Tag Archives: Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Rash of violent crimes raises concerns at Woodhaven meeting


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Woodhaven residents and elected officials expressed concern and outrage during Thursday night’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting over the recent rash of high-profile crimes to hit the area.

Two recent shootings rocked the area. The first occurred roughly three weeks ago around 4 a.m. outside the Port O’Call nightclub near Atlantic Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. The more recent shooting was on the night of June 6 at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 89th Street.

Then the community was stunned by the June 10 discovery of a dead body near Victory Field in Forest Park now being investigated as a homicide.

“It’s just a bad wave right now … but it’s not just us. It could happen anywhere in the city,” P.O. Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit told WRBA members during the session at American Legion Post 118. “We have leads in most of these crimes … but both shooting victims are being uncooperative, so it’s making our investigation difficult.”

One resident expressed fear over personal safety in light of the shootings. “I could stop by Jamaica Avenue to get a container of milk and be caught in a shootout,” she said.

In an attempt to calm concerns, Severino explained that several safety measures have been implemented in the wake of the shootings, including outside help from Central Command.

“Right now, we have multiple shooting posts to help increase visibility in multiple locations where those crimes happened,” he said. “We have an automatic shooting initiative in place and will be there for 24 to 72 hours after.”

Regarding the Forest Park homicide, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley called the murder “unsettling” and shared in the community’s concerns.

“Safety in Forest Park is so important,” she said. “I myself often run in the park. We’ve been on top of the 102nd Precinct to make sure they have patrols there.”

Another resident raised the question about security cameras in the park. “About two weeks ago, we noticed a security camera mounted on a light post,” she said. “But last weekend, that camera was gone. Ironically, it would have been in the same spot where the murder was.”

Angel Vazquez, Assemblyman Mike Miller’s chief of staff, explained that he was working to get the NYPD to sign off on an agreement allowing for the installation of cameras at specific locations within the park.

According to Vazquez, the first part of the six-stage process of approval was just completed. Going forward, the camera plans would require three-way approval from the Assembly, Dormitory Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Greg Mitchell of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office echoed Crowley’s concerns.

“Safety is our number one priority,” he said. “Through our budgeting, we did approve those emergency call boxes that will be going into Forest Park.”

Mitchell said he has been in touch with the capital department of the NYPD and expects the call boxes to be installed as soon as the upcoming budget passes.

WRBA President Martin Colberg urged residents to remain vigilant: “The biggest thing we can do is to call 311 or 911. Let’s get some kind of response out there and try to help each other as much as we can.”

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Civic fumes over a trashy situation in Woodhaven


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Frustrations aimed at the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) over their overnight enforcement policies came to a head during the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting on May 16 at the Emanuel United Church of Christ.

The WRBA has repeatedly petitioned the DSNY to change its practice of issuing pricey overnight summonses to business owners along Jamaica Avenue for illegally dumped trash. In recent months, the WRBA has received numerous summonses over garbage found in front of the group’s headquarters, located at 84-20 Jamaica Ave.

“They ticket overnight because that’s when people bring their bags to the curb for pickup,” explained Gregory Mitchell of City Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office. “Unfortunately, there’s an issue that if people dump garbage in front of somebody’s business, the property owner can get a ticket themselves.”

The WRBA held a recent closed-door meeting with board members, elected officials and DSNY supervisors. According to WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp, the DSNY officials explained that if they wanted a change in policy, they would need to petition their local city council member to change the regulations.

“When we were told by our city agencies to go to our City Council member because they’re not going to do anything about it, we realized this is a screwed up situation,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”

Ulrich was considering changes in legislation back in October 2014 in the form of an “LS request” to investigate the feasibility of the proposed policy change.

“There’s really no way for us to legislate our way out of that problem,” Mitchell said. “We can change the law, but that’s not going to stop people from dumping garbage in the street.”

Blenkinsopp voiced his frustration over the situation to Mitchell. “It sounds like it took an awfully long time to find out we wouldn’t get any results from that process,” he said.

Assemblyman Mike Miller also voiced his displeasure over the situation.

“They don’t care,” said Miller, who participated in the aforementioned closed-door meeting with DSNY officials. “When we challenged them, they said, ‘That’s the way it is. This is the process. This is how we do it.’ It has to be changed.”

Miller explained that he has introduced legislation calling for a Citizen Review Board to deal with and discuss incidents such as wrongly issued summonses.

Mitchell proposed a follow-up meeting between WRBA board members and DSNY officials. He also mentioned that he would try to bring a DSNY supervisor to the next public WRBA meeting to address these concerns. In addition, he advised WRBA members to keep reporting incidents of illegal dumping to 311.

However, according to WRBA President Martin Colberg, the group once reported an illegally dumped mattress in front of their office, only to be hit with a pricey summons while sitting inside. Colberg said that he was considering installing security cameras outside WRBA’s Jamaica Avenue office to not only catch violators in the act, but to prove the group’s innocence to DSNY.

When asked if they could take their fight beyond City Council, Blenkinsopp explained that they have yet to receive a reply from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office regarding the matter.

“Back when he was public advocate, Bill De Blasio wrote a letter supporting a change in this law, but now that he’s mayor, he’s no longer responding to our reminders,” he said. “We can’t get the mayor to respond to his own previous policy decisions and to be consistent in his stance on this.”

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Civic group helps Woodhaven fire victims pick up the pieces


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Last week’s arson fire in Woodhaven that gutted eight attached homes dominated the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting on Saturday, as civic members looked to help displaced families get back on their feet.

One of the victims displaced in the March 18 fire on 90th Street spoke at Saturday’s WRBA meeting. Jhadran Rojas and his wife Patricia were tenants in one of the neighboring homes destroyed by the fire. In addition to losing their home and possessions, the Rojas’ grief was compounded by the fact that their apartment was looted twice in one day. Thieves made off with the Rojas’ electronics and remaining valuables not lost in the blaze.

According to Deputy Inspector Deodat Urprasad, the new commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, the precinct received numerous complaints over the years regarding drug use at the location where the fire started. Urprasad revealed that the alleged arsonist — identified as Luis Lopez — was arrested on March 15 on an unrelated charge, three days prior to setting the blaze. In addition, Urprasad said that officers at the precinct told him that numerous summonses for drug use have been issued at the location in the past.

“We have a special narcotics module in the 102 that handles these types of assignments,” Urprasad said. “They’re doing various search warrants. You may not see it, but they are effective.”

WRBA President Martin Colberg asked residents to remain vigilant and share information regarding ongoing complaints with each other and the board: “We have to pass information on to the 102 and make sure that we’re following up with these locations that we think are issues. We have to make sure to stay on top of it and that things don’t escalate.”

City Councilman Eric Ulrich thanked the WRBA for helping to coordinate the relief effort for the families displaced by the fire. He also thanked the first responders whose efforts prevented a larger tragedy and loss of life: “We really have the best of the best and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Ulrich was on the scene during the fire and helped the Red Cross relocate tenants displaced by the blaze to P.S. 210. He also opened his office to relief workers so they could access the Internet, register the victims and obtain vouchers for local hotels.

According to Ulrich, the Buildings Department and FDNY marshals entered the homes the day following the blaze and found numerous housing code violations. A total of six buildings violations were issued for illegal conversions. A representative from Ulrich’s office reportedly saw remnants of about seven bunk beds in one basement.

“That’s a fire trap,” Ulrich said. “Those people should be criminally prosecuted for putting people’s lives in danger. We have fire codes for a reason. People’s lives come first.”

Ulrich called for stiffer penalties and crackdowns on illegal conversions.

“It should not take a tragedy like what happened here in Woodhaven for the city to wake up and realize that however they’re doing it now is not working,” he said. “We need to be more proactive and less reactive.”

Both Ulrich and Assemblyman Mike Miller have partnered with Catholic Charities to create a special fund where tax-deductible donations can be made for the Woodhaven Fire Victims. The funds will go toward purchasing furniture and gift cards to Pathmark and Target. In addition, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty agreed to pay tenants’ first month’s rent if they decide to relocate within Woodhaven.

WRBA members also collected bags of clothing and supplies for the victims at Saturday’s meeting. The donations were large enough to fill up two commercial vans.

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Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps rallies to resolve collapsed building issue


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Next year will be Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ 50th anniversary, but members don’t’ know if the organization will be around to see it.

The ambulance corps headquarters took damage when building adjoining, 78-19 Jamaica Avenue, collapsed nearly a year ago. Recently members were forced to vacate after melted snow from the collapsed building caused water to flood into the volunteer group’s structure. Now the ambulance corps has damaged walls and mold, members said, and the volunteer organization has to wait for an inspection before they can use the building again.

Members of the ambulance corps and supporters rallied in front the ambulance corps building Sunday to ask the city to speed up repairs on the crumbling building.

“It’s very frustrating, sad and makes me upset,” said John Bennett, a member of the board of the ambulance corps, who has been with the organization for more than three decades. “It feels like I’m losing someone very close.”

The ambulance corps recently filed a lawsuit against the collapsed building’s owner to the tune of $13 million in damages and lost rent. However, it’s another slow process they have to deal with while the building continues to suffer.

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center rented space from the volunteer ambulance group, but had to move to a temporary location—American Legion Post 118—after the structure was determined unsafe by the city’s Buildings Department. The ambulance corps has lost its revenue source, and seniors want to move back into the volunteer groups’ building for its centralized location to transportation, wide space and other features.

“I miss the senior center because in the temporary location I can’t even use the bathroom,” Patricia Sexton said. “It’s not handicapped accessible.”

The owner of the collapsed building, George Kochabe, recently paid $3,200 in fines owed to the  Department of Buildings and hired an architect, according to the agency. However, the building still has many open violations and Kochabe owes thousands more in fines. He could not be reached for comment.

Assemblymember Mike Miller and State Senator Joseph Addabbo are pushing to have the city tear down the building, rebuild it and bill Kochabe. They not only fear for the survival of the volunteer ambulance corps and the senior center, but also worry about the threat the crumbling building creates for pedestrians.

“We don’t want to find out how much more this building could take,” Addabbo said. “We don’t want to react to a bad situation or a tragedy.”

 

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Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Ambulance Corps to rally against owners of collapsed building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

For the time being the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps can no longer use its own building.

Recently, melted snow from the collapsed building adjacent to the ambulance corps headquarters caused water to flood into the volunteer group, which is located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave., forcing them to vacate the building.

“I heard cracking wood,” said Kathy Sexton Dalbey, president of the ambulance corps. “I left and called the Fire Department. The Fire Department said not to go back in.”

The group is not allowed in the building until inspection, Dalbey said.

The volunteer ambulance corp is planning to hold a rally in front the collapsed building on Sunday, March 2, hoping that city agencies can secure the site.

The deteriorating building on 78-19 Jamaica Ave., which was an abandoned furniture store, crumbled on April 12 last year, leaving a hole in the roof and damaging the adjoining ambulance corps structure.

The ambulance corps and politicians, Assemblymember Mike Miller said State Senator Joseph Addabbo,  pushed to have the owner, George Kochabe, repair the building, however he didn’t.

The ambulance corps recently filed a lawsuit against the collapsed building’s owner, George Kochabe, to the tune of $13 million in damages and lost rent.

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center rented space from the volunteer ambulance group, but had to move to a temporary location—American Legion Post 118—after the structure was determined unsafe by the city’s Buildings Department.

Kochabe recently paid off $3,200 in fines owed to the city Department of Buildings and hired an architect, according to the agency. However, the building still has many open violations and Kochabe owes thousands in fines.

“It is shameful that this problem has stretched on for as long as it has. It’s time for the city to resolve this once and for all,” Martin Colberg, president of the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association said in a release. “Not only does the current situation put us all at risk—every pedestrian who passes by, every car that drives by—but it might also kill the ambulance corps, which would be a terribly unfair outcome. The city must take action now.”

 

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Star of Queens: Martin Colberg, president, Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Martin Colberg is the president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA), a civic association that addresses problems in the community of Woodhaven.

BACKGROUND: Colberg grew up in the Woodhaven and Richmond Hill areas, and has been in Woodhaven for the past 10 years.  Four years ago, Colberg attended his first WRBA meeting, and found the ideas of the association very interesting, saying “I was excited to put some more time and effort into my community.”

GOALS: Colberg has recently been named the new president of the WRBA, and is also the first Latino president, since the start of the association, 42 years ago. Colberg believes this to be a great representation of the growth and diversity in the neighborhood.

According to Colberg, his goal in the coming year will be to continue to get others involved in helping their community.

“I definitely want to concentrate on outreach, among other things in the coming year, just to get more numbers in our membership,” he said.

Colberg wants to concentrate on getting the younger generation involved in their community, hoping he can partner with schools or create a program, so that younger people can realize that they are needed.

BEST MEMORY:  One of Colberg’s best memories was watching his community come together to help those in need after Superstorm Sandy.

“It was such an eye-opening experience to watch so many members of the community put so much money, time and effort into helping those in need,” he said. Colberg recalled keeping the office open for a full week, as a drop-off station, and watching people come multiple times to give their time or make donations of clothes, food or money.

“I remember people getting to their last quarter tank of gas and still making one more trip to the Rockaways to help out.”

INSPIRATION: Colberg’s drive is just seeing others in his neighborhood get involved, saying, “in the fast-paced world that we are in, not a lot of people have that extra time to put into helping their community, but when they do show up, I feel like I have to help out as well.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: As the new president of the WRBA, his biggest challenge is yet to come.  Looking forward, he feels his challenge would just be to gain more exposure and get more people involved, which he believes he can accomplish by the end of the year.

 

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Transit committee finds new support for restarting Rockaway Beach Line


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jeff Liao

One by one, members of the Queens Public Transit Committee (QPTC), an organization focused on improving transportation in the borough, thanked Community Board 5 (CB5) last week.

The board voted to support the idea of restarting the defunct Rockaway Beach Line last month, in part to help ease traffic congestion issues on major thoroughfares, such as Woodhaven Boulevard.

The news was significant for QPTC, because the 3.5-mile trail could also be transformed into a park.

“Getting more people like CB5 is tremendous because they realize overcrowding is becoming a major problem,” said Phil McManus, chair of the QPTC.

In November of last year, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, who has voiced support for a new train, announced that Queens College will be doing a study of both the train and park ideas.

The Friends of the QueensWay (FQW), a group made up of residents that live near the trail who are pushing to transform the former rail line into a public green space, has argued against restarting the line.

“After over five decades of abandonment and multiple studies concluding that rail reactivation is not feasible, the time has come to utilize the over 50 acres of land that make up the QueensWay,” according to a statement from FQW. “As evidence shows, rebuilding this abandoned land will dramatically improve the quality of life, create jobs and safer streets, and highlight the incredible history and cultural diversity of central and southern Queens.”

FQW also said that the new park will have a much needed bike path, which could be used for transportation.

Not everyone has taken a side though. Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) would like to see formal proposals, instead of making a decision on speculation.

“We want to make sure a lot of concerns are answered. Can’t say that we are for or against,” said Martin Colberg, president of the WRBA.

McManus said the QPTC isn’t opposed to doing both ideas in some capacity, but a FQW representative said that isn’t a possibility.

“I just don’t see that as being realistic,” said Travis Terry, a member of FQW Steering Committee. “I wouldn’t even like to consider that option until there is some proof.”

 

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Woodhaven QueensWay forum brings in new ideas


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File Photo

New ideas are flowing in for the abandoned Rockaway Beach rail line.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Assocation (WRBA) hosted what attendees are calling the truest, open public forum held thus far regarding the QueensWay and Rockaway Beach line.

Advocates for the proposed 3.5-mile QueensWay park along the abandoned rail line addressed those with reservations about the project and vice versa on Monday in Woodhaven.

Ed Wendell, WRBA president, brought a new idea to the table. He said the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway that currently runs through Forest Park has been “a problem for 20 years,” and QueensWay officials should use this space as their “lab experiment.”

“Why don’t we focus on cleaning up the existing greenway,” he said. “Show us what you can do, and the community will be much more receptive.”

Alexander Blenkinsopp, a WRBA member, called this idea “brilliant,” and offered an additional option for “each community to decide what they want done with their stretch of the tracks.”

The old rail line runs up 98th Street from the Rockaways to Manhattan.

“If the people of Forest Hills really want the QueensWay, let them have it in their neighborhood,” he said. “And if it’s so wonderful, the residents of Woodhaven will see how great it is in Forest Hills and will eventually welcome it into their community as well.”

Wendell echoed many people when he said one main concern to address before moving forward with building a new park is security in existing greenspaces such as Forest Park.

“We see women jogging in the morning using flashlights,” Wendell said. “How terrifying is that? That they have to do this.”

He said that park officials as well as cops in the 102nd Precinct should be given proper resources to patrol the park before more acres are added via the QueensWay, which would connect to Forest Park.

A feasibility study to determine the possibility of creating the new park is currently underway, and QueensWay supporters noted it is “just a study” and “there really is no plan yet.”

However, residents doubt a QueensWay study would show the QueensWay is not feasible.

“Any proposals that come back are going to have to take into account a lot of people’s concerns,” Wendell said. “There are a whole lot of emotions and feelings on it.”

 

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Board derails QueensWay funding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Community Board 9 has taken QueensWay funding out of its budget.

At its November meeting, the board voted 30-13 and concluded that its capital budget should not prioritize the proposal, which would convert a 3.5-mile former Rockaway Beach LIRR line into a public greenway.

Late last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded $467,000 to study the project’s potential, and an additional $600,000 was raised through private donations.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has put together a team that will conduct the study.

“If the feasibility of a project can’t be figured out when it already has nearly a half million dollars to figure it out, then there’s a problem,” said Alexander Blenkinsopp, CB 9 and Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) member.

The QueensWay, if built, would connect Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park to Forest Park, provide pedestrian and bike paths, as well as public green space and serve as an art and culture forum.

Marc Matsil, the New York State Director for Trust for Public Land, said CB 9 was right to have taken the QueensWay out of its priorities because “the funds were raised.”

The proposal, however, has met a varying amount of both opposition and support.

Many area residents believe instead of a new park, the rail line should be reactivated to provide more public transportation. Others say the safety of current parks, such as nearby Forest Park, should be assured before a new greenspace is created.

The WRBA decided not to support either the QueensWay or a train reactivation because there were “some important questions that couldn’t be answered adequately,” Blenkinsopp said, mentioning safety.

CB 9 has not yet replaced QueensWay with any other item on its budget priorities.

“We know there will be critics,” Matsil said. “Our goal is to work with everyone.”

Matsil said, however, there is an “immense amount of enthusiasm in the community” for the potential new park and that though the safety concerns are “fairly clear,” he is confident residents feel there is a “need for a project like QueensWay.”

 

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Richmond Hill church moving to former Saint Matthew’s Church of Woodhaven


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Residents in Woodhaven are saying hallelujah as one of the borough’s most historic churches will soon reopen.

All Saints Episcopal Church in Richmond Hill is moving to the former Saint Matthew’s Church on 96th Street, which shut its doors in 2011.

Father Norman Whitmire Jr. will be the rector of the church and has already began overseeing the restoration of the new location.

“There were a lot of concerns about what was going to happening to that church, to that building, to that property,” said Ed Wendell of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “To hear that a new congregation is going to make it its new home, that is really good news, because that means that the building is going to have new life.”

The church and its famous Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery, located behind it, are currently undergoing a renovation. The floors, chandeliers and furniture are being redone on the inside and a new sidewalk was already placed. Also, the entrance to the church has been made handicap accessible.

The church itself is one of the remaining churches of old English Gothic architecture. The inside has a distinct look with stained glass windows and arches.

“You just can’t build buildings like this anymore,” Whitmire said. “It’s very expensive and it’s hard to find the craftsman who can do the stone work like those.”

The cemetery is also a historic piece. A few families that lived on farms in the area from 1792 to 1893 were buried in the private, half-acre land, which is behind the church and hidden from the street.

After the church closed, the cemetery was left to ruin but in the late 1990s volunteers came together and revitalized it. The church will be consecrated on Friday, October 25.

 

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Op-Ed: Simple measures for park safety


| oped@queenscourier.com

Late last week, the NYPD revealed that the suspect being sought in the late August attack of a 69-year old jogger in Forest Park is allegedly responsible for five previous attacks in and around the 538-acre park. Police presence has been increased with a temporary command center being set up at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South in Richmond Hill.

But this is a temporary measure, one that we’ve seen before. And in a few weeks it will be decided that the resources are needed elsewhere and it’ll be back to business as usual. Back in the 1970s, Assemblymember Frederick D. Schmidt called on the city to make Forest Park a separate police precinct – it’s an idea worth reconsidering.

The 102nd Precinct is currently responsible for Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill East, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, and the northern part of Ozone Park. The precinct includes a number of busy commercial districts (including Queens Boulevard, 101st Avenue and Jamaica Avenue) and several major roadways. That’s a large area, made even larger by the need to also patrol Forest Park.

A small precinct, or substation, with officers trained on and equipped with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for regular patrolling of the many trails within the park, would make it safer for all who use it. Even a shopping mall has its own security base – why not one of our city’s largest public attractions?

In other words, if it’s such a necessary step after a woman is attacked, why not make it permanent in an effort to prevent future attacks?

Apart from an increase in police, the city needs to do a better job of keeping the streetlights in and around Forest Park in proper working condition. We have been reporting major outages in well-trafficked areas and there does not appear to be any sense of urgency to get them repaired.

During the early morning hours on Forest Park Drive, we have seen people walking or jogging carrying flashlights, meaning the lights have been out long enough for people to learn that they need to come prepared.

Ultimately, there is no one to blame for these attacks apart from the sick animal that commits them. He will be caught, though whatever punishment he receives will never be enough. But that does not mean we can’t take precautions so as not to give this animal any tactical advantages.

Whenever possible, try not to run or walk alone. Reach out to friends and neighbors; try to make it a social activity that can be enjoyed as a group. Avoid isolated trails; remember that you do not have to go deep into the park to be alone and that just because you can see a main road from the woods does not mean that people traveling on that road can see you.

Forest Park is a wonderful place that hosts many thousand residents and visitors each year. Let’s all do everything we can to make it the safest experience possible.

Edward K. Wendell
President
Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association


Video via YouTube/Edward Wendell

 

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Woodhaven man killed by toy helicopter


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND DENISE ROMANO

A 19-year-old Woodhaven man was killed by his own toy helicopter in Brooklyn Thursday afternoon.

Roman Pirozek was flying his remote control helicopter in Calvert Vaux Park in Gravesend around 3:40 p.m. when one of the blades hit him in the head, killing him.

According to police, emergency crews responded to Bay 44th Street and Shore Parkway and found Pirozek unconscious and unresponsive lying on the ground with severe head trauma. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pirozek reportedly graduated from High School For Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Queens and was vice president of a Brooklyn-based model helicopter flying club, Seaview Rotary Wings.

His YouTube channel, where he posted several videos of his hobby, shows his passion for model helicopters.

Pirozek also attended Woodhaven’s St. Thomas the Apostle School, according to the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA).

“We heard the news from one of his teachers who said he was a wonderful person from a good family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time—it’s hard to comprehend the pain they must be feeling,” said the WRBA.

Woodhaven looks to resurrect civilian patrol organization


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Frank Kotnik

Woodhaven leaders are seriously considering resurrecting the more-than-a-decade defunct civilian patrol to respond to recent crimes in the neighborhood.

Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) recently met with Assemblymember Mike Miller and members of the Glendale Civilian Operational Patrol (GCOP) to discuss how to start the neighborhood watch. And in a town hall meeting last week, WRBA members took a poll of attendees to gauge the interest, to which there were nearly a dozen responders.

“We want safer streets, we want to improve the quality of life in our community and we want our residents to feel empowered,” said Ed Wendell, president of the WRBA.

Wendell said talks about the patrol heated up after a man attempted to rape a woman in Forest Park a few months ago, but then more crimes followed. Last month a teenage girl was stabbed in Woodhaven nearly a dozen times and a few weeks ago a wife was arrested for allegedly killing her husband by smashing her car after he clung to the hood. Also, a girl was robbed recently in the area.

“We are not just sitting back and letting things happen,” Wendell said. “We are going to be a force in our future.”

There are no statistics that show whether neighborhood watch groups actually lower or prevent crime, but the precincts appreciate their help, according to an NYPD representative.

The new patrol will work together with GCOP, as Woodhaven wants to model their program on them. GCOP has been operating since 1976 and currently has about 56 active members.

GCOP will lend equipment, such as radios, reflective vests and flashlights, to the patrol once it is established. Members of the Glendale Patrol will also train new Woodhaven volunteers on how to spot suspicious activity and to be extra “eyes and ears” for the NYPD as opposed to vigilantes.

“When I got involved 25 years ago, no one lent us a hand,” said Frank Kotnik, president of GCOP. “They will not be out there by themselves.”

Miller, who was a member of GCOP for more than 16 years, said he would be willing to help collect funding for the group once the patrol becomes established.

“I always felt I was doing something significant for the community,” Miller said. “It is a good feeling and once you become a part of it you want to do more.”

Before the group can get started Woodhaven needs to collect dedicated members and address concerns, such as transportation and donations. They will also meet with GCOP again and the 102nd Precinct.

 

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Community concerned over newly opened skate park


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photos

Concerns about London Planetree Skate Park have been rolling since the facility opened a month go.

At a recent Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting, neighbors shared their worries about safety in the park, which attracts droves of local skaters.

Some attendees asked for improved lighting on the outside of the park, located on Atlantic Avenue. Others suggested there a crosswalk should be installed to make it easier for young skaters to cross the street.

Presently, a long median splits traffic on the avenue, but there are no traffic lights to stop vehicles. Residents also say the median island is high, making it difficult for small children and disabled people to cross.

“There were very few isolated reported incidents, but there is no cause for alarm,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who praised the park for its safety and popularity.

Ulrich said cutting the median for a crosswalk would be difficult because the median sits on top of a LIRR tunnel and utilities. But as for the suggested lighting the councilmember has already contacted the Department of Transportation (DOT) to inquire about adding more lights around the park.

That came as welcome news to Woodhaven resident Janet Forte, who said she recently saw a car almost hit two skaters on Atlantic Avenue. Forte believes it was difficult to see the skateboarders because of low visibility at night and because they were not wearing any reflective equipment.

“There are a lot of adults and teenagers going there,” Forte said. “I think we need to be proactive and not reactive. I don’t want to see anyone killed.”

“It’s a beautiful skate park” said Alex Blenkinsopp, communications director of the WRBA. “We are confident that these won’t be persistent problems.”

 

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Woodhaven residents not happy with holiday tree replacement


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Josephine Wendell

A tree grows in Woodhaven — but residents say it’s the wrong one.

They are barking mad that the Parks Department replaced the nearly 30-year-old Woodhaven holiday tree, which was downed by Sandy, with a deciduous “street tree.”

“That tree meant a lot to the residents of Woodhaven,” said Alex Blenkinsopp, communications director for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA). “We had expected that a suitable replacement would be planted in place of our lost holiday tree.”

The former tree on Forest Parkway near Jamaica Avenue was more than three stories tall and was used for the community’s annual tree lighting ceremony for 27 years.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) bought and planted it when it was only about seven feet tall. Before the tree was planted, residents had used an artificial tree for the lighting ceremony.

The new one is approximately 15 feet tall with a trunk diameter of about four inches, but is expected to grow.
Neighbors believe the new tree will not be a suitable replacement because deciduous trees lose their leaves, meaning they will not be able to decorate it and it will not be distinct from other trees on the block.

The WRBA started a Facebook page dedicated to finding a suitable replacement, called “Restore Woodhaven’s Holiday Tree,” on July 7. Since then, the page has gained more than 200 likes.

Steve and Janet Forte, members of the WRBA, volunteered to donate a nine-foot pine in their yard that they obtained more than a decade ago from the Arbor Day Foundation. The couple wants to give it away because it will eventually outgrow their yard and they want to help keep the tradition rooted in Woodhaven for generations to come.

“It’s a traditional thing and when you go away from tradition you lose a piece of the neighborhood. It’s like losing a part of the family,” Forte said, adding that the tree is “sort of an icon in Woodhaven.”

Parks is aware of the problem with the replacement and will work to fix it, officials said.

“We planned to plant a Christmas tree there with the Parks Department and we planned a ceremony for it,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the GWDC. “I called them [Parks] and they said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake.’”

A new evergreen tree will be planted in the area during the fall planting season, according to the Parks Department. As for the current tree, it will be transplanted somewhere close by.

“It seems like a brand new young tree,” said Blenkinsopp. “We would love to see it grow, but somewhere else.”

The Woodhaven holiday tree before and after Sandy. 

 

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