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Queens Chronicle

Political junkies got their fill in ’12

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Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:43 am, Thu Jan 3, 2013.

Politics in middle and southwestern Queens was the favorite sport outside of Citi Field in 2012, and the worst storm to hit the region in 74 years devastated some while causing others just a few flickers of their lights.

JANUARY

As the year began, the city filed an appeal of a ruling by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufus that found discrimination on the part of the FDNY against African-American firefighters in the testing and hiring process.

Work began Jan. 25 on the $7.5 million project to rehabilitate the walls of the Cooper Avenue underpass in Glendale. The project represented the first major work done at the site since it was constructed in 1935.

FEBRUARY

Assemblymen Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) pushed to reinstate rail service along the old Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road between Ozone Park and Rego Park. Both said it would offer badly needed rail service to their districts. The tracks were abandoned by the LIRR in 1962. Other proposals include converting the line into an elevated High Line-style park.

Feb. 4 saw students at Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood medal in four categories at the annual Regional Science Olympiad, competing against schools such as Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Archbishop Malloy, St. Francis Prep and Bronx Science.

MARCH

FedEx Ground announced that it was planning to leave its Maspeth distribution center at Grand Avenue and 47th Street in 2013 for a new site to be built in Long Island City. The center employs 125 workers.

Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) announced her campaign for Congress to fill the seat left open by the retirement of Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens). 

Borough Hall was the target of conservationists after 10 blooming cherry trees — some more than 40 years old — were cut down behind the building near where construction had begun on a $14 million atrium.

City officials first said the trees were removed to accommodate construction equipment. Following a publicity campaign by NYC Park Advocates and press reports, they claimed the trees were diseased or could not be transplanted so late in the growing season. Two dozen more trees were removed in the coming weeks.

Congressman Bob Turner (R-Queens and Brooklyn) announced his intention to run in the Republican primary for the United States Senate. Turner’s House district would be eliminated when the lines were redrawn to reflect the results of the 2010 U.S. Census.

APRIL

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) announced his intention to challenge state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) in the 15th Senate District.

The late Gordon Bennett, a leader of Boy Scout Troop 106 in Middle Village for 35 years, was honored by more than 200 people in a ceremony held on April 18, just weeks after his death.

On April 19, Jeff Gottlieb, 70, a longtime functionary in the Queens Democratic Party, withdrew his candidacy in the primary for the 6th Congressional District after revelations that he set fire to his apartment while working as a teacher in 1971.

The driver who killed 37-year-old Maspeth tavern owner George Gibbons pleaded guilty on April 20 to leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Peter Rodriguez, 37, was speeding and driving the wrong way on the service road to the Long Island Expressway on Oct. 11, 2011 when he hit the livery car in which Gibbons was riding head-on. The driver of the cab and Rodriguez’s passenger were hurt. Rodriguez went on the run and was arrested one month later in Connecticut. He would be sentenced to 3.5 to 7years in prison in May.

On April 26, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood was removed from a list of more than two dozen high schools slated to be shut down and reorganized with a new name and new staff. The school, which opened in 1931, has 2,400 students. All the schools eventually were spared closure.

That same day, Meng acknowledged that she was aware of business and management ties between Multi-Media, which was hired to do her campaign’s printing, and the Queens Tribune, which runs advertisements that have been criticized by women’s organizations, politicians and law enforcement as promoting prostitution. Meng subsequently introduced legislation in the Assembly that would require legitimate massage businesses to run their state license numbers in advertisements. Critics, including women’s advocates, called the measure insufficient.

CURES, or Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, and Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers were honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their work with the environment. CURES was cited largely for its work to control noise and air pollution in and around the Fresh Pond rail yards, which have been a source of protest from Maspeth, Glendale and Middle Village.

On April 24, Community Education Council 24 approved plans to establish the Middle Village Preparatory School for grades 6 through 8 on the campus of Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village in 2013. The school will accommodate 360 children in the most overcrowded school district in New York City. That same night the CEC endorsed the city’s plan to buy and renovate the old St. Aloysius School on Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood.

The intersection of 59th Road and 60th Street in Maspeth was renamed on April 29 in memory of NYPD Officer Kevin Czartoryski, who died from lung disease in December 2011. Czartoryski, 46, was a first responder to the World Trade Center attacks.

MAY

All but one member of the Queens delegation to Congress supported a failed bill amendment that could have stripped millions of dollars from the NYPD over the department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

Turner was the lone no vote from Queens. Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) was not present for the vote, but said he would have supported the bill. Democratic Congressional candidate Meng said she would have voted to support the bill.

The Queens Republican Party endorsed Forest Hills attorney Juan Reyes to run against Addabbo in the 15th SD. The endorsement was seen as the result of an ongoing rift between Ulrich, who had announced in April, and Republican Party leadership.

JUNE

New York Mets ace Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in the team’s 50-year history on June 1, blanking the defending champion the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-0. 

Meng scored 51 percent of the vote in the Democratic Primary for the 6th Congressional District on June 26. Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) got 28 percent, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) 16 percent and Dr. Robert Mittman of Flushing 5 percent.

The Moving Wall, a traveling scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, was open to the public around the clock in Juniper Valley Park from June 29 to July 2. The monument bears the names of 512 sons of Queens.

Community Board 5 and the city’s Department of Transportation cleared the final hurdles to creating a pair of pedestrian plazas in the area — one in Glendale at the convergence of Myrtle and Cooper avenues and 70th Street, and a temporary one in Ridgewood at 71st Avenue, Steven Street and Myrtle. Officials hope the latter will be approved for permanent status.

JULY

Residents and politicians were out in force outside the Review Avenue facilities of Waste Management on July 2 to protest a state ruling that allows the company to expand its operations on the site. Residents believe it will increase the amount of trash that is shipped by rail through the Fresh Pond rail yards, which has been a source of noise and odors in Glendale and Middle Village. The company said it will eliminate more than 300 truck trips per week on Queens roads leading to and from the facility.

Crowley took a $286,000 cut in discretionary funding to her district from the City Council coffers. The cut is believed in some political circles to be payback for forcing a Democratic primary with party-endorsed Meng for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District.

AUGUST

CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said it would be difficult for the city or developers to act on the rumored interest in building a multi-dwelling homeless facility on the site of an old factory at 76-18 Cooper Ave. in Glendale.

Arcuri said the factory, which has been vacant for about two decades, would require extensive — and expensive — remediation for lead paint, asbestos and PCBs to meet code standards, and also is located adjacent to a federally recognized brownfield. The owner of the site, Wilner Realty Management of Jericho, LI, had held discussions with a possible developer earlier in the year.

WNBA stars and former Christ the King High School standouts Tina Charles and Sue Bird won gold medals with the U.S. women’s basketball team at the London Olympic Games.

On Aug. 10, Howard Beach resident Daniel Casillo, 31, was arrested for criminal trespass at John F. Kennedy International Airport after his personal watercraft broke down on Jamaica Bay.

Casillo swam to the nearest landmass, the airport, and scaled an 8-foot fence before walking up to two miles to a secure area seeking help. The incident caused criticism and an internal review of JFK’s $100 million- plus perimeter security system, which failed to detect Casillo before he flagged down airport personnel to ask for help.

FDNY EMTs Jimmy Guailacela and Marilyn Arroyo rescued three senior citizens who became trapped in their car on Aug. 15 when heavy rains cause a flash flood at the Cooper Avenue Underpass. Sister Claudia Bradshaw of St. Margaret’s parish in Middle Village was rescued along with her friends, Mary and Joseph Laurence.

SEPTEMBER

Incumbents carried the day in primaries for state offices on Sept. 13.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) defeated challenger Etienne David Adorno by a 71-29 margin. Ulrich defeated Reyes, 70-30, for the right to take on Addabbo on November.

OCTOBER

Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm that laid waste to large sections of the Rockaways, southern Queens and Staten Island, largely spared Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood when it made landfall on Oct. 29.

Downed trees caused power outages in some areas, and minor flooding hit some homeowners and businesses. Residents in the area played a large part in the ongoing relief effort for those in the stricken areas.

NYPD officer Gilbert Valle, 26, was arrested on charges connected to an alleged online conspiracy to kidnap, kill and eat women with whom he was acquainted. Valle is accused of illegally accessing national computer records to gather information on potential victims, and in one instance is suspected of conspiring to kidnap a woman and deliver her to a third party for money.

Ridgewood resident Orlando Orea, 32, became an international fugitive, fleeing to Mexico after learning police were looking for him in connection with the Oct. 7 murder of 25-year-old soccer coach Michael Jones in Manhattan.

Maspeth businessman Peter Keane and his employee Marc Eberle held a memorial ceremony at their auto body shop on Oct. 26 on the 50th anniversary of six FDNY firefighters dying in a fire at the site in 1962. Capt. William Russell and firefighters James Marino, Richard Andrews, Richard Gifford, George Zahn and Francis Egan were killed when a wall collapsed on them in what was then a soap factory.

NOVEMBER

Democrats retained their supremacy in Queens on Election Day.

In the most closely monitored race, Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) defeated Ulrich by a margin of 57 to 43 percent in the 15th SD.

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx) thrashed Republican challenger William Gibbons, 83-15.

Next door in the 6th District, Democrat Meng, with 68 percent of the vote, topped Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).

And Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) defeated Republican Tony Nunziato, 68-32 in the 30th AD.

Three men convicted in the 1988 murder of NYPD Officer Edward Byrne were denied parole in November. Scott Cobb, David McClary and Todd Scott all were up for parole for the first time. A fourth man, Philip Copeland, was denied parole on Dec. 20. Byrne was murdered on orders from drug kingpin “Pappy” Mason as the 22-year-old rookie guarded the home of a witness in a narcotics case. Mason is serving life in federal prison.

DECEMBER

Ki Suk Han, 58, of Elmhurst was killed on Dec. 2 when he was shoved in front of an incoming train at a Manhattan subway stop. Naeem Davis, 30, was indicted by a grand jury and will be formally charged on Jan. 15.

A career criminal was shot and killed on Dec. 8 after pulling an air pistol on two plainclothes police officers who were arresting another man in Ridgewood.

The officers opened fire when Victor Santos, 42, pointed a gun that is modeled to look like a Glock-19 handgun. Published sources said Santos had a record of 39 arrests.

A controversial Queens landmark, “The Triumph of Civic Virtue” statue, was removed from the spot it had occupied outside Queens Borough Hall for 71 years. It was taken to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on Dec. 15 for refurbishment and display despite last-minute efforts to keep it in place.

The newly constituted 104th Precinct Community Council elected a slate of officers; President John Perricone, Vice President Mario Matos, Treasurer Tania Broschert, Recording Secretary Amy Lassell and Sergeant-at-Arms Vincent Perricone.

Crime statistics in the 104th Precinct were on a pace to end the year on a positive note. Through Dec. 16, major crimes for the year were down more than 2.3 percent from the same period in 2011. Car thefts, down more than 16 percent, and burglaries, down 5.5, led the drop.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved fare hikes that include an increase in the basic cost of a subway or bus ride from $2.25 to $2.50. The increases will take place in March 2013.

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