Tag Archives: Councilman Rory Lancman

Orthodox Jewish men attacked in possible Kew Garden Hills bias crimes

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps

Two Orthodox Jewish men have been attacked in the past two weeks in Kew Gardens Hills in incidents being investigated by police as possible bias crimes.

Cops say the first incident was a 28-year-old man hit in the back with BB gun pellets on Friday, Sept. 11, at 7:55 p.m. The victim had been walking home from a local synagogue when he was hit on 75th Avenue between 150th and 147th streets. He did not have any serious injuries.

The second victim was a 25-year-old Orthodox Jewish man hit by a BB gun on his left leg on Friday, Sept. 18, according to police. He was on the corner of 73rd Ave. and 150th Street. The man had been walking to a synagogue at 10:27 a.m. at the time of the incident; he also was not seriously injured.

Both incidents took place during the Sabbath, and are still under investigation.

Councilman Rory Lancman said that his office is in contact with the Police Department to ensure that security concerns are addressed, particularly during upcoming religious holidays.

“I was deeply disturbed to learn that two Jewish victims were hit by BB guns in Kew Gardens Hills,” Lancman said. “The NYPD is appropriately investigating these incidents as potential anti-Semitic hate crimes.”

Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz said he was confident that all perpetrators will be brought to justice and that the recent string of crimes will end.

“I am deeply saddened to hear about the recent incident that betrays an unfortunate prejudice alive in our neighborhood,” Simanowitz said. “We live in a community that should celebrate and be proud of our diversity. Acts of bigotry will not be tolerated or go unpunished.”

Anyone with information regarding the attacks is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.


Glendale cemetery ceremony honors victim of lynch mob 100 years later

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photos by Anthony Giudice

Vowing never to forget, local elected officials and activists gathered on Monday at the Glendale grave of Leo Frank to mark the 100th anniversary since the Jewish factory superintendent wrongfully convicted of murder in Georgia was lynched by a hateful mob.

In 1913, a jury in Georgia found Frank guilty of murdering a 13-year-old girl who worked at his factory and sentenced him to death in a trial marked by anti-Semitism. Then-Georgia Gov. John Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison, but in 1915, a group of armed men kidnapped Frank from the prison farm where he was serving time.

The group drove Frank to Marietta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, where on Aug. 17, 1915, he was brutally beaten and hanged from a tree — a victim of anti-Semitism and unfounded fear among residents. Frank’s body was interred at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale, where Monday’s ceremony took place at graveside.

Among the participants were City Council members Rory I. Lancman and Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblyman David Weprin, Public Advocate Letitia James, Borough President Melinda Katz and members of the Anti-Defamation League, the Queens Jewish Community Council and the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives.

“Leo Frank wasn’t a senator or an advocate. He wasn’t an artist or an academic. He was just a Jew, and often that’s all the world needs to know,” Lancman said. “He must have felt terribly alone during his ordeal, especially when he was kidnapped and surrounded by a bloodthirsty mob. He is not alone today.”

Crowley echoed Lancman’s sentiments that more work is needed to bring an end to social injustices that still exist today.

“This still happens today, 100 years later. That’s why it’s so important we come together as a community to remember the anti-Semitic acts that killed Leo Frank and the racism that is alive today in America,” Crowley said. “Whether it’s the color of your skin or the religion you practice, here in New York and all across America and sadly, more often, all across the world people are killed for who they believe in or who they are, and that’s just wrong.”

Frank’s grandniece, Catherine Smithline, was in attendance to remember her granduncle and the terrible ordeal he was put through a century ago. Smithline was presented a proclamation from the Council of the City of New York on behalf of Frank that would remain at the cemetery, which memorializes some of the facts of Frank’s trial and murder.

“Leo Frank’s trial and murder was not just a horrific example of anti-Semitism, but also a damning condemnation of America’s justice system at the time,” Lancman added. “Let’s leave here remembering Leo Frank, but let’s not forget that we still have a lot of work to do to rid our legal system of injustice.”


Commuter Van Reform Act looks to reign in illegal ‘dollar vans’

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Two elected officials are hoping that unlicensed commuter vans will soon face steep penalties for operating illegally in city neighborhoods.

Councilmen I. Daneek Miller and Rory Lancman introduced on Thursday the Commuter Van Reform Act to City Council, two bills that will require the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to collect data on these vans and raise fines for illegally operating vehicles.

“During a period where we are rightfully concerned with an oversaturation of vehicles and its impact on the environment and public safety, the Wild West commuter van industry has gone without oversight for too long,” Miller said in a press release. “This industry has been omitted from conversations despite often being unsafe, unregulated and inaccessible for many New Yorkers.”

Last week, the TLC announced that all legal operators of commuter vans, commonly called “dollar vans,” must display licensing decals on their vehicles. Currently, 344 vans and 301 drivers are legally allowed to operate in New York City.

This step is not enough, according to Miller and Lancman, who cited the increased number of shootings and car chases involving commuter vans, especially in southeast Queens, in the past 12 months.

After Community Board 12 sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to request a moratorium on commuter van applications as “van owners and operators continue to violate traffic rules and regulations,” the City Council admitted in a March 2014 meeting that many vehicles unlicensed by DOT were operating in Queens and all across New York City.

Intro. No. 860 will require the TLC to annually collect data and perform a study on the state of both the legal and illegal van industry. A moratorium will be placed on new van licences until the first study is completed. The study will focus on vans operating in eastern Queens, central and south Brooklyn, and Chinatown in Manhattan.

Another bill, Intro. No. 861, will raise fines for illegally operating a commuter van to $3,000 for a first offense and $4,000 for a second offense and repeated offenses within two years. Now, illegally operating a van carries a $500 fine for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense. All other violations carry a fine of $1,000 for a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense.

The package of bills has been referred to the Council’s Transportation Committee.


Jamaica Hills Merchants Association looks to foster local business growth

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps


Businesses in Jamaica Hills have gained new advocates in the Jamaica Hills Merchants Association, a new group formed through the efforts of Councilman Rory Lancman and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

The association will advocate for businesses located specifically on Hillside Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 172nd Street. Lancman secured a $10,000 grant toward the endeavor.

The group will act as a resource for businesses looking to navigate the regulatory structure in New York City and will also connect them with programs like the Department of Small Businesses’ “Small Business First Initiative,” which fosters “cross-agency collaboration to simplify rules and compliance processes,” according to nyc.gov.

Business owners will also be educated on the financing options available through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The Jamaica Hills Merchants Association will organize and advocate for the vibrant businesses in this area,” Lancman said. “Their efforts will make this community a more lively and engaging environment for consumers, residents and business owners.”

The purpose of the association is not only to promote local businesses but also to “improve the appearance, safety, vitality and customer appeal of the area,” according to a press release. Business owners, property owners and residents will work with local leaders and city agencies to enhance public safety, sanitation and traffic.

Exit Alliance Realty, located on Hillside Avenue, has been serving the Jamaica community for almost 16 years. Broker Azahar Haque said the company has always thought about creating some kind of business association, especially since the area has recently experienced a surging growth along Hillside Avenue.

“As we have been doing business over 16 years with this community, we always felt the necessity of some sort of business organization that will only focus to this community for finding its needs, changes and some issues that [occur] on a daily basis,” Haque said. “Tons of businesses are taking over or growing and even in some cases outgrowing due to popular demand and [we are experiencing] one of the biggest traffic around the city that moves around through this area.”

Haque said he hopes this association fosters a community of business owners who are from the Jamaica area and said Exit Alliance will work to keep the community safe and clean. The company is now working with the Department of Sanitation to add more garbage bins on Hillside Avenue to give patrons more options for trash removal.


Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens celebrates milestones

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Carl Ballenas


Maple Grove Cemetery had a historic weekend marking three milestones affecting the Kew Gardens burial grounds.

The cemetery commemorated the sesquicentennials of both the end of the Civil War and the formation of the New York U.S. Colored Troops (NY USCT), the first regiment of color, as well as the 140th anniversary of Maple Grove’s foundation.

Queens residents were treated to a concert on Saturday featuring 12 musicians who performed classical pieces, marches, ballads, lullabies and jazz. Each piece that was performed honored a musician who was buried at the cemetery.

“Requiem for a Soldier” was also performed to honor veterans buried in Maple Grove such as Joseph Teagle, a Civil War veteran who moved to Jamaica after his service.

The 150th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War was celebrated on Sunday with the help of the USCT reenactors. The group provides educational enrichment programs, demonstrations, talks at living history events, classrooms and battle reenactments. Artifacts were also on display, including furniture and photographs from the Civil War era.

According to Friends of Maple Grove President Carl Ballenas, the event was a success. “We had crowds coming in nonstop,” he said.

The reenactors guided patrons to several sites in the cemetery where people connected to the Civil War are interred. They included Henry Heath, who was captured in battle and was one of the first people to be involved in a prisoner exchange during the war; and Millie Tunnel, a slave who moved to Jamaica when she was freed.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Rory Lancman attended the event to help lay a wreath at the site of the Shiloh Church monument. It was recently discovered that 300 congregants of the Shiloh Church, the first African-American church in Manhattan founded in 1822, were moved to the Maple Grove Cemetery in 1877. The church was often visited by Frederick Douglas, a famous abolitionist and writer.

“People expressed delight and joy at such an important event in Queens and how extraordinary it was for both young and old,” Ballenas said.


Improvements aim to end flood woes on Utopia Parkway

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Office of Rory Lancman


The intersection of Utopia Parkway and 65th Avenue in Fresh Meadows should no longer be plagued by flooding every time it rains.

Councilman Rory Lancman and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced Friday that several measures have been installed to mitigate flooding that has inundated residents for years.

The area has experienced severe floods since 1975 and residents have had to pump out their basements and repair flooded cars, spending thousands of dollars in the process.

The manhole cover in the area, which would have several feet of water shooting out of it when it rained, has been sealed and duckbill check valves have been installed in the catch basins. Duckbill check valves, which get their names from the shape they resemble, prevent back flow in the sewers.

“After years of dangerous road conditions and flooded basements, the Fresh Meadows community will now get some relief,” Lancman said. “These improvements will help limit future flooding on Utopia Parkway, where a veritable lake is formed during heavy storms and basements are inundated with dirty rainwater.”

Eric Landau, associate commissioner of public affairs for the DEP, said the rainfall early this week proved that these measures work.

“These improvements represent a great collaboration between DEP engineers and members of the community,” Landau said. “And this week’s heavy rains demonstrated that the infrastructure upgrades DEP recently completed worked and helped prevent flooding.”

According to Nadia Chait, communications director for Lancman’s office, the city has acknowledged that the infrastructure is overloaded and is working on a $6 billion multi-year effort to mitigate flooding in all of southeast Queens.

“That’s obviously a very large project, which is why we’re excited about what we’ve done today and [this project is] something that’s going to have an immediate impact for these homeowners,” she said.

DEP officials indicated this project will reduce flooding in the area by 65 percent.


Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer returns $20K of extra pay he gets for majority leader role

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


One local elected official is saying no thank you to a $20,000 annual stipend from the City Council.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the second-highest ranking member of the Council as majority leader, has decided to return his annual stipend, also known as a lulu, to taxpayers. He is eligible for the extra pay, in addition to his $112,500 salary, for his leadership post.

“Returning my $20,000 stipend as majority leader of the New York City Council is the right thing to do for me,” Van Bramer said. “While donating the stipend to charity may be noble, not taking it at all is consistent with a pledge I made when I first ran for the City Council in 2009. I serve in government out of a desire to help others and to build up the people and the neighborhoods I serve. That is what drives me to work hard and it always will.”

Lulus are given to members of the City Council for leadership posts or committee assignments. According to the NY Daily News, 47 of 51 members are given the additional pay ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The other Queens lawmaker to renounce the extra pay was Councilman Rory Lancman, who declined $8,000, joining 10 other Council members in the other boroughs who decided not to take the money, the Daily News said.

Base pay for a member of the City Council was raised from $90,000 to $112,500 in 2006. But the job is technically part-time, allowing lawmakers to earn outside income.

Good government groups have argued that lulus undermine the independence of individual lawmakers because, they say, the committee posts are handed out by the City Council speaker based on loyalty or other political considerations.


Queens pols and residents tell city to scrap plans for new express bus service

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Department of Transportation

As the city revs up plans to create express bus service between Jamaica and Flushing, residents and local politicians are throwing up speed bumps and roadblocks against the initiative.

“All they’re doing is shifting the burden of heavy traffic from one group of people to another,” Councilman Rory Lancman said. “And I can’t support anything like that.”

Across New York City there are several express lines that aim to cut down bus travel times by devoting a lane exclusively to express service, or Select Bus Service (SBS). But creating an exclusive bus lane means there is one less lane for regular traffic, a point that is a deal breaker for Lancman.

In a letter written by Lancman and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, the officials explain why they oppose the express bus lane to the Department of Transportation and the MTA. The Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association also signed onto the letter.

“No one can tell us exactly what the plan is, and that’s part of the problem,” said Jennifer Martin, co-president of the civic association. “If they’re going to reduce a busy thoroughfare to one lane, that’s going to create a tremendous backup. There has to be a better option.”

In Queens, the city has been slowly moving toward creating SBS along Woodhaven Boulevard. And the same might be happening to northern parts of Queens and Jamaica. The city will be holding a community workshop on Jan. 22 in Townsend Harris High School to engage with communities that would be affected by the bus plans.

But Lancman and others are not buying the city’s claims that express buses decrease traffic for everybody.

“We are opposed to removing any lane of traffic or parking in our district,” said Lancman, whose district covers Pomonok, Hillcrest and Utopia, which includes parts of Parsons Boulevard and Kissena Boulevard, two of the city’s candidates for the bus lines.

City officials originally met with residents in October 2014 at York College to get the community’s input on several proposed paths.

The DOT is considering two routes between the neighborhoods for SBS. The first would travel along Main Street where the Q44 and Q20A/B run. The second route under consideration is Parsons and Kissena boulevards, currently serviced by the Q25 and Q34.

Advocacy groups argue that adding SBS between Jamaica and Flushing would reduce traffic for all drivers, not just buses.

“By reducing congestion, speeding up travel times, and making busy avenues safer, BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] is a win-win for riders, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike,” said a spokeswoman for the advocacy group BRT for NYC. “The continued growth of Jamaica and Flushing – two of the borough’s most significant downtowns – depends on the type of improved transit access that provides.”

In addition to dedicated lanes, the express bus service includes other features to speed up service. Passengers would pay their fare at sidewalk kiosks before the bus arrives to reduce boarding times.

“The bus trips are long and slow,” a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said. “And with Select Bus Service we think there’s a solution to improve things.”


$1.2M to reconstruct park in Jamaica

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Captain Tilly Park will be getting a face-lift thanks to new funding proposed by the City Council.

The Parks Department broke ground this week to help clean up the park. Under the $1.2 million project, crews will remove invasive plants in the northern half of the park and replant with native ones that will help to combat the erosion of the area. Along with the plantings, pathways will be repaved and their drainage system will be improved.

“The first phase of renovation will increase the biodiversity and ecological richness of Captain Tilly Playground, while also addressing the park’s drainage and erosion issues,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “We are thankful for the City Council’s support of this important work and look forward to opening a greener and greater park.”

The first round of renovations, which include the projects above, is expected to take about a year to complete.

The second round of renovations will address the plaza area and surrounding landscape near the Tilly memorial. The Parks Department said they will add new asphalt pathways, fencing, granite pavement, benches, drainage, lighting and landscaping.

This portion of the project is expected to start in the fall of 2015 and take about a year to complete.

“I’m pleased to see the beginning of these renovations to Captain Tilly Park,” Councilman Rory I. Lancman said. “Properly removing and replacing the invasive plant species and preventing erosion into Goose Pond is the foundation for a lively, healthy park.”

Army Capt. George Tilly, the son of a prominent Jamaica family, died in the Philippines in 1899 when U.S. forces were fighting Filipino rebels for control of the colony, which was among the territories Spain ceded to the U.S. after the Spanish-American War. A monument to the heroes of the Spanish-American War was erected in the park in 1941.

The park, once used to raise ducks and geese, is located between Gothic Drive and Highland Avenue, west of 164th Street.



Fresh Meadows residents and local pol tell city flooding must stop

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jim Gallagher

Fresh Meadows residents have reached their saturation point.

For over a decade, a section of Utopia Parkway has been getting flooded every time it rains more than a few inches, and homes along the street end up with basements, bathrooms and garages overflowing with untreated sewage, according to residents and City Councilman Rory Lancman.

“This is something that’s been going on for many years,”  Lancman said, before going on to describe the issue as both “maddening” and “intolerable.”

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted a study of the area and came up with several possible solutions, from raising the curb to installing green infrastructure like bioswales, which are plantings and landscape designs to filter and redirect polluted water.

The long-standing problem, according to residents and city documents, is geography. The area sits in a valley that naturally collects water, overwhelming the catch basins faster than in other areas.

“So it’s not as if the city can’t do anything to alleviate the problem,” Lancman said. “We can’t get the DEP to ultimately tell us what it’s willing to do.”

The councilman is meeting with the DEP next week to see if he can push the department to move ahead with a solution.

In the meantime, residents like Annette Shapiro who live in the problem area between 65th and 67th Avenue worry at the mere prospect of a heavy rainfall.

“Every time it rains, everybody freaks out,” she said. “It’s no way to live. I’m sick of it.”


Councilman promises to fund purchase of Fresh Meadows colonial cemetery

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

Fresh Meadows Councilman Rory Lancman pledged to fully fund the purchase of a historical cemetery on 182nd Avenue from the current private owner that has no intention of preserving the plot of land.

“Buying the cemetery is the easy part,” Lancman said about the Brinckerhoff Cemetery. “We need to make sure that an organization with the infrastructure can shoulder the responsibility of upkeeping and maintaining the cemetery.”

The 18th century cemetery was designated a landmark in 2012, thwarting the efforts of the owner, Linda Cai, to develop the land into housing or commercial property.

Lancman, whose coverage area includes Fresh Meadows, said that his office was in the process of looking for an organization that would be able to take care of the colonial cemetery.

The Friends of the The Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery, a nonprofit, helped the site gain the landmark status and is in the process of raising money to buy the cemetery. But so far, Lancman hasn’t offered to buy the property for the group because he isn’t sure if the organization

“I’m not going to make the decision unilaterally,” Lancman said. “We need to sit down with the community and figure it out.”


Kew Gardens Hills residents fight against synagogue expansion

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A fight between residents and a local synagogue may need a lot of prayer and reflection before it is resolved.

Kew Gardens Hills neighbors are hoping to stop the proposed expansion of the temple’s school, which they say will further diminish their quality of life by increasing noise and garbage, while decreasing available parking spots and their property values.

The synagogue, the Sephardic Congregation located on 72nd Avenue between Main and 141st streets, plans to add another floor, which leaders say is necessary to cope with the school’s population increase.

Currently, the building has two floors and a basement level and towers over the houses on the block. Since the community is zoned for family homes, the temple requires Community Board 8’s approval for a variance to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).

“I’m worrying about one thing. I worry about the kids in the community,” said Rabbi Asaf Haimoff, who is also the principal of the school. “As an educator, I am responsible to make sure my kids get what they need. Neighbors have a different agenda … but the school is not closing down. It’s growing. It’s been growing and growing.”

The religious organization moved into the neighborhood about 20 years ago after converting a residential home, and soon after added a school, Yeshiva Ohel Simcha. The synagogue added the second floor in the late 1990s, Department of Buildings records show.

The school now enrolls about 70 preschool and elementary-aged students. But synagogue leaders say since the temple started in the neighborhood two decades ago, the congregation has expanded to about 200 people and they have had to halt school enrollment and turn prospective students away due to classroom size limitations.

Temple officials said they plan to add six classrooms on the new floor, so the building can accommodate up to 185 persons, including additional teachers.

But more than 50 residents within a two-block radius of temple have already signed a petition to deny the variance, which they plan to deliver to Councilman Rory Lancman’s office. Longtime residents say the community has been traumatized by noise from the synagogue during school hours for years.

“It’s been 20 years so we learned to adapt,” said Trinidad Lum, who has lived across the street for 51 years. “But before this building was put there this was a very quiet street.”

During school weekday drop-off and pick-up hours (8 a.m. and 5 p.m.) residents say parents block driveways and parking spots and they expect the problem to expand with more students.

“It’s going to be unbelievable traffic here,” said Dennis Shore, who lives next to the temple. “I already can’t park in front of my house when we go shopping. Where are these teachers going to park?”

Residents said they are also worried about the safety of the children. Since the school doesn’t have a playground, residents are afraid they will run into streets or the driveway behind the building in path of cars when they go out to play. But leaders say they plan to build a playground on the roof of the building.

The organization already has approval from the Community Board 8 Zoning Committee. They are seeking approval from the full board in a vote on Wednesday night.




$8.2M renovation of Kew Gardens Hills library to be complete in 2015

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy the Queens Library

The $8.2 million revitalization of the Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills is set to be completed in the summer of 2015, according to the organization.

Representatives from the library and the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) informed the community about the construction at Tuesday’s Kew Gardens Civic Association meeting.

The library is being expanded by 3,000 square feet to about 10,500 square feet. The renovation will include technology updates, a separate area for teens, a new sloped-concrete roof and a full interior renovation. Outside the library, there will also be a new handicapped accessible entrance ramp, new sidewalks, trees, a bicycle rack and flagpole.


Funding for the library was allocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky.



Fresh Meadows residents, pols worry about sinking street

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Residents and politicians are complaining about a cracked and sinking street in Fresh Meadows and are calling for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to repair it.

The middle of 179th Street between Union Turnpike and 75th Avenue has sunk a few inches after underground support for the roadway collapsed, which residents have been complaining about since last May.

Local politicians and civic leaders said the issue is getting worse and it creates a problem for pedestrians and drivers. Councilman Rory Lancman and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic will hold a press conference Monday to rally the DEP to fix it.

“DEP needs to figure out what’s going on in a timely matter, and homeowners shouldn’t be penalized,” Rozic said. “The DEP needs to take responsibility.”

Cars driving on the street avoid the noticeable dip in the road and vehicles are parked at a slanted angle, the Courier observed during a recent trip to the site.

The city agency has examined the collapse and found that its sewer line underneath the road is not the problem, but it may be a leak from a resident’s private sewer line that caused the issue, Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said at a recent meeting. The DEP is currently trying to find the source of the problem.

“DEP has not identified any issues with the city’s water or sewer infrastructure and we have also investigated a number of private water and sewer service lines,” a spokesperson for the agency said. “There are also a number of private lines we have not been able to gain access to. Once we identify the source of the cave-in we will ensure repairs are made and the street is repaired.”

The DEP has made quick fixes to the sinking street in the past, but residents are upset that they have had to deal with the problem for so long. During the press conference elected officials are expected to urge the DEP to find a long-term solution.

“We want things to happen sooner [rather] than later, and it took a long time for it to [get] to this point,” Adam-Ovide said.





91-year-old WWII veteran fighting NYCHA for Flushing apartment

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre


Ninety-one-year-old Ralph Calinda has fought his fair share of battles over his lifetime.

He fought for the United States during World War II, he battles diabetes and high blood pressure every day, and now he’s facing a different conflict — keeping the apartment he has called home for more than 60 years.

Calinda lives alone in a three-bedroom apartment in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Pomonok Houses in Flushing. Through NYCHA’s downsizing policy, which moves residents who “overuse apartments” to smaller ones, the city agency wants to kick him out of his home.

They have sent letters to force him to take one-bedroom apartments, but in foreign neighborhoods such as the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria. Finally, they asked him to move to an apartment in the Pomonok Houses, but it lacked essential appliances and was unfurnished. Calinda, who retired nearly three decades ago, believes he wouldn’t even be able to make the move physically or financially, since he depends on social security payments.

Councilman Rory Lancman and other politicians rallied with Calinda and his family against the NYCHA policy in a protest on Friday, to call on the agency to halt its downsizing of senior residents and to overhaul the initiative.

“They have lately stepped up in a very, very aggressive way,” Lancman said about NYCHA. “We are here today to demand that they stop and that they treat their long-time residents like valuable citizens of the communities that they’ve lived in, rather than as pieces of furniture they can move around from one place to the other.”

Calinda uses a cane to walk, and that’s only during the rare times he leaves his apartment. “Pop,” as he is known among family members, friends and neighbors, now enjoys painting, word puzzles and gardening.

But before he retired, Calinda used to build fighter jets for the Air Force. He even helped build the NASA space shuttles, and although Calinda wouldn’t say which one, he allegedly engraved the name of his late wife on the tail of one of the space rockets.

Calinda raised seven children from his apartment, which has six rooms, counting a living room, kitchen and a bathroom. He said he may have been willing to leave if NYCHA first came to him when his kids became adults and left 30 years ago, but not now.

“It’s been my home for so long, I just think it should be my home forever,” he said.

NYCHA has yet to return a request for comment.