Just how crazy was David Berkowitz, the .44 Caliber Killer who terrorized Queens and the rest of the city for more than a year beginning in late July 1976? Crazy enough that for months before the man who killed six and wounded seven was caught, he taunted the police and the press with letters filled with insane rants such as “I am the ‘Son of Sam.’ Sam loves to drink blood. ‘Go out and kill,’ commands father Sam. ... Police, let me haunt you with these words — I’ll be back! I’ll be back! To be interpreted as — bang, bang, bang, bang.”Berkowitz favored killing young women, often as they sat in cars with friends or boyfriends. Two of the people he murdered, Christine Freund and Virginia Voskerichian, were killed in Queens, while another young woman here was rendered a paraplegic and other victims suffered various wounds in his attacks.
Even though he spent the first four years of his life on an Air Force base in West Germany, John McEnroe is arguably the greatest athlete in Queens history.
The hot-tempered Douglaston resident won his first Grand Slam singles title at the 1979 US Open, defeating his good friend Vitas Gerulaitis in straight sets. At just 20 years old, McEnroe became the youngest player to ever win the tournament’s singles championship. He would go on to win 27 singles and doubles titles that year, an open-era record at the time.
Sister Maura Clarke, while serving as a missionary in Central America, wrote the following:
“There are so many deaths everywhere that it is incredible. It has become an ordinary daily happening. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I am at peace here.”
When Dr. Allan Rothenberg retired earlier this year from the Howard Beach medical practice he co-founded back in 1981, the response from the community was overwhelming.
Well-wishers flooded his office with cards thanking him for what he had done for their children, or themselves when they were children. He wrote a column for the Queens Chronicle about his experiences as a doctor, and it went viral, with people posting adoring comments on the piece. Clearly the good doctor had left his mark.
When the 52nd governor of New York began public school he couldn’t speak English. Meanwhile, Mario Cuomo’s father slowly worked his way from ditch digger to storeowner with his wife in South Jamaica. It was a struggle for his parents who left their native Italy to pursue a better life for their family in the 1920s. Six decades later, he would speak of their trials as Gov. Cuomo when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
It was 1983 that marked the start of Cuomo’s 12-year tenure, the longest for a Democrat. He balanced 12 consecutive budgets, though many were late, reduced state income taxes by 20 percent and enacted the nation’s first seat belt law credited with reducing fatalities. Though seen by many as a clear choice for the presidential nomination, it never was for Cuomo. To run on a platform that said he could balance the nation’s budget while his own state was still without one would be a politically “foolish” move, as he said in a 1998 New York Magazine article.
From a girl living in Ozone Park to the first female to have her debut album chart four top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100, Cyndi Lauper has remained the same unusual girl throughout.
“I know who I am and when I came out with ‘She’s So Unusual,’ I wanted a few things: I wanted it to be good and I wanted it to be me,” Lauper said during her Oct. 20 show at Queens College. “The record label didn’t want me writing my own songs even though I had been doing that forever, but I wasn’t going to let that get in my way.
At one of the law firms she applied to, Geraldine Ferraro made it through five rounds of interviews before hearing a “no.” The simple and acceptable reason back then: They weren’t hiring any women that year. But as 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale said, this wife, mother, teacher and lawyer “had a lot of fire” and wasn’t about to let that stop her. Her drive led her to become the first female vice presidential nominee on a major party ticket.
Ferraro kept her mother’s surname in the public eye in her honor. Her widowed mother worked as a seamstress to make sure Geraldine went to college at a time when women were largely expected to be housewives. She became the first female in the family to receive a degree and used it to teach at PS 85 in Astoria.
Donald Manes had been a man in a hurry.
The Queens prosecutor was 31 in 1965 when he became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council until then. In 1971 he won a special election to became the youngest Queens borough president in history.
With two outs in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson stepped up to the plate. The Mets trailed the Boston Red Sox 5-4, but with runners on first and third, Wilson had a chance to become a postseason hero with a hit. After a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score and the possible winning run to advance to second base, the game was in Wilson’s hands.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Wilson hit a slow ground ball to Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.
Before Paul Simon even wrote a song for his 1987 Grammy-winning album, “Graceland” was already making headlines, but not in praise of its music. Instead, he got criticized for flying to South Africa at a time when the UN had a cultural boycott against the country’s apartheid regime. Twenty-five years later, the album was again in the news thanks to the documentary “Under African Skies,” which chronicled the controversy and Simon’s journey back to South Africa. The album was a pivotal moment in Simon’s life, marking an extension to a career that began when he was just a teen.
For many years, Simon’s musical career was intertwined with Art Garfunkel, whom he had first performed with in sixth grade. Simon played the White Rabbit and Art the Chesire Cat in the play, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Growing up blocks apart in Kew Gardens Hills, the
pair saw they shared a passion for music and at 15 were performing as Tom and Jerry. Inspired by the Everly Brothers, they wrote “Hey, Schoolgirl,” which reached the Top 50. With no immediate follow-up they took a hiatus, with Simon attending Queens College and Garfunkel Columbia University. Later, the folk scene at Greenwich Village got them performing together again.
Police Officer Edward Byrne did all he could to make the streets safe in life, and in death succeeded more than most cops could ever hope to.
Byrne was guarding the home of a witness in a drug case in South Jamaica when, in the early morning hours of Feb. 6, 1988, he was assassinated by four men on the orders of a drug kingpin. His murder horrified and sickened the city, but also galvanized it. It marked a turning point in the war against crime, as citizens and officials decided they weren’t going to allow gangs to own the streets any longer. Tactics changed, new police units were created and within just a couple years, the murder rate that had always just kept on rising was finally being reduced. And it’s been coming down ever since.
Claire Shulman rose to power in 1986 with the death of Borough President Donald Manes, but 1989 was the year she was elected to her first full term.
Shulman, who was Manes’ deputy, succeeded the troubled and scandal-ridden borough president, who committed suicide. She was appointed to replace him by the City Council and later in 1986 elected to complete his term.
To the men who killed him, Julio Rivera was apparently just a gay man upon whom they could inflict their hate. But to the residents of Jackson Heights, Rivera was the catalyst who would propel them to enact positive changes within their community.
Early morning on July 2, 1990, Rivera was leaving Friends Tavern, a local gay bar, when he was violently beaten and stabbed to death in a playground by three men affiliated with the gang called Doc Martin Skinheads. According to testimony cited in The New York Times, Daniel Doyle, 21, Erik Brown, 21, and Esat Bici, 19 were hunting for a “drug dealer or a drug addict or a homo out cruising” to use their hammer and knife on.
Before there was Donald Trump the reality TV star, or Donald Trump the Republican presidential hopeful, or Donald Trump the skeptic of President Obama’s birthplace, there was Donald Trump the entrepreneur.
Trump was the epitome of the wildly successful, superrich business magnate in the go-go ’80s. Hotels, casinos, an airline, the gleaming new Trump Tower in Manhattan — he owned it all. His 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” sold millions of copies and topped the New York Times’ nonfiction best seller list for weeks on end. It seemed everything The Donald touched turned to gold.
John Gotti was born into a poor Bronx family in 1940, the fifth of 13 children, the son of a laborer who wasted a lot of his money gambling. Growing up in East New York, Gotti was resentful that his father was a poor provider, and he and his brothers were soon drawn to the quick buck promised by a life outside the law.
By the time he was 16, he was leading a street gang and had dropped out of Franklin K. Lane High School. His activities caught the attention of Charlie and Danny Fatico, two mobsters with the Gambino crime family, and he got into the organization through them, according to Mafia expert Jerry Capeci, who co-authored the Gotti biography “Mob Star” and writes a weekly column on organized crime at ganglandnews.com.