Tag Archives: Parks Department

Queens School Bus Accident Injures Six


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens School Bus Accident Injures Six

A mangled school bus across from a just as badly damaged car was the resulting wreckage from an accident in Queens Thursday, a testament to how close the collision came to being deadly. A driver of a Nissan Altima struck a bus on Glassboro Avenue and Liverpool Street in Jamaica. “It ran the stop sign right there and basically t-boned the school bus, and it was like a deflection,” said one witness. “Almost hit little children crossing the street,” said another. “It’s wild around here.” The Nissan driver missed the children, but the bus driver lost control and struck a 59-year-old woman, pinning her between the bus and the house. Read More: NY1

TSA agent busted in laptop ‘lift’

A federal TSA screener at La Guardia Airport was arrested for allegedly swiping a pricey laptop from a college student at a security gate. “He’s supposed to be protecting our country, but this shows his true intent,” fumed alleged victim Conley Averett, 21, who attends Parsons School of Design. Now-fired TSA screener Edwin Rosario, 27, was charged Tuesday with grand larceny and possession of stolen property for taking Averett’s $1,300 computer Dec. 19 as Averett hopped a Delta flight to Detroit and left it behind, authorities said. Read More: New York Post

Cops kill armed Brooklyn man; girlfriend says victim was investigating break-in at his home

Police shot and killed an armed man whose girlfriend said had gone outside in his pajamas to check on a possible break-in at his Brooklyn home Thursday night. Dwayne Browne, 27, was shot once in the chest about 10:40 p.m. outside 943 Schenck Ave. in East New York and died at Brookdale Hospital at 11:46 p.m., police said. “The officers told me they had to shoot him,” said his girlfriend, who gave only her first name, Juanita. “They kept calling him the shooter. The officer said, ‘I’m sorry. It was one of us. But he wouldn’t put the gun down.’’ Read More: Daily News

Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes his State of the City speech

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his State of the City highlighting ambitious plans to continue his overhaul of the “broken system” he faced when he entered office. Before the mayor made his way to the podium a short video was played chronicling his “journey” to get to this year’s speech.  Along the way he poked fun at himself — he danced to Lady Gaga who helped him ring in the new year with a kiss — and issues he has fought for over the years, including bike lanes and taxis in the outer boroughs.  It also featured former Mayor Ed Koch welcoming motorists to “his” bridge, the former Queensboro Bridge. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Track Work To Halt 7 Train Service On Weekends

Beginning the weekend of January 21, 7 trains will not run between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square. Riders can rely on the N train and take a free shuttle bus to the stops not being serviced. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority maintains the shutdown is absolutely necessary to make long-needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Community leaders say any steps have to be taken as quickly as possible and argue the line is a crucial way through several neighborhoods that are not serviced by any other trains. Read More: NY1

 

Glock of the ‘walk’: Wrist slap for Tea Partier’s La Guardia gun

A Tea Party activist busted at La Guardia Airport trying to place his California-licensed handgun into checked baggage got off with a disorderly-conduct charge yesterday. Mark Meckler’s no-jail deal comes as city district attorneys are grappling with a growing number of otherwise law-abiding gun owners who accidentally run afoul of New York’s strict gun-control regulations. “Apparently, this happens to hundreds of people per year in New York City,” Meckler, co-founder of the influential Tea Party Patriots, fumed on his Web site after court today. Read More: New York Post

City Worker Pleads Not Guilty To Hate Crime Charges In Connection With Parks HQ Noose

A Parks Department worker pleaded not guilty Thursday after he was arrested on hate crime charges and accused of a hanging a doll by a noose in the department’s Bronx headquarters. Fariz Ahmemulic, 28, was arrested Wednesday after two fellow employees said he told them he had put it up. He was charged with multiple counts, including aggravated harassment as a hate crime. The arraignment came after the doll was found last month near the working space of an African American employee. Ahmemulic said he had nothing to do with the incident. Read More: NY1

Bronx Man Arraigned On Assault Charges In Connection With Fatal Parking Lot Fight

As Andre Muller walked out of State Supreme Court in the Bronx on Thursday, his predicament shows just how quickly a situation can get out of control, changing lives forever. In June, Muller was fighting with two attendants at a Bronx parking lot. His son, Isayah Muller, was stabbed to death when he jumped into the fight. At his latest court appearance, Andre Muller pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and possession of a weapon, which was the shovel he used during the fight. “There’s is no doubt that Mr. Muller, my client, should have retreated from the location,” said defense lawyer Lawrence Fredella. “There is also no doubt that he was threatened before taking any physical action.” Read More: NY1

Audit finds Parks Department lost green


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation recently endured a procedure that can send chills down the spine of any American — an audit.

City Comptroller John Liu announced on December 5 that an assessment of the Parks Department’s control over recreational, dining and retail concessions from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2010 unearthed management errors that could have yielded a total of $8.8 million in revenue.

The Parks Department is responsible for soliciting and presenting concessions for various attractions across the 29,000 acres of the city parkland it controls, and concession operators typically pay a fee or provide a percentage of their total receipts to Parks.

“Parks are not just about concessions, but concession contracts should be better managed so that revenue flows to the city without unnecessary interruption,” Liu said.

Of the nearly $9 million that was reportedly squandered, $728,358 was from Queens, amounting to the second highest borough total behind Manhattan.

Premier Queens locations that were underutilized include the Clearview Café, which could have created an additional $379,167, the ice skating rink at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which could have produced an extra $119,667, and the Meadow Lake pathway, which lost $20,000 in potential revenue.

The auditors made 22 recommendations to Parks, including tracking the solicitation and award process, retaining written explanations of rejected proposals and examining why only a small number of responses to solicitations are received.

Parks has refuted many of the audit’s findings and claims that revenue cannot be sought above all other considerations. The department also maintains that various “extenuating factors” had to be taken into account before executing license agreements.

“Regarding the comptroller’s audit on Parks’ controls over the awarding of concessions, we disagree fundamentally with its process and analysis, and we believe it is inaccurate and misleading in its conclusions,” said the Parks Department in a statement.

“The comptroller’s report implies that Parks, in managing a portfolio of over 400 concessions, should ignore clear business and legal circumstances that necessitate, from time to time, a course of action that delays the commencement of new license agreements. These occasional delays are the result of decisions made in the best interest of the city.”

According to the Parks Department, the amount of foregone income detailed in the comptroller’s report represents less than 4 percent of the agency’s $230 million in total revenue generated over the three-year audit period.

The department also prides itself on being able to “maintain the level of revenue from its concessions at a generally constant level despite the severely stressed economic conditions.”

Based on the audit, however, Parks has seen a significant decline in concession revenues during the fiscal years of 2008, 2009 and 2010, with totals of $52.6 million, $46.1 million and $39.8 million respectively.

Shirley Huntley’s Niece, Senior Aide Among Those Indicted In Nonprofit Scheme


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Southeast Queens serial rapist eyed in three attacks 

A stocky rape suspect brutally pounced on a Queens woman from behind, put her in a choke hold on a residential street and tried to rape her, a chilling police video shows. The Wednesday attack happened in southeast Queens around 2 a.m. when the suspect — described by police as a black male, 25-30 years old, 5-feet-5 and 220 pounds — placed a sharp object to the victim’s back Read More: Daily News

NYC Teacher Accused of Loansharking, Steroid Possession

Authorities on Long Island have charged a New York City schoolteacher with loansharking. Sean Harris, 36, of East Meadow, who moonlights as a professional bodybuilder, is a gym teacher at I.S. 141 in Astoria. However, he is not in the school gym these days. He was reassigned to administrative duties elsewhere at the beginning of the school year after being charged with possession of steroids. Read More: Fox News

Check out Darryl Strawberry’s new blog @ the Queens Courier where he discusses the Jose Reyes trade

Police on the lookout for South Richmond Hill rape suspect

Police are requesting the public’s assistance in locating for a South Richmond Hill rape suspect. On Thursday, November 24 at approximately 5:15 a.m. the suspect sexually assaulted a victim in the vicinity of 117thStreet and Liberty Avenue, according to police. The suspect is described as a 23-year-old Hispanic male, standing 5-feet-8-inches tall weighing 165-pounds. Read More: Queens Courier

Queens State Senator’s Niece, Senior Aide Among Those Indicted In Nonprofit Scheme

Four people with ties to Queens State Senator Shirley Huntley have been accused of trying to steal funds intended for a nonprofit she founded. Huntley’s niece and a senior aide are among those indicted. They allegedly conspired to pocket nearly $30,000 in member items earmarked for Parent Workshop Incorporated, a group that Huntley founded prior to joining the legislature. Huntley has not been charged. In a statement, the lawmaker said she’s confident a full investigation will prove she did nothing wrong. Read More: NY1

Three Suspects Sought For Two Armed Robberies In Astoria

Police in Queens were searching Thursday for three people involved in two gunpoint robberies last week. The first incident happened on 27th Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria last Thursday night. Investigators said the suspects pulled a gun on a 33-year-old woman, demanded cash and her cellphone and then ran off. Read More: NY1 Watch the Video: Queens Courier

Long Island City bank robber panicked after he fired his gun at the ceiling

The FBI is hunting for a gun-toting bank robber, who was caught on camera after he fired a shot into the ceiling of a Queens bank to prove he meant business but left without a cent. The bandit, dressed in a dark colored cap, dark framed glasses and a dark jacket and black leather gloves, walked into the HSBC bank on 43rd Avenue near 22nd Street in Long Island City, shortly before 9 a.m. on Wednesday, said authorities. Read More: Daily News

Controller John Liu blasts Parks Dept. for losing big bucks in concessions deals

Mishandling of contracts with eateries, mobile vendors and other concessions run in Queens parks cost the city nearly $730,000 in three years, according to a new audit. Controller John Liu alleges the Parks Department took so long to solicit and award such contracts that it lost $8.8 million across the city during fiscal years 2008 to 2010. The agency missed out on more potential revenue in Queens than in any borough besides Manhattan, according to the damning report. Read More: Daily News

Jackson Heights schoolyard is 200th to become playground


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy of the Parks Department

One of the city’s most congested communities is getting a little extra room to breathe.

Schoolyards at P.S. 69 and I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights are being transformed into student-designed playgrounds that will be open to the public on weekdays after school until dusk and on weekends from 8 a.m. to dusk.

The renovations aim to provide the neighborhood with more open space, answering the calls from community leaders and local elected officials.

“My council district ranks 50 out of 51 districts in the city with regards to park space,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “Jackson Heights is the second neediest district in terms of park space, according to the New Yorkers for Parks Survey. This transition will create new, open space for people to use for recreational activities, to sit and relax and enjoy a newspaper or just to take in some fresh air, and it provides my constitutions with something they have been telling me they want desperately –  open space and green space.”

The councilmember believes the additional park space will also foster growth in Jackson Heights and encourage youthful visitors and prospective residents to enter the community.

“We have seen an influx of young families moving into the neighborhood, and open park space and good schools are the two things these families are most looking for,” Dromm said. “The open spaces will make this a great place to raise your kids. The added benefit is that parks raise property value and makes the neighborhood more desirable to people looking to purchase a new home. These playgrounds will contribute to the desirability of living in Jackson Heights.”

The renovations were made as part of PlaNYC’s Schoolyards to Playgrounds program, which aims to ensure all New Yorkers live within a 10 minute walk of a park or playground. The city has invested $87.6 million to convert approximately 230 schoolyards into playgrounds by 2013.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined by Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Jackson Heights elected officials on November 30 at the recently-completed playground at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Avenue, to announce that the school was the 200th member of the Schoolyards to Playgrounds program.

“Since 2002, our administration has been committed to creating new public parks and new open spaces of every kind,” said Bloomberg. “PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability agenda, identified public schoolyards that could be opened up year-round in neighborhoods most in need of open space. Despite the economic downturn, we’ve maintained our commitment to this innovative program and we are delivering on our promise. In a time of tight budgets, our schoolyards represent a great opportunity for transforming existing, underused resources into something we can all enjoy.”

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, schools selected for the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative are usually in underserved neighborhoods. I.S. 145’s playground, located at 33-34 80th Street, is scheduled for completion during the summer of 2012. Both the P.S. 69 and I.S. 145 projects cost approximately $300,000, according to the source.

As part of the initiative, representatives from the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization and the city’s premier partner in the program, visit the schools to gather the opinions and ideas of community members, faculty and students to incorporate into the designs of the parks.

Dromm says he hopes the city can also complete the purchase of the roughly 29,000-square-feet of  park land beside the Garden School, located at 33-16 79th Street – across the street from Jackson Heights’ Travers Park. According to the councilmember, who has contributed $5 million in funding to the project, the mayor’s office is currently working to acquire the land.

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group is facilitating the discussions between the Garden School and the city, in hopes that the deal can benefit the cash-strapped school by providing an influx of capital.

“This would be a win, win, win for the Garden School, Parks Department and Jackson Heights,” said Edwin Westely, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, who believes the purchase of the land imminent. “Jackson Heights gets more open space, the Parks Department would get more parks land and the school will be helped out with funds.”

You can name a Queens park


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Now, you can name a piece of Queens.

The New York City Economic Development Corp. is asking residents to dub the 1.5 acre open space at the eastern end of Queens Plaza in Long Island City.

The contest is open to New York City residents. The winning name will be selected by city representatives and the local community.

Click here to submit your entry. The contest will be open until 5 p.m. on October 26.

The name will be unveiled at the park’s official ribbon-cutting event and the winner will have the opportunity to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The former John F. Kennedy parking lot has recently been transformed with over $45 million in roadway, sidewalk, and bikeway improvements. The L.I.C. park features wetlands, native plantings, artist-designed benches and paving.

Residents and officials fight for Forest Park Carousel


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Resident's Block Association

Local residents and officials hope to save the Forest Park Carousel from the glue factory.

The Forest Park Carousel remains dark as the Parks Department has received no viable proposal from vendors to run the historic ride.

The Parks Department said it will conduct “extensive outreach” to find a suitable vendor and plans to re-release the Request for Proposal (RFP), though no date has been set.

The carousel has not been operated since 2009 when its vendor, New York One, did not renew its contract.

As local residents eagerly await a new vendor to operate the ride, they are making sure their message is not forgotten.

The 50 “Save the Forest Park Carousel” T-shirts, at $10 a piece, quickly sold out at the Woodhaven Street Fair on Sunday, October 16.

The hot item is a great way to allow the residents to help support the fight for the carousel, said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.

Residents that were not able to purchase the shirts there can order them by calling the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association’s office at 718-296-3735.

The money raised from the shirts will be funneled back into trying to get the carousel up and running.

“This is three full summers in a row that it has been closed. People are frustrated now that another year has gone by and there is still no closure,” Wendell said.

Assemblymember Mike Miller is working on a plan that would allow a nonprofit take over the concessions. He has scheduled a meeting with the Parks Department to discuss the plan.

“People within the community have fond memories of the carousel and they want to see it put to good use,” the assemblymember said. “It’s disappointing that we can’t find someone to run the carousel.”

Wendell would like to see the carousel running – even if it is just once a month.

“Turn it on once a month; pick a Saturday,” he said. “We can get volunteers that will work for the carousel. The community will support it.

“It’s part of our shared history; it’s part of our community,” Wendell said. “We’ve come close to losing it permanently twice and people are scared that this is going to be it. Could this be the last we see of [the carousel]?”

Long Island City DOG RUN fetches upgrades


| amanning@queenscourier.com


Tails are wagging as renovations are underway at the Vernon Boulevard Dog Run in Long Island City. Major improvements are being made to enhance the look and safety of the dog run.
Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer partnered with the New York State Department of Parks and Dog Owner Group Long Island City (DOG LIC), a local advocacy group, last year to bring about their vision of a refurbished dog run.

All of the elected officials pointed to LIC’s ever-growing population as one of the main factors that pushed the renovation of the park.
“This new dog run will provide a much needed service for the many dog owners in the growing and vibrant neighborhood of Long Island City,” said Van Bramer.

The restorations, which will only close the park for approximately two weeks, include more than doubling the space of the dog run from 4,000 to 10,000 square feet. A new gravel surface will make it more suitable for dogs to run, and large and small dogs will have separate fenced-off areas in which to play. After an active day at the park, owners and their dogs will be able to refresh themselves at the drinking fountains being installed.
New light fixtures, covered trash cans and railings surrounding existing trees will not only protect the safety of the dogs, but also maintain the aesthetics of the dog run. Shade structures will also be added by mid-October.

“As more young families move to LIC, it is important that neighborhood amenities keep up with the positive changes taking place throughout the community, said Gianaris. “The refurbishment of this dog run is a reflection of LIC’s development as a hospitable, animal-loving community.”

“We expect the community of dogs and dog owners to run and play off-leash for many years to come,” said Rose Harvey, Department of Parks Commissioner, adding that these renovations will make vast improvements to the popular dog run, and are anticipated to benefit residents for a long time.

Kids can learn and grow in new garden


| jlane@queenscourier.com

doc4e779a200249b725231165

A partnership between the New York Horticultural Society (NYHS) and Greening Western Queens has provided the students of P.S. 84 with a new, pristine “Learning Garden.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the school, located at 22-45 41st Street in Long Island City, on the morning of September 13. Built on a slope in front of the school, the area is designed to be an outdoor classroom that will provide students with a horticultural and environmental education.

Among the garden’s many features are a cistern to collect rainwater, which lowers runoff issues and reuses water; evergreen shrubs; a large perennial bed and two planting beds.

P.S. 84 was chosen by the NYHS based on the school’s viability, access, visibility, enthusiasm, teacher interest and parent and administrative support.

The garden is funded by a $50,000 grant from Greening Western Queens and a $40,000 donation from Sal Bacarella, a local landscaper from Garden Works.

Senator Michael Gianaris, who attended P.S. 84 as a child, secured funding for the original garden, which was renovated to create the modernized “Learning Garden.”

“This garden is an excellent tool for students to learn in a more hands-on capacity and enhances their understanding of the environment,” said Gianaris, who attended the unveiling. “It is a great example of community members, advocacy groups and government pulling together to make productive use of this space. We are always in need of more avenues to teach children about the environment, how it works and how we can benefit from it.”