Janaury, the Tribune broke the
story of a Flushing Boys Club
director, John German, who after a six-month F.B.I. investigation was
arrested on charges that he took a 15-year-old boy to Mexico to sexually
exploit him. German was promptly ousted from the Club (see page 70).
The beating and death of Michael
Griffith put three white teens and the town of Howard Beach on trail.
District Attorney John Santucci began investigating a December 1986
racial attack in Howard Beach,
only to turn the case over to Charles Hynes, a special prosecutor named
by Gov. Mario Cuomo. The attack resulted in the killing of one black,
Michael Griffith, after he was chased onto the highway by several white
youths. Another black was severely beaten, and a third escaped unharmed.
The case gained national attention and made Howard Beach a symbol of
racism in the U.S. (see page 65)….
that a domed football stadium would
be built in Flushing resurfaced, but were quickly stymied by predictions
that no team could be lured into moving here.
February, 12 white youths connected to the Howard Beach racial attacks
were indicted on charges ranging from second-degree murder to inciting
to riot and criminal facilitation. Some Howard Beach residents publicly
protested the indictments, charging the governor and the special
prosecutor were caving in to demands by black leaders. Jon Lester, 17,
Scott Kern, 18, and Robert Riley, 17, were charged with second-degree
murder in the death of Michael Griffith….
John German was charged by the
with sexually molesting children
from the Flushing Boys Club,
was the director.
Howard Beach community was hit in March with literature from the Ku
Klux Klan. The KKK apparently viewed Howard Beach residents as
ripe for recruitment. David Duke, head of the National Association for the Advancement of
White People, another white supremacy group, announced the formation of
a Howard Beach chapter. Pamphlets decrying integration were mailed to
Howard Beach residents. The literature was traced to the National
Alliance, a Washington D.C.-based neo-Nazi group.
projects dominated the Trib’s headlines in March. The
destruction of portions of Flushing’s
RKO Keith’s movie theater that had been granted landmark status
marred a renovation effort. Thomas Huang, vice-president of the
Farrington-Northern Development Corp., which was renovating the theater,
blamed the destruction on vandals and offered to repair the damage by
recasting three damaged columns at company expense (see page 102)….
Developer Donald Trump and Alexander’s Department Stores won a 10-year
battle to build a $150 million, 160-store shopping mall in Rego Park,
just a stone’s throw away from the multi-tiered Queens Center. Most of
the protest from area residents, many of whom are elderly, stemmed from
concern that the new mall would worsen already heavily congested traffic
conditions . . . .
Denying claims of wrongdoing, two staff
members of Senator Leonard Stavisky defended their employment at the
North Flushing Senior Center.
April, arson damaged a house in Flushing that the City planned to use as
a boarder baby home, over
the heated protests of area residents. Following the blaze, Mayor Ed
Koch arrived on the scent to reaffirm his commitment to putting a
boarder baby home in the community, further raising the ire of the
proposed home’s neighbors. Two local groups obtained a court order
prohibiting the City from posting guards on the property, but the City
appealed the order (see page 74)….
earlier attempt to use the site as a home for adolescent girls was
shelved after two executives from groups planning the facility received death threats.
The big story for May and June was the garbage
barge – all 3,186 pounds of it, minus the aromas carried by the wind.
Despite the City Heath Department’s assurances that the trash aboard
the Mobro Barge posed no significant
health risk, Borough President Claire Shulman went to court to prevent
the vessel from anchoring in Long Island City. Thus, instead of the
trash being trucked across the borough to Long Island, the barge
continued afloat with no takers (see page 69)….
The Flushing boarder-baby home again made
front-page news, as neighborhood residents stood firm in their
opposition to the City’s plan to use a Gladwyn Avenue house to
shelter infants who, for various
reasons, have become wards of the state.
Five members of the
Utopia Improvement Association
had been arrested for allegedly torching the house a month earlier, and
more arrests followed….
A federal rule squashed local efforts to
prevent the trucking of low-level nuclear waste through Queens. The rule
lifted a ban on transport over the Triborough and Throgs Neck bridges,
allowing the waste-laden trucks to use roads
and highways feeding into the two bridges.
Meanwhile, the City was in the midst of a court
battle with Brookhaven National Laboratories on Long Island, in an
attempt to bar trucking of its high-level nuclear waste through
As the hunt continued for the “parking lot rapist” of Rego
Park, another sexual assault occurred on a subway platform, at 75th
Avenue in Forest Hills. Community concern continued to grow, and rape
prevention programs proliferated….
In September, as the
Ku Klux Klan stepped up its
efforts to infiltrate Queens communities, residents of Astoria rallied
to purge the white supremacy group from their neighborhoods.
Klan activity was reported to be heavy in
College Point and Ridgewood, as well as Astoria. City Council Majority
Leader Peter Vallone and the Jewish Defense Organization headed the list
of the most visible Klan opponents. Blacks and Jews headed the list of
Community School Board 28 in Forest Hills
accepted the resignation of its superintendent, Joseph
Petrella – even though he had
not submitted a written resignation. Petrella took the matter to court,
and just before the year’s end was back at his old job….
Judge Thomas Demakos began the difficult task
of selecting an impartial jury for the highly publicized and emotionally
charged Howard Beach trial.
In picking jurors, Demakos said he was not
looking for people who were unfamiliar with the case, but rather was
looking for impartial jurors who could set aside their opinions and make
a decision based on what they heard in the courtroom. Looking ahead to
December, it seems the judge did a good job….
The November chill brought with it a sense of
urgency for those living on the streets. Avery Mendez,
who lived on a street corner in downtown Flushing, was featured on a Tribune
cover in late November. A week later, he was dead, a victim of the first
December, the Howard Beach trial ended. After 12 days of deliberation,
the jury found three of four defendants guilty of second-degree
manslaughter in the death of Michael Griffith. The three, Jon
Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Landone, were also convicted of
first-degree assault for beating Cedric Sandiford. Kern and Lester were
also convicted of conspiracy to riot, and one defendant, Michael Pirone,
was acquitted of all charges.