Tag Archives: Whitestone

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



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.



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

| 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.



Five injured in Whitestone restaurant fire

| editorial@queenscourier.com

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


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



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.



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.



West Nile spraying in Queens this week

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of James Gathany/CDC

On Monday, August 5 there will be West Nile spraying in parts of Queens to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease.

The spraying will take place between the hours of 8:15 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Tuesday, August 6 during the same hours.

Part of the following neighborhoods: Auburndale, College Point, Flushing, Linden Hill, Malba, Murray Hill and Whitestone.

Bordered by: Cross Island Parkway, 149 Street and 20th Avenue to the North; 124th Street, College Point Boulevard, Northern Boulevard and Union Street to the West; Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard to the South; and Utopia Parkway to the East.

Parts of the following zip codes: 11354, 11355, 11356, 11357 and 11361.

For the sprayings, the Health Department will use a very low concentration of Anvil®, 10 + 10 a synthetic
pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health.

The Health Department  recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions  are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  •  Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If  outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using  again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

Photo courtesy of NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Residents: Area around Whitestone park unsafe for pedestrians

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Getting to and from a Whitestone playground is no walk in the park, some residents say.

The lack of a crosswalk or traffic controls at the 3rd Avenue and 147th Street entrance to Francis Lewis Park is dangerous to pedestrians, said Malba Civic Association president Alfredo Centola.

“It’s a beautiful park,” Centola said. “These poor kids, with their parents, whenever they come to the park to play, they have to take their lives in their hands.”

Most residents must cross three-way traffic to enter and leave the park, located at the edge of the East River, since the majority of homes in the area lie across 147th Street.

Irene Rama of Whitestone said sometimes she and her kids are forced to stop in the middle of the street to avoid an oncoming car even after stopping to look in every direction beforehand.

Residents say a piece of property, bordered by jutting construction boards, that is being developed directly next to the park impairs the vision of pedestrians trying to cross.

“It’s a long stretch,” said Rama. “There are kids running all the time. There should be something here. It’s a huge intersection.”

Mark Felber, 67, who lives down the street from the park, said he would like to see better traffic controls.

“This is a popular street,” he said. “I have grandkids. They run over there and there’s no stop sign.”

There were no injuries at the intersection in question between 2007 and 2011, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) said.

But the department said there were four serious ones from car accidents, not involving pedestrians, during that period at 3rd Avenue and the westbound Whitestone service road.

“While DOT has not received any recent requests related to this location, the agency will study the applicability of a stop sign or other traffic controls at 3rd Avenue and 147th Street as well as the feasibility of speed bumps in the area,” the spokesperson said.

Centola said he has sent the DOT a letter of complaint every 18 months since 2005.

Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy mailed the civic leader a response in 2011 saying the department completed an analysis and determined “Multi-Way Stop controls are not recommended at this time.”

“Factors such as vehicular and pedestrian volumes, vehicular speeds, visibility and signal spacing were all taken into consideration in making our determination,” the correspondence reads.

Shortly after the letter, the city installed one pedestrian crossing sign in front of the park, but it only faces one direction of traffic. Centola said the sign is also too high for drivers to see.

“At this point, I’m speechless and dumbfounded,” he said. “The DOT is once again being negligent and refusing to take care of the issues.”



Embattled Councilmember Dan Halloran launches law practice

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via www.halloranlaw.org

An embattled Queens legislator has launched a law practice as he awaits his own day in court.

Councilmember Dan Halloran is still taking on legal cases as an attorney and has formed a separate office to handle them, The Courier has learned.

This firm’s website, www.halloranlaw.org, describes Whitestone-based Halloran Law P.C. as a “one-stop shop for all of your legal needs” and touts the eponymous partner’s legal expertise.

In nearly 1,250 words, a biography details Halloran’s law background and concludes with local newspapers calling him “a highly respected member of the City Council” and praising his “‘community-oriented’ view of government.”

It does not mention that the head of the practice is facing federal corruption charges for his alleged hand in bribing GOP officials to get Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith on the Republican mayoral ticket.

Feds say Halloran pocketed nearly $21,000 in cash for setting up meetings between Smith and GOP officials. He also allegedly offered up councilmember item cash in exchange for bribes, a criminal complaint detailed.
Halloran and Smith were arrested on April 2. Both deny any wrongdoing.

A Halloran Law P.C. spokesperson said the website “has been online since January 2013, when Mr. Halloran formed a separate law office to handle the legal work he was receiving.”

However, domain records show the site was created on June 13.

Halloran has been a practicing attorney for more than a decade and remains a counsel to several firms, said the spokesperson, who did not give a name. Halloran was previously a partner at Palmieri and Castiglione, handling civil litigation, general practice matters and criminal cases outside New York City.

The lawmaker represents the 19th Council District for the remainder of the year. He said he would not seek reelection in order to focus on clearing his name.

His council spokesperson, Victor Mimoni, said the practice does not impede with the councilmember’s duty to his district.

“He attends certain committee meetings when the subject matter affects the district and he goes to the stated meetings,” Mimoni said. “The office is open from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. We’re still handling constituent calls. The district is still being served.”

Halloran has previously received flak for what some see as a head-in-the-sand approach to his legal troubles.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn reportedly called him “stupid” and “arrogant” for sending out a budget-related press release six days after his arrest.



Whitestone residents rally against bus route

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

Buses are still going down a narrow residential street in Whitestone and often getting stuck, residents say, despite two years the community has spent pushing for another route.

“It is incomprehensible that the MTA would consider such a narrow street for the routing of a city bus,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “This is an accident waiting to happen and is ruining the quality of life for the residents on this block and jeopardizing their safety.”

The Q15A bus route has run through 10th Avenue, between Clintonville and 152nd Streets, since 2010, when the MTA axed Q14 service.

Officials said the line was created to serve former Q14 riders and continues on the old route along 150th Street to 7th Avenue.

But since then, residents say they have been squeezed in as buses rumble down the tight two-way street.
“Residents living on this block are very fearful when driving out of the driveway due to the dangerous traffic pattern created by this bus route,” said Whitestone resident Kevin Leibowitz. “Due to the buses speeding down this narrow street, many drivers are fearful of getting hit and damaging their cars.”

Karen Babizh, whose family owns Clinton Restaurant, said the eatery lost four parking spots and is constantly interrupted by traffic jams.

“Buses often get stuck as they go down on the street, and whenever it happens, the bus driver would come into our restaurant, asking customers to move their cars,” she said.

An MTA spokesperson said the agency looked into having the alternate route join the Q15, but the changes were not effective.

“At the community’s request, the MTA did look at having the Q15A travel on 7th Avenue, Clintonville Street, and 14th Avenue to rejoin the Q15,” said MTA spokesperson Deirdre Parker. “However, this would take many of the riders along a long, circuitous, U-shaped routing and greatly slow their commute.”

The MTA believes 10th Avenue is “a wide enough street” for both buses and cars, Parker said. The authority does not have plans to reroute either lines.



Queens centenarians celebrate birthdays

| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Ferrari


Woman celebrates turning 102 at local cafe

Maria Biancaniello celebrated turning 102 surrounded by family and friends.

On Friday, July 5, Caffe Italia in Whitestone hosted Biancaniello’s 102nd birthday party. The energy in Biancaniello’s favorite restaurant was joyous as her family gathered to celebrate her life. The turnout included Biancaniello’s three children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. When her cake arrived, Biancaniello’s youngest son, Anthony Bianco, played “Happy Birthday” on the violin for her while everyone in attendance sang along.

The Whitestone resident visits Caffe Italia as often as she can. She enjoys treating herself to her favorite pastry, the “lulu,” so it was no wonder that Biancaniello’s family chose this bakery to commemorate her birthday.

Born in Nusco, Italy in 1911, Biancaniello’s primary language is Italian. A lifelong Catholic, she received her first Holy Communion from the famous priest Padre Pio in Italy. She immigrated to America with her husband, Pietro, and her four children in 1955, and spent time working in a doll factory. Widowed in 1995,

Biancaniello moved to Whitestone from Long Island City in 1998. Biancaniello attributed her longevity to the great company she has kept. Her children and grandchildren brimmed with pride while discussing memories of her cooking, wit, great sense of humor and her love of being around other people.

Woman reflects on 100 years

Anne Certner has a century’s worth of stories, memories and experiences.

Certner was born in Union City, New Jersey on May 26, 1913. Prior to meeting her late husband Simon, she was valedictorian of Union Hills High School. She briefly attended New Jersey State Teachers College, but had to end her studies due to the hardships of the Great Depression.

In 1937, Certner wed her husband. They moved to the Bronx, where they raised their children Naomi and Joel.

In 1955, the family moved to Kew Gardens, where Certner was a piano teacher. She also went back to school to study music at Queens College. After receiving her degree, she began teaching elementary school music at P.S 81 in Ridgewood.

In the 1970s, Certner was able to showcase her musicality when she sang with the Dessoff Choir in Carnegie Hall.

Today Certner enjoys the company of her three grandchildren, who call her every day, as well as her three great-grandchildren. She plays duplicate bridge at Pride of Judea in Douglaston every week and has many other passions, including reading, crossword puzzles, gambling, horse races and the New York Knicks.

Naomi credits her mother’s aging well to “keeping her mind sharp” and the company that she has had over the years, especially her cat Yianni. Naomi feels the pet has been an instrumental part of keeping her mother as “joyful” as she is.



Whitestone teen skates his way to success

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Peter Pallos

Stephen Pallos is skating his way to success in the hockey rink.

After playing on Holy Cross High School’s varsity team for four years, the 17-year-old is making his way to college hockey. After being contacted and recruited by numerous schools, Pallos and his family made the final decision that he will attend Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, where he will join the school’s highest level American College Hockey Association program.

“I spent last summer playing in many of the top tournaments in Boston hoping to be seen by just one team,” said Pallos.

The Whitestone honor student has been a member of the Catholic Prep Schools City Champs for the past three years and was honored as part of the Senior All Stars during the 2012-2013 school year. He is also a member of the Brewster Jr. Bulldogs, an Eastern States Hockey League junior hockey team.

“Stephen is a big, physical winger who forechecks hard and also brings a lot of offensive upside to the team,” said Lou Biancaniello, head coach of the men’s club ice hockey team at Washington and Jefferson College. “The program is happy with his commitment and what he brings to the table.”

Along with being dedicated to his teams, Pallos has been involved with a local church community that has become a feeding site for the homeless and underprivileged. He also led a fundraiser for victims of Sandy, helping close to 12 students and numerous staff members at Holy Cross who lost their possessions.

Pallos plans to spend the summer practicing and training to become part of a college hockey team. He also looks forward to joining some school clubs and a fraternity.

“My interests are many and therefore, I would like to attend a school that fosters a community of accelerated learning, but also one where there are many opportunities to get involved and grow,” said Pallos.

Although his heart is in his beloved sport, Pallos plans on majoring in political science at Washington and Jefferson and eventually hopes to attend law school with the goal of becoming an attorney.



Walk to raise funds for Flushing toddler’s chemo

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Scott

Kimberly Scott’s life changed in March, when doctors discovered a lemon sized tumor in her toddler’s brain.

“They said in a week, he would have died if he didn’t have the surgery,” she said.

Her 3-year-old son Alex now faces at least six months of aggressive chemotherapy after the cancerous brain tumor was removed.

Hundreds in the community will come together at Kissena Park Lake to “Walk for Alex” on June 8.

They will raise money to help pay for some of Alex’s medical expenses as the Flushing family tries to bring order back into their lives.

The walk begins at 10 a.m. this Saturday, with registration opening an hour in advance.

“It’s amazing how the community steps up,” said Kimberly Scott, 29. “I haven’t been able to work at all and my husband works intermittently. This helps us out fantastically until we get back on a good work schedule.”

The Scotts, who have two young sons, were billed $49,000 for the surgery alone. They do not know how much of that will be covered by insurance. They are also facing fees for hospital stays and chemo.

“How our life was before is how we want to keep it now,” said Scott, a medical assistant. “I don’t want to have to sell my son’s Wii so I can pay the Con Edison bill.”

The mother of one of Alex’s classmates organized the walk, which has also received support from the Knights of Columbus, the International Nursery School and a number of charities. The groups hope to raise at least $5,000.

“I called her crying and thanked her so much,” Scott said.

While Alex suffers painful mouth and stomach sores, his mother said he has shown great perseverance.

“He should be having problems with speech, and he doesn’t,” Scott said. “He should be having weakness, but he doesn’t. He’s defying all the laws of cancer.”

Alex also has a huge post-surgery scar on his head, but does not have to worry about it so much since his father got an identical tattoo on his head.

“To me, that was the sweetest thing a father could do,” Kimberly Scott said. “Alex didn’t like everyone looking at him. He’s never going to be the only person with this thing on his head. Daddy will always have one too.”



Whitestone residents arrested for drug possession after reporting home robbery

| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic image

A man and a woman were charged with drug possession after their Whitestone home was apparently robbed.

According to a police source, Christina Stold and Timothy Kush, 23, residents of a home on 13th Avenue and 141st Street, were arrested in the early morning hours of Tuesday after four suspects executed a push-in robbery.

Around 11 p.m. on Monday Kush told police he was leaving his home, via a side, door to walk his dog. He said he was approached by three Hispanic males wearing ski masks and one Hispanic female who pushed their way into the house, displayed a gun, tasered him and ransacked the premises.

The source said it was unclear what was taken from the home, but Kush and Stold are both charged with criminal possession of marijuana and criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.