Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Week's Forum South and West

Howard Beach Says Good-Bye to Favorite Son

Man Charged with Murder in Middle Village Apartment

Three Killed in Traffic Accidents

Night Out Against Crime at the 106th Precinct

St. Saviour's Relocation Moving Ahead

Gallagher Spent Leftover Campaign Cash During Final Months in Office

Maltese and Como Host Town Hall Meeting

Why Forest Hills is Lucky to Have Avoided the Corcoran Curse

NYPD Detective Sentenced to Prison in Child Prostitution Case

New ADA Elevators Unveiled at Union Turnpike Station

M Line Stations Closed Next Three Weekends

Howard Beach Says Good-Bye to Favorite Son

Community Mourns the Loss of 9/11 Hero

by Patricia Adams

A big strapping guy he was. And as big of a heart went with the bulk of the man named “Buck” by his firefighter brothers for his cooking ability, and “The Rock” by his family for the dedication and strength he had for them.

Kevin Delano passed away on Wednesday July 30th after a battle with leukemia; the disease most believe was brought on due to the time he spent at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Delano was one of the first to arrive at the scene after the buildings collapsed and worked for 40 hours; continuously searching the rubble for any survivors. He wore very little protective gear and never gave a second thought to the potential health risks he was taking by being there amidst the toxic rubble. But that was Kevin Delano—concerned with saving lives not with his own safety.

The career he was so devoted to began in 1971, as soon as he was eligible to join the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department. He worked his way up and was later named Chief of the department. While serving in his volunteer role at West Hamilton, Kevin worked as a member of the US Coast Guard.

After four years with the Coast Guard, Kevin became a federal firefighter and was stationed at Governors Island. There he stayed for the next eleven years when the opportunity came to become an officer for the New York City Transit Police. It was from that position that Kevin Delano waited for the job he had always wanted—to be one of New York’s Bravest.

It was not quite two years later when Kevin Delano’s dream came true. Kevin was “on the job”, starting in Brooklyn at Ladder 146 and then transferred to Ladder 142 in Ozone Park, where he was closer to home. In 1980, Kevin married sweetheart Roseann Panhurst on August 16 at Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach.

Four years later the couple welcomed their son Kevin Michael Jr. into the world. Of course Kevin took the same type of an active and dedicated role in raising his son as he did with his job and his family. He went on to coach his son at the Ozone Howard Little League. Always an avid sports fan, he spent much of his spare time teaching his son and nephews how to play ball.

Kevin Delano was retired by the New York City Fire Department and moved with his family from Hamilton Beach to the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It was a frustrating time for the fireman who could no longer do what he wanted to do. He was a firefighter who while assigned to the 142 in Ozone Park also put in 40 to 60 hours a week volunteering. Volunteering, he once said, was all about the “feeling you get when you know you have helped someone”.

Delano was an avid golfer and found his enjoyment in the Poconos by golfing regularly, spending time in his pool and sport fishing. But his relaxation and peace was to meet with an unexpected obstacle—after being rushed to a hospital, Delano was diagnosed with leukemia. He battled the disease, experienced a successful remission but was struck again when it returned.

Approximately seven months ago, doctors told Kevin Delano his only hope was a bone marrow transplant. One of his sisters, Patti Fogarty, was a perfect match and acted as a donor. His sister’s stem cells gave Kevin Delano seven more months to live but two weeks ago he was airlifted to Penn State Hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Kevin Delano spent his last two weeks surrounded by family and friends. He was 54 years old and is survived by his wife Roseann; his son Kevin Michael, Jr. (Half-A-Buck); his mother-in-law, brothers: Raymond and Ger- ard and his sisters: Barbara Jean, Loretta, Patti, Cathy, Maureen, Jeananne and Vicky and more than 35 nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Monday, August 4th in Our Lady of Grace Church in Howard Beach. The ceremonial farewell to a beloved brother and friend to the community was marked by the presence of a full honor guard, bagpipes and fire department funeral procession. The procession drove past the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department before heading out for the burial at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

The city of New York has refused to acknowledge the link to Kevin’s death as a result of his heroic actions on 9/11. As a result the family has incurred the tremendous financial burden of medical expenses during Kevin’s battle.

The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department will be accepting donations which can be made to Roseann Delano and sent to the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Corps at Post Office Box 77, Howard Beach, New York 11414.

Above: Hundreds of firefighters, family members and community residents bid farewell to retired Firefighter Kevin Delano who lost his battle with leukemia last week. At left: Kevin Delano stands proud in his dress uniform.

The Forum Newsgroup/top photo by PATRICIA ADAMS. Left photo courtesy of NICK BENEDUCE

Man Charged with Murder in Middle Village Apartment

Two Men Shot and Dismembered After Drug Deal Gone Bad

by Conor Greene

A Middle Village man has been charged with the murder of two men who went missing from Long Island last month after a drug deal gone bad, said police.

Darren Lynch, 28, is accused of shooting two men inside his 68th Avenue apartment and cutting up their bodies after buying $20,000 worth of fake cocaine, according to police. The men’s dismembered bodies were found last week near Lynch’s parents’ house on Long Island.

He was arrested late last Wednesday by Suffolk County Police Department detectives and members of the NYPD and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Police say he admitted the following day to shooting both men inside his apartment and later dumping their bodies in a shallow grave behind his parent’s Coram house and in a nearby sump.

During the raid of Lynch’s apartment, police found a large quantity of drugs and weapons, including a loaded AK-47, Tec-9 machine pistol, several handguns and rifles and a bulletproof vest, according to police. They also found several books about serial killers on the kitchen table, next to a collection of pornography.

Lynch’s girlfriend, Leah Reynolds, who shared the apartment at 79-42 68th Avenue, has been charged with helping transport the bodies to Coram, Suffolk County, and hiding the murder weapons at her mother’s house in Holtsville, said police. The investigation began several days after the July 16 disappearance of Joseph Odierno, 35, of Miller Place and Jairo Santos, 22, of Washington Heights, who was a student at the C.W Post campus of Long Island University in Old Brookville.

The two men were last seen that day on the campus and were believed to be heading to Coram in Odierno’s Cadillac Escalade to meet an unidentified person. Initially, police deemed the men had disappeared under “suspicious circumstances” and launched a joint investigation between authorities from Suffolk County, who were looking into Odierno’s disappearance, and Old Brookville, which was handling Santos’ case.

Days after Odierno was reported missing, his wife activated the OnStar tracking system on her husband’s Cadillac, which was found by the NYPD on Gates Avenue in Middle Village. The break in the case came on July 23, when police located the third man, who told them that Lynch had kidnapped Odierno and Santos.

Based on the witness’s statement, police determined that Odierno, Santos, Lynch and the unidentified man traveled to a location in Coram, where Lynch paid another group of men $20,000 for what he thought was a kilogram of cocaine. After the sellers left, Lynch realized the bag contained sugar and baking powder, at which point he pulled a gun on the Odierno, Santos and the third man.

Lynch told the men to drive him to Washington Heights in hopes of finding the sellers. The unidentified man was able to flee after Lynch told him to go inside an apartment building and get the dealers.

Lynch then forced Odierno and Santos to drive to his Middle Village apartment, where he tied the men up and shot them several times in the kitchen, according to police. He then placed the bodies in the bathtub and cut them up using a power saw before transporting them to Long Island, said police.

Reynolds, who followed Lynch’s instruction to go into another room in the apartment while he shot the men, has been charged with first-degree hindering apprehension. She went with Lynch when he transported the bodies, and told police she hid three handguns used in the murder in her mother’s house, said police.

Lynch was arraigned last Friday in First District Court in Central Islip and ordered held without bail. He has a prior jail record for crimes involving drugs and firearms, according to police. Suffolk County Chief of Detectives told the New York Post that Lynch “admitted to us that he survived on a diet of steroids, cocaine and health food.” His sister, Erin Lynch, told Newsday that the family is “embarrassed and hurting” due to the charges.

On 68th Avenue in Middle Village, neighbors described Lynch as “troubled” according to a report in the Daily News. “We knew he was a troubled young man who was in and out of jail,” said Jenn Kohen, a family friend who lives across the street. “But one thing is to be in trouble with the law and another to kill people and cut them to pieces.”

On Tuesday, police announced the arrest of a second man in connection with the double murder, James Wall, 28, of Coram. He was allegedly in involved in the kidnapping, and under New York State law, a participant in an abduction that leads to a murder can be charged with murder. Police refused to reveal the extent of his involvement or say whether he was present when Odierno and Santos were shot.

Three Killed in Traffic Accidents

Teen Charged in Forest Hills Wreck, Man Killed on LIE in Maspeth

by Conor Greene

In a deadly 24-hour period for Queens drivers, fatal accidents in Forest Hills and Maspeth claimed three lives in two separate incidents. An unlicensed teenage driver who admitted he was high on marijuana has been arrested in connection with one of the wrecks.

Teen Runs Red Light on Service Road

The carnage began Tuesday morning, when a 17-year-old Forest Hills resident sped through a red light along the Grand Central Parkway service road and slammed into another car, instantly killing a married couple, according to police.

Jacob Chubashvili, 17, slowed as he was approaching the red 5:40 a.m. He then stepped on the gas of the Mercedes-Benz he was driving and swerved around an SUV stopped at the light before colliding with a 2004 Acura. Police said he was going 60 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone and later admitted to having smoked marijuana before getting behind the wheel. The collision pushed the Acura into a light pole, which split apart the car.

A Kew Gardens couple, Ki Kim, 55, and his wife, Hyekyung Kim, 53, were killed instantly. Later that day, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced that Chubashvili has been charged with two counts of manslaughter, unauthorized use of a vehicle, driving without a license, speeding and running a red light.

The teen provided police with a blood sample at the accident scene before being taken to a local hospital with neck and back pain, and the charges could be upgraded based on the results of the blood test. Chubashvili, of 108-50 62nd Drive, has a previous arrest record for robbery and fare evasion, according to reports. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the charges stemming from Tuesday’s accident.

Hyekyung Kim was a supervisor at the city Administration for Children’s Services and the couple was on their way to work at the time of the wreck, according to reports. “This case will be vigorously prosecuted and should serve as a warning to those who would flout our traffic regulations and put others in danger,” said Brown in a statement.

Minor Fender Bender Leads to Fatal Accident

Less than 24 hours later, a 61-year-old man who exited his car following a minor accident on the Long Island Expressway was struck and killed by a tractor trailer, according to police.

The man, whose name has been withheld pending notification of his family, got in a minor fender bender involving several vehicles at about 3 a.m. near the 69th Street exit in Maspeth, said police. After exchanging information with the other driver, the man pulled into traffic in front of a tractor-trailer, which was unable to stop before slamming into the car.

As of Wednesday morning, police were attempting to reach the man’s next of kin, who they say live in the area. Reports that an ambulance carrying two EMS workers was also involved in the accident were not able to be immediately confirmed.

Note: The online version of this story has been updated.

Night Out Against Crime at the 106th Pct

by Nicole Turso

The 106th Precinct in South Queens held their annual “Night Out Against Crime” Tuesday evening, as part of the 25th anniversary of the National crime prevention event.

Night Out 2008, which was supported by local citizens, merchants, and neighborhood organizations, was held at Police Officer Edward Byrne Park in South Ozone Park on North Conduit Avenue, between 131st and 134th streets.

Community Affairs Officer Kenneth Zorn of the 106th Precinct said that the location change of the event from its former site in front of the precinct at Police Officer Nicholas Demutiis Playground, did not affect the turn out—with several hundred attendees including residents of Howard Beach, Ozone Park and South Richmond Hill.

“This is the most diverse precinct in the city,” Zorn said, “We have an additional charge to include everyone from all of the neighborhoods in the events.”

Among the sponsors of this year’s event were the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, the Queens Public Library, as well as a number of civic associations, including Tudor Village, Richmond Hill South, Locust Grove, the South Ozone Park Community Development Corporation and South Ozone Park West. Sponsorship of the event rose this year according to Zorn, with businesses throughout the precinct’s neighborhoods participating.

Knock Out Pest Control Inc. supplied information for residents about guarding their homes from unwanted critters, the 106th Community Council sponsored the hot dogs and sausage and Millennium Realty Corp. lent a hand with snow cones for the kids. Area children were given horse rides from the Federation of Black Cowboys, enjoyed a variety of treats including ice cream and pizza, received gym bags giveaways just in time for the new school year, and learned about how they could get involved with the local precinct to continue keeping their neighborhoods safe.

Representatives from the two corporations vying to become Franchise Holder for Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) operations at Aqueduct Race- track, came out in support of the event and the community surrounding the amusement facility. Chief Financial Officer Leo Chutask attended on behalf of Capital Play and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, and SL Green Realty Corp’s Senior Vice President Lawrence Thompson, represented the Hard Rock company, which sponsored the ice cream truck. The New York Racing Association also provided giveaways, including hats and T-shirts.

Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., who has throw his hat into the Senate race this November, was also on hand to show his support. “We want everyone to feel that we aren’t just policing the community, we are involved in the community,” Zorn explained. “We are giving different ways for the youth of the community to interact with the police—whether it be this event or a pick-up basketball game with PAL, a positive reaction is a positive reaction.”

Frank Dardani, President of the 106th Precinct Community Council, believes the event not only strengthens police department and community rapport, but also raises awareness of the council to residents, and the assistance it provides.

“We hope that more people will be aware that there is a place for them to go to lodge complaints,” Dardani said. “They can come to a meeting at a precinct and get help there. When they speak to a commanding officer one on one, they have direct contact with the department. For us as an organization, they gain confidence in the police department and what they do.”

National Night Out Against Crime, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, promotes crime and drug prevention awareness as well as community support and participation with local police departments across the country.

The 106th Precinct Community Council meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 8:00 p.m. at the 106th Precinct station house.

Photo: Robert Stridiron

St. Saviour's Relocation Moving Ahead

Cemetery Gets State Agency’s Approval

by Conor Greene

The process of rebuilding the historic St. Saviour’s church at a local cemetery is moving forward now that a state agency has approved using part of the property for the project.

The state Division of Cemeteries reviewed the proposal to move the 160-year-old church from its former home on Rust Street in Maspeth to a plot of land owned by All Faiths Cemetery at 69th Street and Juniper Valley Road in Middle Village. In a June 24 letter, the division ruled that permission has been granted because “the location within the cemetery is not usable as burial grounds.”

The historic structure, designed by noted architect Richard Upjohn, was threatened after the city issued a demolition permit to Maspeth Development, LLC, which owns the Rust Street property. The Richmond Hill-based developer agreed to allow the Juniper Park Civic Association to remove the church from the property after the civic association had struck a deal with All Faiths Cemetery to house the structure there.

Dan Austin Jr., president of All Faith’s Beautification and Restoration Program, which is handling the church project, said Tuesday that Montrose Surveying Company recently completed a survey of the property free of charge. An architect specializing in historic preservation projects is in the midst of a feasibility study to determine exactly where on the site the church should be placed.

It cost the civic association about $140,000 to dismantle the church, which is currently being stored in several trailers in Maspeth. It is expected to cost about five million dollars to rebuild the structure on the cemetery property. State Senator Serf Maltese was able to secure $100,000 through the Empire State Development Corp grant program, and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi provided an additional $50,000. That means the cemetery is relying on obtaining donations from individuals and private businesses to eventually complete the project, said Austin, Jr.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” he said. “This thing is going to be a very intricate and in-depth study on how to restore an old building, which is roughly seventy percent all there. “I think it’s going to be an outstanding project, but it’s going to take a while and is going to be an ongoing thing.”

He said that “the key to success is seeing some action come springtime” in terms of beginning to rebuild the structure on the cemetery property. The next step is an August 20 meeting with the architect. “By then we will hopefully have different studies for the juxtaposition of the church on the land,” he said.

Christina Wilkinson, a member of the JPCA who led the fight to save the church, noted that the land is still for sale, despite the fact that the civic was given little time to move the church since the owner claimed to have a buyer lined up. She said that she will continue to fight to have the land turned into a park, which is needed in that part of Maspeth.

Gallagher Spent Leftover Campaign Money During Final Months in Office

By Conor Greene

While former City Councilman Dennis Gallagher’s final few months in office were relatively quiet, the Middle Village Republican was busy spending money left in his campaign fund on donations to local groups and pricey meals at a local restaurant.

Although Gallagher’s legal troubles began last summer, he continued to raise money with a committee formed with the state Board of Elections for a potential run at higher office, even though his political career was essentially already sunk by the criminal charges.

After being charged with rape last August, Gallagher pled guilty in March to sexually assaulting a 52-year-old woman in his campaign office last summer. He resigned from his position on the City Council on April 18. As part of the plea agreement, Gallagher admitted he had “forcibly touched” the woman without her consent in his Metropolitan Avenue campaign office. The guilty plea spared him from registering as a sex offender and serving jail time.

During the final four months of his tenure representing the 30th Council District, Gallagher kept a low profile. However, he was busy spending $22,000 that was left in his “Gallagher New York” account on file with the state Board of Elections. A review of his campaign finance disclosure filed with the state for the for January to July shows him doling out money to some of his favorite groups, including two donations totaling $6,000 to the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council.

The disclosure also shows that Gallagher shelled out nearly $3,000 for five meals at O’Neill’s bar and restaurant on 53rd Drive in Maspeth. Those totals included $435 for dinner on March 3, a $382 dinner on March 28 and a $359 lunch on April 4. Finally, on April 18 – his last day on the City Council – Gallagher spent $200 for lunch and $1,512 for dinner.

A spokesperson at the state Board of Elections said that under election laws, the money is not allowed “to be converted for personal use” but can be spent at restaurants if it comes in the course of performing duties as a public official
or candidate.

Gallagher continued to raise money through the end of 2007 under a committee formed on the state level, but hasn’t filed any paperwork with the city regarding a future run for office, according to the city Campaign Finance Board. An audit of his campaign spending from his last run for City Council was completed this year and resulted in no penalties.

Gallagher was unable to be reached for comment regarding the expense report.

Maltese and Como Host Town Hall Meeting

Issues Include Truck Traffic, Reservoir, Crime and Flooding

by Conor Greene

Providing residents with a chance to air grievances about a host of city agencies and issues, Senator Serf Maltese and Councilman Anthony Como hosted a town hall meeting last week in Middle Village.

The session last Thursday in Our Lady of Hope auditorium attracted several hundred residents and touched on a wide variety of issues, including crime, overdevelopment, traffic woes and a school construction project being considered in Maspeth.

The meeting included representatives from many city agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the 104th Precinct, the FDNY, Sanitation Department, Finance and the Department of Environmental Protection.

“It will let you put a face to some of the people you talk to when you call the office or 311,” said Maltese (R-Glendale). “We want to hear what you have to say and direct it to the right person.”

Como (R-Middle Village) thanked the large crowd for coming out on a warm evening. “I know there are a lot more pleasurable things you could be doing right now,” he said. “You care about making sure this community goes in the right direction.”

After the city officials were introduced, the senator and councilman allowed residents the chance to express any complaints or issues they have.

Maspeth School Proposal

First up was Jerry Matacotta, founder of the civic group Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together. He expressed concern about the city Department of Education’s proposal to build a 1,650-seat school at 74th Street and 57th Avenue in Maspeth.

While agreeing that “the school is necessary,” Matacotta said he “has some trepidation” about the students it will likely serve, including children from outside the area. “This is going to be a giant problem for us,” he said. “It is going to bring in a lot of things from other areas… It will be the end of this community, mark my words.” He said that the school should be “a special
high school for top students” only.

Como noted that Community Board 5 voted down the proposal. “We agree that a school of that magnitude will destroy the community,” he said. “We are on board with that.” He said that he is meeting in the coming weeks with officials from the Department of Education and School Construction Authority. “We’ve been unhappy with what they’ve told us,” he said.

Added Maltese: “It is absolutely unacceptable to us and we will not tolerate [a school that large] going into the community.”

Air Traffic Overhead

A resident who said she lives near Maltese asked what can be done about low-flying planes that pass over the neighborhood many times each day as they head towards LaGuardia Airport.

“Planes are flying very low over our houses every few minutes,” she said. “”We can’t sit in our yards anymore and read a book.” She expressed frustration that a phone call to Congressman Anthony Weiner proved fruitless. “He’s [too busy] running around on Larry King,” she said, referring to his mayoral campaign.

Maltese explained that “the problem is a federal problem” and the state and city officials “don’t have the authority to deal with the Federal Aviation Administration.” He noted that the same problem occurs in other neighborhoods around LaGuardia and JFK airports. “It’s definitely a problem, but I can’t promise we can address it with legislation or communications… but we will try,” said Maltese.

Juniper Boulevard Speeding

Resident Helen Steinhauer voiced what has become a common complaint from Middle Village residents: speeding along Juniper Boulevard North, especially between Lutheran Avenue and 80th Street.

“It’s unbearable to sit on my own stoop,” said Steinhauer, adding that the long flat stretch of road doesn’t have speed bumps or traffic lights and is used for drag racing. “I’ve come out to meetings every year and get no satisfaction.”

Maura McCarthy, Queens Borough Commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, said her agency will conduct a speed study along the boulevard to determine if traffic calming measures are warranted.

“We will analyze if we physically can put in [speed] bumps in this section of roadway,” she said, adding that it sounds like Community Board 5 would support that type of project. A traffic light and speed bumps were previously installed on Juniper Boulevard South, helping to cut down on speeding drivers there.

Local Crime Patterns

Crime is up so far this year within the confines of the 104th Precinct compared to the same time last year, with major incidents rising nearly 8 percent so far, according to statistics released recently.

A resident who said she has rented in Middle Village for the past few years expressed concern about several incidents that have taken place within a block of her home. She told Maltese and Como that she is now in position to buy a home, but is afraid to commit to the neighborhood due to increasing crime.

“It just seems like in the last two months, in a one-block radius, I’ve watched the crime go through the roof,” the woman said, adding that there has been a “deterioration of the neighborhood as whole. “Middle Village right now is the last place I’m looking,” she continued. “I’m afraid to purchase a home here due to criminal activity.”

She listed a home invasion shooting death and a large seizure of fireworks as two examples of recent incidents. An officer from the precinct said that crime is up a total of 65 incidents compared to the same time last year. The largest increases have been in robberies and burglaries, and the largest jump has been in grand larcenies.

The precinct recently had 14 additional officers assigned to the Ridgewood station house to help combat the rising numbers.

Street Fair Summonses

James O’ Kane, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, complained that 128 summonses were recently issued to the chamber, the Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club for advertisements for a street fair. He explained that Boy Scout volunteers had placed the filers on light poles around the neighborhood, not realizing that it is illegal to do so.

“They’re all volunteers who are dedicated and deeply involved,” he said. “To be issued this many summonses… I feel like they could cut us a break [since] we’re a not-for-profit.” He said that the fines ranged from $75 to $200, and tickets for each offense were given to all three organizations.

A representative from the city’s Department of Sanitation explained that anybody violating that law is given a ticket, regardless of whether it’s an individual, a business or a non-profit group. “We give everyone tickets, plain and simple,” he said. “We don’t give anyone slack – it’s against the law. Nobody gets exempt from that law.”

At that point, Jerry Matacotta of COMET interrupted, shouting at the sanitation representative about the lack of enforcement against illegal residents. “Meanwhile, you do nothing about illegals throwing trash everywhere,” he yelled.

Como, who closed his personal law practice when he took office, jumped in and said that he is representing the organizations pro bono and is hoping to have all three groups in court at the same time. He said that fining all three for the same offense “is wrong on its face” and promised that he “will get it straightened out.”

Ridgewood Reservoir Future

Ridgewood resident Tom Dowd asked about the future of the Ridgewood Reservoir, noting that city Comptroller William Thompson recently rejected a $3 million contract the Parks Department presented to a consultant as part of the plan to convert one of three basins into athletic fields.

“We don’t want a million yards of debris coming through the streets of Ridgewood for the next four or five years,” he told the officials, referring to the process of trucking materials to the park to fill in the basin.

Como called the property “the most amazing nature preserve in this district” and said it would make more sense to fix up existing ball fields in nearby Highland Park while leaving the reservoir “the way it is.”

Maltese had stronger words, calling the city’s plan to convert the natural area into ballfields a “complete waste of money... almost bordering on malfeasance.” He said the city “can’t afford to spend money paving over a reservoir that is a bird refuge.

“We have told the mayor and Parks Department in the strongest terms that we don’t want money wasted… We have a nature preserve in our backyard and we’re going to keep it,” he said, urging residents unfamiliar with the reservoir to visit it.

Flooding and Downzoning

Complaints that the city is taking way too long to downzone parts of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale have become commonplace at neighborhood meetings, as the effort has been delayed for several years. “It’s been promised to us, and [the delay] is destroying the neighborhood,” said Patrick Trinchese.

The issue of the stalled downzoning couldn’t be directly addressed because there were no representatives from the Department of City Planning on hand. However, an official from the Department of Environmental Protection tried to reassure residents that the agency is “keenly aware” of the flooding problems that hit Middle Village last August.

The DEP official explained that storms of that magnitude statistically “are only supposed to happen every 100 years,” and the city sewer system “is not equipped to handle that.” The city “would have to tear up every single street in the city” in order to install sewer lines that can “handle a storm of the magnitude that came down last year.”

However, the mayor has created a Flood Mitigation Task Force that is piloting new strategies in neighborhoods around the city that were most effected by flooding, including Middle Village.

Maspeth Truck Bypass Plan

Another stalled effort, a plan to force trucks off busy Grand Avenue, was raised by a resident. She noted that Anthony Nunziato had help devise the plan years ago, which would require trucks heading to Brooklyn to exit the Long Island Expressway at Maurice Avenue and use Rust Street instead of traveling through the heart of the neighborhood.

“There is no reason why trucks to Brooklyn are going down Grand Avenue,” she said, reminding the officials that a large dump truck recently overturned there, spilling piles of sand onto the avenue and expressway. “Does someone have to get killed before the DOT says okay?”

McCarthy, of the DOT, acknowledged that the project has been delayed, but said it is moving forward, with the help of $500,000 provided by Congressman Anthony Weiner. “I guess it’s going to sound like I’m making excuses, and maybe I am, but it has taken a very long time,” she said. “I know it’s not as quick as you would like, but we are moving forward.”

Parking Woes

Another familiar complaint was raised towards the end of the evening by Thomas Murawski of the Liberty Park Homeowners Association – vehicles left on the street for weeks or months, making the neighborhood’s parking situation tough. “We have cars parked in the neighborhood for days, weeks, months, even years, taking up the same spot.”

He said that in one case, a burnt out car was left on the street for several weeks. Despite calls to the precinct, it was not removed until the day a letter to the editor about it was published in a daily newspaper, he said. “I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not, but that was the day it got towed.”

Community Affairs Officer Tommy Bell of the 104th Precinct said the vehicle was towed after the precinct received the complaint. “It had nothing to do with the Daily News,” he said.

Avoiding the Corcoran Curse

Why Forest Hills is Lucky Barbara Kept Her Hands Off

by Steve Tiszenkel

When Barbara Corcoran speaks, the real estate world listens. Though no longer involved with her eponymous company, the Corcoran Group—she sold it in 2001 for $70 million—Corcoran is still the go-to girl for the latest forecasts and trends of New York real estate. After all, this isn't just someone who's sold a few luxury condos. This lady has played an active and very real role in changing the face of New York neighborhoods.

Back in the '90s, when Barbara moved into a neighborhood that time forgot—from Morningside Heights down to Park Slope—you could bet that it would be the next big thing. In a 2003 talk reported by The New York Observer, Corcoran spilled the recipe to her secret sauce: She would ask poor, hip kids—often gay—where they were forced by economic circumstances to live. Then she would go to work making sure they couldn't afford to live there anymore.

Queens is sort of hot right now, thanks in part to Corcoran running the ethnic and low-salaried out of places like Carroll Gardens, but the grande dame of realtors got out of the rat race before she really got a chance to flex her formidable muscles in the city's third-coolest borough. To this day her company's website declines to list any Queens neighborhoods, not even long-established Brooklyn alternative Astoria, opting instead to showcase such not-quite-there-yet areas as Gravesend.

Humiliatingly, hyper-yuppified Long Island City makes an appearance in's Brooklyn menu. With this in mind, it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that hey, Barbara Corcoran likes Forest Hills. These days Barbara, donning her journalist hat, pens a regular column for the Daily News, where she employs her sage wisdom in answering letters from the peons. A couple of weeks ago, one inquired as to the wisdom of buying in the neighborhood. After having denied us her seal of approval for years, Corcoran couldn't gush strongly enough.

“Forest Hills ... is an idyllic New York neighborhood of Tudor mansions, adorable little condominiums, and a handful of two-and three-family homes that fetch very good rental rates,” she informed us. “The best news of all is that its proximity to midtown Manhattan(less than a 30-minute commute)makes it attractive to sophisticated Manhattanites who are looking to move into the boroughs. Forest Hills also has great shopping,with a nice mix of big stores, interesting boutiques,bookstores and some of the best bagel shops this side of the Mississippi.”

Though I'd contend that Forest Hills has exactly one of the best bagel shops this side of the Mississippi—the awesomely retro, Thai-owned Hot Bialys on Queens Boulevard near the Kew Gardens border—and the only local bookstore I can think of is the formidable Austin Street Barnes & Noble, isn't this what many of us have been saying all along?

But beyond going a long way to alleviate the standard-issue Queens inferiority complex, what exactly would Corcoran have done to Forest Hills or Rego Park or Elmhurst if she hadn't been so late to the game? Sure, she might have brought in some twee restaurants with names that are nouns—“Garden,” say, or maybe “Townhouse”—and I could have hit Court Street in Brooklyn to brag about it over Sangiovese at the bar of some impossibly charming Italian restaurant, but I fear her influence might have done more than a little to destroy the communities' character.

That's not just a hunch, either, because in another Daily News column way back in November, a homeowner in an unnamed Queens neighborhood wrote in to express concern that his neighbors were all paving their front yards, leaving him noticeably concrete-deficient. Barb, as always, knew just what to do.

“Hey, a flower garden might look pretty and keep your wife happy,” she lectured, “but the space in front of your house is worth a hell of a lot more as a driveway. You should know that the city council of Queens has just proposed a zoning change that would prohibit residents from paving their yards in some areas. So ... get a cement truck over there fast.”

Maybe it's better that Barbara doesn't have her hands in Forest Hills after all.

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

Detective Sentenced in Child Prostitution Case

An NYPD detective who pled guilty last month to attempted kidnapping of a teenage runaway he was accused of pimping out has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. A woman who claims to be his wife was also given the same sentence for her role in the alleged prostitution ring.

Wayne Taylor, 35, who was a 14-year member of the NYPD, and Zelika Brown, who helped run the sex ring, were sentenced on Monday in Queens Criminal Court, announced District Attorney Richard Brown. They were also given five years probation and must register as sex offenders.

The pair pled guilty to the lesser charge of attempted kidnapping last month, at which time Taylor was forced to resign from the NYPD. They were initially charged with kidnapping, promoting prostitution, assault and endangering the welfare of a child and had faced up to 25 years in prison when they reached the plea agreement.

“These sentences offer a measure of justice to the young victim in this case, a troubled 13-year-old who ran away from home and unfortunately came into contact with the defendant,” said District Attorney Brown. “Instead of acting as a police officer – as Taylor was at the time – he admittedly took advantage of the child, and, along with his co-defendant, forced her into prostitution.”

According to the charges, the girl ran away from her Brooklyn home earlier this year and met a woman named “Drama” who offered to get her into the business of dancing for money at parties. She was then allegedly sold to Taylor and Brown, who live in Jamaica, for $500.

Taylor told the girl to tell people she was 19-years-old if asked, and to charge $40 for oral sex and $80 for sexual intercourse. The defendants brought her to several parties around the city in January, including at the Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson hotels near JFK Airport, and made her perform sex acts with approximately 20 men, who paid the defendants.

At one point, Taylor slammed the victim’s head into the ground because she did not earn enough money, according to the DA. Taylor told her there was an alarm on the Vaswani Avenue home she was kept in and warned her not to try to escape. He also allegedly threatened to make her walk the streets to earn extra money if she was not able to pay off the $500 they paid for her.

The district attorney’s office noted that the plea agreement will spare the victim the trauma of a trial. “These sentences will keep the victim from having to testify in public about her hellish ordeal and will punish the defendants for their actions,” said Brown.

New ADA Elevators Unveiled at Union Turnpike Station

KEW GARDENS – The Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike subway station is now accessible to handicapped riders thanks to three new elevators unveiled recently.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included MTA Executive Director Eliot Sander, MTA NYC Transit President Howard Roberts, Jr., Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilwoman Melinda Katz and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, the agency announced that 67 stations are now handicapped accessible – two years ahead of the 2010 goal.

“We are proud to be two years ahead of the schedule that we had set in 1994 to create 67 stations that are accessible to everybody,” said Sander. “This is the third ribbon-cutting ceremony that we have held in the last month. It is a pleasure to be able to complete so many important projects thanks to the strong support of elected officials throughout the region.”

The street elevator headhouse is located on the southeast corner of Union Turnpike and Kew Gardens Road, just south of Queen Boulevard. Customers with disabilities can now take advantage of the new elevators, which includes one providing access between the street and mezzanine level and two connecting the mezzanine and platforms.

The station is the fifth busiest in Queens, with an average weekday ridership of 27,658. It originally opened in December 1936 and serves as a major transfer point to busy lines providing access to destinations such as JFK Airport, St. John’s University, North Shore/Long Island Jewish Hospital Medical Center and numerous local parks.

The $13.9 million station renovation project, began two years ago, included other improvements such as: accessible station booth windows, handrails, public telephones, platform warning strips and reduction of the platform edge gaps.

This year, 11 ADA elevators have been opened in six subway stations, and three more elevators are expected to be completed at another station later this year. The improvements are funded through the MTA capital plan.

"We want to operate a first-class subway system for everyone and each station that we are able to bring into compliance with the ADA brings us closer to that goal,” said Roberts, Jr. “From my initial days as president of NYC Transit, it has been one of my goals to make substantial improvements in system accessibility.”

The new elevators have been equipped with closed-circuit televisions and talkback intercom systems that allow users to communication directly with the station agent’s booth and station command in case of an emergency. The elevators also include a monitoring system that alerts technicians immediately if the elevator breaks down.

M Line Stations Closed on Weekends

Weekday Service Increase Announced

Commuters on the M train received good news with the announcement that more weekday trains will run between Brooklyn and the line’s final stop in Middle Village. However, the train will not operate over the next three weekends due to track work, according to MTA Transit.

The line will not run between Myrtle Avenue-Broadway in Brooklyn and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village between 4 a.m. Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday through August 24the agency announced. Free shuttle buses will transport commuters along the line, making stops at locations near the subway stations.

Commuters can catch a ride on the shuttle buses at the following locations:

Metropolitan Avenue: At Rentar Place, where the Q54 bus stops along the westbound side of the road across from the subway station.

Fresh Pond Road: At Q58 stops at the corner of Putnam Avenue and Fresh Pond Road. Use the stop on the northeast corner for service to Brooklyn and the southeast corner for service to Metropolitan Avenue.

Forest Avenue: At the Q20 stop at the northeast corner of Putnam and Fairview avenues for service to Brooklyn and at the Q58 stop on the southwest corner of the intersection for service to Metropolitan Avenue.

Seneca Avenue: At the B38 bus stop at Palmetto Street. Use the southeast corner for service to Myrtle Avenue-Broadway and the northwest corner for service to Metropolitan Avenue.

The weekend station closures come after the MTA announced that the M train will now run between lower Manhattan and Metropolitan Avenue until 11 p.m. weeknights, instead of until 7 p.m. as it previously has. Additional trains have also been added between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue-Broadway on Monday through Friday from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m.

For details, check