Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy International Airport

LI man arrested for pointing laser at plane heading to JFK


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

A Long Island man was arrested Wednesday for pointing a laser beam at two aircraft this summer, risking the lives of passengers and potentially people on the ground, said the FBI.

According to court records, on August 21, Angel Rivas, of Shirley, directed a laser pointer at a plane headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport and a Suffolk County Police Department helicopter that was sent to investigate the incident.

Rivas was released on $10,000 bond, according to media reports, after his arraignment in front of United States Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay in a U.S. State Courthouse in Central Islip on January 23.

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is not a prank,” Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI said in a press release. “It is a federal crime with penalties befitting its seriousness.”

In February of 2012, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which explicitly prohibited pointing lasers at aircraft.

If convicted, Rivas faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Overcast. High of 37 with a windchill as low as 19F. Winds from the West at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 20%. Monday night: Overcast with a chance of snow and a chance of rain, then a chance of snow after midnight. Low of 32F with a windchill as low as 25. Winds from the West at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Resorts World New Year’s Eve Bash

Ring in 2013 at Resorts World Casino’s New Year’s Eve Bash from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., where there will be live music, champagne and giveaways. Click here for more info or check out more New Year’s Eve events in Queens

Driver charged with DWI in fatal Queens crash

The driver of a car that overturned into the marshy waters near John F. Kennedy International Airport early Sunday morning, killing a 25-year-old woman, has been arrested. Read more: NBC New York

2 charged with teen’s murder in Far Rockaway

Two suspects were charged Sunday in connection with a shooting this weekend that left a 17-year-old boy dead outside a low-income housing development in Far Rockaway. Read more: CBS New York

Psychiatric test ordered for subway shove suspect

A woman accused of pushing a man to his death in front of a subway train told police she did so because she blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11 attacks, and because “I thought it would be cool,” prosecutors said at a court hearing. Read more: ABC New York/AP

President Obama’s determined to get a gun-control law in place early in his second term

President Obama called the Newtown school massacre “the worst day” of his presidency as he reiterated Sunday his determination to sign a gun-control bill into law early in his second term. Read more: New York Daily News

Hillary Clinton hospitalized after doctors discover blood clot

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Sunday after the discovery of a blood clot stemming from the concussion she sustained earlier this month. Read more: AP

Fiscal cliff: Biden, McConnell make major progress

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden made major progress toward a year-end tax bill overnight. Read more: Politico

JFK workers say cutting corners puts passengers at risk


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Things do not seem to be flying smoothly at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In recent months, two separate groups of contracted JFK security officers have filed complaints with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), citing problems with officials making employees cut corners when inspecting aircrafts and working within the terminals, along with substandard working conditions.

The most recent complaint was filed on behalf of Global Elite Group agents who perform security for several international airlines in JFK terminals 1, 4 and 8.

“Sometimes we get rushed by the managers,” said Yonathan Verasteguy, who has worked for Global Elite for eight months, and is already sick of the conditions. “Inspecting an aircraft should take 30 to 40 minutes, but we’re given 10 minutes for most flights. I don’t think it’s safe.”

Verasteguy said that it is mandated for all airport security officers to inspect each plane and search for items left behind, including threatening items such as weapons, drugs or explosives. They are expected to open every overhead bin, search each row, open every tray table and search all seat-back pockets.

However, for many turnaround flights at JFK, employees are not permitted the proper amount of time to conduct a thorough search so as to not delay the following flight out. Once a plane lands, they sweep through the aircraft and hope it is properly prepared for the next trip.

“My heart skips a beat every time I have to spend less time than necessary inspecting a plane,” said Jeffrey Uyanik, a JFK Global security officer. “Just this August, an airline representative told me I had three minutes to complete my search. Three minutes is not enough time to search the plane. I had to skip entire rows.”

Additionally, the Air Serv Corporation at JFK, which regulates vehicles within certain terminals and reviews passenger identification, filed a complaint with the TSA claiming security officers receive little to no training before beginning work, and are also given inadequate or malfunctioning equipment.

Global Elite has experienced similar troubles, being given faulty “wands” used to detect metal. As maintenance workers board an aircraft, Global officers must confirm that they do not bring any dangerous items on board, which they do by “wanding down” the crew.

“Too often we are given broken wands that don’t detect metal. Too often, even when we complain, we don’t get a properly functioning wand for too long a period of time,” said Global agents in their official complaint. “On some occasions, managers have directly told workers to work with broken wands. In other cases, when we complain, we are given properly functioning equipment.”

Also in the complaint, officers say that Global Elite does not provide them with radios, forcing them to communicate via their personal cell phones, often in airport areas lacking service.

Global Elite Group responded in a statement saying that it has “an exemplary record of safety and security at JFK Airport,” and that it has had constructive informational sessions with its staff, and will “continue to move forward.”

Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokesperson, said they are investigating the claims of both airline security contractors. They have not yet received the complaint from Global Elite agents, but have been keeping up with the situation via local media.

Employees from Air Serv and Global were told to not speak with the media, but intolerable conditions have forced them to speak out.

The select security officers that chose to do so, who are non-unionized workers, have begun organizing with union SEIU 32BJ to improve their working conditions, wages and benefits.

Aside from security within the terminals, JFK International has also experienced troubles at the security checkpoints for incoming passengers. This summer, Fox reported an incident in which a Long Island student made it through security with a large knife in his carry-on bag, en route to Terminal 4, one base for Global Elite. At the close of Memorial Day Weekend, thousands of travelers pass through the security checkpoints, and this particular 19-year-old was on his way to Africa as part of a missionary group. Tracking down the passenger took airport officials ten minutes after he had left the screening area.

Additionally, this past June, the TSA closed Terminal 7 for about two hours after discovering a metal detector had malfunctioned at a security checkpoint, and that passengers had already passed through without being properly screened, as reported by the Daily News. In such a situation, procedure mandates the terminal be emptied and all passengers re-checked.

On Thursday, October 4, members of Global Elite, Air Serv and SEIU 32BJ came together at Kennedy’s Terminal 4 to voice their concerns. They picketed, chanted and marched to Terminal 3, holding signs conveying their troubles.

“Respect our rights” and “our voices will be heard” were some of the messages. Workers also symbolically taped their mouths closed as they marched across terminals, showing how they have been silenced by their employers.

State Senator Tony Avella attended the event, speaking out in favor of the frustrated officers. He said he was “appalled” when he heard about their working conditions, and “shocked” when he learned they were banned from talking to the media.

“This is an issue about safety and free speech,” he said. “This affects every single person that is coming to the airport, and this is a matter that must be addressed.”

Residents up in arms over JFK runway expansion


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

John F. Kennedy International Airport has some angry neighbors to the north, thanks to a proposed plan by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to extend a runway closer to a nearby residential community.

“Our question is, how big is big enough?” asked Barbara Brown, chair of the Eastern Queens Alliance, of the potential 728-foot runway expansion. At a public hearing on Thursday, October 4, hundreds of southeast Queens residents gathered in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Springfield Gardens to voice their opposition to the Port Authority’s plan.

“This is airport sprawl,” said Brown,as planes could be heard soaring overhead.

The Port Authority, under Federal Aviation Association (FAA) guidelines, wishes to widen JFK runway 4L/22R by roughly 200 feet, and expand it to the north. This change will allow the runway to accommodate larger aircraft carrying more passengers, according to Port Authority officials. Also, officials said, JFK would potentially experience a significant reduction in flight delays.

However, Queens residents are concerned with the noise and air pollution they expect the expansion to bring, mainly to the Springfield Gardens community.

“There will be a significant impact,” said Brown. “The Port Authority slipped up, they didn’t do their diligence.”

Brown and the Eastern Queens Alliance also accused the Port Authority of not making the local community aware of the proposed change, instead warning the residents in Nassau County.

The agency advertised its $500 million plan in Newsday last spring, and allowed the Long Island community to voice its concerns, which will be considered by the FAA. However, those closest to the airport were unaware of the situation until much later, they claim.

Brian Simon, director of government relations for the Port Authority, attended Thursday’s meeting.

“I thank [Brown] for keeping us honest,” he said. “Sometimes in government, we are not perfect. We can do better.”

Simon stated they are mandated by the federal government to create this project, and noted the large economic output that could result from the expansion.

“[JFK is] an economic engine that serves this community,” he said, citing the jobs that the international airport creates.

Port Authority environment officials have also done an analysis of the area, as well as tests regarding noise pollution. Studies found that the expansion would only raise the noise level by 0.7 decibels, an amount nearly undetectable by the human ear. Thus, officials claim there would be no significant impact.

Residents responded by “boos” and shouts, not won over by the Port Authority’s arguments.

“We are open to all comments,” said Simon, who encouraged residents to contact him after the meeting with their concerns.

The local community now has until November 1 to file complaints with the Port Authority, which will be considered by the FAA and put into the plan’s final proposal.

If approved, the expansion will be complete by late 2014.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Clear. High of 66. Winds from the NW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the WSW in the afternoon. Monday night: Clear. Low of 54. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: CityParks Seniors Fitness program

Starting today, the CityParks Seniors Fitness program will offer free yoga, tennis and fitness walking classes in parks across the five boroughs.The classes, which are open to New Yorkers 60 and older, last for seven weeks. All equipment and instruction is free. Sessions are one hour long and take place twice a week. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Empty Key Food store spells disappointment for Flushing residents

The large signs plastered outside the shuttered Key Food on Parsons Blvd. in Flushing shout “Lost Our Lease” but the story is way more complicated. Read more: New York Daily News

Couple seeking custody of kids they ‘kidnapped’

A Queens couple that busted their eight kids out of foster care last year and later spent 90 days in prison for custodial interference is now suing — for custody. Read more: New York Post

Woman, 64, dies aboard Korean Air flight into JFK Airport

A 64-year-old woman died of natural causes aboard a Korean Air flight into Kennedy Airport Sunday, officials said. Read more: New York Daily News

Multi-million dollar kennel planned for Kennedy Airport

John F. Kennedy International Airport is going to the dogs. And cats. And probably birds and horses. Read more: CBS New York

New York City public schools offering ‘morning-after pill’

The New York City Department of Education has begun offering the so-called morning-after pill to students in a pilot program at 13 high schools across the city. Read more: CBS New York

Obama launches new tax offensive against Romney

President Barack Obama’s campaign is launching a new offensive Monday against Republican Mitt Romney, blasting the GOP nominee for criticizing Americans who don’t pay income taxes without having “come clean” about his own.  Read more: AP

Week-old Giant panda cub dies at National Zoo

The giant panda cub born a week ago at the National Zoo in Washington died Sunday morning, saddening zoo officials and visitors who had heralded its unexpected arrival. Read more: ABC New York/AP

‘Homeland’ and ‘Modern Family’ win big at Emmys

The post-Emmy champagne surely tasted sweet for the people at “Modern Family” and “Homeland,” but they needed only to look around the Nokia Theatre to see how quickly popular tastes and Hollywood’s most unpredictable awards show can change perceptions. Read more: AP

 

Planes searched at JFK following hijack threat


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Two planes at JFK Airport were searched this afternoon following a possible terrorist threat, said multiple media reports.

Though the Port Authority could not confirm anything, recent footage from Fox 5 New York showed the two planes, reportedly an American Airlines flight from San Francisco and a Finnair plane originating from Helsinki, isolated on the runway with police, emergency and other vehicles nearby.

Around 3 p.m., Port Authority Police allegedly received an anonymous phone call claiming that “hijackers were hiding in the wheel wells of the plane and were wearing gas masks,” the New York Post reported.

Both Fox 5 and the Post said that similar hijacking threats were made to other national airports.

After the planes were investigated, they were allowed to head to the terminal around 5 p.m.

 

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

EVENT of the DAY: A tale of two stadiums

Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium disappear under “the slow precision of giant machinery whose operators’ hands were not unlike skilled surgeons choreographing a dinosaur ballet.” The exhibit shows the changing face of New York through the eyes and viewpoints of three photographers: Rich Scarpitta, Steve Spak and Rob Yasinac.

[Click here for more info or submit your events]

Police search for livery cab driver who allegedly tried to rape passenger 

Police are looking for a livery cab driver who allegedly tried to rape a passenger in Queens. They allege the driver followed the 20-year-old into her Astoria building after she got out of the cab Friday morning. Investigators said he grabbed her and tried to rape her. Read more: [NY1] 

City Board of Standards and Appeals green-lights large Mormon church in Flushing 

The Mormon church’s prayers to build a huge chapel in Flushing have been answered. The city Board of Standards and Appeals voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve construction of a church that is more than one-and-a-half times what is permitted under current zoning. The new chapel will be built on land owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 145-13 33rd Ave. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Secret plan would move the controversial Civic Virtue statue from Queens to Brooklyn 

The city has hatched a secret plan to move a controversial, crumbling public statue out of Queens and into Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the Daily News has learned. The Triumph of Civic Virtue, which sits near Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, has been both hailed as a priceless piece of public art worthy of restoration and derided as a sexist eyesore that should be trashed. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

City, federal gov’ts to work together to improve Jamaica Bay 

Nat Diaz visits Jamaica Bay often but he has other, less frequent visitors on his mind. “They’re not taking care of it,” he said. “They should be taking care of it a little more.” He’s not talking about just the city. It’s the federal government, too. Oversight of Jamaica Bay, its trails and beaches, are split between the two, which sometimes leads to, well, miscommunication. Read more: [NY1] 

JFK jet in laser scare 

A lunatic aimed a powerful laser beam at an airliner flying over Long Island on its way into JFK — sending the pilot to the hospital and endangering the lives of the 84 people aboard. The first officer on JetBlue Flight 657 from Syracuse was treated for injuries to both eyes after the blinding flash of light lit up the cockpit Sunday night — as the FBI and Suffolk cops hunted for the person responsible. He could face federal prison time. Read more: [New York Post] 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Con Ed contract talks expected to resume Thursday 

Consolidated Edison workers were back outside company headquarters in Union Square Monday, a day after the utility locked out 8,500 union employees when their contract expired. Harry Farrell, President of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America, is expected to call for federal mediators to intervene to get talks started again. Talks broke down early Sunday morning with both sides saying they remain far apart on many issues. Read more: [NY1] 

TSA confiscate two BB guns, stun gun at JFK 

Transportation Security Administration officers confiscated two BB guns and a stun gun at John F. Kennedy International Airport over the weekend. Officers found the stun gun inside the checked-bag of a passenger headed to Cairo on Friday night. Read more: [NY1] 

Waste Management’s Long Island City facility to expand, move garbage by rail 

Some western Queens residents are turning their noses at a plan that they say will increase the number of foul-smelling freight trains rumbling through their neighborhood. Waste Management of New York, which operates the waste transfer station on Review Ave. in Long Island City, received state approval last month to expand the facility and more than double its daily trash handling capacity. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Queens construction worker clings to side of building for nearly a half hour after scaffolding collapses as FDNY comes to his rescue

A Queens construction worker who was stranded balancing precariously on a sixth-floor window sill was rescued by firefighters after a scaffolding collapse Monday. Stalyn Suauzhanay was painting and doing facade work on the brick apartment building on 45th St. in Sunnyside when the suspended platform he was on suddenly gave way just before 11 a.m. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Update: family of Astoria murder victim Danielle Thomas breaks silence on accused killer boyfriend 

The heartbroken family of a woman found brutally murdered in a Queens apartment spoke out Monday. The victim’s boyfriend was arrested on Friday and charged in her killing. Read more: [1010wins] 

Community says changing the name of August Martin HS destroys legacy


| brennison@queenscourier.com

For students and graduates of August Martin High School, the name’s significance far surpasses letters emblazoned on the front of a school building. It exemplifies legacy, tradition and achievement. It represents a man that everyone that walks through the doors can look to as an example of triumph.

In 1971, the school’s named was changed from Woodrow Wilson to August Martin, honoring the country’s first black commercial pilot.

The Jamaica high school currently finds itself is on the list of schools planning to be turned around, meaning the school may close and reopen under a new name.

“If we allow August Martin to be taken off this building, what it does is simply does away with history,” said Ricky Davis, a commercial pilot and teacher of aviation at the school. “It does away with the struggle of our ancestors.”

The predominantly black school is just three miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport and the only school that allows students the opportunity to man an aircraft. Approximately 300 students are enrolled in the aviation program. Every Thursday, Davis takes his class to fly, sometimes solo, allowing students to obtain hours towards a pilot license.

“I would never be in favor of getting rid of the name August Martin,” said Councilmember James Sanders. “I would be very much in favor of keeping tradition; keeping a legacy going.”

Martin, a Tuskegee Airman, was killed in 1968 while delivering goods to Biafra during the Nigerian civil war.

“That name means something, because if it wasn’t for a man like that, guess what, [Chancellor Dennis Walcott] wouldn’t have his job,” said Cleavon Evans August Martin’s Alumni Association president. “You want to take that name and destroy it? How disrespectful to this community.”

A handful of students attended Monday, April 16’s public hearing on the school’s potential closure proudly displaying their pilot stripes earned at the school.

“[The DOE] doesn’t understand that this school is rooted in the community. They don’t understand that [Martin] learned to fly in Tuskegee, they don’t understand that he died bringing goods to children in Biafra,” said Leo Casey, the UFT vice president for high schools. “They think that a name is like a number, that you can just change it. Well, this school has history and this school cannot die.”

Ilan Grapel arrives in Queens


| nkarimi@queenscourier.com

Ilan Grapel has arrived back in Queens, landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, October 29 after months in an Egyptian jail following allegations he was an Israeli spy.

Grapel was released from jail on Thursday, October 27 and flown to Israel, where he was reunited with his mother Irene and Congressmember Gary Ackerman on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. He then departed for the U.S. early Saturday morning.

He was released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners, according to Ackerman’s office, after being accused of spying for Israel and spending more than four months behind bars in Egypt.

“Grapel’s attorney, Abbe Lowell really helped win the case along with Ackerman,” said Daniel Grapel, Ilan’s father.
Grapel, who holds joint U.S. and Israeli citizenship, was volunteering for a group aiding Sudanese refugees in Egypt, while staying at a youth hostel. According to reports, he was detained by police who saw him carrying a protest sign at a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in June. Grapel was accused of being an officer of the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, despite records of entering the country with a legitimate passport.

Grapel graduated early from Johns Hopkins University, speaks fluent Arabic and Hebrew, served in Israel’s armed forces and had internships with Israel’s high court and in the Queens district office of Ackerman.