Tag Archives: Wheelchair

Cops looking for Astoria bank robber who fled in wheelchair

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding a man in a wheelchair who stole more than $1,000 in cash from an Astoria bank Monday afternoon.

The robbery happened just after 2 p.m. at the Santander Bank located at 37-10 Broadway, according to authorities.

After entering the bank, the suspect — described as a black male, 25 to 30 years old, about 160 pounds, clean-shaven and wearing a gray hoodie — passed a note to the teller demanding money, police said. He then took $1,212 in cash and fled westbound on Broadway in a black wheelchair.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages are kept confidential.

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Suspect snatches necklace from wheelchair-bound 50-year-old in Flushing: cops

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a suspect who stole from a wheelchair-bound man as he sat on a Flushing street.

The 50-year-old victim was on Franklin Avenue near Bowne Street at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday when the suspect placed his hand on the victim’s shoulder and grabbed a chain from his neck, cops said.

The suspect then fled westbound on Franklin Avenue.

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



Court allows outer borough taxi plan to roll on

| brennison@queenscourier.com

In a decision the city “hailed” as a victory, a federal court recently ruled to allow a controversial taxi reform plan to roll on.

The ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay after a December decision found the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s (TLC) fleet discriminated against people with disabilities, forcing the city to put its outer borough taxi plan on hold.

Advocates for the disabled filed a complaint in January 2011 saying that the new plan was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint against the TLC stated that, “pervasive and ongoing discrimination” against “residents of and visitors to New York City with mobility disabilities who need and want to use New York City medallion taxis.”

Judge George B. Daniels ordered a “comprehensive plan to provide meaningful access to taxicab service for disabled wheelchair bound passengers” and until the plan was approved by the court all new taxi medallions sold or new street-hail livery licenses or permits issued by the TLC must be for wheelchair accessible vehicles.

This decision was stayed on Thursday, March 22, pending an appeal which is set to begin on April 19.

“The stay allows us to continue our work to bring quality taxi service to the four boroughs outside of Manhattan and northern Manhattan, and to persons with disabilities,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky. “The administration is making historic progress in these areas, and we look forward to building on it.”

The lower court’s order would have prevented implementation of a plan that authorizes the sale of 2,000 medallions for wheelchair accessible taxicabs and establishes a street hail program for liveries in the outer boroughs, 20 percent of which would be wheelchair accessible, the TLC said. The city worked closely with the state to pass new legislation establishing these programs, and is developing a comprehensive plan to provide access to taxicabs for people who use wheelchairs, the agency added.

“We are pleased that the court issued a stay, thus allowing the city to move forward with plans to put more wheelchair accessible taxicabs on the road,” said Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel.

A Force of Inspiration

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

High school pep rallies are almost always the same — loud kids, painted faces and pompoms. But at a recent rally at Cardozo High School, handball playing freshman Fabrizio Shao made an entrance that no one had ever seen before.

“The crowd went nuts,” said coach Lenny Levin.

Shao, who lives without the ability to walk, led his handball team to the middle of Cardozo’s gym walking on his hands with his wheelchair hoisted over his head using only his arm power. Shao knew he would draw a lot of attention with a stunt like that — playing to the crowd appeals to him, just like playing to the handball wall.

“I didn’t know anything about handball when I first saw it,” said Shao, 17, who lost the ability to walk after an accident when he was eight months old. “I went to the park once with my dog and saw people playing. I just thought it was really cool and interesting.”

Handball wasn’t the only mystery to the young Shao, who was born in Romania and came to America on numerous occasions for physical therapy. When he was 14, Shao and his family settled in Queens permanently, taking up residence in College Point.

It was there in College Point, at McNeil’s Park, where Shao first came across handball. However, it was at Cardozo High School where his passing fancy for the game evolved into a fully-engaged passion.

“It’s like the saying, ‘you get hungry while you eat,’” he said. “The more I played the more I realized that I’m good and I should keep it up.”
After Shao showed an interest in the sport, Cardozo’s athletic director called the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) to check if there were any restrictions against a wheelchair-bound handball player. There weren’t any such restrictions.

Shao now plays on Cardozo’s handball practice squad, with his skill and enthusiasm for the game making his teammates that much better at kills and digs. Coach Levin said that Shao’s role on the team is far more than just a bench novelty — he is an intricate part of the team.

“When I met Fabrizio, I saw a kid who was as serious as they come,” said Levin. “He loves the game and he has a real passion for it. Just being there he gives the other kids a real boost.”

The coach went on to say that Shao is more than just “there.” Watching him practice, Shao is a force on the court. He can get to just about any ball that comes his way and he is a serious competitor. After missing a shot he felt he should have had, Shao lets out groans of self-dissatisfaction.
And on the very next volley, he makes up for his miscue with an expertly-executed kill.

Shao also shows his precision skills on the basketball court. He plays with the Long Island Lightning in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and travels throughout the country competing in tournaments.

A future in basketball, even one with a college scholarship, isn’t enough to shift Shao’s focus away from his current handball responsibilities at Cardozo.

“Even though it’s not a popular sport, for me handball is the greatest sport out there,” he said. “So many sports are similar, but handball stands alone. You have to play it to know why it’s great.”

It’s easy to imagine next year’s pep rally — screaming teens, pompoms and an amped up Shao walking on his hands.

“Any disabled person out there that thinks they can’t do something, I just use myself as an example,” he said. “I play sports. I do whatever I want. Disability will never hold me back.”

Body of missing escort Shannan Gilbert likely found in Oak Beach, L.I. one year after disappearance

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Body of missing escort Shannan Gilbert likely found in Oak Beach, L.I. one year after disappearance
A year after the search for Shannan Gilbert led to the discovery of 10 bodies at Gilgo Beach, L.I., the missing escort’s corpse was found a few miles away, police said Tuesday. Gilbert’s purse, including her ID and cell phone, and her jeans and shoes were found in marshland last week, and police expanded their efforts to find her body. Skeletal remains were found at the Oak Beach site, and police said they believe they belong to Gilbert but have not confirmed it through forensics. Read More: Daily News


Seaburn Bookstore, Astoria’s only independent bookseller, to close this month 

The only independent book store in Astoria selling mainstream titles is slated to close its doors for good this month. Seaburn Bookstore has been losing money for years and its owner tried to shutter the shop last year. But an outpouring of community support at the time — and a jump in sales — prompted the owner, Sam Chekwas, to keep the beloved store open. He even remodelled and added an Internet cafe to appeal to new customers. Read More: Daily News


Disabled Flushing resident says the Veterans Administration botched his wheelchair

Matthew Raible, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran, said he waited nine months for the Veterans Administration to give him a proper wheelchair that he desperately needed for his everyday life. And less than a week after it arrived, both wheels fell off, he said. This is one of many complaints that Raible, a quadriplegic, has with the VA, which is responsible for providing his wheelchairs and other health care services. Read More: Daily News


Teacher has students do ‘God’s’ work

A Queens high school teacher got students to unwittingly do volunteer work for a controversial religious charity run by the son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham that has been accused of mixing its celebrated aid to the poor with proselytizing. Students in John Bowne HS said their math teacher, Mr. Joseph, asked them in class last month if they would bring in shoe boxes filled with toys, clothes and teddy bears for the Samaritan’s Purse annual Operation Christmas Child program. Read More: New York Post

Mets host wheelchair softball tournament

| smosco@queenscourier.com


Top wheelchair athletes from around the world arrived at Citi Field for the 10th annual Mets Wheelchair Softball Tournament (MWST) with one goal in mind: to win the championship and show that disabilities should not resign one to a sedentary lifestyle.

The tournament was held on Lot A at the home of the New York Mets and featured teams of men, women and veterans who compete in sports wheelchairs. All teams were sponsored by a Major League Baseball team and the event was organized by the Wheelchair Sports Federation.

Wheelchair teams from Queens, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and the Bronx participated and, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, 100 students with special needs participated in a softball clinic led by the players.

Also, as a special treat for the ballplayers, Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver showed up to give the players some on-the-diamond advice. He even pitched to a few of the players, giving them the opportunity to hit off a baseball legend at the tournament on Friday, September 16.

Many of the men and women who played in the tournament are veterans wounded in battle, and many have competed and won medals at the Paralympics. There were also plenty of players who have competed in this tournament for many years, making them veterans both on and off the field.

On the field of play, the RIC (Rehabilitory Institute of Chicago) Cubs defeated the Mets wheelchair softball team, 10-4, to win the championship.