Tag Archives: east elmhurst

20-year-old woman dies in Grand Central Parkway motorcycle crash


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic image

Updated 1:07 p.m.

A motorcyclist was injured and his passenger was killed when he lost control of his bike on the Grand Central Parkway early Tuesday morning, cops said.

The crash happened while the motorcyclist was traveling westbound on the roadway at about 4:30 a.m. just before the 94th Street exit in East Elmhurst, according to police.

The bike’s operator, a 21-year-old man, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition with injuries to his shoulder and legs.

His 20-year-old passenger, Giuseppina Lascalia of Astoria, was also taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead,  authorities said.

The investigation is ongoing.

 

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Community calls homeless shelter at East Elmhurst motel an ‘abuse of power’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

East Elmhurst residents blasted city officials Wednesday for placing a homeless shelter on Astoria Boulevard without community consultation, calling the move a “covert operation reeking of disrespect.”

More than 200 neighborhood residents packed an Astoria museum’s theater to speak against the decision by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to turn the Westway Motor Inn into a permanent homeless shelter to house more than 100 homeless families.

Community members say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“It was a deliberate, furtive and covert operation reeking of disrespect of our local elected officials, community leaders and the community at large,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, which organized the meeting. ”We were advised after the fact and consider the action by DHS an abuse of power.”

Officials say that years ago the DHS came to the community requesting to turn the 121-room motel into a homeless shelter, but were met with opposition. At the time DHS stated it had no plans to convert the motel into a full-time facility and worked with the community on making the site only a temporary overnight shelter.

“When they came to us, we explained to them why this is the wrong place. Why there is nothing for these people to do during the day, this is a hotel on a dangerous service road,” said Peter Vallone Jr., a former councilman for the area who also worked with the DHS to come to the temporary shelter agreement. “To change that agreement you were supposed to come to the community and inform us. That never happened and that is an outrage.”

The shelter is being managed by social services provider Women In Need and currently houses a total of 67 families with 129 children, ranging from 1 to 17 years old, according to DHS representatives.

Residents who lined up to speak during the meeting, which went on for more than two hours, raised concerns over community safety, overcrowding of schools, increase in property taxes, environmental studies of the area and crime.

Antonia Papadouris, whose home driveway is adjacent to the backlot of the motel, said she has seen signs of marijuana and has found hypodermic needles on the ground. She also said that last Friday a teenager playing in the backlot pulled a knife on her father-in-law.

“I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood,” Papadouris said. “My husband wants me to take mace with me.”

However, Danny Roman, a resident of the homeless shelter, said his 15-year-old step-son, who was the one involved in the altercation, never pulled a knife. Instead, Roman said, he merely approached the man after hearing screams and having seen his step-son get injured during the fight.

“I didn’t go with any weapon. I went there humble,” said Roman, who lives at the site with his wife and four children. “I do understand. I do understand, this is a strong community. They have the right to fear…. But my kids go to bed at 8 p.m. Basically we are like in a prison.”

Lorraine Stephens, DHS first deputy commissioner, said the move was necessary because “right now we are in a crisis in New York City.” She blamed the Bloomberg administration, saying there was a “lack of planning around building the necessary capacity for shelter.”

“We were put in a situation where we have to shelter everyone that comes, that is deemed eligible for shelter,” Stephens said.“We were not looking at Westway a month, two months ago. But as of June we became in a crisis because our lack of capacity forced us to look throughout New York City and say where can we house these families?”

 

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Cops searching for Queens serial bank robber


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD


Police are looking for a suspect wanted in five bank robberies and two attempted heists around Queens over the past two years.

The latest incident occurred on Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. at a Santander Bank on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, cops said. During the robbery, the suspect passed a demand note but left without any money.

The other robberies, which date back to July 2012, took place in the Long Island City, Astoria, East Elmhurst and Middle Village areas of the borough, officials said. In the suspect’s most successful theft, on Dec. 12, 2012 at a Chase Bank at 77-01 31st Ave., he fled with $12,400, cops said.

Police describe the suspect as Hispanic, 30 to 35 years old, 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. He was last seen wearing a baseball hat with a New York Yankees symbol on the front, a button down short sleeve shirt, tinted eyeglasses and a black wrist watch on his left wrist, and had a light beard connected to a goatee.

Authorities have released a photo of the suspect from the July 22 attempted robbery and a June 7 robbery at a Chase Bank at 77-01 31st Ave.

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.

125-year-old East Elmhurst flower shop blossoms next to controversial homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

For more than a century, one East Elmhurst family has been helping their neighborhood bloom.

Donhauser Florist, located at 71-01 Astoria Blvd., was established in 1889 by Hans Donhauser, a German florist who immigrated to the United States. While working at a Brooklyn cemetery he heard that St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens was in need of a florist.

He then moved to East Elmhurst and built a greenhouse on 71st Street and Astoria Boulevard. After a few years, 12 more greenhouses were added and a flower shop was built on 49th Street and Astoria Boulevard.

Donhauser’s family worked at the shop, including his sons, daughters and even his great granddaughter Gladys.

“When your parents are in the business, you’re in the business,” said Gladys about working at the shop since she was 12 years old. “It’s all I’ve known.”

Donhauser Florist moved to 71-01 Astoria Blvd. and replaced one existing greenhouse, while the other 12 were later sold to become the Westway Motor Inn.

Gladys, who grew up at the house currently still standing next to the shop, has owned the store since 1977 together with her husband William Gray, who initially started working at the 49th Street shop.

Since then the Grays have been providing flower arrangements for their neighbors, some of whom they have shared first communions with and years later, weddings. William even arranged all the flowers for his own wedding.

The shop provides flowers for visitors to St. Michael’s Cemetery, located across the Grand Central Parkway, first communions, weddings and other special occasions.

However, the Grays, who have been married for 60 years, say business has been up and down ever since the city’s Department of Homeless Services decided to first use the Westway Motor Inn, located right next door, as a temporary homeless shelter.

“It was once an exquisite hotel with beautiful rooms and a pool,” Gladys said. “Since about a decade ago we started to have problems with it. People were afraid to come around the shop.”

Two weeks ago, the city approved converting the motel into a permanent homeless shelter housing more than 120 families.

Although they are nervous on how the permanent shelter will affect the community and their business, the couple continues to welcome customers with smiles on their faces.

“I hope it stays for 125 more years,” Gladys said.

 

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Emergency town hall to be held on controversial East Elmhurst homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano


Community members will have their voices heard during an emergency town hall meeting on Wednesday over the city’s decision to turn an East Elmhurst motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

On July 9 , the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd., into a shelter to immediately house over 100 homeless families, according to officials. The shelter will be managed by social services provider Women In Need.

Residents, elected officials and local leaders say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

The United Community Civic Association will hold the emergency town hall meeting as well as a public protest on July 23 opposing the approved site selection.

“We have nothing against any of the groups that will be living here. The site is our concern. Only ones that will benefit from it are the owners of Westway,” Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, previously told The Queens Courier. “Nobody wants to be homeless and we understand that, but this is not the place to house them.”

Since the families have moved into the shelter, The Courier has observed Tempur-Pedic mattresses being delivered to the motel and also what looks like a recreational area being constructed in the back lot of the site.

A neighborhood resident said he has also seen portable electric kitchens being delivered to the motel.

The DHS did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

The town hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave.

 

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Community opposes newly approved homeless shelter at East Elmhurst motel


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Salvatore Licata

ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND SALVATORE LICATA

A community is outraged and looking for answers as they learned the city went behind their backs to turn an East Elmhurst motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

Last week, the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd., into a shelter to immediately house over 100 homeless families, according to officials. The shelter will be managed by social services provider Women In Need.

“We are deeply troubled by this decision and find it disturbing that neither elected officials nor community leaders were informed or consulted beforehand,” a group of elected officials wrote in a letter to DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor after being told about the plan the day before the families were expected to begin moving into the motel. “While we appreciate that DHS is legally required to provide shelter for the homeless, the agency’s failure to provide any notification to the people currently living in the area who are impacted by its implementation is unacceptable.”

Community members, such as Gladys Gray, 86, who owns Donhauser Florist right next to the motel, say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“[The motel] was once good for the community. Now I’m not sure what is going to happen to us,” said Gray, whose family has owned the flower shop for the past 125 years. “I don’t think this neighborhood can handle it.”

Gray also said that when the 121-room motel was previously used as a temporary emergency overnight shelter business dropped because “people were afraid to come around the shop.” Two years ago the DHS stated it had no plans to convert the motel into a full-time facility.

Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, which will hold an emergency town hall meeting and public protest on July 23, said she is deeply concerned about the shelter after the community allegedly had an agreement with the Bloomberg administration.

“The agreement was that the homeless people would be bused in at night and out in the morning, no permanent housing,” Poveromo said. “We have no voice, the government doesn’t follow the will of people.”

She added that the motel is not an appropriate location for a homeless shelter because there are no nearby public transportation options or stores, and the closest thing to it is a cemetery.

Elected officials also said that along with the lack of community input, they are also concerned about how the addition of more than 100 families would affect the capacity of schools and hospitals in the area which are already overcrowded.

“We have nothing against any of the groups that will be living here. The site is our concern. Only ones that will benefit from it are the owners of Westway,” Poveromo said. “Nobody wants to be homeless and we understand that, but this is not the place to house them.”

Just last month, in a neighborhood right next door, hundreds of protestors spoke against the city’s plan to house more than 200 homeless families at the Pan American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd. Residents also said they were not asked for their input regarding the shelter.

The DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

The emergency town hall meeting on the Westway Motor Inn homeless shelter will be held on Wednesday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image at 36-01 35th Ave.

 

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East Elmhurst woman vying to be ‘America’s It Girl’


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jessenia Vargas

Does Jessenia Vargas have what “It” takes?

The 26-year-old East Elmhurst resident is competing on a new reality competition show on WE tv, described as “America’s Next Top Model” meets “Project Runway.”

America’s It Girl,” which is scheduled to premiere this fall, features an “It Girl” contestant paired with a brand-new designer. The designer, with inspiration from the It Girl, creates a dress for her that she can reject or accept.

“It Girl meets It Designer to create It Look,” Justin Travis Howard, the show’s host and creative director, calls the concept.

But the competition is about “more than a pretty face,” he said.

In addition to learning how to model, the It Girls learn how to be entrepreneurs.

When selecting contestants, the show was looking for business savvy women who have done community service, according to Howard.

Vargas had both the style and substance to make the cut.

Born in Astoria, she moved to East Elmhurst at age 9 and since her childhood has been trying to entertain.

“I was the first born, the only girl for 10 years … that’s what I did for attention, for entertainment,” said the singer, actress and model.

After high school, she studied performing arts at Kingsborough Community College, spent a year at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and then attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan. Her career has consisted of several off-Broadway shows, film and music video work, and performing at Carnegie Hall.

Vargas also works as a licensed New York State agent for Primerica, a company that educates people on finances.

She may be seem like the It Girl of Queens but she is hoping to be the It Girl beyond the borough.

Vargas will be competing against other New York City area girls to be dubbed America’s It Girl for the New York cycle of the show. There will also be an LA cycle, which will air six half-hour episodes first, followed by the New York’s six episodes.

The first episodes of each cycle will allow viewers to see the casting and to get to know the women better. About 100 women will then be narrowed down to the top 20, where a final It Girl and designer pair will be declared the winner.

The pair will get to do a fashion line with judge and designer Galina Sobolev, of Single Dress. The It Girl will also get a modeling contract, a possible feature in a major publication and other prizes.

“[The show’s about] dominating fashion in a positive way,” Vargas said. “I hope to get exposure to what I do. It’s a great opportunity.”

“America’s It Girl” is scheduled to premiere Sunday, Sept. 28, at 9:30 p.m.

 

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East Elmhurst boy runs again to raise money for autism programs


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Larry Sillen

One East Elmhurst boy is getting his running shoes ready once again to help make a difference.

Max Moore, 10, will be participating in the June 29 Achilles International Hope and Possibility 5 Mile Race in Central Park for a third time.

“We are super thrilled to see Max enjoy running and to see that he is eager to run each year,” said Max’s mother Jacqueline Moore.

This year will be Max’s second time running to raise money and bring awareness for the Queens Museum’s ArtAccess Autism Initiatives. Last year the youth raised $1,279 in funds online, surpassing his goal of $1,000.

“For us it’s a huge honor, it really moves us. It’s inspirational to us. He’s our hero,” said Michelle Lopez, manager of ArtAccess and Autism Initiatives at the Queens Museum. “It feels really good to know that he is doing this, this is his activity of choice. He chose to run again, to run for us.”

The 10-year-old, who is autistic himself, has been part of the ArtAccess Autism Initiatives together with his family. This past year they have been involved in the museum’s new project called emPOWER Parents, a partnership between the Queens Museum and Museo ICO and its cultural partner, Hablarenarte, in Madrid, Spain.

According to Lopez, the funds raised by Max last year helped contribute to the program.

The partnership uses the arts, art therapy and technology to create and put into effect crucial programming for families of children with autism. It also creates an international network and “digital bridge” where the families can share their experiences.

Max’s mother said the program has allowed him to connect with new friends in Spain who share the same interests.

Max has been preparing for Sunday’s race for the past three months with Achilles Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides training and racing opportunities for children with disabilities. He has been with the group for about four years and in the past few months has been training in Central Park and also participating in several other 5K races.

“I think the Achilles Kids Family is quite an exceptional group of kids, parents, staff and volunteers,” Moore said. “One big family that gets larger and larger every year.”

This year Max will again be running alongside Marissa Fong, a guide provided by Achilles, and his dad, John. Although his mom said John will try to keep up with Max, he might not be able to; last year, Max left him at the three mile mark and went on to finish the race in less than one hour.

“What is wonderful is that running can be something he can enjoy in the future,” Moore said. “That is all we can ask for as parents, that we help him to find his joys and passion in life. We hope Max will continue to run further distances when he gets older and maybe one day accomplish a triathlon.”

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East Elmhurst students to plant, learn from school garden


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

p30-NEW.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

One East Elmhurst middle school is helping students plant a brighter future.

I.S. 227 Louis Armstrong Middle School, located at 32-02 Junction Blvd., will celebrate the groundbreaking of its school garden on May 14.

Students, parents and school officials will begin building raised garden beds by filling them with soil at the garden at 32nd Avenue and 93rd Street. The goal of the project is to connect the diverse student body to nature and to the environmental and health benefits of gardening, schools officials said.

“Students need to understand about growing. Growing and gardening is a part of their education that’s missing,” eighth-grade teacher Pauline Smith said. “I want them to be more in touch with growing things because that’s how we survive in this world. There’s nothing we eat that didn’t start from a plant.”

The school garden’s nonprofit partners include Junior Energy, NYC Composting Project at the Queens Botanical Garden, Green Thumb and GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions Program.

 

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


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

East Elmhurst man busted after child porn found on computer during Best Buy repair


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

ManLaptopComputerH1005_L_300_B_G

One East Elmhurst man has been slapped with charges of possessing child pornography after bringing his laptop to Best Buy for repair.

On April 1, a technician at the electronics store located in Long Island City began working on a laptop that was dropped off by 61-year-old Michael Murray on March 26 to get repaired, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

After turning on and rebooting the computer the technician found the screen saver to contain a slide show of multiple young girls posing provocatively or engaging in sexual acts with adult men, Brown said. Once the worker altered his supervisor about the images, 15 photographs of young girls were found and the police was called.

“This defendant is alleged to have had some very disturbing photographs of children being sexually abused on his computer,” Brown said. “These photographs depict real children who will no doubt be emotionally and physically scarred for the rest of their lives.”

The district attorney added that detectives went to Murray’s East Elmhurst home Wednesday morning, where he allegedly admitted to knowing what was on his screen saver. Murray also allegedly admitted he had been sharing child pornography files with other people on the Internet for about five years.

Murray has been charged with 15 counts of possessing a sexual performance by a child. If convicted, Murray could face up to four years in prison.

 

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Queens middle school students vanquish the competition in Lego robot contest


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Peter Xanthus

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Four Queens middle school teams were victorious in the NYC FIRST Lego robot building competition on April 4-6.

The contest, which was held at the Jacob Javits Center, challenged students to construct robots from Lego blocks and navigate obstacle courses. More than 70 teams from the five boroughs competed this year.

The Hurricane Pandas of P.S. 94 in Little Neck won second place for the Champion’s Award, which is given for overall excellence and innovation. The Boogie Bots of Louis Pasteur Middle School in Little Neck won first for the Project Research Award for the research and problem solving category of the contest, while Bleeker All-Stars of Edward Bleeker Junior High School in Flushing won first for the Robot Design, Strategy and Innovation Award. And the M.S. 216 Ryan Lions of Fresh Meadows won first for the Robot Performance Award.

“I’m very, very proud,” said Peter Xanthus, a sixth-grade science teacher at M.S. 216 who advises the school’s team. “It’s been six years here and this is the first time we ever came in first place.”

As a part of the contest, children had to research and think of solutions together for when natural disasters strike, not only to introduce the students to engineering and robot building but also to teach the importance of teamwork.

“You could be the most brilliant person in the whole,” Xanthus said, “but if you don’t know how to get our thoughts across to other people, you won’t get anything done.”

 

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Family, friends share memories of victims killed in Astoria creek accident


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The four young passengers who died when their car plunged into an Astoria creek after a birthday celebration were always smiling and looking toward the future, their friends and families recalled.

Jada Monique Butts, 19, was a loving person who enjoyed laughing, smiling and having fun, said Tiani Martin, her best friend of more than 10 years. One of five children, the Borough of Manhattan Community College student wanted to one day work behind the scenes in the music industry.

“She was a beautiful spirit and loved to stay positive,” Martin said. “We did everything together and she will live on.”

Butts was one of four East Elmhurst friends who died on April 4 when their Honda Accord rolled over into Steinway Creek in Astoria.

“She was my little right-hand woman,” said Paula Slader, Butts’ mother.

Another passenger was 20-year-old Jaleel Feurtado, who had the dream to play professional basketball after shining bright on the Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School basketball team, remembered his family. Feurtado was an only child and was the eldest of the family’s grandchildren.

“He was a good kid,” said one of his relatives, who wanted to remain unnamed. “He was the apple of our eyes, everyone just loved him.”

Darius Fletcher, 21, and Crystal Gravely, 19, also lost their lives in the accident. Gravely would have celebrated her 20th birthday the following day.

The driver, 20-year-old Andrew Gramm, was traveling at 60 mph when he decided to make a U-turn on the wet road, according to reports. Once the vehicle went into the water, reportedly 8 feet deep, Gramm managed to escape the vehicle and call for help, cops said, but his four friends were still inside the car when authorities arrived.

FDNY divers then extracted Fletcher, Butts, Gravely and Feurtado, who were later pronounced dead, according to police.

Gramm was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, police said. He was given a preliminary breath test where results showed he was sober during the time of the accident, police said.

The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is still looking into the accident and one politician has called for a review of safety measures on the various roads leading to the water.

 

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Probe continues into fatal Astoria crash as loved ones mourn victims


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos via Facebook

Police are continuing the investigation into an accident that killed four friends after their car plunged into an Astoria creek as one politician calls for a review of safety measures on roads leading to the water.

A Honda Accord carrying four passengers and a driver was traveling on 19th Avenue near 37th Street about 10:40 p.m. Friday when it hit the curb and rolled over into Steinway Creek, police said.

The driver, identified in reports as 20-year-old Andrew Gramm, was traveling at 60 mph when he decided to make a u-turn on the wet road, according to reports. Once the vehicle went into the water, reportedly 8-feet deep, Gramm managed to escape the vehicle and call for help, cops said, but four people were still inside the car when authorities arrived.

FDNY divers then extracted the passengers, Darius Fletcher, 21, Jada Monique Butts, 19, Crystal Gravely, 19, and Jaleel Feurtado, 20, all from East Elmhurst, according to police.

The women and one of the men were taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where they were pronounced dead, officials said. The second man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he was also pronounced deceased.

Gravely would have celebrated her 20th birthday on Saturday, reports said.

Gramm was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, police said. He was given a preliminary breath test where results showed he was sober during the time of the accident, according to police.

The NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad is still looking into the accident.

On Facebook, family and friends are mourning the loss of the four young lives through posts and photos.

“Speechless…The only reason I can cope with this is trusting and knowing if God took these kids from us it’s because God has plans for them. Just a tough pill to swallow,” wrote Kay Roberts on Saturday together with a photo of the four friends.

Vernon Feurtado, who according to Facebook posts is one of the victim’s fathers, remembered his son, Jaleel, through photos of the two together.

Senator Michael Gianaris is now calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a review of safety measures on the various roads, including 19th Avenue, which lead to the water. According to the senator, reports of the crash have created questions about the chain-link fence that is supposed to serve as a barricade between the street and the creek. There is also not sufficient signage specifying that the street becomes a dead end.

“As our community deals with this tragic accident, we must work together to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future,” Gianaris said. “DOT must make our streets safer by reviewing all roads leading to waterways as there may be similar dangers in other neighborhoods throughout our city. This accident was avoidable, and something must be done to keep people safe as they drive, walk or cycle on our roadways.”

A DOT spokesman said  the agency had installed an “END” sign where 19th Avenue terminates and two highly visible “Dead End” signs at the intersection last October and which were in place at the time of the accident.


Photo Courtesy of the Department of Transportation

Early Saturday afternoon the DOT also secured the area with jersey barriers and barrels, and also replaced the “END” sign. The spokesman said the agency will be looking into the report of a section of the guiderail missing, even though a preliminary review does not point to any recent reports on the missing section. The DOT will also review condition at streets ending near water.

 

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Four dead after car plunges into Astoria creek


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos via Facebook

Updated 2:30 p.m.

Four people are dead after their car went into an Astoria creek Friday night, according to the NYPD.

A Honda Accord, driven by a 20-year-old man, was traveling on 19th Avenue near 37th Street about 10:40 p.m. when it hit the curb and rolled over into Steinway Creek, police said.

The driver managed to escape the vehicle, cops said, but  four people were still inside the car when authorities arrived. FDNY divers then extracted the passengers,  Darius Fletcher,21, Jada Monique Butts, 19, Crystal Gravely, 19, and Jaleel Furtado, 20, all from East Elmhurst, according to police.

The women and one of the men were taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where they were pronounced dead, officials said. The second man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he was also pronounced deceased.

The 20-year-old driver was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he is currently listed in stable condition, police said. He was given a preliminary breath test where results showed he was sober during the time of the accident, according to police.

The NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad is looking into the accident.

 

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