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Queens Chronicle

YEAR IN REVIEW 2013 A year of recovery and reinvestment

It was all about life after Sandy and how it plays into the future

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

The ongoing recovery from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy dominated life in South Queens for most of 2013 and was a factor in many other big stories, from the future of the abandoned Rockaway Beach LIRR line to the election battle between Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and his Democratic opponent Lew Simon.

But South Queens also dealt with a wide array of other issues in 2013, from crime at Forest Park to internal strife on Community Board 9.

Here is a look at what made news in the neighborhoods of South Queens in 2013.

January

Gov. Cuomo gave $467,000 to The Trust for Public Land, a California based urban park advocacy group, to conduct a study on the feasibility of a plan to build a park similar to Manhattan’s High Line along the former Rockaway Beach LIRR line. The plan, called the QueensWay, has competition, another proposal to restore rail service along the route. Meanwhile residents living along the line, mainly in Woodhaven, expressed their wishes to see the line kept as is.

Students at PS 207 in Howard Beach, badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy, returned to their school 10 weeks after the storm. A few weeks after reopening, the students took part in a program called Stars of Hope, which brings disaster survivors from all over the country to areas recently hit by natural or manmade tragedies to share their experiences. The students painted stars with messages of hope that would be posted on trees and poles in future disaster zones.

Ricky Byrd, a guitarist who played with rocker Joan Jett and a Howard Beach resident, organized a relief concert for Sandy victims held Jan. 25 at The Cutting Room in Manhattan.

Woodhaven and Richmond Hill residents fought the New York City District Commission’s redistricting plans for the City Council, saying the lines unfairly divided up the neighborhoods.

February

Howard Beach residents complained about the situation at Frank Charles Park, where damage and debris from Hurricane Sandy became a blight on a long-deteriorating green space. A boat, likely ripped from its moors in the storm, washed up on the park’s beach and was not moved for more than a month.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency released preliminary flood maps that placed much of Howard Beach in a higher flood-risk zone. Residents protested the maps saying Sandy was a freak storm and they shouldn’t be placed in a zone where they would have to pay higher insurance premiums or be forced to raise their homes.

Neighbors of a home in Woodhaven with a broken sewer pipe made complaints after human excrement began spilling into the street and freezing.

The NYCDC released a third set of proposed City Council lines that still split up Woodhaven and Richmond Hill into multiple districts.

Chan Jamoona, the executive director of the United Hindu Cultural Center in South Ozone Park, was indicted Feb. 25 on tax fraud charges.

March

The Queens Chronicle broke the news on March 21 that Reps. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens) would back a plan to restore rail service on the Rockaway Beach rail line and allocate federal money toward the proposal.

On March 6, police found the bodies of two men murdered and set on fire in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach. Police later said they believed they were killed as a result of a Brooklyn drug turf war and were dumped in the park.

End Zone Industries, the successor company to the former Ozone Industries, announced it would clean up toxic chemicals found in eight bays they once used to store aircraft parts under the former Ozone Park LIRR station on 100th Street.

The city Department of Education announced it would seek to co-locate a second middle school at JHS 226 in South Ozone Park.

A woman was attacked while jogging in Forest Park on March 29, subdued with a Taser and sexually assaulted, triggering concerns over safety in the park.

April

Councilman Ulrich called for new county Republican leadership after the party’s vice chairman was arrested in an alleged scheme aimed at selling the party’s endorsement for mayor to state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).

Residents in Howard Beach protested the FEMA advisory flood maps that placed most of the neighborhood in a higher flood-risk zone at a town hall meeting on April 11.

Police said they caught the suspect in the Forest Park stun-gun attack, but later said the man was wanted in a different attack.

Business owners near the End Zone cleanup site in Ozone Park called for a more thorough investigation on the extent of the pollution there.

On April 12, a 109-year-old building on Jamaica Avenue collapsed, crushing a vehicle and damaging the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters and forcing the temporary relocation of the Woodhaven Senior Center.

May

In an exclusive that ran on May 16, the Queens Chronicle broke the news that the Rockwood Park Jewish Center had been hosting raunchy parties on several Saturday nights. A lawyer for the synagogue said the caterer had been holding the parties behind the temple’s back and said his client would sue to get the contract with the caterer voided.

At a Community Board 10 meeting on May 2, the city outlined plans to raise a number of streets in Lindenwood to combat constant flooding in the area.

A home in Howard Beach exploded on May 29, leaving one woman seriously injured. The house, damaged in Hurricane Sandy, had had some fixes done under the city’s Rapid Repairs program, but FDNY officials eliminated that work as a potential cause.

The A train reopened on May 30 between Howard Beach and the Rockaways after being closed for seven months due to damage along the rail line’s route over Jamaica Bay from Hurricane Sandy.

June

After a nearly two-hour, closed-door discussion on June 11, Community Board 9 opted not to remove its district manager, Mary Ann Carey, for alleged poor work performance. The meeting featured a number of Carey supporters, including former CB 9 Chairman Paul Sapienza, pleading with the board to keep her. Carey was given a six-month probationary period.

Community Board 10 received its first look at the proposed Ozone Park rezoning plan, one of the largest done by the Bloomberg administration.

Parents and elected officials called on the city Department of Transportation to install more safety measures outside PS 232 in Lindenwood.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously June 25 to make the Forest Park Carousel a city landmark.

London Planetree Park in Ozone Park reopened after an extensive renovation that included a brand-new skate park.

July

Helped by a surge of petitions demanding its continuation — and brought directly to City Hall by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) via ferry — the city announced it was extending the Rockaway ferry service it had put in place after Hurricane Sandy.

The Student Conservation Association brought more than three dozen high school student volunteers to Charles Park on July 19 to help clean up the deteriorating facilities that were also hit hard by Sandy.

Residents in Lindenwood welcomed a few feathered neighbors as a family of yellow-crowned night herons, native to the Caribbean, nested in a tree on 84th Street.

Key Food announced it would be opening a supermarket in the former Duane Reade on Cross Bay Boulevard.

On July 29, Natasha Martinez, 17, was stabbed at least 10 times outside her home in Woodhaven, but survived.

August

The National Park Service released its future proposals for Gateway National Recreational Area, including more boating, camping and hiking in and around Jamaica Bay and better public transportation to and from the communities surrounding it.

On Aug. 12. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan visited the Rockaways to announce the creation of a new academic institute at Jamaica Bay that will focus on environmental resiliency.

On Aug. 26, a woman was attacked while jogging in Forest Park and raped. Police later revealed the suspect is likely the same man responsible for a handful of earlier attacks in the park, including one in March.

The Trust for Public Land’s feasibility study for the proposed QueensWay along the former Rockaway Beach LIRR line kicked off.

On Aug. 15, a Brooklyn man riding his bicycle through Howard Beach was killed after being hit by a car on 84th Street. Family said the victim, Gary Zammett, Sr., was out to buy cheesecake for his wife.

September

Community Board 9 returned from summer break with a bang as its personnel issues exploded after questions arose over the start date of the six-month probationary period approved by the board in June for Carey. The board’s Sept. 10 meeting devolved into a shouting match between Chairman Jim Coccovillo and board member Sam Esposito.

Cops and officials discussed possible safety improvements in Forest Park after the second sex attack on a woman in a year in August, including bringing more mounted police and security cameras to the park.

Residents’ frustrations grew as more Saturday night parties occurred at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center. The synagogue’s lawyer said it was seeking an immediate injunction to evict the caterer.

South Queens and Rockaway residents protested proposed flood premium hikes at a rally in Broad Channel on Sept. 28.

CB 9 previewed plans to turn the Richmond Hill Republican Club building, which had its faÁade landmarked, into a catering hall.

Assemblyman Goldfeder called on the city Department of Transportation to increase crossing times along Cross Bay Boulevard.

October

A fight erupted at the Oct. 8 meeting of Community Board 9, as the board debated removing Esposito after he sent an email to three other members featuring what they described as offensive anti-Semitic language. After a long argument between Esposito and Coccovillo, the board voted to push the debate to November.

Survivors of Hurricane Sandy commemorated the first anniversary of the storm with a candlelight vigil in St. Helen schoolyard in Howard Beach on Oct. 29.

Lindenwood’s “Flag Man,” Dominick Papa, announced he had found his replacement as the area’s go-to person for new American flags — Dennis Bermudez, a super at a Lindenwood apartment building.

Community boards 9 and 10 both approved the proposed rezoning of more than 500 blocks in and around Ozone Park.

The DOE proposed a third co-location for JHS 226 in South Ozone Park.

November

Councilman Ulrich backed a challenge from his Democratic opponent, Rockaway civic leader Lew Simon, winning re-election 53 percent to 47 percent, but a Democratic landslide citywide left him as the only Republican in the Council outside of Staten Island.

On Nov. 12, CB 9 voted overwhelmingly not to boot Esposito over allegations he sent an anti-Semitic email to three Jewish members of the board, prompting the three to walk out of the meeting and one of them, Wallace Bock, to resign.

As part of the feasibility study, the Trust for Public Land and other groups working in favor of the QueensWay, held town hall meetings in Woodhaven, Forest Hills and Ozone Park. Meanwhile, Queens College announced it would conduct a study focused on bringing rail back to the line.

The DOE announced its intention to close the freshman annex of Richmond Hill High School and move students back into trailers in the yard outside the notoriously overcrowded school.

The Parks Department began cutting down a number of trees in Howard Beach that remained standing after Hurricane Sandy, but later died as a result of saltwater contamination or wind damage.

An off-duty cop was beaten nearly to death on Liberty Avenue on Nov. 17. Police say the attack stemmed from a dispute at a club on Jamaica Avenue earlier in the night.

December

Gov. Cuomo announced a $50 million rehabilitation project for Spring Creek Park aimed at protecting much of Howard Beach from future storm surges out of Jamaica Bay.

Assemblyman Goldfeder announced that federal money had been allocated to fix the fire alarms at PS 207 that had been nonfunctional since Hurricane Sandy.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association held its own town hall to allow residents to air concerns over the QueensWay and rail restoration plans. Meanwhile, WRBA President Ed Wendell announced he would step down as the civic group’s leader after three years and be replaced by Martin Colberg.

At its Dec. 5 meeting, Community Board 10 rejected a plan to build a hotel in South Ozone Park near the Skyway homeless shelter.

The Ozone Park rezoning plan, covering more than 500 blocks, was finalized by the City Council just weeks before the end of the year.

Ulrich raised eyebrows when he announced he would be supporting Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), a staunch progressive who created controversy when she did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during Council meetings, for speaker.

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