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Wild West shootout in Maspeth

By Daniel Offner
[email protected]

Gunfire erupted in the early morning on Saturday, June 11, at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 58th Avenue in Maspeth, sending people scrambling for their lives. Police responded and made an arrest, recovering a firearm from the scene.

The incident occurred at approximately 6 a.m., when a man, who was described as disheveled with ripped clothing, reportedly walked into Pat’s Service Station on Rust Street. Witnesses said he was robbed of his wallet and cellphone and asked to use the phone at the station.

Kevin Coyne of Pat’s Service Station said that a man walked in with scratches all over his face claiming he just got beat up and mugged. “A couple of minutes later I heard shots,” he told The Queens Ledger.

According to eyewitnesses, the man then ran off and gunfire erupted.

“This is out of hand. Maspeth is supposed to be a safe place,” one eyewitness to the event said. “Police showed up rather quickly, but nonetheless there are so many guns on the street, what are they going to do?”

While attempting to close the roadway to secure the crime scene, a 67-year-old man driving a 2020 Tesla T2 traveling westbound on Rust Street was directed by officers to stop his vehicle. According to police, the driver inadvertently pressed on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, causing him to veer right. The car then mounted the sidewalk and proceeded to collide with the rear of an uninvolved and unoccupied truck at the location.

According to eyewitnesses, the car drove underneath the truck and decapitated the driver who is reportedly in critical condition.

Police indicate that the operator of the vehicle is likely to die as a result of sustaining severe head trauma as a result of being pinned inside his vehicle. FDNY personnel were able to extricate the driver and EMS transported him to Health and Hospitals-Elmhurst in critical condition.

Juan Gonzalez, 31, of Brooklyn, was subsequently arrested at the corner of 59th Avenue and 58th Place, around 8 a.m. According to investigators, he allegedly discharged his firearm following a dispute. The firearm was later recovered at the scene.

Gonzalez faces charges of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, criminal use of a firearm, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a disguised gun, and the possession of a large-capacity ammo feed device, according to a DCPI spokesperson.

Maspeth Pre-K student diagnosed with brain tumor

St. Stan’s community supports August Vinti’s family

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Like most four-year-old boys, August “Auggie” Vinti has a contagious smile, loves spending time with his family and friends, and has big dreams of being a firefighter when he grows up.

That’s why it was so devastatingly shocking for all who know him when he was diagnosed with aggressive Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG.

DIPG is a type of tumor that starts in the brain stem, which controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles that help people carry out necessary functions. It has a survival rate of less than 2 percent.

Vinti’s family shared that the first signs of DIPG happened in May during school at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy in Maspeth, where he attends.

Like most four-year-old boys, Auggie Vinti has a contagious smile, loves spending time with his family and friends, and has big dreams of being a firefighter when he grows up.

School faculty thought he was having a seizure after waking up from a nap, and his parents immediately took him to the doctor, who told them he only had a sinus infection.

But his aunt, Nicole Vinti, knew there was something seriously wrong.

“I sent him right to the emergency room to a specialized hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian, because I knew they had a traumatic brain injury and neurology department,” Vinti said. “So we went there, and they found the tumor. His speech was slurred and he was off-balance.”

Vinti said that although the hospital was able to diagnose this rare, aggressive type of cancer, that fact unfortunately doesn’t give the family more optimism.

“We have clinical trials, so we might try those. But he’s in the middle of radiation right now,” she said tearfully. “It’s really scary, and who could ever think this could happen? You can’t imagine it happening to your family.”

To support the family through this difficult time, a GoFundMe was started on behalf of Vinti. At the time of publication, $57,760 had been raised.

In addition to the overwhelming community support for Vinti through the GoFundMe, the St. Stan’s school community came together last week for a Disney Dance-A-Thon and Bake Sale to raise funds.

The event raised an excess of $19,000 to benefit Vinti and his family.

Students, family, faculty, and community members came out for an afternoon of fun in support of August Vinti.

“It’s so amazing that our community comes together to have a good time, but at the same time raises a tremendous amount of funds for one of our own families who is going through what no family should ever have to go through,” Catherine Mangone, principal of St. Stan’s, said.

“This is what I love most about this school, and what we raised from today does not count what we’ve raised before this, and what will come after,” she continued. “The GoFundMe is right on our website, and there’s a tab and it will take you right to it.”

Vinti and his family attended the Disney Dance-A-Thon on June 6.

His mom, Bailey Overko, expressed her gratitude for the Maspeth community coming together to support her son.

“It’s very nice, what they’re doing. It makes us feel really good,” Overko said. “We’re lucky we chose St. Stan’s as a school in the first place because we didn’t expect any of this or the way they’re coming together as a community. It’s just really great.”

Class parents Daisy Montalvo, Ivana Perrone, and St. Stan’s Pre-K Education Director Joan Forgione.

 

Memorial Day Parade honors Gold Star Families

John Gaidis, a lifelong Maspeth resident and veteran, said he rarely misses a Memorial Day parade in his hometown.

The 85-year-old veteran, who served in Korea and later in Vietnam as part of a submarine unit, situated himself in his own front row seat along Grand Avenue with his dog Tio.

“All the men and women who came before me and gave their lives so I could live so beautifully, means a lot to me,” Gaidis said, waving an American flag.

He jokes that he’s never left the town, and points across the street to the Mount Olivet Cemetery.

“I’ve been here for only 85 years, and when I die I’ll live in there,” he says, with nearby parade floats passing through the heart of Maspeth.

This year’s Memorial Day ceremonies in Maspeth kicked off with an introduction of this year’s Grand Marshals, Maspeth activist Peter Wolyneic, and Korean War veteran Costantino Carbone Jr.

The Grand Marshals of the Maspeth Memorial Day Parade, Peter Wolyneic, and Constantino Carbone Jr., prepare to kick off the annual parade.

The national anthem was performed by Maria Flaim of the St. Stanislaus & Transfiguration Music Ministry, with an invocation following by Sgt. Jack Hallahan, 69th Regt. Chaplain.

Liz and Bill Huisman performed “Light of a Gold Star” as an introduction to the ceremony’s invited guests.

John Gaidis, 85, takes a front row seat to his hometown Memorial Day parade, while greeting Councilmember Robert Holden.

Essay award winners from St. Stanislaus and P.S. 58 were recognized for their writing that covered topics such as “What is a Gold Star Family?;” “What is the history of the Gold Star Family?;” “What is being done to support the Gold Star Families?;” and “What would you do to recognize Gold Star Families?”

Essay award winners included fifth graders Victor Luna (First place, P.S. 58), Daniel Arabov (Second place, P.S. 58), Kyle Caspe (Third place, P.S. 58); sixth graders Julia Drwecka (First place, St. Stans), Eva Gonzalez (Second place, P.S. 58), Kelly Galarza (Third place, St. Stans); and seventh grader Niall Guerrero (First place, St. Stans).

The Francis Lewis High School R.O.T.C. put on a precision demonstration before the presentation of Gold Star Families, or the immediate family of a fallen service member who died while serving.

This year’s honored Gold Star Families included the immediate relatives of Kenneth Johnson (K.I.A. Vietnam), John Desio (K.I.A. WWII), and Robert Rodriguez (K.I.A. Iraqi Freedom).

Parade floats honoring the families of the fallen.

This year’s Walk of Honor inductees included Mary Ann Walter, Joseph Magnus, Salvatore Vitale, James Deslo, Stanley Wdowiak, Jerry Drake, John Browne, John Kempisty, Donald Steinmaker, Deacon Arthur Griffin, Anthony Mickalauskas and Anne Holden. People enshrined in the Walk of Honor are people who have made the community a better place to live in.

Elected officials including State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell joined the afternoon parade and following memorial service.

Brent O’Leary, a candidate for the 37th State Assembly district, said the day celebrates the principles of our country, along with its achievements and the community’s diversity.

“We strive to make sure that this is always the country of the American dream,” O’Leary said. “Maspeth is a working class community from all different backgrounds. I think they’ve always stood together and supported the community.”

Candlelight vigil honors community vets

In preparation for Memorial Day and the festivities to come, the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth held a candlelight vigil to honor U.S. veterans and their loved ones.

Many community members, including veterans, gathered in Maspeth Memorial Park on Monday for an evening of patriotic spirit, entertainment, and remembrance.

The St. Stan’s Players performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Rev. Joseph Wilson of St. Stanislaus Kostka recited the invocation, thanking members of the armed forces, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and other emergency service personnel for saving lives and defending the rights of citizens.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, a rendition “America the Beautiful,” sung by Kristinka, and some words of gratitude from the organization’s president, Maryanna Zero, a sentimental poem was recited by the ceremony’s Young Poet Laureate, James White.

White is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, and serves as a lector at Transfiguration Church. He recited “Soldier,” a poem written by retired U.S. Army Major Ed Coet.

“That I didn’t honor him sooner, I will always regret; and I pledged that day to never again forget,” he recited. “I’m proud that my dad was a patriotic warrior; I’m honored to be the son of an American soldier.”

Queens residents Johnny Bee and Rosalia Gattuso performed a musical duet of Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion’s “The Prayer,” and Gattuso sang “Ave Maria” after the ceremonial lighting of the candles.

The program was also joined by the St. Stan’s Players, who sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Candles for World War I were carried by the American Legion Auxiliary, World War II by Ridgewood Moose Lodge No. 1642 – Chapter 133, Korean War by Polish Legion of American Veterans Chapter 4 of the Kowalinski Post – Ladies Auxiliary, Vietnam War by Vietnam Veterans of America Queens Chapter 32 – The Honor Guard, and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the American Victims of Terrorism by Francis Cardinal Spellman Council, Knights of Columbus No. 6014 Ladies Auxiliary.

Members of the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth displayed a banner.

Maspeth resident Carole Stines led the event, and also recited a revised version of “My Son,” a Frank Patterson song.

“I reworked some of the lyrics to suit the occasion,” she said. “In keeping with this year’s Memorial Day Parade theme, ‘Maspeth Honors Gold Star Families,’ I recited this poem. This homage is also relevant to all of those who lost a loved one in these very difficult times.”

She was also joined by Hyunjeong Lee on keyboard and Andrew Cho on violin.

During her reading and the musical performance, the family of the late Corporal Robert Rodriguez, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, stood in front of the crowd, holding up his photo.

Rodriguez, who was a Maspeth resident, had his name added to the monument in Maspeth Memorial Park 12 years ago.

Maspeth’s Memorial Day Parade will kick off at 1 p.m. at Grand Avenue and 69th Street, with festivities at 11 a.m. at Queens Vietnam Memorial Elmhurst Park, 12 p.m. at the WWI Monument at 72nd Street and Grand Avenue, and followed by a memorial service at 2 p.m.

2022 Maspeth Memorial Day Parade theme and route

Maspeth Memorial Day Parade: Sunday May 29th, 2022 @ 1PM
Parade Begins at Grand Avenue & 69th Street
Memorial Services immediately following the parade at Maspeth Memorial Square

Parade Route  –  Please be aware that, due to ongoing construction, the Maspeth Memorial Day Parade will begin and end at Grand Avenue & 69th Street.
The theme of the 2022 Maspeth Memorial Day Parade is “Maspeth Honors Our Gold Star Families”. Gold Star Families are the immediate family members of a fallen service member who died in combat. These three families will be recognized.

Gold Star Family of Marine Cpl. Robert M. Rodriguez
Marine Cpl. Robert M. Rodriguez, of Queens, NY, died at age 21 serving our country. He was assigned to 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center; killed in action near the Euphrates River northwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq. As the baby in a family of five children, Rodriguez looked up to his brothers and sisters and wanted to make them proud. His family valued education, but he found school boring, and so after he received his high school diploma, Rodriguez joined the marines at age 17. He became a member of the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. He was sent to Kuwait in January as a corporal. “He loved the Marines,” said his sister Hyda Hernandez-Lopez. “We were all so very proud of him. He was our hero.” Rodriguez was killed in March 2003, when the tank he was in plunged off a bridge and into the Euphrates River.

Gold Star Family of John Cono Desio
John Cono Desio (they called him Johnny) was one of seven children of Joseph and Rose Desio. He was the oldest son born in 1918. In the 1930’s his family moved from Brooklyn to Maspeth. Prior to his being drafted into the US Army he was employed as a manager at the Lombardy Hotel in NYC. At the time the Hotel attracted many celebrity guests. His favorite was an actor named Bruce Cabot. Johnny would regale his family with his celebrity encounters. He was also an avid NY Yankee fan and regularly took his youngest brother Joe to Yankee Stadium. In 1942 he was drafted into the US Army. Ultimately, he served as a Sergeant and tank commander. He landed in Normandy France in the summer of ’44. With his tank unit he headed west. He saw combat all the way through Rohrbach, France and back east through the French countryside. After fierce fighting to capture the small French town of St. Jean Roblach (only a few miles from Germany) he was killed on a rainy and cold Thanksgiving Day on November 23, 1944. The series of battles he endured were a prelude to the Battle of the Bulge. He was interred temporarily in Limey, France and when hostilities ceased, he was returned to rest in the family plot in St. John’s Cemetery, Queens. He never married and had no children, but he has long been remembered by his extended family for his courage, bravery and affability.

Gold Star Family of Kenneth Johnson, Sp‐4 US Army KIA
Kenneth Johnson was raised in Middle Village Queens living with his Uncle Rudolph Kaprolat [Uncle Rudy] he attended PS 87 Grammar school and Grover Cleveland High School. Kenneth’s aspiration was to join the NYC Police department, Kenneth was drafted into the US Army on 16 December 1965, after training in the States he began his tour in Vietnam on Dec.17, 1966 attached to Co‐B, 2ND battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Div. On Feb. 22, 1967 Operation Junction City began in South Vietnam in the province of Tay Ninh near the border of Cambodia, it was one of the largest air‐mobile assaults ever, 240 helicopters swept over Tay Ninh province. The goal of Junction City was to destroy Vietcong bases and the VC military headquarters located north of Saigon, some 30,000 U.S. Troops plus 5,000 South Vietnamese Army personnel [ARVN] participated. After 72 days of battle American forces succeeded in capturing large caches of equipment and weapons, killing 2,800 VC and NVA soldiers, 282 American soldiers were killed in action. March 25, 1967 while on patrol during Operation Junction City riding atop a tank in the jungles of South Vietnam’s Tay Ninh province the tank ran over an enemy land mine killing SP‐4 Kenneth Johnson, Ken’s birthday was five days before his death he was 22-years-old.

Maspeth Federal Savings turns 75

Maspeth Federal Savings was joined by the community in celebration of its 75th anniversary.

Around 100 residents, students, and local elected officials gathered at the Maspeth location ⁠—the site of the original storefront that first opened in 1947 with a staff of only seven employees.

President and CEO Thomas Rudzewick said that Maspeth Federal Savings has grown to become an institution with seven different locations, nearly 200 employees, and $2.2 billion in assets over the last 75 years.

“We stayed to our mission. We wanted to make sure that this institution was a safe place to put your deposits and to get your home loan,” he said.

“Our mission is to create and maintain a professional environment that fosters the confidence of our board of directors, invites the ideas of our employees and exceeds the expectations of our customers,” he continued. “We are here to treat you like family, and we hope all of you feel the same way from myself and the board of directors that are here today.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, NYS Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, and Councilman Robert Holden congratulated Maspeth Federal Savings on their achievements and presented them with citations.

“Maspeth Federal Savings has become a trusted financial institution admired for its fiscal management and deep commitment to the community,” Richards said.“Thank you for contributing to financial literacy for community based organizations. Think about the impact that this has had on families and businesses, and how it has kept Queens such a vibrant borough.”

In the spirit of family, the St. Stan’s Players gave a musical performance, which included Sister Sledge’s 1979 hit, “We Are Family.”

Upon pointing out that the bank’s former President and CEO Kenneth Rudzewick, has a story quite similar to George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Holden said: “It’s rare that a bank is the center of the community for all celebrations, but Maspeth Federal has always been that. That’s because of men like Kenny and Tom Rudzewick.”

“With your help over the last 75 years, you did make living in Maspeth and the surrounding communities a wonderful life,” Holden said.

Maspeth Federal Savings Celebrates 75 Years of Serving the Community

Maspeth Federal Savings is excited to start the celebration of our 75th anniversary.

Founded in 1947, Maspeth Federal Savings continues to be a financially viable, independent mutual savings institution that is committed to building multiple, mutually beneficial and lasting relationships with consumers, businesses and organizations within the communities we serve and to demonstrate behavior that focuses on the customer.

“We are proud that throughout our 75 years, we have stayed true to the mission of our founders by putting our customers, communities and employees at the forefront of everything we do” Thomas Rudzewick, president and CEO, said. “We look forward to the next 75 years by remaining focused on delivering a more diverse, sustainable and innovative bank for the future”.

To commemorate their 75-year anniversary, the bank invites customers, friends, and neighbors to stop by on Wednesday, April 20th at 12 p.m. at our Main Office in Maspeth. Coffee and cake will be served and customers can be a part of the bank’s history in celebrating this special occasion.

The bank will also host a “75 Days of Giving” initiative, slated to begin on April 25th, which will consist of a series of events, giveaways and “random acts of kindness,” culminating with rewarding a grand prize of a brand new electric 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

“We sincerely thank our customers who have been loyal to us over the years and allowed Maspeth Federal Savings to be a part of our wonderful community, and this celebration is our way of expressing our thanks.” David Daraio, chief operating officer, said.

All are encouraged to enter the raffle by filling out a digital entry on the bank’s website at https://www.maspethfederal.com.

Two-alarm fire on Grand Avenue in Maspeth

FDNY responded to a two-alarm fire along Grand Avenue in Maspeth, on March 16, which left three injured.

The blaze broke out around 10 a.m. inside the three-story commercial building at 65-50 Grand Avenue spreading from Lafyes Jewelry store.

Twenty-five units were dispatched to fight the blaze, and more than 100 firefighters and EMS were at the scene. FDNY were able to have the fire under control around 11:30 a.m.

According to an FDNY spokesperson, two civilians and one firefighter were injured and transported to Elmhurst Hospital Center.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Vaccine clinic at Maspeth High School

Almost 80 percent of students fully vaccinated

By Evan Triantafilidis

[email protected]

Maspeth High School held an all-day COVID-19 clinic, offering vaccines, boosters, and both rapid and PCR tests for students and community members.

The mobile vaccine van, operated by the New York City Department of Health, was parked outside the school last Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with students voluntarily lining up after school to receive their first, second, or booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine.

Recently released data from the health department shows that 82.5 percent of students at Maspeth High have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 78 percent are considered fully vaccinated.

The school reported only six cases of COVID-19 during the month of February, which is a 97 percent reduction in cases compared to January.

Justin Spiro, a social worker at Maspeth High, said that the vaccine clinic was an opportunity to increase accessibility to the free shots.

“It’s not just about servicing the school, but the community as well,” Spiro said.

For Jakub Sulinski, a senior at Maspeth High, nearly half of his high school experience has been during the pandemic. He says that his school has done an adequate job of providing students with resources, even when remote learning was the only option.

“A lot of people didn’t like Zoom and stuff like that, but I feel like people would have gone mad if it wasn’t for it,” Sulinski said. “The socializing keeps us sane.”

He said that the cancellation of the Regents exam in January added to the craziness of his last year of high school.

“Two years just disappeared,” Spiro said. “But we have to do what we have to do to help society as a whole.”

55th annual Maspeth tree lighting awakens holiday spirit

Last Friday, the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce brought holiday cheer to the neighborhood with its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Held in Maspeth Memorial Square, a sentimental corner of the neighborhood, residents gathered on the chilly night to sing Christmas carols, watch performances and spend time with their kids.
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell spoke at the event, thanking the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce and Maspeth Federal Savings Bank for making the tree lighting possible every year.
“Without you guys, we’d be in big trouble,” he said. “In the beginning of the pandemic, they bought and distributed masks to all the first responders that we had. They do so much behind the scenes, and they might not even be aware of their impact.”
The crowd watched the children of “A Song and a Dance” on Grand Avenue perform their holiday-themed routines, with tunes ranging from “Jingle Bell Rock” to Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.”
Maspeth music icons Liz and Bill Huisman brought their folk inspired sound to the crowd, encouraging everyone to sing along and enjoy the music.
When the tree and all the hanging lights lit up after a ten-second countdown, the scene felt like a winter wonderland in the middle of Maspeth.
Bill Huisman called all the children in attendance to join him in singing classic Christmas carols while he played his guitar.
In the spirit of giving, two raffles were held, and two lucky winners got to go home with an Amazon Echo and a brand new bicycle from local business Grand Bicycle.
The highlight of the evening was when Santa Claus arrived. Even though it happens annually, Maspeth resident Tammy Sanchez said events like the tree lighting are essential to the community, especially now.
“They really put a lot of effort into it year after year,” she said. “With all the craziness going on in the world, this is the one thing that they can do for the community to bring happiness and get everyone into the holiday spirit. I am thankful that they do this for the neighborhood.”

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