Tag Archives: COMET

Elmhurst plants a tree to honor late Parks Department employee

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


The Parks Department and members of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) teamed up on June 11 for a special Elmhurst Park Day of Service in memory of Parks Department manager Jennifer Kao.

Kao, a senior project manager with the Parks Department’s Planning and Parklands division, worked with the community to help create the park on the site of the former Elmhurst gas tanks. Tragically, Kao died earlier this year.

The Elmhurst Park Day of Service began with a special tree planting ceremony in Kao’s honor led by Dorothy Lewandowski, the Parks Department’s Queens commissioner.

“I had an opportunity to work with Jennifer when I came here about 10 or 11 years ago,” Lewandowski recalled. “She was an important part of the Parks Department. Her character and dedication went above the task. I greatly miss her.”

Kao was also fondly remembered by her fellow Parks Department colleagues, as well as community members.

“I think it’s a real testament to Jennifer Kao’s reach across the agency in working with various members to get projects done,” explained Parks Department Assistant Commissioner for Planning Alyssa Konon.

“For all of us who knew her, she was a very dedicated person who was very thorough and followed through on numerous tasks,” Konon said. “I’m sure it would please her to know that we’re all here today on something that she started. Here we are following through on something that she helped to make happen.”

COMET representative Richie Polgar also expressed gratitude for Kao’s work in creating Elmhurst Park.

“This park is one of the greatest things that have happened to this area,” Polgar said. “It’s so great to see this many people enjoying the park as it was intended to be. I’m so glad we have it.”

According to Lewandowski, COMET member Christina Wilkinson reached out to her shortly after Kao’s passing requesting that the community plant a special tree in Kao’s memory.

The tree planted in Kao’s honor is an Eastern Red Bud. “It gets beautiful, heart-shaped leaves and little pink flowers in the early spring that bloom against the wood, so it looks like the stems are lit up with pink,” said Queens Director of Horticulture Adriana Jaceykewycz.

Community volunteers and Parks Department employees continued to work on cleaning the park and planting new flowers and shrubbery well into the afternoon.

“This is a good spot to come back and contemplate about not only our own lives, but Jennifer’s, too,” Lewandowski said.


Crime rates down for the year in the 110th Precinct

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Crime continues to drop across the 110th Precinct, the force’s commanding officer announced at the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) meeting on Monday night.

“We are down 6.2 percent in crime for the year so far,” Deputy Inspector Christopher Manson said. “We have major reductions in robbery, burglary and grand larceny.”

The precinct is currently down eight robberies for the year, from 111 last year to 103 thus far in 2015. Police officers have made 63 robbery arrests this year, Manson noted, leading to the lower crime rates that the precinct is seeing.

Although crime is down overall for the 110th Precinct, vehicle thefts are on the rise. Manson told those in attendance that they have been six more stolen cars this year than at this point last year.

“The other area we are up in is felony assaults. We’ve been fighting that since the beginning of the year; there’s a lot domestic felony assaults,” Manson said. “One of the reasons we think we’re up in domestic assaults, it’s not a bad thing, it’s because we’re doing a lot of outreach. We’re going out on the streets and out into the community and we’re giving out pamphlets and letting people know about domestic violence and how they can report it. So we think more people are reporting it.”

Manson also alerted those in attendance of three recent crimes that turned out to all be connected within the 110th Precinct.

The first two crimes were robberies in which a male, Hispanic suspect drove up to people on the street and robbed them of their cellphones at knife point.

Later that night, police witnessed two men fighting in the street on Queens Boulevard near 74th Street, where one of the men stabbed the other six times with a small knife. That suspect was taken into custody and brought to the stationhouse. The other man was brought to the hospital and will survive his wounds.

“While we were in the stationhouse with this male, our officers in the room began tracking one of the cellphones from the earlier robberies,” Manson added. “We ping it, we get to find out the location, we look down and the location came to the same room we were in. We looked at the property that we were taking from the guy who just stabbed the guy six times and he has both cellphones. So we got him for all three crimes.”


Precincts give crime updates at COMET meeting

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

The 108th Precinct’s commander raised concern over a rash of stolen vehicles and commercial burglaries in the Maspeth/Woodside area during the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) meeting held Monday in Elmhurst.

Captain John Travaglia said the number of cars being stolen in the neighborhoods has escalated, especially the older-model Dodge Caravans. According to Travaglia, at least four of these vehicles have been stolen within the confines of the 108th Precinct in the last 28 days.

“What we see a lot with that is, they’re easy to steal,” Travaglia said. “And then they’re easy to steal other things with because the seats will come out quick and maybe they’ll steal a motorcycle then, and throw the motorcycle in the back of that Dodge Caravan. So we’ve seen that type of activity going on in the precinct.”

The precinct has noticed an increase in commercial burglaries throughout the neighborhoods as well. The one burglary that was reported in the 28-day time frame from the 108th Precinct occurred at 70-32 Queens Blvd., where tools were stolen from off of a construction site.

“Construction sites, houses that are under construction are being burglarized for copper pipes [and] for tools,” Travaglia told those in attendance. “This has become a prevalent problem all over Queens.”

One major highlight for the 108th Precinct is the number of traffic fatalities that have occurred since November, which is zero.

“I can report the 108 Precinct [has] not had a traffic fatality since I’ve been there in November,” Travaglia announced. “It’s been fantastic. Year-to-date, we haven’t had a traffic fatality.”

Detective Thomas Bell from the 104th Precinct Community Affairs Unit also announced that the precinct is down in overall crime.

“Year-to-date, the 104 is down about 8.6 percent in crime,” Bell said. “We are down pretty much across the board.”

The 104th Precinct has seen two murders this year, compared to three at this time last year. There have been seven rapes compared to eight last year, 57 robberies compared to 62 last year. Felony assaults dropped to 63 this year from 69 last year, burglaries fell by just one, 110 versus 111 from 2014. Grand larcenies dropped from 198 last year to only 181 this year and grand larceny for automobiles dropped from 71 in 2014 to 57 this year.

P.O. David Saponieri from the 110th Precinct Community Affairs Unit also informed COMET about its crime numbers. There have only been six arrests during the 28-day period within COMET’s area of Elmhurst. There were two stolen cars, two grand larcenies and two burglaries.


Cops and kids get rid of Maspeth graffiti

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Volunteers and officers from the 104th Precinct spent their Saturday afternoon wiping out graffiti during a cleanup event targeting several vandalized walls in Maspeth.

Capt. Mark Wachter, the precinct’s commander, and P.O. Gonzalez, the precinct’s graffiti coordinator, led the cleanup efforts.

Teens and young adults from the precinct’s NYPD Law Enforcement Explorers Program and School Unit joined police and auxiliary officers in painting over graffiti tags and murals along Rust Street near the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone (IBZ). Community members were encouraged to meet the officers at one of three locations to pitch in.

The community cleanup targeted factory and warehouse facades on Flushing Avenue and Rust Street, as well the concrete barrier along the railroad tracks on Rust Street and Grand Avenue. Officers also tackled a large mural on a brick wall at the corner of Grand Avenue and 58th Road.

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso
The paint and supplies were furnished through various donations, as well as through a coordinated effort with local civic group COMET (Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together).

For more information on reporting vandalism and future community cleanup events, visit the 104th Precinct Community Council at www.104PCC.org or follow the precinct on Twitter at @NYPD104Pct.


Warnings about police impersonators in Maspeth and Elmhurst

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

File photo


Police impersonation warnings dominated the discussion at Monday night’s Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) meeting at St. Adalbert’s Church in Elmhurst.

Representatives of the 104th, 108th and 110th precincts warned residents about a dangerous uptick in home invasions and robberies committed by perpetrators impersonating police officers. Deputy Inspector Christopher Manson, commander of the 110th Precinct, cautioned COMET members against falling victim to this scheme.

According to Manson, three such robberies occurred recently within the confines of the 110th Precinct. In one case, two males with dark complexions riding in a black van followed a man walking home between the hours of 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. One of the suspects, pretending to be a plain-clothes police officer, approached the victim, frisked him, stole his wallet and sped away in the van. The other two incidents were similar in nature.

Manson believes the victims were targeted because they were walking alone late at night. He urged residents to request a valid NYPD ID card from anyone attempting to stop them on the street claiming to be an officer.

Maspeth and Elmhurst have also seen an increase in home invasions and burglaries committed by police impersonators. However, unlike the robberies, the recent home invasions appear to deliberately target houses with reputations for illegal activities and narcotics.

Capt. Lavonda Wise (center) of the 108th Precinct is pictured with COMET President Rosemarie Daraio (at left) and Vice President Richard Gundlach. (TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso)

Capt. Lavonda Wise (center) of the 108th Precinct is pictured with COMET President Rosemarie Daraio (at left) and Vice President Richard Gundlach. (TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso)

On March 24th, a home invasion robbery involving police impersonation took place on Jay Avenue in Maspeth. According to reports, two black males wearing fake police uniforms forced their way into the front door of the home. Once inside, they ransacked a basement apartment and then fled on foot.

“This is not a random act,” said Capt. Mark Wachter, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct. “These homes were targeted.”

An investigation into the incident is ongoing, with detectives from the Police Impersonation Investigation Unit examining video footage from the vicinity of the crime.

Manson reported similar incidents in the 110th Precinct. Manson believes the perpetrators in these incidents are attempting to shake down reputed drug houses for narcotics and cash.

“They go where they know the money is,” he said.

Capt. Lavonda Wise, the new executive officer of the 108th Precinct, introduced herself to COMET members. She reported two incidents of home burglaries in the 108th Precinct in the past month. In both cases, perpetrators broke the locks on the front doors of the homes to gain entry. According to Wise, an investigation into these incidents is ongoing.


Maspeth High School looks to tighten admission standards

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley


Looking to take the cream of the high school crop, Maspeth High School is considering adopting new admission criteria, a local parent warned during Monday’s Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) civic association meeting in Elmhurst.

Joann Berger, I.S. 73 PTA president, informed attendees of a plan to convert the high school located at 54-40 74th St. to a limited screened school. The school opened in 2011 as a limited, unscreened community school, with students residing in District 24 given top priority for entry.

According to Berger, school administrators are petitioning the Community Education Council of District 24 (CEC 24) for a change in its enrollment criteria. Under the proposed changes, incoming students would need to meet a new set of criteria, such as higher grade point averages, in order to be accepted into the school.

“If they go screened, that means only those top students will be getting in,” Berger said. “It would be almost like a specialized school without having to take the specialized high school test.”

Berger estimates that Maspeth High School has allocated approximately 300 seats per incoming school year. I.S. 73, which is a mere four blocks away from the high school, has nearly 690 students in their eighth-grade graduating class.

“They won’t even be able to accept half of the students from the school,” she added. “We don’t have enough high school seats within District 24 as it is.”

Maspeth High School first opened as part of the Metropolitan Avenue High School campus back in September 2011. It relocated to its current home in Maspeth the following year.

“This is the third year that they’re in the building, their first year with a graduating class, and they’re already requesting to change it to that new criteria,” Berger said.

According to Berger, representatives from Maspeth High School will make their proposal to the CEC 24 on March 24. Thereafter, the council will then make a recommendation for or against the plan to the Department of Education’s Office of Enrollment.

“The President’s Council and the PTAs in our district are not in favor of this,” she explained. “We are the most overcrowded school district in the city. We wanted a community school that is also a college preparatory school for our children.”

On May 9, CEC 24 will hold an election to fill nine of the 12 slots on the board designated to district parents. Parents of students of District 24 schools from kindergarten through eighth grade interested in seeking a CEC seat must apply online by March 11.

Berger estimates that there are approximately over 57,000 students in District 24. But she said the area known as “COMET-land” (Maspeth, Elmhurst and Woodside) is grossly underrepresented on CEC 24.

“There’s a huge section of our district which encompasses Glendale, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Corona,” Berger explained, “Of the nine members who sit on the CEC, there is nobody representing areas north of Juniper Valley Park. Middle Village and Glendale are the only ones with parents currently sitting on the board right now.”

COMET President Rosemarie Daraio echoed the need for greater representation. “Nobody is representing students from Maspeth, Elmhurst or Winfield,” she said.

CEC members make decisions regarding school zoning issues, school construction and the allocation of capital funding to schools within the district.


Community demands improvements at Elmhurst LIRR overpass

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Elmhurst residents and their elected officials are demanding that the city clean and maintain a pedestrian bridge above Long Island Rail Road tracks that they say is deteriorating, dirty and often dangerous.

Local elected officials and community leaders gathered earlier in December to tour the pedestrian bridge that connects two separate sections of 55th Avenue, one of which turns onto 85th Street and the other that becomes a dead end near Haspel Street.

The group toured the overpass with Long Island Rail Road and Sanitation officials to discuss the conditions and demand immediate improvements be made at the site.

According to Christian Cassagnol, district manager of Community Board 4, the problems most residents have voiced concerns about include graffiti, lack of sufficient lighting, safety overnight and dirty conditions.

Residents and members of CB 4’s environmental committee regularly gather to clean up the site, Cassagnol said, but there is only so much that could be done on a local level. He decided to contact Councilman Daniel Dromm’s office in the hopes of finding a better solution.

Rosemarie Daraio, president of the nonprofit Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together Inc. (COMET) Civic Association, added that some other issues include illegal dumping, weeds overtaking the site, and deteriorating and uneven steps.

Days before the Dec. 15 walk-through, the city’s Department of Sanitation showed up and did a cleanup.

“This site must be cleaned and made safe for pedestrians,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who was part of the group that toured the overpass.  “There is no substitute for an on-site visit to see conditions firsthand.”

According to Stavisky, she and Dromm will continue to monitor the issue.

“Quality-of-life issues are vitally important to the growth, strength and happiness of the community,” Dromm said.

Cassagnol plans to work with local leaders on trying to implement the Greenstreets program at the site, also known as the Green Infrastructure Program, which works to transform areas into green spaces.

“It’s an issue we are going to have to constantly monitor,” Daraio said.


Maspeth residents continue to fight truck traffic

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Maspeth residents have road rage for big rig drivers.

Community leaders and residents held a rally at the intersection of 64th Street and Flushing Avenue on June 20 to bring attention to a perceived excess of tractor trailer traffic in the area.

Residents have long contended drivers ignore laws and use residential streets as shortcuts to avoid traffic on the Long Island Expressway. They say the trucks increase noise and pollution in the community and are calling for more enforcement by police.

“Maspeth deserves a community with fewer trucks,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said. “It’s one thing to have local deliveries, but it’s another thing to have huge trucks.”

In 2011, the city passed the Maspeth Bypass plan to prevent trucks from using local streets to make deliveries.

However, Crowley and others say drivers continue to exit the expressway and use Flushing and Grand Avenues when going to Brooklyn due to a lack of signs that direct trucks to streets they may use, and the fact the official truck map does not reflect changes in the plan. The Department of Transportation (DOT) maintains a map showing approved paths for trucks.

The 104th Precinct said while officers do ticket trucks for infractions, judges throw the cases out on grounds the signs and maps have not been changed.

“We’ve been trying to get the map adjusted, but as it stands, it still is a lawful route,” said Lieutenant George Hellmer of the 104th Precinct. Locals say the trucks — most of them 16- and 18-wheelers, but sometimes longer — rattle houses and awaken people when they go by as early as 2 a.m.

Residents also say the traffic light at 64th Street and Flushing Avenue has been knocked over and fixed multiple times as trucks have struggled to turn off Grand Avenue onto Flushing Avenue.

Residents are also concerned about children, citing an August 2010 incident in which a truck struck and killed 12-year-old Frederick Endres while the boy was riding his bicycle on Fresh Pond Road.

“This is a residential area and people just want to have peaceful lives,” said Anna Zacalunov, who lives on Grand Avenue.

As the rally progressed, residents counted the number of trucks that drove by. In an hour-and-a-half, more than 250 tractor trailers of varying sizes were seen up and down the intersection.

“They don’t care. They are giving us the finger, some of them,” said Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together (COMET), the civic association that organized the rally. “Laws with no enforcement mean nothing.”

The next step for the community is to meet with DOT to get the maps changed and signs put up.

But not all residents think drivers are the only ones to blame.

“Also, I think they should ticket the dispatcher,” said Maspeth resident Bob Nastasi. “He’s the one telling these out-of-state guys where to go.”