Tag Archives: Corona

21-year-old man found stabbed to death behind LeFrak City building


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A man was discovered fatally stabbed behind his apartment building in LeFrak City Tuesday night, police said.

Officers found 21-year-old Andrew Ramirez at about 9:50 p.m. with stab wounds to his torso near his 97-20 57 Ave. residence in Corona, cops said.

Ramirez was taken to Forest Hills Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to officials.

There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

 

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New organization created to unify merchants around Corona Plaza


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Friends of Corona Plaza

A group of Corona merchants have come together to create a unified voice for a beloved pedestrian plaza.

Earlier this month commercial stakeholders around Corona Plaza, an open public plaza located on Roosevelt Avenue between National and 104th streets, came together to talk about ideas that could help business and improve quality of life for pedestrians and merchants alike.

The group then decided to create a new organization called Friends of Corona Plaza with the purpose of bringing together all the commercial tenants to create a brighter future for the space.

“The goal is to have all the merchants, [such] as myself, to be unified as one voice,” said Edgar Gutierrez, store manager at the Walgreens located at 103-14 Roosevelt Ave., who was elected as president of the organization. “We want to have all the merchants as one and have one voice for all of Corona Plaza. We want to make sure [the merchants] are aware of what is going on in the plaza.”

The group also elected Pastor Victor Tiburcio of Aliento de Vida Church, located at 103-12 Roosevelt Ave., as vice president and Diego Ratzlaff, a physician’s assistant at Procare Health & Wellness, located at 40-03 National St., as secretary.

“What we want to do is unify the commercial tenants,” Ratzlaff said. “We want to be here, we work here, we are here daily. We want to advocate for Corona Plaza so it could be a great experience for the people who work and live here. We want more people to come in, and the more people that come in, the more business.”

Members of the group have been reaching out to other merchants to let them know about Friends of Corona Plaza, according to Gutierrez.

During the organization’s meeting in July, Gutierrez said the group plans on discussing its support for the expansion of the Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District and also the Department of Transportation’s planned renovation project for Corona Plaza slated to begin early 2015.

“We want to touch base on the construction of the plaza and how will it affect the merchants in the area,” Gutierrez said.

The date and location for the next meeting of Friends of Corona Plaza are still pending.

The DOT did not immediately respond to request for comment.

 

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110th Precinct shaves hair, raises funds for fellow officer


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Lieutenant Patrick Welsh did not have to think twice when deciding to shave his long curls for fellow officer and friend, Sergeant Paul Ferrara.

Welsh, together with five other members of the 110th Precinct, including commanding officer Deputy Inspector Ronald D. Leyson, volunteered Thursday to shave their hair for Ferrara, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in January.

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“It’s all for a great cause , for Paul, for a fellow brother,” said Welsh, who has been growing his hair out since last September. “It wasn’t even a question, [Ferrara] is one of the most liked men in the precinct.”

Ferrara started his career in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct in 1992 and then was promoted to sergeant in 2006 and assigned to the 110th Precinct. During his 22 years of service, Ferrera has been a 9/11 first responder and former anti-crime sergeant, and now serves as a counter terrorism supervising officer.

Ferrara’s diagnosis is currently being linked to what he, together with other first responders, faced at Ground Zero in 2001.

The 110th Precinct came together last month to start a fundraiser to collect money to help the 44-year-old NYPD officer and his family with medical expenses. Ferrara is married and has a 12-year-old son.

As part of the fundraiser, officers at the precinct, which encompasses Corona and Elmhurst, came up with the idea to “put a price on the commanding officer’s head” and have the officer with the highest donation shave Leyson’s hair.

Through a collaborative effort, the highest donation was $1,500 and Police Officer William Bahrenburg, who also shaved his hair and mustache, had the honor Thursday of shaving the deputy inspector’s hair.

“Like the police department does, we get together to help out one another,” Leyson said. “I’ve been on the job for over 20 years and there’s a lot of things that we complain about, but it is a family, when one of us is in need, that’s one thing this police department always does – step up.”

Police Officers Matthew Zimmerman and Thompson Wen, and Auxiliary Police Officer Chris Lui also volunteered to have their hair shaved in honor of Ferrara.

“It’s just the right thing to do. He’s always been there for me,” Wen said. “Hair grows back.”

So far, the precinct has collected a total of $40,000. The 81st Precinct has also contributed to the fundraiser.

“It’s the proudest I’ve been because none of this has to be done, but it’s getting done anyway,” Ferrara said.

The donations will be presented to Ferrara on Sunday, April 27 during a fundraising event at Lily Flanagan’s Pub in Babylon, Long Island.

Anyone interested in donating can mail or drop off a check at the precinct, located at 94-41 43rd Ave. in Elmhurst. Checks should be made out to the 110th Precinct General Fund, with “Sergeant Ferrara Fund” written on the memo line.

 

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Op-ed: Our children win with universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

After months of rallying for the future of our children, our voices have finally been heard! Last week, our state legislators approved $300 million in funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs in their final budget. This is historic. We are now poised to ensure every child has access to high-quality, full-day pre-K.

The City’s plan is moving forward, and in less than six months, a new school year will begin, giving tens of thousands of our children access to full-day pre-K and thousands more middle-schoolers access to a safe, educational place to go after school.

Imagine the difference this will make for kids who will now start learning a year earlier. Imagine what it means for working parents!

As a former director of a Beacon program at P.S. 19 in Corona, it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records.

With this new, dedicated funding from Albany, the people who win here are parents and children. New York City is ready to move forward. We’ve been moving aggressively to put all the pieces in place to be ready for the fall.

Thanks to the work of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in our city and state government, we are making history. As a new mother, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this momentous change. These are game-changing solutions that will reach every child. They’re the kind of solutions that unite communities and improve our schools.

If you live in New York City and your child is turning 4 years old in 2014, it’s time to think about applying to pre-K. Here’s what you need to know:

• Children turning 4 years old in 2014 who live in New York City are eligible to attend pre-K programs.

• Pre-K is free. You do not have to pay to attend programs offered by the NYC Department of Education.

• Programs can be half-day (2 hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (6 hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon.

• Programs are available at public schools and community-based organizations (CBOs). There are separate application processes for public schools and CBOs.

The pre-K application period has been extended to April 23. The online application for pre-K is currently available in English and Spanish on www.schools.nyc.gov. You can also apply in person at your nearest Queens Enrollment Office, which are listed on the website. If you have any questions or need further information, please call (718) 935-2009. Our children’s future begins today.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.

Queens student treated for tuberculosis as cases rise in city


| mchan@queenscourier.com

CDC/ Melissa Brower

A Hillcrest High School student recently exposed to tuberculosis is receiving treatment and recovering from the potentially deadly bacterial infection, officials said.

The Health Department tested 170 students and six staff members who might have been at risk at the Queens school Tuesday as a precaution.

“Given that the person with TB is receiving treatment, there is no health risk to students or staff currently at the school,” a department spokeswoman said.

Tuberculosis cases are on the rise in the city for the first time in a decade, health officials said. They increased 1 percent from 651 in 2012 to 656 in 2013.

Most people infected were foreign-born, living in Flushing, western Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn, according to the Health Department.

Officials said 19 out of 100,000 people have contracted the disease in Corona, Woodside, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Maspeth and 15 out of 100,000 in Flushing.

“Many are likely infected in their country of origin and developed TB after entering the U.S.,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.

Smokers and people with diabetes or HIV have a higher chance of getting tuberculosis and should be tested for the disease, Bassett said.

Tuberculosis, which usually affects the lungs, spreads from person to person through the air.

 

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Op-ed: Why I support Mayor de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten in New York City. Often overlooked is that the plan would provide more than just high-quality programs for our youngest learners, it would also fund after-school programs for every interested middle schooler in New York. As chairwoman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, I support the de Blasio plan because it’s such a cost-effective way to address one of the most pressing challenges the city faces. As the former director of an after-school program, I support the plan because I know firsthand how critical after-school support can be in developing and safeguarding adolescents. It’s inspiring that both the Assembly and Senate have put forward budget proposals that meet these goals.

As you probably know, the mayor’s plan – which the Assembly also supports – would modestly raise income tax rates for New York City earners making more than $500,000 a year, from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for a period of five years. That’s a smaller increase than previous mayors have sought from Albany for key projects, and still would generate $530 million in new revenue for each of those years. Much of that revenue would be used to create tens of thousands of pre-K slots for 4 year olds, but $190 million would be directed to after-school programs. The Senate Majority Conference proposes funding after-school for every middle school student through the budget. Both proposals offer the funding needed to make the historic expansion of after-school a reality in New York City.

The city currently offers a little more than 45,000 after-school slots, which serve 56,300 students (not every student goes every day) in 239 schools. Fully, one in four children are left alone and unsupervised after school ends, the time of day when juvenile crime and violence are at their highest, and there are 237 public schools in which middle-school-age children don’t have access to comprehensive after-school. The funding from the de Blasio plan would allow the city to increase the number of after-school spots to 95,000—an addition of about 68,800 new slots—across 512 local schools, serving 120,000 children. The goal is for every child who’s interested to be able to participate. Programs would be free, run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and mostly be run by local organizations experienced in working in the community.

As a former director of one such organization, I spent years running after-school at P.S. 19, a Beacon program, and it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records. After-school programs also help kids identify subjects and disciplines they enjoy and in which they can excel.

The expansion of after-school programming under the de Blasio plan would be a win for everyone. Far more children would have access to programs that would help cultivate their interests and improve their performance in school, all while ensuring they’re under supervision and avoiding the kinds of trouble that can derail a promising young life. The Legislature must work with the governor to ensure that the funding needed for expanded after-school and universal pre-K is part of the State’s final budget.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.

Queens reacts to newly enacted paid sick leave law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Jackson Heights coffee bar owner Afzal Hossain doesn’t like the city’s new paid sick leave law, but he believes we should all follow the law, no matter the burden.

His business, Espresso 77, is now required to provide paid sick leave to employees under the city’s newly enacted law, which affects businesses with five or more employees, expanding previous legislation that applied to businesses with 15 or more workers.

“I know it’s going to be hard for us, but I understand if it’s the law, we have to follow it,” Hossain said.

Although he’s willing to comply, he isn’t happy about it. Business owners like him could be financially hurt under it, Hossain said.

Most of Hossain’s employees are part-time and he believes the law should apply to individuals working at least 40 hours a week.

Under the legislation, workers earn sick time for every 30 hours worked, according to legal advocacy group A Better Balance. Part-time workers will earn paid sick time based on hours worked.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a partner at his family’s Astoria law firm and member of the City Council’s Committee on Small Business, voted against the bill when the Council passed it on Feb. 26.

“The continued cries of our small businesses for more support and reduction in the already exhausting fines and regulations that burden them must be heard,” he said in a testimony before the Council.

Some Queens businesses see paid sick leave as a benefit and have already been offering it to employees.

“[Paid sick leave] is something that we felt was the right thing to do,” said Julio Isidor, office manager of Clinica Dental Latina, located in Corona.

The business, which also has a Howard Beach office, Cosmetic Dental Image, has been offering its employees two annual paid sick days for over a year.

As a dental office it’s important that its employees don’t come to work ill and spread their sickness to the patients, Isidor said.

 

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Corona man arraigned in child porn bust


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A Corona man has been arraigned on charges involving promoting and possessing child pornography after he allegedly lured young girls through the Internet by convincing them they were playing a game, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Monday.

“This defendant is alleged to have coached seven young girls who he met online to perform various types of sexual acts which he then videotaped—convincing the girls that they were playing a game,” Brown said. “Once again, we urge parents to monitor their children’s Internet activities because there are sexual predators waiting to take advantage of their children’s innocence and trusting nature.”

Jorel Fowler, 23, was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Friday on charges of use of a child in a sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a child and possessing a sexual performance by a child, according to the district attorney. If convicted, Fowler faces up to 15 years in prison.

After receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children regarding a child luring and child pornography complaint involving a 12-year-old Oklahoma girl, with whom Fowler had allegedly been in communication earlier this year, NYPD detectives went to Fowler’s home on Feb. 20 and, with his permission, removed a laptop computer and iPhone, Brown said.

Seven videos, titled “Sarah,” “Tiffany &  Britney,”  “Katelyn,” “Julia,” “Gabrielle,” “Ashley” and “Alex” were allegedly recovered from that laptop. They supposedly included text and video conversations between Fowler and various girls, who were under 16 years old, and showed them taking part in what Fowler allegedly called “The Game.”

According to the allegations, Brown said, there are different levels to “The Game,” which awards points for performing different activities including sexual acts.

The recovered videos allegedly showed the girls going to each level of “The Game,” where they took off their clothing and displayed their body parts.

Fowler allegedly told police that he had been in touch with more than 10 minor girls, according to the district attorney.

Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by Fowler or has any information about the case should call 718-286-6590.

 

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Two Queens men charged in rash of burglaries


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Two Queens men have been arrested for a series of burglaries across the borough over the last six months.

Randolph Ardila of Maspeth and Raheim West of Long Island City are both charged with separate, various accounts of burglary, attempted burglary and criminal possession of stolen property, according to District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Ardila, 29, allegedly acted as the lookout for several Glendale and Ozone Park attempted apartment burglaries on Feb. 21. Later, at the time of his arrest, he was allegedly carrying a blue plastic contained filled with change, which had been reported missing from the Ozone Park apartment, Brown said.

In his car, police allegedly found a box containing the cremated ashes of a tenant’s mother, reported missing from a second Ozone Park location, according to the district attorney.

West, 37, was allegedly busted on tape breaking into the Promise Christian Academy Church in Flushing and making off with over $2,000 in cash last September and is additionally accused of stealing $160 from an employee at Flushing’s Asian Community Care Management earlier this month.

The LIC resident is also a suspect in two residential burglaries in Corona and another in College Point throughout February. Pry marks on the College Point residence allegedly match those made by West’s pry bar, Brown said.

When West was arrested, police recovered the pry bar, a screw driver and work gloves from his vehicle.

Ardila faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted and was ordered held on $150,000 bail. West, who faces 28 years, is being held on $200,000 bail. The pair will return to court March 10.

 

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Cops looking for man who exposed himself on No. 7 train


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A woman who said a man exposed himself to her while she was riding a Queens subway train took a photo of the suspect with her cell phone in hopes of catching him, according to police.

The 27-year-old victim was on a northbound No. 7 train near the Junction Boulevard/Roosevelt Avenue station about 4:40 p.m. Sunday when the incident occurred, the NYPD said. After exposing himself, the suspect fled the train.

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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Pols call for Northern Boulevard to be included in mayor’s Vision Zero initiative


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Local politicians and residents are saying the time to act is now, before another innocent life is taken on Northern Blvd

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with other elected officials and traffic safety advocates Thursday to call for Northern Blvd. to be added as one of the 50 locations in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative

“We are all committed to Vision Zero, and it is our obligation to speak up and stand up every single time pedestrians are killed or injured as a result of reckless driving,” said Van Bramer, who has developed a list of locations with traffic fatalities. “We’re calling for the administration to include Northern Boulevard, and really all over Northern Boulevard, stretching into Jackson Heights and Corona, deserve this recognition.”

The group gathered at the intersection of Northern Blvd. and 48th St. in Woodside, where four pedestrians were stuck Saturday while they were waiting for the bus. One of the victims was a 7-year-old girl who suffered a skull fracture but survived. 

“Here we go again,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced a bill in the Senate, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault.

“Until we begin taking pedestrian safety seriously, we are going to keep standing at more and more press conferences talking about the same issue and we hope we don’t have to do it too many more times,”  he said.

Last month, de Blasio and his administration launched an interagency working group, together with the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Taxi & Limousine Commission, to implement a Vision Zero initiative aiming to reduce traffic fatalities to zero within the next 10 years.

The announcement took place just less than a block from where third-grader Noshat Nahian, who was on his way to school, was fatally struck in December by a tractor trailer on Northern Blvd. and 61st St.

The working group will come together to implement the mayor’s plan by developing a report, due to the mayor by Feb. 15 and released publicly, that will serve as a blueprint for the mayor’s “Vision Zero” plan for safer streets through the city.

“Clearly Northern Blvd. deserves this recognition and we are asking the administration to include this series of intersections on Northern Boulevard so no child is ever killed trying to cross the street going to school,” said Van Bramer. “This is a street. For some, they may think it’s a highway, but the truth is there are people living, working and going to school all along Northern Blvd. and it has to be just as safe as any other street in the city of New York and until it is so, we will not rest.”

 

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Corona immunization clinic set to close once again


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

It’s déjà-vu for two major immunization walk-in clinics as the city renews its plans to close the sites by the end of the month, according to union leaders.

In August, the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced it would close the Corona Health Center, located at 34-33 Junction Blvd., and the Tremont Health Center in the Bronx. After community protest, the city temporarily stopped the plan and rescheduled the closing for the end of 2013.

Yet, after keeping the clinics open into the New Year with funds provided by the City Council, closures are expected for the end of February.

“The function of immunization is prevention,” said Fitz Reid, president of Local 768, a union representing health care workers. “It’s not just job protections, it’s to protect the children, protect the public.”

The closures are expected to severely limit access to free and low-cost immunizations for low-income and poor families, protecting them from diseases such as the flu, meningitis, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and others.

The DOHMH also plans on cutting the hours of its STD clinics, according to union leaders.

Public employee union District Council 37 tried to hold a meeting with the Health Department, but said it was not productive as no immunization representative attended. The group now wants to schedule a new meeting with the hope of getting their concerns heard by the department’s newly appointed commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett.

“We’re hoping that when she takes the reigns, we’ll be able to meet with her and have a productive meeting where we emphasize the importance of the clinics in the communities,” said Judith Arroyo, president of Local 436, United Federation of Nurses and Epidemiologists. “We’re just waiting for a response.”

According to Arroyo, the immunization clinics are necessary because they serve as the first step for immigrant families to learn about health care and begin immunization records for their children.

One of the major issues at hand is that every closure has been kept from the community, said leaders. Residents would then have to travel to the Fort Greene Health Center, located at 295 Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn, the city’s only walk-in immunization clinic.

“I continue to oppose the closure of the Corona immunization clinic,” Councilmember Daniel Dromm said. “The Department of Health unfortunately has decided to keep their plans for the center in the dark. Residents need to have access to these services, including school children who are required to have certain shots before attending class.”

The DOHMH did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

 

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Convention center and 25-story hotel headed for Corona


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Fleet Financial Group

A convention center complex as big as a city block, with a 25-story hotel and apartments, may be coming to Queens. 

Fleet Financial Group plans to build a roughly 106,000-square-foot convention center, the largest in the East Coast, at 112-21 Northern Blvd. in Corona.

The $200 million real estate project also includes 292 river-view hotel rooms, 236 luxurious apartments, a shopping center and a high-class restaurant.

“That area is really booming. It’s going to be great for Queens,” said Fleet president Richard Xia.

The site is near Citi Field, where a major $3 billion redevelopment project, including a mega mall, is slated for Willets Point. It is also by the Grand Central Parkway, about two miles from LaGuardia Airport.

“People pass by, but they never stop here,” said Xia, who lives and works in Flushing. “It’s going to be something that will create a lot of jobs and, in the meantime, bring a lot more business activity to Queens.”

Fleet purchased the 1.67-acre property — currently the site of the DiBlasi Ford dealership — last month for $17 million, according to Xia.

The company is also in the midst of completing an 18-story Westin Element hotel, with a medical center, at 42-31 Union St. in Flushing.

Construction of the massive complex in Corona, dubbed the Eastern Emerald Center, would create nearly 3,000 jobs, Xia said.

Work is expected to start this June and end in 2017, though the proposal still needs approval from Community Board 3, the Queens borough president and the city.

The project has support from Queens Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Seth Bornstein and Queens Chamber of Commerce President Al Pennisi.

“It sounds like a really good idea,” Bornstein said. “We lack quality, large-scale space for events. It would really be a benefit to the borough.”

Pennisi said the city “could use more than one” facility like the Javits Center in Manhattan.

“[The Chamber] thought of this project,” Pennisi said. “It’ll bring conventions of all sizes into a modern facility. Everybody will benefit from it.”

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras and Victor Rodriguez, a Corona resident who owns a mini market near the proposed complex, hope the development will be a boon for the neighborhood.

“I think it’s good for us,” Rodriguez said. “It’ll bring more people here.”

But a local educator, who did not want to be named, said the slated site is near too many schools on an already accident-prone portion of Northern Boulevard.

“To have something of that magnitude, and all these people coming to town, I can’t see how that improves anything,” she said. “Money is good and people need jobs, but there are so many other things not fixed as is.”

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Police: Corona man found stabbed to death


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

A 25-year-old Corona man was found stabbed to death on Saturday, police said.

Cops found Furman Herrera-Martinez unconscious and unresponsive with stab wounds to his chest and arm after they responded to call about a stabbing in front of 96-06 Roosevelt Avenue at 5:52 a.m.

EMS transported Herrera-Martinez to Elmhurst General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cops have not made any arrests and the investigation is ongoning.

 

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Op-ed: The spirit of giving


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Every year, the holiday day season gives us an extra special opportunity to reflect upon our blessings and take time to give back to those we love.

With Chanukah just ending and Christmas and Kwanzaa fast approaching, it’s clear that the spirit of giving is already in the air – almost everywhere you look you see folks with shopping bags full of holiday presents just waiting to bring joy.

While I have always found truth in the age-old saying “Tis better to give than to receive,” I could not help but relish the happiness that one sizable gift brought to our community last week.

On November 26, just days before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of joining Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and representatives from the Queens Museum and the Queens Economic Development Corp. at Corona Plaza to announce an $800,000 leadership gift from J.P. Morgan Chase to the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

This gift will not only benefit countless New Yorkers by creating 100 jobs for workers maintaining 20 of the City’s existing plazas, but it will also ensure that the DOT’s community partners in under-resourced neighborhoods, like Corona, will have the support they need to maintain clean, green and vibrant public plazas.

Since 2008, the DOT has installed 22 plazas throughout the City, and it plans to bring another 37 in the near future with the goal of putting all New Yorkers within a 10-minute walk of quality open space.

Corona Plaza is a perfect example of how effective and important these green spaces are to our local neighborhoods. To so many children who grow up in apartments without any front or back yards, neighborhood plazas are the only safe access they have to the outdoors.

Just 18 months ago, the site where Corona Plaza now sits was open to traffic and cluttered with parked trucks, causing a safety hazard for all pedestrians entering and exiting the nearby subway platform. Today, the plaza is a space bursting with activity, serving as the go-to destination where locals can have a cup of coffee, exercise outdoors and enjoy free family-friendly events.

Public plazas go a long way in helping our communities enhance economic activity, air quality, community safety and the overall quality of life.

Although Chase’s gift will undoubtedly go a long way in improving plazas throughout the City, it’s clear that there is still much work that needs to be done. The cost just to maintain Corona Plaza alone ranges between $50,000 and $75,000 every year, not including the hundreds of volunteer hours donated by those who want to add to the beautification efforts.

This holiday season, I urge everyone to spend time at their nearest neighborhood plaza and consider the immense benefits they generate. If you can spend just a fraction of your time investing in your local plaza, you will not only help improve these vital green spaces, but you will also create a better future for generations to come.

In the spirit of giving, please consider volunteering at your local plaza today. The gift of your time will surely be one that keeps on giving!

To learn more about the services offered by the DOT Public Plaza Program, please visit www.nyc.gov/plazas or contact 311 or plazas@dot.nyc.gov.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. Through her leadership, Corona Plaza continues to be a premiere outdoor destination for the local community.

 

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