The Year In Review for Queens

Homeless Shelter Opens
In Outraged Community
Twenty-five homeless families moved into an empty hotel near Kennedy Airport last Thursday, the day after community members and politicians protested what will be the opening of the sixth homeless shelter in their neighborhood.
The 335-unit Best Western Carlton House hotel at 138-10 135th Avenue is now the citys largest homeless shelter, expected to house over 300 families. The facility will include a day care center and other social services.
"I dont know what else to do," said Ruth Bryan, president of Concerned Neighbors of Southeast Queens, a group that opposes to the concentration of shelters in the area. "If we have to take legal steps, we will."
About 100 people, including Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-31 AD) and several other elected officials, rallied in front of the shelter on July 3 to express their anger at the citys decision.
An emergency declaration issued by the city comptrollers office early last week allowed the shelter to open for 90 days while a five-year lease is negotiated.
Cigarette Tax Ignites Controversy
On June 30, Mayor Bloomberg signed a bill that increased the Citys levy on each pack from 8 cents to $1.50. The state tax on cigarettes went from $1.11 to $1.50 in April, making the total tax on the product $3, the highest in the nation. A spokesman for the mayor said the hike could save some 50,000 lives across the borough by helping people quit smoking, as well as bringing in $111 million in fiscal 2003 for the financially beleaguered city.
New College Leaders Inherit Vastly Different Schools
The Queens Courier reported on the first day of school for the new leaders of two of the boroughs most notable colleges.
James Muyskens, the former senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University System of Georgia, became the ninth president of Queens College. Muyskens took over from Russell Hotzler, who served as interim president of the college for the past two years.
Hotzler took over for York Colleges fourth president, Charles Kidd, whose tenure was not extended by CUNYs Board of Trustees after five years on the job.
Supporters of Kidd saidKidd oversaw improvements in the colleges physical appearance and curriculum during his tenure.
But his many critics noted that a 15% drop in enrollment at York is inexcusable and that Kidd failed to move the school forward quickly enough.
Missing Kids Of Queens
Samantha Runnion. Danielle Van Dam. Polly Klaas. Christina Williams. Elizabeth Smart. Children kidnapped from their homes, their front lawns, their neighborhoods. Suddenly gone. All but one confirmed dead, in what might seem to be a nationwide epidemic.
The threat of violent child abduction hit home when a man tried to grab a 10-year-old Queens schoolgirl off a street in Long Island City.
In September, The Queens Courier memorialized the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center with a special issue and the following editorial, entitled "Beneath the Face of Change."
On the morning of September 11, 2001, as the final breath of life slipped from thousands of innocents in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, a dark, wretched expression formed across the face of the earth.
Lines became distorted and eyes turned ashen with fear as the horror of terrorism gripped a nation, a world.
Beneath the face of change, however, our nation, as if galvanized by the rising of almost three thousand souls, felt its spine stiffen with strength and determination, with courage and with hope.
Out of the ashes and the rubble, an unparalleled allegiance of heart and mind took shape, forming the fiber that unites us all. A year later the same fiber continues to serve as the tie that binds all those opposed to terrorism. It always will.
We have learned much since the morning when parents lost children and children lost parents. When husbands lost wives and wives lost husbands.When sisters and brothers lost each other and friends were separated on earth forever. We have learned that the power of life does not rely on those who seek to destroy it but remains safe in the hands of those who unite to preserve it.
Ours is a changed nation, and we are a changed people. Heavy hearts flowing rivers of tears have brought us closer to the triumph of good over evil. We have learned the danger of taking people, places and things for granted, the peril of forgetting to say I love you.
Such lessons, paid for with the blood and breath of those lost a year ago today, can never be erased. Not by terrorists. Not by anyone.
We have learned that the power of life does not rely on those who seek to destroy it but remains safe in the hands of those who unite to preserve it.
JCALs 9/11 Exhibit Abruptly Removed
The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) installed its new Windows on Jamaica exhibit, "Falling," which features images of victims of the World Trade Center attacks falling to their deaths, controversy wasnt far behind.
"Falling" was unveiled at sunrise on September 11, and it was not long before outraged citizens shot back, assailing both the JCAL and Sharon Paz, the 33-year-old Israeli immigrant who created the piece using pictures she had taken from the Internet, before the exhibit was abruptly taken down the evening of September 23, one day after JCAL executive director Alex Campos insisted to The Courier "Falling" would continue its full run until October 5.
AirTrain Accident Kills Driver
The controversial, $1.9 billion AirTrain project in south Queens met a disastrous setback on Friday when a three-car train derailed during a test run, killing the driver.
Originally due to begin partial service later this year, the automated light-rail system had been the target of a sustained, vocal campaign led by local civic groups to styme the project before construction started five years ago. It will serve as a crucial link between JFK International Airport and a transportation hub at Jamaica Station.
Mayor: Silence Is Golden
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new police crackdown on noise pollution this week in Astoria, one of the boroughs noisiest neighborhoods.
"Operation Silent Night" will target 24 areas all over the city that log the most noise-related complaints to the citys quality-of-life hotline.
Salvation Army Shelter Sham
Since its opening on July 4, a South Ozone Park family homeless shelter the largest of its kind in New York City has become a den of sexual misconduct, major health and safety violations, reported criminal activity, and questionable labor practices, the Forum Courier has learned.
The Carlton House, run by the Salvation Army, now houses over 330 families in the former Best Western Hotel near JFK airport. With a total population of approximately 1,000, the shelter has over 600 children in residence.
Queens Going For The Gold
In a decision that could bring dramatic changes to Queens landscape, economy and infrastructure, the United States Olympic Committee chose New York over San Francisco last Saturday as its nominee to host the Olympic Games in 2012.
"What feels best about it is that the excitement is shared by so many New Yorkers," said Jay Kriegel, executive director of NYC 2012, the citys Olympic bidding committee.
Hip-Hop Pioneer Memorialized
Jason Mizell, known to his fans as Jam Master Jay, was shot and killed last Wednesday night, but his memory lives on at places like the corner of Merrick Boulevard and 90th Avenue and at The Greater Allen Cathedral in St. Albans. Barely hours after the news of his death spread throughout the Jamaica neighborhood where Mizell, 37, owned a recording studio, a shrine was erected to embrace the DJ of the pioneering rap group Run-DMC.
Flight 587 Remembered
The passengers of American Airlines Flight 587, who died when the plane crashed in Belle Harbor last year, gained a "new life" as friends and relatives of the victims joined government officials, community leaders and religious figures in planting a memorial tree grove in a quiet corner of Astoria Park.
During an elaborate ceremony in the late morning on Saturday, November 9, a number of speakers addressed those in attendance from a makeshift podium, with the East River and the multi-colored leaves of the parks trees serving as a scenic backdrop.
Priests then read the names of 265 victims of the crash, as someone tolled a large bell for each name.
Property Taxes Increased To 18.5 %
The City Council voted overwhelmingly on Monday to increase the property tax, the first such raise in 10 years, by 18.5% just under the 25% sought by Mayor Bloomberg. The new rate is expected to cost roughly $343 to the annual property tax bill of a single-family homeowner.
"Its terrible. The poor people are going to have to pay for it," said Harold Marks of Bay Terrace. "The rich men like Bloomberg should donate money to help the city. I know its farfetched, but they can afford it."
Wendys Murderer Headed For Death Row
Convicted killer John Taylor who masterminded the murderous rampage at a Wendys Restaurant in Flushing two years ago, will wait out his date with death at the bleak Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora after he is sentenced in Kew Gardens Criminal Court by Justice Steven Fisher on January 8.
Taylors case marks the fourth time the Queens District Attorney sought the death penalty and the first time a Queens County jury returned a death sentence since the penalty was reinstated in 1995.
The Courier Enters Western Queens
A distinctive community deserves a newspaper of its own. So we are proud to announce today that The Queens Courier is publishing a Western Queens edition.
As one civic leaders said recently, "Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale are small towns wrapped up in a big city, like communities in New York used to be."
Western Queens is small enough so that neighbors know each other by their first name and dynamic enough to have made vast strides economically and culturally over the years. Families have lived and grown here for generations. We believe this award-winning community deserves an award winning newspaper like ours.
Our chain has made a commitment to western Queens. We expect to become a positive force in your community life. We want to work closely with our new readers. We hope you will let us know of events and activities so our reporters, editors and photographers can get to know you better. The Queens Courier has a motto we live by: "Were all about you."
Queens Hunger Pangs Worsen
Natasha Johnson waited patiently in the packed foyer at Elohim Christian Church in Richmond Hill for her number to be called. She was there on Monday night with her four-year-old daughter Emani to pick up frozen meat, bags of canned pasta, peas, cranberry sauce and other foodstuffs from the churchs food bank.
"Its allowing me to save money and provide for my daughter," said Johnson, who lost her job in the airline industry after September 11.
Across the room, 59-year-old Steve, who declined to give his last name, stood near the line of people that wound its way from the church doors through a back hallway to a side exit. The former shipping manager for an import/export firm was laid off after September 11 and still hasnt found work.
There are three of about 130,000 Queens residents who depend on the boroughs 174 soup kitchens and food pantries to keep their cupboards stocked and stomachs full. In the last two years, the number of people using emergency food programs in Queens has jumped 146%the biggest increase of all five boroughs, according to the latest survey by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH).
Sighs Of Relief Heard
As Transit Strike Is Averted
Millions of commuters held hostage by a threat of a transit strike breathed a sigh of relief on December 16 when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 agreed on a three-year contract for bus and subway workers.
The talks resulted in a one-time lump sum payment of $1,000 to workers in the first year of the contract and 3% raises for each of the following two years.
Residents Speak Out Over Redistricting
Over 45 Ridgewood residents packed a small room at St. Josephs Workshop, at St. Matthias church last Monday to speak out against the proposed merging of part of their neighborhood into Bushwicks City Council district.
Every 10 years, after the census is taken, a redistricting commission is convened to look for ways to make the Council district lines better reflect the citys ethnic makeup, in order to increase the likelihood that minority groups are represented in government, as mandated by the federal Voting Rights Act.
Under the proposal, a portion of southern Ridgewood would be put into a district with adjacent Bushwick. Both areas are home to growing Hispanic populations, whom the redistricting council believes share common concerns. The area in question is currently part of the Council district of Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), but would become part of an area overseen by Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg).

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