Tag Archives: Beechhurst

Annual Tour de Queens draws more than 1,200 riders


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Transportation Alternatives


More than 1,200 bicyclists from around the city participated in the 7th Annual Tour de Queens, a 20-mile ride that travels through several neighborhoods in the borough.

The annual ride on Sunday by Transportation Alternatives began in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, in the plaza between the Unisphere and the Queens Museum, and took cyclists of all ages through East Flushing, Murrary Hill, Auburndale, Bayside, Bay Terrace, Beechhurst and Whitestone.

While the event bears a resemblance in name to the rigid Tour de France biking competition, the Tour de Queens is not a race. Participants rode through streets at a leisurely pace with the NYPD and volunteers from Transportation Alternatives acting as safety marshals.

Proceeds from the event will go toward advocacy efforts to enhance public transportation and make the streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

 

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Beechhurst neighbors fighting state agency to keep seawalls that defended against Sandy


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre


Two Beechhurst neighbors want to end a two-decade-old fight with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to keep their decks, which were built over unauthorized seawalls, which they say protected their homes from Hurricane Sandy.

Thanks to their parallel 15-foot high decks, Al Risi and 90-year-old neighbor Ruth Winkle’s water-edged houses suffered only flooding damage from the storm, but were left mainly intact, they said.

But since the decks have never had the proper permit, the DEC is calling for the residents to remove them. Risi and Winkle, who lives alone with her three dogs and nursing aide, argue that taking the decks down would make the residences vulnerable to another storm of equal or greater intensity than Sandy.

“I’m only concerned about protecting my house,” Risi said. “There are thousands of people in Long Beach that have not made it back. Their houses were destroyed and they were not [given] enough money to redo it.”

Risi and Winkle built the seawalls on their properties about 18 years ago without permission from the DEC. Engineers warned Risi when he bought his nearly $1 million, three-level house in 1995 that it needed protection from the tides, so he requested a permit for the neighbors’ seawalls from the state agency. But he said the DEC didn’t respond to him when he submitted his final plans, so he went ahead with the structures, which are made of large stones slanted at an angle. The DEC later said that he had illegally landfilled the area.

A DEC representative did not return numerous emails and calls for comment on this issue.

Both neighbors have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees in cases the DEC brought against them and violations in the past 20 years. Also the agency put a lien on both houses so Risi and Winkle won’t be able to sell their properties. Risi valued his house at about $4 million now, while Winkle’s is worth about $3 million. The agency also seized nearly $100,000 in Risi’s bank account.

Risi has consulted various engineers and experts over the decades, all of whom believe that the seawall is necessary, he said. The neighbors also have support from local leaders and politicians as well.

“Given the severe damage we have seen caused by hurricanes Irene and Sandy, it’s unbelievable that DEC has refused to negotiate in this particular case, despite Mr. Risi paying hundreds of dollars in fines,” state Sen. Tony Avella said. “DEC is completely unjustified in pursuing this case.”

 

 

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Star of Queens: Cookie Marie Kurtz, president, Parent Organization, St. Luke School


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Cookie Marie K 1

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Cookie Marie Kurtz is the president of the Parent Organization at St. Luke Catholic School in Whitestone.

BACKGROUND:  Kurtz was born and raised in Brooklyn and went to Catholic grammar, high school and college.  She graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in education and is currently working at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and also has been a wedding singer for 31 years with a band called The Projekt.

Kurtz now lives in Beechhurst with her family.  She has been president of the St. Luke Parent Organization since 2011.

“I went to a meeting one year and they were looking for people who were passionate about getting involved. I raised my hand and that was it, and I’ve been doing it for three years now,” she said.

Kurtz has also been on the carnival committee at the school for four years. In 2009 Kurtz was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She had 18 months of treatment and five surgeries and still maintained her job and volunteerism.

“I didn’t want to give the cancer any energy,” she said. “I would put my wig or hat on and I went to work.”

She started promoting breast cancer awareness at St. Luke with her fundraiser,“Pink on Purpose” in 2011 where she had sponsors come in, raffles set up, and speakers come and talk about the importance of breast cancer awareness.  “It was a really beautiful event, and it brought the parish together,” said Kurtz.

GOALS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  As president Kurtz has opened up a whole new communication method for parents at St. Luke. The parent organization has six meetings a year for parents to come in and voice their opinions and concerns on things like classes, events, safety and health in the school. They are also using email and Facebook.

“We try to do as much as we can to give parents information they wouldn’t get on a regular basis,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz and the parent organization have created new clubs at the school as well as developing new traditions like the Happy Birthday Jesus Breakfast and the Welcome Parents Breakfast, which she says is wildly popular.

“We’ve established these special events to bring together church, family, friends and fun,” said Kurtz.  In the future, Kurtz would like to see more parent involvement and more performing arts and sports programs developed at the school.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Her fondest memory would be the first Welcome Parents Breakfast, where about 100 parents came to the event. Parents were able to come together and create two new events — the walkathon, where they raised $25,000, and the princess ball for little girls and their parents.

INSPIRATION: Her inspiration is her daughter. “She loves that I volunteer, and I’m teaching her to try new things and be confident,” said Kurtz.  She also said that she was inspired by the Catholic school system, praising the teachers and administration at St. Luke. “Last year 70 percent of the graduating class left with a scholarship to high school; that’s amazing,” said Kurtz.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Her biggest challenge is trying to get more parents involved. She understands that people are busy or fearful of over-committing, and she explains it can be difficult to convince people to take that first step.

 

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Cleats 4 Kids charity raises $9K in Long Island City fundraiser


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Ralph Rodriguez

More than $9,000 was raised for nonprofit Cleats 4 Kids during the 5th annual Dominican Gala at Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City Saturday.

Cleats 4 Kids, which collects baseball equipment for disadvantaged children in the Dominican Republic, plans to use the money to cover shipping costs. The fundraiser featured dancing, live music and raffles.

Matt Rodriguez, 19, the organization’s founder, started Cleats 4 Kids when he was 8-years-old after seeing children in the Dominican Republic playing baseball without shoes and gloves. He said the event is a testament to the growth of the organization.

“Seeing what it came from, from when I was in middle school to how it is now, it’s ridiculous,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have to throw parties to fund to ship the equipment out there. I didn’t even think in a million years we’d get enough equipment to even do that.”

Eleven years ago as a young baseball fan, Rodriguez asked his parents, Ralph and Shirley, to donate his cleats, gloves and other equipment. That kicked off the organization with full support from his parents, who were both born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Jackson Heights.

The gala was not only attended by friends and family of the organization, but also by those who donate equipment. Many of them have a shared interest for donating the gear because they hate to see children suffer to play baseball.

“Kids climb trees to get the right limb or branch for a bat, using cardboard for gloves, taking rocks with tape and socks for balls,” said David Fantin, founder of Global Sports Foundation, who flew in from Texas for the event. “When you see kids improvise, because they love to play the game, you have to help them.”

One of the major donors to Cleat 4 Kids is Beechhurst native Scott Green, president of adult baseball league, Play for the Plate.

Green was given an award from the Rodriguez family for nearly a decade of donations to youth baseball players. But to Green just a thank you would be enough.

“My dream would be somewhere down the line, if one of these kids made it to the major leagues and just said thanks to Cleats 4 Kids for giving me my first glove,” Green said. “I would be in heaven.”

 

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Mailers direct Whitestone voters to wrong polling sites


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An apparent mistake by the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) would have had Whitestone residents voting in Forest Hills during the upcoming primary.

About 100 people in Whitestone, College Point, Malba and Beechhurst were sent BOE mailers last week directing them to vote more than six miles away, double the distance of their usual polling place, a local civic leader said.

The 61-20 Grand Central Parkway poll site listed on the notices is on the border between Corona and Forest Hills.

“I’ve been in Whitestone for 27 years. I’ve always voted at P.S. 193. It’s four blocks from my house,” said resident George Mirtsopoulos, 58. “I get this notice saying I’m voting in Forest Hills. I thought it was ridiculous.”

Mirtsopoulos, Malba Gardens Civic president Alfredo Centola and the area’s city councilmember said they alerted the elections board of the blunder.

The BOE first told residents the change was due to recent redistricting and later switched to say it was a “glitch” that sent voters in the 11357 ZIP code to poll sites in the 11375 area, residents said. The two numbers differ only by switching the last two digits.

“You should check and double check,” Mirtsopoulos said. “Somebody should have said, ‘Wait. They live in Whitestone, why are they voting in Forest Hills?’ The bells and whistles should have gone off a little bit.”

The mailer blindsided multiple residents, mostly the elderly, who did not take immediate notice of change in poll site, Mirtsopoulos said.

“A lot of people on my block didn’t even realize it,” he said. “It would have caused a lot of confusion.”

Councilmember Dan Halloran — who awaits trial for bribery but represents the district for the remainder of the year — said his office “was flooded with calls from angry or upset people.”

He said an 84-year-old widow named Marilyn would not have traveled to Forest Hills despite voting in every election since 1955.

Residents who called the BOE to complain were told new mailers with the correct poll site would be sent out soon, but the Board had no immediate comment for the press.

 

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Grace Meng sworn in as first Asian-American from NY in Congress


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The Courier tagged along on a bus trip to Washington, D. C. as the 113th Congress was sworn in.

It’s five in the morning, and over 100 people gathered outside in Flushing, anxiously waiting to board buses making the trek down to our nation’s capital to watch the 113th Congress — and the first Asian-American from New York — be sworn in.

Former Assemblymember Grace Meng made history last November when she was elected to represent the 6th Congressional District.

Community leaders and constituents journeyed to Washington, D.C. on Thursday, January 3 to witness her, along with Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Steve Israel, officially become members of the 113th Congress.

“We are very proud today,” said Councilmember Peter Koo. “It’s very historic. I hope that she [Meng] will be a role model and a trailblazer for the new generation.”

After the drive to D.C., supporters were able to watch the newly minted Congressmembers cast their first vote for House Speaker, and then be officially sworn in to the new session.

Hakeem Jeffries, Meng’s former colleague in the Assembly, was also sworn in to represent the 8th Congressional District — which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood. Jeffries faced a comparatively lighter general election than Meng, after the Brooklyn-based legislator beat Councilmember Charles Barron in a June primary election.

Incumbent members of Congress Joseph Crowley of the 14th District, Gregory Meeks of the 5th District, and Steve Israel of the 3rd held onto their positions in the House and were also sworn into the new session.

After the swearing in ceremony, Meng joined her constituents and spoke about upcoming plans in her new position. Gun control legislation, immigration reform and passing the Sandy aid bill are at the forefront.

“There are a lot of issues that we need to work on, and I look forward to working with you,” Meng said. “And you all are the eyes and ears of our community.”

 

Maureen Rita O’Riordan


| jlane@queenscourier.com

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Maureen Rita O’Riordan of Beechhurst passed away on August 21 at Calvary Hospital, surrounded by her family.

A native of Brusky Parish Co. Cavan, she was the loving wife of Connie O’Riordan, loving mother of Bro. Dan O’Riordan and Brian. Preceded in death by her brothers John, Hughie and Jimmy; sisters Bridget and Kathleen; and by nieces Bernadette, Eileen and Peggy.

Dear aunt of five nephews and nieces, five grand nieces and one grand nephew.

Arrangements were handled by the Martin A. Gleason Funeral Home in Whitestone. A funeral Mass was held at St. Mel’s R.C. Church in Flushing. Interment was at St. Raymond’s Cemetery.

Donations to any of the following would be appreciated:

•St. Frances of Assisi Breadline

•Calvary Hospital

•Roselle Catholic Marist Youth Programs