Tag Archives: Meeting

Community board chair fires back at Walcott over school employee threats


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The city’s schools chancellor chastised a community board leader after residents allegedly threatened his employees at a rowdy Bayside meeting last week.

“I would never allow anyone to be treated in this manner and would expect that you have the same standard,” Dennis Walcott said.

The head of the city’s public education system expressed his “extreme dismay” at a heated Community Board 11 meeting last Monday, when one male and one female resident allegedly verbally threatened two School Construction Authority (SCA) officials.

An older man approached Chris Persheff, the SCA’s Queens site selection manager, called him a liar and threatened to break his legs, The Courier reported last week.

After that, an unidentified person allegedly followed Persheff’s partner, Monica Gutierrez, by car until Gutierrez pulled into an empty lot, city reps said.

The SCA officials were pitching a plan to build an elementary school for 416 students at 210-11 48th Avenue when the May 6 meeting grew contentious.

They plan to file a police report and might take legal action against the alleged belligerents, Gutierrez said.
The altercations occurred after the meeting had adjourned.

In a letter, Walcott said Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece “enabled this behavior by not drawing any boundaries to the abuse.”

He said the proposed new school would alleviate overcrowded facilities in the area. But enraged residents said it would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic congestion and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

Iannece fired back in a letter, defending his decade-long, “impeccable” reputation for fairness and order.

“As an uncompensated volunteer who has spent countless hours for the betterment of my community, I take personal offense by your remarks,” he said. “It is an affront to me and to all community board chairs, [who] do so much for our city.”

The community board’s education committee said bringing P.S. 130 back to their district would relieve area school congestion. The 200-01 42nd Avenue school is located within District 26, but has mostly served students from District 25 for at least two decades.

Moving the school back to its original district has long been deemed unviable by education officials.

Iannece invited the schools chancellor to review the meeting’s recorded minutes, which he said include a “poor presentation” by the SCA officials.

The two residents’ identities were not known as of press time.

“Although I can appreciate your desire to protect the staff,” Iannece said, “misplaced anger, compounded by erroneous accusations, doesn’t help.”

 

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City may take legal action after contentious Bayside community board meeting


| mchan@queenscourier.com


The city might take legal action after two school construction officials were threatened Monday at a contentious community board meeting.

Bayside residents were enraged at a proposal by the city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) to build a 416-seat elementary school at 210-11 48th Avenue.

They said it would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic congestion and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

But two attendees took it too far, said Monica Gutierrez, one of two SCA representatives who pitched the application at the May 6 hearing.

Gutierrez said a woman in her 60s approached the pair of speakers after the meeting adjourned and verbally threatened them. Someone then allegedly followed Gutierrez in a car until she pulled into an empty lot.

“She said, ‘You’ll have what’s coming to you. You’ll see,’” Gutierrez said. “When you threaten somebody, there are repercussions. They’re not above the law. They acted very barbaric.”

An older man also approached Chris Persheff, the agency’s Queens site selection manager, at the end of the meeting. The man called Persheff a liar and threatened to break his legs, according to the manager.

“I’ve done this a lot,” he said. “Usually the audience can sort of separate whatever I’m saying with the issue at hand. I’ve never had this personalized before like this.”

Gutierrez said the angry resident “tried to be all up against” Persheff. She said she grabbed the man and told him to calm down.

“It’s too vulnerable of a position to be in,” Persheff said. “It’s just unacceptable.”

Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece said emotions were high, but the threats were uncalled for.

“The residents are very frustrated. They’re skeptical about what they don’t know,” he said. “But I don’t condone violence in any form. There’s no place for intimidation.”

Gutierrez said the city may take legal action against the alleged verbal assailants.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education said the department is “taking appropriate action.”

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott expressed his “extreme dismay” of the fracas in a letter to Iannece. He said the community board chair “enabled this behavior by not drawing any boundaries to the abuse.”

“I would never allow anyone to be treated in this manner and would expect that you have the same standard,” Walcott said.

Persheff said he would file a police report but had no further comment.

The two residents’ identities were not known as of press time.

“We’ve been in bad neighborhoods, low economic areas, and they treat us with respect,” Gutierrez said. “Yes, they voice their minds, but they respect people.”

“It’s sad,” she continued. “These people are adults, and that’s how they are treating people. We’re just out there trying to do our jobs.”

 

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Bayside residents oppose school in place of Keil Bros Garden Center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Build a school, say Bayside residents, just not in our backyards.

Community Board (CB) 11 voted against a controversial proposal to build an elementary school in the place of a popular garden center after enraged residents who live near the 210-11 48th Avenue site vehemently opposed it.

“This area is saturated with schools, and we can’t stand it anymore,” said resident Mandingo Tshaka. “Hell, no. That’s all I’m going to say.”

The owners of Keil Bros Garden Center and Nursery have struck a deal with the city to sell their entire Bayside property, including a home next to the store, for an undisclosed amount.

Ronald Keil, vice president of the family-run business, cited “the changing nature of the retail world” and “increasing costs of doing business” as reasons for the sale.

“Basically, it’s an uncertain economy,” he said.

Residents said the 416-seat school would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic congestion and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

“It’s really a disaster in the making,” said Toby Pagano, 64, of Bayside. “I would be horrified, but not surprised, if there was an accident.”

There are 21 elementary schools in the district and 12 within CB 11’s jurisdiction, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11.

Local educators said the majority of them are heavily congested, with registration growing every year.

At least three schools have had to put classrooms in space originally meant for libraries or music, Seinfeld said.

“There’s an opportunity for a school to be built,” P.S. 41 Principal Sari Latto said. “We’re hoping that will alleviate some of that overcrowding.”

No designs for a new school have been laid out yet, according to School Construction Authority officials. The site selection process began in 2008 and honed in on the disputed site last month.

According to Keil, the city approached his 83-year-old business within the last two years. He said he and his brother are exploring options to continue the store in another part of Queens.

The garden center will be open for regular business for the rest of the year.

CB 11’s advisory vote now heads to the City Council for a final ruling.

“I do get the need for new schools,” said resident Carol Shriver, 55. “I understand that. But this is wrong. This is just the wrong place to build a school. They’re just asking for trouble.”

 

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Civic group awaits decision in lawsuit against St. Mary’s


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bob Doda

The Weeks Woodlands civic group is awaiting a decision from the appellate court as it proceeds in its lawsuit to halt the expansion of St. Mary’s Hospital for Children.
Construction on the Bayside facility began in October of 2010, despite opposition from Weeks Woodlands. Predominantly taking issue with surrounding zoning laws and the size of the project, Weeks Woodlands vice president Tim Vance argued there is a limited right to expand St. Mary’s and its construction team overstepped its bounds.

St. Mary’s treats children with serious illnesses or injuries, providing rehabilitation and specialized medical care to over 4,000 children every day. The original building, constructed in the late 1950s, caters to children suffering from diseases prevalent during that time period. According to St. Mary’s spokesperson Leslie Johnson, the space is in dire need of an update, coinciding with technological advances.

While the new pavilion will not add patient rooms to the 97-bed facility, Johnson feels the expansion will “right size” the space. Because patients’ stays average between three to five months, Johnson believes the upgraded 90,000-square-foot center will allow parents to rest by their children’s bedside and give patients a suitable amount of space to heal.

Construction crews are expected to complete the first phase of the project by October of this year. The second phase, commencing shortly thereafter, will refurbish and upgrade the hospital’s already existing structure.

Weeks Woodlands first went to court in early August of 2010 following a meeting with the vice president of Turner Construction — the company building the extension. According to Vance, the executive addressed him, saying, “We are going to make your lives miserable.” Vance alleged the VP alerted him Turner’s team would be working before hours, after hours and on the weekends. When Vance asked for quiet Sundays, the executive declined.

Vance said the construction team has lived up to the assertions, but calls to Turner went unanswered when The Courier attempted to verify Vances’ claims.
With the help of contributions from 120 families, Weeks Woodlands accrued funds to assist with its legal fees, which according to Vance have amassed to $100,000.
“We’re in it because it’s our neighborhood,” said Vance. “We want to prevent this problem in our neighborhood and other neighborhoods that are nearby.”
Vance believes that St. Mary’s has the right to expand, just not to the proposed degree.

“[St. Mary’s does] amazing work,” said Vance. “[Weeks Woodlands has] never hesitated to say that.”
According to Vance, the case has four defendants – St. Mary’s, the Department of Buildings (DOB), the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the New York State Dormitory Authority (DASNY). He alleged that the DOB granted the building permit, the DOH approved the building plans and the DASNY assisted with the loan package for the construction.
Vance alleged that a decision from appellate court would be returned in the near future.
The DOH claimed they are a respondent in the litigation, but could not provide any more information.
The DOB and DASNY could not be reached as of press time.

111th Precinct announces decrease in crime


| brennison@queenscourier.com


The 111th Precinct held its council meeting recently in Bayside, updating residents on recent crime stats, answering questions from the community and honoring two officers as Cops of the Month.

For their work thwarting a robbery pattern consisting of 13 thefts, Patrick Hughes and Evan Ostrofsky were honored by Commanding Officer Ronald Leyson and Precinct Council Vice President John Bisbano as the September Cops of the Month.

Leyson announced the Precinct has seen an 8 percent decrease in crime over the past year, which is among the best in the city.  Robbery and rape are the only crimes that have seen an increase since 2010. Over the last 28-day period, crime is down almost one-third in the precinct.

To help combat small electronic robbery – especially in and around area high schools – the 111th Precinct has undertaken a six-week initiative visiting schools and educating students.

Community Affairs officers have been handing out two flyers. One gives tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of small electronic theft, and the second informs kids of the penalties involved with these thefts, which is a felony and can carry up to seven years in jail.

Also announced at the meeting was the Precinct’s coat drive and canned food drive which begins on November 15.  Any lightly used coats or non-perishable foods can be dropped off at the precinct and will be distributed to those who need it most. 

Richmond Hill Block Association gives residents a fighting chance against attack


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0047w

Richmond Hill residents now have a fighting chance against sexual predators who have been terrorizing women in southeast Queens.
In light of the recent patterns of sexual attacks in the surrounding areas, Sensei Ricky Singh of Dojo Warriors equipped a little more than a dozen women and men with vital keys to self-defense at the Richmond Hill Block Association’s monthly meeting on October 26.
Of the countless sexual attacks in Queens, a 44-year-old female was assaulted on September 22 while she entered her home in Queens Village. On October 13, a 20-year-old woman was also raped in the vicinity of 108th Drive and Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, and more recently, two female victims in Laurelton were sexually assaulted, suffering a myriad of injuries afterward.

Association board members said they wanted residents to be prepared and cautious even though the recent attacks did not occur in Richmond Hill.
Singh — who has practiced martial arts for 13 years — taught residents how to stand up for themselves in quick and effective ways.
First, he said to aim for the attacker’s throat, ears and eyes.

Singh said to try and poke the attacker in the eyes — which he said would give victims at least 15 to 20 seconds to run — or to take the middle and pointer fingers and quickly jab them into the attacker’s throat. He also recommended cupping both hands and then clapping both the attacker’s ears at the same time to throw the perp off balance.
“That would actually make somebody back off. They’ll be more concerned about breathing and getting back their balance than attacking you. Their anger isn’t focused on you anymore, it’s focused on their survival,” he said.

But Singh said to avoid attacking the perp’s groin area, adding that it would do more harm than good — despite popular belief.
“It’s a very dangerous area. It actually gets guys really aggravated, and it makes them angrier,” he said. “It stimulates the body to produce more endorphins, which makes them stronger. You don’t want to go for the groin.”

Instead, Singh said to scream loudly to alert people nearby and to get energy levels up.

“Getting your heart rate up will increase your endorphins, and it will make you full of energy and make you feel stronger,” he said, adding that screaming will also make the attacker nervous and no longer feel in control.

If grabbed from behind and caught in a tight hold, Singh said to find the attacker’s pinky finger and pull it back as far as possible, causing the attacker to release his grip from the pain.

Singh also said keys could be used as valuable weapons if the fine points are grinded against the attacker’s knuckles or if used as a type of knife.