Tag Archives: southeast Queens

Clyde Vanel latest to enter race for Malcolm Smith’s Senate seat


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

The race for State Senator Malcolm Smith’s seat is widening with new contender Clyde Vanel.

Vanel joins attorney Munir Avery to try and snag the Senate seat from Smith, who was arrested last April for corruption charges.

“We have zero representation right now in the Senate,” Vanel said of the 14th Senate District, which comprises of southeast Queens neighborhoods, including Jamaica, Queens Village, Hollis and Cambria Heights.

Vanel, a Cambria Heights native, wants to focus on bringing jobs back to the district and straightening out “Albany’s dysfunction.”

“We need to bring more jobs to our state and economic policy,” he said. “I have owned and run businesses before. I’ve had employees. I’m a business attorney, so I understand the policies and regulations that make it difficult for people to keep small businesses in New York.”

Vanel most recently ran to replace the term-limited Councilmember Leroy Comrie, but fell short by two percent of the votes to current Councilmember Daneek Miller in September’s primary.

Since then, the attorney said he has “been trying to get back on my feet” and expand support in the district for this upcoming election.

If elected, he said he would “be loyal to the Democratic Party,” criticizing Smith for associating with the Independent Democratic Conference, a bipartisan legislative branch. He also hopes to find alternative ways to bringing in revenue outside of raising taxes.

“We have to be more creative with respect to how do we generate revenue from the government, and how do we do more with less,” he said.

He added he will soon be releasing a plan of ideas on how to do so.

“I’m the best person that is currently in the race now,” he said. “The thing is, I’m not running against Malcom Smith, I’m running for the seat. The plan of attack is to just stand on the issues.”

 

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South-eastern Queens to get more sewers to alleviate flooding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

FILE PHOTO

South-eastern Queens neighborhoods, which have long suffered from perpetual flooding, may see some immediate relief after the city announced it would work quickly to create new storm sewers and upgrade catch basements.

A multi-year, $6 billion sewer-upgrade plan to manage the area’s flooding was announced earlier this year, but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has initiated smaller, targeted projects to control the issues in the interim, including new storm sewers and catch basin upgrades.

“I am very much looking forward to these essential improvements,” said City Councilmember Donovan Richards. “For far too long, large sections of southeast Queens have had to deal with sub-par sewer systems and I eagerly await the relief these new initiatives will bring.”

Storm sewers and 14 new catch basins were installed on 111th Avenue between 155th and 158th Streets and 113th Avenue between 156th and 157th Streets in South Jamaica. There are currently a number of other flood-prone locations under consideration for similar upgrades, according to the DEP, which will be approved in 2014.

These targeted sites are being chosen based on input from elected officials, community groups and 311 flood reports.

“Ground water and flooding issues within southeast Queens cannot be resolved without total cooperation from all involved and we must stay vigilant to ensure the funding continues,” said City Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

More than $383 million have been used over the last ten years to continue to extend the area’s sewer system and the DEP has allocated an additional $380 million for the next ten years.

 

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Pols push for sewer upgrades as Queens homes take on water


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jim Gallagher

An outdated sewer system is leaving large swathes of Queens vulnerable to serious flooding, according to a pair of elected officials.

“Year after year, Queens residents have been fighting the trauma and financial burden of flood damage to their homes and lives,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “We cannot continue to let our working families weather the storm alone.”

For decades, poor infrastructure in Fresh Meadows has caused basements and garages to flood with sewage during heavy rainstorms, local leaders said.

“If we have a torrential downpour, all the water gets backed up,” said Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association.

He added that sewer pipes in the neighborhood can only handle about an inch and a half of water per hour. Any more rainfall causes water to pour into homes.

The problem also extends to Glendale, where rainy weather shut down the flood-prone Cooper Avenue underpass last weekend.

The closure between 74th Street and 69th Road was due to “construction and the anticipation of flooding,” according to city alerts. It lasted from Friday afternoon to Saturday night.

Last August, three residents were caught in a deluge there. Cars were submerged under several feet of water and emergency responders had to rescue the trio.

A spokesperson for Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to add new catch basins to the underpass, but the department has not committed to major infrastructure improvements.

Thousands in southeast Queens say they have also been suffering from mold spores and flooding since the city took over the water supply in 1996.

According to DEP spokesperson Christopher Gilbride, the city has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the sewer system in Queens” over the last decade and will continue to make improvements.

But Rozic and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio last week said they wanted the department to speed up the sewers upgrades and reexamine reimbursement policies for homeowners until then.

“Put simply, severe weather is the new normal,” they wrote in a joint letter to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland.

The pair urged the department to make flood-prone neighborhoods a priority in capital plans and expedite short-term flood mitigation measures like street landscaping to reduce storm runoff.

“After the wake-up call Sandy delivered, there’s just no excuse for inaction,” de Blasio said. “We can’t keep leaving families high and dry.”

Yolanda Gallagher of Fresh Meadows shows how high flood levels reached in Utopia Parkway homes after a storm last August.

 

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Reverend to host prayer walks against violence in Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

A Queens clergy leader is not simply saying prayers to stop the borough’s violence. He is traveling and delivering them himself.

Reverend Phil Craig of the Greater Springfield Community Church needed a way to bring his community together and “get everybody on the same page,” he said.

For his “Project Prayer,” Craig intends to spend the summer walking throughout the borough starting in the southeast. He said he hopes the project can be a forum for people of all backgrounds to come together and state their hopes and intentions in a safe environment.

“If we can pray together, then we can surely work together,” said Craig, who is president of the Jamaica National Action Network.

He said he met with the network’s executive board to discuss his idea the same day 14-year-old D’aja Robinson was aboard a city bus and shot by a bullet allegedly intended for somebody else. Craig added that the incident further confirmed the need to stop the perpetual string of violence throughout his community.

“I don’t care what faith base you come from, I’m talking about let’s all come together,” Craig said. “There’s corruption and conspiracy, it’s all a plague over this community.”

Craig said life is very different nowadays. He noted that in the past, churches used to be the cornerstone of the community, children were raised differently and people had a mutual respect for one another. Now, he sees people being territorial and violence erupting as a result.

“If we can get people in housing complexes, the clergy, the community leaders and the police department to all come together, this community can be a very powerful one,” Craig said.

He hopes to reach the borough’s youth since they are “the ones that are angry, the ones that are committing these crimes.”

“If we can plant these seeds in these children, we can weed out this generation that seems to be lost,” he said. “If we keep planting good seeds, we will reap what we harvest.”

Project Prayer is set to start July 13 at the Rochdale Village Houses and will continue to visit different housing projects in the region, eventually spreading north to Long Island City and Flushing.

“I want to do something that I believe will be a comfort to people’s hearts,” Craig said. “This right here is something everyone can take part in. No matter where you go for worship — or if you don’t go anywhere — we have to be able to live together, and that’s what it’s all about.”

 

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Queens community comes together to stop the violence


| editorial@queenscourier.com

QC05162013.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

As politicians at all levels try to combat gun violence through legislation, local groups seeing issues within their communities have taken a grassroots approach to keeping neighborhoods safe.

“Upon my release from prison, I wanted to make sure today’s youth didn’t fall into the same traps that I fell into,” said Lance Feurtado.

He and his brother co-founded the King of Kings, an anti-violence group in southeast Queens. They started the group in 2005, a year after Feurtado was released from prison. Their main goal is to reduce shootings and killings.

Feurtado set his sights on the Redfern Community Houses in Far Rockaway. After a shooting in broad daylight took place there, he hit the ground running.

King of Kings also goes on anti-drug and anti-gang tours to educate young people about the consequences of a violent lifestyle, the hidden dangers of drugs and what to do if you are pulled over by police.

I am “a former drug kingpin. I’m an ex-gang member,” Feurtado said. “We can relate first-hand to what the youth are going through. We lived it, we survived it.”

Feurtado also hosts a series of community events such as an annual “Friends for Life” breakfast.

Reverend Phil Craig is another activist active in the borough. The president of the Queens chapter of the National Action Network hosts youth town halls about violence in the community.

“The children, you can tell they’re dealing with a tug-and-pull situation,” he said. “A lot of their friends are attracted to this violent type of lifestyle. It makes them feel important.”

Craig and others in the chapter work to instill a different type of importance in young people—one where they can see themselves being successful off the streets.

“They can make a difference,” Craig said. “Negativity is contagious, but if we can change it around, the positive could become contagious.”

Craig said a big part of reducing violence among youths is getting parents involved and establishing a balanced household structure—something he said many homes in his area lack.

“There’s a gap they can’t fill at home, and these kids are out running around in the streets to try and fill it,” he said.

Out there, young people get territorial, said Manny Fiallo, the outreach coordinator for the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Far Rockaway. Fiallo is also a parent coordinator at the Department of Education (DOE).

“Kids feel like they can’t go to certain places,” he said. “But it’s one peninsula, it’s one Rockaway.”

Last year, Fiallo worked to put on a basketball tournament in memory of Stack Bundles, a local rapper who he said youths respect. The event was so successful that Fiallo is hosting it again and hopes to make it an annual event. The tournament travels throughout the peninsula. Fiallo said it helps break barriers by putting participants in areas they may not usually travel to.

“It involves the whole community, it’s about the whole community,” he said.

Aside from the tournament, Fiallo’s group has hosted teen job fairs and is trying to get a GED program expanded to accommodate 23- to 28-year-olds.

On summer weekends, Craig and the National Action Network occupy corners and try to get young people off the streets.

“One of the things I’ve observed, at 1 a.m., you have kids walking in the streets in packs. They can’t be more than 13 or 14 years old,” he said.

Organizations like Craig’s are trying to stop the violence once and for all.

“When people know each other, there’s less of a tendency [toward] tension” in the community, Feurtado said.

-BY MAGGIE HAYES & TERENCE M. CULLEN

 

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Suspect wanted in string of shotgun robberies at Queens delis


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a man who robbed three southeast Queens delis and a dry cleaner last month.

In each incident the suspect enters the store with a shotgun, strikes an employee in the face with the weapon, then flees with cash, according to the NYPD.

He first hit a deli located at 114-01 Colfax Street around 1:40 p.m. on March 9, followed by one at 205-19 Hollis Avenue at about 7:45 p.m. on March 11 and third one at 206-02 Hollis Avenue at approximately 1:55 a.m. on March 13.

The suspect also robbed a dry cleaner located at 110-50 Springfield Boulevard around 1:55 p.m. on Tuesday.

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

 

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Leaders want Southeast Queens flooding fixed


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY LIAM LA GUERRE

As Sandy barreled down on the East Coast last year, there was one thing on Helene Martello’s mind.

“Where am I going to move my car?’” she asked.

It wasn’t the first time she feared flooding.

After returning to her Hollis home from a party in 2008, Martello was surprised to find her car submerged in a flood with water reaching as high as the dashboard. “I was upset because you didn’t even think another flood would happen,” Martello, 61, said. “We’ve had sewers put in. They told us everything was going to be okay, and it wasn’t.”

In the latest community effort to get the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to solve flooding in Southeast Queens, nearly a dozen Queens leaders, led by Assemblymember William Scarborough, met with residents at York College on Thursday, February 28 to explain the importance of action before the Bloomberg administration passes its budget.

At the meeting, Scarborough revealed new legislation he penned to force the city to take financial responsibility for partly causing the flooding issue in Queens. He introduced a lawyer who will attempt to file a consolidated suit against the city, combining as many residents’ evidence of property damage they can find.

“We’re looking to get money damages for their ongoing damage of having cellars and basements that are inundated with water and have to be pumped out regularly,” said attorney Mark Seitelman.

The DEP has invested more than $1.5 billion into developing the area’s sewer system, and has about 200 projects in place for the next 10 years that are worth another billion, according to an agency spokesperson. Late last year the agency began a new pilot plan to insert three basins throughout areas in Jamaica that would collect and pump out millions of gallons of water each day.

It helped, but not enough, residents said. They want some former wells reopened, but the DEP refused to do that until 2018 when the city plans to temporarily close and repair the Delaware Aqueduct, an upstate resource where the city gets half its water.

The DEP is not responsible for the underground water, but elements like rain or snow can cause floods, a DEP representative said. The agency is testing the wells and the quality of water for functionality and at this moment is not sure if they are usable.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 70. Breezy. Winds from the West at 15 to 20 mph. Monday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then overcast. Low of 59. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT of the DAY: On the Waterfront

Come to the Greater Astoria Historical Society for the exhibit and lecture On the Waterfront, where you’ll learn about the history and future of Long Island City’s and Astoria’s waterfront. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Plans for new Queens stadiums spark fears parkland will be lost

Plans for two new tennis stadiums and a new soccer stadium in the largest park in Queens have sparked fears the projects could lead to a loss of coveted green space in the borough. Read more: New York Daily News

Car drives onto sidewalk killing pedestrian

A 60-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed after a car drove onto the sidewalk in Queens. Read more: Fox New York

In southeast Queens, epicenter of housing bust, holding onto homes still elusive

Juanita Kinloch, 52, bought a modest three-bedroom home in Jamaica, Queens, more than a decade ago. Read more: WNYC

City public advocate calls for immediate passage of paid sick leave measure

The New York City Public Advocate has called for the immediate passage of a measure that would provide all employees with sick leave. Read more: CBS New York 

Sen. Schumer: Milk prices could double if Congress doesn’t pass new farm bill

Sen. Charles Schumer warned Sunday that the price of milk could double if Congress doesn’t pass a new farm bill. Read more: New York Daily News

Another big Supreme Court term starts Monday

he Supreme Court is starting a new term that is shaping up to be as important as the last one, with the prospect of major rulings about affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights. Read more: AP

 

Russell Simmons joins march to reclaim Queens streets for peace


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Residents and leaders in southeast Queens — joined by a famous native son — marched recently to return peace to their increasingly violence-filled streets.

The Sunday, August 19 rally, organized by The Peacekeepers Global Initiative, drew hundreds of locals bothered by the outbreak of shootings the area has witnessed — as well as parents who have buried children due to the violence.

“We need to make sure that we make our community a safe and decent place to live,” said Dennis Muhammed, founder of The Peacekeepers.

Murders are up 29 percent in Queens South this year, according to CompStat.

Joining the march was Queens native Russell Simmons, who said he was inspired by the neighborhood’s turnout.

“We have to give some sort of hope to the people in the community,” the Def Jam co-founder said. “Young kids in the hood don’t understand that there’s a lot of potential in them and when they see that we care, it matters.”

Parents of children lost to guns marched hand-in-hand with Simmons before speaking to the crowd in the Baisley Park Houses.

“My son was a good kid, he played ball, didn’t bother anybody, he was a momma’s boy. He turned 19 February 2; they murdered him March 2,” Shanta Merritt, mother of Darryl Adams, who was killed in Jamaica, said between tears. “I’m going to do anything and everything that I can to be a voice for my son. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

As the march moved from Sutphin Boulevard and 111th Avenue to the Baisley Houses, residents came out, with some joining the march and the chants to reclaim the streets for peace.

“It’s us that’s going to protect our community, it’s us that’s going to change what’s happening in our communities, it’s only us working together that can make a difference in what going on in our communities,” said Erica Ford, founder of LIFE Camp, a violence prevention advocacy group.

The community has been calling for something to be done that will help end the violence, but leaders agreed the rally needed to be only the beginning of the change.

“We do have a responsibility and that responsibility is to make sure this is not just an event, a one-time affair,” said Congressmember Gregory Meeks. “We need to be back out here when there’s no cameras, when there’s no attention.”

Southeast Queens plagued by illegal vans


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY PAUL BUFANO
editorial@queenscourier.com

Esther Robinson passed up several unlicensed vans while she waited at the corner of Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue in the blistering heat. Although she was anxious to get home, she would only ride in a licensed van.

“There’s no doubt that some people would be afraid to ride in an unlicensed van,” said Robinson. “It depends on the driver, but I’ve been in many vans that weren’t following all the rules.”

Unlicensed commuter vans have been operating illegally in southeast Queens for about two decades, say officials. While some travelers appreciate the service they provide, there are many who do not. Critics attack the vans on two fronts: they say they are recklessly driven, and that they poach city revenue.

“Most commuters don’t even know to check to see if the van has a DOT (Department of Transportation) sticker or if the driver has a proper license,” said David Clarke, a DOT licensed driver. “They only find out it’s unlicensed when the van is pulled over by the police for running a red light or speeding.”

Most vans charge the same fee of $2, but the unlicensed vans tend to be quicker because they are usually speeding, he said.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056 leads the opposition against the vans. ATU 1056 president and business agent I. Daneek Miller recently called for city and state agencies to address the problem.

“Our main goal is to deal with the dangerous and illegal manner that both licensed and unlicensed vans operate along MTA bus routes,” said Miller. “Forget about whether the vans are assisting some commuters, as they speed along bus routes they endanger citizens and result in us losing thousands of dollars a day. They are simply not helping the city and it’s just not fair.”

Councilmember Leroy Comrie wants to see unlicensed van drivers receive the tools to legitimize their business. The vans will be much easier to regulate once they are all legalized, he said.

“These vans have been institutionalized in the area over many years, and if they are going to create opportunities they should be helped,” said Comrie. “If we are able to eliminate the illegal vans there would be less competition and we would then have a better chance to enforce safe driving.”

Akeen Henry is an unlicensed van driver. He said he has no choice but to drive without a license because the current system makes getting one too difficult.

“I have a family to support and I need to make money, but these guys make it unfair to do it the right way,” he said. “They only say I’m breaking laws because they don’t want to share any of the money to be made.”

Residents have also raised safety concerns about the unlicensed vans, said Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12.

“Our interest is the safety of the people boarding and riding these vans,” said Reddick. “Many times people are only interested in getting to where they have to go in the shortest amount of time possible, rather than whether it’s safe or not.”

Enforcement has to be stricter to keep the streets safe, said Reddick. The MTA, NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) have to work together in order to solve this problem, she continued.

“The NYPD predominantly enforces traffic laws that include moving and parking violations,” said officer Mark Costa of the 103rd Precinct. “The NYPD can enforce illegal vans, but it isn’t prioritized over issues involving crime and violence. Organizations like the TLC go after the issue in full force and have the manpower to do so.”

The TLC has stepped up its efforts by working with the NYPD to deal with the illegally operating vans in Queens, said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the TLC.

“We have taken 300 unlicensed vans off the street this calendar year to date, so I would say we are dealing with the issue quite effectively,” said Fromberg. “We don’t have the manpower to properly address the issue alone, which is why we have been working with the NYPD. Riding these vans is a matter of convenience, but people can take some simple steps like checking for TLC plates to recognize if the van is properly licensed or not.”

 

Families devastated by cuts to Jamaica senior center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

FRIENDSHIP CENTERw

Some seniors in southeast Queens may soon lose their “friends.”

The Friendship Center — a program under the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA) — relies heavily on funding from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to support its rehabilitative programs. However, due to fiscal constraints, the agency said it could no longer support the program after July 1.

“It’s devastating. I just can’t even believe that they did this,” said Beverly Collier, executive director of JSPOA.

The Jamaica-based senior center offers free services to mentally and physically frail elders, who commonly suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and depression. In addition to providing meals and socialization activities, the center hosts psychiatric clinics once a week.

Friendship’s mental health programs originally received $443,000 annually from the DOHMH, Collier said, but funds were cut in half last year. While the other half was restored through community support and discretionary funds, Collier said rallying to raise 100 percent of funding this year would be near impossible.

“It would be very difficult to maintain Friendship for this population without the department’s money. And sending this population to your average run-of-the-mill center is not an alternative because they are not able to participate and socialize with mainstream seniors,” Collier said.

The center — which has been in existence since 1979 — is home to the 65 to 75 seniors who use the center daily, according to the executive director.

The decision to strip the center’s funding has devastated caregivers like Brenda Lacey, whose 93-year-old mother has been going to the center for close to 14 years.

“This has been our lifeline. This is [my mother’s] livelihood,” Lacey said. “I feel terrible because this might be my mother’s demise. For her not to have those people in her life, it would be like losing a family member for her.”

Lacey said she plans to look into other mainstream regular senior centers, but fears her mother will not adjust well to the changes.

“She might not be able to cope. The people wouldn’t understand her like they do at Friendship,” she said. “I’m just praying. It really needs to stay open.”

Eleanor Williams said she’s nervous her 73-year-old husband, Harold, may revert back to depression if the center closes.

“Before Friendship, he was at the point where he was suicidal. He was at the hospital several times at months on end,” Williams said. “Once he got to Friendship, it really brought him totally out of his shell. If you had seen this man a year ago, you would say it wasn’t the same person. Right now, I don’t know where to go from here.”

Meanwhile, Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Ruben Wills said they are “aggressively working” to make sure Friendship keeps its doors open.

“This program is something we should be duplicating throughout the city — not cutting,” said Wills, whose grandmother used the center before her passing. “I don’t know what it is with these budget cuts, but the city seems to always target the most vulnerable population. It’s going too far at this point.”

Wills said he will be posting an online petition on his web site — www.rubenwills.com — later this week in addition to targeting different ways to secure funding.

“This is really unjust. This is really crazy,” he said.

Rising water levels in southeast Queens still a problem


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Assemblymember William Scarborough.

Mold spores several inches in diameter cover the walls of homes in St. Albans. In Jamaica, hoses running from basements constantly drain the filthy water that has leaked inside.

The level of standing water underground in southeast Queens is rising and washing away the quality of life for many residents, damaging their homes and potentially their health, according to local politicians.

Assemblymember William Scarborough hosted a meeting to discuss the issue at The Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Corner in St. Albans on Thursday, November 10. Officials offered attendees the opportunity to submit a form describing the extent of damage done to their homes by rising water. Over 200 forms were collected.

“We’re seeking to motivate the community because this has got to be solved,” said Scarborough.

Rising water levels in southeast Queens have been a problem since 1996, when the area’s local water supplier, Jamaica Water Supply, was overtaken by the Department of Environmental Preservation (DEP). Southeast Queens was the last area of the city to be acquired by the DEP, the organization that provides water for all of New York City.

According to Scarborough, instead of taking water from one of the 69 previously present underground wells in the area, the DEP brought in water from other sources, causing the ground water level to rise. The standing water is now almost at surface level.

“The city had to know there would be a consequence,” said Scarborough.

About 10 years ago, the DEP realized there was widespread flooding.

The DEP then directed their attention to cleaning up the well at Station 24 in St. Albans, which became toxic due to chemical runoff from a dry cleaner across the street, as well as implementing new technology to pump and purify the water at Station 6, which was expected to deliver between six and 10 million gallons of water per day.
Scarborough alleges that without notice, the project was abandoned in 2005 because of the cost, and the water rose even further.

In a hearing with the City Council Environmental Protection Committee on September 24, 2007, Former DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd testified that the water had risen over 30 feet between 1996 and 2007, Scarborough told The Courier.

“Our whole effort now is to get the DEP to provide a solution,” said Scarborough, who noted that he hopes the organization that was supposed to better the lives of residents in southeast Queens will return to finish the job it started.

Richmond Hill Block Association gives residents a fighting chance against attack


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0047w

Richmond Hill residents now have a fighting chance against sexual predators who have been terrorizing women in southeast Queens.
In light of the recent patterns of sexual attacks in the surrounding areas, Sensei Ricky Singh of Dojo Warriors equipped a little more than a dozen women and men with vital keys to self-defense at the Richmond Hill Block Association’s monthly meeting on October 26.
Of the countless sexual attacks in Queens, a 44-year-old female was assaulted on September 22 while she entered her home in Queens Village. On October 13, a 20-year-old woman was also raped in the vicinity of 108th Drive and Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, and more recently, two female victims in Laurelton were sexually assaulted, suffering a myriad of injuries afterward.

Association board members said they wanted residents to be prepared and cautious even though the recent attacks did not occur in Richmond Hill.
Singh — who has practiced martial arts for 13 years — taught residents how to stand up for themselves in quick and effective ways.
First, he said to aim for the attacker’s throat, ears and eyes.

Singh said to try and poke the attacker in the eyes — which he said would give victims at least 15 to 20 seconds to run — or to take the middle and pointer fingers and quickly jab them into the attacker’s throat. He also recommended cupping both hands and then clapping both the attacker’s ears at the same time to throw the perp off balance.
“That would actually make somebody back off. They’ll be more concerned about breathing and getting back their balance than attacking you. Their anger isn’t focused on you anymore, it’s focused on their survival,” he said.

But Singh said to avoid attacking the perp’s groin area, adding that it would do more harm than good — despite popular belief.
“It’s a very dangerous area. It actually gets guys really aggravated, and it makes them angrier,” he said. “It stimulates the body to produce more endorphins, which makes them stronger. You don’t want to go for the groin.”

Instead, Singh said to scream loudly to alert people nearby and to get energy levels up.

“Getting your heart rate up will increase your endorphins, and it will make you full of energy and make you feel stronger,” he said, adding that screaming will also make the attacker nervous and no longer feel in control.

If grabbed from behind and caught in a tight hold, Singh said to find the attacker’s pinky finger and pull it back as far as possible, causing the attacker to release his grip from the pain.

Singh also said keys could be used as valuable weapons if the fine points are grinded against the attacker’s knuckles or if used as a type of knife.

Police arrest 15 year old for sex assaults


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Police believe they have seized the sexual deviant that has terrorized southeast Queens for the past month – and he is not even out of high school.

The NYPD arrested a 15-year-old black male on October 23 who they consider to be responsible for the recent pattern of sexual attacks in the area.

“We’re confident that he is the person we’ve been looking for,” said Chief James Secreto, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens South.

The Queens Special Victims Unit identified the perpetrator in a surveillance video they received from a store, during which the teenager was recognized wearing his distinct Polo jacket with a tiger on the back.

The suspect, who is a resident of Springfield Gardens, has already been identified by two victims whom he allegedly assaulted earlier this month in Laurelton.

The first incident occurred at approximately 1:18 a.m. on October 9, when the pervert approached a 40-year-old female, pushed her to the ground, repeatedly punched her in the face and attempted to rape her. The victim suffered a myriad of injuries, including severe bruising to her eyes, lacerations to the inside of her mouth, a nasal fracture requiring surgery, a laceration to her cheek requiring stitches, severe abrasions to both of her knees requiring debridement and contusions and swelling to the rear of her head.

According to the charges, the suspect also attacked a 24-year-old female on the evening of October 16, approaching her from behind and placing her in a headlock before repeatedly striking her in the back of the head and face. The victim reportedly suffered a lacerated lip, lacerations to the inside of her mouth, bruising, swelling and pain to her face and bruising and contusions to the rear of her head.

“The defendant is accused of prowling the streets and preying on vulnerable women,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “The offenses that the defendant is accused of committing are crimes of violence that posed a serious threat to public safety and which warrant vigorous prosecution.”

The perpetrator has been charged with two counts of attempted rape, one count of attempted sexual abuse, one count of sexual abuse, two counts of sexually motivated assault, one count of assault with intent to cause physical injury and one count of sexually motivated assault with a weapon.

He was arraigned on October 24, and his bail was set at $150,000. The suspect’s next court appearance is scheduled for October 28.

Due to his age, the teenager faces two and two-thirds to eight years in prison if convicted as a juvenile offender.

The suspect is also being placed in numerous other lineups to investigate his connection to the string of incidents in the area.

There have been five sexual attacks in southeast Queens this month, the first occurring on September 22, when a 44-year-old female was sexually assaulted while she entered her home in Queens Village. Three of the five incidents were against women getting off the Q85 bus at 225th Street.

On October 13, a 20-year-old woman was raped in the vicinity of 108th Drive and Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica. The suspect has been described as a black male between the ages of 20 and 23, approximately 180 pounds, sporting a Caesar-style haircut, a black bandana, a black, waist-length, leather jacket and dark jeans.

The attacks have caused widespread public outrage and fear, and community leaders are emphasizing the importance of remaining safe by being aware.

“It is starting to get darker earlier and it is important that people know how to keep safe when walking home,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. “There have been five reported sexual assault cases this month alone, and we want to put a stop to this rising trend.”

A town hall meeting addressing the incidents was held on October 24 at the Robert Johnson Family Life Center in Jamaica.

During the meeting, NYPD Community Affairs and Special Victims Units of the 103rd, 105th and 113th Precincts answered questions and informed residents of safety awareness techniques.

Officials also referenced the closure of the Baisley Park Houses Community Center in Jamaica, which left kids with one less place to congregate safely.

“We need to respond as a community to try to take our children back,” said Comrie. “We can’t rely on our government.”

John Chiam of Crime Prevention urged people not to openly display cell phones or any technological devices while walking home and emphasized the importance of community involvement in assisting the police.

Dennis Chambers, the owner of Zen Masters Dojo on Linden Boulevard, led a group of children and women in a demonstration of self defense, and Safe Horizons, a victim assistance agency, provided people with whistles.

Additional reporting by Alexa Altman.

Southeast Queens residents deal with flooding, sewage


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Thousands of residents in southeast Queens are sinking deeper into the sewage that now engulfs their homes.

Mold spores and flooding have become and remain a constant problem for homeowners after the city took over the area’s water supply in 1996.

“It smells terrible. You see feces in the water and black stuff. It’s just terrible,” said Lurline Williams, 73, of Jamaica.

Williams said she uses five pumps a day to try and alleviate the flooding, but “the water never goes away,” she said.

Prior to 1996, the southeast Queens community received water from the Jamaica Water Supply Company, according to Assemblymember William Scarborough. The private company pumped, purified and distributed water from 68 wells.

When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) took over, it stopped draining and pumping water out of the ground, making the water level rise higher than certain basements in the area, he said.

“These are people’s homes that are being ruined,” Scarborough said. “They’re spending a lot of money year after year for water pumps and they still can’t make their basements fully dry. Their floors and furniture in their basement are ruined. Some of them can’t even go into their basements anymore.”

Williams, a homeowner in Jamaica for 43 years, said that despite extreme damages, she still has to go down to her basement frequently to use her washer and dryer.

“I feel terrible. It’s heart breaking,” she said. “I just pray to God that something or someone will step up and go on and help us with the problem we’ve been having.”

The DEP has invested nearly $242 million since 2002 to build out the storm sewer system and reduce surface flooding in the southeast Queens area, said spokesperson Farrell Sklerov. The department also plans to invest $124 million in sewers over the next five years to help reduce further flooding.

Aside from that, the DEP has no plans to permanently pump out the groundwater due to a “prohibitively costly and extremely energy intensive process that would have to be paid for by increased water rates.”

City Councilmember Leroy Comrie told The Courier that the issue needs to be addressed immediately.

“I’m not happy that the DEP has not really dealt with the issue. It came up in meetings that they’ve kind of given up on a groundwater solution,” he said. “They don’t want to answer any questions or deal with it. It’s creating a major problem for the community.”

Scarborough also expressed concerns for the health of the residents.

“People are working hard to keep these properties nice and — to no fault of their own — their property is being damaged and their health is being threatened because of constant exposure,” he said. “That is unacceptable. People are suffering.”