Tag Archives: Howard Beach

Woman found dead in Howard Beach motel: cops


By Queens Courier Staff | 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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Identify this place in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

identify

Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken?

Guess by commenting below!

The answer will be revealed next Friday.

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”: Bernard Coleman Memorial Square (Coleman Square) in Howard Beach 

Suspects sought in Howard Beach home invasion


By Queens Courier Staff | 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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Howard Beach’s P.S. 207 receives nearly $2M in storm recovery funds


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Twelve feet of water rushed into the basement of P.S. 207 during Sandy, leaving the Howard Beach school with over $2 million worth of damages.

Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder announced Monday roughly $1.82 million is on the way for repairs.

“It’s been over a year since Sandy tore apart our schools in southern Queens and while we have all made significant progress there is still work to be done,” Goldfeder said. “This new funding will enormously help P.S. 207 rebuild and ensure our children receive the quality education they deserve.”

The FEMA federal funds will go to the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and will reimburse 90 percent of the cost of repairs throughout the building.

The bulk of the damage was in the flooded basement, where a fuel oil tank rolled and spilled about 3,000 gallons of oil. Two boilers, electrical panels, lights, ductwork and the fire alarm system were also damaged.

The damage left the school without electricity, heat and water, and closed in the months following the superstorm. Nearly 90,000 gallons of water and oil was removed from the building before it could reopen.

“This infusion of federal money is helping P.S. 207 put the damaging effects of Hurricane Sandy in the rear-view mirror and enabling the school to get back to educating New York City’s children without crushing back-bills,” Schumer said.

 

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Army sergeant comes home to Howard Beach


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

PHOTO BY JOANN ARIOLA

After nine long months deployed to Afghanistan, Sgt. Kristianpeter DiStefano is home in Howard Beach.

His arrival back stateside Dec. 6 was delayed two hours after his airplane seat was given away, said Ellen Buonpastore, DiStefano’s mother.

“He was dressed in full uniform, and they gave his seat away,” Buonpastore said.

But the sergeant was eventually given an escort to LaGuardia Airport, and DiStefano, 29, went to Lenny’s Clam Bar where he was greeted by family, friends and local elected officials. His mother said it feels “wonderful” to have her only son home.

“Now I’m going to fatten him up, make him happy,” Buonpastore said. “I’m very proud of him.”

This was DiStefano’s fifth deployment, but first to Afghanistan. The career-Army man was previously stationed in Iraq and Kuwait. DiStefano is scheduled to deploy again, this time for Africa at the end of January.

“He tells me, ‘Mom, I go back because now somebody else gets to go home and see their mom and their family,’” Buonpastore said. “It’s a brotherhood.”

The Army man didn’t always know he wanted to join the ranks, but after he did, his mother said he has come to love the job.

“He loves taking care of the younger soldiers,” she said. “A lot of kids are coming out of foster care and they have nowhere to go, so they wind up in the Army. My son takes them under his wing.”

“He’s a rough guy with a big heart,” she continued.

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Students at Howard Beach’s P.S./M.S. 207 celebrate ‘kindness’ with Toys for Tots


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Howard Beach’s P.S./M.S. 207 is getting into the spirit of giving this holiday season.

Marine Corps Sergeants Mike Roy and Miguel Villalobos brought the Toys for Tots donation program to the 88th Street school on Friday.

“A lot of [kids] don’t even know about the program,” Villalobos said. “Doing a little outreach opens their minds.”

In conjunction with the Marine Corps and the Howard Beach Kiwanis Club, P.S. 207 will be collecting toys under its Christmas tree until Wednesday, December 18.

“This community was so devastated after Sandy. They [the students] know what it’s like to lose everything,” said Melissa Martin, P.S. 207 guidance counselor. “Yes, we have come back and rebuilt, but so many people haven’t.”

The sergeants not only brought the toy-giving program to the school, but also addressed the monthly virtue of kindness.

“If you have a lot to give, don’t be afraid to give to someone who doesn’t have anything,” Villalobos said. “They’re going to go from having nothing to just having that coat, that Barbie.”

Each month, a select group of eight middle school students are recognized for enacting the month’s virtue. At the Marine Corps assembly, 6th through 8th graders were selected for showing November’s virtue, perseverance.

Jonathan Durso, a 7th grader, said he “studied hard” and did his best, and was recognized for his achievements.

“I tried my best with grades and homework, and I made sure I got everything in on time,” said Alessia Basone, also a 7th grade winner.

Martin said the virtues “teach kids character development,” and the newly-introduced theme of kindness, paired with Toys for Tots, is intended to promote giving to those less fortunate.

“It starts them off early with the idea that it’s good to give,” Roy said.

 

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New Park Pizza in Howard Beach vandalized


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via mrsquinn1118/Instagram

The iconic Howard Beach pizzeria, New Park Pizza, was reportedly vandalized early Friday morning.

An angry customer tagged “worst service ever” on the pizza spot’s front windows for all of Cross Bay Boulevard to see, according to an Instagram picture posted Friday morning.

An employee said the graffiti was washed away by the time he came into work.

New Park Pizza was the site of a 1986 hate crime in which a black man, Michael Griffith, was killed.

 

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Wife, band remember musician killed in Howard Beach car crash


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Facebook

Jim Sinisi’s wife said the world is “a dimmer place” now that her husband is not in it.

“He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of person,” said Susan Sinisi of her husband, a musician in the band Wordy Bums.

Only two weeks shy of his 38th birthday, Jim was driving in Howard Beach on Saturday, November 30, just before 1 a.m., when James Celauro, 23, of Ozone Park, crashed into him on 159th Avenue and 98th Street.

Celauro, who cops say had been drinking, is charged with vehicular manslaughter and DWAI, or driving while ability impaired, police said.

Susan had gone to sleep for the night in their Glendale home and was awakened at 3:05 a.m. by a phone call from a nurse at Jamaica Hospital.

“They told me Jimmy had been in a fairly significant car crash,” she said. “It was like my temperature dropped, my insides turned toxic and I couldn’t stop shaking.”

Susan and her mother-in-law went to the hospital, holding hands all the way.

“And I’m praying. I don’t go to church too much, but I’m praying to God that Jimmy is just physically broken,” she said. “I would wait on him hand and foot and take care of him until he was mended. I felt like so much of who is he is, is his intellect and his soul and how he writes.”

Photo courtesy of Susan Sinisi

Jim was with friends in Lindenwood before the crash, his wife said.

“He was the essence of Queens,” said Rjae Izm, Wordy Bums drummer.

Susan said her husband, a native of Woodhaven, was a “crazy, poetic, fiery, beautiful artist.”

“He was just never, ever dull,” she said. “Always fun to be with, super creative and super into creating. He was brilliant.”

Now, Wordy Bums, for which Susan sings back-up, wants to take on the projects that their fallen bandmate left unfinished.

“Jim was the nucleus, the catalyst, the engine. The Wordy Bums can never be the same without such an integral part of this machine,” the band said in a Facebook post. “We are truly blessed to have shared the stage with him and witness true talent.”

 

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