Tag Archives: Howard Beach

West Nile spraying to target south Queens

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of NYC Health Department

Another round of West Nile spraying is set for parts of Queens next week in an effort to reduce mosquito activity and the risk of the virus as some local residents are noticing the presence of more mosquitoes.

The treatment, which will include spraying pesticide from trucks, will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 24, between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Wednesday, Sept. 2, during the same hours.

Specifically, the spraying will include parts of Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Woodhaven, and will extend into neighboring parts of Brooklyn. The treatment area will be bordered by Atlantic Avenue, Euclid Avenue, Cypress Hills Street, Jackie Robinson Parkway, Vermont Street, Livona Avenue, Van Sinderen, Foster Avenue, Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road to the north; Paerdegat Avenue S. and Paerdegat Basin to the west; Jamaica Bay to the south; and Woodhaven Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard and the A train subway track to the east.

Howard Beach residents have contacted Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and state Senator Joseph Addabbo to call for increased mosquito spraying in the area, pointing to the increase in abandoned houses and standing water that have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

For these sprayings, the Health Department will use a very low concentration of the synthetic pesticide Anvil 10+10, which poses no significant risks to human health when properly used.

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.


Missing Howard Beach man, known as ‘Second Avenue Sinatra,’ found dead in apparent suicide

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook/Gary Russo- 2nd Ave Sinatra

A missing Howard Beach man who gained notoriety as the “Second Avenue Sinatra” for singing American standards at the subway construction site was discovered dead Friday inside a park near his home in an apparent suicide, police said.

Gary Russo, 54, who became famous in 2011 after a YouTube video of him singing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” during his lunch break while working as an iron worker at the Second Avenue subway site went viral, was last seen at 12:15 a.m. on July 28 at his home on 90th Street near 156th Avenue.

Police found Russo at 2 p.m. Friday inside Spring Creek Park near 165th Avenue and 92nd Street with a rope around his neck hanging from a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A few days after Russo was reported missing, a law enforcement source said on Aug. 6 that police and local volunteer firefighters searched the Spring Creek area for any evidence of Russo, but nothing was found.

According to published reports, Russo hadn’t been heard from since he went missing and had apparently been feeling down after a breakup with his girlfriend.

For local residents and workers, Russo’s daily performances were a relief from the ongoing construction noise. After the video of Russo singing went viral, he went on to be featured on “Good Morning America” and other news outlets.

Russo also covered some of Sinatra’s greatest hits during a show at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Room, and co-wrote with psychologist Dr. Andrea Goeglein a self-help book, “Don’t Die with Your Song Unsung,” on the power of “positive psychology” and setting goals to find happiness.



Howard Beach native elected governor of New York Kiwanis

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook/Joel Harris

After one year acting as lieutenant governor of the Queens West Kiwanis, Stephen Sirgiovanni realized he wanted to make a bigger difference. The Howard Beach native accomplished this when he was elected governor of New York Kiwanis on Aug. 15.

Sirgiovanni’s campaign trail spanned across all of New York state, from his hometown in Howard Beach to Niagara Falls. His father was one of the founding members of the Howard Beach Kiwanis and Sirgiovanni grew up volunteering around his community. He raised $18,000 for juvenile diabetes as lieutenant governor and also raised money for local Howard Beach nonprofit New York Families for Autistic Children.

“I started to run for governor because I knew I could make a difference and implement what I want to do,” Sirgiovanni said.

He will start his position as governor-elect on Oct. 1 and shadow New York District Governor Forbes Irvine for one year as he learns how to take over an organization with more than 7,000 members and 250 clubs.

Sirgiovanni is looking forward to attracting more members and expanding Kamp Kiwanis, a free summer camp for 800 children 8 to 14. He also wants to raise money for the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center, which aims to reduce trauma-related death and injuries for children. Pediatric lyme disease, cerebral palsy and autism are among the causes he wants to raise funds for.

Support from the Howard Beach community, including elected officials, has poured in, he said, because his community involvement has been extensive. Though he was deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, Sirgiovanni still found time to deliver food to relief centers all across Queens.

“The work that I do, I do for the community and for the children,” Sirgiovanni said.


Howard Beach resident starts petition to install lighting along Jamaica Bay Greenway path

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Valerie Lyn Brooks

Updated 3:50 p.m.

Lifelong Howard Beach resident Angelica Katz compares cycling along the Belt Parkway to entering a cave, with animals like raccoons and possums sporadically scurrying around you.

Katz, who has been riding her bike along Jamaica Bay since she was 14, started a petition on Aug. 20 to convince the Parks Department to install lights along the Jamaica Bay Greenway bike path to illuminate the way for bikers and pedestrians.

“It’s not just important; it’s completely necessary,” Katz said. “Once you get off the Marine Parkway Bridge, it is really desolate. It’s dark to the point where you feel like you just walked into a cave and you can’t even see your hand in front of you at night.”

Though the lack of lights has always been a problem, Katz said the recent Jamaica Bay Greenway plan that aims to revitalize the 19-mile route inspired her to start a petition. After contacting representatives associated with the plan, she found that the land consisting of the loop is Parks Department property and that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would be taking care of the construction. Katz was told installing lights along the loop is not in the plan.

“The whole road is going to look beautiful but you won’t be able to see any of it,” Katz said. “It just seems kind of ridiculous. That’s what pushed me over the edge.”

Her petition, which had 64 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, asks the DOT, Regional Plan Association and National Parks service to “ensure this plan includes adequate path lighting that will create a safe environment for all cyclists and pedestrians while connecting the beautiful and unique parks, wetlands and beaches surrounding Jamaica Bay.”

After 100 people electronically sign the petition, Katz hopes to send it to community boards and parties associated with the plan to show the support that surrounding communities like Howard Beach, Rockaway and Broad Channel have for the plan.

Several people who signed the petition also expressed their concerns in the comments section, including Denise Sodano, a Belle Harbor resident who said she travels the route often and finds it “very dangerous.”

“It’s really comforting to know that it’s not just me, a resident waving my fist,” Katz said. “Everybody who uses the bike path feels like this.”

Planning meetings and workshops took place across communities in southeast Queens this summer to discuss the implementation of the plan and Katz hopes this petition is reflected in the final plan, which will be unveiled this fall.

“Safety is our first priority,” a spokesperson for the Parks Department said. “We are heartened by the enthusiasm for biking in this area, and we are open to exploring the feasibility of installing lights along this path with the Department of Transportation.”


Pols call for end to JFK employees parking on residential streets

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

Residents living near JFK International Airport say they’ve had enough of airport employees parking on residential streets and are asking local city and state representatives to do something about it.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder recently sent letters to the top 10 freight and passenger airlines to request that they actively pursue solutions to the problem. JFK employees are reportedly parking their cars in Howard Beach, Ozone Park and other neighborhoods near the airport and then taking the AirTrain to work.

“TSA and other airport employees should be parking their vehicles on Port
Authority property, not in front of homes in Ozone Park and Howard Beach,” Ulrich said. “Hopefully they will take action to alleviate this problem to free up much-needed parking for homeowners.”

Howard Beach resident Alison Zinkeiwicz said JFK employees who park in residential streets also contribute to the uncleanliness in the area.

“Not only is it a inconvenience for resident parking, but most do not have any regard for the cleanliness of our streets,” Zinkeiwicz said in a Facebook post. “They’ve thrown litter onto our sidewalks and streets from their vehicles without a second thought.”

Mary Filomena, a Howard Beach resident of 20 years who lives near the AirTrain station in Howard Beach, says this problem has been ongoing for several years, with people parking on her block to not only use the AirTrain but to avoid paying for parking in the LIRR parking lots.

“These residents who live around the station have put up with this parking problem long enough and deserve to enjoy their property and use the streets around it,” Filomena said. “I have health problems and can not walk to the train station from my house, however short the walk, I need to park my car close by and I can never do this. ”

Goldfeder and Ulrich are scheduled to meet with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) authorities this month to brainstorm possible solutions. According to the Port Authority website, JFK airport employs 37,000 people. In their letter, the elected officials pointed out that the Howard Beach AirTrain station has accommodated 700,000 passengers this year.

“Our middle-class families work hard and deserve to enjoy the community they invested in, without having to spend their days and nights circling the block looking for parking,” Goldfeder said.

A spokesperson from the TSA said they will have a better idea of  next steps to solve this problem after their meeting with Goldfeder and Ulrich.


Queens business owners in Bayside and Glendale charged with tax fraud

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

A couple that owns a Bayside gas station and a Glendale flower shop owner were recently charged for tax-related felonies, prosecutors announced on Thursday.

The owners of Merrick Gas Services, Rajpatee Rampersaud, 45, and her husband Naren Rampersaud, 52, were charged with grand larceny in the second degree and criminal tax fraud in the second degree. The owners, who operate the gas station as a CITGO on 34-51 Bell Blvd., were also slapped with a misdemeanor for operating without a valid Certificate of Authority to collect sales tax.

They failed to pay a total tax liability of $166,810 from September 2009 through May 2014 on cigarettes, sales, withholding and corporate taxes. The Rampersauds also failed to secure a license to sell cigarettes.


Naren Rampersaud and Rajpatee Rampersaud (Photo courtesy of NYS Department of Taxation and Finance)

“This is yet another example of business owners allegedly lining their own pockets with collected sales tax money that should have been remitted to the government,” State Taxation and Finance Commissioner Jerry Boone said. “The city and state rely on collected taxes to fund programs and services for the public. Stealing tax revenue is a crime and makes every New Yorker a victim.”

Also charged was Brian Marcus, 56, of Howard Beach who owns and operates Glendale Florist at 78-17 Myrtle Ave. Marcus was charged with six counts of criminal tax fraud in the second and third degree, two counts of grand larceny in the third degree and grand larceny in the second degree. He was also charged with a misdemeanor for failing to maintain a Certificate of Authority.

Brian Marcus - Photo (NFMC)

Brian Marcus (Photo courtesy of NYS Department of Taxation and Finance)

From December 2011 through February 2015, Marcus failed to report $71,107 of sales tax to the state. He also did not file a personal income tax return in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

All three defendants could face up to 5 to 15 years in prison. The maximum penalty for operating a business without a valid Certificate of Authority is $10,000, which is imposed at the rate of up to $500 for the first day business is conducted without a valid Certificate of Authority, plus up to $200 per day for each day after.


Howard Beach softball team X-Bays crowned 2015 champs

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the X-Bays

The X-Bays, a softball team started as a fun activity for friends living in the Howard Beach area, celebrated their third championship in five years on Sunday and several moves up the Queens Metro ASA Softball League division ladder.

The team, made up of men in their early 20s to mid 40s, was formed in 2009 but did not play a full season until 2010. According to co-manager Anthony Galetto, the X-Bays were “really bad” the first year but steadily continued to improve. After starting out in division C3, the X-Bays moved up to division C1 for the 2013 championships, where they were nearly undefeated.

“It’s amazing,” Galetto said. “We’ve been here before so we knew what it would take to get here. It’s an odd year. It seems like in the past three years we’ve been winning in odd years so we kinda knew it was our time.”

Galetto attributed the win to the team’s selfless style of play and the older players’ willingness to step down and let the “younger, maybe more experienced players get in there and do their thing.”

Two of the key players were starting pitcher Joel Lopez, who has been playing for two years, and Jose Torrez, who Galetto described as a championship MVP.

“Nobody can touch him,” Galetto said of Lopez. “He’s been an absolute phenom.”

Most of the players have families and sacrifice their Sundays to practice and play. Galetto, who along with Baker lives closest to Frank M. Charles Park where most games are played, drives to the park after work at 3 p.m. on Saturdays to maintain it.

After several complaints from community members about the condition of the softball field, the Parks Department, Gateway National Recreation Area and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder worked together to level the infields, repair the outfields and provide players with equipment to make minor game day repairs.

Galetto said he is happy to see that the improved field is now also being used by little league softball teams. Though the extra use has made it somewhat difficult to maintain, the Parks Department is only a phone call away.

“The Gateway guys have been great,” Galetto said. “Whenever I need something, I just pick up the phone and call somebody.”

The X-Bays defeated the Nobodies in division B1 and are waiting to hear back from the league about their ranking. The team’s 20-5-1 record was the best in the entire league this season and Galetto is confident and excited to play against teams in division A. His celebration was short lived because after winning, Galetto had to drive to work.

“I celebrated by getting a bottle of champagne [dumped on me], soaked in alcohol, with a tear in my eye and getting in my car and driving to work,” Galetto said. “But I took a shower first worrying about being pulled over and being late for work.”


Ozone Park auto body shop owner charged with tax fraud

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Image via Google Maps


An Ozone Park auto body repair shop and its owner have been charged with criminal tax fraud and grand larceny for allegedly stealing more than $125,000 in collected taxes that were owed to New York State and local municipalities.

Stephanie Davino, 31, of Howard Beach, and her business, A&W Auto Collision Center Inc., located at 104-11 101st St., have been charged with multiple degrees of criminal tax fraud, grand larceny, scheme to defraud and conspiracy, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

According to the criminal complaint, Davino failed to file a single sales tax return between Jan. 26, 2012, and March 3, 2014. However, her business performed $1.4 million in repairs during that time, collecting payments from GEICO, State Farm, Allstate, Progressive and USAA insurance companies. The total amount of sales tax owed to the city and state from this time totaled to about $125,700 ($61,965 to New York State and $63,735 to local municipalities).

“Sales taxes are meant for the public treasury – not the pockets of business owners. By purposefully defrauding the state and local government out of these funds – that could have been used in the public interest – the money instead allegedly lined the pocketbook of this businesswoman. This kind of tax fraud makes every New Yorker a victim,” Brown said.

Davino has been released on her own recognizance and has been ordered to return to court on Sept. 30.

If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison and her business will be fined $10,000, or double the amount that was illegally gained.


$8.9 million secured for JFK Airport runway upgrades

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The second of a three-phase improvement plan for one of JFK Airport’s runways will use $8.9 million in federal funding to improve safety measures and reduce the time planes spend on the ground, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Friday.

The project, which began construction in July 2014 on Runway 4L-22R, will be completed in December 2015 with a number of key upgrades, including high-speed taxiways to allow airplanes to exit runways at higher speeds. This addition will allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to more efficiently use the airfield and avoid delays.

The safety zones at both ends of the runway will also be extended 1,000 feet to comply with an enhanced FAA requirement. Navigational aid and electrical systems will be replaced and upgraded as part of the $292 million reconstruction project.

“This funding is another step forward in our efforts to reinvent New York’s airports for the 21st century,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who secured funding along with Gillibrand, Senator Charles Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio. “By upgrading JFK’s runways and its supporting infrastructure, we are fundamentally improving its ability to meet the demands of modern air travel. That means reducing delays for thousands of passengers every day, and I look forward to seeing this project get underway.”​​

The temporary closing of Runway 4L-22R has resulted in headaches for Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach residents. Constant air pollution and low-flying airplanes have plagued these neighborhoods now that one less runway is being utilized. According to State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, residents have been calling his office to express their concerns about the increased noise and airplane traffic.

“Whenever the Port Authority or any federal employees are repairing a runway, I do appreciate the work being done there but of course it does also mean a detriment to my constituents because it changes air traffic patterns,” Addabbo said. “Once they started the work on the runway at JFK, certainly there has been a significant increase in complaints from my constituents.”

Addabbo noted that a constituent reached out to him recently after witnessing infrastructure damage to his house because of low flying planes. A recent Hamilton Beach town hall meeting was interrupted every two minutes because of airplane noise, he said.

Addabbo, who has lived near JFK Airport in Ozone Park his entire life, said that while technology has allowed for airplanes to emit less noise, air traffic has become more frequent in the last several years and skies will continue to become more crowded as the airline industry expands.

He encourages that people experiencing problems because of the construction reach out to city, state and, more importantly, federal officials and to fill out a noise complaint form on the Port Authority website.

“It can’t happen fast enough,” Addabbo said of the construction, which is supposed to largely be completed by September.


Howard Beach man, known for crooning at Second Avenue subway dig, missing

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via YouTube/david fischer

Police continue to search for a missing ironworker from Howard Beach who became an Internet celebrity for singing American standards at the Second Avenue subway construction site in Manhattan.

Gary Russo, 54, was last seen at 12:15 a.m. on July 28 at his residence on 90th Street near 156th Avenue. His family reported him missing to the 106th Precinct a week later.

Dubbed the “Second Avenue Sinatra,” Russo became famous in 2011 after a YouTube video surfaced of him singing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” during his lunch break while working at the Second Avenue subway site on York Avenue.

According to published reports, Russo quickly gained a following from local residents and workers who considered his daily, 30-minute performances as a respite from the ongoing, noisy dig.

The video went viral, and Russo went on to be featured on “Good Morning America.” He also covered some of Sinatra’s greatest hits during a periodic show at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Room.

He also co-wrote with psychologist Dr. Andrea Goeglein a self-help book, “Don’t Die with Your Song Unsung,” which speaks to the power of “positive psychology” and setting goals to find happiness.

The Huffington Post reported in March that Russo took up singing as a way to fight depression after going through a divorce. Quoting family members, WCBS-TV reported that Russo became depressed recently following the death of a friend. On his Facebook page, Russo posted pictures in June of a houseboat he was working on at a location in Brooklyn.

Photo via Facebook/Gary Russo- 2nd Ave Sinatra

Photo via Facebook/Gary Russo- 2nd Ave Sinatra

A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said on Thursday that detectives and local volunteer firefighters searched the Spring Creek area for any evidence of Russo, but nothing was found.

Russo stands 5 foot 9 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. There was no description of what he was wearing the last time anyone saw him.

Anyone with information regarding Russo’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.


Howard Beach focus of storm resilience report

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

Howard Beach was the focus of a Nature Conservancy report meant to study how nature-based defenses and man-made infrastructure can be used to protect communities from the impacts of climate change.

The Urban Coastal Resilience Report, which focused on Howard Beach because the neighborhood is low-lying and densely populated, found that combining nature-based features like mussel beds and restored marsh with “gray” defenses such as seawalls and flood gates could result in avoided losses in Howard Beach of up to $244 million.

“Man-made infrastructure used to be the default for most discussions about protecting at-risk communities,” said Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York. “Now, science is showing us that natural defenses like dunes, wetlands, mussel beds, forests and oyster reefs can help to keep us safe from future disasters by absorbing floodwaters, reducing wave energy and helping defend against storm surges.”

Approximately 1,958 homes, 38 businesses and two schools in Howard Beach suffered damage when Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in October 2012. In the months that followed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a resiliency project along Spring Creek and Jamaica Bay to protect homes and businesses from storm surges.

According to the report, New York is likely to face more intense and frequent rainstorms by 2050 and sea levels are projected to rise by 11 to 30 inches. If these projected numbers become a reality, Howard Beach could be at risk of daily or weekly tidal inundation even without a storm.

The 250-page report includes five suggestions for reducing damage sustained by storms. The fourth option, which is the most cost-effective at $45.5 million, includes adding restored marsh habitat on the coast, hard toe mussel beds along the shoreline, floodgates along the Belt Parkway to protect against storm surge and rising sea levels, and rock groins on the shoreline to help prevent erosion.

Though Howard Beach was the focus of the study, the five solutions can act as templates for all neighborhoods looking to mitigate dangerous and costly damage as a result of natural disasters.

“The type of analysis in the Urban Coastal Resilience report complements the work done in OneNYC, New York City’s strategic plan, and is a great example of how the public, private and nonprofit sectors can be ready to withstand and emerge stronger from the impacts of climate change and other 21st-century threats,” said Daniel Zarrilli, director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency.


Howard Beach CVS worker slashed by ice cream thief: cops

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo and video courtesy of NYPD

A 62-year-old employee was attacked at the Howard Beach CVS Monday night as he was trying to stop a shoplifter looking for ice cream during the heat, authorities said.

The suspect entered the store, located at 157-05 Cross Bay Blvd., about 11:40 p.m., where he attempted to take the frozen dessert and flee, according to police. A worker tried to stop the thief from leaving and was slashed with an unknown object. The suspect was then able to get away with the ice cream.

EMS transported the victim to a local hospital and was treated for two lacerations to his forehead.

1806-15 Robbery 106 pct 7-27-15Police have released a photo and video footage of the suspect, who they describe as a black male, about 6 feet tall, 200 pounds and with black hair. He was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.


20-mile bike ride in Howard Beach to benefit two organizations

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYFAC

Cyclists looking to ride for a cause will convene in Howard Beach for the second annual “Loop” helping two local charities.

The Loop, a 20-mile bike ride that begins in Howard Beach and benefits the NYFAC Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), will take place this Sunday, August 2.

The trail starts at NYFAC’s headquarters at 164-14 Cross Bay Blvd., snakes through Flatbush, Brooklyn, near Floyd Bennett Field and then ends back on Cross Bay Boulevard.

Tonia Cimino, director of development for NYFAC, said a discussion between Loop Chair Annmarie Gurino, the NYFAC foundation board and the JDRF board of directors spurred the creation of the event.

They chose a bike ride because “it is something that is very healthy and it engages a lot of people and it engages people from all walks of life and it’s a great way to have fun, get moving and give back,” Cimino said.

Registration for the event is $40 and includes entry to a barbecue after the ride and a “rider’s bag,” which includes a water bottle and other goodies, according to Cimino. People who pre-register for the event can pick up their bag at Sports Authority at 550 Gateway Dr. on Saturday, Aug. 1, and will also receive a 20 percent discount on purchases.

NYFAC was created in 1998 to1998 with a mission of “Helping parents, help their children, one family at a time,” according to Cimino, and provides clinical services, recreational services, and support services to educate and bring together family members of children with autism.

JDRF, which has hosted walks to raise money for diabetes research in Howard Beach for seven years, is the leading global organization funding Type 1 diabetes research.

Last year, more than 200 people participated in the bike ride and raised $15,000. Cimino said she is hoping they can double the amount of money raised this year.

“People love it,” Cimino said. “Last year, during the inaugural ride they came back and they literally said, ‘When’s the next one?'”

There will also be a 10-mile loop for those who do not want to commit to the full 20 miles. Cimino said the organizations are still looking for volunteers and anyone interested in donating their time to the event can call her at 347-566-3122 ext. 305.

To register, visit the NYFAC website here.


Howard Beach cabbie to the stars ‘Mr. Ferrarii’ has big plans

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Manny Anzalota

Howard Beach resident Manny Anzalota has been a New York City taxi driver for seven years but after one fateful encounter in October last year, he became “Mr. Ferrarii” — taxi driver to the stars.

Anzalota’s interaction with actor Tom Hanks has been well-documented, resulting in a post on the popular Humans of New York Facebook page; a two-page spread in InTouch Weekly; television appearances on the “Today” show and “Good Morning America”; and countless interviews in print, television and radio outlets all around the world.

After declining to give Hanks a ride at the end of his shift, Anzalota had a change of heart. He quickly recognized Hanks’ voice in the back of the cab and, mimicking Hanks’ character in the movie Cast Away, jokingly yelled out, “Wilson!”

He received a nickname from Hanks — Mr. Ferrarii because of the car logo emblazoned on his hat and shirt.

When Brandon Stanton, founder of the popular blog Humans of New York, also happened to enter Anzalota’s cab, the cabbie told Stanton his story, and Anzalota received requests for interviews from all over the world.

“The day that I went viral, everyone was calling me,” Anzalota said. “I was home for two days, my stomach was turning. I was getting lots of followers. My Facebook page went from 100 followers to about 7,000 in a matter of hours and I’m reading all the nice things people are telling me.”

Anzalota is now using his newfound fame to raise money for several organizations. Lifeline Energy, a nonprofit that designs, manufactures and distributes solar-powered and wind-up media players and radios for classroom and community listening, is teaming up with Anzolata to spread the organization’s mission. The ambassador to the nonprofit is a good friend of Anzalota’s — Tom Hanks.

“I managed to get the project guy in my car that works with Tom Hanks,” Anzalota said. “I get a lot of people to go to the site and contribute.”

Anzalota has lent his name to anti-bullying organizations, childhood cancer foundations and Girl Scouts selling cookies.

“Every time I see something going on I stop my car, come out with my [InTouch Weekly] magazine, explain to them who I am,” Anzalota said. “They love me right away. I engage with people walking and I sell out all the cookies in a matter of minutes.”

Anzalota is also working with Jack Giambanco, creator of Friendship Lights to spread “peace, love and unity” through glowing LED charms.

The cabbie is also working on creating a coffee table book with pictures and anecdotes from his passengers. He has been documenting his passengers’ stories for a while, he said, but has just started posting his collection to social media in the past few months.

“I just started learning social media in the last eight months,” Anzalota said. “I’m not that savvy tech-wise.”

His most ambitious plan is to install cameras into his taxi and conduct mini interviews with celebrities on their way to talk shows.

“That’s my goal and basically, if things work out and I’m making money, I definitely would like to buy an antique car, have pro cameras, drive people for free in the city and get their stories and donate the money to a great charity,” Anzalota said. “Every week will be a different charity.”



Howard Beach sisters demand improvements to Frank M. Charles Memorial Park

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

They just want their park back.

That is the message Sheri Volkes and Debra McCann are trying to relay to the National Parks Service about Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Howard Beach.

The sisters have lived in Howard Beach for two years, and Volkes said Charles Park was a big part of their attraction to the neighborhood. But the sisters quickly realized that the federal park was not being maintained.

“The beach is filled with debris,” Volkes said. “The handball courts are disgraceful. The basketball courts are disgraceful. The park is supposed to be closed at dusk and nobody patrols it. Nobody stops anything.”

Volkes said people from outside of the Howard Beach community use the beach for sacrificial rituals and residents frequently see and smell dead chickens and rotting fruit. People also barbecue on the grassy area by placing the charcoal directly onto the grass, which damages the area, she said.

Volkes and her sister started an online petition that has garnered 356 signatures so far and also held a petition drive two weeks ago to persuade others in the community to sign it. Volkes and McCann, who have dubbed themselves “two girls on a mission” will be hosting another petition drive this Saturday and representatives from Melinda Katz’ office will be there to inspect the neglected park.

“I love that park and it could be a beauty if taken care of properly,” Vicki Carbone said in a post on the online petition.

The baseball fields in the park were recently renovated after several residents, including local softball team X-Bays, told Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder about the poor conditions. But Volkes said those changes are not enough.

“The park needs to be cleaned,” Volkes said. “It needs to be restored. The handball courts need to be painted. The playground needs to be safe. The rituals need to stop. The residents are tired of hearing the beating drums, the stench from whatever is burning.”

Daphne Yu, a spokesperson for the National Parks Service said that the agency has collaborated with community groups throughout the year to keep the park clean. According to Yu, the agency is working with the Charles Park Conservation Society through a youth employment program to have two students at the park three times a week for maintenance.

“This is all above and beyond the maintenance and cleanup our own staff provides for this site, which happens daily,” Yu said.

She also said that any group that wants to help keep the area clean can contact Keith White, volunteer coordinator for the park at Keith_White@nps.gov.

Volkes said it should not be the responsibility of Howard Beach residents to clean up the park, especially if people outside of the community are the ones causing the damage.

“It’s sad when a kid comes over to you and says, ‘I hope you clean up the park because this way my parents will take me there,'” Volkes said.