Last Edition of the 20th Century

Rudy To Rudy: It’s The Board Of End
Manhattan Hospitals Gain Foothold Here
The year in Queens began with some distressing news and warnings for disaster. A fire that killed four people in a Manhattan skyscraper on Dec. 23 prompted the Queens Courier to run an article based on the fear many residents had that they would not be prepared if a fire broke out in their building.
Unfortunately, many in Queens who owned houses had problems of their own. A record rainfall in early January caused intermittent flooding in sections of Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, St. Albans, and Queens Village. A quarter-million residents were affected The Courier handed out another warning to the jets and JFK airport regarding the 325 species of birds in local marshlands that have been getting caught and killed in the planes propellers.
Another warning was given in an exclusive by senior editor Howard Girsky on the "Worst Dentists and other Professionals" in Queens. Using the website of the State Department of Health, Girsky uncovered 12 professionals in Queens who have received numerous license and complaint problems in the past.
In other health related news, the Courier reported that Jamaica Hospital and partner Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan were looking to create a giant merger with the financially troubled Flushing Hospital.
Finally, Queens was given some good news as James Allen Gordon, a man convicted of killing and sodomizing three women, eased the victims family’s tensions as he was sentenced to life in prison.
In February, a debate over the JFK Air train began. The multi-million dollar plan was seen as beneficial to many, but the cost as well as the effect on local communities had many up in arms.
Meanwhile, another debate was raging over the availability of vans in Queens. While the city prepared to allow more vans into Queens to those who desperately need the service, others argued against the vans, saying that there would be too many vans on the streets.
Following up his article on the worst dentists in January, senior editor Howard Girsky did a follow-up on the "Best Doctors in Queens," listing the local doctors of the 253 chosen by Castle Connoly Medical Ltd.
Unfortunately, a system failure of the 911 emergency phone system early in the month left a Queens man suffering a heart attack without any help. While the man, John Audy, might have died anyway, Howard Safir admitted that testing the city’s generators, which led to problem, was probably a mistake.
One major problem that Queens first reported in February is the destruction of trees by beetles. In an issue that commemorated the 35th anniversary of musical Beatles visit to Queens, the Courier released a warning to their readers about the danger of Asian Longhorned beetles to their community.
The Courier reported that Queens children also faced many problems, as a rising number face poverty, homelessness, and serious risk to health and safety. In addition, many local leaders blasted the city’s proposed 36,000 seat expansion set for 2004 as inadequate.
Discussion of Y2K began in full force in March as the Queens Courier hosted the "Y2K Queens Town Hall Meeting" to discuss the problem. There Bob, Cordes, spokesman for the U.S. Small Business Administration, spoke and began a series of weekly articles on Y2K compliance for business and home users.
Queens was also affected in March by the new DWI crackdown in New York City. While many believed in the vehicle seizure policy in that it cut down accidents, many Queens business owners complained that they were losing money because of it.
Queens patients faced both good and bad news during the month. The fate of the long-awaited $149 million, 200-bed reconstruction of Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica awaited on the decision of the New York State of Appeals. If the court did not overturn a previous ruling, then the money would wind up in private hands and would put at risk health services for the uninsured and underinsured. There was however good news for Flushing Hospital, as the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was prepared to undertake a long-term plan to restore their fiscal strength
In other good news, Jenny Amaya, a victim of the Columbian earthquake was progressing at Elmhurst General Hospital and a rebuilt Main St. subway station, home to the No. 7 trained, opened with $35 million in renovations, including new escalators, an elevator for the handicapped, and glass-bricked walls for added light.
The month closed out with the first of three special issues entitled "Back to the Future," which gave a history of the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964 and an outlook into the future.
In April, a raging war between Serbians and ethnic Albanians effected Queen’s citizens from both sides. While many immigrants from both sides have family suffering across the world, there were no reported incidents of violence, although many interviewed by the Courier said it was an uneasy peace.
In an unrelated racial bias story, protesters armed with loud-speakers and megaphones descended upon the Bayside Long Island Railroad station to demonstrate against Frank Padavan’s oppositions to a hate crimes bill in the State Senate. This coincided with two of the city’s most influential African Americans, Rev. Floyd Flake and Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington revealing that they had been victims of racial insults from cops in Queens.
The Courier also covered what may be one of the last anniversaries in Shea Stadium. April 17 was the 35th anniversary for the home of the New York Metropolitans, as it was revealed that plans are in the works to built another stadium in the adjacent parking lot.
Finally, the second of the continuing "Back to the Future" series discussing the World’s Fair and future in the millennium reflected on eyewitness accounts of the first two World’s Fairs.
In May, The Queens Courier’s senior editor, Howard Girsky broke open an investigation with his exclusive on Hepatitis C. Through a series of interviews, including a televised discussion with a New York Hospital director on the Courier’s weekly program, "Queens on Air," the public was made aware of the highly contagious disease that was sweeping through Queen’s vast ethnic communities. The report would later lead to vast changes in the system.
It became apparent during this month by her many stops in Queens, that First Lady Hillary Clinton was preparing for a run at the New York Senate seat which was left wide open when Senator Moynahan declared he would not seek reelection in 2000. As she began her "Listening Tour," Queens became one of her focal points and a necessary target for a possible election. Clinton visited many of the borough’s schools, and even acted as "Principle for a Day" at Virgil Grisom Junior High School in Ozone Park.
During the month, the Courier reported on a number of issues in the vicinity of Queens, such as the tumultuous preparation for the JFK Airtrain, the construction of local sports complexes, and the future of Queens’ multiplex movie houses, such as the stadium-like theatre which had recently opened in College Point. However, it was an exclusive from across the country that had our hearts aching. Pam Glazner, co-editor of Columbine’s High School Newspaper hit right at home with her story on the children of her high school in Littleton, Colorado, as children and parents alike pondered if such tragedy could happen here. Finally, The Courier closed out the month with an informative encyclopedia of Queens in their 14th Anniversary issue.
In June, the Courier focused on a number of stories on the future of Queens. In the third part of a series entitled "Visions of the Future," the Courier reflected on the World’s Fair of 1939 and 1964 and delved into what both the world and Queens should expect in the way of inventions and technological advances in the new millennium.
Queens politicians, experts, and Mayor Giuliani all gave their prediction on what the future held.
In keeping with their futuristic theme, the Courier continued their report on the problems facing the JFK Airtrain. Often referred to as "the train to the plane," the proposal to begin construction was passed almost unanimously by the City Council, except for Julia Harrison, who felt there were too many problems with the project.
The immediate future did not bode well for Queens kids, as low reading and math scores sent thousands to summer school, although it was later found out that some of the results were incorrect.
An important story facing many patients in Queens were the "hospital turf wars" in which the New York Primary Care Network of Great Neck joined with the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens to ward off huge conglomerates from Manhattan and Nassau County from taking over.
Toward the end of June, there was both joy and tragedy in Queens. While the Flushing Town Hall reopened to all with an eight million dollar renovation, the borough was deeply saddened with the passing of State Senator Leonard Stavisky at age 73.
Discussion over the train of the future continued in July, but was overshadowed by the historic red train, the No. 7. The Queens train was sited by the White House as one of the 15 sites around the world placed on the National Millennium Trail. Weeks later, the No. 7 continued its success by receiving the top honor in the subway service report card. However, Queens A and B lines were sited as the worst subway lines in New York.
The Courier continued their ability to bring about public change as the article regarding Hepatitis C two months before led to physicians throughout New York City being required to report all cases of the disease to the N.Y.C. Department.
Children were amongst the happiest to begin their summer vacations, but few were given the kind of getaway Project Children provided. More than 300 children from Ireland and Northern Ireland were flown into JFK Airport. The six-week vacation beginning July 4 enabled them to escape the Protestant-Catholic turmoil in their homeland.
Unfortunately, the children arrived on Independence weekend, one of the in hottest of the year. The heat wave was brutal and Con Edison workers had to work diligently to avoid a city-wide blackout. Still, over 4000 customers throughout the city lost power, and the mayor publicly chided the company for not being prepared.
In July, The Queens Courier once again reflected on the positive and negative aspects of the future. While The Courier noted that there have been tremendous increases in women owning their own businesses as well as a continual growth of computer and internet technology, a series of the many problems associated with Y2K began, while an exclusive by staff reporter Victor Ross recognized that Queens could face severe flooding in the upcoming century.
Priorities of the health care system was a major issue for the Queens Courier in August. While the Courier’s story on Hepatitis C was making waves on the floor of Congress, senior editor Howard Girsky was breaking another shocking exclusive on EMS priorities, siting that strokes were only ranked 26th on their list. Borough President Claire Shulman, Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, and a number of other public officials lobbied together because of the Courier article to spark a series of investigations on EMS policies and priorities.
However, despite the many problems sited with the system, the Courier noted that hospitals such as the North Shore Forest Hills Hospital were bringing back house calls to ease the pain and suffering of isolated, homebound senior citizens.
The Queens Courier ended August with a special U.S. Open issue, in which editor David Oats gave the history of the stadiums, the players, and the area surrounding the Open.
The Courier opened the Autumn season with an issue devoted to long-time Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. The borough-president’s life was chronicled from childhood to her entry into politics to her election as borough president in 1986. "Queens First Lady" was saluted by fellow politicians, community activists, and friends for her devotion and many contributions to Queens.
September also marked the opening of the U.S. Open at the U.S.T.A. National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. To commemorate the event, the Louis Armstrong Stadium was re-dedicated with a special jazz ceremony. The last U.S. Open of the millennium was won on the female side by Serena Williams, while the mens tournament was won by Andre Agassi.
The outbreak of encephalitis, a serious viral disease spread by mosquitoes continued its terrifying campaign throughout the city. A total of three deaths were reported by September, including an 80-year-old man in Northern Queens. An additional 65 cases were later reported, possibly related to the West Nile Virus. To combat the outbreak, a spraying campaign, launched by helicopter, began throughout the city. However, fears grew even further from the thousands of gallons of malathion sprayed across the city to prevent mosquito infection.
The Queens Courier also broke an exclusive story disclosing that EMS ambulances lack the necessary cell phones, common in many other citys, to notify the hospital when a patient is being brought in for emergency treatment. First Deputy Fire Commissioner William Feeham agreed to look into the situation.
Queens received its share of bad news in September as our borough’s murder rate raised for the first time in seven years. Homicides rose from 66 in 1998 to 75 this current year, an increase of 14 percent.
As the month continued, so did the enormous damage created by Hurricane Floyd throughout the coastline of Florida. We questioned whether Queens residents would feel the impact of the thunderous storm, and whether city officials were prepared for a major impact. Luckily, our questions needed no answers, as New York failed to feel the true impact of Floyd, which drifted out to sea before much damage could be incurred.
St. John’s University opened its first set of dorms on their Queens campus. Three resident halls, set to house 750 students provided additional housing for out-of town students, and others looking to experience college life away from home.
The Queens Courier learned exclusively about a severe classroom shortage for nearly 20,000 Queens elementary and middle school students. Much of the shortage resulted from a stagnant construction program and rapidly climbing enrollment in the Queens public school system. Making matters worse, the Courier learned that reading scores were the lowest in the school districts where seats were found in shortest supply.
After a six-month hiatus, a serial rapist who had plagued Southeast Queens in December of 1998 returned with an attack in Queens Village. Five days earlier, the rapist had attacked another Queens Village woman, but before getting the chance to penetrate his victim, he was run off by a neighbor.
The Courier began its countdown to the new millennium. We marked the 100 day deadline to the year 2000 with the question "Is your business ready for Y2K."
After a lengthy campaign by the Queens Courier and State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayerson, EMS agreed to consider installing cell phones in ambulances. EMS officials also ordered a re-investigation of the city’s alleged slow response time in regard to stroke patients.
Dr. Glenn Waldman, the Queens Medical Center neurologist who examined the initial seven cases of encephalitis, spoke exclusively with the Courier. The neurologist had seen a 72-year-old Whitestone man two weeks earlier when he complained of headache, fever, and abnormal weakness, and suspected Queens may have another case on its hands.
Response times to Queens crimes in progress was found slow and below average. In fact, 11 of 16 Queens police precincts were found to be below the city-wide average of 10 minutes.
A wedding day turned tragic for a Ridgefield,New Jersey couple when Gladys Ricart, a bride-to-be only hours later was gunned down by her ex-boyfriend Augustin Garcia. After taking pictures outside her home, Ricart went inside her home to retrieve her veil, and was confronted and murdered by Garcia. The groom, James Preston unaware of the tragic development was left waiting at Church on the Hill in Flushing.
On the brighter side, the New York Mets conquered the Cincinati Reds to sneak into the playoffs as the National League wild card team. The Mets would go on to topple the Arizona Diamondbacks, an earn a meeting with the Atlanta Braves. After an exiting, topsy turvy series, which included Robin Ventura’s game winning, grand-slam single, the Mets fell to the Braves in six games. Atlanta’s momentum was short lived as they were sweeped in the World Series by the New York Yankees.
The debate over the risks of malathion spraying heated up in the Borough President’s office as a screaming match broke out between community activist Joyce Shepard and Community Board Coordinator Melinda Katz, along with a health department. representative.
Woodside restaurant Casa De Pacho was busted as one of the largest cocaine and heroine trafficking organizations in the country. Four men were arrested after an 18-month investigation led cops to the restaurant, which sold approximately $10 million worth of wholesale cocaine per year.
The Courier looked into the question on everyone’s lips in mid-October "Was Saddam hussein behind an Iraqi biochemical plot to introduce encephalitis borne mosquitoes to New York City and trigger the outbreak that started in Northern Queens. The question remains unanswered.
Governor George Pataki announced new rules to produce sharp reduction of chemical pollutants emitted from New York State coal burning electric power plants. The change in the state environmental regulations, which cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain by 50 percent was set to affect thousands of Queens residents. Particularly benefitting by the change were asthma sufferers, one of which, an 8-year-old boy named Edgar we profiled.
The Queens serial rapist hit again, this time striking a 55-year-old woman in Rosedale. A suspect was brought into custody later in the month, put as of press time DNA tests were still pending.
The question of whether cell phones were linked to cancer was investigated after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update about the possible link.
A large-scale cocaine distribution was broken up by police, who seized 428 kilos of the drug. The approximate value of the cocaine, taken from the home of Anres Marcano, was $53 million.
JFK was the sight of tragedy for the third time in so many years as Egyptian Air Flight 990 crashed, killing 217 people. And once again, the Ramada Plaza Hotel was the familiar site for grieving family members. The Ramada had also been the home to grievers from the July ‘96 crash of Flight 800 and the crash of Swiss Air Flight 111.
At Bayside H.S., a 16-year-old was viciously beaten and raped in the school’s basement bathroom by three special-ed students. All three admitted to the crime, which occurred during a school swim meet.
On Election Day Queens District Attorney Richard Brown was re-elected, confirming a victory letter he issued out 11 hours before the votes were counted. The big loser was Mayor Giuliani, who saw his Charter Revision Referendum fall by a three-to-one margin. And Toby Stavisky, succeeded her deceased husband Leonard in the 16th State Senate district.
The Courier uncovered information that Andrew Goldstien, the mental patient who pushed Queens reporter Kendra Webdale off a subway platform and to her death was rejected by a Queens group home, shortly before the murder. According to the investigation, Goldstien was turned down due to inadequate state funding.
We issued a report card revealing how each school board is doing, and the quality of life in each of the 14 community board districts. One key revelation uncovered that the Queens public school system was acting at 110 percent capacity,while the rest of the city was operating at less than 97 percent.
The rate of DWI’s for senior citizens during the past 12 months nearly doubled the totals from ‘98. Much of the increase was attributed to a variety of medications that caused drowsiness in seniors and made drivers legally intoxicated.
The Flushing Remonstrance returned home to Queens after more than 300 years in Albany. The oldest document demanding religious freedom and tolerance was on display at Flushing Library, where it still remains.
Nicole Barrett, a Texas native who was living in Maspeth was struck in midtown Manhattan by a brick. The attacker was later revealed to be Paris Drake, a man with 21 prior arrests and a history of mental problems. Drake was charged with attempted murder and possession of a deadly weapon. Barrett had a remarkable recovery and was released from the hospital and returned home to Texas.
54,341 Medicaid patients braced themselves for a switch to HMO. Worries arose over the thousands of Queens patients soon to plugged into the HMO abyss, and the high rate of patients to doctors.
The search continued for Samiya Haqiqi, a Quinnipiac law student that disappeared on November 12 after returning home to Flushing to visit family. Haqiqi’s car was found in Little Neck, but the 26-year-old remains missing.
December saw the world come to Queens, with the City Planning Commission disclosing that one of seven local residents arrived from a foreign country between 1990 and 1996. In fact, between the six year span, 240,072 immigrants arrived in Queens, while all four boroughs together totaled only 555,789 immigrants. The top source of immigrants in Queens are China, Russia, the dominican Republic, Guyana, and Jamaica.
Under the terms of the agreement reached between the NYC Fire Department and a medical/legislative task force (formed by Assemblywoman Nettie Mayerson and Claire Shulman) agreed to make sure stroke patients get top priority attention from the city’s 911 ambulances.
City Councilman Sheldon Leffler challenged the mayor’s policy of arresting the homeless and making them work for shelter. Leffler told the Courier that there was no legal basis for arresting people who sleep on the sidewalks. Later in the month, homeless groups took to the streets, as over 1,000 demonstrators turned out in Union Square Park to challenge Giuliani’s policy.
Tragedy struck in Elmhurst as a ten-year-old Dante Alvaranga was struck and killed by a school bus on the way to school. His mother, also hit by the bus, suffered only minor wounds.
We recognized the dedication of Rosa Pardo, a social worker from the Queens Guidance Center. Pardo was honored by the Robin Hood Foundation with the Hometown Hero Award for her work with the poor in Queens.
The Board of Education came under fire as three Queens teachers were caught cheating on standardized reading and math tests. In total, Special Investigator Edward Stancik busted 52 teachers, principals, and school officials in the worst scandal involving standardized tests ever.
The BOE took another hit when cases of widespread attendance fraud throughout the city were disclosed. As numerous public schools scammed millions in state aid, Governor Pataki called for the abolishment of the Board of Education. Under pressure for a change in leadership, Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew’s contract was not renewed, while a search for a new Chancellor began.
Government agencies rushed to find a chemical agent to stop an array of Long Horn beetles that could destroy 300,000 of Queens 800,000 trees.
Peace in Northern Ireland was marked at a conference held at Queens College. The discussion was led by former U.S. Senate majority leader George Mitchell, who was the chief negotiator during the peace process.
The Courier celebrated the holidays with various "acts of kindness" throughout the borough.
12-year-old boy Mohammed Malik was beaten nearly to death on the way to I.S. 217 in Jamaica. The youngster was mistaken for his older brother, whom the attacker had a previous disagreement with.