Tag Archives: Springfield Gardens

Sewer project set to bring flood relief


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DEP

Springfield Gardens may soon get relief from years of flooding problems.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland announced the start of work to dredge Springfield Lake and double its depth. It will then become part of a new network of Bluebelt wetlands designed to receive stormwater through a new sewer system.

Stormwater will collect in the sewer system from neighborhood streets, sidewalks and roofs; once it is distributed into the lake, it will be filtered before heading into Jamaica Bay.

“[This ensures] we are better prepared for an uncertain future,” said Seth Pinksky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

The project, managed by the EDC, is part of a $69 million project that will bring three miles of new water mains, storm sewers, roadways and sidewalks to Springfield Gardens. It is the fourth phase in a $175 million neighborhood upgrade, consisting of additional storm sewer lines, water mains, fire hydrants and more.

Strickland said once completed, the project will “improve living conditions for local residents and promote economic growth while helping to protect the health of Jamaica Bay.”

Installation of the water mains is already 95 percent complete and the work on the Bluebelt wetlands is ongoing. Installation of the sewers began in June.

The project broke ground last fall and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2014.

 

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Huntley speaks: Ex-State Senator alleges charges were in retaliation


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Former State Senator Shirley Huntley says the investigation that led to state charges against her last year stemmed from political decisions she made in Albany.

Speaking with political commentator Roy Paul in Springfield Gardens, Huntley — who is set to go to federal prison next month — said State Senator Malcolm Smith tried to have her investigated after she failed to vote for him as senate leader.

She said her problem was not with the charges against her, to which she pleaded guilty, but the way in which she was indicted by state officials.

She said after a witness came to her with the information, she realized Smith was trying to have her looked into. Huntley alleged Smith first took the information to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who Huntley later confronted.

“Tom said to me ‘I can’t go into detail, but this is not my idea’,” Huntley said. “He says, ‘It came to me from Malcolm Smith, and after I decided there was no reason to go forward, I was told to give it to [Attorney General] Eric Schneiderman and he would take care of it.’”

Smith’s office said he has no comment on matters relating to Huntley.

Federal official arrested him on April 2 on charges of trying to make bribes for a Wilson-Pakula certificate. The document would have allowed the longtime Democrat to run for mayor of New York City as a Republican. Smith and accused co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Huntley turned herself in to the attorney general’s office on August 27, 2012. She was charged with helping cover up embezzlement through a nonprofit she helped establish. The investigation was a joint effort between the offices of Schneiderman and DiNapoli.

Huntley went on to lose a September primary to current State Senator James Sanders.

A spokesperson for DiNapoli said the office has no comment and is cooperating with law enforcement agencies.

A spokesperson for Schneiderman said Huntley’s allegations were null, calling them a last-ditch effort before she heads off to jail.

“Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to rooting out political corruption is the reason he was the first prosecutor to indict Shirley Huntley,” said Damien LaVera. “It’s no surprise that a criminal who is going to jail for lying and stealing is lashing out at the prosecutor who brought her to justice.”

Although the case never made it to state court, Huntley pleaded guilty to federal embezzlement charges for stealing atotal of $88,000. She has been ordered to pay it back and was sentenced to 366 days in prison.

During the sentencing, it was revealed that Huntley taped several elected officials last summer for the FBI. But prosecutors said some information she provided was not trustworthy enough to give her a cooperation bargain.

Huntley said Schneiderman, who was a senator before he became attorney general in 2011, butted heads with her several times – both in the chamber and on his campaign.

First, she said, they disagreed on voting out former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Schneiderman had been a leader on the effort to expel the former Elmhurst lawmaker, while Huntley said she did not believe the Senate was a law enforcement body.

Further, while she supported Schneiderman’s attorney general campaign, she alleged Schneiderman asked her to defame his primary opponent, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

“I was not a fan of Kathleen Rice because I don’t know her. But I was not going to do anything that was going to damage her reputation,” Huntley said. “I was not going to go to black folks and tell them they need to jump up and down and yell Kathleen Rice is a racist, and she only locks up black people. I was not going to do that because that is not how I do business.”

 

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Queens elementary school teacher convicted of sexually abusing students


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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A Queens elementary school teacher who allegedly used his classroom time to prey on students has been found guilty of sexually abusing five of his former pupils.

“The defendant stands convicted of being a sexual predator who made going to school a living nightmare for the five young students,” said District Attorney Richard Brown, announcing the verdict.

In addition to sexual abuse, Simon Watts, 41, was found guilty of sexual conduct against a child, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child. He faces up 35 years in prison.

According to trial testimony, said Brown, the crimes took place while Watts was working as a third- and fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 15 Jackie Robinson in Springfield Gardens between September 2007 and March 2010.

During that time, he abused four females and one male, ranging between eight and 10 years old.

 

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NYC pilot to extend school day for sixth graders


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Johann Hamilton

The last bell will ring two and a half hours later for 2,000 of the city’s sixth graders starting this fall.

A pilot program will provide additional literacy training at 20 middle schools with high-needs students, including five in Queens, according to the Department of Education (DOE).

The schools are also part of a 40-school expansion of the Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI), which provides extensive literary instruction in grades six through eight.

“We are committed to ensuring that all students are prepared for college and 21st century careers, and the Middle School Quality Initiative has been central to this mission,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The Queens schools participating in the pilot are P.S./I.S. 116 William C. Hughley in Jamaica, Waterside School for Leadership in Rockaway, P.S. 043 in Far Rockaway, Queens United Middle School in Springfield Gardens and Village Academy in Far Rockaway.

The $6.2 million for the MSQI expansion comes from the City Council and DOE along with contributions from the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit that helps fight poverty, and other groups.

“We are confident that a daily dose of extra tutoring for students struggling with English language arts will significantly increase students’ ability to comprehend at [their] grade level across all subjects,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

However, Patricia Simmons, a school aid at P.S./I.S. 116, believes money can be allocated in better ways.

“If they’d just give the schools the supplies they need, then they wouldn’t need to extend the time,” she said. “So many classes don’t have enough textbooks or workbooks.”

Another faculty member was concerned about the age of the students in the program.

“For the little kids, it’ll be too much, but the older ones will be able to handle it,” said a teacher who wanted to remain anonymous.

Tedric Simpson, a former student, also agreed the pilot might be taxing on the sixth graders.

“It’s too much school for one day. They could maybe do it from Monday to Wednesday, but not every day,” she said.

For parents, the benefit went beyond learning.

“Some parents can’t afford babysitters, so the extra hours could be good for them,” said Jean Elie.

With additional reporting by Johann Hamilton

 

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Springfield Gardens doesn’t want liquor store near school


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Springfield Gardens wants to make sure the area around its high school stays dry.

A construction site across the street from Springfield Gardens High School could be the new home for a liquor store. But the community is calling for its owner to put a cork in it.

“We are not going to get drunk to a liquor store,” said State Senator James Sanders. “What does he think we are, high?”

By law, a liquor store cannot be within 200 feet of a school, according to the New York State Liquor Authority. Measurements showed the school’s doors are roughly 75 feet away from the proposed site of the liquor store.

Officials said once the dismissal bell rings, hundreds of students flood out of the high school’s doors and linger in the area. The youths socialize and stop in surrounding stores.

“We don’t want our young scholars seeing drunkards, people bobbing and weaving across the street,” Sanders said.

“This is not something the community wants,” echoed Franck Joseph, Community Liaison for Councilmember Donovan Richards. “It is very disrespectful, and a backhand slap. It shows a disregard to the community.”

Community activists Michael Duncan and Joan Flowers joined Sanders and Richards at a press conference on Friday, May 11 calling on the liquor authority to shut down the proposal.

Lawrence McClean, district manager of Community Board 13, said while owners are required by law to notify the local community board if they wish to open a liquor store, they have heard nothing.

“People are trying to get away with things in the dark,” he said.

McClean and the board have sent a packet with signatures to the liquor authority in strong opposition to the proposal. They were yet to hear back, but hoped the liquor authority does not even entertain the plan.

Richards said he tried to meet with the would-be owner, Tarsem Singh, but to no avail. Richards and Sanders hope to sit down and discuss the feasibility of using the space for something more “community-appropriate.”

“Put in an after-school youth center,” Sanders said. “We could have a place where we’re teaching values. It’s their future we’re concerned about.”

Singh could not be reached for comment. The liquor authority did not return repeated calls.

 

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National Guardsman guilty in murder of girlfriend


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

He went from hero to felon.

A National Guardsman and Iraq war veteran has been convicted of second-degree murder for punching, drowning and ultimately killing his girlfriend on the beaches of Far Rockaway.

David Lynch, 33, served two tours in Iraq and was a reservist in the New York National Guard at the time of the November 2010 killing. He was convicted on Thursday, March 21.

“The defendant was trained to defend the weak and protect the innocent,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “In this case, he went against everything he was taught.”

According to trial testimony, Lynch brutally beat and drowned Althea Lewis, 45, of Springfield Gardens. In the early morning, Lynch and Lewis were on the beach having an argument. Lynch punched and bit Lewis on her head and face, threw her in the water and dragged her out by her feet, causing her head to be submerged.

Police discovered her clothed body on the beach with four puncture wounds on her face, later revealed to be from Lynch’s Army ring. The cuts were so deep that cops initially thought Lewis was shot. Ultimately, she died as a result of blunt force injury to her head and submersion in water.

“[Lynch’s] actions have irreparably shattered a family by robbing them of a loved one,” said Brown. “Conviction warrants imposition of a maximum prison sentence to punish him and protect society.”

The Supreme Court set sentencing for Monday, April 29. Lynch faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

 

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Man gets 50 years for killing pregnant girlfriend, son


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Jimmy Humphrey admitted to murdering his pregnant girlfriend, then setting fire to her Springfield Gardens apartment and killing her two-year-old son. He now faces life behind bars.

“[Humphrey] stands convicted of first strangling the mother of his unborn child and then, without the slightest regard for human life, attempted to cover up his crime by intentionally setting fire to her home, thereby taking the life of her innocent two-year-old son,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

In July 2010, Humphrey, 26, said he was in his girlfriend Linda Anderson’s apartment on Anderson Road. He grabbed Anderson by the throat and shoved her to the ground. He also hit Anderson with a bottle of alcohol and used her lighter to set her couch on fire, despite knowing her son, Ayden, was sleeping inside the apartment, according to statements he made to police.

Humphrey then ran from the apartment, leaving Anderson behind with her body on fire and her son in his bedroom. After lying down for a period of time, he walked to a phone and called 9-1-1 to report the fire.

Additionally, Humphrey admitted that he knew Anderson was pregnant, but he did not want to have a family with her. He has been held without bail since July 2010, and on Wednesday, March 6 was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

 

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City Council replacement to be decided in special election today


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Pesach Osina

Decision day has arrived, and one of eight candidates for southeast Queens’ 31st District will sit upon the City Council.

The council hopefuls hit the ground running just over a month ago when James Sanders vacated his seat and moved to the Senate. The campaign stretch, although short, has been heated.

Michael Duncan, Marie Adam-Ovide, Saywalah Kesselly, Jacques Leandre, Selvena Brooks, Donovan Richards, Allan Jennings and Pesach Osina were put up against each other in several public forums, testing their knowledge of the district neighborhoods and their ideas for the future.

The Daily News reported that in a nonpartisan special election such as this one, political observers note that merely a few hundred votes could determine a winner.

Donovan Richards, Sanders’ former chief-of-staff, received the veteran pol’s support, as well as 18 union endorsements and support from 60 community leaders, according to his Facebook page. Additionally, his campaign war chest came in first, and raised nearly $130,000.

Residents in communities such as Springfield Gardens and Laurelton are concerned with area flooding, and hope their new councilmember can make progress in eliminating the issue. Many people also want to see improvement in the school system and a decrease in home foreclosures.

Photo courtesy of Selvena Brooks 

 

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Man dies in Rockaway Boulevard hit and run


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A 65-year-old Queens man died early Friday when a car struck him on Rockaway Boulevard and fled the scene, said police.

Carlos Carlo was crossing the intersection of Rockaway Boulevard and 137th around 12:30 a.m. when a dark colored sedan traveling northbound on Rockaway Boulevard hit him.

Carlo was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The investigation is ongoing.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 46. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Friday night: Mostly cloudy with a chance of snow and a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 34. Winds from the NW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Emilio Solla + Bien Sur

At Flushing Town Hall renowned Argentine pianist Emilio Solla presents tunes from his celebrated album Bien Sur! and new compositions with his New York quintet, featuring Chris Cheek (soprano/tenor), Victor Prieto (accordion), Jorge Roeder (bass) and Ziv Ravitz, (drums and cajon). Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Rabbi busted after setting up Queens date for sex with a ’14-year-old girl’ online

A Brooklyn rabbi and travel guide exchanged sexually explicit online messages with an undercover cop he thought was a 14-year-old girl, then set up a date with her in Queens, prosecutors charged Thursday. Read more: New York Daily News

Bloomberg gives final State of the City address at Barclays Center

It may have been Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last opportunity to deliver the State of the City address, but one thing was clear, it was no swan song. Read more: Queens Courier

Sen. Charles Schumer seeks aid for Sandy-damaged co-op and condos

New York’s senior senator is trying to ensure that storm-damaged co-ops and condos receive their fair share of the $60 billion Sandy relief package. Read more: New York Daily News

Local man recounts cruise ship horror as crippled vessel docks in Alabama

A cruise ship disabled for five nightmarish days in the Gulf finally docked with more than 4,000 people aboard late Thursday, passengers raucously cheering the end to an ocean odyssey they say was marked by overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors. Read more: CBS New York

Republicans block vote on Obama’s defense nominee, Hagel

Republican lawmakers succeeded on Thursday in delaying a Senate vote on confirming President Barack Obama’s choice of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, but another vote was planned for later in the month and Obama said he expected his nominee to be approved. Read more: Reuters

Russian meteor causes blast; hundreds injured

A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia’s Urals region Friday morning, before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left hundreds of people hurt. Read more: CNN

Queens gang members sentenced to 50 years for shooting death of 13-year-old


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

After killing a 13-year-old boy and injuring another innocent bystander during a rival street gang shooting in Queens, two Crips members have each been sentenced to 50 years in prison, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced.

“Without the slightest regard for human life, the defendants recklessly turned the streets of Queens County into a deadly battleground that claimed the life of an innocent young student walking home from school and wounded a second hard-working teenager, said Brown. “The lengthy prison sentence imposed today is more than justified and sends a strong message to others who might think of resorting to gunfire to settle disputes.”

Gregory Calas, 21, of St. Albans, and Nnonso Ekwegbalu, 19, of Springfield Gardens, were convicted last November of first-degree manslaughter for the death of Kevin Miller.

According to the district attorney, on the afternoon of October 2, 2009, Miller was killed when a bullet struck him during a shootout between members of the Bloods and Crips. Pedro Garcia, 17, who was working at a corner car wash, was also shot in the leg. Both teens were not involved in the altercation or members of the gangs.

Police search for suspects in 15 Queens armed robberies


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

The NYPD is looking for two men wanted in a string of commercial gunpoint robberies around Queens.

During each incident, the suspects, wearing masks and displaying firearms, entered the location and removed cash and property, said police. No one was injured during any of the robberies.

The first incident occurred on November 29 at a Gulf gas station at 131-07 Farmers Boulevard in Jamaica, and the most recent one was on Sunday, at the Hillside Mobile Gas Station on 165-01 Hillside Avenue, also in Jamaica.

All of the robberies occurred in the late afternoon to early evening and, in addition to Jamaica, took place in Hollis, Flushing, Woodside and Springfield Gardens.

The suspects are described as black or Hispanic males. Suspect one was  wearing dark clothing, glasses, a Yankees baseball hat and a partial mask. Suspect two was wearing a black leather jacket, dark clothing, a black face mask and a black skull cap.

Authorities are also trying to identify an individual wanted for questioning in regards to the use of a credit card reported stolen during one of the robberies.

That incident took place on Tuesday, January 15, at around 6:30 p.m., at the Great Big Supermarket on 222-16 144th Avenue in Springfield Gardens.

Anyone with information in regards to these incidents 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.

 


A video of suspect one.

 

A video of suspect two.

This suspect is wanted for questioning in regards to the use of a credit card reported stolen during one of the robberies at the Great Big Supermarket on 222-16 144th Avenue on January 15.

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Candidates vie for Sanders’ City Council seat in special election


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Candidates 15th district

A vacant seat has been left in the 31st Council District by James Sanders’ ascent to the State Senate, and more than one candidate hopes to slide into the spot.

A special election is set to be held on February 19 for the coveted Council seat, covering parts of Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale. The race has attracted several different candidates thus far, many of whom have hit the campaign trail running.

Sanders’ former chief-of-staff, Donovan Richards, is considered the front runner, according to multiple media reports. Richards has received endorsements from not only his former boss, but also from the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and the Working Families Party. He worked in the City Council for ten years under Sanders (pictured right), and is now looking to acquire his own seat.

In order to be eligible to run, all candidates must file with the Board of Elections (BOE) by January 15.

Valerie Vazquez, a BOE spokesperson, said that as of press time, Allan Jennings, a former City Councilmember, and Selvena Brooks, who has worked in the State Senate, have filed to run.

Brooks filed her candidacy under the party name “Rebuild Now,” referencing not only rebuilding post-Sandy, but also rebuilding the education system, local economy and neighborhoods.

Marie Adam-Ovide, the district manager of Community Board 8, has been expected to announce her candidacy, as is Earnest Flowers, former chief-of-staff of Assemblymember William Scarborough. Flowers boasts a reputation of making his promises a reality, and having “quantifiable work.”

“The reason why we don’t get a lot of things done is because no one puts anything down on paper, so no one can be held accountable,” said Flowers. “Everything I do is transparent.”

Flowers recently held a fundraising event for his campaign in his home, where he spoke to a crowd of roughly 60 about his passion for the community.

Many others are rumored to join the race, and will face each other on Thursday, February 7 at the 31st District Candidates’ Night. Members of the community will join the candidates in Laurelton at St. Luke’s

Cathedral where they will be given the opportunity to ask the Council hopefuls questions regarding their positions.

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Flood relief may be on way for Springfield Gardens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Officials are hoping that relief is on the way for Springfield Gardens residents, who have long suffered from the deluge of downpours.

On Tuesday, October 16, city and local officials broke ground on the fourth phase of a project to upgrade sewer and water infrastructure in the southeast Queens community.

“For years, heavy rain in Springfield Gardens meant flooded roads, damaged homes and thousands of dollars in repairs for residents,” said City Councilmember James Sanders, an advocate for the project. “With this … neighborhood upgrade under way, relief is coming soon for Springfield homeowners who have been under assault from Mother Nature for far too long.”

This most recent installment of repairs, totaling $69 million and funded by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), is part of a larger $175 million project dedicated to improving Springfield Gardens storm management.

In this phase, the area bounded by South Conduit Avenue to the north; 149th Avenue to the south; 145th Road/146th Avenue/225th Street on the east; and Springfield Boulevard to the west will receive roughly 2.8 miles of new sewer lines, nearly 3 miles of water mains, and 84 catch basins, along with new streets and sidewalks.

“Low-lying streets in Springfield Gardens will get a lift with completely reconstructed streets and sidewalks, addressing the area’s flooding and making the neighborhood greener and more inviting,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Residents are overall pleased with the work being done.

Elizabeth Simms, who lives nearby in an area that was part of an earlier phase, has seen a significant improvement in flooding around her home.

“New drains, new sewers, remaking the street has worked great. Before it was a problem, but now everything goes right down and the street is clean,” she said.

Also part of the project is the creation of a Bluebelt, a wetland that both stores and treats water runoff. This will allow stormwater to be collected in the new catch basins, and discharged into wetland systems where the water will be naturally filtered. The wetlands will store the water, allow any solids or debris to settle and excess nutrients to be absorbed by vegetation. The filtered water will then be discharged into the nearby Springfield Lake and existing streams into Jamaica Bay.

Dredging for the project is set to begin in the spring, and will be managed by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Completion is estimated for 2014.

 

Four schools in Queens on the chopping block


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

schools

Four Queens schools are on the chopping block after receiving poor marks on the Department of Education’s (DOE) progress reports.

The four — I.S. 59, J.H.S 8, P.S. 140 and P.S./M.S. 156 — are from a list of roughly 40 borough schools that received low grades. Their fate was finalized after the department reviewed grades; past performance; quality reviews; plans already underway to improve the school; leadership performance and district and community needs. The four are part of a group of 36 schools citywide.

“We have begun conversations with 36 schools that we have identified as struggling. These are difficult conversations, but it’s important to have this dialogue and hold our schools to the highest of standards,” said DOE Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. “The goal of these discussions is to gain a better understanding of what’s happening at these schools and give them the opportunity to talk about the challenges they face, the strategies and interventions already underway, and what strategies or interventions will be most meaningful to the school as they move forward.”

Conversations between the struggling schools and the DOE will continue, and within the coming weeks will be set for closure, or given a chance at redemption.