Borough President Claire Shulman, with counsel Nick Garaufis at her side, announces legal filings to prevent Mobro’s garbage barge from anchoring in LIC.
In 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… Queens 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.….
Hopes 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… In 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.…. The 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…
Development 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….
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… In 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 scene to reaffirm his commitment to putting a boarder baby home in the community….
Jon Lester was one of three convicted in the Howard Beach beating.
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…
The Flushing boarder-baby home again made front-page news, as five members of the Utopia Improvement Association had been arrested for allegedly torching the house 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 Queens….
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... 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 frost….
In 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.
Lisa L.Colangelo: Serving for two years at the Trib just after graduating Queens College, Lisa went on to newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but returned a decade later and is still working as a reporter - but now covering City Hall for the New York Daily News.
I interviewed for my job at the Queens Tribune in May 1987, just a few weeks before I graduated from Queens College. I’d like to think I got it based on the fact that I had been editor of the college paper for two years. Or maybe that I had a nice collection of internships under my belt. Or was it my infectious enthusiasm?
“You didn’t ask about the salary,” Tom Zambito, my boss at the Tribune and now my colleague at the Daily News, fessed up long after I was hired. But I think Mike and Tom (a Brooklyn boy) both also liked the idea of hiring a Queens kid for the gig. After all, I had already lived in three different neighborhoods, and attended school and college in the borough.
The job was a challenge but it was fun. I worked with Tommy, Marsha Schrager and other young reporters hungry to learn the trade. We regularly beat the dailies on local and city-wide stories.
The city was still reverberating from the municipal scandals and the suicide of disgraced Borough President Donald Manes. Racial tensions were high - a group of white youths chased a young black man onto the highway in Howard Beach.
Every day brought a new challenge. After the Howard Beach verdict was read, I went from courthouse to Cross Bay Boulevard for community reaction only to feel their disdain for the media - first hand. I wrote about a cemetery strike, where caskets were lowered into refrigerated trucks instead of the ground.
There was the heartbreaking story of Avery Mendez, the homeless man who died in the cold shortly after talking to us. And there were endless chances to explore local parks, zoos and museums.
Here’s what I remember about that old Kissena Boulevard office - wood paneling, the clickety-clack of typewriters and visits to the adjacent pet store to stare at blue seahorses. It was grungy, exhausting and a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change a thing.