Tag Archives: Rego Park

Star of Queens: Aida Vernon, president, Briarwood Action Network


| editorial@queenscourier.com

aida vernon

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Aida Vernon is the president of Briarwood Action Network, a civic association that addresses problems in the Briarwood community.

BACKGROUND:  Vernon was actually born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rego Park. She has been living in Briarwood since 1996. By day, Vernon is a lawyer, by night she is president of the Briarwood Action Network.

She started the Briarwood Action Network in the summer of 2011.  She wanted to create a forum for her neighbors to voice their community concerns. She formed this group out of the impulse to engage with neighbors.

“I, along with the collaboration of the members of the board, am very passionate to get people involved and helping the community,” said Vernon.

GOALS: According to Vernon, the Briarwood Action Network does not have one single focus.

“Along with the help of the NYC Department of Parks and the event “It’s My Park Day,” we were able to get our community involved in the beautification of [Hoover Park],” said Vernon.

In addition to holding informational meetings for the neighborhood to voice its concerns, the group has also conducted holiday food and toy drives, collecting 1,600 food items this holiday season. In the coming year, Vernon hopes to continue with the projects they have been working on.

BEST MEMORY:  Out of everything the Briarwood Action Network has accomplished Vernon said her favorite memory has to be the It’s My Park Day, which they have been holding every spring and fall.

“Everyone gets involved, from younger kids to senior citizens, they all come to plant flowers, listen to the live jazz music, and the event has proven to be a great way to get people involved.”

The Briarwood Action Network also received an award for its outstanding participation in  It’s My Park Day.

INSPIRATION: Vernon credits her fellow board members as her inspiration.  “They are all so passionate about what we do, and I could not have done it without them,” said Vernon.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:  According to Vernon, their biggest challenge is getting more people actively involved. “Our key goal is to inspire others to do with us,” she said.

KATELYN DISALVO

 

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Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant set to close after nearly 70 years


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A beloved Queens eatery that has fed generations for nearly 70 years will soon be serving up its last course.

Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant, a neighborhood fixture at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard, will close March 2, as longtime owners prepare for retirement.

“We just want to sit back for a little while, relax and breathe the fresh air,” said owner John Abbracciamento, 60 . “It’s bittersweet. But, basically, it’s time.”

The Italian eatery opened in 1948 under Abbracciamento’s father, Joe. Over time, it became a staple in the borough.

“We’ve taken care of people from the day they were born,” Abbracciamento said. “It’s a wonderful treat to be a part of their lives and some of the most important occasions that they would celebrate. We will sadly miss that part of it.”

Abbracciamento has known the restaurant life since he was 13.

It was not an easy decision to put it to rest after the baton was passed down to him from his late father, Abbracciamento said. But it was a necessary one.

“It was my father’s dream,” he said. “My brother and I kept it going. But I’ve just come to the point in my life where I just need some time to clear my head and move forward.”

“We had a nice, long run — a very successful run,” Abbracciamento said. “It’s just time to just relax a little bit.”

Longtime patrons said the loss of the local icon is a blow to the Queens dining scene and to the community.

“I’m sad. I’ve known them for 30 years,” said Leon Sorin. “They’ve been working hard for many years. Maybe it’s time.”

John Harrington, 73, has been coming for the “out of this world” lasagna for 38 years.

“I was shocked when I heard it was closing,” he said. “It’s a shame because you don’t have any good restaurants around.”

Ed Wendell, a lifelong Queens resident, called the restaurant “the go-to place” for Italian cuisine.

“It’s one of those places where a lot of people are going to look back now and say, ‘Man, I wish I had gone more,’” he said. “It will be missed.”

 

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Report shows timeline of day Avonte Oquendo went missing


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

It has been almost four months since Avonte Oquendo  disappeared and new information on the day the autistic teen went missing has surfaced, leaving larger questions, according to the boy’s family’s attorney.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on  Oct. 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

According to a Department of Education occurrence report obtained by David Perecman, an attorney for Avonte’s family, a timeline shows what happened before, during and after the boy went missing.

The 14-year-old boy was part of a class with three people watching the group. The number of children in the class is still unknown, according to the report. The group entered the stairwell on the fifth floor and then exited on the second floor, but in the middle of the descent Avonte got away from the group and made his way to the first floor.

The boy then is seen through surveillance cameras walking by the security desk twice before leaving the side door, on Center Boulevard, which had been left opened, according to the report. A few minutes later, a school safety agent closed the door.

According to the report, the boy’s teachers did not notice him missing until 12:40 p.m. and did not notify the assistant principal until 12:56 p.m. who then went to the safety agent at the main desk who told her she had not seen Avonte leave the school. Instead, she emphasized she had seen the boy go up the stairs.

Perecman said the safety agent’s story does not match the surveillance tape that shows the boy leaving the school. He also said the agent initially told Avonte’s grandmother she had not stopped the boy from leaving the school because she didn’t know he was disabled.

“It’s really very distressing to think these are the people watching over your children,” said Perecman. “This place is dysfunctional. These kids should be watching the teachers.”

The timeline report also shows the school administration did not know Avonte had left the building until almost two hours later because they did not have the security codes needed to access the surveillance tapes, according to Perecman.

Perecman also said a lockdown was not put into effect until 2 p.m. because the assistant principal’s initial request for a “soft lockdown” was denied to make sure they did not “upset other students.”

The Department of Education did not respond for comment.

Volunteers and family searching for the boy moved from their outdoor Long Island City headquarters to an indoor one at 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria

The new headquarters will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Star of Queens: Jessame Hannus, Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee co-chair; Biking Public Project co-founder


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

DSC_0408

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jessame Hannus is the co-chair of Transportation Alternatives (TA) Queens Activist Committee and a co-founder of the Biking Public Project.

BACKGROUND: By night Hannus is an activist, but by day she works as an insurance broker. “I have no training in urban planning, but have long been fascinated with the correlation between planning community, what makes a healthy neighborhood or shopping district, and how environment contributes to that. I grew up in a fairly suburban community with the amazing good fortune to have free public transportation and moved from there to Los Angeles and then New York,” said Hannus. “I have never actually owned a car! Even in LA I took the city bus.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “Getting involved with TA Queens Committee really changed my life. I got to know a truly phenomenal community of caring and committed people who I now call friends,” said Hannus. Being part of the committee has allowed Hannus to be empowered to become a better public speaker and organizer.

One of Hannus’ favorite events was the “Around the World in Dumplings” ride she led last January. During the ride the group sampled cuisine from eight different countries in a seven-mile ride, and each stop Hannus gave the group some information about ongoing activism in the immediate neighborhood. “I loved being able to share my love of food, the culture of Queens and spread the word about community involvement in a way that was fun,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: According to Hannus, the biggest challenge with complete streets advocating in Queens is explaining the concept to those who are not looped in to the urban planning community. “Time and time again I encounter people who cannot envision a way things could be better. It can be disheartening and discouraging, so I can only imagine how the DOT [Department of Transportation] and City Planning feel when they encounter this sentiment time and time again when presenting their proposals to community,” said Hannus.

INSPIRATION: Living in many neighborhoods in New York City, Hannus encountered a whole new set of transportation challenges when she moved to Rego Park. “Sandwiched between Woodhaven and Queens Boulevard, I quickly discovered that finding safe bike routes would be very difficult. I found TA because I was looking for people to ride with to help me navigate this confusing and dangerous streetscape.”

Then, after a number of years involved in the advocacy, a friend of Hannus, spurred by the lack of representation of minorities and working cyclists in the advocacy movement, started the idea for a group to address that lack. The Biking Public was created.

 

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Avonte Oquendo’s mother won’t give up as search headquarters relocate to Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

It has been more than two months since Avonte Oquendo went missing from his Long Island City school, and all his mother wants is to bring him home for Christmas.

“Avonte is still missing. A lot of people think he’s been found and I want them to know that he is still missing and we need to find him,” said Vanessa Fontaine, the autistic teen’s mother. “He has been too long without his mother. I just want to have him home for Christmas.”

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, who family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and drove around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls. Volunteers have posted fliers with Avonte’s photo and information throughout the city.

Family and volunteers searching for the boy were operating out of an RV located on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard, and tents outside of Avonte’s school. Yet, due to the cold weather, the volunteer headquarters has moved indoors to 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria and are in need of more volunteers, said Fontaine.

Fontaine said she believes someone might have her son and is asking for whoever does to drop him off at a public area, attach a note saying “I’m the missing boy, call 9-1-1,” and go on their way.

“I just want my son,” she said. “I’m not going to send any negative vibes to that person. I just want my child, that’s it.”

She also said that if anyone spots Avonte or thinks that it might be him, they should not wait, but should call 9-1-1 immediately and let police know the location.

The new headquarters, which will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, will function as a permanent location until Avonte is brought home safe and sound, said a volunteer. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information, visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Ben’s Best: A New York classic


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

While many kosher delicatessens around the country have come and gone, Ben’s Best in Rego Park has remained a staple in the neighborhood for nearly 70 years, using one simple rule.

Owner Jay Parker, a Rockaway native, makes certain the restaurant is a master of one trade. The menu at the eatery has not changed much since his father, Benjamin, opened it in 1945 and they have not tried to branch off into other areas of the food industry.

From day one, Ben’s Best has produced high-quality kosher deli sandwiches, sides and classic entrees.

“You come here for a particular item,” Parker said. “People step through the door, they want to step back in time. They want to remember the old days.”

Parker assumed control of the restaurant after his father passed away in 1984. When he was younger he didn’t want to own the deli.

Parker was a bond trader on Wall Street, who was let go after his company was sold. It was then that he had an epiphany and turned down offers from other Wall Street companies.

“I remember walking out of that building and I said I will never ever place myself in a position where somebody else will decide whether or not I make a living,” Parker said.

The deli offers all kinds of kosher overstuffed sandwiches including flavorful pastrami, turkey, roast beef and bologna, among other meat selections. For about 35 years Parkers has been buying these meats from the same vendor.

Crunchy pickles, coleslaw and thick-cut french fries, golden brown to perfection, are popular sides on the menu.

The deli has various soups, such as old-fashioned chicken soup, which are made fresh from scratch every day.

The deli also serves wraps, salads and various entrees, including salmon and steak, but sandwiches are its specialty. In fact, it has unique sandwiches named after community leaders, such as former Congressmember Gary Ackerman, which is corned beef, turkey and onions with a Russian dressing.

The restaurant even offers a special sandwich-eating challenge for really hungry customers or people looking to push their stomachs.

The Ben’s Best Challenge is a whopping pound of deli meat– corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, turkey and salami– on a club roll, a 20-ounce bowl of matzo soup, a half-pound of coleslaw, two pickles and two orders of french fries.

Anyone who finishes the entire meal will receive a mug, be entered in a raffle to win a $100 Ben’s Best gift certificate, and have their picture on the wall of the restaurant and its Facebook account.

Ben’s Best
96-40 Queens Boulevard
718-897-1700
Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
And 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Wheelchair accessible

 

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Op-ed: Proposals for QueensWay project


| oped@queenscourier.com


ASSEMBLYMEMBER MIKE MILLER

I want to take a moment to address the QueensWay project, a proposed public greenway that will transform the Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach Branch, which was abandoned over 50 years ago. Specifically, the former railroad extends 3.5 miles from Rego Park and Forest Hills down to Ozone Park. This proposed project is one of great concern to many residents in certain areas of the rail line due to its potential negative impact on the local residents.

Certain sections of the proposed QueensWay, specifically the area of the rail line that runs parallel to 98th Street in Woodhaven, will be adjacent to the backyards of nearly 200 homeowners. Although I have been informed by the Friends of QueensWay that they plan to build the QueensWay completely gated around the entrances and make it inaccessible at night, local residents should not be the ones burdened with the cost of building a more secure fence around their backyards to ensure the privacy and safety of their home.

To find additional evidence of the resident’s safety concern, you do not have to look any further than several incidents that have occurred in and around the vicinity of Forest Park in recent years. I echo the sentiments of residents by asking how can we expect the local precincts to carry the additional responsibility of patrolling and responding to incidents on the proposed QueensWay when our precincts are already being spread too thin within our district as it is? Many of the residents on 98th Street are okay with the rail line being underutilized and prefer it stay that way. I also agree that the rail line from Park Lane South down to Atlantic Avenue be left untouched as to not interfere with the quality of life of the local residents.

Further, as per the suggestion of the MTA in its 20-year plan, the rail line from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard should be left as is and eventually be used as a connection for an express line connection into Manhattan.

After carefully balancing the potential positive impact of the QueensWay versus the potential negative impact on certain local residents, I recommend that:

1) The QueensWay be built only on the part of the rail line that stretches from Rego Park to Park Lane South

2) The rail line from Park Lane South to Atlantic Avenue be left untouched as to not interfere with the quality of life of local residents; and

3) The rail line from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard also be left untouched, so it can eventually be used by the MTA as an express line connection into Manhattan

In regards to maintenance of the QueensWay, it must be said that this proposed project should not at all be compared to The High Line public greenway in Manhattan. I remain unconvinced that The QueensWay when built from Rego Park to Park Lane South could achieve anywhere close to the level of corporate membership, sponsorship, and support the High Line in Manhattan has based solely on the lack of surrounding businesses in the area and the lower level of tourism that attracts the private funding necessary to maintain a public greenway. Without a consistent level of support and sponsorship from local businesses in addition to private funding, I fear that the QueensWay will eventually become an eyesore for local residents when funding for maintenance becomes an issue.

Additionally, I am interested to know whether Queens-based companies and local businesses will be the ones who are given the contracts to build out this proposed project. I believe that if the QueensWay is going to be built for the benefit of Queens residents and if it will positively impact Queens’ local businesses, then why are there currently no Queens-based companies being sought for the contracts even in the early stages of this project? I can only see a positive impact on the economy of Queens if our own borough’s businesses benefit from building the QueensWay.

Michael G. Miller represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale. He was elected in September of 2009 in the Special Election called by Governor David Paterson.

 

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Board derails QueensWay funding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Community Board 9 has taken QueensWay funding out of its budget.

At its November meeting, the board voted 30-13 and concluded that its capital budget should not prioritize the proposal, which would convert a 3.5-mile former Rockaway Beach LIRR line into a public greenway.

Late last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded $467,000 to study the project’s potential, and an additional $600,000 was raised through private donations.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has put together a team that will conduct the study.

“If the feasibility of a project can’t be figured out when it already has nearly a half million dollars to figure it out, then there’s a problem,” said Alexander Blenkinsopp, CB 9 and Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) member.

The QueensWay, if built, would connect Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park to Forest Park, provide pedestrian and bike paths, as well as public green space and serve as an art and culture forum.

Marc Matsil, the New York State Director for Trust for Public Land, said CB 9 was right to have taken the QueensWay out of its priorities because “the funds were raised.”

The proposal, however, has met a varying amount of both opposition and support.

Many area residents believe instead of a new park, the rail line should be reactivated to provide more public transportation. Others say the safety of current parks, such as nearby Forest Park, should be assured before a new greenspace is created.

The WRBA decided not to support either the QueensWay or a train reactivation because there were “some important questions that couldn’t be answered adequately,” Blenkinsopp said, mentioning safety.

CB 9 has not yet replaced QueensWay with any other item on its budget priorities.

“We know there will be critics,” Matsil said. “Our goal is to work with everyone.”

Matsil said, however, there is an “immense amount of enthusiasm in the community” for the potential new park and that though the safety concerns are “fairly clear,” he is confident residents feel there is a “need for a project like QueensWay.”

 

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Autism expert says there’s still hope Avonte Oquendo will be found


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Close to six weeks have passed and although Avonte Oquendo’s whereabouts are still unknown, the search continues as hope in finding the autistic teen remains strong.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

The NYPD and volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, whose family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls.

The command center for volunteers and family searching for the boy is now operating out of an RV located on the side of The Riverview School on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard.

According to Andrew Baumann, president and CEO of New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC), this is not an isolated case. Children with autism are prone to running and throughout the country there have been many cases of children disappearing, he said.

“I don’t believe that anyone should give up hope on finding Avonte alive and in good condition,” Baumann said. “I don’t believe in giving up, these kids are really resilient.”

Baumann also said the teen’s family had no control over what happened because they trusted the school to take responsibility. He believes school security agents should hold back any child attempting to leave and report the incident to the principal.

“I don’t care how old the child is, no child should ever be allowed to walk out of the school during the school day,” Baumann said.

Last week Senator Charles Schumer called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both create and fund a program which would provide voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other developmental disorders.

According to Baumann, these devices would and do work great, but there should be ways to make sure they are 100 percent effective and cannot be removed if the child were to take off their clothes.

“Now we need people to take action, if they see him they should stay with him until the police come,” said Baumann. “The reward is nothing. It shouldn’t be about the money and the reward, it should be about doing the right thing.”

If anyone sees Avonte, they should follow him and keep him within eye contact and call 9-1-1, said Baumann.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 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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Plane carrying banner to help find Avonte Oquendo flies over Queens, Manhattan


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A plane with a banner reading “Bring Avonte Oquendo Home 1-800-577-TIPS”  flew over Queens and Manhattan Sunday in an effort to help find the autistic teen who has been missing since early October.

A volunteer pilot flew the banner over the two boroughs for an hour yesterday afternoon, according to the Bring Avonte Home Facebook page.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school, according to the family’s attorney, David Perecman.

A $95,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his safe return.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 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.

-With additional reporting by Angy Altamirano

 

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Boy in subway photo not missing teen Avonte Oquendo


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

After a photo showing a boy on the subway that resembled Avonte Oquendo emerged online Tuesday, police have confirmed it was not the autistic teen who has been missing for close to four weeks, according to reports.

A teenage boy posted on his Facebook a photo of who he believed resembled Avonte riding a F train Tuesday afternoon, according to reports. The image showed the side view of a boy sitting down wearing a tan jacket, green pants, and staring straight ahead. The teen reportedly said he asked the boy if he was Avonte and received no answer.

Police reportedly located the pictured boy and said it was not the missing autistic teen.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school, said the family’s attorney, David Perecman.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward has increased to $95,000. The reward money includes the support of Health First, the employer of the missing teen’s mother, Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, David Perecman of the Perecman Firm, Mayerson & Associates, a New York Law Firm which represents individuals with autism, Manhattan Children’s Center, a nonprofit private autism school an anonymous donor, an anonymous donor and other supporters. ­­

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Op-Ed: Where are we one year later?


| oped@queenscourier.com


BY STATE SENATOR JOSEPH ADDABBO JR.

On any particular day, whether I’m working, getting a cup of coffee, shopping or having dinner in the district, people detail their experiences involving Superstorm Sandy in many different ways. A year later, many still get tears in their eyes, others remain frustrated about the lack of progress, while some see it as a chance to make improvements and some are optimistic about community improvements. One storm, a year later, still causes many emotions.

While we can’t control the weather, we can take steps to control the level of our preparedness and what direction our government takes in addressing the next storm. We’ve learned a lot from Sandy, and I would urge my constituents to think ahead and make sure they have detailed emergency plans in place: know how to contact one another in case of an emergency; have adequate supplies of canned goods, medicines, batteries, flashlights and water on hand; know what to do to help secure your homes and properties to minimize risks during a storm. Useful hurricane preparedness information may be found at this NYS Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/event/hurricane-safety.cfm.

I, along with other elected officials, have been advocating for adequate funding and needed legislation to help the district address the many serious human, economic and other consequences resulting from Sandy. As a member of the New York State Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy, I look forward to continuing the effort of our state in responding to Sandy’s devastation and obtaining assistance for those in need.  Currently, our city’s and state’s portion of the federal funding of $61 billion to help Sandy victims is being distributed through NYC Build It Back program, and the state’s utilization of community leaders in its NY Rising Community Reconstruction program aimed at improving our infrastructure.

A range of bills aimed at addressing various aspects of Sandy’s impact were passed by the state legislature and have been recently signed into law by the governor. Some topics include rebates of real property taxes, assisting Breezy Point residents with street frontage issues unique to Breezy Point, exemptions to filing fees related to federal Small Business Administration Disaster Loans, and the implementation of improved tornado warning systems.

This year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season is not yet over. We have learned a lot from Sandy and a year later are still dealing with its aftermath. It’s OK to share our emotions, feelings and sentiments about Sandy, knowing also that by working together we can rebuild and be prepared better than ever.

Senator Joseph Addabbo represents the 15th Senatorial District encompassing the communities – in whole or in part – of Broad Channel, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Woodside and the Rockaways.

 

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NYPD may scale back search for missing autistic teen


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

As Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teen last seen leaving his Long Island City school nearly three weeks ago, still remains missing, police may need to scale back their search.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school, said the family’s attorney, David Perecman.

According to Avonte’s grandmother, the security guard appointed to the front of the school said she had seen Avonte running towards the door, asked him where he was going and after he did not respond, she just allowed him to leave because she did not know he was a special needs student. Yet, according to Perecman, no student at the school is allowed to leave the property until dismissal.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier the school “failed her” when they took close to an hour to inform her that her son had gone missing.

However, according to reports, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the school safety officer did nothing wrong.

On Monday, Kelly also reportedly said the NYPD may have to scale back its search for the teen.

The NYPD has had more than 100 officers searching the streets daily for the boy, who family says loves trains, and looking for him by helicopter and with divers. The police have also been driving around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers playing Avonte’s mother’s voice.

Avonte’s family has also sought help from the Texas Equusearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team, a group of volunteers that have assisted in finding numerous missing people throughout the country.

The team traveled to the site on October 18 to “evaluate the situation” to determine if they have the resources to help search for Avonte.

The family has filed a notice of claim to sue the City of New York for $25 million, citing claims of negligence against both the Department of Education and the Special Security Division which provide the security agents for the school.

An initial $5,000 reward for Avonte’s return was offered by Mayerson & Associates, a New York Law Firm which represents individuals with autism. Manhattan Children’s Center, a nonprofit private autism school, announced it was matching the law firm’s offer with an additional $5,000 from the Gelb Family Foundation.

Since then, the reward has increased to $89,500 with the support of Health First, the employer of the missing teen’s mother, Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, David Perecman of the Perecman Firm, and an anonymous donor.

Reverend Al Sharpton held a community outreach rally on Saturday, October 19 at the National Action Network headquarters in Manhattan where members of the organization pledged to canvas the city in search of Avonte.

Oquendo was last wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

The NYPD has released a new photo of Avonte together with an image of the shirt he was wearing the day he went missing.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Reward for missing autistic teen increased to $75K as search continues two weeks later


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy NYPD

After two weeks since Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City School, the search continues for the lovable autistic teen.

Avonte, 14, was last seen leaving the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been mixed reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school, said the family’s attorney, David Perecman.

According to Avonte’s grandmother, the security guard appointed to the front of the school said she had seen Avonte running towards the door, asked him where he was going and after he did not respond, she just allowed him to leave because she did not know he was a special needs student.  Yet, according to Perecman, no student at the school is allowed to leave the property until dismissal.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier the school “failed her” when they took close to an hour to inform her that Avonte had gone missing.

However, according to reports, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the school safety officer did nothing wrong and investigations show she did what she had to do.

The NYPD has officers searching the streets daily for the boy, who family says loves trains, and looking for him by helicopter and with divers. Recently, the police has been driving around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls.

Avonte’s family also sought the help from the Texas Equusearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team, a group of volunteers that have helped find numerous missing people throughout the country.

The team said it would be traveling to the site on Friday, October 18 and would “evaluate the situation” to determine if they have resources to help search for Avonte.

The family has filed a notice of claim to sue the City of New York for $25 million, taking claims of negligence against both the Department of Education and the Special Security Division which provide the security agents for the school.

An initial $5,000 reward for Avonte’s return was offered by Mayerson & Associates, a New York Law Firm which represents individuals with autism. Manhattan Children’s Center, a nonprofit private autism school, announced it was matching the law firm’s offer with an additional $5,000 from the Gelb Family Foundation.

Since then, the reward has increased to $75,000 through the support of Health First, the employer of the missing teen’s mother, Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, David Perecman of the Perecman Firm, and an anonymous donor, according to Autism Speaks.

Reverend Al Sharpton will hold a community outreach rally on Saturday, October 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the National Action Network headquarters located at 106 West 145th Street in Manhattan.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

The NYPD has released a new photo of Avonte together with an image of the shirt he was wearing the day he went missing.

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 text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Mother of missing autistic teen: Son’s school ‘failed me’


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA

The search continues for Avonte Oquendo, who family members say is a shy yet happy, lovable, care-free and loving boy.

Avonte, 14, who is autistic, was last seen leaving the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4.

There have been mixed reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school, said the family’s attorney, David Perecman. Some say the boy ran away while there was an altercation between other students in the lunchroom, while others say the teacher and aide lost sight of him while moving from the lunchroom to the classroom.

According to Avonte’s grandmother, the security guard appointed to the front of the school said she had seen Avonte running towards the door, asked him where he was going and after he did not respond, she just allowed him to leave because she did not know he was a special needs student. Yet, according to Perecman, no student at the school is allowed to leave the property until dismissal.

Perecman said it took the school close to an hour to inform the boy’s mother that he had been missing.

“They failed me, they really did. [They’re] supposed to be a second parent, when you put you kid in school for the day and until they get home. They failed me as a school,” said Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte’s mother. “Now the school system is not trusted. They shouldn’t have waited an hour to notify me that my son was not there.”

The Department of Education decline to comment, saying it is a police matter.
Avonte’s family held a vigil on Friday, October 11 in front of the school, right next to two tents that have worked as “ground zero” for the family to gather volunteers, hand out flyers and serve as an information center.

Daniel Oquendo, the boy’s father who has been at the site with his older son, Daniel, said people have come from all over the city and outside of New York to lend a helping hand.
“It kind of gives you hope for mankind,” he said. “We appreciate everything everyone is doing, we see the love and we appreciate it.”

The NYPD has officers searching the streets daily for the boy, who family says loves trains, and looking for him by helicopter and with divers.

The family has filed a notice of claim to sue the City of New York for $25 million, taking claims of negligence against both the Department of Education and the Special Security Division which provide the security agents for the school.

“Time is of the essence and they did not make use of the time appropriately,” said Perecman.

“There are lots of questions and no answers and no Avonte.”

An initial $5,000 reward for Avonte’s return was offered by Mayerson & Associates, a New York Law Firm which represents individuals with autism. Manhattan Children’s Center, a nonprofit private autism school, announced it was matching the law firm’s offer with an additional $5,000 from the Gelb Family Foundation.

Since then, the reward has increased to $70,000 through the support of Health First, the employer of the missing teen’s mother, Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, David Perecman of the Perecman Firm, and an anonymous donor, according to Autism Speaks.

Oquendo was last wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 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.

Photo courtesy of NYPD

 

 

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