Tag Archives: bay ridge

Obituary: Longtime litigator and Bayside resident William Spanakos

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Longtime litigator and Bayside resident William Spanakos died on Aug. 11 at the age of 86, according to his family, after suffering a major heart attack the day before.

“He liked his work and he continued his job until the last minute,” William’s brother, George, said. “He always tried to help people through his job and in his personal life.”

William was a practicing attorney for over 50 years and had an office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He specialized in criminal defense but also served the Greek immigrant community in legal matters. He was one of seven sons and his parents immigrated from Greece.

He graduated from St. John’s Law School in 1953 and soon after that he opened a law firm in 1956 with his brother John, who died last year.

As a defense lawyer, William always rooted for the underdog, according to George.

“He was known for his charitable works,” his brother said, and in 1990 William established a scholarship fund in honor of his parents that serves to assist financially challenged individuals of Greek descent to become doctors.

William is survived by his girlfriend Sheila Silverstein; his children, Michael Spanakos, Stella Spanakos, Lillian Spanakos, Helen Spanakos-Weitman and Athena Spanakos-O’Riordan; and three brothers, George, Peter and Nick.



Joe Torre’s daughter saves falling baby

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



What a catch.

Good Samaritan and daughter of former Yankees manager Joe Torre, Cristina Torre, made the catch of a lifetime that will surely make her father, himself an ex-catcher, proud. Torre heroically snatched a one-year-old baby this morning, as it tumbled out of a second-floor window on 92nd Street and 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

“Today I join the community in commending Cristina Torre for reacting so quickly. How lucky we are today that Cristina was in the right place at the right time. Like a true heroine, Cristina was incredibly humble,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “She went right into action.”

According to police sources, the little boy crawled through a window with an unstable air-conditioner, onto the fire escape.

“The opening was not secure,” said Captain Richard DiBlasio, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct.

As the baby began its descent, Torre “saw this and caught the baby as it was coming down,” DiBlasio said.

The baby was taken to Lutheran Medical Center, but “seemed fine,” DiBlasio said, adding, “It could have been a lot worse.”

The parents were arrested, and will be charged with endangering the welfare of a child, and their four children ages one through five have been removed from the home.

DiBlasio stressed the importance of making sure that windows are secured when there are children in a residence. “Check your windows,” the captain urged, adding that window guards are important and should be installed where mandated by law. In addition, he said, “air conditioners must be secure” so children cannot get out of the home in that way.

With additional reporting by Helen Klein



One third of NYC children live in poverty, says report

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


The percentage of children living in poverty in New York City has risen to its highest levels in more than 10 years, according to a report by the Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC), a nonprofit organization that keeps track of the well-being of the city’s children.

“For far too many New York City children, the cumulative barriers to well-being – poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, and lack of access to essential programs – are great, and disparities are profound and apparent on a geographic level,” said Jennifer March-Joly, CCC’s executive director.

Since 2008, poverty levels have increased from 26.5 percent to close to 30 percent in 2011, the study found, the highest level since 2000 when more than 30 percent of the city’s children lived in poverty.

In Queens, 21.1 percent of the borough’s children were living below the poverty level  in 2011, the second-lowest rate of the five boroughs.

Families are considered to be living in poverty when their total income is lower than the national threshold of what a family needs to live, based on the number of people in the family and the ages of those in the house.

The report also listed the best and worst places for children living in New York City, examining rates of child abuse, child poverty and literacy. Mott Haven, Hunts Point and Brownsville were ranked the worst, with about half of the children living below the poverty line.

The best neighborhoods for children included Bayside, Tottenville, the Upper East Side, Bay Ridge and Rego Park/ Forest Hills.




Former Councilmember Sal Albanese kicks off mayoral campaign

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Albanese for Mayor 2013

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, who recently announced he’s running for mayor as an independent Democrat, has high hopes for improving public safety and the city’s education system.

Albanese, who represented mostly Bay Ridge for 14 years, said he was building a campaign based on voter needs and not special interest groups.

“We’re building a grass-roots campaign around the city,” Albanese, 63, told The Courier. “I want to get to City Hall with a broad base of support.”

Albanese spent 11 years as a teacher and said he would partner with education colleges throughout the city and strengthen the student-teacher program if elected mayor.

Albanese said he would hire 3,800 new police .officers for patrols in the outer boroughs where crime might be ignored or under-reported. “If you have nobody on patrol…these things can drive people out of neighborhoods,” he said.

For Queens, Albanese said he would focus on ensuring continued development is done properly, and the borough recovers and rebuilds after Sandy.

All options and effects should be explored before officially jumping on a project such as the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. “[It] could really be a positive thing,” he said. “But we have to balance that with the parkland.”

Despite a lengthy term on the council, Albanese has not been in public office for about 15 years and is running in a primary against many Democratic incumbents. Some opponents include: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.

On the Republican front:

Less than a week after his announcement, and after a long-expected endorsement, Republican Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis picked up the backing of the Queens GOP on Friday, February 1.

“John Catsimatidis has the right experience as an independent businessman to lead New York and solve our city’s problems with common sense,” said party chair Phil Ragusa in a statement. The grocery store magnet is one of only a handful of candidates whose career hasn’t been in public service. Upon his endorsement, Catsimatidis noted his father worked as a bus boy at Riccardo’s in Astoria.

“I am very pleased to accept the Queens County Republican Party’s official endorsement,” Catsimatidis said. “My father who came over from the old country when I was just six months of age worked hard for our family and taught me the value of hard work and because he worked hard we never knew we were poor.”



Carlo Scissura to lead Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce today announced that Carlo A. Scissura, known to countless Brooklyn residents and community leaders for his tenure as Borough President Marty Markowitz’ highly-regarded Chief of Staff, will become the new President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, effective September 1, 2012.

“I can think of no better candidate to lead the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce than Carlo Scissura,” said Peter Meyer, Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors and President-NYC Market of TD Bank. “Carlo brings to the table an unmatched combination of leadership skills and experience and his depth of knowledge about the borough and the issues facing our business community will serve the Chamber—and our more than 1,000 members—exceedingly well.”

Incoming Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Carlo Scissura said, “With all of the exciting changes going on in Brooklyn, I can’t think of a better time to take on this wonderful new opportunity at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which has advocated for Brooklyn’s business community for nearly a century. We have witnessed the transformation of Brooklyn into a great place to live, work, play, visit and do business, and the time is now for the Chamber to lead Brooklyn as it continues its spectacular rise into a true global city and an international brand. As an attorney, small business owner, former educator, and counsel and chief of staff to Marty Markowitz—the best borough president Brooklyn has ever seen and ever will see—I have learned firsthand the needs and concerns of business-people, merchants and entrepreneurs throughout our borough. I thank Marty for his guidance, his belief in my abilities to lead and, most of all, his friendship. Also, my sincerest gratitude to the Chamber Board, Chairman Peter Meyer and Search Committee Co-chairs Denise Arbesu and Gil Cygler. I look forward to joining the dedicated staff at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce as we take on the challenges of our members and Brooklyn’s diverse business community.”

Carlo A. Scissura is a life-long resident of Brooklyn. Prior to joining the Brooklyn Borough President in 2008—first as General Counsel and then as Chief of Staff—Carlo established a law firm in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, specializing in real estate transactions, estate planning and corporate affairs. He is a former member of Brooklyn Community School Board 20 and has served on the Board of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Public Library. Carlo also was a member of the New York City Charter Review Commission, served on Brooklyn’s Community Board 11, and was the Vice President of the Federation of Italian American Organizations.

“The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce plays a vital role fostering economic development throughout the borough, and providing low cost access to health insurance for Brooklyn’s small businesses,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “There is no one better to take the helm of the Chamber than Carlo Scissura. He represents the best of everything Brooklyn has to offer and has continually turned big ideas into real action and results. I know he will do the same for the Chamber and I congratulate them on a superb choice.”

“Just like a proud parent has mixed emotions when their children leave home, I am sad that Carlo will be leaving Borough Hall but happy for Brooklyn businesses,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “I am extremely proud and excited that Carlo is going from our chief to President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Carlo is a Brooklynite through and through. As my Chief of Staff for the last four years, and Counsel before that, Carlo demonstrated expert managerial skills, unparalleled knowledge of Brooklyn and the determination to get things done. I know that Carlo will use those same skills at the Chamber of Commerce. And when Brooklyn’s businesses do well, all of Brooklyn comes out ahead. To that I say: Bravo!”

Previous Presidents of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce include Carl Hum, who left the Chamber earlier this year, and Kenneth Adams, who now serves as President & CEO of New York’s Empire State Development.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is a community of members that supports and advocates for its member businesses and promotes a healthy and robust business environment in Brooklyn. The Chamber’s membership includes local, regional and national businesses with customers or business interests in neighborhoods across the borough.

Teen’s Alleged Assaulter Pretended To Be A Police Officer

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Teen’s Alleged Assaulter Pretended To Be A Police Officer

Police were searching late Tuesday for a man who allegedly pretended to be a police officer and sexually assaulted a teenage boy he met in a subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn last week. Investigators say the man approached a 15-year-old boy at the 53rd Street and Fourth Avenue station around 9:30 a.m. Friday, after the teen threw an empty bag of potato chips on the ground. Authorities said the teen claimed the man displayed what looked like a police shield and told the boy to get into his white van. They say the suspect drove to 92nd Street and Dahlgren Place in Bay Ridge, where he sexually assaulted the boy. Read More: NY1

The mistakes that took 5 lives

Two fatal mistakes may have cost the lives of the three little girls and their grandparents who died Christmas morning when a century-old Victorian mansion went up in flames and turned into a death trap. Fire marshals in Stamford, Connecticut, said the owner’s boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcino, put still-smoldering embers from a yule log into some kind of a bag — and then left it leaning against an outside rear wall of the $1.7 million house. The marshals said the embers had not been doused with water. On the other side of the wall was a mud room. Read More: New York Post

Flushing neighborhood mourns closing of Palace Diner, a local mainstay since 1976

The Palace Diner, a Flushing mainstay that served as a cozy gathering place for local residents and politicians alike, is shutting its doors for good on Friday. “I’ve had a good run, it’s time,” said owner George Mantzikos. “I’ve been fortunate to have good customers and good employees.” The diner, known for its Greek specialties, fresh fish and chops, will be replaced by an “upscale Chinese restaurant,” he said. Read More: Daily News

Ozone Park unites for fallen officer Peter Figoski

In light of the fact that four of the five men nabbed as suspects in the tragic, shooting death of fallen officer Peter Figoski are from Ozone Park, elected officials and residents of the community banded together to raise money and spirits for Figoski’s family. “We wanted to do something in this community to show that those criminals are not a reflection of the people in this neighborhood. There are good, solid people in this community,” said Matt Turner of the Make a Difference Christmas Effort. The Make a Difference Christmas Effort — which hosted a benefit on December 22 at St. Mary Gate of Heaven School — raised $5,000 for the wife and four daughters Figoski leaves behind. Read More: Queens Courier

Rent-stabilized Jamaica tenants sue landlord;  they say he boosted rents to force  them out  

More than 40 longtime Jamaica tenants are suing their landlord for charging them large lump sums for building improvements they claim were never adequately made, in an effort to force them out of their homes. Residents of 90-36 149th Street, which is owned by Zara Realty Holding Corp., said their rent shot up thousands of dollars this year after the state approved a hike for rent-stabilized tenants. It was granted because Zara claimed to have installed a new roof and repaired the building’s brick exterior. But landlords are only allowed to raise rents 6 percent annually for rent-stabilized tenants, according to the tenants’ lawyers — not ask for one bulk payment. Read More: Daily News

Group wants to preserve ‘historic’ Elmhurst library

Over 106 years, some structures become staples of their communities. This is the sentiment one Elmhurst civic association has expressed regarding the neighborhood’s historic library, which is set to be torn down and replaced with a larger, more modern facility. Members of the Newtown Civic Association are puzzled by Queens Library’s decision to destroy the community “landmark,” which opened in 1906 and is one of the last remaining libraries built with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Read More: Queens Courier