Planet Fitness to Open Fresh Meadows Location

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

A new Planet Fitness is set to open in Fresh Meadows.

The new location will be at 6109 190th St. along the Long Island Expressway, and is set to be open in June, according to Dale Paden, Vice President of Marketing, Supreme Fitness Group LLC. The membership presale for the location is set to start on May 1.

Amenities at the club will include state-of-the-art cardio machines and strength equipment, the Planet Fitness 30-Minute Circuit, a fully-equipped Black Card Spa, among other features.

We felt Fresh Meadows was the perfect location for us to open another of our clean and spacious clubs,” Paden said in an email to the Queens Examiner. “We invite everyone to come check out our Judgement Free Zone®. Our membership options are extremely affordable and offer residents of the neighborhood a chance to take advantage of all of our cardio and strength equipment.”

According to their website, the location is set to be open from 5 a.m. through 11 p.m. on weekdays, and 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. on the weekends.

There are currently no prices on the website as the presale for memberships have not started. Nearby clubs, such as the Jamaica location, have plans starting at $10.

GJDC’s Justin Rodgers Reimagines Jamaica Avenue

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Justin Rodgers has been a part of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) for 17 years — however, Jamaica has been a part of him for much longer, having grown up in the Southeast Queens neighborhood.

Justin Rodgers. Photo: GJDC

Margherita Pizza was the place to be growing up (and today, he noted, as the pizza parlor is still open) for now-President and CEO of the GJDC.

It’s this connection, Rodgers explained, that led the Board of Directors at GJDC to unanimously elevate him to President and CEO in June 2022 after he served as Interim President from November 2021. He is the third president of GJDC since it was formed 56 years ago.

“In the eight months that I was actually interim president, I was able to do a lot in a short period of time. I expanded our business service group and I was able to raise money for the corporation. I was able to really prove that I can run the corporation,” he shared. “That being said, I think that what I had over other candidates is that I’m personally invested in Jamaica. I’m from Jamaica. That’s one hundred percent why I am still here after 17 years.”

To develop Jamaica, Rodgers began his time at GJDC developing Jamaica Avenue, the neighborhood’s bustling shopping corridor.

The street grew in the 1920’s as Jamaica became a transportation hub. LIRR lines, subway lines and buses all converge near Jamaica Avenue, and major shopping centers began to appear.

In 1930, on the corner of 171st St. and Jamaica Avenue, the first King Kullen Grocery Company, which the Smithsonian Institute has deemed ‘America’s First Supermarket,’ was born. It has been home to department stores including Macy’s and Gertz, and now welcomes national brands such as Target, Aldi, Burlington, Old Navy and Primark.

Bringing national brands was Rodger’s project for 14 years, as concerned residents expressed to him how they were driving to Nassau County or hopping on the E train to the Queens Center to shop at those locations.

Now, Rodgers leads the effort to bring mom-and-pop shops back to Jamaica. The key, he explained, is to present real estate that is on the side streets to Jamaica Avenue.

“It’s not financially possible for mom and pop shops to open on Jamaica Avenue due to the high cost of rent. You just can’t make the numbers work. But you can make the numbers work on side streets,” said Rodgers. “So now we’re in the process of working with potential restaurant tours on some of the side streets.”

Retaining businesses was a point of concern during a recent meeting of the Sutphin Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) Annual Meeting, when the board of directors was elected for a newly consolidated BID emerging from the Sutphin Avenue BID, the 165th Street Special Assessment District and the Jamaica Center Special Assessment District. The question arose: What must be done to get businesses to stay open in Jamaica?

The issue with businesses retention, Rodgers described, has a considerable amount to do with the new busways along Jamaica Avenue. Implemented in October 2021, these busways allow only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles to make trips along Jamaica Avenue between Sutphin Blvd. and 168th St. in both directions. This bus project was designed to increase bus speeds and reliability for 14 bus routes on Jamaica Avenue and 19 bus routes on Archer Ave.

On Jamaica Avenue, all other vehicles may make local trips to access the curb, the DOT stated on their website, but must make the next available turn off the busway.

Some businesses have seen a 40-50% drop in business, according to Rodgers, since this was implemented, and the GJDC is trying to work with elected officials and the DOT to try and find ways to modify the busways.

“The busways have really harmed businesses, not only along Jamaica Avenue, but also on the side streets. The reason why is because Queens is a driving community, specifically Southeast Queens,” he said. “It’s very difficult to navigate around Downtown Jamaica if you are driving. Some people just don’t want the headache and they don’t come anymore.”

Rodgers suggested that busways be limited only to peak hours.

The consolidated BID that is coming to Jamaica, Rodgers described, will “100% benefit the businesses,” because its $1.4 million assessment will allow them to provide additional services to the businesses and the community.

Those additional services must be voted on, but they can mean more vendors, security and additional cleaning days.

Crime is a major concern for those who are looking to shop on Jamaica Avenue, especially with the recent shooting of a 22-year-old cop along the street. However, Rodgers emphasized that the shooting was an “isolated incident,” and that efforts by the 103rd Precinct and their Commanding Officer Eric A. Robinson’s involvement in community events and presence have made Jamaica a safer place.

Since taking the helm at GJDC, Rodgers has been able to provide national retailers to the residents of Jamaica, and continues to work in order to ensure small businesses continue to feel supported. For more information, visit https://gjdc.org/.

NYCFC Willets Point Stadium to Revolutionize Soccer in NYC, says C.O.O.

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Jennifer O’Sullivan grew up in an extensively athletic home, spearheaded by her sports-loving father, and played three sports in her home of Clinton, New Jersey.

Soccer was not one of those sports.

However, O’Sullivan now finds herself sitting in a position that can change Major League Soccer (MLS) at its core — to her, there is no better place to do it than Queens.

“The diversity of Queens as a borough cannot be denied,” O’Sullivan, 48, said over a phone interview. “It’s a true example of how the global game of soccer can really be used as a catalyst to bring people together culturally within the community, but also an economic boom for the borough and the city.”

As the C.O.O/Chief Legal & Administrative Officer at New York City Football Club (NYCFC), O’Sullivan has prioritized helping her club find a permanent place in Queens. The Willets Point Stadium, announced by Mayor Adams on Nov. 16, is a privately financed facility set to offer 2,500 affordable homes, a 25,000 seat stadium and a 250-room hotel. It’s expected to be completed in 2024.

Jen O’Sullivan. Photo: Matthew McDermott

O’Sullivan joined NYCFC in April 2020. Her role broadly encompasses running the operational and administrative areas of the business — human resources, IT infrastructure and facilities, navigating some of the contractual relationships with partners and working closely with NYCFC II, the reserve team and minor league affiliate of NYCFC.

Currently, NYCFC has no permanent place to call home. The team has been bouncing around from venue to venue — including Yankees Stadium — for their matches, but with a permanent stadium for their matches, they will be able to focus on the fan experience, and developing the talent of their organization, which is coming off the heels of a championship.

“I think in New York, you have this melting pot of people, many of whom came from nationalities and other areas of the world where the global game of soccer is just a way of life,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re really trying to identify people who have this strong love and passion for the game and say, ‘It’s okay for you to have your Mexican home team that you follow, but we can be your time here in New York,’”

MLS is a relatively young league in the United States, founded in 1993. NYCFC joined the league eight years ago, and in O’Sullivan’s three years with the organization, she has seen the program grow throughout the five boroughs, with a youth program or organization in approximately 70% of the city. In her time within the industry, she has seen soccer grow in New York City exponentially — instead of wearing NBA jerseys exclusively, her children and her friends are seen boasting soccer jerseys.

The United States hosting the 2024 World Cups, along with the men’s and women’s teams performing well in their performances in the past world cup, will likely add to this excitement around the sport. She hopes that this, plus the hard work of NYCFC to be involved in the community and be a presence beyond on the field, will help turn the occasional fan to an avid one.This involvement includes adding programs to schools and distributing food.

O’Sullivan hopes that the next step for NYCFC will be to add a women’s team and a women’s academy to complement their male teams, as “we see real opportunity in the women’s game as well.”

Despite being so young, she doesn’t want NYCFC to settle in their victory with the stadium — as C.O.O, she expects to continue growing the organization as forward as she can.

“We’re really doing everything we can do to ensure that this stadium journey and the stadium process is successful. Not just for us, but for part of the larger development of Willets Point and the borough of Queens, and growing out what those community initiatives look like,” she said. “If we can be a real catalyst for growth and change on the women’s side of the game, we would welcome that opportunity as well.”

Briarwood family demands justice for dog euthanized by ACC

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

On March 12, the Leon family of Briarwood frantically searched for their missing dog Leona.

As a 19-year-old animal, they knew her eyesight wasn’t great and she was frail, so they spent the morning walking the blocks around their home calling her name and scouring the internet for any signs of her.

Through Facebook, they found good news — a picture of Leona on a missing pets group page. Upon calling the Good Samaritan who made the post, they found out she had been taken to an Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) shelter at 2336 Linden Blvd in Brooklyn.

This, the Leon family described on Monday at a press conference in Briarwood, is where the good news ended. Upon calling the shelter, the family discovered their dog had been euthanized by the shelter managed by ACC, which is overseen by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Standing at the intersection where Leona was first discovered by that good samaritan, on the Southeast corner of Smedly Street and Coolidge Avenue, the Leon family and local council member James F. Gennaro (D-Kew Gardens) claimed that the ACC went outside of its own policy and euthanized Leona inhumanely. They are calling upon the DOHMH to launch a formal investigation into the practices of the ACC.

“This is a grieving family that suffered the loss of their beloved pet, Leona, at the hands of the ACC for reasoning that I truly believe was completely unwarranted and atrocious,” Gennaro said. “Nothing like this should befall this family.”

“They didn’t get us the opportunity to say goodbye,” Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother said.

Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother, meeting Councilmember Gennaro for the first time.

According to policy found on their website, ACC shelters give potential owners 72 hours to reclaim their pet.

“We also will check for a microchip and search through various databases for any reports of lost pets that may fit the description of that animal. If no one claims during the holding period, he/she will receive a Placement Evaluation to determine next steps,” the website states.

Juan Leon described how the official time of death has not been provided for their dog, but that he expects it was just hours after she arrived at the shelter.

“Part of us is truly gone. She was the first love of my life,” Juan said, adding that he doesn’t understand how the ACC is able to operate in this way.

“We keep getting told different answers and we’re starting to notice that with every comment the ACC makes, they change the rules. They have a loophole for every action that they do,” he said.

However, the ACC shared in a statement to the Queens Ledger that the pets’ deteriorating health conditions led them to step outside this policy.

“She had no identification, no dog license and was not microchipped. Upon intake, Leona was seen spinning in circles and was wobbly when walking.  A comprehensive physical exam was done by a veterinarian indicating that she was in a very debilitated state and suffering from progressive neurologic symptoms.  She was minimally aware of her surroundings, non-reactive to stimuli, weak and unable to stand for more than a few minutes before falling.  She was emaciated with a body condition of 2/9 indicating possible chronic illness. The doctors at ACC do not take euthanasia lightly.  It is their job to direct a course that is in the best interest of the animal.  In Leona’s case, given her present state and in addition to all the other chronic, debilitating conditions she had (heart disease, blind, deaf, and severe dental issues) the doctors believed her to be suffering,” the statement read.

The emailed statement then stated that the law was on their side.

“For dogs with serious medical conditions and especially those stemming from extreme old age who are in pain and suffering, it is the duty of veterinary staff to provide peaceful end of life care. This decision is not made lightly but is always made in the best interest of the pet. In these cases, if a pet has been lost or abandoned, we scan for identification that ideally will lead us back to an owner before any end-of-life decision is made. However, if there is no information at all from a microchip or any other identification, we must make the decision on our own within the most humane timeframe. Euthanasia of stray animals is regulated by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/AGM/A26. The law specifically states that if an animal is suffering, euthansia may be performed before the stray hold period is over.”

Juan shared that their veterinarian had described how there was little that could be done regarding the age-related issues that Leona had, but the family made the decision with the veterinarian that she would live the rest of her life at home.

“Leona never stood a chance the moment she walked to ACC and that’s not fair,” he said. “That’s not fair. She should have came home to us, and she should have died on our terms. Our family should have made that decision of when to start her end-of-life story.”

Juan’s sister Ericka expressed heartbreak over what happened to her dog, adding that she “thought shelters were a safe haven.”

“They took my dog from me,” she shared, holding back tears, adding that while she plans to fight with her family for justice for Leona, “at the end of the day, I’ve already lost.”

The Leon family suggested that their dog was cremated without their permission, and when they went to retrieve their pet, they were met with a hostile environment, claiming they were reminded more than once that there were officers near the property.

They also insinuated that they plan to take legal action.

The Leon family is planning a rally on April 15 at the ACC Administrative Offices at 11 Park Place in Manhattan.

Gennaro is calling upon the New York City Council’s Legislative Integrity Unit to ensure that the city is on-track in construction of a full-service shelter in Queens and the Bronx, as mandated by Local Law 123 of 2018. The law requires that the shelters be completed by July 1, 2024, and the Queens shelter is under construction in Ridgewood. The mayor’s office did not reply by publication with details of how far along the construction is.

Through having a fully-functioning city shelter in each borough, Gennaro believes that capacity will no longer be a consideration in the decision-making by veterinarians regarding euthanasia.

“I don’t know if it’s a capacity issue, where they have to do whatever it takes to minimize capacity,” Gennaro said.

Exclusive: One-on-One with Larry Grubler of TSINY

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

“Transitional Services is a not-for-profit mental health agency that provides both residential and outpatient services to anybody over the age of 18 who has a psychiatric diagnosis,” Larry Grubler recited, as if he had said the line a hundred times before.

He likely has — Transitional Services for New York (TSINY) works to make Queens safer for its struggling locals, not for the community’s praise and accolades.

With facilities throughout the borough and in the Bronx, TSINY, based in Whitestone, provides a continuum of rehabilitative services with a community-based approach to those recovering from mental illness.

Grubler has been the CEO of TSINY since 2007 and with the agency for a total of 31 years.

He has taken upon himself to expand the facilities and assets by which his organization can best support some of Queens’ most vulnerable.

What exactly do these rehabilitative services entail?

To Grubler, who attended St. John’s University for his masters degree and received his doctorate from Southern California University, this means that individuals have constant access to care at their own pace and need level.

The whole concept of TSINY — which has a staff of approximately 400 people — is to transition, avoiding a “one size fits all” mentality regarding psychiatric treatment.

“In the housing units, for instance, we have all the housing from supervised living settings for people that need staff available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to teach them the skills that they need to function out in the community…so then we can go from there, and they would transition out to an apartment,” Grubler said in an interview.

TSINY offers housing to over 600 individuals, with a variety of housing situations.

The supervised community residence programs, for instance, consist of single and shared living quarters, with amenities including exercise rooms, libraries, kitchens and dining facilities.

The different buildings, programs and apartments offer a range of treatments to facilitate the eventual adjustment by their patients into the community.

Their buildings offer courtyard space and rooftop access, as to provide a safe way for the patients to socially interact with one another.

There are currently two projects under development in Jamaica, as well as two housing facilities already there, called the Delson and Amelie’s. The additional facilities are expected to be completed in 2024.

Since he became CEO, the nonprofit’s assets have grown from $12 million to nearly $100 million, largely due to the development of their residential buildings and other day facilities.

Starting with a budget of $250,000, they now have $40 million to continue with projects to meet the continually shifting needs of people with mental illness.

“There’s a lot of needs out there, and there’s been a lot of growth in the mental health field,” Grubler said. “I’ve got a really good team of people that helps support that growth. We’re constantly writing proposals to do more — to do better.”

The difference between homeless shelters and the supportive housing provided by TSINY, Grubler described, is the on-site supportive services to people living in the buildings with psychiatric disabilities.

“There’s too many people that are living in a homeless shelter to really give them the individual attention that they need to be rehabilitated… 600 people living in a building, that’s hard.”

In the residential facilities, TSINY teaches skills that residents need in order to function in the community, including how to cook, clean, budget, take medication, to do laundry, and other things “you and I might take for granted,” Grubler detailed.

“Because of the illness, which usually starts between the ages of 18 to 24, [such as] the schizophrenia, major depression and things of that nature, they don’t usually get that opportunity to learn those skills as effectively and practice them,” Grubler said. It’s TSINY’s job to step in and provide what they can to develop those necessary skills.

A crucial part of this development is job training — TSINY offers job resume building courses and on site-job support. They also have an “affirmative business,” called Turn the Page.

This used bookstore — funded by the city — allows residents to maintain a job for approximately three months to learn work skills.

Through this transitioning business model, patients are able to earn work experience and garner a sense of pride in their work abilities.

There are a number of success stories garnered from this affirmative business model, Grubler detailed, including a woman who now works on the Intrepid.

“Because of the stigma of mental illness, people don’t usually want people who are mentally ill having a program in their neighborhoods,” he said. “But with [Turn the Page], other community boards, other communities have said, ‘please open one near us.’”

Grubler would be willing to open another affirmative business, he said, with the proper funding.

Through Grubler’s leadership, TSINY continues to grow, serving Queens’ vulnerable in a community-based supportive way.

For more information on TSINY, visit www.tsiny.org.

Three Years Later, Memories of Neir’s Salvation

The jubilant scene outside Neir’s after it had been announced that the historic tavern had received a reprieve.

By Ed Wendell
What if you went to a funeral but the corpse didn’t show up? That’s what it was like at Neir’s Tavern, three years ago last week, when it rose triumphantly from its deathbed to become the toast of the town.
In the hours and days after the news broke that Neir’s was closing after 190 years of service, people began suggesting ways that this historic location could be saved.
Ideas came forth ranging from calling Martin Scorsese, who directed “Goodfellas” or Robert De Niro, who starred in it, to pulling together a large pool of investors to donate $1,000 each to make a down payment on the building.
But the problem that could not be solved in 10 years now needed to be solved in just a few days, before Sunday.
And the way the eulogies were pouring in, it seemed like Sunday was going to come and go without a resolution. People were leaving heartfelt messages of grief. The closest nearby bar, Geordie’s, posted a beautiful message of support for Neir’s owner Loy Gordon.
But as it turned out, there was a solution in the works, and the ball had gotten rolling on that nearly a year earlier when Assemblyman Mike Miller began a dialogue with Tom Grech, Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce (QCC).
With just days to go, Mike and Tom were able to pull together a meeting with the building’s owner and as Mr. Grech joked later, he locked the door to the meeting room and said no one was allowed to leave until they struck a deal.
The Mayor’s Office got involved after Loy called into a radio show and asked Mayor de Blasio for help. And Councilman Bob Holden was at the table, offering aid and support to this beloved historic location within his district.
And once everyone got together, a deal was reached and the next few hours were bedlam.
I was in the doctor’s office for a routine checkup. Even in the waiting room, the nurses were talking about the impending closure of Neir’s, I couldn’t get away from it. And while I was waiting in the doctor’s office, my phone rang.
It was Assemblyman Miller. The connection was bad and every time he started to tell me the good news, the connection would cut out. Finally, when we had a 10-second window of clear connection Mike gave me the good news, but told me to keep quiet, that it would be announced later.
We stopped by Neir’s which was solidly packed with revelers from around the city who had seen the news and came out to say farewell. For many, it was their first trip to this historic treasure.
Other people came from long distances to say farewell, including one gentleman who drove from Pennsylvania just to have a beer. And locals were wandering over all afternoon, many as they often do, to kick off the weekend at their favorite gathering spot.
We were surrounded by people who had come to see a funeral, and yet this good news was bursting to be let free.
It was the reporters who broke the news by asking those they were interviewing how they felt about it being saved. Quickly, word began to spread, tears of sadness turned to tears of joy. Hugs of comfort turned into hugs of relief and celebration.
Mayor de Blasio came out to Woodhaven and stood behind the bar and made it official. It was a remarkable night for this community.
There is a very old saying that success has a thousand parents but failure is an orphan. When it came to saving Neir’s, this old saying was very apt.
Every person who came to Neir’s, for lunch or for an evening out; each person who shared news stories about the place, who told friends or relatives about it, were all part of a 10-year campaign to get the city to stand up and recognize this historic location. And though it had been saved, it would soon face the same dangerous fight that doomed many bars and restaurants in New York City: Covid-19.
And yet it survived.
It survived thanks to every person who ordered out. It survived thanks to every person who sat outside in frigid temps to eat dinner.
Like a cat with many lives, Neir’s lives on, now just 6 years from what will be a remarkable 200th birthday party. Look forward to seeing you all there!

The scene from inside Neir’s while Mayor de Blasio came to announce the good news. We were way at the back and couldn’t see or hear anything, but word of the good news had already spread.

S:US holds MLK Food Drive in South Ozone Park

By: Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Services of the Underserved (S:US) hosted a food drive in South Ozone Park this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, volunteering to collect over 50 bags of nonperishable goods, fruits and vegetables for families within their supported behavioral health housing units in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Approximately 15 volunteers — many workers of S:US who were using their day off to provide this service — could be seen in the basement of the South Ozone Park S:US center bagging food in whatever bag they could find.

Planning to collect food to provide 40 families with food, they soon realized that the food collected that week surpassed that number.

With only 40 bags with the S:US logo brought to the event, the volunteers got creative. Foodtown bags, Target bags and boxes were quickly found within the center to be used collecting food.

Within the hour of the food drive starting, over 50 bags — or boxes — could be seen collected by the volunteers. Over 1,000 pounds of food and other items were collected and distributed to families served at two supportive housing programs the same day.

S:US is “all about creating opportunities for folks who are having challenges,” said S:US CEO Jorge R. Petit at the collection Monday, where he was helping in the collection. “We provide an array of services that actually help people on their road to recovery and we’re part of their journey to lead lives that are full of purpose.”

Believing in service, Petit described S:US as a platform for which people can provide others with that which they take for granted: food, security and a roof over their head.

There are numerous opportunities to get involved with S:US, including volunteering and donation. Among the different ways people can get involved include working at urban farms, teaching someone how to search for a job and even lead a yoga class.

“We really look at every day [as] doing a service for people,” said Monica Santos, Chief Program Officer at SUS, who was among the volunteers on Monday. “We help New Yorkers all over the city — ones with mental illness, behavioral health needs, homeless, veterans… and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The Ozone Park Center, located at ​​115-70 Lefferts Blvd, is a day program, with community residences in the area. People with developmental disabilities come during the day, and among the services provided by the location are two food fridges and a lending library.

“At the heart of what we do at S:US is a firm commitment to righting the disparities caused by racial discrimination, bias and health inequity and eradicating these within our practices and programs to help us move towards true social justice,” the S:US website stated.

As stated on their website, the mission of S:US is to “drive scalable solutions to transform the lives of people with disabilities, people in poverty and people facing homelessness: solutions that contribute to righting societal imbalances.”

For more information on the services provided by S:US, visit www.sus.org/.

 

“Science in a Box” kits delivered to District 29

New York City Council Member Lynn Schulman delivers materials to PS54. Photo Credit: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

600 STEM Hydroponic Kits, also known as “Science in a Box” kits, were distributed to three elementary schools in Southeast Queens on Friday, Jan. 13.

The schools that received the kits include PS 54, The Hillside School; PS 99, The Kew Gardens School; and PS 144, The Col. Jeromus Remsen School in Forest Hills.

The hydroponic kits were provided by NY Sun Works — a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools — in partnership with local council member Lynn Schulman.

The kits came equipped with a 10-lesson climate and science curriculum meant to enable students, with a teacher’s guidance, to grow, study and run investigations with plants.

They are designed to expose students to hydroponic farming technology on a miniature, hands-on level.

Our kids only get one chance at a good education. That is why I am thrilled to partner with New York Sun Works to deliver 600 hydroponic STEM kits to local schools throughout Council District 29,” said Schulman in a press release. “These kits will be paired with a 10-lesson curriculum that teaches students the importance of sustainability and urban agriculture while enhancing their observation and data collection skills. I look forward to seeing the final results from this unique and vital life lesson program.”

The schools also received the Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum, and teachers are provided the tools to tailor the curriculum to address the needs of the students.

The program will reach more than 1000 elementary-age students at the three schools, all located in the 29th Council District that Schulman represents.

We are excited to engage young learners in plant biology by delivering hundreds of interactive and innovative STEM kits in Queens with Council Member Lynn Schulman,” said Manuela Zamora, NY Sun Works Executive Director in a press release. “We are fully committed to fostering the love for science to every New York City public school student and these kits are an incredible introduction to hydroponic farming that teach climate and the science of sustainability.”

NY Sun Works first introduced the ‘Science in a Box’ Hydroponic Kit program in September 2020. More than 5,000 kits were distributed last year, for both classroom and at-home learning.

In a 2021 study conducted by social science research organization Knology, the kits and curriculum “embody innovation, flexibility, hands-on learning, and critical thinking.

For more information on NY Sun Works, visit nysunworks.org/.

 

Two sentenced for S. Richmond Hill, Ozone Park Slayings

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Two men have been sentenced in connection with four fatal shootings that took place in South Richmond Hill and Ozone Park between 2015 and 2018, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office on Jan. 13.

Richard Davenport, 46, of 139th St. in Jamaica, and Neville Brown, 42, of 197th Street in Hollis, pleaded guilty in November to two counts of manslaughter in the first degree. They each pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a third fatal shooting, and Davenport pled guilty to manslaughter in a fourth fatal shooting.

The latest crime took place on Jan. 16, 2018, with security camera footage showing Davenport exit a Mercedes Benz on 105th St. near 135th Ave. in South Richmond Hill around 9:30 p.m. and approaching Omaree Morrison, 19, while he was walking along 135th Avenue. The video footage shows Davenport fatally shoot Morrison, the charges claim.

A few weeks prior, on Dec. 19, 2017, the charges claim that Brown was seen driving the same Mercedes Benz at approximately 3 a.m. with Davenport in the passenger side front seat. Together, they drove past a Cadillac Escalade parked on 125th St. and Atlantic Ave. in South Richmond Hill numerous times.

Security camera footage captured the Mercedes Benz parking, the defendants exiting the vehicle, approaching the Cadillac from both sides and Davenport firing several times into the vehicle.

Dail Ramessar, 21, was struck in the car, and later died in the hospital. Davenport and Brown both fled in the Mercedes Benz.On July 15, 2016, the charges claim that Davenport approached the vehicle of Raaid Ali, 22, as he was sitting in the drivers seat in front of his residence at 107-60 114th Street in South Richmond Hill. He was shot by Davenport multiple times in the torso, fatally wounding him, at approximately 12:10 p.m., the charges claim, and Davenport fled in a vehicle driven by Brown.

The charges claim that the first murder took place on Oct. 4, 2015. The victim, Vickiram Ramlogan, 27, was shot multiple times while parked in front of his home at 111-21 120th Street, Ozone Park at around 8:15 p.m. by Davenport.

Davenport was sentenced a combined total of 29 years in prison — two consecutive 14.5 year sentences — and Brown was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“Two very dangerous men are going to prison for a long time and the streets of Queens will be safer as a result,” said District Attorney Melinda Katz in a statement. “My number one priority will continue to be getting illegal guns, and those who use them, off our streets.”

 

AAFE Hosts Three Kings Day Celebration

 

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) took advantage of Three Kings Day — a holiday predominately celebrated by children — to provide Jackson Heights children a day of entertainment and inform their parents of services in their community.

The nonprofit held their Three Kings Day celebration on Jan. 5 at Blessed Sacrament Church. From 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., children were welcome to get their faces painted, to participate in different crafts, free churros and different gifts.

Three Kings Day is a Christian holiday celebrated on Jan. 6 that celebrates the day in which the three wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. It is also known as the Feast of Epiphany, and in many European and Latin American countries, parents will buy their children gifts on this day.

At any point, the area was packed with locals partaking in holiday festivities. Approximately 75 people could be seen enjoying the free activities or learning about the different Queens services.

Among the organizations distributing information and various gifts included Elmhurst Hospital, Communities Resist, Commonpoint Queens and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Council member Shekar Khrishnan, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly member Catalina Cruz could be seen towards the beginning of the festivities distributing at home Covid-19 tests and greeting their constituents. Speaking primarily in Spanish, each wished the attendees to have a happy holiday and to take advantage of the services provided that day.

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