Login Get News Updates
For local news delivered via email enter address here:
Profile Subscriptions Mobile Tablet
Local News January 5, 2017  RSS feed

2016 Year in Review

JULY

Daring bank robbers finally caught

Federal agents charged three

Brooklyn men who allegedly broke into a Rego Park bank in May and stole more than $4 million in cash and valuables from safe deposit boxes, prosecutors announced on Tuesday morning. Michael Mazzara, 44, Charles Kerrigan, 40, and Anthony Mascuzzio, 36, allegedly used acetylene torches to cut into the roof of the Maspeth Federal Savings branch at 64-19 Woodhaven Blvd. on the weekend of May 20-22 and gain access to the safe deposit boxes inside the vault. Once inside the vault, authorities said, the crooks removed $296,000 in cash and currency, diamonds, jewelry, coins, baseball cards and other valuables totaling $4.34 million from safe deposit boxes that bank customers kept in the vault.


Still battling prostitution at this Ridgewood corner

For over 30 years the corner at Cypress Avenue and Starr Street at the Ridgewood/Bushwick border has been known as a hotspot for “johns” to pick up prostitutes for some cash. In this edition, the Ridgewood Times took a closer look at this notorious corner and the sting operations that take place there. Long after this report ran, police held other sting operations at the location, netting additional prostitution arrests.




Pokémon Go fever takes over Queens

The start of the summer saw a massive craze sweep the nation, and Queens was not immune. The immensely popular Pokémon Go app launched in early July and residents of the “World’s Borough” were out en masse to try and ‘catch ‘em all.’ For weeks the cute pocket monsters dominated headlines around Queens with people posting maps of the best places to catch the creatures and law enforcement officials trying to figure out how to keep people and private property safe as thousands of people were out roaming the streets of Queens.




NYCHA to landlord: Stop abusing Ridgewood tenants

In a continuing effort to keep Section 8 recipients in their rent-stabilized apartments, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) backed the residents of 1708 Summerfield St. in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Ridgewood who felt their new landlord was using illegal tactics to drive them out of their homes. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez wrote a letter to the new owners demanding they make the necessary repairs in the apartments.



AUGUST

Commissioner Bratton calls it quits

In August, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that he would be retiring in September, and then-Chief of the Department James O’Neill would be taking his place. Bratton served two stints as Police Commissioner — once under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the mid-1990s, and again under current Mayor Bill de Blasio. O’Neill, a native of Flatbush, Brooklyn, committed himself to continue strengthening the relationship between the police force and the people of New York City.


The unsolved murder of Karina Vetrano

Howard Beach mourned the loss of 30-year-old

Karina Vetrano who was savagely raped and strangled during a nighttime jog in Spring Creek Park on Aug. 2. What is even more disturbing about the case is that cops didn’t know — and still do not know — who committed the heinous crime. In the months following her murder, Vetrano’s family offered large sums of money as a reward to anyone who would come forward with information on their daughter’s death, but still no solid leads came. Residents of Howard Beach remained on edge, fearing for their safety. The investigation into her murder remains ongoing.


City eyes homeless shelter in Maspeth

Early August saw the contentious start of what would quickly become known as the Maspeth Shelter War. Residents and several civic organizations banded together to fight Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempt at turning a Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter after a closed-door meeting between city officials and community leaders. In the coming weeks and months, rallies were organized outside of the hotel and even the homes of the city’s Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner Steven Banks and the owner of the Holiday Inn, Harshad Patel.





Silver Barn Farms sold & renamed

For decades, Middle Villagers have shopped at

Silver Barn Farms to get fresh produce, deli meat, bagels and much more. Things changed in August when the store was sold to Bill Fani, who also owns a Met Food supermarket nearby on Eliot Avenue. Silver Barn was rechristened as “Village Barn,” and the new management made a commitment to transforming the look and stock to cater to shoppers seeking organic and farm-fresh products.


Honoring the victims of 9/11 at Queens memorial events

The Courier and Ridgewood Times honored the victims of the

Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center on the 15th anniversary of the day of infamy. Neighborhoods across Queens held memorial events throughout the week to remember all those that were lost on that fateful day. The papers ran a “Lost List” of the names of those people from Queens who perished that day.



Incumbent assemblywoman upset in Democratic primary

After failing to show up at several community meetings against the proposed homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, the community was not behind then-Assemblywoman Margaret Markey when they went to the polls. Instead they backed newcomer Brian Barnwell who was at the daily protests outside the hotel and fought the shelter proposal since it was announced. Barnwell went on to win the Assembly District 30 election against Tony Nunziato.



Fighting to stay home in Ridgewood

The residents of 1819 Cornelia St. got a surprise when their landlord died, leaving no beneficiary to take over control of the building. According to state law, the building was to go to public auction. With the number of landlords using unscrupulous — and often times illegal — tactics to force long-term rent-regulated residents out of their homes, the residents joined together to try to purchase the building, unsuccessfully. They would not stop there, as they would go on to form a coalition and start raising awareness of gentrification in Ridgewood.


Maspeth brings the fight against shelter to Brooklyn

The Maspeth shelter war raged on through September, as opponents took their fight on the road, protesting in front of Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks’ home on Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn on Sept. 15. The protesters were not done there; they again took to the road and held a protest in front of the home of Harshad Patel, owner of the Holiday Inn Express at the center of the shelter controversy.




OCTOBER

Man kept his dead grandma under wraps

Ridgewood experienced another truly horrifying story in October, as a local man was charged with hiding his dead grandmother in the home they shared for months after her passing. Erika Kraus-Breslin — who shared her 65th Street home with her grandson, 30-year-old Christopher Fuhrer — apparently died in May of this year, published reports indicated. Fearing that he would lose his home, Fuhrer allegedly never reported her death and kept Kraus-Breslin’s body inside the residence, the New York Daily News reported. Over the next five months, he painted her body and wrapped it in 16 plastic bags in an attempt to mask over the odor of her decomposing body. Fuhrer also allegedly placed numerous air fresheners through the home to cover the stench of death. Police made the gruesome discovery on Oct. 5 while making a wellness check to the home; Fuhrer was charged with not reporting a death and burial/body removal without proper permit.




A shocking attack on the M Train

A shocking cellphone video released by police showed a Brooklyn man viciously assaulting a rider on board a Manhattan-bound M train approaching the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station in Ridgewood. Law enforcement sources said 26-year-old Troy Sales of Brooklyn knocked the 66-year-old man to the floor of the car early on the morning of Oct. 9. He then proceeded to punch and kick the man; the video, taken on an eyewitness’ cellphone, showed the victim struggling with the suspect, who grabbed him by the collar and shook him. Sales allegedly took the man’s MetroCard and cash before fleeing; he was picked up by police two days later and booked on robbery charges.


Queens hosts top artists at Meadows festival

Some of the biggest names in music visited Queens on Oct. 1 and 2 to perform at The Meadows Music and Arts Festival.

Approximately 80,000 fans stormed the Citi Field parking lot to catch performances from Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Grimes, Chromeo, Metric and Queens’ own World’s Fair. The rap group, consisting of seven members who are all from Queens, regularly include the borough in their lyrics.

Named after Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the festival paid homage to the borough by naming each of the four stages after a street or place in Queens: Queens Blvd., Linden Blvd., Shea and The Meadows.


Huge drug bust in Maspeth

Cops made a major drug bust in Maspeth, taking approximately $14,000 worth of illegal substances off the streets. The contraband, seized in the bust near the intersection of 60th Street and Flushing Avenue, included 383 envelopes of heroin, 216 Xanax pills, 68 grams of cocaine, 10 amphetamine pills, marijuana and $3,523.


NOVEMBER

‘Barn’-burner in Northwest Queens

Brian Barnwell won the seat for the 30th Assembly District seat the night of Nov. 8. He had stunned the Queens political world back in September in defeating nine-term incumbent Margaret Markey during the primaries. Assembly District 30 encompasses Woodside, Maspeth parts of Sunnyside, Long Island City and Astoria.

The tide turned against Markey in August amid the ongoing debate over a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth, in the heart of her district. Markey took flack from residents for failing to show up at a public meeting and protest over the shelter, although she expressed opposition the the plan in statements that her office issued.


‘Ridgewood’s not for Sale!’

Scores of Ridgewood residents of every age and background marched through the neighborhood on Nov. 19 as they fight to keep their community affordable for everyone. Organized by the Ridgewood Tenants Union, the boisterous crowd — chanting through the streets and accompanied by a band — demanded that the city preserve rent-stabilized apartments in the community. They also urged that developers creating luxury apartments give something back to the longtime residents in the area.






Trump emerges victorious

In a stunning election night that left us all on the edges of our seats, Republican nominee Donald Trump -- who grew up in Queens -- secured victory over Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States. While New York City and state went to Clinton, there are areas that leaned in favor of Donald Trump. In Queens, a little over 75 percent of voters voted for Hillary Clinton and almost 22 percent of voters throughout the borough voted in favor of Donald Trump. Clinton managed to win the popular vote nationwide by more than 2.8 million votes, but Trump secured 306 electoral votes, clinching the presidency.





Celebrating landmarks at last

The Ridgewood Central Historic District, a group of 900 rowhouses in the heart of the neighborhood, was given landmark status by the city in 2014. The Landmarks Preservation Commission and the city Department of Transportation formally celebrated the distinction in November of this year by debuting new historic brown signs at street corners throughout the district. Roughly a third of the 2,982 Ridgewood buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places have received landmark status from the city. The Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association has campaigned for years to have all buildings on the register to be declared city landmarks.




DECEMBER

Hateful graffiti at Maspeth playground

In one of several incidents of hateful graffiti found in Queens, four derogatory and hateful messages were found spray painted on the floor inside Reiff Playground, located at 59th Drive between Fresh Pond Road and 63rd Street, by a park goer just after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The anti-Semitic and anti-police messages allegedly read “F—k the Jew,” “show money” and “F—k the Police,” along with a swastika, while money symbols and hearts were found spray painted inside the handball courts.


Fugitive robbers found sleeping in Middle Village

A young couple wanted for a violent home invasion in Washington State earlier this year were found by NYPD detectives hiding out in a Middle Village home on Dec. 9. Chloe Fontaine, 24, and Mateusz Rudnik, 27, were said to have shot and stabbed two people during a robbery at a home in Thurston County, WA back on Sept. 11 of this year. They were located inside Rudnik’s last known place of residence on 58th Road between 76th and 77th streets and subsequently extradited to Washington State to face assault and attempted murder charges.



Local college student dies in Binghamton

Stefani Lineva’s body was found resting against a concrete median on State Route 434 near the Pennsylvania Avenue exit in Binghamton around 2:05 a.m. on Dec. 3, in an apparent hit-and-run. The 20-year-old resident of Middle Village was taken to UHS Wilson Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her parents, however, believe their daughter may have been killed elsewhere and her body dumped on the highway, according to published reports. Lineva was a native of Bulgaria and moved to Queens as a young girl. She graduated from Forest Hills High School before going on to Adelphi University. She transferred to Binghamton University last semester as a junior, where she was on the school’s tennis team.






Holiday Festivities

All of Queens twinkled this month with holiday lightings across many neighborhoods. Tree lightings, Santa appearances, hot chocolate and carolers welcomed the holiday season in neighborhoods such as Bayside, Middle Village, Glendale and Whitestone.