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Queens Chronicle

YEAR IN REVIEW 2013 Celebrations and scandals mark 2013

A re-elected president, new mayor inspire; political vets in the dock

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:22 am, Thu Jan 9, 2014.

Elections and new laws adopted in 2013 promised sweeping changes across the city’s horizon in 2014, with a new mayor, a new City Council, and an uncertain future for policies on education, law enforcement and city finances.


Officials at York College denied a Queens Chronicle report that perchloroethelyne — a known carcinogen used in dry cleaning — was found in high levels in groundwater on campus.

After being confronted with statements from a CUNY official who said York administrators knew of the findings, the school retracted its denial.

A term-limited Mayor Bloomberg made his last year in office perhaps the most controversial, announcing plans to close or co-locate dozens of schools in the city.

Efforts by parents, community leaders and elected officials throughout the year and throughout Queens to save the schools were unsuccessful.

State Sen. James Sanders (D-Laurelton) was sworn in. The former Councilman had defeated incumbent Shirley Huntley in a 2012 primary.

Huntley would go on to have far larger problems in 2013.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced plans to restore service on the Q27, Q36 and Q42 bus lines, part of an effort to reincorporate routes and service eliminated in the budget crunch of 2010.

On Jan. 6, Kwasi Olatunji of Brooklyn was shot to death outside of the Flavor Lounge on Hillside Avenue in Richmond Hill following what police believed was a dispute with club patrons. Another man was stabbed.

Congress made things easier for homeowners victimized by Hurricane Sandy with approval of a $9.7 billion relief package.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corp., in the first of a handful of similar events, broke ground with the Bluestone Organization on an apartment complex at 90-14 Jamaica Ave.

One hundred Queens residents took part in history on Jan. 21, heading to Washington, DC for the second inauguration of President Obama. The trip was arranged by the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP and Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Queens and Nassau).

Juanita Watkins, the first African-American woman to represent Southeast Queens in the City Council, died at age 78 following a lengthy illness.

Huntley, her political career in tatters, pleaded guilty on Jan. 30 to federal charges in connection with the theft of more than $80,000 meant for a nonprofit organization she established with her niece and a former aide.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) incurred the wrath of many constituents by announcing that he had joined the Senate’s Independent Democratic Caucus. The switch gave Republicans effective control of the Senate after Democrats had won a numerical majority in November 2012.

Jimmy Humphrey, 26, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison on Jan. 31 for the deaths of his pregnant girlfriend, Linda Anderson, and her 2-year-old son, Ayden. Officials said the boy died as a result of a fire set by Humphrey to cover Anderson’s killing.


Ed Koch, the beloved, outspoken three-term mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, died on Feb. 1 at age 88.

Koch was credited with saving the city from fiscal ruin, and uniting people in good times and bad, with his ubiquitous “How’m I doing?” But as his tenure went on, he came under increasing criticism for increasing crime, inflamed racial tensions and a corruption scandal that ensnared many of his close allies while not touching him.

He lost in a 1989 Democratic primary to David Dinkins, who went on to become the city’s first African-American mayor.

Huntley on Feb. 6 pleaded guilty to state criminal charges involving the theft of $30,000 that had been earmarked for

another sham nonprofit organization.

She eventually would be sentenced to a year and a day in prison on federal charges. Her niece, a former aide and a consultant all eventually would enter guilty pleas to state charges.

The cost of a ride on an MTA bus or subway train went from $2.25 to $2.50 in Feb. 13.

Donovan Richards, a longtime aide to former Councilman Sanders, won a special election to fill Sanders’ seat, left vacant when he went to the state Senate.

Richards emerged from an eight-candidate field, edging out Pesach Osina, an aide to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, (D-Far Rockaway) by fewer than 100 votes.

Hundreds of police officers and family members gathered at the intersection of Inwood Street and 107th Avenue on Feb 26 to mark the 25th anniversary of the murder of NYPD officer Edward Byrne.

Byrne, a 22-year-old rookie in the 103rd Precinct, was ambushed by four gunmen as he guarded the house of a witness in a drug case. Meant to send a warning to the community and the police, Byrne’s murder initiated citywide war on the narcotics trade. Drug kingpin Howard “Pappy” Mason is serving life in a supermax federal prison for ordering the hit. All four gunmen were denied parole last year.

More than 100 residents came to York College on Feb. 28 as Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) outlined a plan of action to force the city Department of Environmental Protection to resume pumping water out of wells from the old Jamaica Water Service in an effort to reduce flooding.

The DEP has said it will not budget the money until 2018, when it will need the water to accommodate maintenance on a water tunnel from an upstate reservoir.

A bill written by Scarborough passed in the Assembly but fell short in the Senate.


Twenty-two people at the Jamaica High School campus required medical attention on March 1 after a student set off a pepper spray container in the school’s cafeteria.

Urban Fermin, 33, and Darius Lowery, 25, were convicted for a one-hour crime spree in February 2010 that started with a stolen car in St. Albans and included a home invasion, an armed street robbery and an exchange of gunfire with police before coming to an end with a car crash off of Sutphin Boulevard in South Jamaica.

The Police Athletic League’s Officer Edward Byrne Center on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica hosted more than 600 children from throughout the city in PAL’s annual Tournament of Champions, a competition in athletic, academic and performing arts categories.

In late March, the Eastern Queens Alliance, already fighting noise and the potential expansion of Kennedy Airport, raised the alarm over the marking of nearly 400 trees in Idlewild Park for possible removal. The Port Authority, which operates the airport, says the trees are so tall as to present a hazard to aviation, and said it is working with the city to plant many times that number to replace them should they ultimately be removed.


Smith and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) were among six people arrested on federal corruption charges on April 2.

The charges all stem from Smith’s alleged attempt to bribe city Republican officials in order to get the GOP line in the November mayoral election. Both men and three others have pleaded not guilty. Former Bronx GOP Chairman Joseph Savino would plead guilty to lesser charges in November and is expected to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

More than 40 residents marched on the 113th Precinct on Baisley Avenue on March 5 after officers arrested a man suspected of selling drugs. The man allegedly resisted arrest while his brother allegedly joined in to aid his brother.

Officers were pelted with rocks and bottles from a nearby housing project. Officers in riot gear greeted the marchers, who maintained a short distance from the station house before eventually dispersing without further incident.


Federal authorities shocked the Southeast Queens political establishment on May 1 when they confirmed that Huntley helped them record conversations with eight people, including six sitting state senators and a city councilman, while negotiating a plea deal on her federal corruption charges.

No charges directly related to the recorded conversations are known to have been filed, although Smith and state Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) were both indicted in separate federal cases.

On May 6, the GJDC announced a partnership with the Long Island-based Blumenfeld Development group, to construct a $50 million shopping mall and parking facility on 168th Street in Jamaica.

In a crime that made national headlines, 14-year-old D’aja Robinson was shot and killed coming home from a sweet 16 party on May 18 when a gunman on a Sutphin Boulevard sidewalk fired nine shots into the Q6 bus on which she was riding.

Police believe another teenager on the bus had been the intended target in a gang-related incident. Kevin McClinton, 21, of Rosedale, would be arrested in South Carolina on June 4 and was charged with second-degree murder.

NYPD Det. Leopold McLean, a former member of Mayor Bloomberg’s security team, was convicted of attempted murder on May 23 for shooting a suspected romantic rival in Jamaica in 2010. He would be sentenced to seven years.


At the conclusion of its final meeting before summer break, the Community Council of the NYPD’s 113th Precinct honored Vivian McMillian, who stepped aside after 23 years as chairwoman.

NYPD Officer Joseph Koch was shot in one hand on June 16 after responding to a cry for help while off duty in Jamaica. Koch was leaving a party when he heard a 10-year-old boy in the street screaming that his mother was being beaten. Running into the house with his off-duty weapon drawn, Koch was shot when suspect Jose Bernazard allegedly reached for Koch’s gun. Bernazard also was hit


The City Council approved bills establishing an inspector general for the NYPD and the curtailing of police stops allegedly made over race and other superficial issues. The Council subsequently overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s vetoes.


Federal Judge Shira Sheindlin issued sweeping directives she said were aimed at reforming the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program. A federal appeals panel in November subsequently would stay Scheindlin’s orders and remove her from the case, citing the appearance of a lack of impartiality on her part.


Three men connected with a failed effort to locate a liquor store on North Conduit Avenue near Springfield Gardens High School were arrested on Sept. 13 for allegedly trying to bribe Richards (D-Laurelton), the new councilman, to secure his support for the store. Richards immediately reported their alleged offer to investigators.

The GJDC on Sept. 18 announced a long-awaited deal to construct a hotel on Sutphin Boulevard across from the Long Island Rail Road transportation hub in Jamaica.

The Able Hotel Group of Plainview and Brentwood, LI is planning a 24-story building with more than 200 rooms.


Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, came to Queens Village on Oct. 11 to volunteer construction work on a 112th Road home being rehabilitated by Habitat for Humanity. The Carters’ charitable foundation will rehab five of the more than 30 houses that Habitat plans to refurbish in the borough in the next few years.


Councilmen Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica)and Richards scored landslide victories in their Council elections, part of a citywide near-sweep by the Democratic Party.

Gov. Cuomo, in vetoing a bill that would require the Port Authority to conduct a “Part 150” noise and environmental study around its airports, instead directed the PA to conduct equivalent tests under his executive authority. Cuomo cited time issues as the reason.

The Sean Bell Community Center in Jamaica closed its doors on Nov. 22 for lack of funding.

The center, which was opened by Bell’s family in 2011, was named for the man who died in a hail of 50 NYPD bullets on the morning of his wedding following a confrontation outside of a Jamaica strip club, during which police said the group tried to run an officer over in their car.

The center offered daycare and afterschool programs, homework assistance and job and career training.

Also on Nov. 22, the City Council voted to rename a 19-block stretch of South Road in Jamaica as Tuskegee Airmen Way. The move honors the all-black group of fighter pilots from World War II who served with distinction while the U.S. Armed Forces still were segregated.

WYCR Radio, the station at York College, cut the ribbon on a new, modern studio. The project was headed up by Ray Warren, a member of the Class of 1976 at York who now is an executive at NBC Sports.


Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) was chosen by Borough President-Elect Melinda Katz to be her deputy borough president come January.

Comrie, who ran an unsuccessful bid for BP himself, left the Council due to term limits.

The Aquinas Honor Society at Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates unveiled a plaque in honor of President George Washington on Dec. 5. It will go on at the Addabbo Federal Building at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard.

The building is on the site of a tavern and inn where Washington stayed overnight in 1790.

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