Tag Archives: Jimmy Van Bramer

Residents to get relief from pigeon poop under No. 7 train


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

Woodside resident Rosa Gil has been pelted with pigeon poop for the last time.

The 42-year-old Borough Hall employee and thousands of others living near the No. 7 train, who have long suffered through the splattered sidewalks, sickening stench and stained shirts, will soon receive relief along their commute, thanks to a push — and financing — from Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

The official allocated $250,000 in discretionary funds for a new pigeon mitigation system, designed to deter the birds from roosting under the elevated subway tracks and littering the underlying walkways with their foul feces.

“My constituents have been living with this mess for decades and have been asking for a solution for just as long,” said Van Bramer. “It’s a serious quality of life issue.”

Van Bramer said the droppings, while smelly and unsightly, are also a serious public health issue. According to the councilmember, the entrance to the 52nd Street station is most in need of a cleanup.

Jihee Kim, a 35-year-old Woodside resident who works at her family’s nearby fruit market, is excited about the prospect of a cleaner neighborhood.

“I’m absolutely for it,” said Kim. “If we can approve a person making these efforts, I’m for it. I would support [Van Bramer] in any way I can.”

Van Bramer passed the funds along to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) which will oversee the alterations.

Deirdre Parker, a representative, said the MTA plans to establish several pigeon-deterrent devices at various stations. According to Parker, the 46th Street and 61st Street stations are currently protected by spikes and netting and the 52nd Street stop’s Bird-B-Gone — a shock track electrical system — deters pigeons from parking.

Parker said the MTA is considering adding extra bird-repelling devices. At 46th Street, it will add 2,700 linear feet of pigeon-deterrent wire along and over the four entrances to the station. At 52nd Street, it will install bird spikes and slopes to prevent perching, bird netting and an ultrasonic device, silent to humans, that creates high-frequency waves, intended to repel birds. At 61st Street, the MTA wants to install a sound device, broadcasting recorded distress and predator calls of actual birds that would repeat every 10 minutes.

According to Parker, these alterations would cost an estimated $259,600. While the MTA has a general outline of changes it hopes to make, it has yet to establish a timeline for when these systems will be put in place.

Discounts will help you discover Queens’ ‘Real Culture/Authentic Flavor’


| Phertling@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Phil Hertling

Now you can experience the “Real Culture/Authentic Flavor” of Queens.

Local officials, along with the Queens Tourism Council, launched the first ever “Real Culture/Authentic Flavor” summer promotion program, designed to highlight Queens activities and attractions for locals and tourists.

“There’s a lot to do here in America’s most diverse county,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “This program will highlight dozens of events and attractions here in Queens, and tell visitors how to get discounts.”

Through a grant from the NYC & Company Foundation, the Tourism Council is providing special offers to various venues in Queens through brochures, websites and even Facebook. The main focus is bringing people into the restaurants and entertainment centers in the borough such as Citi Field, the US Open and Resorts World Casino New York City.

“It’ll be difficult deciding where to go, what to eat, and which bargains to take advantage of,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “Real culture, authentic flavor? It’s in Queens.”

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a lifelong resident of Queens, strongly believes in what the borough has to offer.

“[Queens] is the heart and soul of culture and the arts,” he said. “Queens is the greatest borough in New York City.”

The Queens Tourism Council and its partners hope to attract more tourists and excite more locals over the next several months.

According to Assemblymember Grace Meng, the program will make it much easier for parents in the borough.

“As a mom of two young kids, if you’re hanging out in Queens you can get home really quickly,” she said. “So that’s definitely a perk.”

“Real Culture/Authentic Flavor” is set to run through November 30. For more information, visit www.discoverqueens.info; and on Facebook:

Discover Queens or Queens, New York.

 

Budget blues no more


| letters@queenscourier.com

In our current economic climate, members of the City Council must make difficult decisions as they develop and approve the city budget.

This budget season, District 26 City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer has once again shown himself to be a tireless advocate for the needs of our community.

Thanks to Van Bramer, Speaker Quinn and other members of the City Council, all 10 after-school programs in the district will be able to continue providing critically important services to children and working parents. Were it not for the work of Van Bramer, many of these programs would have been forced to close. He has ensured that over 1,700 students will have a structured place to go after school where they can discover and develop their talents and build upon school-day learning.

Additionally, the councilmember successfully advocated to restore funding to senior centers, case management services, libraries, and a myriad of other human services and arts programs in Queens.

On behalf of Sunnyside Community Services and the thousands of people we serve, I salute Van Bramer and his excellent staff for the work they’ve done on behalf of the community.

 

Judy Zangwill

Executive Director

Sunnyside Community Services

 

Despite 5 years of cuts, Queens Library retained all service hours and jobs


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Despite five consecutive years of budget cuts that eliminated more than $16 million in operating expenses, the Queens Library will begin a new chapter — with all jobs and service hours retained.

“Given the staggering cuts we were facing, to not have one library close, not one library reduce its hours, to keep libraries where they’re at, was a tremendous victory,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the City Council’s committee on libraries.

The libraries’ budget was threatened with $26 million in reductions, which would have forced 18 of the borough’s 62 institutions to shut their doors. Thirty more would have had to close at least four days a week.

Rallies were held throughout the borough to prevent the city from closing the book on Queens libraries.

“We’re very, very grateful the council kept the libraries a priority,” said Joanne King, associate director of communications for the Queens Library. “We will stay open in every community and everyone in Queens should be very grateful for that.”

Six hundred staffers’ jobs were also saved with the restoration.

“I heard when [the budget] was announced there were workers literally in tears knowing their jobs had been saved,” said Van Bramer, who worked for the Queens Library before being elected. “That’s something I’m really proud of, that we saved jobs.”

Though the “doomsday budget” did not pass, the library still had $1.8 million slashed for this fiscal year, which began on July 1. The ongoing hiring freeze will also reduce staff. The library employs about 200 fewer staffers than four years ago.

Less staff means the library needs to get creative so no service is affected, King said.

To prevent further cuts, Van Bramer said libraries’ budgets can’t be radically reduced in early financial plans. Steep cuts to the preliminary and executive budget make restoring all the money more difficult and puts “libraries’ backs against the wall,” the councilmember said.

“We have to not start so far behind,” said Van Bramer, who added the council will look to restore funds as the economy improves. “What we’re going to need to do under a new mayor is not cut libraries to the bone in the preliminary budget.”

20th Annual Queens Pride Parade held in Jackson Heights


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

Jackson Heights bursted with pride during the 20th annual Queens Pride Parade & Multicultural Festival, hosted by the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee. Allies and members of the gay community came out for the borough’s biggest pride event on Sunday, June 3.

Openly gay Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn welcomed everyone to the joyous occasion. Quinn, who recently married her long-time partner, and Van Bramer, who is set to marry next month, both agreed that events such as this helped successfully achieve marriage equality in New York.

Click here to see all the photos from the parade.

The current cast of “Wicked,” cheerleaders from Cheer New York and members from the Queens Pride Lions Club danced and waved to the crowd as they shuffled down 47th Avenue, cruising past the scene of the grisly Jackson Heights murder of Julio Rivera – a gay Latino man whose death in July of 1990 sparked the event.

The festival, which once saw protesters, now draws a crowd of thousands and garners an immensely positive response from the community. Many area businesses hung rainbow flags in their storefronts, demonstrating their support.

“The parade is the essence of what Jackson Heights has been to me for the last 40 years,” said Dromm. “It’s a multicultural community that you can’t find anywhere else. The parade has become another part of the area’s tremendous diversity, including nationality, ethnicity and sexual orientation.”

Dromm believes the festival is the most important part of the gay rights movement in Queens, mainly for its ability to put a face on the borough’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. He added that the parade and celebration serve as a coming-out vehicle for many people.

Rafiel Rosario has attended the festival since coming out to his friends and family four years ago. Along with two pals and his boyfriend, Louis, the 21-year-old Long Islander watched the various acts as they performed and made their way down the street.

“[The Queens Pride Parade & Multicultural Festival] is about liberation and equality,” said Rosario. “Throughout the years, it’s become easier for gay people to come out to the community. Things like this make it easier.”

Aaron Waltzer, a volunteer from Queens Pride, helped run the organization’s booth during the street fair section of the festival. The Queens native, who said he’s been gay as long as he’s lived in Queens, added that while the festival is a wonderful community event, it does a lot for him as an individual.

“It means a lot to me to come out and show what it means to be a Queens resident and a gay man,” said Waltzer.

‘Doomsday budget’ may slash libraries


| brennison@queenscourier.com

A job opening in Manhattan required a resume to be submitted online, but the woman applying had no computer, no resume and no clue where to begin.

Seeking help, she visited her local Queens Library branch, where a job search librarian helped her write the resume and submit it online.
Joanne King, the library’s associate director of communications, said this is just one of the millions of stories of residents utilizing the libraries’ free resources — a move that may prove impossible next year.

More than $26 million is scheduled to be cut from the library’s budget — a 31 percent decrease — if Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget is passed.

“People in Queens need and use their libraries. Libraries make a huge impact on the educational and economic landscape,” said Queens Library President and CEO Thomas Galante.

This would be the fifth consecutive year library funds decreased.

“These threatened cuts must be restored to enable libraries to stay open with full services and programs for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come through their doors,” said Borough President Helen Marshall at a Tuesday, May 8 rally to save the library.

The city budget must still go through Council hearings before it is finalized ahead of the new fiscal year beginning July 1.
Steep losses were avoided last year when more than $23 million of a proposed $25 million budget reduction were restored, though the libraries suffered a midyear cut of $1.66 million, King said.

If the “doomsday budget” passes, 18 of the borough’s 62 libraries may have to shut their doors with 30 more being closed at least four days each week. Only one branch — Jamaica — would remain open on Saturdays and none on Sunday.

Depite the “yearly dance” with proposed cuts, the borough cannot grow tired of the fight, said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries.

“It is too important not to keep fighting for libraries, to keep fighting for the kid who needs them after school, for the people out of work right no who need the library to be open.”

There is an online petition residents can sign at savequeenslibrary.org.

More than 600 employees’ jobs may be lost, according to the library, which is already down 200 staffers from four years ago.

The reduction in staff is the major reason many libraries will struggle to keep their doors open, King said.

“We’re the main information provider for the borough, but if the buildings are closed, we can’t help them.”

JetBlue sign will grace L.I.C. sky


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Following a year of cutting through red tape – and mulling a move to Florida – JetBlue has been given the green light to provide Long Island City with a “sign” that they are here to stay.

The City Council voted unanimously on April 30 to approve a zoning amendment allowing companies to construct signs on non-residential buildings along 14 blocks of a

Queens Plaza sub-district – which runs between 23rd Street and the Sunnyside railroad yard.

The changes were pushed by JetBlue so the airline could construct a sign of its logo on the rooftop of its new headquarters in the Brewster Building, located at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in L.I.C.

JetBlue was considering departing New York and landing in Orlando last year, but was ultimately enticed into staying by a city package consisting of tax exemptions and marketing-relating incentives – reportedly reaching $30 million. The airline moved to the Brewster Building on April 4, bringing 1,000 of its 5,300 Queens-based employees to L.I.C.

“We are New York’s hometown airline and this sign will reinforce our status as an iconic New York brand,” said Tamara Young, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue. “We are proud to be here and we are proud to be a neighbor in L.I.C. We want to introduce ourselves to our neighbors and be a part of the driving force in the development that is taking place in the neighborhood. This sign is a way to do that.”

The proposed placard will be formed out of a steel box with an acrylic face and will be illuminated at night by high efficiency LED light strips, making the letters blue during the day and appear white after sundown. It will be 42 feet high and 75 feet wide – with the tallest letter reaching 25 feet – and will encompass similar qualities to other historic advertisements across the neighborhood, including the Silvercup and Pepsi signs. If no other obstacles are encountered, JetBlue believes the sign will be installed early in the fall.

Zoning regulations put in place in 2001 restricted the height of new signs in manufacturing districts to 40 feet above curb level. In order to rewrite the rules, JetBlue initially had to receive approval from Community Boards (CB) 1 and 2. Although CB 1 passed the airline’s application, the board members did suggest the “rooftop sign be limited to a tenant that occupied a minimum of 25 percent of the total building area” and that subleasing not be allowed. CB 2 voted unanimously against the changes, citing the “lack of oversight and community input and comment on any future rooftop signs.”

CB 2 was reportedly concerned that too many signs would sprout up on neighborhood buildings, causing a similar scene to Las Vegas or Times Square.
Dutch Kills Civic Association President Jerry Walsh believes the zoning rules should not be comprehensive, but each case should be studied independently.
“I think each sign should be looked at individually. It shouldn’t be a blanket thing,” Walsh said. “You have to be a major renter of the building to put a sign up. You can’t live in a closet and expect to get a sign up. We don’t want to see flashing signs like on 42nd Street.”

To ease community apprehension, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked with the Department of City Planning to rework the amendment – stipulating that only tenants that occupied 20 percent or 50,000 square feet of a building could erect a sign on its roof.

CB 2 subsequently approved the proposal, followed by a City Council subcommittee on zoning and the entire council.

Van Bramer said he is not worried about the area resembling the glitzy midtown Manhattan attraction due to the few buildings that are eligible to apply for signs. The councilmember went on to say he believes the number of signs will ultimately be minimal, while the passage of the amendment is an important step for JetBlue’s success.

“I think the arrival of JetBlue is great news for L.I.C.,” Van Bramer said. “Its sign will be a visual reminder of the transformation and rebirth of the Dutch Kills and Queens Plaza area. I think it will be a sign that L.I.C. is open for business and good for business. JetBlue brings vitality and energy and life. I hope it will attract more businesses to come to Queens Plaza, Dutch Kills and L.I.C.”

Queens councilmembers score high on environmental report cards


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The scores are in — and Queens councilmembers have fared well above average in their most recent environmental report cards.

According to the New York City League of Conservation Voters’ (NYLCV) annual “Environmental Scorecard,” a record number of 22 out of 50 councilmembers achieved perfect scores. Queens, the runner-up borough, trailed the Manhattan delegation — which scored the highest average of 95 — by two points, while Brooklyn stood firm with 92 points, Staten Island with 88 and the Bronx with 76.

The annual survey examines voting and sponsorship records on 11 bills covering green buildings, transportation, sustainable food, waterfronts, clean energy and more, said officials at the nonprofit organization.

The average score for the city was 90 out of a possible 100 — up significantly from the 68 point average the Council netted last marking period from 2008 to 2009.

The borough’s top scorers included Queens Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley, James Gennaro, Karen Koslowitz, Eric Ulrich, Peter Vallone, Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Weprin. Each of the seven lawmakers racked up 100 point averages.

“This particular scorecard really shows that just about everybody in the Council has a very good track record on this very important set of issues,” said Gennaro, who serves as chair of Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection. “It sort of energizes us to stay the course and keep pushing on in many environmental issues that we’re currently working on. This scorecard really provided some inspiration to carry on.”

Still, not all numbers were high across the board.

The northernmost borough in the city raked in the top three lowest scores. Bronx representatives Larry Seabrook and Annabel Palma both received 64 points, while Councilmember Helen Foster flunked with 36 points.

Foster did not return calls for comment as of press time.

Super Bowl Bound: Giants Nip 49ers In OT To Set Up Title Rematch Vs. Patriots


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Super Bowl Bound: Giants Nip 49ers In OT To Set Up Title Rematch Vs. Patriots

For the second time in five seasons, Big Blue is going to the big game. The New York Giants recovered two mishandled San Francisco kick returns, the last one setting up the game-winning field goal in sudden-death overtime, as Big Blue defeated the 49ers 20-17 in Sunday’s NFC Championship to advance to the Super Bowl for the second time since 2008. Sunday’s win sets up a Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots, whom the Giants defeated in Super Bowl XLII to claim the franchise’s third Super Bowl title and ruin the Patriots’ pursuit of a perfect season. Read More: NY1

 

 

‘Headless Body in Topless Bar’ killer seeks release from prison

The maniacal murderer who spawned the famous New York Post headline “Headless Body in Topless Bar” is trying to get sprung from prison, The Post has learned. Charles Dingle, 53, will ask a three-person parole panel this week to free him from the upstate Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo. But if his 1983 psychotic rampage and ensuing pathetic prison record are any indication, his chances are questionable. The convict’s infamous blood-drenched spree is considered one of New York’s most notorious crimes. Read More: New York Post

 

‘I tried to stop cop suicide’

The devastated fiancée of the suicidal cop who blew his brains out on the job last week revealed to The Post yesterday how she had desperately tried to talk him out of it in a phone call only seconds before he pulled the trigger. “We weren’t fighting,” insisted Maria Stuart, 28, who was planning to marry NYPD Officer Terrence Dean, 28, on Aug. 18. “All I was trying to do was tell Terrence he needs help.” Stuart said she had admitted to Dean during the frantic Thursday-night call that she had just phoned his Queens precinct house and made vague warnings about a suicidal officer. Read More: New York Post

 

MTA scuttles free-shuttle plan

MTA officials have proven again that they excel — at taking service away from desperate riders. Brass at the cash-strapped agency have incredibly rejected an offer of a free shuttle bus — financed in full by a local lawmaker — for 7-train riders slammed by 11 straight weekends of service outages. City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer offered to pay for the $250,000 direct, no-transfer bus from Long Island City to Grand Central while the MTA worked on the signal system under the East River. The money would have come out of his own discretionary funds. Read More: New York Post

 

Two People Injured In Queens House Fire

An investigation is underway into a house fire in Jackson Heights, Queens that injured two people early Sunday. More than 100 firefighters responded to 37-39 90th Street around 1 a.m. and fire officials said two people were pulled from the home. One of the victims is said to be okay, and the other one was taken to Elmhurst Hospital with serious injuries. Read More: NY1

 

Former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Dies

Family members announced that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno died Sunday at age 85, after suffering from complications from lung cancer. A native of Flatbush, Brooklyn, Paterno attended Saint Edmund Elementary School and Brooklyn Preparatory High School and gave up a career in law to coach football. He coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and won 409 games, more than any other coach in major college football history. Among the former Penn State athletes coached by Paterno is New York Giants offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie, whose team played in Sunday’s National Football Conference Championship game in San Francisco. Read More: NY1

Donations give Woodside families hope


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Fire_relief_donationw

Residents of Woodside united and delivered for their neighbors in need, who were devastated by a deadly fire that destroyed their homes.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer recently delivered a donation of over 3,000 items to victims of the fatal fire that claimed one life, injured five others and ravaged three homes on 61st Street in Woodside on November 18.

The contributions, which were made by residents of the surrounding community, included diapers, food, cleaning products, clothing and toys. The items were distributed to the three families forced from their homes by the fire on December 22 at the councilmember’s district office. Local Pastor Daniel Gilland and representatives from the Red Cross were also on hand to aid with the donation.

“In the wake of this tragic event, it is heartwarming to see the community’s response to support their neighbors,” said Van Bramer. “The response was more than we could have ever hoped for and I sincerely thank everyone for their tremendous efforts. During this holiday season, these donations will give a little hope back to the families who lost so much in the fire.”

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13

Prosecutors say a New York City public school teacher is being charged with rape for a sexual relationship with a student that began when she was just 13. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says 44-year-old Charles Oross engaged in a sexual relationship with the teen from January 2009 to April 2010. The district attorney said the encounters happened at the school, Intermediate School 238 in Queens, and in Oross’ car. Oross, of East Islip, N.Y., was awaiting arraignment Thursday. No information about an attorney was immediately available. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Tea Party big Mark Meckler pinched for gun possession at LaGuardia Airport Thursday 

A co-founder of an influential Tea Party group was arrested at LaGuardia Airport Thursday for illegally trying to bring a pistol and ammunition aboard a plane, authorities said. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots had a Glock 27 pistol and 19 bullets in a locked gun box — but he didn’t have a New York State permit for the firepower, which he told authorities he needs because he gets threats. Meckler, 49, handed the gun box to a Delta Airlines ticket agent around 5 a.m. Thursday, Queens prosecutors said. It was discovered during a pre-flight check. Read More: Daily News

 

NYPD cadet arrested for allegedly stealing this mother’s credit card in a $13 million ID theft ring in Queens 

An NYPD cadet was arrested Wednesday for stealing his mother’s credit card as part of a $13 million identity theft ring, authorities said. Raymond Gumti, 23, is accused of taking his mom’s TD Bank card and PIN numbers and using them to create a counterfeit credit card. He put the phony card in the name of another defendant who was indicted as a shopper in the scheme and racked up nearly $13,000 in unauthorized charges at stores like Apple, Louis Vuitton and Bloomingdales, a spokesman for the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office said. Read More: Daily News

 

Santa was really a Rotarian

Santa Claus rang his sleigh bells loudly as he combed the halls of the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) Children’s Center. Followed closely by Frosty the Snowman, the pair peeked inside various rooms, searching for children. Toys in hand, they entered one at the end of the hallway — to an eruption of delighted squeals. Read More: Queens Courier

 

More Liu Donors Said to Be Examined in Fund-Raising Inquiry

The federal inquiry into the campaign finances of New York City’s comptroller, John C. Liu, a possible mayoral candidate in 2013, appears to be widening, with people knowledgeable about the matter saying Thursday that there has been an increased focus on seeking information from his supporters in the Chinese-American business community. In recent weeks, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have delivered subpoenas seeking a broad range of records and other information to a growing circle of Mr. Liu’s more generous donors, said the people knowledgeable about the matter, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. Read More: New York Times

 

Councilman Van Bramer Volunteers At LIC Food Pantry

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and his constituents reached out to help the St. Raphael’s Parish food pantry Thursday. Read More: NY1

 

Cop-slay judge bails

The Brooklyn judge who unleashed a violent ex-con weeks before he allegedly killed a cop was a no-show at work yesterday — the day after Mayor Bloomberg ripped into her for a bail bungle. Judge Evelyn Laporte was nowhere to be seen in Brooklyn Criminal Court as several City Council members denounced her ill-fated decision to spring Lamont Pride without bail after his arrest last month on drug charges. There was a warrant for his arrest in North Carolina for an August shooting when he was busted on Nov.3 in New York for crack and pot possession — but Laporte ignored prosecutors’ pleas for $2,500 bail. Pride, 27, is accused of gunning down Officer Peter Figoski during a Brooklyn home invasion on Monday. Read More: New York Post

 

Kid shoots off finger

The 11-year-old son of a Staten Island school teacher shot off a portion of his finger yesterday while playing with his father’s illegal gun, police said. The West Brighton youth was home alone with his 8-year-old brother in the basement of their single- family home when the gun went off at 2:40 p.m., according to law-enforcement sources. Michael Bilotto, a Department of Environmental Protection construction worker, was taken into custody for possession of an unlicensed handgun, police said. Read More: New York Post

 

Cop slay getaway driver’s lame defense: I drove thugs in exchange for gas money

The getaway driver charged with four others in the slaying of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski admits he knew the accused triggerman was carrying a gun before the botched robbery that led to the Brooklyn cop’s murder. In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Michael Velez, 21, said he looked over to Lamont Pride, who was sitting in the passenger seat and saw the weapon. Velez said he was stunned — and even more so when Pride, 27, put his finger on the trigger of 9-mm. Ruger. Read More: Daily News

 

Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction upheld on appeal 

A state appeals court on Thursday upheld disgraced lawmaker Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction for roughing up his girlfriend in the lobby of his Queens apartment building three years ago. The four-judge panel dismissed the former Queens pol’s claim that prosecutors failed to prove a key element of the assault charge — that girlfriend Karla Giraldo endured “substantial pain” from a physical attack. Read More: Daily News

Uniting to help Woodside fire victims


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

fire

The Woodside community has united to extinguish the needs of the 24 people whose lives were recently devastated by a fatal fire.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined Pastor Daniel Gilland, representatives from the American Red Cross and members of the families displaced by the two-alarm blaze — which spawned in and destroyed the two-story house located at 40-38 61st Street before spreading and causing severe damage to two neighboring homes — to announce a benefit drive organized in support of the victims.

One man perished in the flames, while five others were injured – including a firefighter. In total, three families, comprised of 20 adults and four children, were left without homes following the inferno on the night of November 18.

The FDNY was initially notified of the fire at 1:15 a.m., and it required the work of 25 trucks and more than 106 firefighters before finally settling down at 3:10 a.m. According to an FDNY spokesperson, the incident has been classified as an accidental electrical fire, caused by either wiring or an electrical cord, and has not been deemed suspicious.

“This tragic fire devastated the lives of 25 Woodside residents, including four children,” said Van Bramer. “They are our community neighbors and now is the time to show them that we are here to help and support them as they rebuild their lives. Especially at this time of year, during the holidays, it is important to offer these families some assistance and stability as they go through this grueling ordeal.”

The drive will be collecting food and household items, including diapers, baby food, non-perishable adult food, cleaning products, toys, new clothing and cooking utensils. Donations will be accepted until December 21. They be submitted at the councilmember’s district office, located at 47-01 Queens Boulevard, or at the Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Broadway and Court’s Square libraries.

“Together we can stand with these neighbors and encourage them, strengthen them and support them through this difficult time as we help to provide needs like clothing, toys and other life essentials,” said Gilland, who lives on the same block where the fire occurred. “I believe that as this community bands together we can take what seems a tragedy and turn it into something beautiful.”

Gilland, who organized a neighborhood vigil the weekend after the fire, said there has been a “great outpouring” within the community to aid their neighbors – a sentiment that has not gone unnoticed by those afflicted by the tragedy.

Pacita Gamboa-Gabor, who lost her home in the blaze, voiced her appreciation for her neighbors’ generosity during this trying time.

“It’s wonderful. I’m so happy,” said Gamboa-Gabor, who is currently living at a friend’s house with her husband, who suffered injuries during the fire when he leapt out of a second floor window. “I keep crying thinking about how good people have been [during their outreach].”

Additional reporting by Alexa Altman

Students rally against bullying at P.S. 11


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

The students of P.S. 11 are urging kids across the city to “give peace a chance.”

Parents, faculty and all 1,300 children from the school, located at 54-25 Skillman Avenue

in Woodside, united on November 22 for a peace march and anti-violence rally.

The parade was in protest to the increase in bullying and violence that has become a perpetual problem plaguing schools. Students carried hand-made signs and photos and chanted cheers calling for peace.

During the event, the mothers of two P.S. 11 alumni, both of whom lost their lives to violence, were acknowledged.

“There is a wave of bullying and violence across the city, and two of our alumni were killed due to violence,” said Anna Efkarpides, principal of P.S. 11. “We have been talking about making the future of Sunnyside and Woodside safer for our children. The march was a combination of the students wanting to express themselves and in memory of the two alumni. We wanted to have it around Thanksgiving, a time when everyone is thankful and hopeful for a better and more peaceful tomorrow.”

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who is an advocate of anti-bullying and anti-violence initiatives, also attended the march.

“It is important to remember and be thankful for the men, women and children who have said no to violence and spoken out in favor of peace,” said Van Bramer. “The students that marched here today are our future. Their message of love and peace takes us toward a better tomorrow. I will continue to do all I can to promote and support anti-violence and anti-bullying initiatives.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/23/2011: Two Queens students being probed in SAT cheating ring; three more LI students arraigned


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Hit-and-run on Bell Boulevard in Bayside

According to people on the scene, two pedestrians were hit by a car that then allegedly fled at 38th Avenue and Bell Boulevard around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 22. One of the victims allegedly worked in the area. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Two Queens students being probed in SAT cheating ring; three more LI students arraigned
Two Queens students were being probed Tuesday by Long Island investigators looking into an SAT/ACT cheating ring that involved more than a dozen students out on the island, sources said. Attorney Matin Emouna, who also represents one of the Nassau County numbskulls, said no money was exchanged between the city students, one of whom took the college board test while posing as the other. Read More: Daily News

 

No Lavin, no problem for SJU vs. St. Francis

Playing without Steve Lavin, who missed his second game of the season as he continues to recuperate from prostate cancer surgery, the Red Storm nevertheless had little trouble with St. Francis (NY), winning 63-48 to snap a two-game losing skid and improve to 4-2. Read More: ESPN

 

New York Senator Malcolm A. Smith launches own Occupy NBA movement to get lockout settled

With local businesses losing money and neither side in the NBA lockout willing to negotiate, one city official is planning to follow the philosophy of the downtown protesters and occupy the NBA. As a prelude to what state Sen. Malcolm A. Smith calls a “national movement,” the Queens Democrat will lead a group of restaurant owners, season-ticket holders and disgruntled basketball fans in demanding refunds and gathering signatures on a giant petition Wednesday in front of Madison Square Garden. Read More: Daily News

 

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Dan Hendrick To Wed

The Daily News reports that Hendrick, communications director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, recently popped the question over dinner. The nuptials, slated for next summer, are likely to make Van Bramer “the first openly gay elected official in Queens history to be married,” the site said, as well as one of the first in the state to wed since New York State legalized same-sex marriages. Read More: Daily News

 

Public Bus Service Comes To Arverne By The Sea

The MTA is adding additional bus service to and from Arverne By The Sea in the Rockaways section of Queens, so that the neighborhood’s growing population can have access to the borough’s major shopping areas. Read More: NY1

Sting Shows 34 Queens Stores Allegedly Sold Alcohol To Minors

An undercover investigation joint investigation by the State Liquor Authority and NYPD last week found 34 grocery and liquor stores sold alcohol to underage decoys. For a full list of offending stores in the borough, visit sla.ny.gov. Read More: NY1

Jackson Heights Plaza A Hard Sell For Some Business Owners

A pedestrian plaza that was recently constructed in Jackson Heights has some business owners up in arms, despite it having the support of local elected officials and the community board. Read More: NY1

 

Deadly fire in Woodside


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Woodside residents received a terrifying wake-up call in the early hours of November 18 – a two-alarm fire running rampant in their community.

“I was asleep and all of a sudden I heard a huge explosion,” said Connor Ratliff, who lives a block away from where the blaze erupted. “I looked out my back window and I saw these giant flames.”

The fire, which spawned in a house located at 40-38 61st Street, eventually spread and caused severe damage to two neighboring homes.

The FDNY was initially notified at 1:15 a.m.

“When we first arrived, there was a very heavy amount of fire in the initial building,” said Rescue 4 Captain Joe Gandiello. “The power lines had come down in front of the building and landed on Ladder 163’s trucks. It was a very chaotic scene. Firefighter Ron Daly was assigned to check the rear of the fire building and upon his arrival he was met by a civilian who had self evacuated, and he told Ron there were people still trapped in the house. At this point most of the house was on fire. Ron broke the window into the rear bedroom, climbed in and found a [63-year-old man] unconscious. He dragged him back to the window and handed him out to Firefighter John Tew. There was also a dog with the man and [Daly] passed the dog out the window as well. Having witnessed Firefighter Daly remove this man, it was one of the most courageous acts I’ve seen in my 27 years in the fire department.”

According to an FDNY spokesperson, one resident, who was trapped inside the burning, two-story house, died in the blaze, and five people – four residents and a firefighter – were injured. The residents were taken to nearby hospitals, three of them with unknown injuries and one 54-year-old victim with burns to their face. The firefighter suffered minor injuries.

Ratliff, who admits he has never heard anything like the explosion before, feared the worst when he heard the boom.

“I left my building because I wanted to know what was going on, because we are in the flight path of LaGuardia,” he said. “All I heard was an explosion and planes so I thought someone dropped a bomb on the neighborhood. It was terrifying.”

The inferno required the work of 25 trucks and over 106 firefighters before finally settling down at 3:10 a.m.

As of press time, the cause of the fire remained unknown.

One Woodside resident speculated that the number of people living in the home contributed to the outbreak of flames.

“There are too many illegal conversions around here,” he said. “If one family lived there – a couple with their kids – this would never have happened. But people are buying one family houses all around here and converting them into two and three family houses.”

In the wake of the tragedy, members of the Woodside community united on November 19 for a vigil in front of the remains of the burned houses.

“I met one guy who lived next to the house where the first started. He, his wife and his kids lost everything,” said Daniel Gilland, who lives two houses away from where the fire raged. “He was still kind of in shock. I met another family that lived in that same house, and they had some pictures they could salvage, but most of their stuff was gone too.”

Roughly 20 people attended the vigil in support of the residents who lost their homes, and in memory of the victim who lost much more.

“We wanted to pray for the victims and the person who died,” Gilland said. “As a community we want to get together and do whatever we can for them.”

The American Red Cross, which responded to the scene of the fire, has provided five families – 13 adults and 4 children – whose homes have become unlivable after the blaze with emergency housing in area hotels. Four of the families were given emergency funds to purchase food and clothing, and the Red Cross has made support services, including mental health services, available to the victims as well.

According to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a clothing drive is also being organized to aid the victims of the fire.

“I think Woodsiders are a very caring and united group of people who are quick to respond to the needs of others,” said the councilmember. “As we saw with September 11 memorials, it is a neighborhood that doesn’t forget and comes together in times of tragedy and need and does for others. Woodisders are very much there for each other.”