Tag Archives: Queens’ Morning Roundup

Jackson Heights bank robbed


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Jackson Heights bank robbed

A gunman dressed in a brown UPS uniform took a female bank employee hostage as he held up a Queens branch yesterday, authorities said. The man walked into the Sovereign branch on 31st Avenue in Jackson Heights at 9:40 a.m., pressed the barrel a silver revolver into the back of the bank employee, and demanded $20,000 in large bills, said the FBI. The bandit received cash from multiple bank tellers and fled on foot with several thousand dollars. The man is in his early 30s, stands about 5-foot-7 and has a beard and dark skin, according to the FBI. Read More: New York Post

 

LaGuardia trash-smash tussle in court

Government lawyers yesterday tried to convince a federal appeals court that the city’s plan to build a trash transfer station near La Guardia Airport follows aviation-safety rules. The building will be sealed so as not to attract plane-endangering birds, said Justice Department lawyer Abby Wright. “All the trash processing occurs inside the building,” said Wright, and opponents’ claims that the building isn’t enclosed are “baseless.” A bird-plane collision was blamed for the Hudson River ditching of US Airways Flight 1547 two years ago. Read More: New York Post

 

Challenges Persist As Liu Continues Down The Campaign Trail

City Comptroller John Liu is working nonstop lately, moving from Brooklyn Borough Hall through Sunset Park and Sunnyside to a Democratic club in Flushing. On Friday, he visited the Three Kings Day Parade in East Harlem. Despite a federal investigation into his campaign account, Liu is not quitting the campaign trail.  “My primary focus as comptroller has been rooting out waste, find money that has been improperly kept or spent,” said Liu. But in November, a Liu fundraiser was accused of setting up straw donors to get over-the-limit contributions to the comptroller.  Read More: NY1

 

 

NYPD cop suspended after getting hauled off bus for alleged drunkenness

An NYPD sergeant who was hauled off a Greyhound bus in Philadelphia for alleged drunkenness has now been suspended, the Daily News has learned. Sgt. Carlos Fabara became an accidental YouTube star Dec. 27 when he refused the driver’s orders to get off the bus. Philadelphia police came to assist in removing the off-duty sergeant, who was lead away in handcuffs. A fellow passenger caught the altercation on tape and posted it to YouTube. Read More: Daily News

 

Cop’s legs crushed

A plainclothes cop’s legs were mangled last night in a horrific accident that left him pinned at the knees between two vehicles during a traffic stop in Brooklyn. The unidentified detective had pulled over a black vehicle with four men inside and was standing behind the car when a white van rammed into him, crushing his legs and leaving pools of blood in the street. “It looked real bad,” said Manny Mora, 42, owner of John Deli on the corner of Dorchester Road and Coney Island Avenue in Flatbush. Mora said he heard a loud sound from outside around 10:30 p.m. When he looked out, he saw the officer pinned between the bumper of a white van and the car the cop pulled over. Read More: New York Post

 

Day-care outrage

A high-ranking FDNY safety inspector ignored safety violations at buildings housing day-care centers in exchange for bribes, the feds said yesterday. Carlos Montoya — who formerly oversaw inspections of all city day-care centers — was arrested yesterday for the alleged misconduct, which included repeatedly certifying use of a Brooklyn warehouse for the temporary care of infants and children younger than 2. He allegedly got at least $12,000 in payments from the center’s owner, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and is cooperating with the feds. Read More: New York Post

 

Granny horror retrial

Her first jury found her guilty of homicide. But now Lynette Caban, a lead-footed driver with a suspended license who struck and killed a grandmother in 2003, is getting a chance to beat the rap, thanks to a momentary mistake six years ago by a now-retired Manhattan judge. Caban is once again facing charges of criminal negligence for driving backward against a light through a Third Avenue crosswalk, catapulting sweet, 82-year-old Francesca Maytin to her death. Her case has bounced between two appeals courts, ultimately being set down for retrial due to errors committed by former Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Budd Goodman during the original deliberations. Read More: New York Post

Mosque firebomber faces life in prison for hate crimes


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mosque firebomber faces life in prison for hate crimes

The Queens pyromaniac who went on a New Year’s Day firebombing spree appeared for his Thursday arraignment looking like he could use a few swigs from the frappucino bottles he used during his hate-filled rampage. Ray Lazier Lengend looked groggy and dazed as he sat slumped in a chair at Bellevue Hospital for an arraignment piped by video feed into Queens Criminal Court. Lengend, 40, responded to Supreme Court Justice Lenora Gerald’s questions with one-word answers, occasionally closing his eyes. Read More: Daily News

Queens Business Owners Call For Litter Crackdown

 Queens residents are facing a big trash problem on Liberty Avenue. There are overflowing garbage cans, garbage bags on the sidewalks, and litter all over the street between the Van Wyck Expressway and Woodhaven Boulevard. “It’s a daily problem,” says one resident. The merchants are paying for it. The Department of Sanitation has ticketed many for not keeping their storefronts clean, but Paul Singh, owner of New Union Turnpike Auto Parts, says tidying up is next to impossible. Read More: NY1

Courier publisher to appear on Geraldo’s radio show on WABC 770AM at 10AM today

The publisher of The Queens Courier, Victoria Schneps-Yunis, will join Geraldo Rivera’s radio program on January 6 to discuss the 40th anniversary of his reports on the deplorable conditions for the children at the Willowbrook State School. It was in 1971 that Schneps, along with members of WORC, the Working Organization for Retarded Children, picketed the school to fight for the rights of Schneps’ daughter Lara and the 5,400 residents at Willowbrook, a Staten Island school for mentally disabled children. The story took off when Rivera, then a reporter for ABC television, reported on the neglect the children at Willowbrook faced. Read More: Queens Courier & Listen to the live stream at 10AM at WABC

Mets Fans Turn Out For Annual Winter Blood Drive

It may be January, but Mets fans headed back to Citi Field Thursday. It was mostly about blood, not baseball, as the team held its annual winter blood drive. Donors received a voucher for tickets to a Mets game in April, as well as a discount at the Mets team store. All of the donations will go to the New York Blood Center. “Particularly this blood drive being just after the first of the year, we are really replenishing diminished supply over the holidays from the past two weeks, holidays and schools being off. So this is a tremendous opportunity for community members to come out and save lives,” said Diana Zaferiou of the New York Blood Center. Read More: NY1

Archbishop Timothy Dolan one of 22 new cardinals named by Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI named 22 new cardinals Friday, including prelates in such key posts as New York and Hong Kong and a large group of Italians holding major Vatican positions. The Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, and former Archbishop of Baltimore, Edwin O’Brien, were among those named by the pope. Dolan said in a statement today, “Over the Christmas holy days, I finished a new biography of President Kennedy and I recalled his reply to someone who sincerely congratulated him on the honor of the presidency. ‘Thank you,’ John Kennedy replied, ‘but I don’t look at it so much as an honor, but as a call to higher service.’ Read More:  New York Post

‘Jail farewell’ tour

A Queens landlord is a free man after being acquitted of murder yesterday — but his freedom train is making stops at both Rikers Island and an upstate prison. Jailed four years, three months and one week since his 2007 arrest, Michael McLennon, 41, was more than eligible to be sprung immediately on the weapons-possession charge on which he did get convicted. But correctional red tape required that he spend last night in Rikers, and then be bused to Downstate Correctional prison in Fishkill today so his release can be processed, said his lawyer, Tamara Harris. Read More: New York Post

‘Proof’ of robbery

This “brandy bandit” should have saved the celebrating until after the heist. A gun-toting thug was busted Tuesday after detectives traced his fingerprints off a bottle of cheap booze he left outside the T-Mobile store in Queens he allegedly robbed, cops say. Gregory Kennedy, 31, is now accused of pocketing $11,435 from stick-ups at 11 Dunkin’ Donuts, T-Mobile stores and other businesses between October 11 and December 30. On November 25, Kennedy drained a half-pint of Paul Masson Grand Amber while staking out a T-Mobile store on Jamaica Avenue from an unlicensed livery cab, law-enforcement sources said. Read More: New York Post

Ten MS-13 gang members from Flushing indicted for racketeering 

Ten members of the infamous MS-13 gang from Flushing were indicted Thursday on racketeering charges, including violent machete and baseball attacks against rivals, authorities said. “The only people who should be wielding baseball bats in Flushing are Mets, not MS-13,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Federal agents and NYPD detectives arrested eight of the thugs in early morning raids while two others were already incarcerated. The defendants were members of a powerful clique of Mara Salvatrucha 13 wreaking havoc in their Queens neighborhood since 2007, authorities said. Read More: New York Post

Figoski’s ‘murderer’ says he never set out to ‘kill a cop’


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Figoski’s ‘murderer’ says he never set out to ‘kill a cop’

The thug accused of gunning down Officer Peter Figoski last month during a botched Brooklyn robbery told detectives after his arrest he was “sorry” and never set out to “kill a cop.” “I’m sorry for what I did,” Lamont Pride blurted out as the detectives drove him to Central Booking, according to court papers made public at a brief hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday. “I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Pride whined. Read More: New York Post

NYC employee arrested for allegedly selling drugs in front of residential building in Queens

A New York City employee has been arrested on drug charges. Police say 47-year-old Donald Gibbs was arrested for allegedly selling drugs in front of a residential building in Queens Wednesday evening. Police say Gibbs was employed as a NYPD school safety agent. He was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. Read More: New York Post

Mega Convention Center Planned for Queens

There were two major points in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech that everyone saw coming, both of which have a lot to do with Queens. During his speech on Wednesday, January 4, the governor formally introduced the idea of legalizing full table gaming in New York State, which would mean big news for Resorts World Casino in South Ozone Park. He also revealed his plan to initiate the building of the country’s largest convention center on that ground, the former site of the Aqueduct Racino. Read More: Queens Courier

Life for pregnant-gal slay

A Queens man convicted of murdering his pregnant girlfriend was tossed into prison for 25 years to life yesterday. Derrick Redd, 39, of Far Rockaway, was found guilty of stabbing Naisha Delain about 30 times, killing her and their unborn son on the baby’s due date. Before Redd was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lewis, he slammed the judge for denying his lawyer’s motion to throw out the jury’s verdict. Delain’s mom, Towanda Wimms, and other family members left the court praising the judge with applause. Read More: New York Post

Judge rips man who set up ex-girlfriend as ‘diabolical” & sends him to jail for 32 years

A Queens judge sentenced a cunning private eye to 32 years in prison Wednesday, calling him a “diabolical conniver and sinister manipulator” who framed his ex-girlfriend for robbery after she accused him of rape. Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter tore into Jerry Ramrattan for trying to bolster his plea for mercy by bragging about the help he had given law enforcement agencies as a confidential informant. Read More: Daily News

Overview of Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State Address

 

In his second State of the State speech since taking office, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he plans to straighten out the state’s fiscal problems while expanding job growth and strengthening education. In front of hundreds of lawmakers, policy leaders and other New Yorkers, the governor delivered his vision for 2012 – a vision that seeks to spin stagnation into governmental action. Read More & Watch the Video: Queens Courier

State Liquor Authority postpones decision for controversial Long Island City strip club

Supporters and opponents of a proposed Long Island City strip club have two more weeks to make their case before the State Liquor Authority. Commissioners from the authority heard more than an hour of testimony Wednesday but delayed a decision until a January 18 meeting so they can pore through reports and other documents submitted by the Gypsy Rose’s operators, known as 21 Group Inc. Elected officials and community leaders have fought bitterly over the last few years to stop the club from opening at the 21st Street location, just at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge. Read More: Daily News

Alleged Queens firebomber wanted to massacre Muslims in mosque, prosecutors say

The unhinged Queens pyromaniac who unleashed a scary New Year’s Day firebombing spree had planned to take out “as many Muslims and Arabs as possible” by lobbing Molotov cocktails at worshipers inside a mosque, prosecutors said. Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, allegedly told cops he had planned to inflict “as much damage as possible” by hurling all five of his firebombs from the balcony of Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center onto the crowd below.
The hateful bomb-hurler, who is under psychiatric observation at Bellevue Hospital center, flat-out told detectives he did not like Muslims or Arabs, prosecutors said. “This is a message to anyone who does this in the future,” said Imam Maan Al-Sahlani, leader of Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center, where Lengend planned to inflict major casualties. “It’s a good message that justice will come for you, the police will come for you.” Read More: Daily News

Gov. Cuomo wants Aqueduct racino to serve as 3.8 million square foot convention center


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

NYC Firebombing Suspect Charged with Hate Crime

A New York man suspected of five New York City fire bombings was arrested today and charged with a hate crime. Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, was charged with one count of arson as a hate crime and four counts of arson in connection with the Sunday attacks that targeted an Islamic center, a Hindu temple, a bodega and two private homes. Lengend was arrested by cops who staked out a vehicle overnight awaiting the return of the vehicle’s owner. According to law enforcement officials, Lengend made statements that appear to implicate him in at least some of the bombings, but stopped short of a confession in the first rounds of interrogation. Detectives, relying on statements from witnesses and grainy surveillance video, determined the suspected bomber drove a late model car with Virginia license plates. Read More: ABC News

Gov. Cuomo wants Aqueduct racino to serve as 3.8 million square foot convention center

Governor Cuomo wants to up the ante on the future of the Aqueduct racino in Queens and make it home to the country’s largest convention center, the Daily News has learned. The planned project will be highlighted as part of the economic development agenda Cuomo will outline in his State of the State address Wednesday, two sources told The News. “The notion is that (Cuomo) is going to put the project on the fast-track to get it done,” one source said. “They need a couple of big economic development initiatives to announce.” Read More: Daily News

Pol, residents demand DOT repair broken curbs

Queens residents have had their hopes for safe sidewalks curbed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Senator Tony Avella recently united with perturbed residents from northern and eastern Queens – who have suffered with broken curbs in front of their homes for years – to demand the DOT “accelerate” their sidewalk repair program. Read More: Queens Courier

Transit advocates oppose plan to turn defunct railroad into QueensWay park 

A plan to transform an abandoned rail line into a park in southern Queens is generating a lot of buzz, but a group of transit advocates has another vision. They believe the tracks, which have sat idle for five decades, should be reactivated to give southern Queens residents an easier commute to Manhattan. The Long Island Rail Road operated the line, which once ran from Rockaway, up through Ozone Park and Forest Park to Rego Park. It was discontinued in the early 1960s and the property is currently owned by the city. A growing group of supporters is pushing for a High Line-type park to be known as the QueensWay. Read More: Daily News

Lobbyist Is Expected to Plead Guilty in Corruption Case

Richard J. Lipsky, a prominent New York lobbyist who was charged in the bribery conspiracy case that also ensnared State Senator Carl Kruger, is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, a person briefed on the matter said Tuesday. Mr. Lipsky’s plea would come just two weeks after Kruger resigned from the Senate and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the broad conspiracy case that has been seen as reflecting corruption in Albany. Mr. Kruger faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in April by Judge Jed S. Rakoff. Read More: New York Times

Officials Condemn Queens Firebomb Attacks

Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with religious leaders Tuesday morning in a strong show of support after Molotov cocktails hit an Islamic cultural center, a Hindu house of worship, and two other locations in Queens this weekend. “Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case we’re just not going to tolerate it in this city. And fortunately the number of incidents like this are very low, but one is one too many,” Bloomberg said. Read More: NY1

TSA: Pre-Check Screenings Coming To JFK

The screening process is getting faster and easier for some passengers at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Federal officials announced Tuesday that the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check Program will be enacted at the airport early this year. Eligible American Airlines passengers as well as members of the Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs will go through an expedited screening process which does not require taking off shoes, a jacket or belt. Read More: NY1

 

Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs

A Fire Department official on Monday said it was fortunate that the damage was minimal from a series of arson attacks across eastern Queens on Sunday night that the police were investigating as a possible bias crime against Muslims. No one was hurt in the four attacks, in which homemade firebombs were apparently used. In three of the four attacks, the police said, Molotov cocktails were made with Starbucks bottles. The first attack occurred just before 8 p.m. at a bodega at 179-46 Hillside Avenue. Ten minutes later, another crude firebomb was thrown, this time at the home at 107th Avenue, and the house caught fire. Read More: New York Times

Authorities Release Sketch, Video Of Suspect In Queens Firebomb Attacks

Authorities say the suspect, seen above in surveillance video and a police sketch, is between 25 to 30 years old, about 5-feet-8-inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He was seen driving a light-colored, four-door sedan. Police say the first cocktail was thrown at a bodega on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica around 8 p.m. Sunday and it damaged the store’s counter. Fewer than 10 minutes later, a second call came in about a homemade firebomb being thrown at a house on 107th Avenue. Read More: NY1

MTA Conductor Charged With Assaulting Passenger

An Metropolitan Transportation Authority conductor is charged with assault after police say he punched a passenger on an R train in Queens. Police say Thomas Christopher, 35, hit the passenger, identified by sources as 18-year-old Zaid al-Doori, after arguing with him near the 36th Street station Sunday morning. Published reports say Christopher was upset because al-Doori had put his feet up on the seats. Read More: NY1

Driver In Custody Following Deadly LIE Crash

One person was killed this morning following a fiery accident on a Queens highway, which was possibly fueled by New Year’s Eve drinking. Officials say the accident happened just after 5 a.m. on the Long Island Expressway. Police sources say a car was rear-ended near the Maurice Avenue exit, causing it to flip over and catch on fire. The driver of that car was pronounced dead at the scene. Sources say the driver of the second vehicle was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in police custody. Read More: NY1

37 feet from disaster at JFK

An airline crew’s failure to follow controllers’ instructions caused the scariest runway incident last year at Kennedy Airport, authorities said yesterday. On June 30, the pilots of a Cairo-bound EgyptAir Boeing 777 mistakenly taxied just 37 feet shy of a runway where they would have been in the path of a Lufthansa jet speeding toward takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Controllers had told them to make a left turn to another taxiway, the FAA said. With seconds to spare, the Lufthansa crew brought the Airbus A340 to a screeching halt, partly by jamming on its brakes so hard that they overheated. Read More: New York Post

Teacher out on her butt

A foulmouthed teacher got her butt fired after she told a group of ninth-graders “they had their brains in their ass,” then tried to bribe a student to save her hide, officials said. The city Department of Education accused Bernadette Camacho, 39, of verbally abusing social-studies students at Hillcrest HS in Queens, according to investigation documents The Post obtained through a Freedom of Information request. But during the hearings that would decide her fate, the teacher tried to coerce a flunking female student to sing her praises in court in exchange for a passing grade, officials said. Read More: New York Post

Stun-of-a-gun gal arrested at JFK

A Chinese national was busted trying to sneak a stun gun through a security checkpoint at Kennedy Airport, the Transportation Security Administration said yesterday. Sihui Xie, 21, was trying to board a flight to Orlando Friday when a TSA screener spotted the pen-sized stun gun tucked in her carry-on bag. At first the item appeared to be a flashlight, but a closer look revealed it to be a stun gun/flashlight hybrid. Port Authority cops arrested the woman and charged her with possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Read More: New York Post

Actress-threat gal is slapped

A Queens woman was indicted yesterday for allegedly sending threatening e-mails to Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard. Teresa Yuan was charged by a Brooklyn federal grand jury with five counts of transmitting threats to the film star, who won an Academy Award for best actress in 2008 for her role as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” Brooklyn federal prosecutors said Yuan e-mailed a video to the actress’ Internet fan site asking: “Would you be willing to play Russian Roulette? You have only one out of six chances of being shot. You have five out of six chances of living.” Yuan was arrested this past summer by the FBI and arraigned in August. She remains free on bail while awaiting trial, officials said. Read More: New York Post

‘Groper’ caught on camera


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

‘Groper’ caught on camera

Cops say this grinning perv sexually assaulted a young woman walking in Queens — but she bravely turned the tables on her alleged attacker by snapping this picture. The man walked behind the 25-year-old victim and grabbed her butt in front of a Jamaica store at about 11:15 a.m. December 23, authorities said. The woman, who had never seen the man before, quickly snapped a photo of the alleged groper before he fled. Read More: New York Post

Man wanted for robbery in Forest Hills

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating a man wanted for a robbery in Forest Hills. The suspect approached the victim, a 54-year-old woman, from behind, pushing her to the ground near 111-29 78th Avenue, according to police.  Once on the ground the suspect began punching and kicking the victim, police said.  The victim’s pocketbook, containing money, credit cards and papers, was stolen. The victim sustained bruising and pain but was not hospitalized. Read More: Queens Courier

Police officer injured, another man killed in struggle for gun at Long Island Home Depot

A Nassau County police officer was shot and another man was killed Friday during a struggle for the officer’s weapon, said police. Two on-duty officers confronted a man in his 40s driving an Isuzu SUV when the struggle ensued, added Nassau County police. It is not clear if the driver of the SUV shot the officer of if the gun went off during the struggle, said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith. The second officer chased the suspect and apparently shot him twice in the chest, added Smith. Read More: New York Post

Listed Sex Offender Arrested In Brooklyn Teen’s Attack

The New York City Police Department on Thursday announced the arrest of a man who they say posed as a city police officer last week and sexually assaulted a Brooklyn teen. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the suspect is a level-three sex violator who was on parole. Officials say the suspect, Steven Pappas served five years in prison for a similar incident in 1999. He then was convicted of burglary in 2009 and was released from jail earlier this month. Read More: NY1

Police Charge Two People With Several Astoria Burglaries

Police have arrested a man and woman they say are responsible for a rash of burglaries in Astoria. Eldin Ahmetovic, 33, and Yulia Bushuyeva, 32, were arrested last week. There has been a pattern of 12 burglaries all over Astoria dating back to June. Sources say they are being charged in four of them. Ahmetovic posted $50,000 bail. Read More: NY1

Searchers looking in Hudson River after police found personal items on George Washington Bridge

Searchers are looking in the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge after police found some personal items on a pedestrian walkway. A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police department says officers reported finding an iPad, a pair of shoes and a set of keys on the eastbound walkway of the upper level of the bridge at about 7:30 a.m. Friday. The officers notified harbor search teams. Read More: New York Post

SAT taker-for-hire tells ’60 Minutes’ it was easy to cheat

Speaking out for the first time, the Long Island teen who took college-entrance exams for cash told “60 Minutes” that his scandalous scheme couldn’t have been simpler to pull off. “I would say that between the SAT and ACT, the security is uniformly pathetic,” a cocky Sam Eshaghoff says in a segment to air this Sunday. “In the sense that anybody with half a brain could get away with taking the test for anybody else.” Now a student at Emory University, Eshaghoff was arrested in September, and the bust set off a national debate on entrance-exam integrity and trained a harsh light on his tony hometown of Great Neck. Read More: New York Post

Man who ‘killed’ wife took control of life-insurance payout for kids


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Man who ‘killed’ wife took control of life-insurance payout for kids

The man being sued for allegedly murdering his Upper West Side wife surreptitiously took control of the $1.6 million life-insurance-policy payout she’d left behind for their two kids, The Post has learned. Rod Covlin, 39, filed papers in Westchester County Surrogate’s Court in April seeking to be named guardian of the cashed-in Aetna policy that Shele Danishefsky Covlin, a money manager, had left for Anna and Myles. “I am Anna’s father,” an affidavit reads. “I have her best interests at heart, and I am in the best position to determine her current and future needs.” Read More: New York Post

Man posed as a cop during sexual assault

The New York Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying and locating the individuals wanted in connection with a sexual assault and robbery. On Sunday, November 20 at approximately 10:30 p.m., one female victim was posting flyers when she was approached on the street by a burgundy-colored van or SUV with four individuals inside. One suspect — described as a Hispanic male — displayed a business card with a police logo, then told the victim it was illegal to post flyers and asked for her identification, according to police. Read More: Queens Courier

End of an era: Flushing’s Palace Diner closing

The faithful frequenters of Flushing’s Palace Diner will have to find a new haunt once the local landmark serves its last meal after more than three decades in the neighborhood. The diner, which sits along the Long Island Expressway on the corner of Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway and has been a neighborhood mainstay for 35 years, will close its doors for good on Friday, December 30. “Friday is going to be another very emotional day,” said owner George Mantzikos. Read More: Queens Courier

Office Cleaners Rally In Midtown As Strike Threat Remains

Contract negotiations will continue Thursday to try to prevent a strike of more than 20,000 office cleaners in the city, but rallying service employees in Midtown and their supporters pledged on Wednesday to strike if an agreement is not reached by the time the old contract expires. The Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, which represents building management, and Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ failed to resolve their differences over wages and benefits in the Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday. Read More: NY1

New State Law To Ban Minors From Local Hookah Bars

Steinway Street between 25th and 28th Avenue in Astoria is Queens’ so-called “Hookah Strip,” where people go to smoke “shisha,” or flavored tobacco, through a water pipe known as hookah. The industry is not well-regulated and the businesses are exempt from the state’s ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, so the owners often create their own rules when it comes to minors. Many places do not allow them inside, but some do. That is about to change under a new state law banning minors from these mostly Middle Eastern establishments that have become popular with other Americans. Read More: NY1

Western Queens parents group: we’ve got two overcrowded schools that need additions built  

A western Queens parents group plans to push the city to build additions at two overcrowded elementary schools where the the lack of space is so severe that students are studying in hallways or in a leaky modular unit. Community Education Council District 30 will present its concerns about Public School 11, in Woodside, and PS 2, in Jackson Heights, to the city on January 6 in its annual recommendations to the School Construction Authority. Read More: Daily News

Astoria realtor to shave off his signature mustache to raise money for autism support group

A respected Queens community leader is attempting to turn the mustache he’s sported for the last 35 years into some cold hard cash for an autism organization. Astoria realtor Paul Halvatzis, 52, of Flushing, is to have his beloved whiskers shaved off on Friday at the Redken Saloon Salon in Astoria in an attempt to raise $35,000 for Quality Services for the Autism Community. The group provides support services to autistic individuals and their families in New York City and Long Island. Read More: Daily News

Counterfeit Cash Smuggler at JFK

A Colombian woman was busted at JFK with nearly $300,000 of counterfeit U.S. currency in her luggage, federal officials said yesterday. Karol Andrea Chilito Solarte, 29, who flew here from Medellin, was arrested on December 15 after Customs and Border Protection officers spotted an unusual thickness at the bottom of her suitcase, a spokesman for the agency said. The oddly shaped suitcase sparked the suspicions of Customs officers — and a closer examination uncovered 46 packages of phony $100 bills totaling almost $300,000, the spokesman said. Read More: New York Post

Teen’s Alleged Assaulter Pretended To Be A Police Officer


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Teen’s Alleged Assaulter Pretended To Be A Police Officer

Police were searching late Tuesday for a man who allegedly pretended to be a police officer and sexually assaulted a teenage boy he met in a subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn last week. Investigators say the man approached a 15-year-old boy at the 53rd Street and Fourth Avenue station around 9:30 a.m. Friday, after the teen threw an empty bag of potato chips on the ground. Authorities said the teen claimed the man displayed what looked like a police shield and told the boy to get into his white van. They say the suspect drove to 92nd Street and Dahlgren Place in Bay Ridge, where he sexually assaulted the boy. Read More: NY1

The mistakes that took 5 lives

Two fatal mistakes may have cost the lives of the three little girls and their grandparents who died Christmas morning when a century-old Victorian mansion went up in flames and turned into a death trap. Fire marshals in Stamford, Connecticut, said the owner’s boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcino, put still-smoldering embers from a yule log into some kind of a bag — and then left it leaning against an outside rear wall of the $1.7 million house. The marshals said the embers had not been doused with water. On the other side of the wall was a mud room. Read More: New York Post

Flushing neighborhood mourns closing of Palace Diner, a local mainstay since 1976

The Palace Diner, a Flushing mainstay that served as a cozy gathering place for local residents and politicians alike, is shutting its doors for good on Friday. “I’ve had a good run, it’s time,” said owner George Mantzikos. “I’ve been fortunate to have good customers and good employees.” The diner, known for its Greek specialties, fresh fish and chops, will be replaced by an “upscale Chinese restaurant,” he said. Read More: Daily News

Ozone Park unites for fallen officer Peter Figoski

In light of the fact that four of the five men nabbed as suspects in the tragic, shooting death of fallen officer Peter Figoski are from Ozone Park, elected officials and residents of the community banded together to raise money and spirits for Figoski’s family. “We wanted to do something in this community to show that those criminals are not a reflection of the people in this neighborhood. There are good, solid people in this community,” said Matt Turner of the Make a Difference Christmas Effort. The Make a Difference Christmas Effort — which hosted a benefit on December 22 at St. Mary Gate of Heaven School — raised $5,000 for the wife and four daughters Figoski leaves behind. Read More: Queens Courier

Rent-stabilized Jamaica tenants sue landlord;  they say he boosted rents to force  them out  

More than 40 longtime Jamaica tenants are suing their landlord for charging them large lump sums for building improvements they claim were never adequately made, in an effort to force them out of their homes. Residents of 90-36 149th Street, which is owned by Zara Realty Holding Corp., said their rent shot up thousands of dollars this year after the state approved a hike for rent-stabilized tenants. It was granted because Zara claimed to have installed a new roof and repaired the building’s brick exterior. But landlords are only allowed to raise rents 6 percent annually for rent-stabilized tenants, according to the tenants’ lawyers — not ask for one bulk payment. Read More: Daily News

Group wants to preserve ‘historic’ Elmhurst library

Over 106 years, some structures become staples of their communities. This is the sentiment one Elmhurst civic association has expressed regarding the neighborhood’s historic library, which is set to be torn down and replaced with a larger, more modern facility. Members of the Newtown Civic Association are puzzled by Queens Library’s decision to destroy the community “landmark,” which opened in 1906 and is one of the last remaining libraries built with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Read More: Queens Courier

Motorist dies of apparent suicide while driving on the Throgs Neck Bridge


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Motorist dies of apparent suicide while driving on the Throgs Neck Bridge

A 36-year-old man killed himself with a shot to the head while driving on the Throgs Neck Bridge on Monday night, police said. The man was heading northbound from Queens toward the Bronx in a 1999 Chevy Silverado when he took his own life just before he arrived at the tollbooth, cops said. After the driver pulled the trigger at 7:11 p.m., police said, the man’s silver pickup truck slammed into another car and then careened into a tollbooth entrance. Read More: Daily News

‘Junk-justice radar’ on high alert in Queens district attorney’s office conviction of Tejpal Singh

This is last week and two court officers lead convicted murderer Tejpal Singh into the Queens courtroom of the Honorable Michael B. Aloise, a courtroom jammed with Sikh men in turbans. They uncuff him at the defense table. Aloise oddly stands through loud arguments from high-powered defense attorney Stephen G. Murphy, who charges that in Singh’s case, the Queens district attorney’s office has convicted yet another in a parade of innocent people. Read More: Daily News

Sex suspect takes plunge

A depraved sicko nearly plunged to his death from a fourth-floor window after sexually attacking a young woman in her Queens apartment building, police sources said yesterday. Gustavo Avila, 20, was listed in critical condition at Elmhurst Hospital following Wednesday’s incident on 83rd Street in Jackson Heights, sources said. Read More: New York Post

Long Island man arrested in killing of young mom and her 2-year-old son

A Long Island man has been arrested for killing his one-time love interest and her 2-year-old son, whose little body was found in a freezer, police said. Jerry Lewis, 24, repeatedly stabbed Shakeela Planter, 21, on the morning of December 18 inside the North Bay Shore apartment they had been sharing, police said. Lewis did not spare Planter’s son, Jaiden Planter, police said. He beat the toddler, stuffed his body into a plastic bag and stashed him in his mother’s freezer, police said. Read More: Daily News

Miracle survivors

A Queens family of six driving upstate for the holidays “miraculously” survived a frightening accident that sent their SUV tumbling off the highway and launched the youngest of the clan out of the car. Although his entire family was hospitalized after the early-morning wreck yesterday near the town of Bethlehem, 42-year-old dad Eli Rowe sounded grateful that things didn’t turn out worse. He said their 2010 Mercedes veered off the rain-soaked New York Thruway and flipped over multiple times as they were headed from Flushing to Lake George for a family getaway. Read More: New York Post

Shoppers take it all back

With Christmas finally over, throngs of sale-crazy shoppers flocked to stores across New York yesterday in hopes of correcting Kris Kringle’s little mistakes and ringing in 2012 with huge savings. “It’s crazy how chaotic it is,” said Alex, a 27-year-old college student who was exchanging a $230 sweater for a $200 button-down shirt at Saks Fifth Avenue. He declined to give his last name in an apparent bid to spare the gift giver’s feelings. The Saks sale — in which many posh items at the high-end store were slashed up to 70 percent — led to “lots of pushing and shoving,” said one witness. Read More: New York Post

‘Double-dater’ teacher

Gerard Cassidy, a physical-education instructor at a Queens middle school, was caught in a love triangle and fired for having an “inappropriate relationship” with an ex-student — while dating her mom, The Post has learned. Cassidy, 44, who taught at MS 137 America’s School of Heroes in Ozone Park, lost a fight for his $83,600-a-year job even though the 16-year-old student recanted her claim that she had sex with the teacher, according to city Department of Education documents and court records. The age of consent in New York is 17. Cassidy denied any wrongdoing. Read More: New York Post

Comptroller: Last Year’s Christmas Blizzard Cost City About $2M In Settlements

The city is still paying the price for its sluggish response to the major blizzard from exactly one year ago, in the form of liability claims. The City Comptroller’s office says it has paid out nearly $2 million in liability claims so far, and there may be more to come. The biggest settlement so far was $150,000 for a man who fell in an icy parking lot that was not shoveled properly by the city. Another $100,000 thousand went to a Brooklyn cemetery where headstones were damaged by a falling fence after snow had been dumped against it. Read More: NY1

Felonies Sharply Increase This Year In The Rockaways

Even as police report that crime rates remain mostly flat around the city, statistics show felonies have spiked in parts of the Rockaways section of Queens. Burglaries in the 100th precinct, covering Broad Channel, Breezy Point and Belle Harbor, are up 144 percent this year. Felony assaults have jumped 66 percent, robberies are up 31 percent and grand larcenies 26 percent over last year. Residents in Belle Harbor who spoke with NY1 said they are aware of the increased crime in the area, but generally still feel safe. Read More: NY1

Elmhurst Fire Sends Two To The Hospital

Investigators say two people were hurt when a fire broke out inside the Martinique Plaza residential complex in Elmhurst on Sunday morning. The two victims were taken to Elmhurst Hospital, and two others with minor injuries were evaluated at the scene. The fire started on the second floor of the building, but firefighters put it out before it spread to other floors. Read More: NY1

Radio’s Lynn Samuels dies at 69

Lynn Samuels, longtime doyenne of New York’s talk-radio airwaves, died of a heart attack over the weekend. She was 69. An unabashed liberal, Samuels mixed searing political commentary with humor, sarcasm and at times profane observations about living in the Big Apple, attracting a loyal following over more than three decades on the air. Broadcast on SiriusXM satellite radio from her Woodside apartment, her distinctive voice — raspy with elongated vowels — instantly established her as a native New Yorker. Read More: New York Post

Liu in FBI cross hairs


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

Liu in FBI cross hairs

A federal probe into the campaign fund-raising operations for city Comptroller John Liu is now focused on the candidate himself, The Post has learned. “If campaign-finance rules are being circumvented or violated, there’s certainly a question whether the candidate himself knew about it or was a party to it,” one law-enforcement source said. “Did [Liu] know, and what was his role?” The FBI last month charged Liu moneyman Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan with steering $16,000 to Liu’s campaign through “straw donors” to hide massive contributions made on behalf of an out-of-state businessman who actually was an undercover federal agent. Read More: New York Post

New York bars ready for Jets-Giants game

It’s on! Football fans will pack bars around the city to watch the Jets-Giants battle at the Meadowlands tomorrow — and the watering holes are breaking out all the bells and whistles for the pre-Christmas crowds. Special drinks, free booze and lavish spreads will be at the ready for the throngs expected to take a break from their holiday shopping to root for their teams. Read More: New York Post

Santa brings early holiday joy to kids at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children 

Santa made an early visit to the kids at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside last week with the help of New York’s Bravest. Firefighters from Engine 320/Ladder 167 used their rig to help Santa descend from the roof and visit with dozens of children who are battling serious illnesses. Continuing a tradition started over 15 years ago, the firefighters also brought a van-load of gifts that ranged from toys and dolls to cameras, radios and electronic games. Read More: Daily News

2011 Crime Statistics Show Slight Decrease In Murders

The New York City Police Department’s data show major crimes like murder, rape, and robbery are up by .2 percent through December 18 this year compared to the same period last year. There have been 519 murders this year through December 18, a drop of 5.6 percent compared to almost the same time period last year. The Bronx was the only borough to see a slight increase in murders. Read More: NY1

Police Seek Suspect Who Allegedly Robbed Queens Livery Driver

Police need help finding the person who they say robbed a livery cab driver Saturday morning near 93rd Avenue and 112th Street in Richmond Hill, Queens. They say the man seen in the above photographs placed the 59-year-old cab driver in a headlock, causing the victim to crash into a fence. Investigators say he then stole money from the victim’s bag and ran off. He is described as approximately 25-years-old, 5-feet-7-inches tall, and 170 pounds. Read More: NY1

Queens killer who tore out woman’s heart and lungs gets sentenced up to 29 years


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens killer who tore out woman’s heart and lungs gets sentenced up to 29 years

A depraved killer who beat and choked a Queens woman to death before carving out her heart and lungs was sentenced to up to 29 years in prison Wednesday. Huang Chen, dressed in a lime-green jail jumpsuit, turned down Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter when asked if he had anything to say. Buchter wasn’t as reticent.The judge faulted the justice system for failing to protect Qian Wu, 46, after she took out six restraining orders against Chen, following repeated episodes of harassment. Read More: Daily News

Safe Space in Jamaica to expand services for LGBT youth in southeast Queens

A safe haven for hundreds of lesbian and gay youth in Queens will reach more students thanks to a new grant. Safe Space NYC, a nonprofit group that works with southeast Queens youth, is adding two new full-time staff members and expanding its clinical services for LGBT youth with support from a one-year grant of $120,000. “LGBT young people are in this community and they need community support,” said Cassie Aguilera, an outreach coordinator for Safe Space. “They come here because they feel they can be themselves.” The financial boost comes from the New York Community Trust, which has helped fund the Safe Space for decades. The grant supports a new youth specialist and a new social worker. Read More: Daily News

Suspects sought for a dozen robberies in Long Island City

Police are seeking a man and woman wanted in connection with 12 robberies — 11 of which have occurred over the past month. Most of the incidents have occurred between the morning and evening — during school and work hours — with the thieves entering through a window or door. Read More: Queens Courier

Hail, yea! Pols reach deal to bring street hails to outer boroughs

After months of negotiations and gridlock, the street hail bill finally received the green light. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday, December 20 an agreement had been reached to bring street hails to all five boroughs. The deal came just one day before the Wednesday, December 21 deadline. Read More: Queens Courier

NY man charged with attempted murder of NYPD cops

A New York City man suspected of firing at two police officers while wearing a disguise has been charged with attempted murder. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says 53-year-old Antonio Olmeda opened fire on two patrolmen as they tried to question him on December 2. They were uninjured. Prosecutors say Olmeda was wearing a trench coat, fedora, fake beard and glasses at the time. He refused to take his hands out of his pockets when asked by officers, and instead pulled out a gun and fired twice. He fled, shedding his disguise. Read More: Wall Street Journal

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s wife gives birth to baby boy

After a year filled with ridicule and scandal, disgraced former Congressmember Anthony Weiner finally has something he can feel proud about — a new baby boy. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, gave birth to the wee Democrat yesterday, 10 days before the New Year’s Eve due date, The Post has learned. Jordan Zane Weiner checked in at just over 7 pounds, a source said. The Post first reported in September that the couple was having a boy, months after Weiner’s political career crashed and burned in an embarrassing sexting scandal that forced him to resign from Congress. Read More: New York Post

Korean NYers Say Leader’s Death Presents New Worries, Hope

As news of Kim Jong Il’s death continues to spread, all eyes in New York’s Korean-American community are fixed on the peninsula. Read More & Watch the Video: NY1

Heroes back in New York City

They’ve traded Baghdad for Bayside. A cheery and teary group of reserve soldiers finally made it back to New York yesterday, ending their service in Iraq safe and sound. “I’ve been away for almost a year, and I’m so excited to be back with my family for Christmas and New Year’s,” said Sgt. Waseefa Baksh, 22, of Queens. “We were in Bahgdad for 11 months,” said Baksh, as she and other members of the 316th Sustainment Command were discharged at Fort Totten in Bayside. Read More: New York Post

Slay-suicide horror in Maspeth


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Slay-suicide horror in Maspeth

A woman died yesterday after her boyfriend slashed her throat in their Maspeth apartment, stabbed her stepson, then jumped in front of an LIRR train, authorities said. Maureen Biermann, 43, died at Wyckoff Heights Hospital. Her attacker, James Peck, 33, died on the tracks. Biermann’s stepson, 22, was in stable condition. Read More: Daily News

No deals for cop ‘killers

Brooklyn’s top prosecutor yesterday said he won’t even think about cutting plea deals with the five thugs accused of murdering cop Peter Figoski. “There will be a trial,” District Attorney Charles Hynes vowed. “We want the public to understand that the murder of a police officer is as serious as any crime we’ve ever had. In cases like this, there’s no indication of a plea deal — ever.” Read More: New York Post

Queens pair sentenced in Virginia for bank fraud

Two New York residents have been sentenced in Virginia for their roles in a scheme to fraudulently tap into home equity lines of credit and credit card accounts. U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride says 41-year old Joan Marsh of Queens was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison. Thirty-year-old Ayodele Adewale Onasanya of Queens was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison. A federal jury convicted Marsh in September on a dozen conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering counts. Onasanya pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.  Read More: Wall Street Journal

A mission born from a cause

Fifteen-year-old Carly Rose Nieves is turning ordinary people into heroes, one pint of blood at a time. For the second year in a row, the Middle Village teen — and her team of family members and friends — organized a blood drive and bone marrow registry at Christ the King (CTK) Regional High School. The December 17 event brought in 75 pints of blood and 10 new bone marrow donors for the New York Blood Center. Read More: Queens Courier

After Resigning, Tearful Senator Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes

In the annals of municipal corruption in New York City, the themes of graft, greed and betrayal have been familiar running mates from one century to the next, accompanying the fall of the Tammany boss William Tweed in the 1870s, the resignation of the popular mayor James J. Walker in 1932, and the bribes, appetites and suicide of Donald R. Manes, a former Queens borough president, in 1986. But the denouement of the political career of State Senator Carl Kruger, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges on Tuesday, goes beyond that story line, encompassing tales of romance and perhaps even sacrifice, and laying bare one of the more bizarre domestic tableaux — even by New York standards — ever uncovered by F.B.I. wiretaps. Read More: New York Times

Aqueduct racino construction workers exposed to hazards including lead, feds say

Construction workers toiled virtually around the clock to get Queens’ glitzy gaming hub operational, but federal officials are now charging that contractors cut corners when it came to safety. Five companies skirted regulations during construction of the Aqueduct racino this summer and exposed employees to hazardous conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday. Read More: Daily News

Five Remaining MLB Free Agents Who Can Help the New York Mets: Fan’s Take

The New York Mets need all the help they can get. Unfortunately, they aren’t willing to pay much to get it. All indications are that the financially-challenged Mets will stay away from free agent solutions for 2012 as they look to cut payroll. However, these five overlooked free agents may come at a discount, tempting Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to give them a call. It may be worth it. Read More: Yahoo Sports

Deal Struck to Broaden Taxi Service in the City

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo struck a deal with the Bloomberg administration on Tuesday that would expand taxi service in New York by allowing livery cabs to be hailed on the street in parts of the city traditionally underserved by yellow cabs. The agreement, which Cuomo is poised to sign into law on Wednesday and which ends months of fractious negotiations, would also create 2,000 more wheelchair-accessible yellow cabs. The auction of those medallions is expected to raise at least $1 billion for the city. Read More: New York Times

Man shot in Queens while sitting in car, then drives it into house in Jamaica


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Man shot in Queens while sitting in car, then drives it into house in Jamaica 

A 50-year-old man was shot while he was sitting in his car Monday and then drove it into a Queens house three blocks away, cops said. The man, whose name was not released, was in the driver’s seat of a Nissan Altima at 172nd St. and Hillside Ave. when he was blasted in the groin around 5:40 p.m., police and fire officials said. He then started driving and slammed the sedan into a house on a residential Jamaica street at the corner of 171st St. and 89th Ave. Read More: Daily News

 

Arrest made in attempted shooting of officers

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the arrest of Antonio Olmeda, age 53 of  Manhattan, in the attempted shooting of two New York City police officers on December 2nd in Jackson Heights, Queens. “Our officers miraculously escaped injury when their assailant fired at extremely close range, narrowly missing them,” Commissioner Kelly said. “Olmeda’s arrest was bittersweet in that it came this morning as the family of Police Officer Peter Figoski prepared for his funeral.” Read More: Queens Courier

 

Suspect cleared amid cop’s lie

A Queens man was acquitted of gun charges yesterday — after prosecutors admitted they withheld evidence involving phony police testimony. Prosecutors told jurors that Deon Davis, 21, placed a loaded weapon on the ground in front of a cop, then escaped by squeezing through a fence, only to be nabbed a few blocks away. They didn’t say arresting Officer Ronald Martiny had admitted to the prosecution that his description of the alleged escape wasn’t true, that there was no fence. Not only did prosecutors fail to mention the “mistake” to the defense, but when Martiny took the stand, he repeated the lie. Read More: New York Post
Trash Can Tickets In Queens

A Queens man is very upset after trying to put his trash out for collection and ending up with a ticket. He, and others, are getting snared in an enforcement of a law that few people even know exists. The scrooge award goes to the New York City Sanitation Department for the $100 tickets. Read More: Fox News

Smart Move: Cornell University coming to Roosevelt Island

Just days after the upstate Ivy League school received a $350 million gift from an anonymous donor, Cornell University was selected as the winning bid to bring an applied science school to the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cornell University President David Skorton and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology President Peretz Lavie announced a partnership on Monday, December 19 to build a two-million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island as part of the Applied Sciences NYC initiative. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Francisco Signs Amazin’ $12 Million Deal

Pitching reliever Frank Francisco has signed a $12 million, two-year deal to play with the New York Mets. Francisco played 54 games with the Toronto Blue Jays last season with 17 saves on the mound. The 32-year-old right-hander has 368 strikeouts in his seven year career with Toronto and Texas. Read More: NY1

Queens Community Board Renews Push For High Line-Style Park

An effort is now under way to bring a park similar to Manhattan’s High Line to a stretch of the old Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. Read More: NY1

Queens judge’s landmark decision in Howard Beach case still reverberates today

Critics said this Queens judge was setting the Constitution back 200 years. One lawyer wondered if an infamous Nazi war criminal was on trial whether Jews would be allowed to sit in judgment. “If you were Adolf Eichmann, would you want a Jew on the jury?” lawyer Ronald Rubinstein observed. Little did they know that Justice Thomas Demakos — by insuring black participation on the Howard Beach jury — had a clear view of the future. Read More: Daily News

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13

Prosecutors say a New York City public school teacher is being charged with rape for a sexual relationship with a student that began when she was just 13. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says 44-year-old Charles Oross engaged in a sexual relationship with the teen from January 2009 to April 2010. The district attorney said the encounters happened at the school, Intermediate School 238 in Queens, and in Oross’ car. Oross, of East Islip, N.Y., was awaiting arraignment Thursday. No information about an attorney was immediately available. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Tea Party big Mark Meckler pinched for gun possession at LaGuardia Airport Thursday 

A co-founder of an influential Tea Party group was arrested at LaGuardia Airport Thursday for illegally trying to bring a pistol and ammunition aboard a plane, authorities said. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots had a Glock 27 pistol and 19 bullets in a locked gun box — but he didn’t have a New York State permit for the firepower, which he told authorities he needs because he gets threats. Meckler, 49, handed the gun box to a Delta Airlines ticket agent around 5 a.m. Thursday, Queens prosecutors said. It was discovered during a pre-flight check. Read More: Daily News

 

NYPD cadet arrested for allegedly stealing this mother’s credit card in a $13 million ID theft ring in Queens 

An NYPD cadet was arrested Wednesday for stealing his mother’s credit card as part of a $13 million identity theft ring, authorities said. Raymond Gumti, 23, is accused of taking his mom’s TD Bank card and PIN numbers and using them to create a counterfeit credit card. He put the phony card in the name of another defendant who was indicted as a shopper in the scheme and racked up nearly $13,000 in unauthorized charges at stores like Apple, Louis Vuitton and Bloomingdales, a spokesman for the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office said. Read More: Daily News

 

Santa was really a Rotarian

Santa Claus rang his sleigh bells loudly as he combed the halls of the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) Children’s Center. Followed closely by Frosty the Snowman, the pair peeked inside various rooms, searching for children. Toys in hand, they entered one at the end of the hallway — to an eruption of delighted squeals. Read More: Queens Courier

 

More Liu Donors Said to Be Examined in Fund-Raising Inquiry

The federal inquiry into the campaign finances of New York City’s comptroller, John C. Liu, a possible mayoral candidate in 2013, appears to be widening, with people knowledgeable about the matter saying Thursday that there has been an increased focus on seeking information from his supporters in the Chinese-American business community. In recent weeks, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have delivered subpoenas seeking a broad range of records and other information to a growing circle of Mr. Liu’s more generous donors, said the people knowledgeable about the matter, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. Read More: New York Times

 

Councilman Van Bramer Volunteers At LIC Food Pantry

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and his constituents reached out to help the St. Raphael’s Parish food pantry Thursday. Read More: NY1

 

Cop-slay judge bails

The Brooklyn judge who unleashed a violent ex-con weeks before he allegedly killed a cop was a no-show at work yesterday — the day after Mayor Bloomberg ripped into her for a bail bungle. Judge Evelyn Laporte was nowhere to be seen in Brooklyn Criminal Court as several City Council members denounced her ill-fated decision to spring Lamont Pride without bail after his arrest last month on drug charges. There was a warrant for his arrest in North Carolina for an August shooting when he was busted on Nov.3 in New York for crack and pot possession — but Laporte ignored prosecutors’ pleas for $2,500 bail. Pride, 27, is accused of gunning down Officer Peter Figoski during a Brooklyn home invasion on Monday. Read More: New York Post

 

Kid shoots off finger

The 11-year-old son of a Staten Island school teacher shot off a portion of his finger yesterday while playing with his father’s illegal gun, police said. The West Brighton youth was home alone with his 8-year-old brother in the basement of their single- family home when the gun went off at 2:40 p.m., according to law-enforcement sources. Michael Bilotto, a Department of Environmental Protection construction worker, was taken into custody for possession of an unlicensed handgun, police said. Read More: New York Post

 

Cop slay getaway driver’s lame defense: I drove thugs in exchange for gas money

The getaway driver charged with four others in the slaying of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski admits he knew the accused triggerman was carrying a gun before the botched robbery that led to the Brooklyn cop’s murder. In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Michael Velez, 21, said he looked over to Lamont Pride, who was sitting in the passenger seat and saw the weapon. Velez said he was stunned — and even more so when Pride, 27, put his finger on the trigger of 9-mm. Ruger. Read More: Daily News

 

Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction upheld on appeal 

A state appeals court on Thursday upheld disgraced lawmaker Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction for roughing up his girlfriend in the lobby of his Queens apartment building three years ago. The four-judge panel dismissed the former Queens pol’s claim that prosecutors failed to prove a key element of the assault charge — that girlfriend Karla Giraldo endured “substantial pain” from a physical attack. Read More: Daily News

War in Iraq officially over


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

War in Iraq officially over

After nearly nine years, 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than $800 billion, U.S. officials formally shut down the war in Iraq — a conflict that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said was worth the price in blood and money, as it set Iraq on a path to democracy. Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America’s war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world. Read More: Daily News

Figoski helped Brooklyn teen turn life around

Slain cop Peter Figoski had four daughters of his own and could not stand to see a young woman about their age take the wrong path. That woman, now 21, credits him with turning her life around. Velina Chaunce met Figoski when her mother, in desperation, called the 75th Precinct in gritty East New York to report her then-teenage daughter was acting out. Read More: New York Post

Scandals taking poll toll on Liu

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu is turning into a real Liu-ser with voters. A poll out today shows that Liu’s popularity has plummeted — following a torrent of negative publicity centering on a federal probe of his fund-raising operations and other shenanigans. Only 38 percent of voters now approve of the job Liu is doing, with 35 percent disapproving, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. His approval rating is down drastically from a Quinnipiac poll in May, when 57 percent approved of his job performance and 14 percent disapproved. Read More: New York Post

Uniting to help Woodside fire victims

The Woodside community has united to extinguish the needs of the 24 people whose lives were recently devastated by a fatal fire. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined Pastor Daniel Gilland, representatives from the American Red Cross and members of the families displaced by the two-alarm blaze — which spawned in and destroyed the two-story house located at 40-38 61st Street before spreading and causing severe damage to two neighboring homes — to announce a benefit drive organized in support of the victims. Read More: Queens Courier

On Queens Block, Losing a Link to Louis Armstrong

Selma Heraldo lived the entirety of her 88 years in a white, two-story house on 107th Street in Corona, Queens, and her life may have been very different had she not gained new next-door neighbors in 1943 — Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille. Heraldo quickly became known as Louis Armstrong’s next-door neighbor, a good friend to the jazz great. After Armstrong died in 1971 and Lucille Armstrong died in 1983, and their house was transformed into the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Heraldo became the main local living link to the couple. But now that link is gone. Heraldo died on December 2 in her house, where she had lived alone for many years. Read More: New York Times

New York Community Trust grant helps find jobs for Far Rockaway residents

At least 60 Far Rockaway residents will land jobs throughout the city in 2012 thanks to a new grant aimed at giving a boost to the isolated neighborhood in southeast Queens. The New York Community Trust awarded a $40,000 grant this month to Ocean Bay Community Development Corp., a local group that partners with public housing residents in Far Rockaway with job initiatives. Read More: Daily News

Jet ‘drug’ rage

The cowardly thug busted for sucker-punching Jet fan James Mohr outside MetLife Stadium Sunday is a drug-dealing ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet, public records show. Merle Lee, 35, of Newton, NJ, was charged with aggravated assault for the attack outside the New Jersey Meadowlands stadium after the Jets’ 37-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. The brute allegedly sucker-punched Mohr, 23, after the Queens schoolteacher objected to a woman screaming, “F–k New York!” and, “You all deserved what happened on 9/11!” Read More: New York Post

Malcolm X’s daughter locked up after she fails to pay Queens woman she swindled 

Malcolm X’s youngest daughter has been jailed for failing to make good on a promise to pay back the $55,000 she swindled from an elderly Queens woman. A Queens judge ordered Malikah Shabazz held Tuesday night after probation officials said she’d failed to make any of the monthly $1,229 restitution payments she agreed to as part of a plea deal. Shabazz ignored a judge’s order requiring her to live in New York while she serves out a five-year probation, court officials say. They say she’s apparently been living in St. Albans, Vt., above a bar that she’s looking to buy. She had $800 in her pocket when she was busted for the probation violation, a court official said. Read More: Daily News