Tag Archives: News

Maspeth street co-named George Gibbons Jr. Way


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 63. West wind 9 to 13 mph. Thursday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 52. Southwest wind around 8 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: The Mutations

Devil Science Theater is an interactive event where the audience plays drinking games and makes fun of terrible movies while being egged on by professional comedians in the crowd. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Raul Ibanez’s heroics in 9th, 12th innings give Yankees 2-1 lead over O’s

The Orioles were two outs from taking control of their AL division series against the Yankees. Jim Johnson had converted a big league high 51 saves. But then Raul Ibanez, pinch hitting for no less than Alex Rodriguez, turned on a 94 mph fastball with one out in the ninth inning to tie the score 2-all. Two innings later, it was Ibanez again. Read more: ESPN

Relatives, friends gather at funeral for teen killed in LI crash

Those who knew Christopher Khan all seemed to say the same thing: he always had a smile on his face, no matter the day or the time. Funeral services for Khan were held on Wednesday, October 10 in South Ozone Park. Hundreds of relatives, friends and neighbors packed the funeral home to say goodbye to the young man, killed, along with four others in a tragic wreck on the Southern State Parkway. Read more: Queens Courier

Lindsay Lohan gets into fight with mom over unpaid $40K loan, accuses her of cocaine use before cops are called to scene

The Lohan family’s lunacy just hit an all-time LiLo. A screaming fight between daughter Lindsay and mom Dina after a hard-partying night led dad Michael to dial 911. He claimed his daughter was held hostage early Wednesday inside a chauffeured SUV. She wasn’t. Read more: Daily News

TSA disarms 9 at NYC airports

Airline passengers were packing an arsenal this past weekend. Screeners for the Transportation Security Administration caught nine passengers at the city’s three major airports with illegal weapons or contraband, the agency said yesterday. Read more: NY Post

Slain soccer coach remembered as search for killer expands to Mexico

The search for the killer of a popular youth soccer coach has now shifted to Mexico as family and friends gathered Wednesday for a memorial service. Dozens of mourners filled the morning service for 25-year-old Michael Jones at the First Baptist Church in White Plains, N.Y. Read more: NY1

Lance Armstrong not only used performance-enhancing drugs, cyclist pushed banned substances on teammates: U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report

Lance Armstrong wasn’t just a cheater who used performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles, according to the explosive “reasoned decision” released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday – he was also a dope pusher who supplied banned substances to his teammates and threatened to replace cyclists who refused to juice. Read more: Daily News

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Rain and possibly a thunderstorm before noon, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm, mainly after noon. Some of the storms could produce gusty winds and heavy rain. High near 74. Breezy, with a southeast wind 14 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible. Friday night: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 60. West wind 8 to 10 mph becoming northwest after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

EVENT of the DAY: Ella Fitzgerald

A musical that reflects on the life and songs of the legendary jazz/pop vocalist Ella Fitzgerald at Queens Theatre. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Serial arsonist, who set 13 fires in Queens, arrested

A serial arsonist has been arrested and confessed to setting 13 fires in Flushing, including a three-alarm inferno that injured 19 firefighters and two civilians in August, fire officials said. Thien K. Dinh, 43, of the Bronx, was arraigned in Queens on September 15 and charged with starting a series of fires within a three-week span across Flushing and Murray Hill from August 20 to September 13, according to the district attorney’s office. Read more: Queens Courier

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on world to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked the Holocaust in an impassioned call Thursday for Iran to curtail its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Netanyahu, warning that Iran could produce a functional nuclear weapon by summer 2013, urged world leaders to impose strict limits on the program’s expansion. Read more: Daily News

Bronx teen admitted he shot mother in sleep, beat her with bat: court records

A cold-blooded Bronx teen admitted he shot his mother while she slept – then beat her with bat as she tried to rise, according to court records. Dee “Darwin” Jackson, 16, made the chilling admission to a police detective on Wednesday, just hours after the remains of his mom, Tihesha Savage, 34, were discovered in a dumpster across the street from the family’s home. Read more: NY Post

Garbage cans waste many parking spots on South Ozone Park streets

Some residents in South Ozone Park, Queens are using garbage cans to save parking in their neighborhood, and Department of Sanitation officials are now pledging to issue summonses if they see trash cans out on the street. Read more: NY1

World’s largest Ferris wheel coming to Staten Island

The Big Apple is getting another “biggest”: the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, part of an ambitious plan to draw New Yorkers and tourists alike to the city’s so-called “forgotten borough.” The 625-foot-tall, $230 million New York Wheel is to grace a spot in Staten Island overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline, offering a singular view as it sweeps higher than other big wheels like the Singapore Flyer, the London Eye and a “High Roller” planned for Las Vegas. Read more: NBC NY

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Partly sunny, with a high near 76. East wind 6 to 8 mph becoming southeast in the afternoon. Friday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 66. Southeast wind 5 to 7 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Viva La Comida!

This first-ever 82nd Street Partnership event will shine a spotlight on the fun, food and entertainment options in Elmhurst/Jackson Heights. Food trucks will be everywhere, and the event will include the 82nd Street dance troupe from the Mestizo Art Center, performances by the NY Jazz Academy, the International String Duo and a pop-up crafts market in the Jackson Heights Cinema. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Budget cuts ax program linking seniors and students

The bond between a group of local seniors and children has been broken after an intergenerational arts program that united the two received the ax this year. The Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center in Flushing has been a 20-year participant in a free program under Elders Share the Arts (ESTA), a nonprofit that helps bridge generations by linking nearby elementary school students with local senior centers, according to the center’s director, Jane Qiu. Read more: Queens Courier

DEA agents seize 86 pounds of heroin in Queens apartment

An estimated $20 million worth of heroin was seized from an apartment in Richmond Hill, Queens on Thursday. Drug Enforcement Administration agents uncovered what they say was a heroin distribution center on 122nd Street, confiscating 86 pounds of heroin during the search. DEA officials say it was the second-largest heroin bust in the city in the past seven years. Read more: NY1

Mariah Carey: Working with Nicki Minaj on ‘American Idol’ is ‘gonna be an experience’

Mariah Carey isn’t going out of her way to deny the alleged feud between her and fellow newbie “American Idol” judge Nicki Minaj. “You know what, I think the whole thing is gonna be an experience that unfolds each day,” she told the Hollywood Reporter when asked about working with Minaj. Read more: Daily News

Rikers’ officers, supervisors having ‘rampant’ sex on and off the job, guard’s suit claims

Corrections officers and supervisors are having “rampant” sex with each other both on and off the job at the city’s jails on Rikers Island, a new bombshell lawsuit by one of those randy officers claims. Corrections Officer Tomara Bryan’s discrimination complaint claims that female supervisors verbally and physically abused her, and unfairly disciplined her after learning she was having a consensual affair with a married warden named Emmanuel Bailey. Read more: NY Post

Keith Hernandez to shave mustache prior to final home game

Maybe more than his 1986 World Series ring, his 1979 MVP or his “Seinfeld” appearance, Keith Hernandez was known for his mustache — an upper lip adornment that will soon be no more. The former Mets firstbaseman and current announcer told Newday’s Neil Best that next week his face will be completely clean shaven for the first time in many moons. Read more: Queens Courier

New cab plan curbs hybrids

New York City taxi officials are expected Thursday to approve one of the most sweeping changes in years, ratifying the Nissan-built “Taxi of Tomorrow” as the only acceptable new yellow cab starting in 2013, with the goal of making the fleet almost entirely uniform within three years. But when the Taxi and Limousine Commission makes the Nissan NV-200 mandatory, it will set in motion an unintended change: The shift will drastically reduce the number of hybrid taxis on city streets—now almost half the fleet and what Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed as a critical improvement in the industry just a few years ago. Read more: WSJ

 

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 73. Northeast wind around 9 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 60. East wind 5 to 7 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Vision & Emotion: A Latin American Art Salon

The opening reception for Vision & Emotion: A Latin American Art Salon at the Diego Salazar Art Gallery in Long Island City featuring the work of local emerging and established artists. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Sister’s bone marrow saves sibling, now they raise hope for a cure

Ringlet curls, bright smiles and a love of the stage bond sisters Caroline and Lisette Watters. So do the pinhole-sized scars on Lisette’s back. At age four, Lisette donated a life-saving portion of her bone marrow to her sister, Caroline, who at just two years old, was diagnosed with cancer. Read more: Queens Courier

Parents upset over optional dress code at Little Neck middle school

Parents at a Little Neck middle school are fuming over a bizarre new dress code that penalizes students trying to follow it — as well as the majority of students who opted out of it. Junior High School 67 officials also banned sweaters, sweatshirts and jackets inside of the building, insisting cold students should request that the A/C be turned down, frustrated parents said. Read more: Daily News

NYPD wants videotaped interrogations in all precincts

The New York City Police Department is planning to expand a program for videotaping interrogations to all 76 precincts in the city. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department wants to outfit all interrogation rooms and some specialized units with recording equipment. Read more: NY1

Mayor Michael Bloomberg 10th On Forbes 400 Richest Americans List

Bill Gates is still the wealthiest man in America. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t too far behind. The 30th annual Forbes 400 ranking of the Richest Americans was released Wednesday. 120 New Yorkers in total made the list — 53 from The Big Apple. Read more: CBS New York

Herald Square Macy’s getting $400 million makeover

A $400 million makeover is giving New York’s iconic Macy’s store a sleek, new 21st-century style. And some preservationists aren’t happy about it. They see the overhaul of America’s biggest department store as scrapping classic Beaux Arts and Art Deco touches in favor of the latest trend in retail design – something like an Apple computer store. Read more: ABC New York

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 93. Southwest wind 8 to 15 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. West wind 8 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Doctor Zhivago at the Museum of the Moving Image

Take in the 1965 classic at the Museum of the Moving Image.  Based on Boris Pasternak’s novel, this tale of a love triangle set against the Bolshevik Revolution is an astonishing feat, as emotionally involving as it is visually spectacular. Highlights include Freddie Young’s Oscar-winning cinematography and Maurice Jarre’s iconic score.

Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Stavisky and Messer face off in 16th Senate District debate

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and opponent John Messer agreed job creation was a priority in the 16th State Senate District as the two stated their platforms and fielded questions at a Wednesday, August 29 forum before hundreds of residents in the district. Despite agreeing on general issues such as employment, energy and bilingual signage, the six-time incumbent and Senate hopeful found themselves on opposite sides on gay marriage and charter schools. Read more: Queens Courier

Huntley probe widens

The criminal probe into indicted state Sen. Shirley Huntley has expanded to include every earmark she secured for nonprofits that employed her campaign staffers, Senate aides and family members, The Post has learned. Huntley, a Democrat, is facing up to 12 years in prison for allegedly covering up the misuse of $30,000 in “member item” funds by her niece and an aide to the bogus Parent Workshop charity. Read more: NY Post

Romney vows to deliver country from economic travails

Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday by making a direct appeal to Americans who were captivated by President Obama’s hopeful promises of change, pledging that he could deliver what the president did not and move the country from its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Read more: NY Times

Women employed by lawmaker describe sexually hostile office

Five women who worked for Vito J. Lopez, the assemblyman at the center of a broadening sexual harassment scandal, described in interviews an atmosphere of sexual pressure and crude language in his office, with frequent unwanted advances by him and others, requests for provocative dress, personal questions about their boyfriends and fears of reprisals if they complained. Read more: NY Times

New program at sprawling public housing complex offers farm fresh foods for $10 a bag

Farm fresh produce is a scarce commodity in the Queensbridge Houses, where diabetes rates are high and junk food is cheap and plentiful. A new program — which kicks off next week — is offering residents a bag full of fruits and vegetables for just $10 a week. Read more: Daily News

Hip-hop manager Chris Lighty dead after shooting himself outside his Bronx apartment

Hip-hop mogul Chris Lighty died Thursday morning after he shot himself after an argument with his estranged wife at his Bronx apartment, sources told the Daily News. Lighty, 44 — a longtime manager of 50 Cent, Diddy, Ja Rule and Mariah Carey — stepped outside his South Riverdale apartment about 11:30 a.m., after a spat with his wife, Veronica, police sources said. Read more: Daily News

MTA kicking more trash cans at subway stations

Starting Sunday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is removing more trash cans from subway station platforms. The agency is expanding a pilot program that is aimed at reducing the rodent population in the subway system. The MTA says it has more trash than it can collect at subway stations. Read more: NY1

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 86. Northwest wind 8 to 10 mph. Thursday night: Clear, with a low around 72. West wind around 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: After School Special-Laughing Devil Comedy Club 

Join Jesse Jones as he brings his rowdy comic buddies to this weekly show. After School Special is a show designed to make every week a very special episode. Each Thursday at 8:00 p.m. you will be treated to a mix of alternative comics, mainstream comedians, story tellers and special guests as they hilariously give insight into the life as a stand-up.

Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens man arrested for synagogue crime spree

A man who stole valuable Torah relics from a Kew Gardens Hills synagogue earlier this month was arrested Tuesday and also charged with stealing religious items from two other synagogues in Queens this summer, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced today. Read more: Queens Courier

State rejects charter school application for kids of illegal Chinese immigrants

The state has shot down an application to create a year-round, bilingual charter school in Flushing aimed at the children of illegal Chinese immigrants. Lotus King Weiss, the lead applicant of the Whole Elephant Charter School, posted articles on the elementary school’s website about her being attacked in the U.S. due to her controversial Falun Dafa beliefs. Read more: Daily News

Queens judge sues city after alleged transit cop assault

Stung by the refusal of the Queens district attorney to prosecute the cops he says assaulted him, a state Supreme Court judge today took the first steps to sue the city. Queens Supreme Court Justice Thomas Raffaele walked into the Kew Gardens courthouse on his day off to file the notice of claim against the city, expressing his intention to file a lawsuit for the “untruths” and “slander” he claims was reported by a pair of transit cops to undercut criminal charges. Read more: NY Post

Ryan calls for a U.S. turnaround, led by Romney

Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, whose budget plans have come to define conservative opposition to President Obama’s governing philosophy, accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday as his party embraced the gamble that the small-government principles he represents have more political payoff than peril. Read more: NY Times

Isaac causing big problems, but proving to be far weaker than Katrina

Hurricane Isaac sidestepped New Orleans on Wednesday, sending the worst of its howling wind and heavy rain into a cluster of rural fishing villages that had few defenses against the slow-moving storm that could bring days of unending rain. Read more: CBS

Mourners say goodbye to man killed outside Empire State Building

Funeral services were held Wednesday for the man shot and killed near the Empire State Building last week. Mourners gathered for a solemn service at Our Lady of Sorrows in White Plains to honor fashion executive Steven Ercolino. Read more: CBS

74-year-old gunman tries to shoot his estranged wife in Staten Island bowling alley

A Staten Island bowling alley was turned into a shooting range Wednesday when a 74-year-old man opened fire on his estranged wife. Armando Tritto squeezed off at least three errant shots at Maureen Tritto, 47, as she was preparing to open the snack bar at Rab’s Country Lanes in Dongan Hills, cops said. Read more: Daily News

NYPD cop busted for providing info to drug traffickers: feds


| jlane@queenscourier.com


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

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

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

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


| jlane@queenscourier.com


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

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

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

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

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

[NY1]

Despite lawsuits, DOT work, off-ramp still unsafe


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


| jlane@queenscourier.com


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

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

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

[New York Post]

Man busted in city-wide manhole cover thefts


| jlane@queenscourier.com


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

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

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

[New York Post]

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


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New cops join 106th precinct


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_0321

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

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.