Tag Archives: east elmhurst

Queens remembers victims of 9/11 attacks at upcoming ceremonies


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/File photo

Fourteen years after the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history, residents across Queens will remember the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, at memorial vigils scheduled to take place over the next two weeks.

As in past years, family members of the 2,977 people who died either in or responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 will gather at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan on Friday morning, Sept. 11, for the city’s annual memorial service. A citywide moment of silence will be observed at 8:46 a.m., the time when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

In Queens, tributes to the attack victims will be held on Sept. 11 and in days preceding and following the anniversary. They include the following, listed in chronological order:

Maspeth

With the Manhattan skyline in the background, Maspeth Memorial Park again hosts the community’s annual 9/11 memorial ceremony on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 9. The vigil will start at 11 a.m. in the park located at 69th Street and Grand Avenue, adjacent to the Maspeth Federal Savings bank. The program includes prayers, music and a wreath-laying at the park’s monument to the 9/11 victims.

Astoria Heights

Victims of the 9/11 attacks will be honored in a special way at the memorial service that the United Community Civic Association and the Port Authority will hold on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 10, at McManus Memorial Park in Astoria Heights. The annual tribute takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the park located on 81st Street at the Grand Central Parkway service road. Elected officials, religious leaders and members of the Port Authority and local law enforcement are expected to participate.

Woodside

Members of three western Queens communities will honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks at a candlelight vigil on Sept. 11 at Doughboy Playground in Woodside. The event, organized jointly by the Hunters Point, United Forties and Woodside civic associations and Woodside on the Move, will occur from 6 to 9 p.m. at the park located on Woodside Avenue between 55th and 56th streets.

Bayside Hills

All are invited to join the Bayside Hills Civic Association in honoring the victims of 9/11 at its annual candlelight vigil on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at the corner of Bell Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway.

Forest Hills

The Forest Hills Community and Civic Association will co-sponsor a candlelight vigil on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Remsen Cemetery Park, located at the corner of Trotting Course Lane and Alderton Street, just north of Metropolitan Avenue. The annual vigil pays special tribute to three local residents who died on 9/11: firefighter Pete Nelson, Gregory Hoffman and Richard Allen Pearlman, a member of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Middle Village

Juniper Valley Park will again play host to the annual Middle Village 9/11 Candlelight Vigil on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the ballfields located near the park’s 9/11 memorial, off the intersection of 78th Street and Juniper Boulevard South. All attendees are asked to bring a lawn chair and a candle or a flashlight.

East Elmhurst

St. Michael’s Cemetery will again hold its annual “Remember Me Run” on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 12, to honor the first responders who died while responding to the World Trade Center attack. The 2-mile run through the cemetery, which raises funds to support the Christopher Santora Scholarship Fund, will begin promptly at 2 p.m. and conclude with a memorial service. Click here more information or to register for the run.

Glendale

The 42 residents of Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Woodhaven who died in the World Trade Center attacks will be honored at the annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony in Glendale on Sunday, Sept. 13. The tribute takes place at 12:30 p.m. in the 9/11 Memorial Garden at Dry Harbor Playground, located at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and 80th Street. The ceremony will include prayers, music and a recitation of the 42 victims’ names.

Tribute in Light

Another tribute to the 9/11 victims will be visible to thousands of Queens residents at sundown on Sept. 11 when the Tribute In Light — twin beams of light representing the former Twin Towers’ place in the Manhattan skyline — will be illuminated from Lower Manhattan. The lights will remain on through the night before fading away at sunrise on Sept. 12.

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City opens new homeless shelter at former East Elmhurst hotel


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Monday, Aug. 24, 11:57 a.m. 

Queens has become the home of yet another homeless shelter.

Starting Monday, homeless families with children will begin to move into a new shelter that has opened at the former site of the Clarion Hotel, located at 94-00 Ditmars Blvd. in East Elmhurst.

The shelter, the city’s first this year, is expected to have a total of 169 units and comes as the city continues to deal with an increase in the number of homeless people.

Since the end of June, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has seen a 20 percent increase in families entering the DHS family shelter intake center, with over 5,750 over the last two months. The agency has almost reached capacity with only .05 percent of space remaining.

“This administration has invested over $1 billion in new funding over four years to address homelessness in New York City, with a focus on preventing homelessness, improving conditions in shelter, and helping New Yorkers move from shelter into permanent housing. While we’ve moved over 13,000 individuals from shelter to permanent housing since January 2014, eviction continues to be the main cause of homelessness in New York City, and we’re now seeing the summer uptick of homeless families entering our shelter system,” a DHS spokesperson said. “In order to ensure we have the capacity to house those in need, we’re opening a new shelter — the first new shelter to open this year — at the former Clarion Hotel in Queens.”

The nonprofit CAMBA will provide various on-site social and re-housing services to the families to help them move to self-sufficiency and house permanency.

Meals will be provided at the former hotel and DHS will work to help the families have “adequate” transportation to and from appointments and schools.

DHS will also develop and implement a security plan through meetings with the NYPD and community affairs to ensure safety for both shelter residents and the surrounding community.

The agency also held a community meeting last week with local community leaders to discuss community concerns.

State Senator Jose Peralta, who represents East Elmhurst, voiced his outrage on the announcement of the new homeless shelter which he said again was implemented without any real community input.

“Here we go again, another permanent homeless shelter coming into my district, which makes it the second one under this administration. But the real kicker here is the so-called use of their emergency authority which is a cover for just bringing a homeless shelter into the community without any community input,” Peralta said. “My constituents are very understanding of the necessity of the city’s obligation to house the homeless, as well as understand that anyone is a paycheck away from being homeless. But, the fact that the city seeks input after the fact is nothing but a Bloomberg or Giuliani tactic of shoving a homeless shelter down a community’ s throat.”

The Clarion Hotel shelter will be only 2 miles away from the Westway Motor Inn, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd., which last year outraged the local community when the city transformed it into a shelter housing over 100 homeless families.

In nearby Elmhurst, the community continues to fight against the city’s proposal to convert the site of the former Pan American Hotel, at 79-00 Queens Blvd., into a permanent shelter.

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Man arrested for kidnapping ex-girlfriend in East Elmhurst


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A 21-year-old man has been arrested for abducting his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend in East Elmhurst on Saturday, police said.

Authorities have charged  Jonathan Coronel with rape, robbery, kidnapping, criminal possession of a weapon, unlawful imprisonment and criminal contempt.

According to police, at 9:35 a.m. Saturday Coronel approached his ex-girlfriend outside a location on 81st Street near Northern Boulevard and forced her into a vehicle at knifepoint.

After taking off eastbound on Northern Boulevard from 81st Street with the victim in the backseat, police said, Coronel dropped her off at end of his block at the corner of 82nd Street and Astoria Boulevard, around 9:40 p.m. Upon being found, the teen was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Later on Saturday, police found Coronel with a self-inflicted stab wound at the corner of 88th Street and 24th Avenue, authorities said. He was transported to Elmhurst Hospital and is listed in stable condition.

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Bicyclist killed in East Elmhurst hit-and-run


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image via Google Maps

A man was killed in East Elmhurst Wednesday afternoon after being struck by a vehicle that fled the scene, police said.

At about 2:30 p.m., the victim who was riding his bicycle was hit at 30th Avenue and 92nd Street, according to the NYPD. The driver fled the scene.

The bicyclist was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police withheld the victim’s identity pending family notification.

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Op-ed: Never forget those who sacrificed in the 9/11 recovery


| oped@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY ED HORN

It is shameful that so many Americans demand closure from the 9/11 attacks believing it is time to “get past it,” yet the deaths caused by the attack increase every day.

Americans are proud to recall the heroics of the Greatest Generation and their sacrifices. On Memorial Day, we wave the flag. We are enraged when anyone has the audacity of setting fire to our flag. We are quick to threaten war when we feel threatened, insulted or are dismissed. We arrange displays at the sites of tragedies. Tears fall and hugs are exchanged believing that the moment will address the losses that will continue to the harm of families for generations.

We share the sadness and loss of those who gather at the World Trade Center site every September 11. Those who were blessed not to have sustained a death pause for a moment and move on without another consideration.

Other memorials and dedications, however, have fewer and fewer people attending, leaving only the stricken to recall those who died saving others or those who cleaned up the rubble left behind. Congress continues to debate funding health care for those made ill by the pile.

St. Michael’s Cemetery will not forget those who sacrificed in the days after 9/11. On Sept. 12, St. Michael’s, with the support of the Christopher Santora Scholarship Fund and the community mayors, will hold the annual Remember Me Run honoring the first responders who saved thousands offering their lives in exchange. We will also memorialize 19 first responders who recently died from illnesses related to their work at Ground Zero.

I wonder who will find the time or the respect to attend.

This is the list of deceased FDNY members we plan to add to the World Trade Center Memorial Wall this September:

Firefighter Joseph T. Callahan, Engine Co. 245, died on Oct. 1, 2005;
Battalion Chief Richard E. McGuire, Battalion 51, died on Dec. 9, 2012;
EMT Luis de Peña, EMS Station 13, died on Nov. 7, 2013;
EMS Lt. Michael F. Cavanagh, EMS Station 16, died on Dec. 2, 2013;
Deputy Chief Inspector James W. Mandelkow, Bureau of Fire Prevention, died on Dec. 10, 2013;
Fire Lt. John J. Halpin, Ladder Co. 33, died on May 29, 2014;
EMS Capt. William C. Olsen, EMS Station 23, died on June 1, 2014;
Fire Lt. Keith M. Loughlin, Ladder Co. 109, died on July 31, 2014;
Fire Lt. John K. Gremse, Engine Co. 302, died on Sept. 16, 2014;
Fire Lt. Howard J. Bischoff, Ladder Co. 149, died on Sept. 22, 2014;
Firefighter Daniel E. Heglund, Rescue 4, died on Sept. 22, 2014;
Firefighter Robert E. Leaver, Division 3, died on Sept. 22, 2014;
Firefighter Cornell L. Horne, Ladder Co. 176, died on Oct. 5, 2014;
EMS Lt. Thomas Giammarino, EMS Station 31, died on Oct. 7, 2014;
Firefighter Eugene J. McCarey, Ladder Co. 36, died on Nov. 13, 2014;
Firefighter James J. Marshall, Ladder Co. 78, died on Nov. 30, 2014;
Firefighter Charles S. Szoke, Ladder Co. 21, died on Dec. 1, 2014;
Battalion Chief John J. Cassidy, Battalion 40, died on Jan. 21, 2015; and
Fire Capt. John R. Graziano, Ladder Co. 78, died on March 13, 2015.

Ed Horn is president of St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst.

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Reward offered for help in finding serial Queens bank robber


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the FBI New York office

Federal agents and the NYPD are offering “a significant reward” for the public’s help in finding the man responsible for at least a dozen bank robberies in Queens dating back to last year — including several armed heists.

Authorities said the suspect last struck in Middle Village on Dec. 9, 2014, robbing cash from the Chase bank at 74-04 Eliot Ave. Many of the other robberies occurred in Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Maspeth, Sunnyside and Ridgewood.

During each incident, the suspect reportedly passed demand notes to a teller and walked away with various sums of money. In five capers, the perpetrator displayed a handgun in his waistband to bank employees, the FBI said.

Law enforcement agents describe the crook as a black or Hispanic male with a medium to light complexion standing 6 feet tall, and weighing between 200 and 250 pounds. He is usually seen on camera wearing glasses and a baseball cap with the logo of a sports team such as the New York Yankees or New England Patriots. The public should consider the suspect armed and dangerous.

Among the heists in the robbery pattern are the following incidents:

  • June 7, 2014, robbery of a Chase bank located at 77-01 31st Ave. in East Elmhurst;
  • July 22, 2014, attempted robbery of a Santander bank located at 89-01 Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights;
  • July 25, 2014, heist at a Chase bank located at 47-11 Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside;
  • Aug. 30, 2014, incident at a Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh located at 75-23 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights;
  • Oct. 4, 2014, robbery of a Chase bank located at 69-55 Grand Ave. in Maspeth; and
  •  Dec. 6, 2014, heist at a Chase bank located at 60-67 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood.

The FBI-NYPD Violent Crime Task Force is investigating the pattern.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts is urged to call the Task Force at 212-384-1000; all calls will be kept confidential.

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Queens kids to race in annual soap box derby in East Elmhurst


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Flushing Meadow Soap Box Derby

On your mark, get set, go!

The annual Flushing Meadows Soap Box Derby will be held this Saturday, June 13, to determine which kids will move on to represent the city in the National All-American Race this summer.

This year’s derby will host 61 racers from the ages of 7 to 18 driving cars of their own design and construction. The event will take place on 23rd Avenue and 94th Street in East Elmhurst from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vaughn College is collaborating with the nonprofit racing program to provide space for their youngsters to build cars with the help of college interns. Additionally, Saturday’s winners will get a $2,000 scholarship to the school.

According to Henry Foster, director of the Flushing Meadows Soap Box Derby, building a functional race car is an excellent way to give kids a hands-on experience in real-world science and technology. Figuring out the aerodynamics of a car and learning how weight and gravity can affect its speed are problem-solving tasks that can serve to introduce children to the principles of elementary physics.

“There’s just a whole litany of things you have to learn, and it’s hands-on,” said Foster. “They learn faster when it’s something they use every day.”

Children racing in the derby are separated into three skill divisions according to age and experience. The winners in each category will compete in Akron, Ohio, this July in the National All-American race.

The All-American Soap Box Derby is run by the International Soap Box Derby Incorporated, a nonprofit organization based in Akron. The first-ever derby was held in 1934 after a local newspaper photographer came across local boys racing homemade cars and acquired the copyright to host a larger event with corporate sponsors. It has been held annually ever since, except for a four-year hiatus during World War II.

The first Flushing Meadows Soap Box Derby was held in 1984, and was the first New York soap box derby in 20 years.


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Coyote spotted near LaGuardia Airport


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Porter/Laura Süpper

The coyote sightings are continuing to grow in Queens as one of the wild creatures was spotted around LaGuardia Airport early Thursday morning.

According to a Port Authority Police Department spokesman, a USPS delivery person saw the animal in the vicinity of 82nd Street and Ditmars Boulevard, at the edge of the airport, at about 2 a.m.

Port Authority and NYPD units responded and reported that the coyote ran toward Elmjack Field, just west of airport grounds. The Port Authority and NYPD currently had no further information on any more sightings.

This is one of several coyote sightings in the borough in recent weeks.

On March 30, one was spotted on the rooftop of a Long Island City bar. Police and animal control tried to capture it, but it escaped.

And just last week, a coyote was caught in Middle Village. The 4-year-old female evaded capture the first day it was spotted, but was nabbed the following night in a local backyard.

Queens isn’t the only borough to experience a spike in coyote sightings.

Coyotes have also been seen in the last month running around Manhattan — including the Upper West Side, Chelsea and most recently Battery Park, where it was trapped after briefly running loose in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood.

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East Elmhurst woman charged with vehicular assault, DWI in Astoria hit-and-run


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

HANDCUFFS 1

A 21-year-old East Elmhurst driver who “didn’t even know” she struck someone has been charged with vehicular assault, DWI and other crimes for an Astoria hit-and-run that sent a pedestrian to the hospital earlier this week, according to the district attorney’s office.

Gisel M. Carchi is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of first- and second-degree vehicular assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting/serious physical injury, fourth-degree criminal mischief and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, prosecutors said.

According to District Attorney Richard Brown, just before 4 p.m. on April 14 a 32-year-old woman saw a Nissan, which was being driven by Carchi, strike her parked Ford near Vernon Boulevard and 31st Drive. The witness then said she saw the Nissan hit a 37-year-old man before driving off without stopping.

A review of video surveillance showed the Nissan hitting the pedestrian, who was on the sidewalk, before swerving back onto the street and nearly striking another pedestrian, according to the district attorney. Carchi was finally stopped after hitting two more parked cars and taken to the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills. A test administered at the precinct allegedly indicated that she had a blood alcohol level of .201 percent, well above the .08 legal limit.

When speaking with authorities, Carchi allegedly admitted that she had been drinking and driving after she and a male friend had gone to a restaurant where they shared a bowl of an alcoholic drink.

“I guess I hit a car,” she reportedly said. “I didn’t even know I hit somebody.”

The 37-year-old pedestrian had to be taken to an area hospital where he was diagnosed with paralysis of the left leg, a shattered right knee, broken right ankle and significant pain to his back and pelvis, which will require more testing.

If convicted, Carchi faces up to seven years in prison.

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80-year-old woman fatally struck in East Elmhurst


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

AmbulanceInMotionHC0507_L_300_C_Y-624x4161

An 80-year-old woman was struck and killed as she was crossing an East Elmhurst street Tuesday afternoon, police said.

The victim, Sevasti Skarlatos, was walking northbound across Astoria Boulevard at 80th Street about 2:50 p.m. when a 28-year-old woman driving a Nissan Altima hit her, authorities said.

Skarlatos, who lived less than 10 blocks from where she was struck, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The driver remained on the scene and no criminality is suspected, according to police. The investigation is ongoing.

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Four men wanted in robbery of East Elmhurst luxury car service company


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the NYPD

Cops are looking for suspects wanted in connection with a robbery of a luxury car service company last week in East Elmhurst.

On Feb. 19 at about 10 p.m., three suspects entered Stride Limo Inc. at 23-57 83rd St. One of the suspects showed a firearm and demanded money from a 48-year-old victim, police said. The suspects then took the victim’s cellphone and wallet, which contained credit cards and miscellaneous items.

A fourth suspect acted as a lookout for the group, according to cops, and all four men later fled in a dark-colored minivan with unknown Florida license plates.

Police describe the first suspect as a black man who is between 20 to 30 years old, around 6 feet tall. He was last seen wearing a dark winter coat with light-colored lining on the hood, dark blue jeans and tan boots.

The three other suspects are described as black men, 20 to 30 years old and between 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 3 inches tall.

Rear view of the first suspect.

Rear view of the first suspect.

The NYPD has released photos of the first suspect and two of the other three men.

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

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer discusses community concerns at legislative breakfast


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The conversion of an East Elmhurst motel into a homeless shelter was one of many topics addressed by the city’s comptroller during a breakfast last week with western Queens community leaders and elected officials.

Comptroller Scott Stringer was a guest at the United Community Civic Association’s 2015 Legislative/Executive Breakfast on Feb. 6 where members voiced their concerns about air, noise and traffic pollution, unaffordable costs of residential rents, and hospital closings.

“Many of you in this room are at this meeting not just because of yourselves. You believe in New York City, and you love it like I do,” Stringer said at the breakfast. “But we’re also doing this for our children, making sure that the economy is going to fit what they have to do.”

Stringer added that the key idea is to think about the economy in 10 to 15 years and start to think about it as a high-technology economy. He also said that the economy should no longer be Manhattan-centric; instead, all the boroughs should be transformed into economic hubs.

“The government cannot just be in sound bites telling people what they want to hear,” Stringer said. “We’ve got to create a five-borough economic plan and make sure that people can access the middle class. That is how this city was built.”

Residents and community leaders at the breakfast discussed in detail the issue of dealing with the city’s Department of Homeless Services’ decision to convert the Westway Motor Inn, located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd., into a permanent homeless shelter.

Recently, the community voiced its outrage against the city’s decision to house registered sex offender James Bryant at the shelter, which is home to over 100 families with children. Bryant was removed from the shelter on Feb. 5.

Since then, the DHS has proposed changes to its policy to prevent level 2 or 3 sex offenders from being placed in shelters with families and instead referring them to shelters for single adults.

In response, Stringer said that city agencies should have a dialogue with the communities and sit down with leaders to work out issues and “respect people.”

Stringer also said he will personally go to the Westway Motor Inn, tour the facility, look at the issues brought up by community members and take suggestions on what can be done differently.

“We have to make sure the voices of our neighborhoods are heard,” Stringer added. “We will monitor, we will watch and we will speak out.”

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DHS removes sex offender living at Westway motel homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The cries of an East Elmhurst community have been heard, as a convicted sex offender has been removed from the homeless shelter at the Westway Motor Inn.

James Bryant, 49, who in 2004 was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in 2003 and faced 10 years in prison, was living at the hotel located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd.

After hearing the news that the 49-year-old was living in the same facility that is home to over 100 homeless families, local elected officials and community leaders voiced their outrage.

“We are totally outraged, not only as a community, but we are saddened for those people who have children and now have among their group a pedophile who certainly should not have been selected to go into any shelter that has any children,” Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, previously told The Courier.

By Thursday, the city’s Department of Homeless Services announced that Bryant had been removed from the shelter.

“After we applied pressure, convicted sex offender removed from Westway Hotel,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris via Twitter. “We will continue to work on other issues surrounding Westway.”

Last July, the city’s Department of Homeless Services approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn into a shelter that would be managed by social services provider Women in Need.

Residents of the surrounding neighborhood, local elected officials and community leaders were outraged they were not told or asked in advance about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“I have learned that the convicted sex offender has been removed from the premises at the Westway housing facility,” state Senator Jose Peralta said. “While I am pleased to hear this news, I remain extremely concerned by the lack of adequate policies and procedures in place at the Department of Homeless Services that would have prevented this dangerous circumstance from occurring.”

According to Councilman Costa Constantinides, the DHS has assured him they will be more sensitive when relocating individuals in the future and will be “considerate to the needs of the residential neighborhoods.”

“We will keep working to ensure that our neighborhood’s concerns are addressed in this process,” Constantinides added.

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Local pols criticize DHS decision to place sex offender at Westway motel homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Thursday, Feb. 5 10:55 a.m.  

The East Elmhurst community is expressing its outrage after finding out that a registered sex offender has been moved to the homeless shelter at the Westway Motor Inn, which houses families that include young children.

James Bryant, 49, is a sexually violent offender who in 2004 was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl the year prior and faced up to ten years in state prison, according to records from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

According to the same records, Bryant has since been moved to the hotel located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd., which has served as a shelter for over 100 homeless families since last year.

“I am alarmed at the recent news that a convicted child molester has been placed at the Westway facility after we were assured that location was meant to house families with children,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “The continuing lack of information and transparency surrounding the Westway is extremely troubling and validates the community’s concerns about this location from the start.”

Photo courtesy of New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

James Bryant (Photo courtesy of New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services)

Last July, the city’s Department of Homeless Services approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn into a shelter that would be managed by social services provider Women in Need.

“We are totally outraged, not only as a community but we are saddened for those people who have children and now have among their group a pedophile who certainly should not have been selected to go into any shelter that have any children,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association.

Initially, community members were outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“Since the shelter opened last year, the community and local elected officials have had no voice in the process. We have lacked adequate access to the shelter facilities and its management, so it came to me as a complete surprise that a violent sex offender has been permitted to live in this facility,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “The families in need who are living at the Westway deserve more than just a roof over their head – they deserve a safe place to live.”

In regards to the community concerns the DHS said in a statement: “DHS takes safety concerns very seriously and, within its legal obligation to provide shelter to anyone in need, is currently reviewing policies with regard to sex offenders in the families with children system.”

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Couple creates ‘nerdy’ treats at LIC’s Entrepreneur Space


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of 8 Bit Bakeshop

One East Elmhurst couple is using their love for all things “geeky” and “nerdy” to create delicious treats for every occasion.

Hannah Maldonado and Matthew McNamee met in 2012 and felt an instant connection with their interest in comic books and video games. One day they decided to drive around looking for “something nerdy to snack on” and couldn’t find anything they could get enthusiastic about.

“I’ve never had a tolerance for normal. I’ve always been the black sheep of my family,” Maldonado said. “When Matthew and I met, our friendship was based on all the nerdy things we liked.”

Photo by Darryl Brooks

Photo by Darryl Brooks

Not finding what they were looking for sparked the idea to start a business in which Maldonado, who studied pastry arts and was not content in working at other bakeries, would create her own treats. McNamee, an aircraft mechanic for Jet Blue Airways, would be in charge of any construction.

The idea then transformed into the 8 Bit Bakeshop, which at first started out of their house. The name refers to the beginning of video games and the products sold are inspired by video games and comic books, such as Super Mario, Pokémon, Deadpool, and others.

In 2013 they started to test their product at New York Comic Con to see if people would be interested. To their surprise they were met with thousands of people congratulating their work.

“Oddly enough the fan base is there and it is a lot bigger than we thought it would be,” Maldonado said. “It just makes me feel so good because it’s a niche that is so untapped. It’s great with the old crowds and it’s great to see young people into it, too.”

Now, working out of the business incubator Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City, the 8 Bit Bakeshop is known for its sugar cookies, individually decorated by Maldonado and a team of volunteers, cupcakes and a line of fudge and cakes in various flavors. They also create alcohol-infused pastries and huge sugar cookies, which are covered in icing to resemble comic book covers or pages.

They also feature a line of treats called “Little Luna,” named after the couple’s Type 1 diabetic daughter, which includes diabetic-friendly, vegan and vegetarian versions of their products. They are in the process of trying to create kosher and gluten-free items as well.

“We just want to add more love, and who doesn’t love food? And we want to make sure we don’t exclude anyone,” Maldonado added.

Along with being creative in the kitchen, one thing that makes the team of the 8 Bit Bakeshop stand out is that when they hit conventions, like New York Comic Con, they show up as personalities from video games and comic books as a form of cosplay.

Photo by Darryl Brooks

Photo by Darryl Brooks

“We want to sell the experience, not just the product,” Maldonado said. “We like to take away the counter. So when you see us selling stuff, you almost never see us behind the table.”

Maldonado said that there are plans in the future to open a store, but they first want to spread the word of the 8 Bit Bakeshop by traveling around the country and setting up booths at conventions.

They are also in the process of creating a “nerdy food box” subscription service called Byte, in which people from across the country would subscribe and be sent a box full of treats from the 8 Bit Bakeshop. They plan to beta test the product this summer.

“The best part is that Matthew and I love this,” Maldonado said. “We’re not solely in this for the money, it’s something that we enjoy. We take this as an art form, more than an actual bakery.”

For more information visit www.8bitbakeshop.com or www.facebook.com/8bitbakeshop. To place an order email 8bitbakeshop@gmail.com.

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