Tag Archives: Robert Holden

104th Precinct boss talks derelict cars, crime at Juniper Park Civic meeting

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Civic leaders, elected officials and local law enforcement were on hand to discuss quality-of-life issues plaguing the area during last week’s Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) meeting held on Thursday, Sept. 17, at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village.

One of the larger concerns involved the presence of derelict or non-working vehicles on the streets of Middle Village and Maspeth. Capt. Mark Wachter, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, explained that he and his team recently carried out a “major blitz” against American Auto Body and Recovery, located at 60-05 Flushing Ave., near 59th Street, in Maspeth.

According to Wachter, 15 vehicles were towed from the surrounding streets on May 29. Wachter then partnered with Capt. Gregory Mackie, the precinct’s executive officer, in Operation Clean Sweep to tow an additional 22 vehicles within an hour from the auto shop on Aug. 26.

In addition to the massive towing operation, Wachter explained that the Department of Consumer Affairs revoked the repair shop’s tow license.

“We’ve received numerous community complaints,” Wachter explained. “We went in with full force and cleaned up the area.”

In an open Q&A session, many residents expressed similar concerns about the loss of street parking to derelict automobiles. One resident observed such conditions on 61st Road in Middle Village between 67th and 68th streets, while another pointed to 69th Road as a problematic area.

Wachter said that 17 derelict vehicles have been towed throughout Middle Village in recent months. He indicated the process begins with the placing of letters or notices on vehicles, as well as chalk marks on tires, by the NYPD. If the vehicle has not moved within the next seven days, the NYPD will then return to tow it away.

Residents also voiced concerns over the abundance of massage parlors and suspected prostitution within many of the establishments. The captain assured residents that the precinct is tracking and arresting violators.

“We’re tackling it,” Wachter explained. “We definitely have our eyes on the problem.”

Drug use is another major issue plaguing the area. According to Wachter, a total of about 16 narcotics arrests were made in and around Middle Village in recent months. The captain credits tips from the community with being able to make these busts.

“We still have active investigations going on in the Middle Village area for drug sales,” he explained.

JPCA President Robert Holden joined members and the precinct in honoring three officers and two Middle Village residents for their brave efforts in apprehending four suspected car thieves back on Aug. 19.


Brian McGoldrick with Captain Mark Wachter

According to Wachter, four underage teens on bicycles attempted to break into cars along 77th Street in Middle Village. Residents observed this and called 911.

A foot pursuit ensued, and Officer Onur Cumur, with help from Officer Jonathan Ku and Officer Radoslaw Zbikowski, apprehended two of the four teens. Residents Brian McGoldrick and Andrew Crimmins were able to detain the other two suspects on the ground until police were able to take them into custody.

“They took action,” Wachter said. “This is a great example of ‘If you see something, say something.’ They were instrumental in helping us and we appreciate this.”


Buildings Department nixes Glendale homeless shelter floor plans

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

Those fighting against the proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale received a bit of good news last week, when the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) revoked the floor plans for the shelter after a full audit of the plans.

The notice to revoke — which according to the DOB is pending until the plan review is completed — stalls the progress of the property owner, Michael Wilner, in renovating the former factory, which the nonprofit group Samaritan Village plans to use as a homeless shelter. The full audit found that the plans are not up to full code compliance, according to a DOB representative.

“The project at this site remains under department review, and at this time there has not been a determination of the plan’s compliance with all applicable codes or the zoning resolution,” said a DOB spokesperson in an email.

According to Robert Holden — a member of the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition, a group consisting of residents, businesspeople and community leaders dedicated to opposing the shelter — the DOB originally disapproved the building plans for the site, then later gave the plans the green light.

Once hearing of the plans’ approval, the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition raised enough money to legally challenge the Buildings Department. As a result, the DOB found “a laundry list of problems,” Holden said.

“I don’t know why the Department of Buildings approved their application when there were so many flaws,” Holden added. “It was mind-boggling that they approved it.”

The coalition previously filed legal action against the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), which previously approved a contract to open and operate the Glendale shelter, over what the coalition considered to be a flawed environmental assessment of the location. The building is located in an industrially zoned area, was used for manufacturing for decades and is adjacent to a chemical storage facility.

Holden hopes the coalition can build off the momentum of this latest snag in the shelter plans.

“It is certainly another win for the neighborhood,” Holden said. “I think this demonstrates the resolve of the community that we came together. Most other communities wouldn’t do this. We raised enough money to fight, but the fight isn’t over yet.”


Civic group continues fight against open-top rail cars in Glendale and Middle Village

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of CURES

As concerns over transporting construction and demolition (C&D) debris via rail through densely populated communities grow, civic groups in Glendale and Middle Village are looking to stop a plan to increase waste operations through local freight lines.

Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) is now looking to the state government to step in and mandate hard lid covers on all waste-by-rail operations in New York State, before allowing any type of increase in waste-by-rail operations.

“We don’t want to breathe in C&D debris,” said Robert Holden, president of Juniper Park Civic Association, a founding partner in the CURES alliance. “We will pressure our local officials to make the necessary changes, to make them change the way they do business, or at least the way they transport waste.”

CURES wants “no expansion of waste-by-rail until NYS can control it, hard lids on all waste-by-rail.” According to the civics group, Tunnel Hill Partners, the non-hazardous solid waste handling company whose railcars travel through the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale has hard lid technology currently in use in New York, but it’s not being used in their Long Island facility.

If the state cannot control C&D residuals in open-top railcars, CURES believes that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) should not renew the permit for One World Recycling, a Tunnel Hill Partners operating site, creating more C&D residuals within the communities where the railroad operates.

“Dust, odors, vectors, litter, debris and stormwater runoff that are controlled by NYSDEC at the trash transfer station are dumped into open rail cars and sent into our NYC neighborhoods. These are acknowledged public and community health issues,” said Mary Parisen, chair of CURES. “NYS’s clear duty is to maintain the 370-ton limit for One World, not issue any other permits that increase unsealed waste-by-rail tonnage, and pursue updates to the law that will protect our communities from this unnecessary filth while getting trucks off the road at the same time.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo stated in an email to CURES that NYSDEC reviewed a permit to increase operations at One World Recycling to haul 1,100 tons of waste per day. NYSDEC approved them for a reduced maximum total of 500 to 800 tons per day, with the requirement of lids for certain odor-emitting waste, which does not cover C&D residuals.

“CURES is strongly opposed to increasing daily tonnage at Tunnel Hill Partner’s One World Recycling facility,” Parisen wrote in a letter dated June 9 to Joseph Martens, NYSDEC Commissioner. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we and other citizens bore up under increased freight rail burdens because it was a public emergency. For Tunnel Hill Partners to take advantage, to permanently increase tonnage on a site that is inappropriately small and otherwise ill-equipped, is shameful.”


CB 5 committee considers stricter liquor license rules

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Bar and club owners seeking liquor licenses in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village may soon need to show Community Board 5 more than just their business credentials.

Members of the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Public Safety Committee met Monday and considered a proposal that would require new applicants to complete a written form stating their intentions with regard to their businesses.

Christina Wilkinson, an active member of the COMET (Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together) and the Juniper Park Civic (JPCA) associations, proposed the idea to the committee. This measure was introduced in response to the recent influx of bars, pubs and nightspots to Ridgewood and Bushwick.

According to Wilkinson, community boards 1 and 4 in Brooklyn have already adopted this practice in response to the rapid growth and popularity of their respective neighborhoods.

“At one point, Greenpoint was in the same boat that we’re in. They didn’t think it was going to be all that bad, and it got bad,” Wilkinson said. “I think we should be better prepared. Let’s learn from them. It’s working for them.”

Public Safety Committee Chair Robert Holden expressed support for the idea and asked District Manager Gary Giordano to discuss the issue with the Executive Committee. “We’re just trying to get more information,” he explained.

Newly appointed board member Alex Maureau agreed. “It’s also a good way for the local owners to get to know us, and vice versa,” he said.

Giordano voiced support for a shorter version of the written form. “I think it has a lot of merit,” he said. “We could certainly work out something.”

According to Giordano, the board can grant recommendations for or against liquor licenses. The board also notifies the 104th Precinct and Lt. George Hellmer, the precinct’s special operations coordinator, of establishments with a prior history of problems. The precinct, in turn, will notify the board of any prior arrests, summonses or felonies committed at establishments seeking licensing.

“I never want to be in a position to be okaying liquor licenses,” Giordano said. “In some cases, we have taken votes at community board meetings related to certain establishments that have been a problem. But we comment to the negative and I would prefer it that way.”

Under the current policy, prospective bar owners seeking liquor licenses must notify CB 5 30 days prior to applying for licensing from the State Liquor Authority.

Holden proposed that the extra form, if approved of by the Executive Board, be made available to bar owners as a PDF document on the board’s website. The agreement would be signed and submitted to the community board prior to seeking State Liquor Authority licensing.

P.O. Charles Sadler of the 104th Precinct Community Affairs Unit explained that he has adopted a “proactive instead of reactive” approach to new nightlife in the area. He said that he had personally visited five of Ridgewood’s newest bars, including The Monk and Onderdonk and Sons, in an effort to reach out to local bar owners.

Owners of each of the five establishments met with Sadler and other officers at a recent nightlife meeting hosted by the precinct. According to Sadler, all of the new bar owners and managers were made aware of the precinct’s regulations and guidelines, and all pledged respect and compliance.


Juniper Valley Park has second most playground injury claims in city: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village has cost taxpayers at least about $300,000 over the last decade due to personal injuries claims, according to a new report.

The green space tied for second place for playground-related personal injury claims filed against the city from 2005 to 2014, which cost more than $20.6 million citywide, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said.

Stringer’s analysis also found that annual claims in the city rose 53 percent from just 45 incidents in 2005 to 69 last year.

Of the 577 park- and playground-related injury claims over the decade, 111 accidents occurred in Queens. Brooklyn led the city in playground injuries with 209 accidents occurring in the last decade.

Juniper Valley Park had six injury claims filed against the city over the decade for accidents related to missing matting, holes and defective swings. Five of those claims recorded a combined $297,500, according to Stringer’s analysis. The amount of one was not given in the report.

Local residents say Juniper has a numerous issues, including holes, defective equipment, cracks and other trip hazards, and that the Parks Department neglects to take action and fix the park, even though problems have been reported.

For example, Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, emphasized the need to fix netting at the park’s batting cages, where high school children play. The netting is used to protect balls from being hit outside the field area, but has been broken since Hurricane Sandy.

Holden has complained about it for years but still hasn’t seen a fix.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the lawsuits were with somebody getting hit with a ball,” Holden said. “Perhaps if it were their own money, like let’s say it would come out of department leaders’ paychecks, they would fix it.”

The park is receiving $2.5 million, allocated by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, for improvements to the track, but Holden said the fixes have been long overdue.

Citywide, parks have recorded injury claims for a range of problems, include protruding nails, debris, defective park equipment and improper surfacing — including cracked grounds, holes and missing matting.

In an attempt to reduce the city’s bill over the next 10 years and protect children, Stringer sent a letter to the Parks Department asking to increase efforts to make certain that parks are safe.

“With claims at their highest point in a decade, it’s clear that the Department of Parks and Recreation must find ways to improve safety in our city’s playgrounds,” Stringer said. “We owe it to our kids to adopt best practices for safety and install state-of-the-art equipment in our playgrounds that reduces the potential for injuries.”

Click here to see a full map of all the claims.


Middle Village 110 year old is an ‘inspiration’

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Robert Holden

In the mid 90s, the Juniper Park Civic Association organized a Saturday morning cleanup of the Eliot Avenue Bridge. The volunteers arrived early that morning, only to find the area nearly immaculate. It was cleaned by one man, a man in his mid 90s, Carl Berner.

And since that day approximately 15 years ago the now 110 year old has hardly slowed down.

Carl Berner was born in Stuttgart, Germany, on January 27, 1902. After his parents died of tuberculosis, he split time between France and Germany. In 1928, he immigrated to the United States where he found work as the night building superintendent at the Chrysler Building in Manhattan for five years before opening his own toy-making business.

Berner moved to Middle Village with his wife Margaret in 1938; they purchased their home for $5,190 — which carried monthly mortgage payments of approximately $40. Upon arriving in Queens, the couple joined the Eliot Avenue Civic Association, which in 1942 merged with the Residents of Juniper Park Homes to become the Juniper Park Civic Association.

“[Berner] was a link to our past,” said Robert Holden, president of Juniper Park Civic. “He would tell me about past clashes the civic would have and battles we fought.”

Berner is among the oldest residents of New York City, and believed to be among the oldest in the country. The supercentenarian still lives in the home he bought 74 years ago with his daughter Emily.

Following cleaning up the Eliot Avenue Bridge, Berner adopted several locations in the area that he would visit with a shopping cart, some bags and a shovel to beautify.

These efforts, along with a lifetime of service in the community, earned him a Partner in a Cleaner New York Certificate of Appreciation from the Department of Sanitation and a Presidential Service Award from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

After breaking his hip for the first time when he was around 103, many in the area thought this would force Berner to slow down. So when Holden drove down Calwell Avenue six months later and saw a man standing atop a four-foot ladder cutting down poison ivy, he pulled over. That man of course was Berner.

“I asked him what he was doing. He said, ‘I have to get this poison ivy, before it gets someone else. It already got me,’” Holden remembered.
Only after breaking his other hip a few years later did Berner decide — or more accurately was convinced — he should take it easy.

Taking it easy is of course a relative term.

“He’s stopped cleaning now,” Holden said. “But he is always a fighter.”

Berner still walks two miles a day and will help out and do whatever he can in the neighborhood.

Berner once said when asked why he still volunteers at such an advanced age, “I like to help people — especially the elderly.”

“This guy is an inspiration. How can you sit home and not volunteer after seeing this guy,” Holden asked. “He’s an inspiration to the Juniper Park Civic and to the city. He makes you believe anything is possible.”

Crusade to clean up community

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Robert Holden

A local civic leader wants his community to be a sight for sore eyes, which first requires ridding it of eyesores.

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, is pushing the Department of Buildings (DOB) to padlock properties with violations and unpaid fines that are a blemish on the community.

After successfully getting the DOB to investigate a scofflaw on 84th Street in Middle Village, Holden is turning his attention to other neighborhood blights — including one at 60-37 Wetherole Street.

The property has nine open violations dating back seven years and $14,500 in unpaid fines, according to DOB records.

Holden said the house has been an eyesore for nearly a decade.

Violations have been levied against the property for failing to maintain the building’s walls and storing vehicles without license plates in the front yard.

The owner of the house is listed as Ted Muschunas, who was unable to be contacted for the story.