’s Office has long been recognized as a nationwide leader in the number of court-authorized wiretaps that we handle. Our Special Prosecutions Division runs a host of crime prevention, school-based and community outreach programs and staff members attend our precinct council and community board meetings.  We have dedicated Child Advocacy and Family Justice Centers – and a Domestic Violence Bureau that maintains the highest domestic violence conviction rate and the lowest dismissal rate in the City and which takes more pre-indictment pleas than the rest of the City combined. We statistically maintain the  best arrest to arraignment time in the City and because of our assertive bail jumping program – in which defendants are indicted if they fail to appear in court for their felony cases – we have the lowest failure-to-appear in court rate  in the city.”

District Attorney Brown said that among the office’s successful prosecutions in 2013 were:

• People v. Urban Fermin and Darius Lowery.  Fermin and Lowery were convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer during a one-hour crime spree in which they shot at a marked police vehicle attempting to stop them after they stole a car, burglarized a house and robbed a woman on the street at gunpoint.  Fermin was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison and Lowery was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

• People v. Simon A. Watts.  Watts, a former Springfield Gardens public school teacher, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sexually abusing five of his students – four females and one male who ranged between eight and ten in age. The incidents all took place at the school – many during class time.

• People v. Hikeem L. Green and Darcell Marshall.  Green and his girlfriend, Marshall, were sentenced to up to 12 years and up to three years in prison, respectively, following their guilty pleas to sex trafficking in connection with the prostitution of two young women – a 19-year-old upstate runaway and a 20-year-old from New York City – against their will.

• People v. Natasha Munchkin Marks.  Marks was sentenced to a term of one to three years in prison for jumping bail shortly after pleading guilty in March 2007 under New York State’s hate crime statute to stealing an 85-year-Howard Beach man’s life savings by falsely claiming to need the money to pay medical bills and to help start up a business and for investments.  The bail jumping prison sentence is to be served consecutive to the two to six years in prison she was sentenced to in absentia in May 2007 on the larceny charges.

In addition, District Attorney Brown said his Investigations Division conducted “many significant long term investigations over the past year into criminal enterprises throughout Queens County. Particularly telling is our auto theft numbers.  Since 1991, my first year as district attorney, the rate of auto thefts in Queens has plunged more than 90 percent.  This record-setting drop in crime was accomplished, in part, by focusing our attention on organized car theft rings and by curbing the illegal scrapping of stolen cars. In 2013, we continued to put pressure on the drug dealers and gangs hawking their illicit wares at the city’s housing developments and elsewhere by taking part in major anti-drug initiatives with the New York City Police Department.”

District Attorney Brown added, “New York City’s two major airports are located in Queens County and are often the first point of contact for tourists. As tourism is one of New York’s most revenue-producing industries, it is vitally important to our economic health that we provide a safe and welcoming environment at our airports. In carrying out that responsibility, we earlier in the year took down a group of contract baggage handlers who were charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of luggage items from arriving and departing flights at John F. Kennedy Airport when they were supposed to be loading or unloading the luggage. We also continue to prosecute unregulated taxis and unscrupulous drivers at the airports who unlawfully solicit fares and charge exorbitant rates to drive passengers the shortest of distances.”

In addition to his office’s many investigations during 2013, District Attorney Brown noted that this past September his office co-hosted the New York City Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome Conference, a biennial event presented in partnership with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York.  The conference was attended by more than 300 doctors, medical examiners, prosecutors, detectives, nurses and defense attorneys. Among the topics discussed at the conference were the challenges in diagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome as opposed to accidental trauma and the inherent difficulties in investigating and prosecuting such cases.

Also in June and September, the office hosted two open public forums at the Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Height that focused on the so-called “Don’t Snitch” street code.  “The purpose of the initiative is to combat the destructive ‘Don’t Snitch’ street message that has hindered the pursuit of justice for violent crimes committed in Queens communities,” said District Attorney Brown.  “The forums provided an overview of the Don’t Snitch street code and gave residents of Queens County a platform for safe, open discussion on the topic and an opportunity to ask questions.”

District Attorney Brown noted with pride on behalf of his office Mayor Bloomberg’s comments from last summer.  “In a tenure of more than twenty years, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has made his office, I think it’s fair to say, one of the most widely respected prosecutor’s offices in the nation.”

District Attorney Brown concluded his message by wishing all a happy and healthy New Year and by saying, “The reason why I have so much enjoyed my tenure as District Attorney over these many years, why it is that I’ve found those years to be so rewarding, and why I look forward to continuing to serve as the District Attorney of this county for many years to come, is the successes that we have enjoyed in lowering the level of violence in our County and improving the quality of life of the people of our great county and because of the dedication and professionalism of those with whom we work. I am optimistic that by continuing the very successful strategies that we have employed over the years we, together with our law enforcement colleagues, can make Queens County even safer in 2014.”

 

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Good Greek grub at Aegea


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Victor G. Mimoni

Aegea, located at the “Douglaston Corner” serves up a surprisingly good array of apps, wraps, pasta, pizza, salads, Greek specialties and some of the best burgers in town.

Owner Mike Sackos commands the counter, moving at light-speed to ensure that, even when the place is packed (which is often), the dishes are not only delicious, but also well-presented and a treat to the eye as well as the palate.

Sackos’ forebears hail from the isle of Chios, just off the coast of Turkey – hence his motto, “where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean.” This may also explain the tasty falafel and Turkish gyro listed alongside the fantastic baby lamb chops, moussaka and other Greek specialties.

Aegea features a wide selection of salads for the health conscious, including seasonal selections. The winter salad is red and green for the season – tender spinach leaves, cucumber, red onion, beets, chick peas and crumbled feta, with a creamy vinaigrette dressing.

Other salad selections include Acropolis (with walnuts and goat cheese),  Aegea (with stuffed grape leaves, feta and grilled chicken),  Douglaston (with shredded mozzarella, fried chicken strips and honey mustard dressing) and of course, Greek salads, all well-dressed and beautifully presented.

Having started in the restaurant business at the tender age of 16 and formerly the owner of  Pete’s Pizza on Bell Boulevard, Sackos’ pie bona fides are impeccable, as are his Sicilian round pies, offered with a good selection of toppings. Those too hungry for a just a slice can also opt for the nine-inch “Pita Pizza,” in plain cheese, Greek (lots of olives and feta), Buffalo or pesto chicken varieties.

Pasta lovers can choose from several varieties of spaghetti, baked ziti, penne (whole wheat penne also available) or stuffed shells. The red sauce is piquant and fresh and dishes with red or white clam sauce, or oil and garlic also satisfy.

More than a dozen wraps will satisfy any taste, from vegetarian to tuna, turkey or Angus burger, plus the expected Mediterranean flavors, including shrimp with spinach, souvlaki or gyro filled. For those with no Hellenic inspiration, there’s even a Philly cheesesteak wrap.

Speaking of burgers, the variety of seven-ounce Angus burgers for less than $7 (deluxe for a few dollars more) is an outstanding value. The Aegea burger features American cheese with grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms is juicy and delicious. Soups and sides are also first rate.

If you have room for dessert, the Greek pastry offerings are large, authentic and wonderful.

Mike added a mirror-image double-G to the logo, “Because ‘Aegea’ is a palindrome,” a word that spells correctly forward or backward. Any way you look at it, it’s a place for good food at a great price. Yiasou!

Aegea Gyros and Pizza
242-05 Northern Blvd., Douglaston
718-423-4429
Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day
Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving Day
Cards accepted for dine in, take out
Free local delivery, cash orders only
Extended delivery for catering orders
Limited on street parking
Q-12 bus, LIRR Douglaston station

VICTOR G. MIMONI

 

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Cops looking for two suspects in Queens burglary spree


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Two suspects wanted in a September burglary of a Woodhaven bodega have been tied to eight more burglaries throughout the borough, police said.

The thefts date back to August 8, with the most recent incident taking place on November 26, police said.

Businesses the suspects targeted included Stop1 and Jamao Coffee Shop 7 in Jamaica, the Richmond Hill Deli and El Cran Canario Restaurant in Richmond Hill, Darbar’s Chicken & Ribs in South Richmond Hill, East Town restaurant in Maspeth and a Dunkin’ Donuts in Whitestone, according to the NYPD.

After breaking into the businesses the suspects stole cash, ranging from $30 to approximately $4,580, or possibly more. During some of the burglaries, the pair allegedly took merchandise, including scratch off lottery tickets, beer and cigarettes, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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What to do this weekend in Queens


| editorial@queenscourier.com

flyer_draft_1.indd

Saturday, December 28 & Sunday, December, 29

Two-time Drama Desk nominee Parallel Exit offers a very special presentation of “EXIT STAGE LEFT” - a rollicking speed-of-light comedy. Harkening back to the days of vaudeville, “EXIT STAGE LEFT” packs more entertainment in a single show than a three-ring circus.  An ensemble of five present a wide range of old-fashioned family entertainment, from tap dance to live music to slapstick comedy at Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Avenue South, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Show times are 2 & 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call the Box Office at 718-760-0064.

Sunday, December, 29

The Rego Park Jewish Center will be having a Singles Social & Dance on Sunday, December 29 from 2 to 6 p.m.Dance to the music of DJ Andrew Forman, refreshments served, $10 per person, for singles over 45. Rego Park Jewish Center is located at 97-30 Queens Blvd., between 64th and 65th Roads in Rego Park.

Through December 30

“ReMake the Holidays” at the New York Hall of Science. Build and animate a new version of the holiday season with workshops, demos, artist installations, ice sculpting and a screening of “Bag It The Movie.” Cost is $8-$11 for museum admission. The New York Hall of Science is located at 47-01 111th Street in Corona.

Through January 1
This holiday season, the imaginative, playful, and creative film and television work of Jim Henson will be celebrated by the Museum of the Moving Image in the screening series “Jim Henson’s World.” Beginning Dec. 21 the museum will screen “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.” This television special tells the story of Ma Otter and her son Emmet, who both secretly enter a talent contest to win money for Christmas presents for each other. These screenings also include Kermit the Frog’s segments, as well as outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage. Museum of the Moving Image is located at 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, New York. For more information call 718-777-6888.

Through January 19

For the duration of the Queens Museum’s expansion, Queens-based photographer Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao has been in residence capturing the metamorphosis of the New York City Building. The resulting body of work, “New York City Building Time Lapse, 2009-2013: Photographs by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao,” presents a series of 37 of Liao’s color photographs, including nine large-format 30 x 72 inch pigment ink prints, and a contact sheet of the same size consisting of 28 other images. Depicted in “Time Lapse” are worn walls in various states of demolition and construction and stairwells lined in original terra cotta tiles, reminiscent of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture, in contrast with bird’s eye views of barrel-vaulted ceilings, revealing the modernist elements of the Grimshaw redesign. The Queens Museum is located in the New York City Building, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Call 718-592-9700 for more information.

Through January 24 

On Saturdays and Sundays or Wednesday through Friday take the opportunity to watch “Jungle Girl” in Tut’s Fever Movie Palace. “Jungle Girl” is a classic movie serial starring Frances Gifford and Tom Neal. This 15 episode serial is filled with stunts, lion-wrestling, battles with quicksand and villainy! It was one of the earliest films to star a female protagonist. Screenings are 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and 2 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays at the Museum of Moving Image at 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria. For more information call 718-777-6888.

Through January 25

Art in the Garden: Deconstructed Flowers at the Queens Botanical Garden Visitor and Administration Building. Gallery Photographer H. David Stein’s intricate photographs give flowers a particularly layered, multi-dimensional presence, See flowers angles you thought impossible! The Queens Botanical Garden is located at 43-50 Main Street Flushing. For more information call 718-463-0263.

Through March 31

Legacy: Photographs Emily Fisher Landau’s Gift to the Whitney Museum of American Art at the Fisher Landau Center for Arts. The collection includes 419 works, namely installations, sculptures, drawings, photographs, etc. by numerous key figures in contemporary American Art. FREE. Exhibition hours are Thursday through Monday, noon to 5 p.m. The Fisher Landau Center for Arts is located at 38-27 30th Street Long Island City. For more information call 718-937-0727.

Ongoing

Bring your friends, bring a scarf and gloves and remember to lace up tight! Ice skating season has begun at World Ice Arena at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park! Admission is $5 for all ages on weekdays and $8 on weekends and holidays. To rent skates be sure to bring socks and an additional $5. Monday through Friday the rink is open from 9 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. On weekends it is open: 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. Friday nights; noon. until 4:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. until 9:50 p.m. Saturdays and noon  until 4:45 on Sundays. Information is subject to change, to inquire about any changes call 718-760-9001. World Ice Arena is located at Avery Avenue and 131st Street Flushing.

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Weekend subway service changes


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by MTA / Patrick Cashin

Construction work to upgrade and maintain stations, tracks and signal systems is affecting weekend service on several of the city’s subway lines. The MTA is advising customers to allow for extra travel time if they rely on any of these trains.

6

At all times until May 2014, 6 trains skip Middletown Road and Castle Hill Avenue in both directions due to station renewal work.

A

From 11:00 p.m. Friday, December 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 30, A trains are suspended between Broad Channel and Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue due to track panel replacement. Far Rockaway-bound A trains are rerouted to Rockaway Park. Free shuttle buses operate between Beach 90th Street and Far Rockaway.

D

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, December 28 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 30, D trains operate in two sections between Stillwell Avenue and Bedford Park Boulevard, and between Bedford Park Blvd and 205th Street due to track maintenance north of Bedford Park Boulevard.

E

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, December 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 30, E trains are rerouted on the F line in Manhattan and Queens between Roosevelt Ave and W 4 St, due to electrical work. Free shuttle buses operate between Court Square-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge.

S (Rockaway Shuttle)

From 11:00 p.m. Friday, December 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 30, Rockaway Park Shuttle trains are suspended and replaced by A train service due to panel installation.

N, R (Montague Tubes Closed)

At all times until October 2014, there are no N or R trains running between Court Street in Brooklyn and Whitehall Street in Manhattan. Late night N and weekend R service are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge.

No N or R trains in either direction at Jay Street-MetroTech, Court Street, Whitehall Street, Rector Street, Cortlandt Street and City Hall.

Late night R shuttle in Brooklyn is unaffected.

NYC murders, shootings reach record lows


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Mayor’s Office

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is leaving office with the fewest murders and shootings in recorded city history.

He made the announcement Friday along with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly at the graduation ceremony for 1,171 new police officers at Madison Square Garden.

“New York’s crime-fighting strategies have made us America’s safest big city – and one that cities across the globe want to learn from,” said Bloomberg. “Twelve years ago, no one thought New York’s crime rate could go any lower. But it did.”

There have been 332 homicides so far in 2013, down 20 percent from the previous record low, set last year, according to the mayor. Murders have dropped 32 percent since 2001, when he was elected.

In Queens, there were 1,374 fewer homicides between 2002 and December 20 of this year than during the 12 years prior to that period.

Shootings have declined by 20 percent from 2012’s record low, with 1,093 shootings through Thursday, December 26, and have dropped by 32 percent since 2001.

The city began recording homicide numbers in 1963, when there were 548 murders. The homicide rate peaked in 1990 with 2,245 deaths, according to Police Department stats.

Shootings statistics were first recorded with the introduction of NYPD’s Compstat crime reporting system in 1994, according to the mayor.

Crime in schools and on the subway has also seen significant drops in recent years.

Major crimes in schools are down 56 percent and violent crime has decreased 55 percent since 2001.

In 1990, there were 50 crimes per day on the subway, and only 7.1 crimes per day in 2013.

The mayor said the crime drop could not be attributed to putting more people in prison, since incarceration rates have decreased since 2001.

Policing strategies, such as Operation Impact, which pairs rookie and veteran officers to “flood high-crime zones” and Operation Crew Cut, an initiative combating loosely affiliated gangs, helped keep the shooting and murder rates down, the mayor said.

 

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NY State minimum wage to increase to $8 per hour starting Dec. 31


| editorial@queenscourier.com


Changes are coming to the state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems, and there will be an increase in minimum wage.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the passage of the state budget in March, 2013, which included raises in the minimum wage to $8 per hour from $7.25, effective Dec. 31.

Previously, New York lagged behind 19 other states in minimum wage levels. By the end of 2014, the minimum wage will increase to $8.75 and then $9, by the end of 2015.

“Thanks to the persistence of the Assembly majority, this budget ensures that tens of thousands of hardworking, minimum-wage-earning New Yorkers will be receiving much-deserved and badly needed raises in each of the next two years,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

Reforms coming to New York State unemployment insurance include enhancements to prevent fraud and aggressively require claimants to look for work, among other improvements. Also, there will be an increase in wage bases.

Currently, employers pay unemployment insurance contributions on each worker’s earnings up to a certain point called the wage base. The current wage base for 2013 is $8,500. The wage base will be adjusted on January 1 each year and increase to $13,000 by 2026.

After 2026, the wage base will be adjusted annually on January 1 to 16 percent of the state’s average annual wage.

The workers’ compensation system is under repair as well.

The system is under a business process re-engineering, focusing on improving the system’s processes, performance management and upgrading technology.

Right now over 30 states use a national electronic standard for worker’s compensation injury reporting. New York will join this growing trend of electronic injury reporting in 2014.

The state hopes that this move will reduce paper forms and duplicate filings, provide greatly expanded access to injury and payment data, simplify and speed up case processing, and allow the workers’ compensation board to better regulate the workers’ compensation system.

 

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Street Talk: What is your New Year’s resolution?


| editorial@queenscourier.com

street talk

JOHANN HAMILTON

My New Year’s resolution is to watch less television and go outside more.
Tammy Carlson

 

My resolution is to stop going back to my ex-girlfriend and to move on.
Terence Clarke

 

My resolution is to try to become better at basketball. I’ve always been a fan, but I’m not that great at it personally.
Jerome Turner

 

My resolution is to quit smoking, or at least cut down on it.
Phillip Palmer

 

Next year, I want to spend less time on Facebook and socialize more.
Lydia Kelley

 

I’m planning on starting my own business next year, so my resolution is to make that happen.
Thelma Thompson

 

My resolution is to spend more time with my family and friends.
Amy Garcia

 

My resolution is to find other activities to do on the weekends.
Deborah Jordan

 

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Police: Suspect shoots at officers during Far Rockaway chase


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Updated Saturday, December 28, 10:32 a.m.

A 19-year-old was arrested after he exchanged bullets with officers while they were chasing him in Far Rockaway Friday, police said.

Three plainclothes officers stopped the suspect, William Bazemore, when they saw an unusual bulge in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt about 12:30 a.m. at Beach Channel Drive and Nameoke Avenue, according to the NYPD. After approaching Bazemore, he turned and shot at the officers, police said.

The cops returned fire and Bazemore fled northbound on Beach Channel Drive towards Horton Avenue, with two the officers chasing him on foot and one following him by car, the NYPD said.

He was caught a block away after struggling with the officers, and they recovered a .22 caliber Rohm revolver at the scene, cops said.

Bazemore was taken to Jamaica Hospital with minor injuries to his nose where he was treated, according to police.

He has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer, attempted assault, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment, authorities said.

 

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Woman struck by Queens-bound No. 7 train at Grand Central


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Dschwen

A woman fell into the path of a No. 7 train at Grand Central Station Thursday night after she passed out, police said.

The 32-year-old was waiting for the subway about 9:30 p.m. when she was hit by a Queens-bound train, according to the NYPD.

She was taken to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition, police said.

No. 7 train service had to be suspended between Grand Central and Hunters Point Avenue because of the accident.

 

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