Tag Archives: Maspeth

PHOTOS: ‘Shades of Blue’ with Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta films in Maspeth, Middle Village


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta hit the streets of Maspeth and Middle Village on Wednesday to film scenes for the new NBC police procedural “Shades of Blue.”

The series features Lopez in the lead role as Detective Harlee Santos, a single mother forced to snitch on her corrupt colleagues by the FBI after she is caught accepting a bribe. Liotta of “Goodfellas” fame also stars as Lieutenant Bill Wozniak. Lopez and Liotta also star opposite “Sopranos” actress Drea de Matteo as Detective Tess Nazario.

The series is set in Brooklyn and is based on the novel “Shades of Blue: 30 Years of (Un)ethical Policing” by Michael Rudolph. Executive producers of the series include Adi Hasak of “3 Days to Kill,” American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, director Barry Levinson of “Wag the Dog” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” as well as Lopez herself.

Both Lopez and Liotta filmed interior scenes for the series inside the Maspeth home of Claribel Vera on 58th Place and 57th Drive.

“This is so exciting,” Vera exclaimed. After shooting at the Vera home wrapped, Lopez emerged and posed for photos with fans, including Vera’s daughters Veronica and Annette, before leaving the set for the day.

Liotta and the rest of the crew then relocated to Middle Village where they dined on traditional Latin fare at Tropical 3 Restaurant, located at 62-27 Fresh Pond Rd. After enjoying an authentic Ecuadorian meal from owners Jimmy Illescas and Steven Vinas, Liotta resumed filming an exterior shot in a car outside the restaurant. Scores of locals gathered on 62nd Road to watch the shoot, many cheering when Liotta walked by. The actor appeared on set in special effects make-up, with fake bruises and a black eye.

Tropical 3 owners Jimmy Illescas and Steven Vinas welcomed Ray Liotta and the “Shades of Blue” crew to their restaurant during filming in Middle Village. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Gonzalez)

When filming wrapped, director Dan Lerner, of “In Plain Sight” and “The Blacklist” fame, thanked Illescas and Vinas for use of their establishment, and even sat to watch an original video made by Vinas’ young daughter on her iPad.

Liotta is no stranger to filming in Queens. Many of his scenes from the 1990 hit “Goodfellas” were filmed at the former Clinton Diner in Maspeth, as well on Maurice Avenue and the streets surrounding nearby Calvary Cemetery in Woodside.

“Shades of Blue” is set to air on NBC in the fall. Check local listings or click here for updates.

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Woodside resident to seek Assembly seat and ‘fight for the middle class’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Barnwell

Brian Barnwell is looking to be the voice of a district he has called home all his life and one he says needs a big change and new leadership.

The 29-year-old Woodside resident and lawyer has announced that he will run next year for the seat in the state Assembly representing District 30, which covers the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Woodside, Middle Village and parts of Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City.

The seat is currently held by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who was first elected in 1998.

“I just feel like it’s time for a change. I feel like we need some new energy where people are going to go out and engage the community and bring the community voices into the conversation,” Barnwell said. “Everyone is getting pushed out. The teachers are being thrown under the bus. The students are being thrown under the bus. The middle class is just being destroyed and we can’t take it for granted anymore. So I want to be the voice of the middle class, because I am in the middle class.”

Barnwell’s desire to run for office was fueled recently when he began working as the director of special events for Councilman Costa Constantinides, and experienced many residents coming into the district office complaining about various issues – including affordable housing.

This made him realize that there needed to be a change and he would be that change.

The platform of his campaign will strongly focus on helping individuals in the middle class and those vying to move into the middle class. With being a member of the middle class himself, along with his family, Barnwell said he has personal experience with the issues constituents face.

“The middle class is what made this country great. It’s what makes any country great. If you don’t have a middle class, you’re in trouble,” Barnwell said.

Barnwell’s platform – focusing on taxes, education and affordable housing – includes issues such as lowering personal income and corporate taxes; helping raise minimum wage; empowering teachers, parents and administrators in local schools and creating new curriculum based on districts; building more schools; and increasing the amount of affordable housing in the developing area.

For now, Barnwell will stay at Constantinides’ office until September, then he will hit the streets and reach out to the communities to see what issues the residents are facing.

“I want people to tell me what’s wrong with this district,” Barnwell said. “You’ve got to lead. You’ve got to be a leader. This why we elect these people to be leaders, not followers, and I want to be a leader. I don’t want to be a follower.”

Barnwell will hold his first fundraiser on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at The Brewery NYC, located at 49-18 30th Ave. in Woodside.

For more information visit Barnwell’s Facebook page or follow @Barnwell2016 on Twitter.

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Road conditions at dangerous railroad crossing concern Maspeth business owners


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Road conditions at the railroad crossing located on Maspeth Avenue and Rust Street, where a crash between a locomotive and tractor-trailer occurred earlier this month, were a main concern voiced during Thursday’s Maspeth Industrial Business Association (MIBA) meeting.

The at-grade crossing is reportedly suffering from cracked and deteriorating pavement, leaving the metal railroad tracks exposed and creating large potholes. When drivers travel over the railroad tracks, whether in personal cars or industrial trucks, they are vulnerable to hitting these potholes and damaging their vehicles.

“Just beyond the collision, I know that businesses have been complaining about the crossing because it needs to be repaved, and it’s been doing a lot of damage to their vehicles and so we’ve been trying to put some pressure on New York and Atlantic [Railway] to make the repairs,” said Jean Tanler, coordinator of the MIBA. “It’s been a long process, so hopefully now that there’s been more eyes on this area maybe we can have a little bit more leverage in having them address it.”

Michael Cristina, owner of Boro-wide Recycling Corp., located at 3 Railroad Pl. in Maspeth, wants improvements at the railroad crossing because the current conditions are damaging his fleet of trucks that travel over the train tracks several times a day.

“My maintenance in the last year has gone up tremendously on my trucks,” Cristina said. “There’s tie rods that go in the front end of the truck, springs are breaking, shocks are snapping off, and there are kingpins…what happens over time, it wears the metal away eventually and then the whole tire wobbles.”

In addition to causing damage to vehicles, Cristina believes that the conditions at the crossing are a safety concern as well.

“This is a safety issue,” he said. “Anybody’s wheel could fall off, or something could break on a car because of the abuse the tracks are doing to the cars. And if it breaks right on the tracks, what can you do? You’re kind of limited on what you can do. If it was maintained, you would have less of a safety issue there.”

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Maspeth, Middle Village set to co-name two streets for community leaders


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Google Maps

The City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday that includes the proposed co-naming of two Queens streets, one in Maspeth and the other in Middle Village.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley proposed the bill to honor Frank Kowalinski and Bishop Joseph Sullivan.

Maspeth Avenue between 61st and 64th streets is slated to become Frank Kowalinski Way. Kowalinski was born in 1894 and grew up on Clinton Avenue. In 1918, Kowalinski became the first U.S. Army soldier of Polish decent to be killed in combat during World War I. In honor of his service, the local veterans post in Maspeth is named after Kowalinski.

Middle Village will see 71st Street, from Eliot Avenue south of the railroad, be named Bishop Joseph Sullivan Way.

Sullivan served the Our Lady of Hope parish since its founding in 1960 until his death in 2013. Sullivan was also involved with several Catholic charities, hospitals and other religious, interreligious and secular organizations.

“Recognizing and memorializing the dedication of these two men to their country and community is truly a privilege,” Crowley said. “Queens is both fortunate and unique in that it has a history of such strong public servants, whether they are soldiers or clergymen. It is only right to post their names for all to see in the neighborhoods they have made such an impact on. That way, their legacy can live on for generations to come.”

The dates for the co-naming ceremonies have yet to be determined.

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108th Precinct sees large crime decrease after new anti-crime team created


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of PropertyShark/Scott Bintner

Crime in the 108th Precinct — which covers Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Maspeth — has seen a large decrease after a new team of seasoned officers hit the streets, according to the precinct’s top cop.

Captain John Travaglia, who took over the precinct last November, told The Courier that he has seen a 23 percent decrease in crime in the 28-day period ending on July 19 and a 30 percent decrease in the year to date.

Burglaries, which are the main issue the neighborhoods face, have been down 61 percent in the 28-day period and 26 percent in the year to date.

The police captain credits the decrease in crime to the creation of a second anti-crime team at the precinct which is made up of five seasoned officers.

“I inherited a precinct from Captain Brian Hennessy that I thought was working very, very well. The one thing that I noticed was we were missing an anti-crime team. Most precincts function with two anti-crime teams and we only had one,” Travaglia said.

Travaglia added that after going over the personnel background folders for each of the officers in the new team, he noticed they were being underutilized at the precinct and wanted “to get them back in the game.”

Since being formed in March, the team has worked to solve crimes that have been under the radar as well as more prominent crimes, and has helped take down ongoing crimes in the neighborhoods.

“We have put together, to me, one of the best anti-crime teams in the city of New York,” he said. “They’re just very sharp individuals. And I always say that if I was a criminal in this region right now, I’d be very scared of these men.”

Along with helping bring the crime numbers down, Travaglia said the men who make up the team are humble and are always accepting information from other officers and members of the precinct.

He added that they also train other officers around them and many other officers want to emulate these seasoned cops.

“They’re not giants among men. They’re police officers on a team. They don’t take credit for anything. The team takes credit. They’re phenomenal officers and they’re a big component of our crime reduction,” Travaglia said.

The precinct has seen a slight issue concerning Long Island City’s nightlife. Travaglia said that there have been issues, for example felony assaults, that occur late at night surrounding these establishments.

In order to tackle this issue and stop problems from occurring, Travaglia is looking to get together with the owners and managers of local bars, restaurants and clubs during a nightlife best practices meeting.

“We need cooperation because you don’t want to meet me after the situation has happened. You worked hard to get your liquor license, you’ve worked hard to license your establishment, to build your reputation up,” he said. “I want people to be successful here. People are coming to Long Island City to patronize these establishments at night, to visit here, so I want everyone to have a safe experience and pleasant experience.”

The precinct hopes to hold the first nightlife meeting in August or September at the precinct house, located at 5-47 50th Ave.

In regards to traffic enforcement, Travaglia said that since he took the post at the 108th Precinct there have been no traffic fatalities in the neighborhoods and he helped engineer a team of officers to follow traffic trends.

He added that although he has gotten some backlash on enforcement on bicyclists, he said he hopes the 364 summonses given out in the 28-day period, compared to the 17 in the same period last year, will control the other thousands on the road.

In regards to vehicles, he said there have been 7,000 moving summonses and 2,500 parking summonses given year to date.

“Someone has to make sure everyone is adhering to the rules of the road,” Travaglia said. “It’s something that I found needed to be addressed. We’re here to make sure the roadways are safe for all.”

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Abandoned Maspeth gas station to become mixed-use facility


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Updated July 23, 10:20 a.m.

Rumors have surfaced about plans to erect a two-story, mixed-use building on the site of a long-unused gas station in Maspeth.

The speculation floated on local Facebook pages noted that the proposed building at 58-60 Brown Pl. would be 11,000 square feet in size, including 5,500 square feet of retail space on the first floor with a healthcare facility located on the second floor.

According to Community Board 5 (CB 5), the triangular piece of land was once a gas station and currently has a commercial overlay of C1-3, which would allow the construction of a commercial building on the site. The rumored retail space/healthcare facility would fall within the parameters of the overlay.

Plans posted on the Department of Buildings website, filed on July 14, call for the construction f a two-story “commercial and community facility building” encompassing more than 10,996 square feet. These plans were filed under the address 58-38 69th St., which shares the block and lot with 58-60 Brown Pl.

Between 1991 and 2006, the vacant gas station racked up seven building code violations, with most of them concerning the illegal use of the open lot where individuals would sell furniture, according to the city Department of Buildings. The open lot has since been fenced in to avoid any further illegal activity taking place there.

CB 5 has yet to receive any demolition notices for the site.

Editor’s note: An earlier version noted that the latest plans for the site on the Department of Buildings online database dated back to 2010. We regret any confusion which may have resulted.

 

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New York & Atlantic’s safety procedures under review following Maspeth crash


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

In the wake of a fiery collision between a train and a tractor-trailer at a railroad crossing in Maspeth on July 8, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Tuesday that it will launch a safety review of New York & Atlantic Railway’s (NYA) safety culture and management practices.

The train was traveling at a minimum of 20 mph, 5 mph above the area railroad speed limit of 15 mph, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

This safety analysis will review NYA’s operational practices, its compliance with federal regulations and the overall safety culture of the train operation company. The FRA stated that NYA has committed to fully cooperate with the safety review.

“Rail safety is a responsibility DOT [Department of Transportation] shares with the operators,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Railroads must adhere to the strict standards of safety set by FRA, and FRA must ensure and enforce compliance in order to protect lives. This safety review aims to do just that.”

The FRA’s rail safety team will inspect NYA’s operating departments; engineer and conductor certifications; locomotive engineer oversight; grade crossing diagnostics; the company’s operation control center procedures and rail traffic controller training methods; human factors that may have caused the crash; and its compliance with federal practices regulations.

Photo by Robert Stridiron

Photo by Robert Stridiron

“[Tuesday’s] announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to launch a safety review of the New York & Atlantic Railway is welcoming news,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan in a statement. “After last week’s train-truck collision in Queens, this study is much needed for our community. I am confident that this review by the FRA will help to improve safety standards. I will continue to monitor this important situation and working with my partners in government – city, state and federal — to make sure that Queens rails and roads are safe.”

After the FRA completes its review of NYA’s safety culture and practices, it will issue a report outlining their findings and provide recommendations to the railroad company. Additionally, the FRA will evaluate NY&A’s follow-up to the recommendations and assess if subsequent actions are necessary to strengthen safety at NYA Railway.

“In this safety sweep of NYA, FRA will provide recommendations on specific areas where the railroad must improve to meet the high safety standards FRA and the country expect,” said Sarah Feinberg, acting FRA administrator.

The Courier has reached out to Paul Victor, president of NYA, and is awaiting a response.

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Participatory budgeting coming to Councilwoman Crowley’s district


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley is the latest city lawmaker to hop on the participatory budgeting bandwagon.

Crowley announced on Tuesday that residents in the 30th City Council District — which includes all or parts of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodhaven and Woodside — will get to decide how to spend $1 million in city funds on community improvement projects.

She is the 11th member of the City Council’s Queens delegation to host participatory budgeting. During the 2015 fiscal year, City Council members Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Karen Koslowitz, I. Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Antonio Reynoso, Eric Ulrich, Paul Vallone and Jimmy Van Bramer — along with former City Councilman Mark Weprin — pledged to fund $12,871,000 in projects through the process.

“This year, I am able to bring participatory budgeting to my constituents and give them insight into the often lengthy and sometimes very expensive city budgeting process,” Crowley said in a statement. “This will provide a forum for active engagement between residents and myself to decide on capital projects, and calls for the participation of every community member.”

Through participatory budgeting, local residents brainstorm and then vote on a number of proposed capital budget projects for their community, such as street tree planting, park improvements, school technology upgrades, security cameras and street resurfacing.

The first round of community meetings focused on the process will be held in September, with voting taking place in February 2016. For additional information, call Crowley’s Glendale office at 718-366-3900.

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Train that hit truck in Maspeth was speeding: investigators


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Anthony Giudice

The locomotive that crashed into a tractor-trailer at a Maspeth intersection on July 8 was traveling above the speed limit, and the man behind the switch could face disciplinary action, authorities reported.

The early-morning accident at the six-track railroad crossing on Maspeth Avenue near Rust Street caused the truck to burst into flames. The driver managed to escape with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Sources familiar with the investigation told The Courier on Tuesday that the train was moving at a minimum of 20 mph; the railroad speed limit for the area is 15 mph. Reportedly, the engineer operating the train is now facing disciplinary action.

Video of the accident obtained by The Courier shows the railroad crossing gates on Maspeth Avenue activated only at the moment of impact. A source familiar with the situation said the train’s faster speed may have delayed the gate’s activation.

But a union official, in a WABC-TV report on Tuesday, claimed one part of the gate “never comes down normally.”

New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA) President Paul Victor disagreed with notions that the gate malfunctioned, but conceded the Maspeth Avenue crossing’s design is flawed and requires improvement. The NYA reportedly asked the state Transportation Department to evaluate the signal system and the crossing’s logistics.

“Given the accident and the understanding that there have been other incidents there, it certainly makes logical sense to do an engineering evaluation of that crossing,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a heavily trafficked route with lots of trucks and commercial traffic that goes back and forth. It’s a very unusual crossing.”

The crossing is part of the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch extension, which is leased exclusively to NYA west of Jamaica for its freight rail operations. Wednesday’s accident raised concerns among local residents regarding the safety at other at-grade railroad crossings along the line, such as the one on 88th Street in Glendale.

According to Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri, the rail switches activating the crossing gates at 88th Street are dependent upon train speed. When passenger trains operated on the Montauk branch west of Jamaica, the switches were located 300 feet away from the crossing because the trains moved at 40 mph.

With the line exclusively used for freight rail and all trains limited to 15 mph, the switches were relocated to within 10 to 20 feet of the crossing, he noted. Freight train operators were also instructed to slow down when coming to a crossing, then send a crew member out to check that the crossing gates were activated before proceeding.

This change, Arcuri said, makes drivers and pedestrians at the 88th Street crossing especially “nervous,” as they can see the train very close to the crossing well before the gates are activated.

“The LIRR decided when they stopped the two passenger train runs to abandon the passenger line and turn it over [to NYA] as a freight line so they didn’t have to upgrade the signal system,” he added. The board has requested that the LIRR move the signal switch further back at 88th Street and other local at-grade crossings for safety’s sake.

Arcuri, however, claimed the freight signal system in place on the Montauk line is similar to that used on the Bushwick branch of the LIRR — which links up to the Montauk line — and other freight rail systems across the U.S. for generations.

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104COP thanks Frank Kotnik for 25 years of service


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photos by Anthony Giudice

For 25 years Frank Kotnik has served the communities of Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and Ridgewood as a member of the 104 Civilian Observation Patrol (104COP), formerly known as G-COP (Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol).

During those two and a half decades, Kotnik devoted his time and energy to making those communities as safe as he could by organizing patrols, coordinating parades and lending help during times of need, such as after 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy.

At Thursday night’s 104COP meeting at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, family, friends, colleagues and local politicians surprised Kotnik to celebrate his 25 years of service as he stepped down as president of 104COP.

As his final act as president, Kotnik handed over the gavel to Mark Pearson, the new president of 104COP. Although Kotnik stepped down as president, he will remain an active member of the board.

After the installation of all the newly elected officers of 104COP, the guests began showering Kotnik with thanks and gifts.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo presented Kotnik with a proclamation from the New York Senate, thanking him for his years of dedication to the communities that 104COP serves and for lending help to other communities in need.

“I will forever be grateful to 104COP, and to Frank, because a third of my district was severely impacted by Sandy,” Addabbo said. “And Frank led the charge down there for many of you members to help my people after Sandy. And I don’t mean a month after Sandy, but days, hours after Sandy, Frank was helping my constituents, who are still hurting. So for that I will forever grateful to Frank, so thank you.”

Kotnik was honored by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Councilman Antonio Reynoso with a proclamation, thanking him for his service.

“When I think of G-COP, I think of Frank,” Crowley said. “He’s always been president and the leader, and there is no other organization in the city of New York like G-COP.”

“As the newest member of this elite team here, let me tell you, I just wanted to say, Frank, I think I graduated preschool when you started at G-COP,” Reynoso said, to which the crowd erupted with laughter. “That speaks less of my age and more of his commitment to the mission of G-COP. A lot of people do things in short [stints], but he made a commitment to this community for much longer than that…and I truly want to thank you.”

Commanding Officer of the 104th Precinct, Captain Mark Wachter, personally thanked Kotnik for helping to keep the communities he has lived in since he was a child safe for so many years.

“Frank watched out for this community when I was very young,” Wachter said. “Because of Frank and the members of G-COP, this community is still safe. So on that personal level Frank, I thank you.”

Wacther then presented Kotnik with a plaque from the NYPD, thanking him for his years of service.

Among the others that honored Kotnik throughout the evening were representatives from Borough President Melinda Katz’s office, Captain John Travaglia, commanding officer of the 108th Precinct, representatives from the 104th Precinct Community Council, and the members of 104COP.

Kotnik thanked everyone for their love and support, now and over the years.

“Thank you, thank you for the support,” Kotnik said. “One thing that was forgotten, I know everyone is saying it was me, but it was ‘we.’ This patrol is always, as far as I’m concerned, is ‘we.’ We were going to do this together…All I can say to everybody, thank you for coming, God bless you all.”

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Video shows fiery Maspeth train-truck collision and apparently slow crossing gate


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Video courtesy of Filco Carting Corp.

Updated July 10, 4:45 p.m.

BY ROBERT POZARYCKI AND ANTHONY GIUDICE

Footage from a garbage truck’s dashboard camera depicts Wednesday’s fiery collision between a train and tractor-trailer in Maspeth early that morning — as well as an apparently slow railroad crossing gate.

The video was shot from a Filco Carting rig traveling westbound on Maspeth Avenue approaching Rust Street, stopping before the four-track crossing on the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Montauk branch where the accident occurred at about 12:37 a.m.

As shown in the video, the tractor-trailer heading eastbound on Maspeth Avenue was passing over the tracks when a New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA) locomotive heading southbound  —with horns blaring  — smashed into the trailer.


The gates, however, were up when the train hit the truck, which was dragged a distance and burst into flames. The red lights on the gates activated a split-second before impact, and the video shows the crossing gate lowering as the train and truck pass out of the picture.

Officers from the 104th Precinct and EMS units responded to the accident; the driver escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.

According to WABC-TV, Filco Carting installed dash cams on all of its rigs as a safety measure.

An LIRR spokesperson said on Thursday that the NYA is responsible for the condition and maintenance of the railroad crossing gate; the NYA leases the Montauk branch west of Jamaica from the LIRR for its freight operations.

However, a source with the NYA said the issue is “complicated.” The NYA is the main operator of the crossing gate, but both entities are jointly responsible for the gate’s maintenance.

Congresswoman Grace Meng said that while she is “thankful that nobody was killed, we must get answers as to why this happened.”

“The video showing the freight train crashing into a tractor-trailer is extremely scary — and it’s very disturbing that the gate at the railroad crossing failed to come down in time,” Meng said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “I have been in touch with all stakeholders pertaining to this accident, and I am being kept up-to-date on the investigation. … The crossing gate cannot be allowed to fail again. The safety of train personnel, motorists and area residents must not be compromised.”

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Driver injured after train strikes truck in Maspeth


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo by Robert Stridiron

The driver of a tractor-trailer was hospitalized after his rig was struck by a train at a Maspeth railroad crossing early Wednesday morning, according to police.

Police said the accident occurred just before 1 a.m. in the area of Maspeth Avenue and Rust Street.

Reportedly, the New York and Atlantic Railway engine was traveling eastbound when it hit the truck that was on the four-track crossing on Maspeth Avenue. The impact caused the truck to burst into flames.

Officers from the 104th Precinct along with EMS and Fire Department units responded to the scene. The truck driver was taken to a local hospital and was listed in stable condition; no other injuries were reported.

An investigation is ongoing.

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Maspeth could be getting a community athletic field near Newtown Creek


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Ridgewood Times/Photo by Anthony Giudice

The area around Newtown Creek, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes as one of the “nation’s most polluted waterways,” could be the site of a brand-new community athletic field in Maspeth.

During a City Council hearing, Eric Landau, associate commissioner of public affairs for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), testified before the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses, asking for public siting approval on the construction of an aeration facility for Newtown Creek in Maspeth.

The proposed aeration facility is part of a state-mandated effort to improve water quality in Newtown Creek and would be located on 47th Street, near the water’s edge. The facility would help raise oxygen levels in the water and promote wildlife sustainability.

The initial phase of construction leaves approximately one and a half acres of open space on the property, which Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Community Board 5 have expressed interest in converting into an athletic field.

“While it is very important to build this aeration facility for Newtown Creek, it is also important our community take advantage of green space for athletics. I am grateful the DEP has agreed to work with the community to allow for public use of the land,” Crowley said. “In Maspeth, there is a high volume of trucks traveling through the streets. It also has fewer city parks. This lack of green space plus its proximity to the LIE both lead to a higher rate of obesity and asthma compared to neighboring communities.”

“Maspeth residents are disadvantaged in that they lack access to sufficient open green space,” she added. “We can promote sports and physical activity by taking advantage of all public space options, ideally by way of increased access to athletic fields.”

Landau testified to the City Council that the DEP will begin discussions with the community, as well as local athletic groups, about entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding an athletic field on the unused portion of land.

The MOU would state that the sports organizations are responsible for the capital cost of the field as well as the maintenance. Also, if the DEP should ever need the field in the future, upon reasonable notice, the sports organization would need to discontinue operations on the property until any and all construction on the site is complete. Once construction is complete, the site would be handed back over to the community again.

“Understanding that the space may be needed in the future to meet state and federal water quality requirements, DEP is committed to working with the Council and community organizations that are willing to build and maintain the space for athletic purposes, as we have with a soccer league in Manhattan near our North River Waste Water Treatment Plant,” Landau said. “As an immediate next step, we look forward to taking Council member Crowley, local leaders, and other community members on a tour of similar public amenities DEP has constructed, as well as beginning discussions with local athletic groups, identified by [Crowley].”

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Cyclists compete at Red Bull Mini Drome race in Maspeth


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photos courtesy M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment

The fastest athletes on two wheels faced intense competition on a rare figure-eight mini velodrome racetrack in front of hundreds of spectators at the Red Bull Mini Drome Race held at 56-70 58th St. in Maspeth, on June 19.

Competitors raced around the track at the venue — a former dance hall that has been used as a creative art space for the past two decades — to test their speed, skills and tolerance for risk, as riders hit curves at a 45 degree angle on the rarely seen figure-eight track to see which athlete and team could post the fastest time.

The competition was divided into two sections: teams and Red Bull Mini Drome All-Stars, which mostly consisted of previous years’ competitors. The eight fastest teams competed in their own bracket and the All-Star race pitted 32 fixie (fixed-gear bike) professionals head-to-head.

In the individual competition, Red Bull Athlete and Florida fixie competitor Addison Zawada sped his way to the top and eked out a narrow victory over Bronx native Ryan Locascio by only .65 of a second.

“I’m really proud to have had a significant hand in building the unique figure-eight track this year,” Zawada said. “It really means the world for me to have also have won the competition.”

Local Bedford-Stuyvesant bike shop Deluxe Cycles, featuring riders Willis Johnson and Cooper Ray, won the team challenge in a tight race against New York City shop, Chari &Co.

“I was too young for the first and only figure-eight that I know of,” Johnson said. “To win this is perfect because I can pay homage to the original.”

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Maspeth woman celebrates over a century of life on 102nd birthday


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

As the birthday song goes, “Are you one? Are you two? Are you…102?”

Former Maspeth resident Florence Galas celebrated her 102nd birthday Friday in Whitestone at The Grand at Queens, where she receives day-to-day care. Her friends and family were on hand to honor her long life and wish her well.

“She’s a beautiful woman. She’s been in my corner for years,” said her son, Michael Galas. “Everything I went through, she pulled me through.”

“She is a great mother, a great grandmother, and we’re happy that she’s still with us,” said her daughter, Penny VanMaldeghem.

The guest of honor herself was so overwhelmed with the attention that she kept repeating a single, simple phrase of gratitude.

“I’m so lucky,” she said. “I’m so lucky.”

Galas was born in Greece in 1913, and came to the U.S. a short while later in 1920 at 7 years old. After getting married in 1931, she spent most of her time caring for her family as a wife and mother, and had a total of four children.

Although her eyesight and hearing have been weakened due to her age, Galas still has a sharp mind which does not show signs of slowing down. She credits this to the fact that she had been a voracious reader for most of her life, reading as many as 12 books in a week.

Galas is fortunate enough to have a close companion who takes the time to read to her so she can still know the joy of a good book. Alan Capper, also a resident of The Grand, reads to her every day from a variety of novels and newspapers, and in that time he has gotten to know her own story very well.

“I find that she is extremely intelligent, very interesting to talk to about her life and the times that she’s lived through ” said Capper.

Galas was not only a reader in her earlier days, but also a painter.

She taught herself to paint in her ’70s by watching the television show of artist and painting instructor Bob Ross, and Galas was eventually so good that Ross asked her to come work for him as an art teacher after seeing a sample of her work. Ultimately, she refused, citing difficulties because of her advanced age.

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