Thursday, September 25, 2008

This Week's Forum West and South

Addabbo, Maltese Face Off on Senate Issues

Como Discusses Issues Over Breakfast

Drunken Driving Discussed at 112th Pct Meeting

Politics Unusual: Save and Spend Serf; Candidates Speak at Un-Debate

Tow Truck Driver Charged with Auto Theft

Forest Hills: A Sleeping Giant

Adding a Kick to Conventional Medicine

HealthWatch: Lowering Your Risk of Heart Disease

Senate Candidates Face Off on Issues

HB Civic Hosts Topic-Driven Debate

By Conor Greene

The two candidates vying to represent the 15th Senate District faced off for the first time at a debate Tuesday night in Howard Beach.

The event in St. Barnabas Church was hosted by the Howard Beach Civic Forum and marked the first time incumbent Serf Maltese (R-Glendale) and his challenger, Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) have faced off during the campaign in the 15th Senate District.

The winner on November 4 will represent the communities of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood and parts of Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Sunnyside and Woodside. Since it has the potential to help tip the balance of power on the Senate, the race has been one of the closest watched during this campaign cycle.

The event centered on issues including education, public safety, quality of life, healthcare and transportation, and the candidates were urged to refrain from making personal attacks. The format featured a general statement by the candidates on each issue, followed by questions submitted by the audience.

Education and Funding

Calling higher education “very important,” Maltese said he has fought to provide the Tuition Assistance Program for as many students as possible during his 19 years on the state Senate. “I argue for Queens County so we can get every nickel we can,” he said, adding that he tries to visit all 50 schools in the district every year. “Because of my seniority [in the senate] I have been able to secure literally millions in grants for our schools,” he said.

Addabbo said the goal with education “is to keep everybody here” in the community. He stressed that the quality of a neighborhood depends on maintaining strong schools. “The funding formula is still unfair,” he said. “We need to get a fair share for our children.” Education “needs to be a rally cry in the state Senate… We need to get that money right into the classrooms – otherwise people will leave our community, and we don’t want that.”

Safety and Quality of Life

Maltese, an attorney, noted that his past experience as an assistant district attorney has given him knowledge of the legal system. “It was a twenty-four hour job,” he said. “That experience served me well later on… I think law enforcement and public safety is one of the most important things.”

He said he has been the prime sponsor on 239 “Maltese laws” including a bill that increases the penalties for drunken driving. He was also a co-sponsor of Megan’s Law, which requires sex offenders to register with the state. “Over and over again, I was one of the leaders on the Crime and Corrections Committee,” he said. “I made the concerns of crime victims one of the most important things.”

Addabbo touted his work as a member of City Council’s Public Safety Committee, which he said helped provide NYPD officers with up-graded equipment. He said there is a real need for “more police in our precincts” and said that the state “obviously has to do more” to help fund public safety in the city. He also wants residents to receive e-mail alerts when a registered sex offender moves into the neighborhood. “You don’t have to log on and check a list – they contact you,” he said. “It is important for our families.”

Addabbo also cited noise pollution, parks and graffiti as other important issues affecting residents’ quality of life. “We cannot neglect these issues. I have not done so on the City Council and certainly will not do so on the State Senate.

Dead Fish in Shellbank Basin

The candidates were asked about recent incidents of dead fish washing up in the Shellbank Basin. Addabbo had raised that issue while discussing quality of life issues, and stressed that the sight and smell of thousands of dead fish did have an effect on residents.

He said he received calls from residents on his 24-hour constituent line when the problem first arose several weeks ago. He immediately notified the mayor’s office. “It is very important that we take control of these quality of life issues and not let them fester,” he said. He said a meeting is scheduled for October 3 with representatives from the city Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“They need to tell us what happened, why it happened, and how it should never happen again,” said Addabbo. “No more finger pointing. There will be a meeting and we will get answers.”

Maltese said his local district office was alerted to the situation by a local doctor and that he immediately notified DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “She said it was the first she had heard of it and would immediately tend to it.” The next day, the DEP were at the basin, scooping out the dead fish, he said.


Addabbo stressed the need for the state to better support local small businesses, instead of providing funding to large corporations and big box stores. “The state doesn’t do enough for small businesses,” he said, calling them the “backbone of our community.” He called the state’s practice of funding big companies “wrong” and said that the program needs to be reformed to “put the money down to the local people.”

Given the tough economy, he ripped a proposal to raise property taxes. “You don’t raise property taxes, you cut government first,” he said. “This year’s state budget is wrong. How can you increase spending and not have the money to pay for it? For far too long, the old business as usual hasn’t worked in Albany. This year we have a choice.”

He also cited the 44 cases of foreclosures within Howard Beach, along with the approximately 500 families in danger of being foreclosed. “It will increase crime and decrease property values,” he said. “That’s a lot of homes. We need to call a moratorium on foreclosures.”

Maltese agreed that the “commercial strips are the lifeblood of our communities” and said he is “very firmly in support of small businesses” and has “fought against many big box stores” proposed for the area over the past few years. He said the Senate “acted immediately” to address the foreclosure crisis, which has hit Queens especially hard. He said a bill was passed to place a moratorium on foreclosures, a statement later challenged by the Addabbo camp.

“What’s occurring on the federal level is going to affect us all,” he said of the current economic crisis hitting Wall Street. He said the six percent cut to the state budget was not enough. “The fact is, we have to take our belts in, and we can do it.”

Transportation Funding

Maltese called mass transit “vital to the communities of this senate district” and noted that he funded $2 million of the $2.7 million renovation of the Metropolitan Avenue M train station in Middle Village. “I was able to put money right into a station where it was needed,” he said.

He also boasted of the $1.2 million reconstruction of Eliot Avenue, which made it safer where it cuts through a cemetery. “He said he is “against any increase in tolls or fares,” which “isn’t the [right] way [for the MTA] to raise money.”

Addabbo called for “making transportation more reliable and safe.” He spent seven years on the City Council’s Transportation Committee, and stressed the need to both criticize and work with agencies like the MTA. “I’ve grilled them on how they do things,” but also gained increased service on some bus routes “by working with the MTA,” he said.

An issue close to home for Addabbo is eliminating the toll to cross the bridge into Rockaway. “It’s absolutely unfair we pay a toll to visit the Rockaway beaches,” he said. He said the toll should be eliminated between Labor Day and Memorial Day. “We should be able to enjoy the rest of our borough – our borough – without paying a toll. It has to be removed,” he said.

Regarding the proposed MTA fare hike, Addabbo said the authority “has a real problem” and stressed that their books must be examined “to make sure they’ve made the proper cuts internally” before fares are raised. Addabbo said he recently submitted a petition to the MTA with more than 2,000 signatures of residents opposed to a fare hike.

Maltese said he meets regularly with MTA officials on issues such as fare hikes. “I don’t like it and I know our constituents don’t like it,” he said. However, he said that due to the state’s current economic difficulties, “I know we are going to have more problems.”

Healthcare Costs

Addabbo stressed that healthcare “needs to be made more accessible and more affordable.” He cited Medicaid fraud as a major issue that needs to be addressed, with billions each year being diverted from other programs. “Those are dollars that can be spent on families and schools,” he said. “We need to get a handle on this.” He also argued that the state’s plan regarding hospital closings needs to be reexamined. “We need to keep those hospital doors open,” he said.

Maltese noted that he helped restore $59 billion for nursing homes and hospitals that former Governor Eliot Spitzer cut from the state budget. “I’ve tried to keep my eye on hospitals in Queens County,” he said. “The fact is, I was able to save [Wyckoff Heights Hospital] in 1990, not only for the employees, but for the people who patronize it.”

Addabbo and Maltese pose with members of the Howard Beach Civic Forum’s executive board following Tuesday’s debate (above), and the candidates shake hands after the debate.

The Forum Newsgroup/photos by CONOR GREENE

Como Discusses Issues Over Breakfast

Schools, Rezoning, Historic District Among Topics Covered

By Conor Greene

Councilman Anthony Como discussed a range of issues affecting the 30th District during an informal meeting with several local reporters last week at his Middle Village office.

The discussion included complaints of overcrowding at PS 153, the stalled effort to downzone 350 blocks in Glendale, Middle
Village and Maspeth, the proposal to landmark several blocks in Ridgewood and a plan to convert under utilized space at PS 91 into a public park.

PS 153 Overcrowding

The opening of the school year has brought with it complaints about overcrowding at PS 153 in Maspeth. According to Como, the problem is a result of overdevelopment in the neighborhood, in particular the common practice of replacing a single-family home with a multi-unit building.

“When we talk about overburdening our infrastructure, this is it,” said Como. The school is currently attempting to serve
about 1,400 children, about 300 above capacity, said Como. His chief of staff, James McClelland, said there is “no doubt it is over-crowded,” but noted that there is a “discrepancy” as to how many students are currently attending the school.

The obvious solution would be to redraw the boundaries dictating who attends the school, but the councilman admitted that he “doesn’t know how feasible that is going to be,” as it would have ramifications on other area schools. He will have a better idea of possible solutions after meeting with the city Department of Education.

McClelland said that PS 153 serves students within a two-and-a-half mile radius, while most city schools have much smaller boundaries. “It may be possible [to redraw the lines], but a ripple effect might require a comprehensive rezoning of District 24,” he said.

Stalled Rezoning Effort

Como met with representatives from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office regarding the stalled effort to downzone much of Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

“It is something that probably should have happened a long time ago,” said Como, adding that residents should be frustrated with the lack of progress. “They assured us it would move forward… Everyone’s in favor of it.”

Fortunately, the area appears to have avoided any widespread flooding – often cited as one of the biggest effects of overdevelopment - during several heavy rainstorms over the summer. Como reported that his office “hasn’t been inundated with calls” and said he is meeting with the city Department of Environmental Protection regarding flooding within the district.

The rezoning effort, which includes 350 blocks, was spearheaded several years ago by residents of Maspeth and Middle Village. The volunteers, including many members of the Juniper Park Civic Association, went door-to-door, surveying thousands of properties. When they completed the process in October 2005, Queens Director of City Planning asked the civic group to wait for city certification until Glendale residents completed surveying that area.

Much to the JPCA’s frustration, the downzoning effort has since languished while the Department of City Planning has focused on projects elsewhere. At a JPCA meeting in June, a representative from City Planning said that an environmental assessment must still be completed, and said the effort should resume in September.

Ridgewood Historic District

Como said he supports a proposal to designate several blocks of homes in Ridgewood known as the Mathew flats. The proposal, which would protect 91 buildings from demolition or major alterations, is currently before the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

If the commission landmarks the area, which is between Forest and Fairview avenues and Linden and Woodbine streets, the proposal would go to the City Council for final approval. Como expects it to be approved once that happens. “I don’t see it being an issue,” he said. “I think it’s tremendous and am definitely in favor.”

The homes were built between 1908 and 1911 by Gustave X Mathews, with each building containing six units. The building style, which was a radical departure from the notorious tenement houses on the Lower East Side, was displayed at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

A one-block section of Ridgewood on Stockholm Street between Onderdonk and Woodward avenues was designated by the city in 2000. Como said he is also interested in pursuing landmark status for the carousel in Forest Park and sections of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven.

PS 91 Playground Conversion

As part of the mayor’s “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” initiative, the outdoor space at PS 91 in Glendale is being converted into a public space open to all residents. However, according to Como, some residents living near the Central Avenue school are concerned about the proposal.

As a result of calls from a few residents on the block, Como met with officials from the city Parks Department, Department of Education, the PTA, Community Board 5 and the school principal. He said the concerns centered on issues such as the hours the park would be open, and aspects of the layout and design such as where the benches would be located. Once the concerns are resolved, Como said the project “would be a great asset for the community,” especially since the city would “come and put money into” the area.

Under the mayor’s plan, 290 schoolyards would be opened to the public between 8 a.m. and sundown and on weekends. The mayor plans on funding a total of about $111 million towards the project over the next eight years. The areas would be maintained by the DOE with assistance from non-profit organizations.

“The real issue is not that people on the block don’t want it fixed them what was going on,” said Como. “The parties are still talking, and there still are issues that have to be resolved.”

Como, a Republican who is being challenged this November for his City Council seat by Glendale Democrat Elizabeth Crowley, said he urges residents to stop by or call his Metropolitan Avenue office with any concerns. “I’m my own worst constituent,” he joked, noting that his office recently successfully pushed a local bank to clean graffiti from its fence. “I try to be proactive.”

Above: Nearly 100 homes in Ridgewood known as the “Mathews flats” are being considered by the city for landmark status.
Left: The city’s plan to convert open space at PS 91 into a public park has concerned some Glendale residents.

Dangers of Drunken Driving Discussed at Precinct Meeting

Crime Stats Reported, Scam Alert Announced

By Conor Greene

The monthly meeting of the 112th Precinct Community Council was headlined by a discussion reinforcing the dangers of drinking and driving, which is one of the most prevalent crimes in the area.

The meeting included a report by the precinct’s commanding officer on crime in the area, which continues to fall dramatically compared with last year. Residents were also warned about several current scams and crime patterns.

The session inside the Austin Street stationhouse last Wednesday featured Officer Stuart Moskowitz, who was honored by the community council for years of dedication to the community. “When he knocks on your [car] door – if you’ve been out drinking and driving, you are getting arrested,” said Captain Christopher Tamola.

Officer Moskowitz reminded residents that the community recently had a stark reminder of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when a teenage driver allegedly smoked marijuana before causing a fatal wreck on the Grand Central Parkway service road that killed a married couple.

During his nearly nine years at the precinct, Officer Moskowitz has made about 200 arrests for drunken driving, he said. “A lot of people get killed each year – it’s a very serious crime,” he said. “People have three or four drinks and think they’re okay, but they’re not.”

On August 5, 17-year-old Jacob Chubalashvili drove a Mercedes-Benz through a red light and into an Acura carrying Ki Kim, 55, and his wife, Hyekyung Kim, 53, who were headed to work from their Kew Gardens home. “I couldn’t even tell what kind of car it was – it was split in half,” said Officer Moskowitz of the couple’s destroyed vehicle. “It was one of the worst pictures I’ve seen in my entire career.”

The officer explained that somebody suspected of driving drunk will be asked to blow into a breathalyzer during the motor vehicle stop. It is considered a field test that is not admissible in court, he said. If the driver refuses, they are handcuffed and brought to the precinct, where highway officers take an official measurement of the blood-alcohol content. Between .06 and .08 percents is considered impaired, while anything above is classified as intoxicated.

“I don’t want to see anybody’s family members killed by a person who is drinking and driving,” said Officer Moskowitz. He noted that even if you are rear-ended while sitting at a red light, you will be arrested if you have been drinking. “You can be driving like an ace, and then get rear-ended – if I smell alcohol, you’re going to jail.”

Captain Tamola noted that the precinct is “tops for DWI arrests” citywide, despite being on the smaller side in terms of manpower, with about 110 officers. “Officer Moskowitz saves lives every day,” he said. “When he makes one arrest, we don’t know how many lives that saves.”

Local Crime Report

The precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, “continues a banner year in crime reduction,” announced Captain Tamola. The 15% reduction from last year is the second best improvement citywide, he said, adding that statistically, the 112th is the safest precinct.

He noted that there were two recent fatal accidents involving vehicles, with an arrest made in one. The first involved the teenage driver along the Grand Central Parkway service road. In the second, an elderly woman was killed while crossing Queens Boulevard, the first pedestrian fatality along the Forest Hills stretch of the road in more than a year. The victim was apparently trying to cross the boulevard between two intersections, and the driver was not charged in the accident.

“It’s like trying to cross a highway when you go against the light,” said Captain Tamola. “Basically, she walked out in the middle of traffic.” He said that after years of multiple pedestrian deaths along the “Boulevard of Death,” there were zero fatalities last year and one in 2006.

Overall, traffic accidents and injuries throughout the precinct are down, said Tamola. “This is significant,” he said, explaining that the 112th Precinct is known within the NYPD as being the worst for motor vehicle incidents. “I’m sure it doesn’t seem that way, but overall accidents are down.”

He said the precinct will continue to crack down on offenses including drivers not wearing seatbelts and talking on cell phones, especially along corridors such as Queens Boulevard, Woodhaven Boulevard, Austin Street, Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike.

Vehicle Broken Into

The area suffered through a “spike” in reports of vehicles broken into over the summer.

Captain Tamola urged residents to make sure valuables including wallets, sunglasses, GPS systems and laptops are not left in parked cars. He also warned against leaving shopping bags in plain sight, even if they don’t contain valuables.

“They look for the easiest mark they can find,” he said. “They’re going to move on to the next one [if no valuables are visible].”

Verizon Fraud Alert

Residents were advised that the detective’s bureau has issued a grand larceny alert. A scam involving a person calling residents and claiming to be from Verizon has snared at least two victims in the Forest Hills area, he reported. The person asked for the resident’s social security number and credit card information, including the three-digit security code.

“I don’t remember the phone company ever calling for my social security number,” said the captain. “Do not give out your [information], especially not your security code. Protect your identity.” He said a huge percentage of crime in the area includes grand larceny, much of which comes through identity theft.

Suitcase Drive for Foster Children

A representative from the Lions Club’s Hollis chapter informed residents of the group’s suitcase drive. The club collects used suitcases, which are donated to foster children so they don’t have to carry their belongings from house to house in a garbage bag.

“Their life is already in turmoil, being re- moved from a home where they should be loved,” she said. “This puts dignity back in their lives, so they are not traveling with a garbage bag. It gives them a real start to bringing back their quality of life.”

The club also gathers donated toiletries and places them in the suitcase for the children to help with the transition to foster care. For details, contact Adina Callender at (718) 481-9518 or

Missing Torahs Returned

Heidi Chain Harrison, president of the 112th Precinct Community Council, reported that an annual meeting at One Police Plaza last week included the return of eight stolen
Torahs to a local temple in time for the holidays.

The Torahs were stolen from the Kew Gardens Hills Jewish Center in August, and recovered several weeks later after a live-in custodian was charged. At the time, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown promised to try to return the Torahs, which are needed as evidence, as soon as possible.

“It just was something the likes of which I’ve never seen before,” said Harrison. “It was an unbelievable demonstration of how the police department in New York protects and works with everybody.”

Post Office Fraud

Lydon Sleeper of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s office reported on legislation the congressman has introduced to reduce identity theft.

There have been several incidents of residents whose personal information was stolen after, unbeknownst to them, somebody filed a change of address form in their name with the Postal Service. As a result, their mail was rerouted to a new address, giving the criminal access to their personal information.

Legislation introduced by Weiner would force the post office to ask for photo identification whenever somebody submits a change of request form.

Photos: Captain Christopher Tamola discusses recent crime trends at last week's 112th Precinct Community Council meeting.

Heidi Chain Harrison thanks Officer Stuart Moskowitz for his dedication to the community.

Politics Unusual: Save and Spend, Serf; Candidates Speak at Un-Debate

By Anthe N. Syde

Well there’s still plenty of mail washing up “In the Serf”. Oddly enough all the pieces keep trying to pound the idea of how much money Serf Maltese is saving us in tax dollars.

Truth be told, we’re getting a little bored with these glossy reiterations, so we decided to send a little bit of information down the pipeline about another subject we thought you might find interesting...How Much Money Is Serf Costing Us? Aha! Thought that might catch your eye.

You know the Internet is an amazing place, and for as much nonsense as there is floating around in cyberspace, for the more discerning consumer, there is plenty of real information that is available to those who choose to spend their time looking for tasty little tidbits... is a delightful little web portal that allows visitors to search government payrolls, contracts, expenditures, and link to additional information and supporting material on other websites.

In other words you can visit this site to find out who, what, where and when your elected officials are spending your hard earned taxpayer dollars on.

For those of you who would rather rely on us for digging up all the news the candidates wish we didn’t find out about and wouldn’t print, here goes the low down on the “stayed too long senator”, Serf Maltese.

As a point of information, Queens has seven Senators. Five are Democrats and two are Republicans. During the time period covered by the data we found, the five Democrats were Shirley Huntley, George Onorato, John Sabini, Malcolm Smith, and Toby Stavisky. The two Republicans were Serf Maltese and Frank Padavan.

The data shows the tab to staff the offices of the two Republican senators as a hefty
$1,809,710 from October 06 - September 07. By the way, that's without the senator's salaries included. Maltese's office cost us a whopping $933,661.64. Comparatively, the total cost to run the offices of the five Queens Democrats also without their salaries included, was $1,532,075.06. Maltese and Padavan cost us over a quarter-of- a-million more than the five Democrats put together.

Delving into a little perspective, running those two Queens Republican Senate offices also cost more than it did to run five of the Queens Assembly offices, all occupied by Democrats, that cover parts of the Maltese Senate District. Added together, minus
their salaries, it cost us $1,425,523 to run the offices of Assemblymembers Pheffer, Hevesi, Markey, Nolan, and Seminerio. (Of course we didn’t figure the extra $500,000 Tony Seminerio allegedly picked up all on his own).

We were having so much fun that we just couldn’t stop without telling you that Maltese had 36 staff members during the time period covered by this data. Padavan had 27. That's a total of 63 employees who cost us in total, $1,625.555.93. Between them, the five Dem Senators had 11 more employees, but the tab was about half-a-million less. And those five Assemblymembers you might ask... well they cost us a total of $1,228,387 for the 58 employees they had between them.

The point of this you might be wondering...well let’s just say we think that when Sen. Maltese makes it such a big issue to point out how much money he’s supposedly saving us in tax dollars, it may be sort of relevant if he tells us where all those savings are going. From the looks of the figures above it’s easy for us to put our finger on exactly where all the savings his offices.

Really now – when it comes to our money, who should we be calling reckless?

As for the Great Debate for the Senate, it looks like the Howard Beach Civic Forum set up a night of T-Ball for the prospective candidates, where everyone goes home a winner. The crowd was clearly there to state that Joe Addabbo is the “hometown boy of Howard Beach”, however we were a little disappointed to see that once again, Joe took the high road instead of using the issues to show what a “dawg” his opponent truly is.

From where we sit, a debate is supposed to serve up the positions of candidates by having them present their views and also to argue points with their opponents. We were disappointed to see that the pseudo debate hosted by the Civic Fourm did not offer any opportunity for the candidates to oppose each other verbally. We would have liked the chance to see both of these guys face off.

That having been said, perhaps groups sponsoring so-called debates in the future will allow the type of candidate interaction that really affords the audience a chance to see candidates faced with speaking “on-the-spot”.

We’d like to take this opportunity to tell the councilman, who “would be senator”, that it’s ok to point out your opponent’s short comings especially when they are rooted in undeniable fact. Come on Joe, it’s not fair that we have to be the ones to tell the people what a no-show, empty suit you’re running against.

For example, one of his responses at the debate had Serf bragging about his office having the most staff members of any office. We showed you the evidence of how much that staff costs us a few paragraphs ago, but what we didn’t show you was how much more that staff works for our community for all that extra money.

Guess what. We didn’t tell you about it because it doesn’t exist. In fact if we were looking for data to support what Serf’s staff actually does for all that money, we’d be, in the very least, extremely hard pressed.

We hope that no one in the debate audience fell for the story of how Serf’s office settled the dead bunker problem in Shellbank Basin because his version of what happened was, according to those in the know, a real “Fish Tale.”

The bottom line here is that we’re truly very disappointed in a 19-year veteran of the State Senate having resorted to so using so many underhanded tactics and of course the manipulated distortion of the truth to get a leg up in this election. From where we sit, anyone with this long in office should have enough of their own accomplishments to talk about, without having to dish the dirt on their opponent as the sole platform for campaigning.

Maybe the thread of the presidential campaign really rings true here in the 15th Senate District. Change is coming. Thank heavens.

Tow Truck Driver Charged in Car Theft

Exploited DMV Loophole; Sold Vehicles to Scrap Yard Without Title

A tow truck driver is facing grand larceny charges after removing legally parked cars from in front of the owners’ homes and selling them to a scrap yard, announced authorities.

Robert Lorenz, 48, of Dix Hills is charged with one count of third-degree grand larceny and 22 counts each of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first-degree falsifying business records and third-degree unauthorized use of a vehicle. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Using a tow truck with the names “Kenny’s” or “Cobra Scrap” painted on the side, Lorenz allegedly hooked up 22 vehicles that had been legally parked on Queens streets and towed them to Allocco Metal Recycling on Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn.

Since he didn’t own the vehicles, Lorenz exploited a loophole in state law that allowed him to sell vehicles worth less than $1,250 and at least eight years old to the scrap yard, despite not holding the title. Lorenz was paid between $300 and $500 per vehicle, which were then crushed.

“With the price of metal on the rise, the defendant is accused of exploiting a loophole in the Department of Motor Vehicles regulations which allow him to sell stolen cars to a scrap dealer without possessing the keys or titles to the vehicles – all of which were in drivable condition and had been reported missing by their legitimate owners,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

In some cases, the license plates were still affixed to the vehicles, said Brown. “For many of the car theft victims, the loss is doubly troubling in that they have both lost their primary source of transportation and will not be reimbursed for their loss due to the fact that they did not carry theft insurance because of the age of their vehicles,” he said.

“The suspect’s insatiable appetite for steel led to his arrest,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “He had put the cars of unsuspecting Queens motorists on the hook for months. Now he’s on the hook.”

Forest Hills: A Sleeping Giant

By Steve Tiszenkel

You may or may not have heard about this, but New York-based businesses are not doing so well these days. There was this minor to-do last week about some $700-billion bailout, and such financial-sector luminaries as AIG and Merrill Lynch—both of which are headquartered right here in the Capital of the World—were in serious danger of, well, no longer existing. Luckily, our lame-duck president's mind-blowingly spendy plan promises to patch things up while conveniently leaving the next administration to sort out where all the money went.

But you wouldn't know it in Forest Hills. Not only does our inconvenient location in relation to the Financial District guarantee that the thousands upon thousands of workers who will inevitably lose their jobs disproportionately don't live here, but hey, business is booming. According to a recent report by the Center for an Urban Future publicized by The Daily News, Queens had the largest share of job growth in New York City in the past 10 years, and Forest Hills racked up the biggest numerical increase in Queens, adding almost 8,000 jobs between 1997 and 2007. Long Island City, home to a couple gleaming new office towers completed in that time frame, only added about 5,000.

As residents of Forest Hills, most of us leave in the morning, come home at night, and spend the weekends taking care of chores in the neighborhood, waving at neighbors as we go. This other Forest Hills is a mysterious place—a different world with a different population that inhabits our streets when we leave and vacates when we return. Most of us probably don't even know they're here. Who are these people? Where do they work?

“I would guess medical and banks,” speculates popular local blogger Forest Hills 72, and he's got a point. Banks have descended on Forest Hills in recent years like a plague of green locusts, and most of them have a substantial staff. And as the population ages, new medical offices are always opening.

But even a bank occupying every other storefront on Continental Avenue can't explain all that job growth. No one industry could be responsible for 8,000 new jobs in our little neighborhood in the middle of Queens. And bank branches are essentially just small businesses, albeit small businesses owned and operated by huge, monolithic corporations.

It's more likely that the Forest Hills boom is tied to companies such as JetBlue, an airline that didn't even exist when the Center for an Urban Future report's range begins in 1997 but now employs nearly 10,000, with the Forest Hills Tower on the west side of Union Turnpike as its headquarters. Located approximately halfway be-
tween JFK and LaGuardia airports, Forest Hills is an ideal place for an airline to set up shop. Really, it's a great place for any company to set up shop—a stone's throw from America's biggest financial districts but situated firmly in lower-key Queens, with its far-lower rents, great public transportation and easy access by car to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island and Westchester.

The reasons people want to work in Forest Hills aren't much different from some of the reasons people want to live in Forest Hills, and the way Forest Hills flies under the radar as a dynamic business community isn't much different from its underrated status as a hot residential neighborhood. We might not get noticed on either front, but fanfare doesn't always beget success. Just ask the most glamorous companies in the world's most prominent financial capital.

The writer, Steve Tiszenkel is the host of the Website, Queens Central. Log on to to read more about Forest Hills and surrounding neighborhoods.

Adding a Kick to Conventional Medicine

By Albert J. Decristino

For years, researchers have marveled at the mind-body connection; postulating that what goes on in one’s mind can most certainly affect their physical existence and vice versa.

One Forest Hills man, Rabbi Sensai Gary Moskowitz has taken those mind-body theories to a level he hopes will translate into help for children with debilitating and even terminal illness..

A firm believer in the power that lies in the mind-body connection, Rabbi Moskowitz is a former New York City police officer who has done graduate work in law, social work and education. Moskowitz of Forest Hills, has made a name for himself as an educated and compassionate community resident.

Where he fits into the mind-body issue is with a long-time passion of his: martial arts. He holds black belts in Ju-Jitsu, Karate and Judo and has founded several community organizations related to martial arts.

Moskowitz first discovered martial arts as an adolescent. “I was a kid from the Bronx who kept getting beat up,” he said. “There was a lot of racial tension in those days – I was growing up in the 60s.” Things changed for him when he attended a special karate camp. “I did six hours of karate for six days a week for eight weeks,” he said. “It was an incredible initiative. It was like boot camp. It turned my life

A few days after returning from the program, a group of boys started a fight with him. But unlike before, he was armed with the confidence and self-reliance he needed to stand up to his aggressors. He described the experience as simply “life-changing.”

Beyond helping him physically, the program had proved beneficial on a psychological level as well. “It provided a practical value for everyday life,” he said. “If you are taking a test and you get nervous, it taught you how to calm down.” It is this peaceful aspect of martial arts that he found so helpful throughout his life. “There is a whole meditative piece that runs throughout a good martial arts program, he said.

“In my personal life and in my relationships, everything was calmer.” Even though martial arts taught him how to defend himself as a young boy, the rabbi is quick to remind people that it is far from just hitting people. In fact, it was this belief that led him to create Martial Arts for a Better Community, a group that he founded in 1979 after he began teaching martial arts. With his group, Moskowitz sought to join karate instruction with service work. “To me martial arts and community service aren’t separate,” he said. “They are one and the same.”

His students were required to take on a variety of community projects in addition to passing physical tests if they hoped to advance to higher levels. Before they reached black belt status, students had to participate in an even larger community-building endeavor, such as working with children who are blind or suffering from cancer, cerebral palsy or other ailments.

Moskowitz noticed that any aggressions, fears or family problems his students felt soon melted away as they advanced in martial arts. He was happy to see that they were learning the same values of tranquility and non-violence from martial arts that he learned when he began studying.

“One of my students told me about an incident where four guys attacked him,” he said. “During the course of the fight my student broke one of the muggers wrists and the other attackers ran off. Instead of running, my student stayed and splinted the guy's wrist.”

In his capacity as a rabbi he has done a great deal of work for synagogues and community centers throughout the city. However, one technique that he hopes to bring to greater awareness involves his work with children with cancer and other illnesses. Through a technique called guidance imagery, Moskowitz teaches children about the human body and helps them understand how it functions.

Then, applying a police technique, he advises children to “identify the aggressor” – meaning a cancer cell or other sick area of the body. Finally, the child visualizes a battle or swordfight between the cancer cells and disease-fighting agents of the body – white blood cells.

Moskowitz considers this visualization as part of the healing process. He believes that it is a valuable tool, rather than simply a pain medication pill, for dealing with the pain of an illness.

He encourages his students suffering from illness to practice karate, to whatever extent that they are able. One technique he has used involves having children stand several feet apart, so as to prevent injury, while they perform karate moves. He believes this enables the children to remain active and enjoy learning marital arts despite their health issues.

While the scope of his work to-date has been local, Moskowitz is currently working to establish a non-profit organization based on the principles of martial arts therapy. He hopes to provide a place where children suffering from any illness or disability can come to experience the benefits of meditation, physical activity and martial arts – a true mind-body-centered program.

When asked about how he plans to proceed with the development of the program, he urged anyone interested to visit his website at: mnln2003/home.html. He hopes to connect with other influential community members in order to further develop the project.

There was one aspect of the program that Moskowitz was particularly adamant about: he wants the program to be completely free-of- charge. “I just can’t see charging money to the family of a child with an illness,” he said.

HealthWatch: Lowering Your Risk of Heart Disease by Boosting Your HDL Levels

Your doctor says you need to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. You're working hard at that goal but now your doctor says it's important to raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. You're not sure whether you're coming or going. It might sound like a mixed message, but this one-two punch — reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol — is the best way to lower your risk of heart disease.

Understanding HDL cholesterol

Cholesterol is carried through your blood attached to proteins. The cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein.

Low-density lipoproteins: LDL, or "bad," cholesterol carries cholesterol throughout your body, depositing it along the walls of your arteries. Cholesterol buildup forms plaques that make arteries hard and narrow — ultimately increasing the risk of coronary artery disease.

High-density lipoproteins: HDL, or "good," cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver for disposal. The higher your HDL cholesterol, the less bad cholesterol you'll have in your blood.

The message to lower LDL cholesterol is loud and clear — but it might not be enough for people at high risk of heart disease. So doctors are beginning to turn their attention to HDL cholesterol.

In one study, every 1 percent increase in HDL cholesterol was linked to a 2 percent reduction in the development of coronary artery disease. In the same study, participants with the highest HDL levels had half the risk of developing coronary artery disease as did those with the lowest HDL levels.

Set your target

Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. When it comes to HDL cholesterol, think high. Most people should aim for an HDL level of 60 mg/dL or above. An HDL level below 40 mg/dL increases the risk of heart disease.

For the average man, HDL cholesterol ranges from 40 to 50 mg/dL. Thanks to female sex hormones — which have a positive effect on HDL cholesterol — the average woman fares better, with HDL cholesterol ranging from 50 to 60 mg/dL. But both men and women can benefit from increasing those averages.

If you don't know your HDL level, ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test. If your HDL value isn't within a desirable range, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to boost your HDL cholesterol.

Make your lifestyle count

Your lifestyle has the single greatest impact on your HDL cholesterol. Even small changes to your daily habits can help you meet your HDL target.

Don't smoke. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol and increases your blood's tendency to clot. If you smoke, quit. To increase your odds of success, you might want to try more than one strategy at a time. For example, combine medication to reduce nicotine cravings with a support group or individual counseling. Talk with your doctor about your options for quitting.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds take a toll on HDL cholesterol. But there's good news. If you're overweight, losing even a few pounds can improve your
HDL level. For every 2 pounds you lose, your HDL may increase by .35 mg/dL. That's about 1 mg/dL for every 6 pounds. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.

Get more physical activity. In one study, regular aerobic exercise increased HDL cholesterol by 3 percent to 9 percent in otherwise healthy sedentary adults. Try to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity on most days of the week. Better yet, exercise every day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. If you can't fit in a long workout, break it up into smaller sessions spread throughout the day.

Choose healthier fats. A healthy diet includes some fat, but there's a limit. In a heart-healthy diet, up to 25 percent to 35 percent of your total daily calories can come from fat — but saturated fat should account for less than 7 percent of your total daily calories. Avoid foods that contain trans fat, which raises LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol. This includes many margarines, most commercial baked products and anything that contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Monounsaturated fat — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — is a healthier option. Nuts, fish and other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are other good choices.

Drink alcohol only in moderation. In some studies, moderate use of alcohol (particularly red wine) has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren't strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn't drink already. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means no more than one drink a day for women, and one to two drinks a day for men.

What about medication?

Some medications used to lower LDL cholesterol may also increase HDL cholesterol, including niacin, fibrates (Lopid, others) and statins (Lipitor, Zocor, others). If your doctor prescribes medication to help control your cholesterol, take it as directed while you continue to focus on a healthy lifestyle.

Remember...before making any changes to your health care regimen please consult your physician.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Week's Forum West and South

Board Holds Hearing on VFW Liquor License Request

Senator Releases List of Cleanest, Dirtiest Restaurants

Stolen Torahs Returned in Time for Holiday

KaBoom! Brings New Playground to HeartShare

Gang Activity Headlines Precinct Community Council Meeting

Man to be Sentenced for Brutal Park Muggings

Board Holds Hearing on VFW Liquor License Request

Neighbors Opposed to MV Hall’s Use of Yard

By Conor Greene

Members of a local VFW hall are seeking permission to extend its liquor license to allow drinking in an outside alley next to their Middle Village building, a proposal that has upset some neighbors.

A hearing on the request was held at last week’s Community Board 5 meeting. The proposal will now be discussed at the committee level before coming back to the full board for a vote at next month’s meeting.

However, Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said his group is meeting with both sides in hopes of reaching a compromise.

Members of Haspel Staab Post 551 on 60th Avenue are preparing to apply to the State Liquor Authority to extend the terms of their license so that alcohol can be consumed in a small paved yard next to their building, which separates the post from a house owned by Ralph DeSanto. He opposes the request because of disruptions to his quality of life he says parties at the VFW Hall have caused.

The hearing last Wednesday in Christ the King High School began with comments from attorney Thomas Monaghan, who is representing the VFW Hall in its request. He explained that the license would simply be extended to include the outdoor area, and that all existing rules governing drinking at the hall would continue to apply.

“All rules would apply to the outside, however no alcohol or activity will take place outside after 10 p.m. if they are against noise codes,” he said.

Holden, also a CB 5 member, asked why the group wasn’t going to keep the drinking inside, as has been done for decades. “As everybody in society knows, when people drink, they get louder – it is just the nature of the beast.” He noted the area is largely residential.

Monaghan responded that the members are only seeking to do what is allowed under state law. “The club respects the law – that’s why were here tonight,” he said, adding that the members have not yet filed the request with the state. “Ample statutes cover that problem,” he said of resident’s complaints that the members are loud late at night.

This response didn’t sit well with board member Lorraine Sciulli, who is also a JPCA member. “To say that after 10 p.m. it reverts to the noise code is a little disingenuous,” she said, since it is unlikely the city would send somebody immediately to investigate a noise complaint. “To bring drinking outside means to turn the whole neighborhood upside down.”

Michael Brown, post commander, spoke next and accused DeSanto and the JPCA of providing a “misleading account” of the member’s activities and intentions. “This is an affront to all veterans,” he said. “We have been relegated to second class citizens... not afforded the chance to defend ourselves.” He said that the post asked for a list of complaints that the JPCA received, but never heard back.

Longtime post member Tom Lynch called DeSanto’s opposition “a crusade against us” and said he has “lost sight of the noise problem and is now consumed with one object – destroying the lives and ideals of the very men and women who defended the country in wars.”

Neighbor Linda Mullins, who has lived across the street for 17 years, accused DeSanto of misleading neighbors who signed a petition against the VFW’s request. “Ralph DeSanto had a personal dispute on Memorial Day and in retaliation is going around slandering the VFW,” she said. Some neighbors who signed the petition “didn’t understand the circumstances and were not given all the facts,” she alleged. “This is not a community issue, but a personal issue.”

However, DeSanto, the next speaker, argued that it is in fact a “quality of life” issue. “Why should we be allowing the post to serve alcohol in the alley?” he said. “It is only going to increase the noise in the neighborhood. This is a residential area. We can’t sleep in our homes whenever they have these parties. It’s not twenty to thirty people – they fill the alley.”

He said that one event held last year featured a $20 admission that provided an open bar and was advertised online. He said it was “extremely noisy.”

His mother, Josephine DeSanto, 85, said she has lived in the house next to the hall for the past 46 years. “Mike Brown is lying,” she said, drawing a reaction from the post members and supporters in the crowd. “I’m glad they’re happy, but it bothers us... I support them, but there is no reason to drink in the alley.”

The final speaker was Victor DeSanto, whose window faces the alley. DeSanto is a former honorary member of the post, and some have claimed the backlash against the members is due at a falling out several years ago. “It’s only us [affected by the noise] which makes it so hard to understand,” he said. “We want peace. All I’m asking is for cooperation on both sides so we can resolve this.”

While the community board’s eventual vote regarding the proposal is simply advisory, Holden hopes the civic association can help both sides reach an agreeable solution in the coming weeks.


Other issues discussed at the board’s monthly session included problems along train tracks used by the Long Island Railroad and a freight company, road resurfacing, the Maurice Avenue sewer project and a request by the Woodhaven House for a sidewalk cafe.

Train Track Growth and Smelly Garbage

District Manager Gary Giordano reported that he is trying to get the LIRR and New York and Atlantic Railway to clear overgrown trees and shrubs from along areas near roads and sidewalks. He said that Donna Rypkema, who was struck by a falling tree while walking along Myrtle Avenue near Fresh Pond Road three weeks ago, is slowly improving.

“There is a lot of growth along the line,” said Giordano, adding that the LIRR officials say that NY and Atlantic is responsible for removing it. “If it is along a line they share, [it’s not clear] whose responsibility it is,” he said on Tuesday. “If it is along the freight line, I certainly get the impression that it’s Atlantic’s responsibility to maintain that.”

Giordano said he is also trying to get verification from LIRR that the agency has been testing the structural integrity of trestles that cross over roads. “We want to make sure they’re in good condition,” he said. He said bridges of concern include ones at Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, Cypress Hills Street between Central and Shaler avenues and 65th Street near Shaler Avenue.

“I’m reasonably confident those bridges are inspected with regularity and are structurally sound, but I want to hear it from LIRR,” said Giordano. “There is a lot of back and forth movement [of trains at those locations].”

Another big issue for residents is trains carrying garbage through the area from Long Island. They are supposed to be covered and sealed, but the community board had received several complaints about strong odors coming from the train.

Giordano urged residents to call with any additional complaints. “It does get trucks off the street” but creates a new problem with smell, he said. “It is an ongoing issue and I need all the help I can get,” he told the board and residents.

On Tuesday, he said he hadn’t received any additional complaints. “I’m hoping that whoever their customer out east is has gotten newer containers that are sealed for the storage of this solid waste, or that the seals were replaced.”

Area Road Projects

A number of local roads are being resurfaced, with most of the milling work complete, according to Giordano. Projects include Forest Avenue between Metropolitan and Myrtle avenues, Maspeth Avenue from Maurice Avenue to 61st Street, Cypress Hills Street from Fresh Pond Road to the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Central Avenue from Myrtle Avenue to 73rd Place.

Another major project is the installation of a sewer line and box sewer beneath Maurice Avenue. “We’re hoping that will alleviate some flooding in that neck of Maspeth,” said Giordano. “We’ve been lucky in the past year, but the real test will come when we get two or three inches of rain in an hour.”

He said that a consultant hired by the Department of Design and Construction recently told him that the $5 million project, which will extend between 54th to 56th avenues, will start in early October. “That’s a big concession we got, that they’ll do Maurice at night,” said Giordano.

The project also includes a major reconstruction of 54th Avenue between Maurice and 58th avenues, including new sewer lines, water mains, concrete base beneath the pavement and sidewalks. “It’s not a tremendously long stretch, but it is a lot of work,” he said. “Maurice is a flat out sewer job.” Work along 54th Avenue will take place between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The entire project is expected to take a year to complete, according to the DDC.

Woodhaven House Sidewalk Cafe

The board unanimously approved an application by the Woodhaven House restaurant in Rego Park for 28 outdoor tables along Woodhaven Boulevardand Fleet Court. There will be no amplified music, and the board requested that hours be limited to 11 p.m. during the week and until midnight on weekends. However, the application calls for keeping the tables open an hour later.

The tables will take up about half of the 15-foot-wide sidewalks, with 12 tables along the boulevard and 14 along Fleet Court. Board member Tom Rossi noted that the building was rundown until the restaurant opened and said it is “good for the community.”

Senator Releases List of Cleanest, Dirtiest Restaurants

By Conor Greene

A Forest Hills Chinese restaurant has been included on a state senator’s list of the city’s dozen filthiest establishments, while an Italian restaurant in Ridgewood has been included on the dozen cleanest dining spots.

State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) released a report called “Enough to Make You Sick: An Analysis of Unsanitary Conditions at NY City Restaurants.” Using data supplied by the city Department of Health, Klein released two lists: the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Sparkling Twelve.”

New Chopstick House at 102-09 Queens Boulevard was ranked fifth-worst in terms of the city’s worst offending restaurants on the list issued this week by the senator. It received a score of 100 on its most recent health inspection, well above the 28-point threshold for failing. Among the infractions were mice and cockroaches. It was the only Queens restaurant included on the list.

In contrast, Corato Pizza II at 60-91 Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood was among the city’s cleanest establishments, according to the senator. Other Queens restaurants on the “Sparking Twelve” list are Russo’s On the Bay in Howard Beach, Sripraphai Thai Restaurant in Woodside, Primo Amore in Bayside and McDonalds on Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill.

“It is inexcusable that the Department of Health does not have an adequate system in place to alert consumers to restaurants with failing sanitation records,” said Klein, who is sponsoring legislation requiring restaurants to post a letter grade A through F alerting consumers of their inspection status.

“The public has a right to know that the restaurant they’re eating at may have more on the menu than tasty cuisine,” he said. “Having a letter grade posted for all diners to see will provide an incentive for restaurants to clean up their act. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to eat at an establishment with an ‘F’ hanging in the doorway.”

Klein’s report studied the restaurants that had the 100 worst inspection reports among the approximately 20,000 establishments citywide. Of the bottom 100 restaurants, 87% had at least one category of pest cited in their most recent inspection. Almost half of those had at least two categories cited, and 12% were cited for three pest categories. Of the bottom 100, 59% were allowed to remain open despite the pest control issues.

“Restaurant discipline and the commitment to proper sanitation and food safety have clearly broken down when an establishment finds itself juggling multiple pest infestation,” said Klein. “Whether New Yorkers are dining out for a routine meal or a special occasion, their only reservations should be to book a table.”

Michael Cerbone, owner of Corato Pizza II, said his establishment has won the city’s Golden Apple award - issued to restaurants that score especially well on the health inspection - three years in a row. “It’s all about hard work for the safety of the customers, and keeping the food to the maximum safety,” he said. “That’s why we got the award.”

A woman who answered the phone at New Chopstick House was unable to comment due to a language barrier.

Stolen Torahs Returned in Time for Holiday

By Conor Greene

Eight Torahs stolen last month from a local Jewish synagogue were returned to the congregation this week, in time for Rosh Hashanah.

The Torahs were stolen from the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills last month, with shocked congregants making the discovery during Saturday services. It was immediately suspected to be an inside job, since the scriptures were kept under lock and key.

On September 3, the temple’s live-in custodian, Eric Giraldo, and a friend, Alan Lozano, were charged in the theft after the Torahs were found in a closet in Lozano’s home. The men have been charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. They face up to 15 years in prison and are due back in court this Thursday.

During the NYPD’s annual High Holy Days meeting at One Police Plaza on Tuesday, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown joined NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly in returning the Torahs to the Jewish center in time for the holidays.

“Ten days ago – at the time of the Torahs’ recovery – I said that we would make every effort, consistent to with our need to have the Torahs available for the prosecution of the case, to have them returned to the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills in time for Rosh Hashanah,” said Brown. “I am delighted that we have now been able to accomplish that goal.”

Joining Brown and Kelly at the meeting was the temple’s honorary president, Alan Gerard, the NYPD’s Chief Chaplin Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass and the temple’s president, Meredith Deckler.

Photo: Queens District Attorney Richard Brown (foreground, left) joins Kew Gardens Hills Jewish Center Honorary President Alan Gerard, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, NYPD Chief Chaplain Rabbi Doctor Alvin Kass and temple President Meredith Deckler at One Police Plaza. In the background are members of the NYPD’s Shomrim Society (the fraternal organization of Jewish members of the NYPD) holding the recovered Torahs.

KaBoom! Brings New Playground to HeartShare in Howard Beach

WaMu is Funding Partner for Project

By Patricia Adams

Carol Verdi, Vice President of Educational Services for HeartShare Human Services says she remembers the first time she got a call from KaBOOM! They were looking for non- profit organizations to build playgrounds for when Verdi informed the caller that they had to look no further.

Since then KaBOOM! has built three playgrounds for HeartShare, one in Bensonhurst at the St. Finbar Complex, another in Richmond Hill at the HeartShare Pre-School and finally, last Saturday at the Howard Beach site which houses a pre-school program for children with special needs and a Universal Pre-K.

For the Howard Beach site, HeartShare put in an application and was partnered with Washington Mutual as their funding partner. Both HeartShare and WaMu each brought more than 100 volunteers. The day kicked off around 9AM and went until 2:30 when the playground was completed. Additionally there was a prep day on the Thursday before the build.

According to Verdi, HeartShare has been “very blessed to get involved with KaBOOM!” “Not only did they organize and help with the playground, they also serve to oversee the fostering of a strong relationship between the community, its needs and local business,” Verdi said. “There are so many people we have to thank. ConEd sent out crews of men with heavy equipment to dig the holes and prepare the ground for the playground installation. Merchants from the boulevard donated food and water. It was just unbelievable.”

Among those who supplied food and beverages for the day were Ragtime Gourmet, Sapienza, Carosello, Beach Bagels, Waldbaums, Councilman Joe Addabbo and Pepsi. Angelo Gurino, owner of Ragtime, who supplied breakfast for the hundreds of volunteers, said, “Anytime we have the opportunity to do something for the kids of this community, we try to get it done.”

The day started for the volunteers at around 9 AM with breakfast being supplied by said Gurino. For the remainder of the morning and well into the afternoon, play structures were assembled and put into place, cement was poured, engineered wood fiber was put in around the play equipment for children’s safety, and planter benches were constructed. A DJ was on hand throughout the day to provide entertainment.

The new playground will provide more than 90 children daily with a safe place to play. The play space is one of more than two hundred KaBOOM! will lead across the country this year in an effort to provide a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

HeartShare Human Services of New York is celebrating its 94th year, as a nonprofit organization that assists more than 17,000 New Yorkers. Its wide spectrum of services provides counseling, after-school programs and assistance with foster care and adoption to children and families, supports people affected by HIV/AIDS, and administers energy assistance programs. It also helps individuals with developmental disabilities through numerous programs including childhood services, adult day programs, residential services, case management, recreation programs, family support services, and health services. KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that has the vision that every child in

America should have a playground within walking distance of their homes. Over the past ten years, innovators at KaBOOM! have employed a community-build model that brings together the interests of the community and local business. Together these successful community partnerships have been responsible for the building of over 1,000 new playgrounds, skate parks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America.

“KaBOOM! has a wonderful mission which puts children and their needs before everything else. They have really made dreams come true for us. I can’t say enough good things about them,” said Verdi. “I think the biggest thing for us is that it not only offers the ability for the children to develop their growth motor skills and it also gives them opportunities for socialization and language development. The most important thing is to have fun.”

For those communities who wish to build a new playground on their own, KaBOOM! has made a wide variety of resources available. The organization has a strong online community, offers training on a regional and national basis and offers both grants and publications to potential playground builders.

If you would like more information on HeartShare Human Services or KaBOOM! You can visit their websites at Or

Gang Activity Headlines Precinct Community Council Meeting

Gang Activity on the Rise, Capt. Pledges Long-Term Take Down Operation

By Nicole Turso

Police at the 106th Precinct say gang activity is on the rise in South Ozone Park.

Captain Joseph Courtesis, the precinct's commanding officer, would give only limited details on the police investigation at the crowded 106th Precinct Community Council meeting last Wednesday, but said it would be a “long-term take down operation”.

Capt. Courtesis has alerted the Queens borough-wide gang command to the increase in gang-related crimes, to which residents attribute violence and drug-activity in the neighborhood.

Residents of 106th Street also complained about recent shootings and stabbings on their block. One resident who lives of the block lamented that she and other neighbors are afraid they might have to sell their homes if the situation doesn’t improve.

Capt. Courtesis said the precinct is making strides with their investigation and
two arrests have been made in connection with a shooting on 106th Street before the summer. The district’s crime rates, however have been on the rise. CompStat statistics of the 106th Precinct obtained from the New York City Police Department website show murder complaints in the precinct have more than doubled in the last year. Rape and Grand Larceny complaints have also increased since 2007.

Noise Complaints

Capt. Courtesis said the precinct is “aggressively pursuing” noise complaints throughout the district, citing 159 summonses issued from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Roughly 300 alcohol related summonses were issued at these locations.

With 11 block parties on Labor Day alone, the precinct has made a big dent in noise problems over the summer; with complaints down 26 percent over Memorial Day weekend, and 15 percent from Memorial Day through Labor Day since last year.

Commercial Vehicles

“Commercial vehicles parking on residential streets overnight have been a growing problem this year,” said Capt. Courtesis.

A truck enforcement team sent out from the precinct in conjunction with efforts by the Department of Transportation, issued 1,440 summonses to illegally parked commercial vehicles — up 842 from the previous year. Some commercial vehicles, including 40-foot tractor-trailers, were booted and towed.

101st Street Parking Complaints

Residents of 101st Street off of Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park complained of teachers at John Adams High School and parishioners of the local church parking in driveways and narrow spots in front of houses.

Courtesis said he understood the inconvenience, however, explained that both John Adams High School and M.S. 137 let out approximately 4,000 students per day at the same time during the school year; making students the main priority of the officers on duty.

88th Street Vandalism

Residents of 88th Street came to the 106th Precinct Community Council meeting in full-force to raise concerns of vandalism on their block in Ozone Park.

Residents say neighbors put garbage pails in front of their house to save parking spots, as the block is centrally located by the A-train 88th Street/Boyd Avenue Station.

Residents of one particular house vandalize the cars of those who move the garbage pails, said those in attendance at the meeting, citing the shooting of BBs through car windows and mustard being thrown on cars. Residents have tried calling both 911 and 311 with no results.

Courtesis said he would need “probable cause” to take action, but wrote down the address of those allegedly causing the damage to property and said he would look into the legal action that can be taken. “I promise you I will punish them to whatever extent that I can,” Courtesis said.

Man to be Sentenced for Brutal Park Muggings

String of Attacks Killed One, Left Another in a Coma

By Conor Greene

A Queens teenager will be sentenced next month for his role in a series of violent muggings in Flushing Meadows Park which left one man dead and another in a coma.

Yovanni Rivera, 19, who was living on the streets of Corona at the time of the robberies, will be sentenced on October 6 after pleading in Queens Criminal Court last week to second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder. He will likely receive a sentence of 25 years to life, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

An accomplice in several of the robberies, Marcos Polanco, 19, of 43rd Avenue in Corona, pled guilty to first-degree robbery in March and is expected to receive 20 years in prison when he is sentenced next Friday, said Brown.

As part of a pattern of muggings in late 2006 that left residents shaken, Rivera approached Carlos Flores, 40, of Ridgewood as he was walking alone through the park on December 4 and robbed him of $20 cash and a MetroCard before hitting him numerous times with and legs and gashes to the back of his head.

The body of Flores, an immigrant from Ecuador, was found the following morning half-submerged in a park pond near the Long Island Expressway.

In the second brutal attack, Rivera and Polanco approached 33-year-old Ja Woo Park while he was jogging near the Unisphere on the evening of December 25. The men punched, kicked and stomped him, causing severe head trauma before robbing him of cash and the keys to his 2007 Honda van.

Park, a student from Little Neck, was not identified until several weeks after the attack before his family members, who were in South Korea at the time, returned home to Queens and identified him. Park remains in a coma, and under the plea agreement Rivera won’t get additional prison time if his victim dies.

The break in the case came after investigators linked the Honda, found torched on the Horace Harding Expressway, back to Park through the registration. Rivera was badly burned while setting the vehicle on fire, according to authorities. Polanco was arrested at his home after being linked to the crimes after he used the victim’s credit cards.

“The defendant was involved in a string of brutal muggings in and around Flushing Meadow Park that left one man dead and another severely injured and in a coma,” said Brown. “The defendant’s admission of guilt ensures that he is held responsible for his actions and that he will serve a lengthy prison sentence.”

Police say Rivera was known as “Nyquil” because of his ability to knock somebody out with a single punch. The defendants told authorities that the robbed the victims for food money. They were initially charged in four attacks, but were believed to be responsible for as many as ten that took place in the park, including several using the machete.

“Residents of our community should not have to fear being brutally attacked or robbed by thugs whenever they enter one of our parks,” said Brown after the men were arrested. “Those who would commit such heinous crimes are put on notice that my office will vigorously prosecute cases involving attacks on park-goers to the fullest extent of the law.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Week's Forum West and South

Seminerio Charged in Corruption Scandal

Building Memories, Preserving 9/11

Civic Accuses Developer of Violating Stop Work Order

CB 10 Unanimously Rejects Group Home Proposal

Addabbo Calls on DEP to Clean Up its Act as Fish Continue to Die

Company Accused of Illegal Dumping at Newtown Creek

Another Death on Queens Boulevard

Stolen Torahs Recovered, Temple's Custodian Charged

Seminerio Charged in Corruption Scheme

By Conor Greene

Longtime state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio was charged by federal prosecutors with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups doing business with the state, including executives from a local hospital.

The charges center on Seminerio’s consulting firm Marc Consultants, which he has run from his Ozone Park home since 2000. The charges were expected to be formally announced by U.S Attorney for the Southern District Michael Garcia and FBI Agent Mark Mershon at a press conference Wednesday.

Seminerio, a Democrat from Richmond Hill who has served on the assembly for three decades, was arrested that afternoon.

Authorities allege that more than $500,000 in consulting fees paid to Seminerio, 73, were actually payoffs made in exchange for political favors. He was able to prevent the scheme from coming to light sooner due to a state law not requiring him to reveal the names of his clients.

A witness cooperating with the federal investigation, reported to be disgraced former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, recorded conversations with Seminerio during which the politician said he was tired of doing “favors” for people who were “making thousands” of dollars. “Screw you, from now on, you know, I’m a consultant,” he said to the cooperating witness. He added that he would lose “sixty percent” of his consulting business if he were to leave the assembly.

Among the groups doing business with Seminerio was a hospital “whose funding was substantially affected” by the state’s budget. “The intercepted communications... demonstrated that on numerous occasions Seminerio took action... to benefit the hospital at the time he was receiving payments from the hospital,” wrote FBI Special Agent Julie Brown in the complaint.

At one point, Seminerio bragged to a hospital executive that he can provide the “kind of relationship you can’t buy for a million dollars.” Later that day, the hospital informed Seminerio that his check would be sent the following week. The “consulting” work came as hospitals were threatened with budget cuts which were considered to close projected budget deficits.

That hospital executive later complained that a state official “has not been such a great friend for us.” Seminerio told the executive, “You got to tell me those things, and I’ll break his balls, and I have to know what to break his balls about.”

As the investigation continued, the FBI had an undercover agent approach Seminerio about legislation needed to privatize probation services. The agent offered a payment, but was told, “Let me produce something for you... If I produce, then, we’ll you know, we’ll sit down and you’ll congratulate me.” The undercover later agreed to pay him “consulting” fees in exchange for setting up meetings with members of the legislature.

Seminerio, who was a city corrections officer before he launched his political career, was paid $79,500 for his work as an assemblyman.

Building Memories; Preserving 9/11


As the world remembers the seventh anniversary of 9/11, thousands will gather at a ceremony at two massive pools set within the footprints of the Twin Towers- with the largest man-made waterfalls in the country cascading down their sides. They will be a powerful reminder of the Twin Towers and of the unprecedented loss of life from an attack on our soil.

The names of the 2,980 who were killed in the September 11 attacks in New York City, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, and the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing will be inscribed around the edge of the Memorial pools.

An eight-acre landscaped Memorial Plaza filled with more than 300 trees will create a contemplative space separate from the sights and sounds of the surrounding city. The design is unique in its use of ecological considerations which exceed sustainability standards.

As the Memorial Competition Jury explained its decision, "In its powerful, yet simple articulation of the footprints of the Twin Towers, "Reflecting Absence" has made the voids left by the destruction the primary symbols of our loss. It is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its consoling renewal, a place where all of us come together to remember from generation to generation."

Complementing the Memorial, a state-of-the art memorial will offer visitors an opportunity to deepen their experience at the site. The Museum will help facilitate an encounter with both the enormity of the loss and the triumph of the human spirit that are at the heart of 9/11.

Dynamic exhibitions including artifacts and personal effects; a resource center, contemplative areas, and innovative educational programming will convey responders, area residents, and witnesses.

The Museum, designed by Davis Brody Bond, LLP will have its primary exhibition space below ground. The Museum will be accessed through an entry pavilion designed by Snøhetta. As visitors descend below the Memorial voids, they will see the slurry wall - the wall that held back the Hudson River when the Towers collapsed - and other remaining structures at the foundation of the site where the tallest buildings in the world, a triumph of human ingenuity and aspiration once stood.

The remaining eight acres of the site will include the Freedom Tower, three other grand WTC Towers, retail development, the WTC Transportation Hub and a Performing Arts Center. The site also includes significant underground infrastructure, including PATH tracks, a chiller plant and other mechanical spaces.

Civic Accuses Developer of Violating Stop Work Order

Residents, JPCA, Continue Battle with Huang

By Conor Greene

Police were called to a Mazeau Street after work at a construction site there continued despite a stop work order, according to a local civic group.

Members of the Juniper Park Civic Association’s executive board recently observed workers on property at 57-39 Mazeau Street, where notorious developer Tommy Huang is building a multi-family house. Residents say the empty lot adjacent to the house construction is also owned by Huang, and is being used as a storage area for
heavy equipment.

The property has been the site of numerous violations. Earlier this year, the city forced Huang to remove the top floor of what was a four-story house after being pressured by the civic and Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). The city Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a stop work order, which was partially rescinded recently so that the developer could clean up the site.

On Saturday, residents heard loud banging at the property at about 8:30 a.m. and saw several people trying to break the lock on the security fence. They called 911, and police responded quickly since it was a possible break in attempt, according to JPCA member Manny Caruana, who lives near the scene.

“Apparently what happened was, [the developer] has been storing heavy equipment on the premises,” said Caruana. The workers claimed they were there to clean up, but were moving heavy equipment from the site, according to Caruana.

“It’s being used as a transfer site for heavy equipment,” he said. “They do this all time. It’s not clean-up. They sent five guys there to load a truck and leave, but there’s nothing left to clean up.”

After several years of pressuring the city to force Huang to comply with building codes, residents are starting to lose patience, said Caruana. Several houses across from the site have been put up for sale, and another next to Huang’s property has been allowed to fall into disrepair. “People are getting fed up with this. It’s an ongoing battle, the thing is ugly as hell, and it was built illegally.”

While police responded to the scene, they are not equipped to deal with Buildings Department issues, said JPCA member Tony Nunziato, who is challenging Marge Markey for her seat on the state Assembly. “They come five hours later and they don’t know the regulations,” he said. “The DOB knows this area has been a problem for two years. The city has to have a system [allowing] people who are watching the developers to call and have an inspector come down within an hour.”

Huang’s checkered past includes a conviction for allowing 200 gallons of oil to spill into the basement of the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing and then lying about cleaning it up. As a result of Huang’s repeated violations, officials including Avella have demanded that the city refuse to issue him any future building permits, a request which has been ignored.

“The city has to step up to the plate and watch what is going on in the neighborhood,” said Nunziato, adding that the DOB must put an end to the self-certification process. “Where is the government that is supposed to protect people? Is it a payoff, or total ignorance by people who don’t want to work?”

CB 10 Rejects Group Home Proposal

Plans for South Ozone Park Facility Angers Board Members, Residents

By Nicole Turso

A unanimous vote against the addition of another community residence program group home in the Community Board 10 district marked the first monthly meeting of the board for the new season, held last Thursday.

Community Board 10 Queens was back in session after a summer off, meeting at the Knights of Columbus on Lefferts Blvd. Their first order of business was a presentation from St. Vincent’s Youth Residential Services to establish a children’s group home on 126th Street in South Ozone Park.

Chris Jones, a representative from St. Vincent’s, gave the presentation for the residents program, which would service eight disabled children from Queens, up to age 18, deemed suitable for community living. The home would serve as a transition ground for children plagued by social, emotional and behavioral difficulties with the intent to return to their families after a year.

A Queens designated Single Point of Access (SPOA), a government designated program for children and families used to identify children with the highest risk of placement in out-of-home settings, would place the majority of children in the facility, with an intake screening committee involved in placement decisions. Some children may also be placed through the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Martha Taylor Butler, a representative from Assemblywoman Michele Titus’ (D-Queens) office attended on behalf of the community’s interest, denouncing the addition of another facility. “In our community we have too many residential programs. We’ve had enough,” she said. “We are against anymore residential beds in Ozone Park.”

Jones claimed at the meeting that there is no saturation of residential group homes in Ozone Park or its surrounding communities, but CB 10 Chairperson Betty Braton produced a list with the number of group homes established and running in zip codes-- 11420, 11417, 11419 and 11414. Just in the community of South Ozone Park alone there are 14 facilities.

“It seems that when people don’t know where to put something, they plant it in Ozone Park,” said Community Board member Margaret Finnerty, “Enough is enough in our community.”

St. Vincent’s planned to build an eight-bedroom, five-thousand square foot residential home, comparable to a one-family home already in place in Springfield Gardens that has been operating for six months. The home would be staffed with 15 full-time supervisors, and at least two to three staffers on duty at all times.

After hearing St. Vincent’s presentation, the board motioned to vote, and was followed by a unanimous vote to reject the proposal — the board viewing another group home as saturation of the zip code.

Photo: An overgrown empty lot on 126th street will serve as the site for a group home if St. Vincent’s Youth Residential Services has its way.