Tag Archives: closure

Sandy work to cause weekend closure on Queens Midtown Tunnel

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

The Queens-bound tube at the Midtown Tunnel will be closed to traffic this weekend from 10:30 p.m. Friday, May 29 through 5:30 a.m. Monday, June 1 for removal of ceiling panels damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

During the closure, motorists driving into Queens should enter through the tunnel at 34th Street between Second and Third Avenues. Manhattan-bound motorists can exit normally at the 37th Street exit to head uptown.

The work will take place over the next two months and will require six weekend-long closures of the Queens-bound tube, although they are not planned for consecutive weekends. One lane will remain open in each direction in the remaining tube for cars and buses, but all commercial traffic must use an alternate route.

Traffic agents and signs will be in place to help direct motorists, and all should allow extra travel time and use an alternate route if possible.


Sandy work to close Queens Midtown Tunnel tube for six weekends

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA / Oscar Gonzalez.

Work to remove ceiling panels damaged during Hurricane Sandy will close one tube of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for six non-consecutive weekends starting May 15.

The MTA announced Monday that it has awarded a Staten Island construction firm, BHW Contracting Inc., a $1.9 million contract to do the work, which will take place over the next two months.

The 2012 superstorm flooded the tunnel connecting Manhattan and Queens with nearly 12 million gallons of water, damaging both tubes, including destroying their ceiling panels.

The closures will affect the Queens-bound tube, with the first one scheduled for May 15 to 18, beginning 10:30 p.m. Friday through 5:30 a.m. Monday. One lane will be open in each direction in the remaining tube for cars and buses. All other commercial traffic must use an alternate route while two-way traffic is in effect.

Queens-bound drivers should enter the tunnel at 34th Street between Second and Third avenues. Manhattan-bound motorists can exit normally at the 37th Street exit to head uptown. Downtown Manhattan-bound traffic should use the Marginal tunnel exit to 38th Street and then continue on to Second Avenue. The 34th Street and Second Avenue ramps will be closed to traffic exiting in Manhattan.


Two Queens-bound lanes of Throgs Neck Bridge to close overnight this weekend

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Marisa Baldeo


Two of the three Queens-bound lanes on the Throgs Neck Bridge will be closed during overnight hours this weekend, while one lane will be closed during the day.

From Friday, Aug. 22 at 10 p.m. through Monday, Aug. 25, at 5 a.m., one lane to Queens will be closed due to construction. One additional lane will stay closed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on all three days.

According to the MTA, these closures can cause delays in traffic movement, so motorists should use the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge or Robert F. Kennedy Bridge as an alternative.

This is the fourth of the seven non-consecutive weekends that the MTA needs to replace 90,000 square feet of binder and asphalt overlay to deliver on its promise of a smoother riding experience, according to the agency. All work is heavily dependent on good weather.

For up-to-date information on MTA service status visit www.mta.info.



Lefferts branch of Queens Library to temporarily close for roof installation

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


The books at the Lefferts library will soon have a new cover.

The branch, located at 103-84 Lefferts Blvd. in Richmond Hill, is temporarily closing, starting at the end of business on July 26, to install a new roof. The facility expects to reopen by the end of September.

Residents are advised to use the three closest Queens Library locations: 118-14 Hillside Ave. in Richmond Hill, 92-24 Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park and 128-16 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park.

During the closure, limited service will also be provided by a mobile library.



JFK Airport reopens after plane skids off icy runway

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

JFK Airport has reopened for arriving and departing flights after icy conditions reportedly caused a plane to skid off a runway early Sunday morning.

The airport suspended flights about 8:30 a.m. due to ice conditions on the runway and reopened about 10:30 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A Delta Connection 4100 plane slid into the snow, but there were no reported injuries, according to the New York Daily News.

Residual delays are expected.

Bayside rallies to save after-school program

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A community rallied in Bayside to save a beloved Beacon program from another year of budget cuts.

“This feels like déjà vu. Year in and year out, we have more and more budget cuts,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “We cannot balance budgets on the backs of our students.”

The after-school enrichment program at M.S. 158 Marie Curie is slated for closure at the end of the school year. It was saved from the chopping block by the City Council last year after the Department of Youth and Community Development tried to shut down seven Beacons across the city.

“These types of cuts go on year after year. It’s a continual battle with the city to restore the funding,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “We have a fight on our hands, but the community stands behind this Beacon center.”

Beacon has been a “support system” for 20 years and the only program within Community Board 11, said Martenia Miller, site director of the school’s Beacon program.

More than 100 students take part in the enrichment program daily. Nearly 70 of them are on the school’s honor roll, Miller said.

Community Board 11 chair Jerry Iannece said the city mistakes the program as a luxury.

“This is a necessity,” he said. “Although we live in an affluent area with nice homes, lots of the kids who go to the Beacon program are kids who need it. We all have to rally our forces, circle our wagons and do everything we can to keep this program here.”

Beacon operates after school, on weekends, school holidays and throughout the summer. It focuses on leadership and skill growth, serving youth and adults.

There are 80 Beacon programs citywide.

Miller said the program at M.S. 158 boasts a talented chamber orchestra, a dance team, literacy classes and gym.

“Beacon helps kids get a place to stay, helps unemployment, helps kids socialize and become more active,” said Anna Poubouridis, 13. “In my opinion, those are some very important things.”



College Point Catholic school shutting its doors

| mchan@queenscourier.com

The final bell will soon ring for a Catholic elementary school in College Point, officials said.

St. Fidelis School, at 124-06 14th Avenue, will close its doors for good in June after more than a century of serving the community, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which oversees Queens.

“St. Fidelis School will be fully operational until the last day of school, continuing to provide a quality education,” said Monsignor Denis Heron, an administrator at the school. “We place our trust in God and ask His guidance as we move into the future. We ask your understanding and cooperation.”

The nursery through eighth grade institution faced declining enrollment and increased operating costs, officials said in a statement.

Enrollment at St. Fidelis dropped to 144 students this year from 242 five years ago, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said. Parish schools in Brooklyn and Queens, who serve kindergarten through eighth grades, are identified as “at-risk” of closing when enrollment falls below 225 students.

Diocese officials also said the parish, which opened in 1857, does not have “the financial resources to bridge the gap” between the $3,400 tuition per student and the actual $6,119 per-pupil costs.

Neighboring parishes will take in students from St. Fidelis, according to Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Plans are also underway, Chadzutko said, to place faculty members seeking teaching jobs at another Catholic school in Brooklyn or Queens on priority lists.



Fighting to keep L.I.C. HS open

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Long Island City High School students are teaching a lesson in devotion by refusing to “turn” their backs on their school and allow their educators to be dismissed.
L.I.C., located at 14-30 Broadway, is among 26 schools across the city the Department of Education (DOE) has designated for Turnaround – which involves closing the school at the end of the academic year, reopening under a different name in the fall and replacing up to 50 percent of the teachers.

More than 100 students, teachers and elected officials rallied on the steps of L.I.C. on April 16 – a day before a DOE public hearing at the school – to protest the city’s plan.
Amira, the L.I.C. senior class vice president and an organizer of the rally, said students “are not going to go down without a fight.”
Teachers have also expressed outrage over the DOE’s intentions, and are requesting aid from the city rather than attacks.

Senator Michael Gianaris, an alumnus of L.I.C., believes the city is playing political games with kids’ education.

L.I.C. was included on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools during both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. The school – which was initially designated for the less severe Transformation plan – was receiving Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system. By instituting the Turnaround model – a program which does not require teacher evaluations – the city will be eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state. L.I.C. would be eligible for $1.55 million in supplemental federal funding.
According to DOE records, L.I.C. ranks in the bottom 18 percent among city high schools in attendance with 81 percent and was given an overall progress report grade of C in both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

The school, given a Quality Review score of “Proficient” on its most recent evaluation, has shown significant improvement in graduating students over the last three years, with graduation rates increasing from 56 percent in 2008-2009 to 66 percent in 2010-2011.

L.I.C. currently serves 3,386 kids, and despite the overhaul, all current students and incoming ninth graders who have applied and been matched to L.I.C. will have a seat in the new school.

As part of its plans for the replacement school, the DOE intends to modify the structure of the school day schedule, strengthen small learning communities, modify curricula and add an advisory program.

“The proposal to close L.I.C. and re-open a new school in its place will allow the best teachers to stay, improve the school’s structure and quality of teaching, and potentially allow us to access millions of dollars in funding to help the school improve,” said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas.

The DOE’s proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Education Policy (PEP), a committee composed of 13 members assigned by the five borough presidents and Mayor Bloomberg, on April 26.

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis
Hundreds rallied outside Long Island City High School to protest the potential Turnaround of the school.

Community comes out for August Martin

| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Courier / Photos

In the past year, August Martin High School has been entered into the city’s restart program, lost a principal and twice been placed on the list of schools to close, which had many community leaders asking why their high school was being targeted.

“This is not about the progress of August Martin; this is political,” said Rona Freiser, a Queens United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative and teacher at the school for 28 years, at a rally. “[Mayor Michael Bloomberg] is vengeful.”
August Martin is one of 26 high schools on the list for Turnaround. The Department of Education (DOE) held a public hearing at the school on Monday, April 16 to allow for community input on the proposed closure.

“The DOE does not listen. This [hearing] is just to make it legal,” said State Senator Shirley Huntley. “It is part of the process, the process to destroy our children.”
If the Jamaica school is turned around, it would close and reopen under a new name. The students at the school would be guaranteed a spot and half the teachers would possibly be replaced.

“Schools always need to be made better, but you need resources,” said Huntley. “When you close a school and reopen it, you spend more money than if you just give the schools the resources and let it function.”

The high school was entered into the restart program in September, which qualified it for School Improvement Grants (SIG), but because the UFT and DOE failed to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations, the money dried up and put August Martin in line for Turnaround.
The restart model is meant for schools to receive support to improve and not be closed.

Had the two sides reached an agreement, the school would have continued its course in the restart program, a DOE spokesperson said.
“There is no educational justification for closing down this school. And it’s not just that the school has a graduation rate better than the average in the city,” said Leo Casey, the UFT vice president for high schools.

The school’s graduation rate has improved from 49 percent in 2009 to 67 percent last year; the city-wide average was 65 percent. The school received a “D” on its most recent progress report.

“It takes a community to raise a child and one bad mayor to destroy that same child,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Anthony Cromer, August Martin’s former principal, resigned on Thursday, April 5, though many involved in the school say he was forced out.
“[Cromer] should have had the chance to leave the school with dignity, instead he was led out,” said Assemblymember Vivian Cook, who said she was told by Cromer that he did not want to step down.

Gillian Smith was installed as the school’s principal and DOE Deputy Chancellor March Steinberg said she would be the proposed leader of the new school.
“How do you expect the school to grow when you do that to a principal and expect the kids to care anymore?” asked Cleavon Evans, president of the August Martin Alumni Association.

Many students broke down at the sight of their principal being led away, said the school’s parent-teacher-student association president, Jose Ferruzola.
“It was traumatic to see their principal taken out like a criminal.”

The final vote on the school’s future is scheduled for April 26.


Death knell for Peninsula Hospital

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Peninsula Hospital has been sent to the morgue.

The foundering Far Rockaway facility has officially shut its doors for good, officials said.

The State Department of Health (DOH) did not return calls for comment, but former board members said the institution closed after 5 p.m. on Monday, April 9.

“It’s a shame, and it’s terrible for the people of Rockaway,” said former board member Joe Mure. “It’s really sad what has happened with this hospital.”

Peninsula submitted a closure plan to the DOH, which as of April 3 was still under review, according to agency spokesperson Jeffrey Hammond. While trustee Lori Lapin Jones determined on March 26 to shut down operations at the hospital, Hammond said at the time there was no time frame as to when the hospital would close.

The community has held nightly rallies in protest of closure, even marching en masse in front of DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah’s Manhattan office as recently as Wednesday, April 4.

“It’s devastating. The impact that closing this institution will have on our community is going to be enormous,” said Dr. Ed Williams, president of the Far Rockaway NAACP. “Despite what a lot of folks who are actually orchestrators in terms of closing the hospital say, people will certainly die in this community with just one hospital. The fatalities are going to be incredible.”

Williams said he nervously anticipates beach season — and potential drownings — at the Rockaways, which he said sees close to 10,000 visitors each week during the summer.

St. John’s Episcopal is now the only hospital on the peninsula, serving more than 100,000 residents. According to Mure, its emergency department has been placed on diversion several times since Peninsula’s closure, and Democratic Assembly District Leader Lew Simon alleged at least three people have already died on their way to St. John’s — a facility he said is “obviously busting at the seams.”

“They have too many people in their emergency room,” Mure said. “In an emergency situation, they have to leave the area. That could be a matter of life and death.”

A St. John’s spokesperson said the hospital was only on diversion for an hour on Monday, April 9. CEO Nelson Toebbe said operations at the hospital are running “smoothly.” He said plans are in the works to hire more workers and expand the 257-bed hospital.

“To meet this challenge requires everyone to pull together. St. John’s asks for everyone’s support and understanding in the coming months,” Toebbe said.

Peninsula was pinned for critical deficiencies and failed state health inspections on February 23, which forced the hospital to temporarily halt its emergency care services and stop admitting new patients.

At least two different investors expressed interest in saving the hospital, Mure said — including Chicago-based People’s Choice Hospital — but rescue efforts were too little, too late. The DOH has also revoked Peninsula’s certificate of operation, which Simon said renders the potential saviors moot regardless.

“I think if we had more time and more money, things could have been different,” Mure said.

Jones did not return calls for comment.

Rockaway Beach resident Barbara Reiche, 67, said her husband suffers from asbestosis and diabetes. He has been in and out of Peninsula within the last year-and-a-half, she said.

“With that hospital closing, if St. John’s and Jamaica Hospital are on diversion, then the closest hospital is like 45 minutes from here. He would never make it any further than Peninsula. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him if he has to go the hospital again,” Reiche said, fighting through tears.

Peninsula Hospital to close

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Officials plan to pull the plug on Peninsula Hospital.

The floundering Far Rockaway facility is required to submit a closure plan to the state’s Department of Health (DOH), said Michael Moran, a spokesperson for the agency.

News of the termination came after a long series of unshakable bankruptcy battles and instability at the hospital.

Failed state health inspections found the hospital’s lab to be “a danger and threat” to patients on February 23, which forced the hospital to temporarily halt its emergency care services and stop admitting new patients.

Peninsula then had to lay off over 240 employees this month in order to conserve cash while the hospital was “on diversion,” according to officials.

A court-ordered bankruptcy trustee — Long Island attorney Lori Lapin Jones — was recently appointed to take over all operations at Peninsula. She determined on March 26, according to bankruptcy court files, that revival was not in the cards for Peninsula.

The sudden news has even thrown Borough President Helen Marshall off guard.

“I was assured in writing [on] March 12 that [State Commissioner of Health] Nirav Shah’s office was working closely with Peninsula Hospital to provide support to their efforts to come back into compliance. That makes [this] announcement particularly bewildering,” she said. “There is a medical crisis in Rockaway. One hospital is now responsible for the care of more than 100,000 residents living on a peninsula that has limited access and egress options.”

Marshall said her office commissioned a study in 2006, finding the healthcare delivery system in Queens not to be sustainable in its current state. She said she recommended there should be “one new comprehensive hospital built in the Rockaways.”

“No one listened,” Marshall said. “We now have a situation where reports have surfaced that St. John’s Hospital is turning people away, while nearby Peninsula Hospital is laying off approximately 1,000 individuals.”

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has been absorbing the brunt of Peninsula’s patient since the lab shut down last month.

According to CEO Nelson Toebbe, the hospital “stands ready to meet the healthcare needs of the community.”

Toebbe said St. John’s is currently waiting for state approval for plans to expand its emergency room, ambulatory care, surgery, intensive care and in-patient facilities.

“Assuming state approval is granted quickly, those steps should be complete in the coming months,” he said. “We have been working diligently with the DOH to obtain approvals for expanded capacity within our facilities, since talks of the potential Peninsula Hospital Center closure began months ago. We will move as fast as possible subject to required reviews and access to capital.”

DOH officials said the agency would monitor operations at Peninsula to ensure an orderly closure, while working with other providers to make sure patients have access to services that will be closing and making sure medical records are transferred to appropriate providers upon the request of patients.

Moran said there is no time frame yet as to when Peninsula’s doors will close for good.

“The hospital needs to put together and file a closure plan,” he said. “We will have to wait to see that.”

Peninsula Hospital declined to comment.

Library president pleads guilty to drunk driving

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

[Watch] Queens rape suspect caught on camera

A serial southeast Queens rapist was caught on camera as he attempted his third sexual assault in two months. The video, released today by police, shows the suspect approaching the victim from behind and grabbing her around the neck.  The suspect placed a sharp object to the victim’s back before dragging her behind a house where he attempted to rape her, police say. The incident took place Wednesday, December 7 at 2 a.m. near 154th Street. Read More & Watch the Video: Queens Courier

DOE Releases Second Batch Of School Closures

The Department of Education announced this afternoon the second half of its list of planned school closures. Today’s list includes two elementary, two middle, and three high schools. In addition to the closures, six others will see their middle school grades phased out. They include P.S. 161 The Crown in Brooklyn, Academy For Scholarship And Entrepreneurship in the Bronx, Brooklyn Collegiate: A College Board School in Brooklyn, P.S. 298 Dr. Betty Shabazz in Brooklyn, Frederick Douglass Academy IV in Brooklyn and Wadleigh Secondary School For The Performing Arts in Manhattan. Read More: NY1

Library president pleads guilty to drunk driving

The president of the New York Public Library pleaded guilty this morning to driving drunk in his library-issued Audi. Judge Jennifer Schecter didn’t exactly throw the book at Marx – under the terms of his plea deal with prosecutors, the first time offender will pay a $500 fine and have his license revoked for six months. He’ll also have to submit to 16 counseling sessions and complete a drunk driving program, and have an ignition interlock device installed in any car he chooses to drive after he gets his license back. Read More: New York Post

Missing ex-FBI agent in hostage video: ‘Help me’

The family of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished years ago in Iran, issued a plea to his kidnappers Friday and, for the first time, released a hostage video they received from his unidentified captors. The video message released on the Levinson family’s website publicly transformed the mysterious disappearance into an international hostage standoff. Despite a lengthy investigation, however, the US government has no evidence of who is holding the 63-year-old father of seven. Read More & Watch the Video: New York Post

Divided Queens Republicans court Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich

The borough’s fractured Republican Party is now divided over who should be the next presidential candidate. City Councilman Eric Ulrich was recently tapped to chair Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign in New York City. Just a few days later, the Queens Republican Party sent out a press release and photo touting a meeting between county chairman Phil Ragusa and Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Read More: Daily News