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Year in Review: Queens’ top stories from September 2021

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Everything inside many Queens homes were destroyed as a result of Tropical Storm Ida in September. (Photo by Dean Moses)

QNS is looking back at the top stories throughout 2021, as we look forward to 2022.

Below are the top stories from the month of September, when a deadly tropical storm ravaged Queens at the beginning of the month. Another big story that month was a grade fraud and inappropriate behavior scandal in Maspeth High School.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Ida devastated Queens

A bus navigates past abandoned cars on a flooded Grand Central Parkway service road in Queens, Sept. 2, 2021. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Torrential downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused massive flooding throughout New York City late Sept. 1, and into the early morning hours of Sept. 2. That resulted in about 11 deaths in Queens, according to authorities.

Seven of those deaths happened inside basements, including the death of a mother, father and their 2-year-old son in Woodside.

Woodside residents on 64th Street were devastated to learn that the family of three was found dead, as they cleaned their homes and tried to fix their disabled cars while firefighters and police officers were at the scene assessing the damage.

News of the family’s death left Martha Suarez shaken and heartbroken, as she stood across the street from their residence. According to Suarez, the family was from Nepal and had lived in the basement apartment for about five years.

“All of them died? I can’t believe that,” Suarez said, as tears streamed down her face.

Residents and police officers in Jamaica, Queens, survey the storm damage on Sept. 2, 2021. (NYC Mayoral Photography Unit)

Among the victims was a woman who was discovered by officers from the 114th Precinct on the morning of Sept. 2 on the Grand Central Parkway near the Brooklyn Expressway.

The woman was found unresponsive inside a burnt vehicle, which police believed was involved in a car crash the night before.

Many residents and local business owners reported devastating damage to their homes and shops as a result of the tropical storm, which brought a record-setting 7.13 inches of rain in the city on the night of Sept. 1, according to the National Weather Service.

Christie and Co. Salon, located at 2364 Bell Blvd., was flooded with storm water following remnants of Hurricane Ida. (Photo courtesy of Lois Christie)

Frankie Recarte, the superintendent at an apartment building in Astoria Park South, said he lost everything in a matter of 10 minutes as the water reached his waist. Recarte fled to higher levels of the building as the stairwell and lower levels flooded.

Recarte looks at the damage in his apartment. (Photo by Julia Moro)

In the early hours of the morning, when it was safer to exit the building, he and his wife went to a motel. 

“It’s like a nightmare,” Recarte said.

President Joe Biden even visited East Elmhurst after approving disaster relief funds to New York City. He say it was time for “bold action” to combat climate change, which has made extreme weather more frequent and ferocious.

There are still many Queens residents who are waiting to receive federal and state assistance in order to make needed repairs.

Maspeth High School personnel accused of grade fraud, inappropriate behavior toward students

Maspeth High School is located at 54-40 74th St. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

The DOE removed the Maspeth High School’s principal due to grade fraud allegations, then a report found other misconduct in the school.

The school’s former principal, Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, reportedly intimidated teachers into passing students despite their failing efforts as well as treating certain school staff unfairly, according to an extensive report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI). The allegations date back as far as 2015. 

The misconduct at the school was a matter of public discussion, according to the report, and was even the subject of news stories before any investigations were started.

Other faculty were accused of misconduct as well. Head Dean Daniel Sepulveda, who was also the wrestling coach, was accused of picking up and slamming a student who wasn’t on the team; becoming “friends” with a female student; smoking marijuana in his apartment; among other allegations.

Councilman Holden criticized the DOE and mayor for dragging their feet, while several others involved in the scandal are still working at the school.

“There was no sense of urgency,” Holden said, then added he looked forward to working with the school’s new principal, Selin Alicanoglu.

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