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Queens Chronicle

Weathering all kinds of storms

Blizzard, heat wave, hurricane, earthquake, and scandal mark 2011

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

Central 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

Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and the entire city began 2011 by continuing to dig out of the 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 snow shut down mass transit, stranding thousands. Some streets in the outer boroughs went almost a week before being plowed. Two families claimed that delays in getting medical assistance resulted in deaths.

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 when a block wall collapsed on him at a construction site in Elmhurst by controversial developer Tommy Huang. Three coworkers were hurt. Authorities in June would fine three contractors on the site a total of $100,000 for safety violations in place at the time of Hidalgo’s death.

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.

Forest Hills Little League announced a benefit fundraising effort for Jesse Iacovetta, a player who suffered serious burns in a fire on Jan. 19.

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

March

Dr. Robert Aquino, the former CEO of the defunct Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, was arrested on charges that he attempted to bribe a state senator and an assemblyman in return for their political influence.

Aquino goes on trial in January. State Sen. Carl Kruger this month pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges. Assemblyman William Boyland was acquitted in a four-day trial last month but since has been arrested on additional federal charges.

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 incumbent President Ronald Reagan.

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 $10 million dollar settlement with the owners of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Community and civic organizations announced plans to replant and refurbish MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard, which was seriously damaged by a tornado on Sept. 10, 2010.

The city’s Department of Buildings denied developer Joshua Guttman a mixed use permit for the old St. John’s Hospital property on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst. He is attempting to build medical office space and apartments.

The Department of Transportation began a series of meetings with civic groups to update them on phase one construction at the Kew Gardens Interchange, the confluence of four major traffic arteries, including the Van Wyck Expressway, Jackie Robinson Parkway, Grand Central Parkway and Union Turnpike.

May

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark status to the West Side Tennis Stadium in Forest Hills, which was the site of the U.S. Open from 1923 to 1977. The commission acknowledged the historic, architectural and cultural significance, but said its advanced state of deterioration was the deciding factor.

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

Two people sustained minor injuries on May 23 when a driver backed her SUV into a Rite Aid on Woodhaven Boulevard near 65th Street.

June

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

Weiner, who is married, 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 already 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 punchline 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 workplace regulations.

Avrind Mahankah, the son of Srivinas and Bhavan Mahankah of Forest Hills, finishes third in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans for 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

Robert Adanes, 25, of Kew Gardens, was shot and killed in a suspected road rage incident at Max Wernik Triangle in Kew Gardens. His brother also was wounded.

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.

The first same-sex marriages in Queens took place on July 24, the day the new law goes into effect. New York joins 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 New York City residents, including a 73-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman from Queens.

August

A brief but powerful storm flooded borough roads, uprooted trees and damaged buildings automobiles with 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.

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

The Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a memorial dedication to volunteer Richard Pearlman, who was 18 when he died rescuing others from the World Trade Center.

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.

Members of the Education Ministry of the People’s Republic of China visited Forest Hills High School. The school has more than 500 students who speak Chinese dialects at home.

Shanel Nadal and Nephra Payne of Manhattan abducted their eight children from a foster care facility in Forest Hills. The couple was arrested one week later in Pennsylvania. The children were unharmed.

John Lundi, 26, of Long Island, was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison for stabbing 22-year-old Christopher Cotto of Brooklyn to death outside an Elmhurst nightclub in November 2008.

October

The Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps celebrated its 40th anniversary. Honorees at their annual dinner included local attorney Bruce Friedman and Chronicle Publisher Mark Weidler.

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.

Chou Mei Ching, the first lady of Taiwan, read classic Chinese folktales to children at the Forest Hills Library on Oct. 13. She donated dozens of classic Chinese children’s books to the library.

The NYPD and the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office announced the arrest of 46 people in and around LeFrak City on drug-related charges, including two men who allegedly sold drugs out of a day care center.

Forest Hills High School was the only large high school in the city to earn an A grade from the Department of Education for a third year in a row.

On Oct. 25, a state court denied Dr. Mazoltuv Borukhova’s appeal of her conviction in the 2007 murder of her estranged husband, Dr. Daniel Malakov. The two were in a custody dispute over their four-year-old daughter, who witnessed the murder.

Winston Moseley, convicted of murder in the 1964 death of Kitty Genovese in Kew Gardens, was denied parole for the 15th time.

November

The West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills passed its deadline for announcing its decision on development proposals for the dilapidated tennis stadium that hosted the U.S. Open for more than 50 years. At least two developers were believed to have submitted proposals.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott got a hot reception at Queens Metropolitan High School in Forest Hills following revelations of massive scheduling, staffing and disciplinary problems at the school where his daughter is a teacher.

December

Community groups from Rego Park to Ozone Park launched an effort to convert an abandoned 3.5-mile stretch of the Long Island Rail Road into a high line greenway.

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

A street in Jamaica Hills that had been on low voltage since Hurricane Irene in August was restored to full power after more than three months when an email from a civic group to the Chronicle prompted a call to Con Edison.

Community Education Council 24 voted down a city proposal to redistrict IS/PS 49 in Middle Village to ease overcrowding. Parents have feared having their children split up between two schools, while CEC members have questioned the Department of Education’s school population estimates.

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

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