Tag Archives: Queensbridge Houses

Man arrested in 2013 LIC murder


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of NYPD

Police have arrested a 27-year-old man for the murder of an aspiring hip-hop artist last year in Long Island City.

Francisco Leal, 27, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest on Feb. 2, 2013, at the corner of 21st Street and 41st Avenue near the Queensbridge Houses.

In December, the NYPD released a photo and information of the suspect wanted in connection to the murder.

Earlier last month, Clarence Scott, who police initially identified as Lawrence Scott, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force April 4 in Virginia, according to published reports. He was then arraigned on April 25 in Queens Criminal Court, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

Scott, who is being held without bail, was arraigned on charges of  second-degree murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, according to a criminal complaint.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

91-year-old WWII veteran fighting NYCHA for Flushing apartment


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

 
Ninety-one-year-old Ralph Calinda has fought his fair share of battles over his lifetime.

He fought for the United States during World War II, he battles diabetes and high blood pressure every day, and now he’s facing a different conflict — keeping the apartment he has called home for more than 60 years.

Calinda lives alone in a three-bedroom apartment in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Pomonok Houses in Flushing. Through NYCHA’s downsizing policy, which moves residents who “overuse apartments” to smaller ones, the city agency wants to kick him out of his home.

They have sent letters to force him to take one-bedroom apartments, but in foreign neighborhoods such as the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria. Finally, they asked him to move to an apartment in the Pomonok Houses, but it lacked essential appliances and was unfurnished. Calinda, who retired nearly three decades ago, believes he wouldn’t even be able to make the move physically or financially, since he depends on social security payments.

Councilman Rory Lancman and other politicians rallied with Calinda and his family against the NYCHA policy in a protest on Friday, to call on the agency to halt its downsizing of senior residents and to overhaul the initiative.

“They have lately stepped up in a very, very aggressive way,” Lancman said about NYCHA. “We are here today to demand that they stop and that they treat their long-time residents like valuable citizens of the communities that they’ve lived in, rather than as pieces of furniture they can move around from one place to the other.”

Calinda uses a cane to walk, and that’s only during the rare times he leaves his apartment. “Pop,” as he is known among family members, friends and neighbors, now enjoys painting, word puzzles and gardening.

But before he retired, Calinda used to build fighter jets for the Air Force. He even helped build the NASA space shuttles, and although Calinda wouldn’t say which one, he allegedly engraved the name of his late wife on the tail of one of the space rockets.

Calinda raised seven children from his apartment, which has six rooms, counting a living room, kitchen and a bathroom. He said he may have been willing to leave if NYCHA first came to him when his kids became adults and left 30 years ago, but not now.

“It’s been my home for so long, I just think it should be my home forever,” he said.

NYCHA has yet to return a request for comment.

 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens woman finds healing through art


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Rising from the ashes as a survivor of domestic violence, Beverly Cowan has reached a new moment in her life in which her passion for art has served as therapy. Now she hopes it will become a career.

Born and raised in Harlem, Cowan always enjoyed working with any form of art. She filled up coloring books and matched up paper dolls with the perfect patterned dresses.

She later moved to Staten Island, where Cowan said she reached a dark moment in her life. After losing the father of her two children, Cowan survived an attack by a boyfriend in 1996. She later moved to Long Island City and began a positive new life.

“I want to give strength to all women who go through the same thing,” she said.

Cowan began participating at her local church as a deacon and choir member. Around 2002, after decorating a vase with artificial flowers and creating a unique piece, she became excited to keep the craft going.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I have a passion for it. I didn’t go to school for this, it’s just a gift.”

She began her artwork with just arranging flowers inside different vases she would find and then moved into also creating centerpieces out of flowers and other material. Cowan then began covering clear vases in different colored paper and creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

She began “Diane’s Creation” as the general name for her pieces of art. Cowan said her mom and church call her by her middle name “Diane” and the business’s name refers to her survival and creating something new for herself.

All her vases are done from her home at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and once Cowan comes up with a design in her head, the artwork begins.

She begins by gluing on a white paper base on the vase, glazing it over with clear glue, letting it dry, then taking colored papers in different shapes and pasting them onto the base to create various designs, and finishes with a final glaze glue coat.

“I just like working with paper,” she said. “Paper is a very unique piece of material. I try to make it as bold and beautiful as I can”

Each vase is given a distinct name and includes a felt bottom with a felt heart representing her logo, “Love.” One vase, called “Space in Time,” reflects the times she has survived and the time she has been given to recover, Cowan said.

“I had a lot of loss in my life and this is my therapy,” she said. “This keeps me alive and keeps me going on a positive note.”

In the past 11 years, Cowan has created over 100 items. Although she said she has never had any form of art education, she visits her local library two to three times a week to study different art books and learn new techniques.

The only obstacle Cowan is facing now is being able to continue her artwork financially. She has a list of art supplies she would need to expand further, but at this time cannot afford any of the items. Some include professional paint glaze, paper, flowers and a computer, which would allow her to sell her pieces to a larger market.

“I want to go large,” she said. “I want to go far. I believe I’m going to go far, it just takes time.”

Cowan’s vases vary in size and each is $50.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

$300G in repairs not made at Long Island City NYCHA center


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos By Angy Altamirano

Long Island City seniors are waiting for fixes to be made to their senior center, and have been doing so for three years.

Funds allocated to fix various problems at the Jacob Riis Settlement House at the Queensbridge Houses have yet to be put to use, and now the community wants answers as to why.

Betty McCord, a senior at the center, said that it was difficult for her to breathe last month during a Queensbridge town meeting that took place inside the gym on a hot day. There were fans available but according to McCord, they did not help.

“This place is not suitable for our seniors” said McCord.

Over the past three years, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer has allocated $300,000 for the renovation of two bathrooms and the installation of an air conditioning system in the gym. After meeting with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) six months ago, the agency only told him the changes would take two more years.

He added NYCHA gave reasons such as not enough designers or workers for the project’s delay.
Representatives of the center said the major problems of the bathrooms are the exposed pipes on the ceiling, toilets that are either too high or too low, rusting appliances, infestation of insects, and flooring that could be dangerous to seniors.

“The lack of safe, functional, and welcoming rest room facilities for our participants and staff, particularly our seniors and young people, has been a problem for several years now,” said Robert Madison, director of Senior Services at the Jacob Riis Senior Center. “Our older adults are often forced to use the upstairs facilities because many of them simply will not set foot in the downstairs bathrooms.”

On Friday, August 16, Van Bramer gathered with seniors and representatives of the Jacob Riis Settlement Neighborhood House, the Jacob Riis Senior Center and the Queensbridge Houses to call on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to repair problems at the community center.

“Jacob Riis Settlement Neighborhood House is the hub and heart of Queensbridge,” said Van Bramer. “How long do our seniors and youth have to wait for these renovations and improvements to take place? It is impossible and unconscionable to believe that it is going to take NYCHA nearly five years to fix our community center. This is a disgrace. We cannot and will not wait any longer.”

According to a recent NYCHA report sent to the city council, the agency has held onto nearly $50 million in taxpayer dollars which should be used for repairing projects, such as restoring New York City community centers which include the Jacob Riis Settlement House.

“I call on NYCHA to get this work done for the residents of Queensbridge,” said Van Bramer. “Not tomorrow, but today.”

Requests for comment from NYCHA were not returned as of press time.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

51 charged in drug sweep at Queens housing developments


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

handcuffs-with-color-web-size111111

An undercover drug investigation at two western Queens housing developments has led to the indictment of 28 men and women for selling narcotics, and the arrest of 23 others, announced District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Authorities have 15 of the indicted individuals in custody and are still seeking 13 more.

Ranging in age from 18 to 57, the defendants are accused of peddling heroin, cocaine, oxycodone, methamphetamine and marijuana to undercover cops on hundreds of separate occasions over an eight-month period between 2012 and 2013 in and around the New York City Housing Authority’s Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria, said the district attorney’s office.

“These arrests are just the latest results of a coordinated law enforcement and prosecutorial anti-drug initiative that began soon after I took office more than twenty years ago. Since that time, we have targeted hundreds of drug dealers in public housing developments throughout Queens and in private housing developments like Lefrak City and have put a significant dent in the drug trafficking which has long troubled the residents of these developments. We will continue to work together with our police officers and our elected officials and community leaders to keep our citizens safe,” said Brown.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Long Island City murder leads to calls against gun violence


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The shooting of a 27-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist near the Queensbridge Houses is raising clamor among politicians and community activists fighting against gun violence.

The victim, Francisco Leal, 27, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest around 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 2 at the corner of 21st Street and 41st Avenue. While the NYPD has released surveillance footage of a suspect, Leal’s killer has yet to be caught.

When Suga Ray, a teacher, activist and childhood friend of Leal’s heard his friend had been fatally shot in the neighborhood where they grew up, his first reaction was “heartbreak.” Ray said Leal had a great personality, loved creating music and cared deeply about his community.

“Since we were kids, he always said he wanted to make a better way for his family, himself and the community,” said Ray. “He always wanted better than what we had.”

According to the NYPD, there have been 99 shootings citywide from January 1 through February 3, 2013.

“There’s an epidemic of gun violence, both here at Queensbridge and the city and across the country,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who organized a rally following Leal’s death. “How do we bring young people away from guns, away from violence and into a better place?”

The councilmember believes increased programs for young people, including after-school programs, partnerships with libraries and cultural and athletic programs keep kids out of trouble. Last year, the Bloomberg administration proposed to eliminate all after-school programs and according to the Campaign for Children, after-school programs faced cuts of around $170 million. While after-school programs were saved in 2012, discussions about slicing programs in 2013 continue.

“Those kinds of programs are absolute life-savers, especially for low-income families where there aren’t more available options,” said Van Bramer.

The city’s flailing unemployment rate, Van Bramer added, is a factor in the upswing of violence.

“If there’s no help, if there’s no jobs, if there’s no economic self-sufficiency, people can gravitate towards things they shouldn’t be involved in,” said Van Bramer.

April Simpson, the newly elected president of the Queensbridge Resident Association, said ending violence is not just the responsibility of the police, but rests on residents as well.

“Someone lost a child last night. That could be my child tomorrow. That could be your child tomorrow. We need to say something. We need to take back our communities. We need to come together as one. We can’t protect our children if we’re sitting around and we’re not saying anything.”

Ray believes the key to ending youth on youth violence is to provide more opportunities which teaching people about inner peace and channeling aggression into positive outlets such as art and music — a passion of his late friend’s.

“That another young person would want to take another young person’s life is disheartening,” said Ray. “It happens so much. It’s happened to so many of my friends. It’s heartbreaking.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Overcast with a chance of rain, then rain in the afternoon. High of 73. Winds from the SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Tuesday night: Overcast with rain, then a chance of rain after midnight. Fog overnight. Low of 64. Winds from the ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

EVENT of the DAY: An Evening with Don Francisco, Celebrating 50 Years of Sábado Gigante

Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with Don Francisco —a.k.a. Mario Kreutzberger. In a rare New York appearance, the variety show host will participate in an intimate discussion with a special guest moderator and show a selection of unforgettable clips from his Saturday night show’s 50-year history presented by Univisión. Sábado Gigante is the longest-running variety show in television history, and Don Francisco has been there from the beginning, hosting more than 2,600 episodes. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Girl struck by stray bullet while doing homework returns home for rally

A Queens community is saying enough is enough to gun violence after a teenager was shot while doing homework. Read more: CBS New  York

College student starts petition for Metro-North stop in Queens

A college student from Queens has launched a petition urging the MTA to open a Metro-North station in Queens. Quinnipiac University sophomore Ali Fadil, 18, of Whitestone, began collecting signatures about two weeks ago after he learned the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was looking at running trains on Metro-North’s New Haven line through western Queens. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens men get 6 1/2 years for role in fatal 2010 stabbing

Two Queens men were thrown in prison today for their role in the death of a good Samaritan who came to the aid of a transgender man the pair were bothering. Read more: New York Post

Second American Airlines flight returns to JFK after row of seats comes loose

Planes have been grounded and the feds are now investigating American Airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration is probing two separate instances of rows of airplane seats dislodging in mid-air. Read more: CBS New York

New Brooklyn arena serves as a test: Will fans accept smaller sodas?

At the amenity-laden Barclays Center in Brooklyn, hungry concertgoers can dine on fresh-from-Maine lobster rolls, gourmet barbecue brisket and slices of cheesecake from Junior’s on nearby Flatbush Avenue. Read more: New York Times

Candidates prep for debates; No. 2s campaign

The presidential candidates are leaving the heavy lifting of campaigning to their running mates Tuesday as they spend one more day preparing for their first debate, scheduled for Wednesday night. Read more: ABC New York/AP

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 72. Winds from the SW at 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then mostly cloudy. Low of 59. Winds from the SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT of the DAY: CPR for Everyone

Learn how to recognize the signs of a cardiac emergency and get a hands-on demonstration of basic resuscitation techniques from registered EMTs with years of experience with the New York City Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services. This program is presented in partnership with the FDNY. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Stray bullet fired wildly by singing thug hits teen doing homework in apartment

A Queens teenager who got up before dawn Sunday to do her homework was injured by a stray bullet fired by a singing thug, police and witnesses said. Read more: New York Daily News

Pedestrian killed in Queens

The NYPD says a pedestrian was struck and killed by a BMW at an intersection in Queens. Police say the operator of the car was traveling southbound on Cross Bay Boulevard when he struck the male pedestrian crossing from the west side of the street. Read more: Fox New York/AP

Two Queens community colleges fight CUNY changes

The English departments at two Queens community colleges are fighting CUNY’s efforts to reduce their four-hour introductory writing classes to three hours. Read more: New York Daily News

Cops winning underground war

An NYPD anti-crime initiative on trouble-prone Bronx and Queens subway lines resulted in a 20 percent reduction in major felonies — and now it will be expanded citywide. Read more: New York Post

Occupy Wall Street protestor suing NYPD over alleged pepper spray incident

A woman who was pepper sprayed during an Occupy Wall Street protest last year has filed a civil suit against the New York Police Department and the officer involved. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Obama set to address UN General Assembly

Campaign politics shadowing every word, President Barack Obama on Tuesday will challenge the world to confront the root causes of rage exploding across the Muslim world, calling it a defining choice “between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes we hold in common.” Read more: ABC New York/AP

Fresh food push comes to western Queens


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

8-29 FoodBagProgram (RELEASE) (2)

There’s now an oasis in the middle of a Queens food desert.

Residents of the Queensbridge Houses — a neighborhood where fresh produce is scarce — now have the option of purchasing a bag of fruits and vegetables every Wednesday afternoon, just outside their doors.

The push reflects a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, but is different in that payments run week-to-week rather than one full fee at the start of the season.

As part of the plan, initiated by GrowNYC and in connection with the Jacob Riis Settlement Houses, the healthy goods may be purchased on a weekly basis for $10 a bag. The roughly 10 items provided vary depending on the season, but promise seven days’ worth of produce for an individual or a couple who may not have had the option of fresh items before.

“If finding high-quality, fresh produce is unavailable or unaffordable, people are going to eat a lot less of it,” said GrowNYC spokesperson Olivia Blanchflower, who added that high instances of diet-related disease correlates with the lack of available fresh food.

According to Blanchflower, those who reside in the 7,000 Queensbridge-area homes only have immediate access to one supermarket.

A bulk of the items provided come directly from Green Pastures Farm located in eastern Pennsylvania, with additional fruits from New York farms added in by GrowNYC.

While each bag costs $10, Blanchflower said that the contents, when priced out, run between $13 and $18.

In an effort to assist GrowNYC’s initiative, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer allocated $10,000 to the non-profit.

“Access to healthy food options can be difficult for some residents to access in western Queens, especially seniors,” said Van Bramer. “By bringing fresh fruits and vegetables directly into a community that needs and wants them, our initiative is able to address a real need here in Queensbridge.”

Similar projects have been recently introduced in Bedford-Stuyvesant and will soon begin in East Harlem. The Queensbridge program is set to run through November.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 93. Southwest wind 8 to 15 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. West wind 8 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Doctor Zhivago at the Museum of the Moving Image

Take in the 1965 classic at the Museum of the Moving Image.  Based on Boris Pasternak’s novel, this tale of a love triangle set against the Bolshevik Revolution is an astonishing feat, as emotionally involving as it is visually spectacular. Highlights include Freddie Young’s Oscar-winning cinematography and Maurice Jarre’s iconic score.

Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Stavisky and Messer face off in 16th Senate District debate

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and opponent John Messer agreed job creation was a priority in the 16th State Senate District as the two stated their platforms and fielded questions at a Wednesday, August 29 forum before hundreds of residents in the district. Despite agreeing on general issues such as employment, energy and bilingual signage, the six-time incumbent and Senate hopeful found themselves on opposite sides on gay marriage and charter schools. Read more: Queens Courier

Huntley probe widens

The criminal probe into indicted state Sen. Shirley Huntley has expanded to include every earmark she secured for nonprofits that employed her campaign staffers, Senate aides and family members, The Post has learned. Huntley, a Democrat, is facing up to 12 years in prison for allegedly covering up the misuse of $30,000 in “member item” funds by her niece and an aide to the bogus Parent Workshop charity. Read more: NY Post

Romney vows to deliver country from economic travails

Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday by making a direct appeal to Americans who were captivated by President Obama’s hopeful promises of change, pledging that he could deliver what the president did not and move the country from its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Read more: NY Times

Women employed by lawmaker describe sexually hostile office

Five women who worked for Vito J. Lopez, the assemblyman at the center of a broadening sexual harassment scandal, described in interviews an atmosphere of sexual pressure and crude language in his office, with frequent unwanted advances by him and others, requests for provocative dress, personal questions about their boyfriends and fears of reprisals if they complained. Read more: NY Times

New program at sprawling public housing complex offers farm fresh foods for $10 a bag

Farm fresh produce is a scarce commodity in the Queensbridge Houses, where diabetes rates are high and junk food is cheap and plentiful. A new program — which kicks off next week — is offering residents a bag full of fruits and vegetables for just $10 a week. Read more: Daily News

Hip-hop manager Chris Lighty dead after shooting himself outside his Bronx apartment

Hip-hop mogul Chris Lighty died Thursday morning after he shot himself after an argument with his estranged wife at his Bronx apartment, sources told the Daily News. Lighty, 44 — a longtime manager of 50 Cent, Diddy, Ja Rule and Mariah Carey — stepped outside his South Riverdale apartment about 11:30 a.m., after a spat with his wife, Veronica, police sources said. Read more: Daily News

MTA kicking more trash cans at subway stations

Starting Sunday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is removing more trash cans from subway station platforms. The agency is expanding a pilot program that is aimed at reducing the rodent population in the subway system. The MTA says it has more trash than it can collect at subway stations. Read more: NY1