Tag Archives: jamaica

Private investigator, father and son indicted for tampering with witnesses in gun possession case

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


A father and a son, along with a private investigator, have been indicted on charges of soliciting, intimidating and tampering with witnesses in a gun possession case in Jamaica.

Frederick Freeman, 27, of Miller Avenue in Brooklyn, along with his father Frederick Hutcherson, 47, of Beach 27th Street in Far Rockaway, and private investigator Charles Gallman, 52, of Metropolitan Avenue in the Bronx, are charged with 13 counts of bribing a witness, third- and fourth-degree tampering with a witness, third-degree intimidating a victim or witness, fourth-degree criminal solicitation and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, they each face up to seven years in prison.

Freeman is currently awaiting trial for weapons possession after a confrontation at the Jamaica, Queens, apartment of his girlfriend’s brother, Rashown Williams, on Jan. 30, 2013. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the charges in the case, Freeman, Hutcherson and Gallman conspired between Feb. 1, 2015, and April 1, 2015, to bribe and intimidate witnesses due to testify at Freeman’s gun case.

The three defendants allegedly attempted to instill the fear in Williams and his family that they might be physically injured if they testified. It is also alleged that the defendants offered to confer benefits on the potential witnesses if they altered their testimony or refused to appear in court.

“Prospective witnesses must be protected from outside interference that might affect their testimony,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “This office will not tolerate the intimidation of, or tampering with, witnesses and is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who engage in such conduct.”


Brooklyn man busted for illegally renting out stolen rental cars in Jamaica

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Inset courtesy of Port Authority Police Department

Port Authority Police slammed the brakes on a Brooklyn man’s alleged scheme to illegally rent out cars he allegedly stole from a lot at John F. Kennedy Airport.

According to Port Authority Police, Dorien L. Holmes, 23, of East 98th Street allegedly removed at least three vehicles — a Ford Focus, a Hyundai Elantra and a Ford Mustang — from the Avis Car Rental lot at JFK Airport and other locations.

After stealing the cars, authorities said, Holmes allegedly posted advertisements on Craigslist offering to rent the vehicles, which he claimed to own, to drivers for $350 a week or up to $1,000 per month. An ad for the Hyundai Elantra claimed that the vehicle came with insurance and E-ZPass.

Holmes was taken into custody by the Port Authority detectives on Tuesday night after he was spotted driving the Ford Mustang at the corner of 123rd Avenue and 144th Street in Jamaica. Citing information obtained during the investigation, a law enforcement source said the suspect was known to frequent the area where he was arrested.

The Mustang and the other two vehicles in question were seized as a result of the investigation.

As of Thursday morning, Holmes was awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, criminal possession of stolen property and driving with a suspended license.


Jamaica arts organizations to receive $115K in funding

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

The Jamaica arts scene is receiving a boost from Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who has allocated $115,000 in discretionary funding to local arts organizations that provide theater, music and dance programs for the community.

Miller, who chose 14 arts organizations to disperse the funds to, said it was not an easy decision.

“The decision-making process is never an easy one, given the shortage of available funding, but I look to organizations who have consistently provided vibrant, flourishing programming, as well as newer organizations who have shown their commitment to making a significant contribution to the arts in our area,” Miller said.

The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) is among one of the recipients and they will receive $15,000 for their student workshops. The Caribbean American Repertory Theatre will also receive $5,000 to provide free tickets to students for their performances at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, which is owned by JCAL.

“On behalf of the board and staff, everyone at JCAL is thrilled about Councilman Miller’s unwavering support through the years,” said Cathy Hung, executive director for JCAL. “The fund will support JCAL’s comprehensive array of in-school, after-school, and Saturday Arts Center Workshops that supplement academic learning and provide young people with opportunities to explore and refine their artistic talents.”

Jazz Knights, will receive $5,000 to provide free jazz concerts and jazz education in the community.

Two theater companies, Afrikan Poetry Theatre and Black Spectrum Theatre Company, were granted $7,500 and $30,000 respectively. Afrikan Poetry Theatre will allocate its money toward operating expenses for after-school programs. Black Spectrum Theatre Company, which produces the St. Albans Jazz Festival, will use the money to train children and adults in theater production and acting, producing films and plays on issues affecting the Jamaica community and more.

A Better Jamaica Inc. will provide family-friendly movies in district parks with a $5,000 grant they received from the councilman while Dancing Classrooms, which received $5,000, will provide ballroom dance instruction to fifth- through eighth-graders through its 10-week CORE program.

“I am proud to continue supporting and promoting southeast Queens’ long history of significant arts and cultural contributions,” Miller said. “The evidence is clear that exposure to arts enhances the value of one’s education, and by funding programs that primarily educate our youth, who are tomorrow’s leaders, I am doing my small part to shape the future of our great neighborhoods.”


Cops save choking toddler in Jamaica

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A family was saved from tragedy in Jamaica Sunday when two police officers from the 103rd Precinct rushed to the aid of a choking toddler.

Police Officers Scott Nieri and Gobin Raghunath were reportedly flagged down near 148th Street and Liberty Avenue by a panicked father holding his 18-month-old son, who was not breathing because he had a piece of an apple lodged down his throat.

The two officers then turned the baby face down and began performing the Heimlich maneuver, while requesting EMS to come to their location, police said.

After various efforts to clear the baby’s airway, the officers began performing CPR and after a few minutes of chest compressions the apple was cleared from the child’s throat and he started to cry, according to the NYPD.

The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and later released with no signs of any injuries.


Jamaica site with big development potential sells after bidding war 

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Ariel Property Advisors

With $153 million of public funds designated to revitalize every aspect of Jamaica, more and more developers are looking for land in the area, and it’s even getting a little feisty.

The site at 143-18 Liberty Ave., which previously was an auto-dealer, sold after just four months on the market, but not before a bidding war between two buyers that ultimately lead the price of the lot to rise higher than most other sites in the area.

“Based on the impressive amount of interest we received for 143-18 Liberty Avenue, it’s clear that developers are eager to capitalize on the economic initiatives that are underway in the area,” said Daniel Wechsler, vice president at Ariel Property Advisors, which handled the transaction in the budding neighborhood.

The property sold for $1,937,500, according to Ariel, but has yet to hit public records. Floral Park-based Namra Inc. bought the property in 2008 for $1.06 million, city records show.

The roughly 8,530-square-foot site is zoned primarily for residential and offers 25,602 of buildable square feet for a residential development.

That translates to nearly a $76 per buildable square foot sale. Similar properties in Jamaica trade between $32 to $77 per buildable square foot, according to Wechsler, making this site one of the most valuable in the last six months.

Wechsler couldn’t speak to the new owner’s plans for the site, but if they aim to capitalize on their investment through building out the maximum allowed on the site that means a huge residential building could be coming to the lot at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Pinegrove Street near the Van Wyck Expressway. Construction plans have yet to be filed with the Department of Buildings.

Wechsler, Michael A. Tortorici and Jesse Deutch represented the seller.


Restoration work to enhance Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Nature Conservancy


The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is getting a makeover.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the National Park Service (NPS) and Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) are collaborating on a project to improve the ecological health of habitats at the refuge and enhance visitor experience.

The project will include reducing invasive plants and restoring native plant communities, including flood and salt-tolerant plants. These conditions will create better habitats for migratory birds and improve the area’s ability to recover from floods. The organizations will also enlist volunteers to re-plant the site and monitor butterflies and pollinators.

“The JBRPC is proud to be working with The Nature Conservancy on this key restoration project that advances our goal to expand public access, increase recreational and educational opportunities, and preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat in Jamaica Bay,” said Tom Secunda, chairman of the  Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

TNC and NPS will call for volunteers to help plant more than 20,000 trees and shrubs within the next few years. The work is expected to begin in the fall of 2015 and continue through 2017. The baseline biological monitoring, including surveys of birds, soils, vegetation and insects, is currently taking place.

“This project will have implications beyond Jamaica Bay by demonstrating how land management strategies on coastal parklands and natural areas can enhance their resilience to climate change,”  said Emily Nobel Maxwell, director of The Nature Conservancy’s New York City Program. “With more frequent flooding, sea level rise and severe storms predicted for New York City, this work has potential applications for the City’s 520 miles of coastline and beyond.”

The Jamaica Bay Refuge Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 330 species of birds and other wildlife. It attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. The site, part of the 11 park sites that make up the Gateway National Recreation Area, is also home to an array of native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, more than 60 species of butterflies and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the Northeast.

“The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge provides a home to many of New York City’s animal and plant-life that deserve to live in a secure environment that is free of invasive species and resilient to future storm surge flooding,” Councilman Donovan Richards said. “With our continuously growing city, we need to ensure that our marshes and wildlife sanctuaries remain protected and maintained to mitigate the harmful effects on native species.”

People who are interested in volunteering for re-planting and monitoring the wildlife can sign up here.


Queens Museum lit orange for gun violence awareness following vigil

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The “World’s Borough” came together Monday night to honor the nine lives lost in last week’s South Carolina church shooting, and show the rest of the nation that a diverse community can unite as one.

Elected officials, local community and religious leaders, and families of victims of gun violence gathered in front of the Queens Museum during a candlelight vigil remembering the victims of gun violence throughout the borough, and paying tribute to the nine people shot and killed at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17.

“We are the borough of Queens, we are 130 languages spoken in our school system, we hail from over 120 countries and you know what? We take the greatest pride in that diversity. We are proud and we stand together to say that gun violence, especially racist terrorist gun violence, will not be tolerated and we will stand together to send that message,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said.

Monday night also marked the first of nine nights that the front exterior of the Queens Museum will be illuminated in orange, the official color of Gun Violence Awareness Month. Through June 30, an average of about 168,000 motorists per day will be able to see the museum as they drive by on the Grand Central Parkway.


“I hope the orange glow of the museum’s façade this evening will remember each of the passing motorists of our collective responsibilities,” said Laura Raicovich, executive director of the Queens Museum.

Those present during the interfaith vigil included local religious leaders who each voiced the importance of coming together to fight for the end of gun violence. Pastor Richard Hogan of the Divine Deliverance Ministry in Jamaica and father of Laseam Hogan, who was killed in 2010 at the age of 27, also led the group in a prayer.

“We come here to launch a movement. We’ve been moving but we need a movement, a movement against gun violence. This is not a movement of just some folk but it has to be a movement of all folk,” said Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt of the Greater Allen A.M.E Cathedral of New York in Jamaica. “We are all impacted. Bullets do not respect age, [do] not respect denomination, faith, tradition, socio-economic background. We have to come together.”

At the end of the night, family members of victims of gun violence read out names of their lost friends, husbands, sons, daughters and other loved ones.

“We commit to continue to be the trailblazers in the borough of Queens and make sure that as the Queens division of the crisis management system, we will show the world how people from different races, people from different ideologies, people from different nationalities, people from different beliefs, and walks and everything that you can think of can come together and change the culture of violence and stop the epidemic of violence from spreading and killing our children and destroying our families,” said Erica Ford, CEO and founder of LIFE Camp Inc., a group founded in 2002 with the mission of teaching violence prevention in schools.


Robbers beat up man inside Jamaica basement

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Three men are wanted for allegedly roughing up and robbing a 24-year-old man in the basement of a Jamaica apartment building Wednesday afternoon.

According to authorities, the suspects — described as black males between 20 and 25 years of age — entered the structure at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 172nd Street at 2:45 p.m. on June 17.

Reportedly, the crooks approached the victim in the basement and displayed firearms. Police said the perpetrators then used the weapons to repeatedly strike the victim before taking his keys and fleeing the scene.

Officers from the 103rd Precinct responded to the incident. The victim sustained minor injuries.

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.


Blacks and Hispanics in Queens struggling to become homeowners: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre. Charts courtesy StreetEasy.

Queens is the most diverse county in the country — not including some Alaskan Islands with tiny populations.

The borough is so proud of this fact that politicians usually begin speeches with it, businesses highlight it in pitches and everyday residents rave about the various ethnic foods that could be found around the “World’s Borough.”

But as diverse as it is, when it comes to homeownership, the borough looks similar to the rest of the city and country, as blacks and Hispanics struggle with the process of getting a conventional mortgage, according to a new study by real estate website StreetEasy. Only 8.8 percent of conventional mortgage applicants in Queens are from Hispanic residents, while blacks account for just 4.6 percent.

“Queens is one of the more diverse populations in the city. You can see that in the racial composition,” said Alan Lightfeldt, StreetEasy data scientist. “But it’s interesting to see the mortgage applications, because it really falls off. I think that really highlights the disparity of access to the process especially in the first phase.”


StreetEasy crunched the numbers for homeownership, mortgage application rates, and denial rates for blacks, Hispanics, Asians and whites in the five boroughs in 2013 through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and the American Community Survey.

When it comes to denial rates of conventional loans from Queens residents, blacks and Hispanics lead the way again. Under 5 percent of mortgage applications in the borough were from blacks,  and 31.6 percent of those loan applications were denied. And 29.5 percent of conventional home loan applications from Hispanics were denied.

Interesting to note, Asians have the most mortgage applications for conventional loans in Queens with 41.6 percent, and a denial rating of just 19.6 percent. Lightfeldt said while the data doesn’t show if blacks and Hispanics are being discriminated against, the fact that Asians are able to get loans reflects that banks aren’t focused on minority status but are being strict with qualifications. This may be especially true, because financial institutions are wary of creating another housing bubble.

“I think that is another point to make why this isn’t an outright discrimination,” Lightfeldt said. “Your ability to pay back a loan and credit is what banks point to and because blacks and Hispanics struggle in that area it becomes very difficult for them to become homeowners.”

However, because they have low credit or low income rates, blacks and Hispanics in Queens are taking advantage of Federal Housing Administration loans more than the other races, especially blacks with a leading 36.3 percent of the borough’s FHA loan applications.

Also, although it’s hard for blacks to get conventional mortgages today, a large number of blacks in Queens still do own homes, mostly in the southeast region of the borough. In fact, 47.4 percent of blacks in Queens own a home, which is higher than the city (26.5) and national averages (41.9).


Jamaica man convicted of shooting cop

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photos

A Jamaica man could face a lifetime behind bars after being found guilty Thursday of shooting a police officer nearly three years ago, prosecutors announced.

Jurors convicted John F. Thomas, 27, of 109th Avenue, of first-degree attempted murder of a police officer, aggravated assault on a police officer, assault on a police officer, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree assault. Justice Gregory Lasak, who presided over the trial, ordered Thomas to return to court on July 29 for sentencing.

The defendant faces up to 40 years to life in prison, according to District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

According to authorities, Thomas shot Sgt. Craig Bier in the vicinity of 107th Avenue and Union Hall Street in Jamaica at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2012. Bier, who was patrolling as part of an anti-gang unit, had approached Thomas seconds earlier.

After Bier displayed his shield and identified himself as an officer, Thomas began to run, and the officer pursued him. Upon being blocked by a fence, authorities said, Thomas pulled out a firearm and shot the officer once in each leg.

Bier was treated for his injuries at Jamaica Hospital and released two days later. Thomas turned himself in nearly a month later.

“This was a senseless, violent act and once again illustrates how dangerous police work is,” Brown said in a statement. “The defendant has shown he has no regard for authority and is a menace to society. He will be locked behind bars for a very long time.”


Disco legends Village People to perform at Resorts World Casino

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Resorts World Casino

South Ozone Park will welcome a group of macho men this weekend that let everyone know in the 1970s that it was fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.

For one night only, Resorts World Casino, located at 110-00 Rockaway Blvd. will present the legendary disco band Village People on Saturday from 8:30 to 10 p.m.

The six-man group, which is considered one of the most influential disco icons of all time, will hit the stage to perform their beloved hits such “Macho Man,” “Y.M.C.A.,” and “In the Navy.” The band is known for their costumes that range from a Native American to a police officer.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for the show, which is for guests 21 years old or over, and tickets start at $25. Tickets can be purchased online here or at the Resorts World Casino gift shop.


Jamaica woman pleads guilty to defrauding undocumented couple out of $25K: DA

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A 49-year-old Jamaica woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to grand larceny after she falsely promised an undocumented couple state driver’s licenses and permanent residence cards, taking $25,000 in the process, prosecutors said.

Bibi Nandalall, identifying herself as “Theresa,” first met with the couple in October 2012, and lied to them about working for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, according to the district attorney’s office.

Nandalall told the couple she could provide them legitimate New York State driver’s licenses if they filled out paperwork and paid her cash. The next month, she told them they were eligible for U.S. residency and needed to pay her additional money for fingerprints to complete the paperwork.

After paying Nandalall a total of $25,000 in cash, they received two forged notices of U.S. citizenship and immigration services applications and two U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services biometric appointments, where they would be fingerprinted, photographed and provide an electronic signature, prosecutors said.

But when they showed up to the appointments, they were not scheduled and there was no record of any applications in their names.

As part of Nandalall’s third-degree grand larceny plea on Tuesday, the judge is expected to order her to make $25,000 restitution to the couple at her sentencing on June 29. She should also receive four months in jail and five months’ probation.

“The victims in this case strove to become part of the American Dream. They worked hard and saved their money and gave it to this defendant in the hopes of gaining legal status in this country,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “Instead, they were defrauded by the defendant. The sentence to be meted out by the court is appropriate in that it will make the victims financially whole and punish the defendant for taking advantage of these vulnerable victims.”



Rents in two Queens nabes rose faster than city average: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre. Charts courtesy Community Service Society

Maybe “the rent is too damn high” in New York City.

Rents throughout the five boroughs rose 32 percent between 2002 and 2014, according to a report released Monday by the Community Service Society, an organization that tackles the issue of poverty in New York.

The study is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and was created to “shed light on the important housing issues facing the New York State Legislature this year,” the report said.

Namely those issues are the expiring laws for rent regulation and the 421-a tax abatement, which currently fosters some affordable housing by giving developers tax breaks for 20 percent of low-income units in their projects. The state has a deadline until June 15 to renew the laws and make reforms.

The analysis of the past dozen years shows that two Queens neighborhoods surpassed the citywide average. Rents jumped 36 percent in Astoria and 35 percent in Jamaica in 12 years, the study said.

Surprisingly, Long Island City and Ridgewood weren’t over the citywide average although rent rates have changed dramatically in those areas as well.

The rental information for different neighborhoods was collected from tenants who have recently moved.

“In order to sensitively assess the changing state of the housing market in different neighborhoods, CSS focused on the rents being paid by tenants who have recently moved,” the report said. “This eliminates the tendency of lower rents paid by longtime tenants to smooth out market changes and mask the changes that affect tenants who are looking for a place to live.”

During the 12-year period, rents in Central Harlem rose 90 percent and those in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn rose 63 percent, making them the neighborhoods where rent rose the most citywide, according to the report.


Suspect wanted for cellphone store robberies in Jamaica, Maspeth

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo/Video courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a 30-year-old man wanted in connection to two robberies of Queens cellphone shops in the last two months.

On May 26 at about 6:25 p.m., the suspect — armed with a black firearm — entered the Metro PCS store located at 126-14 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica and demanded property, police said. He then took $600 and a victim’s cellphone before fleeing the site. There were no reported injuries.

On June 2 at about 6:16 p.m., the same suspect entered a Metro PCS at 66-10 Grand Ave. in Maspeth armed with a black firearm and demanded money, according to authorities. A female victim handed the man $186 and a wristlet. The suspect then fled the location and there were no reported injuries.

The suspect is described as a black man, between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet 1 inch tall, and 160 to 190 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black mask, gray Arizona Diamondbacks jacket with a logo on the breast area and an image of a snack on the sleeves.

Police have released a surveillance video from the first incident and photos from the second.

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.


Teen robbery crew attacks pair at Parsons Boulevard station: NYPD

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Six teenagers targeted a pair of straphangers as they were at a Jamaica subway station last month, taking off with a cellphone after punching one of the 15-year-old victims in the face, police said.

The two male victims were on the mezzanine level of the Parsons Boulevard train station, located on Hillside Avenue, at about 10:40 a.m. on May 26 when the suspects — described as 15- to 17-year-old black males — approached them.

One of the suspects grabbed the phone from one of the victims and threw it the ground, according to authorities. Another robber punched the second victim in the face when he refused to hand over his phone.

The remaining suspects then held that victim while the others went through his pockets and took his phone.

Both victims refused medical attention at the scene.

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.