Grover Cleveland HS gets last-minute reprieve

After months of protests, hearings and community meetings residents held to fight to keep their local high schools open, Bushwick Community and Grover Cleveland high schools were taken off the Education Department’s list for potential closures, just hours before a panel was set to vote on them.
The schools were being considered for the “turnaround” method, which would give the buildings new names and eliminate 50 percent of their 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.
The Education Department (DOE)’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will vote on whether to turnaround the remaining schools on the list at a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday night at the Prospect Heights Campus at 883 Classon Avenue in Brooklyn.
Communities across the city have fought the turnaround method for months, with teachers potentially losing their jobs, students losing favored staff and school names reflected in alma maters spanning back through family generations potentially changed.
But DOE representatives argue that the turnaround model is intended to help schools by speeding up the pace of improvement, particularly since those that enter the program would receive upwards of $2 million in federal funding for reform initiatives.
Bushwick High School was put on the turnaround list last year also, but the community fought successfully to keep it open.
The school serves many 17 to 21-year-olds who struggle to graduate, but State Senator Martin Dilan said the students to care about their educations.
He said the school has small class sizes and one-on-one educational opportunities tailored to help struggling students.
“This school and it’s programs are tailored to students that have not excelled in traditional classrooms and curriculum,” Dilan said in a statement after the school was taken off the turnaround list. “This school offers a second chance and any success, no matter how small, is worth fighting for.”
Over at Grover Cleveland, parents, staff and students held protests at 7 a.m., bombarded the school’s PEP hearing with opposition, and dominated local civic meetings with their concerns.
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.
Staff 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.
After the school was removed from the turnaround list Thursday morning, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who graduated from Grover Cleveland in 1979, and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s PEP representative Dmytro Fedkowskyj, class of 1984, released a joint statement thanking DOE for its decision.
“The have recognized the strength and improvement under Principal Denise Vittor and all the excellence that the Grover Cleveland community offers,” the representatives said.
However, they added, “we continue to express our opposition and concern with the proposed turnaround model and we urge the city to drop their quest to close all these schools, especially the large comprehensive Queens high schools.”

Glendale loves its neighbors for Earth Day

The Glendale Civic Association hosted a Love Your Neighbor event for Earth Day on Saturday, April 21st. The event encouraged local residents to spend time outside enjoying the day, chatting and cleaning the neighborhood together.
Volunteers from the Maspeth High School Green Club, the New York Municipal Credit Union joined Councilwoman Liz Crowley’s office and local residents to remove trash and debris from community-shared blocks. Many students and neighbors came out to rake leaves and weed overgrowth while others collected trash and swept sidewalks and drains.
The street revitalization and beautification project focused on a cleanup of public gardens, sidewalks and railroad sittings throughout Glendale and Ridgewood.
“Earth Day is not just about solar panels and electric cars. It is also about what we can do in our neighborhood to keep our planet beautiful,” Crowley said. “Collecting trash, recycling and planting gardens go a long way to keep our City clean. I am thankful to the Glendale Civic Association and to all the volunteers who came out and made this event a success.”

Photos: Michael O’Kane

In the making: Forest Park Civic Association of Queens

There is never a shortage of civic deeds, but it is only periodically that we come across young community leaders of Queens who recognize problems in their community and feel obligated to unite neighbors and find solutions.
There are “armchair residents” who complain and take it for granted that other residents will improve their communities, and there are “defeatist residents” who feel problems can never be remedied. Then there are creative visionaries, which fall into a stand-alone category.
The latter is the case with Paul Gagliardotto, a 26-year-old Glendale resident who is forming the Forest Park Civic Association of Queens.
The Forest Park Civic Association of Queens would unify residents of all areas surrounding Forest Park, which include Glendale, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, and Woodhaven. The new civic association’s mission statement is “To maintain the integrity of the social, cultural, historical, and infrastructural standards, as well as encourage community involvement, pride, and neighborhood cooperation.”
Over pastries and beverages in a Forest Hills Starbucks, the well-dressed Paul Gagliardotto expressed his passion for Queens and his civic goals. He has made the rounds in Queens: he is an Ozone Park native, a Glendale resident since age 13, and an alumna of Forest Hills High School. He began volunteering at age seven at a few churches, and participated in food and coat drives.
Gagliardotto’s long-term priority is creating a civic that unites everyone under a stronger voice. “There is a Glendale Civic Association, Woodhaven Residents Block Association, and Richmond Hill Historical Society, among others,” he said. “If an issue arises in one community, members from all the involved communities can join each other. I want to work with other civics, and not just be another one out there.”
Gagliardotto had his vision in early 2011, and owes his civic inspirations to his family and elected officials. He stated,
“My parents and sisters said to stop talking about trying to form a civic, but go for it,” he said. “I always looked up to the Vallone family, where Charles J. Vallone was a judge and grandson Peter Vallone, Jr. became a councilman. I read a great book by [former City Council Speaker] Peter F. Vallone, Sr. called Learning To Govern, which is about growing up in a political family and never abandoning their Astoria roots.”
In early 2012, redistricting became a contested issue. It was reported that four Queens legislators might be consolidated into two districts, and a Democrat would become subject to gerrymandering.
“If you take Forest Park and the five surrounding neighborhoods, you can quickly see how it borders three community boards, three of the new congressional districts, three or four assembly districts depending on how you view it, and five state senate districts,” Gagliardotto explained.
“I feel it is an outrage how Queens is divided by political representation, but this civic would do the opposite,” he said. “I feel I owe it to this area more than ever.”
Gagliardotto hopes to help save the Queens Community House Beacon Program at Russell Sage JHS 190, which might be forced to close due to budget cuts. “I played music, sports, and arts and crafts there after school, and I couldn’t imagine the program not being around for today’s kids,” he said.
Queens is often tossed candy, considering the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation rate in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Gagliardotto said.
“We have so much history, and should have more, if not just as many landmarks as Brooklyn and Manhattan,” he said. “I remember visiting Eddie’s Sweet Shop and the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium when I was younger, and it makes me wonder how the Commission would not landmark those historic sites.”
Gagliardotto denounces overdevelopment. “Developers want to build a condo everywhere, but they don’t see what people value from spaces such as the Tennis Stadium,” he said.
He referenced the demolition of homes and green spaces in the Cord Meyer section of Forest Hills for McMansions. He also mentioned the demolition of a 1906 Neo-Renaissance rowhouse at 108-21 72nd Avenue to build a sliver commercial building, which blocked all views on one façade of the Chatham apartment building.
Green initiatives are another interest. “If you walk down a block and it’s all cement, you don’t have that nice feeling,” Gagliardotto said.
He suggested devoting areas of Forest Park to teaching children how to grow flowers and vegetables, and also planting trees at large. He supports a bike path along the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch, as long as parking facilities for the cars at the Forest View Crescent co-op are not sacrificed.
He envisions a general membership meeting paired by an executive board meeting, and hopes the civic will meet bi-monthly, in addition to any special weekend activity. He will promote his civic through his website and Facebook. He also visualizes a younger membership, spanning college age through the late 20s.
“We are the younger people who will inherit these neighborhoods, so we need to take care of these neighborhoods now before it is too late,” he said.
“This is a very community-based neighborhood, and this civic will be a great addition for the whole community,” said student opera singer Nora Mooney, a two-year resident of Forest Hills.
“I am responsible, caring, and patient,” added Gagliardotto. “My personality as an individual is carried into my personality as a community leader.”
With Gagliardotto’s vision, Queens is improvement-bound.

The civic’s introductory meeting will be on May 2 at 7 p.m. in the Atlas Park Community Room at 80-00 Cooper Avenue in Glendale. Residents can get to know each other and exchange ideas, as well as meet congressional candidates.

Donate old prom dresses and tuxedos

Assemblyman Mike Miller and Girl Scouts Cadettes Troop 4361 are partnering in a prom donation drive, offering prom dresses, tuxedos, shoes and many more to families of eighthgraders.
The drive was Troop 4361’s idea.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Miller said. “We could help a lot of children who may or may not have everything they need for the prom. We’re taking any old prom dresses, and it also doesn’t have to be a full tuxedo. It can be the top or the bottom only.”
Donors can contribute evening gowns, party dresses, bridesmaid and Sweet 16 dresses as well as new, unopened hosiery, prom gloves, evening handbags and hair accessories.
For boys, donors can contribute shirts, vests, ties, cummerbunds and belts.
The duo is also collecting services. Donations such as gift certificates for nails and hair, as well as for dry cleaning, flowers, limousine services and alterations are accepted.
Individuals can drop off the clothes and shoes to Miller’s office, located at 83-91 Woodhaven Boulevard. The drive will last until May 1, and residents can donate between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
A prom donation drive event will be held on Sunday, April 29, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The American Legion, located at 72-02 Myrtle Avenue in Glendale.

(Lisa A. Fraser)

104th Precinct Crime Blotter

Monday, Apr. 16

Mohamed Zaki was arrested at 71-32 72nd Street for aggravated harassment by Detective Geis.
Amir Rastoden was arrested at 1830 Putnam Avenue for criminal trespassing by Officer Lodato.
Adel Zaki was arrested at 71-32 72nd Street for aggravated harassment by Officer Gomez.
Mauricio Luna was arrested at 1636 Stephen Street for aggravated harassment by Detective Adams.
Jorge Nova was arrested at 65th Street and Myrtle Avenue for burglary by Officer Sciame.
Wilfredo Valentin was arrested at 2018 Himrod Street for criminal contempt by Officer Melisurgo.
Shamal Clark was arrested at Robinson Parkway and Cypress Hills Boulevard for grand larceny by Detective Murray.
Michelle Scheuring was arrested at 62-93 60th Street for aggravated harassment by Detective Diaquoi.
Matthew Maguire was arrested at 80th Street and Dry Harbor Road for robbery by Officer Day.
John Nicholson was arrested at 68-02 Myrtle Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Mamanicampos.
Thomas Santeramo was arrested at 62-04 69th Place for assault by Officer Singh.

Tuesday, Apr. 17

Jose Javarez was arrested at 61-58 56th Road for criminal mischief by Officer Zak.
Brian Fahy was arrested at 83-35 60th Avenue for criminal contempt by Detective Ebron.
Lehidi Barranco was arrested at 690 Seneca Avenue for assault by Officer Gomez.
Lawrence Goldfarb was arrested at 68-14 65th Street for assault by Officer Martinez.
Angez Rivera was arrested at 704 Seneca Avenue for robbery by Officer Inga.
Lisa Gales was arrested at 62-04 69th Place for assault by Officer Skorzewsicz.
Michael Farrice was arrested at 704 Seneca Avenue for criminal contempt by Officer Aviles.
Daniel Pickett was arrested at 485 Onderdonk Avenue for assault by Officer Aviles.

Wednesday, Apr. 18

Monserrate Olivera was arrested at 463 Fairview Avenue for grand larceny by Detective Ebron.
Joe Corona was arrested at Eliot Avenue and 77th Place for criminal contempt by Detective Murray.
Philip Dietrich was arrested at 60-91 Putnam Avenue for assault by Officer Gomez.
Boris Zavolunov was arrested at Maurice Avenue and 55th Street for graffiti by Officer Dambinskas.

Thursday, Apr. 19

Nicholas Aliventi was arrested at 65-59 Myrtle Avenue for menacing by Officer Reyes.
Daniel Majewski was arrested at 60-14 56th Avenue for criminal trespassing by Officer Ferraris.
Pedro Lopez was arrested at 1080 Wyckoff Avenue for burglary by Officer Williams.
Jesus Collado was arrested at 58-22 78th Avenue for criminal possession of a weapon by Officer Miller.
Freddy Ciena was arrested at 73rd Place and Cooper Avenue for criminal possession of a weapon by Officer Mariacci.
Adrian Cevallos was arrested at 1720 Putnam Avenue for robbery by Officer Zdunezyk.
Joel Espinal was arrested at Menahan Street and Cypress Avenue for reckless endangerment by Officer Inga.

Friday, Apr. 20

Jonathan Colon was arrested at Grand Avenue and 69th Street for assault by Detective Webb.
Alexandra Sanchez was arrested at 54-19 Myrtle Avenue for assault by Detective Spagnola.
Livijus Suru was arrested at 21-23 Harman Street for assault by Officer Hyatt.
Victor Mateo was arrested at Linden Street and Seneca Avenue for menacing by Officer Peart.
Brian Roe was arrested at Metropolitan Avenue and 80th Street for driving while intoxicated by Officer Vacogmar.

Saturday, Apr. 21

Joseph Magana was arrested at 64-02 Catalpa Avenue for criminal contempt by Detective Adams.
Elio Ormeno was arrested at 387 Onderdonk Avenue for criminal contempt by Officer Ricottone.
Jennifer Torres was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer McKevitt.
Worciech Dobrzanskz was arrested at Metropolitan Avenue and Forest Avenue for driving while intoxicated by Officer Christian.
Michael Martin was arrested at 68-02 Myrtle Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Sadler.
Kimbrely Jimenez was arrested at 583 Grandview Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Sadler.
Kenneth Pinikney was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for petit larceny by Officer Sadler.

Sunday, Apr. 22

Thomas Gallo was arrested at 53-53 72nd Place for assault by Officer Zimon.
John Fletcher was arrested at 60-38 78th Avenue for assault by Officer Chicarello.
Dione Clevas was arrested at 66-26 Metropolitan Avenue for criminal possession of stolen property by Officer Sanchez.
Robert Rodonis was arrested at 58th Drive and 59th Street for burglary by Officer Hyatt.

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