This year in Southeast Queens, there were plenty of highs and lows, accomplishments and disappointments, most involving crime and politics.
In an effort to curb violence, two gun buybacks were held, resulting in 564 weapons being taken off the street. But there were still several shootings, including a triple homicide involving an AK-47 and another in which a Nassau County cop was killed.
In political news, City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) unseated state Sen. Shirley Huntley for the 10th Senatorial District. State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) confounded Queens Democrats by defecting to the Independent Democratic Caucus. On the community level, Adrienne Adams defeated Jacqueline Boyce to become the chairwoman of Community Board 12, following a highly contentious race.
The New Year started on a violent note with a series of firebombings — four in Queens and one in Elmont, LI. The NYPD arrested Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, of Queens Village in connection with the crimes. Police say that Lengend’s motive was purely revenge. He allegedly targeted a bodega owner who had caught him shoplifting, a mosque that refused to let him use the bathroom, and others whom he had beefs with.
Another disagreement that occurred that month was between the Department of Education and parents and pupils who were furious over the agency’s proposal to move Cambria Heights Academy from its location in a former Catholic school, where thousands had been spent on technology upgrades, to the already overcrowded JHS 72 in Rochdale Village.
At Community Board 13, members concerned about area bodegas possibly selling synthetic marijuana learned about the dangers of the drug from addiction specialist Herman Lozada. Synthetic cannabinoids can lead to attempted suicides, anxiety and panic attacks, heart palpitations, racing heartbeat, respiratory complications, aggression, mood swings, altered perception and paranoia.
On a happier note the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica on 164th Street celebrated its 350th anniversary with a special service for its congregation. It’s the oldest continuously serving church of its kind in the country.
Irate parents rallied outside PS 118 in St. Albans calling for the ouster of principal Cynthia Ofori-Feaster, citing numerous problems they said she caused — everything from creating a hostile environment and dwindling academic performance to limited supervision on the playground and not letting students use the bathroom.
Jury selection was set to begin in the case of Karen Bentley of Rosedale vs. the Scripto lighter company. Her 5-year-old son was badly burned in 2005 after he set himself ablaze while playing with an Aim ’n Flame lighter, which Bentley claimed was not properly child-proofed.
In education-related news, the Rev. Floyd Flake announced that the Allen Christian School was closing after 30 years because of financial problems. It was replaced by the Eagle Academy for Young Men later this year.
Postal customers were able to breathe a sigh of relief after all the stations slated for closure due to financial constraints were spared by the United States Postal Service — Astoria, Arverne, Holliswood, Rosedale and Rockaway Beach. But the fate of the Whitestone processing facility, which was being considered for consolidation or closure, remained undecided.
On the land use front, the Port Authority gave the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. an ultimatum — make good on a land deal or the property will be seized.The GJDC, a nonprofit, publicly funded organization, owed the PA $2.7 million over its failed plan to create a new business center called the JFK Corporate Square project.
At least two men accused of wrongdoing got their comeuppance. Alleged fire bomber Lengend was indicted on state and federal charges, while Gescard Isnora, one of the officers involved in the shooting that killed Sean Bell in 2006, was fired from the NYPD.
In other crime-related news, Brett Picou, 30, of Far Rockaway, a teacher’s aide at PS 52 in Jamaica, was charged with allegedly sexually abusing six female students.
On a more solemn note, Moira Ann Smith, a brave police officer from Queens Village who died on 9/11, had the Madison Square Park playground in Manhattan renamed in her honor. She is credited with saving many lives on that tragic day, and her heroism serves as an inspiration to others.
A settlement for an undisclosed amount was reached in the lawsuit involving Daniel Slowly, a Rosedale toddler who accidentally set himself on fire using a lighter, while at the home of his babysitter in 2005.
After much protest by parents and students, the DOE scrapped its plan to move Cambria Heights Academy into IS 59 in Springfield Gardens.
Community Board 12 had a chaotic meeting with Boyce, its then-chairwoman, trying unsuccessfully to keep things under control. Problems arose after Boyce formed a bylaws committee without giving all board members an opportunity to join and then proposed changes to the bylaws at the April 18 meeting, causing a fury of yelling and bickering. Boyce was later summoned to Borough Hall to discuss what happened.
The city Department of Environmental Protection gave a tour of Station 24, an old Jamaica Water Supply well it planned to reactivate the following month, to civic leaders and elected officials. Once up and running the well would pump about 1,500 gallons of water per minute, and offer flood relief to Southeast Queens. But it was short-lived and pumping was suspended in December.
The Cambria Heights community began bracing itself for the arrival of the some 20,000 Lubavitch pilgrims who were to visit the grave of the sect’s beloved leader, the Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, on June 23. He is buried at Montefiore Cemetery.
The leaders of Congregation Ohel Chabad Lubavitch, the synagogue that abuts the cemetery, planned to used nearby Delphin H. Greene Playground as a feeding area, while the NYPD planned to provide round-the-clock coverage, including traffic control. The Department of Sanitation agreed to put out more trash baskets and the Department of Transportation was to put up signs reminding people of the prohibition against engine idling.
Sanders announced plans to challenge Huntley for the 10th District seat. Sanders, who will be term-limited out in 2013, was eyeing the spot because the district now includes some of his home turf in the Rockaways, an area the district picked up thanks to redistricting.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) easily claimed victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday for the 5th Congressional District seat, racking up more than 67 percent of the vote.
Fifty-five guns were turned in at a Southeast Queens gun buyback event at St. Benedict the Moor Church in Jamaica including a loaded Colt .45 semiautomatic.
After decades of complaints about bird waste, the MTA put up a pigeon net at an LIRR station where Hollis meets Queens Village.
The Lubavitch pilgrimage was held and was much more orderly than in previous years, according to civic leaders and law enforcement officers at the scene. There were none of the usual complaints about blocked driveways, traffic jams, excessive trash and people urinating in the streets.
The controversial use of stop and frisk as a law enforcement tool which had sparked a statewide debate, especially in minority communities, was discussed at a town hall meeting in St. Albans, where residents were torn between whether the practice amounts to unfair racial profiling and needs to be eliminated, or is an effective tool only in need of reform.
Three men were murdered in Springfield Gardens in a drive-by shooting with an AK-47 assault rifle. Dozens of the 63 shots were fired from the submachine gun, which was developed in Russia to be used as a military weapon. The 11-pound weapon can fire 600 rounds per minute, or 10 rounds per second.
Southeast Queens mourned the passing of the Rev. John Boyd, pastor of New Greater Bethel Ministries, which he founded in 1972. He died of natural causes at the age of 85 and left behind a legacy of religious dedication, community service and a thriving church.
Laurelton residents expressed concern over an increase in airport noise, with Dwight Johnson, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton civic group, stating he has seen “double or triple” the amount of planes in recent years. He pointed the finger at construction at JFK for the airport rerouting planes over Southeast Queens instead of using the north/south runways more frequently, as it had in the past.
Even though August is the time when police precincts host their National Night Out Against Crime events, a chance for the community to get together and learn about crime prevention, violence still occurred — and this month it targeted a police officer.
John Thomas, 24, allegedly shot and wounded Sgt. Craig Bier on Aug. 8 in Jamaica. Bier, 44, a member of the Queens gang unit, was hit after he and his partner, Det. Nick Romano, tried to stop Thomas, who was riding a bicycle and “acting suspicious.”
On a positive note, New Jerusalem Baptist Church received 509 weapons at a gun buyback including an AK-47, TEC-9, and Calico 9mm with a 50-round magazine. Also that month, Smith said he would be introducing what he called the “toughest” gun legislation in the country. It would significantly increase the penalty for illegal possession of a weapon, taking it from a Class A misdemeanor carrying a one-year prison sentence to a Class B violent felony with a five-to-eight-year term.
The late City Councilman Tom White Jr. was honored with a street renaming in Jamaica. The corner of 116th Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard is now also known as Thomas White Jr. Boulevard.
Milton Bassin, the longtime York College president credited with building the school from the ground up and saving it from closure during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, died on Aug. 13. He was 88.
Community Board 13 blasted a plan by Congregation Ohel Chabad Lubavitch to place a charter bus stop near the Montefiore Cemetery to more easily accommodate its pilgrims and prevent engine idling, which residents had consistently complained is a problem, claiming bus drivers wouldn’t follow the rules and it would make things worse. They voted down the plan at the following month’s meeting.
Jamaica native and WNBA star Tina Charles won a gold medal with the United States women’s basketball team at the London Olympic Games.
Sanders declared victory in the race for the state’s 10th Senatorial District seat, triumphing over Huntley, fresh off a state indictment on corruption, and activist Gian Jones of Rockaway.
Eagle Academy, a single-sex school designed to put minority boys on the right path, which had previously been located inside IS 59, got its own building in St. Albans, replacing the former Allen AME Christian School, which closed earlier this year.
This month marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, which took effect the following Jan. 1, known to millions as the day that freed the slaves of the South.
The city Economic Development Corp. announced that it would be beginning the fourth and final phase of a $70 million project, started in 2004, which would include the dredging of Springfield Lake, the addition of more than 89,000 new plantings, as well as new sidewalks and bike paths and an extension of Springfield Boulevard to provide more direct access to Springfield Gardens Park.
Edul Ahmad, a real estate broker with ties to Meeks, pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud in Brooklyn Federal Court on Oct. 10. Ahmad was charged with using straw buyers to defraud banks out of millions. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, the top count on a 10-count indictment.
Police Officer Arthur Lopez, 29, a member of the Nassau County Emergency Service Unit, was gunned down near the Cross Island Parkway after pulling over a man involved in a hit-and-run accident. The alleged shooter, Darrell Fuller of Jamaica, was accused of then carjacking and killing an innocent motorist, Raymond Facey, before leading the police on a door-to-door manhunt.
The FBI arrested Quazi Nafis, 21, of Jamaica, on Oct. 17 for allegedly plotting to blow up the New York Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Manhattan. He was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to Al-Qaeda.
David Hartshorn, 54, once named “Rochdale Village Little League Coach of the Year,” was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty in August to charges of molesting boys at his residence between July 2009 and August 2010 and filming two additional teenage boys engaging in sexual acts with one another.
November was all about Sandy. The superstorm had torn through the state and region, leaving a path of destruction and Southeast Queens was no exception. There were downed trees and power lines everywhere. Many residents were left without electricity for days. The lack of power and halt in deliveries prompted a gas crisis, because stations couldn’t get or pump fuel. The federal government one day gave out rations of gas for free at the Jamaica Armory and lines were long. Refugees were housed at York College and other evacuation centers.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who will be term-limited out next year, announced that he would be running for borough president. In other political news, Meeks and Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) retained their respective seats after the Nov. 6 general election. Without a challenger, Sanders secured his presumptive win of the 10th Senate District seat.
Several members of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, a civil rights advocacy group, were found guilty of disorderly conduct following a three-week trial in Queens Criminal Court. The charges stemmed from a stop-and-frisk protest they held the prior November, during which members marched through downtown Jamaica and outside the 103rd Precinct.
Smith stunned Southeast Queens Democrats and incurred the wrath of Jamaica pastor and activist the Rev. Charles Norris, following his decision this month to join the Independent Democratic Caucus, which planned to form a coalition with Republicans.
Charles Kidd, an environmental health expert who headed York College in Jamaica from 1996 to 2002, died at the age of 76. He was the college’s fourth president and returned to York as a professor during the 2010-11 academic year in the Department of Earth and Physical Sciences. There he brought his considerable scholarship in environmental health to bear.
In a heated election, Adams secured a comfortable victory over Boyce to become the new chairwoman of Community Board 12 by a vote of 23-15.