Tag Archives: Oakland Gardens

Award-winning Queens author Paul Volponi teaches Cardozo students, releases new book


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Freshman students in a Benjamin Cardozo High School English class got a special visit from an author who they may not be able to write off from their memories.

Award-winning Queens author Paul Volponi, who is known for his novel “Black and White” about the racial disparities of the city’s justice system, taught the class for three sessions on March 9, 11 and 13.

The appearances coincided with the release of Volponi’s newest novel this week, called “Game Seven,” which is based on the story of a young Cuban baseball player’s dream to play in the MLB.

In his three-day residency at Cardozo, Volponi taught students writing skills through fun activities, such as using popular names like Peter Parker and Fred Flintstone to show how alliteration makes names more memorable. He also showed the youngsters how to add color and characterization to make dialogue more exciting.

“He is the first author that I have met, and I like him,” said freshman Mustak Azad. “He seemed pretty interesting and he made a really great impression on me.”

Volponi 3

Volponi’s novel “Black and White” was the International Reading Association’s 2006 Young Adult Novel of the Year. He grew up in Queens and is a product of the public school system as a graduate of Aviation High School in Long Island City.

He has taught students for years, but mostly outside of New York, because the Department of Education (DOE) doesn’t “prioritize” bringing authors to teach kids in its budget as much as other states do, he said.

“I connect with kids all over the country and unfortunately I do more kids in Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio than I do in New York City,” Volponi said.

The program to have Volponi teach was funded through a grant that classroom veteran teacher Nancy Orens wrote and received from the DOE.

Volponi 2

Besides writing tips, Volponi also taught the children how to go about starting their first books and writing letters to publishers to pitch their ideas. Volponi also signed and gave away copies of some of his old books, as well as a copy of “Game Seven.”

Orens believes overall the experience will be a good memory for the students.

“Getting feedback from a professional author, and participating in a workshop, which they know their other friends didn’t have an opportunity to do, they now have a memory that they can carry with them through high school,” Orens said.

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Trio of sites in Briarwood and Oakland Gardens trade hands for $23.7 million


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

The owner of three commercial sites scattered in Oakland Gardens and Briarwood sold the properties for more than $23.7 million, according to real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, which handled the transaction.

The deal involves the cluster of properties at 221-02 through 221-50 Horace Harding Expressway, 137-67 to 137-79 Queens Blvd., 138-09 84th Dr., and 138-07 to 138-11 Queens Blvd., which the real estate firm refers to collectively as “The Vanguard Retail Portfolio.”

Together there are 28 units throughout the entire sale with a combined 44,858 square feet of space.

Of the properties, the largest cluster on Horace Harding Expressway in Oakland Gardens has about 33,698 square feet and 18 retail units with some space for parking.

It has up to 53,159 square feet of buildable space, according to the real estate firm. This one cluster was sold for nearly $17 million.

The properties were purchased by a local investor above the asking price, which was $23.1 million in September, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

“We received an abundant amount of interest contributed to by the continued lack of quality assets for sale along with the desirability for larger retail product,” said Stephen Preuss of Cushman, who handled the deal with Brian Sarath and Thomas Donovan.

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Police looking for mugger who robbed two women in Queens


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Two women were robbed on the streets of Queens in separate incidents earlier this month when a mugger jumped out of a car, pushed them to the ground and stole their purses before fleeing, police said.

The first victim, a 27-year-old woman, was attacked as she walking near 195th Street and 110th Avenue in St. Albans at about 2:10 p.m. on March 6.

A 56-year-old woman was cleaning snow from the top of her car at an unspecified time in the vicinity of 64th Avenue and 228th Street in Oakland Gardens when she was mugged on March 7, according to authorities.

Police have released a photo of the suspect and of the vehicle — a white sedan.

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

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Bayside and Oakland Gardens residents reject plan to replace wooded area with parking lot


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Bayside’s Community Board 11 rejected a developer’s request Monday night to build a parking lot on a pristine patch of land that runs along 77th Avenue after neighborhood residents banded together to stop the destruction of open space protected under decades-old zoning.

Oakland Gardens resident John Hatzopoulos spearheaded a grassroots effort since early February to save a piece of land that residents say gives the neighborhood its charm.

“We put a lot of hard work into spreading the news that they were trying to bring the trees down,” Hatzopoulos said. “But it was worth it. So many people came out to save the trees.”

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants Corp., built a complex of co-ops in the 1950s along with a city agreement that they would leave a strip of land undeveloped. The land separates the co-ops from residential homes on 77th Avenue, where Hatzopoulos and his fellow troop of tree lovers live.

But the corporation tried to renegotiate its deal with the city in an attempt to turn the land into a community building and a parking lot, according to the request they submitted to Community Board 11.

Residents worried that the creation of a parking lot would destroy their quality of life, greatly increase traffic and make the area dangerous for their children.

The corporation did not return calls for comment but several representatives attended the meeting. They argued that the parking spaces are needed to fulfill their contractual obligation to provide parking spaces for the co-op’s residents.

But the community board ultimately rejected the corporation’s request and the decision will now be sent to Borough President Melinda Katz before it ultimately goes up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

“I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to fight this all the way up the government ladder,” said Hatzopoulos, speaking for the several hundred residents who signed a petition against the corporation’s request. “We care about these trees and no one has the right to take them away.”

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Oakland Gardens residents gain support in bid to save woodland


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The tree huggers are gaining some political muscle.

A group of Oakland Gardens residents have been building support over the last few weeks to stop a developer’s plan to break a deal made with the city by paving over hundreds of trees and shrubbery in the area for a parking lot and community building.

Now they’ve gained the support of state Senator Tony Avella.

“I’m opposing it. I see no reason to support it,” said Avella, whose coverage area includes the endangered strip of trees that runs along 77th Street between Springfield Boulevard and 217th Street.

Avella continued, “There’s the issue of the effects this would have on the quality of life,” adding: “This may violate the original agreement.”

The 1,200-foot-long strip of land is owned by Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp., which also owns co-op buildings in the area. The agreement to keep the land forested was reached in 1950 when the city allowed the property owner to break several zoning laws to construct the co-ops that still stand today. In exchange, the corporation agreed to leave a strip of land undeveloped that separates the co-ops from several blocks of private homes on 77th Street.

But the corporation now wants to renegotiate its deal with the city that would allow them to  turn the woodland into a parking lot and a community building, according to city records.

“We just couldn’t believe that they are trying to take this beautiful piece of land away,” said John Hatzopoulos, who has lived in one of the private homes on 77th Avenue with the unbuilt land directly behind his home. “So you can imagine my joy when [Avella] decided to support our cause.”

Avella plans to meet with Hatzopoulos and several other residents who have been circulating a petition against the development.

“This application rubbed me the wrong way,” Avella said. “The opposition is very clear and strong. We have a great chance to defeat this.”

Community Board 11 will consider the corporation’s request on March 2 during a public meeting. The corporation wants to create a parking lot with 98 spaces with an entrance on Springfield Boulevard and a community building.

The decision will ultimately be up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp. didn’t return calls for comment.

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Oakland Gardens residents fight plans to clear woodland for a parking lot


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A Queens developer really does want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

But a group of self-proclaimed tree huggers in Oakland Gardens — who know what they’ve got before it’s gone — are banding together to stop a developer’s plan to uproot hundreds of trees and shrubs from a strip of wilderness behind their homes.

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp., came to an agreement with the city in 1950 that allowed them to build co-ops in Oakland Gardens even though the co-ops broke several zoning laws, according to city records. In the agreement, Windsor Oaks agreed to not build on a strip of land they owned that separates the co-ops from several blocks of private homes.

Now, the corporation is trying to renegotiate its deal with the city that would allow them to  turn the wooded land into a parking lot and a community building, according to city records.

“I came to this neighborhood precisely because of this beautiful surrounding of trees with so many birds in them,” said John Hatzopoulos, who has lived in one of the private homes on 77th Avenue with the unbuilt land directly behind his home.

“So yes, you could definitely call me a tree hugger,” he continued.

This tree-filled divider is about 200 feet wide from north to south and more than 1,200 feet from west to east bordered by 217th Street and Springfield Boulevard.

Along with 300 people in the neighborhood who have signed a petition, Hatzopoulos is hoping to convince the city not to allow the agreement to be made. In a request made to Community Board 11, the corporation wants to create a parking lot with 98 spaces with an entrance on Springfield Boulevard and a community building.

In the original agreement of 1950, the city required the corporation to not only leave the area undeveloped but to also maintain a “ landscaped appearance” and that “the planting in the area shall be suitable and shall be maintained at all times in good condition.”

The emphasis on aesthetic was a requirement from the community but if the corporation succeeds in creating a new deal with the city, the area would undergo major construction.

“If that happens, we will have to move,” Hatzopoulos said. “I came to this area 20 years ago knowing that this spot cannot be developed. I saw that there was a deal made with the city and it couldn’t be broken. Who knew you could break deals with the government?”

Community Board 11 will weigh in on the corporation’s request at their meeting in March. It will ultimately be up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

The corporation didn’t return calls for comment.

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Oakland Gardens man pleads guilty to setting fire to pal’s Little Neck apartment


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

fire

What’s a fire between friends?

For one Oakland Gardens man, it could mean some serious prison time.

Ezra Barashy, 26, pleaded guilty to third-degree arson Tuesday for setting fire to his friend’s Little Neck basement apartment this summer, according to the district attorney’s office. In his plea, he admitted to intentionally tossing a Molotov cocktail at the home of his pal.

Surveillance video shows Barashy approaching his friend’s residence on Aug. 22 with a gas can and running to a waiting car, the district attorney’s office said. Inside the car was his friend’s girlfriend. Barashy had known both of them for several years and allegedly drove the girlfriend to and from the crime scene shortly before 7 a.m.

Barashy’s friend woke up when the Molotov cocktail set his apartment door on fire. He put out the blaze with a pot of water.

The arson incident isn’t the first time that Barashy has been in trouble with the law, according to the district attorney’s office.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree for shooting at the home of a Queens Supreme Court judge in October 2008. Barashy was sentenced to two years and six months in prison.

Barashy is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10 for the arson plea. The judge indicated on Tuesday she would hand down a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

“The defendant has pleaded guilty to having set a fire that could have been deadly, if not for the quick-thinking actions of the victim,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “The defendant, who has already served time for firing shots at the home of a Queens Supreme Court judge, will be going back to prison and the public will be safe from his violent tendencies.”

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Two women accused of abusing young exchange students at Little Neck tutoring academy


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BENJAMIN FANG

They were supposed to care for the international exchange students, but instead were caught punishing them.

Two women, Sun Kyung Park, 33, and Min Kyung “Pamela” Chea, 34, have been charged with endangering the welfare of four Korean abroad students in a private tutoring academy in Little Neck, prosecutors said.

The women are accused of forcing the children, ages nine through 11, to do physically abusive activities. One student had to hold six to eight books above his head for extended periods of time and was struck repeatedly with a spiral notebook, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

They also allegedly withheld food and water and limited the boys’ usage of the bathroom.

The discipline was a result of the students misbehaving, getting a bad grade on a test or being too loud, according to Brown.

“The young victims in this case came to the United States from Korea without their parents who paid considerable sums of money to send their children abroad to learn English and obtain an education,” Brown said.  “The defendants had an obligation to provide a safe environment for the students and keep them from harm – which they are accused of failing to fulfill in this case by being unable to distinguish between acceptable discipline and physical and mental abuse.”

Chea is the students’ legal guardian while Park is an employee of the educational center, Crown Tutoring Academy, located at 248-12 Northern Blvd. Crown Tutoring is owned by Chea’s husband.

Park, from Oakland Gardens, is charged with assault and endangering the welfare, and could face up to seven years of prison if convicted, prosecutors said. Chea, a Little Neck resident, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and attempted assault, and may be looking at up to one year in jail.

Both women are currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court.

 

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Health Department to treat areas of Queens against West Nile this week


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Department of Health

On Wednesday, Aug. 6 there will be West Nile spraying in parts of Queens to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease.

The spraying will take place between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Thursday, Aug. 7 during the same hours.

The following neighborhoods are being treated due to rising West Nile virus activity with high mosquito populations, according to the city’s Health Department:

Parts of Bayside, Douglaston, Hollis Hill, Little Neck and Oakland Gardens (Bordered by Long Island Rail Road Track to the north; 219th Street and Springfield Boulevard to the west; Long Island Expressway to the south and Douglaston Parkway to the east)

Parts of Blissville, Sunnyside and west Maspeth (Bordered by Green Point Avenue and 48th Avenue to the north; Van Dam Street to the west; Newtown Creek (Queens-King County Boundary) to the South; 49th Street, 56th Road, 50th Street, Queens Midtown Expressway and 49th Street to the East

Parts of Kew Gardens, Briarwood and Jamaica (Bordered by Grand Central Parkway and Jackie Robinson Parkway to north; Metropolitan Avenue and 118th Street to the west; Long Island Rail Road and Archer Avenue to the south; 14th Place, Jamaica Avenue, 144th Street, 87th Avenue and 150th Street to the east)

For the application, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks and use a very low concentration of Anvil®, 10 + 10, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health.

The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions  are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  •  Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If  outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using  again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

 

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Charges expected in hazing death of Baruch College student


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy New York Daily News

Charges are expected in the death of a Baruch College student from Queens who was killed in a fraternity hazing ritual last year, according to published reports.

Chun “Michael” Deng, a 19-year-old from Oakland Gardens, died from head injuries during an unsanctioned Pi Delta Psi event in Pennsylvania in December.

Authorities are expected to file charges against most of the around 30 Baruch students that were on the trip, the New York Times first reported.

Deng, a freshman at the school, was reportedly one of several pledges who were forced to wear weighted bags and navigate a path through a yard, while being repeatedly knocked to the ground.

His death was ruled a homicide in February, as a result of blunt-force head trauma.

The charges are likely to include homicide, which in Pennsylvania cover everything from involuntary manslaughter to premeditated murder, reports said. The students could also be charged with hazing, a misdemeanor, according to the New York Times.

Following Deng’s death, the national Pi Delta Psi organization severed ties with the Baruch colony and suspended its national new member outreach.

 

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Long Island Expressway crash kills one


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A 22-year-old man died after his car struck a wall as he was exiting the Long Island Expressway early Thursday morning, cops said.

The victim, Aaron Jung Hay Wu, of Oakland Gardens, was attempting to merge onto the Clearview Expressway, at Exit 27, about 3:50 a.m. when the accident occurred, officials said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation is ongoing, according to police.

 

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Rep. Meng works to bring family members of teen crash victims to US


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Vic Nicastro

Family members of the two teens killed last month in a tragic car crash are working with Congressmember Grace Meng to fly from China to Queens to grieve.

Meng is trying to secure visas for Jiahao Liang’s mother and sister and Jennifer Gao’s grandmother and aunt.

The two died Feb. 18, when their car swerved off the Long Island Expressway, near Kissena Boulevard, and wrapped around a tree.

Their relatives await a March 11 interview from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China. Meng said she intervened with the American Consulate in China after a friend of both families reached out to her for help.

“The death of these two teenagers is a terrible and horrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to their family and friends,” she said. “We will assist them with whatever needs they may have during this difficult time.”

Liang, 19, of Flushing, who drove the car and his passenger Gao, 16, of Oakland Gardens, were cremated about two weeks ago, Meng said.

 

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Bill proposed in honor of Baruch student who died in frat hazing ritual


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy New York Daily News

Following the fraternity hazing death of a 19-year-old Queens man, a local politician is proposing a law that could prevent a similar tragedy.

Assemblymember David Weprin introduced a bill on Sunday, known as Michael Deng’s law, that would ban all physical conduct and activities by fraternities during initiation or affiliation ceremonies. Anyone who takes part in these activities would be guilty of hazing in the first degree, according to Weprin.

The bill honors Baruch College freshman Chun “Michael” Deng. The teen, who was from Oakland Gardens, died from head injuries during an unsanctioned Pi Delta Psi event in Pennsylvania in December, according to authorities and the fraternity’s National Executive President Andy Meng.

Deng was reportedly one of several pledges on the trip who was forced to wear weighted bags and navigate a path through a yard, while being repeatedly knocked to the ground.

Earlier this month, his death was ruled a homicide.

 

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John Messer ‘seriously considering’ another State Senate run


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

John Messer is mulling over another State Senate run, he told The Courier.

“I am dedicated to this community, which is why I have been driven towards public service and am seriously considering a run for New York State Senate,” he said.

It would be the Oakland Gardens attorney’s third try at defeating incumbent State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who has held the seat for nearly 15 years.

Most recently, Messer lost a contentious two-way Democratic primary to Stavisky in 2012. 

The heated race was waged principally on negative campaign attacks. Stavisky won 58 percent of the vote.

But Messer said he has not lost momentum since then.

“I believe now, more than ever, that this is a community I want to represent,” said the 43-year-old small business owner. “If anything, it’s a stronger feeling.”

“There are things you to look at before you decide to run — finances, family,” Messer said. “We’ll make a decision soon.”

Mike Murphy, a Senate Democratic spokesperson, said Stavisky has been a “vocal ally” for middle class families and recalled Messer’s previous losses.

“She enjoys wide support from all corners of her diverse district and has now defeated Mr. Messer twice despite the fact that he has spent over $1 million,” Murphy said. “The voters of the district see Mr. Messer for what he is — a Republican surrogate.”

The district encompasses parts of Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Oakland Gardens, Rego Park, Elmhurst, Forest Hills and Jackson Heights.

 

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Death of Baruch student who died in frat ritual ruled homicide


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy New York Daily News

MELISSA CHAN AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA

Updated 4:15 p.m.

The death of a 19-year-old Baruch College student from Queens who was killed in a fraternity hazing ritual has been ruled a homicide, the Luzerne County Coroner Office confirmed Friday.

Chun “Michael” Deng, a freshman at the school, passed away on Dec. 9 from head injuries during an unsanctioned Pi Delta Psi event in Pennsylvania, according to authorities and the fraternity’s National Executive President Andy Meng.

Deng died from blunt-force head trauma, the coroner office said.

Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Harry Lewis plans on meeting with the Monroe County district attorney’s office next week to to discuss the coroner’s findings and the next steps in the case, NBC News reported.

Deng, of Oakland Gardens, was one of four pledges who traveled to the Poconos with more than 30 fraternity members the weekend before his death, the district attorney said.

The blindfolded pledges were reportedly forced to wear weighted bags and navigate a path through a yard, while being repeatedly knocked to the ground.

Following the incident, the national Pi Delta Psi organization severed ties with the Baruch colony and suspended its national new member outreach, according to a statement.

Sources in different chapters of the fraternity told The Courier that versions of the ritual are still being carried out, even though it has been banned for at least 10 years due to its dangerous nature.

Pi Delta Psi, a fast growing Asian-interest society, has 20 chapters in the country and four colonies, including Baruch, according to its website.

 

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