FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM JULY 11, 2019 • THE QUEENS COURIER 3
City tows Willets Point cars off demapped streets
BY JACOB KAYE
Th e NYPD wasted little time towing
cars off newly demapped streets in
Willets Point on Monday, July 8.
Last week, the city Department of
Housing Preservation and Development
installed gates blocking off Willets Point
Boulevard, 38th, 37th and 36th avenues
in the industrial area. Th e roadways, in
the shadow of Citi Field, had recently
been removed from the offi cial city street
grid for potential redevelopment.
Th e agency also posted signs threatening
a tow, a fi ne and potential jail time
for vehicle owners who leave their cars
on the demapped streets.
It appears that was not an empty threat.
By 2 p.m. on July 8, three days aft er the
department locked the gates, several cars
had been towed from the former streets,
according to workers in the area.
About 15 workers in Willets Point
gathered around the corner of 37th
Avenue and Willets Point Boulevard on
Monday aft ernoon as two police offi cers
spoke with disgruntled vehicle owners
whose cars were soon to be towed.
“You never see police over here,” said
Tomer Chazbani, a property and business
owner in Willets Point. “But now
aft er the gates, they’re here.”
An unrelated meeting between property
owners, Community Board 7 members
and Department of Transportation
offi cials happened to be taking place at
the same location and time of the towing.
“Let’s see if we could work something
out,” Community Board 7 Vice
Chairman Chuck Apelian told a vehicle
owner whose car was soon to be towed.
Th e pair went to speak with the two
police offi cers blocking the demapped
Several minutes later, Apelian and the
vehicle owner walked away from the offi -
cers empty handed. Th e tow truck was
already on its way.
Aft er QNS published this article on
Tuesday, Apelian reached out with a statement.
“Two (2) cars were towed but only
because registrations were expired or
vehicles didn’t have plates, so the decision
was moot. However, NYPD did
agree not to tow other vehicles, and that’s
only because I spoke to them, so I didn’t
come back ‘empty handed.’ When I asked
if anyone owned the (5) cars before they
were towed, everyone feigned ignorance,
until they realized the real threat of a tow
and then (3) men leaped forward and
said ‘oh yeah that’s my car.’ Th ey were
very lucky to have a second chance!”
Meanwhile, during the meeting with
government offi cials on July 8, property
owners took the opportunity to air their
“I don’t want to hear a lot of PR
stuff ,” said Irene Prestigiacomo, a property
owner in the Iron Triangle. “I want
to hear actual facts.”
Th e city Department of Transportation
(DOT) secured $17 million in funding
for road improvements in the crumbling
industrial neighborhood in the most
recent capital budget.
“Th e roads need to be addressed,” said
Nicole Garcia, the DOT’s Queens borough
When property owners expressed concern
that the money may get caught up
in planning and never result in shovels
in the ground, Garcia reassured them it
“Th at $17 million isn’t going anywhere,”
Photo: Jacob Kaye/QNS
Pregnant Queens Village mom released from ICE custody
BY BILL PARRY
A pregnant mother of two was back
home in Queens Village on July 6 aft er
her legal odyssey took an unexpected
Alma Centeno-Santiago, 34, was
released from a Louisiana ICE detention
facility by the Department of
Homeland Security and fl own to
JFK International Airport, where
she was reunited with her U.S.
citizen children, ages 3 and 11.
Centeno-Santiago was facing
deportation to her home
country of Guatemala until
her legal team from the New
York Legal Assistance Group
was granted a Temporary
Restraining Order preventing
her removal until a hearing on
July 23. Centeno-Santiago was
detained by ICE agents outside of
Queens Family Court in April and
then fast-tracked to be deported while
suff ering from a diffi cult pregnancy.
“Alma’s case highlights how immigrants’
rights are too oft en violated. We
argued that while in detention, Alma
advocated for her health and that of
her unborn child and, in retaliation,
was placed into immediate deportation,”
said Melissa Chua, associate director on
NYLAG’s Immigration Protection Unit.
An immigration judge ordered Centeno-
Santiago to be deported last December
The NYPD cracking down on parked cars in Willets Point
aft er she failed to appear for an immigration
court proceeding but her lawyer
argued that she had not been properly
notifi ed of her scheduled court appearance.
Centeno-Santiago fl ed Guatemala
at the age of 18, and had a full-time job at
a restaurant in Jamaica until ICE agents
detained her following a hearing over the
custody of her children with her ex-partner.
“While in ICE custody, she experienced
a medically diffi cult pregnancy.
She advocated for herself and her
unborn child because ICE was denying
her proper food and medical care,”
said Jodi Ziesemer, director of NYLAG’s
ImmigrationProtection Unit. “However,
instead of providing her proper nutrition
and medical care, ICE isolated Alma, continued
to deny her basic care, and was
indiff erent to her suff ering and the
suff ering of her family. ICE routinely
infl icts maltreatment and abuse
on detained immigrants who
have fl ed from violence and persecution
in their home countries.
But Alma and others like
her are not ‘illegal’ or ‘criminal,’
and they deserve fair treatment.
Alma is no risk to the
QNS reached out to ICE and
did not receive a response before
Meanwhile, Jennifer Pacheco, a
close friend, spoke of the family’s
“Th e last few months without Alma
have been overwhelmingly sad and scary.
We have lived a nightmare that every
immigrant fears,” Pacheco said. “What
she experienced in ICE detention was
traumatic and we ask for privacy at this
time so she can focus on healing and
being with her kids. We hope that Alma’s
case highlights that real people, real families
with U.S. citizen children are being
harmed by our immigration system.”
Courtesy of NYLAG
Alma Centeno-Santiago of Queens Village has
been released from ICE custody
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