Brooklyn woman charged with embezzling from Maspeth biz

A woman has been charged with grand larceny and other crimes for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from her employer for one-third of the 22 years she worked at an interior and exterior demolition company in Maspeth.
According to the charges, between 2012 and 2019 Vedeyah Badalin abused her role as accountant at Titan Industrial Services to create fake employees in order to cash their checks and pocket the funds.
“Allegedly skimming money by the millions, this trusted employee found an unusual way to pad her bank account,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “When the checks were cut she was the alleged recipient, depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars into her personal bank accounts.
As the company’s in-house accountant, Badal had virtually unlimited control over the business’s finances throughout her tenure.
In 2019, she left the company. It was at that point that someone discovered three employees who existed in name only, and that these three fictitious workers were getting paid weekly. The company owners conducted a forensic audit and found a total of 13 phantom employees created between 2012 and 2019. The fake workers had bogus Social Security numbers and were even having federal, state and local taxes withheld from the paychecks.
The audit revealed that between June 2015 and March 2019, there were 289 checks totaling $630,132 written against the business’s two M & T Bank account. Those checks were deposited into the defendant’s Chase Bank account.
Between May 2014 and March 2019, 269 checks totaling $596,326 were drawn from the business’s bank account and deposited into Badal’s Citibank account.
And from December 2015 through March 2019, the defendant allegedly cashed 132 checks at a local check cashing business for a total $295,127.
In all, the defendant embezzled $2 million from Titan Industrial Services. The company lost another $1 million paying various taxes on the fake employees.
The 56-year-old resident of Ridgewood Avenue in Brooklyn has been charged with grand larceny, money laundering, and falsifying business records in the first degree.
She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Drive-in movies return for a second year

With the onset of the pandemic last spring, New Yorkers lost access to many of the city’s cultural institutions. However, one blast from the past experienced a renaissance: drive-in movie theaters.
Co-sponsored by the office of the Queens Borough President, the New York Hall of Science will be hosting a free drive-in film series for the second year in a row.
Following last year’s wildly successful screenings, the “Free Movie Nights at the Queens Drive-In” program plans on hosting six free events throughout the spring and summer of 2021.
“We’re not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19 just yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t safely enjoy evenings in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with our family, friends and neighbors,” said Borough President Donovan Richards. “From kids flicks to cinematic classics, there is something for every family to enjoy on the big screen this spring.”
The first screening was held on May 4. Appropriately, the original Star Wars was shown to celebrate “May the Fourth Be With You.” Future screenings will include the films Inside Out, Moonlight, Coming to America, Monsoon Wedding, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. A full list of movies and show times is available at queensdrivein.com.
The Museum of the Moving Image, Parks Department, and Brooklyn-based non-profit Rooftop Films are also helping organize the events, while Queens Night Market will provide food from local vendors.
Social distancing will be strictly enforced, and all guests must register for screenings online before arriving.
Last year saw a resurgence in drive-in movies throughout the five boroughs, including the Skyline Drive-In in Greenpoint, the Bel-Aire Diner Drive-In in Astoria, and the Brooklyn Army Terminal Drive-In in Sunset Park.
For many New Yorkers, these unique cinematic experiences have provided a safe and novel way to enjoy their city during the pandemic.
“When we conceived of the Queens Drive-In last year, our goal was to create an accessible space where the people of the city could come together safely to experience the communal joy of cinema,” explained Rooftop Films president Dan Nuxoll. “We have presented more than two-dozen free screenings over the last few months, including memorable New York premieres of many of the films that were recently celebrated at the Academy Awards.”

Federal funds offer lifeline to hospitality industry

More than $28 billion in pandemic-relief grants are now available to restaurants, bars and food suppliers, thanks to a new SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Online applications opened May 3 at noon, and will remain open until all funds are exhausted.
“These grants are going to provide direct aid to hospitality businesses that have suffered great losses throughout our country and especially here in the epicenter of the epicenter in Queens,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Tom Grech, who was joined last week by elected officials and other business leaders in Flushing to kick off the federal effort.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who helped secure the grant program through the newly enacted American Rescue Plan, is encouraging Queens businesses to apply.
“Queens deserves more because we have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. “We need to make sure that our restaurants get their fair share back.”
Before the pandemic, there were 23,000 restaurants and bars throughout the five boroughs providing more than 300,000 jobs. According to the state Comptroller’s Office, employment in the city’s restaurant industry fell to 91,000 in April, with sales plummeting more than 70 percent.
“It’s essential for us to support and enact policies to help these businesses in their time of need,” Meng added.
Yoon Joo Lee said her family’s once bustling Korean barbecue restaurant, Hahm Ji Bach, is barely surviving.
“We almost had to close, but with the money from these funds, we hope it will help us continue towards the American Dream,” she said.
The new program will provide restaurants and other eligible businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss. For the first 21 days, however, the SBA will approve claims from priority groups, which include businesses owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Establishments that are publicly traded or owned by a state or local government are not eligible, nor are franchise owners that operate more than 20 restaurants.
Businesses can apply through SBA-recognized Point of Sale vendors or directly through the SBA using the application at restaurants.sba.gov. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
“The diversity of our restaurant industry is really what makes Queens great,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “We’ve been suffering over the last year and New York City is a little slower to open than the rest of the state.
But the worst is behind us, the vaccines are here and we are beginning to get out of this mess,” he added. “Hopefully the best is yet ahead.”

Rezoning seeks to allow 13-story building in Woodside

The owners of 62-04 Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside are requesting a zoning variance to build a 13-story building, taller than the nine stories permitted under the current zoning.
The rezoning’s co-applicants – Astoria-based developer Woodside 63 Management LLC and the local dance and theater non-profit Mare Nostrum Elements, INC. – discussed the potential benefits of the project at Wednesday’s virtual hearing.
“With Mare Nostrum’s assistance, we began engaging with the community about five years ago,” said Steve Lysohir from Woodside 63’s ownership team. “We heard several priorities. Affordable housing, particularly so close to mass transit, is key to the community’s successful future
“Woodside deserves attractive architecture that fits in with the neighborhood around it,” he added. “Many arts organizations have been pushed out of their homes, and so we were inclined to include them based on feedback from Mare Nostrum.”
The proposed mixed-use development would function as both a residential building and community center.
In accordance with the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, the owners of 62-04 Roosevelt are working to ensure that 25 percent of the apartments (54 of the planned 213 units) will be affordable.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Mare Nostrum Elements co-founder Kevin Albert also spoke at length about the nonprofit’s plan to make the new building a haven for local artists.
“We hope the development will be a space for people in the community,” Albert said. “The current model of performance art spaces in the city does not work. The pandemic has shown us that.”
The plans for 62-04 Roosevelt include studio and performance spaces for dance groups, musicians, and artists. Woodside 63 and Mare Nostrum plan on lending the space to local community groups for free rehearsals and then renting the space to other groups to raise more revenue.
Mare Nostrum also hopes on holding its own community-focused dance and art classes in the space as well.
In addition to housing and community amenities, much of Wednesday’s hearing was focused on transportation and sustainability. The site is located in close proximity to the 61st Street Station on the 7 train, which lends itself to transit-oriented development.
“We also know this is a very climate-conscious community,” Lysohir explained. “One of the most important steps local governments can take to combat climate change is to promote density near mass transit.”
Lysohir also discussed the increase in Citi Bikes in the area, and expressed Woodside 63’s interest in working with community leaders to create more bike lanes in the neighborhood.
The developer also has plans to implement energy-saving aspects to its design, including solar-panels, high-efficiency cooling and heating, and high-performance insulated windows.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the developer also plans on reducing high-touch surfaces throughout the building.
The current single-story structure at 62-04 Roosevelt Avenue has been home to a series of struggling businesses. Lysohir and the Astoria-based Woodside 63 Management are hoping to revitalize the site.
If the variance isn’t approved, the developer still plans on constructing a nine-story, smaller version of the project that is allowed under the current zoning.

Woodhaven poet to discuss her craft at showcase

Ever since Christine Barbour was a young girl, she knew she wanted to write. As an elementary student at St. Elizabeth’s she started off by writing prayers, which she would then read aloud at home to her parents.
“They’d look at me like I had two heads, wondering where I was getting this from,” she recalls, laughing. “It was definitely my beginning as a writer.”
Today, she still lives in the same Woodhaven house she grew up in and she’s still writing. Christine Barbour will be the next resident featured in the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society’s series of local artist showcases.
Barbour’s showcase will take place on Tuesday, May 11, at 8 p.m.,via Zoom and Facebook. If you would like to attend, please email us at [email protected] for an invite to this free event.
Later on in her childhood, Barbour began collecting her writings in a series of diaries or journals.
“I kept everything in them,” she said. “I was writing poetry, but I didn’t know then that this is what I needed to do.”
It wasn’t until she went to Queens College that she realized poetry was her destiny. “I wanted to sign up for a Creative Writing course and I picked poetry and that was it,” she said. “I soon knew that this was what I had to do.”
After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at Queens College, Barbour felt like she wasn’t finished. And so, she signed up for two years of poetry classes at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.
After a stint teaching reading and math at the Adult Learning Center in the Elmhurst Library, Barbour founded Iron Horse Poetry (previously named the Woodhaven Poetry Society), a free two-hour workshop of poetry craft and writing.
She also sponsored a school-wide poetry contest for grades two through eight at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Academy.
These days, Barbour is turning her attention back to her writing, currently working on two books.
One is a 40-page chapbook titled “Frozen, Alive with Fire.” The other is a full-length book titled “The Sudden Shock of Lightning.” Both books will be self-published.
“Walt Whitman self-published because he couldn’t get published,” Barbour said. “This is an avenue to at least get your work out there.”
One of the poems that will be discussed in her showcase is called “The Shoemaker’s Glue,” a piece that is drawn from Barbour’s childhood memories of growing up in Woodhaven.
“It’s about two shoemakers in Woodhaven,” she explains. “And both of them had tattoos.”
As a child, Barbour had wondered what the tattoos were, and eventually found out that they came from their time in concentration camps during World War II. The piece is written in a child’s voice and Barbour considers it one of her favorite poems.
“I have a lot of favorite poems, but rarely poems in their entirety,” she explained. “Sometimes I love the ending or there’s a stanza in the middle that gets me charged up.
“To me, my poems are like cats,” she added. “You can have a lot of cats, but not all of them are 100 percent great. They have their own personalities, and some parts of their characters are awesome and some are downright bitchy. My poems are kind of like that!”
Another way of getting your work out there is though public readings or open mic events, but it takes time to get used to reading your work before a live audience. Barbour’s first public reading took place while in college, an experience she recalls as “horrible.”
“Thank God they had a podium because I was shaking everywhere,” she said.
But when she got to the end of the poem and heard the audience’s reaction, she knew she had something and never looked back. Since then, Barbour has won over 15 poetry writing contents and has read her work at poetry events throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.
Come join us next week as this award-winning Woodhaven poet shares her talents with her community. And for any other artists out there in Woodhaven, if you’d like to take part in our showcase series, please reach out to us at [email protected] We would love to make your acquaintance.

Public sounds off on updated W’burg park redesign

The controversial renovation of Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg continued its long and winding journey towards reopening during three design review sessions this past week.
In early 2020, the park officially changed its name from East River State Park to Marsha P. Johnson State Park to honor the legacy of the notable LGBTQ+ activist and 1969 Stonewall Uprising leader.
The site was closed soon thereafter due to the pandemic, and remains closed to renovate and redesign the park in honor of its new namesake.
However, the proposed redesign, which would include the installation of a large, plastic mural on one of the park’s two concrete slabs, drew the ire of community organizers and Williamsburg residents.
In a series of public hearings last months, community members and the family of Johnson criticized the redesign for failing to properly honor the activist’s legacy. They demanded the state Parks Department abandon its redesign in exchange for one that would reflect Johnson’s well-documented love of flowers.
The department complied, and for the past three weeks landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse has been working on a new design.
This past week, the department and firm held three public review sessions to gather community feedback for the proposal. Two of the design reviews were held in person at the park at 90 Kent Avenue and one was held virtually.
“This has been the most iterative process I’ve even been involved in,” explained Laura Starr, a founding partner of Starr Whitehouse, at the virtual design review. “I think we have included almost every suggestion in some way. I love all of the feedback we’ve received at the in-person meetings.”
While some elements of the park’s original design have been kept, including the playgrounds, many other aspects have been completely redeveloped. Most notably, the plastic mural was scrapped in favor of more green space and flowers.
Starr Whitehouse is also still in the process of implementing additional community suggestions into the design. These include an amphitheater space, an entrance gate, narrative plaques to tell Johnson’s life story, and several safe spaces and resources for the LGBTQ+ and Trans communities.
“We are still massaging the design drawing,” Starr explained. “We are taking in all our input now, even if we won’t be able to implement it until later.”
However, Monday’s design review still garnered a fair amount of criticism.
“In my opinion, the park looks a little commercial like,” said Anika Dorsey Good, Johnson’s great-niece. “It has green space, but it isn’t very vibrant. As a family member, we don’t want the only thing commemorating Marsha when this park opens to be a metal plaque. We want the park to really embody who Marsha was.”
New York City regional director for State Parks Leslie Wright pushed back against the critics.
“We are not in a position to parse it tree by tree,” Wright said. “We are here to figure out what the greatest consensus is on the biggest points, so we can get the park open as soon as possible.”
While not discussed at Monday’s event, the redesign has also drawn criticism for its relationship to the Smorgasburg Food Festival traditionally held every Saturday at the site.
In past design reviews, proponents of Smorgasburg have lobbied for more concrete space in the park to house food trucks and tents. Critics of the food festival have pushed back against such suggestions.
After two final public review sessions this coming week, the Parks Department and Starr Whitehouse will finalize their plans and move forward with a new design. The park is then expected to fully reopen at some point in 2021.

Large rally in Flushing protests attack on Asians

Amid rising attacks on Asians, more than 1,000 people took to the streets in Flushing calling for an end to Asian hate crimes.
The event was organized by the Borough President’s Office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio reminded everyone of the important role Asian Americans have played in shaping the city.
“If you love New York City, you can’t take the contribution of the Asian-American community out of it,” he said. “The only way we are New York City today is because of what Asian Americans have done for us.”
Senator Chuck Schumer spoke of a city of diversity, immigrants and unity and discussed the recently passed “COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act,” which among other things will make the reporting of hate crimes easier.
“We want to tell those evil few who propagate the Asian hate that you are not new Yorkers, you are not Americans and under the new law we passed we will prosecute you and give you the punishment you deserve,” he told the crowd.
Calling for a unified front against the attacks, Reverend Al Sharpton urged all community leaders to speak out and stop the violence.
“When Blacks attack Asians, Black leaders need to stand up,” he said. “When whites attack others, whites need to stand up.”
State Senator John Liu became emotional discussing reports of passersby refusing to intervene in some of the attack. He said it made him wonder if Asians are seen as less than human.
“We are not dogs,” he said. “We are not the coronavirus. We are people, we are human, we are Americans.”
According to the NYPD, in 2020 there was a 1,900 percent increase in attacks on Asians. But a presentative from the Asian American Federation said the statistics represent a huge undercount because many attack go unreported by the victims out of fear of retaliation or that they won’t be taken seriously.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James created a Hate Crimes Task Force to combat the crisis.
“Please do not be silent because you are not alone,” she said. “All of us stand with you against Asian hate.”

Borough Hall dubbed ‘One Claire Shulman Way’

When Claire Shulman passed away last August at the age of 94, Queens lost one of its greatest advocates. However, the legacy of the borough’s trailblazing first female borough president continues to live on and inspire.
This past Monday, Borough President Donovan Richards presided over a ceremony unveiling “One Claire Shulman Way” as the vanity address of Borough Hall.
“Claire Shulman was a larger-than-life figure who consistently defied expectations with her uncanny ability to get things done for the people of Queens,” said Richards. “Her death last year was a huge loss to all of us who relied on her friendship and counsel, but we keep her legacy and memory alive by permanently and prominently affixing her name to Queens Borough Hall.
“From now on, everyone who visits the people’s house will see the name of Claire Shulman and reflect on the great work she did to build a better Queens,” he added.
Shulman was one of the first people to get behind Richards’ campaign for borough president.
“Claire Shulman was my unofficial campaign manager,” Richards said. “I can’t believe she supported me.”
Shulman served as Borough President from 1986 until 2002, and played a role in a wide range of issues.
Her accomplishments included the rezoning of dozens of neighborhoods to curb overdevelopment, expanding the borough’s infrastructure, and increasing funding to senior citizen centers, cultural programs and libraries.
“She expected a lot out of me and she expected a lot out of everyone,” explained Larry Schulman, the son of the late borough president. “She could not give up the task of making Queens a better place.”
Former borough president and current Queens district attorney Melinda Katz echoed similar sentiments.
“Claire was a loving person, there was no doubt about it, but she was tough,” said Katz. “I am proud of the years I had working under her and the years I had working with her.”
Taking part in the ceremony were former borough president Sharron Lee and City Council members Karen Koslowitz and Barry Grodenchik.
“There is B.C. Queens and A.C. Queens, before Claire Shulman and after Claire Shulman” said Grodenchik. “There is not a single neighborhood she didn’t touch.”

Homeless & forgotten

Dear Editor
I’m a veteran and have been homeless for almost two years. My patience has run out.
I have been in numerous shelters during those two years. At present, I’m at a shelter at 22 Sumner Place for the elderly. All day we just sit in our room. There are no programs to entertain us.
The staff wishes to help us, bu the higher-ups do not give the staff funds to purchase things to keep our minds active.
Other shelters get the funds to keep their clients happy. They go to the movies or they go bowling.
They also have people who work there to find permanent housing quickly. At my current shelter, there is only one person to help find housing for over 100 residents. There are people here who have been waiting for housing for over a year.
I feel like they just want us to die here.
Many of us at the shelter are veterans. We stood up when we were called to defend this country with our lives. Now people write about the issues facing veterans, but there is no action from the government.
Sincerely,
Bartram Dalney
Williamsburg

Master chef

Dear Editor,
Regarding Frederick Bedell’s recent Dispatch about Bernie Madoff, he feels sad for all the retirees who trusted Bernie Madoff with their life savings. But whose fault is that?
They fell for the world’s greatest chef who cooked the books for $65 billion. Madoff concocted a
deceitful dish that enticed some the biggest bold-faced names, such as director Steven Spielberg, Nobel Prize winner Elie Weisel and former Mets owner Fred Wilpon, plus thousands of smaller investors.
How could they all be foolish enough to entrust Madoff with their money?
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing