Tag Archives: Forest Hills

Manhole explosions rock Forest Hills block

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Allen Epstein

Updated Monday, April 20, 9:20 a.m.

Residents on a Forest Hills block lost power much of Saturday after a pair of manholes exploded.

Reportedly, the fiery wake-up call occurred at about 6:30 a.m. along 69th Avenue off Metropolitan Avenue.

No injuries were reported, but two parked vehicles were damaged as flames shot through nearby manholes. Firefighters quickly responded to bring the fires under control.

According to Con Edison, two customers remained without power as of noon Saturday. Service was fully restored later in the day.

An investigation into the blasts is ongoing.


Forest Hills men charged with illegally evicting Richmond Hill homeowner

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Two Forest Hills men have been charged with burglary for illegally evicting a Richmond Hill homeowner from his home after the two had won the house in a foreclosure auction, according to authorities.

Semyon (aka Sam) Muratov, 34, and Yuriy (aka Erick) Munarov, 31, were each arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Monday night on charges of second-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree criminal trespass and unlawful eviction, according to the Queens district attorney,

“More and more we are seeing individuals who are dealing with distressed properties unscrupulously taking advantage of the situation to benefit themselves,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “The defendants in this case are accused of taking the law into their own hands and bullying a homeowner into vacating his residence so that they would not have to deal with a housing court eviction proceeding.”

According to the charges, Muratov placed a $25,000 down payment on a home located on 111th Street in Richmond Hill during a foreclosure sale on Jan. 9 but the sale had not yet gone to closing.

On the same day, Muratov and Munarov reportedly went to the property and told the 59-year-old homeowner that he had to vacate the home because they had bought the house at an auction.

When the homeowner asked for a proof of sale, according to Brown, the men refused to supply evidence and instead told the homeowner he had to hand over the keys and that they would be back in a couple of days to make sure he had left.

Muratov and Munarov then allegedly returned to the property on Jan. 12 and when they couldn’t get into the home, they broke the doorframe and deadbolt lock, and pushed in the front door. They then told the homeowner he could take a few things and when the homeowner said he had nowhere to go, the men gave him $200 in cash to find a place to stay.

The homeowner left the property with some important documents and when he later returned he found all the first-floor doors and windows had been boarded up and chains were on the door lock areas of the front door.

“We are not going to stand for anyone circumventing the law. Our office is working diligently to protect homeowners and tenants who may fall victim to the various unscrupulous and predatory behavior in real estate transactions,” said New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito. “People have the right to live undisturbed in their homes and these two individuals are accused of violating the due process rights of the tenant at the address.”

An investigation by the district attorney and sheriff’s offices revealed that on May 6, 2014, there was a judgment of foreclosure and sale on the 111th Street property, even though the homeowner said he was not aware of the foreclosure proceeding. Documents later allegedly showed that the homeowner’s estranged son was served the notice in 2012.

Although the mortgage lender had auctioned off the property on Jan. 9, Muratov would not assume ownership until there was a closing with full payment for the property and transfer of the deed, according to the district attorney. Even after the closing, there would have had to been a lawful eviction proceeding of the homeowner.

Both Muratov and Munarov face up to 15 years in prison if convicted and were ordered held on $5,000 bond or $2,500 bail. They are scheduled to return to court on May 5.


65-year-old man assaulted, robbed on Forest Hills street: NYPD

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police have released the photo of one of several men who robbed and assaulted a 65-year-old pedestrian as he was heading home in Forest Hills last month.

Three men approached the victim from behind at about 10:45 p.m. on Feb. 2 and struck him in the head with an unknown object, authorities said. They then took his wallet before fleeing in a maroon van on Selfridge and Olcott streets heading toward Yellowstone Boulevard.

The victim suffered several lacerations to his head in the attack.

Authorities have released a photo of one of the suspects at an ATM, located at 103-48 Lefferts Blvd. in South Richmond Hill, using the victim’s credit card.

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.  


Kickstarter goal reached to fund Dennis Hopper’s final film

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of "The Last Film Festival"

The dream of one Queens native to finish up what will be known as the late Dennis Hopper’s last movie is closer to becoming a reality.

As of Monday morning, the Kickstarter campaign for the post-production of the film “The Last Film Festival,” by filmmaker and Forest Hills native Linda Yellen, surpassed its goal of $90,000, nine days before its deadline.

“I had tears in my eyes as well as smiling, I keep seeing Dennis smiling,” said Yellen about how she felt when she found out at 4 a.m. that the goal had been surpassed. “I have such immense gratitude. I have just fallen in love with people all over the world who are so open to making things possible. They changed our lives.”

According to Yellen, the online campaign was one of the hardest experiences she has gone through, but was amazing and gratifying because she said she felt she was making friends all around the world.

“[They’re] kind of saying, ‘We love you, Dennis,’” Yellen said. “People are saying, ‘We do remember and we want to see Dennis.’”

Linda Yellen on set directing "The Last Film Festival."

Linda Yellen on set directing “The Last Film Festival.”

The funds raised by the campaign will go toward all post-production aspects that are required to finish the film, including using movie clips to replace Hopper in remaining scenes.

“The Last Film Festival,” which was written by Yellen and Michael Leeds, began filming in 2009 with a cast including Hopper, Jacqueline Bisset, JoBeth Williams, Chris Kattan, Donnell Rawlings, Katrina Bowden, Joseph Cross and Leelee Sobieski.

The movie follows a Hollywood producer, played by Hopper, whose recent film was rejected by every festival except the small town festival called the O’Hi Film Festival.

All of the movie was filmed in Queens, with the majority of the scenes shot in parts of Forest Hills including Forest Hills High School, which Yellen attended as a teen.

Only a few scenes shy of finishing the project, Hopper became ill and later died of cancer at age 74 in 2010.

Although the actor’s passing left an emptiness and the film was set aside for a while, Yellen decided to pick it back up this year, which marks the fifth anniversary of Hopper’s death.

Yellen added that even though the goal has been surpassed she encourages people to keep donating because the additional funds will go into releasing the film earlier than anticipated and making it “as good as it possibly can be.”

“We would really like people to support it and be part of the little history we are making,” she said. “Every dollar truly means another person is a fan of Dennis Hopper and this movie.”

The Kickstarter’s deadline is on April 9. To donate, click here.


Queens native starts campaign to fund Dennis Hopper’s final film

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of "The Last Film Festival"

One filmmaker is turning to Kickstarter and the Queens community she grew up in to help put the finishing touches on what will be known as the late Dennis Hopper’s last movie, filmed completely in the “World’s Borough.”

Linda Yellen is one of the creative minds behind the comedy “The Last Film Festival,” which began filming in 2009 with a cast including Hopper, known for the classic film “Easy Rider,” Golden Globe-winner Jacqueline Bisset, JoBeth Williams, Chris Kattan, Donnell Rawlings, Katrina Bowden, Joseph Cross and Leelee Sobieski.

The film, written by Yellen and Michael Leeds, follows a Hollywood producer, played by Hopper, whose recent film was rejected by every film festival except a small town festival named the O’Hi Film Festival.

Although the movie surrounds a small town, it was actually filmed in Queens, some parts in Astoria and others in Forest Hills, the neighborhood Yellen grew up in.

“I loved growing up in Queens. It was so accessible to Manhattan but it also had the feeling of small town and community. It was always so friendly,” Yellen said. “It was a wonderful thing to sort of return home.”

The majority of the film was shot in Forest Hills, with scenes taking place at Forest Hills High School, where Yellen attended school. During the 2009 spring break, the actors were housed in the high school classrooms, which replaced the use of dressing rooms and trailers.

“There was always a great appreciation for the arts and culture in Forest Hills,” Yellen said. “I learned about the art of filming and directing in Forest Hills.”

The cast of "The Last Film Festival."

The cast of “The Last Film Festival.”

Although Yellen no longer lives in the borough, she said she is constantly traveling back to visit her mother, who still lives in the same building Yellen grew up in and who had a small part in the film as a “biker chick.”

During the filming, Yellen recalls walking the streets of Forest Hills during lunch with Hopper, who would take pictures of everywhere he went in the borough.

“A lot of those early experiences helped shape my identity and it gave a special pleasure to Dennis Hopper. He got to learn a lot about me as we took a lot of those walks,” Yellen said. “He loved [Queens].”

Tragedy then struck when, just a few scenes short of finishing the film, Hopper became ill and later died of cancer at the age of 74 in May of 2010.

“He was a picture of health and vitality and he just gives a multilevel comedic act [in the film],” Yellen said. “He had no idea he was sick; we had no idea he was sick.”

Hopper’s passing left a hole in the hearts of the cast and crew, and the film was set aside for a while until Yellen decided to pick it back up this year, which will mark the fifth anniversary of Hopper’s death.

However, in order to finish the film, Yellen made the decision to turn to Kickstarter, with a goal of $90,000, because she felt it was a way to get to the fans directly. The crowdfunding site also followed Hopper’s idea of “always looking for ways to go around the system.” As of March 25, $64,174 had been pledged.

The funds raised by the campaign will go toward all post-production aspects that are required to finish the film, including using movie clips to replace Hopper in scenes.

“This is a way of [the fans] saying we want this and we want to say we support this film and this comedy,” Yellen said. “This picture was made as a labor of love. Just the pleasure of doing good work and wanting it out there and wanting people to laugh a lot.”

The Kickstarter’s deadline is on April 9. To donate click here.


Precinct council meets new officers, domestic violence chief in Forest Hills

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua


New faces were introduced at the 112th Precinct Community Council meeting on Wednesday, March 18, at the precinct’s Forest Hills headquarters.

Capt. William Matusiak, who has been on the job for 31 years, will be joining the precinct as an executive officer from the Midtown North precinct.

Though Matusiak never served in Queens, he grew up in Maspeth and Woodside.

Sgt. Brian McGowen, who previously served the 109th Precinct, will be supervising area schools.

The new community affairs officer, P.O. Tony Jimenez, is originally from the 104th Precinct and is also a clergy liaison. He has worked for the NYPD for 22 years.

Chief Diana Pizzuti of NYPD Patrol Borough Queens North, said she hopes the new additions to the precinct will help “build relationships between cops and kids” especially “with the recent unrest” that has taken place across the country that has strained relations between police officers and the communities they serve.

Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Staff at the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Tracy Weber-Thomas also addressed the community about what services are available for victims of domestic violence.

Approximately 282,000 domestic violence occurrences were reported in New York City last year, according to Weber-Thomas, with 53,000 reported in Queens. Of the cases in Queens, 1,300 were in the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park.

The Queens Family Justice Center, located at 106-02 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens, is a “one-stop service center” that will help victims of domestic abuse regardless of immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation or the language they speak, said Weber-Thomas.

Weber-Thomas encouraged anyone who is a victim of domestic violence to visit the family justice center, where no appointments are needed to speak to a counselor. Children can play in a children’s room while parents meet with a prosecutor or apply for housing or financial assistance.

The city also runs a NYC Healthy Relationship Academy initiative that coaches children ages 17 to 24 to run workshops about dating violence and healthy relationships for adolescents and young adults.

Click here for more information about the city’s domestic violence prevention programs.


See it: Spacious Forest Hills home built to entertain, listed for $3.28 million

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty

The humongous home at 72-20 Harrow St. in Forest Hills has four bedrooms and four bathrooms in a whopping 5,000 square feet of space — and the heart of this giant is the kitchen.

The residence features an enormous kitchen with an open concept and breakfast area, which could probably host get-togethers with extended family or friends. The space also includes a wet bar and breakfast counter complimented by granite counter tops and custom cabinets. And the additional breakfast area is warmed by a stone fireplace, which is just one of five in the entire house.

The fireplaces are scattered throughout the residence, including one in the living room and another in a bedroom on the second level.

The home, which was listed by Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty for $3.28 million, might seem like a renovated classic at first glance with its Tudor exterior designs, but it’s not even a decade old, and a baby compared to the near century-old homes in the neighborhood.

Constructed in 2006, it was built for entertaining with a speaker system, media and game room, and a bar in the basement. There is a brick patio area and a large garden for outdoor parties.

But when the owner wants to relax in peace, the master bedroom makes for a great escape with a private dressing area, and a spacious bathroom that has a Jacuzzi tub.

Click here to see the listing.


Cops seek suspects in Forest Hills, Rego Park business burglaries

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police have released a photo of a man wanted for questioning in a burglary pattern at businesses in Rego Park and Forest Hills dating back to January.

The most recent burglary occurred on March 4 at the Key Food supermarket at 92-02 63rd Dr. in Rego Park after breaking into the market’s side door, police said.

Authorities said the crooks also visited that day the Da Mikelle II Restaurant, located at 102-53 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills, broke through a rear door and removed an undetermined amount of money.

The person of interest is pictured in a security camera image taken at a nearby 7-Eleven shortly after the March 4 burglaries, authorities said.

Police described the six other incidents in the burglary pattern as follows:

  • On Jan. 24, the burglars broke through the rear wall of the Knish Nosh restaurant at 100-30 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills and removed kitchen utensils and cash.
  • The following day, Jan. 25, burglars broke through the rear door of the Midorinatsu Hibachi restaurant at 111-16 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills and stole cash, an ASIS laptop computer and two safe boxes.
  • On Feb. 18, the suspects entered through a skylight at the Rainbow store at 63-22 Austin St. in Rego Park and removed assorted drugs.
  • On Feb. 26, the burglars unsuccessfully attempted to break through the rear door of Colony Drugs and Surgical at 103-19 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills.
  • The next day, Feb. 27, the crooks also failed in attempts to break into two Rego Park restaurants: Vstrecha at 98-98 Queens Blvd. and Nasicha at 98-92 63rd Dr.

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.


See it: Stylish Forest Hills home hits market for nearly $2 million

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty

A Forest Hills home that recently had a striking interior renovation was listed for $1,989,000.

The home at 69-54 Groton St., which is being called “Dream Designer Home” by Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, features four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms in nearly 3,000 square feet of space.

A foyer with an enclosed sunroom greets residents into the home, and the living room has beamed ceilings and a fireplace.

The kitchen has custom cabinetry and Wolf appliances, and on the second floor, the master bedroom includes a spa-style bath.

There is a 400-square-foot terrace on the second level as well as two other bedrooms, although one has been converted into a dressing room.

The basement has a laundry area and another bathroom and there is a two-car garage in the house as well.

Take a look at some photos of the home below.


Forest Hills second-grader qualifies for international chess tournament in Greece

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy U.S. Chess National

Second-grader Amelie Phung is on her way to play chess in South America and finally Greece, while still making time for recess, class and some golf.

Seven-year-old Amelie of Forest Hills just finished a national chess tournament in California, where she traveled with her father, Tam, over the weekend. And after finishing with a qualifying ranking, she will now be representing the USA at the World Chess Championship in Greece later this year where she will face off against the world’s best junior chess players. In the meantime, she’ll make a quick stop in Columbia during the summer for a few rounds against children across the Americas under the age of 8.

“We’re using California and Columbia as a launching pad into the world,” Tam said. “She was able to hold her head above water in California and it’s paying off now with this trip to Greece. An absolute honor.”

Amelie’s adroit moves on the board were a hidden talent until she recently began to demonstrate exceptional skill over casual games against a group of regulars at her local park.

To hone Amelie’s growing skill, her father hired Irina Krush to coach her. An American chess international Grandmaster, Krush is known for her instructional videos called “Krushing Attacks” and when she’s not playing chess she’s teaching the game to Amelie at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.

Amelie’s rating is currently around 1,200 and to be a Grandmaster, your rating has to be at least 2,600. For Amelie’s age group, maintaining a 1,200 by Jan. 1 was needed to qualify for the world tournament.

“I think we’re going to have to start rethinking Amelie’s future if she keeps demonstrating such a talent for chess,” Tam said.


Forest Hills second-grader to represent city in national kids chess championship

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy U.S. Chess National

Amelie Phung is only in the second grade, but she’s already planning her next big move.

Seven-year-old Amelie is headed to California with her father Tam this weekend when she will play in a national chess tournament. If she makes the right moves on the chess board, Amelie could win a chance to represent the USA at the World Chess Championship in Greece.

The Forest Hills chess prodigy, who attends a school for the gifted and talented on the Upper East Side, will be competing against other whiz kids under the age of 8.

“Chess was just a casual thing for us and then suddenly she started exhibiting this amazing talent for the game,” Tam said. “You start by winning a lot of games and then you start going to championships and next thing you know you’re hiring one of the country’s chess champions to tutor your kid.”

Amelie’s coach is Irina Krush, an American chess international Grandmaster, a title that is given to the world’s best players. Krush is known for her instructional videos called “Krushing Attacks” and when she’s not playing chess she’s teaching the game to Amelie at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.

Tam first began to notice that Amelie was good at chess after she played with a group of older men who play in a local park.

Amelie’s rating is currently around 1,200 and to be a Grandmaster your rating has to be at least 2,600. But for her age group, Amelie’s rating puts her in the top five. All of this is new for Amelie’s father and he is learning more about a game that Amelie continues to progress in.

“There’s so much chess history in New York City and we feel honored that this year we’re going to be representing the city in the competition,” Tam said.

When the weather becomes warmer, Amelie will return to her true love, golf.

“The great thing about chess is it teaches her the discipline needed for golf,” Amelie’s father said. “And golf is where her true talents are. But who knows. Six months ago I knew almost nothing about chess.”


Woman, 85, dies after being struck by school bus in Forest Hills; driver charged

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


A school bus driver was charged for striking an 85-year-old Forest Hills woman who died two months later, police said.

Jeanine Deutsch was trying to cross the intersection of 108th Street and 70th Road, less than a block from her home, at about 12:50 p.m. on Dec. 19, when a yellow International school bus hit her. According to police, the bus was attempting to turn right onto 70th Road from 108th Street when it struck the woman.

Deutsch was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in serious condition. She was pronounced dead on Tuesday.

The bus driver, Isaac Sanson, 47, was arrested and charged with failure to yield right of way, police said, which is now a misdemeanor rather than a traffic violation under Vision Zero law.


What to know about Queens rents in January

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Charts courtesy of MNS Real Estate

Overall most Queens renters didn’t see much of a change in rates from December to January as prices increased just 0.21 percent to $2,103.96.

However, select areas experienced more significant changes, revealing important neighborhood trends, according to data from MNS Real Estate’s January Queens Rental Market Report.

It’s back over $4,000

The most expensive rents for studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments can be found in Long Island City, as is the norm. But in January, the average rents of two-bedroom apartments in Long Island City climbed over the $4,000 mark for the first time since May of 2014 to an average of $4,044, according to the report. After hitting a low of $3,747 in June of 2014, prices fluctuated for a few months before slowly rising toward the end of the year.

A bargain in Jackson Heights  

Tenants paid about an average of $1,514 for rental studios in Forest Hills in January, which is 6.62 percent less than the previous month and the largest percent drop that month. It was a significant decline in rates, but renters looking for a bargain should focus on Jackson Heights studios, where prices are $114 less at an average of $1,400 per month. Of the neighborhoods analyzed in the borough in January, Jackson Heights has the lowest prices for studios.

Rocketing Rego Park

Rego Park is continuing its hot streak. Average prices in the neighborhood are continuing to burn through residents’ wallets as new luxury units recently entered the market. For the month of January, average prices for two-bedrooms in the neighborhood rose a whopping 17.1 percent during the month to $2,598. From November to December 2014, Rego Park rental studios saw an stark increase of 12 percent in average rents.


Click here to read the full report.


Police looking for trio of thieves who stole fur coats from Forest Hills store

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

A group of high-end shoplifters was able to sneak three fur coats out of a discount designer store in Forest Hills earlier this month, according to police.

The suspects, two men and a woman, took the merchandise from Fox’s at 70-39 Austin St. about 3:10 p.m. on Jan. 7. After removing three fur coats from the racks and concealing them under their clothing, they fled the store.

Police describe the two male suspects as black and in their 30s. One man is about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 180 pounds; the second man is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 190 pounds. The female suspect is black, in her mid-20s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and 175 pounds. She has braids and was wearing a light brown hat.

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.


Large weekend turnout boosts bid to save historic Forest Hills movie theater

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Cinemart has been collecting “powerful ammunition,” as the owner said, in its battle to remain open.

The almost century-old Forest Hills theater sold out most of its weekend showings of “American Sniper,” and owner Nicolas Nicolaou plans to use the high numbers in his bid to convince Hollywood movie companies to grant the theater first-run movies.

“We’re hoping this will allow us to see the executives of the film companies [so they will] give us the opportunity that this theater deserves: the opportunity to play upscale film,” Nicolaou said. “People in our community supported their local theater, somewhere that has history.”

After installing digital projectors, the theater gained the rights to play Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” But Nicolaou said this is just a test run and the future of the theater depends on the sales of tickets for the new movie.

“It’s powerful ammunition,” Nicolaou said about the high customer turnout over the weekend. “They want to see the money? Well, here it is.”

Nicolaou will be setting up meetings with the New York City branches of major media companies to discuss the theater’s viability to show first-run movies.

“We have the tickets to prove it,” Nicolaou said. “And if we have to do more we will do more.”