Tag Archives: Ozone Park

Fire breaks out at Ozone Park school on first day


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND SALVATORE LICATA 

An Ozone Park school had to be evacuated on the first day back to class after a fire broke out on its roof, according to the FDNY.

The minor blaze started at about 10:50 a.m. on Thursday in one of the air conditioning units of P.S. 63, fire officials said.

Students and staff were evacuated from the 90-15 Sutter Ave. building for about 45 minutes, according to teachers.

No injuries were reported.

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Cross Bay Boulevard gets more parking — for bikes


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Parking is never easy to find on Cross Bay Boulevard. But that has now changed — for bicyclists at least — as the Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun installing bike racks along the boulevard.

The installation of the racks is part of a citywide initiative of recycling and reusing the now-obsolete vehicle parking meter poles by converting them into bicycle parking spaces, according to a DOT representative.

“The bike racks being installed along Cross Bay Boulevard are part of a citywide project to recycle the single-space meters and retrofit the pipes into mini-hoop style bike racks,” the DOT representative said.

The installation began on Aug. 25 and a total of 86 bike racks are being put along both sides of the boulevard. The racks will extend from Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park, south to 165th Avenue in Howard Beach, according to the DOT representative.

The initiative was started in 2011 when many of the single-space parking meters had their heads removed as the muni-meters made their way onto city streets and demand grew for bike parking throughout the five boroughs. The bike racks are made to easily slide onto the old parking meter poles already installed on the sidewalk, according to the DOT website.

Howard Beach is part of the Jamaica Bay Greenway route, which has a bike lane running from the neighborhood into the Rockaways.

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Residents and business owners lock horns over Ozone Park plaza


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Supporters of the controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza defended the space during a meeting about the plaza’s future, calling it an oasis in a neighborhood that is starved of public space.

But others said the plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, is detrimental to business owners who feel that the loss of parking and the cut-off of two-way traffic is causing sales to drop.

“We wanted to create an open environment for the community,” said Darma Diaz, chief operating officer for the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), which is responsible for the upkeep of the plaza. “This plaza gives the opportunity for the community to have a place to go.”

She noted that public space is so minimal in the area that children have to use the nearby municipal meter lot, located at Elderts Lane and Glenmore Avenue in Brooklyn, for activities.

“This is the only place we have in our neighborhood where children could get together,” said one attendee of the Aug. 21 meeting at Queens Borough Hall. “We have never had a place for us to get together [until the plaza].”

But Khemraj Sadoo, owner of Super Clean Laundromat, located on the same street as the plaza, said there is viable space just two blocks down on Elderts Lane in Brooklyn and wants the plaza moved.

“We need the plaza moved,” Sadoo said. “Who will accept such a plaza in front of his face with such loss of business?”

The plaza was first put in the area in the fall of 2013. Originally it was only designed to take up the tiny intersection of Drew Street where vehicles were once able to turn from Liberty Avenue to 101st Avenue. But Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said when the department came to assess the area they came to the conclusion that part of 101st Avenue would also have to be used for the plaza, which now has taken away parking spaces for customers.

Hall said the DOT did realize that many parking spaces were cut off, which is why they implemented a municipal meter on the Liberty Avenue side of Drew Street recently. She says with the introduction of the metered parking there is only a net loss of one or two parking spots.

But business owners say they need more than just the parking spaces back to survive. Restoration of two-way traffic and the removal of garbage were other top priorities for those who were against the plaza.

“We need two-way traffic back,” Sadoo said. “All the garbage from the plaza flies into my Laundromat. I have tickets from the city.”

Hall said the department is working with the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) for more frequent pick-ups of garbage. The DSNY picks up twice a week in the plaza now, but Hall is hoping to increase that number to keep litter minimal.

Giving two-way access to the street again would mean the plaza would either have to be placed entirely on the sidewalk or be moved elsewhere. Issues such as that will have to be looked at more deeply, Hall said.

“We need to take this information in as an agency to see if more can be done to address everyone’s concern,” Hall said. “We will listen to both sides of course.”

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Community Board 9 district manager announces retirement


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

After three and a half decades of service Mary Ann Carey is stepping down from her position as District Manager of Community Board 9, which covers Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, Ozone Park and Woodhaven.

“In my thirty-five years of service to this great city with very little exceptions, I loved every minute,” Carey wrote in her resignation letter earlier this month. “I have overseen many projects too numerous to mention here and worked with four Borough Presidents, dozens of legislators, commissioners, District Managers and their staff.”

Current Chairman Ralph Gonzalez congratulated Carey, who began her work as District Manager when Ed Koch was mayor, on her retirement and said it would be hard to imagine anyone who can fill her shoes.

“She has done so much for the community, and for so long,” he said. “She can be proud of the legacy she’s leaving at Community Board 9. I know that many people in Queens and on the Board join me in thanking Mary Ann for her years of dedication.”

The process to search for the next District Manager will start at the next community board meeting.

 

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Suspect charged with hate crime in Ozone Park hit-and-run of Sikh man


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Title

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 20 11:52 p.m.

A 55-year-old Long Island man has been charged with a hate crime after he allegedly called another man “Osama” before intentionally running him over and dragging him several feet before fleeing, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Joseph Caleca has been charged with attempted murder as a hate crime, assault as a hate crime and leaving the scene without reporting. 

“The defendant is accused of an unprovoked attack that allegedly began with the defendant driving by the victim and his friends and yelling out a vile anti-Muslim insult,” Brown said. “After an exchange of words, the defendant allegedly struck the victim intentionally with his vehicle and dragged his body along the street.”

On July 30, 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 when a light-colored pickup truck driven by Caleca approached the group. Caleca then went on to say, “in sum and substance,” according to Brown, “Move your [expletive] ass. You’re [expletive] slow, you [expletive] Osama. Go back to your country.”

Afterwards, Caleca allegedly parked his truck, got out and confronted Singh and his friends. After a verbal dispute, Caleca then returned to his truck and drove head-on into Singh, catching his body on the vehicle’s undercarriage 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 abdominal and back injuries, and several abrasions.

A week after Singh was struck outside of his business, a rally was held urging authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime, according to DNAinfo.

Caleca was ordered held without bail and to return to court on Sept. 10. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

 

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Councilman Ulrich allocates $25K to clean up graffiti in district


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Cross Bay Boulevard can draw comparisons to 5Pointz with the amount of graffiti that has stricken its surrounding neighborhoods, but clean-up is on the way.

In his discretionary budget, Councilman Eric Ulrich has allocated $25,000 to graffiti clean-up in the district. Ulrich is teaming up with the Queens Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which will choose a company for the clean-up, for the first time and is hoping to start the job next month.

Cleaning up graffiti in these neighborhoods and all of Council District 32 is something that Ulrich has funded throughout his time as councilman, but this year he has allocated more money than ever to hit even more problem areas, according to Rudy Giuliani, a representative for the councilman.

The focus areas that Ulrich outlined are the neighborhoods of Woodhaven and Ozone Park. This is where graffiti is the biggest problem in Ulrich’s district, Giuliani said. The company that is hired by the Queens EDC will then move on to other areas in the district, which include Howard Beach, Lindenwood and the Rockaways.

 

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Ozone Park plaza getting makeover


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Salvatore Licata

A pedestrian plaza in Ozone Park that has become a detriment to local business is getting a makeover, according to the community group charged with maintaining it.

Shortly after The Courier published an article on the forlorn plaza at 101st Avenue and Drew Street, the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS) organization placed a sign in the plaza announcing a re-make of the plaza.

There have already been changes made. BACDYS has scheduled an event for the plaza on Aug. 21 and also added umbrellas and chairs to better accommodate locals.

The sign hung up in the plaza reads, “A new plaza is proposed here,” and there is a meeting planned by Community Board 9 to discuss further solutions.

“When Community Board 9 voted in favor of the pedestrian plaza, we did so with the understanding that we would monitor the plaza’s local impacts and keep an eye on whether it remained an asset to the community,” CB 9 chairman Ralph Gonzalez said. “With this meeting, we hope to give all sides of this discussion a seat at the table, and we are aiming to arrive at the best resolution possible.”

Local business owners complained about the plaza because of the number of parking spaces it took up on 101st Avenue and Drew Street.

The meeting will be held on Aug. 21 at Queens Borough Hall at 4:30 p.m. Expected to attend are representatives from Community Board 9; the Department of Transportation’s Queens Borough Commissioner, Dalila Hall; representatives from the BACDYS organization and merchants from the area who have complained about the plaza.

 

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Ozone Park couple accused of beating, starving 12-year-old daughter


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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An Ozone Park couple has been busted for child abuse after their 12-year-old daughter went through years of suffering that included being locked in her room without food and water, and being hit with a broken broom handle, officials said.

The child’s biological father, Rajesh Ranot, 46, and her stepmother, Sheetal Ranot, 31, have both been charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child, District Attorney Richard Brown announced on Tuesday. The father has also been charged with unlawful imprisonment.

Rajesh and Sheetal Ranot are accused of beating their daughter Maya so badly that she ended up in the emergency room and starving her to the point that she weighed 58 pounds.

The horror began in December 2012, and lasted until July of this year, at which time Maya was repeatedly abused by her parents and locked in her bedroom for extended periods of time without food and water, according to prosecutors.

She was forced to take cold showers while her father struck her with various objects, including a baseball bat. Her stepmother allegedly hit her repeatedly and on different occasions used a wooden rolling pin and a broken metal broom handle.

The abuse sent her to the hospital several times, where she had to undergo surgery for her wrist and receive stitches, the district attorney said. During these visits doctors noticed the bruises, marks and scars on her body, and her low weight.

“Despite the bruising and scarring on her body which served as a silent testament to the violence and cruelty she purportedly endured, it is alleged that for a long time this emaciated child was fearful of disclosing the true nature of her injuries or those responsible for her suffering for fear that her younger step-siblings would be taken away by authorities and placed in foster care,” Brown said. “Fortunately, she found the courage to speak up.”

 

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Suspect runs man over in Ozone Park roadway dispute: cops


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD


A roadway dispute between two men in Ozone Park turned violent when one of the men ran the other over and dragged him several feet before fleeing, police said.

The incident started just after midnight Wednesday as the 29-year-old victim was exiting his parked car on 99th Street and prevented a pickup truck from passing, cops said.

After the pickup truck’s driver and the victim started arguing, the driver accelerated slightly, bumping the victim, according to authorities. The driver accelerated again, running the victim over and dragging him several feet before fleeing the scene on 101st Avenue.

The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital with abdominal and back injuries, and several abrasions.

Police have released a photo of the suspect’s vehicle, a light colored 2007-2009 GMC 1500 Series Sierra pickup truck.

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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Owner of Smitty’s Hot Dog truck celebrates 25 years with $1 wieners


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

During the dog days of summer, there’s one spot in Ozone Park where people can get relief—not from high temperatures but from high food prices.

The owner of Smitty’s Hot Dog and Italian Sausage truck, located on 149th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park, is celebrating 25 years at the location by offering hot dogs at a discounted price—a buck apiece.

Don Cusumano has owned the truck since 1989 and frankfurter aficionados come from all over the tri-state area to chow down.

“You see those plates over there,” said Abdullah Muhammed, pointing at his car while waiting for his usual two hot dogs with mustard and onions. “I come all the way from New Jersey just to get Smitty’s.”

Cusumano bought the truck 25 years ago from a man named Schmidt, who had it in the same location for about 50 years.  He decided to keep the name “Smitty” because he thought people would rather have a “Smitty” dog than a “Don” dog.

He upgraded the truck by installing a drive-thru window on the street side to better accommodate customers, many of whom have been loyal for decades.

“I started coming here when I was 16 years old and now I’m 61,” said Joseph DeFeligibus, who raved about Cusumano’s homemade onions and Italian sausage. “Don’s a great man. Everyone knows about him.”

Cusumano’s anniversary special of $1.00 hot dogs will continue through Sept. 1. He said it’s a small way of thanking all those loyal customers that keep his truck going.

Aside from serving his customers, Cusumano shares a helping hand to those less fortunate in the community. He has taken part in events such as Toys for Tots, National Night Out Against Crime and even donated hot dogs to Hurricane Sandy victims.

“I enjoy what I do because I love serving this community,” Cusumano said. “Serving my customers is great. I’ve never thought about leaving this spot.”

 

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New shopping center coming to Ozone Park


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Platinum Realty

A new shopping center is being built in a vacant lot in Ozone Park, and owners are planning to have it completed in time for Christmas.

Platinum Realty Associates plans to build a one-story center on the plot of land where Cross Bay Boulevard and North Conduit Avenue intersect. The project is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 1 and could house as many as 10 tenants.

The firm hopes to secure a supermarket as the anchor tenant, but has not confirmed one as of yet.

In the rendering obtained by The Courier, there are parking spaces for the stores, but a company official could not confirm the exact number of spots that will be available.

 

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Ozone Park street plaza not living up to expectations


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

It started out as a beautification and community development project, but a pedestrian plaza on the Brooklyn-Queens border is an eyesore that is detrimental to business, locals say.

Five parking spots were permanently removed last November when the Department of Transportation (DOT) built the plaza at Drew Street and 101st at City Line.

“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. “This has been my worst year of business because they took away parking spaces for my customers but aren’t even using them.”

The site has deteriorated since its opening, locals charged.

Four tables and 12 chairs set up in a small section of the plaza while most of the space isn’t used.

Initial plans called for ample seating space, permanent bench seating and bike parking. When the plaza was first built there were plenty of chairs and tables, some even with umbrellas.

But a few weeks after its grand opening much of the furniture, which was chained up to a nearby light pole, was stolen and it hasn’t been fully replaced since, according to residents.

Now the plaza has just four tables, 12 chairs, two permanent benches and no bike parking space.

Moreover, the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), a local nonprofit organization, is responsible for the plaza’s upkeep, according to the DOT. Yet garbage overflowed from several cans and littered the floors on Monday.

BACDYS, which teamed up with the DOT to create the plaza, got support from local businesses and from Community Board 9 of Queens and Community Board 5 of Brooklyn before they went through with the project.

Many of the businesses on the strip did agree to the proposed idea under the impression that it would be good for the growth of their stores.

Photo courtesy of DOT

But Ubayda said it has done the exact opposite for his, which has put his store and livelihood in limbo.

Steve Melnick, a former resident of the area, shared his concern at the meetings that were held for the plaza before it was built. He said this plaza is nothing like it was planned.

“This [plaza] is something that this nonprofit group wanted but they are not following through,” Melnick said. “As tax payers, we have the right to know what’s going on with the property.”

Mary Ann Carey, District Manager of Community Board 9, has reached out to the DOT about the plaza, according to a spokeswoman from the board, but it is not yet known if they have responded.

A phone number for BACDYS was not accepting calls; there was no answer at another number for the group.

The DOT also did not immediately respond for comment.

 

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New architecture exhibit shows possibilities for QueensWay


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Carrie Wilbert

A new exhibition is opening Thursday that features winners of a QueensWay design competition.

The Center for Architecture will be hosting the exhibit, “QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm,” and the competition, which occurred earlier this year, was held by The Emerging New York Architects committee of the American Institute of Architecture.

In the competition, contestants were asked to come up with theoretical designs for what the 3.5-mile stretch from Rego Park to Ozone Park could be used for. The four winning designs and an honorable mention of the biennial competition will now go on to be displayed in Manhattan, where the Center of Architecture is located.

The QueensWay, an abandoned rail line, has been a point of much debate and controversy, with advocates arguing that it should be turned into a high line-style park.

Since the LIRR Rockaway Beach Line was abandoned in the 1960s, little has been changed to the elevated train. But over the last few years, The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the Queensway are currently studying the area.

New York Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, along with the Queens College Urban Studies Department, launched a community impact study to help assess the best use for the line.

The competition received 120 entries form 28 countries. They were judged, according to the EMergin New York Architects, “based on the design’s ability to provide an effective and welcoming transition between the street and future greenway.”

But the assumption that the line will be a “future greenway” is a premature  at this point.


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FBI offers reward for fugitive in Ozone Park home invasion, murder


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of FBI


The FBI is offering a reward for a man who has been charged with murdering the son of a Queens pizza shop owner after he tried to defend his father during a 2009 home invasion.

Antoine Burroughs, also known as “Butter” or “Youngblood,” along with an accomplice, Leon Whitfield, is accused of attempting to rob Bartolomeo Antoniello at his Ozone Park residence in September 2009, according to officials.

The pair was allegedly targeting any cash he had on hand from his pizza shop, Antoniello’s. His son, 29-year-old Gerardo Antoniello tried to protect his father, and was fatally shot in the head during the struggle, officials said.

Burroughs, who was indicted in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on March 13, is charged with murder, robbery conspiracy, attempted robbery and discharging a firearm, according to the FBI. An arrest warrant for Burroughs was issued the same day. Whitfield was arrested on March 18.

The FBI is now offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of Burroughs.

He is described as 25 years old, 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighs about 180 to 190 pounds and has a prominent mole on his right cheek. Burroughs was last known to be in Harlem, and is believed to have family and friends in Harlem and the Bronx. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Burroughs can contact the FBI at 212-384-1000.

 

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Suspects wanted for stealing from vehicles in Ozone Park


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD


Cops are looking for two men who allegedly stole electronics and other personal property from vehicles sitting in Ozone Park driveways.

Additional items taken from the cars included clothing, checkbooks, sunglasses, a debit card and an airline ticket, officials said.

Police have released a photo from the first theft, which took place on June 12 at about 10 p.m. The two men struck three more times, once on June 14 and twice on June 17, according to officials.

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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