Woman critically injured in Breezy Point accident

Police say that a 63-year-old woman was critically injured when she attempted to cross Rockaway Point Boulevard at Beach 193 Street on Wednesday night. The driver remained on the scene, but police are investigating possible criminality in the accident.


The car reportedly involved in the Breezy Point accident remains at the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Beach on Thursday morning. Notice the dent in the hood and the broken window.

Police from the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad are looking into an accident that left a 63-year-old woman in critical condition at Kings County Hospital on Wednesday night, sources say.

According to police sources, the unidentified woman was crossing Rockaway Point Boulevard and Beach 193 Street in Breezy Point at about 9:10 p.m. on February 15 when she was struck by a 2002 Ford SUV travelling eastbound on the isolated road.

Police from the 100 Precinct responding to the scene called for assistance from the specialized collision investigation squad, which is housed in the 112 Precinct in Forest Hills. Units from Highway three were also called to the scene to document the area of the accident.

The unidentified driver, who remained on the scene, was reportedly transported to that precinct for testing. No test results have been released.

The victim reportedly remains in critical condition with injuries to her head and body at the Brooklyn hospital.

Police sources say that the investigation of “possibility criminality” is still ongoing.



Four busted, two arraigned in Rockaway, Breezy Sandy scams

Donata Rea, 53, was charged with taking over two Rockaway Park homes owned by a deceased woman and renting them out, also filing for Sandy relief money. Daily News photo by Todd Maisel

Rea allegedly took over the two homes at 176 and 178 Beach 120 Street in Rockaway Park, renting them and requesting Sandy Build it Back money. Google Earth photo.

The city’s Department of Investigations has joined with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to take down four scammers who allegedly took advantage of Hurricane Sandy to take home more than a million bucks in illegal aid, focusing on homes in Rockaway and Breezy Point, homes badly impacted by the 2012 superstorm.

Three homeowners were charged with filing false documents to steal nearly $300,000 from the Build It Back program, a taxpayer-funded effort to repair primary residences wrecked in October 2012.

The three were charged with getting Build It Back funds to repair their second homes.

A fourth was caught when she tried to obtain funds on a Rockaway Park home she’d taken possession of from a dead woman. Prosecutors say she didn’t get repair funds but did steal $1 million from the woman’s estate.

In a prepared statement, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the four are “accused of using one of the worst natural disasters to ever strike New York in recent history to unjustly enrich themselves.”

Court records provided by Brown allege that George Bonitsis, 67, who lives in Brooklyn, got $125,802 in construction work from Build It Back, while John Holl, 73, who lives in Long Island, got $86,560. The two were not arraigned in Queens court because they reportedly face state charges.

Two of the alleged scammers were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Wednesday, however.

They are identified in court documents John Phelan, 54, who fraudulently obtained $66,371 to repair a secondary home at 58 Reid Avenue in Breezy Point he co-owned with his mother, prosecutors allege. Prosecutors said that tax records revealed that he lives in Syosset, Long Island and she lives in Maspeth, Queens.

However, his lawyer, Eric Franz, told the Daily News that the son committed no crime because his mother’s primary residence was in Breezy Point. Court records show, however, that John Phalen lives on Laurel Hill Road in Syosset, while his mother lives on Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth. Build-it-Back does not rebuild secondary homes, but Phalen allegedly filed in his application that it a primary residence for both mother and son.

Mary Phalen was not charged in the case. Her son, John, who submitted the application, was charged with grand larceny in the second degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.

Donata Rea, 58, allegedly submitted an application for Build It Back reimbursement on a home she’d obtained through the estate of a woman who’d died in 2011.

According to court documents and the statement of Lois Rosenblatt, a private appraiser hired by the office of the Public Administrator, Karen M. Connors transferred two Rockaway properties – at 174 and 178 Beach 120 Street into a trust. Rosenblatt said that the properties were worth $300 thousand and would probably bring more at auction.

Connors died without a will and the “orderly disbursements” of the estate were taken over by the public administrator’s office. Court documents allege that Rea took over the properties and the estate without permission of the public administrator.

Court documents charge Rea with fraudulently assuming ownership of the dead woman’s homes, alleging that she stole $1 million from the woman’s estate. Rea was not reimbursed by Build It Back. She did, however, rent the two Rockaway properties and collect rent for them June 2013 to the present.

Rea is charged with grand larceny in the first degree, criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.

All four defendants were released without bail Wednesday in Queens Supreme Court.

  Matt Viggiano, a spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations, said the agency aided the Investigation Department in its probe.

“We will not let bad actors get in the way of our goal of providing safe, resilient housing for those that need it most,” he said. 

Snowstorm may have claimed elderly victim

The elderly victim was found in the rear of 135 Beach 19 Street in Far Rockaway. The medical examiner is investigating the cause of death of the 86-year-old man.

The snow storm on Thursday that dropped nearly a foot of snow on Rockaway man have claimed a Far Rockaway man as victim.

On Thursday February 9, at approximately 12:45 p.m., police responded to a 911 call of an aided male in the rear of 135 Beach 19 Street.

Upon arrival, responding officers discovered an unresponsive 86 year-old male, later identified as Vladlen Nemirovskaya, 85, with no obvious signs of trauma to his body.

EMS also responded to the scene and transported the victim to St. John’s Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Police sources said on Friday morning that Nemirovcskaya lost his balance, stumbled and fell in the building’s snow-filled parking lot.

The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation is being conducted by detectives from the 101 Precinct Squad.


Howard Beach killer had ties to Rockaway high school for troubled teens

Chanel Lewis, accused of the jogger murder in Howard  Beach, spent four years at the Martin de Porres High School on Beach 110 Street, graduating in 2015. The school is slated for troubled teens, although staffers and the school and relatives say that he was a model student.

The Martin de Porres school, formerly the Stella Maris High School for girls, sits at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 110 Street. The school’s website says that it is for students who have had a troubled past in traditional high schools.

Howard Beach jogger killer Chanel Lewis has ties to Rockaway, having graduated from Martin de Porres High School, formerly Stella Maris Catholic High School, on Beach 110 Street, officials say.

The 20-year-old man who allegedly killed Howard Beach resident Karina Vetrano, touching off a massive manhunt that was ended last week with a DNA hit, attended the Rockaway school for “troubled” teens from September 2011 to his graduation in August of 2015.

According to the school’s Website, students who attend the school “struggle with internal and external factors beyond their control that have contributed to a failure to thrive in school,”

In a statement released to the press, Dr. Edward Dana, the school’s executive director said that there is no disciplinary record against Lewis, “nor are there any reports that he made threatening statements against other students.”

According to the Daily News, however, on May 17, 2011 administrators at the High School for Medical Professions in Canarsie, a city public school, called police, reporting that Lewis got into an argument with a female student and later asked the dean, “What happens if I bring a knife to school?”

Police did not arrest Lewis at that time, but they did declare him an “emotionally disturbed person,” and sent him to Kings County Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. 

According to the News report, Lewis repeated his hatred of women in a more recent encounter with police, but the threats again did not warrant his arrest.

“There was no victim, no complaint, so there was no crime,” a police source told the News reporter.

A staff member at the school told the News that she was stunned by the charges against Lewis.

“He was the perfect kid,” said speech and language pathologist Amanda Edison, who worked with Lewis in 2015.

Lewis’ sister said he was not a woman hater.

“We’re not killers,” Theresa Forbes told the News. “We’re church people. They set him up.”

Harlem man corraled as Far Rockaway clothing thief

Police have arrested Angel Valentin of Harlem as the man at the left holding a pistol on a Rockaway visitor identified only as Michael. Valentin allegedly stole all of Michael’s clothing before fleeing the scene.

On Sunday, police arrested a Harlem man wanted for the brazen robbery in Far Rockaway earlier in the week.

Police identified the Manhattan man as Angel Valentin, 20, who was charged in Queens Criminal Court with criminal possession of stolen property and harassment.

Police say the 24-year-old victim, identified by the Daily News as Michael, an Orthodox Jew visiting Rockaway and on his way to where he was staying locally from prayer at a local synagogue, was trying to enter a home at the intersection of Neilson Street and Dinsmore Avenue around 6:30 p.m. when he was approached by Valentin, who was armed with a handgun.

Valentin allegedly threatened the victim and demanded his clothing and his keys.

The victim can be seen on surveillance footage handing over his overcoat, jacket, shoes, and pants before the suspect flees in an unknown direction.

Michael told CBS News that “It was the scariest moment of my life.”

While the cold bothered Michael as he stripped off his clothing, he told reporters that “he was shaking not because of the cold, but because of fear for his life.”

State Police make their presence known in Rockaway with tickets, other enforcement

State trooper gives ticket to motorist across the street from the Hammel Houses on Beach 84 Street earlier in the week. Photo by Doug Mackeod

Thanks to the animosity between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, there is a new sheriff in town – or, at least a new trooper.

For the past two weeks, Rockaway residents have seen New York State Troopers working both on the peninsula and in Broad Channel.

A number of locals have already been impacted by the state police, because the staties are giving out expensive traffic violations for speeding, failing to signal and the like, something that has been the bailiwick of city police for generations.

Sources say that the placement of troopers on city streets is designed to clearly designed to get in de Blasio’s face and under his skin.

“It’s just one more tit-for-tat thing between these two guys. This is [Cuomo] flexing his muscles. He said that he is also the governor of New York City,’’ a law enforcement source said in a recent statement to the New York Post

“People are asking, ‘What would [the troopers’] responsibility be?’ Don’t forget, there are 36,000 NYPD cops. So what are they going to do? Nobody knows,’’ the source said.

About 50 state troopers currently assist MTA cops patrolling trains and subway platforms at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

Now, when Cuomo’s power play is through, the number of state troopers in New York City has doubled, the source said.

The out-of-town troopers typically spend around two weeks at $180-a-night hotels such as the Shelburne in Murray Hill before they’re swapped out for a fresh group, sources said.

State troopers currently have an office on Wards Island, but it’s mostly for administrative staff and some investigators.

The new digs would move Cuomo’s bigger force to the center of the action.

His people have already scouted potential sites at 4 World Trade Center and a Port Authority property on Park Avenue, and are set to look at other locations, the source said. The state co-owns the PA along with New Jersey.

It’s not clear what the timetable will be to open the barracks, but “It seems like he wants to get it done,’’ the source said of Cuomo.

The move is only the latest back-and-forth between the governor and mayor, who have clashed over everything from charter schools to how to pay for universal pre-K and how much to raise the minimum wage.


Cops report another missing teen in Far Rockaway

Fourteen year old Jalil Cannon is missing from his Beach 32 Street home, police say. He is the second teen missing from the 101 Precinct this week.

For the second time in less than a week, police in the 101 Precinct are looking for a 14-year-old missing from the Far Rockaway precinct.

On Wednesday, police sources said they were looking for 14-year-old Natalie Espinal, who was reported missing from Nameoke Street. As of Sunday, police say that she is still listed as missing, although some posters on Facebook are reporting that she has returned home.

On Friday, police sources announced that precinct cops are looking for 14-year-old Jalil Cannon, who went missing from his home at 333 Beach 32 Street.

Cannon was reportedly last seen at 11 p.m. on February 3, at his residence. The missing is 5’8″, 150 lbs., thin build, medium complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, last seen wearing a black bubble coat, blue jeans, multi-colored Jordan Sneakers.

 Anyone with information in regards to either of the missing teens is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or for Spanish 1-888-57-PISTA (74782)

The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.


Gunman accosts Far Rockaway man, steals the clothing right off his back

An unidentified man was relieved of the clothing right off his back as well as his keys at the intersection of Neilson Street and Dinsmore Street in Far Rockaway on Friday.

A man was forced to strip down to his underwear and give his clothing and keys to a gunman during an armed robbery in Far Rockaway Friday.

Police say the 24-year-old unidentified victim was trying to enter a home at the intersection of Neilson Street and Dinsmore Avenue around 6:30 p.m. when he was approached by a man armed with a gun.

The suspect threatened the victim and demanded his clothing and his keys.

The victim was seen on surveillance footage handing over his overcoat, jacket, shoes, and pants before the suspect flees in an unknown direction.

Police say the suspect is Hispanic and in his mid-20’s, approximately 5’7″ and 150 pounds, with curly hair. He was last seen wearing a medium color-toned hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans, and black and white sneakers.

Nobody was injured as a result of the robbery. Police sources declined to speculate on why the man wanted the victim’s clothing.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or for Spanish 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

Police say that 14-year-old Far Rockaway girl still missing on Saturday afternoon

Natalie Espinal is still missing from her Far Rockaway home, police told onrockaway.com on Saturday afternoon.

Police officials said on Saturday afternoon that 14-year-old Natalie Espinal remains missing from her Far Rockaway home.

Police officers began looking for the teen on Wednesday night after she was reported missing as of 9:30 a.m. on February 1 from her home at 22-98 Nameoke Street in Far Rockaway.

Police say that she was last seen leaving her residence. Espinal is described as 5’2″, 110 lbs., medium complexion, brown eyes, black hair, last seen wearing a gray jacket, beige pants, and a black sweater.

 Anyone with information in regards to this missing is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or for Spanish 1-888-57-PISTA (74782)

The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Report: Titus has ties to charity that does not deliver promised scholarships for minority teens

A report in the Albany Times Union says that a charity event, chaired this year by Assemblywoman Michele Titus of Far Rockaway, gives less than 10 percent of the proceeds of its annual gala to those for whom the funds are intended — scholarships for minority youth.

Assemblywoman Michele Titus, who represents the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula as well as some mainland South Queens communities, is often call the “invisible woman,” because the former Department of Education attorney seems to show up in person only around election time. It is a low profile that is often joked about on the peninsula.

It seems, however, that she keeps anything but a low profile around the state capitol at Albany, where fundraising seems to be the name of the game.

The top Albany daily newspaper, the Albany Times-Union, recently ran an investigative story about one particular fundraising event that embroils Titus in a way of business that has brought down several other state officials who represented Rockaway.

According to the Times-Union, each February, dozens of minority legislators from the state Assembly and Senate descend on downtown Albany for a weekend of partying, panel discussions and networking.

The stated “main goal” of the ritzy event is to “raise scholarship money for minority youth entering college,” according to a note from Queens Assemblywoman Michelle Titus, the chairwoman of the charity that runs the event, that appears on the nonprofit’s website.

Yet according to tax returns filed by the Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc., less than 10 percent of the money raised by the group through the years has gone to scholarships.

Instead, the funds have largely gone to support the annual weekend gathering, including expenses such as “limo services,” pricey concerts and well-paid speakers. In its most recent tax return, which covers the 2015 retreat, the Association reported $565,000 in revenue. Of that, just $36,000 or 6.3 percent went to grants for “education/scholarships,” the Times-Union story says.

According to the records filed by the Association, $157,926 went to food service, $83,355 went to fund the concert, $64,238 to equipment rental, $43,180 went to hotel accommodations, and $89,045 went to “other.”

Fundraising experts say that the 6.3 percent amount that went to scholarships is much lower than other non-profits chartered by the state, where the norm is around the 65 to 75 percent level.

At the upcoming Feb. 17-19 event, eight separate receptions, dances or concerts are planned, running from Friday night to late into Sunday evening, according to a schedule posted online. And while the exact amounts of funding given by event sponsors are not clear, the charity receives substantial amounts of money from entities with business before the state legislators that participate in the annual gathering.

The Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc. is the nonprofit arm of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, a potent voting bloc in the Assembly that includes Carl Heastie, the chamber’s Democratic speaker.

One former caucus member, speaking to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, said there had been long-standing internal grumbling about the amount of spending on entertainment by the charity, which can take tax-deductible donations. The charity’s tax returns state its mission is to empower “African American and Latino youth through education and leadership initiatives” by “providing opportunity to higher education.” But although it’s not stated on the tax return, charity officials say the mission is much broader.

Tickets for the charity’s annual Sunday night gala, which this year features political commentator Roland Martin as a speaker, raise money to fund scholarships. The amount of scholarship money is based on tickets sold, and that elected officials can designate scholarships of more than $2,000 if they sell more than two tables’ worth. Major elected officials — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — have attended the gala in recent years. This year, tickets are $175.

The charity, which was formed in 1985, has in the past vowed to increase the percentage of its revenues that it spends on scholarships. In the nonprofit’s official program for the 2015 retreat, then-Chairwoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes — an Assembly member from Buffalo — stated that “we intend to double the amount of scholarship funds given to students in their respective districts.”

That didn’t appear to happen, however, The group’s tax return covering the prior year’s retreat showed $32,000 going to scholarships, while the return covering 2015 boosted that amount by only $3,700. An aide to People-Stokes noted scholarship spending was basely solely on lawmakers’ tickets sales for gala. “So it’s always the goal of that year’s chairs to increase the number of scholarships given, but that’s solely determined by dinner ticket sales,” she said.

Besides a concert and the annual gala, the charity pays for an invite-only “chair’s reception,” awards ceremony and a VIP reception, according to Peoples-Stokes’ office, but it does not pay for other receptions sponsored by various groups.

In a written statement, Titus said the retreat was also a chance for attendees to speak formally and informally about legislative policy, as well as provide input about budget priorities.

“The goal of the Annual Conference is broader than the scholarships which are generated from table sales at the gala,” Titus said. “There is overhead for the event which includes the space rental for the educational forum, workshops and seminars, craft expo & business partnership fair, dinner gala and entertainment in addition to the scholarships.”

The current chairman of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus — the legislative group affiliated with the charity — is Assemblyman Nick Perry, one of the highest-ranking members of the chamber. Asked if he had ever solicited donations from lobbyists to pay for the conference, Perry said, “I do make contacts with a lot of kinds of folks that need to be a part of what’s being done in Albany. They ask me how they can help the caucus, but I don’t actively solicit them. I tell them to contribute to the Association.”

Titus said that elected officials that serve on the charity’s board cannot raise money for the nonprofit. (Perry is not on the board.)

In 2015 — the most recent tax year to be reflected in public records — the charity reported spending $6,200 on “limo services,” $24,500 on an event speaker, $85,000 on a concert, $157,000 on food service, $64,000 to rent equipment, $43,000 on accounting services, $36,000 on printing, $30,657 on “event decor,” $4,500 on “awards and certificates,” and $43,000 on “hotel accommodation.”

The event speaker was actor Danny Glover and a concert at the Convention Center featured Eric Benét and Regina Belle. This year’s Saturday evening concert will be headlined by the rap artist Big Daddy Kane. Tickets are $75.

The $6,200 in “limo services” were required as part of “contracts for artists and keynote speakers,” according to Titus. She said lawmakers are responsible for paying for their own lodging and transportation, and that the heavy spending “hotel accommodation” paid for rooms for speakers, clergy and artists.

Last year, more than a dozen Assembly members, including Heastie, Perry and Titus, took taxpayer-funded “per diem” payments for the caucus weekend that are available to lawmakers on official business. The current per diem rate is $175 to cover food and lodging when lawmakers travel on legislative business.

Lawmakers also have taken reimbursements for car travel costs.

Substantial policy discussions do take place during the weekend, especially in Saturday policy panels. The weekend gives everyday New Yorkers who attend the conference access to lawmakers, said Bronx state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who is charged this year with organizing dozens of expert panel discussions.

State law bars a legislator from taking a gift worth more than $15 from entities or lobbyists with business before the state if it can reasonably be presumed the gift was meant to influence the lawmaker. The state’s ethics and lobbying watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, is currently investigating a nonprofit set up by de Blasio that took large donations from such interests. In that matter, however, the money was intended to push de Blasio’s policy agenda, not to fund a weekend retreat for lawmakers. State ethics regulations do allow lawmakers to accept food and drink at a “widely attended event.”

Titus said special interests’ sponsorship of conference posed no conflict. That’s because the money goes to the charitable organization, which besides the entertainment pays for the educational and fundraising events, she said.

Beyond the various black-tie receptions over the weekend — a number of which are invite-only— there are luncheons and awards ceremony honoring adults.

There is a Saturday “youth summit” for children. For instance, the 2015 youth summit featured Dr. Steve Perry from BET’s “Save My Son.”

On Sunday morning each year, attendees go to service at Albany’s Wilborn Temple First Church. That itself was a $3,000 expense, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

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