Tag Archives: woodhaven

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
Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

Video via YouTube/Edward Wendell



Woodhaven man killed by toy helicopter

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook


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.



Woodhaven manhole fires injure five, damage two vehicles

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy State Senator Michael Gianaris

Five people were injured and two vehicles damaged in a pair of manhole fires in Woodhaven early Thursday morning.

The fire department responded to the blaze on 88th Road and 75th Street just before 1 a.m., officials said, and the flames were under control around 2 a.m.

The fires, which awoke residents, were caused by a failure in underground electrical wiring and equipment, according to Con Edison.

The victims were taken to Jamaica Hospital for smoke inhalation.

Senator Michael Gianaris rushed over to the area after the fire was put out. He said the smell of fire was still lingering in the air and the street was blocked off. Gianaris was concerned about the trouble with the electrical system.

“Unfortunately this is not our first experience with Con Ed having problems with their infrastructure,” he said. “It was a little bit too familiar.”


Woodhaven immigrant allegedly created fake paintings as part of multimillion-dollar scam

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A Chinese immigrant from Woodhaven was reportedly the artist behind a multimillion-dollar scam where fake paintings were pawned off to galleries as original works.

Pei-Shen Qian, 73, was known to his neighbors on 95th Street as a “struggling artist,” according to the New York Times. But they didn’t realize that in his garage he was allegedly creating dozens of paintings and drawings that were passed off as pieces by Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell and other artistic bigwigs.

Though the works were sold for more than $80 million, Qian was allegedly paid less than $75,000 for creating the fakes, according to CBS New York.

New York art dealer Glafira Rosales of Sands Point, Long Island, who is suspected of selling the faux art pieces from 1994 through 2009, reportedly pleaded not guilty in connection to the scheme on Monday. More arrests are expected.

Neighbors told the New York Times that Qian hasn’t been charged with a crime, and after the FBI searched his home last week, he went to China.





Howard Beach man convicted in Woodhaven sex assault

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

A Howard Beach man has been convicted following a sexual assault earlier this year.

Richard Kassebaum, 42, was working at a Woodhaven laundromat in March when he approached a female patron at about 4:30 a.m. as she exited the store, grabbed her from behind and choked her. Kassebaum then grabbed the victim’s buttocks, and after she screamed, he fled the location, according to trial testimony.

“[Kassebaum] poses a serious threat to public safety and, under the circumstances, a significant prison sentence is more than warranted,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

The “sexual predator” was convicted on Thursday, August 1 on first and third-degree sexual abuse and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. The charges followed a one-week jury trial before the borough Supreme Court.

Video surveillance from the laundromat revealed Kassebaum inside the establishment, then standing in the parking lot as the victim left. Kassebaum was then seen walking behind the woman and following her onto Woodhaven Boulevard. Video footage shortly afterwards shows Kassebaum running back and reentering the laundromat, said Brown.

Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, August 15. Kassebaum, who has been held in jail in lieu of a $50,000 bail, faces up to seven years in prison.



Cops release new photos of suspect in Woodhaven teen stabbing

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Police have released photos of a person wanted for questioning in the brutal stabbing of a Woodhaven teen last week.

The pictures, circulated on Tuesday, are the latest actions taken by police to catch the suspect, who violently stabbed Natasha Martinez, 17, nearly a dozen times while she was returning home from work on Monday, July 29 at approximately 11:30 p.m.

The perpetrator stabbed Martinez in her back and torso, cops said, and she was rushed to Jamaica Hospital. Martinez is still in the hospital in stable condition, according to authorities.

Residents around the area are frightened about the incident and hope the suspect is caught soon.

“For 22 years I’ve been living here and this is the first time I’ve been scared,” said Niki Rampaul.
Rampaul also said she takes the same route home from work that Martinez took.

A black male with a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and dark jeans is seen in the new pictures released. In early reports witnesses described the attacker as approximately 5’6” tall and 150 pounds.

On Monday police said they had a man in custody and were questioning him about the crime. That person was later released and no charges were filed.

Cops also released a video of a man believed to have a connection with the stabbing. Additionally, signs have been posted around the neighborhood, detailing a $12,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the crime may be connected to another stabbing a few neighborhoods away.

“We’re seeing if there is a pattern here,” Kelly said last week, referring to Kerline Denizard, 36, who was seriously wounded when a vicious attacker cut her neck and torso with a knife in Queens Village in June. Like Martinez, Denizard survived the attack.

Neighbors who have lived in Woodhaven for more than a decade said they have seen a decline in community.

“You just see different type of people,” said resident Linda Sanchez. “They don’t care about where they live.”

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




Suspect in custody in Woodhaven teen stabbing

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Police have a suspect in custody in connection with a Woodhaven stabbing

Police have a suspect in custody in connection with the stabbing of a teenager in Woodhaven.

Natasha Martinez, 17, was returning home after work on July 29 at approximately 11:30 p.m. when she was stabbed from behind nearly a dozen times in the back and torso, cops said. Martinez was rushed to Jamaica Hospital.

Police are questioning the suspect and as of Monday afternoon charges are pending.

Martinez is still in critical condition at the hospital.



Police looking into possible link between Woodhaven stabbing of teen and earlier attack

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

The NYPD is looking into a possible connection between stabbings in south Queens, after two women were slashed within a month.

“We’re seeing if there is a pattern here,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, according to reports.

Natasha Martinez, 17, was attacked and stabbed from behind nearly a dozen times when she was returning to her Woodhaven home from work on July 29. Kerline Denizard, 36, was seriously wounded when a vicious attacker cut her neck and torso with a knife in Queens Village on June 25, according to police. Both women survived the attacks.

No suspects have been identified or arrests made in either case.

The suspects in both attacks were described as a black male.

A witness described Martinez’s perpetrator as a black male, approximately five feet six inches tall and 150 pounds, wearing a white hoodie and dark jeans. The NYPD released a video showing the suspect that stabbed Martinez.

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



Woman stabbed in Woodhaven

| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic image

Natasha Martinez, 17, was returning to her Woodhaven home after work when she was attacked and stabbed from behind.

The incident occurred at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Monday as Martinez was walking along 85th Street when police said she was stabbed in the back and torso. There are currently no suspects or arrests, the NYPD said.

A witness described the perpetrator as a black male, approximately five feet six inches tall and 150 pounds, wearing a white t-shirt and dark jeans.

Martinez was taken to Jamaica Hospital and was in stable condition as of press time, according to police.

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



Update: Two wanted in 10 Queens, Manhattan armed robberies

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Cops are searching for two men suspected in 10 store robberies around Queens and Manhattan.

The thefts, seven of which took place in the Queens neighborhoods of Woodside, Astoria, Sunnyside, Elmhurst, Flushing and Woodhaven, occurred between May, 11 and July 25, according to police.

The businesses the men allegedly robbed include Woodside Liquors & Wines on Woodside Avenue, Shorna Variety and Grocery on 48th Street, Desai Convenience store on 43rd Avenue, a Gulf Gas Station on the Horace Harding Expressway, Beverage Depot on Northern Boulevard, M&N Deli Grocery on Atlantic Avenue and the Dhaka Mini Market on Grand Avenue.

In each incident, the suspects, one armed with a gun, entered the store and demanded money. There were no reported injuries during the robberies.

Th first suspect is described as Hispanic, 6 feet tall and 180 to 200 pounds. The second suspect is Hispanic, six feet tall, 180 to 190 pounds and has a tattoo on his left forearm.

Police have released a photo of the vehicle they fled in during the latest robbery at the Dhaka Mini Market, at 85-42 Grand Avenue, around 4:40 p.m., Thursday.

The min-van has front end passenger side damage and different wheel rims on the front and back passenger side wheels.

Updated, Saturday, July 27 



City Council honors Woodhaven-based karate team for national, international wins

| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan


Councilman Eric Ulrich and the City Council presented a proclamation to the Woodhaven-based Falcon International Karate Do Association (FIKA) United States team at City Hall today for its success this past March.

FIKA USA won three gold, eight silver and thirteen bronze medals at the 2013 USA Open Karate Championships and Junior International Cup in Las Vegas. The team has represented New York City and the United States in national and international tournaments since 2006.

FIKA promotes the traditions and values of Karate Do, including respect, loyalty, honor and discipline. It has been providing instruction since 2004.





MLB to donate $250K to Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Major League Baseball stepped up to the plate for south Queens.

The league announced it will donate $250,000 to build an all-star teen center in the new wing of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens as part of its $5 million legacy project.

The Boys & Girls Club is currently undergoing an $11.5 million capital project transformation, with the first phase the completion of the left wing.

In a topping off ceremony on Friday, July 12, public officials, Mets and MLB administrators and Boys and Girls Club members signed a white beam that was hoisted and inserted on top of the new wing, which is currently scheduled to be finished in December.

“The club has served more than 500,000 children in its 57-year existence,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who was able to contribute nearly half of the money needed for the renovations. “I am thrilled that this new building will become a second home to thousands of additional children in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The teen center will be a 3,000-square-foot space decorated in Mets orange and blue. It will include a technology lab, a college lab, classroom space, a lounge and a viewing balcony overlooking the new gymnasium. The center will serve high school students in Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Howard Beach and Jamaica.

“While other clubs have gone extinct, this boys and girls club has become a beacon of hope,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo.

The Boys and Girls Club was one of many projects in Queens and New York City chosen by the Mets and MLB as part of their legacy programs.

“The Mets and baseball targeted programs that provide great service for New York City, that have worked successfully in the past with both the Mets and Major League Baseball and that are best suited to create lasting benefits and to make a real difference in the lives of deserving New Yorkers,” said David Cohen, executive vice president of the Mets.

After the new wing is erected, the club will begin phase two of the transformation and renovate the old wing. Phase two is slated to begin in April of next year, according to Carol Simon, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Joseph Ferrara, chairman emeritus, who has been a part of the club for nearly 45 years. “I always envisioned that I would rebuild this club better.”




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. 



Suspects swipe copper pipes in Woodhaven

| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking a pair of copper pipe thieves in Woodhaven.

The two suspects entered a vacant residence at 75-09 Jamaica Avenue on Sunday, June 23 around 3:55 a.m. without permission or authority and removed the copper piping, cops said.

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