Year in Review: Queens’ top stories from August 2021

Birria tacos at Tacuba Mexican Cantina (Photo courtesy of Tacuba)

Over the summer, some of our most memorable stories included the opening of new supportive housing in Far Rockaway, Sunnyside businesses that fell victim to a four-alarm fire and the return of world-class food to the U.S. Open.

For these stories and more, check out our list of top stories in August.

Ozone Park man gets up to a decade in jail for fatal Woodhaven Boulevard hit-and-run

Ozone Park motorist gets sentenced to up to a decade in prison for a 2019 fatal hit-and-run on Woodhaven Boulevard. (Photo by Robert Stridiron)

Back in August, an Ozone Park man was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for manslaughter in a hit-and-run that killed a man on Woodhaven Boulevard in July 2019, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

The suspect, 29-year-old David Garcia of 97th Avenue, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the second degree. In July of 2019, Garcia was traveling southbound on Woodhaven Boulevard in a black BMW and was reportedly speeding. The report said that at one point, the suspect hit speeds as high as 92 miles per hour.

Garcia drove through the intersection at 91st Avenue as the light turned red. He reportedly hit 56-year-old Sivananaitha Perumal, 56, who was crossing Woodhaven Boulevard on his way to his job at Dunkin’ Donuts.

The impact killed Perumal and Garcia fled the scene but reports said he was arrested two weeks later.

“The defendant’s blatant disregard of the rules of the road resulted in a family’s tragic loss of a hardworking father and husband,” Katz said. “The sentence imposed today by the court brings a measure of justice and punishes this defendant for his selfish choices while driving on the streets of Queens County.”

New supportive housing development in Far Rockaway providing critical services, programs for families unveiled

(From l. to r.) State Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, President and CEO of Win Christine Quinn, CEO of Related Companies Jeff Blau, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Managing Partner of Essence Development Jamar Adams and Frank Monterisi cut the red ribbon at the unveiling of The Harriet Tubman Housing Development in Far Rockaway. (Photo courtesy of Related Companies)

The Harriet Tubman Building in Far Rockaway was unveiled on Aug. 4, with the purpose of providing supportive housing for families leaving homeless shelters.

Located at 1403 Gateway Blvd. the building is a 75,049-square-foot, 100% supportive housing development that offers 63 high-quality units through a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

“These brand-new units of supportive housing will provide families leaving shelters with a safe place to call home that will help them find long-term independence and stability,” said Christine Quinn, president and CEO of Win, which provides social services for the building.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Harriet Tubman Building was touted as the largest provider of supportive housing for families in the city, offering on-site, tailored social services for residents. In addition to this, the building also includes a 1,200-square-foot community room and a 2,000-square-foot children’s playground.

According to Richards, safe, quality, affordable housing is a human right. But for far too many Far Rockaway families, that has been a seemingly impossible dream.

“We are flipping that script with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Building, a game-changing investment in the overall health of Far Rockaway, our fight against homelessness and the future success of our families struggling to get by,” Richards told QNS. “From 100% affordable housing units to on-site social services and more, this development is a model we must follow as we continue to invest heavily in this community.”

Sunnyside businesses damaged in four-alarm blaze

A four-alarm fire broke out in Sunnyside on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 12, gutting businesses on 44th Street and damaging others along Queens Boulevard. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Several businesses in Sunnyside were victims of a four-alarm fire on Thursday, Aug. 12. It was reported that the early morning blaze damaged multiple businesses along Queens Boulevard.

Sources said that the fire began around 7:25 a.m. at Taiyo Foods, a popular Japanese market at 45-08 44th St. FDNY arrived at the scene within four minutes.

The flames then spread next door to Yeserith Esthetics and then to Mad Cafe near the elevated 7 train. Within an hour, the blaze was classified as a four-alarm fire. More than 200 firefighters and EMS personnel responded to the scene, using five hose lines to battle the fire, which they got under control around 9:45 a.m.

Other restaurants that were damaged include Mad for Chicken and Bajeko Sekuna, a Nepalese restaurant, were damaged during the fire, similar to a 2018 fire a block away that destroyed other Sunnyside establishments.

No one was inside the buildings at the time but three firefighters were injured at the scene.

“FDNY members had an approximate four-minute response time to the scene. We had fire in the Japanese restaurant to start with smoke pushing out. We started with an aggressive interior attack. Fire quickly spread to other occupancies in the building. We have five occupancies affected by this fire. We have three non-life-threatening firefighter injuries and no civilian injuries at this time,” Chief of Operations John Hodgens said at the scene of the fire.

Three Queens residents arrested in multimillion-dollar counterfeit goods trafficking scheme

Photo via Getty Images

Three Queens residents and one from Brooklyn were indicted in federal court for allegedly trafficking over $130 million in counterfeit goods to the United States from China.

The 14-count indictment charged seven defendants in the scheme in which they imported generic goods into the United States, applied brand labels to those goods in workshops, some of which were controlled by the defendants, and then sold those counterfeit-branded goods to retail and wholesale purchasers, according to federal prosecutors.

Defendants Hai Long Zhou, 53, Yan Xue Huang, 50, and Jian Feng Yang, 57, are from Queens, and Saiyin Hou, 25, is from Brooklyn.

Merchandise included fake UGG boots, Nike Air Jordan sneakers, Timberland boots and Beats headphones.

Some of the charges against the defendants included conspiracy to traffic and trafficking in counterfeit goods and money laundering.

“As alleged, the defendants trafficked in counterfeit merchandise that they fraudulently branded as genuine to pass off to purchasers in the United States at a purported retail value of more than $130 million,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M Kasulis said. “This office and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting consumers from paying retail prices for phony merchandise and to holding defendants accountable for their greed.”

Maspeth teen drowns in Rockaway Beach days after officials call for proposed water safety commission

Drownings and water rescues are all too familiar in the Rockaways and now leaders are calling on the governor’s office to sign water safety legislation into law. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

An 18-year-old Maspeth man tragically drowned while swimming in rough surf off Rockaway Beach on Friday, Aug. 6. Matthew Wiszowaty was pulled from the ocean by first responders, who rushed him to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. He died two days later.

Reports said that the teen was swimming off Beach 101st Street in a section not open for swimming and with no lifeguard on duty. Warning signs and red flags lined the area, part of the section that was closed to the public due to erosion.

Earlier in August, Rockaways lawmakers and community leaders called on the governor to sign legislation from Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, creating a commission to investigate best practices in preventing childhood drowning.

“No matter where you live or what your background is, you should feel safe going into the water or know when not to go into the water,” Pheffer Amato said. “This bill is for the children who lost their lives, their families and every other person in New York state who we must protect. This bill can lay the groundwork for protecting a whole generation of children from preventable fatality due to lack of knowledge on water safety, and it gives me hope for a safer future.”

Residents file class-action lawsuit against NYCHA claiming lagging repairs, hazardous living conditions

NYCHA residents gather to share their stories living in unbearable conditions. (Julia Moro/QNS)

NYCHA residents at the Queensbridge Houses filed a class-action lawsuit against NYCHA for lagging in necessary repairs.

Tenants complained about vermin infestation, asbestos, lead paint and other harmful living conditions. Members of the Justice for All Coalition sought legal representation from Queens Legal Services, which filed the lawsuit on the tenants’ behalf.

“I decided to sue NYCHA because I am tired of living with mice, roaches, water bugs, lack of heat, holes in my walls and sink, waterlogged and rotting cabinets, and many more repair issues that are a threat to my health and safety and an affront to my dignity,” tenant Pamela Wheeler said. “NYCHA never repairs anything when I file a ticket, and it is so frustrating trying to get any repairs in my apartment.”

The lawsuit aimed to force NYCHA to address tenant complaints, make necessary repairs and award damages to plaintiffs. The lawsuit also asked the court to determine that NYCHA committed illegal harassment by failing to make legally required repairs and provide essential services.

Two men crash through Ridgewood pizzeria’s storefront during dispute: NYPD

A man was caught on video pushing a DoorDash delivery driver through the front glass window of Corato pizzeria in Ridgewood. (Screenshot via Facebook/What Is New York)

Over the summer, a 24-year-old man was recorded pushing a DoorDash driver through the front glass window of Corato pizzeria in Ridgewood.

Authorities from the 104th Precinct responded to a 911 call on Aug. 15, reporting the incident at 66-94 Fresh Pond Rd. Police found the 57-year-old victim, who complained of the dispute that happened over a delivery with the suspect, 24-year-old Sami Abdelaziz.

Police arrested the suspect and charged him with assault and harassment. The victim suffered multiple lacerations and pain and was treated for his injuries at Elmhurst Hospital