Year in Review: Queens’ top stories from May 2021

As 2021 wraps up and we look ahead to 2022, QNS takes a moment to remember the top stories of May 2021. (QNS file photos)

As 2021 wraps up and we look ahead to 2022, QNS takes a moment to remember the top stories of this past year. Below are short synopses of the top stories from the month of May:

A Queens man was indicted by a Queens County grand jury on a hate crime on May 10. (Photo via @NYPD109Pct/Twitter)

Queens man indicted on hate crime charge for allegedly attacking Asian woman at Flushing bakery

A Queens man was indicted for a hate crime and other charges Monday, May 10, for allegedly attacking an Asian woman outside of a Flushing Bakery.

Patrick Mateo, 47, is awaiting arraignment and if convicted, he faces up to one year in jail. 

According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, on Feb. 16, Mateo began to argue with the 52-year-old Chinese woman while both were in line at the bakery on Roosevelt Avenue. Mateo cursed at the woman and pushed her face. Mateo also allegedly threw a cardboard box at the woman before shoving her to the ground into a metal newsstand on the sidewalk. 

The woman was left with a large gash across the woman’s forehead that needed 10 stitches, according to authorities. 

“The Water Carrier” by Jackson Heights-based artist Deborah Wasserman. (Courtesy of Wasserman)

Queens’ pandemic journey, through the eyes of a Jackson Heights artist and parent

Deborah Wasserman — a mother of two teenage girls known for her vibrant artwork — received a grant in 2020 and was excited to start creating, but the pandemic had different plans. 

Wasserman said, “Who knew then, that so many of my plans would shut down, change and alter direction?”

Wasserman and her family live just a few blocks from Elmhurst Hospital and were often haunted by the ambulance sirens, and even helicopters transporting COVID-19 patients. However, they did their best to maintain a safe home environment. 

“Our pandemic experience as a family was colored by the fact that we live in the ‘epicenter of the epicenter,’” Wasserman said. “But the atmosphere inside our home was that of safety and relative calm.”

Wasserman did her part to help out by volunteering for COVID Care Neighborhood Network where she organized food donations and contacted local families. 

“Speaking to these families during the lockdown — most of them without resources, health insurance or income — put my personal pandemic experience in proportion,” she said. “I was, and still am, very fortunate.”

Wasserman found her peace through helping and channel her anxieties into new bodies of work. A new work grant gave Wasserman the opportunity to present for the Jackson Heights Art Talk.

Photo via Twitter/NYPD Queens South

Auxiliary officer assigned to 113th Precinct dies of COVID-19 complications

Lynford George Chambers, 65, auxiliary police officer in the 113th Precinct, died of complications related to COVID-19 on Thursday, April 2, the NYPD announced. He was 65.

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced that 1,200 members of the NYPD had tested positive for COVID-19. At the time of the announcement, five members of the department had died due to complications from the disease.

“It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Auxiliary Police Officer Lynford Chambers, who succumbed to complications from #COVID19 earlier today,” Shea tweeted. “Our prayers are with his friends & family during this difficult time.”

The 113th Precinct twitter account also commented on the loss. 

“We are saddened to announce the passing of Auxiliary Police Officer Lynford George Chambers,” the 113th Precinct said in a tweet. “He was an honorable Auxiliary Police Officer assigned to the 113 Precinct. Mr. Chambers died of complications from COVID-19.”

Rockaway Beach Boardwalk (QNS file photo)

Vandals cause more than $10,000 in damages to popular Rockaway Beach boardwalk concession area

Rockaway Beach boardwalk operators had to rush Memorial Day preparations after vandals caused $10,000 worth of damage before the holiday weekend. 

In a criminal mischief filing with the NYPD on May 13, the complaint listed “damage to several metal doors, office in disarray and food placed inside of pipes and vents.” 

“We are working our tails off to be open by Memorial Day weekend and look forward to a fun, sunny first season in Rockaway,” co-owners Belvy Klein and Aaron Broudo said in a statement. “We are happy to have reached agreements with Caracas, Rippers and the majority of the Beach 97th food vendors. The incident at Beach 97th is unfortunate and a real bummer not only for us but our vendors as well. We will continue to push for, and work with, the Rockaway small business community.”

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas is calling on the city to end all forms of solitary confinement on Rikers Island. (Photo courtesy of HALT Solitary)

Rikers Island descends into ‘disorder and chaos’ as Queens lawmaker discovers troubling development

Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann announced that she would step down from her post on May 31 after three years at the helm of the city’s prison system.

A scathing report from a federal probe revealed “chaos” on Rikers Island came out just hours after the commissioner stepped down. The report describes “how the uniformed leadership in the jails perpetuates a chaotic environment plagued by operational failures that threaten security and chronic disruptions in basic services, such as recreation and commissary, that cause frustration and despair,” according to The Legal Aid Society.

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas urged the Board of Correction to end solitary confinement in New York City jails.

“No matter what name we give it, solitary confinement is torture and has no place in our city. The mayor promised to end solitary confinement and he must fulfill his promise,” González-Rojas said. “We saw the NIC Structurally Restrictive Housing Units that are meant to be alternatives to solitary confinement under the Board of Correction’s proposed rules. Being locked in these cages alone for 24 hours a day is nothing more than solitary confinement by another name.”