Tag Archives: Howard Beach

Howard Beach man sold 12 stolen vehicles for scrap metal: DA


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A Howard Beach man was busted for allegedly selling a dozen stolen vehicles to Long Island scrap yards and pocketing thousands of dollars in return.

“As the price of scrap metal increases, thieves are growing more aggressive and taking advantage of a quirk in the law which allows them to dispose of vehicles eight years or older without proof of title, District Attorney Richard Brown said. “They simply show their driver’s license at the scrap yard, fill out a DMV form stating that they are the delivery agent or the vehicle’s owner and leave with cash in their pocket – and their victims without a ride.”

John M. Brew, 35, is accused of pawning off 12 vehicles to Universal Scrap Processes and Gershow Recycling facilities on Long Island between February 4 and April 7 of this year.

He was allegedly paid $600 to $750 per vehicle, which would each then be crushed.

Brew was able to sell the vehicles by showing a DMV form signed by him that listed himself as the vehicle owner, along with a New York State driver’s license, Brown said. He sometimes would also trick the scrap yards into thinking he had the vehicle’s key by allegedly saying the ignition was broken and placing a fake key in the ignition.

The stolen vehicles Brew sold included two Dodge Caravans, model years 1993 and 1995, and 10 Ford Econoline Vans with the model years, ranging from 1998 through 2006, according to the district attorney.

Brew was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Friday on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, falsifying business records and unauthorized use of a vehicle, prosecutors said. He faces faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

 

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Astoria Park gets new trees for green-friendly Five Boro Bike Tour


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

More than 30,000 bicyclists will pedal into a greener Astoria Park this May.

Volunteers from nonprofits Bike New York, the New York Restoration Project and other organizations, as well as local and city officials came together on Earth Day to plant 64 trees at the park, which will be one of the major rest areas for the 37th TD Five Boro Bike Tour.

“It’s our way of giving back to the environment and to the park,” said Beth Heyde, senior events manager for Bike NY.

Out of the 64 trees, which included 12 different species, 20 were placed Tuesday on the route bicyclists have taken throughout the park for years during the bike tour.

“It feels so good to give back to this park that has been giving us so much for 37 years,” said Kenneth J. Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York, who was born in Howard Beach. “We love Astoria Park so much, we love Queens so much.”

The Five Boro Bike Tour is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 4, and begin in Lower Manhattan.

This year Bike NY’s bike tour, which allows 32,000 cyclists to wheel through all five boroughs on streets free of traffic, will be the city’s first sporting event and the nation’s second cycling event to be certified as sustainable by the Council for Responsible Sport after making the tour environmentally green.

The nonprofit has partnered with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to provide riders with fresh city drinking water, eliminating the use of plastic bottles during the bike tour. Riders will also receive a kit that includes a compostable bike ID plate, recyclable bibs and a reusable helmet cover.

“Today is the first step in the right direction,” Podziba said during the April 22 tree planting. “We’re improving Astoria Park. We don’t just want it to be one year; we want to do this every year.”

 

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NYS Pavilion recognized as ‘National Treasure’ on World’s Fair anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

The New York State Pavilion, a surviving relic of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, was named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the famed event.

Following the recognition on Tuesday, the Parks Department opened the Pavilion to the public for the first time for decades. The Pavilion recently received a fresh coat of paint from the advocacy group New York State Pavilion Paint Project, but its space-like structures have rusted over and it is in need of repair.

The hope is that the designation, which puts it among nearly 40 other historic places and buildings around the country, would help attract funds — estimated to be at least $43 million — to save it.

“For a long time the future of this building was a question mark,” said Paul Goldberger, a board member of the nonprofit group. “But in time it will not be a question mark at all, I think it will be a different piece of punctuation. It will be a great exclamation point in the middle of a resurgent Queens.”

In its heyday, the Pavilion featured the Tent of Tomorrow, three towers and the Theaterama, which is now the nearby Queens Theatre. When it was constructed, the Tent of Tomorrow had a $1 million map of New York State on its floor, made of 567 mosaic panels weighing 400 pounds each and colorful stained glass panels on its ceiling. Two of the towers had cafeterias for the fair, while the tallest, which stands at 226 feet, was used as an observation deck.

“It’s not what it was,” said Elaine Goldstein of Howard Beach, who visited both 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs. “It’s hurtful to see that it went into disrepair.”

Thousands of people from all walks of life, many of whom had a connection to the Pavilion, walked through the gates with hard hats to tour the aged structure.

“This is the greatest moment of my life,” said Natali Bravo, a resident from Rego Park, who was shooting pictures of the Pavilion with a 1964 Kodak World’s Fair Camera. “This is the first time I’m actually setting foot in here. To actually be photographing this event the way it was meant to be photographed with this camera is a very special thing.”

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Library yoga aims to relieve stress in Howard Beach


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

JEFF STONE

Queens librarians are encouraging residents at the Howard Beach branch to put aside their books, for at least one hour starting at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, in favor of a yoga mat.

Irene Failenbogen will be on hand to give library members an introduction to chair yoga. A yoga instructor for 30 years, Failenbogen has spent half of that time helping New Yorkers use the ancient method to relieve stress, improve mental clarity, lower blood pressure and realign tired joints.

She advocates using a chair for novice yogis and people with health problems because, while many of the motions are the same, a chair can provide important assistance when it comes to balance and mastering the proper movement techniques.

A native Argentine, Failenbogen teaches a string of classes at each Queens library before traveling to the next branch. She’s attracted a small following in no small part because of her willingness to help her neighbors.

“I’ve just been part of the melting pot, seeing all these people come into the same class with all these backgrounds and languages,” she said. “We learn so much in life about how to be a spectator, but yoga is about putting yourself out there for the experience. … Many people after class will say, ‘I’m so glad I came.’”

 

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Firefighters battle blazing Howard Beach brush fire


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Robert Stridiron

Updated Monday, March 17, 9:25 a.m.

More than 100 firefighters tamed a massive brush fire that lit up Howard Beach late Saturday afternoon, the FDNY said.

Flames broke out in a field of reeds near Spring Creek Park at 83rd Street and 163rd Avenue at about 4:20 p.m., fire officials said.

The FDNY said it took about 138 firefighters and 33 units to put out the three-alarm blaze. It was under control by about 6:20 p.m.

There were no reported injuries, according to the Fire Department.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, an FDNY spokesperson said.

 

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Woman found dead in Howard Beach motel: cops


| editorial@queenscourier.com


A 22-year-old woman was found dead in a Howard Beach motel Saturday morning, police said.

Authorities responded to a 9-1-1 call of an unconscious female at the Surfside Motel at 164-33 Cross Bay Blvd. about 11:25 a.m. Saturday.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation is ongoing.

 

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Suspects sought in Howard Beach home invasion


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Robert Stridiron

Three men are being sought in connection with an early-morning home invasion in Howard Beach.

According to a police source, on Wednesday, at 8:45 a.m., the homeowner—and owner of Bam’s Auto Body—was awakened by a white male suspect standing in the hall. He, along with two other alleged perps, tied up the victim and took jewelry, along with a few thousand dollars in cash.

No injuries were reported.

Police are looking for the three men—two white and one Hispanic—in their late 20s or early 30s, last seen wearing masks and gloves.

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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Goldfeder wants clean-up of Howard Beach eyesore


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


The Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge has become a community “eyesore,” said one Queens pol who wants the National Park Service (NPS) to step in.

“The level of deterioration at the foot of the Addabbo Bridge in Howard Beach is unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

Goldfeder sent a letter to NPS Commissioner Josh Laird, requesting he repair the damaged and collapsed fence along the bridge near Cross Bay Boulevard before the summer season.

During Sandy, over one year ago, the fence was blown down and has yet to be restored. Goldfeder said this allows for pedestrians and fishermen to walk freely through the area, polluting the grounds.

“Currently, it’s a wide open space for any tragedy to occur,” said Dorothy McClusky, founder of the neighborhood group, Friends of Charles Park. “Any child could fall in the bay and no one would know. It’s a dangerous situation for the community.”

 

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Cross Bay biz: Coming back from the storm


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The record-breaking winter brought on two different fates for two iconic Cross Bay Boulevard businesses.

Giovanni Malinconico has experienced what he calls “life’s punches” when it comes to his bakery La Torre, a Howard Beach staple for nearly three decades.

When you walk into Malinconico’s pasticceria, you’re greeted with the sweet smell of fresh pastries and desserts.

But the dough hasn’t risen for Malinconico, known in Howard Beach as “John da Baker,” thanks to repeated snowstorms over several weekends.

“This is a weekend business,” he said. “I’ve lost about 10 percent. January and February aren’t strong months to begin with, so this made it even worse.”

This is the second straight slow season for the baker, who said he lost 60 percent of “normal income” in the year following Sandy.

The superstorm hit three weeks before Thanksgiving, Malinconico’s “number two holiday” in sales, he said. The first, Christmas, was “just pathetic.”

“Nobody was thinking about buying things, nobody had their homes to celebrate in,” he said. “The hammer just keeps nailing you down. These are what they call ‘life’s punches.’”

However, a few blocks up Cross Bay, Ragtime Dairy, a gourmet supermarket, has maintained its steady stream of customers despite Mother Nature posing a threat.

“The store is never closed,” said Anthony Ribaudo, store manager. “When snowstorms come, people like to load up on their goodies in case they’re stuck at home.”

But, like La Torre, January and February are slow months for the 30-year-old neighborhood market, and the manager is looking forward to altering the menu to compliment warmer weather by bringing in fresh salads and wraps.

Other Cross Bay businesses have made their way back after Sandy, and a strip that had dozens of vacancies now has only a few. “We will always be open for our customers,” Ribaudo said. “With that, we’ll never have a problem.”

 

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Local leaders want Howard Beach protection project to expand, give full-perimeter storm protection


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Follow Maggie Hayes @magghayes

Local leaders want to see full-perimeter protection for low-lying Howard Beach.

The Spring Creek Hazard Mitigation Project, introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in November, is intended to protect the south Queens neighborhood. Designs from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) show mitigation along Spring Creek Park, from Cross Bay Boulevard to the Belt Parkway.

Although community members are in favor of the plan, they want the project’s scope to expand further.

“We’ve recognized our problems, and it’s great that we’re getting this,” said John Calcagnile, vice-chair of Community Board (CB) 10. “But I want to see a complete perimeter protection.”

Calcagnile and CB 10 Chair Betty Braton said they would like to see the project extend to Old Howard Beach, where a significant storm surge came through from Jamaica Bay during Sandy.

The $50 million project, from federal and local funding, will create higher inland contours, wetland, grassland buffers, dunes, low and high marshes, and tidal creeks, and restore over 150 acres of natural habitat.

The plan’s engineering and design is projected to be complete by Aug. 4, followed by an 18-month construction period.

 

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Alleged mobster busted in Ozone Park in connection to Lufthansa heist


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


It’s bad news for this Goodfella.

Vincent Asaro, alleged mobster, was busted Thursday morning at his home in connection with the notorious Lufthansa heist as well as over 40 years of crime.

Neighbors of his Tudor Village home in Ozone Park were “shocked” at news of the arrest.

“He’s a really nice guy, that’s all I can say about him,” said Gina D., Asaro’s next-door neighbor.

She said the accused mobster helped her shovel snow and would frequently assist a woman who lived across the street.

Asaro, 78, was apprehended by the FBI in a series of predawn raids on Jan. 23 that nabbed four other suspected mob men.

Several neighbors refused to comment on the incident.

On Dec. 11, 1978, Asaro and others lifted about $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry from a Lufthansa Airlines cargo building, according to court papers. The loot amounts to about $20 million today.

The heist, the biggest committed in the United States at the time, was portrayed in the 1990 film, “Goodfellas.”

Asaro, a supposed ranking member of the Bonnano crime family, was reportedly in charge of mob activities at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport where robberies were common.

He’s charged with 13 counts of racketeering, including various counts of extortion, credit conspiracy and theft, according to the indictment.

Asaro is also said to have been involved in the 1980s murder of Paul Katz, who vanished after king pins suspected him of being a rat. Katz’s remains were found when federal agents searched the Ozone Park home of the late mobster, James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke in June.

Jerome Asaro was also taken in and charged for involvement in Katz’s murder.

The pair is additionally accused of burning down a Rockaway Boulevard building and robbing an armored car business for $1 million.

Also arrested was Jack Bonventre, Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore and John “Bazoo” Ragano, according to the indictment.

 

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Benefit held for Howard Beach teen with rare form of cancer


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos by Jennine Dolan

Back in October, Brittany Zaita was diagnosed with a tumor that only affects one in eight million children. The 16 year old also got the news that her tumor is one of the 10 percent that are cancerous.

“When she was diagnosed, I felt like I was going to fall apart,” said Alisa Zaita, the teen’s mother. “It’s all brand new. We just got thrown into this waterfall and it was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m drowning, what am I going to do?’”

The paraganglioma tumor outside Brittany’s kidney metastasized to her spine in several areas, and since it is so rare, treatment options and therapies are few and far between.

The Howard Beach family held a fundraiser at Russo’s on the Bay Monday night to promote their daughter’s cause and raise funds for her treatment. The formal dinner event brought in almost 700 people.

“I’m so thankful that everyone would be so compassionate,” Brittany said. “I don’t have words.”

The high school junior said she was “surprised” when she got her diagnosis.

“I feel like I have to take it in stride, one day at a time,” she said. “I try to stay positive and just surround myself with good people, good energy.”

After her diagnosis, Brittany underwent an over eight hour surgery to remove the tumor at Memorial SloanCancer Center.

Now, she is stable but receives regular scans to make sure the tumor doesn’t reappear and also takes blood pressure medication every day.

“This is going to be a lifelong thing,” said her mother.

Next, the Zaitas will head to Bethesda, Maryland to the National Institute of Health, a leader in treating this cancer.

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Barbara Sheehan seeks clemency, sticking to self-defense argument


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYSPAC

Six months ago Barbara Sheehan began her five-year sentence after shooting and killing her husband. Today, she is seeking an exception to her prison stay, and wants to serve her time for weapons possession at home.

The 52-year-old Howard Beach resident fatally shot her husband, retired NYPD Sergeant Raymond Sheehan, 11 times with two different guns in February 2008. She said she suffered nearly two decades of abuse at her husband’s hands and he would have killed her had she not pulled the trigger.

“When you’re in a domestic violence situation, it’s not as black and white as it appears to be,” Sheehan told The Courier. “Just looking at his face, his eyes told me this was it. He was getting up and he was going to kill me.”

A prison support group created an online petition to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to grant Sheehan clemency. So far, about 2,000 people have signed and pledged their support.

Sheehan was acquitted of murder but charged with weapons possession for the second gun she used that day. She is currently serving her sentence at the Albion Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

The former school secretary was charged because when she shot with the second firearm, her husband no longer posed a threat. However, she said he didn’t die after shots from the first gun.

“He was still trying to come after me,” she said.

After starting her time last summer, she reached out to the New York State Prisoner Assistance Center (PAC) to address an “administrative issue” in the prison, said PAC Executive Director Mario Vredenburg. He then started to look into Sheehan’s case and is helping her apply for executive clemency.

If the order is granted, Sheehan will be able to serve the remainder of her sentence from home. The toughest part about prison, she said, is being far from her family and two children.

Vredenburg said prisoners can apply for clemency in exceptional circumstances, namely if something was legally wrong with the conviction. He said there was no criminal intent when Sheehan used the two guns, they were not her guns to begin with and Sheehan’s life was “in imminent danger.”

Additionally, Sheehan said the jury was “forbidden” to hear her psychiatrist’s testimony, who would have detailed her “state of mind” at the time of the shooting.

“I was not able to defend myself properly,” she said.

The PAC will file on Sheehan’s behalf with the governor’s office in March.

“We’re not asking for the governor to say it was legal for her to use that gun. We’re asking him to forgive her conviction,” Vredenburg said.

To see the petition and read more, click here.

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Star of Queens: Vita Leone, P.S./M.S. 207 PTA vice president


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Vita Leone

COMMUNITY SERVICE: As vice president of P.S./M.S. 207’s PTA in Howard Beach, Leone is always working on a project. She has helped put together various events such as the school’s kindergarten graduation, blood drive, health fair, fundraisers and more. This holiday season, she helped with a new project, “Cookies with Santa.” She also puts together the fall carnival, complete with rides and games for the students and neighborhood.

BACKGROUND: Leone, a Queens native, was born in Astoria but moved to Howard Beach when she was in the third grade. She went to St. Helen’s, then graduated to St. John’s Prep in Astoria. Leone is also very proud of her Italian heritage and travels to the homeland every summer. She met her now-husband in Italy, and the pair will celebrate 23 years together this May. Together, they have a 20-year-old son who went to P.S. 207 but now is at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice studying criminal law, and an 11-year-old daughter who is in the sixth grade at the Howard Beach school.

FAVORITE MEMORY: During her time on the PTA, Leone said her favorite memory was the first year they did the fall carnival, two days before Sandy hit.

“It was one of the best feelings,” she said. “I was so happy the kids had Halloween and could go home with goody bags.”

The students each had a free 45-minute period to go out and enjoy the fall carnival, where they could play carnival games, go on rides and play in inflatable play structures.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: For the PTA Vice President, her biggest challenge has yet to come. Once her sixth grader graduates, Leone doesn’t want to have to leave the school of which she has “made part of her life.” When her daughter leaves, Leone said she still wants to be involved with the school, whether it’s as a volunteer or as a full-time employee.

INSPIRATION: Leone’s biggest inspiration in doing all of the work she does for the school lies within a love to help people and give back.

“It makes me happy when I accomplish something and when I see those kids’ smiles,” she said. “That’s my high of the day.”

 

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