St. John’s stays hot with wins over Villanova, Marquette

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By Zach Gewelb

TimesLedger Newspapers

The St. John’s men’s basketball team continued its surprising turnaround, defeating Marquette, 86-78 Saturday after shocking No. 1 Villanova, 79-75 just three days earlier. The impressive victories come after the Red Storm defeated then-No. 4 Duke to snap an 11-game losing streak and bumped up their record to 13-13 (2-11 in conference) on the season.

Shamorie Ponds has been the spark the Johnnies needed, recording 70 total points in the back-to-back wins, including 44 against Marquette. That came after he willed the Red Storm to victory against top-ranked Villanova. The win marked the first time St. John’s defeated the nation’s top-ranked team in 33 years.

Most Holy Redeemer

Despite being a massive underdog, St. John’s showed it wasn’t intimidated and went toe-to-toe with ‘Nova, taking a 39-34 advantage into intermission.

“I never walk into a game thinking that we have no chance,” head coach Chris Mullin said.

The Johnnies worked hard to maintain their lead in the second half. Nova’ tied the game at 41-41 early in the stanza, but St. John’s reclaimed the lead and never looked back, staying a step ahead of the Wildcats for the remainder of the game.

Ponds led the way with 26 points and Justin Simon recorded a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 boards, while adding seven assists to his ledger. Marvin Clark II added an efficient 15 points and Bashir Ahmed scored 10.

The victory over ‘Nova marked the first time St. John’s defeated two programs ranked in the top five in back-to-back games.

“It’s big for the university, and it’s also big for us,” Ponds said. “I feel like it will give us the little spark that we need going into the rest of the season. Two-huge wins. We’ve never lost the confidence, but no one wants to go through the losing. I feel like we stayed together, but we weren’t getting the outcomes that we wanted. If we stayed together, it would eventually fall through.”

The wins gave St. John’s momentum heading into its showdown with Marquette, and the Johnnies didn’t disappoint on their home court, earning their third consecutive victory.

Ponds and his 44 points were the game’s biggest story, but Justin Simon also had a nice game, chipping in 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The score remained tight throughout the first half, with the Red Storm taking a slim 34-32 advantage into the second half. From there, Ponds took over the game for the Johnnies. He went 9-of-12 from the field and scored 27 points in the second half alone. He finished the night shooting 16-of-23 — including 4-of-7 from three-point range. His 44 total points are the most scored in the 57-year history of Carnesecca Arena, which left Mullin impressed.

“I think its self-explanatory. Historic. He broke the building record, so that speaks for itself,” Mullin said. “Just an incredible performance, he’s played really well since he’s been here. Looks like he’s got more pop and more energy… I was glad to see that. It was a legendary, historic performance… no comparisons.”

“I mean it is a blessing,” Ponds said of his historic night. “All the great players who came through this university, for my name to be up there, it’s a dream come true.”

“It felt good to see the ball go in, trying to mix it up,” he added. “Going to the rack, free throws, mid-range, three point, it felt good out there… Just to see one go in from the beginning of the game. I was confident the entire game. I just try to keep the foot on the gas.”

St. John’s took care of business in the second half, outscoring Marquette by six to secure the victory.

Armed with renewed confidence, St. John’s will look to continue its hot streak and end the season on a high note before the Big East Tournament in March.

“It’s about time we turned it around. Coach [Mullin] has said all we need is one,” Simon said. “We’ve lost every way we could, and now we learn from our mistakes. We limit them. We play hard and play together.”

Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewelb@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4539.

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Ridgewood Reservoir added to the National Register of Historic Places

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

“Having the Ridgewood Reservoir recognized on the New York State Historic Register back in December, and now having it listed on the National Register of Historic Places is an amazing achievement,” state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said. “I am pleased to see that the National Park Service moved so quickly to place the Ridgewood Reservoir on the list, officially preserving its natural beauty, its historic context to Brooklyn and Queens, and its educational importance for future generations.”

The reservoir was built in 1859 to supply the independent city of Brooklyn with drinking water that came from streams in Queens and Nassau counties. After New York City switched to reservoirs in the Catskills in the 1950s, the Ridgewood Reservoir was decommissioned and drained in 1989, becoming a lush and dense forest which is now home to more than 150 species of birds.

NYC H2O, a nonprofit that educates people about New York’s water system and ecology, has brought more than 3,000 students on field trips to the site since 2014 and led the advocacy effort.

“The Ridgewood Reservoir is a majestic place that deserves to be listed on the National Historic Register as a cultural and ecological treasure to be discovered for years to come,” NYC H2O Executive Director Matt Malina said. “The support of elected officials, community leaders and organizations has been critical to preventing its demolition and in advocating for its future.”

The Bloomberg administration planned to cut culverts into the reservoir as part of a flood mitigation project and allow for future development, but community boards and civic associations joined environmentalists in a grassroots preservation movement.

“I am elated to hear that the National Park Service has added the Ridgewood Reservoir to the National Register of Historic Places,” City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Glendale) said. “Not only has it become a beautiful landmark within our community, it has become vital to the local ecology. While the reservoir no longer provides necessary water supply to residents, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity of New Yorkers, who when faced with a problem like a water shortage, undertake stunning engineering and urban planning projects in order to create solutions.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Mayor’s office expands funds to combat domestic violence

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

The city’s First Lady and the head of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence have announced that $3.3 million in new funding will be allocated to Family Justice Centers citywide.

First Lady Chirlane McCray and Commissioner Cecile Noel said the funding will allow the centers to increase mental health services for survivors of domestic violence, using psychotherapy and psychiatric methods in a holistic approach to trauma.

Collaborating with the mayor’s office in the centers’ effort are ThriveNYC, NYC Health + Hospitals, and the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, with sponsorship from the Chapman Perelman Foundation.

“New York City continues to make early intervention and access to support for individuals a priority for those who have suffered trauma from intimate partner violence,” said McCray, the wife of Mayor DeBlasio and co-Chair of the mayor’s Domestic Violence Task Force. “The expansion of services will ensure survivors have greater access to the mental health services they need to heal.”

QUEENS THEATRE

Officials in the mayor’s office said there is a wide body of literature documenting a link between domestic violence and mental health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

“Through the first adopters of our program, we’ve seen the meaningful impact of convenient access to behavioral health services for so many survivors of domestic violence,” said Dr. Charles Barron, the Medical Director of Behavioral Health at NYC Health + Hospitals.

The Family Justice Centers will serve as one-stop destinations that will serve victims who have faced domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking. They will be connected to Columbia University’s team of psychiatrists and psychologists regardless of what language they speak, their immigration status, income, sex, gender or sexual orientation.

New York made substantial gains last year in supporting victims of domestic violence with four major steps, including expanded paid leave to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and sex trafficking, prevention services for families in high-risk domestic violence cases, legal assistance or representation in housing-related matters for victims and early healthy relationship education courses at 128 middle schools across the city as a form of abuse prevention.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Queens Library honors 19th century Flushing philanthropist

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By Gina Martinez

TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens Library celebrated Black History Month by honoring 19th century Flushing philanthropist and educator Mary Shaw.

On Monday the Flushing branch held a ceremony that included a portrayal of one of her grammar school classes, music performances and the unveiling painted portrait of Shaw by local artist Eddie Abrams that will be permanently displayed at the library.

Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and teachers and students from nearby Flushing schools, including P.S. 244, attended the ceremony.

President Walcott said Queens Library was proud to introduce a new generation to an extraordinary woman who was far ahead of her time.

“Although she lived before the Queens Library system existed,” he said. “She embodied our mission to provide opportunities for intellectual and personal growth to all people, regardless of their background or circumstances, and build strong communities.”

Shaw was the principal of a public grammar school for African American children called the “Colored School at Flushing.” According to Walcott, upon her death in 1905, she bequeathed $1,000 to the Flushing Free Library, which at the time was a standalone institution that had yet to be absorbed by the Queens Library system and was incorporated two years later. Walcott said the money was used to purchase books for a reference section at that library, including “The Book of Decorative Furniture: Its Form, Colour and History,”by Edwin Foley, which still exist.

Walcott said that although Queens Library was long aware of Mrs. Shaw and her contribution to Flushing Free Library, very few specifics were known about her life until two members of the board of directors of the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens took an interest in her story after hearing about plans for the remembrance ceremony. The board’s president Carl Ballenas, who also works as a social studies teacher at Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Jamaica, worked with students and coworkers to find out more about Shaw.

They discovered that Shaw, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1851, married to John W.A. Shaw, a noted journalist who was involved with Democratic politics in New York City and became one of the first black Tammany Hall office holders. They discovered that Shaw went on to become the principal of the Colored Public School of Flushing and resigned in 1894 after she received a $75,000 inheritance from a close family friend. Their research found that Shaw died in 1905, and left behind an estate of $50,000.

She bequeathed $38,000 to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, now Tuskegee University. At the time it was the largest bequest ever made by an African American.Their research also found that according to her will, Mrs. Shaw left $2,000 to a home for aging African Americans in Manhattan, $1,000 to a Flushing hospital, $1,000 to Flushing Free Library and $50 to her husband, who was living in London at the time of her death.

Ballenas said researching Shaw was an opportunity for his middle school students in the Aquinas Honors Society to help uncover more details about Mrs. Shaw.

“I am always looking for projects to help spark my students’ love for uncovering the lives of people they have never heard of before who have a connection to Queens,” he said.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Man pulls knife on subway rider in Astoria: NYPD

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

Police were searching for a knife-wielding man who menaced a straphanger in Astoria last month.

BAYSIDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The victim, a 43-year-old man, spotted the suspect urinating on the platform of the Broadway N and W subway station Jan. 27 just after 2 p.m. and asked what he was doing as he took a picture of the man, police said. The assailant produced a knife and threatened the victim, who tried to get away but was followed for a brief period of time before the suspect fled the station on foot, according to the NYPD.

The suspect is described as a 6-foot-tall Hispanic man in his 50s last seen wearing a brown coat, a green shirt, a gray sweater, blue slacks and brown shoes. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TI

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Woman fights off knife-wielding man at Jackson Heights apartment building: NYPD

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

Police were looking for a man who followed a 39-year-old woman into her Jackson Heights apartment building, in the vicinity of 76th Street and 35th Avenue, and threatened her with a knife early Monday morning.

The suspect grabbed the victim from behind as she entered the building’s vestibule, showed her the knife and tried to take her purse at 2 a.m., according to police. The woman fought back as he tried to rip the purse from her grasp. The victim managed to pull the man out to the front of the building where she screamed for help, police said.

When a good Samaritan came to her aid, the suspect fled the scene empty-handed, southbound on 76th Street. The victim suffered a small laceration to her left hand and was treated at the scene by EMS.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man in hi 50s, 5-foot-8 and weighing 200 pounds. He was caught on surveillance camera wearing a black-and-white knitted cap, a dark-colored coat, black jeans, white sneakers and carrying a black backpack.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Parents, elected officials renew call for play street after third rejection from City

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

Students at an overcrowded Long Island City elementary school located at 48-09 Center Boulevard are not getting enough exercise because their playground is too small to accommodate proper recess.

Members of the PS/IS 78 Parent Teacher Association and Community Board 2 joined City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) last Friday calling on the city’s Department of Transportation to provide a safe play space after the agency rejected their application for a “playstreet” for a third time.

“Our students deserve play time,” Van Bramer said. “Kids need time to run, play and burn off energy. Not only is it beneficial for their physical health, but it helps them focus in the classroom as well. This partial, temporary street closure would not negatively impact our community and would improve quality of life for students and families of PS/IS 78. I don’t understand why DOT has denied the playstreet application.”

The request, filed last spring, calls for a street closure on 48th Avenue between Center Boulevard and 5th Street on school days between 10:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. DOT denied the request again last week. Without a playstreet, PSIS 78 students will continue to have recess only twice a week because the playground can not adequately accommodate the school’s 700 students.

“Following two reviews, DOT denied a playstreet on the south side of 48th Avenue, midblock to Center Boulevard, due to safety concerns based on the street layout, (a) nearby parking facility, and frequent commercial traffic,” a DOT spokesperson said. “Typically, DOT implements playstreets on one-way streets due to the predictable nature of vehicular movements and clear sigh lines.”

Due to the shortage of proper play space, the PTA pays $80,000 annually to a third party to walk some students to a play space off site for recess. Not only is this a major expense, the travel time cuts into students’ play time, leaving them with just 10 minutes or less.

“The parent community at PS/IS 78Q has been rallying together for 18 months in trying to secure a partial street closure for 1.5. hours each day,” PS/IS 78Q Co-President Genevieve Bernier said. “The DOT has rejected our requests for a third time, with inconsistent explanations and their suggestion to have our students walk across Center Boulevard into our City and State parks, with no physical boundaries except water, is much more dangerous that the 1.5 hour road closure we seek.”

Lutheran School of Flushing and Bayside

Van Bramer urged DOT to reconsider the application or to work with the school and PTA to find a solution that provides play space for the PS/IS 78 students.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Hollis man faces 50 years on murder, firearm charges: DA

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged a Hollis man with the murder of two individuals after a firearm linked him to the shootings through ballistics tests.

Neville Brown, 37, is accused of killing two men — a 21-year old and a 19-year old — in South Richmond Hill barely a month apart between December 2017 and January 2018, the DA said, and faces the possibility of 50 years in prison if convicted.

“This defendant is alleged to have taken part in the slaying of two men exactly four weeks apart,” Brown said. “Gun violence in our community is a scourge on our society and must end now. One man was gunned-down while seated in a vehicle near a playground and the other ambushed as he walked on a residential street after nightfall. The defendant, who was apprehended in upstate New York, now faces the likelihood of spending the rest of his life locked behind bars.”

On Dec. 19 at about 3 a.m., the accused was allegedly behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz when he passed a Cadillac Escalade on 125th Street and Atlantic Avenue several times. Surveillance footage showed two men, one believed to be Brown, get out of the car and approach the SUV occupied by the 21-year-old Dail Ramessar and four other people. The second man, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, presented a gun and fired a volley of rounds into the Escalade, hitting Ramessar several times before fleeing the scene, the prosecutor said.

Ramessar was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died.

Most Holy Redeemer

At 9 p.m. on Jan. 16, video surveillance showed the same Mercedes-Benz stop on 135th Street near 105th Avenue before a man in a hooded sweatshirt steps out and approaches 19-year old Omaree Morrison, who was walking down the street. Morrison was allegedly shot multiple times by the hooded suspect and died from his injuries.

Ballistics tests showed the same weapon was used in both shootings.

According to Brown, the suspect stated he was the driver of the Mercedes-Benz used in both shootings.

The defendant was arraigned on two separate complaints before Queens Criminal Court Judge Althea Drysdale, one for second-degree murder and the other for criminal possession of a firearm.

Drysdale ordered Brown to be held without bail until his next court date on Feb. 15.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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5Pointz artists awarded $6.7 million for destroyed graffiti as developer vows appeal

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled in favor of the 5Pointz artists Monday, ordering developer Jerry Wolkoff to pay $6.7 million in compensation for ordering the whitewashing of the world famous graffiti mecca in November 2013.

In his 100-page decision, Judge Frederick Block awarded the maximum of $150,000 for each of the 45 murals that were destroyed in the dark of night without warning at the Long Island City warehouse complex, which was torn down a year later to make way for two residential towers.

The ruling followed a three-week trial at Federal District Court in November with the jury finding Wolkoff had violated the federal Visual Artists Rights Act — which was enacted in 1990 and grants artists the rights to prevent intentional modification of their visual artworks and the destruction or mutilation of artworks “of a recognized stature.” It is the first time VARA has been used to protect aerosol artwork.

“5Pointz was its temple, though it can never be replaced, this judgement is a monumental step for our culture and our art form,” 5Pointz Curator Jonathan “Meres” Cohen told artnet News following the ruling. “Judge Block’s decision will change the art form perception for generations to come.”

In his decision, Judge Block wrote, “If not for Wolkoff’s insolence, these damages would not have been assessed. If he did not destroy 5Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully.”

Terrace

Wolkoff was stunned by the judge’s ruling.

“What permits?” he asked. “Have you ever had to deal with the City of New York? I could have waited years for those permits. It’s an insane decision and I’m going to go through the appeal process. Why would he think any differently if it was two days or six months? I’ll appeal it and we’ll go from there.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Man wanted in string of robberies in downtown Flushing: NYPD

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By Gina Martinez

TimesLedger Newspapers

Police were searching for a man wanted for questioning in connection with a grand larceny pattern in Flushing.

Between Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 and Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 a suspect removed property from 10 victims in the downtown Flushing area, according to police.

The authorities described the person of interest as a black man in his 40s.

Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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