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Queens Chronicle

2011 spotlights nature, 9/11

A blizzard, heat wave, hurricane, earthquake precede 9/11 anniversary

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Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 2:19 pm, Thu Jan 5, 2012.

Queens in 2011 weathered an earthquake and a hurricane; lost a former 9th District congresswoman who was a political legend, and a sitting 9th District Congressman to scandal; and had its usual complaints about traffic, parking and high taxes.

January

Glendale, Ridgewood, Maspeth and Middle Village began 2011 by continuing to dig out of a post-Christmas blizzard that dumped more than 20 inches of snow on some sections of the Big Apple.

Mayor Bloomberg, who left the city prior to the storm, came under criticism from all quarters for a breakdown in the chain of command after the storm shut down mass transit, stranding thousands. Some streets in the outer boroughs went almost a week before being plowed.

Two families claimed that deaths resulted from delays in getting medical assistance.

The city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority subsequently implemented new emergency procedures for heavy snowstorms.

Hedilberto Sanchez Hidalgo, a 26-year-old construction worker, was killed on Jan. 10 when a block wall collapsed on him at a controversial construction site in Elmhurst being developed by Tommy Huang.

Three coworkers were hurt. Authorities in June would fine three contractors on the site a total of $100,000 for safety violations.

February

The math team at Christ the King High School in Middle Village was named one of the top 15 teams in New York State and the best private school team.

The struggling The Shops at Altas Park mall in Glendale was sold in bankruptcy proceedings for $53.4 million. It is now managed by the Macerich Organization.

The City Council voted to approve a smoking ban at 1,700 city parks and 14 city beaches.

March

The newly-renovated Ridgewood YMCA opened its doors at the corner of 64th Street and Catalpa Avenue.

Residents and elected officials came out in opposition to an MTA plan to relocate an Access-A-Ride bus and van depot from Brooklyn to a city-owned lot on 49th Street in Maspeth. In April, then-MTA Chairman Jay Walder told the city the site is an acceptable one.

The City Council, in the face of local opposition, voted to rename the 59th Street Bridge in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch.

Former Queens Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, who served in the 9th District and ran as Walter Mondale’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket in 1980, died at age 75.

Ferraro, of Forest Hills Gardens, was the first woman named to a national ticket by a major party. Mondale lost in a 49-state landslide to President Ronald Reagan.

The Ridgewood Library reopened following a $3.4 million renovation.

And New York City as a whole, and Queens in particular, launched a formal challenge of the 2010 U.S. Census, claiming undercounting and mismanagement in Queens, particularly in some sections with large immigrant populations.

April

New York State’s Attorney General’s Office solicited applications for projects to be paid for by a multi-million dollar settlement with the owners of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Maspeth Development Corp. took ownership of the land that formerly included St. Saviour’s Church at 57th Road and 59th Street in Maspeth. Local residents hope to purchase the site to make it a park and reassemble the 1847 wood-frame church, which is sitting in storage in trailers at All Faiths Cemetery.

May

An early-morning five-alarm fire destroyed O’Neill’s Restaurant and Sports Bar at 53rd Drive in Maspeth, as well as a grocery store next door. Six firefighters were hurt, and it took more than 200 of them more than three hours to bring the blaze under control.

The citywide smoking ban in parks and on beaches went into effect on April 23.

The late Kathleen Murphy, a former Queens resident who erected a memorial garden in Ireland for the 343 firefighters killed in the 9/11 attacks, was remembered in a memorial Mass on May 19 at Our Lady of Hope Church in Middle Village.

June

Seven-term Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner was forced to resign his seat from New York’s 9th District as the result of a sexting scandal.

Weiner was unable to contain the fallout from accusations that he texted lewd photographs of himself to numerous women throughout the country who followed him on Twitter.

Weiner, a liberal firebrand in the U.S. House of Representatives, was a protege of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and at the time was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the New York City mayoral race in 2013. In the days following the revelations, a vast majority of 9th District constituents still said they would reelect him.

He at first denied the allegations raised on a politically conservative website. He then claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked, though declined to file a criminal complaint or call for law enforcement to investigate.

He resigned soon after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for an ethics investigation, and Weiner himself became a regular punch line in late night talk show monologues.

On June 3, the city’s Department of Investigation released a report that it found no evidence that Sanitation Department workers engaged in a deliberate slow-down during snow removal operations in the Dec. 26, 2010 blizzard.

Allegations had been raised that the slow snow removal operations in the outer boroughs may have been a result of sanitation workers upset with new work regulations.

Capt. Michael Cody of the NYPD took over as commanding officer of the 104th Precinct. Cody replaced Deputy Insp. Keith Green.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was planning a lengthy series of tests in, around and at the bottom of Newtown Creek, the beginning of what is thought to be a multi-decade effort to clean up the water and its banks, which have been an industrial site for more than 200 years.

The state Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill, and Gov. Cuomo signed it on June 24 to go into effect in one month.

July

The congregation of the 148-year-old United Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood sold its church on 60th Place to St. Mary and St. Antonios Coptic Orthodox Church on Woodhaven Boulevard. United Presbyterian announced it will rent space at Convent Lutheran Church on 60th Lane.

The Social Security office on Metropolitan Avenue in Glendale closed, and was merged with offices on Austin Street in Rego Park. The office had been in Glendale since the 1970s.

Community Board 5 voted to approve the city’s adjusted but still controversial plans for the Maspeth Bypass. The plan will redirect traffic along Maurice Avenue and 58th Street in an effort to keep large tractor trailers away from the business district along Grand Avenue.

The first same-sex marriages in Queens took place on July 24, the day the new law went into effect. New York joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont in enacting marriage equality laws.

A heat wave with three straight days of temperatures over 100 degrees killed 19 city residents, including two from Queens.

Borders Bookstore, the last remaining anchor at The Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, began a going-out-of business sale after last-minute negotiations failed to save the national book retailer from bankruptcy.

August

A brief but powerful storm flooded roads, uprooted trees and damaged buildings and automobiles with brings high winds, heavy rain and hail.

The U.S. Weather Service said wind gusts topped 60 miles per hour, and that hailstones measuring 2 3/4 inches were recorded in Bayside.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation in August agreed to examine evidence backing a claim that the site of the Ridgewood Reservoir should be declared a wetland.

Such a declaration would bolster efforts by nearby residents to have the site converted into a passive recreation nature preserve, as it would make it harder to convert the site for use as ballfields or other active recreation pursuits.

A Sanitation Department driver avoided serious injury when the truck he was driving went through a wall on the third floor of a DOS maintenance garage in Woodside. Robert Legall, 56, was stuck in the truck’s cab as it was suspended 40 feet in the air before he was rescued by firefighters.

Queens was shaken on Aug. 23 by a 5.8 earthquake with its epicenter in rural Virginia. The quake rattled windows in the borough just before 2 p.m. No one was hurt.

Days later Hurricane Irene touched down in Queens, bringing high winds and flooding after carving a path of destruction in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic Coast.

The city for the first time in its history called for and enforced a mandatory emergency evacuation for residents in low-lying coastal areas. Unlike the blizzard in December 2010, emergency preparations were in the forefront from the start. One example was the complete shutdown of the entire mass transit system. One city resident, a Bronx man, died in the storm.

September

Maspeth commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a memorial service to the 19 firefighters from HazMat 1/Squad 288 who died in the Twin Towers — the largest single loss of life at any New York City firehouse.

In Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, thousands turned out for the dedication of a memorial garden to 111 residents, firefighters and police officers who perished in the attacks.

Republican Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin in a special election for the seat in the 9th Congressional District vacated by Weiner.

Turner received 56 percent of the vote in a district that had been held by a Democrat since 1923. Former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch endorsed Turner and succeeded in making the election a partial referendum on President Obama’s policies on Israel.

Residents in Glendale and Middle Village reached an agreement with the CSX Railroad to move a brake recharging station on railroad property. The railroad agreed to relocate the station more than 600 feet further from residences along 68th Place, thus reducing the noise and smell when cars carrying solid waste stop for recharging.

October

The NYPD and the Queens DA’s office announced 111 indictments and 86 arrests in connection with the largest ID theft investigation in U.S. history.

The Maspeth Bypass plan went into effect on Oct. 1 with praise and criticism. It did keep trucks off of Grand Ave. as anticipated. It also snarled traffic as drivers got accustomed to the redirected roads and signs.

Maspeth bar owner George Gibbons, 37, was killed on Oct. 15 when the livery cab he was riding in was struck by a car heading the wrong way on the service road to the Long Island Expressway. Peter Rodriquez, 36, who allegedly fled the scene, was arrested a month later in Connecticut and charged with second-degree manslaughter.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was among those in attendance in Ridgewood at the rededication of a memorial to slain detective Anthony Venditti. Venditti was killed and his partner, Det. Kathleen Burke, wounded in 1986 outside a diner on Myrtle Avenue while working undercover.

November

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) pulled funding earmarked for the purchase of the old St. Saviour’s Church site. Critics said the move was a setback in efforts to turn the parcel into a park. Crowley said the current owners are unwilling to sell, and the money for now would be better directed toward other projects.

The city’s Parks Department pushed back the completion date for phase one construction at the Ridgewood Reservoir from spring to summer 2012. The delay was necessitated by previously undetected infrastructure damage that would cause safety issues.

December

Four Queens men are among five charged with murder in the Dec. 12 shooting death of Police Officer Peter Figoski in Brooklyn during a botched home robbery. The decorated 22-year veteran left behind four daughters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came up with a $2 million grant that will allow the city and area railroad operators to retrofit two diesel locomotives with cleaner, quieter engines by 2013. The move is expected to reduce air and noise pollution in Middle Village, Glendale and other communities adjacent to rail yards.

Gov. Cuomo signed a bill that allows 18,000 livery cabs to accept street hails in designated areas outside of midtown Manhattan and the outer boroughs. The law is aimed at areas deemed to be underserved by yellow taxis.

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