Tag Archives: Springfield Gardens

Cabbies arrested after fight at JFK


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Port Authority police

Two livery cab drivers were arrested after a man accused one of them of trying to stab him as the three fought at  John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday afternoon, Port Authority police said.

The victim told police that during an altercation between the cabbies and himself outside of Terminal 8 about 4:30 p.m., one of the men, Wayne Walker, 41, started to chase and threaten him with a knife.

After officers at the scene told the other driver, Junior Rowe, 30, to stop, he allegedly escaped in his Ford Taurus. Rowe almost struck the officers as he sped off, police said.

When Rowe was forced to stop in traffic, he was removed from his car and arrested by police, according to officials.

The weapon, described in detail by the victim, was allegedly found on the floor of Walker’s car. He was also arrested, police said.

No one was injured during the incident and no flights were delayed.

Rowe, of Woodhaven, was charged with attempted assault on a police officer, menacing, reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct, police said. Walker, a Springfield Gardens resident, was charged with menacing, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

 

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Queens Girl Scout cookie champ ready to hand out sweet treats


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DeAnne Lorde

This Queens Girl Scout is one smart cookie.

Springfield Gardens seventh-grader Najah Lorde more than doubled her cookie sales from last year to become the top seller in the city with 2,833 boxes.

Najah, 12, has been selling cookies since she joined the Girl Scouts in second grade, but didn’t surpass the 1,000 mark until 2013 when she sold 1,111 boxes.

That year, she was bested by Upper West Side resident Olivia Cranshaw by about 700 boxes.

Cranshaw set a goal of selling over 2,000 this year. She exceeded that number by 141, but Najah had the right ingredients for a win.

“I was running and screaming all over the house,” Najah said, describing the moment she found out she was the cookie champ.

Each Girl Scout that sells over 1,000 boxes receives all the prizes offered, including a Nintendo Wii and Sephora gift card.

“If you are the top seller you just win bragging rights,” Najah said.

“She’s very competitive, Najah’s father Donovan Lorde said. “She was very determined when the sale started.”

Najah, a member of Troop 4287, claimed she had no special strategy, but her father said she did have a plan, she just didn’t realize it.

He said she made a list of the people she wanted to call and even took his and his wife’s phones to look for potential buyers. Using her networking skills, the preteen urged her contacts to reach out to others.

The Girl Scout said she received a lot of support from family. She also sold the baked goods at her school, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston, her church, the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, and her parents’ workplace, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

“When we tallied up the numbers and we saw 2,833, we were like ‘wow that is a lot of boxes,’” Donovan said.

“To a certain degree we were surprised by the number, but we weren’t surprised that she did it,” he added.

Najah is aiming for another win next year by selling at least 3,000 boxes.

Though her father is supportive of her ambitions, he admits the goal makes him somewhat “afraid.”

This Saturday, the boxes are set to arrive and they will need to figure out how to store, transport and hand out all those cookies.

“We are going to need a very big vehicle to pick up the boxes,” Donovan said.

 

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Southeast Queens schools to receive yearly $2.5M grant


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Richards

Eleven southeast Queens schools are the recipients of an annual technology grant in the name of a civil rights legend.

Councilmember Donovan Richards created the Nelson Mandela Technology Grant through which he will be contributing $2.5 million yearly to his district’s schools to “help fill any financial gaps to ensure our youth have access to the best resources available.”

“I have always believed it is essential our youth have access to the best technology available,” Richards said. “We can no longer focus on competing locally and must prepare future generations to compete on an international level.”

A minimum $50,000 will go to each of Richards’ 11 district schools, including P.S. 123 in Jamaica, P.S. 156 in Laurelton and Excelsior Preparatory High School in Springfield Gardens.

Richards presented the donation at the M.S. 355 and M.S. 356 Springfield Gardens campus Monday. He said he’s proud to provide the funds and could give more than $50,000 where needed.

Springfield Gardens’ I.S. 231 will receive $500,000 this fiscal year to upgrade its playground, and Richards said he is additionally allocating funds for schools still recovering from Sandy.

“As long as I am councilman, I will do my best to provide for our youth wherever there are gaps,” he said.

Richards is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, now State Senator James Sanders, who contributed about $2 million for 10 years to fulfill the district’s schools’ technology needs.

 

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Springfield Gardens celebrates the holiday season


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

The holiday spirit is alive in Springfield Gardens.

The Christmas tree in Springfield Park lit up for the season on Wednesday, December 11 with residents and community leaders watching.

“This is a great event for the whole family,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards, who hosted the tree lighting along with the Parks Department, Friends of Brookville Park, Storm Rydaz and the Student’s Real Friends Network.

Holiday music played as children took photos with Santa and shared in the community Christmas celebration.

Holiday trees throughout the southeast community are lighting up. The Brookville Park tree was lit on Saturday, December 7.

 

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Pedestrian struck and killed in Springfield Gardens


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Updated Monday, December 2 12:08 p.m.

A man is dead after he was hit by a car on Rockaway Boulevard Tuesday morning.

The victim was crossing the roadway at Farmers Boulevard around 6:15 a.m. when a Subaru Impreza traveling eastbound on Rockaway Boulevard struck the man, said police.

He was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was deceased.

The driver remained on the scene of the accident and the investigation is ongoing, said cops.

The victim, 24-year-old Erik Johnson, was on his way to work when he was struck, according to Alicia Tucker, godmother to one of his two daughters, ages three and one.

A candlelight vigil will be held for Johnson Tuesday night at 5 p.m. at Farmers Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard, where the accident took place, said Tucker.

There is also a fundraiser for the memorial and funeral services for Johnson. Donations can be made online at http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/flying-angel/111896#sthash.r4ctuwA5.dpuf.

 

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Majority of Queens schools score well on progress reports


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

The majority of Queens schools scored high on the Department of Education’s (DOE) recently released progress reports.

Out of the 62 Queens high schools that were issued 2012-2013 progress reports, 31 earned As, 16 Bs, 6 Cs, 5 Ds and 4 Fs.

The highest scoring institution was Long Island City’s Academy for Careers in Television and Film, which just moved into a new building at the beginning of this school year. It received an overall score of 100.9.

Flushing High School, Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School in Far Rockaway and August Martin High School in Jamaica earned overall failing grades.

Progress reports were issued for 239 Queens elementary and middle schools. Fifty-eight of them earned As, 97 Bs, 74 Cs, nine Ds and only one, Springfield Gardens’ Community Voices Middle School, failed.

Waterside School for Leadership in Rockaway was the highest ranking Queens middle school, with an overall score of 90.3, and P.S. 203 Oakland Gardens was the top-rated elementary school in the borough, with an overall score of 86.5.

Across the city, the DOE found public school performance “remained consistent, with 87 percent of schools maintaining their grade or moving one grade compared to last year.”

The reports are based on students’ progress, performance, attendance and surveys of parents, students and teachers. High school progress reports also measure college and career readiness.

According to the DOE, more students are graduating from high school ready for college and careers.

The reports found that the four-year college readiness rate is up nearly 3 points since last year.

“The most important job of our schools is ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and their careers,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “These results are further evidence that the hard work of our teachers and principals is paying off.”

This year’s school progress reports were the last ones issued during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure.

They could see some changes when they are issued under the Bill de Blasio administration.

“While Mayor-elect de Blasio supports making overall school progress reports available to parents, he would eliminate letter grades of schools which offer little real insight to parents and are not a reliable indicator of how schools are actually performing,” his spokesperson Lis Smith said.

To find a specific school’s progress report, visit http://schools.nyc.gov/ProgressReport.

 

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Queens elementary school teacher sentenced to 35 years for sexually abusing students


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A Queens elementary school teacher who was convicted of sexually abusing five of his students has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

In June, Simon Watts, 42, of St. Albans, was found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual conduct against a child, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child, said prosecutors.

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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29-year-old fatally shot in Springfield Gardens


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A 29-year-old man is dead after he was shot multiple times in Springfield Gardens Saturday.

Cops found the victim in front of 184-09 140th Avenue around 1:30 a.m. with five gunshot wounds to the body, said police. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing.

 

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Two more schools may move into I.S. 59


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Make room – one Springfield Gardens school could be the home for hundreds of more students come next fall.

Intermediate School 59, located at 132-55 Ridgedale Street, is currently under capacity, utilizing about 60 percent of the building, according to enrollment statistics compiled by the Department of Education (DOE).

This year, the school will begin to house P.S. 176’s fourth and fifth grades for three years while its original site receives an addition. For the fall 2014, the Success Academy Charter School (SACS) has applied to gradually open up a kindergarten through eighth grade at I.S. 59 .

“I believe right now there’s room in the building based on their utilization, but when it gets to full capacity it’s questionable, and I think that’s the concern the community has right now,” said Dmytro Fedkowski, Queens representative on the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).

If SACS’ proposal is approved, 150 to 210 kindergarten and first grade students will join the Ridgedale Street school. One grade will then be added each year until it reaches the eighth grade in the 2021 to 2022 school year. By then, the building will be at 88 to 101 percent capacity.

The PEP will vote to approve or reject the co-location at an October 30 meeting.

Historically, Fedkowski said, charter schools have been pegged as receiving better resources than public schools.

However, SACS said its principals prioritize the budget in a way that, for example, allows for fewer, but more effective, teachers and, in turn, better resources.

However, the community remains unconvinced.

“Things have a tendency to change when a charter comes in,” Fedkowski said. “They have this, they have that, and it creates that animosity and puts parents against parents. How do you fix that? I don’t know.”

Charter schools additionally do not get funding for a facility and seek to locate in under-utilized buildings, such as I.S. 59.

The well-reputed SACS operates 18 schools citywide. Four elementary schools were graded by the DOE for the 2011 to 2012 school year and all received an A.

“Success Academy is hopeful we can meet some of the overwhelming demand from local families for more high-quality public schools in their neighborhood,” said Kerri Lyon, SACS spokesperson.

Following the PEP vote, there is a 45-day period of public comment. The panel is made up of 13 members, eight appointed by the mayor and one chosen by each borough president.

I.S. 59 administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

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Primary guide: City Council District 31


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

31

As the clock ticks closer to city primaries on Tuesday, September 10, The Courier would like to provide you, the reader and the voter, with a fair, detailed guide of who is running. Here is a list of the City Council District 31 primary candidates (Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, the Rockaways), who they are, what they stand for and what they want to continue to do if they go on to the general election in November.

Name: Ricardo Brown

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Accountant, CPA

Personal Info: Brown, a Costa Rican native, went to Hillcrest High School and SUNY Old Westbury. He is currently a member of the Springfield Gardens Rosedale Community Association.

Platform/Issues: Brown believes some of the most important issues to address in this race is modernizing the district’s educational system, rebuilding Sandy-affected areas and providing youth, senior and veteran services.

If elected, he hopes to enhance education amongst his constituents, create a greater collaboration between the community and police, start a civilian patrol team in various sections of the district, support the growing need for social services in Far Rockaway and increase the Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to clean up drainage and reduce flooding.

Name: Michael R. Duncan

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Owner & manager of Jamaica Breeze Restaurant

Personal Information: Duncan was born in Kingston, Jamaica and immigrated to New York in 1978. Afterwards, he attended Baruch College, CUNY, graduating with a BBA in accounting. After moving to Rosedale, he saw the need to revitalize the Rosedale Soccer Club which had been allowed to fall apart. He got involved and eventually became the president.

As a result of his tireless commitment to the public school system, Duncan has been elected PTA president at P.S. 195, J.H.S. 231 and Springfield Gardens High School. Duncan was the one who led the fight against the construction of the “hot sheets” motel across the street from Springfield Gardens High School.

From 2007 to 2009, Michael Duncan was the Chief of staff of District 31. Currently, he owns and manages the Jamaica Breeze Restaurant on Merrick Boulevard whereby he created 12 new jobs in the community.

Duncan is a community activist and has always put the community first. This is why he has volunteered in the school system, revitalized the soccer club and was the force behind Christmas in the Rockaways to bring cheer to the Sandy victims.

Name: Donovan Richards

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: City Councilmember of the 31st District

Personal Information: From childhood, Richards has been committed to public service both at home and abroad. He served as a missionary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on behalf of his St. Albans Congregational Church highlighting this as turning point in his understanding of what it means to serve the community. Although he admits initially he had no interest in politics, a tragic series of events changed his mind. In March 2003 his childhood friend Darnell Patterson was fatally shot in front of his home. Richards decided he wouldn’t let Darnell die in vain. Councilmember James Sanders Jr. held a meeting regarding gun violence in the community. His testimony and outspokenness at this forum caught the attention of Sanders and he later joined his staff November 2003.

Platform/Issues: Richards was elected to his current seat through a March 2013 special election, and since has fought against the closure of daycares, after-school programs and firehouses. He additionally brought home nearly $10 million in capital and expense funding over six months, and allocated $3 million to expand district libraries. He also recently negotiated with the Bloomberg administration to bring a Workforce Center to the district and voted to overturn the mayor’s veto on stop and frisk and to create an inspector general to oversee the NYPD.

If elected again in September, Richards will continue to focus on education, jobs and affordable housing. He was endorsed by the UFT, SEIU 1199, DC 37, Communication Workers of America and 32BJ.

 

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Cops searching for car in fatal hit-and-run


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a banged up Volkswagen, which may be connected with a hit-and-run in Springfield Gardens that left one man dead.

The NYPD released video surveillance of a light colored, two-door Volkswagen GTI sedan with damage to the passenger side bumper, an unlit headlight, a caved in windshield and partial roof damage. The car was traveling east on Lansing Avenue to south on Conduit Avenue and was last seen heading east on Sunrise Highway.

Cops found Brooklyn resident Jose Padilla-Argueta heavily bleeding from multiple injuries on August 1 at 230th Place and Lansing Avenue, where EMS pronounced him dead on arrival. Authorities believe Padilla-Argueta’s was struck by a vehicle after a medical examiner studied his body.

Anyone with information in regards to this hit-and-run is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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Bill would disperse homeless shelters evenly throughout each borough


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Queens shelters may soon be finding new homes.

Councilmembers Ruben Wills and Leroy Comrie started work in 2011 on a bill that would disperse homeless shelters evenly throughout each borough. Wills said research revealed that Community Board (CB) 12 contains 10 of the 18 shelters in all of Queens. CB 12 includes Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Park, Rochdale Village and South Jamaica.

“The DHS [Department of Homeless Services] is clustering all of these shelters,” Wills said. “All of these undesirable land uses are in certain community boards. We perceived that to be a huge problem.”

Under the bill, Wills and Comrie proposed limiting the number of shelters in any community board to one-third of the borough’s total.

Wills said placing shelters in one specific type of community, such as CB 12, is not in response to any increase in the homeless population.

“It is not fair that southeast Queens has the majority of homeless shelters in the borough,” Comrie said.

For the existing shelters, Wills suggested they make relocation plans so they and their residents are prepared to move when any site’s lease expires. He said it was important to put shelters in areas with convenient transportation.

The council pair proposed an additional bill under which the DHS would determine whether any shelter resident is a sex offender. If so, the department would notify the local community board, councilmember and police precinct. The department would also conduct mental health and criminal background assessments on all adults entering shelters. If passed, the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2014.

 

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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

handcuffs-with-color-web-size1111111111

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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