Tag Archives: Local News

Kids chat with deep-sea expert


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Joan Bachert

Richmond Hill kids dove into the fascinating world of marine biology when they videoconferenced with an expert from the SeaTrek Mote Marine Laboratory, located in Sarasota, Florida.

Kasey Gaylord, a SeaTrek coordinator and educator, hosted the April 24 conference and showed the children what dinner time is like in the shark tank at the aquarium.

The future deep-sea explorers learned about different species of sharks such as the sandbar shark, nurse shark and black nose shark, as well as other sea animals such as barracudas and sting rays.

Kids got the chance to see how sharks feast and how the experts train them to behave during feeding time. The children’s interests were peaked, and they “fished” for more information during the conference’s question-and-answer session.

Delicious way to raise money


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Eat chocolate, raise money?

That’s exactly what happened this past weekend when the Rotary Club of South West Queens hosted a chocolate fundraiser for the community-based Our Lady of Grace Ministry of Care and Service Food Pantry.

For the price of admission, attendees were able to indulge in treats such as M&M pancakes, chocolate pancakes, chocolate chip muffins, and chocolate cookies and brownies.

There was also a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit, pretzels and even marshmallows. Home-baked chocolate truffles were also available. To wash it all down – chocolate milk, of course. Chocolate-themed movies were also played on a big screen for the children to enjoy.

“This was a great idea! Job well done,” said Senator Joseph Addabbo, who brought his wife and two girls to the gooey fun.

To learn more about the South West Queens Rotary Club, visit www.southwestqueensrotary.org, or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SWQRotary.

Flushing introduces new principal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

The epilogue has been written for Flushing High School — but as the city concludes the final chapter of the storied 137-year-old institution, a new protagonist has entered the plot.

The Department of Education Division of Portfolio Planning hosted a meeting at Flushing High School — one day before the Panel for Educational Policy’s highly-anticipated vote — to introduce the school’s new leader, Magdalen Radovich, who will take over the reins at the embattled institution.

Radovich is currently an assistant principal at Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Long Island City, where she has served for 16 years — with half of the time spent as a teacher and the other half as an administrator.

“This has to be one of the most awkward meetings,” Radovich said to a small group of parents and students. “I don’t have all the answers. I know as little as some of you do about what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day. I can promise you only that I will bring you the energy, commitment, dedication and the real belief that success is the only option for every kid, no matter what.”

Queens Vocational was on the city’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools up until recently, Radovich said. In terms of data, she said Flushing is similar to where Queens Vocational was six years ago, when the passing rate in the ninth grade was only about 50 percent — 38 percent less than its current standing.

“While we were on the PLA list, we felt kind of demoralized and stigmatized. But we knew that we had really good people who were working really hard to move us forward despite that. What really kept us moving were the kids,” Radovich said.
While similar in certain aspects, Radovich said Queens Vocational and Flushing largely differ in size, with Flushing being home to almost double the amount of students as Queens Vocational.

“You need to see things with different eyes. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t working hard. It means that a different approach needs to be implemented,” she said.

Radovich — a mother of four, including one who is a junior in high school — began teaching in 1996 after dabbling in social justice work. She was a college professor for about 10 years, teaching remedial courses at New York University, Cooper Union, Pace University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

She said she hopes to carry on some of Flushing’s successful programs in the new school.

“I don’t have anything in particular in mind at this moment because it seems to me you have an awful lot here already that needs to be looked at carefully by the community and either built up or revised, but it’s definitely something that’s a priority for me,” Radovich said.

Flushing received a “D” on its most recent progress report, with an “F” in student performance, said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas. The school was first designated as PLA in 2009 due to its consistently low graduation rates. While the numbers rose to 60 percent in 2010, the statistics still landed Flushing in the bottom 27 percent of schools in the city.

The new school — which has yet to be named — will serve between 3,035 to 3,075 students from grades nine through twelve, according to the DOE.

No More Rotten ‘Apple’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Alma Realty

Long Island City’s “Apple Building” – currently eaten to its core – will soon be ripe again.

The edifice, located at 30-30 Northern Boulevard and known for the large sign on its roof – left behind by the Apple Red Tag & Label company when it ceased operations in the 1970s – has been mostly vacant for over a decade and is currently in disarray.

Alma Realty, the building’s developer, is planning to restore and renovate the structure into a retail and commercial complex by this time next year. The developers also aim to raise the building’s square footage from about 180,000 to roughly 270,000 by increasing the number of stories from five to seven. Once completed, the building will include a fitness center, cafeteria and rooftop terrace.

George Valiotis, the Alma Realty project director, anticipates a strong demand in retail in the upcoming years, and believes the site could be very appealing to tech and media firms. Valiotis went on to say that Alma has had preliminary negotiations with several universities about building a campus on the site – complete a culture center, museum, 2,000-seat amphitheatre and dormitory – which he hopes would open in five years.

“We think this is great for L.I.C.,” Valiotis said. “It will create foot traffic for other businesses to open up in the surrounding area. If the building is filled up with offices and there are hundreds of people working there, restaurants, cafes and stores will open in the area. It brings life to an area which for a long time was underutilized. L.I.C. is a great place to live, work and play and if people work there then they will live and play there too.”

According to Valiotis, the exterior work necessary is substantial, and the interior will be based on tenants’ requests. Valiotis said the signature sign on the building’s roof will be restored, but kept in place. Although Alma has yet to receive a building permit, the company has begun fixing violations and performing demolition work. The developers have also applied for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification – a prestigious designation awarded to eco-friendly buildings.

“The Apple Building,” which was erected in 1913, was sold to Alma in 2011. The previous developer intended to build a 19-story dormitory on the site, and the last tenant the building had was a topless bar.

Community leaders have strongly supported the building’s renovation – anticipating that retail and commercial space will compliment the restaurants and shops recently opened in the Queens Plaza area.

Jerry Walsh, president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, expects the area’s economy to improve greatly, and he hopes to hold discussions with Alma regarding the project in the future. Although he would have preferred the city purchase the building to construct a hospital, Walsh says Alma’s plans are a great positive for the neighborhood and residents are pleased.

Community Board 2 approves liquor licenses


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Michael Pantelidis

Casa Enrique and the M. Wells Dinette inside MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center were both recently approved for liquor licenses by Community Board (CB) 2.

The proprietors of the Long Island City establishments made presentations to the board members and community residents during an April 24 meeting, requesting the right to sell liquor inside their respective restaurants.

Winston Kulok, the owner of Casa Enrique – an authentic Mexican restaurant located at 5-48 49th Avenue – also received permission to serve food in a small garden area in the rear of the eatery until 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

In an attempt to ease concerns of disorderly conduct, Kulok said he is a “responsible operator” and that his restaurants are “food oriented.” The restaurateur went on to say that he has 20 pages of signatures from residents in support of his application.

M. Wells and MoMA PS1 submitted a joint application to allow for an overlap between the two facilities during catered events or receptions. CB 2 voted to allow the restaurant to sell liquor and remain open until 2 a.m.

Peter Katz, chief operating officer of MoMA PS1, and Sarah Obraitis, owner of M. Wells, said they welcomed the partnership and believe it will be greatly beneficial for L.I.C. Both also emphasized that they are not aiming to cause any trouble with their pairing.

Despite previous incidents of loud noise and disorderly conduct from visitors of the museum, M. Wells and MoMA PS1 received overwhelming support from the residents in attendance – who were excited over the restaurant’s return.

Food Fight: Bayside biz say food carts hurt


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

Bayside business owners say mobile food vendors that are popping up in the area and setting up shop near established eateries may be carting revenue away from them.

According to Sammy An, owner of Cue Bar on Bell Boulevard, a piggybacking Halal food cart vendor’s 24-hour service has robbed him of income.

“I keep seeing people walking out [of my restaurant], spending their money there and coming back to keep drinking,” An said. “But I have the kitchen open, and it takes away revenue.”

An — who said he pays about $26,000 a month for rent — said he also finds himself picking up after messes left behind by his competitor, who surfaced less than a month ago, in order to avoid being pinned for littering.

Majid Khan, owner of the Halal stand, heavily disputed the claims.

“If they believe we’re taking business away from them, they’re wrong,” Khan said. “If people like food from the restaurant, they’re going to go to the restaurant. If people like Halal food, they’re going to get food from us. You can’t stop anyone.”

According to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, about a dozen home and business owners have filed complaints about the rise in food carts in northeast Queens.

Amongst concerns about the uncleanliness and clutter, Seinfeld said residents are more than displeased with how the carts have harmed the aesthetics of the area.
“This is not an addition they bargained for,” she said. “They want to keep the area low density, almost suburban, with trees lining the block. People keep everything neat and clean here, and they feel the food carts are unattractive.”

Seinfeld said the problem extends outside of the borough, but within Bayside alone she said the heavy hitters are located on Northern and Bell Boulevards, 73rd Avenue and Bell Boulevard, and Springfield Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway.

According to Councilmember Mark Weprin, the City Council held hearings last week to discuss the growing issues. He said there are still “a lot of questions we’re trying to get answers to” before a real solution can be reached.

“I’m very concerned about the unfair competition these food carts create for local merchants,” he said. “There should be some limit as to where they can set up.”

John Amanatidis, owner of a grilled food stand on Northern and Bell Boulevards, said it’s all about coexisting with local businesses.

A neighborhood staple for 15 years, he said he closes up shop between 6 and 7 p.m. before the dinner rush begins at nearby restaurants.

“I leave. I respect them,” Amanatidis said. “But I have four kids. I have to pay rent, the bills and my taxes.”

Deal Is Near to Develop Willets Point


| jlane@queenscourier.com

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The Bloomberg administration is nearing a deal with the Related Cos. and a real-estate firm controlled by owners of the New York Mets to build a retail and residential development on a gritty swath of Queens near Citi Field, according to people familiar with the matter.

But the tentative deal to develop Willets Point isn’t a home run. It would require significant revisions to a signature initiative of the Bloomberg administration: an ambitious $3 billion vision for the area that includes 5,000 apartments, stores and a hotel.

The idea was unveiled with great fanfare in 2007 and passed a complicated public-review process in 2008. But during recent negotiations, developers rejected the plan as financially impractical and called for some changes, the people said.

Read More: Wall Street Journal

Clipping coupons for a cause


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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A distinctly domestic activity is helping support soldiers overseas.

Richmond Hill South Civic celebrated hitting their goal of sending $1 million worth of coupons to soldiers and their families at the group’s April 26 meeting, honoring the 40 people who diligently clipped coupons for the cause.

The project began five years ago when Richmond Hill South Civic’s president, Margaret Finnerty, learned at a Disabled American Convention that families of soldiers can use coupons while stationed overseas to lower their food bills.

The coupons were sent to various military bases in Belgium, Italy and Germany, where they will be distributed on an as-needed basis, according to Finnerty.

“I love the idea that so many people are willing to take time to help soldiers overseas,” said Finnerty. “It’s an amazing thing.”

Other organizations that assisted in this effort are the Lindenwood Alliance, Howard Beach Senior Center, Ozone Park Senior Center, Our Neighbors Civic Association and Ridgewood Elder Center.

Grover Cleveland spared: Now the work begins, say teachers


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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As dozens of students, faculty, supporters and alumni stepped to the microphone during Grover Cleveland High School’s public hearing last month — determined to have their voices heard — many were resigned to the fact that their shouts would fall on deaf ears.

But their raucous rallies were heard loud and clear.

Hours before the Panel for Educational Policy meeting to decide the fate of 26 city schools, Grover

Cleveland was removed from the list of Turnaround.

“I’m just glad the DOE listened to us for once,” said Nicole, a junior at the school. “We were devastated when we heard the news we might close; now, we can go back to being students.”

Under the Turnaround model the Ridgewood school would have closed and reopened under a new name with up to half the teachers being replaced.

In a statement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that the school’s performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs and an ability to continue these improvements.

In recent years, the school has shown signs of betterment, increasing its graduation rate and being rated as proficient on a quality review.

“We always had hope and we knew what the city wanted for us and we were doing it right,” said Mirit Jakab, an English teacher at the school. “We were worried the DOE was just following protocol, but through all the turmoil, we never gave up.”

The four-hour long public hearing and the passion and comments received that night played a role in the DOE’s decision to save the school.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Jakab said. “They went above and beyond; they really fought for their school.”

Grover Cleveland, which was in the three-year restart program, lost out on the federal funds from the program when the DOE and teachers’ union failed to come to an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system. The school would have received additional School Improvement Grant funds if it entered the Turnaround program.

Though Cleveland has been removed from the list, its work is not done, said Jakab, who has been there for 10 years.

“Now, we have to roll up our sleeves and even go beyond what we were doing. I’m excited and ready to work.”

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens Man Found Guilty In Subway Bomb Plot Trial

The mother of convicted terrorist Adis Medunjanin hurried out of Brooklyn federal court Tuesday afternoon, minutes after her son was found guilty of plotting to blow up parts of the city’s subway during rush hour back in 2009. The jury also found Medunjanin guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan after receiving terrorism training from al-Qaida in Pakistan. Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in charge of the case, said this should send a clear message — terrorists will be caught and prosecuted. Read More: NY1

 

Ray Kelly ‘Still contemplating’ run for mayor

Ray Kelly has given his first public indication that he might indeed be interested in running for mayor. The police commissioner was approached by a reporter at a party last week in Washington and asked point blank if he was open to the idea of trying to succeed Mayor Bloomberg. “I’m still contemplating that,” Kelly responded, according to New York magazine. He had a few other things to say first, which raised the question whether he was really signaling he might make his first run for office. Read More: New York Post


Large Majority Of City Council Votes For Living Wage Bill

The legislation requires companies getting a million dollars or more in city subsidies to pay their workers at least $10 an hour. “We live in city where the gap between the rich and poor has widened more than any other city,” said Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron. “We talk about government subsidies, one of my colleagues said that this is a bill we can build on. And that’s what I’m terrified of, you will build on this bill,” said Queens Councilman Dan Halloran. Read More: NY1

 

Queens Democrats facing challenges from inside and outside the party ranks

Several Democratic state senators from Queens could face challenges this year from forces both inside and outside their party. Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich announced this week that he will take on Democrat Joseph Addabbo Jr. for his 15th Senate District seat. And Councilman James Sanders Jr., a Democrat, is mulling a primary challenge to Shirley Huntley for her 10th Senate District seat in southeast Queens. Ulrich, a rising star in the Republican Party, could give Addabbo a tough race in his own backyard. Read More: Daily News

 

Queens construction contractors to pay $500,000 for shortchanging workers

A husband and wife team of Queens construction contractors have agreed to pay $500,000 after state investigators caught them shortchanging workers on public job sites. In a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Jitendra and Sarita Hirani agreed to pay restitution to 11 workers, the News has learned. “There are strict rules when taxpayer dollars are used to pay private companies for public projects, but this company violated those rules, and now they will pay the price,” Schneiderman said in a statement. Read More: Daily News


Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu’s former campaign treasurer pleads not guilty to fraud

The lawyer for New York City Comptroller John Liu says his client may seek to be tried separately from her codefendant. Attorney Gerald Lefcourt notified a judge of the possibility Tuesday as his client, Jia ‘Jenny’ Hou , pleaded not guilty to fraud charges. Her name was added last week to an indictment returned against a New Jersey man. The man was arrested several months ago on charges he conspired to funnel illegal contributions donated by an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman. He too pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Read More: New York Post

 

Knicks shattered over Amar’e injury

Steve Novak was crushed about Knicks teammate Amar’e Stoudemire’s lacerated left hand, explaining he thinks Stoudemire never realized the danger when he punched the glass case of a fire extinguisher after last night’s Game 2 loss to the Heat. “I feel awful for [Stoudemire] because he plays with emotion,” Novak told The Post. “And you’re walking in a hallway, and I don’t think he ever thought for a second that it was going to be glass, that it was going to shatter.” Novak said he “was right behind [Stoudemire],” though he cautioned, “but I didn’t actually see his hand. Read More: New York Post
Department of Education Outlines Social Media Policy For Teachers

The city has introduced its first guidelines for the use of social media by teachers. The Department of Education says teachers should refuse friend requests from students on their personal accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. They’re also being warned that their activity may be monitored and should have no expectation of privacy. Teachers will be given training sessions on the new guidelines. Education officials may also ask parents to sign consent forms before their children participate in social media activities or post their work online. Read More: NY1

 

 

Rent Guidelines Board Holds Preliminary Vote Tonight

Tenants and building owners will once again be squabbling over annual rent hikes for the city’s rent-regulated apartments as the Rent Guidelines Board holds a preliminary vote this evening at Cooper Union. Last year, the board hiked rents 3.75 percent on one-year leases and 7.25 percent on two-year leases. Tonight’s meeting is open to the public, but officials say any noisemakers that can be used to disrupt the proceedings are prohibited. Tenants rights groups and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators plan to hold a protest outside the meeting. The board’s final vote is on June 21. Read More: NY1

 

Cops probe death of baby girl on Staten Island

Police are investigating the death of baby girl on Staten Island, NYPD sources said Tuesday. Six-month-old Genesis Monge wasn’t breathing and had a 105-degree fever when her foster mother called 911 just past 10:15 p.m. Monday, sources said. Genesis was rushed from her home on Steuben St. to Staten Island University Hospital North, where doctors told police she had marks consistent with past trauma, sources said. Genesis died at 11:15 p.m. Read More: Daily News

 

Google knew Street View collected emails, passwords, personal information from millions worldwide

Google Street View had an eye on more than just city streets — it also once collected emails, passwords, Internet search histories, medical records and more from millions of people around the world, new documents show. An FCC report released Friday reveals Google spent over two years between 2008 and 2010 quietly capturing a mountain of personal information by tapping into unsecured wireless networks through its Street View cars, which drive around capturing snapshots to populate the search giant’s massive map database. Read More: Daily News

Jamaica Rotary applauds cops


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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Law enforcement officials, Rotary members and civic group leaders assembled in a reception hall at Villa Russo on Wednesday, April 25 for the Jamaica Rotary’s monthly meeting to discuss current matters and celebrate the outstanding work of local police officers.

From the 102nd Precinct, officers Christopher Valand and Pablo DeJesus received recognition for their takedown of three individuals who had stolen a car. On March 30, the officers observed an Infinity with three people inside. After eyeing the cops, the vehicle sped off and the officers chased after them, radioing in the car’s description to a dispatcher. While in pursuit, the police saw the doors open several times with the suspects displaying firearms. The officers were able to apprehend two of the perpetrators during the pursuit and the third was arrested when he attempted to report the car was stolen.

On Friday, March 2 around midnight, officers William Connick and Mathew Rehman from the 103rd Precinct were out on routine patrol when they heard two gunshots coming from a south Jamaica housing development. The officers spotted an individual holding a gun and another individual on the ground who appeared to be injured. After chasing the individual on foot, he attempted to enter a car with a man and a woman inside. All three individuals were arrested and a 22-caliber, semi-automatic gun was obtained. These arrests led to 11 other arrests and the recovery of five firearms.

Officers Thomas Reo and James Dameron from the 113th Precinct were rewarded for their excellent police work as well. On Sunday, March 18, while on patrol in an area of known gang activity, the officers saw a suspicious looking vehicle with three individuals inside. After inciting a foot pursuit with the individuals, police obtained two loaded .9 mm firearms. Of the three individuals, one was on parole for robbery, one had a history of burglaries and the other was recently released from jail. All three were apprehended by police.

“Burglary is a constant battle,” said 106th Precinct Captain Thomas Pascale when it came time for him to award the officers from his precinct.

On Wednesday, April 18, officers John Gridley, Michael Ranoide and Filip Glowa saw an individual wearing gloves and carrying a flashlight. When they questioned the individual about his reason for being in that area, he claimed he was visiting his girlfriend but could not provide her name or address. The man was positively identified as someone who had been seen in a home where a burglary took place and he was arrested. This suspect has been caught for burglaries in several precincts and has spent 15 years in prison.

 

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens jurors lead city in no-shows

Looks like Queens needs a boroughwide civics class. More than one-third, or 35 percent, of Queens residents ignore their jury-duty notices — the highest in the five boroughs. “We’re dealing with thousands of people, and we just don’t have the staff,” said Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, who acts as the commissioner of jurors. In fact, Pheffer, a former assemblywoman, said the office stopped bothering to impose fines as it upgrades its jury-selection system. Read More: New York Post

Queens deli destroyed by early morning fire, explosion

A Queens deli was destroyed by an overnight fire — and an explosion at the store could be felt two blocks away. The fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. at the corner of Hempstead Avenue and 220th Street. Firefighters used ladder trucks to spray the building, as the fire was too strong to fight from the inside. The business, Deli Grocery & Grill, is relatively new — only about two months old. No injuries were reported, and there’s no word on the cause of the fire. Read More: New York Post

 

Deliberations To Begin This Week In Queens Terror Trial

A jury could start deliberations as early as Monday in the case of a Queens man accused of plotting to blow up the city’s subways. Adis Medunjanin is accused of conspiring with admitted terrorist Najibullah Zazi to detonate suicide bombs on Manhattan subway lines in 2009. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and receiving terrorist training from al-Qaida. Medunjanin faces life in prison if convicted on conspiracy and terror charges. Read More: NY1

 

Hundreds Of Union Job Applicants Camp Out In Woodside

Hundreds of applicants vying for a job with the ironworkers’ union waited outside the union’s office in Woodside, Queens for nearly a week, leaving some neighbors upset about the camp-out. Read More: NY1

Historic Forest Park Greenhouse gets $3.8 million upgrade, replacing century-old structures with high-tech ones

The historic Forest Park Greenhouse, which grows plants and flowers that liven up concrete stretches in Queens and Brooklyn, is moving beyond its early 20th century roots. A section of the greenhouse has just undergone a $3.8 million reconstruction that will increase its capacity and make it more environmentally-friendly. The first stage of the renovation focused on two of the houses that were built in 1905 and designed by greenhouse experts of the time, Lord and Burnham. Read More: Daily News

 

1 WTC to vault past Empire State Building today and become tallest tower in city

ONE WORLD Trade Center is set to eclipse the Empire State Building as New York’s tallest building Monday afternoon, officials said. As long as the weather cooperates, the tower will surpass the 1,250-foot Empire State Building at 2 p.m. on its way to a final height of 1,776 feet. “It’s wonderful,” Mayor Bloomberg said Sunday. “It’s taken a long time. This is probably the most complex construction site in any place ever. I think what we’ve shown is that democracy works.” Read More: Daily News

Hear That? It’s the Queens housing boom


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With economies around the world foundering, the Queens housing market appears to be floating just fine.

According to data from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Queens had the most home sales of any borough in the first quarter of this year with 2,919 – representing a 13 percent increase from last year. The average sales price of a home in Queens also declined by two percent to $391,000.

The neighborhoods with the most home sales in the borough were Flushing, with 301, Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, which had 265 sales, and Springfield Gardens and Jamaica which experienced 237 sales.

The housing boom in Queens is part of positive results citywide, as average home sales prices and sales volume remained steady across the five boroughs in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same time last year, while the number of total sales increased by 16 percent from last quarter.

Competitive prices and low mortgage rates attracted buyers and stimulated the growth, according to REBNY, the city’s leading real estate trade association.

“The trend has been somewhat upward, meaning even in the fourth quarter we didn’t see a dip when compared to the first quarter of last year,” said Mike Slattery, the senior vice president of REBNY. “The fact that it has been a steady rise and not a seasonal adjustment is noteworthy. Queens has been a strong, solid upper middle class borough for a very long time, and the broad based strength of its neighborhoods continues to make it an appealing location for home buyers.”

Slattery expects the housing market to continue to grow and said a survey of brokers conducted by REBNY shows “continued uptick in contracts signed.”
John O’Kane, manager of O’Kane Realty, located at 72-01 Grand Avenue in Maspeth, believes a variety of factors have made buying a house in Queens attractive.
“Interest rates are historically low, so anyone who can afford to buy is buying,” said O’Kane. “You get a lot of New York flavor in Queens also. It’s the melting pot of the world.”

The condo market particularly buoyed sales in Queens, as the borough experienced a 36 percent increase in transactions – led by Long Island City, which saw a 53 percent increase from the previous quarter.

Eric Benaim, CEO of Modern Spaces, which handles sales for a number of high-profile condo buildings in L.I.C., says inventory is getting low while demand is growing.
Modern Spaces represents The View, which is 85 percent full and demanding $950 to $1,000 per square foot, and The Industry, which has sold roughly 51 percent of its spaces and costs as high as $850 per square foot. The Vista and the Bindery are new high rises that will likely introduce 250 to 300 condos into the market between 2012 and 2013, according to Benaim.

“Everyone loves L.I.C. when they come here,” Benaim said. “We are getting a lot of ‘Manhattanites’ because of overpricing in Manhattan. The market in L.I.C. is extremely busy.

I haven’t seen it this busy since 2006 or 2007. Years ago we had to pitch L.I.C. as an up and coming neighborhood. But it is not up and coming anymore, it is here.”

Bayside Bid Battle Brewing


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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A business battle is brewing in Bayside.

Store owners on Bell Boulevard attended a meeting on April 18 organized by Gregg Sullivan – the former director of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) – to address concerns about the current state of the organization. During the meeting, the BID members in attendance voted to reappoint Sullivan, who was fired on December 19.

The merchants’ complaints included a lack of information and response from the BID’s board since Sullivan’s firing, a blurring of the line between the BID and Bayside Business Association and ambiguity regarding the allocation of funds, including a reported 30 percent increase in the organization’s original $80,000 budget. No board members attended the meeting, although Sullivan claims to have invited them all.

“Bayside got lost, and it’s been unattended to and neglected,” Sullivan said. “We need to change that now. We need to reclaim Bayside and put it in the right direction.”
Claims were also made that some owners were unaware a BID existed or that they could apply for the right to vote. According to Sullivan, there are roughly 150 businesses in the BID – which is on Bell Boulevard from 35th Avenue to Northern Boulevard – and only 29 are signed up to vote.

“We need to unify and get everyone together as merchants and real estate owners and bring this back to life. We need to have organization, structure and passion and set a one-year plan in place,” said William Degel, a BID member who organized the meeting along with Sullivan. “Nobody has done anything [since Sullivan was fired.] There is no information and no communication. It’s like everything died.”

Degel, who owns Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse on Bell Boulevard, said he expects Sullivan to be reinstated and hopes to hold a meeting with the current board to gauge their interest in making improvements and increasing transparency. In the event the board is unwilling to negotiate, replacing the members entirely was discussed during the meeting.

The motion to reinstate Sullivan was introduced by Margaret Papacostas – BID member and owner of Azure clothing store – and subsequently seconded and approved by the 16 BID voters in attendance. No one opposed the motion.

Sullivan believes he was fired after the board discovered he sent a letter to the commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) complaining about the status of the BID. Although he claims he enjoyed working for members of the board, including BID President James Riso, Sullivan feels there may be a need for the infusion of new energy.

Riso says he was never invited to the meeting, and while Sullivan was well liked by business owners and energetic to the public, he was insubordinate behind the scenes. He also feels that the attacks on the BID have taken away from the organization’s ability to focus fully on improving business in the area.

Riso, who will step down in June due to fatigue, claims the BID’s budget was still $81,368 up until December 31, 2011, and that the board did everything expected of them at that time. With the recent increase in budget, the board hopes to accomplish more, according to Riso.

“We are not hiding behind a curtain doing secret things trying to get over on people,” said Riso. “I own a business on Bell Boulevard. I pay more taxes that anyone. We welcome people to help. Instead of having these secret meetings, help out. The people making these accusations are inhibiting us from progressing.”

Despite Sullivan’s claim that he has been reinstated to his former position, the BID recently hired an executive director. Lyle Sclair, a former economic development associate with the Brooklyn Economic Development Council, was named the new executive director of the BID on April 23. “My number one objective is to meet everyone and learn the challenges they are facing. I’m not out there to recreate the wheel, but really just to help them grow their businesses,” Sclair said. “Bell Boulevard has a great mix of restaurants, nightlife and shopping. It offers everything, so if you are looking for something you will find it on Bell Boulevard.”