Tag Archives: Auburndale

Woman killed in Auburndale Fire


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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A 63-year-old woman perished in the blaze that consumed her Auburndale home.

The victim, Joanne Brown, was found dead at the scene on Sunday, April 15. Her cousin, who Brown lived with, 59-year-old John Rebecchi, escaped.
Neighbor Sandra Villafane was one of the first people to see the fire. Up late on the computer, Villafane said she heard loud crackling noises and screams.

“Joanne! Joanne! [Rebecchi] was screaming her name,” said Villafane.

Villafane, who lives two houses over with her boyfriend, said that Rebecchi refused to leave his property. He stood by the wrought iron fence that surrounds his home and watched the fire in shock. After some coaxing, she said, she was able to get him to sit down and drink a glass of water.

At 4:39 a.m., firefighters responded to the call at the two-story private dwelling located at 45-08 189th Street. According to the FDNY, when units arrived they saw there was heavy fire on the first floor of the home.

Yu Jin Lee, who lives directly across the street, woke up on Sunday morning when she thought she heard her car alarm. Her three-year-old had also entered the room to wake her, Lee guessed because she was startled by the noise.
As soon as she looked outside, she said, she saw a column of flames.

“It was shocking,” she said. “All I kept thinking was ‘What do I have to do?’”
The fire was under control by 5:20 a.m. No firefighters were injured during the incident.

Neither Villafane nor Lee said they had any contact with Brown. Lee said she would occasionally see her smoking outside and Villafane said she and Rebecchi would exchange pleasantries every so often.
The cause of the fire is accidental electrical issues, possibly involving an extension cord, according to the FDNY.

 

Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens woman killed in overnight fire

A Queens blaze killed a woman this morning, and seriously injured her cousin, authorities said. Firefighters discovered the unconscious body of Joanne Brown, 63, as they extinguished the flames in her Auburndale home on 189th Street, near 45th Avenue. EMS pronounced her dead at the scene. The fire began about 4:40 a.m., and was under control less than an hour later, according to an FDNY spokesperson. Read More: New York Post

Prober uses Facebook to nail perv, goldbrick NY teachers

Facebook is giving more Big Apple teachers a black eye. As the city Department of Education prepares to release it’s first-ever social-media policy, Schools Investigator Richard Condon has tallied a rapid growth in complaints about improper Facebook usage by city school employees — 120 in the past 18 months. Some teachers got in trouble for posting dumb jokes tinged with sex or violence. Others were busted after their own or students’ Facebook comments tipped officials to wrongdoing. Read More: New York Post

Sleepy driver kills 2: cops

A Long Island man on prescription drugs fell asleep behind the wheel and drove his 2011 Honda Ridgeline into a tree early yesterday, killing his 19-year-old girlfriend and a 17-year-old passenger, cops said. Thomas Smith, 20, of Ridge, and Jacqueline Salvador had just moved in together last week and were returning from Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. Also in the car were her brother, Johnny Salvador, 17, Ryan Baumgartner, 17, and an unidentified girl, 16. Read More: New York Post

Queens Child’s Fundraiser Raises Awareness Of Rare GI Disorders

A Queens fourth grader with a rare gastrointestinal problem held a Saturday fundraiser in Woodside to raise money and awareness. KeVaughn Plunkett, who is allergic to almost all foods and has to use a food pump to survive, held his fourth Annual Art Show event at Saint Mary’s Church in Woodside. Proceeds went to the American Partnership For Eosinophilic Disorders (APFED). For more information, visit apfed.org. Read More: NY1

 

 

Schumer Demands Harsher Penalties For Pharmacy Robberies

In the wake of several robberies of pharmacies in the area, Senator Charles Schumer is urging Congress to pass a bill calling for tougher penalties. The Safe Doses Act, which is already waiting for a Senate vote, would increase punishments for robbing drug stores and give police more tools to crack down on illegal prescription drug rings. Just last week, two man held up an East Harlem pharmacy looking for pain medication. Read More: NY1

 

 

 

New York Marks Centennial Of Titanic Sinking

Exactly 100 years since an iceberg sank the RMS Titanic, New York City is holding events today to mark the centennial of the famed shipwreck that killed more than 1,500 people. The Titanic sank early in the morning of April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg late the previous night. A tour in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx is letting visitors pay respects at the gravesites of several Titanic passengers. Also, the Noble Maritime Collection at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island is opening a Titanic-related art exhibit. Read More: NY1

Auburndale Atrocity


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Contrasted against a sea of well-kept homes and pristinely-manicured lawns in Auburndale looms an abandoned property – a massive four-unit building left destitute, much to the dismay of locals who take pride in their neighborhood.

The structure, located at 47th Avenue and 198th Street, once a single-family home, was converted into four separate houses by a self-certified builder roughly 10 years ago.

“They tried to squeeze in as many properties as possible,” said Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece.

According to Iannece, because the builder was self-certified, they did not need to acquire permission from the city and could undergo construction without any supervision, inspections or guidelines. The Fire Department refused to sign off on the property as livable and the owner went into foreclosure. The outcome was a four-home complex that garnered over 30 violations from the Department of Buildings (DOB).

“This is why self-certification was abolished,” said Iannece, who alleged that this practice leads to builders taking too many liberties and architects putting their licenses on the line.

Iannece alleged that in 2006, the builder went into negotiations with the owner, and in 2009, a bank from the Midwest took over the property. According to Iannece, the bank paid up the remaining violations, which had amounted to “tens of thousands of dollars in fines.”

The building is now a target for squatters and debris, littered with trash and stripped of any remaining value, according to neighbors.

Abandoned Auburndale homes a blight


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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The Auburndale Civic Association is refusing to abandon hope that four vacant and forgotten homes will cease to be a blight on their community.

The four attached, two-family houses, located on 198th Street, have been empty since being built several years ago, according to Henry Euler, president of Auburndale Civic.

“They have been laying there empty for about four or five years, and the property has deteriorated,” said Euler. “There is garbage all over, the vegetation is growing out of control and there are broken windows and doors. This makes the community look terrible, and I think this affects the property value. The neighboring people keep their homes beautifully and it is unfair to them to have to look at this.”

Euler says the garages below two of the homes – located at 47-04 and 47-08 198th Street – are currently open, posing a serious threat to public safety.

“It’s dangerous. Some kid is going to get in there and get hurt,” he said. “We are also concerned that a homeless person may go in there and start a fire.”

Despite repeated calls to the Department of Buildings (DOB) to complain about the situation, Euler says he has yet to see positive results.
“A property owner must maintain his site in a safe and lawful manner at all times, but those responsible for this location have repeatedly failed to do so,” said a DOB spokesperson. “As a result, the department has issued more than 30 violations and ordered repair work for the fence. Anyone with a concern should call 3-1-1.”

Due to the lack of progress produced by the DOB, Euler was prompted to seek assistance from local elected officials, including Councilmember Daniel Halloran.

“It is an eyesore to begin with, but more importantly, it creates a safety hazard,” said the councilmember, who is attempting to arrange a community cleanup of the area. “When you have property like that, it becomes an attractive location for kids, squatters and crimes.”

Halloran, who says he has been in continual contact with the DOB, believes the city lacks the enforcement ability to deal with these issues.

“The city is more focused on hammering a homeowner who has a finished basement and takes care of the rest of his property than attacking these developers who aren’t taking care of their properties and allow these things to happen,” said Halloran. “The average homeowner doesn’t want his property to have a violation on it. But these owners don’t care and have no incentive to pay until their project is done.”

Helen Meskouris, who lives directly next to the abandoned houses, says she is unsure what else she can do to change the desolate vista she views each time she emerges from her front door.

“This is dreadful,” said the 84-year-old, who moved into her Auburndale home in 1956. “People are getting brazen. I see people dump their garbage here. There used to be a wooden fence, but I think they used the cheapest wood they could find because the fence is down now. I also have had problems with mice because of the trash that is next door. It is not safe, and it’s just not pleasant.”

Meskouris says she too has reached out to elected officials and attended community meetings to voice her complaints – all to no avail.

“I don’t know whether I should just give up,” she said. “I don’t know when it is going to end – if it will extend past the end of my life or if it will end soon.”

Police Blotter


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

Mario Minaya, 33, is charged with making off with his two-year-old daughter.

111th Precinct

Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Hollis Hills, and Fresh Meadows

Serial robber?

Police are investigating an armed robbery that occurred in the 111th Precinct on Saturday, October 1 at a Dunkin Donuts/gas station located at 219-02 Horace Harding Expressway (between Bell and Springfield Boulevards).

The perp allegedly entered the location at around 6:30 a.m., displayed a firearm, and demanded that cash be put into a black plastic bag before fleeing the scene. He was described by three witnesses as a white male, wearing a blue-hooded sweatshirt and a half -mask.

Police officials believe that the suspect is the same armed man who struck two other gas stations on Thursday, September 29. Although witnesses described that suspect as a male black, he was allegedly dressed in the same blue hooded sweatshirt, used the same black plastic bag, and also demanded cash at gunpoint. There were no reported injuries in connection with the robberies.

112th Precinct

Forest Hills and Rego Park

Seek phone thieves

Police are looking for suspects they say are wanted in connection with a robbery that occurred within the confines of the 112th Precinct.

On Sunday, September 18, the victim, a 26-year-old woman, was walking in the vicinity of 97th Street when the suspects approached her and slapped her iPhone4 from her hand. One of the suspects picked up the phone before they all fled in an unknown location.

The victim did not sustain any injuries as a result of this incident.

The suspects are described as being four black males, 14-16 years old, 5’5″-5’8″ with medium builds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

114TH PRECINCT

Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside, and Jackson Heights

Gun-point robber sought

Police are looking for a man they say robbed a parking garage at gun point.

On Monday, October 3, the suspect entered a parking garage located at 38-32 13th Street, pointed a gun at the 47-year-old victim and demanded money. The victim complied and gave the suspect an undetermined amount of cash. Once the suspect obtained the cash, he ordered the victim to turn away and fled on a bicycle.

The suspect is described as a black male, 20 to 22 years old, 5’6-5’8, 160 pounds, with a skinny build. Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

115th Precinct

East Elmhurst, North Corona and Jackson Heights

Man arrested for making off with daughter

A man has been arrested and charged for allegedly making off with his daughter and threatening the mother that she would never see the child again.

On Thursday October 6, the mother of the missing child, Ashley Minaya, 2, received a call from the father, who said that she would never see him or the child again. The mother reported to police that she left the child with the father earlier in the day when she was leaving for work.

Police located the father and child later that day. Mario Minaya, 33, is charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.