Tag Archives: Richmond Hill

Santa visits the Richmond Hill Block Association


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of RHBA

Santa is making his rounds through the borough and stopped at the Richmond Hill Block Association to bring holiday cheer to the neighborhood.

Children and their families gathered at the Block Association for the annual Santa Day on Saturday for an afternoon of treats and Christmas cheer.

Despite the snowy day, almost 300 area children, the RHBA board and volunteers came to the Jamaica Avenue spot and got a picture with Santa.

 

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Two Queens men indicted on sex trafficking charges


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Two Queens men have been indicted in separate sex trafficking cases for allegedly forcing teen girls to work as prostitutes, District Attorney Richard Brown announced Tuesday.

Peter Gerardi, 28, of Forest Hills, and Christopher Stephensbush, 20, of Richmond Hill, have both been arraigned on kidnapping, prostitution, rape, sex trafficking and other charges, according to the district attorney.

“The defendants are both accused of enslaving three young girls, raping them and forcing them to work as prostitutes. They allegedly forced the girls to turn all of their money over to them,” said Brown.

Gerardi is accused of threatening his 13-year-old victim when she wanted to stop prostituting herself for him. He also allegedly had a 16-year-old work for him as a prostitute through threats of physical violence, according to Brown. Gerardi allegedly had sex with both his victims.

Stephensbush allegedly met his 15-year-old victim while she was taking the bus to school one morning. He is accused of bringing her back to his apartment and not letting her leave until she agreed to work as a prostitute, said Brown. He allegedly raped her several times before temporarily letting her go. He then allegedly made her earn money for him again as a prostitute on multiple occasions.

If convicted, both face up to 25 years to life in prison.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: A few showers this morning with overcast skies during the afternoon hours. High 59. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Thursday night: Foggy with light rain developing overnight. Low near 55F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Urban: An Exploration of New York’s Landscapes

Come to the Crescent Grill in Long Island City for the reception for the exhibit Urban: An Exploration of New York’s Landscapes at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served. The exhibit runs through February 2. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Cops looking for E train rider who groped woman

Police are searching for a suspect who they say groped a woman onboard a subway train near Roosevelt Avenue Tuesday. Read more: The Queens Courier

Man found murdered in Richmond Hill home

Police are investigating an incident in which an unidentified woman was brought to Jamaica Hospital with a gunshot wound to her head. Read more: The Queens Courier

New York City Council considers e-cigarette ban

New Yorkers who say electronic cigarettes helped them quit smoking asked city lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday not to ban the nicotine inhalers from restaurants, workplaces and other indoor spaces, saying there isn’t enough evidence they pose a health risk to justify their exclusion. Read more: AP

City’s grad rate hits record high

Despite stagnating in recent years, the graduation rate at city public high schools edged up to an all-time high this past school year — hitting 66 percent, according to city measures. Read more: New York Post

Passwords compromised for 2 Million Facebook, other online accounts

Passwords for some 2 million Facebook, Google and other accounts have been compromised and circulated online, according to security experts. Read more: CBS New York

Norman Rockwell painting sells for record $46 Million at NYC auction house 

A Norman Rockwell painting titled “Saying Grace” sold at an auction on Wednesday for $46 million, a record for the Saturday Evening Post illustrator and for any American artwork sold at auction, Sotheby’s said. Read more: NBC New York

 

 

Man found murdered in Richmond Hill home


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Police are investigating the homicide of a man who was discovered dead in Richmond Hill Wednesday.

Officers found Noel Hidalgo, 58, inside of his Jamaica Avenue residence around 3:40 p.m. with trauma to his head, said cops.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

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Green cabs could be coming to south Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of TLC

Green cabs could now be driving down south in the borough.

A representative from the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) will be making a stop at the next Community Board (CB) 10 meeting on Thursday, December 5 to explain the new Boro Taxi procedures, rules, and the program’s presence in the region moving forward.

Betty Braton, CB 10 chair, said the outer-borough cabs coming to the community could either be a benefit or a disadvantage depending on “how it rolls out.”

“I would believe on the positive side, it provides a safer way in the outer boroughs for people to do street hails,” she said. “On the downside, we already have an existing problem with livery cabs parking. I would think it would become problematic if the green cabs decide to take up parking spaces or just cruise constantly in the transit hubs.”

Boro Taxis, similar to livery cabs, are affiliated with a base and may take dispatch, flat-fare calls. However, similar to city yellow cabs, they can also make metered, hailed pick-ups.

Currently licensed livery bases apply for an opportunity to affiliate the street-hail liveries, which is then processed and approved by the TLC. Two sites in South Ozone Park already got the green light for green cabs, according to the TLC.

Resident Jesus Garay made a request on the Boro Taxis’ website for a base at the cross section of Woodhaven Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard, so cabs could serve Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.

 

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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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Singers compete in Mets annual Anthem Search


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

O say can you sing?

The New York Mets hosted the first round of their 2014 Anthem Search on Thursday to find the person who will sing the national anthem at opening day next year.

More than 150 contestants auditioned for the position, giving 60 seconds of their best vocals to a panel of judges.

“It’s the Mets version of American Idol,” said Gary Apple, an SNY broadcaster and judge of the competition. “I think it’s great for the Mets and baseball.”

This year’s Anthem Search is the first time the winner will be allowed to sing on opening day. Past winners choose dates throughout the season to sing.

Many talented singers saw the opportunity as a way to bolster their future singing goals.

“It would be an honor to sing in front of many people and represent the Mets and it would be really challenging and add to my experience in singing,” said 13-year-old Victoria Labban, a resident of Richmond Hill, who has sang at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Mets officials said contestants will be called soon after the auditions and be informed if they have made the cut.

The judges gave singers encouragement, but were also tough, because they said performing the anthem in front thousands of fans requires someone who wouldn’t choke up, forget any words, and of course sing well.

“There were definitely some people who should have gone to work and not come here today,” said Skeery Jones, a judge and radio personality for Z100.

In the second round Mets staff will determine a single winner, who will sing in 2014 opening day on March 31, when the Mets host the Washington Nationals.



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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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Elizabeth Crowley, Craig Caruana face off in heated District 30 debate


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The first public debate between Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Craig Caruana was contentious.

The competitors faced off in a heated exchange on Monday. It was marked by frequent interruptions, yelling on both sides and cheers and jeers from attending residents of District 30, which includes Maspeth, Middle Village, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Glendale, parts of Woodhaven and Woodside.

The debate, which The Courier co-hosted, was organized by the Juniper Park Civic Association at Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village.

The showdown exploded from the very first question, which was about the Knockdown Center, a controversial arts hall in Maspeth that has hosted parties and is seeking a liquor license.

Crowley, who is in support of the center, said it will bring jobs and arts to the community.

“Do I support good jobs? Yes. Do I support arts as an economic engine? Yes,” Crowley said. “Now my opponent you will hear opposes this, and I believe it’s because he doesn’t have the ability to think outside the box when it comes to creating jobs.”

Caruana doesn’t believe the center will be used for arts, but as a club based on past parties that it has held.

“It’s not about jobs, it’s about hipsters coming from out of the area, creating a problem…” Caruana said. “This is a club that wants to sell liquor.”

The candidates sparred on various contentious projects in the community, such as the proposed Glendale homeless shelter, truck traffic and the Maspeth Bypass, the Ridgewood Reservoir development project and increased railroad garbage.

Many general questions were asked as well, including how the candidates would improve education, traffic problems, quality of life issues and decrease crime.

Crowley, who has been the councilmember for nearly four years, choose to answer questions based on her accomplishments, while taking jabs at Caruana.

Caruana, who has no experience as an elected official, stuck to his ideas to improve the neighborhood, relying on his background as a native of Middle Village and his work at the Pentagon.

Before the debate even got started crowds of Crowley and Caruana supporters were chanting at each other outside with placards, banners and megaphones for almost 20 minutes.

 

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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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Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center finds temporary location after building damage


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center has found a temporary location after the building was damaged, but leaders still say there’s no place like home.

The center, which is operated by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, recently moved to the American Legion Post 118 at 89-02 91st Street after a building adjacent to the center’s location on Jamaica Avenue collapsed, damaging the roof and kitchen.

“We were concerned about the winter months with the snow and rain,” said Judith Kleve, vice president of Older Adult Services at Catholic Charities. “We are very relieved that the American Legion opened their doors to us.”

The center, which is funded by the city’s Department for the Aging, has more than 200 seniors enrolled and about 70 visit daily.

The staff prepares free meals every day and organizes exercise programs, including yoga and dancing, and educational lectures on topics such as arthritis and diabetes. During the temporary move the center is providing shuttles from the original location.

Despite joy for the temporary site, seniors want to return to the old building soon, because the American Legion building is too small, according to Kleve. But first, owners of the collapsed building, 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC, must fix it or the seniors can’t return.

“The situation is only going to get worst with the rain and snow coming,” State Senator Joe Addabbo said. “We need to get the owner to start fixing it now.”

The politician is working with other leaders to put pressure on the owners to repair the property. Addabbo met with officials from the Department of Buildings (DOB) this week to discuss the collapsed building, which has about a dozen violations and $11,000 in fines, according to the DOB.

The members of the center are hoping they can move back by next year.

“The seniors were very happy to know that the senior center was still open and that they had a safe site,” Kleve said. “But they still want to go home.”

The owners of 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC could not be reached for comment.

 

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Cops find South Richmond Hill kids living in unsanitary conditions among abused dogs


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Two South Richmond Hill parents have been arrested after police found their four children living in alleged unsanitary conditions among numerous abused dogs.

When police, responding to a 9-1-1 call of a female bitten by a pit bull around 8 a.m. Sunday, entered the parents’ 125th Street residence, they discovered a domestic dispute occurring between the adults, said cops

Upon further investigation, they found four children, ranging in age from seven to 11, living in the house in “severe unsanitary conditions” among five full grown pit bulls and 10 puppies, said police.

The children were taken to Jamaica Hospital for observation.

The dogs, some of which displayed extensive signs of abuse through their bodies, said police, were secured by Animal Care and Control.

Cops said one dog had been stabbed, kicked and strangled.

The father, Jasean Holmes, 29, has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals,  torture to animals and endangering the welfare of a child and misdemeanor assault, said police. The mother, Madelina Ramirez, 28, has been charged with torture to animals and endangering the welfare of a child.

 

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Three injured after Richmond Hill house fire


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Three people are left injured after a house fire in Richmond Hill.

According to the FDNY, a call came in on Saturday at approximately 1:01 a.m. for a fire at 87-40 124th Street. Upon arrival, firefighters found the fire in the basement of the one-story home. The fire was under control by 3:58 a.m.

One person was taken to Nassau University Medical Center with serious burns and two people were taken to Jamaica Hospital with minor burns.

According to the FDNY, the cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

 

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Survey says overcrowding problem at Queens schools


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Queens schools are failing in at least one subject– classroom sizes.

Hillcrest High School in Jamaica ranked highest in the number of oversized classrooms, 400, and Bayside’s Benjamin Cardozo High School follows with 385, according to a recent United Federation of Teachers (UFT) survey.

More than 230,000 students citywide spent some of the first few weeks back to school in crowded classes, the study found. About 6,313 classes were overcrowded, up almost 200 from last year, but more than 1,000 of those classes were found in Queens high schools alone.

Overcrowding is a problem throughout the entire city school system, but “Queens high schools have been hit the worst,” the UFT said.

Class sizes around the city in grades 1 through 3 have now reached a 14-year high. Although they have not reached the classroom size limit of 32 seats, first and second grade has grown to an average of 24 seats per class, with 25 in third grade.

“It is time to take this issue seriously,” said Michael Mulgrew, UFT president. “All our students, especially our youngest children, desperately need smaller class sizes.”

Recently Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that under his administration New York City schools had improved outstandingly on the academic side.

During his time in office many schools were shuttered, but more than new 650 schools were created. Bloomberg said 22 of the top 25 schools in the state are from New York City, and none were on that list before his administration.

“After 12 years reforming our once-broken school system, it’s clear that our hard work has paid huge dividends for our students,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.

In fact, three Queens elementary schools, P.S. 46 in Oakland Gardens, P.S. 66 in Richmond Hill and P.S. 221 in Little Neck,  Richmond Hillwere named to the prestigious national Blue Ribbon award for excellence in education on September 24.

Despite the academic improvements, the UFT said children shouldn’t have to try to learn in overcrowded classrooms.

“Twelve years of Michael Bloomberg, and hundreds of thousands of students start the school year in oversize classes,” Mulgrew said. “There is no excuse for letting students stay in an oversize class.”

 

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Pols and Sikh Cultural Society respond to alleged Sikh hate crime


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Just days after a Sikh professor at Columbia University was brutally attacked, the Sikh community and elected officials gathered in Richmond Hill to speak out against what is being investigated as a hate crime.

Dr. Prabhjot Singh was walking through Harlem on Saturday, September 21 when more than a dozen attackers shouted slurs such as “Osama” and “terrorist” before grabbing Singh’s beard and beating him to the ground. He suffered a fractured jaw in the attack, according to a family friend.

“You are not suffering alone,” said Assemblymember David Weprin outside the Sikh Cultural Society. “Hate crimes against any group of people are intolerable and preventable.”

Weprin stood alongside Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, City Councilmember and Public Advocate candidate Letitia James, City Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Mark Weprin and the Richmond Hill Sikh community, who all condemned the crime against Singh.

“We have to stand up each and every time there’s a biased attack,” de Blasio said.

He added the city should use “aggressive policing” against violent, biased crimes as well as utilize “every tool” to make sure these attacks don’t happen again. He specifically noted educating youth in schools about different religions.

Sona Rai, Singh’s friend and spokesperson, said that Singh is out of the hospital and already back at work. He now wants to give his attackers an opportunity to ask about his faith and his connection to the community, Rai said.

Rai, also a board member of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, added that the overwhelming support in response to Singh’s incident has given him a “renewed sense” of how important his work is.

“The best way to deal with hate crimes in the city of New York is to come together,” James said. “We must respond forcefully as one community. Our differences are really are greatest strengths.”

 

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