Tag Archives: Ozone Park

Fresh Meadows man stars on new reality show ‘Little Women: NY’


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Patrick Eccelsine

Jason Perez may be a little man, but he is representing the biggest borough on a new Lifetime reality show.

Perez, a 27-year-old Queens College student from Fresh Meadows, is starring on “Little Women: NY,” premiering Wednesday night.

Standing at 4 feet 4 inches tall, he is the only male cast member among seven little people whose lives are documented on the series, which takes a look at how the group of friends navigates the Big Apple.

lwny_gallery-jason_150112-pe-021“New York is one big city and we are little women…well, six little women and the one guy that can handle them,” the first episode starts.

“Little Women: NY” is a spin-off of the network’s hit reality show “Little Women: LA,” which just concluded its second season on March 18 and featured New York cast member Lila Call in several of its recent episodes.

A friend of “Little Women: LA” cast member and executive producer Terra Jolé, who is also an executive producer for the New York version, Perez was easily convinced to appear on the new show.

“I think it will be very enlightening, very educational. It will also take the stress of the day off,” he said, promising the one-hour program will bring as much reality show-style drama as its West Coast counterpart and a true look into the world of little people.

Born in Brooklyn to a close-knit Filipino family, Perez grew up in Ozone Park before moving to Fresh Meadows in 2000, where he attended St. Francis Prep.

Though he faced bullying because of his dwarfism and is the only little person in his family, he said his loved ones have always given him strength.

“They just took me as a regular person,” Perez said. His parents always told him to “cry but not for long” and to “just get up and keep moving.”


After high school, he earned a culinary arts degree and started working as a cook. But his childhood love for performing led him from the kitchen to a job as a singing server.

Today, he is studying political science and history at Queens College, but is still pursuing his passion for entertainment through performing, and voice, dance and acting lessons. He has even won several talent competitions, including at the MGM Grand Las Vegas and the Coney Island Talent Show, and has performed in Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular.

Perez is also hoping to entertain viewers on “Little Women: NY,” which he says will step it up a notch from its LA counterpart because of the challenges of fast-paced New York City, such as commuting on the subway, hailing cabs and traversing crowded streets.

Jason Perez with "Little Women: NY" co-stars Lila Call and Dawn Lang (Photo by Zach Dilgard)

Jason Perez with “Little Women: NY” co-stars Lila Call and Dawn Lang (Photo by Zach Dilgard)

“New York in itself is an animal and to survive you need to have skills,” Perez said.

The show will also look at some of Perez’s personal struggles — a sensitive issue he discusses with his conservative family while living at home and his difficulties in finding the right person to settle down with.

“We may be small but we have emotions like everyone else, we have ambitions like everyone,” he said. “Just because we look different doesn’t mean we are out of the loop.”

“Little Women: NY” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. 

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Pair pleads guilty in 2009 Ozone Park home invasion and murder


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of FBI

Two men have pleaded guilty to robbery charges in the 2009 home invasion and deadly shooting of the son of a Queens pizza shop owner in Ozone Park.

Antoine Burroughs, in pleading guilty on Monday to one count of robbery conspiracy and one count of attempted robbery, admitted to shooting and killing 29-year-old Gerardo Antoniello as he was trying to protect his father, Bartolomeo Antoniello, during the home invasion, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

His accomplice, Leon Whitfield, also pleaded guilty to the same charges and said that he carried a fake gun during the robbery and that Burroughs fatally shot Antoniello during a struggle.

According to the case, Burroughs and Whitfield were hired by Frank LaCorte, an associate of the Gambino Crime Family to commit the Sept. 9, 2009, robbery. They were targeting any cash the elder Bartolomeo had on hand from his shop, Romeo’s Pizzeria on Cross Bay Boulevard. His son tried to protect his father and was fatally shot in the head.

LaCorte was convicted in Queens County Court for his role in organizing this and several other home invasion robberies, and in June 2012 was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, officials said.

Whitfield was arrested on March 18, 2014, for his role in the robbery. The same month Burroughs was indicted in the invasion, but was not apprehended until September in the Bronx.

Both men are scheduled to be sentenced on July 29 and face up to 20 years in prison.

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Ozone Park Vietnam veteran finally receives combat award


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Phil Goldfeder

On Dec. 3, 1968, Ozone Park‘s John D. Chichester and his army company were on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam when they found themselves under heavy enemy fire.

Chichester set up a defensive position and started firing back with his company, but not before six of his fellow soldiers were injured.

Despite going above and beyond the call of duty to aid his men and though his acts were documented, Chichester would have to start a new fight after the war for over 40 years to get the rightful award he earned that day.

“It was very frustrating,” he said, at the American Legion Post in Ozone Park last Thursday, where he was finally received the award he earned.

After the war, Chichester was awarded the Bronze Star with a Valor Device (“V” Device) for his act of heroism during the Dec. 3, 1968, battle. But shortly thereafter, the military lost his records and consequently rescinded the “V” Device designation for his Bronze Star.

Chichester battled with the Department of the Army for over 40 years to obtain the Valor commendation but each request was denied.

After some work with Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office last December and with the help of supporting documentation, Chichester’s appeal was finally granted and the Army amended his discharge to reflect his entitlement to the “V” Device.

His heroism came about that fateful day in 1968 as he went to each of the six men who were injured, picked them up and brought them to a safer area for them to be rescued. But it did not stop there.

As he was dropping the men off in the safety area, the helicopter coming to pick them up came under fire and subsequently was not able to pick up the injured. So he then again brought each of the men to protection until they could be safely picked up and attended to.

“Tonight we pay tribute to John D. Chichester’s selfless sacrifice defending our nation during the Vietnam War,” Ulrich said. “This award recognizes his heroism and exemplary service to our country and it is only a small token of appreciation for all that he has done on our behalf.”

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Community Board 9 chooses Lisa Gomes as new district manager, angering BP Melinda Katz


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Members of Community Board 9 selected Lisa Gomes to fill the long-vacant post of district manager — a move that Borough President Melinda Katz blasted as an attempt by the board to “steamroll this important decision” before new members join the board.

“Over six months have lapsed since the former district manager tendered her resignation,” Katz said. “The length of time it has taken the board to move this forward demonstrates the ongoing governance issues which have been prevalent on Community Board 9.”

Katz was so upset about the move that she issued a press release several hours before the meeting on March 3.

“It’s perplexing at best as to why Community Board 9 feels it is absolutely necessary to steamroll this important decision upon a board that may or may not be the same in 28 days,” Katz said in the statement.

Community Board 9 covers Kew Gardens, Richmond Hills, Ozone Park and Woodhaven.

Queens’ longest-tenured district manager Mary Ann Carey resigned last year in October and since then Community Board 9 was without a leader. The board members made a decision on Tuesday night during a closed meeting that lasted for over an hour. But just as the board members were about to heed Katz’s urging to select a new district manager, the borough president sent a letter to the board asking them to postpone the decision until April, a request that baffled board members.

“I think it’s ironic that the borough president highlights how long the process has taken as a potential problem and then urges us to take even more time,” a community board member said. “That seems a little weird to me. Especially when one of her former staffers happens to be a finalist for the job.”

The board members went ahead with the voting process between three candidates and ultimately voted to appoint Lisa Gomes to the district manager’s post. The former Katz staffer was not selected.

“[Gomes'] familiarity with Community Board 9, with its members and with its neighborhoods, made her a strong candidate for the job,” the board member said. “With her at the helm we are preserving institutional memory and maintaining continuity even while she has pledged to improve the way the office is run.”

Lisa Gomes served as a temporary district manager since October and she served as a board staff member for over 20 years.

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Goldfeder calls for improved safety measure under A train underpass


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

New and additional street lights are needed for a poorly lit underpass in Ozone Park that is “potentially dangerous” for residents to walk through at night, said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.

“This dark and dangerous underpass poses a threat to the children and families in the community and is a welcome sign for criminal behavior,” said Goldfeder. “Our families deserve to feel safe walking in their own neighborhoods and I’m urging the Department of Transportation to immediately install lights to help give every resident the peace of mind they deserve.”

The pathway Goldfeder is singling out is between 99th and 100th streets on Rockaway Boulevard, which passes under the elevated A train tracks. He said that the current fixtures that provide light do not work and that even when they do, they wouldn’t provide adequate lighting for the area. He has written to the Department of Transportation in hopes that they will fix the problem that he calls “troubling and dangerous.”

“When I arrive home every night from work, I use the pathway to get to my house,” said local resident Shaki Kar. “There are no street lamps there and it’s dark and covered in litter and graffiti. I know people who have gotten robbed there in the past. I feel very unsafe.”

The assemblyman encouraged the agency to work with the MTA, which owns the tracks, to perform any necessary maintenance at the site.

He said that the area is home to many local businesses and is also near two public schools – M.S. 137 America’s School of Heroes and John Adams High School – making the situation particularly dangerous for students walking home from school.

“No one should have to fear for their safety while walking home at night,” said Goldfeder. “We live in a great community where people feel safe to live and raise a family. When problems like this underpass arise, it’s important to address them as soon as possible and maintain the quality of life we enjoy.”

As of press time the DOT did not respond for a request of comment on the situation.

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Long Island man indicted on hate crime charges in Ozone Park hit-and-run


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Gavel 2

A Long Island man has been indicted on hate crime charges for calling a Sikh man “Osama” in Ozone Park last July and then intentionally running him over and dragging him several feet before fleeing, according to the district attorney’s office.

Joseph Caleca, 55, of Setauket, N.Y., was arraigned on Wednesday on a nine-count indictment that included charges of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, assault as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon and leaving the scene without reporting, District Attorney Richard Brown said. Caleca, who was initially arrested in August, was remanded on continuing bail.

The victim, 29-year-old Sandeep Singh, was standing at the intersection of 101st Avenue and 99th Street in Ozone Park with three friends just after midnight on July 30 when a pickup truck driven by Caleca drove up to the group. Caleca then said to them, according to Brown, “Move your [expletive] ass. You’re [expletive] slow, you [expletive] Osama. Go back to your country.”

Caleca then allegedly parked his truck, got out and confronted Singh and his friends. After an argument, Caleca then returned to his truck and drove head-on into Singh, catching his body underneath the truck and then dragging Singh several feet until his body got out from under the vehicle, according to the district attorney. Caleca then fled the scene.

Singh was taken to Jamaica Hospital with several abrasions, back and abdominal injuries that required surgery and several staples to his stomach.

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Victims of Ozone Park 5-alarm fire could be out of their homes for three to six more months


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Residents of an Ozone Park apartment building watched their homes damaged by flames just a week before Christmas. And now it looks like they won’t be returning home for months to come.

It may take up to three to six months for the building at 103-45 97th St. to be made livable again as the owner and architect are working around the clock to get it fixed as soon as possible, according to a representative from Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office.

The owner has just about finished cleaning debris from the fire- and water-damaged building and is now in the process of working with city agencies to move plans for repairs forward.

The architect who took over the project will be sending plans to the Department of Buildings as early as this week in a bid to get city approval to patch up the roof and seal the windows, making the building “water tight” and livable again, the representative said.

OZP_BUILDING2

Once all the construction is finished, that will conclude the first phase of the recovery process. After it is finished, the process will move much faster and residents will be able to get back into their homes.

The representative said that at this point there has been no problem with communication between the owner of the building and the city, and that the city has been very receptive to this case.

The fire started around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 18. The attic and fourth floor sustained most of the fire damage, and the other floors mostly had damage from the torrents of water used to extinguish the five-alarm blaze. It took firefighters two hours to bring the fire under control.

Most of the building’s residents found shelter with families, but some turned to the Red Cross for help. They were given a free place to stay over that weekend, and if they still couldn’t find a place to live after that, they had to go down to the Red Cross corporate headquarters in Manhattan to be put on a list for temporary housing until they can return to the building.

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Parking in Ozone Park pedestrian plaza still not reinstated


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Though a part of a controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza has been removed and is ready for parking, customers at local businesses still cannot use the area for parking because issues over signage have to be addressed.

In the beginning of November, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that they will be pulling back a section of the pedestrian plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, to reinstall parking. This announcement came after business owners complained that the lack of parking, among other issues, has caused their sales to drop drastically.

But even though the DOT has removed the portion of the plaza already, signs have been put up reading “No Standing Anytime,” stopping people from parking there.

According to a DOT spokeswoman, interim parking signage is expected to be installed in the coming weeks. She also said the DOT is in the process of planning a more permanent parking measure in the area and that they continue to work with the community on the issues with the plaza.

Business owners in the area complained that the lack of parking and the cutoff of the two-way traffic, which was allowed before the plaza was installed on Drew Street, has crippled their business.

photo 2 (4)

They held a meeting in August with the DOT and the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS), which is the organization that is in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of the plaza, to talk about the issues they have faced since it was installed in November of 2013.

There, Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said the DOT would review the issues with it and come up with a plan. The reinstatement of parking was the outcome of the meeting, but the business owners have said they won’t stop fighting until the whole plaza is removed so they can have the two-way street back.

They have started a petition signed by both Brooklyn and Queens storekeepers, as the plaza is on the borderline of the boroughs, that asks for it to be removed entirely.

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Families forced from their homes for the holidays after 5-alarm fire in Ozone Park


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of FDNY

This holiday season has been tinged with tragedy for dozens of families who were forced to flee their homes in an Ozone Park apartment building after a raging fire swept through the five-story building’s top two floors Dec. 18.

Many of the families affected were able to find a place to stay temporarily with friends or family. But, as of Dec. 19, 11 families had no place to go and turned to the Red Cross for help. The disaster response agency provided those families with three nights of shelter in a nearby hotel.

They were also given vouchers for food and clothing. Meanwhile, Councilman Eric Ulrich also pitched in by providing some of the families with food and clothing.

Families that did not find a more permanent place to stay by Dec. 22 were told to go to the Red Cross headquarters in Manhattan, where the agency will help them look for temporary housing until their apartments are rebuilt and habitable. This alternate housing would be in city-owned properties throughout the five boroughs, according to Ulrich’s office.

Because the vacant housing stock in the city is not plentiful, the Red Cross cannot promise a local place for the families to stay temporarily and Ulrich is worried that those children who were affected by the fire may not be able to get to school once the holiday break is over.

His office is currently working with the city for local places where the families may be able to stay and has even made some calls to privately owned housing units to see if they can accommodate the families.

The fire ripped through the fourth floor and attic of the apartment building, located at 103-45 97th St., around 4:20 p.m. on the evening of Dec. 18. It took a little over two hours for fire fighters to bring the fire under control.

Fire damaged the fourth floor and attic portion of the apartment building while the other three floors sustained water damage. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to the FDNY.

According to Ulrich’s office, the Department of Buildings believes that once the first three floors are dried out and checked again for any further damage, residents living on those floors may be able to return. But there is no timetable for when that might happen. The families living on the fourth floor will have a longer wait until they can return home as there is more infrastructure damage on that floor, due to the fire.

“We’re working with the city agencies, the Red Cross and nonprofits to make sure that those families and residents that were impacted by the fire get the services they need,” said Redmond Haskins, a representative from Ulrich’s office. “I encourage anyone who has been affected by the fire to give our office a call so we could give help.”

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5-alarm fire breaks out in Ozone Park residential building


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of FDNY

Updated Friday, Dec. 19, 9:45 a.m. 

A five-alarm blaze broke out in an Ozone Park building on Thursday, displacing residents and disrupting subway service, officials said.

The blaze started at about 4:20 p.m. in the four-story residential building at 103-45 97th St., near Liberty Avenue, officials said.

By 5 p.m., the fire had spread to five-alarms. It took firefighters until about 6:40 p.m. to bring it under control. The flames were contained to its roof and the attic area below it.

The fire also affected subway service in the area, causing suspensions and delays on the A and C lines.

One minor injury was treated at the scene, according to the FDNY. The injury, however, was related to exposure to the cold and not the fire.

Two dozen families were displaced by the fire, and 11 of them, which included 43 people, turned to the Red Cross for emergency housing, according to the organization.

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Burglar wanted for stealing $5K in jewelry from Ozone Park home


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man stole thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry during a midday burglary on Saturday at an Ozone Park home, police said.

The burglar was able to enter the residence through an unlocked first-floor bedroom window, cops said.

Once inside, he took about $5,000 in jewelry from the top of a dresser before fleeing.

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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New pastor coming to St. Helen’s in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

St. Helen’s Catholic Parish is getting ready to welcome a new pastor to their church.

Father Francis Colamaria will be coming to the Howard Beach parish on Jan. 31, taking over for its current pastor, Msgr. LoPinto. Colamaria is currently the administrative director and priest at Holy Child Jesus Parish in Richmond Hill and is excited about the change.

“Though I will miss Holy Child Jesus, I am really looking forward to serving the people of Howard Beach,” he said. “Msgr. LoPinto did a tremendous job of making new renovations to the church and school, which is great because now I can focus more on the spiritual portion.”

Colamaria, 39, has been a priest since 2001. He started at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ozone Park and remained there until 2007. After that, he moved on to St. Ephrem’s in Brooklyn for a year and was also the chaplain at Xaverian High School. He is now the deputy chief chaplain of the MTA and has been at Holy Child Jesus since 2008.

One thing Colamaria is looking forward to is being able to work with the school more closely as he feels Catholic education is very important for children to learn.

“Catholic education provides morals, responsibility and creates love of family and life, which is sometimes lacking in this world,” he said. “It creates a good environment for our children and is one of the best products we have as a church.”

During his time at his current parish, Colamaria has run annual Oktoberfests and huge block parties and made a connection between the parish and school. He is looking forward to bringing some of his new ideas to St. Helen’s and learning from the retired Msgr. Pfeiffer, who he says is “a seasoned veteran.”

LoPinto will be moving on to become the head of Catholic Charities once Colamaria takes over. He said the people of Howard Beach have been through a lot, especially when dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but he knows that their spirits have been unchanged.

“The people of Howard Beach are good people,” Colamaria noted. “It is a great environment and I look forward to learning more about it.”

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Opening ceremony held for new school in Ozone Park


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

School is officially in session for a lucky group of Ozone Park kids.

Queens Explorer’s Elementary School held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 2 to formally celebrate the opening of the new campus. The school, which is also known as P.S. 316 and located at 90-07 101st Ave., opened up for its first school year in September.

“It’s a beautiful building that will inspire our young people to reach their full potential,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “This school is a tremendous investment in our community and a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. Clearly, the architects, engineers and contractors really went out of their way to build a school that we can all be proud of.”

The school will house pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.  It’s designed to serve up to 450 children.

As of now, the school only has pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes, but it will continue to grow as those classes move to the next grade. As those children finish their year, a new grade will be developed until pre-K through fifth grade is housed.

Photo courtesy of Councilman Eric Ulrich

Photo courtesy of Councilman Eric Ulrich

The new school cost about $38 million and took a little over a year to build. It occupies the plot where the former St. Stanislaus Catholic School was.

There is also a new playground that is currently under construction across the street from the school.

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Changes coming to controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

controversial pedestrian plaza in Ozone Park will be downsized following complaints from local business owners.

Due to community outreach programs to address the concerns of the plaza, which is located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is removing a portion of the plaza to restore metered parking along the block, a DOT spokeswoman said.

The plaza was installed about a year ago and is run and maintained by the Brooklyn based nonprofit Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS). Once in place, it took up about nine parking spaces and cut off two-way traffic on 101st Avenue.

But giving back the parking spots is fine with Darma Diaz, the chief operating officer at BACDYS, if it makes for a more positive working relationship with the store merchants.

“We want this to be a positive part of the community,” Diaz said. “Of course you want more space, but we are more about having peace with the community.”

Business owners have complained that since it was installed, their businesses have had one of the worst years ever.

“This plaza has totally crippled my business,” said Ahmad Ubayda, owner of the 99 Cent Ozone Park Discount Hardware store on the corner of the block, back in July when The Courier first reported on it. “This has been my worst year of business because they took away parking spaces for my customers but aren’t even using [that area of the plaza].”

The portion of the plaza along 101st Avenue that the DOT will be removing is the least used part of it. Most of the tables, chairs and umbrellas are not put in that area, but are placed on Drew Street, where it once crossed over from 101st Avenue to Liberty Avenue.

plaza

But some stores still want the whole plaza removed because they feel the two-way traffic is necessary.

“I won’t be happy unless the whole thing is gone,” said one worker at the 99 cent store. “We need two-way traffic again.”

The removal of the portion of the plaza along 101st Avenue will take place by the end of the year, weather permitting, according to the DOT spokeswoman.

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Raccoon gets stuck on streetlight for hours in Ozone Park


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Eric Jankiewicz

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ERIC JANKIEWICZ

A raccoon had to be rescued in Ozone Park Tuesday afternoon after he got stuck on top of a streetlight, authorities said.

The animal became stranded on the lamp post at about 10 a.m. at Woodhaven Boulevard and 95th Street, according to police. By 2 p.m., traffic had to be completely closed off on Woodhaven Boulevard going north.

A emergency service unit, using an FDNY cherry picker, was able to get the animal down from the streetlight by 4 p.m.

At that time, police said they were still waiting for animal control to arrive to take the animal to its Brooklyn facility. It wasn’t immediately clear would what happen to the animal after it’s taken to the location.

 

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