Tag Archives: Big Six Towers

Woodside fundraiser to help 4-year-old boy with leukemia

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Victoria Panos

Over a year ago, Lauren and Joseph Williams heard four words that changed their lives: “Your son has cancer.”

Now, as the parents struggle to remain strong for their 4-year-old son battling leukemia in a California hospital, they are getting much-needed support from friends back home in Queens.

Benjamin Williams, one of five children, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013 after visiting the doctor for a regular checkup. At the time, his mother, Lauren, was pregnant with her fifth son.

Although the Williams family moved out of New York before Ben was born, and are now residing in San Diego, California, as Ben receives treatment at Rady Children’s Hospital, they are still feeling the love from the Big Apple.

Benjamin Williams

Benjamin Williams

Victoria Panos, of Woodside, has been friends with Ben’s mother, a Jackson Heights native, since they were children, and she knew she had to do what she could to help out the family.

Panos is organizing a fundraiser for the family on Feb. 28 at the Big Six Towers shopping center, located at 60-10 Queens Blvd. in Woodside, to raise money to help with any medical expenses.

Along with supporting the Williams family, Panos said the fundraiser also aims to raise awareness to the topic of childhood cancer.

“No one really hears about [childhood cancer],” said Panos, who is also Ben’s godmother. “I want to bring it to light and I want to help out Ben and his family because it is really rough with having a child that is sick and had to go through all that treatment. Raising awareness is my main goal, other than helping out my friend.”

Panos added that many people are not aware the leukemia awareness ribbon is orange, and the ribbon for childhood cancer awareness is gold.

“You don’t really understand what it is until it hits close to home,” Panos said. “I just need people to know that it is real. It does happen. Cancer doesn’t discriminate.”

After a previous fundraiser was held for Ben, Panos said Lauren was in tears knowing that the family was receiving support from loved ones. The idea of this current fundraiser was kept a surprise to the family until recently because Panos did not want them to worry about any details or organizing it.

Benjamin Williams (far right), 4, with his brothers, parents and grandmother.

Benjamin Williams (far right), 4, with his brothers, parents and grandmother.

“It’s super humbling. I really don’t have any words,” Lauren said a day after finding out about the fundraiser. “When you’re in a situation like this, anything helps. It’s wonderful. I can’t be thankful enough.”

Even with facing the struggles of fighting leukemia, Panos said the family has stayed positive through it all, including Ben.

“His older brothers are always helping out, whatever Ben wants he gets,” Panos added.

The fundraiser, also being organized by the Towers Play N Learn Center at 60-10A 47th Ave., will feature a bake sale, raffles, face painting by local artist The Cheeky Chipmunk and Brooklyn-based artist Onalee Rivera, and other activities.

“Even though the benefit is going to be a fun time, I want people to realize that they are there for something that is so devastating,” Panos said. “’Your child has cancer.’ Those four words can change your life in three seconds.”

Ben’s fundraiser is on Feb. 28 from 3 to 7 p.m. Updates on Ben’s battle with leukemia are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamBen2010.


Community rallies to find driver in Queens Boulevard hit-and-run

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The Woodside community is looking for the driver involved in a hit-and-run on Queens Boulevard that has left one man clinging to life.

According to officials, on Thursday at about 1:35 a.m., the victim, who is still unidentified, was struck on the westbound center lane of Queens Boulevard and 60th Street by a dark-colored Ford SUV as he attempted to cross the thoroughfare. The driver fled the scene.

Currently the victim, described as a Hispanic male in his 20s or 30s, is in critical but stable condition at Elmhurst Hospital, authorities said.

Members of the surrounding Woodside neighborhood gathered on Friday at the intersection to call on the public to help identify the driver involved in the incident.

“The person that struck the young man and left him to die on this street should turn themselves in right away and face the consequences of his/her actions, because what this person did was leave a young man to die,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “It’s one of the worst things that one human being can do to another.”


Van Bramer’s Justice for Hit-and-Run Victims Act, created after the councilman’s district faced three fatal hit-and-runs last year, was signed into law on Monday by Mayor Bill de Blasio. It allows the city to establish civil penalties of up to $10,000 to drivers who are found guilty of fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run. The bill will take effect starting Dec. 29.

Students of the Towers Play-N-Learn nursery school cross Queens Boulevard where a man was critically injured in a hit-and-run early Thursday morning.

Students of the Towers Play-N-Learn nursery school cross Queens Boulevard where a man was critically injured in a hit-and-run early Thursday morning.

“Accidents are horrible and terribly unfortunate,” said Jerry LoMonte, resident of the Big Six Towers co-op apartment buildings, located across the street from the collision site. “[Leaving] the scene of the accident is horrible and criminal, and we need to protect ourselves against that.”

Also present at the Friday morning rally was Elizabeth O’Hara, director of Towers Play-N-Learn nursery school, which is also located across the street of where the hit-and-run occurred. She was joined by six students holding signs that read “Please Slow Down, I have small feet,” and “Please stop at the crosswalk.”


O’Hara asked drivers to slow down while driving on Queens Boulevard and to stop at the crosswalk before getting to the red light.

“At various times Queens Boulevard has been referred to as the Boulevard of Death but the truth is Queens Boulevard is surrounded by life,” Van Bramer said. “We have got to come to a place where this boulevard is no longer viewed as the Boulevard of Death but instead the Boulevard of Life.”

The hit-and-run investigation is still ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


Woodside parents want bus service for their kids

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Parents of P.S. 229 are seeing red, claiming the Department of Education (DOE) is attempting to save some green by endangering their children and denying them yellow bus service.

Residents of the Big Six Towers in Woodside are furious with the DOE for rejecting a hazard variance for their children who are forced to cross a dangerous intersection on their way to and from school each day.

Parents believe the threat warrants an exception to the DOE’s policy, which does not provide school bus service to children in grades three through six if they live within a mile of school.

“I’m outraged. They are pretty much saying that my daughter’s life is not worth $100,000, because that’s what I’ve been told is the magic number to have a bus go to and from a school all year,” said Michelle Kates, who drives her fourth grader to P.S. 229 each day. “To say that we don’t have a hazard is absurd. What the mayor is doing is criminal.”

Other parents have expressed indignation that their children are denied entrance to a “half-empty” bus which visits the Big Six daily to transport students between kindergarten and second grade.

“There are no resources being saved here. The bus is still here and it is virtually empty,” said Thomas Haggerty, whose son is a fourth grader at P.S. 229. “I think the DOE is playing games.”

Haggerty says the variance was in place for 45 years before being removed before the 2010 school year, and that the DOE never provided parents with a reason for the change.

Between January 2010 and September 2011, the DOE has approved only 16 percent of hazard variances citywide – with a mere five percent permitted for students attending public schools in Queens. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer says the DOE has also reported that the policy shift on variances is saving the city between $1 and $3 million.

Van Bramer rallied with parents and members of Community Education Council District 24 on March 8 to protest the DOE’s suggested “safe route” for the children of P.S. 229, which involves crossing the service road of the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway and other heavily-trafficked intersections.

According to DOE spokesperson Margie Feinberg, the intersection causing concern for P.S. 229 parents has both a traffic signal and a sidewalk along the underpass. Feinberg also said the DOE only reviews individual requests for variances since eliminating school-wide waivers two years ago.

Despite the DOE’s safety assurances, Van Bramer and a number of Big Six residents have reported multiple accidents at two separate intersections along the route within the past few weeks.

“Our children rely on the DOE to keep them safe and they are in charge of ensuring that safety,” said Van Bramer. “But the DOE is completely ignoring this obvious hazard which sits in between the children’s homes and their school. Each day the chances of a tragedy occurring at this intersection increase and I’m not going to stand by while the DOE continues to put our children’s lives in harm’s way.”


Pols, parents push for increased school bus service

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

A member of an influential city panel is concerned about perilous pathways getting between kids and their education.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative for the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), is rallying parents across the borough to support a proposal that will eliminate ambiguity from the process of determining which children with dangerous intersections on their way to school will be provided with yellow bus service.

“I’m introducing something citywide that would create a committee formed by both the Department of Education (DOE) and Community Education Council (CEC) that would review what qualifies for hazard variance and approve applications for hazard variance,” said Fedkowskyj. “This would make the review process more transparent.”

According to Fedkowskyj, many children had hazard variances allowing them bus service to and from school, but the DOE rescinded numerous cases over the last 18 months.

“These kids that had these variances that are traveling on these dangerous intersections had the opportunity to take yellow buses two years ago,” he said. “But over the last 18 months the DOE reviewed their situation and deemed them not qualified because they were too close. But they didn’t tell anyone how they came to this conclusion.”

The city provides yellow bus service or MetroCards for kindergartners to second graders who live more than half a mile from their school, according to the DOE’s web site. Children in grades three through six can receive bus service or MetroCards if they live more than a mile from school.

Roughly 3,700 students currently receive city busing to schools under variances – with roughly 500 in Queens – according to DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg.

“Parents may request individual variances for their children,” Feinberg said. “These requests are reviewed by our Office of Pupil Transportation. The Queens Borough President’s Panel representative proposed a resolution making certain recommendations about the variance process. Several Panel members expressed a desire to learn more about the process, and DOE will be discussing it with them.”

Fedkowskyj’s proposal, called the Safety Hazard Advisory Review Program (SHARP), would create a committee in each of the city’s 32 school districts. To be approved, the policy will have to receive votes from seven of the 13 members of PEP, who are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and each borough president. The voting will occur at a public hearing on February 9 at Brooklyn Tech High School.

Fedkowskyj says all seven CECs in Queens have expressed support for the proposal – including CEC District 24, which passed a resolution.

Nick Comaianni, president of CEC24, believes children who attend P.S. 229 and live in the Big Six Towers in Woodside should receive yellow bus service due to the traffic conditions at the intersection of Laurel Hill Boulevard and 61st Street – a nine-lane street near the off ramp for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“I think the condition is definitely hazardous,” said Comaianni, who claims Big Six had the most variances rejected from one particular location in the city. “When you look at that, you always have to ask yourself whether a 9 year old has enough sense to make that walk alone, and the answer is no.”

Parents from the Big Six, which is located roughly eight-tenths of a mile from P.S. 229, have expressed outrage that their children are expected to put their lives in danger to get school – particularly when nearly empty school buses visit the building complex each day.

“Our unique situation is that the bus we are discussing still comes to Big Six in the morning and afternoon for kindergarten through grade two, and the bus is about a third full,” said Thomas Haggerty, who pays for private busing for his son, a fourth grader at P.S. 229. “So we are talking about a virtually empty bus, and the older kids at P.S. 229 were put out in the cold and told their intersection was deemed safe.”

Other parents have witnessed the danger and destruction at the intersection firsthand.

“I was in a terrible accident in the exact spot where they want my kids to cross,” said Doris Stroman, who son is a first grader at P.S. 229. “The fear is beyond words. [The DOE] is justifying this by saying parents have to teach their kids how to cross safely. I’m an adult, but I couldn’t prevent getting into an accident when an 18-wheeler blew a red light. If the driver couldn’t see me, how can they see a kid? They are waiting for a tragedy to happen. I don’t know if they are waiting for someone to die.”