Amazing Stories from Maspeth & Middle Village - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the June 2011 Juniper Berry Magazine

Amazing Stories from Maspeth & Middle Village

Driving Instructor Killed in Crash

Middle Village, NY. April 4, 1974 ‒A car carrying four teenagers ran through a stop sign in Middle Village, Queens, and smashed into a car, killing a driving instructor and injuring her pupil, the police reported. The instructor was identified as Dorothy Watson, 40 years old, of 72-19 62 Street, Glendale, Queens. Her student, Roselyne Insdorf, 21, of 68-12 Yellowstone Boulevard, Forest Hills, who attends Queens College, was treated at St. John's Hospital for head injuries and released.

Mrs. Watson was driving the dual-control car, taking Miss Insdorf to her driver's test, the police said. As they drove north on 80th Street, a car going east on Juniper Boulevard South went through a stop sign and hit them broadside. Witnesses said that four teenagers jumped out of the car and disappeared in nearby Juniper Valley Park.

Fired Into a Crowd of Boys

One Killed, One Badly Wounded by Farmer Barrett

He Then Narrowly Escapes Lynching at the Hands of Blissville Citizens ‒

Had Become Infuriated Because the Boys, Who Were Playing Ball Near His Farm, Threw Stones at Him When He Objected ‒ Only Meant to Frighten Them Away, He Says.

Long Island City, Sept. 4, 1893 ‒ One boy was shot and killed and another was dangerously wounded by William Barrett, an infuriated dairy farmer, who had been goaded into a frenzy by a crowd of boys who threw stones at him and his cattle at his farm in Blissville this afternoon.

The dead boy was John Egan, ten years old, of 79 Greenpoint Avenue, and the wounded boy is David Crawford, thirteen years old, of 97 Greenpoint Avenue.

According to the boys' companions, there was a crowd of them playing ball in a field adjoining Barrett's farm which is on Star Avenue, between Bradley and Review Avenues. They say that they occasionally had to go upon the farm for the ball.

Suddenly Barrett came running up with a double-barreled shotgun and fired both barrels into the crowd of boys at short range, wounding Egan and Crawford.

He then coolly walked away, they declare, with his smoking gun across his shoulder.

The boys were carried to their homes. Young Egan lived only 15 minutes after the shooting. Dr. Barry, who attended him, took forty-five buckshot from his chest. In less than fifteen minutes the neighborhood was in an uproar. The fathers of the wounded boys ran about looking for Barrett with an excited crowd at their heels.

Barrett was finally found and was dreadfully beaten. He would have been killed probably, except for the arrival of Policeman Hagerty, who fought off the maddened crowd and took Barrett to the Hunter's Point Police Station.

All the way to the station the crowd followed, yelling: Lynch him! String him up, the villain. Policemen Copeland and Fantry went to their fellow officer's assistance and kept the crowd away from the prisoner with much difficulty.

Ten eyewitnesses to the shooting were found and held at the police station. They were: John McGee, twenty-two years old, of 60 Pearsall Street; Michael Kelly, twenty-three years old, of 97 Greenpoint Avenue; Charles Hagerty of 103 Greenpoint Avenue; William McBride, thirteen years old, of 19 Pearsall Street; Adolph Bowitz of 85 Greenpoint Avenue; William Land, sixteen years old, of 21 Pearsall Street; Frank Deutsch, fourteen years old of 64 Greenpoint Avenue; Thomas Smith, eleven years old, of 72 Greenpoint Avenue; William Downey eleven years old of 157 Greenpoint Avenue and Charles Flynn, fourteen years old of 64 Pearsall Street.

The youngest members of the party were playing ball with the two little victims. The others were looking on at the game.

Barrett claims that the shooting was purely accidental. He insists that he simply intended to fire into the air to frighten the boys. He says the boys stoned him and then howled at him because he remonstrated with them upon the stone throwing.

He is married and lives on Maspeth Avenue, Maspeth. His neighbors, in their present bitterness criticize Superintendent Moor of Calvary Cemetery. They say that he is responsible for Barrett's having the pasture ground. It is leased by Barrett from the Calvary Cemetery Corporation for an annual rental of $150. They say that John D. Crimmins, one of the Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which conducts the cemetery, had a resolution passed by the Trustees leasing the ground to Alderman White, but, they assert, Mr. Moor allowed Barrett to take the land.

The neighbors declare that Barrett is a man of ungovernable temper. Mrs. Shelf of 103 Greenpoint Avenue says she was a witness against him several years ago when he was arrested for beating a little boy. On that occasion, she says, he was only fined.

Barrett will be arraigned before Justice Kavanagh in the Long Island City Police Court tomorrow morning.

Man, 64, is Beaten to Death in His Queens Home

Victim Had Been Arrested 9 Times on Bookmaking or Numbers Charges

(Maspeth, NY: August 16, 1973) A 64 year old man who the police said, had a minor record of bookmaking arrests was beaten to death in the kitchen of his home in Maspeth, Queens, early yesterday morning.

The victim, Nicholas Santora of 58-66 Maspeth Avenue, was discovered at about 9am by an upstairs neighbor, Phyllis Siragusa. She said she went to Mr. Santora's apartment after hearing a commotion and a door slam. A violent struggle had evidently taken place, and the kitchen was spattered with blood. There were no signs of forced entry and it did not appear anything had been taken from the apartment, the police said.

Wife at Work

The police could not determine immediately what the killer used for a weapon.

Mr. Santora lived with his wife, Molly, on the first floor of a two-family red brick house on the quiet street. Mrs. Santora had left for work an hour and a half before the killing, the police said.

The victim's son, who would not talk to newsman sat on the stoop of the house where his father lived and repeated in shock, They killed my father.

Low Homicide Rate

According to the police, Mr. Santora had a record of nine arrests between 1948 and 1971, all on policy or gambling charges. Whether or not he was convicted on any charge could not be determined yesterday.

The police at the 104th Precinct station, who are investigating the murder, said they had not established a motive for the slaying. No suspects have been taken, they said.

The 104th Precinct, where the murder occurred, had one of the lowest homicide rates in the city in 1972. With four murders in 1972, or 0.04 per thousand residents, it ranked 57 in homicides out of the city's 71 precincts.

Neighbors stood solemnly in front of their houses along Maspeth Avenue as the body of the victim was carried out to a police ambulance yesterday afternoon.

Neighbors said that Mr. Santora was a quiet man, who kept mostly to himself. One neighbor said that the victim was a retired truck driver and lived at the address for his last four years.

Mike Dooley, the bartender at the Jolly Elf, 61st and Maspeth, said that Mr. Santora often patronized the bar.

He was a nice guy, I can't figure out who would want to hurt him, Mr. Dooley said.

Burglary at the Lutheran Cemetery

(Middle Village, L.I.) May 8, 1874 ‒ On Tuesday night the office of the Lutheran Cemetery, situated on the Jamaica Turnpike, near Middle Village, Long Island, was visited by a gang of burglars, who made a determined but unsuccessful attempt to force open the safe, which contained $100. The burglars forced open the shutters and the window of the office, and after gaining an entrance in that manner attempted to punch a number of holes in the door of the safe, but did not succeed, as the steel resisted all their efforts. They then attempted to wedge the door open, and had driven home two small steel wedges, when they became alarmed at the approach of the watchman employed at the cemetery, and fled, leaving all their tools behind them.

Mr. Frederick W. Giessenhainer, the Treasurer of the cemetery, called on Capt. Irving yesterday morning and reported the above facts to him, and also produced the tools abandoned by the burglars, consisting of a number of wedges, two sledge-hammers, three cold chisels, a 5-foot jimmy, a can of powder, and several other articles. In January last the office was entered by burglars and the safe forced open and robbed of $500. Since that time a new safe was procured which successfully resisted the burglars' operations. The only clue to the thieves is furnished by a conductor on a North Second Street railroad car, in Brooklyn, who reports that several nights ago a man asked him if a watchman was employed at the Lutheran Cemetery.

Only Boys Were Stopped

Baseball Flourished in Queens County Yesterday

(Newtown, LI Sept. 13, 1886) Baseball players in Queens County who wanted to defy the law and the Sheriff of the county by practicing their favorite amusement on Sunday had no difficulty in doing it yesterday. Baseball flourished in Queens County all day, and not a hand was raised to prevent it. At the Ridgewood ball ground last Sunday the Sheriff interfered when the game was a little over half played, and broke it up. Yesterday the Brooklyns were allowed to play against the Metropolitans and 3,000 or 4,000 people attracted in some degree, too, by the knowledge that beer could be had there for the asking and 5 cents a Coney Island glass went there to see them do it. The game was played right through and not a policeman put in an appearance.

At Ridgewood Park, also, just across the way, ball was played ‒ one game in the morning and one in the afternoon. Games were also played in Maspeth, Flushing, Newtown, and other places in Queens County within short distances of Long Island City. Queens County's Sheriff was not to be found yesterday. It was said that he was spending the day in New York; at all events his views on the sudden change of front could not be obtained. The police in Queens County, however, made it unpleasant for half a dozen or more juvenile games, and the youngsters who indulged in their unlawful sport were promptly dispersed.

In Kings County the police were a little more active, for they did stop one game ‒ that of two amateur clubs in a park pleasantly known as the Old Two-cent Place near the Queens County line. Detective Ine and Officer Sullivan, of the Sixth Precinct, heard that a game was in progress out there, and, reaching the place when four innings had been played, they broke it up. It is not known whether any action will be taken to prevent baseball in Queens next Sunday, but several games are already advertised to be played on that day.

New Homes Offer Cellar Shelters

Safety Space Is Provided In Juniper Estates Project in Forest Hills West

(Middle Village September 10, 1950) First models will open today in a 250 family residential project of two-story brick houses and one-story bungalows to be known as Juniper Estates Homes in Queens under sponsorship of Milton Steinberg, builder. Prices will range from $14,290 to $15,490.

The site, at Juniper Valley Road and Seventy-fourth Street in what the builders call Forest Hills West, once was owned by Arnold Rothstein. A part of it was used as a racetrack.

One of the features of the design, taking into consideration the possible danger of air raids, will be a basement shelter space of reinforced concrete and steel, offered in all of the two-story models. The space, measuring 9 by 19 feet, is beneath the garage at the rear of the basement, whose concrete sidewalls offer additional protection, Mr. Steinberg pointed out.

In ordinary times this space might be utilized for cold storage or as a wine vault.

The two-story model contains three bedrooms, a powder room, equipped kitchen, snack bar and sundeck. The bungalow design has four and one-half rooms. Utilities and streets already have been installed in preparation for a construction program, which will be carried forward immediately.

The builders said proximity to Juniper Valley Park, schools and the Metropolitan Avenue shopping centers were factors in their choice of the site.

Denies Airport Selection

Tuttle Says Juniper Valley Site is One of Several in View

(Middle Village, November 20, 1927) Commenting on a report that Juniper Valley, including the Metropolitan race track, in Queens, had been recommended as a municipal airport site by a committee appointed by Secretary of Commerce Hoover, Chief City Engineer, Arthur S. Tuttle said yesterday that, as far as I know, no site has been definitely selected, Juniper Valley is one of several sites being considered.

The report was said to be emanated from the office of Borough President Connolly of Queens, but Mr. Tuttle denied having told the Borough President that Juniper Valley had been chosen.

The Juniper Valley site is bounded by Dry Harbor Road, Juniper Valley Road and Caldwell Avenue, and includes a large section of undeveloped land, commonly known as Juniper Swamp.

Strikes Continue at 2 City Schools

190 Pupils Are Kept Home in Protest Over Transfers ‒ Dr. Jansen Issues Statement

New York Times: September 13, 1951 Parents on the lower East Side and in Middle Village, Queens, continued to keep their children out of class yesterday in protest over their transfer to more distant schools. A total of 190 pupils are involved in the two strikes.

In his first statement on the situation, Dr. William Jansen, Superintendent of Schools, assured parents that in every instance of individual hardship the local superintendent stands ready to give special consideration to the case. Dr. Jansen noted that 130 changes had been made in the boundary lines of various schools to improve facilities and services for the city's growing and shifting population. In all but a few instances, he added, the arrangements had been satisfactory to the parents.

In an effort to work out a solution to the Queens strike, which has resulted in 150 pupils being kept home for the last three days, Dr. Rufus M. Hartill, assistant superintendent for the area, will confer today with Miss Regina Burke, associate superintendent in charge of elementary schools.

The Middle Village parents are asking that their children be permitted to continue to attend Public School 49, at 79-15 Penelope Avenue, rather than be transferred to two schools out of their neighborhood ‒ the new Public School 128, at Sixty-fifth Street and Juniper Valley Road, and Public School 87, at 67-54 Eightieth Street.

Forty children who were transferred from Public School 4, at Pitt, and Rivington Streets on the lower East Side, were kept out of classes for the second day. The pupils had been ordered transferred to Public School 97, at Mangin and Houston Streets, which was formerly used as a supply warehouse and has been reconditioned.

Mrs. Ruth Garfinkel of 62 Sheriff Street, spokesman for the parents, said the transfer meant longer distances for the children to travel and that the new building was not in good condition. She added that some parents had taken their children to the assigned school yesterday but had withdrawn them again after viewing conditions.

Some progress in improving conditions was reported by the Sheepshead-Nostrand Tenants Council in Brooklyn, which staged a demonstration on Tuesday to point up the lack of adequate transportation for their children. A spokesman said the Police Department was providing additional supervision at bus loading and embarkation points and that the Board of Transportation had promised to look into the complaints.