Tag Archives: Springfield Gardens

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.



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.




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.



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.



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.



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.



Primary guide: City Council District 31

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


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.





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.


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.



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.



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.”




Queens elementary school teacher convicted of sexually abusing students

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


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.



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




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.



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.