Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy International Airport

JFK duty free shops cashier busted for stealing more than $19K


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

A 19-year-old Queens man was arrested for stealing more than $19,200 while he worked as a duty free shops cashier at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to Port Authority police.

Tyrone Simmons, of Jamaica, in an interview with authorities, allegedly indicated his responsibility in the thefts, saying that he took money from the register on several different occasions. He is accused of stealing the cash from this May until the end of August.

Simmons was arrested at the airport by Port Authority police detectives Thursday and charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, officials said.

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Man arrested for trespassing at JFK Airport


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

jfk airport

Police busted a New Jersey man for trespassing after he was caught entering a restricted area of John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday morning, authorities said.

Port Authority employees saw William Deenem 22, of Perth Amboy, go inside a fenced area of the airport at about 9:30 a.m, cops said.

He was then placed under arrest by Port Authority police without incident. Deenem has been charged with criminal trespass.

There was no disruption in travel.

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$210K in fake cash seized at JFK cargo facility


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection


A picture is worth $210,000 in counterfeit bills.

A recent search at a John F. Kennedy International Airport cargo facility uncovered thousands in counterfeit money after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers found the fake cash hidden in a shipment within several laminated photos and colorful cases, according to the CBP.

On July 15, the officers were examining an express consignment shipment manifested as “Handycrafts Pictures” containing 20 laminated pictures and three electronic protective cases. During their search, they discovered what appeared to be counterfeit money within the pictures and cases, officials said. In total, 1,252 counterfeit U.S. $100 bills were seized.

The following day, CBP officers examined an express consignment shipment manifested as “Handycraft Bags” that contained one electronic case and three organizer bags, and uncovered 853 counterfeit U.S. $100 bills, according to the CBP.

Over those two days, a total of 2,105 counterfeit bills, or $210,500, were found, and turned over to the U. S. Secret Service. There have been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing, officials said.

 

 

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Comedian will not be prosecuted for elbowing woman at JFK


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Port Authority Police

A comedian who was arrested Tuesday for elbowing a woman at John F. Kennedy International Airport will reportedly not be prosecuted.

Kevin Meaney, 58, whose work includes appearances on Saturday Night Live and the Late Show with David Letterman and a starring role in the early 1990s CBS sitcom “Uncle Buck,” was at the airport’s Terminal 1 about 6:30 p.m. when the incident occurred, officials said.

Port Authority police initially said Meaney came up to a 29-year-old woman while she was walking and elbowed her in the chest for “no apparent” reason, then was arrested on an assault charge.

The woman reported experiencing chest pain, but refused medical attention, officials said.

But, according to Reuters, after reviewing video footage of the incident, prosecutors determined that the two just bumped into each other, and the Queens District Attorney said he will not be prosecuted for the assault.

Tuesday’s incident was the second time Meaney, who also appeared in the movie “Big,” and was in Broadway’s Hairspray, was arrested at an airport. In 2002, he was arrested at San Francisco International Airport when he tried to grab a National Guardsman’s M-16 rifle after he was told to stop filming security operations with his video camera, according to SFGate.com.

 

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Comedian arrested for elbowing woman at JFK Airport


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Port Authority Police


The joke’s on him.

A  New York City stand-up comedian and actor was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport for elbowing a woman Tuesday “for no apparent reason,” Port Authority Police said.

Kevin Meaney, 58, whose work includes appearances on Saturday Night Live and the Late Show with David Letterman and a starring role in the early 1990s CBS sitcom “Uncle Buck,” was at the airport’s Terminal 1 about 6:30 p.m. when the incident occurred.

Meaney allegedly came up to a 29-year-old woman while she was walking and elbowed her in the chest.

Police said Meaney jabbed the woman “for no apparent reason,” and witnesses confirmed the victim’s claim.

The woman reported experiencing chest pain, but refused medical attention.

Meaney was arrested without incident and charged with assault, according to Port Authority Police.

The comedian also appeared in the movie “Big,” and was in Broadway’s Hairspray.

Tuesday’s incident was the second time Meaney was arrested at an airport. In 2002, he was arrested at San Francisco International Airport when he tried to grab a National Guardsman’s M-16 rifle after he was told to stop filming security operations with his video camera, according to SFGate.com.

 

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Pennsylvania man busted at JFK with loaded gun, metal knuckles


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of TSA

A Pennsylvania man is facing some serious prison time after he was caught at John F. Kennedy International Airport trying to board a plane with a loaded handgun and a martial arts weapon.

Richard Forti, 55 of Annville, in Central Pennsylvania, was passing through security on his way to Los Angeles Wednesday morning when he was busted with the weapons, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and District Attorney Richard Brown.

As he passed through airport security, Forti removed his vest and placed it in a bin to go on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. It was at that point that a TSA officer saw the .32 caliber gun, which was loaded with five rounds, in the pocket of the vest, the TSA said. Forti also allegedly had a cat eye-knuckles martial arts weapon with him that showed up on the TSA x-ray machine.

Port Authority police then confiscated the weapons and arrested Forti, the TSA said.

At the time of his arrest, Forti allegedly told police “The vest is mine and I put the gun in there for protection.  Those are my knuckles.  I put them in my vest,” according to Brown.

“It is beyond comprehension why intelligent people would think that it is okay to board an airplane with a loaded gun on their person,” Brown said.

Forti is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on numerous charges of criminal possession of a weapon, prosecutors said.  If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

 

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Port Authority bids farewell to K-9 partner


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) said goodbye to one of its best friends, a German shepherd named Phoenix, who helped protect the city’s travelers for over seven years.

Phoenix, a member of the PAPD K-9 Unit, Explosives Detection, recently passed away after fighting a long battle with cancer.

The bomb-sniffing dog was assigned to the unit in 2007 at 2 years old and since then loyally served alongside PAPD Officer Donald Golding.

“Phoenix never wavered in his dedication to duty,” Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo said. “He was a good will ambassador and a crime fighter, and he will be missed.”

For over seven years, Phoenix, who lived with Golding, started the day at John F. Kennedy International Airport and from there was deployed to various locations throughout the city.

Together with Golding, Phoenix had searched thousands of unattended bags and packages as part of the PAPD’s mission to protect travelers at its airports, seaports, terminals and PATH system, Pentangelo said.

Phoenix was also featured in the PAPD’s 2014 wall calendar and appeared on one of the Port Authority’s public awareness posters.

When he wasn’t taking a bite out of crime, the German shepherd also took part in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s community outreach, where children were able to enjoy his “playful nature,” Pentangelo said.

 

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Heroin found in JFK passenger’s underwear


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of U. S. Customs and Border Protection

A man flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport earlier this month got his panties in a bunch when he was caught with heroin in his underwear, according to U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.

The alleged smuggler, Bernard Charles, was caught after arriving at the airport on a flight from Trinidad on April 1, CBP said.

During a baggage examination, he allegedly “exhibited numerous signs of nervousness.” He was then taken to private room where CBP officers conducted a physical search of Charles and found two clear packages in his groin area, officials said.

The packages allegedly contained a brown paste-like substance that tested positive for heroin. In total, 1.79 pounds of the drug were seized, with an approximate street value of more than $70,000, according to CBP.

Charles, a Trinidad and Tobago citizen, was arrested and now faces federal narcotics smuggling charges.

 

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New travel plaza opens at JFK


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Weary drivers looking for a break can now zip over to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and rest at the city’s only travel plaza.

Airport Plazas, a company that builds rest areas, held a grand opening on Thursday of its $13 million rest spot on the outskirts of JFK on 150th Avenue.

The retail lot has a Sunoco gas station, a Wendy’s, Qdoba Mexican Grill, 7-Eleven, a pizzeria, restrooms, a car wash and a dry cleaner, and Airport Plazas is looking to add a bank. There is also a food court with Wi-Fi and a screen with current flight information.

“JFK did not have a main street,” said George Abi Zeid, president and CEO of Airport Plazas. “This plaza is a main street for JFK. A place where you could stop, meet people, have a fresh cup of coffee… fuel your car, sit and relax, and you could use the facilities and use the restroom, which is one of the cleanest restrooms you’ll ever see in a travel plaza.”

Besides being a rest area, the travel plaza also offers four different fuel selections, including Diesel, E85, natural gas and Tesla Motors’ electric car charges. There are also many many parking spaces available.

The rest area is also expected to bring an economic boost to the neighborhood. The retail area will employ about 90 people, mostly from nearby neighborhoods, and bring an estimated economic impact of $40 to $50 million to the community, Abi Zeid said.

“The Port Authority needs every applause they could get these days,” State Senator Joe Addabbo said. “This is what it’s all about in these tough economic times as we look to go a little forward we look for ways in which we could increase jobs, protect our environment and hopefully again protect our economy.”

 

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Taxi dispatchers busted for allegedly taking cash bribes at JFK


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Sixteen men, including seven Queens residents, have been charged with illegally taking cash bribes in a taxi-dispatching scheme at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), officials announced Wednesday.

The taxi dispatchers, who were employed by the Port Authority of New York  & New Jersey subcontractor Gateway Group One Frontline Services, were busted in an undercover operation following an anonymous tip, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

They are accused of accepting cash bribes to rig the dispatching system at JFK so taxi drivers could “basically ‘cut the line’ and get ahead,” Brown said.

At the airport, dispatchers regulate the taxis between a central holding location and the terminal pick-up area, according to the district attorney. The average wait time in the holding area is about two to three hours. When a dispatcher gives taxis a fare to nearby locations, such as Queens or Brooklyn, drivers receive a Short Haul, or “shorty,” ticket, which allows them to skip the central holding area and go directly to the terminal to pick-up passengers, Brown said.

The accused men allegedly accepted ten dollar cash payments to allow undercover cab operators to bypass long lines without waiting in the central holding area even though they did not have shorty tickets.

The sixteen accused dispatchers are currently waiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of commercial bribe receiving, official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities, each of which is punishable by up to one year in jail, according to the district attorney.

 

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FBI: Laser beam strikes targeting planes increase in NYC airports


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A crime that can temporarily blind airplane pilots and put air passengers at risk is spiking in New York City airports, authorities said.

Laser beam strikes targeting in-bound planes have increased 39 percent in the city, the FBI said. The number of incidents jumped to 99 in 2013 from 71 in 2012.

Authorities believe youngsters on top of residential roofs are aiming the powerful light beams at airplane cockpits as a prank.

“Laser incidents are often viewed as harmless acts. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos. “A laser pointed at a plane’s cockpit could blind a pilot and down an aircraft.”

At least 35 pilots have been injured by laser strikes since last December, the FBI said.

In one instance, a JetBlue pilot flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport last December was temporarily blinded for more than a week, the bureau said.

The federal agency is offering up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest and is hoping its regional awareness campaign deters the felony, which is punishable by five years in jail.

“It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

The pointers can be easily and legally purchased, authorities said, and the beams can travel further than one mile.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 212-384-1000.

 

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Queens highways, other city infrastructure ‘badly’ in need of repair: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons / Jim.henderson

Queens is facing some serious infrastructure challenges, according to a new report.

The Center for an Urban Future found the borough has five of the nine worst maintained highways in the city.

Based on a 10-point scale, where 1 to 5 is considered “poor,” 6 is “fair,” 7 to 8 is “good,” and 9 to 10 is “excellent,” in 2012, the Jackie Robinson Parkway received a surface rating of 5.8, and the Shore Front Parkway, Cross Bay Parkway Route 25A and Route 24 earned a 6.0.

Overall, highway conditions in the borough have been deteriorating, the report said. In 2008, 38 percent of Queens highways were rated “fair” or “poor.” Four years later, 52 percent were in the same shape.

The report, released Tuesday, showed additional infrastructure issues in the borough.

About 30 percent of its streets were in “fair” or “poor” condition.

Other findings showed that Queens New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments have the most deteriorated building façades and roofs, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspections. Four of the NYCHA complexes in the borough need over $70 million in façade repairs through 2016.

Several of the city’s oldest wastewater treatment plants are in eastern Queens, including Jamaica (1943) and Bowery Bay near Flushing (1939), according to the report.

John F. Kennedy International Airport also needs upgrades due to age.

Its facilities are 40 years old on average, “with 63 percent of cargo space considered ‘non-viable,’ or unfit for modern screening, storage and distribution,” the report said.

Queens was not alone in its infrastructure problems.

The report calculated that New York City needs $47 billion over the next four to five years to bring its “aging infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

It found that a “significant portion” of the city’s bridges, water mains, sewer pipes, school buildings and other important infrastructure is more than 50 years old and “badly” in need of repair.

“New York won’t be able to address every one of the city’s infrastructure vulnerabilities at this time,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future and co-editor of the report. “But if a significant chunk of the city’s critical infrastructure is not brought to a state of good repair in the years ahead, it could seriously undermine the city’s economic competitiveness and quality of life—and lead to substantial long-term costs.”

The aging infrastructure includes 1,000 miles of water mains more than 100 years old; more than 160 bridges across the five boroughs that were built over a century ago; and 6,300 miles of gas mains that are on average, 56 years old.

The report suggests creating new dedicated revenue sources to pay for repairing and modernizing infrastructure.

 

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Port Authority orders airlines to raise wages, give paid holiday to airport workers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Airport workers have won a battle for justice.

Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Director Patrick Foye has ordered the CEOs of Delta, JetBlue, American and United airlines to immediately raise wages and make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday for the 8,000 contracted workers at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.

Foye sent a letter to the four CEOs telling them to grant an immediate $1 an hour raise to workers making $9 or less, recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday and work towards “providing an improved wage and benefits package to the thousands of hard-working men and women at the airports.”

The announcement comes a week after close to 1,000 workers, elected officials and clergy members blocked a bridge leading to LaGuardia Airport on Martin Luther King Jr. Day during an act of civil disobedience demanding “economic justice.”

“Pat Foye’s letter is a promising step forward and marks the first real progress we have made in lifting thousands of contracted airport workers out of poverty,” said Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU 32 BJ, a union representing most of the airport workers. “We have gotten to this point due to the courage of the contracted airport workers and their willingness to take action – including being arrested for civil disobedience at LaGuardia Airport on MLK Day along with Congressmember Charles Rangel and many others.”

During the day of civil disobedience, more than 30 people were arrested, including city and state elected officials, and workers.

“It’s good that someone is finally listening to us and responding,” said Wendy Arellano, a LaGuardia Airport cabin cleaner. “This is a good plan. It’ll be better when we have good benefits, security and the peace of mind that a good contract gives you. But, for now, getting us up to 10 dollars and 10 cents is a real start.”

Figueroa said that the work will still continue to “bring contracted airport workers the dignity and respect they deserve,” and also help these workers get out of the path to poverty and succeed in gaining economic justice.

 

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Newly formed JetBlue Foundation gives $25K grants to two Queens schools


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways has given aviation students an extra push to fly above and beyond.

JetBlue, with a mission to inspire humanity beyond air travel, announced the launch of the JetBlue Foundation Tuesday. This company-sponsored foundation was created to encourage and advance aviation-related education by sparking interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

“The sky is literally the limit for aviation students,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue Foundation board of directors president. “Through the JetBlue Foundation, we will continue our efforts to put aviation on the map as a career choice for students of all ages and backgrounds. As a leader in the aviation space, we believe it is our responsibility to give back by making an investment in the future of this industry.”

The announcement took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s JetBlue state-of-the-art T5 terminal, where students got a behind the scenes tour of the terminal.

The newly formed foundation will give three $25,000 grants this year to schools and educational alliance, two in Queens and one in Florida, with a focus on STEM and aviation-related programs aimed towards underserved groups and communities.

“Inspiration starts here. Encouraging education in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and advocating for the future of aviation is how we will make a difference for our industry,” said Robin Hayes, JetBlue Foundation executive director. “These are the areas where we need more passion and focus to carry our industry forward.”

The two 2013 JetBlue Foundation grant receivers from Queens are Aviation High School in Long Island City and CUNY Aviation Institute at York College in Jamaica.

Aviation High School, the country’s largest public aeronautical high school with over 2,300 students primarily from underrepresented groups, will use the money to introduce an Aviation Welding Improvement Plan. This plan will guarantee students have resources to earn a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification as an aircraft maintenance technician. The school would purchase advanced technologies and materials needed to prepare students.

CUNY Aviation Institute at York College will use the grant to develop a course to create an FAA-approved Aircraft Dispatcher Certification program, making the college the first New York public education institution to offer this program.

In order to continue building lasting relationships with the schools, the JetBlue Foundation will also provide aviation-focused educational programs with in-kind support, internships and mentoring from crew members.

“Since JetBlue’s beginnings, the airline set its sights on inspiring humanity beyond air travel, not only for our customers and crewmembers but the various communities we serve,” said Geraghty. “One way we have done this is by showing support for STEM programs. We recognize our responsibility to the world below our wingers – to make it better and inspire others to do the same.”

 

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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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