Tag Archives: year in review

2013: The year in photos

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photos

As we bid adieu to 2013, The Queens Courier brings you a look at the year that was . . . from the selection of a new Pope to the downfall of our elected officials, to tragedy, controversy and everything in between. And as we look ahead to 2014, we wish our new legislators luck and the best year for our readers.


LIC crane collapses
Seven workers suffered minor injuries when a crane collapsed at a Long Island City building site at Center Boulevard and 46th Avenue on Jan. 9. Later that month, the Department of Buildings issued 12 violations to several parties involved in the collapse, including the crane’s operator, the contractor, the site safety manager and the property owner. (THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman)

School bus strike
On Jan. 16, drivers from Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union walked off the job, impacting 152,000 students, including 54,000 with disabilities. In an effort to cut costs, the city wanted to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years. The union was objecting to the lack of job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones. The school bus finally came to an end in mid February. (THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman)

Marshall’s final State of the Borough
In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, on Jan. 22, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy, honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm—Dylan Smith, the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico in December 2012. Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, also during the address called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

Obama OKs Sandy aid
Exactly three months to the day that Sandy hit, President Obama signed a $50.5 billion Sandy aid bill on Jan. 29. The Senate passed the legislation in a 62 to 36 vote, preceded by the House two weeks earlier. It was the final portion of an approximately $60 billion Sandy relief package. Earlier in the month, the president signed a $9.7 billion aid bill that temporarily increased the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for carrying out the National Flood Insurance Program. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)


Ed Koch dies
Ed Koch, the three-term New York City mayor known for his larger than life personality and penchant for the big and small screen, died on Feb. 1 after months of health complications. He was 88. Koch was first elected mayor in 1977 after serving in Congress since 1969 where he represented parts of the Bronx. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in 2010 that the 59th Street Bridge would be named after Koch. The change was met with criticism. (Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office Flickr/ Edward Reed)

Bloomberg’s last State of the City
Addressing a crowd at downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Feb. 14, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his final State of the City address, spent a full hour going over the achievements of his nearly 12 years at the helm of the City of New York, and promised to keep pushing forward during the last 320 days of his administration.(BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Ted Levin)

Mom of slain guardsman vows justice
A Queens grand jury concluded on Feb. 15 that there would be no criminal charges fi led in connection to the death of Army reservist Noel Polanco who was shot by a police officer on the Grand Central Parkway in October 2012. At the end of February, Polanco’s mother announced a $20 million notice of claim to file a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and the officer who shot her son. (Photo via Facebook)

Richards wins special election
A special election was held on Feb. 19 to fi ll the 31st District City Council seat left vacant by James Sanders after he was elected as State Senator in fall 2012. After a heated and crowded race, two candidates declared victory on election night — Donovan Richards and Pesach Osina. A week later, Sanders’ former chief-of- staff, Richards, came out on top, with a wide enough margin to eliminate a recount. (Photo courtesy of Donovan Richards)


New pope picked
The Papal Conclave elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first South American and Jesuit Pope, on March 13, after one of the shortest Conclaves in history. He selected the papal name Francis I. The decision came just a day after the voting began, following the official end of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign at the end of February. Pope Francis, 76, is the 266th Pope and the first non-European choice in over 1,000 years. (Photo courtesy The New York Daily News)

Wright named Mets captain
Third baseman David Wright was named the fourth captain in Mets history on March 21, joining the elite group with Mets legends Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and John Franco. Last December, the 31-year-old, who made his major league debut with the team in 2004, signed one of the largest contracts in Mets history: $138 million back-loaded over the next eight years. (Photo courtesy of New York Mets)

Rockaway residents take to City Hall
Scores traveled to the steps of City Hall on March 23 to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city to help Rockaway residents rebuild after Sandy. Shoulder-to-shoulder with elected officials and candidates for mayor and borough president, resident after resident told personal stories of their prolonged recovery and demanded a say in how the peninsula is rebuilt. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)


FBI arrests two Queens lawmakers
State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Dan Halloran were among six officials arrested by the FBI for conspiring to rig the mayoral election. Smith, a registered Democrat, allegedly bribed county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican. He needed consent from three of the city’s five Republican Party county chairmen. Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county leaders and negotiating payoffs, allegedly pocketing $21,000 in the process. Vincent Tabone, then-vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, and Joseph Savino, then-chair of the Bronx County GOP — who later pleaded guilty — were allegedly part of the conspiracy scheme, officials said. Smith, Halloran and Tabone pleaded not guilty and are still locked in legal battles. (File photos) 

Teacher charged with raping ex-student
Daniel Reilly, a sixth grade English teacher at I.S. 237, was charged with felony second-degree rape for having sex multiple times with a 14-year-old girl he used to teach. The 36-year-old married father from Forest Hills pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in prison and 10 years’ probation. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Queens Courier takes top press honors
The Queens Courier won the New York Press Association’s Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence for the second year in a row. The team of reporters also placed fi rst for Best In-Depth Reporting and second for Best Spot News Coverage for their coverage of Sandy. Writers Terence Cullen, Maggie Hayes and Alexa Altman were each given individual accolades. (THE COURIER/File photo)


Ex-legislator sentenced to prison
Former State Senator Shirley Huntley was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for embezzling $88,000. Days before she was sentenced, a federal judge unsealed a document revealing she wiretapped several city and state legislators. She lost her Senate seat to James Sanders in a primary election last year. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)


Teen shot to death on city bus
D’aja “Asia” Robinson, 14, was shot in the head and killed on a Q6 bus in what community leaders called a “senseless act of violence.” She was on her way home from a birthday party when a shooter allegedly fired multiple times into the bus from the sidewalk near Sutphin Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard. (Left photo courtesy of Facebook/Right photo THE COURIER/By Maggie Hayes)

Weiner enters mayor’s race
After resigning from Congress in June 2011 because of a Twitter sext scandal, Anthony Weiner entered the race for mayor. Though he led early polls, Weiner lost favorability with voters after another sexting scandal surfaced. He ended up placing fifth in the Democratic primary election with five percent of the votes. “We had the best ideas,” Weiner said in his concession speech. “Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger.” (File photo)

Queens kid crowned National Spelling Bee champ
Teen whiz Arvind Mahankali won this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30. By accurately spelling “knaidel,” the 13-year-old from Bayside beat 281 contestants and took home more than $30,000 in cash and prizes. It was Mahankali’s fourth and fi nal try at the prestigious, televised contest. The eighth grader at M.S. 74 placed third at the last two Bees. (Photo by Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)


New amusement park opens
Fantasy Forest, the borough’s newest amusement park, opened in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It has five rides, including the iconic Flushing Meadows Carousel and the borough’s only roller coaster, which was christened the Corona Cobra Coaster. (Photo courtesy of NY Carousel)

LIC Flea & Food launches
After much anticipation, LIC Flea & Food opened in June. Showcasing some of the city’s fi nest artists and vendors, the brand new market ran every weekend this summer at 5-25 46th Avenue (the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue) in Long Island City. LIC Flea & Food Indoor Holiday Market went on to open indoors in December.


Retired firefighter rescues toddler on Independence Day
Retired firefighter John Manzione saved a toddler from drowning in Maspeth, preventing an Independence Day tragedy. Manzione, a Maspeth native, sprang into action after hearing screams for help from neighbors. He found the two-year-old boy motionless and initiated CPR until EMS services arrived and put the child on an oxygen machine to help him breath.


First-ever MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field
The Mets hosted the first-ever MLB All-Star game at Citi Field on July 16. Mets third baseman and captain David Wright started for the National League and phenom pitcher Matt Harvey was the starting pitcher in his first appearance at the Mid-summer Classic. The last time the Mets hosted the All-Star game was in 1964, the first season for Shea Stadium. Ron Hunt was the only Mets player to start that game. (Left photoTHE COURIER/By Liam La Guerre/Right photo courtesy of the New York Mets)


Pregnant woman killed in Kissena Park by felled tree
Ying Yi Li-Dikov, 30, who was six months pregnant with a baby girl, was sitting on a bench in Kissena Park on Aug. 4 when a 50-foot oak tree snapped eight feet from the ground and struck her from behind, killing her, city officials said. Following her death her family planned to sue the city over the incident. There was also a push to investigate park trees and to review all tree management procedures. Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, and State Senator Tony Avella suggested the city should suspend its Million Tree Program and use the funds for tree maintenance. (THE COURIER/File photo)

Reduction of city restaurants fines
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a deal to reduce restaurant fines on Aug. 18. The City Council and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the joint agreement will reduce fines generated by violations of the city’s inspection system by $10 million per year. Approximately 60 percent of violations will be set to a minimum $200 fine, including low-level violations, which was an average of $295. Fines for the two highest levels of critical violations will be reduced from $349 and $420 to $300 and $350, respectively. (THE COURIER/Photo by Johann Hamilton)

Famed designer Charles Pollock dies in fatal fire
Famed designer Charles Pollock died in a house fire in Jamaica on Aug. 20. Pollock, 83, of Charles Pollock Designs, created one of the best-selling office chairs in history, the Pollock Executive Chair. Pollock graduated from the Pratt Institute, which he attended on a full scholarship. He was featured in publications such as The New York Times for his designs, and his work appeared in various museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and the Louvre in France. (THE COURIER/File photo)

First lady highlights US Open kick-off
First lady Michelle Obama headlined a star-studded 18th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on Aug. 24 to kick off the US Open. Obama was joined on stage by tennis royalty, including this year’s women’s champion, Serena Williams, and men’s winner, Rafael Nadal. The two-week tournament generated an overall economic impact of approximately $720 million for the city, according to the United States Tennis Association, and more than 713,000 fans attended the event. (Photo by Dominick Totino)


Forest Park rape suspect tied to additional attacks
In early September police tied a suspect to six sexual attacks that took place in and around Forest Park dating back to March 2011, including one on August 26, 2013, when a man tasered and pushed a 69-year-old woman to the ground before raping her. Police describe the perpetrator as white, 30 to 40 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches, with light brown hair. Since the attacks, Assemblymember Mike Miller and Senator Joe Addabbo allocated $250,000 for more than a dozen cameras inside the park and received permission from the NYPD to have the devices installed. (Photo courtesy of NYPD)


Back to school
Amid colocations, overcrowding and new schools opening up, Queens kids went back to school. Holding hands with their parents and carrying their backpacks, the children showed nothing but smiles after their first day back to learning. (THE COURIER/File photos)

Queens native goes on D.C. shooting spree
Former Flushing resident Aaron Alexis, 34, went on a shooting rampage on Sept. 16, killing a dozen people at a Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. At least 13 people were confirmed dead, including Alexis, and at least 14 were injured. (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

Fresh Meadows man shoots two
Fresh Meadows resident Sang Ho Kim, 63, shot two employees, killing one, in Savenergy, an energy efficiency company in East Garden City, then fled. His body was found a week later in the Hudson River with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth. A heart condition also contributed to his drowning, police said. (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County Police Department)


Avonte Oquendo goes missing 
Avonte Oquendo, 14, went missing Oct. 4 and has still not been found. He was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park autistic teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school. There is a $95,000 reward to find him. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)

City Council votes on developments
The City Council voted to approve three major development projects in the borough. The first was the $3 billion Willets Point project, making way for a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center near Citi Field. Then it approved the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to turn the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz into two apartment towers in larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules. The final approval went to the $1 billion Hallets Point Project, bringing thousands of residential apartments, retail space and parkland to the Astoria waterfront. (Rendering courtesy NYCEDC)

Banksy comes to Queens
The ghost-like and notorious British graffiti artist, only known by the name Banksy, hit the streets to tag his way around the Big Apple in October. In a unique show titled “Better Out Than In,” he went around each day of the month and left his pieces for people to find. Banksy made his first stop in Queens on Oct. 14 in Woodside, his second trip was near an auto mechanic shop in Willets Point. On Halloween, Banksy bid farewell to New York City in Long Island City. Banksy posted on his website “And that’s it. Thanks for your patience. It’s been fun. Save 5Pointz. Bye.” (Photo Courtesy Kenny Mendoza)

Queens Museum expansion opening
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and offi cials cut the ribbon on the $68 million Queens Museum expansion project on Oct. 30. The Queens Museum, formerly known as the Queens Museum of Art and located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, doubled its size to 105,000 square feet. Since reopening to the public on Nov. 9, the museum now features new galleries, classrooms, a new wing with nine artist studios and a sky-lit atrium. Queens Museum will also have its own 5,000-square-foot public library in 2015, making room for about 14,000 books. Its expansion was designed by Grimshaw and largely funded by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Bloomberg, the state and City Council.(THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)


General election
The 2013 general election brought in a slew of freshman legislators. Melinda Katz won the general election and will be the 19th Queens Borough President, replacing term-limited Helen Marshall. Later in the year, Katz appointed longtime Councilmember Leroy Comrie as her Deputy Borough President, who was also term-limited out of his 27th district City Council seat. Union leader Daneek Miller was elected as his successor. Elsewhere in the borough, Councilmember Eric Ulrich was re-elected to represent the 32nd district. Paul Vallone was chosen for the 19th district to replace disgraced Councilmember Dan Halloran, who was arrested in April on corruption charges and didn’t seek re-election, and Costa Constantinides will take office in District 22, where previously Vallones had reigned for decades. (THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen)

Typhoon hits locally
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, destroying islands in the eastern Philippines and claiming the lives of thousands of people. Following the storm, which was one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, members of the Queens Filipino community scrambled to get in touch with loved ones at home while organizing donations in the borough. (Photo courtesy of NASA NOAA)


5Pointz whitewashed
After a long fight to save 5Pointz, Long Island City’s graffiti mecca, years of art was whitewashed overnight. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action, to the shock and dismay of hundreds of local artists and fans. Rallies were held throughout November to save the site, including a gathering just three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building with its art be landmarked. (THE COURIER/File photos)


City gets first outdoor studio
Kaufman Astoria Studios celebrated the grand opening of its outdoor film set, the first of its kind in New York City, and a brand new gated entrance on December 3. The brand new outdoor lot, on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues, is expected to bring in more movie and TV productions because it would allow outdoor shoots, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. (THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano)


Great light fight
The brightest house in Whitestone outshone others nationally when it won ABC channel’s Christmas decorating competition, “The Great Light Fight,” on December 9. The Lynch family decorated their house with 300,000 lights and more than 100 animatronics. Kevin Lynch worked from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. for 20 days to create the most elaborate, festive display and the family won $50,000, beating stiff competition from homes in California, Virginia and Georgia. (THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan)

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives 
The Food Network’s hit show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, made a stop in Astoria to feature Queens Comfort. The show’s host, Guy Fieri, visited the 30th Avenue spot in early December. Owner Donnie D’Alessio said he had to shut down the restaurant, prepare eight dishes and remake some of the food several times over, but it was well worth it. (Photo courtesy of Donnie D’Alessio/Queens Comfort)

2012: A year in pictures

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Breezy Point Sandy


Fire bomber charged in hate crime: Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, confessed to a string of five fire bombings, four in Queens and one on Long Island. No one was injured in the attacks and Lengend was charged with a hate crime.

Queens native named Obama chief of staff: Forest Hills native Jacob Lew, an orthodox Jew, was named President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in a ceremony at the White House on January 14. Lew, 56, grew up on Yellowstone Boulevard and graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1972.

Worst landlords named: A list released by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio named the 50 worst landlords throughout the city, including 15 with dozens of properties in Queens. The dishonor roll, based on complaints and violations over the past year, was compiled to warn residents searching for apartments.

Flushing nurses protest: About 200 registered nurses at Flushing Hospital rallied outside the facility after their contracts expired in December. The nurses protested for better healthcare, pay and pension benefits.


Giants win Super Bowl: For the second time in five years, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Eli Manning was named MVP of the Giants 21-17 victory.

Con Ed heroes: Four Con Edison employees — John Kane, John McDonnell, Michael Santeramo and Anthony Farmighetti — rushed to the aid of the victim of a violent purse snatching in Bayside before chasing after the suspect.

NY goes Lin-sane: New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin took New York and Madison Square Garden by storm after entering the team’s starting lineup in February. Lin-sanity took over the city as the unheralded, undrafted Harvard graduate played like an MVP and helped lead the Knicks to the playoffs.

FreshDirect heads to Bronx: FreshDirect, an online fresh food grocer, announced they will move their operations from Long Island City and leave the borough for larger facilities in the Bronx, taking with them 2,000 Queens jobs.


Heejun Han on ‘American Idol’: Flushing-native Heejun Han sang his way into the hearts of millions of Americans each week on the hit singing competition. Han made it all the way to the top nine before being eliminated.

Peninsula Hospital closure announced: Bankruptcy and instability at Far Rockaway’s Peninsula Hospital forced the medical center to close its doors leaving the peninsula with just one hospital, St. John’s Episcopal.

FedEx moves to LIC: FedEx announced plans to open a new, 14,000-square-foot FedEx Ground distribution center costing $56 million on Borden Avenue in LIC. The facility will be larger and contain more automated package sorting systems than the existing station in Maspeth, allowing the company to better serve the area.

Woodhaven drug ring busted by FBI: A drug ring headquartered in Woodhaven known as the Perez Organization was busted by the FBI for allegedly distributing over 20 kilograms of heroin, possessing a street value of around $2.75 million, to drug dealers in Queens and Long Island.


Driver arrested after leaving toddler on empty school bus: A private bus driver was arrested on April 12 after she left her vehicle unattended in Corona with a toddler still aboard. Police broke a window on the bus and removed two-year-old Samantha Bustamante, who they believe was left alone for roughly 15 minutes. Bustamante — who was in good physical condition, according to EMS — was taken back to the 110th Precinct, where she was reunited with her mother. The bus driver, 62-year-old Ana Garcia, was charged with failure to exercise control of a minor.

Hero firefighter saves woman: Firefighter James Goelz became a hero when he made his first on-the-job rescue, saving an elderly, unconscious woman from her Lindenwood apartment, which became a blazing inferno on April 6.

Kung fu fighter thwarts sex assault: Good Samaritan Mike Novak thwarted a sexual assault in Sunnyside on April 8, when he ran to the aid of his female neighbor, who was being groped by a man in the bushes down the block from his house. The 54-year-old kung fu fighter chased the perp away, then pulled the victim out of the bush and stayed by her side until authorities arrived.


Historic carousel spins once more: The Forest Park Carousel held its grand reopening on May 26 after nearly four years of being shuttered. Hundreds of visitors, both children and adults, were able to take another spin on the historic, century-old merry-go-round.

Bayside cop arrested after heroin bust: Bayside cop Devon Daniels was arrested on May 15 for his role in allegedly aiding drug dealers. The 30 year old, who was assigned to the 111th Precinct, allegedly communicated with the leader of a Jamaica-based heroin distribution organization on numerous occasions to ask for money and to borrow vehicles, authorities said.

Gruesome murder in Bayside home: A Bayside woman was found dead in her basement with lacerations to her neck after the man she lived with allegedly killed her, set fire to their shared home and tried to hang himself in the couple’s bedroom closet. The gruesome scene occurred on May 23, claiming the life of Eun Hee Sin, 57, and sending a 56-year-old unidentified Asian man to the hospital, where he was said to be in stable condition.


Queens kid places third in national spelling bee: Bayside Hills whiz kid Arvind Mahankali won third place at the televised Scripps National Spelling Bee for the second consecutive year. The 12 year old’s spellbinding run ended when he misspelled “schwannoma,” a German name-based word that means a type of cancer. Mahankali, a seventh grader from J.H.S. 74, took home $7,500.

First no-hitter for Mets: Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1, when the New York team won 8-0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Santana walked five and struck out eight.

Willets Point development details announced: Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced specifics of the Willets Point project, which includes retail space, a hotel and quicker access to the Van Wyck Expressway. More than 12,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs would come from the proposed Willets Point renovation, he said, which is expected to bring $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years. A new component, Willets West, was also designated from a portion of the Citi Field parking lot to become one-million square feet of space for retail, entertainment and dining.


Con Ed lockout: As temperatures across the city spiked, Con Edison locked out more than 8,000 workers over heated  contract talks — leaving 5,000 managers responsible for maintaining electric, gas and steam service  for the company’s 3.2 million customers. The power giant blamed the stalemate on leaders of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 1-2 — the union representing roughly 8,000 Con Edison employees — who refused to accept its offer to extend their members’ contract for two  weeks. After a major push to end negotiations from Governor Andrew Cuomo, locked-out Con Ed  workers returned to their posts following a tentative agreement between the utility provider and representatives from the UWUA Local 1-2, ending the month-long stalemate.

Former pol arrested: Former Queens Assemblymember Jimmy Meng, the father of newly appointed Congressmember Grace Meng, was arrested on a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly attempting to scam $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant. Meng allegedly promised the defendant — who sought the former elected official’s help after being charged with state tax crimes — that his sentence would be reduced to one year if he paid prosecutors $20,000 each in bribes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Federal prosecutors said Meng offered to act as the middle man, instructing the individual to conceal and deliver the $80,000 payout in a fruit basket. The government investigation, however, uncovered no evidence the past politician even contacted prosecutors, and officials said Meng planned to keep the bribe money for himself.

Soda ban: Tensions fizzed over when locals expressed their distaste for the city’s proposed ban on large, sugary beverages at a public hearing on July 24.  “Will the government be telling me when to go to bed next?” asked Councilmember Dan Halloran. “Or how big my steak should be? How many potato chips I can eat? After all, it’s all in the name of my health. And clearly the government knows what’s best for me.” The soda ban will halt the sale of sugary bottled and fountain drinks, such as teas, sodas and sports drinks, of more than 16 ounces in every store and restaurant with letter grades, movie theaters, sports venues, delis and food trucks and carts. Diet sodas, calorie-free drinks, and drinks with at least 50 percent milk are exempted from the regulation.

Summer crime wave:  As temperatures soared, so did crime rates. And Queens did not remain bulletproof. Between July 4 and July 7, four deaths occurred throughout the borough, one man critically wounded and an MTA cop suffered a sight-threatening injury. On early Saturday, July 7, three men were fatally shot, and a fourth wounded, in Jamaica. Police said there were two shooters — one of whom fired 63 rounds from an AK-47. This was one of several shootings or stabbings to take place over what was considered the Fourth of July weekend. Councilmember Peter Vallone, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said this spike in citywide crime was due to a decrease in the amount of on-duty cops and a spike in criminals — mainly due to budget cuts. These factors — along with soaring temperatures — were causing a higherthan-normal spike in crimes, Vallone said.


Sikh temple shooting: The August 5 shooting at an Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara that killed six and wounded four struck close to home for the tens of thousands of Sikhs in Queens. Of the at least 300,000 Sikhs in the United States, between 30,000 to 40,000 live in New York City, with the bulk residing in Queens. Elected officials and religious leaders gathered at the Sikh Cultural Society — where thousands of Sikhs congregate weekly — the day after the shooting rampage inside the Wisconsin Sikh Temple to offer condolences to the community and show support. Shooter Wade Michael Page, an army veteran and alleged white supremacist, was killed at the scene. Post-9/11, the country experienced a large spike in hate crimes against Sikhs, said Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition. While incidents have slowed in recent years, Singh said discrimination in schools and the work place still persists.

Fire at home under construction: More than 100 firefighters from 33 units responded to the three-alarm blaze on Tuesday, August 14, at a Douglaston home, which was under renovations. The 39-12 Douglaston Parkway dwelling received 44 complaints since March 2008 from callers saying the ongoing construction work being done at the site exceeded the scope of the approved permit, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB). No one was in the house at the time, and no one was severely injured, an official said. While all complaints made against the home were listed as closed, homeowner David Wei Huang was pinned for two violations from the DOB and 17 from the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Of those violations, nine were still outstanding, according to the DOB, and were related to the ongoing construction. Huang was issued a $2,500 fi ne when construction at the site was found not to be in compliance with approved plans and another $1,200 for failing to safeguard the public and his property. There were other violations for working with an expired permit, the DOB said.

Huntley surrenders: State Senator Shirley Huntley pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records and tampering with evidence in the first degree, which are felonies, and conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor, after officials said she covered up the funneling of nearly $30,000 in state funds to a non-profit she helped establish. Huntley turned herself in to the State Attorney General’s regional office on Monday, August 27, and was arraigned later that day. Voters gave Huntley the boot in September, when she decisively lost the Democratic primary to challenger James Sanders Jr., who was elected to the 10th District seat in November.


Rare tornado strikes Breezy Point: A tornado struck Breezy Point during a late summer down pour on Saturday, September 8. The twister damaged parts of the Breezy Point Surf Club, but many were thankful the club had been mostly closed up by that point. “We’re lucky the storm hit this weekend and not last weekend,” Councilmember Eric Ulrich said, who surveyed the damage in the area shortly after the storm. “Because last weekend the Surf Club was filled with people.”

“Look!” campaign promotes safety: A Department of Transportation (DOT) campaign to promote safety when texters crossed the street was launched in September. The program includes a sign that reads “LOOK!” in crosswalks throughout the city, to remind pedestrians to proceed with caution. “New Yorkers are driven to distraction with their smart phones, and the simple act of looking can prevent thousands of crashes and injuries every year,” said DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “LOOK! is a message to all New Yorkers that safety is in the eye of the beholder and everyone needs to keep an eye out for each other on our streets.”

Ulrich wins primary: Councilmember Eric Ulrich defeated Forest Hills lawyer Juan Reyes in a Senate District 15 Republican Primary on September 13. In the weeks leading up to the election, the Reyes campaign sent out a string of mailers attacking Ulrich’s reputation in the City Council and made anti-gay statements. Ulrich would go on to unsuccessfully challenge incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo in the general election. The race became one of the most contested in Queens.

Serial arsonist is nabbed: A suspect wanted for setting 13 fi res in Flushing and Murray Hill during a three-week period was arraigned on September 15. Thien K. Dinh, 43, was charged with two counts of second-degree arson, four counts of third-degree arson, 13 counts of fi rst-degree reckless endangerment and thirddegree burglary. Dinh admitted to the crimes, which included a fire at 143-01 45th Avenue near Bowne Street on August 20 that gutted adjacent businesses and totaled the four-story multiple family dwelling.


Four Richmond Hill High grads die in crash: Four teenagers from South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill were killed in the morning hours of October 8, when the car they were riding in careened off the Southern State Parkway and threw them from the vehicle. The driver, Joseph Beer, 17, survived the crash and only had a learner’s permit, authorities said. The teen was later indicted by the Nassau County District Attorney on a slew of charges that included allegations he was high at the time of the crash.

Cop, driver killed in deadly rampage: An ex-con fatally shot Nassau County police officer Arthur Lopez near the Cross Island Parkway before fleeing on Tuesday, October 23. Darrell Fuller, 33, then took off and carjacked Raymond Facey, who was shot and killed. The incident resulted in a manhunt throughout southeast Queens searching for the perp, who was later found with a bullet wound in his shoulder. He was then taken to Jamaica Hospital before being transferred to Nassau County to be charged.

Cannibal cop: NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was nabbed for plotting to kidnap and eat more at least 100 women. The six-year veteran, who lived in Forest Hills, was charged with accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database to gain information without authorization, and agreeing to kidnap a woman to sell her to an individual for no less than $5,000, according to court documents.

Sandy strikes seaside south: Superstorm Sandy shut down much of Queens beginning on Monday, October 29 and carrying into the next day. Damage was felt, at different levels, throughout the borough. Trees came down on to houses in the northeast, in one case killing a man; parts of Long Island City’s water front arose and flooded several buildings. Rockaway and Howard Beach were some of the hardest hit areas however. The channel in Howard Beach poured on to Cross Bay Boulevard and knocked out some businesses for weeks. In Rockaway, the ocean poured over and met with Jamaica Bay.


Breezy Point residents search for hope: During Superstorm Sandy, the majority of Breezy Point homes received extensive water damage, and 111 homes burned to the ground after an electrical fire sparked. Residents, left at a loss, tried to receive as much relief as possible from organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Red Cross, and many more. Kieren Burke was one of many who lost his home in the fire, and he spent some time searching for anything left behind — namely his wife’s wedding ring. Burke spent the storm in his parents’ house nearby, and ran outside once he saw the blazes engulf the streets, but he was only able to save a few things before his home was gone.

Obama visits New York after Sandy: Alongside New York’s most prominent officials, President Obama surveyed damage in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. The President arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday, November 15, and was greeted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan. He then surveyed the damage to the Rockaway peninsula by air, and went through Staten Island on foot.

The Kings of Queens: Over 400 guests gathered at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to mingle at one of the largest networking events in the borough and honor this year’s “Kings of Queens.” The fifth annual Queens Courier event, held on Thursday, November 15 featured special honoree, Steven Lacy, Fox 5 news anchor, and honored dozens of top businessmen throughout Queens.


Boardwalk future: Sandy ripped mercilessly through the Rockaways, destroying an iconic haven enjoyed by all: the boardwalk. The community came together and urged that their boardwalk be rebuilt better than ever before, so no storm can ever do this again. Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded with a new plan, hopefully to be in place by next summer. Wooden planks will be a thing of the past, and a concrete boardwalk will be put into place. Locals, although pleased, still asked for sea walls to further protect their home.

Bayside murders: A Bayside man was named in an indictment charging him with two separate counts of second-degree murder. Gregory Cucchiara, 36, was charged for beating his mother over the head before submerging her in water, and another 15 months later when he smothered his father to death. He was being held at Rikers Island, and faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted.

Sunnyside vigil: A mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut hit home for Sunnyside residents. Little Benjamin Wheeler, 6, originally from Sunnyside, was shot and killed during the unspeakable tragedy. Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook, selfl essly gave her life to the shooter while trying to save as many students as she could. Her life was also remembered at the vigil by her stepsister, who resides in Sunnyside. The massacre was the second deadliest shooting in our nation’s history, killing 26 people, 20 of who were children.

Queens’ Year in Review: Top Photos and Stories of 2011

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Cuomo Sworn In – Andrew Cuomo took over the state’s top position at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day and was sworn in later that morning.
Snow Much Better – The city was still digging out of the Blizzard of 2010 when another major storm fell on January 11. This time around, the city was ready and the streets were plowed by the next morning.Seminerio Dies – Former Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio passed away on January 6. Seminerio, pleaded guilty in June of 2009 to charges that he took nearly $1 million from hospitals, a school and other entities for actions he undertook as a member of the State Assembly. He allegedly used Marc Consultants – the consulting firm he ran for nearly eight years – to collect payments for actions he took as a state legislator.

Local hero rescues boy – Firefighter Antonio Velez of Engine 320 rescued a 12-year-old boy, navigating with his hands in black smoke, from a blaze that charred a home in Auburndale.

Hunters Point development – The development plan for Hunters Point South – complete with its view of the Manhattan skyline – was unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Waterfront Crab House in Long Island City on February 9.

Egypt is free – Egyptian flags waved freely and the words “We are free!” and “Mubarak, go to hell!” were chanted in Astoria’s “Little Egypt” on Friday, February 11.

Howard Beach’s Idol – Pia Toscano, a Howard Beach native, wowed audiences throughout the spring as she revealed her talents to the world on TV’s “American Idol.” Pia was voted off with only 9 contestants remaining.

QMA breaks ground – The Queens Museum of Art broke ground on its expansion project that will add 50,000- square-feet of new galleries, classrooms, event spaces, a cafeteria and museum shop.

Four Queens schools ordered closed – The city Panel for Education Policy had a busy workload as it voted to close or phase out 22 city schools – including four in Queens

RKO Keith Theater develops – Developer Patrick Thompson purchased the Flushing landmark for $20 million and plans to restore the historic lobby while building a 17-story tower with stores, 357 rental apartments and a community center.

Hevesi sentenced to four years – Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi was sentenced to up to four years in prison for his role in a pension fund pay-to-play scheme.

Walcott named new chancellor – After former magazine executive Cathie Black stepped down as school chancellor after only three months on the job, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott took over.

Bin Laden killed – Osama bin Laden, the world’s most infamous wanted man and the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was gunned down during a firefight that ensued in the raid of his Pakistan hideout by a U.S. Special Operations Navy Seal team on May 1.

O’Neill’s Restaurant destroyed in fire – A five-alarm fire engulfed longtime Maspeth landmark O’Neill’s Restaurant in the early morning hours of Monday, May 2.

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium denied landmark – Though it’s a landmark in the eyes of some residents, the West Side Tennis Stadium was denied further consideration as an individual city landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Weiner resigns – After weeks of denials and refusals to step down, Anthony Weiner announced his resignation from Congress on June 16.

Flushing teen on Jeopardy – Flushing whiz kid Rahul Francis appeared in the July 5 episode of “Jeopardy! Kid’s Week.” The 13-year-old boy wonder finished in second place. He accumulated approximately $20,000.

Gay marriage law signed – After a long engagement and some cold feet, New York finally said “I do.” The state Senate passed Governor Cuomo’s Marriage Equality Act by a 33-29 margin

Queens Earthquake – Queens was shaken by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that truck Virginia – almost 300 miles away – on August 23 at 2 p.m.

Peninsula Hospital rescued – Peninsula Hospital was set to close on September 1, which would have made it the fifth hospital to close in Queens in the past decade.

Grand Station saved – The inclusion of Astoria’s Grand Station Post Office on a list of branches targeted for potential closure by the USPS led to local outrage and numerous rallies and petitions.

Hurricane Irene – Hurricane Irene hit New York City hard, covering an area of 700 miles and lashing the five boroughs with winds upwards of 80 mph.

9/11 10th Anniversary – This September 11 marked the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center that claimed the lives of 2,606 people.

A memorial service and dedication was held at St. Michael’s Cemetery to honor those fallen firefighters, police and Port Authority officers who gave their life on 9/11.

Turner wins Congressional seat – Republican Bob Turner shocked Queens on September 13 by defeating Democrat David Weprin and capturing Congressional District 9.

Barbara Sheehan Convicted – Barbara Sheehan, who was arrested in connection with the shooting death of her husband, retired NYPD sergeant Raymond Sheehan, was acquitted of second degree murder but found guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

Egypt Releases Captive Queens Native – Queens native Ilan Grapel was released from Egypt in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners after being held in Cairo for four months.

Doors shut at Scobee Grill – “We are sorry we have to go. We are very close to a lot of people. We have regulars that are here twice a day, some of them,” said owner Harry Pallas. “All I can do is say goodbye.”

Resorts World Casino Aqueduct Opens – The rejuvenated Aqueduct Racino in South Ozone Park opened its doors and hit the jackpot, pulling in about $15 million in net profits, while gamblers bet almost $178 million during its first 10 days.

Fairway supermarket opens in Queens – located at 242-02 61st Avenue in the Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center’s Lower Level – held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, November 16 with politicians, residents and Fairway officials on hand.

Local Scout Meets the President – Moments before meeting President Barack Obama in the nation’s capital earlier this month, Kevin Garcia, a Boy Scout from Richmond Hill, forgot everything he planned to say.

Patricia Dolan killed crossing Hillside Avenue – longtime Community Board 8 member, president of the Queens Civic Congress, Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association and the founder of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, was struck and killed as she crossed Hillside Avenue on Tuesday, November 15.

Flight 587 remembered 10 years later

Flushing’s Palace Diner closing – The diner, which sits along the Long Island Expressway on the corner of Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway and has been a neighborhood mainstay for 35 years, will close its doors for good on Friday, December 30.







Year in Review: A look back on 2011 at NST

| mchan@queenscourier.com


As Tower residents ring in the New Year, Board President Bob Ricken sat with the North Shore Towers Courier to reflect on the past year’s successes while looking ahead to the future of the co-op.

For the third consecutive year, residents can relish in the fact that there will be no increases in maintenance or Country Club dues.

Ricken attributes this mainly to the rise in apartment sales this year, which landed the co-op major headlines in the city’s most prominent daily newspapers.

The New York Times featured North Shore Towers on February 20 as “one of the strongest sellers among luxury co-op buildings in New York City.” Soon after, on August 19, the Towers stood out as one of the “best places to live in New York,” in an article published by the Daily News. The four-page spread boasted the facility’s amenities and even its lively history.

“It was probably more positive than I could have even been,” Ricken said. “These kinds of things really enhance the image of North Shore Towers.”

According to Ricken, apartment sales have increased a little more than 25 percent, with 98 sales last year and 125 this year.

What is important about that is we far exceeded what we budgeted for our flip tax,” he said. “That helped us keep down maintenance, and we had a large amount of money for flip tax because we had those 125 sales.”

Ricken said the work of the Political Action Committee also helped to keep costs down.

This year, Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, Councilmember Mark Weprin, City Speaker Christine Quinn, and two-time visitor State Senator Tony Avella came to speak at the co-op.

“Many of these politicians came to [Presidents Co-op Council] meetings and helped let city officials be aware that we have an inequity in our tax structure,” Ricken said. “And that was indicated this year when our tax rate was lower than we expected.”

Along with a total six-member Country Club increase from 2010, Ricken expressed that he was pleased with several other accomplishments throughout the year — including the annual Board of Directors election, which saw incumbents Phyllis Goldstein, Murray Lewinter, Phil Plafker and Bob Ricken re-elected. They will each serve another two-year term after running unopposed.

“I don’t believe that’s an indication that there’s lethargy among the people who live here,” Ricken said. “I think it’s an indication that they’re very satisfied with what the Board is doing. I’m very proud of the accomplishments of this Board.”

Ricken said he’s also pleased with continuous efforts in improving communication between the Board and residents. In order to keep the community on top of what goes on behind closed board room doors, Ricken said he slips letters under residents’ doors right after the meeting, so they won’t have to wait a month to hear important news.

He also said second on the agenda after reviewing the previous board meeting minutes is reading letters that residents have submitted — whether they are suggestions, criticisms, angry or positive feedback.

Ricken said the Board has also begun utilizing Power Point presentations during open meetings in order to pass along information to residents in a clearer manner.

“In other words, we’ve been extremely transparent, and there are very few surprises now for residents,” Ricken said. “One of the things that the Board is most gratified with is that the tone of the meetings is more positive, and the feedback from residents has been equally positive.”

The optimism may have also stemmed from the completion of several major projects this year, Ricken said.

Due to the high amount of money in reserve funds — which Ricken said is now in the area of $18 million — Tower residents now have a new chimney stack, which replaced one that was rotted over decades of use; new ramps; new rugs and logos in the entranceways; new doors in each of the buildings; revamped gardens throughout the community; improvements in the VIP Room, including fixing the men’s and women’s bathrooms and switching food vendors; the installation of the new pool room downstairs in the County Club; new furniture for the indoor pool and new pieces of equipment in the gym.

Looking to 2012, there will be several more items added to the agenda, along with replacing generators, which Ricken said is currently in a “long and very intense planning process.”

Residents and their families saw the importance of the generators when several storms pummeled through the region in 2011.

“We’ve had significant storms this year — not only with snowstorms, but there was a bit of an earthquake and there was also Hurricane Irene,” Ricken said. “It was gratifying to have about 350 of our residents’ relatives sleeping over because they didn’t have electricity in Queens or Nassau County.”

The co-op never lost power during these storms, Ricken said.

Ricken then complimented and thanked the staff, management and vendors for being on top of any possible storm damage.

“I’ve never received as many positive comments from our community about the job that they have done with snow removal and just keeping the place in an immaculate condition,” Ricken said. “It’s incredible waking up after a massive snow storm and find that all you see outside is black top.”

In 2012, the Towers’ two biggest contracts are up for review, meaning major upcoming projects include deciding which management and security companies to hire.

Currently, the co-op’s management company is the Charles H. Greenthal Management Corp.

“Even if we’re happy with our management company, we believe that we should always go out and interview other firms,” Ricken said, adding that co-op officials are presently interviewing management companies and will make a choice within the next couple of months.

The co-op will also go out for a new mortgage in 2012.

“Hopefully, with mortgage rates being lower, we’ll be able to save a lot of money in the future,” Ricken said. “The biggest challenge is always to maintain the finances of the co-op.

“You always have to plan for the future. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. My favorite quote has always been, ‘If you coast, you can only go downhill.’ We always have to have a focus on the future, on maintaining and improving everything we have. That’s the principle by which we budget and do long-range planning.”