Tag Archives: Queens

Astoria man convicted of first-degree murder for killing girlfriend


| editorial@queenscourier.com

handcuffs-with-color-web-size1

An Astoria man has been convicted in the brutal beating death of his girlfriend, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Jason Bohn, 35, was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder for strangling and torturing his 27-year-old girlfriend, Danielle Thomas, to death on June 26, 2012.

The live-in couple was feuding over phone calls Thomas had made, according to trial testimony.

“The victim was a young woman who fought for her life until she was overcome by the defendant,” Brown said. “He has justly been held accountable for his actions and it is likely he will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Bohn, a University of Florida law school graduate, was also convicted of tampering with physical evidence and first-degree criminal contempt following a seven-week jury trial before Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise.

He faces up to life in prison without parole when he is sentenced April 2.

Bohn’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.

 

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Queens Boy Scouts need money for historic Normandy trip


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Hedy Debonet

Four Boy Scouts from Queens and about a dozen more in the city need help funding a historic trip to Normandy.

The Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Councils is hoping to give 15 young leaders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour Europe and visit France during the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

Nearly 160,000 American soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 to march across Europe to defeat Hitler at the height of World War II.

“The soldiers who stormed the beach that day are probably no older than the boys we’re taking on this trip,” said Hedy DeBonet, a trip leader from Fresh Meadows.

“This is what we will be showing to the youth on this trip — a reminder of the sacrifices made a generation ago, acknowledgement that freedom is bought at a terrible price,” she added.

Each teen must come up with $2,600 for airfare, hotels and admission fees for nearly a dozen tourist spots, including the Eiffel Tower and the Imperial War Museum.

So far, each Scout has paid for half. But more is needed before the nine-day trip, beginning April 18, DeBonet said.

“There’s so much history that the kids don’t really learn anymore,” she said. “It’s just a real hands-on learning experience.”

Tax deductible checks can be made out to the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America, at 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 7820, New York, NY 10118.

 

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Katz names Queens representative on Panel for Educational Policy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Borough President Melinda Katz

Borough President Melinda Katz has picked Deborah Dillingham of Forest Hills to serve on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).

The 13-member board, with representatives from each borough, votes to approve school policies, many which are controversial. Each borough president appoints one member to the PEP and the mayor appoints eight.

“Through her extensive work with our city’s school system, Deborah has shown she has the knowledge, savvy and commitment necessary to be an outstanding member of the Panel for Educational Policy,” Katz said.

Dillingham was president of District 28’s Community Education Council and served on the Queens Borough President’s Parent Advisory Committee, the District 28 Leadership Team and the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee.

The mom of three was also president of the Parent’s Association of P.S. 101.

“She cares deeply about our children and the schooling they receive and has a track record of making sure our kids get the best education possible,” Katz said. “I know she will be a great asset to the PEP.”

Dillingham replaces Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s appointee, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who battled against school closures and co-location plans under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Fedkowskyj, of Middle Village, is mulling a run against incumbent State Senator Marge Markey.

 

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Cops help elderly Flushing couple dig car out of ice and snow


| mchan@queenscourier.com

PHOTO COURTESY NYPD

The last big snowfall to bury the city uncovered the best in two local cops.

Police Officers Adrienne Galvani and Cory Smith of the 109th Precinct took a brief detour from their anti-crime patrol, shortly after the Feb. 13 snowstorm, to help an elderly Flushing couple dig their buried car out of a thick sheet of ice.

“We pictured our grandparents in that situation,” Galvani said. “As soon as we saw them, we knew we had to stop and help them.”

Arnold Lederer, 98, and his wife Theresa, 86, had set aside the full day to dig out their 1997 Oldsmobile Intrigue in order to pick up an important prescription at their local pharmacy.

“There was a big pile of snow behind it and a big pile in front,” Theresa said. “It was quite deep and it was already icy. We were planning to take little breathers every few minutes.”

The officers took the shovels from their hands and told them to keep warm inside.

For 35 minutes, they chipped away at the ice, even breaking an ice pick in the process, said the longtime Queens couple who lives on Willets Point Blvd.

With Galvani steering the wheel and Smith pushing from behind, the pair even loosened the car out of its street parking spot and checked up with the Lederers the next day.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Galvani, who has been with the precinct for nearly 11 years. “They would have never gotten that car out.”

The Lederers are still in shock over the act of kindness.

“We were absolutely overwhelmed by their generosity and the time that they spent,” Theresa said. “They wouldn’t even accept a cup of coffee.”

 

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Tony Avella joins NY State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

State Senator Tony Avella is joining the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), he announced Wednesday. 

He will be the fifth member of the breakaway faction of Senate Democrats — led by Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx — who share majority control of the chamber with Republicans.

“Under Senator Klein’s leadership, the IDC has developed a clear, progressive agenda for New York’s working families,” Avella said. “They have shown an ability to get big things done, without the dysfunction of years past.”

The cross-aisle conference, formed in 2011, also includes Senators Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Valesky of Oneida and David Carlucci of Westchester.

Avella, elected to the Senate in 2010 after two terms in the City Council, is also the only member from Queens.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, of southeast Queens, joined the conference in December 2012 and helped the IDC and Republicans take leadership. Klein stripped Smith of his IDC membership, however, after his arrest last year on federal corruption charges.

Conference members praised Avella for his passion and knowledge.

“Senator Avella has built a career fighting for those who are most in need, so I am thrilled to welcome him to the IDC,” Carlucci said. “He has the experience, passion and know-how to make a major impact on state policy.”

Klein said Avella’s public service experience makes him the “type of seasoned legislator who knows how to get things done.”

“He will be a major asset in our fight to make New York more affordable for working families,” Klein said.

The switch, however, is said to hurt Senate Democrats’ efforts to reclaim control in the chamber.

Senate Democratic Conference spokesperson Mike Murphy said in a statement that it was “unfortunate that progressive policies continue to be stymied because of divisions created by senators who choose to empower Republicans.”

Astoria Senator Mike Gianaris, the deputy minority leader, declined to comment.

The move also upset some of the senator’s usual supporters.

“It’s  disloyal and it’s not fair to the people of the 11th Senate District who have worked very hard for Tony over the years,” said Democratic State Committeeman Matt Silverstein. “What he did was self-centered and disgraceful.” 

Avella is up for re-election this year. He dropped out of a contentious race for Queens borough president last year, citing “unfinished business in Albany” as a major factor to his decision.

 

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Queens Library board hires consultant to probe CEO’s salary, contract


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The Queens Library has hired an outside consultant to probe its embattled CEO’s whopping $392,000 salary and perks, the nonprofit’s top executives said Monday.

“We need to absorb the information we get from the study, as a board,” said Board of Trustees Chair Gabriel Taussig. “We’re committed to doing these things expeditiously and thoughtfully.”

The board is paying Hay Group $25,000 for a one-time review of Queens Library President and CEO Tom Galante’s entire compensation package and contract terms, officials said. The library boss is embroiled in news reports that claim he spent nearly $140,000 on a private smoking deck and office renovations.

The controversy also includes Galante’s $392,000 salary, $2 million severance package and $140,000 annual income from his side job consulting for the Elmont Union Free School District on Long Island.

Hay Group, a global management consulting firm hired last week, will size up Galante’s job against other comparable organization heads, which could lead to new contract negotiations, said Jacqueline Arrington, chair of the board’s administrative committee.

The firm has less than 90 days to report back with its findings and another 30 days after that to hammer out a new contract, library spokesperson Joanne King said.

“Whatever the end result is will be fair, reasonable, equitable and competitive,” said Galante, who declined to comment on whether he would take a pay cut.

The chief executive — when he wasn’t touting the library’s achievements — defended claims against him.

He reiterated his right as a “workaholic” to engage in outside employment, saying he sometimes puts in 125 total hours a week from both gigs. And he only consults as an “independent contractor, not an employee” from either Elmont or his home, he said.

Galante added his $2 million severance package is not considered a “golden parachute” and is only given to him if he is fired without wrongdoing.

The high exit payout is because of an “evergreen” clause in his five-year contract, amended in 2012, that allows it to be renewed automatically every year, Galante said.

The board plans to ax the clause in future contracts, according to Taussig, who would not confirm if that included Galante’s.

The consultation study is the first in a series of new measures the board plans to take to restore public trust and ease discontent amongst Queens lawmakers, board members said during a Feb. 25 sit-down meeting with several Queens reporters.

Since reports surfaced, State Senator Tony Avella has asked Galante to resign. Other state legislators and Borough President Melinda Katz say they are committed to getting a bill passed that would require financial disclosure from top library executives.

An audit committee within the Board of Trustees is underway, Arrington said. The board will decide if there should be more oversight into the hiring of top level executives, she added.

“I don’t want people to lose sight of what Queens Public Library has done for this borough,” Arrington said.

 

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Queens lawmaker wants fire hydrants tagged with markers


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Councilmember Mark Weprin

All New York City hydrants should be tagged with high-flying flags to be spotted more easily during snowstorms, a Queens lawmaker is proposing.

Councilmember Mark Weprin is reintroducing legislation this March that would require markers be placed at least three feet above hydrants.

The bill, first introduced in 2011, would help firefighters quickly pinpoint nearest hydrants that are buried in the snow, Weprin said.

It would also help homeowners locate and dig them out faster and keep motorists from accidentally parking too close.

“Hydrants get snow plowed in. There are some you can’t even see,” Weprin said. “It seems like just a common sense change.”

Six major snowstorms have slammed the city so far this winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the last blast on Feb. 13.

In Central Park, Bridgeport and LaGuardia Airport, it is the third snowiest February on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The bill has never moved out of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, though similar laws exist in other cities like Orangetown, N.Y. and Santa Maria, Calif., Weprin said.

“I’m hoping we can make the case a little better now,” he said.

 

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MTA announces Bus Time launch date for all Queens routes


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

As promised, the MTA is set to debut its live bus tracking service in all of Queens and the rest of Brooklyn.

The MTA will launch Bus Time, which allows riders to follow real-time location of buses through any web-enabled smartphone or computer via GPS, on March 9, the transit agency announced Monday.

Bus Time users can also text an intersection or street address to 511123 to receive a message listing local bus routes or find out information by using a smartphone with a QR-code reader. The QR-code is printed on the Guide-A-Ride schedules posted at bus stops.

The expansion adds more than 9,000 additional bus stops to the Bus Time system, according to the MTA.

Bus Time started serving all of Staten Island’s bus routes in January 2012. Bus Time was later expanded to include all Bronx and Manhattan routes as well as Brooklyn’s B63 and B61 lines.

 

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Logan’s Cafe at LeHavre on the Water celebrates successful first year


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Logan’s Café has only been open for one year, but it already has a loyal fan base. 

“The food here is excellent, and the environment is nice and comfortable,” said Irwin Hodes, 75, a daily customer. “I don’t know another place that has food as good as this.”

Dozens of diners, and several more in the summer, have flocked to the small Whitestone diner at LeHavre on the Water every day since it opened last Feb. 18, said the restaurant’s operator Logan O’Connor.

“It’s exciting,” said the 20-year-old entrepreneur from Whitestone. “I met a lot of people here and learned a lot of things about being a business person.”

O’Connor saw a notice seeking a new café concessionaire at LeHavre last November, when he was visiting his grandparents.

“I was always interested in cooking and always wanted to own my own restaurant,” he said, leaping at the chance and landing the poolside eatery.

O’Connor often finds himself jumping from behind the grill to the counter, manning all posts at the restaurant, with no fear of burning out.

“I do everything, seven days a week,” he said. “I don’t get tired. It’s fun.”

Logan’s Café is located at 168-68 9th Ave., in the LeHavre clubhouse.

To celebrate the eatery’s first milestone, O’Connor is giving out free cupcakes Tuesday.

“It’s a get-together place,” Hodes said. “We’re all happy he’s here.”

 

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Queens man charged in NYC’s first murder of 2014


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man has been arrested for the fatal Jamaica shooting that was the first homicide of the year, police said.

Cops found Julio Mora, 22, of Richmond Hill, inside of a 113th Avenue residence near Sutphin Boulevard about 1:15 a.m. on Jan. 1 with a gunshot wound to the chest, the NYPD said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheldon Smith, 26, who police had been searching for in connection to Mora’s murder since Jan. 2, has been charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon, cops said.

 

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Board approves variances for 12-story hotel, 14-story office building in Flushing


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of Richard Lobel

A luxury hotel, under parent company InterContinental Hotels Group, may be coming to downtown Flushing.

Community Board 7 gave developer CA Plaza its advisory approval Monday to build a 12-story Hotel Indigo on Prince Street and a 14-story general office building on Main Street.

The board granted two variances to change the use of the office space from medical to general and to reduce the number of required parking spaces from 377 spots to 305.

Developers bought the 36-18 Main St. site in 2006, according to attorney Richard Lobel. They already had two special permits, approved by the board last November, to include a spa in the hotel and to build the office to 189 feet and the hotel to 154 feet.

The project now goes to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for the final green light, though the hearing has not yet been calendared.

Community board officials said the project is heavily dependent on whether the city decides to install a traffic light on 36th Avenue and Prince Street to ease traffic the development is expected to bring.

Construction is slated for 2015.

 

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Death of Baruch student who died in frat ritual ruled homicide


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy New York Daily News

MELISSA CHAN AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA

Updated 4:15 p.m.

The death of a 19-year-old Baruch College student from Queens who was killed in a fraternity hazing ritual has been ruled a homicide, the Luzerne County Coroner Office confirmed Friday.

Chun “Michael” Deng, a freshman at the school, passed away on Dec. 9 from head injuries during an unsanctioned Pi Delta Psi event in Pennsylvania, according to authorities and the fraternity’s National Executive President Andy Meng.

Deng died from blunt-force head trauma, the coroner office said.

Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Harry Lewis plans on meeting with the Monroe County district attorney’s office next week to to discuss the coroner’s findings and the next steps in the case, NBC News reported.

Deng, of Oakland Gardens, was one of four pledges who traveled to the Poconos with more than 30 fraternity members the weekend before his death, the district attorney said.

The blindfolded pledges were reportedly forced to wear weighted bags and navigate a path through a yard, while being repeatedly knocked to the ground.

Following the incident, the national Pi Delta Psi organization severed ties with the Baruch colony and suspended its national new member outreach, according to a statement.

Sources in different chapters of the fraternity told The Courier that versions of the ritual are still being carried out, even though it has been banned for at least 10 years due to its dangerous nature.

Pi Delta Psi, a fast growing Asian-interest society, has 20 chapters in the country and four colonies, including Baruch, according to its website.

 

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City’s largest window manufacturer is not moving out of Queens: CEO


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The head of the city’s largest window manufacturer is refuting claims the Queens plant will hightail it out of the Big Apple.

Crystal [Window and Door Systems] is not moving,” CEO Steve Chen said. “The company’s headquarters and main production facility in the College Point Corporate Park in Queens will remain where it is for the foreseeable future.”

A news report, in a headline Wednesday, said the glass company was “moving due to city’s high costs.”

To clarify, Crystal officials said the 31-10 Whitestone Expwy. facility would stay the same, but they are considering expanding in Westchester.

“We already have other facilities in Chicago, California and even Missouri. We are just expanding,” said Steven Yu, the company’s marketing manager. “We are looking to add another plant.”

Chen said the company has explored expansion out of state, in the city and in other parts of Queens, but has not yet secured the right industrial site “at a cost effective price.”

“All of these expansion initiatives were intended to increase Crystal’s production capacity and have never been intended to replace the Queens facility,” the Crystal boss said.

The report also tied Chen’s decision not to expand in the city to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to increase minimum wages and mandate paid sick leave benefits.

But Yu said the company’s 380 employees all already earn above the proposed new minimum wage.

“Somehow the story got twisted,” he said.

 

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Queens teen comes in second on ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Queens whiz kid Laurie Beckoff came up a little short Tuesday in her match-up on Jeopardy’s College Championship.

The 19-year-old from Hollis Hills was the runner-up, amongst two other young geniuses, with a grand total of $13,400.

Though it was not enough to earn a winner’s spot, the University of Chicago sophomore will see Friday if she qualifies for one of four “wild card” spots given to top scorers amongst non-winners.

“It was more fantastic than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “Having people watch it makes me relive all the nervousness.”

Beckoff, who automatically gets $5,000 for going on the show, is now facing some heat from friends and strangers from the Twittersphere for not wagering enough money to force a tie.

“I knew that if I got it wrong and wagered everything and gone for that tie, I would be completely out,” she said. “I won’t say it was the wisest choice, but it was what went on in my head at that time.”

The experience was still a dream come true for the ambitious scholar, who had tried three times before to get on the long-running quiz show, but did not advance past the audition.

“It definitely seems to go a lot faster than when you’re sitting at home,” said the English and political science major.

Beckoff, a Harry Potter fanatic, is also a former salutatorian at Townsend Harris High School and a previous volunteer for Councilmember Mark Weprin.

The two-week tournament started Feb. 10.

“It was really just amazing,” Beckoff said. “It was the time of my life.”

 

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City fills more than 21,000 potholes in Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

More than 21,000 pesky potholes in Queens have been filled so far during this year’s snowier than usual winter, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) said.

Nearly 2,000 in the borough were fixed last weekend, as part of the city’s season-long repair efforts, a department spokesperson said.

Since January, the 1,000-member roadway crew has set a record pace, working around the clock to fix more than 75,000 potholes along the city’s rocky roads, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

“These tireless public servants … will be filling many more given the snowstorms the city has already faced this winter, and the wear and tear that inflicts,” Trottenberg said.

Potholes typically pop up around February and die down by April, though the timeline is dependent on weather, experts say.

They form when water, that slips into cracks under the road, freezes and expands when the temperature changes, causing a freeze and thaw cycle that damages the road.

It becomes a hole when heavy traffic rolls over the weakened spot.

“It’s crazy, especially now after all the snow. Forget about it,” said Jose Soto, who drives from Flushing to Astoria. “It ruins your tires. You can get in an accident. It’s annoying. You have to zigzag.”

It typically takes a few minutes for crews to fill, compact and seal a pothole, a DOT spokesperson said.

More work is expected to be done next week on residential streets and major roadways, including the Long Island Expressway’s (LIE) eastbound service road, between Little Neck Parkway and the Nassau County border, and 149th Street at 27th Avenue in Linden Hill, the DOT said.

“It’s like a minefield on the LIE,” said driver Risa Doherty, who commutes from Roslyn in Nassau County to Bayside. “Cars are swerving around the potholes at high speeds.”

To report a pothole, call 3-1-1 or visit nyc.gov.

Craters generally have to be at least one foot in diameter and three inches deep to be fixed, according to the DOT’s website.

 

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