Tag Archives: Flushing

Man arrested in deadly shooting at Pomonok Houses


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

HandcuffsHC0511_L_300_C_Y-624x413

Updated 4:17 p.m.

Police have arrested a man for gunning down a Flushing resident in the doorway of an apartment at the Pomonok Houses early last month, authorities said.

Shyron Kearse, 34, is accused of fatally shooting Troy Grant at the New York City Housing Authority complex on Jan. 2 in what was the first Queens homicide of 2015.

Cops found Grant, 30, with a gunshot wound to the head inside his home at the Pomonok Houses on 71st Avenue at about 2:30 a.m., cops said.

That morning, Grant heard a knock on the door and the doorbell ring, according to the district attorney’s office. When he answered, Kearse, an acquaintance, allegedly shot him in the head and shoulder before fleeing. Grant was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kearse, a resident of another Pomonok Houses building, has been charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon, authorities said.

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Real estate investors shelled out $3.6 billion for Queens properties last year


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Queens’ relatively low land prices, access to public transportation and growing popularity has helped the borough attract a significantly larger amount of money from real estate investors in 2014 than in previous years, according to a new report.

Firms and individuals shelled out about $3.65 billion last year to buy Queens investment properties—large-scale real estate costing at least $850,000—which is a 25 percent increase from 2013, according to a report by Ariel Property Advisors.

The study pointed out that about one-third of the investment properties in Queens last year were development sites, which alone accounted for more than $1 billion, or a 191 percent gain when compared to 2012.

“Queens still presents developers with the opportunity to produce large-scale developments, and they are willing to pay a premium for prime sites,” said Daniel Wechsler, vice president of Ariel Property Advisors.

Photo courtesy of Ariel Property Advisors

Photo courtesy of Ariel Property Advisors

Wechsler pointed out that land parcels with at least 50,000 square feet of buildable rights were purchased all over “The World’s Borough,” including Astoria, Long Island City, Elmhurst, Woodside, Glendale, Jamaica, Ridgewood and Flushing, “further indicating the bullish attitude of investors on the entire borough. “

The report found that 925 properties were traded during the year, which is also a 25 percent year-over-year increase.

Some of the year’s highest profile transactions include the $110 million sale of the Standard Motors Building in Long Island City, which traded for just $70 million in 2008, and the sale of a 53-building portfolio in Kew Gardens Hills for $216 million.

There was also the $26.5 million sale of a garage near Queens Place mall in Elmhurst, which has about 227,352 buildable square feet.

Click here to read the full report.

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City renews express bus service plans between Jamaica and Flushing after nod from mayor


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

With the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city is moving ahead with plans to develop an express bus service between Flushing and Jamaica.

Despite calls from community members and politicians in neighborhoods like Kew Gardens Hills, the transformation of the Q44 and Q25 into a Select Bus Service (SBS) line is set to begin as early as this fall, according to a Department of Transportation spokesman, but no official schedule has been announced. The transformed Q44 would continue along its path on Main Street. Residents in Kew Gardens Hills are worried that an express bus through their neighborhood would increase traffic or reduce parking along the route.

The city claims that an express bus line would help thousands of commuters going between the two neighborhoods every hour and allow people in areas without trains to quickly travel to Flushing for the 7 train. And in his State of the City Address, the mayor also pushed for express buses.

“[Bus Rapid Transit] will cut transit time on existing routes by 15 to 25 percent. That means New Yorkers spending less time in transit and more time living their lives,” he said.

Public transportation advocacy groups lauded de Blasio’s support for express buses, which are sometimes referred to as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

“Bus Rapid Transit could transform New York City by providing faster, more reliable bus service for residents in the outer boroughs who need it most,” the group Riders Alliance said.

And elected officials representing Flushing and Jamaica have also expressed their support for the plans.

“Flushing and Jamaica are two rapidly growing economic centers that require a transportation system and infrastructure to serve its increasing population and activity,” the officials wrote in a letter to the city. The letter was signed by Queens representatives, including state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Councilman Peter Koo and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

But people who live between these two transportation hubs claim that their needs are being sacrificed and made their thoughts clear to city officials during a recent workshop held in Townsend Harris High School. Those in the middle tend to rely on cars instead of bus service, making parking and open lanes a priority for them.

New York City has several express lines that aim to cut down commutes by devoting a lane exclusively to SBS lines. But creating an exclusive bus lane means there is one less lane for regular traffic, a point that is a deal-breaker for Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents Kew Gardens Hills and other areas.

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

Officials from the transportation department haven’t responded to questions to see if the city will still install a dedicated bus lane that would run through Kew Gardens Hills.

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Translation services company to open up first NYC office in Flushing Plaza


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Muss Development

Translation services company CyraCom has signed a 12-year lease for a ground-floor spot in the office and retail building Flushing Plaza.

The Arizona-based company, which provides translation services for healthcare industry clients, will occupy a 23,000-square-foot space, which it expects to open this summer.

It will be the first location in the city for CyraCom, which was represented by CBRE in the deal.

The nearly 270,000-square-foot Flushing Plaza is owned by Muss Development, and already houses a mix of tenants from Time Warner Cable and HSBC Bank to the New York State Department of Labor and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others.

Muss believes the incoming company will do well in the growing Asian community, partly because of nearby hospitals.

“The building’s close proximity to several major hospitals and medical centers, including New York Hospital Queens and Flushing Hospital Medical Center, also makes this an ideal outpost for the growing company,” said Muss Development Principal Jason Muss.

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More than 120 bank customers in Queens targeted in identity theft scam


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com


Police are investigating a spree of identity thefts in the Flushing area that has hit more than 120 customers of a local bank targeting ATM card personal identification numbers and using these to steal money from their accounts.

The thefts affecting Flushing Bank customers’ accounts began in October 2014 according to the president and CEO of the bank, John Buran, who said all the account holders were reimbursed.

Cops suspect thieves installed a skimming device on three Flushing Bank ATMs in the 109th and 111th precinct areas, which cover neighborhoods like Flushing and Bayside, respectively, but their investigation has yet to reveal if these suspicions are correct.

Buran said the bank began working with the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force in October shortly after the first few incidents came to light.

“This is more than just a Flushing Bank problem. It’s a national problem,” Buran said. “The police informed us that there is a ring going around hitting many banks. The authorities have been unable to find who’s involved in this ring.”

The NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force is investigating the case but police said they have no leads.

“Right now the only thing we can put out there is ATM tips. We don’t know if it’s a rogue employee, someone hacking the system or whatever else. We just don’t know,” a police source said.

“We will continue to work with the NYPD and other law-enforcement agencies to enhance security for all of our customers,” Buran said.

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Queens commuters and business owners unhappy over shutdown of city’s mass transit during storm


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ERIC JANKIEWICZ

The city’s subways and buses are back on track after this week’s snowstorm, but frustration over the mass transit shutdown is lingering on like piles of dirty snow left over from the blizzard.

Many Queens residents are still furious over Gov. Cuomo’s  decision Monday to shut down the city’s subway and bus system for the first time ever for a snowstorm as a precaution against the possibility of having buses and trains loaded with passengers stuck in snow.

The storm was large and real as expected, but moved eastward, hitting Long Island a lot harder, Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out. After suspending transit overnight, the MTA slowly resumed subway and bus service at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and was running on a Sunday schedule by noon, which is about 60 percent of weekday service.

“The last time the city was put on lockdown like that was during Sandy. And that made me think that this was going to be the blizzard of the century or something,” Elvir Beharous said. A resident of Bayside, Beharous commutes by bus from his neighborhood to Flushing during weekdays for work.

After announcing a state of emergency and travel ban on all state and local roads for 13 New York counties starting at 11 p.m. Monday for all non-emergency vehicles, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted the ban in most of those counties, including all the five boroughs, as of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

But Beharous couldn’t make it to work on Tuesday since buses were running erratically. As a wage worker he couldn’t afford to take the loss of a day’s work.

“So I just shoveled for people all day in Bayside to make up the money,” he said on Wednesday as he waited for the now-running Q12 to take him back home from work in Flushing.

Full MTA weekday service was back on Wednesday, allowing Beharous to go back to work, even if he did have a cold from being out all day in the snow on Tuesday.

Wing Hangsong, a GED-student, didn’t mind having the day off of school, but that evening he couldn’t go to his job as a bus boy at a restaurant in downtown Flushing with buses down.

“It was necessary to close down the roads, but they could’ve at least given us some kind of emergency service,” said Hangsong, who lives on the southern edge of Flushing near Kissena Park.

Commuters weren’t the only ones affected by the shutdown.

The storm, known as Juno, took a chunk out of businesses in the downtown Flushing area, according to Dian Yu, head of the area’s business improvement district.

“It definitely wasn’t business as usual on Tuesday,” he said. “There were less people shopping in the area and most businesses took a loss.”

Thankfully, Yu said, celebrations for the Chinese New Year are still going strong and he is confident that the next two weeks of increased holiday-related business will make up for the loss.

“In a way, we’re very  lucky that this happened now,” Yu said.

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18-story mixed-use residential tower planned for Long Island City


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of Google

Developer New York Lions Group is roaring again in Long Island City.

The Great Neck-based firm filed applications on Friday with the Department of Buildings to construct another tall, mixed-use residential building in the neighborhood.

The new tower will have 18 stories with 110 apartments as well as another 8,645 square feet for commercial tenants at 42-06 27th St., according to city records. There will also be 55 parking spaces in the development for future tenants.

It will be another collaboration between Lions Group and Flushing-based Raymond Chan Architect.

Also in Long Island City at 27-01 Jackson Ave., Lions Group plans to construct a 15-story mixed-use residential and commercial tower also designed by Raymond Chan. This project will have 88 apartments and about 7,000 square feet of commercial space.

Raymond Chan is also designing Lions Group’s 77-unit Astoria condo at 14-07 Broadway called The Baron, which is expected to be completed by September of 2016.

Finally, the Great Neck developer recently refiled plans to construct an eight-story condo with 15 apartments at 42-83 Hunter St. in Long Island City. The building will have 12,336 square feet of living space and is being designed by Flushing-based MY Architect PC.

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Massive Flushing development site to go on sale


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner

UPDATED: 1/23 1:38 p.m.

Flushing is poised for the sale of large development site.

The property across from the Sky View Parc complex will be going on sale, New York YIMBY reported. The seller, ABS Flushing Development, bought the property in 2006 for $26 million.

The land at 131-35 Roosevelt Ave. had Buildings Department approved plans in 2008 for a major development, which included four mixed-use buildings at 16 stories. Originally designed by Ismael Leyva Architects and called River Park Place, the project would have had 457 apartments.

Renderings of the project are still posted on the architect’s website.

River Park Place will not be the only major development site in Flushing to see time on the market.

Last year, the second phase development rights of Flushing’s Sky View Parc luxury condo project, which included approved plans for a three-building residential complex, was listed for sale by Massey Knakal. The property was reported to have asking prices of more than $100 million.

However, Onex Real Estate Partners, the team that designed phase 1 of the Sky View Parc condominiums, retained the site and will go ahead and develop the second phase of the project, which includes more than 800 luxury condos in nearly 750,000 square feet.

“We are eager to bring the next chapter of this thriving community to fruition,” a representative of Onex said.

UPDATE: Previously not mentioned, Onex Real Estate Partners will develop the second phase of the Sky View Parc condos project. 

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Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal

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Pressure builds to expand school program in northern Queens and Whitestone


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A push to expand programs for gifted and talented students into middle schools in a northern Queens district has the support of local elected officials and at least 500 parents who have signed petitions backing the effort.

“We’re tired of getting the run around from [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] and the city,” said Lisa Fusco, a parent from Whitestone who is leading the charge in an appeal that will now go to Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

The program’s fate is decided by each school district’s superintendent. The parents who are signing the petition have children in School District 25, where the program is limited to seven elementary schools. Fusco and the other parents decided to write the letter after meetings with School District 25 Superintendent Di Mango and education officials didn’t produce any results. They expect to send the letter by the end of the week.

District 25 is bordered by Flushing Meadows Park to the west and Bayside to the east, and it encompasses Pomonok to the south up to Whitestone and College Point.

Using the force of 500 signatures, the contingent of parents will be sending a letter to Farina requesting that she support their efforts to expand the gifted and talented program into the district’s middle schools.

Elected officials representing the area have also sent letters to Farina in support of Fusco’s efforts. The list of lawmakers backing the effort includes Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein and Assemblyman Ron Kim.

The Department of Education didn’t return  requests for comment.

“Providing students with a challenging curriculum to compete in today’s globalized world is extremely important,” Meng wrote in a letter to Farina advocating for the program to be expanded into School District 25. “We must work together to grant all qualified students equal access to G&T programs.”

Meng pointed out that the program is in the middle schools of neighboring school districts 24 and 26. She also advocated for school district 28 to get the expansion.

The gifted and talented program is currently in district 25’s elementary schools but once students get to sixth grade, the program ends. The program is meant to provide extra services for students with a high aptitude who get bored easily in regular classes, according to the Department of Education.

“They’re dropping the ball,” Fusco said. “And I don’t know why, but hopefully our letter to the chancellor will help create Gifted and Talented in District 25.”

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MTA to lift 7 train weekend suspensions for Lunar New Year


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Flushing will usher in the Year of the Sheep without any obstacles from weekend shutdowns of No. 7 subway service, thanks to pressure from local elected officials.

The MTA has announced that it will forego weekend service disruptions during the week of and week before the Lunar New Year. It’s the first time in the MTA’s years-long winter construction that the No. 7 train will run uninterrupted during Lunar New Year.

The two weekends are Feb. 14-15 and Feb. 21-22. The first weekend is to accommodate people who travel to Flushing for holiday preparations and shopping. Lunar New Year follows on Feb. 22.

“While I understand the immense scale of overhauling the entire No. 7 line, I want to applaud the MTA for heeding the concerns of the Asian-American community and planning construction around the Lunar New Year holiday,” Senator Toby Stavisky said. “They’re sending a message that keeping this line open without interruption for this holiday is just as important as transporting fans to a Mets game or the U.S. Open.”

Stavisky was joined in the effort to persuade the MTA to change its weekend service schedule by Assemblyman Ron Kim and City Councilman Peter Koo.

“Flushing is known worldwide for its Lunar New Year celebrations and brings people far and wide to New York City every year,” Kim said. “The 7 train is essential for all those traveling to Flushing, and the Main Street hub is one of the busiest in New York City.  I hope that the MTA will continue to keep this tradition throughout the rest of the 7 line construction in the next few years.”

 “It is vital to many that the 7 line run at full capacity,” Koo said. “Families and friends can come together and celebrate without having to worry how they will get to their destination. And our local small businesses, many who rely on the holiday to boost sales, won’t lose customers due to any service disruptions.”

The MTA is in the midst of a $550 million capital project to upgrade the No. 7 line’s signal system to a state-of-the-art communications-based train control system. The project, which has been underway for several years, requiring the seasonal weekend disruptions, is set to be done in 2017.

Weekend disruptions in service began this month and will continue into May, with the exception of the two February weekends.

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Residents reject plans to build mosque in Flushing


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A proposal to build a mosque in Flushing was withdrawn this week after it came under fire from residents and members of Community Board 7 who criticized the proposal, citing violations of local zoning ordinances on parking and setbacks from neighboring properties.

But members of the Muslim congregation said that some of the opposition to their mosque on Monday night may have been fueled by outrage over the terror attacks in Paris last week by a group of violent extremists, who they insist do not reflect their religious values.

Muhammed Sheth, a member of Masjid Noor, the group that wants to build a mosque at 46-05 Parsons Blvd., said he believes that it’s a bad time to try seek public support for any project related to Islam because of the terror attack on Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo last week.

“The community wasn’t just rejecting this building on technical grounds. They were asking us lynching questions and Islam is being submitted to this scrutiny,” Sheth said. “It’s because a few loony people did some horrible things that people are now scared of Muslims altogether.”

Dozens of residents came to the meeting to voice their opposition to the mosque on the grounds that the application requested several waivers be made to the area’s building code laws. But some were simply unhappy about a mosque coming to the neighborhood.

“This is a very congested area,” said Grace Kelly, a Flushing resident. “Flushing Remonstrance is something we value, but this spot just doesn’t work,” she said in reference to the historic 17th-century commitment made to freedom of religion by leaders in Flushing.

Harry Coumna said the mosque should be built on the industrial part of College Point in one of the warehouses, a suggestion one board member thought was “offensive.”

“Why do you want to come to our area and do this?” Coumna said. “Do we come to your neighborhood and build stuff there? Leave our neighborhood alone.”

The proposal didn’t include any off-street parking areas, as required under zoning laws for houses of worship. Across the street from the proposed location sits St. Mary’s Nativity Church, which has a parking lot. The area is filled with an array of religious buildings.

Representatives for the mosque – Emily Simon and Jamil Coppin – asked the board to waive the zoning rules. The application called for a two-story building with a total of 2,000 square feet with a maximum of occupancy of 420 people. It also lacked side yards as required by local zoning, requiring additional waivers.

The mosque application was the first prospect hundreds of Muslims in the group had at having a consistent location for worship.

“The congregants have been forced to move from month to month. They’re looking for a permanent home,” said Simon, who is the lawyer for the group. “The community is home to many other religious houses of worship.”

The congregation, which boasts about 400 members, is made up of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and several African countries. Since 2013, the group Masjid Noor has moved between temporary mosques, and they were hoping to establish a stable place in a part of Flushing that is home to a diverse number of places of worship.

“They were thinking all Muslims are trouble,” said Sheth, who is a member of the group. “The scrutiny to which they subjected us was very intense.”

The architect Jamil Coppin will revise the application so that all of the zoning rules will be observed.

Flushing apartment building cut off from heat, residents say


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo by Martha Flores Vazquez

During the coldest days of winter this week, residents of a six-story apartment building in Flushing spent Wednesday and Thursday bundled in coats and blankets to try to stay warm because they say they haven’t had heat in their building.

“I’ve had to keep my jacket on all day. It feels like I’m outside even though I’m in my apartment right now,” said George Sanchez, a resident of the 72-unit building. “This is not the time for them to be messing around with the heat.”

During those two days, residents called 311 to complain that temperatures inside their apartments dropped to 45 degrees during the day — well below the 68-degree minimum set by the city when outdoor temperatures fall below 55 degrees.

On Wednesday, the temperature in the city ranged from a low of 9 degrees to a high of 23. Temperatures remained below 20 degrees on Thursday.

The building, 143-40 41st Ave., is fraught with problems, according to city records. Since 2002, the city issued 16 violations that are still active. The building’s property management, 4 Seasons International Management, owes the city $1,500 as a penalty for a rusted fire escape and broken stairs.

Rent stabilized residents like Sanchez and Lionnel Blanchard feel like they’re being pushed out so that the management can sell the apartment as a co-op. Sales of co-ops in the building could bring in as much as $300,000 to $400,000, they say.

“The apartment is very cold,” Blanchard said. “They’re trying to kick me out, I can tell. Why else would they make me feel so unwanted here?”

Blanchard, who lives with his wife Marie, moved into the building 30 years ago. For most of their time there, they had no problems with heat or building maintenance, but these issues arose when 4 Seasons International took over five years ago.

The city has issued violations against the building’s owners for not inspecting the boilers, which are used to heat the 72 apartment units. According to a city spokesman, the building’s conditions hadn’t yet deteriorated to the point where government officials will issue vacate orders or demolish the building. But he urged people to report all problems to the city immediately.

The management company declined to comment.

Martha Flores Vazquez, a resident of the building, saw a fuel truck pull up to the apartment building on Wednesday but still, no heat was provided to her or her neighbors, she said.

“We’ve complained to them throughout this whole season and they haven’t done anything about it,” Vazquez said. “Instead, they deny that the heat isn’t working. So let them come to my apartment and see.”

The city received 3,657 complaints about a lack of heat on Wednesday, the most for a single day since the start of the heating season on Oct. 1. To report problems with heat, dial the city’s helpline at 311.

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Man fatally shot at Pomonok Houses


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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A 30-year-old man was gunned down at the door of a Flushing apartment, authorities said.

Police found the victim with a bullet would to the head inside the Pomonok Houses on 71st Avenue at about 2:30 a.m. on Friday, cops said.

The man, who did not live at the home, was shot in the doorway, according to authorities.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.

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Eight-story condo tower to replace LIC industrial site


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Great Neck-based New York Lions Group has refiled plans with the Department of Buildings to construct a residential tower on the site of a former industrial building in Long Island City.

The new structure will be a skinny eight-story condo building at 42-83 Hunter St. with 15 units, according to city records, and will be designed by Flushing-based MY Architect PC.

Lions Group picked up the property for nearly $1.9 million in May, according to city filings, and the new building will be 12,336 square feet, which is about the max allowed to be built on the site.

Demolition permits were filed last month for the small, one-story industrial building currently occupying the site.

Lions Group has been working on a number of projects throughout the borough, including a seven-story glassy Astoria condominium building, which they plan to begin building next year.

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Calls for boycott, plans for lawsuit after man says he was attacked at Flushing McDonald’s


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Following the release of a video showing a fight between a customer and an employee at a Flushing McDonald’s, Korean-American groups are calling for a boycott of the restaurant, and the customer — who says he was physically attacked by an employee — is planning on suing for millions, according to published reports.

The video footage of the February incident, first broadcast by CBS New York, shows the customer, James Jin Kim, recording video with his cell phone after he said an employee at the Main Street McDonald’s, Rooshi Sajjad, wasn’t serving him, reports said. Sajjad then appears to strike Kim with a broom handle.

In court filings, Kim claims after waiting 10 minutes to order coffee, he complained, and Sajjad started shouting at him, “We don’t serve coffee to people like you” and “Get out of my restaurant,” according to published reports.

On Tuesday, a protest, held by several Korean-American groups, took place outside the McDonald’s, the Daily News reported. The groups are also threatening to boycott the eatery until it trains its employees to be more sensitive toward Asian customers, the paper also said.

Kim, meanwhile, is planning on suing McDonald’s for $10 million, arguing he suffered injuries to his hand and unlawful discrimination, according to published reports.

Sajjad was charged with attempted assault and criminal possession of a weapon, both misdemeanors, and one violation, harassment, but her record will be cleared if she stays out of trouble for another month, reports said. According to CBS New York, Sajjad still works at the McDonald’s.

In a statement to CBS New York, the franchise owner of the McDonald’s, Luigi Solimeo, said: “Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of my customers and employees,” adding that “the video does not capture all of the details surrounding that event.”

This incident at the Main Street fast food restaurant is not the first time that Korean groups have threatened to boycott McDonald’s.

Last January, Korean activists called for a worldwide boycott of McDonald’s following a feud between a group of Korean seniors and the owner of one of its eateries on on Parsons and Northern boulevards.

The dispute began when around 20 seniors would use the restaurant as their personal hang out space, spending about eight hours a day there. The owner, wanting the seats for other customers, called police several times.

A compromise was reached, with the owner agreeing to hire Korean-speaking staff members and extending the 20-minute sitting limit to one hour, except from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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