Tag Archives: Local News

Maspeth street co-named George Gibbons Jr. Way


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

For the past few years teary eyes and frowns were a familiar sight when talking about the hit-and-run murder of Maspeth resident George Gibbons.

Gibbons, who owned Gibbons Home bar on 69th Street, was killed in a 2011 traffic accident and it took a month-long manhunt to catch his murderer, Peter Rodriguez.

But at a ceremony on Saturday to co-name the street where Gibbons grew up in his honor, there was a different emotion. Smiles and laughter spread throughout the crowd of family members and friends as Gibbon’s father, George Sr., tugged numerous times at the white sheet of paper covering the new street sign, but failed to pull it off. And then, with a big final heave, he jerked the sheet off the brand new George Gibbons Jr. Way sign to a roar of cheers from the audience.

“It’s a very special day for us, we’re very excited,” said Gibbons’ sister Siobhan McEntee. “We hope that this sign will be a reminder to people of a good community leader as well as the importance of traffic laws.”

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who drafted legislation to get the street co-named, the Gibbons family and more than a 100 friends attended the ceremony to pay tribute to the memory of the late Gibbons, who many said had one of the kindest hearts the world had ever known.

“He was like a brother. He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Tony Kalpin, Gibbons’ friend. “If you’re emotional and you’ve got something on your mind, he was the person you could go and talk to.”

Gibbons was killed on October 15, 2011 when the livery cab he was traveling in was struck by a car that Rodriguez was driving the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway service road. Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. But Rodriguez left the scene of the accident and was on the run before he was caught in Connecticut.

Rodriguez was sentenced to three and a half to up to seven years in prison in May 2012 after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime and negligent homicide.

Gibbons’ death brought the Maspeth community together and exposed dangerous loopholes in New York’s traffic laws. Since then the family and Crowley have been fighting to get tougher laws for leaving the scene of a crime.

“We’re just trying to make sure we are strengthening laws,” Crowley said. “[Rodriguez] was a coward and ran away, and had to be caught.”

Gibbon’s bar was closed down temporarily after his death, but reopened under family management. His memory runs through it and now his street sign as well.

“He’s definitely here,” McEntee said. “He’s definitely always around us, we know that.”


 

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NYPD cop busted for providing info to drug traffickers: feds


| jlane@queenscourier.com

An NYPD officer was arrested this morning by federal agents and charged with allegedly providing inside police intelligence and information about fellow cops to a drug trafficking organization.

Devon Daniels, 30, was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration and NYPD Internal Affairs detectives and is scheduled to be arraigned today in Brooklyn federal court.

Daniels has been charged with illegally accessing the NYPD’s computer database to provide restricted information to a drug trafficking organization with both Midwestern and New York City connections, officials said.
[New York Post]

LDC set to revitalize Flushing area


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo

The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (LDC) held a cocktail reception on Tuesday, May 8 in the Delta Sky360 Club at Citi Field.

Distinguished guest Michael Stoler, President of NY Real Estate TV and Managing Director of Madison Realty Capital, talked about the increasing importance of Queens to the state’s real estate market.

Guests watched a presentation on the work currently underway at the Flushing waterfront, 60 acres undergoing a serious transformation.

According to LDC spokesperson Nicholas Roberts, the project will revitalize and combine two distinct neighborhoods – Flushing and Downtown Flushing. He alleged that the group hopes to move activity westward, creating a greater amount of open space and loosening up some area congestion.

The LDC works with community stakeholders to encourage development throughout the downtown area, providing and advocating for services such as mass transit, affordable housing, and increased access to parks.

Roberts claimed it works to improve the overall environmental condition.

“[The LDC has a] vested interest in seeing Downtown Flushing and the surrounding area grow,” said Roberts.

The LDC is funded by the New York State Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Grant. It received this funding about a year-and-a-half ago and it is expected to run through May of 2013.

Obama To Give Commencement Address In City; Traffic Tie-Ups Expected


| jlane@queenscourier.com

President Barack Obama is visiting the city today where he will deliver the commencement address at Barnard College before attending a series of campaign fundraisers.

The president arrives in town around 11 a.m. and is scheduled to deliver the commencement address around 1 p.m.

NY1 will carry the president’s commencement address live from Barnard College, starting at about 1 p.m. Monday.

Obama is also expected to receive a medal of distinction at the commencement.

The president graduated from neighboring Columbia University’s undergraduate college in 1983.

[NY1]

Despite lawsuits, DOT work, off-ramp still unsafe


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A stretch of street – proven unsafe for cars, pedestrians and even storefronts – has “struck” again.

Following three crashes in as many months in 2011, another car accident occurred on May 1 at the off-ramp of the Ed Koch-Queensborough Bridge, located on Queens Plaza South near Crescent Street in Long Island City.

A taxi driver came off of the exit and collided with scaffolding, but no one was injured during the incident.

The crash was the fourth overall in the last 12 months – including two accidents within nine days of each other last year, during which drivers were speeding and failed to negotiate the sharp turn at the end of the ramp, causing them to smash their cars into two nearby storefronts. One passenger and one pedestrian were killed in the accidents, and both drivers lost a limb.

The proprietors of the two stores – Espinal Caribbean Restaurant II and Villa De Beauté hair salon – are suing a number of parties, including the city, Department of Transportation (DOT) and the drivers and owners of the vehicles, for roughly $1 million in damages.

“There was negligence on the part of the various defendants,” said Scott Agulnick, the shop owners’ attorney. “Our lawsuit is not like a personal injury lawsuit. We are actually seeking real damages – the loss of equipment, inventory, improvements and revenue itself, along with the good faith the businesses had built. The various parties owe a duty to use the reasonable care that an ordinary person would do under those circumstances. Those people who are designing the roadway and the traffic pattern owed a reasonable duty when doing so to prevent a dangerous situation. The drivers of the vehicle owed a duty of care to keep their vehicles under control, and the owners of the vehicles are vicariously liable.”

The store owners, 44-year-old Tony Espinal and 32-year-old Akber Jiwani, were unavailable for comment.

Agulnick says Espinal is focusing on his other restaurant, while Jiwani, whose equipment and revenue was not insured, is struggling and uncertain regarding his future plans.
The recent crash represents the resurgence of a problem the city hoped it had already remedied.

Following last year’s barrage of accidents, the DOT attempted to improve safety conditions in the area by changing traffic patterns, increasing signs and erecting concrete barricades on the edge of the sidewalk.

According to DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera, the department regularly reminds drivers of the appropriate speed limits on bridges and has also installed rumble strips, flashing lights and reflective tape at the off-ramp.

Senator Michael Gianaris, who was among several elected officials who requested the DOT institute the changes, believes more must be done to keep people out of harm’s way.

Despite the traffic improvements, many who work and live in the area still consider crossing near the ramp unsafe, while others believe the ramp is only dangerous when people do not follow proper traffic laws and procedures.

James Haran, who works down the block from the ramp, has seen damage done first hand.

“People are hectic coming off the bridge,” said Haran. “They cut people off and it can cause accidents. There is also a good amount of speeding. This is definitely not the best place to drive. I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving or crossing the street at this spot. My friend was hit by a speeding car at this spot two weeks ago. He is still in the hospital with a broken leg and has had four surgeries.”

Connecticut dad busted in Queens with $70K worth of cocaine in his car — along with his 13-year-old son: police


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Two police officers collared a Connecticut man who was driving in Queens Sunday with his 13-year-old son — and about $70,000 worth of cocaine inside his car, cops said.

Police officers Vincent Siraco and Michael Sardone were on foot patrol on Jamaica Avenue near 165th Street in Jamaica at about 1:55 p.m. when they noticed a 2007 Honda Accord with heavily tinted windows, cops said.

The two cops smelled marijuana after they motioned for the driver — Silvestre Mahon — to pull over, cops said.

[New York Post]

Man busted in city-wide manhole cover thefts


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The man behind the theft of manhole covers has been uncovered. Andrew Modica, 46, was arrested yesterday in connection with the numerous stolen manhole covers across the city, law enforcement sources told The Post this morning. Cops pulled Modica over in a stolen pickup truck near his home on 67th Street and 21st Avenue in Brooklyn after they tracked him down through a license plate and parking summons, sources said.

Modica has been charged with criminal possession of stolen property and criminal impersonation.

Modica admitted to some of the manhole thefts from the streets across Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, but claimed there were others he did not commit, sources said.

[New York Post]

Line in the Sand: It’s neighbor VS neighbor in property war


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

A fence — erected above covered sinkholes and below scaffolding — marks the battle line between two neighbors in Flushing.

The neighborhood spat — between developers looking to build a seven-story condo community and a family living in a private home — has been brewing for over four years and has called into question where the property line between the two is drawn, according to both parties. The seven-member Joza family, who has been residing in their 33rd Avenue home for 23 years, said ongoing construction in the adjacent property has “killed” their quality of life.

“We can’t even open our windows. You have to wake up at 7 in the morning to these banging sounds, and it’s like that up until 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening,” said Linda Hernandez. “We can’t even come out and enjoy our backyard. We get no more sunlight back here because it’s actually blocking it completely — everything.”

The family said they filed more than 40 complaints with the city. Among their gripes about noise and pollution, they said the developer has built scaffolding directly above their garage. The construction, they said, has also caused cracks in the foundation of their garage and home, as well as sinkholes in the pavement due to excavation.

Developer Horizon 33 Management LLC heavily disputed the claims, saying the family is the real offender by encroaching onto their property.

Julie Chang, managing member of Horizon, said the Joza family’s fence was actually put up four-feet into their land. She said the issue has already been taken to court, where she said the judge ruled in favor of Horizon.

“As far as I know, everything follows the building code. The scaffolding is required by the Department of Buildings for safety reasons. If it wasn’t by DOB code, they would have already taken action,” Chang said.

But the Joza family’s lawyer, Howard Levine, said that statement is “totally incorrect.”

Levine confirmed that 10 inches along the east side of the Joza property, near their driveway, is in question, but he said the fence — which has been standing for over three decades — is not four feet on the developers’ land.

He said the “minimal dispute” over inches does not eradicate the fact that developers trespassed to erect the scaffolding, which he said hangs halfway across the family’s garage.

The DOB did not return repeated calls for comment in time for press.

Horizon was able to obtain a variance in order to build a multiple dwelling. Chang said the finished product will be a condo community, with a church on the first floor.

“This building contributes a lot to the community,” she said.

Chang also said the developers did not cause the alleged deteriorations on the family’s property, pointing to the fact that the house was “already very shaky and old” even before construction began.

Meanwhile, the family — who has been living in the Flushing area for 44 years — said they plan on packing up and leaving as soon as possible.

“We don’t enjoy this area anymore. We’re out of here,” said Hugo Joza.

New cops join 106th precinct


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_0321

Fresh out of the academy, 15 newly minted police officers joined the 106th Precinct. The rookie rangers were introduced to the public at the precinct’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 9 by Captain Thomas Pascale. On hand to welcome the recruits was Senator Joseph Addabbo who congratulated Pascale for obtaining extra law enforcement officials. According to Addabbo, the tourist traffic at Resorts World Casino and the relocation of cops to the Rockaways during the summer caused the precinct to garner more assistance.

Eminent Domain dead, but Willets Point will still proceed


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

New York City rescinded its bid to acquire and develop Willets Point through Eminent Domain and may not be able to obtain it for a while, according to an opposing lawyer.
“They cannot condemn this property,” said Michael Rikon, the lawyer who represented Willets Point property owners against the city. “That would require starting from square one.”

Last week, lawyers for the city called Rikon to inform him of their withdrawal of the bid to acquire the neighborhood nearby Citi Field using Eminent Domain. Rikon was shocked but saw the move coming.

“My reaction was surprised, but I understood because there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to win,” Rikon said. “The city saw that as well.”

However, city representatives said they will continue to pursue a revitalization of the neighborhood.

“We’re very close to having a deal in place that will transform Willets Point into New York City’s next great neighborhood and continue the historic progress we’ve already made there,” said Julie Wood, a representative from the mayor’s office. “Last week’s action ensures that our plan will comply with the site’s myriad technical and legal requirements.”

Before Rikon learned of the city’s decision, he was getting ready to argue that the city didn’t treat the business owners fairly at the public hearings.

“They targeted 150 Hispanic businesses with over 650 employees and they didn’t hire a translator,” he said. “That was so disrespectful.”

Rikon added that the property owners were not properly informed of public hearings. He said they should have been told about them personally within 10 days.
He also denied that the city could have actually transformed the entire 60-acre land for public use because he said there would be too much work for the city to do on a $3 billion.

Rikon admitted that the city could still buyout tenants and property owners.

According to the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the plan to improve Willets Point included a full makeover “with retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel and convention center, mixed-income housing and public open spaces.”

Help make history: Vote for Queens sites to get grant money


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photos

Five lucky historic Queens venues are in the running to win part of a $3 million grant to support their services and assist in their revitalization.

Through a partnership with American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation brought the Partners in Preservation initiative to New York City, which is a plan aimed at providing financial support to protect landmarks and significant sites across the nation.

The Queens sites that made the cut are the Louis Armstrong House Museum, the Queens County Farm Museum, Flushing Town Hall’s building, Astoria Park’s Pool and the Rocket Thrower sculpture in Flushing Meadows- Corona Park.

“We think it’s a terrific opportunity for us and we’re having fun with it,” said Betsy Enright, director of external affairs for the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, which manages events in Flushing Town Hall. “It’s all really for the people of our community, because we’re trying to make our building beautiful.”

Partners in Preservation has traveled around cities throughout the nation each year since 2006 and has donated $6.5 million to preserve American treasures.
With its first stop in the concrete jungle, the program selected 40 buildings or structures around the five boroughs.
Each of the sites submitted a proposal, including an estimated amount of money they require for their projects, and now depend on votes from residents to determine which sites will be funded.

Residents can vote online once per day until May 21, at partnersinpreservation.com. The four winners that receive the most votes will be awarded their grant requests and a special committee will decide how to divide the remaining money among the other sites, based on need and votes.
Flushing Town Hall asked for $260,000 to restore the large Romanesque windows surrounding the building, while the Louis Armstrong House Museum requested $250,000 to preserve the garden.

For some sites like the Queens County Farm Museum, which requires $255,000 to restore the farmhouse, the contest could give the organization more than just money.
“It would mean a great deal,” said Sarah Meyer, director of sales and marketing at the farm.

According to Meyer the farm was established in 1975 and isn’t as well-known or historic as other sites in the contest and doesn’t have as many financial supporters.
“It’s a grant that’s getting a lot of publicity,” Meyer said, adding, “hopefully, a lot more people will become more aware of the Queens County Farm Museum and visit here and support us.”

 

Click here to cast your vote

Peter Rodriguez sentenced in death of George Gibbons


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0033

The trial of the man that killed George Gibbons may have concluded, but friends and family are ensuring that Gibbons’ legacy will live on.

More than 100 supporters, all donning green in solidarity, gathered on the steps of Queens Criminal Court on Monday, May 7 following the sentencing of Peter Rodriguez, who last month pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime and negligent homicide in Gibbons’ death.

“There is not substantial amount of time Peter Rodriguez can serve that will make it any easier for our family to deal with the loss of our dear George,” said his sister Bernadette of Rodriguez’s sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law. The family, along with Councilmember Elizabeth

Crowley, hope Gibbons’ death will be the impetus to lengthen penalties in similar crimes.
“The law needs to be strengthened to penalize those who break it, but right now our system fails to adequately hold criminally negligent-drivers accountable for their actions,” Crowley said. “I will continue to work with the Gibbons family and the Maspeth community to call on the State Assembly to pass and Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to sign this important bill.”

The bill, which has passed the Senate, would elevate leaving the scene of a crime in which a death occurred from a class D felony to a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“We hope that in carrying on George’s tradition of helping others and being an active community member –along with Councilmember Crowley and her office — that in the future if an accident like this were to occur again that we would be able to change the law and make George’s legacy continue on in the future,” Bernadette said. “Maybe with a harsher sentence families will have a little bit more of a content feeling after leaving the courtroom in a situation such as this.”

Gibbons, owner of Gibbons’ Home in Maspeth, was killed on the morning of October 15, 2011 when the cab he was traveling home in was struck by Rodriguez’s vehicle — traveling the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway’s service road.

“I’m not happy about it,” George Gibbons Sr. said of the abbreviated sentence, “but that’s the law and until we can get it changed we’ll have to do with it and come back when [Rodriguez] is up for parole.”

Second Courier ‘Power Breakfast’ informs seniors


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Seniors looking for another leg up in the extensive world of elder law got a second boost of knowledge during a recent Courier-hosted lecture.

During a “Power Breakfast” — the second one hosted by The Courier this year — held on May 4 at North Shore Towers in Floral Park, Ann-Margaret Carrozza, an elder law attorney, equipped seniors with crucial advice on updating their wills, while other leaders in the field armed them with tips on avoiding scams.

“When you hear horror stories that someone’s mother’s brother-in-law lost their assets because of a long-term care illness, it’s because they didn’t have a little mental game plan,” Carrozza said. “Sometimes that’s all that’s necessary.”

According to Carrozza, seniors should consider redoing their wills in the event that an unforeseeable crisis occurs in the family — specifically stating that all assets will be left in a lifetime trust. Doing so, she said, makes sure spouses will be able to benefit from assets without “somebody putting a claim on it for long-term care expenses.”

Jim Morin, a representative from Flushing Bank, also warned seniors to be cautious of an ongoing scam that targets the elderly. Scammers, Morin said, will often send letters in the mail or make phone calls telling unsuspecting victims they won a prize.

“If you get something in the mail like that, it’s dangerous,” he said, adding that recipients should not give the organization any money or personal information.

Guest speaker, Councilmember Leroy Comrie, also addressed the city budget’s recent cuts to senior centers and programs and urged residents to speak up and join the fight against them. Comrie said seniors in northeast Queens could contact Councilmember Mark Weprin at 718-468-0137 to voice their concerns, and those in southern Queens could call his own district office at 718-776-3700.

Before the lecture began, seniors had a chance to mingle with leading businesses in the industry, including vendors Sinai Chapels, Royal Health Care Services, FCE Group, RBC Wealth Management, The Bristal Assisted Living, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, Oyster Bay Manor and Harbor House Assisted Living, Flushing Bank, Sunrise Senior Living, Dignity Home Care, Riis Financial and Caring People Home Health Care Agency.

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mob rap for wiseguy in name only

A longtime restaurateur has filed an $8 million lawsuit against the city and the Queens District Attorney’s Office, claiming he was wrongly accused of being involved in a mob-run gambling ring because he has a common Italian name. “The other guys told the detectives that I was the wrong Cono, and they didn’t listen,” said Cono Natale Jr., owner of the since-shuttered Cono & Sons O’Pescatore Restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who filed the suit in Queens Supreme Court. Read More: New York Post

 

Woman slams driver by hanging ‘Tony Q69’ fliers along his Queens bus route

A scorned straphanger who claims a married Queens bus driver hit on her has spent months letting the whole neighborhood know just how she feels about him, plastering his Q69 Astoria route with fliers addressed to the “womanizer bastard.” The mystery lady doesn’t identify herself in the typewritten, boldfaced missives, but has plenty of ammo for “Mr. One Night Stand,” whom she also calls “Tony Q69.” “No one wants you Tony!!!!!” she writes. “You are so full of yourself.” Read More: New York Post

 

Two Vintage Queens Carousels Get New Operators In Time For Summer

Two vintage carousels in Queens have stayed idle for years, the Forest Park carousel and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park carousel, now have new operators for the summer season, thanks to the Parks Department. Read More: NY1

 

Dog Owners Hit The Park To Raise Money For Strays

New Yorkers laced up their sneakers Saturday to raise money for homeless animals at the fourth annual Walk for Paws in Alley Pond Park in Queens. The nonprofit recently acquired a shelter in Freeport, Long Island, so the group can help even more animals, but volunteers say it needs a lot of work. Read More: NY1

 

Queens crime inching up as grand larcenies spike boroughwide

Queens has seen a significant jump in grand larcenies in the first four months of 2012, police statistics show. The high-end thefts were up 12% boroughwide as perpetrators continue to steal gadgets including iPhones and iPads at an alarming rate, according to NYPD statistics through April 22. Meanwhile, total reported complaints of major crimes have seen a 3% uptick boroughwide compared to 2011, numbers show. Read More: Daily News

Brooklyn boy, 12, crushed to death while playing on parking lot gate

A 12-year-old Brooklyn boy playing “chicken” on a parking lot gate was crushed to death Sunday when the gate rose and his arm became stuck, police and witnesses said. Yakim McDaniels, horsing around with five other children, climbed onto the 20-foot iron electronic gate at Lott Ave. near Watkins St. in Brownsville, family and witnesses said. “It’s a game. Kids are always on that gate,” said neighbor Anthony Figueroa. “They play chicken to see who can hang on the longest.” Read More: Daily News

CK students’ math adds up to wins


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Christ the King

The Christ the King Regional High School (CK) Math Team celebrated its individual and team victories in this year’s NY State Mathematics League competition. Four of the CK students tied for 1st Place out of more than 4,000 students competing. Overall, the team came in 3rd out of over 200 high schools in the state and ranked 1st out of all the religious schools.

“I am so proud of the individual and team accomplishments and look forward to many future successes,” said Principal Peter Mannarino shared.