Tag Archives: Protest

Families at Pan American homeless shelter reportedly bused to movies during third protest


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Residents of the controversial Pan American Hotel homeless shelter were kept away from protestors during another rally against the opening of the site, according to a published report.

About 550 residents gathered Tuesday to hold another protest in front of the hotel located on Queens Boulevard and prior to the rally, the Department of Homeless Services arranged to have 230 children and adults from the shelter bused to the movies, DNAinfo reported.

The residents were taken to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” paid for by the agency at a theater in Jamaica in order to remove the children from any hatred that “potentially could be exhibited” during the July 22 rally, according to DNAinfo.

Last night’s rally is the third held by residents opposing the shelter which currently houses more than 180 families. The community has said that the hotel was turned into the shelter, by nonprofit Samaritan Village, without residents and elected officials being given prior notice.

The last protest, which coincided with Community Board 4’s meeting with the DHS and residents, was filled with hundreds of protestors shouting criticisms back and forth with shelter residents.

Two weeks ago, just a neighborhood away, DHS approved the conversion of the 121-room Westway Motor Inn in East Elmhurst into a permanent homeless shelter as well.

Community members and elected officials in that area also say they were not told or asked about the decision.

The hotel previously was used as an emergency overnight site for homeless families, but two years ago the DHS has said it would not turn the motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

An emergency town hall meeting and public protest against the East Elmhurst homeless shelter is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

 

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Elmhurst residents say no to homeless shelter at Pan-American Hotel


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Salvatore Licata

Updated: 6/19/2014 2:17 p.m. 

SALVATORE LICATA

Hundreds of protestors flocked to the Pan-American Hotel in Elmhurst to push back on the city’s initiative to house more homeless families in the neighborhood.

“We must step up to the plate now and stop this from going any further,” Roe Daraio, president of the nonprofit Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together Inc. (COMET) Civic Association and organizer of the Tuesday protest, said to the crowd. “We must call to attention the issue of homelessness and how the city is choosing to deal with it.”

In a plan that is supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, nonprofit Samaritan Village proposed the Pan-American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., to house 200 homeless people, including the 36 families already residing there.

This is the fourth homeless shelter in Elmhurst and for residents of the community, it is one too many.

“They did this without any input from the community,” Hilda Chu, one of the protestors, said. “We have three already and now they want to add a fourth. This is so unfair to us.”

Councilman Daniel Dromm addressed the crowd during the June 17 protest and said he was disappointed by the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) lack of communication with local officials. He was outraged that he was given no advance notice that the closed-down hotel would now house homeless families, but said protestors must act civilly in their protest and engage in a discussion to figure out the best way to combat the situation.

“Elmhurst is overburdened [with the homeless],” Dromm said. “It is bad policy to bring that many needy people into one place.”

Pan-American Hotel officials declined to comment on the subject.

The DHS will provide the families with three meals a day until the agency can move them to an alternate shelter, the agency said.

“As the number of families with children residing in temporary, emergency shelter grows, we must consider all available options to address our capacity needs and meet our legally mandated right to shelter,” the DHS said in a statement. “In the short term, DHS is using the Queens Boulevard facility to provide essential shelter and supportive services to families with children.”

Advocates previously claimed that both the mayor and City Comptroller Scott Stringer approved the plan, but Stringer’s office said he only approved payments for family shelters across the city but had not weighed in on any specific location.

“[Stringer] believes that communication and adequate community notification are critical parts of this process,”  said a Stringer spokesman.

 

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Protesters call H-Mart’s hiring racist


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An Asian supermarket chain is under fire from a trio of picketers who say the company is not colorblind in its hiring practices.

Jim MacDonald and his two pals, Craig Kinsey and Vincent Middleton, say H-Mart only employs Korean or Chinese cashiers and Hispanic backroom workers at its northeast Queens and Long Island stores. The threesome has been picketing outside the location on Union Street in Flushing since late August.

“It’s unfair to block out other ethnic backgrounds and only hire specific ones,” Kinsey said. “Flushing is a diverse community. If you want to show diversity, put your money where your mouth is. Have some diversity in employment.”

The activists say they’ve toured three H-Mart locations in Flushing and two in Nassau County, only to find a disparity in store workers’ ethnicities.

“We saw no African Americans or white Americans working there,” said Kinsey, who is African-American and lives in Flushing. “It’s not fair because of the consistency of this type of trend in those stores.”

MacDonald, 63, of Flushing — who is white — said H-Mart is considered a standard supermarket and should be held to fair hiring procedures.

“You don’t have to be Korean to shop here,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to be Korean to work here.”

Kenneth Noh, a payroll manager at H-Mart’s corporate headquarters, said the company does not screen employees by race, but by their capabilities. The reason Korean employees dominate the chain’s Flushing stores, he said, is so they can cater to an incredibly large population of residents who do not speak English.

“We operate in supermarkets all across the country,” Noh said, adding that in Queens alone there are four in Flushing, one in Woodside and one opening soon in Bayside. “Each store is so different. It all depends on the customer base.”

But the group — none of whom have ever applied for jobs at H-Mart — said the defense does not justify the lack of diversity in Long Island stores located in Great Neck and Williston Park, which geographically have more English-speaking shoppers.

The incoming Bayside location — home of the shuttered Waldbaum’s at 46-40 Francis Lewis Boulevard — the three say, will also have a large number of English-speaking patrons who will not benefit from store employees who cannot communicate with them.

“It irritates me that there is no hope whatsoever of getting a job at H-Mart if you don’t belong to the two groups they only hire,” MacDonald said. “There’s a sense of injustice there.”

$1 Trillion in Student Debt


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Billy Rennison

Here is what you can buy with $1 trillion: 5 million Lamborghinis, 15,000 private jets, 140 private islands and every team in baseball 16 times. Simply put, it is a lot of money.

The number — which is much more jarring when written out, 1,000,000,000,000 — is also the amount of debt students in this country collectively hold from their college loans. It is a backbreaking number, and an amount many feel is devastating their future.
A degree has become a prerequisite for employment, and rising tuitions means, for many, that debt is a precondition for entry into the workforce, so students have decided to fight back.

A rally was held on April 25 in Union Square to coincide with 1T Day — the day student loan debt hit $1 trillion — to raise awareness about the crisis and to begin a movement toward free college education.

Hundreds of protesters wore placards around their neck declaring the size of their debt, from relatively small amounts, like Jessica K.’s $13,000, to immense amounts, like Francis Rogers’ $108,000.

“Trillion dollar day is a reminder that private banks are still very much in the predatory lending business; this time it’s students not homeowners,” said Professor Andrew Ross, an organizer with the Occupy Student Debt 1TDay campaign.
The histrionics of the event — there were super heroes and choruses and even “Sallie May” showed up — did not overshadow the frustration of the hundreds of thousands of students drowning in debt.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” said Annie Spencer, a CUNY graduate student. “I’m now $80,000 in debt and don’t see a day when I won’t struggle to make ends meet. Those of us who took on this trillion dollar debt were sold the promise of a better life in exchange for carrying the burden, but the deck was stacked against us from the start.”

More than two-thirds of graduates leave college with student loan debt, according to a 2008 study. The average debt for these 1.4 million students is more than $27,000.
The students at the Union Square protest — and many other groups that have taken up similar fights — do not believe all college should be free or that, as a rule, loans should not be repaid. Their tenets are that public college should be free — as it had been in New York until the 1970s — and that student loans should be repaid interest free.
“The goal of these protests isn’t to renege on our responsibilities, it is to make the institutions making billions of dollars on the backs of students take some responsibility,” said Stephanie, a New York University graduate with $90,000 in debt. “They want us to default.”

More than 40 percent of students from the class of 2005 have faced default and/or delinquency, according to the Occupy Student Debt Campaign.
The demonstrations eventually made their way toward Wall Street, though not before parking itself in front of a bastion for tuition-free — for now — education, Cooper Union, where one dissenter, who identified himself as Jesse, stood atop the Peter Cooper Memorial.

For students that dream of a tuition-free college education, Copper Union is their Shangri-la — well, it was. From 1902 until today the college charged no tuition, instead relying on a generous endowment providing each student a scholarship — furthering the school’s founder Peter Cooper’s belief that education should be free, and for more than a century his ideal held true at the school bearing his name.

But, in April, the school announced that it would begin charging tuition for select graduate programs. This flew in the face of what many students felt the school stood for.
So, Jesse stood atop the school’s founder’s memorial with a sign reading, “No tuition, it’s our mission,” leading to a two hour standoff with police before he was taken down in a cherry picker and arrested.

Cooper Union’s shift toward tuition mirrors the nation-wide trend of exploding college costs. In the past five years tuition at public universities has increased 24 percent, and 17 percent at private colleges.

This has led — obviously — to a steep incline in the amount of debt students leave college with. Thirty years ago the number was $2,000, a full $25,000 below today’s amount. Inflation makes up only a small amount of the difference; $2,000 in today’s value is just under $5,000.
“I’m pretty much carrying a mortgage, I guess the American dream of owning your own home is out the window for me,” said Valerie Young, a 23-year-old with more than $100,000 in loans. “I can’t live in my degree.”

Indebted student’s plight has reached Capitol Hill where politicians are debating bills that would prevent student’s interest rates from doubling in July, an issue President Barack Obama has been speaking out against.

“When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

Burning Mad

“My future is going up in flames with each loan bill I’m getting and can’t repay because I don’t have a job, and the interest just keeps pushing the bill higher,” said Frederick Iman after he lit his student loan bill on fire. “So I might as well burn my bill, too.”
Iman was not the only protestor to turn their bills to ashes, others joined in sending smoke signals that they are here to end predatory loan practices.
Though the economy shows signs of recovery, college graduates unemployment rate is still well above the average and a recent Rutgers University study found that only half of graduates between 2006 and 2010 graduates have found full-time jobs.
“[Lenders] are making money off every graduate and even more money when we can’t find jobs,” said Mark, an unemployed graduate of Miami (Ohio) University who lit his loan bill. “Someone has to stand up for us, it might as well be us.”
It is not only the Occupy Student Debt Campaign and its supporters that are attempting to reform lending practices for students.
Student Loan Justice (www.studentloanjustice.org) is another organization that is dedicated to returning standard consumer protections to student loans. The group has created a Student Borrower Bill of Rights that aims to bring these standard protections back. Currently, student loans are not forgiven in bankruptcy proceedings — the only type of loan that applies to.

The EDU Debtors Union (www.edudebtorsunion.org) believes that students in debt are akin to factory workers.
“Factory workers go to work every day and transform capital into profit by making products,” EDU says. “Students transform capital into profit when interest and penalties are added to a principle loan.”

This method becomes unacceptable, they say, “when there are abuses to the many for the benefit of the few without a method of recourse.”
So EDU has started a union. They believe debtors can benefit from union representation. Large numbers, they believe, represents a better chance for students to negotiate better repayment methods with lenders.

This is a tactic that the Occupy Student Debt Campaign also believes holds power.
The campaign is circulating a petition that students pledge to stop making loan payments in hopes of restoring free public college education if 1 million students sign the pledge.

No End in Sight

Marches, protests and refusals to pay aid in shining a light on student’s plight, but the bills will continue to come. Without government intervention, change will be difficult. There are bills in Congress that aim to help students, but according to govtrack.us, they have little hope of passing.

“Because there are so many student loan lenders and types of loans, a general debt strike will not necessarily hit the heart of the beast,” EDU wrote in a blog entry. “To organize a debt strike effectively, you have to start with specific lenders otherwise the impact of the strike will not be felt.”

Only a few thousand have signed the Occupy campaign’s petition, well short of the million they need before the debt strike, and some are concerned about ruined credit.
I don’t want to pay back these loans — and honestly I can’t — but I’m worried that not paying anything will just ruin my credit for life,” said Michelle Condon. “[Lenders] practices must change and I will continue to fight, but unless we all band together and refuse to pay, what difference will be made?”

These campaigns are lighting the fire, but if the flame is suffocated with default notices and compounding interest, what is the next step?

“We just need to get the word out,” said Ryan Lindner, a graduate of Cortland University. “My credit is already crap, they can’t make it worse. I refuse to recognize them until they recognize my basic rights. I will not pay.”

Fighting to keep L.I.C. HS open


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Long Island City High School students are teaching a lesson in devotion by refusing to “turn” their backs on their school and allow their educators to be dismissed.
L.I.C., located at 14-30 Broadway, is among 26 schools across the city the Department of Education (DOE) has designated for Turnaround – which involves closing the school at the end of the academic year, reopening under a different name in the fall and replacing up to 50 percent of the teachers.

More than 100 students, teachers and elected officials rallied on the steps of L.I.C. on April 16 – a day before a DOE public hearing at the school – to protest the city’s plan.
Amira, the L.I.C. senior class vice president and an organizer of the rally, said students “are not going to go down without a fight.”
Teachers have also expressed outrage over the DOE’s intentions, and are requesting aid from the city rather than attacks.

Senator Michael Gianaris, an alumnus of L.I.C., believes the city is playing political games with kids’ education.

L.I.C. was included on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools during both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. The school – which was initially designated for the less severe Transformation plan – was receiving Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system. By instituting the Turnaround model – a program which does not require teacher evaluations – the city will be eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state. L.I.C. would be eligible for $1.55 million in supplemental federal funding.
According to DOE records, L.I.C. ranks in the bottom 18 percent among city high schools in attendance with 81 percent and was given an overall progress report grade of C in both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

The school, given a Quality Review score of “Proficient” on its most recent evaluation, has shown significant improvement in graduating students over the last three years, with graduation rates increasing from 56 percent in 2008-2009 to 66 percent in 2010-2011.

L.I.C. currently serves 3,386 kids, and despite the overhaul, all current students and incoming ninth graders who have applied and been matched to L.I.C. will have a seat in the new school.

As part of its plans for the replacement school, the DOE intends to modify the structure of the school day schedule, strengthen small learning communities, modify curricula and add an advisory program.

“The proposal to close L.I.C. and re-open a new school in its place will allow the best teachers to stay, improve the school’s structure and quality of teaching, and potentially allow us to access millions of dollars in funding to help the school improve,” said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas.

The DOE’s proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Education Policy (PEP), a committee composed of 13 members assigned by the five borough presidents and Mayor Bloomberg, on April 26.

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis
Hundreds rallied outside Long Island City High School to protest the potential Turnaround of the school.

Community comes out for August Martin


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Courier / Photos

In the past year, August Martin High School has been entered into the city’s restart program, lost a principal and twice been placed on the list of schools to close, which had many community leaders asking why their high school was being targeted.

“This is not about the progress of August Martin; this is political,” said Rona Freiser, a Queens United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative and teacher at the school for 28 years, at a rally. “[Mayor Michael Bloomberg] is vengeful.”
August Martin is one of 26 high schools on the list for Turnaround. The Department of Education (DOE) held a public hearing at the school on Monday, April 16 to allow for community input on the proposed closure.

“The DOE does not listen. This [hearing] is just to make it legal,” said State Senator Shirley Huntley. “It is part of the process, the process to destroy our children.”
If the Jamaica school is turned around, it would close and reopen under a new name. The students at the school would be guaranteed a spot and half the teachers would possibly be replaced.

“Schools always need to be made better, but you need resources,” said Huntley. “When you close a school and reopen it, you spend more money than if you just give the schools the resources and let it function.”

The high school was entered into the restart program in September, which qualified it for School Improvement Grants (SIG), but because the UFT and DOE failed to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations, the money dried up and put August Martin in line for Turnaround.
The restart model is meant for schools to receive support to improve and not be closed.

Had the two sides reached an agreement, the school would have continued its course in the restart program, a DOE spokesperson said.
“There is no educational justification for closing down this school. And it’s not just that the school has a graduation rate better than the average in the city,” said Leo Casey, the UFT vice president for high schools.

The school’s graduation rate has improved from 49 percent in 2009 to 67 percent last year; the city-wide average was 65 percent. The school received a “D” on its most recent progress report.

“It takes a community to raise a child and one bad mayor to destroy that same child,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Anthony Cromer, August Martin’s former principal, resigned on Thursday, April 5, though many involved in the school say he was forced out.
“[Cromer] should have had the chance to leave the school with dignity, instead he was led out,” said Assemblymember Vivian Cook, who said she was told by Cromer that he did not want to step down.

Gillian Smith was installed as the school’s principal and DOE Deputy Chancellor March Steinberg said she would be the proposed leader of the new school.
“How do you expect the school to grow when you do that to a principal and expect the kids to care anymore?” asked Cleavon Evans, president of the August Martin Alumni Association.

Many students broke down at the sight of their principal being led away, said the school’s parent-teacher-student association president, Jose Ferruzola.
“It was traumatic to see their principal taken out like a criminal.”

The final vote on the school’s future is scheduled for April 26.

 

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mets Owners Sell Team Shares Following $162M Settlement With Madoff Victims’ Trustee

Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz last week sold 12 minority stakes in the troubled franchise worth $240 million, using the proceeds to pay off Major League Baseball and reduce the team’s crippling debt, The Post has learned. With the moves, the team now has breathing room with its lenders and — combined with yesterday’s Picard settlement — appears to have saved the franchise. Read More: NY1

 

Mets owners could actually make money in Madoff settlement

It’s the biggest win for the Mets since 1986 — but a huge letdown for the fans. The team’s stingy owners will remain at the helm after striking a sweetheart settlement with the lawyer tasked with recouping billions from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme — and the deal actually casts them as victims of the fraud. The deal heads off a risky jury trial, where a loss could have cost owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz up to $383 million and control of the franchise. Read More: New York Post

 

Rangers edge Devils, clinch playoff spot in East

Brandon Dubinsky scored shortly after a fight-filled opening faceoff, and the Rangers became the first Eastern Conference team to earn a playoff spot by beating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Monday night. Three fights broke out at the outset and that seemed to jump-start the Rangers, who had lost two straight and five of seven as their once commanding lead in the East dwindled to almost nothing. Read More: New York Post

 

Trayvon Martin shooting: Feds to investigate killing of unarmed black teen by Florida neighborhood watch captain

The growing national attention – and outcry – over the case of an unarmed black teen in Florida who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch captain has culminated with the federal government’s announcement that it will launch an investigation. The announcement late Monday by the Justice Department followed a day of protests calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, 28, who claims he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community. Read More: Daily News

 

Cops nab burglary suspect — but hunt for ‘Vaseline Bandit’ continues

Police who were already hunting for a burglar who has brazenly pulled off 14 apartment break-ins in Upper Manhattan — using Vaseline to block door peepholes — captured another apartment thief re-handed, casually watching TV, in the middle of a heist tonight. But law enforcement sources said the 20-something perp is not the so-called Vaseline Bandit, who is in his 50s. Read More: New York Post

 

Government may make it easier for airlines to allow passengers to use personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings

The government is taking a tentative step toward making it easier for airlines to allow passengers to use personal electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and music players during takeoffs and landings. The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it is “exploring ways to bring together all of the key stakeholders involved” – including airlines, aircraft manufacturers, consumer electronics makers, and flight attendant unions – to discuss whether there are practical ways to test devices to see if they are safe for passengers to use during critical phases of flight. Read More: Daily News

 

Peyton Manning finalizing contract with Broncos

All that’s needed is Peyton Manning’s autograph. After being pursued by teams around the NFL, the QB with four MVP awards is headed to the land of John Elway and Tim Tebow, agreeing to a contract with Denver that could make the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender. It could also send one of the NFL’s most intriguing young players packing. So much for Tebowmania. Manning called Elway on Monday morning and told the Broncos executive that he had chosen Denver over the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers in the wildest free-agent chase of the offseason. Read More: Yahoo Sports

 

3 wounded in Harlem shooting

A gunman shot three men across from a Harlem playground this afternoon, police said. The unknown assailant blasted his victims in front of a deli across from the St. Nicholas Playground on West 129th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue about 2:30 p.m., cops said. A 30-year-old man was wounded in the left hand and leg, a 25-year-old was shot in the left leg, and a 23-year-old was wounded in the butt, authorities said. Read More: New York Post

 

NYPD Ups Security In Wake Of Jewish School Shooting In France

The NYPD yesterday deployed hundreds of cops to synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods citywide after a gunman fatally shot three kids and a rabbi at a Jewish school in France. “Obviously, we’re concerned about what happened in Toulouse,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said of the shooting. Read More: NY1

 

Jail guard shot

An off-duty Rikers correction officer was shot by her boyfriend last night outside a Queens diner, police sources said. The woman was hit in the stomach near the USA Diner on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton at 10:50 p.m., cops said. The shooter fled. It wasn’t immediately clear what sparked the fight. Read More: New York Post

 

‘Gangster’ sought in groom slay

They picked the wrong guy to push around. The Staten Island restaurant worker reportedly thrown to the ground by groom-to-be Anthony Lacertosa and his boozing buddies was purported Albanian gangster Redinel Dervishaj, who then allegedly killed Lacertosa with a butcher knife. Investigators believe Dervishaj, 35, has since fled the city, a law-enforcement source said. Read More: New York Post

 

‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm sticks to his guns in calling Kim Kardashian an ‘idiot’

Square-jawed “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm is sick of your stupid shtick. Channeling his straight-shooting character Don Draper,  Hamm put Kim Kardashian in her place Monday, dissing the curvaceous celebutard yet again. NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer asked the AMC retro-series actor to clarify the earlier comments he made to Elle UK about Kardashian being a famous-for-being-famous “idiot,” which the reality starlet called “careless.” Read More: Daily News

Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Actor George Clooney and father arrested at Sudanese embassy in Washington

Actor George Clooney was arrested along with his father and several members of Congress outside the Sudanese Embassy Friday as they protested the country’s blockade of food and aid. Clooney, who most recently starred in “The Descendants,” and his fellow protesters were warned three times not to cross a police line outside the building on Washington’s Embassy Row. Read More: New York Post

 

Trial Resumes For Off-Duty Officer Charged In Inwood Rape

Testimony resumes today in the trial of an off-duty police officer accused of raping a Manhattan teacher. Opening remarks began yesterday in the trial of Michael Pena, 27. He’s pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and sexual assault. Prosecutors say Pena asked the 25-year-old woman for directions in Inwood in the early morning hours of August 19. They say he then threatened her with his service weapon, forced her into a courtyard and raped her. Read More: NY1

 

Yankees sign Pettitte to contract

The Yankees on Friday re-signed Andy Pettitte to a minor-league contract with the likelihood he will return to pitch in the majors. The deal is for one-year, $2.5 million. Pettitte, who attended spring training as a special instructor, got the itch to return and the sides agreed on Thursday night. Read More: New York Post

Dharun Ravi guilty of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, other counts in Rutgers spying case

An ex-Rutgers student was convicted Friday of bias intimidation and 14 other charges for using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s dorm-room trysts with another man. Dharun Ravi, 20, sat stoically as the jury returned its damning verdict in a case that caused a national furor when the outed roommate jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Read More: Daily News

Man stabbed in the eye with fork in Chelsea diner; suspect arrested

A man was stabbed in the eye with a fork during an argument at a Chelsea diner early Friday, police said. The suspect was arrested at the scene, the Good Stuff Diner on West 14th St., where a man was killed in a dispute over a debt in 2010. Friday’s violence happened just before 5 a.m. Read More: Daily News

Cuomo Signs New Pension Deal Into Law

Governor Andrew Cuomo put his executive pen to paper today on a new state pension reform deal. Cuomo signed the legislation surrounded by mayors and county executives from around the state. The deal for pension reform was reached in marathon sessions of the legislature late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. It creates a new Tier VI in the state pension plan, requires new hires to contribute more to their plans, and raises the retirement age from 62 to 63. Read More: NY1

Grover Cleveland High School Protests Turnaround


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Students and faculty gathered outside Grover Cleveland High School to tell the mayor not to “turn” his back on their school.

The Ridgewood high school currently sits on the list of high schools to be “turned around,” which involves the closure and immediate reopening of the school under a different name, along with the replacement of the principal and 50 percent of the teachers.

Over 200 members of the school’s community took to the streets surrounding the school, marching and brandishing signs calling for people to dial 3-1-1 to protest the school’s potential closing.

“Bloomberg doesn’t know anything about the school,” said science teacher Russ Nitchman, calling the threat of a turnaround a “political hissyfit” from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

As the protest made its way to Metropolitan Avenue, passing cars honked their support for the protest.

Senior class president Diana Rodriguez is worried about the effect the turnaround would have on the students that will remain at the school next year.

“We have such a bond with these teachers, to just ruin that, get rid of 50 percent of the staff, it’s going to have a negative effect,” she said.

“There is a sense of home, here for the kids,” said English teacher Elizabeth Clark, who graduated from the school. “The kids need that safe haven.”

A vote will be held later this year to determine the fate of the 33 schools designated for turnaround.

“This entire community is here supporting Grover Cleveland and unfortunately the mayor’s plan never takes any of that into account,” said Queens UFT representative James Vazquez. “Moving people around and playing with numbers is the only solution [the city] ever has.”

 

Rally to remove ‘ineffective’ principal at Van Buren


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Local leaders and parents hope to expel the unpopular principal of a failing school.

According to PTA President Helen Young, Martin Van Buren High School is brimming with “ineffective leaders,” starting with Principal Marilyn Shevell, who several members of the community called “uninvolved.”

“The [city] still hasn’t gotten it right, and the parents want [these leaders] removed right now,” Young said at a rally held in front of the school on February 9. “I strongly feel that principal Shevell lacks the skill to be a leader and lacks the vision and ability to take our kids to their highest level. It’s time for a change in leadership.”

Martin Van Buren received a “D” in the most recent Department of Education (DOE) progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests and coursework and student attendance. The Bellerose school scored a “C” in the last two years as well.

“Clearly, the school is failing, and we need to change the leadership to get a new, fresh approach,” said Senator Tony Avella.

The Department of Education (DOE) recently moved eight low-achieving Queens high schools into the School Improvement Grant Program known as Turnaround — which involves the closure and immediate reopening of the school under a different name, along with the replacement of the principal and 50 percent of the teachers.

Although Martin Van Buren is not one of the eight schools slated for Turnaround, Avella said he wanted agency officials to take action before it’s too late.

“I don’t want a situation where next year they get another failing grade, and then you have to say to the community, to the parents and the students, ‘We’re closing the school.’ That’s going to happen unless something changes here. Let’s not dare wait until then. Let’s make the change,” Avella said. “We cannot allow another one of our neighborhood high schools to fail. We cannot let Martin Van Buren become the next Jamaica High School.”

Young said the now “hardly recognizable” school has become a site of plummeting morale since Shevell took over in 2002.

Likewise, sophomore Wendell F. expressed unrest inside the building, telling The Courier he recently got suspended from school after a female classmate punched him in the face.

“I didn’t hit her, but they still suspended me for five days,” he said. “The teachers and the deans, they don’t listen to any of the students. They just suspend us for anything, and we miss days of school. I’m upset about everything, the way they treat all of us. If they end up shutting down this school, I hope it gets reopened into a better school — or I hope they get a different staff.”

The DOE — who Shevell directed questions to — declined to comment.

TSA apologizes to elderly women for strip search at Kennedy Airport


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

TSA apologizes to elderly women for strip search at Kennedy Airport

In an about-face, the feds have admitted wrongdoing in the cases of two elderly women who say they were strip-searched at Kennedy Airport by overzealous screeners. Federal officials had initially insisted that all “screening procedures were followed” after Ruth Sherman, 89, and Lenore Zimmerman, 85, went public with separate accounts of humiliating strip searches. But in a letter obtained by the Daily News, the Homeland Security Department acknowledges that screeners violated standard practice in their treatment of the ailing octogenarians last November. Read More: Daily News

Governor Cuomo’s public pension bomb

Gov. Cuomo lobbed a political grenade at New York’s powerful public-employee unions yesterday, proposing a radical pension overhaul for future city and state workers as part of his $132.5 billion state budget plan. Cuomo said the plan would save New York City $30 billion in pension costs over 30 years, while saving $83 billion for the state and local governments outside the city over the same period. “We can no longer sustain the current pension system,” Cuomo said, citing a projected 185 percent treasury-busting increase in pension costs from 2009 to 2015 if nothing is done. Read More: New York Post

Bayside mourns beloved father of six

When Lawrence Hilsdorf was laid to rest, an entire community cried. The 55-year-old, affectionately known as “Larry,” was more than just a Bayside resident – he was a neighborhood icon, and his roots in the community ran deep. He went to Sacred Heart, then Bayside High School, before settling to raise his own family in the area. The father of six boys – Charlie, 25, James, 20, twins Billy and Bobby, 18, Patrick, 15, and Jack, 13 – Larry put his life on the line as a police officer beginning in 1981, first with the Queens North Task Force, and then with the 114th Precinct in Astoria. Read More: Queens Courier

Hunt for cruise victims on hold as wreckage shifts

Italian rescue workers suspended operations Wednesday after a stricken cruise ship shifted slightly on the rocks near the Tuscan coast, creating deep concerns about the safety of divers and firefighters searching for the 22 people still missing. The $450 million Costa Concordia cruise ship had more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board when it slammed into the reef Friday off the tiny Italian island of Giglio after the captain made an unauthorized maneuver. The bodies of five adult passengers — four men and one woman, all wearing lifejackets — were discovered in the wreckage Tuesday, raising the death toll to 11. Their nationalities were not immediately released. Read More: New York Post

Giants passing game could slip against 49ers if weather is bad

There is zero percent chance the Giants will be able to operate their high-flying passing attack at peak efficiency Sunday against the 49ers in the NFC Championship. Anyone who thinks they can is all wet. The cohesive, rugged, old-school (think defense first) 49ers would be a challenge no matter where and no matter what the conditions, but looming up ahead is the true test whether or not the Giants are an all-weather team. After a rousing 37-20 Divisional beatdown of the defending champion Packers in the cold at Lambeau Field, go figure that a trip to northern California could be fraught with soggy peril for the Giants. Read More: New York Post

Wikipedia goes dark in protest of anti-piracy legislation

Free online knowledge site Wikipedia has gone dark as part of a protest over legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on online piracy. The English version of the online encyclopedia shut down at midnight Tuesday ET. The website will be inaccessible for 24 hours to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). It was replaced with a message that read, “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.” “For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia,” it went on. Read More: New York Post

Residents Protest Jackson Heights Supermarket

Some Jackson Heights residents and elected officials have declared the Trade Fair store on 37th Avenue a blight on the neighborhood and are rallying for it to clean up its act. Read More & Watch the Video: NY1

Two Correction Officers Sentenced In Connection With 2008 Rikers Assaults

After reaching a plea deal with the Bronx district attorney’s office, former Correction Officers Michael McKie and Khalid Nelson learned their fates Tuesday in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. City investigators said the pair were among officers at Rikers Island running an intimidation campaign known as “the program,” and they had ordered teenage inmates to beat up others to maintain discipline in the adolescent unit. McKie, seen above left, who pleaded guilty to assault, was sentenced to two years in state prison. Nelson, seen above right, who pleaded guilty to attempted assault, was sentenced to one year. Read More: NY1

Flushing nurses rally for benefits


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa

Registered nurses at Flushing Hospital rallied for their own health care in the midst of a heated negotiation deadlock between hospital administration and the union.

“We are the backbone of Flushing,” said Michelle Jones, a nurse practitioner at the hospital for 23 years. “All these nurses here have worked very hard. I feel very angry that it has come to this.”

Jones and about 200 of the hospital’s registered nurses hit the picket line outside the Parsons Boulevard facility on Thursday, January 5 — demanding contracts for health and pension benefits.

According to Mark Genovese, spokesperson for New York State Nurses Association, which represents Flushing’s nurses, they are currently negotiating a new contract with hospital management to improve working conditions, including a “fair salary increase.”

The contract for the hospital’s 350 registered nurses expired on December 31. Although health benefits continue 90 days after expiration, Genovese said pension plans ended for good on January 1.

An interim agreement signed by hospital administration would guarantee the continuation of both contracts for six months while the parties continue to negotiate, but Genovese said the hospital would not grant the extension.

Flushing Hospital declined to comment on any allegations regarding negotiations.

The nurses — who said they felt “betrayed” — waved signs that read “Flushing Hospital works because RNs do” and “Honk if you love RNs!”
Recent graduate nurse, Mark Viloria, joined in on the protest to support his wife — a registered nurse at Flushing Hospital.

“I’m pretty upset,” he said. “[My wife] has to be here every day, dealing with all this. She’s putting herself in danger every day and she has to pay for her own health compensation? That doesn’t make any sense.”

According to Michael Hinck, a spokesperson for Flushing Hospital’s parent company MediSys, hospital officials are continuing to negotiate with the union.

“We’re hopeful for a quick resolution,” Hinck said.

An interim agreement had not been signed as of January 5.

Still, nurse Georgia Dunn remained optimistic.

“We’ll get it. I definitely feel like we’ll get it,” she said.

     

Flushing Hospital nurses plan protest


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Registered nurses at Flushing Hospital Medical Center plan to hit the picket line following negotiation stalemates on their health and pension benefits.

“They’re looking for a contract that is fair and that will help the hospital be competitive in a nursing shortage. That entails a fair salary increase — nothing excessive. They’re not looking for anything outrageous,” said Mark Genovese, spokesperson for New York State Nurses Association. “They want to be able to retain health benefits that are affordable and comprehensive, as well as a good pension plan.”

According to Genovese, the nurses are currently negotiating a new contract with hospital management to improve working conditions.

The contract for the hospital’s 350 registered nurses — who are represented by the New York State Nurses Association — expired on December 31. Although health benefits continue 90 days after expiration, Genovese said pension plans ended for good on January 1.

An interim agreement signed by hospital administration would guarantee the continuation of both contracts for six months while the parties continue to negotiate, but Genovese said the hospital would not grant the extension.

“As is standard practice in any labor union, the parties agree to temporarily extend the health and pension benefits while negotiations are going on. It shows courtesy and respect to the employees,” Genovese said. “That’s not the way a hospital wants to conduct itself if it wants to respect its employees, and the nurses will not be used and will not be intimidated.”

According to Michael Hinck, a spokesperson for Flushing Hospital’s parent company MediSys hospital officials are continuing to negotiate with the union.

“We’re hopeful for a quick resolution,” Hinck said.

However, Flushing Hospital declined to comment on any allegations regarding negotiations or extensions.

The nurses will use their designated break time — from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — on January 5 to protest in front of the hospital, located on Parsons Boulevard.

“This has become the focus. This is what they’re really protesting about,” Genovese said about the lack of temporary coverage. “It’s not fair to the nurses. It’s not fair to their families. They need to keep their homes warm in the winter. They need to pay their mortgages. They have families they need to support. Many are single parents or the breadwinners of the family. If you take this away from them, you’re hurting their families and you’re hurting the community.”

The Lunch Break – 11/21/2011: Mother Of Hamilton Heights Terror Plot Suspect Speaks Out, Offers Apology


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Grahpic by Jay Lane

Mother Of Hamilton Heights Terror Plot Suspect Speaks Out, Offers Apology

The mother of an alleged al-Qaeda sympathizer and Manhattan resident who has been arraigned on charges of plotting to detonate bombs in the city is speaking out. Authorities say Jose Pimentel, 27, was targeting US troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and wanted to blow up post offices and police cars. Pimentel, a US citizen, is a native of the Dominican Republic who lived in Hamilton Heights. His mother, Carmen Sosa, says she’s shocked and saddened by the news. Read More: NY1

 

Police Barricades Protect Mayor Bloomberg From ‘24-Hour’ Drum Circle

The Occupy Wall Street protesters who had planned to throw a 24-hour drum circle party (a violation of several United Nations human rights treaties) outside NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Manhattan manse didn’t quite make it thanks to NYPD officers and barricades. Undaunted, they held their percussive party down the street.  Read More: Gawker

Financial Spat Could Delay Opening Of 9/11 Museum

The long-awaited opening of the National September 11th Museum could be delayed due to a simmering financial dispute between the Port Authority and museum officials. Sources tell NY1 museum construction at the World Trade Center Site has slowed because of hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns. Read More: NY1

 

Outdoor hockey games could come to West Side tennis stadium
Top NHL prospects may skate in outdoor games in Queens if plans go through to transform a tennis stadium that hosted the U.S. Open into an ice skating rink, the Daily News has learned. A hockey executive who runs the sport’s top minor league said he could envision games at West Side Stadium in Forest Hills. Read More: Daily News

 

Police Arrest Doctor Who Reportedly Filled Prescriptions for David Laffer

A pain management doctor who reportedly filled prescriptions for pharmacy killer David Laffer has been arrested. The charges against Stan Li, of Hamilton, N.J., were for a different case. Prosecutors allege he sold prescriptions to a man who later died of an overdose. Michael Cornetta, of Queens, died a year ago. Authorities alleged Li had provided him with dozens of prescriptions for controlled substances, including oxycodone. Read More: NBC News

 

A Thanksgiving to Remember: Four from Queens and Long Island Share $4,000,000 in Lottery Jackpot Prizes

The New York Lottery’s Yolanda Vega today awarded $4,000,000 in over-sized prize checks to four very thankful jackpot winners from Queens (Jackson Heights and Woodside) and Long Island (Port Jefferson Station and Shirley). The recently opened Times Square Casino at Resorts World Casino New York City in Queens served as the centerpiece for the Lottery’s special pre-Thanksgiving winner celebration. Read More: Read Media

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/18/2011: Deadly Woodside House Fire


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Deadly Woodside House Fire

A fire that broke out inside a house in Woodside early Friday morning claimed the life of one woman and injured four other people. The FDNY says the fire was reported at 1:15 a.m. at a two and one-half story house on 61st Street between Woodside Avenue and 43rd Avenue. Read More: Fox News

Queens Thanksgiving Zombie Walk set  to invade streets of Astoria

When hundreds of zombies take to the streets of Astoria this weekend to feed on the flesh of human victims, it won’t be an apocalypse as much as a fantasy come to life. The first annual Queens Thanksgiving Zombie Walk on Saturday is just the latest crawl to capitalize on the growing craze for everything undead and supernatural. Read More: Daily News

Queens Singer Sues Management Company for Defamation

A Queens singer who has worked with the likes of Britney Spears has filed an $18 million lawsuit against her management company for allegedly trashing her as a racist trollop. In her Manhattan Supreme Court suit, Annet Artani says that instead of furthering her career, SWAP Management portrayed her as a lazy bimbo whose “constant offerings of sexual favors for a recording contract caused her to lose much credibility with some of the music community.” Read More: New York Post

St. John’s And Hofstra Renew Queens-Long Island Rivalry On Friday

St. John’s will take to the road for the first time this season on Friday as it travels just a half an hour east on the LIE to face in-state opponent, Hofstra. St. John’s and Hofstra have not played each other since 2005, but Friday’s contest is the 15th game between the two schools. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the Mack Sports Complex. Read More: Red Storm Sports

News from the Occupy Movement – 200 Are Arrested as Protesters Clash With the Police

Thousands of protesters across the country flooded streets, squares, bridges and banks on Thursday, snarling traffic and often clashing with the police in a show of support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, two months to the day after the demonstration began. In Lower Manhattan, protesters tossed aside metal barricades to converge again on Zuccotti Park after failing in an attempt to shut down the New York Stock Exchange. Read More: New York Times

Flushing resident dies in Long Island Hit and Run

 

Authorities say a Long Island man is charged with hit-and-run following an accident that killed a bicyclist from Stony Brook University. The accident occurred around 9:45 p.m. Thursday in Stony Brook. Suffolk County police identified the victim as 21-year-old Seong Hoon Baek of Flushing. Read More: Wall Street Journal