Tag Archives: St. John’s University

St. John’s University alumna Dagmara Wozniak wins fencing gold and bronze

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications


Dagmara Wozniak, a St. John’s University fencing alumna, won bronze in the women’s individual saber and helped Team USA win gold in the team saber event at the Pan American Games.

The victories marked her third individual medal and seventh consecutive gold for the U.S. women’s saber team at the Pan American Games. This year, it was held in Cartagena, Colombia from June 16-21.

“It was a hard competition, but was a good preparation for the Senior World Championships in August,” Wozniak said. “Hopefully, I can bring home my first Senior Worlds medal.”

Wozniak, currently ranked second in the country and sixth in the world, now has two bronzes and one silver medal. In the 2012 Olympics, she placed eighth in the individual competition.

Daryl Homer, the top-ranked fencer in the U.S. and also St. John’s alum, won bronze in the men’s individual saber. However, Homer withdrew from the team event because of work commitments.

At the end of the Pan American Games, Team U.S.A. topped the medal count with 14 individual medals and six team medals.



Redesigned Big East Conference officially goes live

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

The revamped Big East Conference officially went live today, July 1, months after nearly breaking down, because of the lure of big-money college football.

“While we have much to do in the months ahead to bring the conference office to full operating capacity, I’m confident that we will create a first-class organization we can all be proud of and that will fully support the work of our member schools,” said newly appointed league Commissioner Val Ackerman in a release.

Earlier this year seven schools known as the “Catholic Seven” split from the former Big East,” because numerous schools interested in stronger football conferences were breaking away. The seven schools, St. John’s University, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova vowed to redesigned the Big East and refocus the league back to basketball and they recruited three new members–Butler, Creighton and Xavier.

Prominent members of the conference announced they were breaking away from the conference earlier this year including founding member Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburg, Rutgers and Notre Dame.

In 1978 Providence College Athletic Director Dave Gavitt met with St. John’s Athletic Director Jack Kaiser and Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Reinzo to discuss about making the conference focusing on strong basketball competition. A year later with Syracuse Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel the league was created.

“Now, nearly 35 years later, the Big East is poised to build on its heritage and bring a new wave of excitement to the student-athletes, coaches, students, faculty, administrators, alumni and loyal fans of its ten distinguished schools,” Ackerman said.

Fox Sports 1, which will launch as a new Fox sports network on August 17, announced a deal to broadcast the Big East in a joint press conference in March.

“We are very excited about our long-term television contract with FOX Sports and its new cable network, FOX Sports 1, which will allow us to nationally air a wide range of BIG EAST basketball games, as well as other conference events,” Ackerman said.

The Big East will establish its headquarters in New York City and continue to host its famed basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden.

St. John’s former athletic director’s career spans seven decades

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s Communications

For the past seven decades, John “Jack” Kaiser has been the backbone of St. John’s University’s athletic department.

But his relationship to the school extends much further.

Kaiser, 86, started out as a student athlete in the 1940s on the baseball team. A former athletic director, he now serves as the athletic director emeritus.

“I’m here every day, Monday through Friday, and I love it,” Kaiser said. “It’s the delight of my life, second only to Connie, my wife.”

Kaiser was a senior and the captain of the baseball team when St. John’s was known as the Redmen in 1949. That season he led the squad to its first College World Series appearance. His talent for baseball led him down a path he had not intended to follow.

He entered St. John’s in 1944 on an academic scholarship with the intention of majoring in history and becoming a teacher. Because he loved to play sports, he played both basketball and baseball in his freshman year.

After finishing just one semester, he was drafted by the U.S. Army as World War II was winding down.

During the year-and-a-half he was in the Army, he completed training in America and traveled to Okinawa, Japan.

There, while playing a baseball game with some fellow soldiers, he broke his ankle sliding into second base.

He was sent back to the U.S. for rehab and later discharged from the Army.

“Of course it hurt,” Kaiser joked, but “it was better than being hit by a cannonball.”

He reentered St. John’s and finished his degree in three years, graduating in 1949.

He wanted to play baseball in the major leagues, but was not immediately drafted. So he played for a local team for a year.

Then the Red Sox took notice of his talents and offered him a contract in 1951. He played in the team’s farm system from 1951 to 1954.

During that time, he married his first wife, Faye, and had his first daughter. When he realized he could not make it to the big leagues, he decided to look for a more stable job to provide for his family.

“There was Ted Williams in left field, Dom DiMaggio in center and Jackie Jensen in right,” Kaiser said, naming three franchise Red Sox players at the time. “So I said I better get another job. I would have been playing in the minor leagues forever.”

In 1953, he started coaching freshman basketball at St. John’s. Three years later, he became head coach of the baseball team, getting them to the College World Series three times — in 1960, 1966 and 1968.

“I had very, very good people on my team — not only baseball players, but people,” Kaiser said.

After compiling a 367-133 record as the head baseball coach, Kaiser became the school’s athletic director in 1973.

But one of his greatest accomplishments came about six years later.

In 1978, Kaiser met with three other athletic directors of top college basketball schools — Dave Gavitt of Providence College, Jake Crouthamel of Syracuse University and Frank Rienzo of Georgetown University — to talk about forming the Big East Conference. A year later, the conference was realized. Decades later, it would be known as the strongest college basketball league in the country by many sports enthusiasts.

Kaiser was upset when big-money college football contracts threatened to lure schools away from the league and break up the Big East earlier this year. St. John’s and six other Catholic schools came together and saved the conference by redesigning the league.

“I think the new outfit is going to be good,” Kaiser said of the new Big East Conference. “They are going to be competitive, both athletic and academically. And nothing will distract them. It’s basketball-oriented, as it started out to be.”

After seeing the school through as athletic director for 22 years, Kaiser was named athletic director emeritus.

Nowadays he reaches out to alumni and recruits them to events. He also does fundraising and assists current student athletes with internships and job opportunities through the connections he has made over the years.

Kaiser has watched as St. John’s expanded from a building in Brooklyn to an international institution with a sprawling main campus that has a church, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields and thousands of students.

He said he enjoys his current role because he feels he can make an impact in the lives of student athletes.

“I get to meet the student athletes, not just watch their games,” Kaiser said. “I feel I can be a positive image to help young people, not only to be better in their sport.”

Jack Kaiser, right, when he was named head coach of the St. John’s baseball team in 1956.



Bayside man recalls pioneering surgery that saved his life

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Konigsberg, Levine, Smith 150 Anniv

Life was not easy for Phil Konigsberg when he was growing up. As a child and teenager, he faced more challenges than most. When he was only two years old, he was stricken with polio, and his loving family and doctors did everything they could to help him.

He told his story at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s (HSS) 150th anniversary symposium, thanking Dr. David B. Levine, his former spine surgeon, and the hospital for saving his life.

Konigsberg, now 61, was among numerous speakers who came together to celebrate the hospital’s milestone at the symposium this past month. In addition to HSS patients who told their inspirational stories, the event featured noted historians, scholars, scientists, physicians and health policy thought leaders from around the country. Konigsberg explained that the polio caused scoliosis, and by age seven, he was in a turnbuckle cast to correct his spinal curve.

“I thought of it as a ‘mummy’ cast,” he said. “I remember a doctor periodically turning the metal turnbuckle attached to the cast, attempting to straighten my back while I was lying in bed.

He was supposed to be in the cast for nine months, but at six months, he developed pneumonia. He remembers being rushed to Hospital for Special Surgery.

“I know that I almost died that night. I recall being transferred by ambulance from HSS, which is an orthopedic hospital, to another hospital that had a special pulmonary unit. I had an emergency tracheotomy to enable me to breathe, and then I was put into an iron lung,” he said. “I recovered over the course of a year-and-a-half.”

In 1968, at age 17, Konigsberg had a critical decision to make.

“I remember being told by Dr. Levine and my parents that I was running out of time to have a spinal fusion operation, and that if I chose not to have the surgery, I was faced with the scoliosis continuing to get worse and eventually crushing my organs.”

The good news was that Dr. Levine was performing the surgery with relatively new instrumentation called “Harrington Rods” that reduced the curvature and provided more stability to the spinal fusion.

“Harrington Rods were a major advance in scoliosis treatment,” Dr. Levine explained. “In Phil’s case, we weren’t sure if he would need one operation or three surgeries, but we were able to correct his problem with the first procedure. We were all very happy about that.”

At the symposium, Dr. Levine asked Konigsberg what he remembered about his hospital stay.

“I am forever grateful to Dr. Levine and to Dr. James P. Smith, my pulmonologist, for each being my personal lifesavers,” he continued. “I strongly doubt I would be able to stand here today had they not been part of my life.”

Despite the breathing problems caused by polio, Konigsberg managed to graduate from St. John’s University and then enjoy a successful career in the insurance industry. In 1973, he became a founder of the Jamaica Estates-Holliswood-South Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps, of which he is a life member. He is the community advocate of the Queens Tobacco Control Coalition and has been a smoke-free advocate for the past 25 years. This year he will celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary.

Scoliosis treatment has come a long way since the 1960s, according to Dr. Levine, author of the new book, Anatomy of a Hospital, about the 150-year history of HSS.

“From the full-body plaster cast that patients wore in the 1950s, to the Harrington Rods, to improved rod implants and better techniques used today, there’ve been tremendous advances,” said Dr. Levine.

Today, people who have scoliosis surgery can usually go home after a week in the hospital, and before long, they can return to school or to work.



St. John’s grads hike all of Long Island for charity

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Most recent college graduates spend their first few weeks of freedom basking in the summer weather and decompressing after finals.

But six Queens transplants decided to take in the outdoors in a different way.

From May 28 to June 4, five recent St. John’s University graduates and one current student trekked 128 miles from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Montauk Lighthouse to raise money for a Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) facility.

The group surpassed its goal of $20,000 toward renovations at the DDI Little Plains campus in Huntington, raising money from sponsorships, private donations and people they met during the course of their journey.

“They decided to mark their graduation, all six of these students, by doing something to help others,” said Dan Rowland, DDI’s director of development. “They’re just great, great kids.”

Nathan Holmes and John Kenny were ready to make the trip after graduation, but wanted to find a cause to walk for.

Since they both knew people with autism, they found DDI was an ideal cause.

Walkers wore signs on their backpacks relating to the walk.

They worked from February to May securing sponsors and mapping out their trip, at times putting it ahead of their classes. The number of walkers soon expanded to six when Kenny’s brother Liam and fellow graduates Morgan Zajkowski, Mike Sardone and Rita Rausch joined in. Rausch had to opt out due to work commitments, but graduate Michael Cunniff replaced her.

The six, who are originally from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah and Maryland, had never been so far out on the island.

During the journey, they carried whatever rations they could along with signs promoting the walk, which Kenny said caught the attention of people driving by. He added that throughout their walk, people stopped and asked about DDI, often making a donation as a result.

Kenny said what helped cultivate all of this was previous volunteering the six had done while in school.

“Everybody does have an inclination toward service,” he said. “Our time at St. John’s has definitely influenced our desire to serve our community. It’s made us more aware that we can use our abilities to impact other people’s lives.”

As weather became a problem at times, the group grew concerned about potential health affects. Their first day was rainy and damp, but a heat wave hovering around 90 degrees followed and took a toll on their bodies.

However, a stop at the Little Plains facility about halfway through the trip helped motivate the group to finish the trek.

“Everybody was really excited to meet with us, and obviously we were excited to meet everyone else,” Cunniff said, adding it “put a little hop in our step for [Thursday’s] walk.”

Zajkowski said there were few facilities outside of New York City like DDI’s centers. She added she was impressed by the care the institute’s staff gave.

“It’s really cool to see how well taken care of the DDI families are,” Zajkowski said.

Holmes said seeing the programs in action helped paint of picture of DDI’s significance.

“The programs they have, you can’t find them in other parts of the country,” he said.

Those who want to still donate can by calling Ellen Holmes at 631-366-2978 or visiting www.ddiny.org.



Parker Jewish, St. John’s team up to highlight residents and patients’ individuality

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Parker Institute

For some St. John’s University students, reaching out to the elderly has expanded their family.

The Parker Jewish Institute for Healthcare and Rehabilitation teamed up with students to highlight residents and patients’ individuality. The event, called Parker: Discovering a New Family, took place Sunday, May 5.

“These are individuals,” said Ron Shafran, associate vice president of public affairs and government relations for Parker.

Shafran’s wife, Phyllis, had her campaign event planning class from St. John’s come up with a public relations campaign to highlight the individuality of the residents. Another goal was to transform the image of the Parker Institute into being not just a rehab center, but also a place of learning.

The students interviewed the seniors about their lives and compiled snapshots depicting what made the seniors who they are.

Caren Russo, a resident at the Parker Institute, said she was initially unsure about why the students wanted to interview her.

“I really didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I was ready to back out.”

But Russo said in the end, she was glad she stuck with the project.

“It was exciting,” she said. “I enjoyed it, frankly.”

Student Bianca Pappas said that in addition to gaining experience on how to run a successful public relations campaign, she also became very close to the residents she interviewed.

Pappas said she was also able to learn a lot about life by seeing how the seniors reacted to the prospect of creating an art project.

“I learned that life still goes on,” she said. “You can still grow passion.”






St. John’s University President Father Donald J. Harrington stepping down

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

St. John’s University’s long-time president will resign this summer, according to an internal memo to the school.

Father Donald J. Harrington said in a letter to the school’s community that he plans on retiring effective July 31.

Harrington, who took over at St. John’s in 1989, has been wrapped up in a series of investigations by both federal authorities and the board of trustees. He was alleged in federal complaints to have received lavish gifts from the late Cecilia Chang, a former St. John’s dean who charged with stealing money from the school.

He only makes slight mention of the probes during the last year.

“Nonetheless, for quite a while, I have been thinking about when would be the best time to relinquish the leadership role to younger, perhaps more energetic, individuals,” he writes. “The urgings of many members of the Board of Trustees and others persuaded me to remain longer than I had originally planned.  But the difficulties for everyone during the past year have convinced me, after much prayer and reflection, that the time to leave the presidency has now come.”

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who graduated from St. John’s Law School, issued a statement commending Harrington for his nearly 24 years of service to the school.

“Over the last quarter of a century,” he said, “Farther Harrington transformed St. John’s from a really good university to a great one. As an alumnus of its law school, I’ve witnessed with pride as Father Harrington strengthened St. John’s  academically and physically with new facilities and buildings, while holding fast to the Vincentian mission that has drawn so many of the University’s alumni to public service.”

Peter D’Angelo, the school’s board of trustees chair, issued a statement to the University in which he cited the school’s growth under Harrington’s two-decade management.

“The tenure of Father Harrington as president has been a period of unrivaled growth, expansion and achievement for our University,” he said. “He has been a transformative leader who guided this institution, nurtured its community, cultivated excellence and generated unprecedented levels of enthusiasm and support. At the same time, the University he departs has remained dedicated to service and education, prime components of our mission since St. John’s was founded 143 years ago.”



Boston Marathon bombing has races rethinking security

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Now that surviving Boston bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev has been captured and charged with using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, some of the motivations behind the attack are becoming clearer.

Other questions about security and how to prevent future attacks at similar events are under heated debate.

“Thinking about the football season starting or baseball, I don’t think [security is] going to change dramatically,” said David Kearn, an assistant professor in government and politics at St. John’s University.

Sporting venues such as Citi Field and the National Tennis Center are contained locations, he added.

“If you have to go through doors, you can have metal detectors, you can have people doing pat downs, you can have different types of devices to make sure that people aren’t bringing in things that you don’t want them bringing in,” Kearn said.

But he added that an event like the Boston Marathon has large areas that are “virtually unprotected.”

Security measure that Kearn said officials could use in areas where people congregate include mandatory check points.

The JFK 5k Runway Run, an annual race at John F. Kennedy International Airport, already uses similar security measures.

Runners and spectators must pass through security in accordance with the airport’s standards, said Rudy Auslander of the JFK Rotary Club, the event’s sponsor.

He said while they do not have to remove their shoes, all entrants are screened. Buses take runners out to the runway, and spectators are kept in an area near the line where the race both starts and finishes.

Other races in the city are designed differently, with spectators throughout the route, making similar security measures difficult.

The New York Road Runners (NYRR), who organize races including the ING NYC Marathon throughout the year, implemented enhanced baggage security following the Boston attack.

Runners who want to check their bags at one of the races must place them in a clear plastic bag and leave them in a designated zone that participants cannot enter. NYRR also has the right to search any bag in or outside the baggage area at any time, and an unattended bag can be confiscated.

“The safety and security of all New York Road Runners’ races is and will always be our top priority,” the group said in a statement. “A number of significant measures have been put in place in recent years, and we will work closely with the NYPD over the coming days and weeks to further evaluate security at races. We will continue to work hand in hand with the City of New York and the NYPD as we plan for all upcoming events.”

Kearn said these security measures would “draw more resources and more man power. You might be able to have volunteers do some of that stuff in terms of just checking bags, but you will have to have more folks checking and looking around in the future.”









St. John’s in talks with Peter King petitioners

| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Students are in talks with administration after a petition to replace Congressmember Peter King as St. John’s University’s commencement speaker surpassed 1,000 signatures, The Courier has learned.

An online protest against the Long Island representative hit headlines last week, when students called for the school to dump King as this year’s key note speaker.

“Congressman King has had his say. Now it is our turn to speak,” reads the petition, which was started by senior Jonaki Singh.

Outraged students were against “discriminatory and offensive comments” they said King made throughout his congressional tenure on issues like bilingual education and domestic terrorism.

“At a school with such a diverse student body, the views that Congressman King represent will be contradictory to our experience and who we are striving to become,” the petition says.

Nearly 1,100 former and current students and faculty have signed the petition as of April 22.

The number is now enough for administration to listen to their concerns, sources said.

St. John’s did not comment on the discussions between students.

King said he was proud to be chosen as St. John’s commencement speaker and sad the school had to be “dragged into this fight.”

“Students at St. John’s University are protesting my selection as this year’s commencement speaker. That, of course, is their right even though they are misguided and wrong,” he said in a statement. “But the right of free speech and academic freedom is paramount, and I commend St. John’s University.”

The Johnnies graduate on May 19.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Thursday: Mostly cloudy in the morning, then overcast. High of 59. Breezy. Winds from the SE at 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Overcast with a chance of rain. Fog overnight. Low of 54. Winds from the South at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Let’s Make a Movie

Starting at 4 p.m., come take part in a film screening and discussion on “Let’s Make a Movie” at the Douglaston Library.  The movie, written, directed and edited by Queens native Elana Mugdan, is the story of a college dropout and former film student who wants to turn her life around by making a movie with friends. The award-winning film was shot mainly in Queens. Mugdan will introduce the film and answer questions afterward. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Innovative bus system could alleviate traffic in Queens

Congestion along a busy Queens roadway could be alleviated with the help of innovative bus service technology. Read more: New York Daily News

NY Senate group removes Malcolm Smith after arrest

A small group of Democratic New York senators who share majority control of the Senate with Republicans has kicked out one of its members who was charged in a federal corruption case. Read more: NBC New York

St. John’s students angry at choice of Rep. Pete King as commencement speaker

The selection of Rep. Peter King as the commencement speaker at St. John’s University in Queens has sparked an uproar among students angry about his history of controversial comments about Muslims. Read more: New York Daily News

9/11 World Trade Center victim identified

New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner has identified the remains of a 55-year-old man who died in the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Read more: Fox New York

Police: Person of interest sought in Brooklyn bomb scare

Police are looking for a man they want to question in connection with a bomb scare in Brooklyn. Read more: CBS New York

President Barack Obama, gun control supporters vow to fight on

President Barack Obama and his gun control allies say Senate rejection of expanded background checks and other restrictions won’t stop their drive to reduce firearms violence. Read more: ABC New York/AP

FBI arrests Mississippi man in ricin letter case

he FBI arrested a Mississippi man on Wednesday in connection with letters sent to President Barack Obama and two other officials that are believed to have contained the deadly poison ricin, the U.S. Justice Department said. Read more: Reuters

Up to 15 dead after fire and blast at Texas fertilizer plant

A fiery explosion tore through a fertilizer plant and leveled dozens of homes in a small Texas town late on Wednesday, killing as many as 15 people, injuring more than 160 others and spewing toxic fumes that forced the evacuation of half the community, authorities said. Read more: Reuters 

St. John’s basketball loses forward Amir Garrett

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



St. John’s sophomore Amir Garrett announced his intent to transfer from the men’s basketball program over Twitter on April 2.

“After a long thought process of speaking with my family, I will be leaving the St. John’s Basketball Program,” Garrett said. “It was a well thought-out decision that didn’t just pop out of nowhere. St. John’s will always have a special place in my heart.”

The 6’6” forward said in a release that he intended to transfer to another program, but that he will “always be a Johnny at heart.”

“We appreciate Amir’s contributions to the St. John’s basketball program and wish him well in all of his future endeavors,” head coach Steve Lavin said in a statement. “He played a valuable role in our rebuilding efforts and represented our program well as a student-athlete.”

Garrett averaged 6.4 points per game in 55 games during his two seasons with the Red Storm. He joined the team in December 2011 after being one of three players to be declared academically ineligible at the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year.

This season, Garrett saw his playing time decrease from 26.9 minutes per game to 20.4 as he averaged 5.5 points.
Garrett said over Twitter that he intended to continue to focus on his baseball career. He is currently a top 20 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, with whom he signed a deal with a $1 million signing bonus. He can’t collect that bonus until he decides to stop playing NCAA basketball to preserve eligibility.

He began his minor league career last summer, where he made seven appearances and five starts, according to the St. John’s release. He held the opposition to a .255 average before being promoted from the AZL Reds of the rookie-level Arizona league to the Billings Mustangs of the Billings Mustangs. He made two starts there.

The forward’s transfer opens one scholarship spot on a roster that was at its limit of players before the departure. St. John’s is currently pursuing point guard Rysheed Jordan, who is ranked No. 22 on ESPN’s top 100 recruits list. His choices are down to St. John’s, Temple and UCLA and he will make a verbal offer on April 11.



Borough President candidates making the rounds

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BP candidates


Borough President candidates are blazing through Queens, participating in forums and allowing the community to hear their positions.

The six Democrats hoping to replace current Borough President Helen Marshall most recently gathered at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows and attended the Ridgewood Democratic Club’s monthly meeting.

State Senators Tony Avella and Jose Peralta joined City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, former Assembly and Councilmember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik to speak to members of several Democratic clubs across Queens.

In Fresh Meadows, discussion of mayoral control of the Board of Education (BOE) dominated the forum.
Grodenchik said he has mixed feelings towards the issue, but he wants to “bring some measure of control back to the boroughs.”

The controversy surrounding development of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was also heavily debated. Peralta said he in favor of the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, but would ensure that the park space used not only has to be replaced, but improved.

“It has to be better,” he said, calling soccer “the sport of the world.”

Despite his support for the stadium, he is opposed to the proposed plans for a shopping mall and an expansion of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) center.

Vallone said that he wanted to eliminate overexpansion in the park and bring it to areas in the borough that are “yearning for that kind of development.”

Avella, however, said he is the only candidate that is steadfastly against all three proposals for development.

All of the candidates will continue to campaign and participate in forums across Queens until election day on

Tuesday, November 5. The next forum will be held at St. John’s University on Friday, April 12.



‘The new’ Big East

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


If the 2013 Big East tournament was a funeral for what had been one of the nation’s best college basketball conferences, then a Wednesday, March 20 press conference announcing a 12-year television deal between Fox Sports and the new Big East could be called a rebirth.

St. John’s and the other so-called “Catholic 7” universities will be joined by Creighton, Xavier and Butler in the new Big East starting next season and the conference will keep its postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden, officials said.

The Big East will get back to its roots next season after slowly being pulled apart by a flirtation with big-time football. And St. John’s fans are welcoming the change.

Rather than bemoaning the loss of Connecticut and Syracuse, two of the conference’s founding members, longtime St. John’s supporters are anticipating the formation of a hoops-oriented league that harks back to the program’s heyday in the 1980s.

“If you look at the teams that were in the Big East at that time, it was a basketball-centric conference and when people look back at that era, those were the best times,” said Chris Holbrook, 33, a Long Island attorney who grew up rooting for St. John’s and graduated from law school there in 2005.

The Big East started as a basketball conference, but slowly expanded over the years in a drive to be a relevant football league as well. Big East officials acknowledged Wednesday that the push toward football, which they said was undertaken to “accommodate” Syracuse and Boston College, had ultimately led to the demise of the conference.

But St. John’s fans aren’t necessarily disappointed with the results, and they believe the new Big East’s focus on basketball will bring stability to the league.

“It won’t be the same, but I’m looking forward to getting back to basketball,” said Gus Stanzione, a 1981 alumni from Staten Island who was headed into the Garden about an hour before the Red Storm were set to take on Villanova in the Big East tournament. “That’s when the problems started – when they started going after football.”

The 12-year television deal will give the conference a home on Fox Sports, and maintaining a foothold in New York City should help the league build its profile, just as it did when the Big East tournament moved to the Garden in 1983.

“Keeping the Garden is huge,” said Tom Shanahan, a 1987 St. John’s graduate who grew up here but now lives in Indianapolis. “It’s probably more important for those other schools, but it’s big to stay in the city.”

Shanahan and other St. John’s fans said keeping the postseason tournament at the Garden will help schools in the conference continue attracting talented local players, who are often more willing to leave home for college with the promise of returning to the city each year for at least a few games.

The Garden has long been a recruiting tool for St. John’s and fans of the team said the departure of Syracuse, arguably the most popular team in the city, could help the Red Storm once again rise to prominence here in New York.

“I think it could make St. John’s the New York team,” Stanzione said.

Shanahan, who attended St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows, hadn’t been inside the Garden in 15 years and made trip to watch St. John’s.

“Honestly, to get to see St. John’s and the rest of the teams I grew up watching, that’s pretty big for me,” Shanahan said. “That’s going to be a good basketball conference.”



St. John’s women’s basketball team falls short in NCAA tournament

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications


With the odds were against the St. John’s women’s basketball team this season, they were normally able to overcome.

The season began under a rookie head coach, had a slow start and lost a starter from an early injury, but the Red Storm battled its way into the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

Looking once again to overcome a tough challenge, the 10th seed Red Storm eliminated a 13-point deficit to force overtime against seventh seed University of Dayton with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

But the Red Storm’s season came to an end as the Flyers, lead by sophomore Andrea Hoover’s 24 points and seven rebounds, won in double overtime, 96-90, on March 24, in front of 2,717 fans.

This was the team’s fourth consecutive NCAA elimination, but the first-ever women’s basketball tournament hosted at Carnesecca Arena.

“We could have gave up,” said head coach Joe Tartamella. “I thought our players made great plays, I thought they made important plays to get us back in the game and you know we came up short. That’s what it comes down to.”

In the second overtime the Red Storm ran out of offensive. Dayton’s (28-2) Kelley Austria set the pace for the Flyers by scoring seven points in the final overtime.

St. John’s senior Shenneika Smith, who had 18 points and five rebounds in 50 minutes, didn’t score in the final five. And senior Nadirah McKenith, who narrowly missed a triple-double with 22 points, ten assists and nine rebounds, played 44 minutes, but fouled out in the first overtime.

“We play in a lot, a lot of minutes, and that’s just who we are, there’s no excuse,” Tartamella said. “At that point in the game though and at this point in the season, and for what’s on the line, you can’t be tired.”

The Red Storm (18-13) struggled to keep pace with the Flyers until the final minutes by tightening on defense and chipping away at the Flyer’s double-digit lead.

Down two points with 5.7 seconds left in regulation, McKenith took charge. She dribbled the length of the court and scored a layup around two Dayton defenders at the buzzer to tie the game, 75-75, and force overtime.

The senior guard thought she could see the outcome of the game after that play.

“We knew once we were going in overtime we thought we could beat them, we had to make a push,” McKenith said. “We just went out there and fought. We thought we had the momentum, but we didn’t.”

The game marks the end of McKenith and Smith’s college careers and although the pair has been defeated in four consecutive NCAA appearances, this loss left an even bitter taste.

“We’ll always remember this one,” Smith said. “This one probably hurt more than freshman year, because it’s our last one. At least when we lost when we were freshman we had a couple more years to try and get back.”

But there was a bright spot in freshman guard Ashley Perez, who checked in from the second half, and hit some big shots to help the Johnnies almost complete the upset.

Down by six with 1:05 remaining, McKenith found an open Perez, who hit a three pointer to close the gap to just one possession.  Perez finished with 17 points in 21 minutes, paving the way for the future of the Red Storm.

“It was exciting,” Perez said. “Coach called it yesterday in practice. He said ‘I might hit some big shots today.’ So it was just nice knowing that everyone believed in me.”



St. John’s holds annual Locks of Love fundraiser

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Anthony O’Reilly


More than 50 people from St. John’s University participated in the fourth annual St. Baldrick’s and Locks of Love fundraiser to benefit childhood cancer research. The participants included students, administrators and coaches from the school who either shaved their heads in solidarity of those undergoing chemotherapy, or donated 10 inches or more of their hair to make wigs.

The school announced more than $35,000 was raised through fundraising efforts, all of which will go to benefit cancer research companies. The school also announced that 22 locks of hair were collected.

During the event, the school honored five-year old cancer survivor Gabrielle Brancaccio, who now serves as an ambassador for St. Baldrick’s.

“We feel indebted to the doctors that have helped us see through, but also, we feel so humbled by being honored by St. John’s because people are taking the time to care about others who have gone through this,” Dana Brancaccio, Gabrielle’s mother, said.

Lacrosse coach Jason Miller helped raise well past his $5,000 goal.