Tag Archives: Howard Beach

Lewd graffiti scrawled on Hamilton Beach footbridge


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Graffiti is nothing new for Hamilton Beach residents. But residents are alarmed over new racist slurs and sexually suggestive images scrawled on a graffiti-covered footbridge connecting the small neighborhood to Howard Beach.

The bridge, which is known as “the blue bridge” to locals and goes over Hawtree Creek, has always been a hangout spot for kids smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, according to Marie Persans, a Hamilton Beach resident. And it has always been laden with graffiti but over the weekend someone, or group, sprayed a series of offensive terms and images on the bridge.

“You’ve got some really nasty stuff written over there,” Persans said. “Thank goodness I don’t use that bridge too often.”

Barbara Eckel-Schimmenti wrote on Facebook, “Walked over the bridge with grandchildren [and] was embarrassed by the profanity.”

A police source said that residents should report these incidents as often as possible to the police, but since the bridge is owned by the Department of Transportation (DOT) there is only so much they can do. For now, the 106 Precinct’s graffiti unit has been informed of the issue.

A spokesman for the DOT said, “We will inspect the location. DOT attempts to remove any such objectionable graffiti as soon as possible.”

Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association, said that the bridge also has broken lights and that he brought these issues to Councilman Eric Ulrich’s attention.

The councilman’s office did not immediately return calls for comment.

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Howard Beach residents to start neighborhood watch group


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Image Courtesy of Joe Thompson

BY SALVATORE LICATA

Howard Beach is hoping to add a few more sets of eyes and ears to its streets in hopes of preventing crime.

The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, is a soon-to-be nonprofit group of residents that will be keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood. In an effort to keep crime down, volunteers of the group will patrol the neighborhood and report to the police any suspicious activity that may be going on.

“Howard Beach residents are screaming for assistance,” Joe Thompson, president and founder of the organization, said. “We are going to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and it is up to us as a community to report any crimes.”

Thompson said he decided to start the patrol group after hearing resident’s concerns at community meetings.

Crime is down slightly so far this year in the 106th Precinct, but a recent rash of burglaries in Howard Beach set off fears in the community.

Thompson has over 30 years of experience in community watch groups and was an auxiliary police officer for 10 years. He said he hopes this group will help to prevent crime from happening but also noted that his patrol units will take no physical action if they see suspicious activity.

“We will have uniforms but no weapons at all,” Thompson said. “We will not take any action against criminals, our job is to just report what we see to the police. We don’t want to be seen as vigilantes.”

Thompson said he has met with the 106th Precinct and government officials and has their okay to go along with the program as long as the group goes through the proper training and follows the guidelines of community watch groups, as stated by the community affairs office of the NYPD.

“We are always looking for people to get involved,” said Kenneth Zorn, the community affairs officer for the 106th Precinct. “It is a large commitment but these people volunteer their time to help improve the quality of life for the community.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo also offered his support to Thompson – but not without some concern.

“We must make it very clear that volunteers must go through the proper training before they patrol,” Addabbo said. “But if it is done correctly it is a positive community program.”

The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol will hold their first meeting/recruitment session on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Helen’s School at 157-10 83rd St.

Thompson hopes to gain support for his initiative with other residents at the meeting.

For more information follow Thompson via Twitter @HowardBeachCOP.

 

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Woman pepper-sprayed on A train in Howard Beach: report


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via MTA Flickr: Marc A. Hermann/ MTA New York City Transit

BY SALVATORE LICATA

An altercation between two women on the A train at the Howard Beach stop this morning, led to one being pepper-sprayed, according to a published report.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., on the Manhattan-bound train, the argument broke out which led to the victim being sprayed with the substance, the New York Post reported.

The entire train was evacuated and 18 passengers were treated on site for eye irritation, officials said.

“Anytime there is Mace or pepper spray in an enclosed area like that, you have to remove people from the immediate location,” police officials told the paper. “So the train was evacuated as a precaution.”

There have yet to be any reports of an arrest and one person was sent to Jamaica Hospital for further evaluation, officials said.

 

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‘Eyesore’ no more; Coleman Square to get more garbage pickups


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

 SALVATORE LICATA

Updated Thursday, June 12, 11:50 a.m.

The Department of Sanitation said it will improve clean-up efforts at the Coleman Square Station in response to a letter from a politician describing the square as an “eyesore.”

The collection of garbage will increase from two days a week to three and there will be an additional litter basket added to the area in order to improve conditions at the transportation hub, according to Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for DSNY.

“After careful consideration, Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia has approved an additional litter basket collection for the Coleman Square Station in Howard Beach,” Dawkins said.

Along with the additional pickups, DSNY said it will monitor the area making sure efforts are correcting the condition.

Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder said in his letter that conditions at Coleman Square presented a public health concern because overflowing garbage was attracting birds and rats who feed on the trash.

“I applaud the Department of Sanitation for their quick response to my letter and for their immediate action to keep our community clean,” he said.

 

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Lindenwood resident missing since Monday


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Luz Lopez

Update: Daniel Otero was found Thursday morning in a Mount Vernon, N.Y. hospital 

Police are searching for 24-year-old Daniel Otero, who went missing Monday in Lindenwood.

Otero has schizophrenia and his family blames the mental disability for his disappearance. The family is particularly worried about his disappearance because he’s never done anything like this before.

“He’s very scared of everything and he’ll listen to anything a stranger tells him to do,” Luz Lopez, Otero’s sister, said. “If you tell him to jump off a roof he’ll do it.”

Otero disappeared after walking a relative to Lindenwood’s P.S. 232 on Monday and in the early hours of Tuesday he briefly appeared in Wyckoff Heights Medical Center before disappearing again, according to Lopez, who found out about the visit after calling all the local hospitals in the area.

A representative from Wyckoff Medical Center confirmed that Otero flagged an ambulance down in Lindenwood around 3 a.m. Tuesday, complaining about neck pains. In the hospital they found that his calves were covered with ticks but since there was nothing wrong with him and he appeared to be alert and coherent he was allowed to leave the hospital at 5 a.m. It was only later that day that cops alerted all hospitals to keep Otero if he shows up again.

Lopez and her friend Phelipa Mirabile spent Tuesday night and Wednesday spreading out missing person fliers with basic information about Otero.

Otero takes several different medications for his schizophrenia and Lopez worries that the longer he stays missing, the harder it will be to find him. He was released from Queens Hospital on June 6 for treatment.

“He’ll get more and more disoriented as time goes by,” she said. “He’s very sweet and religious. He wouldn’t hurt anybody but we’re afraid others will hurt him.”

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Authorities and Hamilton Beach residents use trucks to fight trucks


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Roger Gendron

Police towed three trucks and one school bus illegally parked in Hamilton Beach on Monday and Tuesday in a new effort to stop an old problem, according to authorities.

“It’s an out of the way location, a hidden spot where they think they’re safe parking overnight,” Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff of the 106th Precinct said. “It’s a quality of life issue for the locals.”

The police have also issued summonses for unregistered cars parked in the small neighborhood that is already ailed with other transportation issues like small, narrow two-way roads and potholes. Residents and police are hoping that this will be enough to put an end to a problem that has been going on for several years, according to Schiff.

While Hamilton Beach may seem like a good hiding place for truck and car owners illegally parked in the area, Schiff is paying close attention to residents’ complaints and plans on towing more trucks in the near future. But part of the problem of towing such large vehicles is that special, heavy-duty tow trucks are needed and the NYPD has a limited amount of these tow trucks.

“There are 76 commands in New York City that want the same thing done,” Schiff said. “So it’s a logistical thing. This wouldn’t be a problem if you could use regular tow trucks.”

 

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Walk-in medical facility to open in Howard Beach


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

A brand-new walk-in medical center will soon be opening up in Howard Beach.

On Crossbay Boulevard and 165th Avenue, ProHEALTH, one of the largest integrated physician groups in New York City, is starting construction on an urgent care center. It will be the second urgent care center on the boulevard along with Medysis a half mile to the north.

The center will serve walk-in patients, both children and adults, according to the sign that was hung up on the building. It will also offer gastroenterology services, expanding the medical practice of Dr. Frank Gerardi, whose current office is at 156th Avenue and Crossbay Boulevard.

The exact date of when the center will open is unclear; ProHEALTH did not respond to a phone call on the matter.

 

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Goldfeder demands cleanup of Howard Beach ‘eyesore’


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

Garbage bags, cigarette butts and an overflowing trash can greet commuters and locals in Coleman Square every day, charged a politician who is demanding a cleanup of the area.

Given the large volume of people passing through the Howard Beach square to jump on the A train, garbage pick-up and removal has become a major issue surrounding the two-block square, Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder said.

“There are simply not enough trash cans or a reliable pick-up schedule to accommodate the volume of litter that is produced in this area,” Goldfeder said. “The Coleman Square Station constantly remains an eyesore for our community.”

Goldfeder has sent a letter to the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), requesting that there be additional trash cans added to the area along with more frequent garbage pick-ups in an effort to clean up the mess that has plagued the square.

The square currently has just one DSNY trash can which is constantly overflowing with garbage. It is common to see empty bottles and littered papers blowing right by the memorial war shrines that are set up in the square.

“It is the obligation of the Sanitation Department to provide more cans and more frequent pick-ups to support the volume of traffic at Coleman Square,” Goldfeder said. “Our families deserve to live in a community where they can comfortably enjoy the summer weather outdoors without being surrounded by unsightly garbage.”

Goldfeder is waiting for a response from the DSNY, which did not immediately return a call for comment.

 

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Claims pour in to city after sewage backup


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Nearly 200 Queens residents filed claims against the city in the last week after storms left their homes swamped in rainwater and sewage, officials said.

One hundred of those claims came from homeowners in Howard Beach and Lindenwood flooded, who filed notice of claim forms supplied by city Comptroller Scott Stringer against the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), according to Stringer’s office.

“We are going to do everything we can to get your money back,” Stringer said during a Howard Beach civic association meeting on May 27.

His staff handed out the forms at that meeting so people could submit them submit directly to his office, rather than file one through a lawyer. A notice of claim is usually a precursor to a lawsuit unless the claimant and the city come to an agreement over payment.

There are another 78 claims from other Queens residents who were affected by the storm, Stringer’s office said.

For the locals who didn’t see much water damage during Superstorm Sandy, the flooding from the April 30 rainstorm was surprising, according to residents.

But, according to the DEP, the flooding was not caused by nature. It was the result of a backflow from a local wastewater and sewage facility that is run by the agency. During rainstorms, the Spring Creek Facility is supposed to release the excess water into Jamaica Bay. But, according to the DEP, recently installed sensors failed to do this.

“DEP found that the new electronic system malfunctioned, and releases into the bay did not promptly occur. As a result, stormwater and wastewater backed up into streets and homes in parts of the New Lots and Lindenwood neighborhoods.” according to a press release from the DEP.

As the forms continue to come in, Stringer’s office is sending engineers out to verify the damages people claimed.

“At first, I thought this flooding was God’s doing,” said Tommy Durante, a Lindenwood resident. “But then we found out that our government caused this. So how am I supposed to trust the comptroller’s office to get me my money?”

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Hamilton Beach residents stuck with ruined road


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Roger Gendron

In Hamilton Beach, residents say they witness new potholes and sink holes form right before their eyes.

On 104th Street, a main artery for cars, buses and pedestrian traffic coming in and out of the neighborhood, a new problem developed over just a few days.

“On Monday there was a slight indentation [on 104th Street] and by Thursday it had become a fully developed sink hole,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association.

Residents trace the problem to 10 years ago when new homes were built in one section and the street was gouged in several places for sewer piping. Aside from the newly formed hole in the road, Hamilton Beach’s main road is pocked with numerous holes that span over 200 feet.

The daily task of driving along 104th Street is fraught with indentations of all kinds that often force drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road to save their axles the abuse. The road also has a bus stop for the Q11 but there is no sidewalk for people to wait on, making them another obstacle that drivers have to look out for.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the city do any work on these roads to fix these problems,” life-long resident Marie Persans said. “We see Howard Beach getting paved a lot but all we get is patches that wear out in no time.” Persans is also the vice-president of the civic association.

Residents ultimately want the Department of Transportation (DOT) to put in a completely new roadbed that would elevate the road, preventing pools of water from collecting in the holes during rainstorms. They also want a waiting area for people using the bus.

DOT Spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said that the department doesn’t have the resources to make these long-term changes.

“While DOT will look to include 104th Street in a future reconstruction schedule, the agency will continue to monitor the roadway, which was assessed last month, and repair potholes and perform any other short-term maintenance needs,” he said.

Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office has been working with the community to get the transportation department to get the resources need for long-term changes, according to Sal Simonetti, a representative for the councilman.

“These conditions are horrible,” Gendron said. “This is a very dangerous situation for everybody.”

 

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73-year-old woman robbed, punched on Howard Beach sidewalk: police


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

A 73-year-old woman was robbed and punched in the face as she was walking down the street with a cart of groceries in Howard Beach Tuesday afternoon, cops said.

The victim was attacked about 3:20 p.m. near 153rd Avenue and 88th Street, officials said.

One of the suspects, described by police as a woman, around 18 years old, came up to the victim from behind and took her pocketbook, which contained$100, a cell phone and other personals, from the cart. A second suspect, a man, who was also about 18 years old, then punched the 73-year-old in the face, causing her to fall to the ground.

The victim suffered cuts to her ear and abrasions to her arm, and was taken to Jamaica Hospital for treatment, cops said.

Police have released a video of the robbery, and said the female suspect was last seen wearing a vest and the male suspect was last seen wearing dark clothing and tan cargo shorts.

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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Parks Dept. says no to changing tree program despite complaints from Howard Beach residents


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gabriella Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

The Parks Department rejected Howard Beach residents’ plea of changing the system of planting trees in the neighborhood, known as the one million tree initiative. Currently, residents may request a tree to be planted in front of their homes but may not refuse a planting, a point of contention for more than two dozen residents.

Due to recent complaints, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder has urged the department to implement a system where residents will be given the option to have a tree planted in front of their homes prior to it being planted.

But doing so would be too complicated, according to Zachary Feder, a spokesman for the Parks Department.

“NYC Parks is always willing to consider location and species suggestions,” Feder said.

“However trees work best as a system, and eliminating planting sites or allowing homeowners to opt out would undermine the effectiveness of this system and significantly reduce the environmental benefit.”

The trees are being placed on city property, but once planted maintaining them and raking the leaves that fall from the trees on to the sidewalk are the residents’ responsibility.

When Superstorm Sandy roared through the area it tore down trees, which damaged houses, power lines and sidewalks, leaving some residents wary of new trees being placed in front of their houses.

“Many residents are still recovering from Sandy and should be involved in the process that will revitalize their neighborhood,” Goldfeder said.

Feder said the new trees will be better suited for storm conditions.

“In recent years, we have implemented new planting techniques on streets to make the new trees we plant less susceptible to storm damage and less likely to lift up sidewalks,” Feder said.

The MillionTreesNYC initiative is a citywide project, and is not just going on in neighborhoods that were affected by Sandy. The Parks Department plans to plant about 220,000 trees on public streets, which will increase the city’s urban forest, “our most valuable environmental asset,” according to the department’s website.

It also says these new trees will help to capture storm water, reduce air pollution and moderate temperatures.

Despite the protests, the Parks Department said it will continue to plant trees around the neighborhood.

 

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Howard Beach Staples to close at end of May


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Roger Gendron

The only Staples in Howard Beach is closing at the end of this month.

The store put signs up announcing the closure last week but there will be none of the usual sales fanfare, according to the workers at the Cross Bay Boulevard location. Residents have noticed workers starting to pack boxes as the store nears its closing date.

“Sad how everything seems to stay here short term,” Lisa Marie, a local, wrote on the Howard Beach Civic Association Facebook page.

Superstorm Sandy hit businesses hard on the boulevard and the office supply store didn’t open back up until mid-2013. With less than a year of operating after recovering, the store will be closing its doors for good.

A photo of the Staples Howard Beach location after it reopened, taken around the one-year anniversary of Sandy. (THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre)

“Whenever a large store like that closes, it sends bad vibes through the community,” state Senator Joseph Addabbo said.

The fact that Staples was willing to reopen after Sandy, unlike the local Duane Reade, led him and other local politicians to think they were here to stay.

“We’re trying to bring back our local economy,” Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder said. “Staples was always a good neighbor but I’m hopeful. This gives us an opportunity for new entities to come in.”

A Staples worker said that the increase in online retail has made it unnecessary to keep the location open.

“As customers shift online, we are taking aggressive action to right-size our retail footprint,” a spokesperson for Staples, Kaitlyn Reardon said. Staples is also “working to provide transfer options where possible” for the workers there.

Addabbo noted that many of these workers are locals. “It’s a loss of jobs,” he said. “So now the question is post-Staples, what happens?”

 

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Repairs begin on Hamilton Beach boardwalk after Sandy damage


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Roger Gendron

The city is finally repairing the boardwalk connecting Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach after Superstorm Sandy made it dangerous to use.

“No one from the city wanted to step up and take responsibility,” said Roger Gendron, the president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “But [Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office] kept going and going to get this done.”

While Ulrich’s office pushed for the repairs, which began on May 15, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) is ultimately responsible for doing the work since it owns the property, according to the councilman. But the department wasn’t quick to admit ownership and instead they told the community that the MTA owned the land. The two debated ownership, causing a delay in repairs.

“This is an issue we’ve been working on for more than a year,” Ulrich said. “We kept going back and forth with DCAS. We were relentless. The city has to accept responsibility for its property and we’re here to make sure that happens.”

When the flooding hit the area, Gendron explained, the boardwalk became uprooted, and now, the once-straight boardwalk curves and drops in many spots. The boardwalk also sustained damages to the individual planks. Construction workers were observed by Gendron on Tuesday, May 20, working on the site.

Hamilton Beach is a small sliver of Howard Beach and is separated from the rest of the neighborhood by canals and waterways. In an area with less than a handful of ways in and out, the boardwalk is used as a main walkway for people going to and from the Howard Beach A train station.

“Anytime we lose any way out of Hamilton Beach, it hurts,” Gendron said.

Gendron and Ulrich both said that this repair is just one among many things that needs to be fixed.

“It’s just one part of the community that needed repairs and we aim to fix them all,” Ulrich said.

DCAS did not respond to comment requests before press time, and no completion date has been set by the department. When the project is complete, according to Gendron, the department will replace the wooden planks with a concrete walkway and new railings.

 

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Signs of life: Howard Beach 7th-graders make their own traffic safety signs


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

ERIC JANKIEWICZ 

Students at P.S./I.S. 232 Walter Ward School have first-hand experience with the dangers of traffic and speeding cars.

The Howard Beach school is located across the street from a shopping center, and the everyday task of crossing the streets is always tinged with danger, according to students, parents and faculty members at the school.

In response to the constant speeding that they see daily, students from a seventh-grade class designed their own traffic sign as part of a wider Department of Transportation (DOT) project for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero” policy. The signs went up on two locations Friday around the school.

“It’s so dangerous, “Rosemarie Asselta, a parent, said about the intersection of 153rd Avenue and 83rd Street. “They’re rushing past the school in a hurry and zooming into the [shopping center] parking lot. It’s terrifying.”

Asselta explained that the problem isn’t that drivers in the area are particularly careless. But between 84th and 79th streets on 153rd Avenue there is no stop sign or red light. Add to this the fact that the crossing guard can’t control traffic on the high-speed Avenue, and you get an area where “close calls” happen all the time, Asselta said.

The traffic sign designed by the seventh-grade class was put up on the avenue itself as well as 83rd Street, advising students that, “ready and alert wins the race.” The sign depicts a green human figure crossing the street as a yellow car, presumably, slows down as it reaches the intersection.

Jamee Lopez is one of the seventh-graders that helped design the traffic sign and for her, traffic incidents take a personal note. Last year she was crossing the avenue when she was almost hit by a car.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And it made me realize how dangerous this area really is,” Jamee said. “Because in this school you always hear stories about kids almost getting hit but then when it happens to you, it becomes really serious.”

Jamee and her fellow classmates worked on the design process since the beginning of the school year in September 2013. During that time, they collaborated with one another on a design and visited the DOT’s sign shop in Maspeth, according to Theresa Bary, a DOT representative.

“They see it from start to finish,” said Bary, the department’s deputy director of safety education outreach. “They really take this to heart.”

 

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