Top 10 Queens News Stories of 2013
Jan 02, 2014 | 8297 views | 0 0 comments | 287 287 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dan Halloran and Vince Tabone (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
Dan Halloran and Vince Tabone (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
Rebuilding in Breezy Point
Rebuilding in Breezy Point
Borough President Melinda Katz
Borough President Melinda Katz
5 Pointz
5 Pointz
Mumford & Sons Play West Side Tennis Stadium
Mumford & Sons Play West Side Tennis Stadium
Accident in Maspeth
Accident in Maspeth
10. ATU Bus Strike

Beginning on Jan. 16, nearly 8,000 Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1181 bus drivers walked off the job to safeguard benefits and ensure job security in new contracts.

During the strike, nearly 40 percent, or 152,000 of the city’s students, went to school in cabs and city buses during the first strike of its kind since 1979.

After the walk-off ended, ATU Local 1181 president Michael Cordiello said his drivers would continue to push for the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) clause for his drivers.

“Though our strike has been suspended, the principles that we fight for remain pressing issues that the city will have to address,” Cordiello said in a statement. “A safe workforce is an experienced workforce, and the Employee Protection Provisions currently included in the city’s busing contracts protect our most experience drivers, matrons and mechanics, and have created one of the safest workforces in the entire country.”

On Nov. 11, it was reported that new contracts were put out to bid by the Bloomberg administration with savings of nearly $400 million, much of which are thought to be from the lack of job securities of union drivers.

9. Maspeth Accident

The community of Maspeth was plastered over the front pages of newspapers across the city when five students from I.S. 73 were injured, three critically, when a SUV lost control and veered onto the sidewalk early on the morning on Sep. 12 as kids made their way to nearby IS 73.

Investigators believed the accident transpired when the driver accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the breaks as he was driving along Grand Avenue. No charges were filed.

Maspeth resident David Foubister joined a group of people at the corner of Grand Avenue and 71st Street to lift the SUV and free two of the girls trapped underneath.

“We lifted the car and pulled the girls out,” he said.

One week later, 13-year-old Michael Gomez died of an asthma attack on Nov. 19 while being treated for minor injuries related to the accident at Elmhurst Hospital.

8. Noise From the Borough Airports

One of the issues facing Queens residents this year that made the biggest noise was from overhead: airplanes.

A new departure pattern our of LaGuardia Airport – known as the TNNIS climb – continue to be an issue for folks living across northeast Queens, from Flushing out to Douglaston.

And the new program that the TNNIS climb is a part of – NextGen – which allows planes to fly lower to the ground and closer together, continue to have negative impacts on residents in other Queens neighborhoods, including Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.

Some progress was made on the issue this year, as Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the Port Authority to conduct a noise study of the borough’s airports, as well as form a roundtable that includes community residents and the Federal Aviation Administration to address concerns.

7. Music Returns to West Side

The historic tennis stadium at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills was brought back to life once again last summer, as the Dublin-based folk group Mumford and Sons kicked off the first of several concerts expected to hit the neighborhood in 2014.

Club president Roland Meier estimates the total renovation costs to completely remodel the legendary building at 1 Tennis Place was just $2.5 million. Nearly 17,000 people attended the show.

As some were turned away because of overcrowding and neighbors complained that stadium traffic patterns caused headache, all in all, the first concert on Aug. 28 went without any major glitches that many expected.

“If we’re talking about all these kinks and these irregularities, I look forward to working toward the next event,” Meier said. “You should make mistakes, because no one is perfect. You’re really stupid if you make the same mistake twice and we’re not going to do that.”

The WSTC stadium was once home to the US Open and hosted concerts by numerous rock legends, including The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

6. New Corona BID

As discussions for the addition of a Business Improvement District (BID) on Roosevelt Avenue began to surface earlier this year, opposition soon followed as many residents and business owners feared the additional tax assessment.

While those who oppose it protested, business owners who support the proposed BID between 82nd and 114th streets held meetings to help clear up what they say is nothing more than a combination of misinformation and misunderstanding about the true nature of a BID.

Seth Taylor, a BID supporter and executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership, has been working with business owners over the last year to garner support.

“I think we’re one of the first BID’s that’s trying to find a way to find some solutions and mitigate some of these tensions,” Taylor said after it was announced that the scope of the proposed BID zone would shrink to accommodate those in opposition.

The proposed fees for businesses within the confines of the BID are expected to be about $900 annually.

5. 5 Pointz Whitewashed

Gerald Wolkoff, the owner of the building known to graffiti artists and admirers as 5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center, took matters into his own hands as the debate over what to do with the years of wall art that had collected throughout the buildings at 24-50 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City.

With plans to demolish the crumbling structure, and in the midst of a debate and lawsuit over intellectual property on his building, Wolkoff whitewashed the walls of the graffiti mecca.

“It was very difficult for me to do this, but I had to do it because I’m going to be demolishing the building,” said Wolkoff of his decision. “And to see one piece at a time come down I felt would be really torturous.”

4. Borough President Race

Melinda Katz was elected the new Queens borough president this past November, replacing Helen Marshall following her third and final term in office.

A new vision for the borough was at stake as fellow candidates State Senator Tony Avella, Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. and businessman Aurelio Arcabascio tackled heated issues like the borough’s underserved transportation, seniors and housing, and parkland development proposals like the once-debated park space allotment to MLS for a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Melinda Katz was elected the new Queens borough president this past November, replacing Helen Marshall following her third and final term in office.

3. Glendale Homeless Shelter

Glendale residents and elected officials rallied throughout the year against a proposal from Samaritan Village homeless services to construct a 125-family, 51,000-square-foot shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave.

Although it has been nearly unanimous in its opposition from the community, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) later approved the $27 million proposal and decided to go ahead with the plans pending the results of an environmental impact study on the potentially contaminated property.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and community members stood before the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services in mid-December to oppose the city’s efforts to build a shelter at the location.

“Think of how much further we could use $27 million,” Crowley told the panel. “This money could be spent repairing buildings that already have the infrastructure in place, and money would likely still be left over for improvements in current shelters and providing job placement and permanent housing services.”

Expect this to be a heated issue throughout 2014.

2. Sandy Rebuilding, One Year Later

One year after Superstorm Sandy flooded the waterfront communities of Queens, civic groups and homeowners continued their cleanup efforts.

While businesses and homeowners in neighborhoods like Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach reported having minimal feedback from The Red Cross and support from FEMA, nearby Kiwanis clubs, churches and other donors came together to provide the support they needed.

“A year later, this is an issue that’s going to be with us for a very long time,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.”

1. Queens GOP at Heart of Bribery Scandal

Six defendants were charged in a bribery scheme this past April to get State Senator Malcolm Smith on the GOP ballot for the Republican mayoral primary

According to the charges, Smith worked with Councilman Dan Halloran, Queens County GOP vice chairman Vince Tabone, Bronx Republican chairman Joseph Savino and upstate Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmine and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret to buy off Republican leaders for support.

Smith was brought down by an undercover FBI agent.

“Senator Malcolm Smith tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion,” said U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara after the charges were first announced. “Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes.”
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