Tag Archives: Administration for Children’s Services

Queens Village rallies against plan to open juvenile jail in former school

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Nearly two dozen Queens Village residents and local leaders came together Wednesday to rally against the Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) plan to put a facility for juvenile offenders in a former school.

Through the Close to Home initiative, which was signed into law in 2012, ACS is seeking to convert the building at 207-01 Jamaica Ave. into a “limited secure placement facility” for about 18 youngsters from New York City who committed crimes before turning 16. The building once housed the Merrick Academy, a public charter school.

Normally, these offenders would be held in institutions upstate, but the law seeks to bring the children closer to family members and lawyers in the city, while giving them education and counselling services.

However, the protesters argued that the community has not received enough information about the plan and they fear with just limited security the delinquent offenders could escape and cause harm to the surrounding community, which has a school and single-family detached homes.

“By approving a correctional center in a residential neighborhood, it will increase the devaluation of our homes, crime and the stigmatization that has historically reduced the quality of life in southeast Queens,” said community activist Mohamed Hack. “While I support the mission of the ‘Close to Home’ initiative, I understand that there are more fitting locations for ACS to use to meet their goals.”

An ACS spokesman said a public hearing was held in Queens two years ago about the facility. Also, agency officials met with Community Board 13 on May 11.

To protect the community, security at the facility would include a secured driveway for vehicles transporting youngsters, locked doors and windows, and a control room with security cameras and television monitoring by employees 24 hours, seven days a week.

Nevertheless, protesters are still hoping to get ACS to reconsider putting the facility in the building, and once again using it as a school.

“When our schools are overcrowded and underfunded, instead of placing a juvenile detention center in a building that was intended to be a school, let us support projects that protect the safety and quality of life in our communities while at the same time foster economic growth and community development,” said Celia Dosamantes, who is mulling a run for Councilman Mark Weprin’s seat when he leaves office.

Another rally is set for Saturday at noon in front of the building.

Rally 2

The building at 207-01 Jamaica Ave.


Queens Village man arrested for pot, gun stash after leaving son home alone: cops

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD


A 30-year-old Queens Village man was arrested on drug and gun possession charges after he left his 8-year-old son sleeping alone at their home, police said.

Nuquan Stewart was busted on Oct. 14, at 10:45 p.m. after police officers saw that the Volkswagen he was driving had a broken brake light, according to authorities. When they approached Stewart about it, they allegedly noticed a strong odor of marijuana.

The cops asked Stewart to step out of the vehicle. They then spotted six plastic bags of the drug sticking out of the open front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt and a gravity knife jutting from a upholder in the vehicle’s center console, police said. When the cops handcuffed him, Stewart told them about his son, who he had left alone at home while he ran his errands.

At Stewart’s request, the cops went to his 222nd Street apartment to check on the young boy. When they reached it, they allegedly smelled pot. They entered the residence with the keys Stewart had given them and found the boy safely asleep in his bedroom. They also found numerous bags of marijuana and large stacks of money.

The cops handed the child over to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services who then transferred his care to another family member.

The next day, the police executed a search warrant at the apartment and seized several items including 30 pounds of marijuana, approximately $17,500 in cash, a .40-cal Smith & Wesson semiautomatic firearm loaded with 11 rounds, and a fully-automatic Ruger AR-15 assault rifle, along with two high-capacity magazines loaded with 20 live rounds, according to authorities.

Stewart is currently being held in Rikers Island as he awaits a court date to face charges of criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a machine gun, criminal possession of a loaded firearm, and failure to exercise control of a minor, police said. He has previously been arrested for the sale and possession of marijuana and crack cocaine, burglary, criminal mischief and resisting arrest.


UPDATE: Seven-month-old kidnapped by Queens mother found safe

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

UPDATE: An Amber Alert has been cancelled for a seventh-month-old boy who was kidnapped by his non-custodial mother.

Both the mother, Marina Lopez, and child, Mario Danner Jr., have been found in good condition, said police.

Lopez has been arrested and charged with custodial interference, authorities said Wednesday evening.

An Amber Alert has been issued for a seventh-month-old boy who was kidnapped by his non-custodial mother.

Marina Lopez took her son during a supervised visit at an Administration for Children’s Services at 2090 7th Avenue in Manhattan at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, said police.

Her son, Mario Danner Jr., is Hispanic, approximately 20 inches long, 25 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a gray t-shirt and black shorts.

Lopez is described as Hispanic, 25 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, about 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. She is bi-polar and has had recent outbreaks of violence.

She was last seen wearing a pink t-shirt and floral print shorts traveling on foot, possibly toward Shore Front Parkway in Rockaway, according to officials. Lopez may be driving a tan, four-door, 1995 Lexus ES300 with New York license plate GEX1377.

Anyone with any information on this abduction is asked to call the NYPD at (866) NYS-AMBER or 9-1-1.



Federal budget cuts affect Head Start programs

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Five classrooms at a Head Start center in Woodside are filled with young children learning to read, write and count.

In one classroom, students sing in English, Spanish and Bengali and dance to “La Bamba.”

The coming months could see fewer low-income families in the area receive childcare and early childhood education services because of federal budget reductions. Many of the families include immigrants from Latin America and South Asia.

The cuts are part of sweeping federal budget reductions known as the sequester. They could bring about a shorter program year, employee furloughs or fewer spots for three- to five-year-olds at the Child Center of NY’s Roosevelt Avenue Head Start program.

“We have really been looking at where we would absorb these cuts because overall, the number of federal dollars that you have is never enough to run the program to begin with,” said Linda Rodriguez, director of early childhood programs at the Child Center. “We’re kind of in limbo at this point as a program.”

The cuts, which went into effect March 1, included a five percent reduction in federal Head Start funding. That came out to a $406 million decline. The Department of Health and Human Services said up to 70,000 children nationwide could lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start services as a result.

The city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is preparing for an estimated $9 million decrease in federal funding for local Head Start programs, spokesman Michael Fagan said in an email. He added that the cuts will take effect July 1.

Local programs, which serve 3,000 youngsters in Queens alone, will have to tighten their fiscal year 2013 budgets.

According to city and Head Start data, 268 children in Community Board 2 were in Head Start last February. The district includes Sunnyside and Woodside. More than half of the children were in the Child Center of NY’s Head Start program, which had 170 slots at the time.

The Woodside center currently offers 85 slots, but space could shrink again in September because of the cuts.
Selina Akter, 35, of Woodside, said she is not sure how she and her husband will manage if their four-year-old son does not get access to Head Start. Akter and her spouse both work full-time.

“I don’t want to leave my job, because I need my job,” she said. “When [my son] is in school, I don’t worry about him.”

To be eligible for the free Woodside Head Start program, families must live within a 10-block radius of the center and earn no more than $23,550 a year for a four-person household, as per federal poverty guidelines.

If ACS, which doles out federal Head Start funds, tells the Woodside center to reduce its number of slots, staff will have to make some difficult decisions. Educational director Marie Mason said with a waiting list of more than 100 students, the center is already unable to accommodate every Woodside family that wants to enroll children in Head Start.

“If we had another center this size, or twice this size, I could fill it tomorrow,” she said.

Rodriguez said the coming drop in funds could mean reductions to a wide array of services, including nutrition and health counseling as well as parenting courses. The agency might also need to end the program early this summer, start up again later or move some children to a less expensive home-based program in which a teacher visits the family once a week for 1.5 hours.

“If we sustain a significant cut in funding, that ultimately is going to affect the enriched type of services that we are able to provide to families,” she said.

Last month, 30 Woodside mothers with children in Head Start visited Congressmember Joseph Crowley’s district office in Jackson Heights to express their concerns.

Ruth Campos, 42, said she worried about missed educational opportunities if her four-year-old daughter and other children from low-income families lose access to Head Start.

“If our children don’t have education, where are we going to go,” she asked. “Where?”