Tag Archives: queens village

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

‘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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

 

Driver charged with murder after fatally striking Queens Village man


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

handcuffs with color web size

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Star of Queens: Suzanne Windland, volunteer coordinator, Services Now for Adult Persons


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Windland

COMMUNITY SERVICE: As volunteer coordinator for Services Now for Adult Persons , Inc (SNAP), Suzanne Windland makes sure that the seniors of eastern Queens are not left alone. Windland finds volunteers of all ages to visit the elderly homebound for one hour a week, assisting them with food shopping, household tasks or simply just spending time playing games.

“They’re there to be a friend,” Windland said. “It has made an amazing impact on so many seniors. It’s an easy way for those with busy schedules who want to give back to be able to.”

SNAP has been working from its location in Queens Village for the past 25 years. The group also provides Meals on Wheels for the homebound, bereavement services, as well as offering meals and classes at the center.

JOB/BACKGROUND: In her spare time, Windland works as a Zumba instructor for people of all ages.

She has also been heavily involved with the local Parent Teacher Associations at the schools her three daughters attended, all of whom graduated from the NYC public school system.

INSPIRATION: Windland says she gets the immediate gratification from the seniors who volunteers visit and are an inspiration to continue the work of SNAP. She says this is something that extends to the volunteers themselves, as they receive joy in knowing they have helped.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Windland remembers one instance in which an elderly person who painted was paired up with a volunteer who also painted.

Before having a visitor, the senior was lonely and did not paint as much. After having the visits, the two would paint together.

“The paintings that came out of that partnership were amazing,” said Windland.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Windland says the hardest challenge is finding volunteers who are able to take public transportation to the seniors’ homes. “Sometimes it takes the volunteers up to an hour to get to the home. That’s why I’m ecstatic when someone says they have a car.”                             

-BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cops collar shotgun robbery suspect


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

The man suspected in four armed robberies in Queens has been arrested, said police.

Corey King, 23, of Queens Village, is charged with four counts of robbery for holding up three delis and a dry cleaner in March and April.

During each incident, the suspect entered the store with a shotgun, struck an employee in the face with the weapon, then fled with cash.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Missing Queens woman’s car found abandoned on Gilgo Beach


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a missing Queens Village woman whose car and personal belongings were found deserted by Gilgo Beach on Long Island.

Natasha Jugo, 31, was reported missing on Sunday, March 17, after cops found her 2009 Toyota Prius abandoned on the beach.

She was last seen leaving her home on Saturday, March 16 at 4:30 p.m. in a black robe, pink pajama pants, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a black coat and black boots, police said.

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

Jugo is 5’7” tall and weighs 120 pounds. She has brown eyes and blonde hair.

Her family did not immediately comment.

Anyone with information is asked to call 800-577-TIPS.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queens Village high school students paint over the past


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan

Students at a struggling Queens Village high school are painting over their past, one locker at a time.

Historical figures, sprawled across obsolete lockers at Martin Van Buren High School, have become symbolic of the new face of the changing school, students and administration said.

“We’re basically trying to paint a picture of a whole new Van Buren,” said art teacher Antonio Montalvo. “We want to create a more welcoming, lighter learning environment. We’re trying to improve.”

Van Buren found itself in the public eye last year when local leaders and parents rallied to replace former principal Marilyn Shevell. Morale plummeted under her leadership, they said, while Van Buren worsened in progress reports. Shevell retired last June after taking over in 2002, education officials said. Since then, interim acting principal Sam Sochet said the school has risen to the challenge of improving.

“Van Buren, at one time, was one of the top schools in the city,” Sochet said. “It has fallen on some harder times recently, and so we’re looking to rediscover the greatness that it used to have and maybe go beyond it.”

An art inclusion class, led by Montalvo, chose scientists Albert Einstein and Alexander Fleming, psychologist Carl Jung and former United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to represent the search for greatness, Sochet said. The project team of 30 students took two months to paint a mural of their caricatures across nearly 90 lockers on the school’s second floor.

“They’re old figures, but they do represent people who worked really hard, people who broke traditional thinking, who really thought outside the box,” Sochet said. “And that’s the idea. These are examples of what the human spirit is capable of.”

The display also promotes Van Buren’s newest college-ready science programs or “majors” for incoming freshmen, said Sanjay Patel, the school’s director of specialized programs.

Graduating middle school applicants can apply to Van Buren’s revamped engineering program, which features the school’s robotics team, or its pre-med, law and forensics, or computer technology programs, Patel said.

“There are a lot of careers available in these areas, and we’re trying to prepare students,” said Assistant Principal Cathy Kross.

Van Buren received a “C” in the Department of Education’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 last year’s “D.”

“The change is happening, although sometimes it’s very difficult to detect,” Sochet said.

Junior Jeshu Dastidar, a first-time honor roll student this year, said the school’s new environment has revived his passion for learning.

“In the last two years, school really wasn’t really in my interest,” said Dastidar, 16. “But this year, the first day I went to class, I was feeling this rhythm. Something was in the air. The school has changed. Grades have gone up tremendously for me personally.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Striking school bus drivers stand by their demands


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER / Photo by Alexa Altman

Maria Gentile has driven a school bus for more than 34 years. She knows the name of every student she carries along her route, through Bayside, Douglaston and Oakland Gardens. She’s witnessed the first and last days of school for countless families. When she drops a child off at home, she doesn’t drive away until they’ve made it safely inside.

“Safety is first with the children,” said Gentile, who gathered with dozens of other striking drivers outside a bus depot in Jamaica. Two weeks into the citywide school bus strike, drivers remain firmly behind their demands, calling specifically for job security.

“We just want to keep our jobs. That’s it,” said bus driver Jessica Saltos of Queens Village. “We’re not looking for a raise, healthcare, a pension, nothing at all. We want to keep working. That’s it.”

According to Gentile, drivers are fighting to retain the Employee Protection Provision (EPP), an amendment added in 1979 that guarantees drivers will retain routes, regardless of which company oversees the bid.

Strikers believe Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to instate makeshift drivers could be hazardous for the thousands of children who take buses to school. Certification, which normally takes roughly a year and includes drug testing, fingerprinting and hours of training, will take less than 24 hours for fill-in drivers.

“If the mayor wants to put a child in a vehicle with a driver who has no experience, what does that say?” said Gentile. “They’re going to rush to the school and throw the kid off the bus because they don’t care.”

The substitute bus drivers are set to make $14 an hour, a wage many drivers agreed doesn’t promote job longevity or dedication.

“[Bloomberg] is putting the almighty dollar above children’s safety,” said a driver.

On Monday, January 28, representatives from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 met with a mediator, Justice Milton Mollen, to discuss drivers’ concerns. While city officials did not attend the meeting, Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello said Bloomberg’s involvement in arbitration is “necessary to move towards a resolution and end this strike.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of rain, then rain showers in the afternoon. Fog early. High of 54. Breezy. Winds from the South at 10 to 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Wednesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Fog overnight. Low of 45. Windy. Winds from the SSW at 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 55 mph. Chance of rain 100% with rainfall amounts near 1.1 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Women’s Business Center Power Networking Event

Every entrepreneur will need a strong support team to be successful. At the Women’s Business Center Power Networking Event meet professional women with experience in supporting thriving entrepreneurs and the key roles they play in every stage of business. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Obama signs $50.5B Sandy aid bill

Exactly three months to day that the storm hit the tri-state area, President Obama signed a $50.5 billion Sandy aid bill. Read more: Queens Courier

Death of autistic man at Queens Village mental health facility last summer ruled a homicide

The death of an autistic man last summer after he was restrained by guards at a Queens Village mental health facility has been ruled a homicide by the city Medical Examiner. Read more: New York Daily News

Water main break leaves 7 basements flooded in Queens

A water main break left seven basements flooded in eastern Queens Tuesday evening. Read more: CBS New York

Queens couple fights Russian ban on American adoptions

A Queens couple, fighting the Russian government to adopt a 1-year-old boy, has joined the chorus of prospective parents and elected officials calling for the repeal of Russia’s ban on American adoptions. Read more: NBC New York

Departure of one of Rockaway’s NYPD top brass rankles civic leaders

Local activists are irate over the exit of a top law enforcement official in the Rockaways who helped shepherd the community through the chaos caused by Superstorm Sandy. Read more: New York Daily News

Gun rights advocates fight against new law signed by Cuomo

A gun advocacy group took the first step Tuesday to legally halting the newly-signed gun laws for New York state. Read more: CBS New York

Amid questions, Senate begins hearings on gun control

Six weeks after the massacre of 26 people at a Connecticut school ignited new calls to fight gun-related violence, the issue reaches the U.S. Congress on Wednesday amid questions about whether lawmakers will be able to agree on significant legislation. Read more: Reuters