Tag Archives: new york city

Queens legislators balk at plans to toll East River bridges


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A plan to reduce five Queens bridge fares by nearly half is not worth tolling free city crossings, some borough lawmakers say.

Under a proposal by transportation coalition, Move NY, drivers in the cash lane would have to pay $7.50 one way and $15 round trip to travel across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges. 

It would also cost the same amount to cross 60th Street in Manhattan, north and southbound.

As a trade-off, E-ZPass tolls on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges would be lowered by 47 percent. Cash fares on those bridges would go down by 33 percent.

“We toll nearly every single crossing between every borough in the five boroughs of New York City already, yet we’re giving over half a million folks a free ride,” said Move NY Director Alex Matthiessen. “It’s not fair to transit riders and certainly not fair to other drivers, who are paying through the nose in tolls.”

The electronic tolling plan, which would require no booths, would raise $1.5 billion in net revenue toward improving the state’s mass transit infrastructure, create 35,000 new jobs and restore bus service cut in 2010, Matthiessen said.

Motorists paying cash would be billed by mail, easing gridlock by dispersing traffic throughout the city, according to Matthiessen and Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

But some Queens legislators balked at the idea.

“I am skeptical about tolling the free bridges because once the free bridges are tolled and the infrastructure is in place, we all know from experience that it would be very hard to reverse that,” said Assemblymember David Weprin.

The plan also failed to get support from Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who have been fighting to eliminate the $3.75 cash toll residents have to pay on the Cross Bay Bridge to enter the Rockaways.

“Imposing tolls on motorists on bridges that are currently free is not the right way to go,” Ulrich said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not ‘take this or that.’”

While the Cross Bay Bridge toll has been a “major thorn” in the community’s side, Addabbo said the swap is not enough.

“At this point, cutting it in half would ease the pain by half,” he said. “It would still be half the pain.”

It also costs residents on the peninsula the same amount to get into Brooklyn on the Gil Hodges.

State Senator Tony Avella said the rates, while discounted in the first year, would only increase annually. He plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit tolls on East River bridges.

“The two things for sure in this world are death and taxes,” he said.

Move NY is led by Sam Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner. The ambitious tolling plan is in its drafting stage, officials said, and still requires public input.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have tolls at all,” Hems said. “But, unfortunately, we do and we have this inequity right now.”

THE COURIER/File photo by Walter Karling

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Fire, flood stalls completion of College Point police academy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo renderings courtesy of NYPD

Completion of the new police academy in College Point has been pushed back three months due to fire and flood damage, The Courier has learned.

The majority of construction on the new $656 million police academy at 128-11 28th Avenue will be finished in March, instead of this month as originally planned, according to the NYPD.

Deputy Chief Kim Royster, a Police Department spokesperson, said the project was first stalled when flood waters from last year’s Superstorm Sandy damaged custom air handlers in storage.

A fire in April also melted the building’s exterior glass atrium, scorching a number of outside panels at the north side of the building and destroying portions of its façade, Royster said.

It was accidentally caused by a blow torch used during construction, according to FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer.

“Together these events resulted in substantial completion being delayed by three to four months,” Royster said.

But plans are still on track to have the new academy’s first recruit class enter the new training digs by July 2014, law enforcement officials said.

The 700,000-square-foot building, in the project’s first phase, is projected to accommodate one tour of 1,640 recruits during their first six months of training, according to Inspector Terrence Riley of the NYPD.

In addition to classrooms and gyms, the new space for the city’s finest-to-be also includes a quarter-mile outdoor running track and a mock-up small city with banks, stores, apartments and streetscapes for simulated scenario-based training, Riley said.

The total 30-acre site is bordered by College Point Boulevard, 28th Avenue and Ulmer Street.

A new target date for the west campus is slated for March, while the east campus is expected to near completion in April, Royster said.

The delay was welcomed by Andrew Rocco, president of the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association.

“Unfortunately, whether it opens tomorrow or three months from now, it’s going to create additional traffic regardless,” he said. “This should give the NYPD an extra three months to figure out how they’re going to support College Point.”

Rocco wants the city to extend Linden Place and fix the neighborhood roads, among other things on his wish list.

“They’re putting this citywide institution in our backyard,” he said. “We want to see some support from that, some visible police presence and support for local businesses.”

 

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City OKs $43M in tax breaks for Willets Point developers


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

The city has approved $43 million in tax breaks for developers who plan to transform Willets Point into a retail and entertainment destination. 

The New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYCIDA) voted Tuesday to give the incentives to the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies.

“That’s one of the most terrible things the city is doing,” said Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee of Small Businesses and Workers.

“The city is giving the money to the billionaires. And you know what they’re doing to the people here in Willets Point? They’re evicting the people and closing the businesses to give them this land for free,” Olaya said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has offered more than $12.5 million in relocation aid to business owners in the first phase of the development site.

As of the end of last month, 30 have already relocated, signed new leases or are close to doing so, according to a Megan Montalvo, a spokesperson for Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area.

The city also plans to give the land to developers for $1 after the Queens delegation of the City Council approved the sale in November.

State Senator Tony Avella said aiding developers with the additional millions was “an absolute disgrace.”

“The city is taking advantage of those property owners, who are really getting the shaft,” he said. “The city is giving that land to them for a dollar, and now they want $43 million in tax breaks.”

The major $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point, now made up of hundreds of auto shops, includes cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land.

Plans also eventually call for constructing housing units and a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of Citi Field.

“While I remain confident that this development, as a whole, will greatly enhance the quality of life for my constituents, I will respect whatever decision the IDA deems appropriate for this application,” Ferreras said.

 

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NYC debuts interactive crime data map


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via http://maps.nyc.gov/crime

The public will now be able to access crime data for neighborhoods around the five boroughs.

The city debuted an interactive crime map Sunday that will allow the public to search and access data on felony crimes based on location.

“With unprecedented population levels, New York City is safer than ever, with homicides on pace this year to fall below recent historic lows,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “This administration has relied on data to drive its crime fighting, and this map helps enhance New Yorkers’ and researchers’ understanding of where felony and violent crime persists.”

The map is accessible through the NYPD website and also here.

The map, built by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) using Google products with crime complainant data reported to the NYPD, provides felony crime information for the prior calendar year, current year and by month within the current year.

“DoITT employs innovative technology to improve the accessibility of critical public information,” said Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant. “The interactive crime map builds on report data and presents it visually in neighborhoods across the five boroughs, keeping the public informed about what is going on in their community.”

The interactive map allows the public to search basic data on the seven major felony crimes as defined by the New York State Penal law (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny of motor vehicle). The searches are based on address, zip code or police precinct. The map displays crimes at the nearest street intersection or area.

Filters for specific crime type display the results by year or month in one of three ways: precinct level, showing crime incidents per 1000 residents as a shaded map; graduated points which correspond to the number of crimes at a given location; or as a “heat map” that marks crimes in the selected area.

Crime statistics by each precinct have been available since 2003 on the NYPD’s website and are updated weekly.

 

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Queens woman admits to bogus ‘blessing scam’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic

A 50-year-old con artist has admitted to duping three Queens women out of nearly $5,000 through a phony “blessing” scam, officials said.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Fengluan Qin confessed Thursday to using an ancient con game to take jewelry and large sums of cash from three unsuspecting Flushing women, between 52 and 72 years old.

Qin convinced the victims to place their cash and valuables into a bag for a “blessing ritual” that would cure their families of sickness and bad luck, before swapping the bags and stealing the goods, Brown said.

Victims of the hoax have lost $1.3 million within the last year to different crews moving throughout the city, according to Inspector Brian Maguire, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct.

Out of about 50 cases citywide, more than $500,000 has been pilfered from victims in the 109th precinct alone, Maguire said.

According to Brown, the scam that targets mostly elderly immigrant women is prevalent in Asian communities nationwide.

“People should be aware that this is just one of many confidence tricks used by individuals to swindle money from vulnerable people and should not fall victim to it,” Brown said.

The district attorney’s office said Qin, a Chinese national with an expired visa, was believed to be living in Flushing, though she did not provide an address to authorities.

She pleaded guilty to grand larceny charges on December 5, Brown said. She is expected to be sentenced to one to three years in prison on December 18.

As part of the plea deal, Qin must also forfeit $4,765 in restitution and sign a confession of judgment for another $10,000.

Police are urging families to spread word of the scam to older relatives and friends.

Cops said victims, if approached, should agree with the tricksters on a meeting spot and then go home and call 9-1-1.

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Kaufman Astoria Studios opens NYC’s first outdoor film set


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens is on its way to becoming the next Hollywood.

Kaufman Astoria representatives, local and state elected officials, community leaders and the beloved Grover from Sesame Street gathered on Tuesday to cut the ribbon on New York City’s first outdoor film set at the Kaufman Astoria Studios on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenue.

“Today is the celebration of a vision coming true, it is why I’m smiling,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “The backlot is an exciting new development for the film and television industry in New York as well as for this area of Astoria.”

The grand opening also revealed a brand new gated entrance, designed by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, located at 35th Avenue.

The 40-foot high steel gate, which can be used as a catwalk for productions, serves as an identifiable iconic symbol in the community and also welcomes visitors into the block-long 34,800-square-foot outdoor lot.

“As the first dedicated backlot in the five boroughs, film and television productions are now more likely to yell ‘action’ and choose Kaufman Astoria Studios and New York City as a location for filming,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “It’s great to say that Kaufman Astoria Studios is now ready for its close up. We’re rolling out the red carpet for the studio’s brand new lot. It’s a game changer for New York. I like to see New York be number one in everything and we are getting there. Hollywood watch out.”

The brand new outdoor lot is expected to bring in more movie and TV producers because it would allow them to shoot outdoors, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. It is located adjacent to the sound stages, allowing access to dressing rooms, production office and set building workshops.

“The addition of New York City’s first-ever outdoor sound stage puts Astoria on the map when it comes to producing blockbuster movies in the United States,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “From a dormant industrial building, Kaufman Astoria Studios has built a world-class institution that has helped Western Queens become ‘Hollywood East.’”

Together with this new expansion, Kaufman Astoria Studios hopes to continue working on the vision George Kaufman, real estate developer and studio chairman, of growing the arts and culture in Astoria and bringing the neighborhood together.

“When I first came here in the early 1980s, I know that we had the potential to turn this neighborhood into a thriving production, arts and cultural district for the City and I am proud to see that vision is a reality today.”

Current productions at Kaufman Astoria Studios include television shows such as Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and Amazon’s “Alpha House.”

 

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Family of Flushing Sandy victim officially files suit against city


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan and courtesy of Facebook

The family of the Flushing man tragically killed by a felled tree during Sandy has officially filed a lawsuit against the city, legal sources said.

“The city has completely ignored the situation with their trees in Queens,” said the family’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold.

Arnold filed a notice of claim in January on behalf of Tony Laino, 29, who is considered the storm’s first New York City victim.

He was pinned under a tree that ripped through his second-floor bedroom on October 29, police said.

“Around the corner from where this happened, someone else was killed last week,” said Arnold, referring to the pregnant woman recently killed by a tree in Kissena Park.

The attorney said the Lainos fought in vain for at least a decade to get the towering threat in front of their house removed.

She told The Courier the city tree was “overgrown, rotten and improperly pruned” and fell when it was confronted by predicted 80 miles per hour hurricane winds.

The victim’s parents, Carol and Robert Laino, and one of his two brothers, Nicholas Laino, are now suing for emotional, mental distress and monetary damages, including funeral and burial expenses, according to the claim.

“Let’s hope this lawsuit saves at least one other mother from the torment that Carol Laino is experiencing because of the unnecessary loss of her child,” Arnold said.

The amount the family plans to sue for is not yet determined, according to their lawyer.

The city’s Law Department said it was “awaiting a formal copy of the lawsuit and will review it upon receipt.”

“We recognize that the incident involves a loss of life, which is tragic,” said department spokesperson Elizabeth Thomas.

 

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UPDATE: One dead, another injured in Woodside stabbing


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Sketch courtesy of NYPD

One man was stabbed to death in Woodside and another was found injured next to him early Saturday morning, police said.

The identities of both victims were not yet released. They were taken to Elmhurst Hospital shortly before 5 a.m. on June 13, authorities said.

A 26-year-old Hispanic male was stabbed in the chest and died on arrival, cops said. The other victim, a 33-year-old Hispanic male, was stabbed in the torso but is said to be in stable condition.

The two were found in front of 68-10 Roosevelt Avenue.

Police said there are no arrests at this time, and the investigation is ongoing.

UPDATE Sunday, July 14:

The deceased has been identified as Isaac Martinez, 26, of Astoria.

Police describe the suspect as either a Hispanic or Asian male, 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 120 to 170 pounds. He has dark hair and was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans.

The suspect, authorities say, fled in a dark colored older model sedan with decals on both front panels. The vehicle may have a shattered rear window.

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

 

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Hooters to reopen in Fresh Meadows


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Fresh Meadows will soon get its second helping of Hooters, but one where the busty wait staff might be clad in a new getup.

The once popular neighborhood rack shack at 61-09 190th Street will reopen later this summer as a new franchise under Marc Phaneuf.

Officials said the establishment closed last October after Hooters of America axed a franchise agreement with Strix Restaurant Group, which ran the Fresh Meadows restaurant and three others on Long Island.

Phaneuf said the dispute, and not a lack of business, caused the restaurant to close.

“That actual location did a wonderful amount of business, a great amount,” he said. “They were very successful at that location.”

Strix then rebranded the eatery Bud’s Ale House. The staff included more men — and less revealing outfits — in the hopes of attracting more customers.

But the ale house went flat several months later, eventually closing in April.

Now Phaneuf is shelling out more than $1 million to redo the restaurant before its slated late August grand opening.

“We’re bringing it up to the latest and greatest version of Hooters,” he said, adding that the original Hooters in Fresh Meadows opened in 2009. “Every restaurant concept goes through changes. The decor, times change.”

That could mean a slightly new uniform for the eatery’s Hooters girls, though nothing has been decided yet.

The staff’s tight white tops are likely to remain untouched. But their bright orange skimpy bottoms could be swapped for skirts with hidden shorts under them, similar to those worn by cheerleaders, Phaneuf said.

“It’s all about evolution in the restaurant industry,” he said. “Hooters of America is looking at new uniforms. Fresh Meadows just might be, because of its location and proximity to New York City, where they may be rolling out the new uniforms.”

Phaneuf, who operates Hooters restaurants in Farmingdale, Albany and five locations in New England, said diners can also expect three times as many televisions, including some 90-inch sets.

“That location will be the premiere location to watch sports in the Fresh Meadows market,” he said.

The new franchisee also plans to hire about 100 staffers and put higher quality, healthier food items on the menu.

 

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Marino’s Italian Ices founder passes away


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The founder of Marino’s Italian Ices who passed away last week leaves behind a sweet treat and a lasting legacy.

Marinos Vourderis, who made his millions in Queens, died July 2 in his Jamaica Estates home, his family said. He was 97.

“He was just an amazing man,” said his granddaughter Kristen Breglio. “He would give you anything that he could. He was very generous his whole life.”

Vourderis was a ship engineer in the 1930s, when he left his small-town home in Aegion, Greece to start a new life in the United States, his family said.

With no money or schooling, but a hope in his heart, he settled in Queens and later started a distribution business called Olympic Ice Cream Company with his wife in the 1960s.

“He certainly had a vision and he took that and ran with it,” said Breglio, 33. “That’s how he got his start in the ice cream business. From there, they got the idea to make ices.”

Vourderis began dabbling with his own “old world” recipes, making the frozen treats in his basement.

Once perfected, he introduced his Marino’s Italian Ices at the 1964 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows.

The product grew into a multimillion-dollar company based in Richmond Hill, where it still is today.

“He would always say, ‘Not bad for sugar and water,’” his granddaughter said.

Seeing the ubiquitous ices in stores, the family said, puts a smile on their faces even more now.

“I’m very proud to say that he’s my dad,” said his daughter Margie Hackford. “With no formal education, he was able to come and make the American dream happen.”

Hackford remembers her father for being selfless, saying he was always willing to give people down on their luck jobs or loan out money.

“People who had nowhere to go would come to my father. He would find a way to help you,” said Hackford, 57. “We’re just really happy that he was able to leave such an amazing legacy behind.”

Marino’s Italian Ices, a beloved summertime treat, can be found in supermarkets, pizzerias, restaurants and pushcarts throughout the country.

The company even opened its first official scoop shop in August 2010 in Shanghai, China.

Mike Barrone, who co-owned the company with Vourderis since 2000, said the Italian ice king was an excellent businessman who “had an open heart.”

“He did stuff that other people aren’t going to do in a lifetime,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Margie Hackford

 

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60 Queens polling sites to have Bengali translations


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Ballots at 60 Queens polling sites this year will have Bengali translations, officials said, but advocates for South Asian voters are skeptical the move will crystallize.

“Our concern is that we were told in the past that Bengali ballots would be available, particularly for the November general election, and that did not happen,” said attorney Jerry Vattamala of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

“We took their word and we sort of got burned,” he added. “Enough is enough.”

A group of South Asian proponents of Bengali ballots filed a lawsuit against the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) on July 2 for its failure, despite assurances, to provide adequate bilingual language assistance in four elections since April 2012.

“We tried to work with them, but then we came to an understanding they weren’t going to do it,” Vattamala said. “We just want something legally enforceable — written confirmation that Bengali will in fact be on the ballot for the next election.”

AALDEF represents the suit’s three plaintiffs, who say the BOE has not complied with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They argue that the law requires the city to provide election information and language assistance to South Asian minorities.

Parts of Queens have been covered under a provision of the act since October 13, 2011.

“You would think it wouldn’t have to come to a lawsuit,” Vattamala said. “But these things are very reasonable, what we’re asking for.”

BOE spokesperson Valerie Vazquez confirmed the borough would have, for the first time, Bengali language assistance for the September 10 primary and November general elections this year.

The 60 polling sites are located mostly in southern Queens near John F. Kennedy International Airport and near Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurt and Bellerose.

Depending on the number of voters with limited English proficiency in those areas, some of them could also have Hindi or Hindi-Punjabi interpreters.

“It was always our intention to be in full compliance for the 2013 election cycle,” Vazquez said.

Bengali translations were never promised for 2012 elections, Vazquez said, because ballot vendors needed to make technical modifications to the system.

As an interim plan, the board hired full-time staff interpreters and provided a translated candidates list at each polling site in the covered areas, the BOE said.

Supporters of the change are now cautiously optimistic, but agree it is a “tremendous step forward.”

“It’s bringing democracy to more people in Queens,” said John Prakash Albert, board chair of Taking Our Seat, a nonprofit group aimed at empowering South Asians voters.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky — who co-sponsored legislation that would require the BOE to provide written Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi language assistance — said implementing Bengali ballots “will have a direct and measurably positive impact on the lives of our neighbors.”

The bill was introduced in the state legislature last year, but never moved out of the Senate’s Elections Committee.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Mazeda Uddin, the national women’s chair for the Alliance of South Asian American Labor, said the elections board is “still lacking.”

“They’re not giving us everything,” she said.

Advocates are seeking binding confirmation from the BOE, a formal Bengali language assistance compliance plan and an agreement to meet with a Bengali language advisory group.

“Last election, they promised me,” Uddin said. “This is the most important for our community. Our people can’t choose the right candidate for lack of access. So many voters can’t vote.”

 

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Near collision over Queens points to increased air traffic: pol


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Two planes nearly collided over Queens as one aircraft took off and another was completing a landing, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a June 13 incident in which a Delta Airlines Boeing 747 regional jet arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2:40 p.m. came perilously close to a Shuttle America Embraer E170 flight departing from LaGuardia Airport.

The planes were turning away from each other when they lost the required three mile separation between them, the agency said in a statement.

Both landed safely, though according to published reports, the two aircraft were at one point only 200 feet apart vertically and about half a mile horizontally.

The FAA said flight routes approved in December “ensure the required three-mile separation” between JFK arrivals and LaGuardia departures while using a new, precise navigation system.

But State Senator Tony Avella said the close call was a warning sign of public safety hazards to come if the administration continues to increase air traffic over the city.

“This latest incident is indicative of this danger,” the lawmaker said. “Unfortunately, if the FAA continues to pursue this goal, near misses could become more common and lead to truly tragic events.”

 

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Audit finds city high school placement flawed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

The city’s high school placement system denied a handful of youngsters a chance at being admitted to a competitive Queens school, a comptroller’s audit found.

Four middle school students were not ranked last year for possible enrollment at Townsend Harris High School’s Intensive Academic Humanities even though they were eligible, according to City Comptroller John Liu.

“Our audit confirmed what many frustrated parents and students have long suspected — the city’s high school placement process is often unfair and deeply flawed,” Liu said.

Students who apply to Townsend Harris — a screened school which accepts students based on past performance over where they live — must have stellar attendance, at least an overall 90 average and a standardized seventh grade reading and math score in the 90th percentile before they are considered, its website said.

The four students in the audit had met those requirements, Liu’s office said, although their names and scores could not be disclosed.

Students can apply to up to 12 high schools and order their choices by preference before the city’s Department of Education (DOE) enters their picks into an enrollment program.

If applicants meet the high school’s criteria, they are ranked on a list for possible enrollment. The screened institutions then offer seats to top scoring students in the system.

But the DOE’s “arbitrary and unfair” placement process, Liu said, did not rank nearly 2,000 eligible students who applied to five screened city schools last year. It ranked about 300 ineligible applicants instead.

“Applying to high school is an important and stressful enough experience for students and parents,” Liu said, “and it must not be left to a sloppy and random system like the one our audit found.”

DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia said high school admissions transparency has never been greater. More than 75 percent of the 70,000 annual high school applicants land in one of their top three school choices, he added.

“This report goes out of its way to ignore the enormous strides we have made to provide information to families and implement a clear, fair high school choice process,” Puglia said. “As always, we have more work to do and appreciate the recommendations for how to improve high school admissions.”

Townsend Harris officials did not return calls for comment.

Nearly 5,300 students applied for 270 seats at the school’s competitive humanities program last year.

The DOE did not say whether the four students in the audit were notified of the glitch.

 

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BBQ restaurant to replace shuttered Douglaston sports bar Strawberry’s


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Order up!

Queens foodies looking to pig out on a slab of ribs need go no further than Douglaston.

Smokin’ Aces Championship BBQ is slated to open in the first week of June. It will replace Strawberry’s, a popular sports bar at 42-15 235th Street that abruptly closed last October.

“Everything just kind of fell into place. It was a really good opportunity,” said Tricia Capodagli, the smokehouse’s sole owner. “When the universe puts everything in front of you and you’re set up to succeed, you might as well do it.”

Capodagli is an accountant and an independent business manager for more than a dozen Manhattan restaurants. She said the venture marks her first foray outside of Manhattan. It is also the first restaurant she has owned.

“This would be a good start for me. It just worked out very well,” said Capodagli, 39. “I’m seeing a lot of development in Queens. I’m seeing it really being built up.”

The family-friendly barbecue joint will offer fried pickles, pulled pork sandwiches, nachos, chili, mac and cheese, burgers and buckets of sides to share.

With Queens prices and healthy options, Capodagli said diners will not have to break the bank or their belts.

“We’re trying to keep everything under $25,” she said. “These will not be Manhattan prices.”

Strawberry’s Sports Grill — the brainchild of the Mets’ and Yankees’ four-time World Series champ, Darryl Strawberry — was only open for two years before it shuttered up.

Sources close to the eatery told The Courier poor management ran the popular dive to the ground.
Locals said the restaurant’s remote location by the Douglaston Long Island Rail Road station, which gets minimal foot traffic, could have been a factor as well.

Still, Capodagli is optimistic she will have a different fate than her predecessor.

“It’s like everything — if you’re getting a good meal and good service, then it’s not out of the way and it’s worth it,” she said.

Before the grand opening, Capodagli said she must obtain certificates from the city’s Department of Buildings and pass a health department inspection scheduled for later this week.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “You never know where life takes you.”

 

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Amusement park coming to Flushing Meadows


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NY Carousel

A carousel will spin and a coaster will hurtle later this month when Queens gets its own amusement park.

Fantasy Forest, a new family attraction at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, has already opened most of the five rides there, including a train and the borough’s only roller coaster.

The amusement park’s grand opening is slated for May 25.

The small facility will feature the historic Flushing Meadows Carousel as the main attraction.

The classic ride, made from the merger of two Coney Island carousels, was created for the 1963-1964 World’s Fair, officials said. It is the largest carousel in Queens.

“We are truly thrilled to introduce this wonderful family attraction where our guests will come to make great memories and have lots of fun,” said Director Ami Abramson of NY Carousel, which runs the carousels at Forest Park and Flushing Meadows.

“We hope Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel is home to the first coaster every child in Queens ever rides,” Abramson added.

The park is at 111th Street and 55th Avenue. It is open daily at 11 a.m. through August and will remain open for certain days in September and October.

For park hours and pricing, visit www.fantasyforestnyc.com.

 

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