ELMHURST COPS IN VENDOR CRACKDOWN: Illegal
vendors in and near Flushing Meadows Corona Park are facing stiff
enforcement by local police.
SHOOTER IN GANG-KILLING:
Police in Jackson Heights are searching for a gunman who mowed-down a
26-year-old local man during a gang dispute over “turf,” authorities
HERE FOR MORE POLICE BLOTTER
By Aaron Rutkoff
A construction crew was spotted
removing debris from Klein Farm this week, four months after it was
purchased by a realty group believed to be connected to controversial
developer Thomas Huang – a developer whose lawyer told one local official
that he was not interested in the property.
Construction crews were on Klein Farm this week to begin cleaning debris. Tribune photo by Ira Cohen
A dumpster filled with debris
surfaced outside of the Klein farmhouse at 194-23 73rd Ave. this week,
although no permits for demolition of construction had been filed at
presstime with the New York City Department of Buildings.
According to a DOB spokesperson,
it’s perfectly legal for an owner of a building to remove garbage from a
site without permits, and that "no one should worry. Nothing’s going
on there that we know about."
The land was purchased last
November by Audrey Realty Group, according to the New York City Department
of Finance. The group is located in a building owned by Huang, and the man
who signed the paperwork was Audrey’s Vice President John Huang. Tommy
Huang has a son named John, although no one has confirmed the two are
Councilman David Weprin told the
Tribune this week that he was told by Huang’s lawyer last February
and again last October that Huang was not interested in the property. As a
result, Weprin had meetings with another developer, a florist whom he does
not want to name, about buying the land.
That sale fell through, and
Audrey bought the 2.2 acre property from former owner John Klein. The
property is located within a special development district, meaning only 20
percent of the land can be built on and that all plans must be approved by
City Planning and the Buildings Department.
Plans must also conform to the
area’s R4 zoning, although the group could apply for a zoning variance.
Weprin, who said he planned to
reconvene a taskforce of local civic groups on March 1 to deal with the
issue, said, "We can’t do anything until we see something filed. We
are all waiting and I’ve been checking."
He added, "I had no idea
that [Huang] would resurface under some shell corporation’s name,"
Weprin said. "As far I was concerned, he was taken off the table. That’s
was what his lawyer told me, and I had no reason not to believe him."
Weprin declined to name the
Paul Graziano, an urban planner
and Queens preservation activist, was angry with Weprin, saying he "was
caught with his pants down." He said, "He took over negotiations
over this thing on behalf of the community, and in the end, Tommy Huang got
it. That’s messing up."
Weprin bristled at the
criticism. "It wasn’t my job to monitor it," he said. "It
was my job to work with the community on what would be an acceptable
development." Weprin added, "This wasn’t my job, I was just
being a good Samaritan, so to speak."
By Kathleen Melville
Emergency response times are
slower in Queens than in any other borough, according to statistics released
by the Uniformed Firefighters Association this week, and officials are
blaming the closing of a firehouse as one of the main reasons.
It took Queens firehouses 16 seconds longer to response to fires in 2003 than in 2002. Tribune photo by Azi Paybarah
The study compared Fire
Department response times across the City from June to November of 2002 to
June to November of 2003, and found that response times in Queens slowed by
16 seconds. According to the study, it takes about four minutes and 49
seconds for the Fire Department to respond to fires in Queens.
Response times in Queens were
also the slowest of all five boroughs, the study showed.
Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin
said the answer is to reopen the six firehouses that were closed during
budget cuts last year. In Queens, Engine Company 261 closed.
"When your house is on
fire, and the lives of loved ones are in jeopardy, every second counts. We
have suffered too many tragedies simply because the engine companies couldn’t
get there sooner," said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin explained that the
Fire Department had to cut back across the city, causing lags. He also
explained that when even one firehouse closes, that forces the FDNY to
allocate resources elsewhere, causing backup.
The FDNY did not comment on the
findings as presstime, although officials did say last year that the cuts
would cause a slight delay.
The study, which was released on
Feb. 11, also measured medical emergency response time, which was also
slower in Queens in 2003 by 12.8 seconds.
According to Martin Steadman,
legislator representative for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the
medical emergency response delays are a direct result of the six closed
firehouses and their expanded responsibilities.
"Any heart doctor will tell
you that early intervention by trained first responders makes all the
difference," said McLaughlin. "Even though the Mayor targets
response time for medical emergencies as four minutes, 14 seconds, Queens
misses the mark by 35.5 seconds. This borough’s population of more than
two million people deserves a response time second to none. I look forward
to working with my colleagues in government to achieve this," said
Steadman said, "These
Engine Companies should be reopened now. After the six months results are in
and are far worse than what the Fire Commissioner said they would be."
According to Steadman, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said the delayed
time would be one second. The FDNY could not confirm that claim.
By KATHLEEN MELVILLE
Queens Borough President Helen
Marshall conducted the Queens Borough Board Budget Priorities hearing on
Feb. 5 at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
Borough President Helen Marshall held a budget hearing this week to give the community a chance to make requests. Tribune photo by Kathleen Melville
"There is no doubt that
difficult decisions must always be made in order to balance the
budget," said Marshall. "However, we must be mindful of the impact
of these proposals and ensure Queens receives its fair share of
The meeting began at 9:30 a.m.
when Marshall set the stage for what was to come – "public opinion
about the Mayor’s preliminary budget and financial plan for fiscal year
Representatives from all of the
Community Boards spoke about their proposals for funding.
Each community board
representative had three minutes to speak about his or her most important
There seemed to be a common
interest among most representatives about the drop in police officers over
the past few years and in tree pruning.
According to Mary Ann Carey,
District Manager of Community Board 9, in 2000 the 102nd Precinct had over
200 police officers, versus last year’s record when the number dropped to
That 169 includes 128 for the
Impact Unit, leaving 41 officers for general assignment, which equals
approximately 14 per tour, which exhibits the need for more officers.
Similar complaints were stressed
from other representatives, including District Manager of Community Board 10
Karyn Petersen, who also criticized of the lack of police officers in the
Gary Giordano, District Manager
of Community Board 5 stated the decline in police officers from
approximately 200 in January 1995 to 134 in December 2002, which delays
their response time.
Related police requests included
Ann Marie Boranian, district manager of Community Board 11 who also asked
for a share of police officers being that there are two graduating classes
and Sally Martino-Fisher, district manager of Community Board 13 who called
more of police officers, as they receive ongoing complaints from residents
in the area.
Jonathan Gaska, district manager
of Community Board 14, in an unrelated complaint, stressed the need for a
municipal boat ramp in Rockaway along with the need to restore the 30
percent to 40 percenet budget cut of the Community Boards that were slashed
when former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in office.
By Azi Paybarah
The Astoria woman who claimed
six St. John’s University basketball players raped her while on the road
in Pittsburgh is now accused of filing false charges, police in Pittsburgh
announced this week.
Sherri Ann Urbanek-Bach, 38,
faces charges of prostitution and criminal theft by extortion, Pittsburgh
police said following the incident, which took place after St. John’s
University lost to the University of Pittsburgh on Feb. 4. Bach reportedly
met the players after midnight near a strip club, had consensual sex and
then demanded money. One player reportedly recorded Bach’s demand on his
cell phone’s video camera.
The players were first charged
with rape, but charges were dropped after an investigation by Pittsburgh law
enforcement officials showed Bach had agreed to have sex with the players.
But the legal exoneration has
not cleared the air on the Jamaica campus of the Roman Catholic school.
Senior Grady Reynolds was expelled, sophomore Elijah Ingram has withdrawn
and senior Abe Keita has been suspended for one year and permanently removed
from the basketball team, school officials announced.
A hearing to discuss further
action against suspended players Lamont Hamilton and Mohammed Diakite was
scheduled for Feb. 11, after the Tribune went to press.
Disciplinary actions sought by
the school were announced shortly after police dropped the charges. School
spokesperson Jody Fisher admitted some students believe the school
punishment is unwarranted since the criminal charges were debunked.
"The sex was consensual, so
why are you blaming them," said Fisher, airing those students’
complaints. Fisher said by breaking the team’s curfew, visiting a strip
club, and engaging in group sex, the student athletes had "behaved in a
manner that is inconsistent with behavior expected from St. John’s
University students. There is a code of conduct we expect all students to
uphold…[which is] published in student handbook."
According to student government
spokesperson Kim Torres, the incident reopened old wounds among the students
dissatisfied with the lack of diversity in "upper levels of the
administration" and offended by remarks made by the school’s
president, Reverend Donald Harrington.
More than 400 students met with
school officials on Feb. 10 in response to Harrington’s remarks that
blamed the Pittsburgh incident on "culture." Fisher said a memo
circulated school-wide clarified Harrington’s remarks, which referred to
the basketball team’s culture, not any ethnic or racial culture.
Despite all the attention
garnered from the incident, Torres said, "We support our athletes,
maybe we don’t agree with every thing they do…[but St. John’s
athletes] get a lot of respect here. I don’t think that really
This incident is not the first
negative publicity the St. John’s sports program has received. Reynolds
was arrested last year for throwing St. John’s swim team member Rachel
Seagar against a dormitory bathroom wall early in the season. He was charged
with third-degree assault and second-degree harassment, but was only given
In 1990, five St. John’s
lacrosse stars were expelled after being indicted in a sexual incident
involving a fellow student.
By Aaron Rutkoff
After leaving Flushing off its
initial list of new school construction projects, the School Construction
Authority (SCA) announced this week that new elementary school will be built
on a Franklin Avenue site owned by the Department of Education (DOE).
"This new school — P.S.
244 — is a victory for the children of Flushing," said Assemblyman
Barry Grodenchik, who joined Councilman John Liu and State Senator Toby
Stavisky to fight for the school.
The Franklin Avenue school,
which will serve 440 students as a kindergarten through third grade
institution, had been excluded from the first version of the DOE’s
Five-Year Capital Plan, released in December, but was restored in a new
version released this week following a visit to Flushing by SCA President
According to analysis in the
initial DOE plan, the student population in Flushing was expected to decline
in the next decade, making a new elementary school unnecessary. In addition,
the initial plan showed an excess of school capacity in much of Flushing.
The elected officials protested,
however, that the plan did not account for the rapid and continuing
population boom in downtown Flushing, which has become a haven for new Asian
immigrants. "The city’s Request For Proposals for the municipal
parking field in Flushing, in addition to plans to develop thousands of
other housing units, will overburden the existing schools," argued
The construction of the new
school, to be located on Franklin Avenue between Kissena Boulevard and
Colden Street, will begin in the summer of 2005 and will cost an estimated
By Aaron Rutkoff
The development plan for the
long-neglected ruins of the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater in downtown
Flushing will come up for a public hearing and vote at Community Board 7
later this month, raising thorny issues that may sidetrack the ambitious
Developers acquired the RKO Keith’s last year and announced preliminary
plans to construct a 14-story tower named RKO Plaza on the site. The new
structure would retain aspects of the old theater, including a restored
lobby, while making room for underground parking, hundreds of residential
units, retail space and a senior center.
The development plan for RKO
Plaza requires several zoning variances, which must be reviewed by the CB7
and Borough President Helen Marshall before the Board of Standards and
Appeals (BSA) renders the ultimate verdict.
"The company is asking for
very, very substantial accommodation in terms of the allowable bulk,"
explained Councilman John Liu. "Legally, they are only permitted to use
a limited about of space. They are asking to use much more space than is
According to Liu, who is
familiar with the final development plan, Boymelgreen has requested
variances to exceed the floor-area ratio by three times the limit allowed by
existing zoning regulations.
The proposal for RKO Plaza will
be reviewed during a public hearing at the Feb. 23 CB7 meeting, held at
33-23 Union Street in Flushing beginning at 7 p.m.
Liu indicated that he would
support the decision of the community board Liu signaled strong support for
aspects of the RKO Plaza plan.
Before this current plan, the
RKO Keith’s Theater had been closed for years after developer Tommy Huang
acquired the site with the intention of building a shopping mall there.
During planning, Huang spilled oil and chemicals in the basement, and was
convicted of environmental crimes. As a result, large sections of the
theater, including the landmarked lobby, were damaged.
Responses have been flying into the Tribune’s offices this week in response to the paper’s reality dating contest, in which Glen Oaks resident Bob B. – the chief financial officer of a Queens company – has officially made himself available.
But the contest isn’t over yet, and eligible ladies still have the opportunity to apply. This is a chance for true love – what could be better?
Bob, a Queens native in his 50s in search of a nice girl, will go through the batch of ladies and choose four who he is interested in. The Trib will then send them on dates around Queens, documenting them in the paper.
In the end, Bob will choose one of the women to continue to date.
This week, Bob listed some of his favorite things to help eligible bachelorettes get to know him a bit better. Those interested should fill out the coupon below and mail it with a color photo to 174-15 Horace Harding Expwy. in Fresh Meadows, NY 11365.
Interested women can also send an email the information in the coupon with a photo to
Favorite Food: Chicken Parmaigian
Favorite Movie: “Ghost”
Favorite Store: Macy’s
Favorite Musician: Whitney Houston
Favorite Song: “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys
Favorite Place For A Date: “Weather permitting, walking along the water and getting in touch with the other person’s feelings.”
Favorite Restaurant: Seafood restaurant in Port Washington
Favorite Television Show: “The Practice”
Favorite Pro Sports Teams: The NY Yankees and the NY Giants. Doesn’t follow basketball or hockey.
By Angela Montefinise
An Action Desk reader was
fuming this week when a New York City bus driver made an unexpected stop
along his Queens route – and then refused to continue.
The reader was on a Q88 bus
headed towards Queens Center Mall on Feb. 8 when a passenger got on and said
something "a bit rude" to the driver, the reader said. The driver
angrily pulled the bus over about 10 minutes away from Queens Center Mall,
and declared that he would not continue until the passenger apologized.
The reader said, "How can
he do something like that? It’s his job to take people places, and he just
The 20 or so people on the bus
sat there for nearly 20 minutes, waiting for the driver to move. The
passenger refused to apologize, however, so the driver sat there, his gear
shifted firmly in park.
The reader said, "It was
totally ridiculous. People have places to go."
The driver placed "Not In
Service" on the bus, and ignored passengers as they pleaded for him to
move. The reader said, "It was absolutely insane. The guy refused to do
his job, all over pride. It was nuts. Everyone was just begging the guy to
Finally, another bus drove by
the stranded passengers, and they all got right on. The reader said,
"Then, while we were getting off the bus, the driver started waving his
fist at the woman who was rude to him. The whole thing was crazy."
According to a spokesperson for
the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the bus driver was "in the
wrong in this case." She explained that a driver has the right to stop
a bus if there is serious trouble on board, but is required to call his or
her command center and report the incident to the police.
According to MTA records, no
such call was made on Feb. 8 from bus number 8198 – the bus the reader was
on. She said, "I got all the information. I was so mad, it was
The MTA spokesperson said,
"The driver can’t do what this driver did. The reader’s best bet is
to file a complaint with our bus line."
When filing a complaint, the
spokesperson said residents should have as much information on hand as
possible, including the time and date of the incident, the bus number and
the bus driver’s badge number.
The spokesperson said,
"When a complaint is made, the MTA will look into it and it if is
warranted distribute the proper disciplinary action . . . If a complaint
about a driver is not the first complaint, then it is looked into more
By Kathleen Melville
For one Action Desk reader, a citywide tow truck problem specifically around Woodhaven Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, and Northern Boulevard in Queens must be stopped, and making people aware of it is the first step.
According to the reader, there is an ongoing problem of tow trucks using police scanners to find out where accidents are, then rushing to the scene to get their before the cops. Once there, the drivers convince people to let them take their cars, but the truth is, what they’re doing is illegal.
According to a police source, it is illegal for tow trucks to use police scanners to find clients and for them to show up at the scene of an accident. By law, only companies working directly with the Police Department, sheriff or City Marshal are allowed to arrive at the scene of an accident to remove a damaged vehicle.
The trucks are called by law enforcement on a rotation basis.
The reader said that most people don’t know that, and therefore pay skyhigh prices to get their cars towed by another company.
According to a police source, “The tow truck drivers convince the people that the police tow trucks will rip them off, when really they are ripping them off.”
Before scanners were made illegal, tow truck companies were all competing with each other to get to accident scenes, and were driving recklessly and hurting people on their way to the accidents, according to a police source.
The reader, who is acquainted with a former tow truck driver and a Consumer Affairs inspector, said police officers just let tow truck drivers go, never issuing them a summons when they’re caught illegally using a scanner.
This police source disagreed, saying officers always give summonses when necessary.
The officer added that if people finds themselves in a situation with an illegal tow truck, they should get the tow truck number and company and file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs.
More important than filing the complaint is the knowledge that this goes on so people can avoid it, the reader said.
By Angela Montefinise
After months of snow, salt and
ice, the borough’s roads are pretty banged up, and the New York City
Department of Transportation (DOT) has launched its annual Pothole Blitz to
clean things up.
According to the DOT, the city’s
streets don’t deal well with winter weather, leaving gaping potholes in
many areas. When snow melts, it seeps into cracks in the street – cracks
that become holes when the melted snow freezes and expands.
In addition, the salt used to
keep the roads safe erodes the asphalt, leaving dozens of bumps and holes.
To combat these problems, the
DOT launches a pothole blitz, which includes teams of workers being deployed
to various areas to fill as many potholes as possible. Over the weekend of
Feb. 6, the DOT filled 4,000 potholes, concentrating in Queens on the Cross
Island Parkway, where many complaints have been filed about bumpy roads.
In a statement on Feb. 9, DOT
Commissioner Iris Weinshall said, "Over the next several days, we will
have at least 30 pothole crews working the streets of New York. We will take
advantage of this break in winter weather to improve our roads. Our pothole
crews will continue concentrating on arterial highways, but they also will
be working on many of the main roads, secondary roads and tertiary roads
located throughout the five Boroughs."
Weinshall encouraged all New
Yorkers to report potholes to 311, with a DOT spokesperson saying, "We
can’t fill a pothole if we don’t know it’s there. We rely on the
public to help us keep the roads in this city as safe as possible . . . Now
that the weather is breaking a bit, we can finally attack the roads and get
them as driveable as possible."
Once notified of a pothole, DOT
assesses the degree or severity of the damage. Crews then remove excess
debris or material from the hole and square off the hole. Then, asphaltic
cement is poured into the pothole, followed by a mixture of hot asphalt.
This material is compacted by machine and the hole is again sealed with
asphaltic cement to prevent water from penetrating the hole.
The whole process only takes
about 15 minutes.