Tag Archives: lefrak city

Knicks legend John Starks scores with LeFrak City library visit


| svrattos@queenscourier.com

Photos by Stephen Vrattos

Legendary Knicks shooting guard John Starks visited the Queens Library at LeFrak City on Tuesday as part of the 9th annual “Knicks Read to Achieve” summer reading program, sponsored by Optimum Community and Madison Square Garden.

Joining the venerable NBA superstar, who turned 50 the day before, was Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Targeted to children ages 6 to 12, “Knicks Read to Achieve” consists of a series of reading events at libraries, camps and community centers throughout the New York/New Jersey metro areas. The initiative encourages reading through the use of incentives and is highlighted by read-aloud events with Knicks alumni and elected officials at select locations.

Despite the morning’s torrential downpour, parents and children of all ages filled the community room of the library to meet the Knicks all-time leader in three point field goals; read with him and the councilwoman; pick up some free goodies, such as a children’s book, book bag and T-shirt; participate in an interactive quiz and try to their luck at winning a pair of tickets to an upcoming New York Liberty basketball game.

Starks proved he was as adept at playing solo as he was with a team, when Councilwoman Ferreras-Copeland was delayed. He spoke with the kids and engaged in some friendly banter, which helped prevent the youngsters from getting fidgety and disruptive. He asked the children what sports they liked, what books they’ve read and what they enjoyed doing in the summer.

Basketball was a clear favorite to the former question. To the second, a child spoke of a story she’d read, about a little girl, like herself, who started baking cupcakes as a means of combatting the bullying she was getting at school, to which Starks admitted, he too was bullied as a kid. When one of the young audience members mentioned swimming as a favorite summer pastime, the Knicks alumnus asked if anyone had seen “Jaws.” “It kept me out of the water,” he revealed.

Starks also introduced “Salt in His Shoes,” the book he would to read with the kids, of which every child received a free copy when they arrived. Written by Deloris Jordan, mother of NBA superstar Michael Jordan, the picture book tells the story of young Michael’s early hardship at playing neighborhood basketball against kids much taller than himself, and how fierce determination and hard work, along with a little motherly advice, led him to overcome the odds and succeed.

“We’re here to talk about the greatest basketball player ever,” Starks said. “Who do you think that is?” Upon hearing his own name yelled out, Starks gave a hearty laugh. “Yeah, it was me,” he teasingly said, before humbling admitting it wasn’t he.

No mention was made by the Knicks great of the famous “dunk” play on Michael Jordan during the 1993 Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls, although one can’t help but wonder if the moment, one of the most famous plays in Knicks history and one of the rare few wherein Jordan was bested by another, was in the back of Starks’ mind during the above exchange.

“Everyone in this room is important,” Ferreras-Copeland said upon her arrival, before telling parents and children alike that New York City spends 78 billion dollars a year on education and kids should “use the library to get smart. We believe in you.” The councilwoman touted the importance and wonder of reading. “You can travel anywhere in the world; meet anyone from another country in a single day just by reading a book.”

Starks began reading “Salt in His Shoes,” quickly ceding the duties to Ferreras-Copeland, who soon turned the reading over to volunteers from the audience.

“My mother pushed me to go to the library and read,” Starks revealed. “And my grandmother read the Bible to us.” The former NBA superstar named “Peter Pan” as his favorite book growing up. “I like fantasy,” he said. “I like the idea of being able to fly!”


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Great Wall Supermarket opens in Corona


| svrattos@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Stephen Vrattos

In spectacular fashion, Great Wall (GW) Supermarket opened its latest location Thursday at 59-16 99th St. in Corona.

A row of about 30 dignitaries, including nearby LeFrak City General Manager Gerald Rivera, participated in the ribbon cutting, which included explosive confetti cannons, Chinese drummers and dancing lions and dragons. The new location joins more than a half dozen stores throughout the northeast, including in New York, Boston, Maryland, Virginia and Atlanta.

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The first GW Supermarket was established in Elmhurst in 2001, with three now opened in the borough. At more than 30,000 square feet, the new store carries a wide variety of cut-to-order meats and seafood, including geoduck clams and live eels, groceries and a vast selection of fresh produce that would make a farmers market blush, including aloe vera and durian. The popular chain plans to expand into organic foods to offer its customers healthy living choices.

“We focus on fresh produce,” said Operating Manager Edward Wu. “We also have our own brand, so we’re able to offer products of as high a quality as the major brands, but at much lower prices.”


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WIN Foundation looks to provide ‘Soles for Education’


| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the WIN Foundation

The When in Need (WIN) Foundation is hoping to give children in Nigeria shoes so they can walk comfortably to and from their brand-new school.

Founded by Chetachi Dunkley-Ecton, a philanthropist who is also the CEO of a company that provides in-home and community care for people with disabilities, the WIN Foundation was created two years ago to provide grants to assist minorities in the areas of secular education, higher education and health education.

Dunkley-Ecton’s first course of action as president and CEO of the foundation was to fully refurbish the Samuel Njemanze Primary School in Owerri, Nigeria, and is now hoping to provide the students with shoes with the Soles for Education initiative.

“Being a philanthropist for 30 years, this is what I’ve been doing for many years, building schools and churches and helping especially orphans,” Dunkely-Ecton said. “About two years ago we decided to make it official and to have it measured, so we started with that school.”

The WIN foundation is headquartered in Philadelphia but their work affects people all around the world by providing services such as preventative health education on diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. The foundation also provides college scholarships to high school students in Philadelphia and that program will soon expand to New York City.

The organization also created the Mission of Mercy, an initiative to identify and aid orphanages in need around the world. The initiative is meant to change people’s perceptions of what a vacation should be, she said.

“We donate plenty of food and supplies, toiletries to the orphanage,” Dunkley-Ecton said. “What were trying to do is change how people vacation.”

The WIN foundation has visited orphanages in Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Chile, Argentina and other countries around the world. Dunkley-Ecton said she hopes people will consider visiting orphanages and donating time and supplies the next time they plan their vacation to a foreign country.

George Onuorah, the media director and LeFrak City resident, said Dunkely-Ecton’s commitment to the foundation is what made him want to get involved.

“Her passion, trying to help, is really something that is incredible,” Onuorah said. “It made me gravitate toward trying to become part of this cause because she’s so committed about helping people.”

The organization is looking to raise $18,500 to purchase and ship shoes to the Samuel Njemanze Primary School. People interested in donating can visit their GoFundMe page.

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LeFrak City cuts ribbon on new courtyard as part of multimillion-dollar renovations


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A new era has begun at LeFrak City as the Corona apartment complex celebrated the grand opening of a brand-new courtyard filled with amenities just in time for the warmer weather.

The West Courtyard, located at 96-04 57th Ave. in LeFrak City, was officially opened on Wednesday morning after a ribbon-cutting ceremony including local elected officials, LeFrak Organization representatives and residents of LeFrak City.

The courtyard, which is the first phase of projects aiming to transform the outdoor amenities at LeFrak City, features new trees and shrubs, walkways, a new seating area with benches and picnic tables, and two athletic courts currently used for basketball and tennis.

“We’re going to be able to have a great summer and spring here in LeFrak City, but it only works if we keep it clean, if we respect ourselves and respect the facility and we allow the residents and children to enjoy this in that kind of atmosphere,” Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry said. “We can do this. This is not so hard; we just have to work together, communicate together and enjoy the diversity that LeFrak City has promoted for so many years.”

Aubry also added that the new projects were a “new era” for the Corona apartment complex. Along with the West Courtyard, the next outdoor project will be adding a new playground with state-of-the-art equipment for young children.

Plans are even being drawn to bring a new swimming pool at the East Courtyard in 2017, according to Jamie LeFrak, principal of the LeFrak Organization.

“LeFrak City is more, it’s much more and by that I’m not talking about the spacious, sun-filled apartments or the lively, growing neighborhood with its library and schools and shopping malls,” LeFrak said. “The more in LeFrak City is the people. LeFrak City is 20,000 amazing people in 5,000 families and more than 200 maintenance workers, safety officers and administrative staff.”

All the outdoor projects are part of a multimillion-dollar renewal and modernization of LeFrak City which began three years ago.

The overall renovations include five new lobbies with 10 new mail rooms, hundreds of renovated apartments, 20 new laundry rooms, 10,000 brighter and more efficient light fixtures, 60 fully modernized elevators, 80 restored façades, eight reconstructed garages, five new security and intercom systems including more than 1,000 new HD video cameras and a residential rooftop solar energy installation.

“LeFrak has always been a destination and now it will continue to be even a better destination with this courtyard. This is the new beginning,” state Senator Jose Peralta said. “LeFrak has gone through some recent tragedies but today is a day of celebration. Today is a day of celebration because today is about a new hope, a new beginning where we are going to transform LeFrak into what LeFrak was going to be envisioned for.”

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Fire safety education campaign launched at LeFrak City following fatal New Year’s Eve blaze


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A new campaign has been launched at LeFrak City to help educate residents to prevent a tragedy like the New Year’s Eve fire, which killed three people, from occurring again.

Just minutes before ringing in 2015, an unattended pot of a traditional Haitian soup cooking on a stove sparked a fire that left three dead in their Corona apartment and sent flames shooting from the ninth-floor balcony, officials said.

The FDNY determined the blaze was accidental, and no working smoke detectors were found in the home.

Police identified the victims, all residents of the apartment, as Nadia Donnay, 37, Louise Jean-Charles, 59, and Napolean Michel, 69.

In response to the fire, state Sen. Jose Peralta, together with the FDNY, LeFrak City Organization and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, announced on Thursday the launch of a fire safety education campaign for the apartment complex. 

“New Yorkers awoke on New Year’s Day to news of the horrific tragedy that struck LeFrak City just as we were all ringing in 2015 and looking forward to the promise the new year held for us and our loved ones,” Peralta said.

During this campaign, the FDNY will conduct fire safety education presentations for tenants on Jan. 14 and Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Continental Room of the Rome Tower of LeFrak City, located at 96-10 57th Ave. 

Food Bazaar Supermarkets donated $500 worth of smoke detector batteries, which will be available to tenants who attend the presentations, made possible by the FDNY Foundation.

“The lesson from the fire is that a working smoke alarm can be a life-saving piece of home safety equipment,” Peralta said. “An operating smoke detector provides a quick and early warning, providing the extra few seconds needed to escape a fire and potential tragedy.”

According to Gerald Rivera, general manager of LeFrak City Maintenance Services, owners are required to periodically replace smoke detectors upon expiration of their life, which is about 10 years. The replacements must then have a non-removable and non-replaceable battery that gives power to the alarm for a minimum of 10 years.

“LeFrak City has a proactive program to replace all campus detectors over a two-year period, a full year in advance of the required deadline,” Rivera said. “Since December 2013, we have replaced 1,600 of the old smoke detectors and will complete all remaining 3,006 replacements by the end of 2015.”

Malikah K. Shabazz, a tenant and president of the LeFrak City Tenants’ Association, said she will inform other tenants about the presentation by working with management to post notices on each floor and in the lobby, and send emails reminding people.

“We get comfortable and take a lot of things for granted and a lot of times we have to constantly be reminded to take precautions when you’re cooking or whatever you are doing that uses flame. You just have to be very careful,” Shabazz said. “It’s a blessing for them to come into our community and assist us in any way that they can.”

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New Year’s Eve cooking accident caused deadly fire at LeFrak City: officials


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via YouTube/Orest Petrychyn

Updated Friday, Jan. 2, 10:38 a.m.

An unattended pot of soup cooking on a stove sparked a horrific New Year’s Eve fire that left three dead in their LeFrak City apartment and sent flames shooting from the ninth-floor balcony, officials said.

The blaze was reported by a call to 911 at 11:46 p.m. on Wednesday and quickly went to a second alarm.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the fire at the 16-story apartment tower at 96-02 57th Ave. in Corona. After firefighters battled their way through a smoke-filled hallway, they found two women and a man unconscious and unresponsive in Apt. 9C.

All three were pronounced dead at area hospitals.

Police identified the victims, all residents of the apartment, as Nadia Donnay, 37, Louise Jean-Charles, 59, and Napolean Michel, 69.

Donnay and Jean-Charles were taken to Elmhurst Hospital. Michel was taken to Forest Hills Hospital.

The family was preparing a traditional Haitian New Year’s Eve soup on the stove that night when it was left unattended, causing the fire, according to officials. The FDNY determined the blaze was accidental and no working smoke alarms were found in the home.

“Right away, we took our jackets and we started knocking on the doors letting people know there’s a fire,” one resident told WCBS TV. “There was smoke all over the place.”

Seven firefighters suffered minor injuries.

According to a LeFrak City Organization spokesman, the building has no fire violations and the apartment was outfitted with smoke detectors as required by law.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the families of those affected,” the spokesman said. “A smoke detector rider attesting to the presence of this life safety equipment was signed and initialed by the tenant in 2012.”


A YouTube video posted of the fire shows flames shooting from the ninth floor balcony.

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Reward leading to arrest of pregnant Corona woman’s killer doubled


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via Google Maps/Facebook

The reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer of a pregnant mother of four who was gunned down the day before Thanksgiving in Corona has doubled to $12,000.

Brandee Anastasia Massey, 27 — who had just dropped off three of her four children at school — was murdered outside her 98-15 Horace Harding Expressway apartment on the morning of Nov. 26, police said.

The LeFrak City resident was shot in the chest and arm and taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was about six months pregnant, and doctors were able to deliver her baby, police said. But the child, a girl, died several hours later.

Police were considering Massey’s uncle as a possible suspect, according to published reports. The day after the Nov. 26 shooting, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the incident may have involved a domestic dispute with the uncle.

Food Bazaar Supermarkets has agreed to contribute $4,000 and Queens Center mall is donating $2,000, according to state Sen. Jose Peralta, who has already offered a $2,000 reward in the hope of developing leads in Massey’s murder investigation.

The LeFrak City Organization and NYPD additionally each offered $2,000 last month.

“Food Bazaar Supermarkets and Queens Center have deep roots in this community and understand that the most important thing we can do right now for the Massey family is to help law enforcement bring Brandee’s killer to justice and make whoever is responsible pay for this brutal crime,” Peralta said.

Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras' office

Joseph Massey, Brandee Anastasia Massey’s husband, and their four children. (Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ office)

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras announced last week that she has opened an education fund and launched a public fundraising campaign for Massey’s children, who are all under the age of 10.

LeFrak City Maintenance Services has made an initial pledge of $15,000. Anyone who would like to donate to the education fund can do so through www.rally.org/MasseyFund.

“These innocent children have suffered the greatest loss,” Ferreras said. “And while we cannot save them from the lifetime of pain and difficulty they will face growing up without a mother, as a community, we can give them a fighting chance at a better future.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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$6K reward offered for info on shooting of pregnant woman in LeFrak City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Instead of coming together with his family to celebrate Thanksgiving, Joseph Massey had to spend his holiday trying to figure out a way to tell his four children that their mother would never be coming home.

Massey’s wife, 27-year-old Brandee Anastasia Massey, was gunned down outside of her apartment at LeFrak City at 98-15 Horace Harding Expressway in Corona on Wednesday morning, police said. She was about six months pregnant and had been returning from dropping three of her four kids off at school, according to authorities.

The stay-at-home mom was shot in the chest and arm and taken to Elmhurst Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Doctors were able to deliver her baby, but the child died several hours later, according to police.

Now, hoping to develop leads in the murder investigation, state Sen. Jose Peralta and the LeFrak City Organization are each offering $2,000, in addition to the NYPD’s initial $2,000 reward, for any information leading to the arrest of Brandee’s killer.

“As this community mourns a horrific tragedy, we come together to provide however much support and comfort we can to a grieving husband and devastated family,” Peralta said. “But the most important thing we can do for them right now is to help police and law enforcement bring Brandee’s killer to justice and make whoever is responsible pay for this brutal crime.”

Brandee Anastasia Massey (Photo via Facebook)

Brandee Anastasia Massey (Photo via Facebook)

Since the shooting, Joseph Massey and his four children, who have not been able to return back to their home in Lefrak City, have been staying at a hotel. Peralta and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras have helped the family with expenses.

After seeing Massey Thursday night, Peralta said the father is very distraught and just wants justice for his family and children.

“All he said was, ‘I don’t know how to explain it to my children,’” Peralta added.

Peralta will also be creating a fund in the upcoming days to help provide for the education of Massey’s four children.

Norma Cooksey, 77, who lived in LeFrak City for 40 years, was friends with Brandee’s grandmother and said she was shocked when she heard the news.

“She grew up in front of me. She was a nice person,” Cooksey said.

Residents of LeFrak City, which is currently undergoing renovations and improvements, say they are concerned for their safety. The building where Brandee lived currently has no cameras and residents said the front door to enter the building remains unlocked.

“We have to really beef up security. Do we have adequate security here at LeFrak? In my opinion, absolutely not,” said Jim Galloway, coordinator for the Lefrak City Tenant’s League. “After this we need cameras on all the floors as quickly as possible. So if anybody comes in to LeFrak to do something irregular at least we can see them through any camera.”

Police Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday the shooting appears to have been a domestic dispute involving the victim’s uncle and police are looking to question to him, according to published reports.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Pregnant woman fatally shot, baby dies later


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps

Updated Thursday, Nov. 27, 1:04 p.m.

A pregnant woman was gunned down outside of her Corona apartment Wednesday morning, and died at the hospital along with her baby who initially survived, police said.

The woman, 27-year-old Anastasia Massey, was about to enter her apartment at 98-15 Horace Harding Expwy., part of LeFrak City, about 8:35 a.m. when she was shot, cops said.

The mother had just returned from dropping three of her four kids off at school, according to the New York Post. Her husband was reportedly inside their apartment at the time of the shooting. 

Massey, who was shot in the chest and arm. was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Massey was about six months pregnant and at the hospital doctors were able to deliver her baby, according to police sources. The child survived for several hours, but died Wednesday afternoon.

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Anastasia Massey (Photo via Facebook)

Police Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday the shooting appears to have been a domestic dispute involving the victim’s uncle and police are looking to question to him, according to published reports.

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21-year-old man found stabbed to death behind LeFrak City building


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A man was discovered fatally stabbed behind his apartment building in LeFrak City Tuesday night, police said.

Officers found 21-year-old Andrew Ramirez at about 9:50 p.m. with stab wounds to his torso near his 97-20 57 Ave. residence in Corona, cops said.

Ramirez was taken to Forest Hills Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to officials.

There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

 

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Free lunches for kids to be distributed at Queens libraries this summer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY PAULINA TAM

Twenty-two Queens Library locations, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education (DOE), will be distributing free summer meals to children and teens 18 years and under starting June 27 to August 29.

Bagged lunches will be served every Monday through Friday between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. and each will generally include a fresh sandwich, fruit, milk and sometimes a salad, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King.

“The library is an open public space and we want to attract people to come to the library,” King said. “While they’re here they can have free access to other programs. The Queens Library also has a very robust summer reading program and we want to encourage people to get involved with that so they can be better prepared for the academic program in the fall.”

There is no application, qualification or ID necessary to receive a free meal. Children and teens are recommended to arrive early to get lunches, while supplies last. The Queens Library is just one of many agencies collaborating with the DOE, and interested parties could call 311 to get a full list of participating locations.

Listed below are the participating Queens Library locations:

312 Beach 54 St., Arverne

14-01 Astoria Blvd., Astoria

117-11 Sutphin Blvd., Baisley Park

218-13 Linden Blvd., Cambria Heights

1637 Central Ave., Far Rockaway

41-17 Main St., Flushing

202-05 Hillside Ave., Hollis

89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica

134-26 225th St., Laurelton

98-30 57th Ave., Lefrak City

37-44 21st St., Long Island City

40-20 Broadway (at Steinway Street), Long Island City

92-24 Rockaway Blvd., Ozone Park

158-21 Jewel Ave., Pomonok (Flushing)

103-34 Lefferts Blvd., Richmond Hill

169-09 137th Ave., Rochdale Village

116-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Park

204-01 Hollis Ave., South Hollis

108-41 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., South Jamaica

43-06 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside

85-41 Forest Pkwy., Woodhaven

54-22 Skillman Ave., Woodside

 

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LeFrak City tenant allegedly stole money, identities from residents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

A tenant at an Elmhurst apartment complex has been charged with money laundering and identity theft involving other former and current residents.

According to District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Olawale Akinnawonu, 45, a tenant of the LeFrak City apartment complex, has been charged with stealing more than $100,000 between November 2011 and May 2013 after using the identities of dozens of residents to illegally open bank and credit card accounts in their names. He is being charged for allegedly stealing monthly rent checks from one of the apartment’s U.S. mailboxes. “Identity theft is especially exploitative when it violates the postal system and is committed against honest citizens by someone living in their midst,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Various complaints were filed to the 110th Precinct concerning rent checks being stolen, said Brown. The victims each said they had placed their rent checks in the secured mailbox but the checks never made it to the leasing companies managing the payments.

According to Brown, during the investigation, video surveillance allegedly shows the defendant using a key to open the mailbox for incoming mail and would use a stick to slip out departing mail through the mail slot of the U.S. mail outbox.

The defendant allegedly deposited the checks into different bank accounts, some of which included accounts he had opened in the name of LeFrak City tenants without their permission. He also allegedly opened credit card accounts in the name of other residents without their permission. The stolen checks were then used to pay the credit cards, which would create credit/overpayment in the name of whomever the card was in.

While impersonating the person whose name was on the card, Akinnawonu would get the credit card company to issue a check for overpayment which would be deposited into an account he controlled in the name of Samuel Mensah. He would then allegedly use the debit card for that account to take out money from ATMs and write out checks to himself and put them into his personal account.

Akinnawonu is awaiting arraignment on a 134-count indictment charge. He is being charged with one count of second-degree money laundering, 44 counts of first-degree identity theft, 10 counts of third-degree grand larceny, 60 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, six counts of second-degree identity theft, nine counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and four counts of petit larceny. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

The DA said he is “concerned that there may be more victims of the defendant’s alleged scheme” and asks tenants of the apartment complex to get a copy of their credit report to see if any accounts have been illegally opened in their name.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim, or knows someone who may have been a victim, is asked to contact the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau at 718-286-6673.

 

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Lawsuit claims discrimination at LeFrak City apartment complex


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and a woman living with AIDS have filed a lawsuit against the Lefrak Organization, one of the nation’s largest real estate firms, alleging it discriminates based on disabilities and source of income.

The housing advocacy group filed the lawsuit after receiving a complaint from Housing Works, Inc., an advocacy group for people with HIV/AIDS. Housing Works said one of its clients, an unnamed 37-year-old “indigent” woman living with HIV or AIDS, was denied a studio or one-bedroom apartment at the 5,000-unit LeFrak City apartment complex in Elmhurst.

The lawsuit alleges LeFrak City denied the plaintiff’s application because she planned on paying her rent with a monthly shelter allowance from the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA).

“The action we take today is intended to dismantle a discriminatory system, repair the harm caused by these practices, and ensure that house opportunities are available on an equal basis to all renters with public subsidies and to New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS,” said Fred Freiberg, executive director of FHJC.

After receiving the complaint, the FHJC conducted an undercover investigation in which testers posed both as employed applicants and as applicants in the same situation as the plaintiff or with other types of rental assistance.

The investigation’s results led FHJC to conclude the Lefrak Organization and its subsidiary rental management company, Estate NY Real Estate Services, LLC, treat applicants with any kind of rental assistance differently than applicants who have their own source of income.

The lawsuit states that employed housing applicants are sent to an on-site leasing office at LeFrak City to meet with a leasing agent and receive floor plans, and that they get to see available apartments prior to filling out any applications.

On the other hand, FHJC claims applicants receiving rental assistance are sent to an off-site leasing office where they speak with employees behind a glass window, fill out rental applications, submit to credit and criminal background checks and provide documentation in order to get on a waiting list.

“Discrimination in housing is not merely odious and offensive, but it is life-threatening for thousands of indigent New Yorkers living with AIDS,” said Armen H. Merjian, senior staff attorney at Housing Works.

According to Freiberg, for thousands of people in New York City who are living with symptomatic HIV or AIDS and using an HASA rental subsidy, having a decent, stable and sanitary place to call home is critical to their health and well-being.

“We refute the allegations and are defending ourselves vigorously,” a spokesperson for the LeFrak Organization said.

The LeFrak Organization and its affiliates are one of the largest real estate holders in the U.S., with buildings in New York, California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. In New York and New Jersey, Lefrak and its associates control over 200 apartments.

 

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Call for gun control as Corona murder remains unsolved


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Debra Greene received a call at work last April that changed her life forever. Her oldest son, Theodore Malcolm Greene, had been shot on his way home by an unknown perpetrator and by the time she reached the hospital, Theodore was gone.

One year later, there are still no answers for this grieving mother who said all she wants is closure and justice.

“It’s not easy, there’s no closure,” said Greene. “I fight with anger all the time. Someone had to have seen something.”

The 26-year-old victim had been coming back from celebrating a friend’s birthday in Manhattan when he was approached at approximately 5 a.m. and shot 21 times in front of 98-25 Horace Harding Expressway in LeFrak City on Friday, April 20.

Greene said all she knows is that there had been a fight at the club that night, but that through surveillance videos, police noted her son was not a part of the quarrel.

“None of this makes sense to me,” said Greene. “I would like to know, I would like justice.”

Now, Councilmember Daniel Dromm and Senator Jose Peralta have come together to urge local residents to speak up and help solve this murder. An additional $2,000 has been pledged to the initial $22,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

“A killer is free in New York City and we don’t know who that is,” said Dromm. “By increasing the reward amount, we are sending a strong message that we are not giving up on our search.”

Peralta said the community needs to denounce gun violence loudly and help save another similar incident from happening.

“Guns are a plague in some Queens communities,” said Peralta. “I will continue my fight to get them off of our streets and to put violent criminals in jail.”

Dromm also addressed the recent vote in Congress surrounding gun control.

“It’s a total disgrace,” he said. “We have to, as Americans, realize that gun violence affects our communities, affects families, affects mothers. When a mother loses a child, their life is never the same again.”

Along with lending his support in helping solve the LeFrak City murder, Peralta emphasized the need to pass firearm microstamping, which would allow guns and ammunition to become easier to track with markings on shell casings left behind at crime scenes. This method, Peralta believes, could have already helped solve Theodore’s murder.

“It will take all of us working together as neighbors and friends to bring peace to the lives of the family of Theodore Greene and at least some comfort,” said Peralta. “These bullet cases could be the difference between finding the killer and not.”

In the meantime, Greene passes the site where her son was cut down every day.

Some days, she said, are better than others. But some days, reality hits and she remembers her “smart boy” who had plans for a future.

Officials are asking anyone with information on this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

 

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Drug bust at LeFrak City


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

A seven-month undercover investigation at LeFrak City netted the arrest of 46 people on drug and other charges.

The defendants – who range in age from 17 to 63 – are charged with selling crack and powdered cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and other controlled substances, including prescription medications, to undercover police officers on hundreds of occasions over a seven-month period in and around LeFrak City.

In one instance, it is alleged that 14 undercover drug purchases were made from two men who were operating out of a licensed day care center at the complex. In another instance, it is alleged that in executing a search warrant at another complex apartment, the tenants – one of whom is an inspector at the City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission – tried to evade arrest by releasing a pit bull whose vocal cords had allegedly been cut. The dog was captured, but not before attacking one of the officers who required medical treatment.

“This initiative is yet another step in our continuing campaign to stop drug-dealing and drug-based violence in Queens,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “These arrests underscore our commitment to improve the quality of life for the residents of LeFrak City.”

The investigation began in March 2011 when detectives assigned to the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Division received information regarding drug dealing around LeFrak City. In response, the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Division and District Attorney Brown’s Narcotics Investigation Bureau dispatched numerous undercover officers to purchase crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and marijuana. During the course of the investigation, undercover officers additionally purchased methadone, Ecstasy, oxycodone, codeine and Xanax, among other drugs.

Fourteen drug sales were allegedly made out of 98-38 57th Avenue, apartment 2K, which is the location of the state-licensed Burke-Arthur Day Care Center whose listed owner is Diane Burke. Two of the defendants – Hector Rodriguez and Donnell Burnhill who are, respectively, Burke’s son and the father of Burke’s daughter’s baby – are accused of selling undercover officers marijuana, crack cocaine and Ecstasy pills from the daycare center, which has the capacity to care for 12 children.

In addition to the arrests, officers executed thirteen court-authorized search warrants and allegedly recovered nearly seven pounds of marijuana, more than two pounds of cocaine, various amounts of crack cocaine, over 3,600 pills, $3,400 in cash, and a 25-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

In executing a search warrant at 96-08 57th Avenue, apartment 4C, it is alleged that police observed Eugene Griffin, a New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission lieutenant inspector, exiting the location smoking a marijuana cigarette. When told not to move by police, it is alleged that Griffin re-entered the two-bedroom apartment. As police entered the apartment, a pit bull, whose vocal cords apparently had been altered to prevent the animal from barking, was released in an effort by those inside to evade arrest.

Arrested at the location was Eugene Griffin, 62, his wife, Joanne Griffin, 62, their son, Omar R. Griffin, 30, and Ricketta Smith, 23, on multiple charges – including third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree assault. Allegedly recovered at the apartment were 263 zip lock bags of marijuana, a black bag containing a pound of marijuana, a plastic tube containing cocaine, three electronic scales, a grinder with marijuana, a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol and other items.

Police additionally served a nuisance abatement order on the day care center, the Griffins’ apartment, as well as three other apartments in the complex.

The defendants are variously charged with multiple counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal sale of marijuana, criminal possession of marijuana and criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions.

In addition to drug charges, some of the defendants are variously charged with criminal possession of a weapon, assault and resisting arrest.