Tag Archives: queens village

Students, lawmakers rally against Martin Van Buren High School co-location


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Queens lawmakers and dozens of students carrying picket signs rallied last week against the city’s plans to put another school inside the storied yet struggling Martin Van Buren High School.

“We’ve been fighting so hard,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but in the dead of night, in secret, they put a colocation in the school.”

The city’s Department of Education (DOE) has proposed adding a new early college within the Queens Village school to serve grades nine to 14.

Education officials said the Early College and Career Technical Education High School would give students a chance to get a free associate’s degree while in high school.

It would focus on computer science and business technology and give students “real-world work experience” through internships and focus on career readiness, the DOE said.

But students are unwilling to share the already congested 230-17 Hillside Avenue building.

“It’s already crowded as it is,” said Gaitree Boojraj, 16, the school’s junior president. “We don’t need more people in this school.”

The new school would also undo progress Van Buren has made since Principal Sam Sochet took over last June, said Queens legislators, who held another rally in July.

“[Sochet’s] been turning the school around,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “The students are getting the type of education they need. Then, we get a knife in the back. We’re not accepting this. We are not going to let this happen. We’re going to fight until the bitter end.”

Van Buren has improved a full letter grade from a “D” to a “C” under its new leadership, the latest city progress report shows.

“It’s not about one person. It’s about an entire community,” said James Vasquez, the UFT district representative for Queens high schools.

But the community seems to be split.

Leaders from nine of the largest civic associations in eastern Queens, representing thousands zoned to Van Buren, said they supported co-location plans that would “fast track” positive changes.

The early college would “be the catalyst needed” to restore Van Buren’s prior high academic standards, said Mike Castellano, president of Lost Community Civic Association.

More than a decade of decline, the group said, is too much for one principal to quickly fix.

The school would also give its graduating students two years of tuition-free education at Queensborough Community College, the civic leaders said.

“This is a win-win for students, parents and the community, and a huge attraction that will finally begin to raise the four percent local community participation rate,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village. “This is a blueprint for success.”

The city will hold a public hearing Wednesday to discuss the plans at the school at 6 p.m.

 

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Queens Village resident goes from overweight to marathon man


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Joseph Gordon

Flipping through Facebook pictures one day in January 2011, Queens Village resident Joseph Gordon realized he was gaining too much weight.

He had just started a job as an accountant after college and attributed his weight gain to lack of exercise and sitting at his desk “all day.” So that same day, he decided to start working out and joined a local Bally Total Fitness.

Gordon is 6’2” and was 345 pounds then. Now he’s 255 pounds and gearing up to compete in his first ING New York City Marathon next month.

“A lot of feelings are overwhelming me,” Gordon said. “But I’m just trying to keep my eyes on the prize.”

The prize is completing a grueling 26.2-mile route that travels around the five boroughs and ends in Manhattan, which a few years ago would have seemed impossible for Gordon.

When he started exercising, he had lighter workouts and started to change his diet. He began running at a friend’s suggestion and eventually entered a race. Gordon fell in love with the racing atmosphere and continued to enter and compete in various racing levels.

“My whole perception of running changed from those couple of months,” Gordon said.

To train for the marathon, Gordon started running 25 miles a week since July. He gradually increased his pace until it peaked at 40 miles a week.

Gordon adjusted his diet as well. He eats five meals a day, mixing in two small meals with traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner. His meals are filled with lots of protein, fruits and vegetables.

Gordon posts pictures of his meals and workouts on his Instagram account, @senor_gohard, to more than 2,000 followers.

Some followers who have noticed him at races told Gordon that his training has inspired them.

“It’s really interesting to hear, ‘You’ve motivated me to do this,’” Gordon said. “It makes you feel like what you say or don’t say could affect someone. It motivates me.”

The furthest distance Gordon has ever run was 19 miles, a remarkable achievement, but a far cry from completing the city marathon. But no matter what, he’s determined to finish it, much like how he was determined to lose weight.

“Even if I can’t run the whole thing, I want to be able to finish,” Gordon said. “Even if it takes five or six hours.”

 

UPDATE: Gordon completed the marathon with a time of 4 hours and 36 minutes. 

 

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Star of Queens: Alberta Crowley, volunteer, Bricktown Community Garden


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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COMMUNITY SERVICE: The Community Garden on 106th Avenue and 173rd Street in southeast Queens has become a second home to Alberta Crowley for the past five years. Crowley, 70, volunteers at the garden, planting any and every kind of vegetable. She additionally works with a group of developmentally disabled individuals, helping them harvest their own creations.

Crowley said many of her participants cannot use their hands properly, so she handles plants for them.

“They really enjoy it,” she said.

She additionally works with seniors and is working on making the garden wheelchair-friendly to minimize any difficulty for those with decreased mobility.

Crowley is the only consistent volunteer the garden has seen, she said.

“Basically, I’m doing this by myself. Every now and then I get someone else to come out and work, but it’s a big harvest,” she said.

Five days a week, Crowley travels via two buses to the garden and does weeding, digging and planting.

BACKGROUND: The Queens Village resident has lived in the borough for roughly 50 years. When she was 15 years old, she came to New York from Mississippi by herself and worked various odd jobs, including one in electronics and another at a zipper factory.

Her love for gardening began at the age of six when her mother told her, “Whatever you’re going to eat, you have to work for it.”

With that, Crowley began to grow her favorites, such as turnip greens.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Crowley’s favorite memories of the garden are from when she first started years ago. She said she started late in the season and didn’t have any vegetables to plant. So she got resourceful, and dried out beans and okra from her own cabinet.

She also enjoyed working with the disabled, and said they love coming to the garden.

“It’s a challenge, but I know they appreciate it,” she said. “They look forward to harvesting.”

Crowley collects everything her participants grow, stores it and every Thanksgiving uses it to prepare a meal for them.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The 70-year-old admitted her biggest challenge is getting people to volunteer to help out at the garden.

“People come, and they see how hard the work is, then they don’t want to come back,” she said. “So that leaves me to do it.”

INSPIRATION: “It’s very inspiring to use your hands,” she said. “It’s very pleasant in the garden. It’s pleasant to work there,” Crowley said.

Aside from her love of gardening and being outside, Crowley said her volunteer work is also great exercise.

 

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Man shot to death in Queens Village


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A 22-year-old was fatally shot in Queens Village early Saturday morning, police said.

Cops found the victim unconscious and unresponsive with a gunshot wound to the upper back around 3 a.m. at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 217th Street

He was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing.

 

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Police looking into possible link between Woodhaven stabbing of teen and earlier attack


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

The NYPD is looking into a possible connection between stabbings in south Queens, after two women were slashed within a month.

“We’re seeing if there is a pattern here,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, according to reports.

Natasha Martinez, 17, was attacked and stabbed from behind nearly a dozen times when she was returning to her Woodhaven home from work on July 29. Kerline Denizard, 36, was seriously wounded when a vicious attacker cut her neck and torso with a knife in Queens Village on June 25, according to police. Both women survived the attacks.

No suspects have been identified or arrests made in either case.

The suspects in both attacks were described as a black male.

A witness described Martinez’s perpetrator as a black male, approximately five feet six inches tall and 150 pounds, wearing a white hoodie and dark jeans. The NYPD released a video showing the suspect that stabbed Martinez.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Queens Village man pleads guilty to sex trafficking of teen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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A Queens Village man has pleaded guilty to forcing a 15-year-old girl to be his sex slave, the district attorney’s office said.

Christopher Whitfield, 25, raped the teen twice and made her have sex with strangers for cash he pocketed, authorities said. The girl had run away from home when Whitfield found her last March.

“His guilty plea not only ensures that he is held accountable for his actions and allows the troubled young victim in the case to move on with her life,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown, “but sends a clear message that crimes such as these will not be tolerated in Queens County.”

Many men answered Whitfield’s prostitution ads online between March 2012 and April 2012, the district attorney said. The teen met them on a daily basis at hotels and other locations in Queens.

Whitfield beat and burned her several times on her breast, wrist and leg with cigarettes and a heated razor when she asked to stop, Brown said.

She eventually escaped when she was left alone.

Whitfield was arrested last April. He pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking and expects to be sentenced to three to nine years in prison, authorities said.

Brown said his office has convicted 12 people on sex trafficking charges so far.

 

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Martin Van Buren to get $4M in School Improvement Grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A struggling Queens Village school will get more than $4 million in federal funds to bounce back this fall.

Martin Van Buren High School and 21 others in the city were awarded $74.2 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to be used over three years, State Education Commissioner John King Jr. announced Friday.

The state’s education department doled out a total of $126 million to 34 low-performing schools throughout New York this year. It was the second round of funding in 2013, though no Queens school was awarded earlier, officials said.

The dollars will go toward implementing “intervention models” in the failing schools, education officials said.

“Many English language learners, students with disabilities and low-income students are in schools that need to change,” King said. “SIG grants can help give those students the opportunity to attend schools that are changing what’s happening in the classroom.”

Van Buren received a C in the city Department of Education’s (DOE) most recent progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests, coursework and student attendance.

Elected officials said morale and grades have been improving under the school’s new principal, Sam Sochet, since he took over last June.

The school was also acknowledged as “developing” during last year’s DOE evaluation, a step above the failing grade “underdeveloped.”

“Our strategy has always been to take action rather than sit idly by,” said city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, “and today’s awards validate our work. [The grants] will support students at schools that are phasing out, provide resources to bolster interventions in schools that are struggling, and help new schools deliver great outcomes.”

Under the designated “transformation model,” Van Buren would have been forced to replace its principal, the state education department said. But since Sochet is new to the helm, that requirement is already satisfied, a city spokesperson said.

However, Van Buren educators, under another condition, will have to follow the state’s approved Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans.

“Martin Van Buren High School has made huge strides over the year,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “This money will go a long way to help put the school in better shape than we are already.”

The DOE recently proposed adding another school inside Van Buren next year, in a move known as co-location, despite protests from Queens lawmakers. They say the move would eliminate 500 existing seats.

“Hopefully, the DOE will realize we can do wonderful things at Martin Van Buren and not worry about co-locating schools in the building,” Weprin said. “It’s already on the way back.”

 

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Martin Van Buren High School co-location met with protest


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city’s plans to add another school within a struggling Queens Village institution is a “knife in the back” to the community, elected officials said.

“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time, in the wrong place, at the wrong school,” said Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Department of Education (DOE) has proposed adding a small district high school inside Martin Van Buren High School.

The two schools would share the 230-17 Hillside Avenue building — including its gym, cafeteria and auditorium — in a move increasingly known as co-location.

“We’ve been nationally recognized for our visionary new school models, and this new option replicates those that are in extraordinarily high demand across the city,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

“This new school will deliver great outcomes for neighborhood students,” Puglia added. “Parents in this community are clamoring for, and will continue to demand, more high quality options, and we’re going to keep delivering them.”

Queens lawmakers say the new school would eliminate 500 existing seats at Van Buren. They were told the DOE is shooting for a 2014 opening, though the city would have to hold a public hearing beforehand.

“Reducing the seats at Martin Van Buren High School is a slap in the face to our community, which has fought to turn around the school,” said Assemblymember David Weprin. “Now is not the time for the outgoing administration to make this kind of destructive decision.”

Van Buren received a C in the DOE’s most recent progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests, coursework and student attendance. The school improved a full letter grade from the year before.

There is also a new principal, Sam Sochet, who replaced Marilyn Shevell last June. Elected officials said morale and grades have been improving under Sochet.

The school was also acknowledged as “developing” during last year’s DOE evaluation, a step above the failing grade “underdeveloped.”

“What the DOE is proposing could undo all of the progress the administration and teachers have made so far,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “Creating a new school will cost millions and may threaten the revitalization of our neighborhood school.”

The councilmember said the community was kept out of the loop during the DOE’s “whisper campaign” to co-locate the school. He said he caught wind of the plans in June.

“In the middle of the night, we get a call saying the DOE is looking to co-locate another school within this building, after all the effort that has been put in to try to fix this school,” he said.

Washington Sanchez, a representative for the United Federation of Teachers, called the move a “sneak co-location.”

“They just want to do it in the heat of the summer, behind closed doors,” he said.

State Senator Tony Avella said the school was on the right track in October 2011 when Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott “did a tour of the school and made all sorts of promises to turn this thing around.”

“Now all of a sudden we get the knife in the back, and that’s what this is,” Avella said. “They’re stabbing us in the back.”

The city’s educational impact statement of the new school is expected to be released late August. Public hearings are likely to be scheduled soon after.

Nearly 3,000 students from ninth to twelfth grade attend Van Buren.

“Changing the school is a big mistake,” said rising senior Harsimranjeet Singh. “There have been a lot of new programs. Grades are going higher now. Progress will decline.”

 

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Have a carnival of a time with Frankie’s


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

carnival

Whether you are preparing that perfect sweet sixteen or organizing your company’s next big party, you can find everything you need at Frankie’s Carnival Time.

They have been at the same location since 1957 to become one of the biggest party rental companies in the tristate area. Frankie’s Carnival Time primarily works on smaller parties, including backyard birthday bashes and fundraisers. However, no event is too big or too small.

For years, the company has also provided tents and carnival rentals to the likes of the “Today” show, Robert De Niro, David Letterman, Rachel Ray and even President Barack Obama, among many others. Frankie’s Carnival Time is the official party supplier for the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan.

“We get everything from a kid’s birthday party to a big corporate event,” said Wayne Baker, president and owner of Frankie’s Carnival Time. He was five years old when his father started the business. Baker runs the business with his partner and brother, Douglas Baker.

“Customer service is the most important part of our business,” Baker added. “You have to make sure you give people perfect customer service.”

The company provides clowns, tents, tables, chairs, chocolate fountains, snow cone machines, cotton candy machines, hot dog carts, ice cream carts, dunk tanks, four types of photo booths, sound systems, and much more for those looking to host any kind of party from birthday parties to weddings.

“We do everything,” said Baker. “I love my business, I love doing it. It’s creative, it’s fun and I just love being a carnival man.”

Baker said that Queens holds a special place in his heart because he was born and raised here.

“I grew up in Queens Village. I got married in Middle Village. We do a lot of work in Queens,” said Baker.

Frankie’s Carnival Time recently began providing entertainment at the brand new LIC Flea & International Food Bazaar every Saturday and Sunday on the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue in Long Island City. They have already featured a face painter, bounce house and DJ at LIC Flea and plan to switch up the entertainment every weekend. LIC Flea is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“The flea market took off quickly,” said Baker. “We are glad to be a part of it. The kids, the adults, everybody is going to enjoy it.”

To learn more about Frankie’s Carnival Time, call 718-823-3033 or visit www.frankiescarnival.com.

And if you are looking for that perfect costume or mascot, the company also runs Frank Bee Costume Inc. from the same location. For more information, visit www.costumeman.com.

 

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Missing Queens woman’s body washes up on Gilgo Beach


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

The body of a Queens woman who went missing in March washed ashore a Long Island beach Monday night, police said.

Natasha Jugo, 31, of Queens Village, vanished March 16. Cops found her personal belongings and 2009 Toyota Prius abandoned one day later on Gilgo Beach.

Her body washed up on the beach on June 24, a Suffolk County police spokesperson said.

The case is said to have no ties to the 2010-2011 suspected Gilgo Beach serial killings.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Partly cloudy with thunderstorms and rain showers in the morning, then overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 90. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%. Wednesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 73. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: City View Pharmacy’s Free Yoga in Astoria Park

On Wednesdays at 7 p.m. from now until August 28 stretch with City View Pharmacy’s Free Yoga in Astoria Park, weather permitting. Adults only, all ages and levels of experience, including beginners. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Woman stabbed multiple times in Queens Village attack

A woman was seriously wounded in a vicious knife attack in Queens Village this morning, said police. Read more: The Queens Courier

Stunning charges of severe ticket quota policy rock NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs

There are stunning charges that a New York City agency charged with policing small businesses has a secret quota system and devastatingly high fines that threaten some establishments with extinction. Read more: CBS New York

Queens pol pushes city to put speed camera at busy intersection

A dangerous Queens intersection near an elementary school may get a lot safer. Read more: New York Daily News 

Latino officers question NYPD’s ‘English-only’ policy

The NYPD is under fire for a policy some say is racist. Read more: ABC New York

New York City to offer free summer meals for kids

City officials have announced that free meals will be made available at more than 1,000 pools, parks and other locations for children under 18 starting Thursday, June 27 through August 30. Read more: ABC New York

High court gay marriage decisions due Wednesday 

The Supreme Court is meeting to deliver opinions in two cases that could dramatically alter the rights of gay people across the United States. Read more: AP

Woman stabbed multiple times in Queens Village attack


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic image

A woman was seriously wounded in a vicious knife attack in Queens Village Tuesday morning, said police.

Cops were called to the scene of the assault at 221st Street near 105th Avenue around 5 a.m. and found the 36-year-old victim with multiple stab wounds to her neck and torso.

She was taken to North Shore University Hospital in critical condition.

Police describe the suspect as a black male. The motivation behind the attack is still unclear as they wait to speak to the victim.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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‘How many victims?’: Community mourns Queens teen found dead after alleged cyber-bullying


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Facebook

A young girl took her own life after she was reportedly cyber-bullied.

“This is a little girl, an angel who’s shouting for help,” said Glenda Molina, mother of Gabrielle Molina, 12. “She wants to have peace.”

Media reports said Molina was bullied by her classmates at I.S. 109 and that on Wednesday, May 22, she hung herself in her bedroom.

“We are deeply saddened by [this] death,” said Principal Karleen Adam-Comrie.

Police have classified the incident as a suicide in the ongoing investigation.

Friends of the girl told the New York Daily News that Molina got into a fistfight with another girl, which was videotaped and posted on YouTube, and that Molina had a history of cutting herself. Her mother told the paper other students called Molina derogatory names.

“How many victims of bullying should come so that nobody gets bullied anymore?” Anastasia Katayeva wrote on a Facebook page dedicated both to Molina’s memory and to ending cyber-bullying.

Others wrote that Molina’s bullies should be brought to justice and the world is a sadder place without her in it.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott visited the Queens Village school after the incident. He also spoke with Molina’s parents. The school has set up a crisis team to offer counseling to students and staff.

The Department of Education did not comment on grounds the incident is a police matter.

 

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Queens woman charged for intentionally running over, killing boyfriend


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic image

The woman charged with murder for fatally striking a Queens Village man with her car Monday was the victim’s girlfriend and allegedly hit him on purpose, according to the criminal complaint and reports.

Dunasha Payne, 21, is accused of pursuing 23-year-old Kaman Drummond with her Honda Accord while he tried to flee on foot. After following him for several blocks, she struck him with her car, pinning him against a brick pillar near 208th Street and 109th Avenue in Queens Village.

EMS responded to the incident scene around 11:52 p.m., and Drummond was taken to Queens General Hospital where he was pronounced dead, said police.

The two may have been arguing about another woman right before the incident, according to the Daily News.

Payne has been charged with second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

 

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Driver charged with murder after fatally striking Queens Village man


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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A man is dead after he was hit at a Queens Village intersection Monday night.

Kaman Drummond, 23, was struck at 208th Street near 109th Avenue around 11:52 p.m., said police. He was taken to Queens General Hospital and pronounced dead.

The woman driving the vehicle involved in the accident, 21-year-old Dunasha Payne, was taken into custody at the scene and later charged with second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon,  according to police.

 

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