Tag Archives: Jackson Heights

Jackson Heights calls on new owner to rehire terminated Trade Fair workers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated 6:00 p.m.

Hundreds of residents in the Jackson Heights community have pledged not to shop at one local supermarket unless a change is made.

In December, 50 union workers all lost their jobs just weeks before Christmas when the Trade Fair Supermarket on 37th Avenue abruptly closed its doors.

Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, two unions representing the workers, reached out to the store’s new owner, Mohammed Haque, and after discussions, Haque indicated he would be willing to rehire some of the workers, according to the unions.

However, the new store, now called “Global Supermarket,” opened its doors on Thursday, January 30 — without any of the terminated Trade Fair workers.

Hearing about the opening, members of the two unions gathered with local elected officials and residents on Wednesday, January 29 in front of the store to call on the new owner to do “what is right.”

“We are extremely disappointed that over 50 families are still out in the cold, “said John R. Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW. “After discussions with Mr. Haque in December, he had indicated to us that he was willing to rehire many of the terminated workers. This is something we have yet to see happen. His blatant disregard of both the workers and the community that he serves is unacceptable.”

The group also delivered a petition, started by resident Danny Katch, that currently holds 500 signatures from Jackson Heights residents pledging to not shop at the supermarket unless the new owner rehires the workers. Volunteers plan on gathering more signatures.

“What has transpired at the Global Supermarket in Jackson Heights is a disgrace,” said Assemblymember Francisco Moya. “When our fellow hardworking New Yorkers are left out in the cold, we must demand action.”

“It’s disgraceful that the new owner of the old Trade Fair, now called Global Supermarket, has refused to rehire the locked out workers,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “Basic concern for the community would require that the owner help these workers that lost their jobs abruptly before Christmas.”

Haque told The Courier that “sadly, right now” he cannot do anything for the workers because it took a lot of money to repair the supermarket and he still has to see how business does once it opens up.

He has hired workers previously employed by him at his other stores, and he is trying to manage Global Supermarket with fewer employees. 

However, Haque said he would love to sit down with the elected and union officials to discuss the issue and explain his case.
He also said he hopes the community will give him the chance and if business succeeds then eventually he could hire some of the terminated Trade Fair workers.

“Without the community support, without my customers, I cannot do business,” said Haque. “I want to say to the community that I expect them to give me an opportunity to serve them.”

 

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Costa Constantinides sworn in as District 22′s new councilmember


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

Councilmember Costa Constantinides is ready to work for his community.

The freshman legislator celebrated his inauguration Sunday at Long Island City High School as the new District 22 councilmember, representing Astoria, and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Constantinides was sworn in by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and Councilmember James Gennaro was the emcee of the ceremony. Constantinides previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gennaro.

“Today marks not just a transfer in power, but an inauguration of a new era in our city, an era that will be defined by a revitalized sense of civic participation and engagement,” said Constantinides. “We will ensure that the levers of city government are once again working to lift up our homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone struggling to get by.”

During his inaugural address, Constantinides spoke about his goals for the district, including cleaner and safer streets, better health care, more transportation options. The councilmember also shared his stories on growing up in Astoria, from playing basketball with State Senator Michael Gianaris, back in the day, to meeting his wife on Steinway Street.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the LIC High School JROTC Color Guard, the high school’s marching band, dance class, chamber choir and refreshments by the culinary class and greek restaurant Zenon Taverna. The Greek-Cypriot Dance Pancyprian Association Youth Dance Division also performed.

“All that I have I owe to the combined efforts and the sterling example of our community, without which the course of my life would have been profoundly different,” said Constantinides. “I know that we can accomplish great things when we come together because I have lived it my entire life.”

 

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Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants government to work for his constituents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants his constituents to know he is here for them and plans on keeping his two campaign promises – to work hard for them and never lie.

It has been almost four weeks since Constantinides began his position as District 22’s newest councilmember representing Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

From moving into his brand new office, located at 31-09 Newton Ave. in Astoria, to going around meeting his constituents and introducing himself to the community, Constantinides has been busy.

“I understand the work the people in this district have sent me to City Hall to do and I’m making sure their voice is continually heard at City Hall and that’s my job,” he said during an interview with The Courier.

The freshman legislator refers to his new office as the “people’s house” and encourages his constituents to stop by.

“It’s real easy to hear how I’m doing,” he said. “I take a lot of cues from my constituents on the ground as to how things are really working out in the district.”

His plans for the district include working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to bring ferry service to western Queens and also create what he calls a “multi-module transportation system,” including bike lanes and increased bus service.

Constantinides also plans to work on improving schools in the district, whether it be helping reduce subway noise congestion at P.S. 85 or discussing with the Department of Education technological upgrades to bring schools to the 21st century.

Constantinides also wants to introduce a bill requiring corner garbage pickup at the end of every business day, and bring The Doe Fund to the area to help keep the community clean.

Constantinides will hold his inauguration ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 26 at Long Island City High School, located at 14-30 Broadway, starting at 3 p.m.

“I think we have a great staff,” he said. “We’re really excited to get out to the neighborhood. We’re really going to be out in the community, hearing concerns that our neighbors have and finding ways to address those concerns. We’re going to be active in being out in the community and being a resource for them to make government better.”

 

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Suspect wanted for groping teen on No. 7 train


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A 16-year-old riding a Queens subway train Thursday was inappropriately touched by a man who then fled after groping her.

The incident occurred about 8 a.m. on a Manhattan-bound No. 7 train at the 74 Street-Broadway/Roosevelt Avenue station in Jackson Heights.

The suspect touched the teen over her clothing in her groin and buttocks area then escaped on foot, police said. The victim did not sustain any physical injuries.

Police describe the suspect as a Hispanic male, 30 to 35 years old and 5 feet 9 inches tall. He was last seen wearing a tan baseball cap, a black hooded sweatshirt with a red turtleneck underneath and sunglasses.

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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DOE proposes rezoning plan to ease overcrowding at Jackson Heights school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Map Courtesy of the Department of Education

One middle school in Jackson Heights may soon be less crowded.

The Department of Education (DOE) announced proposed rezoning changes to move the boundaries for I.S. 145, at 33-34 80th St., and I.S. 230, at 73-10 34th Ave. in Jackson Heights. The changes would take effect for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Under the rezoning, the boundaries for I.S. 230 would expand to serve a new annex located at 74-03 34th Ave., slated to open in September. The new building is expected to accommodate 420 middle school students.

After the rezoning, about 120 incoming sixth graders from I.S. 145 would be zoned to I.S. 230 in the 2015-2016 school year. No current students will be affected.

According to the DOE, the plan was developed through working with Community Education Council 30 in addressing the needs of the community.

“This rezoning plan reflects a year-long collaboration between the Department and the CEC to create a proposal that best addresses the needs of the entire community,” said  DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield. “Any final approval of the plan will be decided by the CEC for District 30.”

Isaac Carmignani, co-president and chair of the zoning committee of CEC 30, said the rezoning would bring some relief to the overcrowding of I.S. 145, which together with I.S. 230, is part of School District 30 which suffers from a chronic overcrowding problem.

Currently I.S. 145’s sixth grade is 948 seats and after the rezoning, the number would drop to between 815 and 835. I.S. 230’s size would increase from 350 seats to between 460 to 480.

“It doesn’t change the fact that they are going to still be tightly packed schools,” said Carmignani. “We all are looking at the bigger picture.”

Other schools that might be affected by the rezoning include P.S. 69, P.S. 149, P.S. 212 and P.S. 222 in Jackson Heights, P.S. 228 and P.S. 148 in East Elmhurst, and P.S. 152 in Woodside.

A public meeting to discuss the proposed rezoning changes and learn more information on how it will affect students will be held on Monday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. at I.S. 145.

“What we are trying to do is have as much community engagement as possible,” said Carmignani. “We’re looking forward to continue working on this issue as the months and years go by.”

For more information, contact CEC 30 at 718-391-8380 or email cec30@schools.nyc.gov.

 

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82nd Street Partnership unveils restoration of historic Jackson Heights building


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of the 82nd Street Partnership

Together with the Jackson Heights Historic District, the 82nd Street Partnership has unveiled a restoration which marks the beginning of bringing a new look to the diverse area.

The 82nd Street Partnership gathered with representatives from the City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS), Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), community leaders, groups and merchants to unveil the restoration of a historic building at 82-01 Roosevelt Avenue.

The Tuesday unveiling was the beginning of the “Storefront Restoration Program” which will restore building façades and enhance the district’s sense of place by the end of the year.

The 82nd Street Partnership was one of the seven Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which won SBS’ 2013 “Neighborhood Challenge” initiative with the goal to encourage innovation and creativity in local economic development programming.

Investing in the $50,000 award it received from the “challenge,” the BID set out to support property owners and merchants in Jackson Heights by assisting them with free design assistance and offering a matching construction grant as part of the new restoration program.

By the end of the year the program will have renovated seven ground floor and three upper floor storefronts at three properties on 82nd Street between 37th and Roosevelt Avenue enhancing the “look and feel” of the area by making the businesses more attractive and inviting to a larger group of customers.

Before

After

The overall restorations will help bring improvements to the area’s quality of life, help preserve retail diversity and improve business conditions, according to the 82nd Street Partnership.

Along with the restorations, the program will also remove 20 LPC violations from three properties.

 

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Workers left unemployed for Christmas after Trade Fair abruptly closes


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of RWDSU Communications

Rafael Polanco might have to tell his two children that this Christmas will come without presents.

The East Elmhurst resident, along with 49 other union workers, all lost their jobs on Dec. 10 when the Trade Fair Supermarket, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, closed its doors abruptly without giving the workers any notice.

The workers claimed they turned up on Tuesday morning and management told them the store had been sold and they had to go home because they no longer had jobs.

“They didn’t give us an explanation. They didn’t give us a number to call. They didn’t say anything about the new owner. No one gave us an explanation,” said Polanco, who has been a deli worker at Trade Fair for 14 years. “They treat their workers like animals. We are human, they should give us explanations.

Members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, unions representing the Trade Fair workers, gathered with local elected officials and community members in front of the supermarket on Dec. 13 to protest Trade Fair’s actions and to call on the new owner, Amana Key Food LLC, to hire the terminated workers.

According to the unions, Trade Fair’s closing and termination of the worker violates the collective bargaining agreements held with the owner, which demands the company give the union and workers two weeks notice of either sale or closure.

Amana Key Food LLC filed an application or a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority for the site on November 14, showing the sale has been in the works for more than a month, according to the unions.

In March, meat department workers in all nine Queens Trade Fair locations went on an Unfair Labor Practice strike fighting for a fair contract and against unfair labor practices. During the strike the owner was accused of treating workers with disrespect and putting their live in danger with exits being blocked most of the time.

“For far too long he [Farid Jaber] has been a bad neighbor,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “This is a clear violation of his contractual obligation and labor law. He has betrayed his employees and the community of Jackson Heights.”

Last week’s termination happened just weeks before Christmas, leaving workers like Polanco looking for jobs and wondering where they will get money to give gifts to their kids.

“Us older people we understand the situation but the children don’t understand,” Polanco said.

According to a union representative, days after the rally Amana Key Food LLC handed out job applications to the terminated workers, but none have been hired yet.

Amana Key Food LLC could not be reached for comment and Trade Fair did not respond.



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Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights lights up for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Councilmember Daniel Dromm's Office

Councilmember Daniel Dromm gathered with State Senator Jose Peralta, the nonprofit SUKHI NY, Moin Choudhury of Association for Justice Inc., Friends of Diversity Plaza and local residents at Diversity Plaza, located at 37th Road between 73rd and 74th Streets in Jackson Heights on Sunday to light the plaza’s 16-foot holiday tree.

The Friends of Diversity Plaza includes members from the office of Councilmember Daniel Dromm, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership and the Birchwood House.

“I want to thank everyone for pulling together to make this space better each year,” said Dromm. “The second annual tree lighting was a success.”

 

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Jackson Heights Girl Scouts give back for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Sylvia Cho-Yu

It’s never too young to start giving back.

Members from the Junior Girl Scouts Troop 4208 in Jackson Heights, ages 10 and 11,  got together on Saturday at St. Marks Church, at 33-50 82nd Street, to distribute handmade holiday food baskets. The girls also restocked the church’s food pantry with food collected by seven other Girl Scouts troops from their family, friends, and supporters, which will help the needy during the holiday season.

Working towards their Bronze Award, with the focus on fighting hunger in their community, 10 girls from Troop 4208 distributed the food baskets.

One week before Saturday’s event the group hosted a food drive event for all the Girl Scouts in the neighborhood, including six other troops, at the Community Methodist Church at 81-10 35th Avenue. About 75 girls attended the food drive which hoped to fill up the food pantry in time for the holidays.

The food collected was mostly donated by Girl Scouts and their friends and families, as well as from people in their buildings. The event collected six shopping carts full of food and made up 35 holiday baskets to give to families.

 

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Famous Famiglia opens at Jackson Heights subway station


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A new famiglia has come to Jackson Heights.

Famous Famiglia opened its doors on Monday at the subway station on 75th Street and Roosevelt Avenue together with local elected officials, family and friends.

The pizza chain beat out a total of 12 other proposals which vied to call the vacant 4,000-square-foot space home in 2010, after the MTA advertised a new request for proposals. Famous Famiglia won and signed a lease in 2011.

“We are very excited about becoming a part of the Jackson Heights community,” said Paul Kolaj, Famous Famiglia CEO and co-founder. “Even though Famous Famiglia is an internationally successful pizza brand, the Jackson Heights location is especially meaningful to us.”

Kolaj said Queens is important to him and his family, because they first immigrated to the United States through John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1970. The family went on to grow up in the South Bronx and in 1986 launched the business in Manhattan on the Upper West Side.

“The very fabric of America is no more apparent than the diverse cross section that is Queens,” said Kolaj. “We appreciate the partnership and support of the MTA and we look forward to creating dozens of jobs through a successful business in Jackson Heights, and for the opportunity to make our contribution to the local community.”

A month before taking office four years ago, Councilmember Daniel Dromm held his first press conference calling for the MTA to fill the vacant space at the subway station. Now that the pizzeria has finally opened its doors, the councilmember said it will be a significant economic driver to the community and also helps out other local businesses along Roosevelt Avenue.

“This is the hub of Jackson Heights,” said Dromm. “I’m thrilled to see Famous Famiglia finally able to open their doors.”

All sales made on the Monday grand opening will be donated to Elmhurst Hospital’s “Helping Kids Heal” fund, going towards the pediatric center at the hospital.

 

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Op-ed: The spirit of giving


| oped@queenscourier.com


COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Every year, the holiday day season gives us an extra special opportunity to reflect upon our blessings and take time to give back to those we love.

With Chanukah just ending and Christmas and Kwanzaa fast approaching, it’s clear that the spirit of giving is already in the air – almost everywhere you look you see folks with shopping bags full of holiday presents just waiting to bring joy.

While I have always found truth in the age-old saying “Tis better to give than to receive,” I could not help but relish the happiness that one sizable gift brought to our community last week.

On November 26, just days before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of joining Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and representatives from the Queens Museum and the Queens Economic Development Corp. at Corona Plaza to announce an $800,000 leadership gift from J.P. Morgan Chase to the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

This gift will not only benefit countless New Yorkers by creating 100 jobs for workers maintaining 20 of the City’s existing plazas, but it will also ensure that the DOT’s community partners in under-resourced neighborhoods, like Corona, will have the support they need to maintain clean, green and vibrant public plazas.

Since 2008, the DOT has installed 22 plazas throughout the City, and it plans to bring another 37 in the near future with the goal of putting all New Yorkers within a 10-minute walk of quality open space.

Corona Plaza is a perfect example of how effective and important these green spaces are to our local neighborhoods. To so many children who grow up in apartments without any front or back yards, neighborhood plazas are the only safe access they have to the outdoors.

Just 18 months ago, the site where Corona Plaza now sits was open to traffic and cluttered with parked trucks, causing a safety hazard for all pedestrians entering and exiting the nearby subway platform. Today, the plaza is a space bursting with activity, serving as the go-to destination where locals can have a cup of coffee, exercise outdoors and enjoy free family-friendly events.

Public plazas go a long way in helping our communities enhance economic activity, air quality, community safety and the overall quality of life.

Although Chase’s gift will undoubtedly go a long way in improving plazas throughout the City, it’s clear that there is still much work that needs to be done. The cost just to maintain Corona Plaza alone ranges between $50,000 and $75,000 every year, not including the hundreds of volunteer hours donated by those who want to add to the beautification efforts.

This holiday season, I urge everyone to spend time at their nearest neighborhood plaza and consider the immense benefits they generate. If you can spend just a fraction of your time investing in your local plaza, you will not only help improve these vital green spaces, but you will also create a better future for generations to come.

In the spirit of giving, please consider volunteering at your local plaza today. The gift of your time will surely be one that keeps on giving!

To learn more about the services offered by the DOT Public Plaza Program, please visit www.nyc.gov/plazas or contact 311 or plazas@dot.nyc.gov.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. Through her leadership, Corona Plaza continues to be a premiere outdoor destination for the local community.

 

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Jackson Heights fire injures four, displaces families


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


An early morning fire in Jackson Heights Wednesday left four families displaced and injured four.

The two-alarm blaze broke out around 2:30 a.m. on the second floor of a two-story building on Roosevelt Avenue near 80th Street, said the FDNY, and was under control about an hour later.

Fire officials said four people received minor injuries in the blaze, including two firefighters.

According to the Red Cross, the fire displaced four families, two of which required emergency housing that the Red Cross provided. The Red Cross said it also provided emergency funds for basic necessities, such as food and clothing.

 

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‘Safe Routes’ coming to four Queens schools


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Safer streets are coming soon to four Queens middle and elementary schools.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) confirmed it has selected a construction company to make adjustments around the schools to increase safety, as a part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Safe Routes to Schools program.

The safe routes program is a city-wide initiative that seeks to improve safety to city schools with the highest accident rates.

A DDC representative said the $3.3 million improvements will begin by the spring of 2014 around I.S. 77 in Ridgewood, St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Maspeth, St. Joan of Arc School in Jackson Heights and P.S. 108 in South Ozone Park.

The work around the schools will include adding speed bumps, adjustment of streetlights and traffic signals, ramps to the sidewalks, work to improve the curbs for pedestrians, placement of bus pads in the streets and infrastructure and utility work.

These four schools are on DOT’s list of 135 priority schools for traffic safety improvements, which was originally created in 2003 by the city agency. Overall, there are 33 priority Queens schools on the list that are slated to see the improvements.

The work on the four schools is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015.

 

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Jackson Heights, Corona community marches for safer streets after traffic deaths


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

It was the final straw, and now the Jackson Heights and Corona communities are saying no more.

Family members of traffic accident victims, local elected officials and community members gathered Tuesday night to set off the inaugural action known as “Three Children Too Many.”

The group marched down Northern Boulevard, then 82nd Street, stopping to make statements about traffic control and give performances along the way. They then gathered on 79th Street and 37th Avenue to rally and remember young local lives that were cut short.

“You cope with this kind of thing and you feel terrible, sad, angry, but then there’s a tipping point,” said Laura Newman, one of the organizers of the march and resident of Jackson Heights. “We actually have to make it stop.”

Just a month before three-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa was fatally struck by an alleged drunk driver, Jackson Heights resident Luis Bravo, 19, lost his life in a hit-and-run in Woodside. In December of last year, 11-year-old Miguel Torres was killed as he tried to cross the street heading to school on Northern Boulevard.

In April Councilmember Daniel Dromm led the push to bring more slow zones to Jackson Heights, focusing on the side streets that meet Northern Boulevard.

“Three Children Too Many” calls on mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to choose a police commissioner who will make sure law enforcement for vehicular crimes is strongly enforced and demands more traffic calming zones, continued traffic safety education for local children, and action facilitators to lead the community towards greater safety.

“Safety is (Department of Transportation) DOT’s top priority and the agency participated in [Tuesday’s] event to highlight our shared goal of making streets safer for everyone using them,” said DOT spokesperson Nicole Garcia. “We also have been in touch with the local community, including the march’s organizers and elected officials to get feedback, share education materials and discuss ways to enhance safety at this intersection and the surrounding area.”

The agency is also looking at the signal timing at Northern and Junction Boulevards to determine if adjustments can be made, said Garcia.

Michelle L. Kaucic, community coordinator of the DOT’s Safety Education and Outreach, said the community needs to continue advocating for change and must also spread the word of not drinking and driving. The community and DOT need to work together to make the streets safe as possible, said Kaucic.

At the end of the march, participants held a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil honoring Olvin, Luis, Miguel and other victims, as family members spoke.

“Safe streets are not a luxury, it’s what we deserve,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who lost two of her best friends 20 years ago to a fatal traffic accident involving a drunk driver. “After losing several of our mothers, fathers, children and friends to fatal traffic collisions, we simply cannot tolerate to lose one more.”

 

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Cops searching for suspect in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn jewelry store robberies


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo and video courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking to identify a suspect wanted in connection to seven jewelry store robberies across the city, including three in Queens.

During each robbery, the suspect enters the store, armed with a handgun, and two to three additional suspects jump over the counter and take the jewelry, said cops. No injuries were reported during any of the incidents.

The robberies happened at the following locations and times:

  • 169 Canal Street in Manhattan on September 10 at 4:15 p.m.
  • 5914 8th Avenue in Brooklyn on October 15at 6:45 p.m.
  • 66 East Broadway in Manhattan October 17, at 6:35 p.m. and on October 18 at 4:30 p.m.
  • 37-58 103rd Street in the Corona section of Queens on October 28 at 7:50 p.m.
  • 74-15 37th Avenue in the Jackson Heights section of Queens on October 31 at 6:35 p.m.
  • 37-11 Main Street in the Flushing section of Queens on November 9 at 5:55 p.m.

Police describe the suspect as a Hispanic male and have released video footage of him.

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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