Tag Archives: Briarwood

Queens magician to perform on ‘America’s Got Talent’


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC / Below photos courtesy of Roger “Rogue” Quan


Will Briarwood resident Roger “Rogue” Quan be able to work his magic on the “America’s Got Talent” judges this Tuesday night?

The 35-year-old owner of Rogue Magic and Funshop in Elmhurst will appear on the July 1 episode where he will perform a “dangerous magic” act.

Quan is not only aiming for the reality competition’s $1 million prize, but also hopes the show will help him become a world-known performer.

His passion for magic started when he was 6 years old and saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear.

“After that I guess I got bit by the magic bug,” Quan said.

He was soon asking his family to buy him magic tricks, reading books on the art and started performing for whoever wanted to watch, even charging for the shows.

Growing up in Queens, where he lived in Jackson Heights most of his life, magic was just a hobby for Quan.

Following college, the art major had several jobs, but “nothing made me totally happy but performing,” he said.

Quan then took to the streets to sell magic tricks out of a backpack and perform. He later moved the operation to his parent’s home, where people would also come to learn from him.

But Quan knew he needed a proper space and in 2000 found a Rego Park bookstore that had a counter he could use for his burgeoning business. After seven months, the store had to close down, and he decided it was time for his own store. But it wasn’t easy to find someone who would rent to a young man with a magic shop.

He eventually found an affordable space at his current location at 85-08 Queens Blvd., and opened his store in August 2000.

“I was like the king of Queens,” Quan said, describing his business when it first started.

With the Internet and competition from other stores, business is much tougher for his magic shop today, he admits.

“As technology progresses people have seen the bigger things in the world, and magic is pushed aside. It is hard to really impress people nowadays.”

In addition to selling magic tricks, magic performance DVDs, spy equipment and costumes, his store also provides magic classes, entertainers for hire, and has magic and comedy shows.  But he is now trying to transition the business into more of a magic school.

He also has another venture, the Rogue Magic Bar, which opened inside of Panda Asian Bistro in Rego Park this March. The bar, which is about “bringing Vegas to Queens,” features magically-served drinks, magic shows and other entertainment.

As Quan tries to promote his businesses, he is trying to boost his magic career, and “America’s Got Talent” could be his way to do it.

Friends and family were telling him to try out for the show for a long time, but a tweet from the show, saying they were looking for unique talent like him, finally persuaded him to go for it.

“I’m not a very competitive person,” he said.

Quan does everything from close-up to stage magic, including card tricks and illusions with levitation, but excels at magic that has an element of danger to it, which he performed for “America’s Got Talent” judges  Heidi Klum, Mel B, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.

“I really enjoy the danger magic because of the way people react. It’s priceless,” Quan said.

Quan is not the first Queens resident to appear on “America’s Got Talent” this season.

Mike “Mighty Atom Jr.” Greenstein , a 93-year-old Rockaway man, performed his strongman act on the season nine premiere last month, where he earned three out of four yeses from the judges.

To see how Quan did on the July 1 episode of “America’s Got Talent,” click here

 

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Briarwood’s P.S. 117 hosts flawless graduation following fears


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


P.S. 117’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday made the grade.

Nearly 170 graduating fifth-graders were in danger of losing caps and gowns, yearbooks and a senior prom, which are usually sponsored by the Briarwood school’s PTA, because the Department of Education is investigating $30,000 missing from the accounts of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. While the investigation is ongoing, the organization is not allowed to fundraise and is barred from all financial dealings.

But after The Courier reported the situation, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Briarwood Latchkey Generation Facebook group combined to contribute $7,000 to save the school’s end of year ceremony and give the students the graduation experience they were expecting.

Last week, students enjoyed the senior prom and they will receive glossy yearbooks.

 

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City begins $15M Briarwood water main replacement project


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy the Department of Design and Construction


Briarwood’s pipe dreams have been answered.

Officials from the Department of Design Construction recently began construction of a $15 million water main project that will replace nearly century-old pipes in Briarwood, and explained the plan to residents on Thursday in a community meeting.

The project stretches from 84th Road and 164th Street and will end at Hillside Avenue and Queens Blvd. The city’s water pipes, which have been in place since the 1920s according to a DDC representative, will be replaced with larger new ones, accommodating for the population growth in the last century.

“It’s very significant if you consider the fact that you have an increasing population coming into all Queens communities,” Seymour Schwartz, president of the Briarwood Community Association said. “And the fact is that our basic services cannot easily cope with the increases.”

The current pipes, some which are six inches in diameter and others that are eight inches, will be expanded to eight and 12-inch pipes respectively. The expanded diameter will also allow the opportunity to increase water pressure, DDC officials said.

Work on the pipes started a few weeks ago and will continue until November 2015. Workers will remove and replace pipes one block at a time during the year.

While pipes are being changed on a block, the water for that block will be turned off from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., and residents and business owners will be notified 24 hours in advance. Officials said it should take between one to three days to complete a block. Despite the nuisance, residents were excited for the upgrade.

“It’s not that terrible,” Schwartz said. “Basically it’s shut off for one day for each person. When it’s all over, it’ll be good.”

 

 

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Suspect wanted in hammer attack robberies charged


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYPD

Updated Tuesday, May 13 7:05 a.m.

The hammer-wielding robber wanted in three attacks, including an assault on a woman in Queens, has been charged in connection to the two of the incidents, police said.

Anthony Coward, 28, who police identified as the suspect in the robberies over the weekend, allegedly approached a 23-year-old man and struck him in the head with a hammer on May 4, at about 11:00 a.m., at the Rockaway Avenue A/C subway station at Fulton Street in Brooklyn. He then continued to beat the rest of his body with the hammer before he fled with the victim’s wallet, police said. The victim was taken to Brookdale Hospital and released.

He then approached a 32-year-old man, who was trying to buy a MetroCard at the same Rockaway Avenue subway station in Brooklyn at about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, and struck him on the head with a hammer and demanded money, cops said. Once the victim handed over the money, Coward fled. The victim was taken to Brookdale Hospital and released.

Coward has been charged with robbery in both of the Brooklyn attacks, according to police.

In another attack that is believed to be connected to the other incidents, a 26-year-old reportedly pregnant woman was robbed and assaulted on the morning of March 5 on Pershing Crescent in Briarwood, cops said. The suspect came up to her from behind and struck her on the head with a silver hammer and fled with her handbag. The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition. The investigation is still ongoing into that robbery, officials said.

 

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Police identify suspect in hammer attack robberies


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the NYPD

The NYPD has identified the suspect they say robbed and attacked his victims with a hammer in Queens and Brooklyn.

Anthony Coward, 28, approached his first victim, a 26-year-old reportedly pregnant woman, on March 5 at about 7 a.m. in front of 138-49 Pershing Crescent in Briarwood, cops said. Coward allegedly came up to her from behind and struck her on the head with a silver hammer and fled with her handbag. The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition, according to police.

On May 4, at about 11:00 a.m., at the Rockaway Avenue A/C subway station at Fulton Street in Brooklyn, Coward approached a 23-year-old man and struck him in the head with a hammer and then went on to strike the man’s body, before he fled with the victim’s wallet, police said. The man was taken to Brookdale Hospital and released.

Then on May 7 at about 9:20 a.m. Coward approached a 32-year-old man, who was trying to buy a MetroCard at the same Rockaway Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, and struck him on the head with a hammer and demanded money, cops said. Once the victim handed over the money, Coward fled. The victim was taken to Brookdale Hospital and released.

Police describe Coward as black, 6 feet 1 inches tall, with black hair and brown eyes, and 160 pounds.

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.

 

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Parents of P.S. 117 students seeking donations to fund school’s graduation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Parents at P.S. 117 in Briarwood are asking for donations so their children can have the full graduation experience. 

They started a crowd funding page on giveforward.com, hoping to raise about $4,500, which is needed so the nearly 170  graduating fifth-graders can receive caps and gowns, yearbooks and a senior prom.

The graduation items and senior dance are usually sponsored by the school’s PTA. However, because the Department of Education is investigating $30,000 missing from the accounts of the school’s PTA—which The Courier first reported earlier this month—the current PTA is barred from fundraising and any other financial dealings, officials said.

Parents are organizing the school dance and the buying of the yearbook, and caps and gowns by themselves. They have received more than $1,000 already.

To donate, click here.

 

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Briarwood man fatally shot in Ozone Park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

A 20-year-old man was fatally shot in Ozone Park Saturday morning, according to the NYPD.

Cops found Briarwood resident Branden Santiago unconscious at about 5 a.m. in the vicinity of 103rd Avenue and 108th Street, police said.

Santiago was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. After further investigation, Santiago was found to have sustained two gunshot wounds to his head, according to cops.

Police have made no arrests at this time and the investigation is still ongoing.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: P.S. 117 PTA missing $30K, graduation ruined for students


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Nearly 170 graduating students of P.S. 117 in Briarwood may not receive their caps and gowns and may miss out on senior events at the end of their elementary school experience because $30,000 is missing from the accounts of the school’s PTA, The Courier has learned.

The Department of Education (DOE) has launched a probe into the missing money, and the current PTA is barred from fundraising and any other financial dealings, officials said.

Parents learned earlier this year there may not be a senior dance, a school yearbook or graduation regalia because those items were all funded by the now-penniless parent teacher organization.

“I feel hurt, because it’s not right that our kids don’t get these things,” said Nicole Lopez, a parent from Jamaica whose son, Justice, is in the graduating class. “Other kids got them and they take them for granted, but it’s a memory and memories last forever.”

Graduating seniors will receive T-shirts and go on a senior trip, for which parents are required to pay
$65 per child to offset costs. They will also have a graduation ceremony with awards, but without wearing traditional garbs.

The school’s principal, Paula Cunningham, refused to comment on the situation and directed calls to the DOE. The DOE confirmed the audit, but wouldn’t answer further questions.

“This  matter is currently under review  internally, we are  unable to  provide additional  information at  this time due to the pendency of the ongoing investigation,” a DOE spokesman wrote in an email.

During a recent meeting at the  school led by the  new PTA  leadership,  Cunningham  told   parents  that   her hands are  tied  in  the  situation, even  as  parents suggested  increasing senior dues  to cover  the nearly  $6,000 needed to make the  graduation special.

The  dance is  estimated to  cost about $2,000, the yearbook could be  about $1,650 and  caps  and  gowns would be $13.50 per student, or more  than $2,200 total, according to parents’ estimates.

“We  as  a building, as  a school, are  allowed to  have one  fundraiser for  the  entire year.  That  fundraiser was supposed to be for the entire school,” Cunningham said. “We  don’t  have  funds that  we  can  spend on  caps  and gowns. We  don’t  have  funds that  we  can  spend on  a prom. We sent  out  letters explaining that  the  PTA paid for things that  cost  a lot of money.”

Parents and  students are  outraged and  they  feel their kids  are  being  thrown under the  “school” bus  because not  much is being  done to remedy the  situation.

“I think [the  school is] being  selfish and  that  they just want to do what they  want, and  they  aren’t  thinking of the  kids,”  Lopez said.

Dozens of parents have  begun to hold weekly  senior committee meetings, sacrificing time  on  busy  weekday nights to  figure  out  how  raise  the  necessary money to create a yearbook and  senior dance.

But time is against them:  the “Moving Up Ceremony” is scheduled for June  25.

While  parents are  scrambling, kids  are  hoping they don’t  lose  out  of their  full graduation celebration after years  of hard work.

“I want to  be  able  to  remember fifth  grade,” Justice said,  “because it’s the  only  year [in elementary school] that  I’m actually going  to be able  to graduate.”

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Star of Queens: Aida Vernon, president, Briarwood Action Network


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

aida vernon

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Aida Vernon is the president of Briarwood Action Network, a civic association that addresses problems in the Briarwood community.

BACKGROUND:  Vernon was actually born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rego Park. She has been living in Briarwood since 1996. By day, Vernon is a lawyer, by night she is president of the Briarwood Action Network.

She started the Briarwood Action Network in the summer of 2011.  She wanted to create a forum for her neighbors to voice their community concerns. She formed this group out of the impulse to engage with neighbors.

“I, along with the collaboration of the members of the board, am very passionate to get people involved and helping the community,” said Vernon.

GOALS: According to Vernon, the Briarwood Action Network does not have one single focus.

“Along with the help of the NYC Department of Parks and the event “It’s My Park Day,” we were able to get our community involved in the beautification of [Hoover Park],” said Vernon.

In addition to holding informational meetings for the neighborhood to voice its concerns, the group has also conducted holiday food and toy drives, collecting 1,600 food items this holiday season. In the coming year, Vernon hopes to continue with the projects they have been working on.

BEST MEMORY:  Out of everything the Briarwood Action Network has accomplished Vernon said her favorite memory has to be the It’s My Park Day, which they have been holding every spring and fall.

“Everyone gets involved, from younger kids to senior citizens, they all come to plant flowers, listen to the live jazz music, and the event has proven to be a great way to get people involved.”

The Briarwood Action Network also received an award for its outstanding participation in  It’s My Park Day.

INSPIRATION: Vernon credits her fellow board members as her inspiration.  “They are all so passionate about what we do, and I could not have done it without them,” said Vernon.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:  According to Vernon, their biggest challenge is getting more people actively involved. “Our key goal is to inspire others to do with us,” she said.

KATELYN DISALVO

 

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Police searching for suspects in Flushing, Briarwood robberies


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Video Courtesy NYPD

Police are looking for two men wanted in connection with two robberies on Saturday.

According to the NYPD, the first robbery occurred at approximately 12:25 a.m. in the vicinity of 58th Road and 138th Street in Flushing. The two suspects approached a 22-year-old male victim, placed him in a chokehold, displayed a firearm and then removed his Samsung Galaxy cellphone and wallet. No medical attention was requested after the incident.

The second robbery took place the same day around 12:45 a.m.near 84th Drive and 148th Street in Briarwood , said police. The suspects approached the 31-year-old male and 38-year-old female victims, displayed a firearm and removed their iPhone, purse and wallet, and then fled. No medical attention was requested after this incident.

According to police, the suspects are described as being 18 to 20-year-old males, approximately 5’7”to 5’9” with thin builds.

The NYPD has released a video of the first robbery in Flushing.

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.

 

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City Council District 24 candidate Andrea Veras kicks off campaign


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Andrea Veras

City Council candidate Andrea Veras kicked off her campaign with dozens of supporters on August 3.

The Briarwood activist and paralegal is vying to replace term-limited Councilmember James Gennaro in the 24th District, which stretches from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica.

“Improving the living conditions of my community has always been my passion,” Veras said, “and I want to bring a fresh perspective to city management, transparency and leadership to all the communities comprised in District 24.”

Veras, a single mother of three, immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1990.

She said she wants to get youngsters interested in their education and community events and create affordable housing and healthcare programs.

Veras will run against former Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Mujib Rahman in the Democratic primary on September 10. The winner will face off with Republican candidate Alex Blishteyn in the general election.

 

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More security cameras coming to Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Police will install new sets of eyes in parts of Briarwood, Jamaica and Pomonok, according to a Queens lawmaker.

Seventeen NYPD security cameras are coming to the area’s high-traffic locations thanks to $600,000 in funding secured by Councilmember James Gennaro.

They can be found around Rufus King Park in Jamaica, near Archbishop Molloy High School and along Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, officials said.

“I am proud to have been a strong supporter of the use of these cameras,” Gennaro said.

Installation is slated to be completed by the city’s police department within two years.

The legislator said the cameras “are an essential part of the NYPD’s crime-fighting and counterterrorism efforts.”

Another 57 security cameras are coming to Queens, Borough President Helen Marshall announced last month.

 

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Queens daughter raises funds for handicapped dad


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Herman

His summer days were spent at the beach with his loyal dog by his side.

But for the last three years, a crippling neurological disease has kept Gary Herman away from the shore.

Now his daughter, Rachel, is on a mission to mobilize the man who supported his family for decades.

“My dad worked hard his whole life. [He] provided a good life for his family,” said the 23-year-old. “I want to give him a chance to have the independence he once had again. I want to take him to the boardwalk this summer.”

Gary Herman, 59, of Fresh Meadows, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2011. The rapidly progressive illness, which attacks nerve cells in voluntary muscles, has made the retired teacher incapable of walking or moving much of his body.

“He used to go to the gym and walk the dog every morning,” said Rachel, who lives in Briarwood.

“His foot was dropped,” she said, recounting the early days of his condition. “He couldn’t lift it up all the way. He thought it was a problem with his muscles in his leg because he was going to the gym too much.”

Now the costs of renting a van each day, coupled with hospital bills, are piling up, Rachel said.

The doting daughter, who has three part-time jobs, has been raising funds to buy her dad a specially-equipped van to take him to doctors’ appointments, support groups — and back to the Long Beach boardwalk, which he has cherished his whole life.

“It’s been difficult to accept, but I just have to keep a clear mind about it and try not to get sad,” she said. “If I get sad, it’s just going to be pointless.”

Rachel said her family would later donate their van to the ALS Association’s greater New York chapter.

So far she has raised $5,614 for her cause, just $2,000 short of her goal.

To donate, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-get-my-dad-a-van or email getdadavan@gmail.com.

“I think it would be nice for my dad to see the ocean again,” Rachel said.


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Elderly Queens man missing


| brennison@queenscourier.com

1790-12 107 pct Zhang

A silver alert has been issued for a missing Queens man last seen yesterday morning in Briarwood.

Hong Sheng Zhang, 78, went missing at 11:30 a.m. yesterday near the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Main Street.

Zhang, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is 5-feet-3-inches tall, 120 pounds, with grey shaved hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen wearing a waist length green jacket, a white and yellow baseball hat and yellow pants.

Anyone with information on Zhang’s whereabouts is asked to call 9-1-1.

Duped Queens cell customers compensated


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Relief has been slowly trickling in for a handful of the hundreds scammed two months ago by an authorized Queens T-Mobile dealer, but deceived victims say they’ll never gain back their wasted time, stolen money and lost trust.

“It was a huge loss. I don’t have words to describe that,” said Dr. Srijan Kumar Bera, 34, of Kew Gardens. “I couldn’t sleep well because of this.”

Bera is one of at least 300 Queens customers who say they were cheated by a T-Mobile preferred retailer — a South Asian man they identified as Raj, who owned two Queens stores, at 138-40A 84th Drive in Briarwood and 134-11 Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park.

Both stores have been shuttered since the end of July and the owner and his employees, victims said, have fled, as the Courier reported in an August 2 cover story.

Bera said the devious dealer, who owns and operates a company called Jagdeep Global Products, Inc., billed him for five unauthorized lines tacked on to his account without permission, having already pocketed $200 in direct cash payments, before bolting.

He was left with $1,200 in charges from T-Mobile thanks to the five lines he said he never used, as well as disconnected service.

A spokesperson for T-Mobile had confirmed the fraudulent activity committed by the store owner and said the company apologizes and is taking “fast action” to correct the issues.

“We have worked together with the wholesaler responsible for the store and the owner has been replaced,” the spokesperson said, adding that those negatively affected should call customer service.

But duped customers said service representatives gave them the cold shoulder, saying the gripes they had were between themselves and the dealer and not the company.

“T-Mobile was not willing to take the blame on themselves,” Bera said. “They kept saying it’s between me and the dealer, but the dealer was using the company’s banner to give us the deals. That was where I felt really hopeless.”

Bera said he went to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) after calling T-Mobile’s Risk Assessment department every night, and writing several letters, to no avail. He said intervention by the BBB and the threat of hiring a lawyer helped speed up the process.

T-Mobile reps then waived $1,000 in termination fees and another $800 from the total bill.

Taliff Mohammed, 44, of Ozone Park — who was billed $1,271.92 in payments after also being signed up for five contracted lines instead of the three prepaid ones he wanted — said charges against him were dropped as well.

“It took some time, but they adjusted everything so I owe them no money,” he said. “It was unfortunate that I was taken advantage of but the big picture is that I wasn’t held responsible for that amount of money.”