Tag Archives: Forest Park

Upgrades coming for Woodhaven’s Mary Whalen Playground


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photos by Anthony Giudice

For over a year, Forest Park’s Mary Whalen Playground, located near Forest Parkway and Park Lane South, has been awaiting repairs, but the wait will end next month.

On Aug. 18, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony at the Woodhaven play space in Forest Park to kick off the start of the renovation.

Crowley has allocated $1 million from City Council funding for the site, while the Parks Department added another $180,000 from the department’s budget to reconstruct the playground.

Mary Whalen Playground was built in the 1940s and sits at the bottom of a large hill that was formed by an Ice Age glacier hundreds of thousands of years ago. The semi-circular park last received renovations in 1991.

The park is named after Mary Whalen, who was the vice president of Community Board 9 and a one-time president of the Woodhaven Block Association. She also founded the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation.

Currently, the park’s centerpiece, a spray shower water feature, has cracked asphalt surrounding it. The concrete wall near Park Lane South is eroding, and certain play equipment is outdated, including the 10-foot swings that do not meet American Society for Testing Material standards.

The renovations will upgrade the park to include new play equipment, a new central water feature, separate areas for preschoolers and pre-teens, a new teen court play area near the back of the playground, and a secondary ramp into the park from Park Lane South that will adhere to the standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project will also increase the green spaces of the playground by adding more canopy trees and repair the existing drainage system, perimeter walls and curbs.

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Forest Park homicide suspect knew his victim: DA


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Updated June 22, 2:57 p.m.

Sought for questioning in the recent murder of a Flushing man in Forest Park, a person of interest in the case was picked up by police for drinking inside the park on Friday night and was later charged with the homicide, authorities said.

Zoltan Forai, also known as Stephen Forai, was apprehended by police on Friday in connection to the June 10 murder of Diego Piedrahita, 23, of Booth Memorial Avenue, law enforcement officials stated.

The motive for the murder is still unknown, but according to authorities, Forai and the victim were known to each other.

Sometime between June 8 and June 9, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, Forai allegedly kicked Piedrahita about the head and body, then used a rock to strike him multiple times in his face and head, causing his death. Parkgoers discovered Piedrahita’s body on the afternoon of June 10.

According to police, Forai was spotted by police last Friday at Woodhaven Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue near Forest Park. Forai, who was known to frequent the Forest Park Bandshell and Victory Field, was allegedly observed drinking a can of beer, and he was arrested for drinking in public.

Forai allegedly shaved his beard so as to not look like the bearded suspect wanted for questioning in Piedrahita’s death, authorities said.

Forai was arraigned on Saturday before Queens Criminal Court Judge Bruna DiBiase on second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon charges. He was ordered held without bail and must to return to court on July 2; if convicted, Forai faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

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Rash of violent crimes raises concerns at Woodhaven meeting


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Woodhaven residents and elected officials expressed concern and outrage during Thursday night’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting over the recent rash of high-profile crimes to hit the area.

Two recent shootings rocked the area. The first occurred roughly three weeks ago around 4 a.m. outside the Port O’Call nightclub near Atlantic Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. The more recent shooting was on the night of June 6 at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 89th Street.

Then the community was stunned by the June 10 discovery of a dead body near Victory Field in Forest Park now being investigated as a homicide.

“It’s just a bad wave right now … but it’s not just us. It could happen anywhere in the city,” P.O. Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit told WRBA members during the session at American Legion Post 118. “We have leads in most of these crimes … but both shooting victims are being uncooperative, so it’s making our investigation difficult.”

One resident expressed fear over personal safety in light of the shootings. “I could stop by Jamaica Avenue to get a container of milk and be caught in a shootout,” she said.

In an attempt to calm concerns, Severino explained that several safety measures have been implemented in the wake of the shootings, including outside help from Central Command.

“Right now, we have multiple shooting posts to help increase visibility in multiple locations where those crimes happened,” he said. “We have an automatic shooting initiative in place and will be there for 24 to 72 hours after.”

Regarding the Forest Park homicide, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley called the murder “unsettling” and shared in the community’s concerns.

“Safety in Forest Park is so important,” she said. “I myself often run in the park. We’ve been on top of the 102nd Precinct to make sure they have patrols there.”

Another resident raised the question about security cameras in the park. “About two weeks ago, we noticed a security camera mounted on a light post,” she said. “But last weekend, that camera was gone. Ironically, it would have been in the same spot where the murder was.”

Angel Vazquez, Assemblyman Mike Miller’s chief of staff, explained that he was working to get the NYPD to sign off on an agreement allowing for the installation of cameras at specific locations within the park.

According to Vazquez, the first part of the six-stage process of approval was just completed. Going forward, the camera plans would require three-way approval from the Assembly, Dormitory Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Greg Mitchell of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office echoed Crowley’s concerns.

“Safety is our number one priority,” he said. “Through our budgeting, we did approve those emergency call boxes that will be going into Forest Park.”

Mitchell said he has been in touch with the capital department of the NYPD and expects the call boxes to be installed as soon as the upcoming budget passes.

WRBA President Martin Colberg urged residents to remain vigilant: “The biggest thing we can do is to call 311 or 911. Let’s get some kind of response out there and try to help each other as much as we can.”

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Person of interest sought in Forest Park murder


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking to question an individual regarding the murder of a Flushing man found dead in Forest Park Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

Zoltan Forai, also known as Stephen Forai, is believed to frequent the Bandshell and Victory Field areas of the park, police said. He is described as 44 years old, standing about 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds and having brown eyes, brown hair and a beard.

The body of Diego Piedrahita, 23, of Booth Memorial Avenue was discovered by two park-goers at about 3:30 p.m. near Park Lane South and Woodhaven Boulevard, police said.

Piedrahita — who had blunt force trauma to the head, possibly as the result of a tree limb being used as a weapon — was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was later ruled a homicide.

According to police sources, Piedrahita’s wallet and identification were found at the scene and there were no signs of a robbery. He did not have a criminal record.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident 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.

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Flushing man found dead in Forest Park; cops launch homicide probe


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter / @projwoodhaven

Updated 9:29 p.m.

BY ROBERT POZARYCKI AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA

Detectives are investigating the death of a 23-year-old man whose body was found in Forest Park Wednesday afternoon as a homicide, police sources said.

Two park-goers found the body of Diego Piedrahita near Park Lane South and Woodhaven Boulevard at about 3:25 p.m., according to authorities. The man had suffered from what was described as blunt force trauma to the head.

Officers from the 102nd Precinct and EMS responded to the scene and pronounced Piedrahita, a resident of Booth Memorial Avenue in Flushing, deceased at the scene.

The preliminary investigation indicated that he may have been dead for at least 10 to 12 hours before his body was found, police sources said. His wallet and identification were found at the scene and there were no signs of a robbery. The victim did not have a criminal record.

The medical examiner is determining the cause of death.

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.

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Pet adoption fair to take place in Forest Park


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Bankert

BY ANGELA MATUA

Queens residents hoping to add another member to their family can attend the eighth-annual Pet Adoption Fair in Forest Park on Saturday, June 13.

The Richmond Hill Block Association and the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center host the fair, which has successfully provided homes to more than 70 cats and dogs.

From noon to 4 p.m., families can visit the Buddy Monument at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South in Forest Park, where the ASPCA, Animal Care & Control of NYC and Heavenly Angels Rescue will provide a furry friend.

According to Paul Bankert, president of the Richmond Hill Block Association, rabbits will also be available for adoption this year. A nonprofit organization in Queens called All About Rabbits Rescue will be on site to provide families with a rabbit of their own.

Bankert said he helped conceive this fair because “it helps the community and helps animals.”

Each person who adopts a pet will be provided with pet supplies including water and food bowls, collars, leashes and litter boxes.

The ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic will be on site to provide discounted or free procedures to the first 25 participants who arrive before 7:30 a.m.

The Richmond Hill Block Association is also asking those who cannot adopt to donate new or laundered blankets for the dogs and cats still in shelters. Monetary donations will also be accepted by each rescue group.

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Woodhaven Memorial Trees to be decorated in Forest Park


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Project Woodhaven

Woodhaven is doing its part to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the country during World War I, just in time for Memorial Day.

For the first time in over 70 years, the Memorial Trees in Forest Park will be decorated with red, white and blue bows thanks to a joint effort by Project Woodhaven, American Legion Post 118 and the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

“In the process of research with the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, we found old news clippings about the Memorial Trees in Forest Park,” said Ed Wendell of Project Woodhaven. “We did some further research and pieced together the story of how after World War I people all over were looking for ways to commemorate those who died. In Woodhaven, they come up with the idea of planting trees for those who died from Woodhaven.”

In 1919, 53 trees were planted, with 17 more added in later years to bring the total to 70 trees.

In the years after the trees were planted, the women of the American Legion would adorn them with patriotic bows, and the families of the fallen soldiers would visit the trees in remembrance of their lost loved ones.

As time marched on, this tradition was slowly forgotten, but the 53 original trees remain in Forest Park.

To celebrate the revival of this once-forgotten tradition, the 53 trees will be reintroduced to the community during a reception on Thursday at Oak Ridge in Forest Park from 5 to 8 p.m.

During the reception, there will be a slideshow about this piece of Woodhaven’s forgotten history where guests will learn about the young men who died during the war and about Woodhaven during the WWI era. Light refreshments will be served.

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Recycle electronics and more at Forest Park on April 26


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Just in time for spring cleaning, two local elected officials will be bringing their biannual recycling event to Forest Park later this month.

“Bringing this event to the district twice a year is so important to [Assemblyman Mike Miller] and me. The standard reasons apply – this is an opportunity to do something productive with old items normally thrown away and wasted. This year, though, is especially important given new DSNY regulations,” said state Senator Joseph Addabbo, who is providing the recycling opportunity with Miller.

Not only does the April 26 event give residents the ability to clean out their homes of unwanted junk for the season, but it will also take place just weeks after the start of new Department of Sanitation recycling regulations.

As of April 1, New York City residents can be fined $100 for placing electronics, such as TVs and computers, at the curb for disposal.

“Given new regulations regarding the recycling of electronics, this event presents an opportunity for individuals to discard many items that must now be taken to drop-off centers. Given the continued success of this event, Recycle Day shows the willingness of people to properly recycle when the opportunity exists,” Miller said.

Items accepted at the free Recycle Day event include clothing, coats, bedding, linens, paired shoes, scarves, belts, hats, handbags, computers, monitors, cellphones, servers, fax machines, televisions, PDAs, scanners, copiers, printers, batteries, laptops, cameras, power strips, wires, chargers, cable boxes, fans, air conditioners, telephones and VCR tapes. Appliances will not be accepted.

At last year’s recycling event, about 300 residents brought more than seven tons of electronics, about five tons of paper and two tons of Salvation Army household items, according to Addabbo’s office.

Recycling Day will be held on Sunday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell parking lot in Forest Park, located on Forest Park Drive, one block west of Woodhaven Boulevard in Woodhaven.

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Forest Park sinkhole all patched up


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

The sinkhole that has blocked the entrance path to Forest Park for years is finally fixed, according to the city Parks Department.

The contractor has finished the work to fix the hole, including clearing and upgrading existing drainage systems, reconstructing the sidewalk and stabilizing the adjacent slope.

The final portion of the project is to repave the strip with new asphalt, which will be completed once the weather permits, according to a Parks Department spokesperson.

The hole is located on the entrance path to the park from Woodhaven Boulevard. According to locals, the sinkhole started about two years ago and has been getting worse ever since it first appeared. It was most likely caused by runoff that deteriorated the catch basin beneath the roadway, the department spokesperson said.

Repair crews began work to fix the problems that caused the sinkhole last September after The Queens Courier first reported the gaping hole. The sidewalk has been closed off since but will reopen once the paving is completed. The schedule for the paving work depends on the weather.

sinkole_before

The hole before it was fixed.

When The Courier first reported on the situation in early September, the hole was covered by steel barricades, leaving a small path for people to still use the sidewalk. This worried locals said they believed one false step could possibly launch a pedestrian right into the hole causing major injuries.

But parkgoers will no longer have to worry as the hole is completely patched.

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Birds flock to winter hot spot Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Queens County Bird Club

Queens isn’t just the world’s borough. It’s also the birds’ borough.

Birds migrating south for the winter stop in Queens, using the borough’s numerous parks as a rest stop. Other birds, like the snow owl, dig in for the winter and stay in New York City for the season. Witnessing it all are the bird watchers of the Queens County Bird Club.

Bird watching – or birding, to use the hobby’s parlance – is a common practice in Queens, according to Arie Gilbert, president of the Queens County Bird Club. As the season nears winter, leaves falling from trees give parks a desolate, dead look, but they reveal many types of birds that won’t be found in warmer months. Gilbert’s club makes many trips to Alley Pond Park, Kissena Park, Forest Park and, of course, Gilbert said, Jamaica Bay.

“For anybody who even has a passing knowledge of birding knows about Queens and Jamaica Bay,” Gilbert said. “People from all over the world come to New York City to go to Jamaica Bay.”

In these hot spots, people will be able to see birds like the Iceland gull, the great-horned owl and the wood duck.

Along with bird watching trips, the club plans on holding a lecture on Nov. 19 that will help bird watchers identify and note the subtle difference in subspecies like those found in sparrows.

“Birding is not like football. It doesn’t have the same appeal,” Gilbert said. “But it’s a lot of fun being outdoors.”

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Sinkhole in Forest Park addressed by city


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

The long-ignored sinkhole in Forest Park, which for two years has taken up the sidewalk where pedestrians enter the park from Woodhaven Boulevard, has at last seen some action by the Parks Department.

When The Courier first broke the story last month, the only protection for passersby were metal barricades and caution tape, reducing the size of the walkway and making it a hazard for pedestrians.

This week, a large portion of the sidewalk around the gaping hole has been fenced in by the Parks Department, limiting the risk of injury for parkgoers.

Now, pedestrians must walk across the street when they enter or leave the park, reducing the risk of injury.

The sinkhole was most likely caused by erosion and storm water runoff, according to a Parks Department official, and the agency mobilized a contractor to fix it.

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

“We have designed a solution, which will include clearing and upgrading existing drainage structures, filling the sinkhole, reconstructing the sidewalk and stabilizing the adjacent slope,” the official said. “A contractor has already begun work.”

Ed Wendell, president of Project Woodhaven and a frequent visitor to Forest Park, said he was glad initial steps have been taken but wants to see the repairs completed swiftly.

“I’m glad the first step has been taken and they have closed the sidewalk to take the immediate danger out of the way,” Wendell said. “Now, let’s get it fixed.”

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Police looking for suspect who robbed Forest Park jogger


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

A 28-year-old woman was robbed Tuesday evening as she jogged inside of Forest Park, authorities said.

The victim was running in the park at about 6 p.m. when the suspect grabbed her from behind as she passed by him, cops said. She managed to escape his grasp, but the suspect was able to steal her headphones before fleeing.

Police describe the suspect as a white man, 40 to 45 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a gray long-sleeved shirt and baggy blue jeans.

2Rob

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.

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Gaping sinkhole in Forest Park worries locals


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Forest Park is home to an 18-hole golf course, but a 19th hole in the park is cause for some concern.

For about two years now, there has been a gaping sinkhole along the entrance path to the park from Woodhaven Boulevard. It was most likely caused by runoff into or deterioration of a catch basin beneath the roadway, according to a representative from the Parks Department.
Locals say it is a major hazard because of where it is situated.

“The sinkhole is right across the street from the carousel, which is a major attraction for children,” said Ed Wendell, a frequent visitor of Forest Park. “It is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured and everyone starts saying, ‘Why wasn’t this fixed already?’”

The hole is currently barricaded off and has caution tape around it. It takes up almost the whole sidewalk, forcing people to walk in a single-file line to get past it.

The Parks Department is working on plans to fix it.

“Parks is currently assessing the extent of work that will be required to repair this sinkhole and fix its underlying cause,” the representative said. “Once this assessment has been completed, we will procure a contractor to complete this work.”

There was no timeline given on how long it will take to start the work, but Wendell said he is encouraged that something may finally be done about this ongoing safety issue.

“I’m glad they are aware of the problem and looking into it,” Wendell said. “But we will only be relieved when it is finally taken care of.”

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West Nile spraying to target areas of Queens this week


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Department of Health

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, there will be West Nile spraying in parts of Queens to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease.

The spraying will take place between the hours of 8:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Thursday, Aug. 28 during the same hours.

The following neighborhoods are being treated due to rising West Nile virus activity with high mosquito populations, according to the city’s Health Department:

Parts of Auburndale, Murray Hill and Flushing (Bordered by 25th Avenue to the north; Murray Street to the west; 45th Avenue to the south; and 192nd Street, Francis Lewis Boulevard and Utopia Parkway to the east).

Parts of Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Forest Hills Garden, Forest Park, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park and Woodhaven (Bordered by 63rd Avenue, 80th Street and Long Island Expressway to the north; eastern boundary of Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Metropolitan Avenue, 73rd Place, Myrtle Avenue and eastern boundaries of Mt. Lebanon and Mt. Hope to west; Park Lane South to the south; and Metropolitan Avenue and Alderton Street to the east).

For the application, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks and use a very low concentration of Anvil®, 10 + 10, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health.

The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions  are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  •  Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If  outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using  again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

 

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104th Precinct to increase patrols in Highland Park


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The 104th Precinct wants park-goers to take a hike out of Highland Park at curfew.

Starting later this year officers will make daily patrols through the park at 8:30 p.m. to tell people to leave by 9 p.m., when it closes.

Residents living near Highland Park, a green space with many trails and ball fields near the Brooklyn-Queens border in Ridgewood, have been complaining about people using the park through the late hours of the night.

The Precinct has heard complaints of drinking and loud music playing after hours in the park dating back to last year, and Captain Chris Manson said that the party has ended.

Officers will start making the rounds as soon as the weather is warmer. If someone is spotted after the curfew they will be issued a summons.

“I want people to use the parks, but at a reasonable time,” Manson said. “I expect a major quality of life improvement.”

Manson said the increased enforcement could begin around the end of March.

Park enforcement has been a major issue throughout the confines of the 104th Precinct.

There have been about 270 summonses issued to people in parks in the region over the last month alone, according to statistics by the NYPD. Sixty of those summonses were given to people for just being in parks after hours.

Also, nearby Forest Park will receive NYPD cameras later this year to help improve safety, after a string of sexual assaults.

 

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