Tag Archives: Corona

Some small businesses won’t back BID in Jackson Heights, Corona


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos By Angy Altamirano

Some business owners are saying no to the expansion that would bring a business improvement district (BID) to the Jackson Heights and Corona area for fear of losing what makes the community diverse.

The 82nd Street Partnership, a non-profit group promoting the current local BID covering four blocks and over 160 businesses, announced in March it would be extending all the way through 114th Street as part of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’ New Deal for Roosevelt Avenue to form the Jackson Heights-Corona BID.

Members and supporters of the Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance, created to put a stop to the plan for the BID, rallied at Corona Plaza on Sunday, September 8. According to members of the group, they fear the BID will get rid of the small businesses that make up Roosevelt Avenue, push out the immigrant community and raise rents. The group later marched to Ferreras’ office on Junction Boulevard.

“This movement is no longer just a Roosevelt Avenue small business owners’ movement, it is a movement of the community,” said Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7, a Jackson Heights bar, who is looking for an open communication with local leaders and politicians. “Roosevelt Avenue is mega diversity. We can’t allow the standardization of projects like the BID. We are here to say no to the whole process of gentrification and expulsion of our diversity.”

Yet, according to Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership, most of the opposition is coming from the community not having the right information on the BID.

“There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there and that seems to be driving a lot of the fear,” said Taylor. “It’s our job that everyone has all the information they need so they can make an informed decision.”

The BID plans to become a community-driven effort including property owners, businesses, residents, public officials and other stakeholders.

“This is really a small business survival strategy,” said Taylor. “This is an opportunity for the small businesses on Roosevelt avenue to make an investment that goes right back into the neighborhood.”

To date, Taylor said they have held seven public meetings, seven steering committee meetings and dozens of one-on-one meetings with business owners. More meetings are planned for the coming weeks.

BIDs have proven to be successful in other neighborhoods — for example on Fordham Road in the Bronx and Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, and especially in immigrant communities — said Taylor.

“We are asking people to keep an open mind, to take time to learn the facts and to voice their concern so we can find a way to work together to invest in our neighborhood and improve quality of life for everyone,” he said. “We want to remind everyone that this is an initiative that will only happen if there is wide spread support of the small business community.”

Ballots for the BID will be sent out in the mail in October and decision making will be done by a board of directors that represents the diverse area and community members.

“The current problems on Roosevelt Avenue hurt everyone, including our working and immigrant community and small businesses,” said Ferreras. “This is why I believe a business improvement district is a solution to this problem.”

For more information on the BID, you can visit www.jhcoronabid.org.

 

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New Corona school building to ease overcrowding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A new school in Corona is set to ease the burden of overcrowded classrooms in the area.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), P.S. 330, currently located within a building at 86-37 53rd Avenue in Elmhurst, will move into a brand new location at 111-08 Northern Boulevard just in time for the beginning of the school year next week.

“This is a fantastic new building, and we’re confident that P.S. 330 will deliver well for its students there,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

P.S. 330 opened at the initial building in 2010 in order to lighten overcrowding in District 24 elementary schools. The school currently serves 220 students in kindergarten and first grade, but is expected to open more than 400 seats once it makes the move.

The new building will continue to alleviate overcrowding in Corona and is also located in an area closer to where 84 percent of the students currently live, the DOE said.

“Over the past 12 years, we’ve created over 125,000 new school seats,” said Puglia. “As we put up brand new, state-of-the-art buildings around the city, we’re meeting the needs of our schools and communities.”

Once P.S. 330, at its new location, completes its expansion and reaches its full capacity in the 2015-2016 school year, it will serve 570 to 630 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Because overcrowding is a serious issue in my district, I could not be happier to have P.S. 330 opening its doors this September,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.

In April, Ferreras established the Educational and Overcrowding Improvement Task Force. The task force was created to help improve the communication between the DOE and parents, as well as ease the overcrowding issues in Community Education Council Districts 24 and 30.

“These efforts, combined with plans for the construction of five additional schools in my district, will undoubtedly improve the overcrowding issues our local schools are currently experiencing,” said Ferreras.

According to the DOE, it will work with the community to figure out the best use for P.S. 330’s original building.

 

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Identify this place in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

where is this

Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken?

Guess by commenting below!

The answer will be revealed next Friday.

 

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”: Congregation Tifereth Israel in Corona

 

 

Cyclists take part in sixth annual Tour de Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

After completing the Five Boro Bike Tour last year, Astoria resident Jennifer Chakrabarti wanted to do a bike ride with her nine-year-old son Bhaskar.

The family-friendly sixth annual Tour de Queens on July 7 fit the bill. This year, it began in Chakrabarti’s “backyard” at Astoria Park.

“I like that it’s a slow-paced so that kids can do it,” Chakrabarti said. “That’s what really drew us to it, because he wanted to do a ride.”

About 1,250 riders from all over the city saddled up for the annual bike tour to experience a relaxing ride and enjoy unique views of western Queens neighborhoods, which was a major lane change for the event.

For the first time ever, the ride started in Astoria Park instead of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It continued for nearly 20 miles through Long Island City, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Corona and Elmhurst.

The ride also highlighted Juniper Valley Park at the halfway point, where the group gathered to rest, eat and reenergize.

“We change the ride up every year to showcase different parts of the borough, to demonstrate the interconnectivity of the different neighborhoods and to show how easy it is to bike through the borough and to show people the sites,” said event director Ben McRoberts of Transportation Alternatives.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district was included in the tour, hoped the ride could help future business.

“Not only is it healthy for all of us, but it is a great opportunity for people to see sites and small businesses that they never get to see,” said Van Bramer, who participated for the first time this year.

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM TOUR DE QUEENS 

About 100 volunteer ride marshals in orange jackets followed riders to keep them on track and assist in case there were any issues. Paramedics also followed closely behind the bikers in case of medical problems.

The NYPD escorted the ride to manage the crowd and traffic and provide a safe atmosphere. Many participants felt secure with the cops guiding the tour, especially after the tragic events of the Boston Marathon earlier this year.

“With this number of people, I guess there is a little bit of safety concern,” said Astoria cyclist Jonathan Co. “But I feel pretty safe for the most part.”

 

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Op-Ed: School buildings need adequate funding


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Long before I was elected to office, I was the Beacon Program director at P.S. 19 in Corona, known at the time as the most overcrowded school in the country. My years of work engaging our neighborhood children helped me understand the effect of school building conditions on their academic performance.

Because their classrooms were overcrowded, the students received less attention to their individual learning needs and more distraction readily intruded upon their focus. I’ve since learned that overcrowded schools are only part of a bigger problem. Chronic underfunding of our school buildings has left too many of our children learning in less than adequate environments.

Cutbacks in school facilities funding over the years have led to widespread school overcrowding and crumbling schools across aging school buildings in many of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. More schools can relieve the overcrowding, but appropriate funding for their operation and maintenance is necessary to keep them all in good, working order. Our children deserve to learn under the best possible conditions in the greatest city in the world.

I’m proud to say I’ve launched an Education Task Force with the help of Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, the School Construction Authority and our community partners to not only improve communication between our schools and parents, but also advocate for better funding of our school facilities and develop long-term solutions.

New York City spends a smaller percentage of its total education budget on building maintenance and operations than most other large school districts in the country, and the percentage of the city’s education budget dedicated to facilities keeps shrinking by millions of dollars, according to a report published in early May by 32BJ SEIU. The union represents 5,000 public school cleaners and handypersons.

According to that report, there are thousands of open building code violations in hundreds of school buildings across the city. As these violations are repaired, the number of building code violations changes, but there seems to be a constant and exorbitant number of them left unaddressed. I worry that in overcrowded schools, the large student populations place an overwhelming demand on dwindling resources and supplies, exacerbating school conditions at a rapid pace.

When toilets don’t work or the heat doesn’t stay on, we place an undue burden on our children and it falls disproportionately on poorer neighborhoods. These are basic things that any one of us would take care of in the privacy of our own home, and the city needs to give the same priority to these issues at our children’s schools. This should increase the urgency of our endeavor.

The City of New York and the Department of Education must allocate sufficient funding to address these problems in our school buildings. School cleaners and handypersons need the right resources and manpower to keep school buildings operating. And just as years of advocacy by parents, students and community organizations got the city to cut the timeline in half to remove toxic PCBs from public school lights, we must focus as a community on the improvement of our children’s school buildings and give them the learning environment they deserve.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is the Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee and is a member of the Committees on Parks and Recreation, Civil Rights, Consumer Affairs, Economic Development, Finance and Health.

 

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Suspect sexually assaults girl inside Corona grocery store


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are seeking a sex assault suspect who preyed on a nine-year-old girl in a Corona grocery store Tuesday.

Around 4:30 p.m., the suspect, while inside the store, located near 39th Avenue and 108th Street, motioned for the child to come over to him. He then kissed the girl on the cheek, sexually abused her and fled.

The victim also fled the store and told her mother what happened.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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82nd Street Partnership unveils new look for Roosevelt Avenue


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of 82nd Street Partnership

Take a look at what the 82nd Street Partnership has in store for Roosevelt Avenue.

On Wednesday, June 19, the group revealed streetscape renderings for public spaces within the Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District (BID) expansion area.

In March, the 82nd Street Partnership announced plans to expand its BID to include corridors of Roosevelt Avenue, Junction Boulevard, 103rd Street and National Street. This expansion will become a community-driven effort including property owners, businesses, residents, public officials and other stakeholders. The goal is to improve the strip’s sense of place.

In the past four months, the 82nd Street Partnership has met with businesses and collected more than 300 surveys from residents as well as property and business owners. The undertaking received support from community and economic development groups including the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Queens Economic Development Corporation, Corona Community Action Network (Corona CAN), Make the Road NY and Immigrant Movement International.

After gathering the information, the partnership created conceptual renderings depicting the vision of the community for the Jackson Heights-Corona commercial district once the BID gets underway in 2014.

In the renderings, Roosevelt Avenue is shown with improvements including new planted trees, street tables and chairs, flowers, outdoor café seating, lighting, banners, benches, bicycle racks, brighter lights and renovated storefronts with new awnings and swings.

“The business community envisions sidewalks and public spaces along the commercial corridor to be inviting, enjoyable places where people of all ages and backgrounds can relax and feel comfortable – as is depicted in the rendering,” said Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership. “The community envisions a commercial corridor where people can comfortably and safely stroll all hours of the day and night.”

The BID hopes to improve the quality of life and support the local economic activity in the neighborhood by making the area cleaner, safer, brighter and more enjoyable.

“The Jackson Heights – Corona BID looks forward to helping the community realize its exciting vision for the future,” said Taylor.

For more information, visit www.JHCoronaBID.org.

 

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Community boards OK rezoning for East Elmhurst, Corona


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

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Proposed rezoning of parts of East Elmhurst and Corona seems to be on track, with approvals from both Community Boards (CB) 3 and 4.

The Department of City Planning received the go-ahead from the boards — a first step since Commissioner Amanda Burden’s June 3 announcement of the beginning of the official public review process of a 127-block rezoning of East Elmhurst and 14 block fronts along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona.

The objective of the rezoning is to protect the current character of East Elmhurst’s residential blocks, which are made up of one- and two-family detached, semi-detached and attached homes.

“This rezoning, which was developed in close consultation with the community and local elected officials, will protect the cherished one- and two-family composition of this neighborhood,” said Burden.

The proposal also looks to update commercial overlays in order to reinforce the main commercial corridors, better reflect current land use trends and constrain commercial incursions onto residential streets. The rezoning will aim to strengthen the character of Astoria Boulevard and help it stand out from residential streets.

The 14 block fronts along Roosevelt Avenue that are included in the rezoning proposal will also help increase development in the area. For example it will allow the 82nd Street Partnership’s Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District to provide services for the merchants and community on the busy strip.

“Though currently zoned for residential use, we’re seeing increased commercial activity along the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue from Elmhurst Avenue to 114th Street,” said Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership.

“The rezoning pairs nicely with the proposed Jackson Heights- Corona BID, which would promote local economic growth and be a positive force for the entire commercial corridor.”

The rezoning proposal will now be reviewed by the Borough Board, Borough President, the City Planning Commission and then the City Council.

 

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Walcott addresses overcrowding in Corona school


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Parents and teachers at P.S. 143, the Louis Armstrong School, are overwhelmed by overcrowding and are clamoring for a solution.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addressed the issue in a tense June 24 meeting in which parents and school officials were fuming over the two-decade-long problem.

The Corona elementary school has a capacity of 900 students, yet 1,780 students are currently enrolled, according to school officials.

In front of the main building on 34th Avenue between 112th and 113th Streets, there are four large, trailer-like classrooms.

“If they build a building outside for us, it will alleviate the overcrowding in here,” said Alma Salgado, president of the P.S. 143 Parent Teacher Association.

However, Walcott was cautious about such an approach.

“As soon as we build, we need to build more in district 24,” he said.

Parents said that the overcrowding has led to classrooms with 30 and sometimes more students. Some students have to eat lunch as early as 9:30 a.m., while others have classes in the cafeteria because of scheduling conflicts.

“It’s a hurdle that we have to jump over,” said first-year principal Jerry Brito. “It is obviously an issue we have to be aware of, because it does make it harder for us to run things.”

To address the overcrowding, the Department of Education leased space owned by a Greek Orthodox church on 38th Avenue. The site, about a dozen blocks away from P.S. 143, has accommodated 250 students.

The agreement was extended through the 2013-2014 school year. However, the property’s owners do not want to renew the lease for the 2014-2015 school year.

Before he left the meeting, Walcott said he will continue to look for a solution. He added that in three weeks, he will send an update to the school administrators to relay to parents.

 

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Two sought in Corona stabbing of 17-year-old


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Police have released a video of two suspects wanted in connection to the stabbing of a teen in Corona on Saturday.

The pair approached the 17-year-old victim around 12:00 a.m. on May 25  at the corner of 37th Avenue and 111th Street, and started arguing with him, said police. They then stabbed him once in the stomach and once in the lower back.

The victim was taken to St Barnabas Hospital.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Willets Point business owners expect to reopen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nearly one dozen Willets Point business owners who had their auto shops abruptly shut down by the city two weeks ago said they expect to reopen in a few days.

“We all have families,” said Wais Mohibi, owner of Discount Muffler in the Iron Triangle. “Don’t just come in without warning, without anything, and just shut us down.”

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued partial vacate orders two weeks ago to five businesses at 38-01 126th Street for “illegal, unsafe construction,” according to a department spokesperson.

About five other shops at 37-11 126th Street were also shut down. Vacate orders had been in effect at those locations since 2009, the DOB said.

The businesses were hit with violations for working without permits and for having improper lightweight steel, called C-joist, installed at their sites, according to the department.

The DOB said C-joist construction without proper shoring affects the structural stability of buildings and can cause collapse. Such conditions led to the death of one Brooklyn construction workers last year, the department said.

Most of the business owners dealing with vacate orders are working out deals with the city to sell their property. However, they said they did not expect to be forced out of their jobs so quickly. They added that the vacates left them with nothing.

“All our equipment is inside. We can’t do anything,” Mohibi said. “That’s not fair at all. We’re basically going to be in the street.”

Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said business owners expect their stores will temporarily reopen by Monday, June 3.

He said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’s office has been in touch with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which will handle repairs to the stores.

According to an HPD spokesperson, the repairs will be funded by the city and will begin in the next few days. The spokesperson added that there is no timeline yet for the project’s completion.

Ferreras said those owners should be able to return next week at the very latest.

“The city has to treat us as human beings,” Neira said. “I know they want this land. They can have this land, but not in this way.”

According to the DOB, business owners have to submit new design drawings, obtain permits and install proper shoring before their shops can reopen.

The establishments are located at the heart a $3 billion city project to transform the area into a major commercial hub.

“This is obviously harassment by the city of New York because this area is slated for redevelopment,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

 

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Three charged with kidnapping, holding Queens man for month in $3M ransom attempt


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Three men have been arrested for kidnapping a man off a Jackson Heights street in broad daylight and holding him in a warehouse for a month in a $3 million ransom attempt, the district attorney’s office said Wednesday.

Christian Acuna, 35, of Corona, Dennis Alves, 32, of East Elmhurst, and Eduardo Moncayo, 38, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, are currently awaiting arraignment on kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment charges. If convicted, each of the men could face up to 25 years to life in prison.

According to the charges, on April 18, Moncayo approached the victim, 52-year-old Pedro Portugal, on Roosevelt Avenue and showed him what appeared to be an NYPD badge.

Moncayo and an unapprehended man then allegedly grabbed Portugal and forced him into a vehicle.

He was driven to a Long Island City warehouse where he was bound, beaten and burnt with acid by a group of unknown men over a 32-day period.

The men told Portugal that they knew he had property in the United States, and he was ordered to call his mother and brother in Ecuador and ask for $3 million in ransom.

Portugal’s ordeal came to an end May 20 when police rescued him from inside the warehouse.

“Nobody said anything,” said Flavio Camposano, worker at Sign Zone, one of the businesses working out of the warehouse on 43rd Avenue, where Portugal was allegedly held captive. “Everything was regular.”

According to Camposano, a man shouted asking for help through an open window on the third floor of the warehouse on Monday and then at around 3 p.m. police swarmed the area.

Local business owners at 88-06 Roosevelt Avenue said Portugal worked as an accountant on the second floor of the building.

“I was surprised to hear what happened because it was in the middle of the day,” said a worker at Cholula Bakery who wished to remain anonymous and who saw Portugal get his breakfast at the shop every day. “There were so many people on the street. It’s so great he was found.”

Sergio Ruiz, owner of a deli at 88-04 Roosevelt Avenue, has known Portugal for the past 13 years and said the surveillance camera from his store shows Portugal leaving the building calmly the day of the kidnapping. Ruiz believes that if he was approached by men identifying themselves as cops he would have been in the same situation.

“At the moment someone just reacts and just does it,” said Ruiz.

Pedro Portugal, a 52-year-old man from Woodside, was allegedly kidnapped outside this Jackson Heights location on April 18 and held for ransom for 32 days.

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$2M in heroin, crystal meth seized from Corona drug operation


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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Officials investigating a stash house in Corona busted three drug traffickers and seized more than $2 million in heroin and crystal meth, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office announced.

Miguel Mercado-Guelen, 33, of Queens, Henry Nunez 38, of Brooklyn, and Diego Estevez, 39, of Connecticut, have been indicted on drug and conspiracy charges.

On April 9, the day of their arrests, investigators observed the three men handing off a bag containing around 6.6 pounds of heroin in the Bronx.

Investigators seized the drugs and detained the men, and later conducted a search on the Queens drug stash house that was under surveillance.

The search of the two-level apartment at 24-24 96th Street turned up approximately 3 more pounds of heroin, almost 9 pounds of crystal meth, a 9 mm handgun and a loaded magazine clip.

The heroin seized in the Bronx and at the Queens home is valued at more than $1 million, and the crystal meth is worth about $960,000, said the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office.

 

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MTA worker busted for staging robbery at Queens subway station


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

A MTA worker and her male accomplice have been arrested for stealing $4,000 in a staged robbery at a Queens subway station, announced District Attorney Richard Brown.

Tracy King, 48, of Queens, and Anthony Brown, 42, of Brooklyn, have been charged with grand larceny, defrauding the government and falsely reporting an incident.

As part of the duo’s alleged scheme, King claimed she was a victim of the Saturday, May 11 holdup at the 7 train station at 111th Street in Corona.

According to the charges, said the district attorney, King initially claimed that around 11:00 a.m. she was in the station’s break room when a man with a black revolver and stun gun came in, pointed them at her, and duct taped her hands and mouth. He then removed the keys to the ticket booth and took approximately $4,000 from inside of it.

Fellow MTA employees later found King duct taped inside the break room, and King was taken to a police local precinct to file a report.

But following an investigation, cops no longer believed King was the victim, but had instead agreed to split the stolen money with the robber.

Brown told police that King asked if he wanted to make some money and told him to come to the station on Saturday, said the district attorney.  She also told him to tie her up with the duct tape so cops would believe the robbery was real.

If convicted, King and Brown face up to seven years in prison.

 

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Police searching for suspects in Corona robbery


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for four suspects in connection to a robbery in Corona.

On Saturday, April 13 at 5 a.m. the suspects approached a 28-year-old victim and assaulted him as he was walking in front of 35-02 103rd Street, police said. They removed his wallet and chain before fleeing the scene. The victim suffered injuries to his face and was taken to Elmhurst Hospital.

Police described the first suspect as a Hispanic male wearing a dark blue jacket, gray pants and gray sneakers.

The second suspect is a Hispanic male with dark facial hair and wearing a black winter hat, black hooded sweatshirt, black bubble vest, blue jeans and black sneakers

The third suspect is a Hispanic male with dark short hair and wearing a black leather coat, black jeans with a chain on his left pocket and black sneakers.

The fourth suspect is a Hispanic male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and black sneakers. He was also carrying a white plastic shopping bag.

Authorities have released a surveillance video of three of the suspects.

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 by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.