Queens Courier Year in Review: The top stories from August 2019

Tiffany Cabán. Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

Maspeth family fears missing teenage girl was lured to London by older man

On Aug. 27, the police investigated the case of a missing Maspeth teen who had allegedly left the country to Europe. The family of 16-year-old Victoria Grabowski said that they had last seen her on Aug. 24. Grabowski’s uncle said that the girl’s parents discovered texts on her cellphone between herself and an older man from London. The texts revealed that Grabowski had plans to leave via JFK airport and meet the man.

The chats showed that the young Grabowski was keenly interested in London and had intentions to move there. Her uncle, Arkadiusz Grabowski, said that his niece paid for the ticket in cash though her parents did not know where she got the funds. Grabowski, a Polish citizen, used her Polish passport to board the flight.

The texts between the teen and the British man were part of a group chat that included other individuals. The girl’s family could not say how old the other participants were.

Her parents hired a private investigator to assist in the case. At the time, the NYPD could not confirm that Grabowski had boarded the flight.

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Four dozen schools in every corner of Queens found to have lead paint during inspections: Report

The Department of Education found that 48 schools across Queens had deteriorating lead paint on the premises. The agency found that within the schools, paint was found in a total of 139 classrooms. DOE is legally required to check buildings that were built before 1978. During the August inspection, DOE checked nearly 800 built before 1985 which serves students six years old and over.

P.S. 9, a special needs school in Maspeth, was tested positive for lead paint. In the past, P.S. 9 was the subject of criticism due to its poor building conditions. Critics, including parents and Councilman Robert Holden, described the conditions as “deplorable.”

In his piece for the New York Post, Holden highlighted the peeling paint, lone bathroom and “woefully inadequate kitchen and cafeteria.” At the time of the inspection, P.S. 9 was undergoing renovations but Holden believed that the money should go toward building a new structure for P.S. 9 instead of pouring money into the existing structure.

Other neighborhoods with schools tested positive for lead paint included East Elmhurst, Woodside, Queens Village, Corona, Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica, Ridgewood, Long Island City, Bayside and Whitestone.

Photo via Google Maps

Flushing store owner prepares to fight back against possible opening of liquor store chain

The owners of Marpat Wines and Liquors in Flushing expressed fear of shutting down if Total Wine & More, a chain of nearly 200 stores, opened up across the street. Marpat, located at 3112 Farrington St., has operated in the community for 53 years. Owner Frank Mortagua said that he was prepared to push back against the superstore if necessary.

On Aug. 19, Mortagua and other business owners in the community received a letter from Total Wine & More applicant Michelle Trone. The entrepreneur wrote that she wanted to open the wine and spirits store at 30-02 Whitestone Expy., a storefront previously occupied by Toys R Us. In her letter, Trone said that her selection would include “over 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers.”

Also known as the “Walmart of liquor,” Total Wine & More was denied a liquor license to open a 21,000 square foot store near White Plains last December. 25 state lawmakers signed an opposition letter and at a three-hour hearing, the New York State Liquor Authority said that “Westchester is already oversaturated with liquor shops.”

Joey Demarco, who has been working at Marpat for the past 16 years, met with eight other liquor stores in September. Demarco added that they also planned to get a lawyer.

Photo by Carlotta Mohamed/QNS

Flushing Meadows playground disinfected after 32 are sickened with bacterial infection linked to water outlets

The Health Department investigated a playground at Flushing Meadows Corona Park after a bacterial infection sickened nearly three dozen people. Several individuals reported symptoms after becoming exposed to the Playground for All Children’s spray shower and other water features in the park. The Health Department identified the bacteria as shigella which features symptoms like diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

A Parks Department spokesperson confirmed that they, along with the Health Department, cleaned the park on July 20. They also cleaned and disinfected all of the spray showers throughout Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Once a person is infected by the shigella bacteria they develop shigellosis, an infection that affects the intestines. It is fairly common, especially among children. The germ is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water but can also be contracted by coming into direct contact with an infected person.

In addition to milder symptoms, those with shigellosis may show traces of blood or mucous in the stool. The Health Department said that some individuals may show no symptoms at all. To prevent the spread of this disease, the agency said that people should wash their hands often in soap and warm running water.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Tdorante10

Queens DA primary finally resolved as Cabán concedes to Katz following six-week ballot struggle

Following over a month of ballot recounts, Tiffany Cabán conceded to Queens District Attorney elect Melinda Katz on Aug. 6. The public defender delivered her concession speech at Katch in Astoria in front of the voters who supported her during her entire campaign. During her speech, Cabán said that her campaign “changed the conversation around criminal justice reform,” made the next district attorney end cash bail and pushed for the decriminalization of sex workers.

Cabán entered the race in January along with a field of seven candidates. She won the support of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and also garnered financial support from people across the country.

Katz thanked Cabán for conceding and thanked her for “bringing closure to this long and hard-fought race.” She claimed that primaries “accentuate differences between more traditional Democrats and progressives rather than bringing them together.” Katz added that though they may differ in some ways, all the candidates wanted a safe Queens where all citizens are treated equally.

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