Tag Archives: Whitestone

BP Marshall OKs city’s plan to dispose of vacant lots too small to develop


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Borough President Helen Marshall approved the city’s plan to dispose of four vacant lots that are too small to develop.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) wants to remove the properties from its inventory in order to sell in the future.

Community Board 7 gave the department the green light last month.

The tiny plots of land in Mitchell-Linden, Flushing, College Point and Whitestone were created erroneously, according to DCAS senior planner Christian Grove. Some are as small as a patch of grass in between homes, Grove said.

The four properties were all acquired by the city for free, between 1955 and 1988, through the in-rem tax foreclosure process, according to a DCAS spokesperson.

DCAS representatives said the department would offer each of the four plots to adjacent owners but did not plan to subdivide and sell in pieces. Marshall said “every effort should be made to contact” them.

The borough president also followed suit with the community board in approving a second DCAS application to disown another property at 135-15 40th Road in Flushing.

The department plans to dispose of the property to NYC Land Development Corp, an entity of the city’s Economic Development Corp, which will then sell the land to developer Success 88 for $1.5 million.

Success 88’s $3.5 million project includes building a six-story building with commercial and office space and a community facility, which includes a school for English learners.

 

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Hundreds show up to sign petition opposing Whitestone school site


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Devon O'Connor, president of Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Hundreds came out to Whitestone Saturday afternoon to sign a petition asking the city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) to propose alternate sites for a high school.

Residents, after hearing rumors of a school coming to an abandoned six-acre along 150th Street and 5th Avenue, said they were upset they weren’t involved in the decision process.

The lot would not be appropriate for a school because there are no major streets and no public transportation nearby, said City Council District 19 candidate Paul Vallone.

“We must be the voice that is heard and considered first when it comes to new construction in our neighborhoods,” he said following the petition signing.

According to Vallone, almost 600 petition signatures have been collected.

Vallone, upset by the lack of information, gathered with community leaders and residents on Wednesday to speak out against the SCA’s “unilateral site selection powers,” present them with other sites for the school, and let the SCA know the community wants to be involved.

According to State Senator Tony Avella, the Department of Education (DOE) said there is no official proposal to bring a school to that location.

“I stand with the community to not use this site for the school, but [Wednesday's] rally seems premature,” said Avella. “There’s no proposal. It’s all just rumor.”

DOE spokesperson David Pena said there has been no official decision made to place a school at the Whitestone site.

Anyone who wasn’t able to sign the petition Saturday can sign an online petition. A paper copy can also be picked up at Vallone’s campaign office at 25-59 Francis Lewis Boulevard.

 

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Whitestone school rumors met with rally


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Vallone

Whitestone residents are upset they weren’t involved in the decision process after hearing rumors of a school coming to an abandoned six-acre lot in the heart of their community.

After residents had seen city employees and School Construction Authority (SCA) surveyors measuring a vacant lot located along 150th Street and 5th Avenue, they began to ask questions and then heard of a potential school being proposed for the site.

Upset by the lack of information, City Council District 19 candidate Paul Vallone gathered with community leaders and residents on Wednesday, October 2 to speak out against the SCA’s “unilateral site selection powers,” present them with other sites for the school, and let the SCA know the community wants to be involved.

“It’s the process we are upset with,” said Vallone. “No one is going to tell you we don’t need a school. We need a school. It’s just the location that’s a problem.”

Vallone said the lot would not be fit for a school because there are no major streets and no public transportation nearby.

The lot is in the middle of a foreclosure action by OneWest Bank, which was granted legal permission to clean and maintain the abandoned vacant property last year after it stood neglected by owner Whitestone Jewels.

State Senator Tony Avella said he has spoken to the Department of Education and there is no official proposal to bring a school to that location. He has also let the DOE know the community does not want a school at the site.

“I stand with the community to not use this site for the school, but the rally seems premature,” said Avella. “There’s no proposal. It’s all just rumor.”
Both Vallone and Avella believe the site would serve better as an open park space where children could participate in recreational sports.

According to DOE spokesperson David Pena, there has been no official decision made to place a school at the Whitestone site.

“As we do throughout the city, we always take preliminary surveys of areas where we have identified a need for new school construction,” said Pena. “This is just one area in the city we are surveying. We go through a public process before there is any approval on a particular site.”

The SCA did not respond as of press time.

 

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Police: Long Island office shooting suspect shot himself


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Nassau County Police Department

The Long Island office shooting suspect whose body was found in the Hudson River earlier this week shot himself.

Sang Ho Kim, 63, a Fresh Meadows resident, died from drowning, according to Nassau County police. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth as well as a heart condition contributed to the drowning. A suicide note was not found.

His body was discovered Monday morning near the Bear Mountain Bridge several miles from Cold Springs, Putnam County, where the shooter’s getaway vehicle was found abandoned last week.

Kim walked into Savenergy, an energy efficiency company in East Garden City, on September 25 and shot two employees, killing one, officials said. He then fled in his vehicle.

Savenergy CEO John Choi was seriously injured in the shooting, and employee Zacharia Yong Jae Shin, a 25-year-old Whitestone resident was killed, according to reports.

Authorities said Kim, a vendor working with the business, may have shot the two men over a disgruntlement he had with the company.

 

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City looking to sell four undevelopable lots in northeast Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Graphic courtesy of DCAS

Community Board 7 gave the city permission this week to dispose of four vacant lots that are too small to develop.

The city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) needed approval from the board on September 23 to remove the properties from its inventory in order to sell in the future.

The tiny plots of land in Mitchell-Linden, Flushing, College Point and Whitestone were created erroneously “when somebody just made a mistake in the 50s and 60s,” according to DCAS senior planner Christian Grove.

The four properties were all acquired by the city for free, between 1955 and 1988, through the in-rem tax foreclosure process, according to a DCAS spokesperson.

DCAS representatives said the department would offer each of the four plots to adjacent owners but did not plan to subdivide and sell in pieces.

“These are small. These are not developable, like we could put a house on. You would just walk right by them,” Grove said. “But they do have some value to the adjacent owners.”

“It could be a patch of grass in between the homes, and they just don’t realize it’s city-owed,” Grove continued. “Here’s an opportunity for them to keep it.”

One three-foot-wide lot in Murray Hill is 1,500 square feet and borders 22 privately-owned buildings between 161st and 162nd Streets and 35th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, according to DCAS.

Another is only 252 square feet and joins three properties in College Point near 119th Street and 9th Avenue.

It was unclear how much money the city would seek for the properties.

None of the four lots have been appraised yet, a DCAS spokesperson said.

Community Board 7 also approved a second DCAS application to disown another property at 135-15 40th Road in Flushing.

DCAS plans to dispose of the property to NYC Land Development Corp, an entity of the city’s Economic Development Corp. The land will then be sold to developer Success 88 for $1.5 million.

A representative for the developer said the proposed six-story building would have commercial space at its base and office space above.

It would also have a community facility, which includes a school for English learners, and would have energy-efficient components.

If the $3.5 million project is approved by the city, construction would begin in 2015, the community board said.

 

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Whitestone, Malba residents angry over noise from low-flying helicopters


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan / Videos courtesy of Alfredo Centola

A recent helicopter route change meant to spare Long Island ears from a barrage of choppers could be the reason why some parts of Queens are now dealing with the rumble.

“There are days my home vibrates,” said Alfredo Centola, president of the Malba Gardens Civic Association. “Things fall off the shelves.”

Some 1,500 homes in Whitestone and Malba have been bombarded with low-flying helicopters daily, according to local leaders and residents.

On weekends, they say, crisscrossing choppers fly over their homes once every 30 seconds for about 12 hours a day.

“When they get really low, you feel it through your body,” said Joe Bono of Whitestone.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandate last August ordered helicopters flying to and from the city and eastern Long Island to follow a route along the north shore of Long Island between Huntington and the North Fork, according to the National Business Aviation Association.

The ruling came after a push from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and noise complaints from residents, aviation leaders said.

But while it bars helicopter traffic over Long Island’s most populated areas, it directs a higher concentration of choppers to repeatedly fly over Whitestone and Malba, according to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.

“As a direct result of Senator Schumer’s mandatory North Shore route — which we strongly oppose — the number of flights over the Throgs Neck route has dramatically increased, just as it has over the North Fork communities in Long Island,” said a spokesperson for the Council, Jeff Smith.

Max Young, a spokesperson for Schumer, pointed the finger of blame back, saying the Eastern Region Helicopter Council “has resisted all reasonable efforts” to cut down the noise in order to fly low and save money.

The above water route mandate does not begin until the middle of Long Island, according to the aide.

“The Eastern Regional Helicopter Council is either ignorant, lying or both.” Young said. “They could solve this entire problem by simply flying over water and flying higher, but so far they’ve refused.”

Queens leaders and residents said the helicopter noise has been ongoing for a little over a year but intensified in the last six months.

“You live in a borough with two airports. Living with airplane noise has sort of been a fact of life. That’s bad enough,” said Assemblymember Mike Simanowitz. “You have dozens of helicopters flying over this community on a daily basis. There’s no consideration given to the residents of this community.”

Simanowitz and State Senator Tony Avella said the problem is both a local noise and national safety issue.

“Terrorists are getting smarter and smarter,” Simanowitz said. “Every time we think of a better way to protect ourselves, they think of a better way to strike fear into our hearts. This would be a catastrophic way to do it.”

The pair of legislators has requested a briefing from the Department of Homeland Security and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The very fact that . . . anybody can buy a ticket and get on, it’s a pretty scary thing,” Avella said.

In a statement, the FAA said it “does not have the authority to prohibit aircraft from flying over a particular area” unless the operation is unsafe.

“It’s getting outrageous,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. “It’s destroying our quality of life and striking fear into homeowners.”

 

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Water vendor killed in Whitestone car crash


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

One man is dead and two injured after a car jumped the curb on the Whitestone Expressway Monday afternoon.

Michael Munoz, 42, a water vendor, was hit and killed when a 78-year old male driver of a dark Toyota Camry lost control of the vehicle and rushed up on the sidewalk in front of the E-ZPass building in Whitestone around 2:15 p.m., cops said.

Munoz’s skull was split open and blood ran from his head, nose and mouth on the ground, witnesses said. The elderly driver and an aged female passenger suffered minor injuries and were transported to New York Hospital Queens, police said.

Munoz had been staying at Extended Stay America, a hotel next to the E-ZPass building, for about four years with his father, hotel workers said. He sells water and Gatorade to drivers that stop near the expressway service road. He would stand on the sidewalk and wait for people to wave him over when they stopped at the light.

Friends and hotel workers said he was in between jobs, but started vending the drinks a few months ago.

“He was very friendly, funny and talkative,” said Maria Stefanidis, a worker at Extended Stay America who frequently spoke with Munoz. “I’m still in shock. I feel really bad for his father.”

Cops are still investigating the accident.

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Gator greets kids at Queens Library


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Queens Library

A reading came alive for some local children when an alligator visited the Whitestone branch of the Queens library.

Children’s Librarian Susan Scatena promised that if at least 300 children registered for summer reading, and they collectively read at least 4,000 books, she would read a story to a “big, scaly, live alligator.”

According to the Queens Library, they surpassed that goal, with 344 children registering and completing 4,595 books.

On Thursday, Scatena read Mercer Mayer’s “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” to Wally, a five-foot female alligator, and hundreds of neighborhood kids.

Wally was handled by reptile trainer Erik Callendar, who taught the children about alligators during the reading.

Yesterday’s reading wasn’t the first time Scatena has motivated her young readers with a “wild challenge.”  Each year, she promises that if they meet their summer reading goals, she will perform an over-the-top stunt. Previously, she has sat in a tub of JELL-O; dressed in a rabbit suit and kissed a bunny; and cuddled an enormous python.

 

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Whitestone co-op board sues to get rid of pet pig


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A porky problem is rattling one Whitestone cooperative.

Danielle Forgione lives in the Clearview Gardens co-op with her husband, six kids and their pet pig, Petey.

“He is as gentle as a big, cuddly bear,” Forgione said about her porcine pal.

However, the co-op’s Board of Directors is suing the city’s Health Department, saying they want the pig out, according to unofficial court documents.

In December, co-op officials discovered Petey living on the premises, and after investigating a complaint, the Health Department said the oinker had to go no later than July 1. But, despite putting their condo up for sale in January, the Forgiones haven’t been able to move out.

Since adopting Petey, the family has received several citations from the Health Department, including one stating they “dispose” of their pet. However, Forgione said she has been in contact with the Health Department and that the pig “is here legally.”

“I’m not looking to defy the law,” she said. “We’ve been cooperating with the Health Department. They know he’s here.”

The family picked up Petey after Forgione’s brother, Peter, was killed in a motorcycle accident in March 2012. She was searching for a pet to console her children, but ran into a problem when she discovered their six-year-old son had a pet dander allergy The Courier reported in February.

With that, a pediatrician suggested they consider a pig, and Petey, named after Forgione’s late brother, became part of the family.

But the Board claimed Petey is “dangerous to the public,” and has the potential to bite and scratch other residents in the 1,800-family cooperative, according to unofficial court documents.

They also said the animal is being walked around the common property within Clearview Gardens and has “placed residents in fear.”

Forgione denies those claims and said Petey has never come into contact with anybody else, and that if anything, people ask to take a picture.

Since news of the lawsuit surfaced, Forgione said she has neither been served any papers nor heard from any Clearview Gardens officials. The city Law Department additionally said they have yet to receive the case.

Clearview Gardens management did not return multiple requests for comment as of press time.

In the meantime, Petey will stay with the Forgiones until they can find a more “pig-friendly” home.

Photo via Facebook

 

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Identify this place in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

where

Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken?

Guess by commenting below!

The answer will be revealed next Friday.

 

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”:  St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Whitestone 

New life for Queens youth football league


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

When College Point resident Mariella Toufos was searching for a youth football league for her son, she held the same concerns most parents do.

Will the contact be too rough? How about the coaching?

Then she heard about the Whitepoint Wolverines. Online reviews were positive and the team’s website looked attractive with its pictures and videos. So she decided to give the team a try. And after taking her son to his first practice with the Wolverines’ travel team at Memorial Field in Flushing, her worries were gone.

“I’m very excited and my son is very excited,” Toufos said. “Based on what I’ve seen today, it seems like they’re very organized, very structured, so I’m looking forward to the season.”

Over the past two years, the Wolverines have reintroduced themselves to the Whitestone, College Point and Flushing neighborhoods with a new system and fresh coaching.

The league currently has about 300 players spread out in various age divisions, with the oldest players age 13.

Decades ago, it was a flourishing program with thousands of children, but gradually diminished after developing a bad reputation from coaches that treated young players too harshly, according to parents and league administrators.

Then Mike McCutchen stepped in as president and about two years ago began to reform the league. He focused the program more on teaching the young players the fundamentals of the game from every aspect rather than focusing on winning.

He also got former standout college players, semi-pros and high school coaches to pitch in. Now even a player with NFL experience has signed on to coach the children.

Native Brooklynite Jeremiah Brown, who played for Wagner College in Staten Island and was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, started to help coach the league this year.

“New York City is rough for football players to reach their dreams or come close to getting a scholarship sometimes,” Brown said. “I just have that passion to give back to the youth, period.”

There are flag football and tackle football divisions along with the travel team, which is for older players looking for more competition.

Many of the athletes go on to local high school teams such as Cardozo, Bayside and Flushing high schools, McCutchen said.

Games do not begin until September, but every Saturday morning until the season starts the league is holding free clinics about fundamentals at Memorial Field.

“Our main goal here really is to teach the game and keep children out of trouble,” McCutchen said.

 

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Suspect tries to break into Whitestone residence using homeowner’s ladder


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

On Monday between the hours of 1 and 1:30 p.m., a 9-1-1 call was made stating a suspicious man dressed in all black clothing was fleeing a home in the vicinity of 149th Street and 22nd Avenue in Whitestone.

Sources say the suspect attempted to break into a home using a ladder which was left at the back of the house. The owner was in the house at the time, yelled, and the perp took off, using the ladder to get back out.

The 109th Precinct responded with cars, K-9 and aviation units, but the suspect was not arrested.

The 109th Precinct Community Council advises that if you have a ladder in the back of your home lock it to a fence or keep it in the garage.

 

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Five injured in Whitestone restaurant fire


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Devon O'Connor, President of Welcome To Whitestone Civic Association

MELISSA CHAN AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Five people were injured, two of them seriously, when a fire erupted inside a popular Whitestone Chinese restaurant Saturday, fire officials said.

Flames broke out at Emperor House Chinese Restaurant around 4:49 p.m., according to the FDNY.

Three victims sustained minor injuries and one man was being treated for second-degree burns at Jacobi Medical Center, authorities said.

Another victim was in serious but stable condition, the FDNY said.

Workers in the 10th Avenue shopping center said a man they believed to be either the restaurant’s owner or manager “came running out on fire.”

“His whole body was burned. His clothes were on fire,” said Angel Soriano, who works at a pizzeria next door.

Soriano said his co-workers tried smothering the blaze with towels while others threw water on the man.

“It was chaos,” said Ken Chieco, who also works at the pizzeria.

Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association, said the fire incinerated a woman’s hair and burned her arm.

The blaze was under control by 5:26 p.m., fire officials said. The cause is under investigation.
Emperor House was boarded up and roped off as of August 12.

Neighbors said they did not know the owner’s name, but described him as kind and friendly.

“When my daughter would work late, he would drive her home,” said Michelle Dejean. “That’s how nice that man is. Very nice people work there.”

 

 

 Updated, Monday, August 12

 

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Bayside man wrongfully jailed for attempted rape to sue for $133M


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Bayside man exonerated by DNA after being wrongfully jailed for almost nine months is suing the city for more than $133 million, his lawyer said.

Kenneth King was charged with the attempted rape and sex abuse of a woman in Whitestone in September 2011.

The early morning attack along the Cross Island Parkway near 148th Street was foiled by former marine Bryan Teichman, who spooked the assailant and who later hesitantly picked King out of a lineup, according to the complaint filed against the city.

“I hope to God I am making the right choice,” the complaint shows him saying. “I think it’s #2.”

King was released last June from Rikers Island, where he spent most of his imprisonment, after DNA retrieved from the victim’s sweater did not match his, said defense attorney Scott Dufault. His case was dismissed a month later.

The free man is now suing the city for “negligently and intentionally” depriving him of his Constitutional rights, the complaint says. He is seeking monetary compensation from lost pay, attorney fees, physical injuries and emotional distress.

The defendants listed in the suit include the city’s Department of Corrections, the Queens district attorney’s office, the NYPD and its Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Dufault told The Courier last year that King is struggling to get back to his former life after losing his job as a plumber’s assistant while he was locked up.

He also suffers from severe back and leg pain and numbness in his arm from mistreatment at Rikers, the complaint says.

The victim never identified King herself, the lawsuit says, and the description she gave of the perp’s eyes and hair color did not match King’s. The DNA test was also done six months after the attack, though defense attorneys say they requested it be taken immediately.

The city’s law department declined to comment as it awaits a formal copy of the complaint, a spokesperson said.

 

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Whitestone woman pleads guilty in prostitution ring bust


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A Whitestone woman who headed a large-scale prostitution and drug ring has pleaded guilty to felony enterprise corruption charges, officials said.

Jay King, 53, was sentenced to three to nine years in state prison for her role in a money laundering operation that spanned the tri-state area, said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. She illegally sold sex, crack, cocaine and Viagra, authorities said.

“Today’s guilty plea and sentence are part of our ongoing effort to ensure that those who participate in lucrative prostitution-based money laundering and drug dealing are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Schneiderman said.

King, who was released on $1 million bail, will also have to pay $100,000 in fines.

A New Jersey woman who led a separate prostitution and drug ring also pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption charges, the attorney general said.

No Mi Kwon, 49, will be sentenced to three to nine years and have to pay $268,000.

The two generated millions of dollars selling sex and drugs, officials said.

Both pleas are the result of a 16-month joint agency investigation last November that led to the 180-count indictment of a Manhattan-based advertising corporation called Somad Enterprises, Inc.

Nineteen people, including 11 from Queens, were also indicted then.

 

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