Tag Archives: Rego Park

Woman found dead inside Rego Park apartment house


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Property Shark/Christopher Bride

An investigation is ongoing regarding the death of a 40-year-old woman in a Rego Park apartment Monday morning.

Officers from the 112th Precinct were called to the apartment house on 63rd Drive near Carlton Street sometime before 8:15 a.m. Monday and discovered the woman in a third-floor unit.

Paramedics responded to the scene and pronounced her dead; her body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death.

Her identity was not disclosed by police pending family notification.

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Queens Library CEO appeals for more city funding


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Borough Public Library

With a little more than a month until the city’s budget deadline, the Queens Borough Public Library is urging elected officials to make a much-needed investment in its system.

The Queens Library, along with the Brooklyn and New York public libraries, recently launched the “Invest in Libraries” campaign, which aims to engage New Yorkers in the debate and convince city lawmakers to provide an additional $65 million in combined funding in the 2016 fiscal year budget, which takes effect in July.

Queens Library’s Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey outlined the campaign in an exclusive interview with The Courier Thursday. The Queens Library seeks an $18.2 million funding boost from the city, a drop in the bucket in a budget projected to meet or exceed $70 billion.

Should Queens Library receive the extra funding, Quinn-Carey claimed, it would restore the library’s funding level to that of 2008 and open the door toward adding more than 200 new jobs, expanding existing educational programs and restoring six-day service throughout the system. Since 2008, the library lost 20 percent of its funds, pared jobs and eliminated six-day service at two-thirds of its 62 branches.

Quinn-Carey charged that increasing library funds is a concept that aligns with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to increase economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.  For instance, the extra funds would enable Queens Library to expand its English as a second language program, which was held at 40 branches and proved so popular that some potential students were turned away due to a lack of available seats.

“This is really an investment not only in the traditional library system but also community engagement,” she said. “This is giving communities a greater chance of success.”

Additionally, the Queens Library is also seeking capital funds to renovate many aging, yet heavily used branches such as the Corona, Rego Park and Far Rockaway locations. De Blasio set aside $300 million in the city’s 10-year capital plan to renovate libraries, but Quinn-Carey noted the actual projected costs exceed $1.4 billion.

Quinn-Carey and the Queens Library have spent the better part of a year working to repair its image following a scandal centered around its former president and CEO, Thomas W. Galante. He came under fire early in 2014 after it was revealed that he collected a nearly $400,000 annual salary, ordered a six-figure renovation of his office and made other lavish expenses at a time when the library cut jobs and services due to funding cutbacks.

The library lost political and financial support, and local elected officials such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sought to change the library’s board of trustees after it resisted calls to force Galante out of office and fully open its financial books. Legislation enacted by the state in June empowered Katz and de Blasio to remove eight library trustees who supported Galante and resisted calls for full financial disclosure.

The board of trustees was stocked with new members by September, when it forced Galante into a leave of absence. Quinn-Carey was named as his interim replacement, and Galante was subsequently fired in December.

Quinn-Carey said she and the reconstituted board are working closely with the government to reform the library system. It engaged audit firms to assess the library’s risks and expenses. Steps were also taken to make the library more transparent; the library is now in compliance with the Freedom of Information Law and posts expense records on its website.

“These efforts and a reform of policies and procedures should reassure the public that the library is a great institution and still able to deliver these great services,” Quinn-Carey said.

Click here for more information about the Invest in Libraries campaign.

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Renovated Rego Park Social Security office reopens


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Property Shark/Scott Bintner

The Social Security office in Rego Park is up and running once again.

Renovations to the office located at 63-44 Austin St. forced its closure last December, making the hundreds of daily visitors have to travel to other offices around Brooklyn and Queens – including Jamaica, Flushing and Bushwick.

“The reopening of the Social Security facility in Rego Park is great news,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng said. “I’m pleased that the facility has been modernized and I hope these improvements will allow its staff to better serve our borough.”

All 32 employees stationed at the Rego Park office prior to the renovation returned upon the office’s reopening. The full-service facility handles all matters including retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for qualified individuals.

The office is open five days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Click here for more information.

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Rego Park woman sentenced for fatally pushing man in front of 7 train


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Schwen

A Rego Park woman began a 24-year prison sentence Wednesday for pushing a man to his death at a 7 train station in Sunnyside more than two years ago.

Erika Menendez, 33, pled guilty in March of this year to a manslaughter charge for killing Sunnando Sen, 46, at the 40th Street station on the night of Dec. 27, 2012.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Menendez was seen talking to herself and pacing on the platform at about 8 p.m. that evening. Moments later, she shoved Sen from behind off the platform and into an arriving Manhattan-bound 7 train.

Sen was pronounced dead a short time later from blunt force trauma.

During questioning, Menendez reportedly claimed she attacked Sen, whom she believed was a Muslim, because she hated “Hindus and Muslims ever since” the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Her prior record includes attacking a fire department battalion chief in June 2003 in front of his home on Palmetto Street in Ridgewood.

“[Menendez] committed what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare — being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday. “The victim was shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself… [Her] actions clearly show that she is a threat to society and deserving of today’s sentence.”

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Map: Where recent college grads can afford rent in Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Minas Styponias

For recent college graduates, living in New York City while juggling student loans and living expenses can seem almost impossible.

Add in the need for fun and entertainment, and most won’t have a dime remaining from their paychecks.

However, a new study released Wednesday by real estate website StreetEasy shows, through an interactive map, in what neighborhoods recent graduates will be able to find affordable apartments as they begin a life of independence in the Big Apple. Some areas in the “World’s Borough” have been pointed out as leading contenders.

“One of our top tips for recent grads moving to NYC is to look outside of Manhattan, and our study shows that several neighborhoods in Queens are especially ‘grad-friendly,’” a StreetEasy representative said.

Astoria and Ridgewood top the list of those Queens neighborhoods, but affordable apartments can be found in many neighborhoods throughout the borough including Kew Gardens, Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Rego Park and Flushing.

The map (below) reveals the availability of affordable apartments in city based on three variables. It uses the average entry-level salaries for the top 10 majors of recent grads moving to the NYC, including business, social sciences, education and engineering, the percent of income one is willing to pay toward rent and the possibility of roommates.

The study found what many have known for decades —  paying NYC rents is actually possible when roommates are included. However, the report also notes, it is possible to fly solo in the city and spend only 30 percent of income, but graduates will have to do serious apartment hunting.

It would also help, if only slightly, not to be an education major.

Zero percent of studio and one-bedroom listings are affordable to solo education majors, according to the study, whereas only 2.7 percent and 5.1 percent were available for social science and business majors respectively.

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Man suspected in second subway public lewdness incident in Queens


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man wanted for exposing himself to a straphanger on an R train last month has now been connected to a similar public lewdness incident at a Queens subway station on Valentine’s Day, police said.

A 50-year-old woman was waiting for a Queens-bound F train at the Queens Boulevard and 63rd Drive stop in Rego Park about 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 14 when the suspect approached the victim and exposed himself to her. He then boarded an F train while the victim remained on the platform and waited for the next train.

The same man is also suspected of exposing himself to a 34-year-old woman on board a Queens-bound R train about 7:40 a.m. on March 2.

As the train was at the Grand Avenue stop in Elmhurst, the man sat down in front of the woman and allegedly exposed himself. He then got off at the next stop on Woodhaven and Queens boulevards.

Police describe the suspect as Hispanic, about 25-30 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 120 to 140 pounds.

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

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Precinct council meets new officers, domestic violence chief in Forest Hills


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

BY ANGELA MATUA

New faces were introduced at the 112th Precinct Community Council meeting on Wednesday, March 18, at the precinct’s Forest Hills headquarters.

Capt. William Matusiak, who has been on the job for 31 years, will be joining the precinct as an executive officer from the Midtown North precinct.

Though Matusiak never served in Queens, he grew up in Maspeth and Woodside.

Sgt. Brian McGowen, who previously served the 109th Precinct, will be supervising area schools.

The new community affairs officer, P.O. Tony Jimenez, is originally from the 104th Precinct and is also a clergy liaison. He has worked for the NYPD for 22 years.

Chief Diana Pizzuti of NYPD Patrol Borough Queens North, said she hopes the new additions to the precinct will help “build relationships between cops and kids” especially “with the recent unrest” that has taken place across the country that has strained relations between police officers and the communities they serve.

Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Staff at the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Tracy Weber-Thomas also addressed the community about what services are available for victims of domestic violence.

Approximately 282,000 domestic violence occurrences were reported in New York City last year, according to Weber-Thomas, with 53,000 reported in Queens. Of the cases in Queens, 1,300 were in the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park.

The Queens Family Justice Center, located at 106-02 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens, is a “one-stop service center” that will help victims of domestic abuse regardless of immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation or the language they speak, said Weber-Thomas.

Weber-Thomas encouraged anyone who is a victim of domestic violence to visit the family justice center, where no appointments are needed to speak to a counselor. Children can play in a children’s room while parents meet with a prosecutor or apply for housing or financial assistance.

The city also runs a NYC Healthy Relationship Academy initiative that coaches children ages 17 to 24 to run workshops about dating violence and healthy relationships for adolescents and young adults.

Click here for more information about the city’s domestic violence prevention programs.

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Cops seek suspects in Forest Hills, Rego Park business burglaries


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police have released a photo of a man wanted for questioning in a burglary pattern at businesses in Rego Park and Forest Hills dating back to January.

The most recent burglary occurred on March 4 at the Key Food supermarket at 92-02 63rd Dr. in Rego Park after breaking into the market’s side door, police said.

Authorities said the crooks also visited that day the Da Mikelle II Restaurant, located at 102-53 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills, broke through a rear door and removed an undetermined amount of money.

The person of interest is pictured in a security camera image taken at a nearby 7-Eleven shortly after the March 4 burglaries, authorities said.

Police described the six other incidents in the burglary pattern as follows:

  • On Jan. 24, the burglars broke through the rear wall of the Knish Nosh restaurant at 100-30 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills and removed kitchen utensils and cash.
  • The following day, Jan. 25, burglars broke through the rear door of the Midorinatsu Hibachi restaurant at 111-16 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills and stole cash, an ASIS laptop computer and two safe boxes.
  • On Feb. 18, the suspects entered through a skylight at the Rainbow store at 63-22 Austin St. in Rego Park and removed assorted drugs.
  • On Feb. 26, the burglars unsuccessfully attempted to break through the rear door of Colony Drugs and Surgical at 103-19 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills.
  • The next day, Feb. 27, the crooks also failed in attempts to break into two Rego Park restaurants: Vstrecha at 98-98 Queens Blvd. and Nasicha at 98-92 63rd Dr.

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

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One-bedroom rents in February soar in Ridgewood, Rego Park studio rates tumble


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of StreetEasy.com/ Charts courtesy of MNS Real Estate

Renters paid more for one-bedroom Ridgewood apartments in February as rates jumped more than 7 percent from January, according to the Queens Rental Market Report by MNS Real Estate.

One-bedroom rents in the neighborhood, which have been rising because of a spill-over effect from nearby trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods, climbed to an average of $1,749 per month in February from $1,630 in January, the report found.

While there was a big increase in Ridgewood, rents in Rego Park, which have been increasing in recent months due to an influx of luxury units, dropped.

The average monthly rents for studios in the neighborhood fell more than 12.5 percent to $1,527 in February. Prices of two-bedrooms in the area slid more than 5 percent as well to $2,453.

Overall rents in the borough followed Rego Park and dipped slightly to $2,089.37 in February from $2,103.96 in January. However, the experts at MNS expect prices to start trending upwards as the weather heats up.

“With listing inventory steadily increasing, we expect prices to follow suit, with demand for new units pushing prices up over the coming months, especially leading up to the summer months, particularly in the Astoria and LIC neighborhoods,” the report said.

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Rego Park man pleads guilty to sending death threats to employee of American Islamic organization: FBI


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Title

A 58-year-old Rego Park man has pleaded guilty to sending threatening emails to an employee of the Council on American Islamic Relations, the FBI announced on Tuesday.

According to court documents and the guilty plea he entered in New York’s Eastern District federal court on Monday, Bernhard Laufer admitted to threatening the employee with significant bodily harm and death. The communications were sent in June 2014 from New York to the employee who worked for the civil rights and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

“Those who make violent threats to others because of race, religion or national origin must be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting those who engage in such conduct.”

Laufer faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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Rego Park teacher pleads guilty to sexually abusing boys, won’t see prison time


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Strini/PropertyShark

A Rego Park elementary school computer teacher will be sentenced to 10 years of probation after he pleaded guilty to sexual conduct with minors in his classroom over the course of four years, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

Wilbert Cortez, 52, admitted to one count of first-degree sex abuse and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child when he appeared in court on Wednesday. Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder will sentence Cortez on March 30.

On top of serving probation, Cortez, who taught at P.S. 174, will lose his New York State Teacher’s Certificate, must complete sex offender counseling and will register as a sex offender.

According to Brown, Cortez engaged in sexual conduct with four boys younger than 11 years old on multiple occasions beginning in 2007, in 2010 through the spring of 2011, and again in the fall of 2011.

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Selling point: Joe Abbracciamento site sells again and more big sales


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The closing and sale of the nearly seven-decade-old Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant in Rego Park caused an emotional stir in the neighborhood last year.

The buyer, Criterion Group, had plans to demolish and build on the property, but nearly one year after the eatery closed, the new owner has sold the property. That transaction is just one of the big sales in the borough over the week.

Address: 62-98 Woodhaven Blvd., Rego Park
Price: $10,850,000

Plans to transform the former site of Rego Park’s beloved Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant haven’t gone anywhere. The restaurant and adjoining buildings were sold to 62-98 Realty LLC, a firm based in Flushing, for $10.8 million, according to city records filed on Friday.

After the family-owned eatery closed and was sold along with the adjoining buildings on the block for $9 million to Criterion Group, according to property records, permits were filed by the new owners to demolish the buildings and build a seven-story residential building on the lots with nearly 120 apartments and 60 parking spaces. The stores attached to the restaurant were closed last year for the impending demolition, which has not occurred as yet.

Address: 39-34 43rd St., Sunnyside
Price: $8,100,000

This warehouse building near Torsney/Lou Lodati Playground traded hands for $8.1 million, according to city records filed on Tuesday. Jay Kestenbaum is the buyer.

Last year, the FDNY tried to acquire this site to store about 100 spare and reserve fire engines, according to published reports. The plan needed Uniform Land Use Review Procedure approval from the city. Although it was approved by Community Board 2, the plan was met with some opposition. Residents cited potential problems of increased traffic and noise. The FDNY withdrew its application and plans for the site in August.

Address: 39-50 24th St., LIC
Price: $5,675,000

Greiner-Maltz Investment Properties closed on this apartment building on Tuesday. The four-story, 30-unit building has 21,680 square feet of space. There are also two vacant retail spaces in the building on the ground floor. The sale has yet to hit city property records.

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What to know about Queens rents in January


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Charts courtesy of MNS Real Estate

Overall most Queens renters didn’t see much of a change in rates from December to January as prices increased just 0.21 percent to $2,103.96.

However, select areas experienced more significant changes, revealing important neighborhood trends, according to data from MNS Real Estate’s January Queens Rental Market Report.

It’s back over $4,000

The most expensive rents for studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments can be found in Long Island City, as is the norm. But in January, the average rents of two-bedroom apartments in Long Island City climbed over the $4,000 mark for the first time since May of 2014 to an average of $4,044, according to the report. After hitting a low of $3,747 in June of 2014, prices fluctuated for a few months before slowly rising toward the end of the year.


A bargain in Jackson Heights  

Tenants paid about an average of $1,514 for rental studios in Forest Hills in January, which is 6.62 percent less than the previous month and the largest percent drop that month. It was a significant decline in rates, but renters looking for a bargain should focus on Jackson Heights studios, where prices are $114 less at an average of $1,400 per month. Of the neighborhoods analyzed in the borough in January, Jackson Heights has the lowest prices for studios.

Rocketing Rego Park

Rego Park is continuing its hot streak. Average prices in the neighborhood are continuing to burn through residents’ wallets as new luxury units recently entered the market. For the month of January, average prices for two-bedrooms in the neighborhood rose a whopping 17.1 percent during the month to $2,598. From November to December 2014, Rego Park rental studios saw an stark increase of 12 percent in average rents.

 

Click here to read the full report.

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Watch Rego Park woman compete in ‘Jeopardy!’ Teachers Tournament semifinals


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

BY JAIME DEJESUS

It’s a daily double for one Queens woman!

Bay Ridge Prep fifth-grade teacher and Rego Park resident Erin McLaughlin was chosen to compete on the hit game show “Jeopardy!” The competition was filmed a month ago, with McLaughlin’s latest episode airing this Monday night on ABC 7 as part of the show’s annual Teachers Tournament.

Though she came in second in her first game of the tournament on Feb. 2, she still advanced to the semifinals by landing one of four wildcard spots — given to the competitors who won the most money aside from the winner.

McLaughlin, who has been an avid fan of the show since she was a child, tried out for the show many times online. She even received auditions in the past.

She then got the call for the third audition. Despite jitters some may have during the audition process, McLaughlin’s experience was a positive one.

“They make it really fun,” she said. “We played a pretend game of ‘Jeopardy!’ and they gave advice on how to behave.”

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Months after the audition, she was about to give up hope and take the online test again, when she was asked to fly to California to make her appearance on the game show.

“I was very surprised I got the call,” McLaughlin said. “Once you’re in the contestant pool, you are only in it for 18 months. After December, I was going to be out of the pool. That was it. I was just going to try again. But I guess the third time was the charm.”

Once her appearance was confirmed, she had six weeks to practice before she flew to the West Coast in December to compete against fellow teachers.

“I spent time studying categories that I didn’t know that much about like opera, presidents, composers,” McLaughlin said. “I took a lot of online quizzes. Other people quizzed me too. I knew a lot about pop culture and literature, so I didn’t prepare for those areas as much.”

When it was finally time to compete, she was ready to for the challenge. “I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. There was no time to be,” she said. “I’ve watched the show since I was a kid so it was so surreal being on the stage. When that famous music started to play, I finally realized that it’s really happening. It was so strange.”

McLaughlin also enjoyed meeting the show’s longtime host, Alex Trebek, whom she described as “nice and personable.” She also liked being amongst her peers.

“Meeting the other contestants was great because we all have the same jobs and we had a lot in common,” McLaughlin said.

She wasn’t the only one excited about competing in the show. Her husband and stepdaughter were in attendance, cheering her on, and her students back home were as well.


“My students are very excited for me,” McLaughlin said. “They interviewed me and also asked me lots of questions about my experience.”

Her school, Bay Ridge Prep, located in southern Brooklyn, is also thrilled for the dedicated teacher and showed it by throwing a party the day her first episode ran.

“They’ve been so great and supportive,” she said.

Although McLaughlin didn’t know what to expect, she realized that playing at home is slightly easier than the real thing. “It was harder than I thought it would be,” she admitted.

“It was lots of fun and I realized whatever the outcome was, it didn’t matter,” McLaughlin said. “I’m just sad I can’t do it again.”

To watch McLaughlin compete in the Teachers Tournament semifinals, tune in on Monday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. on ABC 7. 

-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

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Five interesting facts about Queens home sales in 2014


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Continental Park /Chart courtesy of REBNY 

The Real Estate Board of New York released its 2014 fourth quarter home sales report for the five boroughs on Tuesday, which showed that homebuyers spent nearly $10 billion in New York City during the final three months of the year.

Since a ton of cash was spent, here are five interesting and maybe surprising facts pulled from the report showing how Queens fits into the big picture: 

Playing catch-up

Homebuyers spent 10 percent more money in Queens, the city’s most diverse borough, in the fourth quarter of 2014 than the previous quarter, accounting for $1.78 billion. Brooklyn, the city’s most populous borough, had total sales of $1.97 billion in the quarter, which results in a drop of 1.43 percent from the third quarter. Of course Manhattan leads the pack, but saw a major drop of 22.56 percent from the third quarter with just $5.3 billion in home sales.

Up, up and away

The prices of homes in the borough are definitely moving on up. The average sales price of a home in Queens was $463,000, up 7 percent from the fourth quarter in 2013. However, this pales in comparison to Manhattan and Brooklyn. The average price in Manhattan increased a whopping 19 percent from last year to $1.65 million, and people actually paid 15 percent more for a home in Brooklyn at an average price of $713,000. Fuhgeddaboudit!

REBNY chart

Condo “mini”-ums

Condos in “The World’s Borough” actually saw a decrease in prices, the report found. The average price of a condominium in Queens decreased 3 percent to $477,000. This is drastically different from “skyscraper world,” otherwise known as Manhattan, where prices for condos rose year over the year, increasing 37 percent to an average of $2.33 million.

Flushing in first

The report showed that the combined neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens had the most home sales with 443 in the fourth quarter. But to be fair, Flushing, which was counted alone, should take home the crown for most sales. The neighborhood recorded 401 home sales in the quarter.

And the winners are….

The area in Queens with the highest percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2014 over the year included the Howard Beach and Broad Channel neighborhoods, which saw a 25 percent jump in home prices to an average of $427,000. Long Island City had the most expensive prices with an average of $915,000.

Click here to read the full report.

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