Tag Archives: Ozone Park

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

File photo

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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Real estate roundup: Eight-story residential tower planned for downtown Jamaica, Queens eyed for juvenile offenders facilities


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/ PropertyShark 

Eight stories in downtown Jamaica

“Applications have been filed to begin construction of an eight-story and 31-unit residential building of 22,728 square feet at the vacant lots of 87-65 – 87-69 171st Street, in Downtown Jamaica; the site’s two-story predecessor was demolished in 2003, and M. S. Savani is designing.” Read more [New York YIMBY]

Two Queens neighborhoods being eyed for ‘limited secure’ facilities for juvenile offenders

“The city is searching for sites in Queens to place a “limited secure” facility for juvenile offenders, the News has learned. Sources said locations in South Ozone Park and Jamaica are being studied.” Read more [New York Daily News]

Checking in on Tishman Speyer’s Long Island City project

“28-18 Jackson Avenue, which is part of Tishman Speyer’s plan to bring approximately 1,600 residential apartments to Long Island City, is completely covered in pipe scaffolding now.Construction crews put the pipe scaffolding up with in the last two weeks, and a permit filed on September 11 calls for the full mechanical demolition of the building.” Read more [The Court Square Blog]

 

Dunkin’ Donuts, Japanese restaurant coming to new Ozone Park shopping center


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Platinum Realty Associates 

new shopping plaza in Ozone Park will have a wide variety of retailers and restaurants, including national brands, according to a representative for Queens-based Platinum Realty Associates, which owns the center.

Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s Pizza have already signed on as tenants, as well as a “high-class Japanese restaurant” and a phone carrier, said David Koptiev, vice president of Platinum.

Koptiev added that they are also wrapping up negotiations with a medical office for a spot in the building, which is located where Cross Bay Boulevard and North Conduit Avenue meet.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be very, very nice,” Koptiev said. “It’s more jobs, it’s more stores, it’s bringing a lot to the community.”

The one-story building should be completed by the end of the year, and retailers and tenants will begin moving in by early next year.

Koptiev said they are looking to add three or four more retailers to the mix, but only tenants that “aren’t going to hurt the community or compete with businesses that are already there.”

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Plans released for possible QueensWay


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of thequeensway.org

It’s the Queens way.

A 3.5-mile stretch of recreational, walking and biking trails is planned for central and southern Queens as part of a multi-million dollar proposal that has coined the name, QueensWay.

“This will be a wonderful park for Queens,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land.

The QueensWay plans, proposed by W X Y architecture + urban design, will add a mix of new recreational and cultural opportunities and nature trails for the borough, said the Friends of the QueensWay.

The path, if built, will cross through the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, affecting over 322,000 people living within a mile of it.

In the plans, there are proposed areas for ecology and education, where planners are hoping to build an outdoor classroom for children to be able to learn the biodiversity in Queens.

Also, there will be two sets of trails for bicyclist and pedestrians to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the QueensWay.

Furthermore, there are plans for basketball courts, a skate park, habitat wetlands, arts-related programs and a gateway entrance from the QueensWay to Forest Park.

“Parks are too often neglected and QueensWay would offer more access to open space and parkland,” said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky. “Parks provide an economic benefit to local business, retail establishments and restaurants and people of all ages would be able to enjoy the recreational opportunities which this new green space would provide.”

The estimated cost for the QueensWay is $120 million and, if started, will take three to five years to build.

Although it has the backing of many elected officials and community leaders, some feel the narrow stretch of former rail line could be put to better use.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder is a staunch advocate for the restoration of the Rockaway Beach rail line, which once ran on the property being looked at for the QueensWay. He has formed a coalition to fight to get it back.

“The QueensWay and Trust for Public Land have wasted taxpayer dollars on expensive, out-of-state consultants and one-sided studies that don’t actually represent the interests or needs of Queens’ families,” Goldfeder said. “Our growing coalition, including the MTA, will continue the fight to expand transit in Queens while easing commutes, creating jobs, cleaning the environment and expanding our economic development.”

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