Tag Archives: Howard Beach

Identify this place in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

where

Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken? Guess by commenting below! The answer will be revealed next week.

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”: Behind the Starbucks in Howard Beach
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More tree removal in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

“X” marks the spot to chop.

The Parks Department has come into Howard Beach for a second round of tree removal.

This is a continuation of the previous tree removal process that took place in September. All Sandy-stricken trees that the Parks Department feels are too far gone and not likely to survive will be cut down and replaced, according to the agency. There is still not an exact number for how many trees will be cut as the agency is still surveying the area.

“The trees marked with an ‘X’ are indeed part of the Sandy removal and replacement efforts, and are scheduled to be removed and replaced over the next year,” a Parks spokeswomen said. “The total number of trees is still evolving and continues to do so as we mark additional trees.”

The Parks Department is still in the process of replanting the ones they took down in September.

At the time, the Parks Department cut down nearly 500 trees in the confines of Community Board 10. These were part of the 48,000 trees citywide they looked at to see if they should be removed.

DSC_0791

To coincide with the project, there is a citywide initiative to plant one million trees throughout the five boroughs. At this point, the city has planted over 938,000 trees since 2007, when the program started. They plan to have the full million planted by 2017.

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New bills proposed by state Sen. Avella would address abandoned homes


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Abandoned homes have been a problem in Queens neighborhoods since Superstorm Sandy and the recession. But a breakaway group of state Senate Democrats, including Senator Tony Avella, has introduced a proposal they claim will solve much of the problem.

A bill they’ve called the “Zombie Property Act” would force lenders, including banks, to maintain abandoned homes in New York so that neighborhoods are not dotted with dilapidated properties abandoned by the owners and taken over by mortgage holders.

The measure is one of several bills that are being put forward by the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, of which Avella is one of five members, as part of the group’s “Invest New York” agenda.

“We’re catching squatters and kids going in these abandoned homes,” said Joe Thompson, who runs a civilian patrol in Howard Beach. The neighborhood is ailed with dozens of destroyed homes that were abandoned after Sandy.

“These squatters are getting in there and doing drugs and high school aged kids are putting graffiti all over the place,” Thompson said. The homes pose a danger to people in the area, he said, and they also severely reduce the value of neighboring homes.

“It was kind of like their playhouse,” he said. Last year Thompson tackled the problem by investing his own money in cleaning and maintaining a home on 155th Avenue and 77th Street. He boarded the windows, cleaned the surrounding lawn and even enlisted another resident to power wash the walls.

If the zombie bill, which is co-sponsored by Avella, passes, lenders that hold mortgages on the abandoned properties would be given the responsibility of doing what Thompson is doing.

“These abandoned homes are a waste of resources that could be developed into great things,” Avella said.

Within the Invest New York agenda, Avella will be tasked with pushing through bills that address paid family leave, providing affordable housing for veterans and a proposal that would grant seniors a 10 percent discount on any DMV transaction.

“I’ve always worked toward these things,” Avella said. “This will help people because these are people issues.”

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Car tires and rims become big target for thieves in southern Queens


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Joe Thompson

Move over NASCAR pit crews, there’s a new team pulling wheels off of cars and they’re doing it in record time across southern Queens neighborhoods.

While auto theft is on the decline across the city, there has been a new wave of thefts targeting cars that is taking place in and around Howard Beach. But this time, thieves take the wheels and leave the cars behind.

“Old school crime on the rise,” wrote one resident on the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol Facebook page.

“Nothing new in Lindenwood,” wrote another.

The 106th Precinct sent out fliers warning residents and car owners about the thefts, identifying the types of cars being targeted and providing pointers on how to guard against the theft of wheels and tires.

“It costs close to $3,000 to replace those rims and tires,” said Detective Kenny Zorn from the 106th Precinct. “We’re out there preaching crime prevention and have unmarked and marked cars patrolling the areas more frequently.”

The 106th Precinct has also been out in Lindenwood passing out the fliers to residents warning of the crime. They say Lindenwood is one of the easiest areas to hit for thieves because of the multi-family houses.

In the last 28-day period, Zorn said there have been four reported tire removals in cars in the Lindenwood area alone.

The civilian patrol reported two cars stripped of their wheels in the last two weeks, and comments on some of the pictures posted show the crime is happening at a higher rate throughout the neighborhood.

“This has to be a group of people working together because they get these tires off in seconds,” said Joe Thompson, president of the patrol. “It’s been going on for a long time, but now it seems to be happening almost every night.”

Jacking up a car, putting it on bricks and pulling the tires off can occur in seconds with experienced thieves.

Thompson said that while he was on patrol he got a call from a resident of Ozone Park about four males in the process of taking tires off a car. He notified 911 immediately and drove over to the scene. Arriving no more than six minutes later, Thompson said the thieves were already gone and observed the car on bricks and tilted forward.

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On the flier, the police warn that late model Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas and Mercedes are being targeted for their rims. They recommend that car owners use wheel locks, motion sensor lights, or an alarm with a mercury tilt switch to make their cars harder targets.

“It’s scary,” he said. “All these cars are brand-new, and it’s terrible for these residents. It affects their insurance and just makes things more difficult for them.”

Thompson said that his patrol has been watching for suspicious cars around the neighborhood and has been documenting license plates for the police. He said he has no real leads on who these thieves might be, but he believes they circle the area and pick out which cars they want to hit before they strike.

“We get calls from people every night, telling us of suspicious cars around the neighborhood or ones parked in front of their houses for a long period of time,” he said. “We’ve been collecting the information and are talking to the police to hopefully stop these criminals.

Anyone with information about this crime is urged to call CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-577-TIPS. Zorn also said if anyone sees the crime going on to call 911 immediately. If you want more information on how to prevent the crime, call the 106th Precinct’s crime prevention number at 718-845-2223.

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Five interesting facts about Queens home sales in 2014


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Continental Park /Chart courtesy of REBNY 

The Real Estate Board of New York released its 2014 fourth quarter home sales report for the five boroughs on Tuesday, which showed that homebuyers spent nearly $10 billion in New York City during the final three months of the year.

Since a ton of cash was spent, here are five interesting and maybe surprising facts pulled from the report showing how Queens fits into the big picture: 

Playing catch-up

Homebuyers spent 10 percent more money in Queens, the city’s most diverse borough, in the fourth quarter of 2014 than the previous quarter, accounting for $1.78 billion. Brooklyn, the city’s most populous borough, had total sales of $1.97 billion in the quarter, which results in a drop of 1.43 percent from the third quarter. Of course Manhattan leads the pack, but saw a major drop of 22.56 percent from the third quarter with just $5.3 billion in home sales.

Up, up and away

The prices of homes in the borough are definitely moving on up. The average sales price of a home in Queens was $463,000, up 7 percent from the fourth quarter in 2013. However, this pales in comparison to Manhattan and Brooklyn. The average price in Manhattan increased a whopping 19 percent from last year to $1.65 million, and people actually paid 15 percent more for a home in Brooklyn at an average price of $713,000. Fuhgeddaboudit!

REBNY chart

Condo “mini”-ums

Condos in “The World’s Borough” actually saw a decrease in prices, the report found. The average price of a condominium in Queens decreased 3 percent to $477,000. This is drastically different from “skyscraper world,” otherwise known as Manhattan, where prices for condos rose year over the year, increasing 37 percent to an average of $2.33 million.

Flushing in first

The report showed that the combined neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens had the most home sales with 443 in the fourth quarter. But to be fair, Flushing, which was counted alone, should take home the crown for most sales. The neighborhood recorded 401 home sales in the quarter.

And the winners are….

The area in Queens with the highest percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2014 over the year included the Howard Beach and Broad Channel neighborhoods, which saw a 25 percent jump in home prices to an average of $427,000. Long Island City had the most expensive prices with an average of $915,000.

Click here to read the full report.

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Work finished on Howard Beach welcome triangle


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The Howard Beach welcome triangle is once again welcoming, thanks to local business and neighborhood organizations.

Back in the summer months, the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association put the project to beautify the triangle on their to-do list. At first, they hoped to gather a couple of volunteers to clean up the area, but they were astonished by the overwhelming donations they received that enabled them to give the triangle a makeover.

The new “Welcome to Howard Beach” sign was donated to the community by the Howard Beach Memorial Services foundation and their president, Ray York. It was put up in the middle of October. After its installation, Lisena Landscaping and DM Contracting came in to beautify the area.

Lisena donated all the plants around the triangle and sign. They are also going to plant new ones once spring comes. They have been taking care of the triangle for quite some time now and have been servicing the community since Giuseppe Lisena started the company in the early 1970s.

“This is our way of giving back to the community,” said Freddy Lisena, Giuseppe’s son and current owner of the business. “We do a lot of work around the neighborhood and wanted to help out where we could.”

DM Contracting came in and placed the brick structure around the sign. They then added stones in front of it to beautify the area even more.

“This is a piece of artwork that was done by the local community,” said Joanne Ariola, president of the civic association. “It is something that the community is proud of and shows the true beauty of Howard Beach.”

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New pastor coming to St. Helen’s in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

St. Helen’s Catholic Parish is getting ready to welcome a new pastor to their church.

Father Francis Colamaria will be coming to the Howard Beach parish on Jan. 31, taking over for its current pastor, Msgr. LoPinto. Colamaria is currently the administrative director and priest at Holy Child Jesus Parish in Richmond Hill and is excited about the change.

“Though I will miss Holy Child Jesus, I am really looking forward to serving the people of Howard Beach,” he said. “Msgr. LoPinto did a tremendous job of making new renovations to the church and school, which is great because now I can focus more on the spiritual portion.”

Colamaria, 39, has been a priest since 2001. He started at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ozone Park and remained there until 2007. After that, he moved on to St. Ephrem’s in Brooklyn for a year and was also the chaplain at Xaverian High School. He is now the deputy chief chaplain of the MTA and has been at Holy Child Jesus since 2008.

One thing Colamaria is looking forward to is being able to work with the school more closely as he feels Catholic education is very important for children to learn.

“Catholic education provides morals, responsibility and creates love of family and life, which is sometimes lacking in this world,” he said. “It creates a good environment for our children and is one of the best products we have as a church.”

During his time at his current parish, Colamaria has run annual Oktoberfests and huge block parties and made a connection between the parish and school. He is looking forward to bringing some of his new ideas to St. Helen’s and learning from the retired Msgr. Pfeiffer, who he says is “a seasoned veteran.”

LoPinto will be moving on to become the head of Catholic Charities once Colamaria takes over. He said the people of Howard Beach have been through a lot, especially when dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but he knows that their spirits have been unchanged.

“The people of Howard Beach are good people,” Colamaria noted. “It is a great environment and I look forward to learning more about it.”

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Car pulled out of canal in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/1@NYPDSpecialops

Updated 3:30 p.m.

A car plunged into a Jamaica Bay canal early Saturday morning, sources told The Courier.

According to the FDNY, the incident happened at about 2 a.m. and after pulling the car out of the water, divers did not find a body.

It is believed that the driver either abandoned the car right before it hit the water or swam out of the car right after, authorities said.

There were police and a truck with a crane on scene to pull the car out of the bay.

The vehicle was then placed in the parking lot of Howard Beach Chiropractic, located on 160th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, sources said.

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The cause of the accident and the whereabouts and condition of the driver are still not known.

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Star of Queens: Joseph Thompson, president, Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Joe Thompson

Background: Born and raised in Brooklyn, Joseph Thompson joined his first Civilian Observation Patrol (COP) at the age of 16. He was an auxiliary police officer for the NYPD for 10 years. He moved to Howard Beach 19 years ago, where he lives with his wife and children. This summer, he noticed that the crime rate in his neighborhood was very high, but it was something his 9-year-old daughter said that compelled him to “get up off the couch and do something” about it, he said. He was watching the news with his daughter when they saw a story about their 72-year-old neighbor who had been punched in the face and robbed of her purse. The young girl told him, “That could have been grandma.” It motivated Thompson to put his experience in the field of security to use and start a civilian observation patrol.

Community Involvement: Thompson met with the local police officers and elected officials to discuss the idea. He incorporated the Howard Beach COP on June 26, 2014, and formed its structure over the next two months. The nonprofit, volunteer organization deals with quality-of-life issues such as potholes and graffiti. It went on its first patrol in August. In 68 days, they dealt with 148 incidents and had to call 911 only twice. They helped a neighbor find her daughter who had been missing for 38 hours. The volunteers also work to prevent crime. Recently, they went on a drive checking parked cars for unlocked doors. The organization runs on donations that are used to pay for gas for their two patrol cars, insurance, uniforms and other equipment.

Greatest Achievement: “Our motto is ‘We are neighbors helping neighbors,’” said Thompson. “My greatest achievement is getting neighbors together for the first time and create something that will bring about change, working together and helping each other. I am not doing this alone: it’s all the volunteers who work hard and help out even when it is 20 degrees outside.”

Biggest Challenge: “Trying to get volunteers and donations to keep the organization going is the biggest challenge,” said Thompson. “We have 22 volunteers now and need 40 to qualify for the NYPD Civilian Patrol. We are working on signing up more people.”

Inspiration: “My inspiration is Frank Kotnik, president of the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol. It is a nonprofit, and a sanctioned group with the NYPD. He started it 38 years ago. I often call him for advice and inspiration.”

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Hamilton Beach boardwalk project close to completion


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The final steps of the new Hamilton Beach boardwalk are being constructed and it could be opening up soon.

The “boardwalk,” which will now be a cement path connecting Hamilton Beach to Old Howard Beach, has been fully paved and railings have been installed, according to Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office, which is overseeing the plans.

The main portion of the project has been done by the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). The last remaining portion of it, which is to add the ramp connecting the train station to the boardwalk, has to be done in partnership with the MTA since they own that portion of the land.

Work started on the path in May and was scheduled to finish by the end of September, but building the ramp has prolonged this process.

“There are a couple of little things left to be done,” said Redmond Haskins, a representative from Ulrich’s office. “But the large portion of the project is completed.”

There is no set date for the opening as the office is still trying to figure out the plans with the MTA.

The boardwalk stretches about 2,000 feet and is used as the main walkway for residents in Hamilton Beach to get to and from the A-train station in Old Howard Beach. It was in disrepair for many years but became totally unusable when Superstorm Sandy hit the area.

Since 2012, residents have had a longer and more dangerous walk to the train because they have to travel on a street without a sidewalk to get out of the neighborhood.

The MTA did not immediately respond for a request of comment on the issue.

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Elmhurst woman writes Queens walking tour book


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Adrienne Onofri

One Elmhurst woman is hoping her new book will help readers step out their doors and take a stroll while exploring all that Queens has to offer.

Adrienne Onofri is the author behind “Walking Queens,” a new book that features 30 detailed walking tours through the borough exploring architecture, distinct cultures in different neighborhoods, historical landmarks, celebrity homes and natural scenery.

“There are one or two books about neighborhoods in Queens but really no guide book completely dedicated to Queens,” Onofri said. 

The opportunity to write this book came after Onofri, a licensed New York City sightseeing guide, wrote “Walking Brooklyn: 30 Tours Exploring Historical Legacies.” 

Her publisher became interested in doing a version for Queens, and Onofri said she jumped at the idea because a lot of people had asked her to write a walking tour book for the borough she has called home for decades.

“I liked the idea because I can say I live in Queens,” Onofri said. 

To compile the book, which took about a year to finish, Onofri traveled the borough on nothing but her two legs and public transportation. She sketched out routes based on what she already had in mind or knew she wanted to include. Other locations, she said, she roamed and discovered in order to create the detailed walks. 

“There are a lot of people that drive around and don’t get around in public transportation much,” Onofri said. “[The book] is just encouraging them to go a few neighborhoods over, which they would normally drive pass on the highway.”

The neighborhoods featured in the book go from Long Island City and Astoria all the way to Howard Beach and the Rockaways. Along with these, Onofri also spent time in the borough’s parks such as Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Alley Pond Park and Rockaway Park. 

The book, with photographs taken by the author, includes maps of the area that will be walked, nearby trains or buses, points of interest in the neighborhood, historical facts and detailed directions of how to get around. 

Part of the Hunters Point Historic District on 45th Ave. in Long Island City (Photo by  Adrienne Onofri)

Part of the Hunters Point Historic District on 45th Ave. in Long Island City (Photo by Adrienne Onofri)

“There are things you walk past and don’t notice,” Onofri said. “This book has the discoveries of things that you might not take the time to notice regularly.”

While working on the book, Onofri said she realized there were instances where she noticed things she hadn’t before. Also, one of the issues was trying to fit as much as she could in the 254-page book, with some things just not being able to be included. 

“There was a lot of stuff to learn, whether it was just some place I had been only a couple of times or a place I really didn’t know much about before,” she said. 

Onofri said she is still conducting tours in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. 

To contact Onofri to schedule a tour, email walkingqueens@gmail.com.

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Fire breaks out at Howard Beach building


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

A one-story commercial building on Cross Bay Boulevard caught fire Thursday evening.

Around 5:22 p.m., a fire broke out in the cockloft of the building, which houses Scott Baron and Associates Law Office, located at 159-49 Cross Bay Blvd., according to the FDNY.

Firefighters had the flames under control by about 6:00 p.m., the FDNY said.

About eight engine trucks were on scene.

There were no injuries, according to the FDNY.

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Abandoned home in Howard Beach cleaned up


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

After Superstorm Sandy hit, many houses in Howard Beach were destroyed, leaving homeowners who couldn’t pay for the repairs in a bind.

Now, some of those homes sit in the same condition they were in after the storm, abandoned and deteriorating.

During his nightly patrol on Nov. 11, Joe Thompson of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol (COP) noticed that one of these abandoned, Sandy-damaged homes had its door kicked in. He has been keeping a watchful eye on this house, on 155th Avenue and 78th Street in Lindenwood, because he knew the owners do not live there anymore.

He exited his patrol car, checked the house from the outside for any activity and then closed the door and secured it.

Thompson, realizing that the fact that no one lives at the house makes it a potential site for squatters, got in touch with some of the neighbors to see if they knew the whereabouts of the homeowner so he could get in contact with them. He was able to get a phone number and called the homeowner to ask for permission to secure the house to deter squatters from coming in.

The owners left for Florida because of the conditions of the house and their lack of money to fix it, according to Thompson. The windows had garbage bags on them, graffiti was drawn on the house, weeds were growing rapidly and there was a greenish tint on the side paneling of the house from the nearby tree.

“It hurts my heart to see someone’s home damaged and them not be able to do anything about it,” Thompson said.

After getting the OK, he went to the house with his patrol and started working on Nov. 15. They trimmed the weeds, took measurements of the windows on the first floor and went to Home Depot to buy the supplies with their own money.

The next day they came back and boarded up the windows and doors, making sure the property was secure and lessening the chance for any illegal activity to occur there.

“I know how it hurts when you don’t have any money to fix your home,” said Thompson, who had to move from his home when it was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy. “We are here to help the community and the residents here, and this is one way we were able to.”

Even though they already secured the home, Thompson and his team are going one step further. They will be coming back with a power washer to clean the greenish tint from the panels and try to wipe away the graffiti, making the home less of an eyesore for residents who live nearby. He’s also in the process of surveying Howard Beach for any other abandoned homes.

“This is what we do,” he noted. “We want to help get this neighborhood’s quality of life back.”

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Select Bus Service lanes to speed up travel along Woodhaven Boulevard


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA

Transit officials unveiled three potential designs for Woodhaven Boulevard’s new Select Bus Service (SBS), slated to be the first rapid transit lane in the city physically separated from traffic.

The MTA and Department of Transportation (DOT) have to choose whether to either quickly create designated lanes off-set from the curb with room for parking; extend sidewalks that would meet the off-set lanes; or dig up medians and build main road bus lanes.

Whichever design is chosen, the route will run from Queens Boulevard to the Rockaways and will allow for three lanes of traffic on both sides of the corridor.

In the first option, the off-set bus lanes would be one lane out from the curb, leaving space for parking along the boulevard. This option would warrant the least construction out of the three proposed routes.

Additionally, the DOT would build out the sidewalk at designated “SBS bus bulb stations.” In that case, the sidewalk would be extended out to the off-set bus lanes to allow more room for passengers waiting to get on the bus.

The second proposal would create main road bus lanes in the right lane throughout the designated area. From Union Turnpike to Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South to Rockaway Boulevard, it would run in the right lane of the main road corridor. Then, it would take the right lane from Rockaway Boulevard south to the Rockaways.

If main road bus lanes were put in, the DOT would come in and rip up much of the medians separating the main roads from the service roads and widen them so that people waiting for the bus have at least 7 to 10 feet of curb space to stand on.

They would also be building new medians in certain designated areas that have not all been determined yet.

For the final proposal, the red painted lanes would run through the middle of each corridor where the left lanes currently are.

To do this type of project, the DOT would come in and rip up the corridors that separate north- and south-bound traffic and expand them where necessary.

Furthermore, for the median lanes, north- and south-bound buses will travel right next to each other. For north-bound stops, the median for people to stand on will be on the east side of the bus, and for south-bound stops, travelers will wait on the west side.

All plans at this point are still being studied by the agencies. They will continue to work in more detail on every section of the boulevard for each proposal and will also have more community outreach, according to a representative who is working on the project.

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Pair suspected in second travel agency robbery


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Two suspects who tied up the employees of a Howard Beach travel agency during an armed robbery last week are likely connected to a second travel agency robbery in Queens just days later, authorities said.

In both incidents, the suspects tied up the business’s employees at gunpoint before trying to take money from the safe.

The suspects, both armed with guns, entered Liberty Travel on Cross Bay Boulevard about 9:40 a.m. on Nov. 7, and ordered its six employees to the back of the agency, police said. They then zip-tied the employees and asked for the location of the safe. The suspects then took an undetermined amount of money from the safe and the employees’ cell phones before fleeing.

Police believe the same two men robbed the Crown Travel Agency in South Richmond Hill on Wednesday morning.

Two men, one armed with a gun, entered the 118th Street business about 11 a.m. and zip-tied the employees. They then demanded that the employees open the safe. When they could not open it, the suspects took an undetermined amount of money from a cash tin in the office as well as jewelry and cash from the two employees and then fled.

Photos of the suspects captured during the robbery at Crown Travel Agency.

Photos of the suspects captured during the robbery at Crown Travel Agency.

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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