Tag Archives: College Point

Funeral set for Avonte Oquendo, mom files suit against city


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After human remains found in College Point were identified as missing teen Avonte Oquendo earlier this week, funeral plans have been set for this Saturday.

A private ceremony, opened only to friends and family, will be held at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home located at 199 Bleecker St. in Manhattan from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

A funeral mass will follow and be open to the public, beginning at 11 a.m., at St. Joseph’s Church, at 371 Sixth Ave.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that the remains found washed up along the East River in College Point last week were those of the missing teen, according to the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Avonte was last seen almost four months ago at his Long Island City school.

The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and are pending on future tests, according to Bolcer.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to court records.

Fontaine filed the court action demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte, according to published reports.

After a passerby found an arm and legs on the evening of Jan. 16 near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, as well as clothing Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to cops.

Police said most of the body had been recovered as of Monday.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Earlier this month, the family’s attorney David Perecman obtained a Department of Education (DOE) occurrence report which showed a timeline of what happened before, during and after the boy went missing – but only left larger question marks.

Perecman said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the DOE, for wrongful death.

 

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Remains IDed as missing teen Avonte Oquendo


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 4:27

BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO, MAGGIE HAYES, CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE M. CULLEN 

The search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo has come to a devastating end for his family who never gave up hope that he would return home alive.

Almost four months after he was last seen at his Long Island City school, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed remains found washed up in College Point are those of the missing autistic teen.

The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and is pending on future tests, according to spokesperson Julie Bolcer.

After a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday night near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Clothing discovered with the remains seemed to indicate that the search for Avonte could soon be over.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers found with the remains matched those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, including a skull, another arm, jaw and rib bones, as well as a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s older brother Daniel Oquendo Jr. took to Instagram Tuesday afternoon to remember the teen.

“Rest in peace little brother. This world never deserved you. I will long for the day I can join you in paradise. Forever in our hearts, prayers, and mind. Love You,” he said in the post.

Oquendo also took the time to thank all who helped the family search for his brother during the past few months.

“The tenacity the world, especially NYC, has shown in regards to finding Avonte and spreading awareness has been unmatched in comparison to any other missing child investigation. For that we are forever grateful to you,” he said.

At the end of the post, Oquendo asks everyone to respect his family and give them both space and time as they mourn Avonte. 

“Thank you for the prayers. God bless, and may Avonte rest in peace,” he said.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier her son was afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Earlier this month, Perecman obtained a Department of Education occurrence report which showed a timeline of what happened before, during and after the boy went missing – but only left larger question marks. 

Perecman said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education (DOE), for wrongful death. 

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña released a statement Tuesday saying the school community is in mourning and extended her deepest condolences to Avonte’s family. 

“Over the past several months, I have been among the countless New Yorkers who have been holding our breath in hope that Avonte Oquendo would be found unharmed. And I am among the many who are heartbroken to learn the news today,” said Fariña. “As Chancellor, I am determined that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again. Let Avonte remind us how important it is that we continue to look out for one another.”

 

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Attorney postpones $25M lawsuit as Avonte Oquendo’s family awaits test results


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 2:52

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

As tests are underway to determine if the human remains and clothing found in College Point belong to missing teen Avonte Oquendo, the family’s lawyer has decided to hold back on the lawsuit until the results are known.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police also found jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said. Another arm and a skull were additionally found over the weekend. As of Monday, the search is continuing at the scene in College Point. 

Police said most of the body has been recovered.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s family is still remaining hopeful, even though the developing investigation have been “weakening” for them, said Perecman.

“They’re a strong group so they’re doing the best they can,” said Perecman. “A small window has opened up of recognition of the grim reality. But they are still holding on hope.”

Perecman said they hope to have the test results by Wednesday.

He initially said on Friday that he would be filing a lawsuit Monday, focused against the Department of Education and school safety, seeking $25 million. Yet now he said he will be holding off with the lawsuit until the test results come in because the “nature of the lawsuit could change.”

The autistic teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

 

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More remains found potentially belonging to Avonte Oquendo


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

College Point

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

Authorities continue to search the College Point site this weekend where human remains and clothing possibly belonging to missing teen Avonte Oquendo were found, as tests are underway to determine the body’s identity.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police later turned up jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said.

Another arm was additionally recovered over the weekend and the search is continuing Sunday, according to published reports.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Tests to determine if the body is Avonte will take “days,” cops said Friday.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Perecman will file suit on Monday, seeking $25 million in a civil suit focused against the Department of Education and school safety.

 

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Human remains, clothing possibly belonging to Avonte Oquendo found in College Point


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Robert Stridiron

Updated Saturday, Jan. 18, 10:10 a.m.

BY TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

Divers continue to comb through the East River after human remains washed ashore in College Point, potentially belonging to missing child Avonte Oquendo.

If DNA tests link the parts to Avonte, the family wants the city to pay up. Attorney David Perecman will file suit on Monday, seeking $25 million in a civil suit focused against the Department of Education and school safety.

A passerby found what police believe to be an arm and legs Thursday night near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

After searching the area, police discovered jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer. The skin color, however, is unidentifiable.

A white shirt with gray stripes that is similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing was also discovered with the remains, according to police.

“It’s a huge amount of evidence,” Perecman said. “The evidence is the DNA.”

It will take “days” to determine if the body is Avonte, cops said.

“It’s been in the water long enough that you can’t tell the skin color. It’s been in the water long enough that it’s not an intact body,” Perecman said.

But Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, continues to hold out hope.

Fontaine said her 14-year-old autistic son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

Perecman said Fontaine is “a stoic individual,” but “inside I think she’s twisted. The guilt that runs through her must be monumental.”

Avonte, 14, was last seen on October 4 at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City. The school is just across from the East River. The Rego Park teen cannot verbally communicate.

There have been conflicting reports on how Avonte, who is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Since he went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola and Sal Licata

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Fire, flood stalls completion of College Point police academy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo renderings courtesy of NYPD

Completion of the new police academy in College Point has been pushed back three months due to fire and flood damage, The Courier has learned.

The majority of construction on the new $656 million police academy at 128-11 28th Avenue will be finished in March, instead of this month as originally planned, according to the NYPD.

Deputy Chief Kim Royster, a Police Department spokesperson, said the project was first stalled when flood waters from last year’s Superstorm Sandy damaged custom air handlers in storage.

A fire in April also melted the building’s exterior glass atrium, scorching a number of outside panels at the north side of the building and destroying portions of its façade, Royster said.

It was accidentally caused by a blow torch used during construction, according to FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer.

“Together these events resulted in substantial completion being delayed by three to four months,” Royster said.

But plans are still on track to have the new academy’s first recruit class enter the new training digs by July 2014, law enforcement officials said.

The 700,000-square-foot building, in the project’s first phase, is projected to accommodate one tour of 1,640 recruits during their first six months of training, according to Inspector Terrence Riley of the NYPD.

In addition to classrooms and gyms, the new space for the city’s finest-to-be also includes a quarter-mile outdoor running track and a mock-up small city with banks, stores, apartments and streetscapes for simulated scenario-based training, Riley said.

The total 30-acre site is bordered by College Point Boulevard, 28th Avenue and Ulmer Street.

A new target date for the west campus is slated for March, while the east campus is expected to near completion in April, Royster said.

The delay was welcomed by Andrew Rocco, president of the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association.

“Unfortunately, whether it opens tomorrow or three months from now, it’s going to create additional traffic regardless,” he said. “This should give the NYPD an extra three months to figure out how they’re going to support College Point.”

Rocco wants the city to extend Linden Place and fix the neighborhood roads, among other things on his wish list.

“They’re putting this citywide institution in our backyard,” he said. “We want to see some support from that, some visible police presence and support for local businesses.”

 

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Man struck, killed by vehicles in College Point


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Fatalcollegept 038

A pedestrian died Tuesday morning after he was hit by two vehicles in College Point.

Brian Howell, 47, was crossing 14th Avenue at the intersection of 129th Street around 6:45 a.m. when a Toyota Camry, traveling westbound on 14th Avenue, struck him, knocking him into the eastbound lane, said cops. He was then hit by a 2000 Suburban that was driving eastbound.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the drivers of both vehicles remained at the accident location. The investigation is ongoing and the NYPD’s Highway Patrol Collision Investigation Squad is reviewing the circumstances.

 

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BP Marshall OKs city’s plan to dispose of vacant lots too small to develop


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Borough President Helen Marshall approved the city’s plan to dispose of four vacant lots that are too small to develop.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) wants to remove the properties from its inventory in order to sell in the future.

Community Board 7 gave the department the green light last month.

The tiny plots of land in Mitchell-Linden, Flushing, College Point and Whitestone were created erroneously, according to DCAS senior planner Christian Grove. Some are as small as a patch of grass in between homes, Grove said.

The four properties were all acquired by the city for free, between 1955 and 1988, through the in-rem tax foreclosure process, according to a DCAS spokesperson.

DCAS representatives said the department would offer each of the four plots to adjacent owners but did not plan to subdivide and sell in pieces. Marshall said “every effort should be made to contact” them.

The borough president also followed suit with the community board in approving a second DCAS application to disown another property at 135-15 40th Road in Flushing.

The department plans to dispose of the property to NYC Land Development Corp, an entity of the city’s Economic Development Corp, which will then sell the land to developer Success 88 for $1.5 million.

Success 88’s $3.5 million project includes building a six-story building with commercial and office space and a community facility, which includes a school for English learners.

 

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College Point principal resigns after protests and allegations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

The so-called “terror-driven reign” of a College Point principal is over.

Jennifer Jones-Rogers resigned as head of P.S. 29 last week, education officials confirmed, after dozens in the community urged the city to fire her earlier this summer.

“I think that this is a step in the right direction, but it’s not everything,” said Gloria Huachamber, who has a 9-year-old son in the school. “Why did this happen in the first place? As much as I am happy, what happens to all the damage that was done? We need to follow the trail.”

Critics said Jones-Rogers wrongfully placed a handful of students in special education classes without notifying parents and created a “hostile environment” that drove away teachers and caused parents to pull their kids from the elementary school.

“The behavior of Principal Jones-Rogers as described by parents and teachers was simply unacceptable, and it became clear that she had lost control of the school,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

Jones-Rogers quit October 8, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education (DOE) said. 

Jill Leaky-Eisenberg, a veteran educator with more than 20 years of experience under her belt, replaces her. She was the assistant principal of P.S. 21 in Flushing before the switch, the DOE said.

“I don’t think this was a resigning. I think this was more avoiding the issue. People don’t just leave overnight,” Huachamber said. 

According to the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), Jones-Rogers recently gave birth and is leaving to support her husband’s new job out of New York.

“We’re very happy that her husband got a great, new job out of state and they’re moving,” said CSA spokesperson Chiara Coletti. “I’m sure she’ll continue to work there.”

About two dozen parents and teachers rallied in front of P.S. 29 in August to call on the city to fire Jones-Rogers and start an investigation into apparent mismanagement of funds.

Educators say she did not provide a copy of the school’s budget to the United Federation of Teachers chapter president for the past two years as required and also got rid of the school’s library and computer lab.

The principal’s bullish tactics were also allegedly used on teachers who complained about her, according to many who said they had their desks taken away as punishment.

“Now there’s peace at the school — for now,” Huachamber said.

According to Avella, the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation probed the administrator’s handlings.

Jones-Rogers could not be reached for comment.

A similar rally held last year to remove an unpopular principal at Martin Van Buren High School yielded the same result.

Marilyn Shevell, who was called an “ineffective leader” by members of the PTA and community, retired from the Queens Village school last July after the protest, according to the DOE.

Van Buren has since improved a full letter grade from a “D” to a “C” under new leadership from Sam Sochet, the latest progress report shows.

P.S. 29 scored a “B” on its most recent report. The school received an “A” in 2010 during Jones-Rogers’ first term.

 

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Forklift falls, kills mechanic in College Point warehouse


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A mechanic working inside a College Point warehouse Thursday morning was crushed and killed by a forklift, a police source said.

The machine used for lifting heavy loads fell on top of the man, whose identity was not yet released, shortly before 11 a.m. on October 3, according to an NYPD spokesperson.

The man suffered severe body trauma, authorities said, and was pronounced dead on scene at 28-00 College Point Boulevard.

Nearby construction workers said about 20 warehouse employees are constantly seen moving forklifts in and out of the facility daily.

“Accidents happen a lot when you’re dealing with heavy machinery,” said James Garabedian, a nearby iron worker. “But people getting pinned by a forklift – that usually doesn’t happen.”

It was unclear which company ran the warehouse. A man who identified himself to police as being in charge of the warehouse declined to comment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was on site investigating the incident.

Check back with The Queens Courier for updates on this developing story.

 

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Concern in College Point over police tow pound


| mchan@queenscourier.com

College Point leaders fear crumbling roads in an already congested neighborhood will not be able to handle a new police tow pound that “magically appeared” out of nowhere.

State Senator Tony Avella said NYPD tow trucks have been bringing cars in and out of College Point Corporate Park for more than two weeks without first alerting the community.

“This is going to have a major impact on the local area,” he said. “You have tow trucks coming and going all hours of the day and night. You now have more congestion in that area.”

The 31-22 College Point Boulevard lot in the industrial, retail center is approximately 174,000 square feet, according to a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

The NYCEDC oversees the corporate park but has not run the property in question since November 2012, the spokesperson said.

Local leaders said they know little about the use and duration of the operation. An NYPD spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

“This just magically appeared maybe three weeks ago,” said Andrew Rocco, president of the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association. “Nobody was informed about it.”

Rocco said the tow pound would increase traffic on deteriorating roads marked with potholes. The area’s infrastructure also has to hold a new police academy currently being built, he said.

“There’s going to be 5,000 people coming in and out of there,” he said. “It’s just one insult after another.”

Avella said the tow pound is also operating without having gone through a lengthy vetting process called a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which seeks feedback from the community board, borough president, Planning Commission and City Council.

Community Board 7 declined to comment at this time.

“The streets are falling apart,” said Joe Femenia of College Point. “The idea of a corporate park is bringing in businesses. When you put in a municipal work there, it counts as zero.”

“They keep sticking things in this district,” Femenia said. “That’s a cause for concern.”

 

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City looking to sell four undevelopable lots in northeast Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Graphic courtesy of DCAS

Community Board 7 gave the city permission this week to dispose of four vacant lots that are too small to develop.

The city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) needed approval from the board on September 23 to remove the properties from its inventory in order to sell in the future.

The tiny plots of land in Mitchell-Linden, Flushing, College Point and Whitestone were created erroneously “when somebody just made a mistake in the 50s and 60s,” according to DCAS senior planner Christian Grove.

The four properties were all acquired by the city for free, between 1955 and 1988, through the in-rem tax foreclosure process, according to a DCAS spokesperson.

DCAS representatives said the department would offer each of the four plots to adjacent owners but did not plan to subdivide and sell in pieces.

“These are small. These are not developable, like we could put a house on. You would just walk right by them,” Grove said. “But they do have some value to the adjacent owners.”

“It could be a patch of grass in between the homes, and they just don’t realize it’s city-owed,” Grove continued. “Here’s an opportunity for them to keep it.”

One three-foot-wide lot in Murray Hill is 1,500 square feet and borders 22 privately-owned buildings between 161st and 162nd Streets and 35th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, according to DCAS.

Another is only 252 square feet and joins three properties in College Point near 119th Street and 9th Avenue.

It was unclear how much money the city would seek for the properties.

None of the four lots have been appraised yet, a DCAS spokesperson said.

Community Board 7 also approved a second DCAS application to disown another property at 135-15 40th Road in Flushing.

DCAS plans to dispose of the property to NYC Land Development Corp, an entity of the city’s Economic Development Corp. The land will then be sold to developer Success 88 for $1.5 million.

A representative for the developer said the proposed six-story building would have commercial space at its base and office space above.

It would also have a community facility, which includes a school for English learners, and would have energy-efficient components.

If the $3.5 million project is approved by the city, construction would begin in 2015, the community board said.

 

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New life for Queens youth football league


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

When College Point resident Mariella Toufos was searching for a youth football league for her son, she held the same concerns most parents do.

Will the contact be too rough? How about the coaching?

Then she heard about the Whitepoint Wolverines. Online reviews were positive and the team’s website looked attractive with its pictures and videos. So she decided to give the team a try. And after taking her son to his first practice with the Wolverines’ travel team at Memorial Field in Flushing, her worries were gone.

“I’m very excited and my son is very excited,” Toufos said. “Based on what I’ve seen today, it seems like they’re very organized, very structured, so I’m looking forward to the season.”

Over the past two years, the Wolverines have reintroduced themselves to the Whitestone, College Point and Flushing neighborhoods with a new system and fresh coaching.

The league currently has about 300 players spread out in various age divisions, with the oldest players age 13.

Decades ago, it was a flourishing program with thousands of children, but gradually diminished after developing a bad reputation from coaches that treated young players too harshly, according to parents and league administrators.

Then Mike McCutchen stepped in as president and about two years ago began to reform the league. He focused the program more on teaching the young players the fundamentals of the game from every aspect rather than focusing on winning.

He also got former standout college players, semi-pros and high school coaches to pitch in. Now even a player with NFL experience has signed on to coach the children.

Native Brooklynite Jeremiah Brown, who played for Wagner College in Staten Island and was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, started to help coach the league this year.

“New York City is rough for football players to reach their dreams or come close to getting a scholarship sometimes,” Brown said. “I just have that passion to give back to the youth, period.”

There are flag football and tackle football divisions along with the travel team, which is for older players looking for more competition.

Many of the athletes go on to local high school teams such as Cardozo, Bayside and Flushing high schools, McCutchen said.

Games do not begin until September, but every Saturday morning until the season starts the league is holding free clinics about fundamentals at Memorial Field.

“Our main goal here really is to teach the game and keep children out of trouble,” McCutchen said.

 

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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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Woman claims College Point condo discriminated against her disability


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A paralyzed Queens woman is suing a national real estate development company, claiming a newly built College Point condominium discriminated against her disability, a lawsuit said.

The suit filed August 8 claims AVR Realty violated fair housing and human rights laws when it rejected Suzanne Vilchez’s request to make her newly purchased condo unit more handicapped accessible.

Vilchez is restricted to a wheelchair and has limited movement in her hands, fingers and arms, the lawsuit said.

She and her mother, Maria Coello, put a deposit down in August 2009 for a two-bedroom unit at Powell Cove Estates, a new 220-unit waterfront condo community, according to legal documents.

They said they were granted requests then by a sales representative for a levered door, an accessible patio, a lowered bathroom light switch and a roll-in shower, among other accommodations.

But the pair, who had sold their family home, was told a year later the doors could not be changed and the patio could not be modified to be made more accessible, the lawsuit said.

The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act mandates new multi-family residential buildings, with at least four units, be designed and built to have minimum accessibility features for the disabled.

It also requires building owners to make “reasonable exceptions” to policies and operations in accommodating people with disabilities and to allow tenants to pay for and make modifications.

AVR Realty declined to comment.

A discrimination complaint Vilchez filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is still “under active investigation,” the department said.

 

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