Thursday, March 12, 2009

This Week's Forum West and South

Guilty Verdicts in Forest Hills Dentist Murder


By Conor Greene

It took a jury less than one day to find a Forest Hills doctor and her distant relative guilty of conspiracy murder in the death of the woman’s ex-husband, who was gunned down in front of the couple’s young daughter following a bitter custody battle.

Mazoltuv Borukhova, 33, and her cousin by marriage, Mikhail Mallayev, 51, were found guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder and second-degree conspiracy in the October 2007 shooting of Dr. Daniel Malakov following a five-week trial in Queens Supreme Court. The pair now faces up to life in prison when they are sentenced on April 21.

Malakov, 34, who had just won custody of the couple’s daughter, was fatally shot at pointblank range while bringing four-year-old Michelle to Annadale Playground to visit her mother. Jurors believed prosecutor Brad Leventhal’s contention that Borukhova paid Mallayev about $20,000 to murder Malakov, who had recently won custody of Michelle.

After the verdict was announced Tuesday afternoon, members of the victim’s family walked out of the courthouse with arms raised over their heads. One proclaimed, “God bless America.”

“They thought that my brother was their problem and they thought by eliminating him they could fix their problems,” the victim’s brother, Joseph Malakov, told reporters. “But what did she accomplish? She didn’t accomplish anything. She created all this unnecessary pain for everybody.”

Police connected Mallayev to the shooting after matching fingerprints from a homemade silencer found at the scene to his, which were on file from a previous arrest. In the three weeks leading up to the shooting, Mallayev and Borukhova had 90 telephone conversations, during which time authorities say they planned the murder. Following the murder, the pair met in Borukhova’s Forest Hills medical office before Mallayev deposited $19,800 into 10 different bank accounts.

Mallayev was arrested in November 2007 at his home outside Atlanta and Borukhova was charged in February after a grand jury charged both in the murder. “They are still living… but my son is not living. It is very hard for me,” said the victim’s father, Khaika Malakov said. “I don’t care about her life now.”

“Daniel Malakov looked to the law for justice when it came to gaining custody of his young daughter several years ago,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “Today, the judicial system was there once again to ensure justice for Daniel as prosecutors made sure that those guilty of his murder were held accountable for their actions – actions that intentionally cut short a life filled with much promise and robbed a daughter of a father she hardly had the opportunity to know.”

During the trial, Borukhova testified in her own defense, maintaining that she did not hear the two gunshots, even though she was standing just ten feet away. Mallayev did not take the stand.

A major point in the case came when school teacher Cheryl Springfield testified that she saw Mallayev shoot Malakov while she was walking her dog near the park. She provided police with a description of the shooter, which was used to create a sketch, and then picked him out of a lineup before identifying him in court as the killer. Members of Borukhova’s family declined comment as they left the courthouse following the verdict.

In a press conference in his offices following the verdict, Brown touched on the strain the sensational case has had on the tight-knit Bukharian community of Forest Hills and Rego Park, and on the lasting impact the murder will have on little Michelle.

“Today’s verdict cannot heal the wounds suffered by the child – perhaps nothing ever can,” said Brown. “Nor can it heal those of the family of Dr. Malakov who lost his life so tragically. I hope, however, it that it will bring some closure to the Bukharian community and that it will enable them to begin to bridge the divide that has formed as a result of what has occurred.

“I believe that it is fair to say that justice has been served – although the child at the center of this case will probably never recover from having witnessed that which occurred or from the custody fight that to this day remains unresolved,” added Brown.

Following the murder of her father and arrest of her mother, Michelle has been placed in the care of a paternal uncle.

Photos by Michael O'Kane. Top: DA Brown discusses the verdict with reporters; while members of Borukhova's family leave court without comment (left).

Delaware North Comes Up Lame; Aqueduct Deal Dead

Following months of swirling rumors, the plans for a video-lottery terminal “racino” to be constructed by Delaware North Companies are on hold. In October, Delaware was hand-picked by Governor David Paterson after a lengthy bidding process, beating out two other bidders for the project.

On Tuesday, the Buffalo based Delaware North notified the state that it did not have the promised $370 million that was to be paid to the state by March 31st. According to published reports, Delaware’s president, William Bissett, said, “Since our bid was submitted in October 2007, there has been a deterioration of the credit and equity financial markets in this recession economy which has caused Aqueduct Gaming LLC to restructure the timing for its financial offer.”

Both Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer (D-Queens) and Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) were extremely disappointed to learn that Delaware North, the would-be developers of the redevelopment and revitalization of Aqueduct Race Track, have defaulted on their deal with New York State.

Delaware North was awarded the contract based on their offer of $370 million upfront to the State of New York. Their offer far exceeded other developers and the financially strapped State chose them in hopes of helping to address the current fiscal crisis, according to Pheffer and Addabbo. However, Delaware North admitted on Tuesday this week that they were unable to meet the $370 million offer and asked the State to “restructure” their agreement. New York State said no.

“Delaware North was never our first choice,” said Pheffer. “There were others that not only had a better working relationship with our community, but also had a more fiscally viable project. Delaware North was chosen for their promise to pay $370 million upfront, and they have lost the deal because of their inability to live up to that commitment.”

“I look forward to immediately beginning the process to find a new developer and will work to ensure that community concerns and inputs are included in the process,” said Senator Addabbo. “The preservation of Aqueduct and quality horse racing are our paramount concerns and choosing the best development for the site is our ultimate goal.”

“Rumors have been swirling for many weeks,” said Betty Braton, Chairperson of Community Board 10, “that Delaware was attempting to renegotiate the deal promised in October. We expressed our skepticism then, although we were prepared to work with Delaware to move this project forward. We believed at the time that either of the other bidders offered more financial benefit to the state over the long haul, but it was the state’s pick and the state opted for the big up-front payment that now appears was far from realistic.”

In early January, Ron Sultemeier, Vice President for Strategic Development, Gaming & Entertainment for Delaware North, presented the racino plans at the Community Board 10 meeting. He did not indicate to the community then that there were any problems that would prevent the company from meeting its financial commitment of $300+ million to the state by the March deadline. At last week’s Community Board meeting, the Board’s Aqueduct Committee Chairperson, Donna Gilmartin, raised that question about Delaware’s ability to come up with the promised funds during discussion.

On April 23, 2008, information from the state relating to the VLT franchise at Aqueduct Racetrack was given to each of the entities planning to submit bids for the project, who were asked to submit a best and final offer to the Governor and Legislative leaders. Three bidders: Capital Play, Delaware North and SL Green submitted proposals and made an extensive presentation to State leaders on April 30, 2008. Between late April and the October announcement of Delaware’s selection, supposedly an extensive due diligence review and a financial analysis of each of the three bids was conducted.

According to press statements in late October at the time of Delaware’s selection to construct the 328,000 square foot gaming and entertainment facility at Aqueduct Racetrack, the governor’s choice of them was the result of “an extensive review and thorough process that weighed all factors of this critically important project to the State.”

The deal called for Delaware and its partners to pay a $370 million up-front licensing fee to the State. Aqueduct Gaming was to be responsible for all aspects of the construction and to spend a minimum of $250 million to complete the components of the project. Delaware also planned to invest $170 million in capital during the term of the agreement to maintain the gaming and entertainment facility.

The country’s financial crisis was already swirling in October. The large up-front payment to come to the state was said at the time to be the main reason for the company’s selection. At the time, press statements from the Governor’s office said that the“deal will provide a critical revenue stream - especially given the fiscal crisis that is battering our State and nation.”

On October 23th the Governor’s office issued a statement that said, in part, that “the three bids – all final submissions that were never changed – were carefully examined … and underwent significant due diligence, including another recent review to ensure financial viability in light of the turmoil in the markets.”

Between then and now, Delaware’s ability to finance the project seems to have changed. The state will now engage in another process to select a developer for the project. At press time it was unknown as to what that process would be.

Woman Accused of Killing Pet Poodle


By Conor Greene

A Maspeth woman has been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after locking her poodle in a suitcase, which she dumped in a garbage can near her home. The dog was rescued by neighbors who heard it crying, but it later died while being treated by Animal Care and Control veterinarians.

Sonia Perez, 21, of 60-49 54th Place was arraigned on March 5 in Queens Criminal Court on charges of felony aggravated cruelty to animals and misdemeanor torturing an animal. Bail was set at $1,000 and she was ordered to return to court on March 19.

Neighbor Amber Munyan was walking her dog along 54th Place on March 3 when she heard noises coming from the trash can. She looked in the garbage and found the suitcase containing the severely injured poodle, which she brought back to her home. She then contacted wildlife management expert David Quinn to see if he could offer assistance.

“I looked at it, saw it was in terrible shape and said we have to contact authorities,” said Quinn. They were forced to call 911 since ASPCA animal cruelty officers are not available after 9 p.m. According to Quinn, it took more than two hours for officers to arrive –and that was only after a neighbor called 911 to report a possible domestic situation inside the dog owner’s home, from which yelling could be heard.

“I heard her yelling, ‘I got rid of the dog’ – we both heard it,” he continued. “When police arrived, [the defendant’s] brother came out and said, ‘Oh, we threw the dog out.’” Another witness, Harry Gold, told police he recognized the poodle as belonging to Perez, and said the woman had previously told him that it was difficult taking care of both the dog and her child. According to a police source, a neighbor also told authorities that Perez had beaten the dog on several prior occasions.

Police arrested Perez at the scene, and the poodle was taken to Animal Care and Control for treatment, where it later died. A veterinarian reported that an external exam revealed that the poodle had a good body condition but had suffered from scrotal bruising and rib fractures.

“It’s unbelievable what people can do to animals, just horrible” said Quinn. “It’s heartbreaking - the dog couldn’t have been more than ten to twelve pounds.”

Family Struggles after Devastating Fire

Friend Leads Effort to Help Recovery

By Conor Greene

A Rego Park family is struggling to make ends meet following a devastating apartment fire, but a close friend is doing his part to help them recover and move on with their lives.

In the early morning of February 26, the 18th floor apartment in the Park City complex that was home to the Zeltser family caught fire, possibly due to an electrical malfunction. Eighteen-year-old Daniella Zeltser awoke to find the bedroom she shared with her younger broker Alan engulfed in flames. She quickly alerted her brother and parents, who were able to flee the apartment. Alan was able to grab the family’s dog on the way outside.

The fire completely destroyed the apartment and the family’s belongings, according to family friend Ed Gochman, who has known his neighbor Diana Zeltser for 20 years. After stopping by to survey the damage, he realized immediately that he had to do something to help the Zeltsers cope with the difficult situation.

“I went inside the apartment, and I’m just amazed,” recalled Gochman. “I haven’t seen anything like this. I was in awe of the damage. You can stand there and see what would have happened two minutes later to everybody. I saw the faces of the kids, and I have two small kids myself, and I couldn’t sleep without thinking about how I could help.”

Gochman has created a website,, and a Facebook page to organize the effort to collect donations for the family. He has also created a Facebook group called Help for Diana Zeltser that people can join to find out how to help.

Unfortunately, the fire couldn’t have come at a worse time for the family. Diana’s husband, Sasha lost his job about a year ago, causing the couple to fall behind on the mortgage payments. With the family struggling to make ends meet, it dropped its insurance coverage, according to Gochman. “It was the worst possible timing – she almost lost her apartment, and then it burned.”

The family is currently staying with Diana’s mother on 108th Street in Forest Hills. “They’re going through a lot, especially the kids, they’re terrified,” said Gochman. “Any noise, or passing fire trucks, they wake up. Diana is trying more or less to hold up… She has hope now.”

Three Discover Cocaine in Fruit From Local Market

By Patricia Adams

A trip to the fruit and vegetable market ended in a phone call to police by one Richmond Hill woman over the weekend.

Harlene Woodman purchased a bitter melon at the Banana Country Inc. Fruits and Vegetable store at 120-01 Liberty Avenue on Sunday afternoon. Arriving home and preparing the melon for cooking, the woman discovered a clear plastic bag containing what appeared to be a white powdery substance.

Woodman immediately called 911 and the FDNY, first at the scene, where it was determined the material was not hazardous but possibly cocaine.

A duty captain from the 106 was notified and upon responding to the Liberty Avenue location established a crime scene. Canine units were used and no further contraband was discovered at the store.

According to police sources, two other individuals, one in the 102 and the other in the 133 precinct, made reports of similar experiences with the same fruit purchased at the same location.

Police who interviewed the owner of Banana Country, Tae Hyun Kil, and all of the store’s workers, said all were cooperating in the investigation.

Law enforcement officials believe that Kil, who resides in Bayside, was not involved with the drugs at his location, and that the three melons were part of a much larger parcel of smuggled fruit and mistakenly wound up in Kil’s delivery.

The investigation is ongoing.

Custodian Sentenced to One Year for Torah Theft

By Conor Greene

A former live-in custodian at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills will serve one year in prison after admitting to stealing eight torahs worth more than $100,000 last summer.

Eric Giraldo, 24, who formerly lived in the temple at 71-25 Main Street, was sentenced to one year in jail by Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt. He pleaded guilty last month to third-degree attempted grand larceny, and is also barred from visiting the temple for the next eight years.

The eight torahs and their sterling silver adornments were discovered missing during Saturday services on August 16, much to the shock of about 60 congregation members in attendance that morning. Since the torahs were stored in a locked ark, staff members immediately suspected it was an inside job.

On September 4, Giraldo was arrested after admitting to taking the Torahs and hiding them at the home of a friend, 28-year-old Alan Lozano of 165-08 Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows. Lozano pleaded guilty last month to petit larceny and was sentenced to 40 days of community service. Giraldo was initially charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property and faced up to 15 years in prison.

Authorities say he planned to sell the Torahs, which eventually were returned to the congregation in time for the High Holy Days. “This case is particularly troublesome because a trusted employee with access to valuable and important materials chose to break that trust for possible financial gain,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “The sentence is both justified and necessary.”

The Torahs are scrolls of parchment containing the first five books of Moses. They are handwritten and can take more than a year to complete, according to Herman Saltzman, who chairs the temple’s Pews and Memorials Committee. Since many Torahs carry personal significance for its owner, the congregation was hit especially hard by this theft, said Saltzman, who called it “a violation.”

The investigation was conducted by Detective Henry Szachacz of the 107th Precinct.

New Development Review Process Delayed

By Conor Greene

The city has agreed to allow more time for public input before launching its development challenge process, which gives the public 30 days to submit formal objections to construction projects.

Following a public hearing in Manhattan last Friday on the new Department of Building procedures, Commissioner Robert LiMandri announced that the launch date for its implementation has been pushed back to mid-April “to ensure adequate time to consider any public input.”

The new guidelines, announced in February, are intended to “give New Yorkers a stronger voice in the development of neighborhoods, create greater transparency and clarify the process for the public and for developers,” according to a press release issued by the city.

As part of the new process, New York would become the first city in the nation to require that developers place diagrams of new buildings or major alterations online so the public can view the size and scale of a proposed project. In addition, a new 30-day formal public challenge period would be implemented, during which residents could raise objections to a proposed project.

However, it is that aspect of the process that has concerned some elected officials, civic organizations and residents. There is concern that the 30-day window will create a “defacto statute of limitations” that will “actually benefit unscrupulous developers who will simply wait out the clock to avoid community challenges,” according to Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and others.

“Despite being touted by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and DOB Commissioner LiMandri as empowering the public with greater oversight over new developments, these rule changes will actually diminish the ability of residents to contest new construction,” said Avella at a press conference on the steps of City Hall, where he was joined by Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) and Councilwoman Rosie Mendez (D-Manhattan).

Avella, a mayoral candidate who currently is chair of the City Council’s Zoning and Franchise Committee, implored the DOB to “scrap this entire plan in its current form and go back to the drawing board.”

Brennan ripped the DOB and city for restricting public zoning complaints, an action he called “indefensible.” He is also concerned that “muzzling the public will encourage developers to submit noncompliant plans” knowing they can proceed with impunity once they get through the one-month threshold. “The public has every right to challenge zoning legality or building safety at any point in the building process,” he said, adding that the DOB must include local community boards in the process and require community notification.

Councilwoman Mendez credited the DOB with providing the public with “long-awaited online access to building plans and zoning diagrams” but agreed that the DOB shouldn’t limit the public’s ability to challenge development. “These rules have far-reaching consequences for our city and should not be implemented without adequate deliberation.”

Moreover, Avella took the opportunity to rip the “shameful” way in which DOB attempted to implement the new process, noting that the department had intended to hold a public hearing last Friday and enact the rules changes this past Monday. “This demonstrated that DOB has absolutely no intention of ever listening to the public’s comments and taking them into consideration,” he said, vowing to formulate legislation “to ensure that the public has greater opportunity to comment in any future agency rule changes.”

The call to allow more time for public input before enacting the new rules was echoed by the Queens Civic Congress, which represents 110 neighborhood groups across Queens.

“The proposal, if adopted unchanged, clearly creates an immunity for the building community” through the 30-day requirement, the group argued in a press release. The group “strongly recommends the DOB reform the proposed changes to avoid what must be an unintended consequence – that would perpetuate illegal and often hazardous development.”

The new proposal also concerns Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, which has made fighting over-development and unscrupulous developers a priority. “Once again, the deck is stacked against the community. We have absolutely no confidence in the DOB nor do we trust that they are really trying to protect our neighborhoods from greedy developers,” he said. “Their bark is much worse than their bite.”

Old World Charm: An Endangered Species

Yes, everybody’s miserable right now, but really, we can’t pout all the time, can we? There’s only so much foreclosure and bank-failure talk one can take. So as unemployment rates barrel toward a South America-like 10 percent, maybe it’s worth looking at one of the very few good things that’s coming out of The Biggest Economic Crisis Since the Great Depression, Unless You Count the One in the ‘70s, Which I’m Pretty Sure Was Worse, but Nobody’s Saying It For Some Reason.

Across the nation, construction projects have stopped cold. In Chicago, international capital of the skyscraper, work on the tallest building in America —starchitect Santiago Calatrava’s Chicago Spire, which promises to be the most stunning edifice ever constructed — has ground to a halt, ironically leaving the project possibly the shortest building in America: a very, very deep hole in the ground. Half-finished subdivisions across Florida and the rest of the Sun Belt have rendered large swaths of entire cities virtual ghost towns. Closer to home, the hulking, inelegant Bank of America Tower, plunked down at the cusp of Bryant Park, remains tantalizingly close to being finished, and yet not quite. This is bad, right?

For the locally focused, maybe not, because construction in Central Queens tends to be of the hideous, neighborhood-destroying variety. I haven’t seen any new controversies about greedy developers tearing down classic townhouses lately—not that there are any classic townhouses left to tear down, but still. And hey, how’s that controversial 21-story Kew Gardens hotel in the Pasta Lovers parking lot that was the starting point for many a childhood birthday dinner for yours truly? Local residents desperately wanted the project stopped, but activism aside, it’s the inhospitability of the current economic climate to risk that’s more likely to kill this and other projects like it.

Sure, NFL legend Roger Staubach backed out of the grand Austin Street shopping arcade that was to replace a couple of the most nondescript buildings in town, but even then, we got a new restaurant out of it that promises to be pretty good. (I won’t comment on the wisdom of opening a new restaurant in this age of diminishing disposable income.) Suddenly all the community watchdog groups and anti-development blogs seem as quaint and dated as a screenplay about the thrill-a-minute lives of venture capitalists and day traders.

The Great Recession may even end up saving an entire neighborhoodlet: Cord Meyer, the most endangered part of Forest Hills for years now, where utterly charming 1930s-60s ranch houses have been crumbling like the Wall of Jericho that probably decorates countless tapestries in the interior of their replacements: yardless McMansions so vulgar they’d make the location scouts for a VH1 reality show blush.

Unfortunately for Cord Meyer, we used to have a pretty great economy, and so the area was already largely gutted. There are still plenty of dormant construction sites dotting the landscape. And though they’re far from pretty, the fact that work never seems to be happening is a stirring reminder that for every old project that isn’t getting finished, 10 new ones aren’t getting started.

So here’s something fun to do while you’re not staring at a Web browser looking at endless job sites: Take a walk through Cord Meyer, quick, before things get better, and appreciate the beauty of old Forest Hills. By the time it all disappears, hopefully you’ll be too busy at your new job to care.

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

Gunpoint Robberies in Ozone Park


By Patricia Adams

Two armed robberies occurred within the confines of the 106 precinct within a twenty-four-hour period last week. On Thursday night just before midnight police officers Santoro and Yang responded to a call reporting a commercial gunpoint robbery at 115-07 Lefferts Boulevard.

Cashier Lloid Singh who works at the Jassi convenience store told police that three black men, all dressed in black and wearing black ski masks entered the store and demanded money. Singh told police that one of the perpetrators jumped over the counter brandishing a black firearm screaming at him “Where’s the money?” A second perp told Singh to “raise your hands,” and “don’t do anything stupid,” while standing at the door with the third bandit, acting as lookouts.

The third man urged his two accomplices to get out according to Singh. “Let’s go. Let’s go,” he said repeatedly. The man who had jumped over the counter went through the cash register and the lotto receipts, taking about $1,000 and also snatched a gold chain Singh was wearing on his neck and took the cashier’s cell phone from the counter.

All three men then left the store, fleeing on foot toward 115th Avenue. Singh informed police that there was a surveillance system installed at an adjoining apartment building. Police were able to confirm all of the events described by Singh after viewing the video. There is additional video surveillance evidence from another location.

Police initiated a level-one mobilization with available units canvassing all commercial establishments along Lefferts Boulevard from Rockaway Boulevard to Liberty Avenue.

On Friday evening at about 9:30 p.m. 106 police responded to another 10-30 at Marshall’s department store at 92-10 Rockaway Boulevard.

Store manager Derrick Thorn met police at the store and informed them that two male Hispanics, one approximately 5’4, 18-20 years of age wearing a black jacket and black mask had entered the store. With a silver handgun held up over his head the man stated, “Don’t move, this is a stick-up.”

A second robber, described as 5’7”, 17-18-years-old, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and brown ski mask went over to a store register and demanded that the cashier open it. He removed about $765 from the drawer, placing it in a black North Face backpack before both men fled the store.

Descriptions of both suspects were broadcast immediately and police conducted a canvass of the surrounding business community and train stations along Liberty Avenue with negative results. Police say that the location is also equipped with video camera surveillance.

Residents Upset Over Sudden Parking Ban

Until five months ago, the residents living on Claran Court – a dead end street with fourteen houses – were allowed to park their cars on their block without receiving $110 parking violations from the Department of Transportation (DOT). Some residents have lived on Claran Court for as long as fifty years and have never experienced any parking issues or restrictions before.

Two weeks ago, the DOT imposed ‘No Standing’ signs in front of their homes, taking away the desperately needed parking spaces for the residents.

“Without warning or explanation from the DOT, the tenants of Claran Court started receiving expensive parking violations for parking on their block,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “With the ‘No Standing’ signs and no alternative parking in the area, where are the tenants of Claran Court supposed to park? I am taking all necessary steps to investigate this matter and I have been working with the DOT Borough Commissioner, Maura McCarthy, to find an adequate solution for the residents of Claran Court.”

Despite the homeowner’s complaints to the Parking Agent officials, they have been ignored. Glenn Wagner, a resident of Claran Court since 1999 says “We just want our parking back.”

A DOT spokesman is looking into the situation but was unable to respond by deadline this week.

Students Sign On for Wildlife Conservation

Deliver 12,000 Paper Grievances to Gov. Paterson

Students from the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation and New York City public schools recently presented more than 12,000 petitions, letters of support, and drawings created by children from all five boroughs and Westchester County to representatives at Governor Paterson’s office in Manhattan.

The students visited Paterson's office as the governor has proposed elimination of the $9 million state budget for the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums program fund. They spoke about how this funding cut would directly affect their learning, specifically regarding education programs at the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium.

To date, more than 70,000 messages, including petitions and emails, have been sent to Albany asking that zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums get the funding they need as they face dwindling private donations and repercussions due to a volatile stock market.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) says zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums are integral to our state’s local communities, attracting more than 12 million tourists a year that also help local merchants with revenue.

The Wildlife Conservation Society by the numbers:

•Manages the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium (and three other facilities in NYC) accounting for more than four million tourists each year;

•Employs more than 4,000 staff worldwide;

•Pumps more than $414 million into our state’s economy;

•Employs approximately 1,200 seasonal workers at the Bronx Zoo and NY Aquarium each summer (many of whom are retirees, citizens on public assistance, and students);

•Trains 2,000 public school teachers and nearly two million students visit its facilities, including 70,000 who attend formal education programs.

If ZBGA funding is eliminated and state support for WCS along with it, the cultural institution, chartered by the state in 1895, will receive no support from state government.

A press release from the WCS asks all New Yorkers to send a message of support to Albany by going to The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. It does so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Nanny Guilty in Shaken Baby Assault


A Glendale nanny is facing 25 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting an infant girl she was caring for.

Alma Calderaro, 35, of 73rd Place was found guilty last Friday of first-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child following a five-week jury trial in Queens Criminal Court, according to District Attorney Richard Brown. She faces a quarter century behind bars when she is sentenced on March 20.

According to trial testimony, Calderaro took seven-month-old Fiona Qirjako – who was having seizures and having difficulty breathing – to the emergency room at St. John’s Queens Hospital on January 11, 2006. The infant was transferred later that evening to Long Island Jewish Hospital where medical personnel observed bleeding in the brain and eyes and extensive brain damage.

Doctors at LIJ determined that the baby was suffering from bleeding on the brain and other injuries consistent with the non-accidental inflicted trauma of Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma, which occurs when a baby is repeatedly and violently shaken.

At trial, Fiona’s parents testified that their daughter was in perfect health up to the time she was dropped off at Calderaro’s residence. While on the stand, Calderaro testified that the baby was gasping for air and that she shook Fiona in order to revive her. However, medical experts testified that the defendant’s account of how the baby was injured was inconsistent with the nature and severity of the injuries she suffered.

Fiona, who is now nearly four years old, has permanent brain damage, according to the district attorney’s office.

In a separate and unrelated trial that also ended last Friday, 50-year-old Herdis Baptise of 226th Street in Laurelton was found guilty of abusing his wife’s two preteen daughters over a six-year period. He faces more than 30 years in prison when sentenced on March 30, according to District Attorney Brown.

According to trial testimony, Baptise began sexually abusing his two stepdaughters in July 1998 – when they were seven and eight years old – and continued until July 2004 when the younger sister turned thirteen. While testifying at the trial, the girls recounted how, on at least one occasion, Baptise inferred that they should be quiet and said he would give them candy.

“In both cases, the defendants occupied positions of trust and authority with their victims and chose to violate that responsibility in the most base ways – physically and emotionally traumatizing their young victims and ultimately robbing them of normal lives,” said District Attorney Brown. “The nightmares they imposed on their victims warrant the imposition of lengthy prison sentences.”

Both cases were investigated by the NYPD’s Queens Special Victims Unit, which is based out of the Queens Child Advocacy Center in Forest Hills, under the supervision of Lieutenant Patrick Baricelli, squad commander, and Sergeant Guisella Rodriguez.

The George Ennis Film Festival

It started out as a goof for the three friends George “Grizzily” Ennis, Glen “The Mayor” Kolonics John “Kelleester”” Kelley back in the late 1970’s George Ennis had a friend in the movie business Brad Grey (who went on as producer of the Soparanos and Waynes World) had told these guys that they could be extras in a movie they were making called “Nightmare” (not to be confused with the one on Elm street with the claws of Freddy) a definite low budget “B” movie in the making. The three men obtained the part of three perverted souls squashed together watching one opf those quarter 42nd Street Peep Shows where for as short period you got to watch avery scantily clad woman behind the glass for a minute. Their scene in the movie lasted barely 20 seconds but upon seeing this movie you knew that it was these three guys!

Well when the movie went to open at the now defunct Lefferts Movie Theatre. These guys got wacky and hired a old Cadillac and dressed in some very flamboyant Tuxedoes (dare I say Maroon or Powderblue, remember it was the 1970’s) and came out like they were movie stars coming out to their premire with fans included (mostly friends) But as movie star fans are in awe, we were just laughing our heads off at the spectable they created, unfolding. There were also fliers around with reviews of the movie (which was dragged through the dirt by known movie critics of that era, saying just how bad it was) and with it quotes of friends (fake celebrities) like myself as quoted as saying” after seeing it I cried!” Funny stuff, also there was oscar nominations of Best extras in a Major “B” Movie-yuk yuk somemore and so it gives you a little background of how serious George took his thespian skills, funny guy.

Although George Ennis is a handsome guy (so I’m told by women friends) could have made it with a break serious as the next William Hurt with a full head of hair but it did not deter him from acting, though he played small roles such as a bad cop in Love Like Blood”, however Howard Beach’s other sons Thaddeus Schneider Best Actor(seriously) N.Y. Film Festival 2008 and Walker (my brother) Hornung Best Song in a Movie 2008 N.Y. Film Festival - beating out Willie Nelson way to go Bro George’s other film included Howard Beach’s good detective in “Blind Justice.” He then opted for the stage lights of off Broadway in plays such as (yes) Speed The Plow, Sorry Wrong Number, Other Peoples Money. Glen Gary, Glen Ross, always joking right along about his famous acting career.

Now he has taken in one step further by starting up the short film festival. At the Cabana Restaurant for all budding young and old short film makers, directors producers, actors, started last year it is now growing so that the Cabana Restaurant will hold it again this year on it’s grounds on Sunday April 19th 5 p.m under a tent for all viewers. The independent Geroge Ennis Film Festival and to anyone wishing to be part of this great fun day and have their film included to be viewed in Public can do so by sending a DVD-no longer that 10 mintues maximum to the Cabana Restaurant 1034 West Beach Street, Long Beach, N.Y. 11561 phone number 516-889-1345 Submissions can also be sent via video link to or visit the website georgeennisfestival.

Howard Beach is very proud of one of our native son’s George Ennis. Long Beach is so enamored with the fun and atmosphere generated at this affair that my cousin, Councilwoman Denise Dowd Ford has proclaimed Sunday, April 19th, 2009 George Ennis Film Festival Day in Long Beach. Good show goes out to George and his staff which I’ll acknowledge in my future column after this event, which I will attend as “Press” for the evening and let you all know about it in my next feature column and to everyone else

See ya around the beach!

Teacher Sent Sex Videos to Three Students

Will Surrender Teaching License and Register as Sex Offender

A former English teacher at MS 137 in the South Ozone Park has admitted to sending sexual videos and electronic messages to three of his 12-year-old female students.

“The defendant has admitted to sending indecent messages and pictures to several of his students during his first teaching assignment,” said DA Richard Brown. “This case should serve as a clear and unmistakable warning that law enforcement is prepared to apprehend and prosecute those who attempt to engage in illicit activity involving children.”

The defendant was identified as Umesh Ramjattan, 24, of 91-71 115th Street in Richmond Hill. He appeared before Acting Queens Supreme Court Justice
Ira Margulis and plead guilty to disseminating indecent material to minors in the first degree.

As part of his plea, Ramjattan, who has been free on $50,000 bail since his arraignment on November 9, 2007, will surrender his New York State teaching license, forfeit his computer and be required to register as a sex offender. The Department of Education has terminated Ramjattan.

Justice Margulis set sentencing for April 20, 2009, at which time he indicated that he would likely sentence Ramjattan to five years’ probation – one condition being the successful completion of the sex offenders program he presently attends.

District Attorney Brown said that, according to the charges, one of Ramjattan’s female seventh-grade students at MS 137 in Ozone Park sent an e-mail in September of 2007, to e-mail address he had provided the class. Soon thereafter, Ramjattan began Instant Messaging her with questions that were both sexually suggestive and of a personal nature. In October, he sent her a video of he and his girlfriend having sexual intercourse.

A second female student who e-mailed the defendant about homework began receiving instant messages from him through his AOL account on September 29, 2007, that contained questions of a personal nature and that. In early October she received a picture of the defendant not wearing a shirt.

A third female student who e-mailed the defendant began receiving instant messages from the defendant through his AOL account that were both personal and sexual in nature.

District Attorney Brown said that an investigation began when the parents of one of the students notified school authorities that Ramjattan had e-mailed a sexual video to their daughter and the school, in turn, notified the police.

Man Sentenced for Richmond Hill Rape

Arrested after DNA Cold Hit

A Queens man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for raping a woman who was staying at friend’s Richmond Hill home.

Antonio Ortiz, 42, of 8502 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Far Rockaway, was convicted following a jury trial in January of two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count each of first-degree rape, criminal sexual act, burglary and attempted rape. He was labeled by the court as a persistent violent felony offender and sentenced to five concurrent sentences of 25 years to life in prison.

According to trial testimony, Ortiz entered the Richmond Hill home at 3:30 a.m. on August 24, 2006. The 37-year-old victim, asleep in a second-floor bedroom, awoke to see the defendant, who was holding a knife and claimed to be a police officer. When she tried to flee, the defendant pushed her back on the bed and forcibly raped her. He then robbed her and the homeowner of money, gold jewelry and other items before fleeing.

A drop of blood recovered from a kitchen window ledge where Ortiz entered the house matched his DNA profile, which had previously been entered into the national DNA databank following his conviction in a Brooklyn burglary. This marks the first conviction in Queens County under the newly enacted predatory sexual assault statute which enhances penalties for offenders who commit a violent sex crime while armed with a dangerous weapon.

“A drop of blood found at the crime scene was key to identifying the defendant, once again underscoring the importance of a DNA databank,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “This defendant is a violent predicate felon with prior convictions for both burglary and sexual assault. A life sentence is justified and necessary to protect the law-abiding members of our society from this violent behavior.”

The investigation was conducted by the NYPD’s Queens Special Victims Squad with assistance from the 102nd Precinct. Antonio Ortiz