Ridgewood makes last effort to save Grover Cleveland

Students, staff and parents packed the auditorium in Grover Cleveland High School for a hearing on the future of the school on Monday, April 2.
Grover Cleveland is being considered for the “turnaround” method, which would give the building a new name and eliminate 50 percent of its staff come September. Schools are slated for turnaround when they’ve been on the state’s Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) list, meaning graduation rates were below 60 percent, for the last three years.
Currently, Grover Cleveland’s graduation rate is at 58 percent, 5 percent below the city average.
But speakers in the public comment period of the hearing said the school is not being considered fairly by the city.
The school, which started the 2011/12 school year under the federal restart model, got a new principal midway through September and therefore did not get the chance to prove its ability for success yet, they argued.
In addition, Grover Cleveland is one of nine test sites in the city for iZone – a program that lets students perform their studies any time, any where.
Students also work with the community, holding music concerts at a local senior center and hosting holiday events, such as a haunted house, speakers said, adding that if the turnaround method is implemented, the school could lose its plant science program, its music instruction and other services.
Alumni also attended the hearing, including Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, class of 1976, and the Queens representative on the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who also graduated from Grover Cleveland, as did his mother.
Deputy Schools Chancellor Mark Sternberg stressed before the public comment period that the Education Department wants to help the school, not hurt it.
“It comes from a place of wanting to help our students,” he said of the turnaround proposal. “The structures and the staff that come with a new school can more quickly accelerate the pace of reform.”
In addition, he said, under the turnaround model, the school would receive upwards of $2 million in federal funding for reform programs.
But Nolan, who was wearing the school pin she saved from when she graduated Grover Cleveland, said she worked in Albany to help secure funding for the school under the restart model last year.
“I did not sponsor this so my high school could be closed,” she said.
In addition, Nolan added that the school operated under the restart model until the city struggled to reach an agreement over teacher evaluations, and then the turnaround model was proposed.
“I am deeply concerned about the effect this sudden change in course will have on the students at Grover Cleveland High School,” Nolan said. “Even just the announcement of the possible closing has probably done damage to the school’s future prospects.”
Master English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Maria Rozos said the school’s graduation rates are low in part because many students don’t speak the language when they enter the school, and sometimes are illiterate in their native tongues.
She said it takes a second-language learner five to seven years to acquire academic-level English.
“However, the ESL students are held to the same standard as the mainstream native-English speakers and are expected to graduate in four years even though this goes against language theory and research,” Rozos said.
“As a school, we work tirelessly to prepare our ESL students for college and careers,” she added, citing multiple grants and programs the school received.
In addition, she said six out of seven of the last school valedictorians were did not speak English as their first language.
Selena Vasquez, a 10th grader at Grover Cleveland, said she and her peers want to go to college and get careers, which they are striving for under the instruction of their teachers.
“Many of the students that attend or have attended Grover Cleveland High School have formed great relationships with current staff and grown to trust them,” she said, giving examples of her favorite teachers.
“The staff in the school should not be penalized for something that is not their fault,” Vasquez added. “The teachers don’t have control over the students’ decisions and it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure their child is going to school and passing.”
Further comments and questions about the proposal can be sent to D24proposals@schools.nyc.gov, and calls can be made to 212-374-7621. An analysis of the public comment and question-and-answer session at Monday’s hearing will be available online before the PEP votes on the proposal on April 26.

Swastika drawn on Grand Ave

A swastika spray-painted on a building on Grand Avenue is just the latest incident in a rash of hate graffiti in the 104th Precinct.
A swastika appeared sometime before Wednesday morning on a metal door frame at 69-38 Grand Avenue.
When this newspaper brought the offensive symbol to the attention of Michael Terry, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, he said he’s noticed an unfortunate upswing in graffiti vandals in the area recently.
“It’s never a happy time to see anti-Semitic or racist symbols coming up,” he said, examining the graffiti drawn across the door.
Terry said he will bring the incident up at the next Chamber meeting, to be held on Tuesday, April 2nd at noon in Connolly’s Corner on Grand Avenue.
The swastika is drawn in blue paint marker over another tag, “MR,” which is written in dozens of places along Grand Avenue. In graffiti culture, it is an insult to draw over someone else’s tag.
Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5, said the 104th Precinct has one of the highest graffiti arrest-rates in the city.
“But yet the vandals continue to do graffiti in this precinct where a lot of arrests are being made,” he said. “You would think that they would get the message.”
Giordano provided insight into why he thinks New York City’s graffiti epidemic persists – although he admitted that he does not know what is going through someone’s mind when they draw a swastika or other offensive symbol.
“I think that there’s some sort of unfortunate thrill with avoiding getting caught,” he said. “And I also think that some of it has to do with a lack of self-esteem and they can get a name for themselves by doing this and bragging about it.”
A representative from the 104th Precinct said officers responded to the location and saw the swastika along with an abundance of other graffiti.
The building owner was contacted and a report was generated, according to police.

Nine finalists in QEDC StartUP! challenge

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) announced nine finalists in its sixth StartUP! Business Plan Competition at Deluge Restaurant in Flushing on Thursday, March 29.
To prepare for the competition, enrollees participated in a five-month training course in which they received technical assistance, access to entrepreneurial resources, and training courses on how to start a small business in webinars and at the Central Library in Jamaica, Queens.
Out of about 230 original enrollees, 42 teams submitted business plans by March 1 to a panel of judges from the Citi Foundation, which sponsored the competition for the sixth year in a row.
From the pool of nine finalists, the judges will choose three winners and award $10,000 to each at the Queens Taste 2012 in Citi Field’s Caesar’s Club.
Franklin Mora, director of business services at QEDC, said at last week’s event that this year’s competition was different from previous years in a few ways, including a rolling admission, allowing people to enroll at any stage in the five months.
“The way we provided the service opened it up to a larger audience,” he said, adding that the number of enrollees this year surpassed the QEDC’s goal.
This was possible because a full course was given each month, so teams could enroll in January, or take the course a number of times to refresh. The introduction of webinar training made it easier for teams to enroll as well, because they could watch the course online on their time, Mora said.
“We’ve helped them better define their competitive edge, better identify their target audience, and clearly communicate their business so they can keep growing,” he said of the competition.
Teams competed in three categories: food-based, innovative business, and social enterprise.
In the food-based business category, the winners are Little Miss Dumpling; Soraya Sobreidad’s “FIERCE” Cooking Show; and Itizi Gourmet Ice Cream Truck.
The innovative business category involved a new or better product, providing a service to an under-served market, a new distribution channel, an integrated service or product, or a solution to a problem, Mora said.
The finalists in this category are a label-kit company Addicks Enterprises; LetWaterFall, a 3-D printing service provider and manufacturer; and Optimistic Crafts, a craft store that offers classes, supplies and hand-crafted items.
The social enterprise category involved for-profit businesses that also have a social benefit, creating a double bottom line.
The finalists are Math Makes All Things Happen (M.A.T.H.), which produces instructional math DVD’s for inner city students; Better Speech Now, which provides accent-reduction services; and Cute Brands Inc., a cause-oriented brand licensing and management company.
Mora said he is impressed by the diverse group of people who submit business plans every year, which is fueled in part by the borough of Queens and the wide range of individuals who are out of work due to the economy but maintain the bravery to start their own business.
“It’s nice to see a person go from freelancing and just doing their business to ‘now I have more clients so I have to hire staff,’ to ‘now I have enough staff and clients that I open up my own storefront space,’” Mora said.
“You’ve got to give it up to some of these people,” he added. “To start a business you have to be fearless, you have to go for it.”
Liz Schwartz, co-founder of Better Speech Now, said being a finalist is a pleasant surprise, but that the course was worth it whether or not her business wins.
“For a moment I was kind of in shock,” Schwartz said on the morning after the finalists were announced. 
“We worked very, very hard on this business plan and devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to it, so it was very gratifying.”
Schwartz said she first heard of the QEDC at the Queens Public Library, and learned of the competition by attending some of the organization’s meetings.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support and help from them along the way,” she said of the QEDC. “We feel that even if we’re not the winners, it was still worth it because we learned so much.”

A call for Macy’s fireworks to return to the East River

For the past three summers, residents along the East River in Brooklyn have been deprived of the stunning Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks show and are now demanding that the show return to the Brooklyn waterfront.
Residents and local elected officials from Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens held a rally on Monday, April 2, urging Macy’s to bring the fireworks display back to the East River this year.
“New York’s Fourth of July fireworks should be a citywide celebration,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “Instead, the millions of New Yorkers who live in Brooklyn, Queens, and the East Side of Manhattan are kept out of the party, while we send visitors and business to New Jersey. That simply makes no sense.”
Squadron and other elected officials sent a letter to Macy’s Chief Executive Officer Terry Lundgren, requesting that the 36th Annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks include the East River.
In 2009, Macy’s moved the fireworks to the Hudson River to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s journey up the river.
Since then, there has not been a Fourth of July fireworks display on the East River.
“Despite initial claims from Macy’s that the 2009 move to the Hudson River to celebrate Henry Hudson’s voyage was only temporary and that they were interested in moving the display around the city, I am disappointed that again this year it’s likely more New Jerseyans and residents along the west side of Manhattan will get a front row seat, excluding Brooklynites and a large part of the city that is home to Macy’s flagship store,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
“Macy’s is a New York institution and they should bring the fireworks back to the East River where more New Yorkers can enjoy the show,” said Ward Dennis, co-chair of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth.
He echoed statements from many groups and businesses along the waterfront, including the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, Community Boards 1 and 6, and the DUMBO Improvement District.
The leaders also say that bringing the fireworks show back to the East River will further emphasize the nation’s history, as the East River served as the doorway for immigrants arriving in New York City. They also noted that it would be a huge boost to local businesses.
But one Macy’s spokesperson Orlando Veras, said that the Macy’s Fireworks show will not be changed this year and will continue to take place on the Hudson River.
Stating that the fireworks have been fired from various waterways and locations in New York City for more than 30 years, he said that Macy’s Fireworks will, “continue to take place in and around all of New York City’s waterways and will not be a permanent fixture in any one location.”
“Exclusively limiting the show to any particular area would greatly hinder the creative freedom that has made it the nation’s best and largest Independence Day display,” he said.

104th Precinct Police Blotter (3/26/12-4/1/12)

Monday, Mar. 26

Jonathan Schultz was arrested at 62-21 69th Place for assault by Officer Hyatt.
Jennifer Arias was arrested at 60-63 68th Avenue for assault by Detective Geis.
Gilberto Castro was arrested at 172 Woodward Avenue for menacing by Officer Garland.
Luis Lantigua was arrested at 55-33 Metropolitan Avenue for criminal mischief by Officer Valdemar.

Tuesday, Mar. 27

Jaylene Rivera was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Dunbar.
Carmen Maldonado was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Dunbar.
Bernadette Gaffney was arrested at 62-14 59th Drive for theft of service by Officer Mendez.

Wednesday, Mar. 28

Lillian Lopez was arrested at 603 Seneca Avenue for assault by Officer Craigg.
Raymond Bardroff was arrested at 74-06 64th Place for criminal contempt by Officer Aviles.
Sara Cani was arrested at 2127 Himrod Street for criminal contempt by Officer Simone.
Robert Garcia was arrested at 1703 Stanhope Street for assault by Officer Skorzenski.
Jose Lopez was arrested at 952 Seneca Avenue for assault by Officer Chu.
Carlos Ventura was arrested at 73-37 53rd Road for burglary by Detective Ebron.
Diana Cuevas was arrested at 783 Seneca Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Friedrich.
Michael Stolarczyk was arrested at 2014 Stanhope Street for criminal trespassing by Officer Dupont.
Jorez Cosme was arrested at the intersection of Madison Street and Cypress Avenue for driving while intoxicated by Officer Peart.

Thursday, Mar. 29

Francisco Mattos was arrested at 78-34 83rd Street for unauthorized us of a vehicle by Officer Murtha.
Geremia Ramirez was arrested at the intersection of George Street and Myrtle Avenue for assault by Detectiv Lundy.
Rafal Jaroz was arrested at the intersection of 69th Street and 55th Drive for an outstanding warrant by Officer Mendez.
Doris Gonzalez was arrested at 54-19 Myrtle Avenue for assault by Officer Valdemar.

Friday, Mar. 30

Luis Zuna was arrested at the intersection of Caldwell Drive and 69th Street for driving while intoxicated by Officer Mays.
Alejandro Rodriguez was arrested at 17-11 Bleecker Street for assault by Detective Ebron.
Jonas Erazo was arrested at the intersection of Grandview and Stanhope Street for criminal possession of a weapon by Officer Rodriguez.
Rohan Raghnauth was arrested at the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Goldington Court for driving while intoxicated by Officer Moseley.
Panu Patsis was arrested at 1926 Linden Street for menacing by Officer Bazata.
Alan Roy was arrested at the intersection of Fresh Pond Road and Madison Street for criminal possession of a weapon by Officer Mendez.
Joseph Pulla was arrested at 1879 Greene Avenue for stalking by Detective Houlihan.

Saturday, Mar. 31

Wanda Rivera was arrested at 1926 Palmetto Street for disorderly conduct by Officer Shariff.
Richard Ugarie was arrested at 53-48 Metropolitan Avenue for aggravated harassment by Detective Diaquoi.
Joseph Ancona was arrested at 64-30 77th Place for unauthorized use of a vehicle by Officer Collins.
Dawn McCoy was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Keane.
Dino Sindoni was arrested at 71-41 71st Street for robbery by Officer Inga.
Spiros Zafiratos was arrested at the intersection of Putnam Avenue and 60th Street for an outstanding warrant by Officer Wright.
Maximo Hernandez was arrested at 1713 Linden Street for criminal possession of a weapon by Officer Christian.
Marew Szymaniak was arrested at the intersection of Linden Street and Onderdonk Avenue for forgery by Officer Peart.
Melissa Colon was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Dunbar.

Sunday, Apr. 1

Kenny Portes was arrested at the intersection of Maurice Avenue and the Long Island Expressway for driving while intoxicated by Officer Schneider.
Angel Aviles was arrested at 1710 Linden Street for assault by Officer Verderber.
Cynthia Fernandez was arrested at 1666 Woodbine Street for assault by Officer Dove.
Ronald Parente was arrested at the intersection of Linden Street and St. Nicholas for grand larceny by Officer Bublin.
Nickey Thompson was arrested at 54-29 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Detective Murray.
Jay Velasquez was arrested at 1816 Dekalb Avenue for criminal contempt by Officer May.
Gerald McMurray was arrested at 61-64 56th Drive for assault by Officer Vingelis.
Elene Blazi was arrested at 59-64 69th Street for obstructing governmental administration by Officer Reiger.
Vlad Inacu was arrested at 59-64 69th Street for disorderly conduct by Officer Reiger.

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