Tag Archives: Forest Hills

Woman wanted in connection to homicide of missing woman whose body washed ashore in Breezy Point


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/FILE PHOTO

Police are looking for a woman in connection to the death of a missing woman whose body washed ashore on a Breezy Point beach in February.

According to the NYPD, on Saturday, February 16 at approximately 8:40 a.m., officers responded to 149 Bayside Avenue in Breezy Point after a body was recovered from the beach. The body was later identified as 24-year-old Marisha Cheong, who went missing from her Jamaica residence, where she was last seen at approximately 10:30 a.m. on December 19, 2012.

According to reports, Cheong’s live-in boyfriend was supposed to pick her up at a Forest Hills subway station on the day she went missing, but she never showed up. There was no sign of the young woman until her remains washed up just across from 121 Bayside Avenue.

In May, the Medical Examiner’s office ruled Cheong’s death as a homicide.

There are no arrests and the NYPD is attempting to find an unknown female that can be seen in a surveillance video leading Cheong from her home to an unknown location.

Police have released the surveillance video.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Woman killed in Queens Boulevard hit-and-run


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File image

A 58-year-old Elmhurst woman was killed Saturday night in an apparent hit-and-run while crossing Queens Boulevard, police said.

Nisath Hossain was struck by a car in Forest Hills near Queens Boulevard and 71st Avenue on September 21 shortly after 10 p.m., cops said.

The driver fled the scene, police said, and Hossain was later pronounced dead at North Shore University Hospital.

Authorities believe Hossain was crossing the major thoroughfare when she was fatally hit by a car going westbound.

The notoriously dangerous Queens Boulevard is unofficially known by borough residents as the “Boulevard of Death.”

There are no arrests, police said, and the investigation is ongoing.

 

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Vegan arm wrestler wants to bust myth that men need to eat meat


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

When Forest Hills resident Rob Bigwood gave up meat to live a vegan lifestyle a few years ago, he was scared he would become weak.

Bigwood, 30, is an interactive art director in Manhattan by day and a professional arm wrestler by night. He has been competing in tournaments for more than a decade and aspires to be the best, but wanted to stop thinking of animals as just protein.

“I don’t feel it’s right to eat an animal when there are so many other options,” Bigwood said. “They don’t have a voice so I speak for them.”

Bigwood is now being featured among various accomplished vegan male athletes in a new documentary called “The Game Changers” by James Wilks, a former MMA welterweight champion and fellow vegan.

The concept of the film is to study whether males need to eat meat to be physically strong and the psychology of why eating meat is a requirement to be a “real man.”

Wilks and his film crew have traveled around the world to talk with various vegan athletes, including strongman Patrick Baboubian, who carried 1,216 pounds 10 meters, setting a new record; four-time NBA champion John Salley; and Andy Lally, a NASCAR driver who was the Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2011.

“Our goal is to create a new vision of what eating plant food is like,” said Joseph Pace, creative producer and the script writer of the documentary. “There have been too many stereotypes like that’s something for weak people and women. Our deeper message is that it won’t make you less of a man to care about stuff.”

And Bigwood really cares for animals. His change to veganism began after seeing piglets at a farm. Later that day when he tried to eat a bacon and egg sandwich, he felt sick remembering how the pigs were like little puppies.

The arm wrestler dislikes factory farms and even that humans kill animals for clothing. His love for animals has actually had an adverse effect.

But Bigwood’s compassion hasn’t affected his ability. In 2011 he won the won the New York City Big Apple Grapple arm wrestling tournament and various professional arm wrestlers said that Bigwood has gotten stronger since his lifestyle changed. More surprisingly, they say, his stamina has also grown and he has become more difficult to pin. Despite all the benefits, some in the field said they said can’t make the commitment just yet.

“It’s the way to go if you can handle it,” said Gene Camp, president of the New York Arm Wrestling Association. “I personally cannot, because I still like a hamburger and I still like to have a steak.”

“The Game Changers” is set to be released across the country next year.

 

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Ex-Queens teacher sentenced to six months for statutory rape of former student


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News

The former Queens middle school teacher who confessed to statutory rape dropped his plans to withdraw his guilty plea and was sentenced to six months in prison, the district attorney’s office said.

Daniel Reilly, 36, a married father, admitted in May to having sex multiple times at his Forest Hills home with a 14-year-old girl he used to teach, according to authorities.

His legal team was considering withdrawing his plea earlier this month, a lawyer said, after learning a conviction would keep Reilly from raising his infant daughter.

But the former sixth grade English teacher at I.S. 237 instead followed through with his planned sentencing on Monday, August 19, the district attorney’s office said.

As part of the plea bargain, meant to spare the victim from testifying, Reilly also agreed to serve 10 years probation, give up his teaching license, register on the state’s sex offender registry and take a sex offender reform program, authorities said.

His lawyer did not immediately comment.

The relationship between Reilly and the teen, which began last August, surfaced when her sister found sexually explicit text messages on her phone, according to the district attorney.

The ex-educator, who made close to $62,000 a year, resigned a month after his arrest from the Flushing school, where he had worked for six years, a Department of Education spokesperson said.

 

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Mailers direct Whitestone voters to wrong polling sites


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An apparent mistake by the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) would have had Whitestone residents voting in Forest Hills during the upcoming primary.

About 100 people in Whitestone, College Point, Malba and Beechhurst were sent BOE mailers last week directing them to vote more than six miles away, double the distance of their usual polling place, a local civic leader said.

The 61-20 Grand Central Parkway poll site listed on the notices is on the border between Corona and Forest Hills.

“I’ve been in Whitestone for 27 years. I’ve always voted at P.S. 193. It’s four blocks from my house,” said resident George Mirtsopoulos, 58. “I get this notice saying I’m voting in Forest Hills. I thought it was ridiculous.”

Mirtsopoulos, Malba Gardens Civic president Alfredo Centola and the area’s city councilmember said they alerted the elections board of the blunder.

The BOE first told residents the change was due to recent redistricting and later switched to say it was a “glitch” that sent voters in the 11357 ZIP code to poll sites in the 11375 area, residents said. The two numbers differ only by switching the last two digits.

“You should check and double check,” Mirtsopoulos said. “Somebody should have said, ‘Wait. They live in Whitestone, why are they voting in Forest Hills?’ The bells and whistles should have gone off a little bit.”

The mailer blindsided multiple residents, mostly the elderly, who did not take immediate notice of change in poll site, Mirtsopoulos said.

“A lot of people on my block didn’t even realize it,” he said. “It would have caused a lot of confusion.”

Councilmember Dan Halloran — who awaits trial for bribery but represents the district for the remainder of the year — said his office “was flooded with calls from angry or upset people.”

He said an 84-year-old widow named Marilyn would not have traveled to Forest Hills despite voting in every election since 1955.

Residents who called the BOE to complain were told new mailers with the correct poll site would be sent out soon, but the Board had no immediate comment for the press.

 

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Star of Queens: Barbara Stuchinski, president, Forest Hills Community & Civic Association


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Stuchinski, Barbara photo

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Barbara Stuchinski is deeply involved with her community. Not only is she president of the Forest Hills Community & Civic Association, Stuchinski is also involved with the Remson Park Coalition, Community Board (CB) 6, which oversees Forest Hills and Rego Park, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) of CB 6. Stuchinski’s responsibilities varey: maintaining quality of life, traffic mitigation, maintenance and landscaping of parks, providing awareness for emergency preparedness and much more.

BACKGROUND:  Stuchinski was born and raised in Forest Hills and resides there today. She considers herself a “100 percent Queens resident.” Though she is now retired, Stuchinski once worked in education as well as doing office work, but has always been involved in volunteer work.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is when I convinced Parks Commissioner Henry Stern to name a playground in Forest Park after Joe DeVoy, who was president of the Forest Hills Civic Association before me,” recalls Stuchinski. “It was a tremendous accomplishment, and a touching way to remember someone.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My biggest challenge was definitely securing a space for the schools on Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue,” said Stuchinski. “It was a huge fight that took 17 years.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been watching people who do things for other people, I’m just aware of it,” said Stuchinski. “My parents taught me, if you see someone who is less fortunate than you, you should reach out.” While Stuchinski realizes it isn’t always easy devoting so much time to others, she truly believes in being altruistic. “If you’re just here to take care of yourself, there’s no point in being on Earth.”

MELISSA FERRARI

 

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Star of Queens: Len Santoro, American Cancer Society, Juniper Park Civic Association


| editorial@queenscourier.com

star of queens

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Len Santoro started working with the American Cancer Society three years ago. It was his first time volunteering for such a group. Since then, Santoro has worked on several fundraising projects for the society. He also helped work with financial services company Standard & Poor’s to organize a volunteer day.

Around the same time, Santoro started working with the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) after seeing all the work that it does for the community. With the JPCA, he organized neighborhood cleanups, tree plantings and much more. He also helped revive and expand its youth organization. With Santoro’s help, the JPCA has worked alongside the Maspeth High School Green Club, Stop & Shop, the 104th Precinct and others.

BACKGROUND: Santoro was born in Brooklyn, where he lived until he was eight years old. After moving to Ridgewood in 1978, he stayed there for 13 years before moving to Middle Village and then Forest Hills. In addition to his community service, Santoro also works for the IT Department of Standard & Poor’s.

“That job is interesting,” he said. “But it’s the community service that’s really important to me. Society has really opened up my eyes to volunteering, and after my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I found that it was through volunteer work that I was able to feel as though I was doing something to help her and others. It empowers you to make you feel that you can make a difference.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is probably when I was looking for my first apartment, when I was moving from Middle Village to Forest Hills. At that time, I was becoming more independent. My stepfather taught me a lot about how to negotiate in a way that let me know that I have a voice. He showed me that I’m the buyer in that situation, and if there’s something I want to go my way, I have to say something. That relates to my community service because that period was definitely a period of growth for me.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I think my biggest challenge is getting volunteers during the summer, especially for the Relay for Life. The challenge there is always getting donations and awareness out on what we do. The biggest advantage that the American Cancer Society has over other organizations is that it offers patient services, does research and doesn’t just focus on one particular cancer.”

INSPIRATION: “I think a lot of my inspiration comes from my mother. I have two older siblings, and even though my parents divorced when I was eight years old, my mother took care of us all by herself. She always put our needs ahead of her own, and that’s what community service is all about, being able to give up your time, but doing it because it makes you feel good. When people appreciate the work that’s being done, that’s a feeling that you can’t describe and can’t replace. My other inspiration is my wife, who was working with the American Cancer Society and encouraged me to become a part of it, and that helped kick off some of the other volunteer work I’ve done since then.”

JOHANN HAMILTON

 

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Home health aide allegedly stole from elderly Forest Hills patient


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A home health aide has been indicted on charges she stole $55,000 from an ailing Queens senior who was under her care, authorities said.

Tameka Nunes, 31, of the Bronx, faces up to 15 years in prison for grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

District Attorney Richard Brown said Nunes systematically — almost daily for six months — withdrew hundreds of dollars from the bank account of a 98-year-old woman who suffers from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is a tragic case of a health care worker who was entrusted to look after the well-being of this frail woman but instead allegedly treated her as a cash cow,” Brown said.

Most of the ATM withdrawals took place at a bank near the victim’s Forest Hills home, according to bank video surveillance obtained by the district attorney.

The victim’s bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, has opened a fraud investigation. It has been referred to the city’s Adult Protective Services.

Nunes was ordered held on $15,000 bail and is scheduled return to court on September 13.

 

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Ex-Queens teacher accused of sex with former student reconsiders guilty plea


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News

The former Queens middle school teacher who pleaded guilty to statutory rape charges may withdraw his plea, his lawyer said.

Daniel Reilly, 36, a married father, admitted in May to having sex multiple times at his Forest Hills home with a 14-year-old girl he used to teach, authorities said.

The former sixth grade English teacher at I.S. 237 was expected to be sentenced this June to six months in jail and 10 years’ probation, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

As part of the plea bargain meant to spare the victim from testifying, Reilly would have to give up his teaching license, register on the state’s sex offender registry and take a sex offender reform program, authorities said.

But because that punishment could entail restrictions against Reilly raising his infant daughter, his legal team said he is now reconsidering his options.

“We’re contemplating the best course of action to enable his daughter to have a father in her life and to allow him to assist with raising her,” said Reilly’s attorney, Eric Franz.

 

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Queens has most immigrant seniors in city: report


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Queens has the largest number of immigrant seniors in the city, with Flushing leading the list of neighborhoods, according to a new report.

The borough is home to about 162,000 foreign-born people over the age of 65, says a study by the Center for an Urban Future. The report shows more than 25,000 live in Flushing.

“Immigrants are critical to Queens,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the New York-based think tank.

“They’ve driven a lot of the economic growth in the borough,” he said. “They make up almost half of the population in Queens. It’s important that they can grow old in the city.”

Droves of immigrants, mostly from Asia, first made their way to Flushing in the 1970s, Bowles said.

Since then, many more have moved from Manhattan’s Chinatown to the northern Queens neighborhood for a more affordable way of life that is surrounded by immigrant services. In the last decade, more than 8,000 immigrant seniors have settled in Flushing, according to the report.

“They want to live in Flushing because it’s more convenient for them in terms of language barriers,” said Kathy Liu, program director for the Flushing YMCA’s New Americans Welcome Center. “It’s one of the neighborhoods which allow immigrants to go to different agencies to help them in their language.”

The center is a one-stop shop for non-English speakers and one of many locations where immigrants can receive for free literacy, citizen preparation, job readiness and computer classes year-round. The facility sees natives from China, Korea and even France, Liu said.

The Flushing branch of the Queens Library, which offers similar services, is the most heavily used branch in the state, said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King.

Still, the report shows immigrant seniors face a number of challenges, including a higher poverty rate. They are also less likely to receive government benefits.

“Many don’t qualify for retirement or housing benefits,” Liu said. “With rent so high in this area, they find it very difficult to live with the savings they brought from their own country.”

According to the report, Flushing has the highest concentration of poor seniors. More than half of all Korean seniors in the city who are below the federal poverty line live in Flushing, the study found.

The Rockaways had the second largest group of poor immigrant seniors, 3,154 people.

“Immigrant adults have all of those traditional challenges, but then they have additional ones because of language barriers or a lack of familiarity with programs and services that are available,” Bowles said. “I don’t see this as a problem necessarily, but as a challenge that New York City policy makers have to plan for.”

Some other highlights:

  • Bellerose, Rosedale, Forest Hills and Rego Park, trailing slightly behind Flushing, also made the list.
  • Howard Beach and South Ozone Park had the largest change in their immigrant senior population. They saw a 112 percent jump, which amounts to nearly 5,000 seniors.
  •  Over the last decade, the number of immigrant seniors in Queens increased by 42,000, while the number of native-born seniors dropped by nearly 41,000.



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Police looking for suspect in Forest Hills sex assault


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Cops are seeking a man wanted for sexually assaulting a woman in Forest Hills Sunday.

Around 4 a.m. the suspect followed the 23-year-old victim to the front of her home near Queens Boulevard where he assaulted her, said police.

The suspect is described as Hispanic, 25 to 30 years old, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall, 160 pounds and was wearing a red t-shirt, dark colored pants and a red baseball cap.

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

 

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Cyclists take part in sixth annual Tour de Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

After completing the Five Boro Bike Tour last year, Astoria resident Jennifer Chakrabarti wanted to do a bike ride with her nine-year-old son Bhaskar.

The family-friendly sixth annual Tour de Queens on July 7 fit the bill. This year, it began in Chakrabarti’s “backyard” at Astoria Park.

“I like that it’s a slow-paced so that kids can do it,” Chakrabarti said. “That’s what really drew us to it, because he wanted to do a ride.”

About 1,250 riders from all over the city saddled up for the annual bike tour to experience a relaxing ride and enjoy unique views of western Queens neighborhoods, which was a major lane change for the event.

For the first time ever, the ride started in Astoria Park instead of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It continued for nearly 20 miles through Long Island City, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Corona and Elmhurst.

The ride also highlighted Juniper Valley Park at the halfway point, where the group gathered to rest, eat and reenergize.

“We change the ride up every year to showcase different parts of the borough, to demonstrate the interconnectivity of the different neighborhoods and to show how easy it is to bike through the borough and to show people the sites,” said event director Ben McRoberts of Transportation Alternatives.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district was included in the tour, hoped the ride could help future business.

“Not only is it healthy for all of us, but it is a great opportunity for people to see sites and small businesses that they never get to see,” said Van Bramer, who participated for the first time this year.

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM TOUR DE QUEENS 

About 100 volunteer ride marshals in orange jackets followed riders to keep them on track and assist in case there were any issues. Paramedics also followed closely behind the bikers in case of medical problems.

The NYPD escorted the ride to manage the crowd and traffic and provide a safe atmosphere. Many participants felt secure with the cops guiding the tour, especially after the tragic events of the Boston Marathon earlier this year.

“With this number of people, I guess there is a little bit of safety concern,” said Astoria cyclist Jonathan Co. “But I feel pretty safe for the most part.”

 

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Suspect wanted in five Queens burglaries


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Police are seeking a man wanted in a string of Queens burglaries.

The incidents occurred in March, May and June in Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Sunnyside, Woodside and Flushing, according to authorities.

During the burglaries, the suspect enters the location, typically through the front door, and takes property, including jewelry, cash and electronics.

The suspect was wearing beige slacks, multi-colored shirt and black shoes, and walks with a limp and cane, said the NYPD.

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

 

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Forest Hills, Rego Park get more bike racks


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

Forest Hills and Rego Park cyclists are getting nearly 40 more places to lock up and park.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has installed most of its proposed 39 bike racks within Community Board 6, a spokesperson said, with remaining sites to be scheduled over the next few weeks.

“Without a doubt, we need these bike racks,” said cyclist Sterling Dadone. “We don’t have places to lock up, so we lock up to whatever we can — fences and gates.”

Specific locations of the racks were not disclosed as of press time. But CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said they will be scattered throughout the district in high volume areas.

Bikers can already find the racks up and down Yellowstone Boulevard and along Woodhaven Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Austin Street and Selfridge Street near commercial, civic or recreational hotspots. Sidewalks have to be at least 11 feet wide to support a rack.

“More and more people are asking us about bike racks and paths in the district,” Gulluscio said. “It’s a good thing. You just see more and more people on bikes.”

He added that the district’s close proximity to Manhattan and its lack of parking makes it an ideal hub for bikers. According to the district manager, there are currently less than ten bike racks in Forest Hills and Rego Park.

“Why not leave your car and take your bike if you can lock it up near a store?” he said. “We look forward to the city going green. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

Resident Victor Ortega said the racks will make life easier for him and his fellow cyclists.

“I wouldn’t have to park my bike somewhere and worry about it,” he said.

Additional reporting by Rosa Kim

 

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Parents peeved after Forest Hills fender bender leaves special ed kids stranded


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A Forest Hills fender bender left seven special education students stranded on a bus for up to two hours while they waited for police, parents said.

“These are emotionally fragile children. They get scared easily,” said parent Rita Kimmel. “They have anxieties and phobias and would be more or less freaked out to be in any kind of car accident, much less stuck on the side of the road not knowing when police or their parents were going to come.”

The bus was carrying children and teens with disabilities home from The Child School and Legacy High School in Roosevelt Island on June 21, when another driver slowly pulling out of a parking space struck the side of the bus on 71st Drive and Metropolitan Avenue, parents said.

Police said there were no reported injuries, but declined to comment further.

Kimmel, who has a 12-year-old son, said she was disturbed to learn it took nearly five hours for cops to arrive to fill out an accident report.

Her son, Lucas, who suffers from anxiety and ADHD, was kept on the bus for nearly two hours

Parents were called to pick their children up at the site of the accident, but Kimmel said she and her husband could not get out of work at the time of the 3:30 p.m. crash.

“He didn’t completely fall apart, but there could have been other children on that bus that could have,” said Kimmel of Bayside. “He was very worried, very scared. There was a panic to him.”

Another parent, Lily Ng, who lives minutes away, was able to grab her child immediately.

“I’m not surprised at all for how long it took the police to come,” she said. “Not that it makes it right, but we were told it may take a very long time. It was recommended the children get picked up if possible. If I wasn’t able to get to him, I certainly would be more upset.”

According to Kimmel, both drivers called 9-1-1 around 3:30 p.m. to report the accident. They called again at 5:23 p.m. and 6:16 p.m. when no help came.

The distraught mom said cops arrived after 8 p.m.

“I was told he was safe, that it was a minor fender bender,” she said. “I was under the assumption police would be there in 10 minutes and they would be on their way. That was not the case.”

The bus company, Hoyt Transportation, and school did not return calls for comment.

 

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