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Queens Chronicle

Trials, triumphs in heart of Queens

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Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2009 12:00 am

It’s been a tough year.

Thousands of Queensites, many counting themselves among the under and unemployed, are eagerly greeting the end of one of the most painful 12-month spans in recent memory — hopeful that better days lie ahead. And while the middle and upper-middle class havens of mid and central Queens may have been spared the worst of it — that doesn’t mean residents of Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Briarwood aren’t feeling queasy after the roller coaster ride that was 2009.

JANUARY

Opponents of a proposed cell phone tower in Maspeth rallied against the city agency that paved the way for its construction.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) took her seat on the City Council for the final year of former Councilman Dennis Gallagher’s term.

Borough President Helen Marshall reported that St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica were on the verge of bankruptcy.

A fire department unit serving parts of mid Queens shut down its evening operations in response to citywide budget cuts.

Less than three years after opening, the development director behind the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale was removed during foreclosure proceedings.

FEBRUARY

Caritas Health Care, the owners of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals, issued a dire appeal for at least $6 million in public aid so their facilities could continue to operate safely. The company filed for bankruptcy just days later.

Parents of students at P.S. 153 in Maspeth urged Department of Education officials to rezone their school to preserve its pre-K and Beacon programs.

The Department of City Planning moved forward with a proposal to rezone sections of Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale to protect them from out-of-character growth.

The Juniper Park Civic Association launched an offensive against the proposed construction of a 1,100-seat high school at the site of the former Restaurant Depot on 57th Avenue and 74th Street.

A home in Middle Village was at the center of one of the largest drug busts in state history — an operation that brought more than 110,000 pounds of marijuana from Canada to New York between 2003 and 2009.

St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals closed after appeals for funding failed.

MARCH

The Mattone Group, a real estate development and property management company, confirmed it had taken over management operations at Atlas Park.

Queens jurors found Dr. Mazoltuv Borukhova, an internist, and her cousin by marriage, Mikhail Mallayev, guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the Forest Hills shooting death of Borukhova’s estranged husband.

Dog owners near Juniper Valley Park pushed for the construction of a dog run in the park.

A lawyer representing a group of Bukharian Jews argued against the proposed downzoning in the Cord Meyer section of Forest Hills. He said Bukharians need “McMansions” because their families are larger than typical American households.

APRIL

By a vote of 38-10, the City Council approved controversial plans to construct a 1,100-seat high school in Maspeth. Two weeks later, opponents of the plan rallied around a study showing hazardous materials at the site — including semi-volatile organic compounds, metals and petroleum.

Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) officially kicked off her campaign for city comptroller outside her Forest Hills home.

The DCP certified and began public review for plans to rezone roughly 300 blocks in Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale to curb overdevelopment in the low-density communities.

MAY

Former Republican Councilman Tom Ognibene announced plans to challenge Crowley and take back his old Council seat.

The historic Forest Park carousel missed its annual opening day after no vendors responded to requests for bids by the Parks Department.

JUNE

Fire consumed a church in Maspeth after a lightning bolt crashed into the more than century-old building, destroying the historic structure and leaving the Maspeth United Methodist congregation without a home.

A Forest Hills teen was sentenced to seven and a half years behind bars for killing two people in a traffic accident in 2008.

The Parks Department announced it would slash development funds for Ridgewood Reservoir in its revised capital budget, cutting money allocated to the project in half.

Former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio pleaded guilty to corruption charges and resigned from his office of more than three decades. He admitted to taking and soliciting bribes from local businesses in exchange for political favors in Albany.

JULY

A group of residents at 98-30 67th Ave. in Rego Park filed a lawsuit claiming Vantage Management was conspiring with Central Parking Systems to coerce tenants into giving up rent-stabilized parking leases.

Advocates for the preservation of Ridgewood Reservoir were furious after learning that three out of four local groups enlisted to help distribute a skewed Park’s Department survey — the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp., Brooklyn East Youth Sports and Recreation and East Brooklyn Congregations — were vocal advocates for replacing the basins with ballfields.

AUGUST

A house in Forest Hills that neighbors claim has blighted the block for decades caused renewed concerns after its roof partially collapsed.

As many as 16 stores threatened to pack up and move out from Atlas Park over a rent dispute.

Residents and business owners in Forest Hills were fuming over changes to parking along 108th Street — claiming the new back-in only spots had made the street more dangerous and that a ticketing blitz was driving away customers along the busy retail strip.

Congressman Anthony Weiner’s (D-Queens and Brooklyn) first healthcare town hall event was bogged down as he tried to dispel outlandish rumors and allay lingering fears among a crowd of seniors gathered at the Selfhelp Austin Street Senior Center in Forest Hills.

Parkway Hospital owner Dr. Robert Aquino filed two lawsuits claiming that Seminerio conspired with local competitors to have the hospital shuttered after he refused to pay consulting fees to the convicted ex-lawmaker.

SEPTEMBER

The state’s Department of Health concluded that Queens would require between 535 and 835 additional hospital beds by 2015 after the closure of three hospitals serving the borough’s most densely populated areas.

Former Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz defeated a crowded field of contenders in the District 29 Democratic Primary.

Middle Village residents and local leaders put out a $2,500 bounty on the person responsible for killing 12 young trees in Juniper Park.

The Environmental Protection Agency nominated Newtown Creek, the highly polluted Queens-Brooklyn border waterway, to its list of priority sites eligible for federal Superfund status.

OCTOBER

Local physicians expressed fears that the Queens healthcare system was stuck on a path to financial ruin as their insured patients sought alternatives outside the borough.

The former sites of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals were sold for more than $26 million to Brooklyn-based Guttman Realty. Three days later, a federal judge dismissed a preliminary injunction to reopen Parkway Hospital as its mortgage holder threatened to foreclose on the property.

Replacing Parkway with a detention center was among the ideas being considered by the attorney holding the building’s mortgage — leading to a stern rebuke from area lawmakers.

NOVEMBER

Crowley scored a decisive victory on election night as she earned her first full term representing District 30 at City Hall. Koslowitz earned 63.4 percent of the vote to reclaim the District 29 Council seat.

Executives with Vornado Realty Trust announced their new lineup of stores at the Rego Park Mall II, including Century 21, TJ Maxx, Kohl’s and Costco. They said the much-delayed shopping center would finally open in February.

DECEMBER

A bus carrying a dozen pre-schoolers on 69th Road in Middle Village was flipped on its side when it was struck by a car traveling northbound on 75th Street. The incident renewed ongoing concerns about traffic incidents along the street.

Leaders at the Maspeth United Methodist Church said funds were secured and plans were underway to construct a new church to replace their 102-year-old home, which was destroyed by a fire.

Scores of children, teens and adults — bundled from head to toe in galoshes, scarves, mittens and wool hats — descended on Forest Park after the season’s first snowstorm.

Welcome to the discussion.