Tag Archives: donations

Borough Hall accepting school supply donations for children in shelters

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy PropertyShark/Christopher Bride

As schools open up for another year of learning, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is working to make sure all students, regardless of their living situation, have the necessary supplies to get the best education possible.

Katz has announced her office’s participation in the annual initiative organized by the Coalition for the Homeless called Project: Back to School, which donates backpacks and other school supplies such as No. 2 pencils, composition notebooks, pocket folders, calculators, 1-inch binders and colored pencils to schoolchildren living in homeless shelters.

“About 87,000 New York City schoolkids live in homeless shelters or temporary housing, and not a single school district is spared from this epidemic,” Katz said. “Every child deserves a strong start to the school year with proper supplies just like their fellow peer. We urge Queens residents to donate generously toward this drive, and encourage all residents to take advantage of various complimentary back-to-school giveaways throughout the borough in the coming weeks.”

Queens Borough Hall is accepting backpack and school supply donations between now through Sept. 18 in a drop-off box placed in the lobby, located at 120-55 Queens Blvd.

“School kids living in homeless shelters must contend with unimaginable levels of stress and hardship, and are at a tremendous disadvantage when trying to keep up with their housed peers in class,” said Dave Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “We are so pleased to have Borough President Katz and the caring people of Queens involved in this year’s Project: Back to School. With nearly 24,000 children sleeping in homeless shelters tonight, it is so important that we do all we can to help these young kids achieve academically.”

Borough Hall is currently the only location in Queens where Project: Back to School donations are being collected. It is open Monday through Friday during business hours and can be reached by taking the E or F subway lines to the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station.

All donations dropped off at Queens Borough Hall are anonymous and are not tax-deductible.


Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation kicks off summer fundraising campaign

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation

The Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC) has begun its semi-annual fundraising campaign, asking members of the Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village communities to make donations to help fund programs that have made an important contribution to the areas’ quality of life.

The GRRC has been instrumental in stabilizing and upgrading the neighborhoods that make up Community Board 5 for the last 40 years, offering free programs such as landlord/tenant counseling, helping homeowners apply for low-interest home improvement loans, lobbying for street tree plantings, removing graffiti and more.

The donations will go towards the purchase of a lift for the hot pressure washer used in graffiti removal.

“The pressure washer is extremely heavy and getting it off and on the van is very difficult,” said Angela Mirabile, executive director of GRRC. “Our fundraising goal this year is $10,000 in private donations. This will cover the cost of the lift and replacement of worn equipment and supplies.”

The anti-graffiti program is one of the most used programs offered by GRRC. Last year, GRRC removed graffiti at 125 locations, and this year has cleaned over 110 sites. The organization anticipates cleaning 50 more sites by the end of November.

“It is evident that graffiti vandalism is once again on the rise, and we are doing our best to stay on top of it,” said Christa Walls, community liaison specialist for GRRC.

Mirabile added that funds will also go to cover general administration expenses as well as updating GRRC’s computer systems and software.

“In the past we have received donations ranging from $10 to $2,500. The people of our community support our effort and we are very thankful,” Mirabile said. “The public in this community has been very responsive to our campaign efforts. They are very active and we appreciate that.”

Donations can be made through the GRRC website, through PayPal or by mail to 68-56 Forest Ave., Ridgewood, NY 11385.


Woodside nonprofit raises nearly $25K through online campaign for victims of Nepal earthquake

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Cristina Furlong

Even though they might be far from home, members of one Nepalese nonprofit in Woodside have raised almost $25,000 in donations to help family and loved ones left devastated after this weekend’s earthquake in Nepal.

The nonprofit Adhikaar, which means “rights” in Nepali, started an Indiegogo Life online campaign to raise funds to provide immediate relief for survivors of the magnitude-7.8 earthquake which has claimed over 4,600 lives.

Some members of the organization have lost family and friends after the earthquake, and they have heard news that victims are in need of food, tents, and more trained personnel to conduct rescue operations.

The campaign’s goal was set at $21,000 and the group surpassed that goal, raising $24,937 in just three days. Adhikaar has also raised $8,000 in cash donations with the number growing by the minute.

“It’s great to see so many people reach out to us and helping us during this time,” said Yangal, a program and administration assistant at Adhikaar, whose family lives Nepal. She added that it was difficult to contact her relatives for the first couple of days but now they call every day. 

People can still donate to the campaign by clicking here

All the funds collected by the nonprofit will be sent to volunteers who the organization has remained in contact with in both India and Nepal. The money will then be used to purchase the most basic and necessary resources victims need. 

Cash donations and checks, made out to Adhikaar and specified for the Nepal earthquake, are being accepted at the organization’s Woodside community center located at 71-07 Woodside Ave.

A candlelight vigil, with only electric candles, is scheduled to take place in Times Square on Friday from 8 to 10 p.m.


Anonymous donor gives Flushing Town Hall fundraiser challenge

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo


An anonymous benefactor has given a proposal to Flushing Town Hall: If the arts center can raise $35,000 in donations by Feb. 28, 2015, the donor will match that amount, meaning that it could receive $70,000 in donations if the challenge is met.

Flushing Town Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director Ellen Kodadek says they are excited to take on the challenge. “It’s not every day that an institutional supporter presents such an offer,” she said. “We’re confident that many of those people — from Queens and beyond — who have enjoyed Flushing Town Hall over the years will step up to the plate and pitch in.”

A member of Flushing Town Hall’s board of trustees served as a channel for the donor’s proposition. The undisclosed donor describes Flushing Town Hall as a hidden gem that will further shine through the generous donations of others. “I truly believe in this institution — and I hope that this challenge will motivate others to open their wallets and hearts, thereby enabling this gem to be brighter than ever, enriching the culture of this diverse community,” the anonymous donor said.

Donations to the “Challenge Grant” must be newly accepted or increased contributions time stamped from Sept. 8 until Feb 28. For more information about the grant or to make a donation, visit www.flushingtownhall.org/35challenge.


Give back this holiday season

| Brandpoint@queenscourier.com


The holidays are known for eliciting cheer, thanks and a sense of community as families come together to share some of their most treasured traditions, whether that’s gathering for a special meal, organizing an activity or finding a way to give back to those less fortunate. Last year, Americans gave $316 billion to charity according to Giving USA, but it’s not just financial donations needed. Many organizations depend on donations of time and kindness to get by.

No matter what you choose to donate, giving back feels good. Consider all the different ways you can expand your charitable giving this holiday season:

Make a financial donation as a gift

Consider making a donation to a charity of choice in the name of the person who has everything. Many organizations will provide you with a thank-you card recognizing the donation, which you can then put under the tree for the holiday celebration.

Choose gifts that give back

The holidays are a time when many companies make donations to charities. One such company is Hickory Farms, which will donate $5 to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign for every Party Planner Gift Box sold this holiday season, up to $500,000. This delicious gift box includes Summer Sausage, smooth and creamy cheeses, fresh nuts and crunchy snack mix.

“We are honored to be supported by Hickory Farms again this season. These kinds of partnerships enable us to scale and sustain our efforts to feed more children,” says Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength. “Just $5 can help a child in need receive up to 50 meals. Every donation makes a huge difference.”

Organize a drive

Food banks and clothing charities often struggle with providing enough sustainable food and warm clothing for those in need during the winter months. Have your family and friends ask coworkers and neighbors about donating to your local food bank or clothing charity. Send an announcement via email or post signs on doors a week in advance of your drive. This gives people a chance to collect additional items to be donated.

The holiday season is a time with endless opportunities to give back, whether it’s to an organization you’ve long been affiliated with or to a new cause that you’re just learning about. Giving back to others will help enhance all the emotions and warm feelings the holiday season is meant to bring.

Courtesy BPT




Rego Park church helps out with cash donations

| mchan@queenscourier.com

A Rego Park church is looking to put money back in the hands of Queens families devastated by recent storms.

Our Saviour Church has collected close to $28,000 in cash to give back to local families and individuals in need after Superstorm Sandy and the succeeding nor’easter left many without homes, food, clothes and money, leaders said.

“A ton of stuff is needed – housing, clothes, water – but one of the greatest needs that people have after an emergency is to have cash in their hand,” said Pastor Matt Popovits. “Our goal is to just let these dollars pass through our hands immediately to the families on the ground.”

The church, located at 92-14 63rd Drive, has come to the financial aid of two families so far, Popovits said, including one on Long Island and one in Brooklyn.

Holly Cregan of Massapequa said the church’s generous $2,000 gift has helped her and her two tots – aged four and five – get back on their feet after the storm swept away their Long Island home and all their belongings.

“[My kids] are heartbroken over all that is lost,” Cregan said. “I’m trying to balance replacing some toys now and trying to plan what I will do for Christmas for them.”

The congregation also travels to Queens shelters and the Rockaways every weekend to hand out $100 Target gift cards as they go, Popovits said, but leaders are looking for more families to lend a hand to.

“Here in Queens, so many people have been affected by the hurricane,” said Popovits, 32. “We wanted to do something that let the neighborhood know that we care for them, that we’re here for them. We may be able to respond. We may not be able to respond, but know that we’re going to do our best to meet the greatest needs in the greatest way possible.”

Families seeking help can e-mail the church their contact information and stories at osnyoffice@gmail.com. Those looking to donate can do so securely online at our-saviour.org.

Sports teams pitch in for Sandy recovery

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Major League Soccer

Normally, loyal fans support teams in the best and, most especially, the worst times.

Now it is the teams that are giving their support as thousands still suffer in the wake in Sandy.

“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to you,” said Jets quarterback Tim Tebow in a message to fans. “Whatever we can do for you, we will be behind you as the Jets nation.”

As an effort to pitch in and help with recovery efforts, sport leagues and organizations have donated both time and money to help the area.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has pledged $400,000 toward the cause: $300,000 toward needed supplies, including flashlights and other needs; and a $100,000 cash donation which will go toward the Mayor’s Fund.

Many Queens residents have seasonal jobs at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and USTA president and board chair Jon Vegosen said the organization wanted to give back to one of the places it calls home.

“New York is the US Open’s home, and we want to aid in the rapid recovery of the city, as well as help as many people as we can directly in our home borough of Queens,” he said.

Major League Soccer (MLS) members have also given their time to help clean up some of the parks in the borough. The league contacted the Parks Department, a spokesperson said, and asked what it could do to help. On Saturday, November 3, a group of volunteers set out and removed hundreds of bags of debris from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The following day they took hundreds more from the area around the Olmstead Center. The league is currently looking to make a deal with the city for a soccer stadium in the park.

“We were heartbroken to see the devastation that Sandy wrought in the tri-state area, which is where our league and many of our athletes and employees call home,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber, a Queens native. “We and our teams are proud to be donating money to relief funds and clean up efforts. We were happy to work with the Parks Department to clean up Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and will continue to offer our help to the local community.”

MLS will also donate $250,000 to the American Red Cross, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, and the Mayor’s Fund.

The New York Jets, who played at Shea Stadium from 1964 to 1987, pledged on Thursday, November 8 half a million dollars to recovery efforts.

The New York Giants, who share New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium with the Jets, announced days earlier that they would donate half a million to relief efforts. Giants quarterback Eli Manning visited Staten Island with the American Red Cross to help in recovery efforts, according to the Giants. Manning and his brother Peyton led relief efforts in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck their home town of New Orleans.

Both the Mets and Yankees gave $500,000 each to help those who have suffered losses.

Christie & Co. galvanizes efforts to help

| SKakar@queenscourier.com


Along with the rest of New York City, Christie & Co. Salon of Bayside is giving a helping hand to those who have been affected by Sandy.

Christie & Co., in The Bay Terrace shopping center, has become a local drop-off site for donations, which will help the families of Rockaway and Breezy Point.

“So many people have brought so much stuff. We’ve gotten canned food, socks, shoes, pants, jackets and blankets,” said volunteer Adriana Kolanovic.

Lois Christie, owner of Christie & Co., has not just allowed her salon to be a donation site, but as the president of Intercoiffure America/Canada, an international salon owners association, she has emailed manufacturers to donate any kind of products to help.

In her letter, she requests donations of shampoos, conditioners, baby products and all other personal care products.

“My request went out globally,” said Christie. “We do business with several manufacturers. So I’ve reached out to all of them. We’ve gotten pallets of productions. We’ve had a tremendous response.”

Christie has turned one of her private massage rooms into a temporary donation space where two of her employees, Kolanovic and Lorraine Taglioni, volunteer their downtime during work to sort and box all the donations.

“[Volunteering has] been nice; it’s been fulfilling. When it’s not too busy and the phones aren’t ringing too much, we’re multitasking,” said Kolanovic.

After the donations have been sorted they are sent to an empty store Cord Meyer, the landlord of the shopping center, has donated for storage.

The donations have been picked up by Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps in conjunction with Councilmember Mark Weprin’s office, along with Men on the Move, a moving and storage company.

“We’ve done a lot of deliveries for the storm,” said Angelina Martuscello, a manager at Men On the Move. “We’ll be moving donations as long as they need us to.”

Along with Men on the Move, Christie & Co. will continue their efforts to help those in need by accepting donations at the salon as long as there is still a need for them.

Christie said volunteers are needed to help sort. If you are interested in giving of your time, call 718-225-7766.

How to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc throughout New York city, downing trees, flooding streets and knocking out power, though some neighborhoods received a greater brunt of the devastation.

Those that made it out relatively unscathed have now sprung to action to help neighbors who were not as fortunate.

Here’s a list of ways to help:

  • For those that would like to volunteer, email nycservice@cityhall.nyc.gov with your name, email address and borough. There will be ways to volunteer today and over the next week as opportunities arise.
  • Click here to volunteer at a Queens park cleanup.
  • To donate blood visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). To give blood, you must be at least 17, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health.
  • The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is accepting financial donations for those that would like to donate money to support relief efforts.
  • Councilmember Peter Koo’s office will be collecting new blankets, slightly used clean coats in good condition and non-perishable food items at his district office, 135-27 38th Avenue, Suite 388, Flushing, and the phone number is 718-888-8747.
  • Assemblymember Rory Lancman and candidate Nily Rozic are sponsoring a food and supplies drive and will be accepting donations in the form of unopened nonperishable food and new and used clothing in good condition daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. until the end of the week at Lancman’s district office at 159-16 Union Turnpike, Suite 210 in Hillcrest. If you are unable to drop off donations during these hours, food and clothing will be accepted at other times through pickup by calling Lancman’s office at 718-820-0241 or Rozic’s campaign office at 646-389-6459. Lancman’s office will also be issuing free Shabbos meals for Hillcrest families in need; you can call his office for details.
  • Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley’s office is working with Atlas Park to gather donations of canned foods, clothes, and cleanup supplies. Drop off is 8000 Cooper Avenue at the former Borders Bookstore site in Glendale. Donations can be dropped off between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Sunday.
  • Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is collecting water, food, blankets, warm clothes, batteries and cell phone chargers at his district office, 47-01 Queens Boulevard, Suite 205, Sunnyside. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.–6 p.m. The office will also be open  Saturday, November 3 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
  • Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., is a drop-off location for hurricane donations, noon – 5 p.m., for as long as needed.
  • The NYPD will collect non-perishable food, clothing, and other donations in the parking lot of 110-00 Rockaway Boulevard in Jamaica. Officers will be accepting the donations daily from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Money cannot be accepted. Anyone who wants to give is urged to donate canned goods, canned milk, bottled water and other non-perishables; paper products, personal and baby care products, trash bags, cleaning products, linens and towels, flash lights, batteries; clothing for colder weather.
  • The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association is collecting blankets, shirts, socks, sweaters, jackets, old sneakers, non-perishable food, pet food, cat food, dog food at 84-20 Jamaica Avenue.

Liu in FBI cross hairs

| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

Liu in FBI cross hairs

A federal probe into the campaign fund-raising operations for city Comptroller John Liu is now focused on the candidate himself, The Post has learned. “If campaign-finance rules are being circumvented or violated, there’s certainly a question whether the candidate himself knew about it or was a party to it,” one law-enforcement source said. “Did [Liu] know, and what was his role?” The FBI last month charged Liu moneyman Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan with steering $16,000 to Liu’s campaign through “straw donors” to hide massive contributions made on behalf of an out-of-state businessman who actually was an undercover federal agent. Read More: New York Post

New York bars ready for Jets-Giants game

It’s on! Football fans will pack bars around the city to watch the Jets-Giants battle at the Meadowlands tomorrow — and the watering holes are breaking out all the bells and whistles for the pre-Christmas crowds. Special drinks, free booze and lavish spreads will be at the ready for the throngs expected to take a break from their holiday shopping to root for their teams. Read More: New York Post

Santa brings early holiday joy to kids at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children 

Santa made an early visit to the kids at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside last week with the help of New York’s Bravest. Firefighters from Engine 320/Ladder 167 used their rig to help Santa descend from the roof and visit with dozens of children who are battling serious illnesses. Continuing a tradition started over 15 years ago, the firefighters also brought a van-load of gifts that ranged from toys and dolls to cameras, radios and electronic games. Read More: Daily News

2011 Crime Statistics Show Slight Decrease In Murders

The New York City Police Department’s data show major crimes like murder, rape, and robbery are up by .2 percent through December 18 this year compared to the same period last year. There have been 519 murders this year through December 18, a drop of 5.6 percent compared to almost the same time period last year. The Bronx was the only borough to see a slight increase in murders. Read More: NY1

Police Seek Suspect Who Allegedly Robbed Queens Livery Driver

Police need help finding the person who they say robbed a livery cab driver Saturday morning near 93rd Avenue and 112th Street in Richmond Hill, Queens. They say the man seen in the above photographs placed the 59-year-old cab driver in a headlock, causing the victim to crash into a fence. Investigators say he then stole money from the victim’s bag and ran off. He is described as approximately 25-years-old, 5-feet-7-inches tall, and 170 pounds. Read More: NY1

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13

Prosecutors say a New York City public school teacher is being charged with rape for a sexual relationship with a student that began when she was just 13. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says 44-year-old Charles Oross engaged in a sexual relationship with the teen from January 2009 to April 2010. The district attorney said the encounters happened at the school, Intermediate School 238 in Queens, and in Oross’ car. Oross, of East Islip, N.Y., was awaiting arraignment Thursday. No information about an attorney was immediately available. Read More: Wall Street Journal


Tea Party big Mark Meckler pinched for gun possession at LaGuardia Airport Thursday 

A co-founder of an influential Tea Party group was arrested at LaGuardia Airport Thursday for illegally trying to bring a pistol and ammunition aboard a plane, authorities said. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots had a Glock 27 pistol and 19 bullets in a locked gun box — but he didn’t have a New York State permit for the firepower, which he told authorities he needs because he gets threats. Meckler, 49, handed the gun box to a Delta Airlines ticket agent around 5 a.m. Thursday, Queens prosecutors said. It was discovered during a pre-flight check. Read More: Daily News


NYPD cadet arrested for allegedly stealing this mother’s credit card in a $13 million ID theft ring in Queens 

An NYPD cadet was arrested Wednesday for stealing his mother’s credit card as part of a $13 million identity theft ring, authorities said. Raymond Gumti, 23, is accused of taking his mom’s TD Bank card and PIN numbers and using them to create a counterfeit credit card. He put the phony card in the name of another defendant who was indicted as a shopper in the scheme and racked up nearly $13,000 in unauthorized charges at stores like Apple, Louis Vuitton and Bloomingdales, a spokesman for the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office said. Read More: Daily News


Santa was really a Rotarian

Santa Claus rang his sleigh bells loudly as he combed the halls of the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) Children’s Center. Followed closely by Frosty the Snowman, the pair peeked inside various rooms, searching for children. Toys in hand, they entered one at the end of the hallway — to an eruption of delighted squeals. Read More: Queens Courier


More Liu Donors Said to Be Examined in Fund-Raising Inquiry

The federal inquiry into the campaign finances of New York City’s comptroller, John C. Liu, a possible mayoral candidate in 2013, appears to be widening, with people knowledgeable about the matter saying Thursday that there has been an increased focus on seeking information from his supporters in the Chinese-American business community. In recent weeks, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have delivered subpoenas seeking a broad range of records and other information to a growing circle of Mr. Liu’s more generous donors, said the people knowledgeable about the matter, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. Read More: New York Times


Councilman Van Bramer Volunteers At LIC Food Pantry

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and his constituents reached out to help the St. Raphael’s Parish food pantry Thursday. Read More: NY1


Cop-slay judge bails

The Brooklyn judge who unleashed a violent ex-con weeks before he allegedly killed a cop was a no-show at work yesterday — the day after Mayor Bloomberg ripped into her for a bail bungle. Judge Evelyn Laporte was nowhere to be seen in Brooklyn Criminal Court as several City Council members denounced her ill-fated decision to spring Lamont Pride without bail after his arrest last month on drug charges. There was a warrant for his arrest in North Carolina for an August shooting when he was busted on Nov.3 in New York for crack and pot possession — but Laporte ignored prosecutors’ pleas for $2,500 bail. Pride, 27, is accused of gunning down Officer Peter Figoski during a Brooklyn home invasion on Monday. Read More: New York Post


Kid shoots off finger

The 11-year-old son of a Staten Island school teacher shot off a portion of his finger yesterday while playing with his father’s illegal gun, police said. The West Brighton youth was home alone with his 8-year-old brother in the basement of their single- family home when the gun went off at 2:40 p.m., according to law-enforcement sources. Michael Bilotto, a Department of Environmental Protection construction worker, was taken into custody for possession of an unlicensed handgun, police said. Read More: New York Post


Cop slay getaway driver’s lame defense: I drove thugs in exchange for gas money

The getaway driver charged with four others in the slaying of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski admits he knew the accused triggerman was carrying a gun before the botched robbery that led to the Brooklyn cop’s murder. In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Michael Velez, 21, said he looked over to Lamont Pride, who was sitting in the passenger seat and saw the weapon. Velez said he was stunned — and even more so when Pride, 27, put his finger on the trigger of 9-mm. Ruger. Read More: Daily News


Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction upheld on appeal 

A state appeals court on Thursday upheld disgraced lawmaker Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction for roughing up his girlfriend in the lobby of his Queens apartment building three years ago. The four-judge panel dismissed the former Queens pol’s claim that prosecutors failed to prove a key element of the assault charge — that girlfriend Karla Giraldo endured “substantial pain” from a physical attack. Read More: Daily News

Uniting to help Woodside fire victims

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


The Woodside community has united to extinguish the needs of the 24 people whose lives were recently devastated by a fatal fire.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined Pastor Daniel Gilland, representatives from the American Red Cross and members of the families displaced by the two-alarm blaze — which spawned in and destroyed the two-story house located at 40-38 61st Street before spreading and causing severe damage to two neighboring homes — to announce a benefit drive organized in support of the victims.

One man perished in the flames, while five others were injured – including a firefighter. In total, three families, comprised of 20 adults and four children, were left without homes following the inferno on the night of November 18.

The FDNY was initially notified of the fire at 1:15 a.m., and it required the work of 25 trucks and more than 106 firefighters before finally settling down at 3:10 a.m. According to an FDNY spokesperson, the incident has been classified as an accidental electrical fire, caused by either wiring or an electrical cord, and has not been deemed suspicious.

“This tragic fire devastated the lives of 25 Woodside residents, including four children,” said Van Bramer. “They are our community neighbors and now is the time to show them that we are here to help and support them as they rebuild their lives. Especially at this time of year, during the holidays, it is important to offer these families some assistance and stability as they go through this grueling ordeal.”

The drive will be collecting food and household items, including diapers, baby food, non-perishable adult food, cleaning products, toys, new clothing and cooking utensils. Donations will be accepted until December 21. They be submitted at the councilmember’s district office, located at 47-01 Queens Boulevard, or at the Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Broadway and Court’s Square libraries.

“Together we can stand with these neighbors and encourage them, strengthen them and support them through this difficult time as we help to provide needs like clothing, toys and other life essentials,” said Gilland, who lives on the same block where the fire occurred. “I believe that as this community bands together we can take what seems a tragedy and turn it into something beautiful.”

Gilland, who organized a neighborhood vigil the weekend after the fire, said there has been a “great outpouring” within the community to aid their neighbors – a sentiment that has not gone unnoticed by those afflicted by the tragedy.

Pacita Gamboa-Gabor, who lost her home in the blaze, voiced her appreciation for her neighbors’ generosity during this trying time.

“It’s wonderful. I’m so happy,” said Gamboa-Gabor, who is currently living at a friend’s house with her husband, who suffered injuries during the fire when he leapt out of a second floor window. “I keep crying thinking about how good people have been [during their outreach].”

Additional reporting by Alexa Altman

Quiet Aide to Liu Helped Build a Donor Base Now Under Scrutiny

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Quiet Aide to Liu Helped Build a Donor Base Now Under Scrutiny

She is an almost invisible figure in New York politics, a former insurance agent and single mother who unwinds at karaoke bars in Queens singing Taiwanese pop ballads in a gentle soprano voice. But Mei-Hua Ru quietly wields considerable power in the city, having guided Comptroller John C. Liu’s rise from an obscure councilmember 10 years ago to a major political force today. Read More: New York Times

Little Bay Park project stall is little ‘comfort’

Bayside elected officials and community leaders are campaigning for relief for visitors of Little Bay Park and hoping that millions of dollars in funding hasn’t been flushed by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Senator Tony Avella united with Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, and residents of the Bayside community on November 29 to urge the Parks Department to begin the revitalization project of Little Bay Park – which includes the construction of a comfort station. Read More: Queens Courier

Recalling Days on the Run With Abducted Children

The week before they abducted their eight children from a foster carecenter in Queens, Nephra and Shanel Payne stocked up at Costco on supplies and dry goods, like graham crackers, diapers and infant formula for Nefertiti, their 11-month-old daughter. They stashed family photos and important documents in a storage facility and crammed a basketball and a football — essential for traveling with a Little League team’s worth of boys — into their car. Read More: New York Times

New York Mafia and Russian mob joined to lure women as strippers; arranged sham marriages 

The Mafia teamed up with the Russian mob to smuggle Eastern European beauties into New York to work as strippers — and even arranged sham marriages to keep them here, the feds say. Twenty suspects, including seven reputed Gambino and Bonanno mobsters, were arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday on charges ranging from racketeering to visa fraud. Read More: Daily News

Surveillance Video Released In Search For Queens Assault Suspect

Police are asking for help in finding a man wanted in connection with an assault in Queens. Officials say the suspect hit a 33-year-old man outside of the Nest Bar and Restaurant in South Richmond Hill shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday. The victim was treated for his injuries at Jamaica Hospital. Police say the suspect fled the scene. He is said to be about 5-feet 5-inches tall. Read More & Watch the Video: NY1

Detective Who Fired First Shot At Sean Bell Expected To Face Dismissal, Source Says

William Bell is hoping Detective Gescard Isnora will be removed from the police force after being found guilty of violating New York City Police Department rules in a departmental trial following the deadly shooting of his son Sean five years ago. That decision is being left up to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, but those close to the investigation say the NYPD trials commissioner recommends dismissal. Read More: NY1

Highschool ‘sext’ boot OK’d

A Queens judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by the parents of an ex-student at Christ the King High School who was booted for allegedly showing naked pics of an ex-girlfriend on his phone. Joseph Farley was thrown out of the Catholic school this year after being ordered by Assistant Principal Carol Timpone to turn over his cell phone after the girl’s mother complained, according to the suit. After Farley refused, he was expelled. Read More: New York Post

Politics Aside: Is it time for Liu to step down?

| RHornak@queenscourier.com

As more information continues to spill out about the scandal surrounding John Liu’s fundraising practices, both in his 2009 campaign for comptroller and his current effort to run for mayor, it is becoming clear that his ability to effectively do his job is in serious jeopardy.  That would be the case for anyone in this circumstance, but for Liu, who has never taken his job as defender of the public purse seriously, and instead has only been an advocate for the interests of Big Labor, it is time to resign.

It started last month with a New York Times investigation into some of Liu’s donors, many of whom turned out to either not exist or claim to have never contributed to him. Liu has also neglected to report bundlers – supporters who collect donations on behalf of the campaign from their friends and associates – as is required by law.

These would be serious allegations against any candidate. However, with New York City’s extremely generous program of matching funds, with six dollars of taxpayer money given to candidates for every dollar they raise (the match caps at the first $175 from each donor), this is a much bigger problem, with the implication that Liu’s campaign conspired to commit fraud in order to steal from the taxpayers.

Worse still, many of the irregularities the Times exposed are with Chinese companies from Queens, some who are city contractors where the comptroller has oversight on their agreements. In fact, many of the details surrounding these donations appear shady, from business addresses that don’t exist to contributors who admit their boss made the contributions on their behalf at a company fundraising event for Liu. In most cases, the amounts given were $800 per person.

There appear to be too many cases where the fact patterns are the same for this to be a coincidence or for it all to be the doings of these individual business owners. Short of someone discovering a “how-to” manual for campaign finance evasion, it seems clear that the campaign was complicit in these activities. At the very least, major alarm bells should have gone off with campaign fundraisers (were they truly unaware) that something irregular was going on and an internal investigation should be held before accepting these bogus contributions.

Now one bundler has been arrested, another is being closely scrutinized, and ties to already jailed finance cheat Norman Hsu have been uncovered. But not only is Liu not showing any shame, he claims to be still running for mayor, in spite of these transgressions. He clearly thinks his close relationship with Big Labor bosses, who pumped over $180,000 into his 2009 campaign, will bail him out. If the current investigation into Liu doesn’t sink his mayoral ambitions, let’s hope the people of the city of New York will.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. 

River Fund gives food, toys and so much more

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of the River Fund New York

Throughout the last decade, the River Fund food pantry in Richmond Hill has grown to be an indispensable neighborhood staple for hundreds of hungry residents.

“When you look at the economy and everything that’s happening, you see the demand for help is growing,” said Durga “Swami” Das, the executive director for River Fund New York. “Especially for those of us who do have a little more to give, the more help these people can get, the better.”

Every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m., Das and his crew of volunteers distribute food — including fresh produce, poultry and bread — clothes, vitamins and toiletries to as many as 600 households weekly, he said.

Depending on family size, residents are given three meals a day to last them for three days.

And when the line of homeless, jobless or famished families wraps around the block, volunteers stay until the last person is served.

“It’s staggering to see people wait on line for hours, no matter what the weather is – rain, sleet or snow,” Das said, adding that he has seen single moms, struggling seniors and even children waiting on line. “If someone is willing to do that, I would say that they need the help. It just makes me want to work harder. That’s all. We never turn anyone away.”

The River Fund is an Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) and member of the Food Bank for New York City. A non-profit organization, it is also a partner with Nourish America, numerous non-profit service groups, faith-based organizations and civic groups.

The Richmond Hill location — at 89-11 Lefferts Boulevard — also provides a “Mobile Street Outreach” program, in which every first and third Tuesday of the month, volunteers pack a van full of food and essentials and set out to Rufus King Park in Jamaica to hand them out.

Last Saturday, November 19, the group gave out turkeys and chickens for Thanksgiving.

“This time of year is a time of bounty, joy and giving. Those of us who can cook a turkey at home and can celebrate with a warm home and family are lucky. But we deal with a lot of families who can’t afford to give their kids toys for the holidays.”

Beyond food, around the holidays, the River Fund also collects toys for children and winter gear for the needy. Volunteers also prescreen clients and help them submit and process applications for food stamps throughout the year.

“We’re open seven days a week. We’re also on call. We try not to close at all,” Swami said. “We’ll do anything we can do to make it work.”

To help the River Fund or to donate toys or winter gear for their holiday campaign, visit http://www.riverfund-ny.org or call 718-441-1125. Donations are accepted year round.

Other places in Queens where you can give back

In continuing the spirit of giving, several local civic groups and police precincts will be collecting nonperishable foods, unwrapped toys and clothes to be donated to various organizations and local families.

Among the many precincts that are participating in coat and food drives are the 101st, 102nd, 105th and 106th. Donations can be dropped off at the respective precincts, and all collected canned goods will be given to City Harvest.

Other donations can be given to the Richmond Hill Block Association, Lindenwood Alliance, Ozone Park Kiwanis, Our Lady of Grace Ministry of Care Services food pantry in Howard Beach, The Belmont Child Care Association at Anna House and the Bread of Life food pantry in Long Island City.

The Bread of Life operates Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 2:30 p.m. inside the Center of Hope International Church at 12-11 40th Avenue at 12th Street. To make a donation or volunteer, call 718-784-4673 or visit cohi.us.

The Belmont Child Care Association at Anna House is asking for donations of new toys for children, gifts for teens and presents for parents for the 10th annual Anna House holiday event. It will be held on December 10 at the Turf and Field club at Belmont Park, located at 2150 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont. Call 516-488-2103 for more information.

See this week’s paper for more places where you can donate.