Tag Archives: Flushing

Flushing baby with rare disorder gets surgery for new thumb


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel/Gallery courtesy of the Cohen Children's Medical Center

Who’s got two thumbs and is a happy baby? This little guy!

One-year-old Brandon Torres of Flushing is only a month into recovery after a successful surgery to create a working digit to be used in place of his right thumb. Torres was born without a thumb due to a disorder known as Duane-radial ray syndrome, which can result in abnormalities of bones in the arms and hands.

“It would be extremely difficult just to try to do anything without a thumb,” said Anderson Torres, Brandon’s father who became visibly emotional when recounting the lifelong physical limitations which could have resulted from his son’s condition. “So for a better future for him we just went ahead and did the [procedure].”

Brandon’s parents, Yuli Ramirez and Torres, found out about his condition when hospital staff did a routine count of the boy’s hands and toes immediately after his birth following an otherwise normal pregnancy.

The boy underwent a three-hour correctional procedure at Cohen Children’s Medical Center on April 27 where his right index finger was shortened, rotated, and moved into the place of the thumb. A metal pin will hold the finger in place so a pseudo joint can form from the bone.

“It was very scary, because of course as a parent you never want anything to go wrong with your children, but we knew that this would be a great thing for him,” said Ramirez, who also has another son.

In order to better understand her youngest son’s experience with a disabled hand, she and her partner would often try to spend time with their own thumbs tied back to recreate the heightened challenges of everyday activities.

The thumb is the most single important finger in the human hand and has a specific area in the brain associated with the task of its movement. Its power is necessary as an opposing force to the other four digits used on a hand when grasping objects.

According to Dr. Nick Bastidas, the pediatric plastic surgeon who treated Brandon, patients with Duane-radial ray syndrome are too rare to statistically quantify, with only about 30 cases reported around the globe. Although the young boy will still only have four fingers and a 30 to 40 percent weakness in his new thumb, he will be able to hold and grasp objects normally after undergoing some physical therapy to perfect his use of the new digit.

Bastidas said the ease in which children like Torres can adapt and heal after extraordinary circumstances is one of the reasons he chose to specialize in pediatric plastic surgery.

“It’s the reason why I went into medicine in the first place, is to really make an impact,” Bastidas said. “Just to shape a child’s life and let him go on to live a normal happy healthy life is the most rewarding thing you can expect.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cops searching for armed robber who hit Flushing sandwich shop


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a man wanted for the armed robbery of a Subway restaurant in Flushing.

On May 12 at about 7:45 p.m., a man walked into the establishment located at 25-52 Francis Lewis Blvd., displayed a firearm and demanded money, according to cops.

The cashier obeyed and the suspect then fled with an undetermined amount of money. There were no injuries reported during this incident, police said.

The suspect is described as a white man in his early 40s, 5 foot 8 inches tall, and weighing 185 pounds.

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.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing business owners fight to maintain parking in SBS plan


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce met with representatives of the MTA and Department of Transportation (DOT) on May 22 to express their skepticism over the benefits of a proposed Select Bus Service (SBS) line set to run from Flushing to Jamaica.

Small business owners felt the most threatened over the possible impact to parking availability in the area. One of the proposed changes will see the area getting a dedicated bus lane for SBS service, and in some cases possibly displacing lanes currently used for curbside parking.

“I am afraid that losing more business due to parking unavailability will result in my business reducing our staff or worse,” said Andrew Hai, owner of Flushing NAPA Automotive Inc. “We are a small business and need all the customers we can get.”

Although local civic groups were in favor of the SBS plans, they also emphasized the need to maintain parking resources.

“The Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association supports the implementation of SBS,” said the group’s president Don Capalbi, although he did urge the DOT to ensure that parking lanes will be preserved. “Elimination of Main Street parking will decimate our local small business hub and the community they serve.”

Nicole Garcia, the DOT’s Queens commissioner, said officials will continue to work with the chamber to ensure that the needs of businesses will be prioritized in transit system changes.

Select Bus Service is an improved bus service that aims to offer fast, frequent and reliable service on high-ridership bus routes. SBS lines decrease travel time by utilizing off-board fare collection by kiosk, dedicated bus lanes and transit signal priority.

A two-phase study completed in 2006 and 2009 identified Main Street and Kissena/Parsons boulevards between Flushing and Jamaica as corridors that could support and greatly benefit from Select Bus Service. The four bus lines along the two thoroughfares move at overall speeds of under 10 mph, and some are delayed for nearly 50 percent of travel time.

The meeting between transit officials and the chamber is part of the ongoing third round of public outreach for SBS implementation. Open houses will be held this week in both Flushing and Jamaica to solicit additional input from the general public and to discuss street design and bus stop locations.

The Flushing open house will be held in Flushing Town Hall at 137-35 Northern Blvd. on Wednesday, May 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. In Jamaica an open house will be held at the Jamaica LIRR Station Atrium Lobby on Sutphin Boulevard the following night, May 28, from 6 to 8 p.m.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

SUV smashes into Flushing supermarket, injuring five


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter, @NYPD109Pct

Updated Wednesday, May 27 

An out-of-control sports utility vehicle turned a Flushing supermarket into a drive-thru Tuesday afternoon, injuring four people plus the driver in the process.

Police said the accident occurred at about 6:30 p.m. inside the Pathmark located at 31-06 Farrington St.

A 72-year-old woman was behind the wheel of the Mercedes Benz SUV when she suddenly accelerated while in the supermarket parking lot and drove into the wall of the store before coming to rest inside, cops said.

Officers from the 109th Precinct and EMS units responded to the scene.

Four people and the driver received minor injuries and were transported to local hospitals. Three of the victims were reportedly transported to New York Hospital Queens, while two others were taken to Elmhurst Hospital.

An investigation is still ongoing.

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Flushing public forum reveals planning study


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo by Alina Suriel/ Gallery courtesy of the NYC Department of City Planning

The NYC Department of City Planning publicly revealed Thursday night details of a Flushing West planning study which will result in large-scale re-zoning in line with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to increase affordable housing.

The study area is a 10-block zone bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, Roosevelt Avenue to the south, Prince Street to the east and the Van Wyck Expressway and Flushing Creek to the west. Underutilized commercial and industrial land uses will be re-examined for changes which aim to allow for new residential, commercial and community facility uses alongside the eventual redevelopment of the area.

This will be accomplished by increasing allowable residential density, providing a public space amenity plan, and rethinking the height and massing of new buildings, as well as several other aspects of study.

“I hope that you can see how comprehensively we’re trying to think about Flushing, and yet how innovative this process is for this community,” said John Young, director of the City Planning Department in Queens.

Officials, community organizations, and residents were outspoken about their concerns for plans intended to bring major change into their area. Councilman Peter Koo remarked that the rapid growth of Flushing puts a strain on its existing community and infrastructure, and said more has to be done to preserve affordable housing, support small businesses and improve stormwater systems before increased development results in a possible population influx.

Among residents, the creation and preservation of affordable housing was cited as the biggest priority. According to a report circulated by the office of the mayor, between 2005 and 2012, rents rose by 11 percent while renters’ incomes stagnated, and to combat this trend the inclusion of affordable housing units is a condition of any new development.

While opportunity for affordable housing creation in Flushing is limited under the current zoning, any new re-zoning under the Flushing West study will fall in line with the new affordable housing requirement. Planners undertaking the Flushing West study are also being guided by other city agencies on how to adapt the affordable housing requirements to the area in a way that is financially feasible.

Grace Shim, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, was fearful of the possibility of residents being displaced in programs which do not address the needs of the population with the lowest income.

“We don’t want them to be priced out of here,” said Shim, who added that the most vulnerable sector consists of senior citizens and recent immigrant with limited English proficiency. “We don’t want them to be pushed out.”

In addition to preserving affordable housing, expanding waterfront access to Flushing Creek is also targeted as a specific objective of the study. Planners will work to find ways to provide pedestrian access to the waterfront by creating a street network leading to the area, which is now difficult to access due to narrow sidewalks and closed-off street networks.

Open walkways and green areas are eyed for the waterfront’s future, as well as affordable housing developments to utilize some of the open space.

The community input process of the Flushing West planning study is ongoing, and previous public presentations as well as additional information can be found online at nyc.gov/flushing-west.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Crystal Windows celebrating 25 years in Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The ’90s was an interesting time. The era is known for a variety of weird and colorful inventions, such as slap bracelets and light-up shoes, and famous figures from basketball legend Michael Jordan to Pokemon’s Pikachu.

It was also during that time a Taiwanese immigrant named Thomas Chen decided to stop working in construction and start his own window manufacturing company in Queens.

“I always wanted to do something in manufacturing,” Chen said. “And when I came to New York City I saw a lot of windows, so I felt that I have to do windows.”

Although back then using his College Point home garage and his teenage son as his only employee was hardly enough to be called a company, Chen’s business has grown to become the largest window manufacturer in the city and among the top 40 in the country since its inception in 1990.

Crystal Windows & Door Systems, now headquartered in a sprawling 215,000-square-foot Flushing facility not far from their old garage, produces more than 400,000 windows a year, serving numerous customers around the country and in some parts of the world, such as the Caribbean and Asia.

The company is celebrating its quarter-century birthday this year and to pay homage to the era in which the company was founded, Crystal held a ’90s-themed customer appreciation party Wednesday at Terrace on the Park. The event featured vintage video games, including Street Fighter for Super Nintendo, a performance from a Madonna impersonator and free neon-colored slap bracelets. It was their way of saying thanks to the consumers who made the rags to riches story a reality, but also to remember a time when it was all but a dream in a garage.

“When the company first started we never thought it would get up to this size. We thought we would still remain in our garage and just make enough to survive,” said Steve Chen, son of Thomas and the chief operating officer. “And then over time companies found out about us and we just kept growing and growing.”


Steve said one of the reasons why they have become such a big company from humble beginnings is because of their focus on quality.

The company offers over 56 different styles of windows that feature green designs and are energy efficient, and they are always looking to improve their products. They’ve even added a 3-D printer in the facility so engineers can be more creative with designs.

Crystal employs about 500 people around the country, and that number could balloon to 600 during the window industry’s seasonal summer months.

They have four facilities around the country in Chicago, St. Louis and Riverside, California, and provide custom windows for new developments and renovations, for both commercial and residential buildings.

Crystal’s windows are even featured on A&E’s TV show “Flipping Boston,” and recently they made products for a new dormitory at Texas A&M University.

But despite the growth and the work around the country, Crystal has never forgotten where it all started.

Steve said they have no intentions of ever leaving Queens and that Crystal supports numerous arts and business organizations in the borough.

“The company prides itself as being New York City-based, Queens-based, because that’s where we started,” Chen said. “New York City, especially Queens has helped us grow the way we are and we always believe in giving back to the community. ”

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Bayside brothers look to ‘bee’ a spelling dynasty


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel / File photo

Being a spelling master seems to be hereditary for Srinath Mahankali of Bayside.

Mahankali, a sixth-grader at Bayside’s Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74, is one of 285 spellers set to compete in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Although this is his first year qualifying for the bee, the 11-year-old Mahankali has already seen what it takes to be a winner. His older brother, Arvind, gained national attention after winning the championship in his third time competing in 2013, and Srinath was part of the process by helping him study.

In person, the younger Mahankali radiates a maturity far beyond his age. He thanks the principal, assistant principal and students at his school for supporting him throughout the regional spelling bee process and the newfound attention he has been getting from the outside world, which he tries not to let get to his head.

“I just want to feel normal,” Srinath said. “I’m not feeling shy, but I am proud of winning the regional spelling bee.”

And he doesn’t compare himself to his brother Arvind, now a 10th-grader at Stuyvesant High School. “I’m not looking at this as a competitive thing,” Srinath said. “He did inspire me to do this.”

The parents of the boys are both employed in professions involving science and technology —mother Bhavani Mahankali is a physician and father Srinivas Mahankali is in the software industry. Srinivas said that his sons are self-motivated to pursue academic prestige even outside of high-profile competitions.

“Both the children made us really proud but the spelling bee is not an end in itself,” Srinivas Mahankali said. “It’s a lifelong thing. It’s a part of the biggest picture.”

Photo courtesy of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Photo courtesy of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Srinath Mahankali is not the only Queens student gearing up to take part in the bee. Sai Chandrasekhar, a Flushing teenager and an eighth-grader at Hunter College High School in Manhattan, will also be competing for the second time. She said that even though this is her last chance to take home the trophy, she is much more calm this year and feels proud of how much she has already accomplished at the young age of 13.

“It is my last chance but I’m not really that nervous,” Chandrasekhar said. “I’ve done a lot over the past few years, and I’m just going to do my best, and give it my best shot.”

In describing her pre-competition process, Chandrasekhar said that she does not try to cram more words into her head, but instead focuses on relaxing activities to stay stress-free.

The Championship Finals of the Scripps Spelling Bee will air on on May 28 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing’s Bowne Playground to be redone


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department

The Bowne Playground adjacent to P.S. 20 in Flushing is set to receive a multimillion-dollar renovation that will see the layout of the park completely updated and reimagined.

The design has been internally approved by the Parks Department, and is now going through the process of receiving comments and approval from external regulatory agencies after Community Board 7 voted Monday in favor of approving the project.

The Bowne Playground occupies 1.28 acres at Union Street between Barclay Avenue and Sanford Avenue. It is utilized by both neighborhood families and students at P.S. 20, which has an enrollment of around 1,400.

The renovation aims to create new park amenities and increase play opportunities for children of all ages, as well as upgrade existing features and create community space with flexible uses. The estimated end date for the project is set for 2017.

The new design will change the layout of the park to divide the area into several different sections for different activities and age groups. Currently, the playground contains a play area, a swing set, and basketball and handball courts that surround a multiuse paved space in the center of the playground.

The worn and cracked asphalt will be replaced, and two new play areas and swing sets for different age groups will be installed. The ball courts will remain, and new areas will be added, including a group of game tables, a space with adult fitness equipment, and an open area for community gatherings and events.

One of noticeable changes will be a new 4-foot wrought-iron exterior fence replacing the 12- and 16-foot chain-link fencing that currently encircles the playground’s perimeter. This switch was initially met with contention by some members of the community board who feared that lower barriers may pose a higher risk to children who might try to climb into the park and fall, or that teenagers might climb over in the nighttime after park hours.

Joanne Amagrande-Savarese, chief of staff to the Queens Parks Department commissioner, said that the department did not anticipate having problems with children climbing over the fences because it would be easy to get in through other entryways into the area. She added that in recent years the department has been trying make parks look less enclosed and more open to the community, and have largely been lowering the height of park fences to a four-foot standard in order to achieve this goal.

“What we’re trying to do right now is make our parks more inviting and more accessible,” said Amagrande-Savarese.

In addition to the new fences, the new playground will also be significantly greener, with twice as much permeable surface area to collect stormwater. There are currently trees only around the perimeter of the playground, and the new design will significantly increase the tree count to add more shade and differentiate between different areas of the park.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Three suspects wanted for shooting into Flushing lobby


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

BY ANGELA MATUA

Detectives are asking for the public’s help in finding three men wanted for firing shots into the crowded lobby of a Flushing housing development Thursday afternoon.

The suspects pulled up in a black car to the Latimer Gardens housing complex on 137th Street at 3:10 p.m. and fired three shots into the main lobby, according to authorities.

Police believe the car is a two-door 2013 Hyundai Genesis with tinted windows.

The three suspects, described as Asian males in their 20s, missed their intended target, according to police, and fled in the car.

Though there were no reported injuries, several civilians, including schoolchildren, were standing in the direct vicinity of the shots fired, authorities said.

1111-15-109-Sqd-05-14-15-624x560-1

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.

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

High school teacher from Whitestone busted for setting up teen tryst: DA


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

HandcuffsHC0511_L_300_C_Y-624x413

Updated 4:09 p.m.

A 27-year-old Whitestone man who teaches at a Bronx high school was arrested on Thursday on attempted rape and other charges after he tried to meet up with a 14-year-old girl who actually was an undercover cop, authorities said.

Jonathan Blum, a history teacher at DreamYard Preparatory School and basketball coach in Queens, was busted after he posted an ad on Craiglist looking for a young teen, student and/or young girl who would be interested in fooling around with a licensed real teacher, according to the district attorney’s office.

An undercover NYPD vice detective answered the ad and Blum started exchanging emails and text messages with the detective, who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.

Those messages, sent back and forth between mid-April and mid-May, were sexually explicit, prosecutors said. After several exchanges, Blum wanted to meet up with the supposed teen and, according to police, arranged a rendezvous at a location on Northern Boulevard in Flushing. But instead of finding the girl there, Blum found himself in handcuffs at about 5:15 p.m. on Thursday.

Blum has been charged with attempted rape, attempted criminal sex act, attempted endangering the welfare of a child and attempted disseminating indecent material to minors, according to authorities. He is currently being held pending arraignment in Queens Criminal Court.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), Blum has been a teacher at DreamYard Preparatory School, located at 240 E. 172nd St., since April 2011 and has no disciplinary history with the department. He has been reassigned away from the classroom pending the resolution of his case.

“While this alleged behavior is not school-related, it is incredibly disturbing,” DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said. “This individual has been immediately reassigned away from the classroom, and he will not be in contact with any students.”

If convicted of the criminal charges, Blum faces up four years in prison and would have to register as a sex offender.

Any parent whose child has conversed with the email address jess_delia@yahoo.com, which Blum used in his exchanges with the undercover officer, and has concerns is encouraged to call the Queens district attorney’s office at 718-286-6260.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing native pens modern-day version of ‘Jane Eyre’


| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

Photo by Allana Taranto

When Patricia Park would misbehave as a child growing up in Flushing, her mother would say in broken English, “You act like orphan,” Park remembered. “I realized that her definition of orphan meant to act in a disgraceful way that shamed your family.”

While reading Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel “Jane Eyre,” Park said she was “continually struck by these epithets that are thrown at [Jane]: she’s ‘friendless,’ ‘mischievous,’ ‘wicked,’ as if she somehow embodied these characteristics” just because she was an orphan.

Park’s first novel, “Re Jane,” released on May 5, was born when Park “realized that the Victorian construction of the orphan and the Korean post-war one had similarities, and my mind drew that link,” she said.

This modern-day version of “Jane Eyre” begins in Flushing, where half-American, half-Korean orphan Jane Re was raised by her Korean aunt and uncle. “This is my America: all Korean, all the time,” Jane says in the first chapter.

“For Jane, that’s kind of the irony: that she’s living in America but the community she grows up in feels like an extension of Korea,” Park said.

In the novel, Jane journeys to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, where she works as an au pair, to Seoul, Korea, and back to Queens. The author herself traveled to South Korea on a Fulbright grant to research her book.

“It was nothing like the Korea in my mind’s eye,” which was shaped by her parents’ stories, she said.

Queens readers can expect to find familiar places in the book such as Astoria, as well as Flushing staples including Northern Boulevard and the 7 train.

“For me, being a native Queensite, that 7 train has been a rickety racket for my whole life,” Park joked.

Park, who moved to the Douglaston-Little Neck area around age 9, calls Jane Eyre “an early prototype for a feminist” with a “fighting spirit. … She’s unbreakable and I love that, so I wanted to preserve that,” she said. “My Jane might at first read as meek or quiet but deep down she’s quite resilient.”

“Re Jane,” like “Jane Eyre,” is a coming-of-age novel, but Jane Re is a couple years older than her progenitor, just out of college.

“I think that’s a critical time for a lot of young adults because your formal schooling is all complete and then at this point you have to make choices that will shape your future,” said the former Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow, who has taught writing at Queens College.

“As a Queens native, I feel like Queens doesn’t have much in the way of media representation and certainly not in literature,” she said. “I would love for ‘Re Jane’ to start that conversation. Queens has such a rich history and you have all these diverse ethnic neighborhoods, so in some ways ‘Re Jane’ is paying homage to the place I come from, warts and all.”

Patricia Park currently lives in Brooklyn. She read from her novel in Bayside on May 9 as part of her book tour, which will include a few more stops around the city later in May. “Re Jane” can be found in bookstores all over. Visit Park’s website for more details.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Congresswoman Meng pushes for EPA action on airplane noise


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Congresswoman Grace Meng has reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to push for an increase in the agency’s efforts to control noise pollution from airplanes and helicopters.

Residents from Bayside, Flushing and surrounding neighborhoods have reported daily disruption from roaring, low-flying planes since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a route change in December 2012 that affected departing LaGuardia Airport traffic.

The new routes adhere to a required three-mile separation between planes coming into John F. Kennedy International Airport and planes taking off from LaGuardia Airport while using a new, precise navigation method.

Meng appealed to the EPA because the agency has the authority to investigate and study noise and its effect and respond to inquiries on matters related to noise under the federal Noise Control Act of 1972. The congresswoman charged that the FAA did not have the resources to properly improve the situation in north Queens, and that a lack of coordination between the aviation authority and airport operators is detrimental to any possible progress.

“[In] order to properly protect human health and the environment from excessive noise, the EPA must fully include flight noise in its jurisdiction,” Meng said. “I have no doubt that its involvement is the best way forward to coordinate the efforts of air carriers, the FAA and airport operators.”

In response to the outcry from the community after the route change, in March 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to double its sound monitors and create an office to address soaring noise complaints.

As part of the ongoing study, the Port Authority has since collected reports in an online noise complaint management system powered by PlaneNoise, an aviation noise consultancy specializing in airport noise complaint management solutions.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens councilman calls for boost in non-public school safety


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Lancman's Office

BY ANGELA MATUA

Private schools deserve better protection, Councilman Rory Lancman, school administrators and students said during a Monday press conference in Fresh Meadows.

Lancman was joined by representatives from Yeshiva Ketana, Al-Mamoor School and St. Nicholas of Tolentine to rally for a bill that would provide NYPD safety officers to these and other non-public schools.

The bill is supported by 46 of 51 council members, according to a press release.

“We live in a dangerous world where terrorists will not hesitate to target even innocent schoolchildren,” Lancman said. “The city must provide all schools with safety officers. Non-public school students deserve the same safe learning environment that their public school peers enjoy.”

The bill was introduced by Councilman David Greenfield and would require the city to provide full funding for the NYPD to provide public, private, religious and secular schools with safety agents, if they request them.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), there are more than 5,200 school safety agents protecting New York City schools, making the School Safety Division one of the largest police forces in the country.

“It would be a tremendous benefit to the safety and well-being of our students to have an NYPD Safety Agent in our school,” Rabbi Binyomin, the Menahel of Yeshiva Ketana of Queens said.

School safety agents are unarmed but they are trained by the NYPD and are equipped with police radios to directly communicate with other NYPD officers.

“The administration, faculty and families of Al-Mamoor School strongly support this bill, which will provide our students with the protection they deserve,” Ismael Khalil, the president of Al-Mamoor School said. “We urge the City Council to pass this important legislation that will keep our students safe.”

Negotiations are being made for the city budget, and the deadline to finalize it is Tuesday, June 30. If funding for the budget is not approved, the City Council can take steps to pass the stand-alone bill.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Stop by these Queens Häagen-Dazs shops for Free Cone Day


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Just in time for the warmer weather, Tuesday is Free Cone Day at Häagen-Dazs stores throughout the country, including four in Queens.

From 4 to 8 p.m., participating locations are offering one free kiddie-sized ice cream in either a cup, sugar cone or cake cone.

Free Cone Day will also feature two new artisan flavors — chocolate caramelized oat and banana rum jam.

The following Häagen-Dazs shops around the borough are taking part in the event:

  • New World Mall, 136-20 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing
  • Queens Center mall, 90-15 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst
  • 70-40 Austin St., Forest Hills
  • 61-10 188th St., Fresh Meadows

For more Häagen-Dazs locations around New York City, click here.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Open house tour given at alleged illegal hotel in Flushing


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella was given a tour of an alleged illegal hotel in Broadway-Flushing as part of the owner’s effort to demonstrate their intention to use the building as a family residence.

The senator had previously appeared at the home, located at 35-20 156th St., to attend a rally planned by the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association drawing attention to allegations that the home is being renovated to house a transient hotel with 14 bedrooms.

While around 80 people had been in attendance at the demonstration, as well as several local media outlets, the owners of the home were not notified in time to make an appearance on their own behalf. As a way to reach out to the community, Robert Wong, a lawyer hired by the Yang family, set up the meeting attended by Avella, local urban planner Paul Graziano, owner Qin Jin Yang and her husband, and the project’s architect, Shiming Tam.

“They want to carry on with the construction, but complaints are pouring in every day,” Tam said. “And the inspectors are forced to come here, and they pick on little things to justify why they are here.”

On April 27, the Department of Buildings (DOB) notified Qin Jin Yang of their intent to revoke the original building approval because of what deem a “questionable layout for a single family residence.” As part of the tour, the senator was led through the skeleton of a structure, with unfinished walls which afforded peeks of the street outside and a second floor which still had open holes straight through to the level below.


Avella said that he would be willing to discuss the matter further with the family to come to a conclusion.

“I appreciate the fact that you reached out,” Avella said. “That always shows good intentions.”

The Yangs originally submitted a plan for the home to have 14 bedrooms in March 2014, which was approved. After deciding that they wanted fewer bedrooms, the family amended the site plan to include 10 bedrooms and submitted it in April 2015. That site plan was rejected because it had fewer than the 18 bedrooms listed on a 1978 certificate of occupancy. According to Wong, the Yangs will submit a new plan, again with about 10 bedrooms, but the family wanted to first settle any remaining public contention.

Since 1989, the home has racked up 50 complaints with the DOB, but 42 of these occurred before the current owners came into control of the house in October 2013. Many of those complaints have similar allegations of the one-family home being illegally converted to accommodate transient hotel rooms or multiple separate dwellings.

Robert Hanophy, president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, has said that when the most recent renovations began, residents feared that they were in another battle against an illegal hotel in their neighborhood.

When asked if he would attend the tour of the home with Senator Avella, Hanophy told The Courier that he felt there was no need to participate because the association did not plan to pursue the matter further if the Yang’s moved in as a single family.

Although the signs may indicate that the community may have been wrong about 35-20 156 St., illegal conversions have been so pervasive in Queens that in March 1997 the Department of Buildings created the Queens Quality of Life Unit (QOL Unit) to oversee the increasing problem.

According to a report by the city Department of Buildings under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, investigating illegal conversions can be a challenging process because inspectors can be denied access to a property by its owner. The inspector would then have to get an access warrant, which can be difficult or nearly impossible to obtain. In 2008, the QOL Unit did not receive access to nearly 40 percent of properties for which they received complaints.

RECOMMENDED STORIES