Thursday, July 30, 2009

This Week's Forum South and West

Airport Runway Project Promises Fewer Delays, More Jobs

Officer Recovering After Ridgewood Shooting

City Nixes Contract for Elmhurst Homeless Shelter

Rumors Swirl About Future of Atlas Park

Kew Gardens Man is $54 Million Lottery Winner

Charter School Proposal Gets Tepid Reception

Adoption Event Provides Home Sweet Home

Problems at Cleveland Park, Prostitution Burglaries Continue

City Banks on Ozone Park Site for Future School

Precincts to Celebrate Night Out Against Crime

Officer Recovering After Ridgewood Shooting

Accidentally Shot During Investigation

By Conor Greene

The police officer who was accidentally shot while frisking a suspect during a domestic dispute investigation in Ridgewood is at home and recovering.

Officer Rodney Lewis of the 104th Precinct was released from New York Hospital on Tuesday and is expected to recover from a gunshot wound sustained early Sunday morning when a suspect’s gun discharged while officers were frisking him.

“He’s doing so well they discharged him today,” the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Keith Green, told residents at Tuesday night’s Citizens for a Better Ridgewood meeting. “That’s great news – luck normally doesn’t go that way for police officers,” especially when shot at close range.

The incident occurred at about 4:50 a.m. when Officer Lewis and his partner, Officer Mark Bublin were canvassing the area after receiving a report of a domestic dispute at 18-18 Menahan Street. The officers were looking for a Hispanic man who was involved in the incident and saw an individual matching that description walking down the block.

The officers ordered the man, identified as 33-year-old ex-convict Edwin Santana, to stop and placed him against a wall to pat him down, according to Deputy Inspector Green. As he was searching Santana, Officer Bublin felt a gun on the left side of Santana’s waistband. As the officer was removing the gun, Santana quickly turned around and faced him, causing Officer Bublin to drop the weapon. After hitting the ground, the gun discharged a single round which struck Officer Lewis on the left side of his chest. The bullet struck Officer Lewis just above his bullet proof vest and lodged under his skin but did not penetrate his chest.

Officer Bublin immediately turned Santana around and handcuffed him as Officer Lewis said he had been shot. Officers placed the injured cop in a squad car and rushed him to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. He was later transported to New York Hospital before he was released on Tuesday. Officer Lewis, 40, is a four-and-a-half year NYPD veteran and former city Corrections Officer who lives in Freeport, Long Island with his wife and three children.

Santana, who has no known address, was arraigned Monday on charges of assaulting a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon and faces up to 15 years if convicted. He was not charged with attempted murder because he did not shoot the officer on purpose, according to authorities. He was ordered held on $100,000 bail and is due back in court on August 18.

The problem began when a local transsexual who calls herself Hazel Campana got into an argument with her boyfriend Carlos Berrios. Campana, who was born a man, called Santana, who is her ex-boyfriend, and asked him to come to the house to help her. Officers then arrived on the scene to find Santana walking down the block away from the house. Berrios fled before officers arrived and wasn’t involved with the shooting but is wanted in connection with the initial domestic incident.

Deputy Inspector Green said he got the dreaded phone call less than an hour after Officer Lewis was shot. He said the incident was especially dangerous because of the weapon involved - a 32-caliber long revolver that authorities say is about 70 years old. “Miraculously, he’s okay – he was hit in a vital part of the body,” he said.

Shortly after the incident, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived at Wyckoff Hospital to check on the wounded officer. The mayor used the shooting to highlight the progress the city has made over the past seven years fighting domestic violence.

“Six or seven years ago, there were many so-called experts who felt that crime could not get any lower in New York City. Somedoubted we could even hold the line against crime. Few thought it could fall further – especially in some of the more stubborn elements facing our society like domestic violence,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “But instead of listening to naysayers, Commissioner Kelly… attacked the challenge of fighting domestic violence crimes that so often happen behind closed apartment doors.”

Domestic violence related murders have fallen by 32 percent over the past six years, and all domestic violence crime is down 25 percent in that time, according to the mayor.

“But one thing hasn’t changed – and that’s the men and women on patrol for the NYPD fighting the plague of domestic violence in our city,” added Mayor Bloomberg. “Our gains would be impossible without them. And thankfully today Officer Lewis did not fall in the line of that battle.”

Mayor Bloomberg also touched on the city’s battle against illegal handguns. “Illegal guns kill cops – plain and simple. There is no conceivable scenario in which he could have legally possessed a firearm, let alone concealed it on his person,” he said. “The best news that I have this morning is that the prognosis for Officer Lewis is that he will fully recover from his wounds and I think he’s just another example of a man or woman who puts their lives on the line every day to protect the rest of us.”

City Nixes Contract for Elmhurst Homeless Shelter

Residents Still Weary of 58th Ave Site’s Future

By Conor Greene

Plans for a homeless shelter in Elmhurst have been halted after the city terminated its agreement with the organization seeking to run the facility out of a 58th Avenue building, but residents’ relief might be short lived, as the future of the property is still unclear.

The city Human Resource Administration cancelled its Memorandum of Understanding with Queens Alliance “to protect the confidentiality of our clients,” according to department spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio. Queens Alliance had planned to open a homeless shelter for 29 individuals at 86-18 58th Avenue, despite huge uproar from neighbors who say that type of facility isn’t appropriate for the residential block.

While Brancaccio refused to say how the Queens Alliance breached their potential client’s confidentiality, literature distributed by the organization to the public stated that while the location wouldn’t serve as an HIV/AIDS treatment center, “only HIV/AIDS positive individuals who are asymptomatic may be referred to this facility.”

Brancaccio said the termination of the Memorandum of Understanding ends the city’s involvement in the 58th Avenue location for now. However, Queens Alliance – which has no track record running these types of facilities – is free to submit another application to the city to open a shelter on 58th Avenue, where they have a 10 year lease with the building owner.

Residents, who held a large rally in front of the building several weeks ago, said they are glad that the agreement with Queens Alliance has been terminated, but are still concerned over the future of the building. “That’s one of our biggest issues right now,” said Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, which helped organized the protest. “I told them [nearby residents] to celebrate the victory, we won the battle but we haven’t won the war. Until they come up with a permanent solution for this, the war won’t be won.”

Daraio said residents are submitting a petition to the HRA and the mayor’s office in hopes the city will help broker an acceptable compromise with the building owner over its future use. She noted that the block already has one group home, which the residents have not complained about. “I commend them for never complaining about the place across the street, even though it has caused some problems, but two would break the camel’s back.”

Representatives for Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who represents the area, did not return a phone call seeking comment on the situation, nor did Richard Italiano, district manager of Community Board 4.

Yolanda Martin-Garibaldi, vice-president of Queens Alliance, didn’t return an e-mail message, and the phone at the 58th Avenue building, which is listed on literature as the organization’s address, was not answered.

Resident Linda Lam, who also helped organize the residents, said the termination of the contract shows that Queens Alliance “is not qualified” and “doesn’t understand the most basic rights and confidentiality of clients.” She said the residents will be “absolutely up in arms” if another proposal is made for a shelter at that location.

“If another qualified agency is doing that, it is still the same end result for us so the comfort level is not going to be dramatically improved,” said Lam. “We know from the other shelters how it affects the neighborhood. The last thing we want to see is my neighbors selling their houses.” She reiterated that the objections are due to the location in the middle of a residential block. “The intention is good to house the homeless, we’re all for it, but the location is very poor. They should pick a commercial or industrial strip where you don’t have so many young children around.”

Editor's Note: This version has been corrected as the original article incorrectly attributed information to the HRA spokeswoman regarding Queens Alliance's future involvement in the site.

Rumors Swirl about Future of Atlas Park

Hemmerdingers Reportedly Eyeing Reacquisition after Foreclosure

By Conor Greene

With the future of the Shops at Atlas Park up in the air, rumors are circulating that the shopping center’s former owner will try to reacquire the property after losing it to foreclosure earlier this year.

Damon Hemmerdinger, whose family’s ATCO Properties developed the upscale Glendale shopping mall three years ago, is now listed as principal of ATCO Advisory Services, which some community leaders believe was formed recently with an eye on purchasing the property at a foreclosure sale likely to take place early next year.

Hemmerdinger, son of MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger, did not return a message seeking comment on the family’s intentions regarding the property at 80th Street and Cooper Avenue. Anchored by a movie theater and several restaurants, the shopping center failed to take off as a result of the economy and what some say is a poor selection of stores given the local clientele.

However, several community leaders say they’ve heard rumors that the Hemmerdingers might be positioning themselves to regain the property, which they lost in February after defaulting on the $128 million loan ATCO had from two French banks. “I don’t know anything specific, but what I know about bankruptcy and real estate, this is not an unusual maneuver,” said Kathy Masi of the Glendale Civic Association, who was aware of the rumors prior to a recent published report on the Hemmerdinger’s plans.

Lydon Sleeper, chief of staff for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said he also heard similar rumors but said the council member’s main concern is that the shopping center is beneficial for the surrounding community, no matter who is running it.

While there were clashes between ATCO and the community regarding issues including the MTA’s decision to reroute the Q45 bus to the mall, Masi said the day-to-day operations and conditions at the mall were better when Hemmerdinger was at the helm. “I haven’t had the same type of communication with Mattone,” she said, referring to the Mattone Group, which took over the mall’s management following the foreclosure. “It’s not like having the Hemmerdingers, who built it and had their heart and soul in it. It’s a little different now, about business and not personal pride.”

Masi questioned some of the retailers that the mall’s court-appointed receiver, Paul Millus, is pursuing for the property’s vacancies. “I don’t hear any rumbles of anything I would like to see go in the mall. A Western Beef, we certainly don’t want that. There are rumors the community is crying out for a supermarket, but I don’t hear that and I think I have a better [understanding of] the pulse then they do… Clearly, Mr. Millus made no bones about it, they’re here to turn a profit, and they’re trying.”

While she was “shocked” to hear rumors of a possible reacquisition by ATCO, Masi said she would have no objections if the Hemmerdingers regain control. “The Hemmerdingers clearly have more heart and soul invested in this than anyone else. You can walk into the mall now and see dead plants,” said Masi. “Damon would never have allowed that, he had too much pride in the building.”

Still, Masi made one thing clear – like many, she felt the MTA’s decision to reroute the Q45 bus was a “despicable” move that happened as a result of the senior Hemmerdinger’s clout as MTA chairman. “I think the community will deal with those issues in a much more aggressive way moving forward. We won’t allow anyone to say how it’s going to be,” she said, calling prior issues with the mall “a real learning experience.”

Millus said he will be in place as the court-appointed receiver until the foreclosure sale, which likely will take place at the end of the year or early 2010. In the meantime, he is working to attract “the proper mix” of retailers “that provide the adjacent community things they want to buy” such as electronics, clothing and more restaurants. “I think the primary focus should be on the beautiful idyllic setting where people come to shop for a variety of needs,” he said.

Millus is also working to find a tenant for the former location of Orange café, and is attempting to address the parking situation – a major source of criticisms from residents due to the cost - with the banks. A limited trial offering an hour of free parking is in place and employees have been given a discount on the parking garage rates in hopes of getting their cars off local streets. “I have certain suggestions and am working with the bank to address their revenue concerns. I hear the concerns of the community and hope to do more about it,” he said.

Airport Runway Project Promises Fewer Delays, More Jobs

By Patricia Adams

A $376.3 million runway reconstruction project for John F. Kennedy International Airport was announced on Tuesday when Gov. David Paterson was joined at JFK by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Director Christopher Ward, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), local elected officials and members from the labor community.

The Bay Runway will undergo significant rehabilitation to reduce delays and improve airport operations, supporting an estimated 2,500 jobs. “Since it first opened in 1948, John F. Kennedy Airport, and very often the Bay Runway itself, has been New York’s gateway to the world, serving millions of passengers each year, providing tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions in economic activity,” Governor Paterson said.

“If Kennedy Airport is to remain a portal to and from this city and our country, we must continue to invest in it through necessary infrastructure upgrades. The runway expansion, addition of taxiways and other improvements will save passengers time, reduce delays and costs associated with congestion and provide considerable economic development to this region,” the governor added.

PANYNJ Executive Director Chris Ward said: “I want to thank Governor Paterson for supporting this major project at a time when infrastructure investment nationally is being cut back. This project will not only reduce delays and save money at JFK in the long run, but will create thousands of local jobs.”

JetBlue President and CEO Dave Barger stated that, "Improvements to runways and taxiways at JFK are essential to reducing flight delays and increasing the airport's capacity and efficiency. As the largest airline at JFK as determined by the number of customers served and an airline dedicated to providing quality customer service, we at JetBlue look forward to working closely with the port authority throughout the duration of these improvements, which will ultimately benefit all customers traveling through the gateway airport."

Construction on the Bay Runway or Runway 13-31, will begin immediately as part of the second phase of the JFK Delay Reduction Program. The project will widen the runway from 150 to 200 feet and will include a new drainage system, new electrical infrastructure, the addition of delay reduction taxiways and accommodations for future navigational aids. The project will support 1,000 direct and 1,500 ancillary jobs, including direct construction work, asphalt and concrete production, running of aeronautical lighting and food services.

The improvements are expected to reduce flight delays overall by an estimated 10,500 hours per year. Accommodations to taxiways – including high-speed exits for landing aircraft and holding pads where departing aircraft can literally pull off – will enable planes to bypass those held on the tarmac so that others may proceed.

The project is funded through two sources: PANYNJ will provide $292.4 million, and the FAA will provide $83.9 million. Of the FAA’s funds, $53 million will be used for work associated with the Delay Reduction Program and the remaining $15 million is allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Runways at major commercial airports typically require major maintenance work every 5to 10 years. This investment in the Bay Runway takes advantage of an opportunity to make longer-lasting improvements to the Bay Runway – foregoing old-model asphalt for an 18-inch concrete overlay instead. The lifespan of concrete nearly five times more than asphalt and will provide an estimated long-term savings of $500 million while reducing the need for ongoing maintenance.

Through extensive cooperation and coordination with the FAA and the airlines, the PANYNJ expects to minimize the impact on airport operations during the 120 days that the runway will be closed for construction in 2010. Airlines are adjusting schedules and operations to mitigate delays, and the airport’s three remaining runways will be utilized to their full capabilities during the Bay Runway’s closure.

The Forum Newsgroup/photo courtesy of GOVERNOR PATERSON’S OFFICE

Kew Gardens Man is $54 Million Lottery Winner

After weeks of speculation, the lucky winner of the $133 million Mega Millions came forward on Tuesday to claim his prize.

Despite initial reports that the person who bought the $2 ticket on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica was a woman, the city’s newest millionaire is 49-year old Aubrey Boyce, a Kew Gardens resident who immediately quit his job of eight years with the MTA, where he earned about $53,000 annually collecting cash from token booths and MetroCard machines.

“I couldn’t believe I was the winner,” he said at a press conference at Grand Central Terminal. “I kept checking my numbers to make sure… I will probably go on a dream vacation somewhere warm. Maybe the islands.”

By taking the jackpot in a lump sum, Boyce walks home with $54,648,351. “I used to play the lottery so I could win big - big enough to retire, have enough to live on. Now, I really don’t know what I’ll do beyond just taking care of my family,” he said.

Boyce said he typically spends $12 a week on lottery tickets, but laid out just $2 on the morning of July 7 for two sets of Quick Pick numbers from that evening’s Mega Millions drawing. “I went to a different store the next day to check the winning numbers,” he said. “I saw my numbers and got a little nervous. I went online to double check and there they were again… My wife and I haven’t reallyslept since.” By picking the numbers 25, 27, 35, 38, 39 and 28 for the Mega Ball, Boyce was the only person to strike the winning combination.

He described himself as the “quiet, laid back type” and said his neighbors shouldn’t expect to see him driving around his Kew Gardens neighborhood, where he lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife, in a fancy car. “I’m a laid-back guy, so you know, something not too flashy,” he said.

As a reward for selling the winning ticket, the owner of Shiv Convenience received a $10,000 bonus.

Charter School Proposal Gets Tepid Reception

Applicant Fails to Show Up for Public Hearing

By Conor Greene

A group is seeking permission to establish a charter school within District 24, but members of the local Community Educational Council and residents were not happy when representatives failed to show up for a scheduled hearing on the plan.

City Academy of Science Charter School has filed an application with the state and city to open a college preparatory-level school initially serving students in grades 7 to 9 before expanding to 12th grade. The group was supposed to present details about the plan at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday night, but representatives skipped the scheduled meeting. That left council members and residents with outstanding questions, including where the school would be located.

The phone number listed on the application for the group’s contact, Furkan Kosar, has been disconnected. According to Superintendent Catherine Powis’ executive summary of the application, the group expects first-year expenses of about $2.8 million, against projected revenues of about $2.6 million. The shortfall is expected to be made up by private donations or loans of $200,000 from an “unspecified source.” It isn’t clear how much of the group’s revenues would come through public funding.

However, the executive summary contains few details about proposed locations, which council members said is unknown to them at this point. “The one question I did ask is where [it would be located],” said Powis. “I know that’s on the minds of everyone in the district.” The summary only says that the group is looking into properties in Maspeth, Glendale and Long Island City.

The idea of placing another school in Maspeth did not go over well with several residents who were among the sparse crowd at PS 58, especially since the city is moving ahead with a 1,100 seat high school just blocks from two existing schools. “The mere fact that Maspeth was even mentioned as a possible location for the school is absolutely ridiculous,” said Manny Caruana, predicting community backlash if that happens.

However, as the minutes ticked by, it became clear the applicants were not going to show up, which CEC 24 President Nick Comaianni called “a little arrogant.” He added: “They want to put a school in our community without any input. It’s just not something I’m for.”

Comaianni suggested the council pass a resolution stating that the project should not go forward because it is “not in the best interests of public students” in District 24 and because the group’s representatives didn’t show up. Eventually, the council agreed to table the resolution until its next meeting, when it could meet in an official capacity depending on what is decided in Albany.

However, the resolution might be moot by then. Once a group files an application with the DOE for a charter school, a thirty-day window begins in which a public hearing must be held. Since the deadline to file is June 30, it is likely the group’s allotted time to hold a hearing is about to expire. A group must provide seven days notice prior to a hearing, making it impossible for a new hearing to be scheduled within the 30 days. If you don’t meet this requirement, you have to wait 12months to continue the process.

The lack of public notice and input was a major focus of the council’s discussion, and Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the borough’s representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, agrees that changes are needed in the state’s law governing charter approvals. He suggest moving the filing deadline to April 15 since many residents are away during summer months and requiring two public hearings within 45 days that are advertised in local newspapers. The groups should also be required to meet with the area’s local and state representatives, argues Fedkowskyj.

“I firmly believe that in order for the current charter school process to work, the suggested changes need to be implemented. We need a completely transparent process in place,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We know the mayor and [Chancellor Joel] Klein tout the successes of charter schools all the time and that they want to create more of them, but they shouldn’t do it at the expense of our overcrowded traditional public schools.”

Due to the situation in Albany, the council’s meeting was held on an informal basis so that residents continue to have an outlet to discuss issues within district schools, explained Comaianni. The public hearing regarding the charter school would have been run by Powis since the council doesn’t currently hold any actual powers.

Adoption Event Provides Home Sweet Home

By Patricia Adams

Four Paws Sake Rescue, together with the Mayors Alliance for NYC Animals, held its 1st Annual Adoption Event at Juniper Valley Park on Sunday morning. Hundreds of excited visitors spent time with the more than 60 dogs and cats available for adoption. Representatives and volunteers from a host of animal organizations were on hand to answer questions and offer access to resources for concerned animal owners and activists.

The host organization, Four Paws Sake, Inc. was established in March of this year as a non-profit 501(c) (3) rescue organization. Its founder, Phyllis Taiano, put Four Paws together because of her dedication to ending pet overpopulation. The organization has adopted a mission statement which describes their cause as rescuing animals from kill facilities, provide sanctuary and ultimately to re-home abandoned, stray and neglected dogs and cats.

Additionally, the organization seeks to generate awareness in the community about the prevention of animal abuse and neglect as well as spay/neuter programs and their important effect on the dog and cat overpopulation crisis in the city. Once a rescued animal is safely within the care of Four Paws, the dog or cat is treated by one of the organization’s veterinarians. Animals are vaccinated and spayed/neutered. Four Paws fosters all of their rescues until they are adopted. All applicants are screened thoroughly including onsite home visits.

“We are in constant communication with all of our new owners to help provide counseling or to reclaim the pet should compatibility or other issues arise,” says Taiano. “Our goal is to find a permanent home for all our dogs and cats that are in need of a loving family of their own.”

“Most animals the organization rescues have lives filled with neglect and abuse. Our promise is to those animals,” explains Taiano, “that their pain and suffering is over and for the rest of their lives they will have love and security.”

During Sunday’s event several adoptions were arranged, including Rosey from Four Paws. Rosey was pulled from a kill shelter in Manhattan on June 12, weighing only 22.4 lbs, having a broken tail, bitten ears and many sores on her body. She had to undergo surgery but made a great recovery and was rated to have behavior that was of “no concern.”

Rosey was nursed back to health by Phyllis and her boyfriend Steve and on Sunday was supporting a healthy weight and a shiny coat. Rosey looked so good she was snapped up by her new adoptive parents Middle Village residents John and Elsa Meyers. Taiano said the couple live three blocks away from her and each time she walked Rosey past their house the dog would stick her nose in between the steel slats enclosing their little flower patch and sniff a small cement statue of a rabbit. “It’s really ironic that the house Rosey loved so much is going to be her new home,” Taiano said beaming. “It’s moments like this and events like this adoption that make this work so rewarding and wonderful - for all of us and of course for the animals.”

If you would like to learn more about animal adoption and rescue through Four Paws, you visit them at their website at

Problems at Cleveland Park, Prostitution and Burglaries Continue

By Conor Greene

Problems at Cleveland Park that are preventing residents from enjoying the green space were the focus of this month’s Citizens for a Better Ridgewood (CBR) meeting. Other issues included a burglary pattern and the ongoing battle against prostitution along Starr Street, which the community has been dealing with for decades.

Crime Stats and Burglary Pattern

Through the first 30 weeks of the year, major crime is down 7.5 percent throughout the precinct, according to Deputy Inspector Keith Green. All of the seven major categories are down with the exception of burglaries, which are up in part due to several patterns in the Ridgewood area, including one open one. Otherwise, murder, rape, robbery, felony assaults, grand larceny and auto theft have all declined compared to the same time last year. In addition, arrests are up 20 percent for all crimes and 16 percent for major crimes.

The precinct was able to put a dent in the burglary numbers with the arrest of two individuals in May police say were responsible for a rash of residential break-ins in the area of Otto and Central avenues. However, there currently is an “open pattern” of burglaries in the southern section of Ridgewood, with at least seven apartments broken into recently. Deputy Inspector Green said the incidents occurred during the day, with the perp gaining entry through windows and some front doors.

“Burglaries tend to go that way, up and down with clusters,” he said. “We’ve made some good arrests recently, but we’re still working on that.” He urged residents to make sure windows are locked and noted that the suspects look for an easy target. “They find the easiest point of entry, so we try to stress [to residents] to make it harder. Even though it’s summer, you need to make your house secure.”

The suspects mostly took money, jewelry and small electronics during the break-ins, which included homes along Forest Avenue and near Fresh Pond Road.

Update on Trouble Bars

The ongoing problems at bars throughout the precinct, including loud noise and unruly patrons, were also discussed. Steps have been taken to address community concerns at Hush Café on Grand Avenue and at Moonlight Bar and Grill on Flushing Avenue after the 104th Precinct and elected officials received complaints about both establishments.

Deputy Inspector Green said the precinct constantly monitors the local nightlife scene for problem locations so they can take care of issues before they escalate. “Places we see that are going in the wrong direction… we bring them in and have meetings with the owners,” he said, adding that summonses were issue to the owners of both Hush and Moonlight. “As long as we have complaints we’ll be there, and they know it,” he added.

Cleveland Park Issues

A main source of frustration for many of the residents at the meeting is problems at Grover Cleveland Park, particularly with food vendors. Residents reported that the sidewalks around the park become unusable when the vendors set up shop, double-parked cares are causing unsafe crossing conditions and that illegal gambling is taking place inside the park.

Residents also described “unhealthy conditions” regarding the food preparation, with large open barrels of boiling oil creating a potential hazard. To add insult to injury, the park is left strewn with trash after events are held there, even though cleaning up is part of the requirements for obtaining event permits from the city. A resident said the situation has led to rodents and insects in nearby homes.

“If a police officer comes on one weekend, they will fill their quota for tickets,” said one resident. Added another: “We as residents on weekends don’t feel like we have any rights to go across the street to the park. This is not the first time we’re raising this issue.”

Deputy Inspector Green said officers will look into the complaints regarding the vendors and will conduct traffic enforcement in the area.

“We don’t have to tolerate anything that wouldn’t happen on Mayor Bloomberg’s block,” said Michael Hetzer, vice president of the CBR. “There are at least six, seven, eight different things going on that have to be dealt with by different agencies.”

Prostitution Woes Continue

Civic President Ann Maggio reported that prostitution in the area is once again “in full effect,” especially in the area of Starr Street. “This has been going on for twenty years. I know it’s the oldest profession and we’re not going to get rid of it, but not on Starr Street… If we were in Middle Village, it would be gone.”

Deputy Inspector Green said that prostitution is one of the tougher crimes to make arrests for but that officers are working on the situation. “You can drive by ten times during the night and not see them… It takes a bit of work to make an arrest.”

Hetzer again suggested that the problem is continuing despite years of complaints because of where it is taking place. “We just feel it’s not talked about that much because it’s in our corner” of the precinct.

The civic organization doesn’t meet again until September 28th at 7:30 p.m. in the basement of St. Aloysius Church, 382 Onderdonk Avenue.

School Construction Authority Banks on Site for Future School

City Acquired Ozone Park Property at NYRA Auction

By Patricia Adams

As part of the recent Aqueduct land sale of vacant lots in the Centreville area of Ozone Park, the School Construction Authority has purchased two lots which according to sources will be “banked for future use.” Residents began calling the office of Councilman Eric Ulrich last week when they noticed work crews around the parcels of land cleaning and fencing in the property.

“While I recognize the need for more school construction to alleviate overcrowding, I do not believe this site is an appropriate location for a school of any sort. I will, however, continue to monitor this very closely and work with CB 10, local civics and residents,” said Ulrich. “We will work with the city and SCA to ensure that what may be an eventuality will be subjected to intensive community review.”

The councilmember noted that no school construction at the location is included in the five year capital plan enacted with the passing of this year’s budget.

Chief Administrative Officer for NYRA, John Ryan, stated that NYRA sold the lots to the city, and a review of ACRIS property records show the deed transfer for both lots filed on July 1, 2009. The sale price for the property was listed at $4.2 million.

State Senator Joe Addabbo told The Forum he’s grateful that the SCA is cleaning and securing the property but that the land sale is of obvious concern to the surrounding community. “We may very well see a school here in a few years down the road. If it’s a middle school it would serve to alleviate crowding at MS 207 as well as MS 210,” said Addabbo. “If in fact it will be used as a high school then it would serve to take some of the burden off John Adams.”

Elected officials agree that one focal point of the project is to make sure the community can live with the design plan that will be used when the project comes to fruition. “While I understand that the community has expressed the sentiment in past discussions that they would not necessarily be supportive of a school in the area,” said Addabbo, “it is important to look at the other options that could have been assigned to the same parcels of land.”

Addabbo maintains that an alternative construction project such as residential or retail would have put an additional strain on services especially in an area where sewers are already a concern and traffic problems abound.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Will Havemann, “The Aqueduct property was acquired on June 24, 2009. The Department of Education has not yet determined how the property will be used. As with all properties we acquire, we'll gauge the needs of the neighborhood and work with the community to make sure we put the property to its best use.”

The tract of land lies off the Conduit on Albert Road between Huron and Raleigh Streets.

Precincts to Celebrate Night Out Against Crime

Police precincts across the city, and the nation, will celebrate the annual Night Out Against Crime event on Tuesday. Free events for the entire family are planned for local parks, including within the 104th, 112th and 106th precincts.

The 112th Precinct, covering Forest Hills and Rego Park, is hosting a celebration at MacDonald Park from 6 to 9 p.m. The park is located across from the Forest Hills Post Office, but in the event of rain the event will be moved inside the Forest Hills Jewish Center, announced Heidi Harrison Chain, president of the precinct’s community council.

The event celebrates the partnership between the city’s police force and the community and is also “a great opportunity for our community to thank the NYPD for their efforts on our behalf in reducing crime,” said Chain. “Crime is down and our officers help us improve our quality of life.”

Events at MacDonald Park include a showcase of local talents, featuring local artists who will display their paintings, crafts, photos and other items. To participate, contact the precinct community council at There will also be entertainment provided by a DJ and demonstrations by a local karate school.

Officers from the 112th Precinct will provide the public with safety information and Transit District 20 officials will discuss subway safety. The FDNY and other city agencies are expected to also take part in the event, as will the Forest Hills – Rego Park CERT team. Businesses that are interested in participating can contact the community council or call the precinct’s Community Affairs Unit at (718) 520-9321.

The 104th Precinct, covering Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village, is hosting its event in Mafera Park, located at 65th Place and 68th Avenue from 5 to 9 p.m. Activities for the entire family, including children, will be provided. For details, contact the precinct’s Community Affairs Unit at (718) 386-2431.

The 106th Precinct, covering Howard Beach, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Lindenwood and South Richmond Hill, will hold its Night Out Against Crime at Tudor Park from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The park is located along 133rd Avenue off 80th Street in Tudor Village.

There will be entertainment and free giveaways for everyone and children’s events. Officer Paul Ciccarella will be on hand to do free automobile windshield VIN etching, as well as etching iPods, cell phones and bicycles. Anyone interested in having their valuables etched must call him at (718) 845-2223 with your vehicle registration information prior to the event so the officer can file the proper paperwork.