Tag Archives: Maspeth

Newtown Creek sludge project nearing completion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

JEFF STONE

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is celebrating the end of a month-long project in Newtown Creek that, if successful, will eventually make the water running through Ridgewood, Maspeth and Greenpoint much more inviting.

DEP crews have been traveling through the contaminated creek since the end of March, cleaning up silt, industrial waste and untreated sewage overflow that has been left largely undisturbed since the 1970s. The project, which is expected to be fully complete by no later than the end of April, aims to make Newtown Creek passable for a new fleet of DEP sludge vessels that will transport wastewater from elsewhere in the city to a new facility deeper inland.

Sludge vessels can be seen six days a week traveling through the East and Hudson Rivers, transporting sludge (semi-solid material leftover from industrial wastewater or sewage treatment) to decontamination facilities. Those facilities then extract any harmful materials and dump the clean water back into rivers around the metro area.

Yet, despite its status as one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the city, Newtown Creek is not currently equipped with its own dewatering plant. Sludge from the area is transported through a pipeline under the East River to a wastewater treatment plant in Greenpoint. City officials hope to soon use that valuable Brooklyn real estate for affordable housing and a new park, but the first step in removing the treatment facility is cleaning Newtown Creek.

Step one, for the most part, is finished. Environmental officials said that barges will be taking their final trips through the area using sonar technology to ensure that a new fleet of sludge vessels will be able to travel through without incident.

“Most likely there will be a few spots where they have to touch up and lay a fresh layer of sand down,” a DEP representative said Friday. “The barge and dredge machinery will be on Newtown Creek for at least another week or so, but the majority of the work will be completed by this weekend.”

Before the project began last month, DEP officials and nearby residents were concerned that the stirred-up silt bed would omit a smell of rotten eggs into the spring air. The very notion was enough to prompt a flurry of social media activity from Queens and Brooklyn residents alike. None of the dire predictions came to pass, though, thanks to the crews’ round-the-clock reliance on air and water quality monitors.

“The fact that there’ve been two complaints and all of our monitoring indicates that we’re well within our acceptable limits, everything has gone smoothly,” the spokesman said.

Work at Newtown Creek is a symptom of a citywide effort to equip designated priority areas like Gowanus Canal, Jamaica Bay, Flushing Bay and the Bronx River with green infrastructure. The city will spend $2.4 billion over the next 20 years on treating wastewater and rain overflow before it enters New York’s waterways.

 

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Queens priest seeks to preserve ancient language


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

ERIC JANKIEWICZ

The Rev. Joseph Palackal saves more than souls. The parochial vicar at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Maspeth is trying to save the ancient language of Aramaic, said to be spoken by Jesus and early Christians.

This summer he plans to revisit the unlikely home of the last Aramaic speakers — in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where many Christians trace the origin of their faith to Thomas the Apostle.

“Few people know this, but up until recently Christian Indians held religious services in the ancient language Aramaic,” Palackal said.

He explained that since the 1960s the churches in India held mass in the ancient language that much of the Middle East spoke in the early Christian years. Much like Latin, the spoken language has since faded into history.

“In Kerala, the language was kept in a time capsule,” he said, explaining that Christians in Kerala, unlike those in the Middle East, weren’t persecuted and could thus speak the language freely. “And so I’ve been trying to record as many people as possible who have knowledge of the language.”

The trick, Palackal said, is finding people who were born no later than the 1950s and attended the local church, where Aramaic was used for songs and worship. People born after that time wouldn’t have been exposed to the language because the church adopted the local language of Malayalam.

“So it is a very time-sensitive project and I have to hurry before all those who remember the language are gone,” Palackal said, explaining that he tracked down Indians who were part of the Syro-Malabar Church, the largest of the St. Thomas Christian denomination, which has its own forms of worship and theology. Many were able to sing the Aramaic religious songs of their youth.

Palackal hopes to have enough recordings of the language, which is preserved through religious song, to submit it to the Library of Congress.

And if he succeeds in his quest, the movie “The Passion of the Christ” won’t be the only place where Aramaic is heard or appreciated.

“It’s like a gold mine of musical melodies,” he said. “And if I don’t do it, no one else will. It will be a complete loss for humanity.”

 

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Drag racers busted in Maspeth


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SOPHIA ROSENBAUM

Cops slammed the brakes on illegal drag racing after an early-morning bust Sunday in Maspeth led to six men facing possible jail time, authorities said.

Dozens of spectators crowded the streets at about 1:15 a.m. to watch the men drag race down Laurel Hill Boulevard between 48th and 58th streets, eventually leading to police blocking off the area.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is hoping that these arrests will discourage other drag-racing enthusiasts from taking to the streets.

“These arrests send a clear message that disregarding the safety and welfare of Queens residents will not be tolerated,” Bratton said in a statement.

The defendants — Michael Rivera, 21, of Manhattan; Shawn Marr, 19, of Uniondale; Michael James, 25, of Brooklyn; Antonio Nolesco, 23, of Manhattan; Edgar Lozano, 26, of Jamaica; and Edward Henry, 21, of St. Albans — were currently awaiting arraignment in Queens County Court, as of late Monday, on charges of second-degree reckless endangerment, vehicle and traffic violations and reckless driving.

“Drag racing poses a serious threat to public safety,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Such illegal speed contests have no place on the streets of our city.”

Brown said defendants Rivera, Marr, James and Nolesco were allegedly drivers in the drag races while Lozano and Henry were allegedly starters for several of the races. The drivers’ cars and smartphones were seized as part of the ongoing investigation.

 

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Maspeth celebrates Pope John Paul II with street co-naming


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Several Queens organizations found their own way to honor Pope John Paul II, three weeks before his canonization as a saint.

A portion of the street on which Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Maspeth resides on 56th Road was co-named Pope John Paul II Way in a ceremony Sunday.

The co-naming is the brainchild of the Polish American Congress and the Jewish Historical Society of Queens, and was sponsored by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

“Pope John Paul II’s long ministry connected people from every nation and helped make the world a more peaceful place,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who represents Maspeth. “Pope John Paul II touched the lives of billions, and now all Queens residents will be reminded of his legacy for generations to come.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

As a cardinal in 1969, the pope visited Holy Cross for a couple of days, using his birth name Father Karol Józef Wojtyla.

Members of the organizations said it was Pope John Paul II who strengthened Jewish and Catholic ties because his visit to a synagogue in 1986 was the first for a pope since biblical times.

“John Paul has been a close friend of the Jewish people,” said Frank Milewski, president of the Polish American Congress. “His extension of friendship as pope to the Jewish community when he visited a synagogue in Rome was a momentous time for the Catholic and Jewish relations.”

Pope John Paul II’s papal leadership was from 1978 until his death in 2005.

 

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Star of Queens: Lorraine Sciulli, first vice president, Juniper Park Civic Association


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

LoriChristmas2012

 HARVIND JAPRA

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Lorraine Sciulli is the first vice president of the volunteer group Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) and a member of Queens Community Board 5. Sciulli is also the editor of Juniper Berry, a quarterly all-volunteer magazine of the JPCA that focuses on the history of Middle Village, Maspeth and Elmhurst and other pertinent information about the community.

BACKGROUND: “At Juniper Park Civic Association we do everything, literally everything. People come to us with problems and we help anyone we can. We have over 1500 members and we’re in charge of all of Middle Village and Maspeth.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory goes way back to the late 70s when there was a problem with a parking lot. There was prostitution going on down there and Arthur Catsman was the council member at the time, and he helped me with the petition for closing down the parking lot. It was the first spark and the first beginning to when it pulled me into the whole system, where I just wanted to keep doing it.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The biggest challenge I had to face was in the early turn of the century. We wanted to include the area of the Elmhurst into Middle Village, because it was right across the road and it would make it easier for the people of Elmhurst to identify themselves. We wanted to include the area into the 11379 zip code and it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work and patience, but we did it.”

INSPIRATION: “I’ve never looked at anything hopelessly. Anything is possible; if you have a goal and you set out to get it you will win, and even if you don’t win, you’ll win enough to want to stay working at it. That’s what happens when people come to us at JPC — they come to us with a problem and we find tangible results. They like making a difference, and they end up staying active with us.”

 

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Queens student treated for tuberculosis as cases rise in city


| mchan@queenscourier.com

CDC/ Melissa Brower

A Hillcrest High School student recently exposed to tuberculosis is receiving treatment and recovering from the potentially deadly bacterial infection, officials said.

The Health Department tested 170 students and six staff members who might have been at risk at the Queens school Tuesday as a precaution.

“Given that the person with TB is receiving treatment, there is no health risk to students or staff currently at the school,” a department spokeswoman said.

Tuberculosis cases are on the rise in the city for the first time in a decade, health officials said. They increased 1 percent from 651 in 2012 to 656 in 2013.

Most people infected were foreign-born, living in Flushing, western Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn, according to the Health Department.

Officials said 19 out of 100,000 people have contracted the disease in Corona, Woodside, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Maspeth and 15 out of 100,000 in Flushing.

“Many are likely infected in their country of origin and developed TB after entering the U.S.,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.

Smokers and people with diabetes or HIV have a higher chance of getting tuberculosis and should be tested for the disease, Bassett said.

Tuberculosis, which usually affects the lungs, spreads from person to person through the air.

 

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Pope John Paul II to be recognized in Maspeth street co-naming


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

As Pope John Paul II is about to be canonized a saint, some Queens groups are planning to celebrate his legacy in their own way.

The street on which Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Maspeth resides, 56th Road, will be co-named Pope John Paul II Way in a ceremony on April 6, three weeks before the canonization.

The co-naming is the brainchild of the Polish American Congress and the Jewish Historical Society of Queens, and was sponsored by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley.

As a cardinal in 1969, the pope visited Holy Cross, using his birth name Father Karol Józef Wojtyla.

Members of the organizations said it was Pope John Paul II who strengthened Jewish and Catholic ties because his visit to a synagogue in 1986 was the first for a pope since biblical times. 

“John Paul has been a close friend of the Jewish people,” said Frank Milewski, president of the Polish American Congress. “His extension of friendship as pope to the Jewish community when he visited a synagogue in Rome was a momentous time for the Catholic and Jewish relations.”

Pope John Paul II’s papal leadership was from 1978 until his death in 2005.

 

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UPS workers rally in Maspeth to save 250 drivers’ jobs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Elected officials and UPS workers held a rally in front of the company’s Maspeth distribution center Friday to save the jobs of 250 drivers—more than half the fleet—who were recently handed termination slips.

The cuts were made after workers for the parcel delivery service held a rally—while on the job—on February 26. The first demonstration protested the firing of Jairo Reyes, a UPS employee of 24 years. UPS showed Reyes no love on Valentine’s Day, when he was fired, escorted out of the facility, and had his employee card taken away.

“That was my Valentine’s Day gift from UPS,” said Reyes, who is married with two children.

Teamsters Local 804, which represents the workers, said Reyes should have had a hearing and meeting with his business agent before getting the hook.

Reyes filed a grievance with two co-workers before he was fired, arguing that junior workers were allowed to start earlier than their seniors, but the employee contract states earlier start times are based on seniority, Reyes said. He was fired officially for “admitted dishonesty” because he started his shifts earlier. But Reyes said a manager verbally okayed his punching-in early, starting from Jan. 6.

“They took a grievance with one employee and turned it into notices of termination with 250 workers,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “That’s outrageous. These are good, hardworking employees who have a contract for UPS. To try and break this contract, break this union, is something that is unacceptable and we can’t tolerate.”

The company and the union were in ongoing talks about Reyes’ and other workers’ grievances, but negotiations broke down recently. Then UPS decided to ax the 250 workers for “illegal and unauthorized work stoppage,” following the initial rally.

“UPS takes its commitments to its customers very seriously, and must take action to ensure unauthorized employee actions resulting in refusal to work, does not prevent the company from meeting its service and delivery commitments,” the company said in a statement.

Union representatives and Public Advocate Letitia James passed along a petition with more than 100,000 signatures after the demonstration on March 21, to get the company to negotiate a settlement.

Reyes hopes to at least get his job back.

“I’ve dedicated my years to the company, my passion, my life. That would be good to have my job back,” he said. “I have a family to support.”

 

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Maspeth UPS cuts 250 workers, drivers to rally Friday


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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What can brown do for its workers? Rehire them.

UPS employees and public officials are planning to host a demonstration in Maspeth Friday, hoping the company will rehire 250 drivers that were recently handed termination slips.

The delivery service, which has a center in the neighborhood, cut the drivers following a rally on Feb. 26, according to the union that represents the employees.

The workers organized the rally, because a long-time driver was terminated recently for frequently clocking in early, sources close to the situation said.

The union said the firing of the workers is a violation of their contract, and is hoping to save all the drivers’ jobs.

 

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Maspeth school employee charged for having sex with 14-year-old student


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

handcuffs-with-color-web-size1

An employee at a Maspeth school for special education children has been charged for engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old student, according to officials.

The accused woman, 39-year-old Clara Somodi, was arrested about 1 a.m. Thursday and charged with rape, a criminal sex act and endangering the welfare of a child, police said. The sexual acts didn’t occur on school grounds, according to cops.

Somodi has been a paraprofessional at the Walter Reed School, which serves special education students in K-8, for 10 years, a Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson said. She was immediately suspended without pay.

The student is being provided with counseling, according to the DOE spokesperson.

 

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Addabbo sends list of bus problems to MTA


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

A local legislator is hoping to put the brakes on bus problems in the region he represents.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo recently sent a list of complaints from constituents to the MTA about bus service on nearly 10 lines, including some that travel through the subway scarce neighborhoods of Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, hoping the agency can resolve the issues.

The note includes problems such as buses frequently arriving 20 or more minutes behind schedule, multiple buses bunching together and buses passing by commuters with “not in service” signs. The lines include the Q18, Q11/Q21, Q54, Q55, Q67, Q38 and Q29.

“As we negotiate our state budget funding and administrative decisions, we must realize that these resources must be allocated rationally and efficiently,” Addabbo said. “Acknowledging that the MTA provides a critical service and that state resources are not infinite, we must impress upon the MTA to improve service for my constituents given the resources it has.”

Last month, The Courier revealed exclusively that the MTA plans to reduce overall service in April of the Q54, which riders in Middle Village and Glendale depend on to connect to subway lines in Jamaica and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

During weekday “PM peak” hours—from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.—the Q54 will run every six minutes and 30 seconds, instead of every five minutes, according to the MTA’s January Transit & Bus Committee Meeting. During the evening schedule, which follows “PM peak” hours, the Q54 will run every 20 minutes instead of every 15.

 

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Police warn Maspeth, Woodside residents of home burglars


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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The 104th Precinct is warning residents to beware of burglars.

The precinct’s detective team has released flyers seeking information that could help prevent future loss of property or catch thieves that have committed several recent home burglaries in Maspeth.

“Help us, Help you!,” is written on the flyer. “Recently there have been numerous burglaries in the Maspeth/Woodside, Queens area while homeowners are at work or away from home.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the precinct’s detective team at 718-386-2723.

Flyer courtesy of NYPD

 

 

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Norman Rockwell painting missing from Queens storage facility recovered in Ohio


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A valuable Norman Rockwell painting that disappeared from a Maspeth storage facility last year has been recovered, police said.

The piece, entitled “Sport,” went missing from Grand Avenue’s WelPak Art Moving and Storage on Sept. 13. Painted in 1939, it was signed by the artist and was used as a Saturday Evening Post cover.

In May, the stolen oil painting was sold from a private collector for $1,085,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York, according to published reports.

Jean Gardner, a lawyer representing WelPak, told the Wall Street Journal that a private investigator recovered the painting in Ohio and that it was reportedly found undamaged. She also said no one has been charged in connection to its disappearance.

 

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Cops arrest Ridgewood and Middle Village graffiti vandals


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

The next thing these vandals could be drawing is punishment.

Police arrested Joseph Guilfoyle, 43, of Ridgewood, and David Negron, 20, of Middle Village, for graffiti in numerous areas of Queens.

Guilfoyle was charged on Tuesday with eight complaints of graffiti in multiple precincts. He was wanted for vandalizing roadways, such as the Long Island Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway.

Negron was charged on Saturday with 21 individual acts of graffiti. He tagged just about anything he could find, according to police, including store fronts of local businesses, ATM machines, mailboxes, doors, emergency call boxes and payphones, mostly in Maspeth and Ridgewood.

 

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Industrial Business Zones in danger of losing funding


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Ted Renz is hoping what he fought so hard for won’t soon end.

Just last November, Renz, director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, was at the forefront of the fight to get the neighborhood included in the Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) program.

But only three months later, the IBZ may be in jeopardy, as Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t include $1.1 million in funding in his preliminary budget for the program, an initiative left over from the previous administration to save manufacturing jobs.

“We are disappointed that it wasn’t in the mayor’s budget,” Renz said. “We thought that he was a big supporter of manufacturing jobs. We hope that it will be reinstated (in his final budget).”

IBZs were created to stabilize industrial areas and spur growth in the manufacturing sector by offering tax credits of up to $1,000 per employee for businesses that relocated to them, and additional services to help companies grow.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg allocated nearly $4 million to 16 IBZs in 2006.

However, since its inception, funding decreased to about $1.1 million in 2013. Bloomberg himself hasn’t allocated money to the initiative since 2010, but the City Council has restored it every year, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The move could mean de Blasio, who supported manufacturing jobs during his campaign, will engage a different strategy to assist the sector, although his administration has not come up with any specifics.

“The de Blasio administration is committed to making smart, impactful investments that will help industrial business thrive in New York City, and is working with our agency partners to take a fresh look at the suite of programs that support this critical part of the city economy,” a spokesperson for the mayor said. “Spending differences in one program do not speak to the overall commitment to industrial firms and their jobs.”

Despite the decline in funding over the years, the program has grown to 21 IBZs, including Ridgewood and Woodside last year.

Community Board (CB) 5 especially pushed for the Ridgewood IBZ against opponents, which are owners who wanted to use their properties for residential use instead of industrial.

“It enables us to promote businesses more in that area and advocate for businesses, and provide programs for manufacturing,” said Renz, who is a member of CB 5.

In March, the city council will review the preliminary budget, and some are touting the IBZ’s signficance. “I am committed to restore it,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said. “I know it is important not just to Maspeth and Ridgewood, but the rest of the city. It is something that the council treasures.”

 

 

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