Tag Archives: Whitestone

Raccoons a problem in Whitestone


| letters@queenscourier.com


I think something that is wrong in my neighborhood is that there are too many raccoons.  I think this is a problem because they eat through the garbage and it gets everywhere.  I think the city should try to find a new home for the raccoons to live. Raccoons also eat all of your plants that you put in your garden. I think raccoons shouldn’t be here anymore and should go somewhere else.

Dylan Denicker

Holy Trinity School, Whitestone

 

Board approves Greek-American school expansion in Whitestone


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Giannopoulos Architects

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church is planning a $1.5 million expansion of its elementary school in Whitestone, and recently cleared a major hurdle in the process.

Community Board 7 voted almost unanimously, 35-1, on Monday to allow a variance for the planned expansion of the Efstathios & Stamatiki Valiotis Greek-American Day School, which sits on 12th Avenue and 150th Street.

The school currently enrolls pre-K to third grade, but administrators want to provide nursery to fifth grade education.

The building expansion proposal includes raising the ceiling on the school’s attic level to create a full second floor, as well as expanding the side of the building on 12th Avenue more toward the street. Also, the school’s parking lot will be rearranged more efficiently and about half a dozen new spots will be added.

The expansion will include much-needed classroom space and other amenities, including a computer lab. The Greek Orthodox community showed strong support during the vote, and parents and residents said it will benefit the neighborhood.

“It’s great for our families and it’s great for the community,” said Chris Koukounas, a parent of two students at the school.

“Right now we don’t have enough square-footage per child. There are fewer facilities, we don’t have a science and computer lab, the lunchroom is very packed, and it’s not a safe environment.”

The school’s enrollment for its Greek-American day school is about 180 students. The expansion will allow for 250 students.

For the board to agree with the proposal, its Land-Use Committee had stipulations to increase safety. Holy Cross has agreed to the conditions, which include putting a stop sign on the corner of 150th Street and 12th Avenue.

Councilman Paul Vallone is working with the Department of Transportation to have the stop sign added, and the legislator voiced his approval of the expansion.

The recommendation from the board, as well as a letter from Councilman Paul Vallone, will be sent to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has final say on the expansion.

 

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Cops: Suspect robs deliveryman in Whitestone for $25K in prescription meds


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Sketch courtesy NYPD.

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

A man held up a pharmaceutical delivery person in Whitestone, taking him on a wild ride to Yonkers before stealing $25,000 worth of medication, police said.

The perpetrator, while brandishing a gun, approached the 49-year-old victim on April 18 at 8 a.m., as he was making deliveries near 150th Street and 14th Avenue, cops said.

The suspect ordered the deliveryman into the victim’s car, a 2000 blue Dodge Caravan, which contained an assortment of prescription medication, and drove the vehicle to Yonkers, before kicking the man out and driving off, officials said.

Police describe the suspect as a white man between the ages of 25 and 30 years old and bald.

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.

 

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Man charged after abducting children’s mother in Whitestone


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


A man was arrested after he abducted the mother of his two children in Whitestone early Friday morning, police said.

The victim, a 37-year-old woman, was taken about 5:45 a.m. near 16th Road and 150th Street, cops said. According to published reports, she was dragged from her home while her children were inside the residence. The father, identified by police as 37-year-old Jose Lopez, then took off with the victim in a gray Mercedes, witnesses told cops.

Responding officers located the car at Colden Street and Geranium Avenue, with Lopez and the victim still in it.

Lopez was arrested and charged with attempted rape, kidnapping, burglary, assault, criminal mischief and harassment, cops said.

The victim sustained minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital.

 

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City Council rejects Whitestone sidewalk cafe bid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The City Council unanimously struck down a controversial bid for a Whitestone sidewalk café Wednesday.

Owners of Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria wanted to wrap an outdoor sitting area around their 22-30 154th St. Italian restaurant.

But a handful of neighbors said the proposal would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

Lawmakers said the sidewalk is also not wide enough and too close to residential homes.

“The impact of this victory should ensure all future applicants make every effort to address the concerns of the community board and neighboring residents,” Councilman Paul Vallone said.

Restaurant manager Joe Lobue recently told The Courier the outdoor area would have let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

The restaurant’s lawyer, who was in court Wednesday, did not immediately reply to a call for comment.

 

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Star of Queens: Cookie Marie Kurtz, president, Parent Organization, St. Luke School


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Cookie Marie K 1

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Cookie Marie Kurtz is the president of the Parent Organization at St. Luke Catholic School in Whitestone.

BACKGROUND:  Kurtz was born and raised in Brooklyn and went to Catholic grammar, high school and college.  She graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in education and is currently working at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and also has been a wedding singer for 31 years with a band called The Projekt.

Kurtz now lives in Beechhurst with her family.  She has been president of the St. Luke Parent Organization since 2011.

“I went to a meeting one year and they were looking for people who were passionate about getting involved. I raised my hand and that was it, and I’ve been doing it for three years now,” she said.

Kurtz has also been on the carnival committee at the school for four years. In 2009 Kurtz was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She had 18 months of treatment and five surgeries and still maintained her job and volunteerism.

“I didn’t want to give the cancer any energy,” she said. “I would put my wig or hat on and I went to work.”

She started promoting breast cancer awareness at St. Luke with her fundraiser,“Pink on Purpose” in 2011 where she had sponsors come in, raffles set up, and speakers come and talk about the importance of breast cancer awareness.  “It was a really beautiful event, and it brought the parish together,” said Kurtz.

GOALS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  As president Kurtz has opened up a whole new communication method for parents at St. Luke. The parent organization has six meetings a year for parents to come in and voice their opinions and concerns on things like classes, events, safety and health in the school. They are also using email and Facebook.

“We try to do as much as we can to give parents information they wouldn’t get on a regular basis,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz and the parent organization have created new clubs at the school as well as developing new traditions like the Happy Birthday Jesus Breakfast and the Welcome Parents Breakfast, which she says is wildly popular.

“We’ve established these special events to bring together church, family, friends and fun,” said Kurtz.  In the future, Kurtz would like to see more parent involvement and more performing arts and sports programs developed at the school.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Her fondest memory would be the first Welcome Parents Breakfast, where about 100 parents came to the event. Parents were able to come together and create two new events — the walkathon, where they raised $25,000, and the princess ball for little girls and their parents.

INSPIRATION: Her inspiration is her daughter. “She loves that I volunteer, and I’m teaching her to try new things and be confident,” said Kurtz.  She also said that she was inspired by the Catholic school system, praising the teachers and administration at St. Luke. “Last year 70 percent of the graduating class left with a scholarship to high school; that’s amazing,” said Kurtz.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Her biggest challenge is trying to get more parents involved. She understands that people are busy or fearful of over-committing, and she explains it can be difficult to convince people to take that first step.

 

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Contentious Whitestone sidewalk café bid up for vote later this month


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An application for a Whitestone sidewalk café will go up for a City Council vote at the end of the month without support from the area councilmember. 

“It was pretty clear that the community opposed it, and I will make my case against it,” Councilmember Paul Vallone said. “It’s just not the right fit.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) approved Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria owner’s bid last year to wrap an outdoor sitting area around his restaurant at 22-30 154th St.

City lawmakers will vote on the application March 26, though Vallone says the legislative body will likely follow suit with his “no” vote and shut it down.

The sidewalk is not wide enough for outdoor seating and too close to residential homes, said Vallone and State Senator Tony Avella.

Some residents also feared it would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

“A sidewalk café at this location is simply wrong,” Avella said. “If this application is approved by the City Council, abutting residents will suffer significantly increased traffic and noise.”

But Joe Lobue, who manages the Italian restaurant, said the sidewalk café would let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

“I think it would actually help the community,” he said. “It would be a place for them to sit down and relax. I disagree with the negativity.”

Hans Roessel, a 73-year-old regular of the restaurant — who also lives across the street — welcomed the plan.

“It doesn’t bother the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re going to make it nice. Why can’t we sit outside?”

 

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PHOTOS: New NBC show ‘Believe’ films in Whitestone


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Robert Stridiron

A new NBC show, “Believe,” from J.J. Abrams and Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón, was shooting in Whitestone Tuesday.

The TV drama is about a “an unlikely relationship between a gifted young girl (Johnny Sequoyah) and a man sprung from prison Jake McLaughlin (“Crash”) who has been tasked with protecting her from the evil elements that hunt her power,” according to IMDB.

It also stars Jamie Chung (“Once Upon a Time”), Arian Moayed and Kyle MacLachlan (“Portlandia,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Sex and the City”).

Executive producers include J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón, who just won a best director Oscar for “Gravity.” Cuarón is also one of the show’s creators and writers.

Sequoyah, who plays Bo on “Believe,” took some time out from the shoot, near 14th Road and 150th street, to pose for some photos with staff at a local Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Believe” will premiere on Monday, March 10 at 9 p.m.

 

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Star of Queens: Kim Cody, president, Greater Whitestone Taxpayer Civic Association


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Kim Cody

KATELYN DI SALVO

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Kim Cody is the president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, a group that is made up of volunteers devoted to the betterment of the community.

BACKGROUND:  Cody has been married to his wife Marlene for 38 years. Both grew up in Whitestone and are very devoted to giving back to their community.  Cody has been a resident of Whitestone since 1955, and he still lives in the same house he grew up in.  Marlene, now the vice president of the association, is also the reason Cody became involved in the group.

Cody, a retired detective, praised his wife for getting him involved in such an active and important group.

“For some reason she thought I would be a good addition to the board, so I went on as the police liaison, and over the years I moved up and became president two years ago,” Cody said.

GOALS:  The association was charted in 1985 and has been located at the State of New York Armory on 6th Avenue in Whitestone for about 30 years. This location serves as both a senior center, and a community center where kids can play sports for free.

“We do all this to try and keep the kids off the street as much as possible,” said Cody.

In the coming year, Cody would like to continue the work the association has been doing, as well as see more people get involved.

“We are seeing a lot of new families coming into the community and we would love to see them get involved, so we try to make ourselves known so people feel welcome to join,” Cody said.

FAVORITE MEMORY: For two years, Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association has held a community event called the Whitestone Park Family Appreciation Day. The group managed to plan a free festival where there was food and entertainment for kids to raise money for both the senior and community center and the veterans’ memorial parade committee.

INSPIRATION: Cody’s biggest inspiration is his wife Marlene.

“She is totally dedicated to this community,” Cody said. “She and a couple of other women go in and they take care of so much.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: With working a full-time job and also being a member of Community Board 7 and attending meetings for other groups, Cody has a full plate. Therefore, his biggest challenge as president of the association is simply not having enough time to serve the community.

 

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Logan’s Cafe at LeHavre on the Water celebrates successful first year


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Logan’s Café has only been open for one year, but it already has a loyal fan base. 

“The food here is excellent, and the environment is nice and comfortable,” said Irwin Hodes, 75, a daily customer. “I don’t know another place that has food as good as this.”

Dozens of diners, and several more in the summer, have flocked to the small Whitestone diner at LeHavre on the Water every day since it opened last Feb. 18, said the restaurant’s operator Logan O’Connor.

“It’s exciting,” said the 20-year-old entrepreneur from Whitestone. “I met a lot of people here and learned a lot of things about being a business person.”

O’Connor saw a notice seeking a new café concessionaire at LeHavre last November, when he was visiting his grandparents.

“I was always interested in cooking and always wanted to own my own restaurant,” he said, leaping at the chance and landing the poolside eatery.

O’Connor often finds himself jumping from behind the grill to the counter, manning all posts at the restaurant, with no fear of burning out.

“I do everything, seven days a week,” he said. “I don’t get tired. It’s fun.”

Logan’s Café is located at 168-68 9th Ave., in the LeHavre clubhouse.

To celebrate the eatery’s first milestone, O’Connor is giving out free cupcakes Tuesday.

“It’s a get-together place,” Hodes said. “We’re all happy he’s here.”

 

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Courier’s Valentine’s Day contest winners: 38 years of wedded bliss


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kim Cody

Thirty-eight years of marriage, and Kim and Marlene Cody still hold hands.

Their long marriage follows a short courtship. The Whitestone couple tied the knot after only six months.

“And they said it wouldn’t last,” Marlene, 56, said.

Though she was born and raised in Whitestone and her husband moved there when he was three, they didn’t meet until they were young adults.

The first time Kim, 62, saw Marlene was when he was working as a rookie cop at a carnival in the parking lot of Shea Stadium.

But the two did not officially meet until a year-and-a-half later, in the summer of 1975, at the Whitestone Pool where Kim was a lifeguard.

By December they were married.

Almost two decades later they have two sons, William, 36 and Jason, 31, and six grandchildren, ranging from eight weeks to 10 years old.

Marlene stayed home to raise her children, while Kim worked his way through the NYPD, retiring as a detective in 1995.

The two now volunteer together for the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. Kim is the president and his wife is the vice president.

Though the two at times “agree to disagree,” they enjoy working together.

They also put a lot of work into their relationship.

“Every marriage is a series of ups and downs, and when you are with the ups, enjoy, and when you are with the down part of it, work through it,” Kim said.

On weekends they like to go on “adventures,” such as motorcycle rides, trips to the beach and fishing on their boat.

“We enjoy each other’s company after all these years. As a matter of fact we finish each other’s sentences,” Kim said.

As the winners of The Queens Courier Valentine’s Day Couples Contest, they will receive a gift certificate to Christie & Co. Salon • Spa.

 

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Whitestone man pleads guilty to failing to pay $335K in taxes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Nassau County district attorney’s office

A Whitestone man has confessed to duping the state out of $335,000 in taxes, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.

Joseph Caraccia, 65, who owns two Great Neck auto body repair shops, pleaded guilty last week to larceny charges for collecting but failing to remit taxes between 2009 and 2012, the district attorney’s office said.

He awaits sentencing on May 22. Rice said Caraccia will be forced to pay off $335,000 in restitution to the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance (NYSDTF).

“When a company or an individual fails to remit taxes, it’s a crime against all New Yorkers,” Rice said.

The two shops are located at 275 East Shore Rd. and 300 East Shore Rd.

An unknown person tipped off the district attorney’s office, Rice said. The NYSDTF’s Nassau Criminal Investigations Division then found the tax discrepancies.

“By pocketing this money, Mr. Caraccia took funding away from services that any resident of Long Island or beyond could rely upon,” Rice said.

 

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Sweet chili comes out on top at Whitestone chili cook-off


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Sweet trumped spicy at this year’s Whitestone chili cook-off.

Grace Episcopal Church hosted its second annual cook-off, warming up attendees on a snowy Saturday, Jan. 25.

Founder Nicholas Irons started the cook-off to raise money for the church during the winter. He said the parish hosts spring, summer and fall events, but was missing something during the colder months.

Irons, who took home the winning trophy last year, had to relinquish his victor title after his mother, Nancy Irons, was voted best chili this time around.

“Now he’ll have to look at [the trophy] when he comes to my house,” she said, laughing.

The pre-kindergarten teacher said she decided to enter her sweet chili after other contestants dropped out. Her batch is described as “the kitchen sink,” including everything from leftover Chinese duck sauce, to Taco Bell sauce packets, to brown sugar and pink pinto beans.

She was all smiles after attendees voted hers the top chili and exclaimed she was “shocked” as she clutched the winners trophy.

Throughout the event, taste testers coming through were charged $5, and an additional $2 if they wanted extra chili. They were given voter cards to pick their two favorites out of eight different chilis. All proceeds went to benefit church programs, including its food pantry and thrift shop.

Local businesses also made an appearance, including a speech pathology organization, which spoke with parents at the event, as well as Cakes by Antonette to share its baked goods.

“It’s a lot of fun and it brings people together,” said James Curzio, who was awarded second place with his German-style chili. “Everybody was a little different. Everybody has their own thing they brought to the table.”

 

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Queens pro arm wrestlers to be featured on new AMC show


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy NYC Arm Control

Two Queens professional arm wrestlers will show their muscle in a new series on AMC.

Rob Bigwood, a Forest Hills resident, and Whitestone native Mike Ayello, are part of NYC Arm Control, the New York team on the show. The new series, “Game of Arms,” will feature professional arm wrestling teams from five states. The other members of the New York team are Mike Selearis, Dan Fortuna and Kevin Nelson.

The show intends to reveal the sport of arm wrestling in documentary style episodes starting Feb. 25. It will not only show the brawn that wrestlers need to participate, but the personal lives of the athletes.

“Game of Arms not only focuses on the technique and skill in this high-stakes world, but also the family, careers and personal struggles of each man outside of the sport,” said the AMC website description about the show.

The series will follow the personal lives of the country’s premier arm wrestling figures, such as Ayello, who is a firefighter from Ladder 135 in Glendale. Ayello said the show followed him around at home and also featured his work in the FDNY.

A graduate of Bayside High School, before he became an arm wrestler, he was a bouncer at clubs around New York City. He used to arm wrestle with the fellow bouncers, and being at 6 feet 5 inches, 270 pounds, he always won. Four years ago someone challenged him to wrestle in the professional circuit and he started researching professional arm wrestling and attending amateur tournaments. He quickly worked his way through the ranks and is recognized as one of the strongest arm wrestlers in the country.

Bigwood, who is vegan, is being featured among various accomplished vegan male athletes in a new documentary called “The Game Changers” by James Wilks, a former MMA welterweight champion and fellow vegan.

Both men believe that arm wrestling needs a show, such as the one on AMC, to expand.

“It’s actually a huge underground thing, but no one just taped into it yet, but I think this show will bring it out,” Ayello said.

The series is coming from Matt Renner and Ethan Prochnik, the Emmy Award-winning producers of the “Deadliest Catch,” and executive producer Dan Ilani.

Trailers have already been circulating about the show.

 

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Cops looking for two suspects in Queens burglary spree


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Two suspects wanted in a September burglary of a Woodhaven bodega have been tied to eight more burglaries throughout the borough, police said.

The thefts date back to August 8, with the most recent incident taking place on November 26, police said.

Businesses the suspects targeted included Stop1 and Jamao Coffee Shop 7 in Jamaica, the Richmond Hill Deli and El Cran Canario Restaurant in Richmond Hill, Darbar’s Chicken & Ribs in South Richmond Hill, East Town restaurant in Maspeth and a Dunkin’ Donuts in Whitestone, according to the NYPD.

After breaking into the businesses the suspects stole cash, ranging from $30 to approximately $4,580, or possibly more. During some of the burglaries, the pair allegedly took merchandise, including scratch off lottery tickets, beer and cigarettes, police said.

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.

 

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