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Year in Review 2001:  June - December – QNS.com

Year in Review 2001:  June – December

The Queens Courier presents the second installment in its "Year in Review," covering June-December.
The mayoral campaign began to heat up with a report that Democratic County Leader Thomas Manton was leaning toward City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Courier Political analyst Arthur Nitzburg noted that Council Speaker Peter Vallone was not a viable contender for Mayor.
Western Queens emulated SoHo with an art festival known as "Art Frenzy." It was indicative of a thriving art center to be in Astoria and Long Island City. The organizers were the Queens Council on the Arts, and the Long Island City Business Development Corp.
JUNE A resurgence of hepatitis C was feared, said a Queens liver disease specialist. Dr. Patrick Basu said that flawed methods for sterilizing equipment needed by liver disease experts can result in hepatitis. Basu called for a federal investigation of doctors equipment. He urged patients to have a blood test to assure they do not have hepatitis.
A Fathers Day tragedy that killed three firefighters dominated the news in June. The fire started by children caused an explosion of highly flammable propane as tanks stored in the basement of the Long Island General Supply Co. Fire Chief Thomas Von Essen said the 128-year-old building had been built before City laws required sprinkler systems. A central issue in the fire was whether or not propane gas was outside the building.
Queens mourned the firefighters who lost their lives in the hardware store fire. Nearly 10,000 uniformed firefighters turned out en masse to remember fireman John Downing. They came from as far as California to honor Downing. Sixty of them led a procession of bagpipes as they traveled along Roosevelt Avenue.
The quintessential blue collar worker, Carroll OConnor from Queens, and star of "All In The Family" set in Queens, died in June. Born in Manhattan in 1924, the son of a lawyer and a schoolteacher, he went from the Bronx, to Elmhurst and finally Forest Hills.
JULYAs the Mets struggled at Shea, the fate of the ballpark was under discussion. Will the stadium be replaced? That was the subject of The Courier cover story. It predicted that in a matter of days agreement would be reached on a new $550 million stadium that will be built next to Shea. Plans call for construction of the stadium currently serving as Sheas parking lot. The discussions include construction of a retractable roof.
As in most summers, there was concern over continuing blood shortages. The shortage this year was complicated because of the mad cow disease cutting shipments from Europe. The most urgently needed blood in Queens were types 0 Positive, 0 Negative and B. The situation was so dire that area hospitals were considering cancellation of elective surgery. Meanwhile, Senator Charles Schumer urged the White House to declare a blood shortage emergency in New York.
Borough Hall politics was uppermost in many minds. The months biggest development was a report that Borough President Claire Shulman was planning on backing City Council Member Helen Marshall. "Helen has proven to be one of Queens brightest and most qualified leaders," Shulman said.
AUGUST Ever wonder why drug prices are so high? So did The Courier. It spotlighted a lavish east side Manhattan press party to market a new drug for Type II diabetes. It even featured a guest appearance by Queen Latifah, a popular singer. The article included a prescription drug survey by area Congressmen who cited the high prices of drugs in Queens pharmacies.
In a Courier first, we were invited to tour Creedmoor Psychiatric Institute in Queens Village, a sprawling facility. Creedmoor offers state- of-the-art treatment for its patient population. Administrators pointed out that the stigmas associated with mental illness represent the biggest problem faced by institutions like Creedmoor. "There are too many misconceptions that haunt the mental health movement," said Dr. William A. Fisher, clinical director. The three-hour tour revealed intensive therapeutic programs that are designed to restore patients to the community.
There was growing interest in the selection of New York City as a site for the 2012 Olympics. If here, Queens would play a significant role in the Olympics, with Queens West as the transportation hub. There was controversy too as Forest Hills community leaders fought plans to join two lakes at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
There was also talk about the rehabilitation of the Whitestone Bridge. Plans call for a $286 milllion project that would make the 62-year-old bridge lighter and sturdier in four to six years. The renovation plan was crafted after an inspection by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Congressman Anthony Weiner moved decisively to fund DNA analysis of 12,000 rape kits stored in a Long Island City warehouse. The funding will make it possible for authorities to analyze tissue of victims and enable police to track down the rapists.
How successful are age discrimination suits? Not very, according to a Queens legal authority, who represents plaintiffs who believe they were fired because of their age. Stephen D. Hans of Forest Hills painted a bleak picture for plaintiffs.
"The record of success is dispiriting," the lawyer said. "Age discrimination is the hardest of the discrimination suits to win."
SEPTEMBER The WTC disaster was overwhelming. It jarred the senses and changed the lives of survivors. But it was the mass destruction and heavy loss of life that made America realize it was facing a new and different enemy one that will commit suicide in pursuit of evil goals. Queens suffered heavily as the two hijacked planes collided with the Twin Towers. The local population suffered. They were workers at the World Trade Center trapped in their offices when the planes hit. Others were firefighters, police or emergency medical technicians.
Widows wept. Children were in grief over dads lost. Funerals were held all over the borough for the heroes in uniform and the fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, husbands, wives and close friends.
OCTOBERLike most newspapers in the City, The Courier sadly spent a great deal of time in Sept. and Oct. at the funerals and memorial services of fallen firefighters. Among the fire heroes remembered in Oct. were Henry Miller, William Krukowski, Michael Cawley, Paul Gill, and Christopher Santora.
Mark Green got a boost to his mayoral candidacy during the month, with an endorsement from both Borough President Claire Shulman and Helen Marshall, who would be elected as the new BP.
The Courier also exposed the lack of security at local airports. A reporter interviewed several passengers who said that they hadnt noticed a dramatic improvement in security since Sept. 11. Included were Jerry and Valerie Sauber, who said they had boarded several commerical flights without being questioned about the machetes in their luggage.
With hate crimes on the rise in the borough, The Courier ran a front page story focusing on bias crimes in various communities. Included was the story of Karnail Singh, who was beat up in a bias attack while on the way to morning prayer.
In another front page story, The Courier visited three local schools to ask kids of all ages how their lives had changed since Sept. 11. The precocious students from PS 99, PS 160, and Benjamin Cordozo High School were much more concerned about the welfare of their families and friends than about themselves.
NOVEMBERThe small community of Belle Harbor in the Rockaways drew national attention when an American Airlines jet crashed into the middle class neighborhood. At first, there was concern that the crash was another terrorist attack, but that theory lost ground as the investigation continued. In an exclusive report, The Courier revealed that Kevin Blum, whose family members were killed, was the hero who tackled crazed gunman Colin Ferguson on a crowded Long Island Railroad train.
As winter neared, there were worries over the availability of flu vaccine. The local picture was cloudy because of a national shortage of vaccine. It appeared that one of the four drug firms producing the vaccine had dropped out and the current flu strain complicated the manufacturing process. In another development, The Courier found flu vaccine fees sky high, including the product offered by doctors, pharmacies and other outlets.
"Theres a real bottleneck here right now because there isnt that much flu vaccine around," said Dr. Martin J. Blaser, an infectious disease specialist at New York University School of Medicine.
Did you notice the new traffic signs in Queens? New lighting units more than three times brighter than the light bulbs currently used in City traffic lights came to Queens. The new "walk" controls provide easier-to-read crossing messages for visually impaired pedestrians.The changeover affects all 2,637 signalized intersections in Queens, about one-fourth of the Citys traffic signal system.
DECEMBERThe Courier lost a friend and the borough lost an incisive political columnist. Arthur Nitzburg died after a massive heart attack. His column first appeared here in 1993 and for the past 18 months his column had been appearing in Newsday as well.
Nitzburg had an extraordinary background. He held degrees in finance, taught at Pratt University, served as a political consultant, ran for elective office and spoke fluent French. His funeral service was attended by the boroughs leading political figures, many of whom were regular subjects of Nitzburgs closely-read column.
His death was a loss to his family and friends and The Courier staff and readers.
Homelessness was soaring in Queens and The Courier took a hard look at the shelter system. Pictures of the shocking accommodations illustrated the expos. It showed homeless sleeping on metal benches in squalid conditions.
"I go out to try to make a living everyday," a homeless man said. "This shouldnt happen to people like me."
Also spotlighted was "The Queens Neighborhood That Time Forgot" the community, Ramblersvillle, in the middle of Howard Beach. "Its a cross between an idyllic New England fishing village and a scene from "Deliverance."
Many longtime residents still carry a grudge against the City for gobbling up the eastern spur of their town to build Kennedy Airport.
A showdown loomed at Fort Tottens Womens Center. It was ordered to vacate the premises by Dec. 13 by the Fire Dept. The facility appealed for a six-month extension in order to avoid unnecessarily disrupting the lives of dozens of women.
Congressman Joseph Crowley credited The Couriers campaign for reducing the costs of flu vaccine and for his demand that drug firms comply. Crowley cited lagging deliveries and high costs as impediments to health.

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