<![CDATA[NBC New York - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:12:03 -0400 Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:12:03 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[High-Speed Gondola Proposed to Link Brooklyn, Manhattan]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:26:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gondola+proposal+1.jpg

A New York City real estate developer wants to build a high-speed gondola that he claims could carry 5,000 people per hour in both directions between Brooklyn, Manhattan and, eventually, Queens.

CityRealty chief Dan Levy proposed the ski lift-type tram at a real estate conference in Brooklyn Tuesday. Such a mode of transportation would lessen commuter congestion on the notoriously busy L train while affording an unparalleled view of the city, he said.

"You walk up to the gondola, wait no more than 30 seconds to get in and get from Brooklyn to Manhattan in less than four minutes," Levy said.

Levy said the gondola system would be constructed in phases. The first phase would connect the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Williamsburg and then Williamsburg to the Lower East Side.

Eventually, the system would expand to link DUMBO to the South Street Seaport, and connect Greenpoint and Long Island City to the existing tram route on Roosevelt Island, according to the proposal. Levy said each phase of development would cost up to $125 million.

Skeptics said a gondola wouldn't move people as quickly from place to place, nor would they be able to transport as many people at a time. Others expressed concern about practicality, skyline aesthetics and cost. 

Levy, said his proposal is "pennies on the dollar relative to building a new bridge or digging a new subway tunnel," and has other benefits as well.

It would also be a time-saver, according to Levy's estimates. For example, it currently takes about 51 minutes to get from Williamsburg to Penn Station, he says. Using the gondola, it would take about 33 minutes, which would save commuters 18 minutes. Levy says the gondola would shave nearly 30 minutes off the time it takes to get from Williamsburg to the World Trade Center, and 16 minutes from the time it takes to get from Williamsburg to Grand Central.

The gondola can operate safely in winds of up to 75 mph, according to Levy, and moves at a max speed of 26 mph. The developer says it creates no gas emissions and is three times safer than using bus or rail service.

Other international hubs like Rio de Janeiro in Brazil successfully use the gondola system as a commuting alternative, Levy added.

Follow Andrew Siff on Twitter @andrewsiff4NY



Photo Credit: CityRealty]]>
<![CDATA[Boater Gets 2 Years in Crash That Killed Bride, Best Man]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:12:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jojo+john+sentence.jpg

A New Yorker was sentenced Tuesday to two years behind bars for crashing a powerboat into a barge, killing a bride-to-be and her fiance's best man.

Jojo John's 19-foot Stingray crashed into a barge that was moored in the Hudson River as part of the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge in July 2013. He pleaded guilty in June to vehicular manslaughter and admitted that he was drunk at the time.

Two of his 30-year-old friends, Lindsey Stewart, of Piermont, and Mark Lennon, of Pearl River, were killed. Stewart was to have been married two weeks later. The groom-to-be, Brian Bond, was injured, as was John.

John tearfully apologized to their families and said he thinks of the victims every day.

"There are days when I question why God took two people and not me," John told the court. "I find myself crying a lot because of how my heart feels about them not being here. ... I'm standing here heartbroken."

Lennon's brother, Mark, said both families are suffering "incomprehensible heartache."

But he said he was not there "to speak ill of Jojo John. ... He is facing a life sentence of his own."

Prosecutors said the 36-year-old John had nearly twice the legal level of alcohol in his system when the boat crashed. They quoted him as telling first responders, "I've been drinking all day," or words to that effect.

John's lawyer, David Narain, insisted that the crash was caused not by intoxication but by a lack of lighting on the barge. The Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, said the barge was properly lighted.

Stewart's and Lennon's families have sued several companies involved in the construction, citing poor lighting. But they also sued John, as co-owner of the boat, and said he was careless and negligent. Others who were in the boat also have sued.

John's civil lawyer, James Mercante, said Monday that the end of the criminal case means civil lawyers will get access to the boat and other evidence. A court conference in the lawsuits, which have been consolidated, is scheduled for Oct. 27. 



Photo Credit: AP/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Admits She Stole Grave Statue]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:06:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/middletown+cemetery+angel+grave.jpg

The woman who was caught on camera stealing an angel statue from a Middletown, Connecticut, gravesite over the weekend has turned herself in, police say.

The woman's friends saw her photo in a news report and urged her to confess, according to police. She showed up at police headquarters Tuesday evening and turned over the statue, which depicts an angel holding a puppy.

According to Middletown police Capt. Gary Wallace, the woman was driving through Calvary Cemetery on Bow Lane thinking about her own ailing loved ones on Saturday when she spotted the gravesite and pulled over.

"She had an ill friend and another family member that wasn't doing well, and then decided when she saw the statue... that it just reminded her of her ill family," said Wallace. "And when she saw the statue, she just decided to take it."

The statue is now at the police department and will soon be returned to its rightful place alongside the headstone of 19-year-old Brandon Reeve, a Middletown High School graduate who died in a motorcycle crash in 2004.

According to police, the family set up a hidden camera after Reeve's headstone was defaced a couple years ago.

"It was vandalized once before," said James Reeve, Brandon Reeve's father. "The stone was tipped over once. Things were stolen. Somebody had the nerve one time to take one of the bigger statues and then the following week take the second one."

James Reeve said the camera has been in place for more than two years – and on Saturday, it finally came in handy.

"We're just keeping his name and memory alive," James Reeve explained. "I don't know why anyone would want to do this to us."

Video footage shows the suspect, who has shoulder-length blonde hair with bangs, driving up the gravesite in a white SUV, stopping to pick up the statue and driving off with it, police said.

Although the statue is valued at $100, police said “the sentimental value is priceless.”

James Reeve said this angel isn't the first statue to be stolen, it's watched over his son's grave for nearly 10 years.

Now the family is struggling to make sense of the crime.

"It's sacrilegious to do that to gravestones," James Reeve said. "I don't get it. I really don't understand it. If you've got a problem with me, come see me."

Police said the suspect, who has not yet been charged, is apologetic. Wallace said she didn't realize a camera was rolling.

"She was very surprised, from what I understand, when they talked to her, but she was very remorseful," he said. "She wants the family to know it was a huge mistake and she just wasn't thinking."

Brandon Reeve graduated from Middletown High School in 2002. A scholarship fund has been set up in his honor and golf tournaments are held every summer in his memory.



Photo Credit: Middletown Police Department/NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Cops Seek Help ID'ing Woman Pulled From East River]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:03:21 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*120/1889-14+unidentified+43+pct+9-16-14.jpg

Police are looking for help identifying a deceased woman found floating in the East River in the Bronx Tuesday. 

The woman was fully clothed and she had trauma to the face, police said. Her body was recovered in the river at Clason Point at about 9 a.m., after someone spotted the body and called 911.

The woman is described as being about 60 years old, and around 5 feet 2 inches and 120 pounds. She was wearing a black shirt with long sleeves, black pants and multicolored sneakers.

Police have released photos of the jewelry she was wearing in the hope someone may recognize them.

The medical examiner will determine a cause of death, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

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<![CDATA[Man Choked, Sexually Assaulted Teen on Street: NYPD]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:54:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/205*120/sex+assault+university+heights+bronx.JPG

Police are looking for a man who allegedly threw a 17-year-old girl to the ground and choked her before sexually assaulting her in the Bronx, they say.

The NYPD says the suspect approached the girl from behind as she was walking in the area of Jerome Avenue and East 183rd Street in University Heights at about 4:15 a.m. Monday, Sept. 8. 

He threw her to the ground, choked her and sexually assaulted her before running away, police said.

The suspect is described as being about 25 years old, 5 feet 6 inches, 150 pounds, last seen wearing a white Adidas hat, yellow Aeropostale shirt and blue jeans.

 Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

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<![CDATA[Meningitis Kills Georgetown Student]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:45:21 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_meningitis9.jpg

A Georgetown University nursing student died Tuesday after apparently battling a bout of meningitis, school officials say. 

Andrea Jaime, a sophomore at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, passed away at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

According to a letter shared by university officials, students and teachers at the school do not need to take additional action. Tests are underway to confirm Jaime's cause of death.

"This is difficult news for the many members of the Georgetown community who know Andrea," officials said in a letter sent to students Tuesday. "Georgetown officials have been in touch with Andrea’s family and will continue to provide support and assistance to them. Please join us in remembering Andrea’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this time."

A prayer service was being held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Dahlgren Quandrangle.

If you are a student at Georgetown and concerned about your health, you're asked to call the student health center at 202-687-2200 or 202-44-7243.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[NY Man Charged in Alleged ISIS Support Plot: FBI]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:13:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mufid-elfgeeh.jpg

A Rochester-area man has been charged on terror-related counts after the FBI said he tried to buy guns to support the terror group ISIS by wanting to kill American solders in the U.S.

Investigators said Mufid Elfgeeh also boasted he wanted to kill Shiite Muslim residents in his city and find others who would travel to join ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Elfgeeh was first arrested in May, and the firearms charges were made public in June. The recruitment charges were contained in a grand jury indictment handed up Tuesday.

The Justice Department said in addition to posting tweets with photographs and captions like "fighting the American invasion," they said he tried to buy two handguns and silencers to carry out an attack. But the FBI had been watching him for months and it was unlikely he could advance his alleged plans.

Officials said they arrested Elfgeeh after he began seeking financial help to carry out an attack. In a sting, they said he tried to buy the weapons from undercovers.

Elfgeeh first came on the radar after an informant who was paid $21,000 for information tipped them off. A second undercover was paid $4,000 for his assistance as well, officials said.

Federal officials said they have Elfgeeh on tape boasting he hopes to kill 10 to 15 soldiers or former soldiers before releasing a video claiming responsibility.

In one Internet posting, Elfgeeh allegedly said,”Every Iraqi Sunni jihadist is defined as a terrorist in international society; what they don’t know is that the State of AIraq and Sham (ISIL) will one day rule the world with the will of Allah.”

“We will remain aggressive in identifying and disrupting those who seek to provide support to ISIL and other terrorist groups that are bent on inflicting harm upon Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Elfgeeh is 30 years old and a naturalized American citizen of Yemeni descent. In addition to allegedly contacting the informants for help buying guns, they say he also sent $600 to a Yemeni man to help him get to Syria to join Isis fighters there.

Elfgeeh is currently being held behind bars without bail on the charges.

Follow Jonathan Dienst on Twitter @jonathan4NY

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<![CDATA[Bank Tellers Accused of Stealing Customer ID, Cash]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:27:55 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/money_handcuffs_generic_nbc.jpg

Four local bank tellers and an alleged accomplice were arrested and charged with stealing customer's personal data and using it to remove money from their bank accounts, authorities said Tuesday.

Over four years, the defendants stole more than $850,000 from unsuspecting customers at branches of Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, TD Bank and Wachovia in the Bronx, Westchester and Orange counties, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

The tellers stole Social Security and account numbers from hundreds of customers and used that information to create fake IDs and documents that they used to withdraw money from their accounts at branches in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Schneiderman said.

All five defendants were charged with grand larceny, identity theft and fraud charges.  More charges are expected to brought against the suspects and other alleged members of the identity theft ring, Schneiderman said.

Among the New York bank branches whose customers were victims of identity theft are:

• JP Morgan Chase: 5 West Burnside Avenue, Bronx, NY

• HSBC: 1 East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY

• Bank of America: 50 West Fordham Road, Bronx, NY

• Bank of America: 206 Main Street, White Plains, NY

• JP Morgan Chase: 235 Main Street, White Plains, NY

• JP Morgan Chase: 410 South Broadway, Yonkers, NY

• Bank of America: 479 North Broadway, Jericho, NY

• Wachovia (now Wells Fargo): 43 North Plank Road, Newburgh, NY

The bank tellers arrested and arraigned today worked at the following branches:

• Bank of America branch at 206 Main Street in White Plains.

• JP Morgan Chase branch, at 235 Main Street, White Plains.

•  Wachovia branch (now a Wells Fargo bank branch), at 43 N. Plank Road, in Newburgh.
 

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<![CDATA[Baby Born to Boston Marathon Couple]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:33:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/baby44.jpg

A Dallas couple who wed just after running the Boston Marathon last year, soon after a pair of bombs tore through its finish line, are celebrating the birth of a baby girl Tuesday.

Robert and Kelli Watling welcomed their daughter Alexandra Copley Watling, whose middle name commemorates Copley Square — the site of the Boston Marathon finish line, and of the 2013 twin bombings.

Alexandra was born at 10:26 a.m. Tuesday, weighing in at 5 pounds, 6 ounces.

The Watlings are a couple with a deep love of running, and a tradition of linking their milestones to marathons.

Their love story began with a first date at a 5K, progressed to a proposal after the Chicago Marathon and culminated in a wedding after the finish of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, just after the bombs exploded.

Their Boston Common nuptials had just begun last year when the bombs exploded, but with the support of their families, they went ahead with the wedding anyway amid the confusion.

"At that time, we still weren't sure who did this or why," Kelli told NECN earlier this year. "If it was a terrorist act, we certainly weren't going to let them derail our plans."

The couple raced the Boston Marathon again this past year knowing their daughter was on her way, in a triumphant move Robert said at the time marked "a perfect ending for us."



Photo Credit: Courtesy]]>
<![CDATA[Burglar Enters Apartments From Fire Escape: NYPD]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:18:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/greenpoint+burglary+suspect.jpg

Police in Brooklyn are looking for a burglar who's gotten into apartments by going up to the roof of the buildings, then using fire escape to get into homes through unlocked windows.

The burglar got into four different apartments in one building near Graham Avenue and Eckford Street on Monday, Sept. 15, according to police. He took cash, jewelry and small electronic devices before running away.

No one was home during those break-ins. 

The same day, he tried to get into another apartment using the fire escape in another building near Nassau Avenue and Eckford Street,  but was confronted by a resident inside, police said. 

The suspect fled to an adjacent apartment, again getting in through an unlocked window, before running down a staircase and fleeing without taking anything. 

The suspect is described as being in his 30s, about 5 feet 7 inches and 150 pounds, with tattoos on his left arm.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

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<![CDATA[Woman Wanted in Subway Train Punch: Police]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:57:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/a+train+subway+assault+suspect.jpg

Police are searching for a woman who allegedly punched a man in the face on a subway train in Brooklyn earlier this month. 

The woman and the man didn't know each other, and it's not clear what sparked the dispute on board the northbound A train as it was approaching Fulton Street at about 10 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Police say the woman punched the 28-year-old man in the face, injuring him in the lip and teeth. 

No weapon was involved, and the victim refused medical attention.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect, pictured, is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

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<![CDATA[Search Resumes for U.Va. Freshman]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 19:35:44 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Hannah-Graham-image001.jpg

Police are studying new video of a missing University of Virginia student, hoping that the sighting outside a pub in Charlottesville will help them narrow their search.

Hannah Elizabeth Graham, 18, who is from Fairfax County, has been missing since Saturday.

The video shows her outside McGrady's Irish Pub, then walking east along Preston Avenue in Charlottesville at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. 

"Hannah is not the kind of kid that would just go on a road trip and disappear," said Stephen Rice, the band director at Graham's alma mater, West Potomac High School. "She was always very diligent with everything she did, and always did everything exactly by the book."

Her family released the following statement in part Tuesday afternoon:

"Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends. She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."

Police have started searching in the area of Grady and Preston avenues in Charlottesville. Previously, they had used a bloodhound to search a large area northeast of the university on Monday and found no trace of Graham. The FBI has confirmed their involvement in the search, saying only they're providing investigative resources to local police. Albemarle County's search and rescue teams also lent a hand to Charlottesville Police Tuesday in their search for Hannah.

"We're mostly giving them some extra eyes and feet on the ground to actually cover more area quicker. In these searches, time is of the essence in trying to find someone," Bobby Shiflett with Albemarle County Sheriff's Office said. 

Graham, who is originally from England, is 5 feet 11 inches tall with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to university officials. She was last seen wearing black pants and a gold crop top with black mesh cutouts, according to surveillance photos taken Friday at her apartment.

Police said Graham's friends reported her missing Sunday after realizing nobody had seen or heard from her since early Saturday morning, when she sent a text message to a friend after leaving a party around 1:20 a.m.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement saying the community is "united in our deep concern'' for the Fairfax County second-year student.

Graham graduated from West Potomac High School in Fairfax County last year. Her parents have left their home in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County to go to Charlottesville to help look for her.

"I just want her home safe. I'm scared for her," said Karen Blunk, who lives next door to Graham's parents. "Just from the standpoint of, you hear horrible things."

In October 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, went missing after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert. Her remains were found three months later in a rural area. No arrests have been made.

"It's hearbreaking to know that another young woman is missing and that another family is going through the anguish of the missing priod," Harrington's mother said.

At least two other young women, both 19 years old, have also disappeared in the area in recent years. Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County townhouse in September 2010. DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012. Neither have been found.

A "Help Find Hannah Graham"' page was established on Facebook.

Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851.

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<![CDATA[Two NJ Docs Plead Guilty To Taking Bribes]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:29:55 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/doctor-health-generic-1200-02.jpg

Two New Jersey doctors pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking monthly payoffs from a lab in exchange for ordering unnecessary tests on their patients.

Eugene DeSimone, 60, who has offices in Secaucus and Douglas Bienstock, 48, with offices in Hawthorne, pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

In all, 20 doctors have now admitted accepting payoffs from BLS Labs in Parsippany. Eleven others associated with the lab -- including senior executive Scott Nicoll -- have also admitted helping orchestrate the scheme.

The lab made tens of millions by paying doctors to order extra and unnecessary blood tests. Medicare and private insurers were among the victims. Officials said no patients were harmed but medical records of the unnecessary tests remain part of their files.

DeSimone and Bienstock have agreed to forfeit over $300,000. They both face up to five years in prison when they are sentenced in December.

The investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman continues and more arrests are expected.
 
Follow Jonathan Dienst on Twitter @jonathan4NY



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NY Teen Accused of Posting School Threat Online: Police]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:18:28 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/police_generic21.jpg

A Long Island high school student has been arrested after he allegedly posted on a social network that there would be a shooting and bombing at his school, according to Suffolk County police.

The teen was charged with making a terroristic threat after the alleged threats against Mount Sinai High School were posted on the social media app Yik Yak.

Several parents and students read the post -- which said the shooting and bombing would happen on Tuesday -- and called school authorities, police say.

The student, of Mount Sinai, will appear in family court on Tuesday.

Suffolk County police say that school resource officers will be at the school Tuesday.

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<![CDATA[Oblivious Patron on Phone Through Machete Restaurant Heist]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:20:04 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Crema-Robbery-Chelsea-NY.jpg

A machete-wielding man and two masked accomplices robbed an upscale Chelsea Mexican restaurant last week, stealing an entire cash register while a customer sat at the bar staring at his phone, apparently oblivious to the crime in progress, police say.

The men robbed the bar at Crema on West 17th Street at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, demanding cash from a bartender, according to the NYPD.

Surveillance video from the restaurant shows a robber chasing off a bartender with a machete while the two other suspects stand nearby. The machete-wielding suspect is then seen ripping a cash register from behind the bar, and all three run away.

Police say they were last seen heading west on West 17th Street toward Seventh Avenue.

The surveillance video shows one patron sitting at the bar throughout the heist. A witness told the New York Times that the patron told detectives he did not even know what was happening and had been staring at his phone the entire time.

No injuries were reported in the robbery.

Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

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<![CDATA[Police Fatally Shoot Suspect After New Jersey Chase]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:17:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Shooting-NJ-Police-Rutherford.jpg

Police fatally shot one suspect and took another person into custody after a high-speed chase through two New Jersey towns early Tuesday, according to a published report.

The state attorney general's office says it's investigating the shooting, in which officers opened fire after the chase from Lyndhurst to Rutherford shortly before 3 a.m.

The chase started when officers in Lyndhurst were alerted to someone trying to break into another car in a driveway in North Arlington, according to authorities. They spotted the suspects' vehicle, a stolen Nissan Armada SUV, and tried to stop it but the car took off. 

Lyndhurst police pursued the vehicle, and state police and Rutherford police joined the chase. It ended when the SUV struck a guardrail on Ridge Road at Route 3, and police surrounded the vehicle, the attorney general's office said. 

That's when the driver put the car in reverse, spinning the tires until the roadway filled with smoke, authorities said. The driver allegedly backed the SUV into a police vehicle, and officers fired their weapons at the driver, hitting him. 

It's not clear how many shots were fired, nor was it known how many officers fired their weapons.

The suspect who was shot, identified as 23-year-old Kashad Ashford of Newark, was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Jemmaine T. Bynes, 30, of East Orange, the passenger in the vehicle who was taken into custody, was not hurt, according to authorities. He was arrested on weapons charges. 

He's being held at Bergen County Jail on $100,000 bail. 

Police recovered a .357-caliber Magnum handgun and a ski mask from the SUV. 

Follow Tracie Strahan on Twitter @TStrahan4NY.

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<![CDATA[9 Students Hurt in Mini Bus Accident: Officials]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:36:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bus+ax+creag.jpeg

Eleven people, including nine children, were taken to the hospital after a car that was allegedly speeding rammed into a mini school bus that had stopped at a traffic light in Queens Tuesday morning, authorities say.

The bus was stopped at a light on Liberty Avenue and 183rd Street around 7:30 a.m. when the car hit it, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg. The nine students on the bus, along with the driver and matron, were taken to a nearby hospital.

All are expected to be OK, though one child was seen wearing a neck brace. Feinberg said the children on the bus attend various schools in Queens.

It wasn't clear if any charges would be filed.

Katherine Creag contributed to this report. Follow Katherine Creag on Twitter @katcreag4NY



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Grandma Picks Up Wrong Child at Pre-K: Officials]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:54:43 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/dale+avenue+school.jpg

Officials at a New Jersey elementary school are apologizing for an apparent mix-up in which a staff member sent a 3-year-old pre-K student home with a stranger last week. 

A grandmother went to Dale Avenue School at dismissal time to pick up her granddaughter and was accidentally sent home with a girl who had the same first name, according to a school district spokeswoman. 

The Paterson Press reported the grandmother had not seen her granddaughter for nine months, and didn't realize she was picking up the wrong girl. She hugged and kissed the girl before taking her home.

School officials realized the mistake when the girl's mother called the school to say she was on her way to pick up the child and was told that someone had already picked up the girl.

The girl's father told NBC 4 New York he and his wife were terrified when they realized their daughter, Madison, was with a total stranger. 

"Your child is missing, you don't know where she is," said Gemar Mills. "We're hysterical, we're going crazy." 

School spokeswoman Terry Corallo said in a statement to NBC 4 New York: "Within minutes, the school principal realized the mistake and she worked quickly to ensure the child was returned safely to the school, which she was (within 30 minutes). Our head of security was notified, and so was the child's mother."

Mills said 30 minutes could have meant life or death for Madison, who has a peanut allergy. 

"The grandmother said, 'I took her to the store and I gave her a granola bar,'" said Mills. "Well, she has a peanut allergy, so it was a miracle she didn't eat the peanut version." 

Mills said the experience left his daughter shaken. 

"She keeps telling me, 'I went to the lady's house and then the man yelled out, 'That's not our baby, bring her back,'" he said. "She remembers that stuff." 

"She says, 'I don't wanna go to school, I don't want that lady to get me," he said. 

The father is angry that the school didn't follow its own protocol of checking if the woman was on the list of people authorized to pick up his daughter, and didn't call police when they realized Madison was missing. Instead, the school reached out to the grandmother first. 

"They called the abductor instead of calling the police," Mills told the Paterson Press. "How can we trust that they're going to keep any child safe?" 

He said he's reported the incident to state child protective services. 

The school has disciplined the staff member who released the child, and has taken additional steps to tighten security during dismissal, said Corallo. Authorized adults must now show identification at the main office before leaving with a child. 

Follow Checkey Beckford on Twitter @Checkey4NY

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Reported in Manhattan High School]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:33:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/generic+caution+tape+vg.jpg

Firefighters are responding to a call about a blaze at a Manhattan high school, authorities say.

The FDNY said it got a call about a fire in a seventh-floor closet at John F. Kennedy High School in Marble Hill shortly before 11 a.m.

It wasn't clear if the school was being evacuated. 



Photo Credit: Valeria Gonzalez]]>
<![CDATA[One Year Ago: 12 Killed in "Carnage" at D.C. Navy Yard]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:12:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/2014-09-16_1107.jpg

Bertillia Lavern has told the story of finding her co-worker shot in the temple, strapping him into an evacuation chair and undertaking the terrifying job of pulling him out of a building under attack.

A Park Police officer, who had been on the job only three years, has shared the story of blocking out what a spokesman called "absolute carnage" in an office to conduct a cubicle-to-cubicle search to find, and eliminate, a gunman.

The doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center didn't have to tell their stories. The emotions of a year ago were clear on their faces in photographs taken during the long wait for "multiple gunshot victims" coming to them in a fleet of ambulances.

One year ago Tuesday, 12 people were killed and eight people were injured in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. For anyone in the Washington, D.C., area, or anyone with ties to the Navy — or, frankly, for anyone who heard the story — the news came like a gut punch: Hell had broken out inside a secure military facility.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old civilian contractor, had entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard and shot at victims indiscriminately, killing a dozen people before police killed him. 

  •  

Tuesday, the focus is on remembering the lives of the 12 victims and on supporting their families.

The day began with an invitation-only ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, gathering officials and family members to remember those lost.

"...[I]n 22 minutes, our worlds turned upside down," said Rear Adm. Margaret Grun-Kibben, chief of chaplains.

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said the pain of the losses will never completely fade.

"Even in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own depair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God," he said. "One year. We know now that while the pain has receded, it will never completely leave."

Other speakers included Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and Vice Adm. William Hilarides, who is commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA, which was headquartered in Building 197.

Hilarides read the names of the victims as a bell rung 12 times, for each of those killed: "Mike Arnold. Marty Bodrog. Arthur Daniels. Sylvia Frasier. Kathy Gaarde. J. J. Johnson. Frank Kohler. Mary Knight. Kisan Pandit. Ken Proctor. Gerry Read. Mike Ridgell."

At 6 p.m., city and federal officials joined Hilarides for a community event at Canal Park in southeast D.C. to commemorate the anniversary with prayers, readings and meditation.

  •  

Family members commemorate in more personal ways, too. Judy Johnson, wife of John "J.J." Johnson, who died in the shooting, planned to skip the ceremonies to spend time with her family and toast her late husband, with whom she used to have a martini after work.

"My husband was the most beautiful human being that I have ever had the honor of having in my life," Judy Johnson said. "He just loved his Lord, he loved everybody, loved his country, loved his job.

"He loved me with all his heart and soul," Judy said. "He was the light of my life. He was my best friend, my partner, he was my soul mate."

Johnson told News4 how difficult this year has been, how she struggled to sleep, to eat or to leave her home.

During some of the toughest times, she sought solace in a personal letter from Vice President Joe Biden, who suffered his own loss in 1972, when his wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident.

"The time will come when J.J.’s memory brings a smile to your lips, before a tear to your eye," the letter reads. "My prayer for you is that day will come sooner, rather than later. But I assure you that it will come."

  •  

The victims of the shooting ranged in age from 46 to 73. Several were veterans. One was a former state trooper working as a security guard.

Sylvia Frasier was a computer systems manager who also held a night job at Walmart because she loved interacting with people. Arthur Daniels installed office furniture for federal buildings, and was in Building 197 on a job.

Vishnu Pandit, who everyone knew as Kisan, was born in Bombay but was proud of his civilian career with the Navy. He was the man whom Bertillia Lavern brought out of the building.

They are among the victims honored Tuesday. They are:

Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Virginia, an avid pilot who was building a light airplane in his garage in his spare time;

Martin Bodrog, 54, of Annandale, Virginia, a Naval Academy graduate who could be counted on to shovel an elderly neighbor’s walk;

Arthur Daniels, 51, of Washington, D.C.;

Sylvia Frasier, 53, of Waldorf, Maryland;

Kathleen Nark Gaarde, 63, a wife and animal lover from Woodbridge, Virginia;

John Roger "J.J." Johnson, 73, of Derwood, Maryland;

Mary Francis Knight, 51, a civilian contractor from Reston, Virginia;

Frank Kohler, 50, of Tall Timbers, Maryland, a Rotarian who served as "King Oyster" for the Lexington Park, Maryland Rotary Club;

Vishnu "Kisan" Pandit, 61, of North Potomac, Maryland;

Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, of Waldorf, Maryland, a utilities foreman who was in building 197 just to get breakfast;

Gerald L. Read, 58, of Alexandria, Virginia, who saved a co-worker’s life before losing his own; and

Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, of Westminster, Md., the former Maryland state trooper who called himself on Twitter "just a dad who loves his girls."

  •  

The reasons for Alexis' rampage died with him. But investigators have said there are "multiple indicators" that Alexis had delusions, including the belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves, which are used in submarine communications.

Alexis had etched the words "End to the Torment!" onto the barrel of his Remington 870 shotgun, and "My ELF weapon!" onto its receiver, along with "Better off this way!"

Inside a backpack in the fourth-floor bathroom were what investigators described as "electronic media," including a document that stated, "Ultra low frequency attack is what I’ve been subject to for the last 3 months, and to be perfectly honest that is what has driven me to this."

Investigators know that, at about 8:08 a.m., Alexis went into Building 197 using a valid building pass. He went into a bathroom on the 4th floor and, at about 8:15 a.m., emerged with a Remington 870 shotgun with a sawed-off barrel and stock. Later he armed himself with a handgun as well.

Alexis shot his first victim at 8:16 a.m., and for more than an hour, he shot indiscriminately at people inside the building. At 9:25 a.m., police found and killed Alexis.

The lockdown at the Navy Yard lasted hours longer, and Building 197 has been closed ever since.

  •  

In the year since the shooting, the Navy has begun to transform Building 197. There are plans for a "Remembrance Area." A new entrance was created.

Workers are expected to return for the first time in February. The building will be renamed after Joshua Humphreys, who designed the Navy's first six frigates.

There’s also been investigations into some problems communicating that rescuers experienced that day, and that some victims’ family members experienced as they waited for news of their loved ones.

Douglass Gaarde, Kathy’s husband, waited about 12 hours for news; he spent much of that time in the parking lot of Nationals Park, where military officials were bussing Building 197 employees.

"Every bus that came, she wasn't on it," Gaarde said. "The anxiety just started exploding. I was just walking up and down. I was just pacing. I don’t know how many times."

Meanwhile, the security contractor who did the background investigation into Alexis (and into NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden) is losing its massive contract with the federal Office of Personnel Management.

But those continuing reverberations of the mass shooting — the second-deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military facility and one of the deadliest single events in the nation's capital — will take a back seat Tuesday, to memories of those lost.

"I know he’s here," Judy Johnson said of her husband.

"And I know he loved me, with all his heart and soul. A lot of people never have in their life what I had."

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<![CDATA[NYPD Still Protecting Mayor's Old Home in Brooklyn]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:46:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nypd+car+security+de+blasio+park+slope.jpg

Two months after the mayor's family moved into Gracie Mansion, the city's public advocate is questioning why police are still stationed outside the de Blasios' old house in Brooklyn. 

"If in fact the family is not there, then why do we continue to have this security booth in place?" asked Letitia James Monday. 

Police presence is still visible outside the 11th Street house in Park Slope, with an officer stationed outside and a security booth on the street.

It appeared Monday work was being done on that house, perhaps in preparation for renters. 

The mayor's office declined to comment on the added security post in Park Slope, but sources close to de Blasio said he and his wife stop by the home fairly regularly and still exercise at the YMCA around the corner. 

One of those family drop-ins took place Monday afternoon as NBC 4 New York cameras were rolling. First Lady Chirlane McCray arrived with her security detail but declined to comment on the police presence there. 

Security expert Michael Balboni said while mayoral protection should be left to the expertise of the NYPD, it's appropriate to ask why the arrangement is necessary.

"I've never heard of that type of arrangement, but then again, I don't know what the threats are," said Balboni.

City Hall declined to answer specific questions about how much the security is costing taxpayers and whether it's costing more than it did to protect Mayor Bloomberg. Bloomberg never moved into Gracie Mansion but had 24/7 police protection at his townhouse. 

De Blasio's old neighbors have mixed views. One woman said it didn't bother her at all, but another man griped that it was a waste of money. 

Yet another neighbor pointed out the added security was coming at a very precious cost to residents.

"I don't think it's necessary, and we can use all the parking spaces we can get," the neighbor said.

Follow Melissa Russo on Twitter @MelissaRusso4NY

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Queens Robbers Fired Gun, Stole Jewelry: NYPD]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:31:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Jewely-Store-Robberies-Queens.jpg

Police are looking for three robbers they say hit a jewelry store in Queens earlier this month, stealing several items and firing a gun at the floor.

The men robbed the store on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park at about 1 p.m. Sept. 5, according to the NYPD.

Surveillance video from the store shows the men standing in front of a jewelry counter with bags in hand. One of the men is then seen pulling a handgun and pointing it at a clerk off-camera.

Then, the man with the gun jumps over a jewelry case, and the other two suspects are seen trying to open a gate to get behind the counter.

Police say that one of the suspects fired one shot during the robbery. The men stole several pieces of jewelry and then left the scene in a gray BMW X3 SUV.

No one was injured in the heist.

Police say that one of the three suspects has also been linked to an attempted robbery at a jewelry store on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale on Aug. 16.

In that robbery, police say a suspect hit a 64-year-old man in the head with the butt of a gun and then left without stealing anything.

The victim in that robbery did not go to the hospital.

Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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<![CDATA[Tot in Stroller Struck in Hit-Run, Breaks Arm: Officials]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:16:23 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/toddler+hit+run+shirley+ny.jpg

A toddler in a stroller was struck in a hit-and-run off a highway on Long Island Monday, authorities say. 

The 3-year-old girl was hit by a Jeep in a crosswalk at Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, near a Pathmark supermarket, at about 3:45 p.m., police said.

The driver hit the stroller and then sped off, witnesses and law enforcement sources said.

The impact sent the girl flying into a street sign, the girl's mother said. 

"She just flew into the sign and she was there laying down, saying 'help me, help me,'" said Lilibeth Rivera. 

The Jeep missed hitting Rivera, who was also holding her 8-month-old child. 

The toddler was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where she was being treated for a broken arm and cuts to her arm and face. 

"It's hard for a mother to see a child like this," said Rivera. 

Police later arrested 30-year-old Scott Shea, of Middle Island, on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. At his arraignment Tuesday, Shea's lawyer called the case "a tragic accident," and said his client swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle when he hit the stroller.

Shea denied fleeing the scene. His lawyer said his client pulled into a shopping center across from the crash scene and went looking for police "because he didn't know exactly what happened, it happened so fast." 

But police insisted Shea was trying to escape.

"He had ample time to stop at that scene," said Detective Lt. Gail Marrero. "He proceeded to the next intersection, which is quite a distance from the accident scene." 

Shea is currently on parole on a weapons selling charge. It wasn't clear if he entered a plea Tuesday.

Follow Greg Cergol on Twitter @GREGCERGOL4NY

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<![CDATA[SoCal Heat Wave Prompts Power Alert]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:49:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/216*120/caliso.JPG

As a sweltering heat wave has gripped Southern California for days, managers of the state's power grid said on Monday they had plenty of electricity available to handle anticipated peaks in power usage, but fear power outages if energy use continues to be consumed at its current rate.

Officials with Southern California Edison and the Department of Water and Power urged residents to conserve power.

"The generation picture, the actual power customers are consuming, looks very good today," Steven Conroy, a Southern California Edison spokesman, said. "So what you're seeing is that our customers are using a lot of energy during the day. That's normal. But they're really, really using a lot at night."

He said from 6 p.m. to midnight, equipment doesn't have enough time to cool off and that's why it's failing. Some 3,000 Southern California Edison customers lost power in Los Angeles and Orange counties from overheated transformers on Sunday afternoon and evening.

As of 11:50 p.m. Monday, the LADWP said about 6,000 customers were without power, most of it split between the Hollywood area and Valley. The bulk of the Valley outages were random and in the Valley Glen, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks areas.

Meanwhile, Edison said it was working on 126 outages that knocked out power to 15,000 customers. The Los Angeles area had 72 outages, leaving 4,800 customers without power. The largest LA outage was in Pico Rivera with 797 customers and Inglewood with 428 customers. There were 15 outages in the San Bernardino area, leaving about 7,395 customers without power.

Edison's big concern is Tuesday and the rest of the week.

Edison opened its Emergency Activation Center in Irwindale to provide a central coordination center to monitor and respond to outages.

The utility also canceled all planned maintenance outages that could be deferred.

DWP officials said the utility broke its all-time record for energy demand and issued another call for customers to conserve power.

The demand was at 6,196 megawatts, surpassing the previous all-time record of 6,177 megawatts set on September 27, 2010.

The peak demand was nearly double the amount of energy demand experienced on a typical day in the city of Los Angeles.

The DWP currently is forecasting that it will break today’s record again Tuesday and exceed 6,200 megawatts as heat-wave temperatures continue.

"Under these extreme conditions, our system is holding up quite well, but we urge our customers to continue to conserve to reduce strain on the grid," said General Manager Marcie Edwards. "Conserving electricity can help prevent a local power outage if you take simple steps like setting your thermostat to 78 degrees, turning off pool pumps and giving your appliances the day off tomorrow. Days like today are an important reminder that we must continue to plan for and invest in our infrastructure to ensure reliable service for our customers as demand increases and weather gets more erratic and intense."

Officials also encourage residents to conserve energy by closing curtains and blinds and turning off lights.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Accused Haagen-Dazs Robber Punches Worker: Cops]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:15:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP01102901192.jpg

A Long Island man was arrested after he allegedly tried to steal several containers of Haagen-Dazs ice cream from a 7-Eleven store, then punched the store clerk when he was confronted, police say. 

The 49-year-old East Rockaway man was caught trying to sneak out of the store at 2030 Plainview Ave. in Lawrence at about 4:30 a.m. Monday with "numerous" containers of the ice cream underneath his clothing, according to police. 

When the cashier tried to stop the suspect, the two briefly struggled, and the suspect punched the cashier in the face, police said. 

A canine patrol officer in the area saw the fight and intervened, taking the suspect into custody. 

The suspect is charged with second-degree robbery. Information on an attorney for him wasn't immediately available.

The cashier, who had a swollen left eye from the punch, refused medical treatment at the scene. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sickened Dog Sparks Hazmat Scare on Staten Island]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:54:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/staten+island+haz+mat+scare.jpg

Emergency crews responded to a wooded area near Willowbrook Park on Staten Island Monday after getting reports a stream may have been tainted with chemicals.

Police said a dog got sick after drinking water from the stream, and the dog's owner called a parks department employee. That worker reported feeling dizzy and was taken to the hospital. 

FDNY crews hauled in air and water testing equipment, sparking alarm among neighbors.

"I asked the fireman, told him my window was open, he said, 'Go home, shut the window, put the air conditioning on to be on the safe side,'" said Jeanette Rabinowiz. 

The FDNY tested for various chemicals, and they all came back at acceptable levels.

The Parks Department says the employee remained in the hospital in stable condition Monday night. It's not clear what caused that worker to feel ill. 

Follow Lori Bordonaro on Twitter @Lori4NY

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<![CDATA[Starved Puppy Dumped in Park Finds New, Loving Home]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 07:04:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pocket+pit+bull.jpg

A severely emaciated puppy found dumped near a baseball field in a New Jersey park last month has gained some weight and is being welcomed into a new, loving home. 

A jogger at East Side Park in Paterson, New Jersey, found Bunny, now known as Pocket, and her brother, Bugsy, Aug. 25. Animal control officers had said they found Pocket standing over her brother, apparently trying to comfort and protect him. Bugsy died a day later.

The 6-month-old pups barely weighed 14 pounds when they should have clocked in at a healthy 50, according to officials. Animal care authorities believed they had been starved for months, and an attending veterinarian called it an "extreme, extreme case of neglect."

Pocket gained 11 pounds in two weeks and now weighs more than 25 pounds. She was adopted by Karla Barricella, a Bergen County woman who read about Pocket's case in a newspaper.

Barricella's beloved Rottweiler passed away nearly two years ago, and she says that when she saw Pocket, she knew she was ready for another dog.

"My heart opened up again," says Barricella, who owns a horse farm in Warwick and lives in Ramsey. "The love -- you can just feel it. She is the sweetest, dearest animal ... and I will give her the warmest, dearest home in the world."

Pocket's growth has been stunted by malnutrition and she will always be smaller than other dogs of her breed because of that, but "is totally healthy now," according to Dr. Paul Sedlacek, who owns the clinic where Pocket was treated.

Barricella plans to make sure Pocket stays that way. Her son, James, said he was immensely happy his mother found another dog to love.

"Her dogs get more presents at Christmas than we did as kids because she takes good care of them," James Barricella said.  

Authorities are looking for the suspect or suspects who abused and then abandoned Pocket and her brother. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information. Anyone with information can call Paterson Animal Control at 973-881-3640. 

"There's no such thing as bad animals in the world. There's bad people that allow it to happen," John DeCando of Paterson Animal Control said when the pups were found. "This has got to stop." 

Here are the dramatic before and after photos of Pocket. See her playing with her new family below those photos.

 

Follow Jen Maxfield on Twitter @JenMaxfield4NY



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Cement Truck Overturns on Long Island Expressway]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:02:44 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/joegarraffocementtruck2.jpg

A cement truck overturned on the Long Island Expressway on Monday afternoon, causing traffic delays as the spill forced lane closures. 

A victim was transported to Elmhurst hospital in unknown condition, according to the FDNY. The accident was on the westbound side of the Long Island Expressway near Maurice Avenue in Queens. All westbound lanes were shut down with traffic diverted onto the lower level and at least two eastbound lanes were blocked. The FDNY was on the scene hosing down the cement to prevent it from drying so they could clear the roadway. 

Traffic was backed up for more than three hours with the last lane reopening at 3:15 p.m. There were still residual delays for hours westbound into city.

 

 



Photo Credit: @joegarraffo/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA["Played Out": Final Moments as Latest Atlantic City Casino Folds]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:12:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/blackjack+final+hand.JPG

The last blackjack hand dealt before the Trump Plaza casino closed its doors in Atlantic City Tuesday morning was a 21, for the house.

That luck came too late for the casino, which shut for good just before 6 a.m.

The floor was mostly empty, the chandeliers lighting vacant gaming tables and workers clustered together. Only a handful of players were left, loyal customers and determined gamblers to the end.

Ruth Hardrick’s last shift had ended at 4 a.m. but she returned a few hours later for the final moments. For 26 years, the casino had been her second home, she said.

“You see it coming but you never think it’s going to get to this point because you always try to stay optimistic that it would come out of the slump somewhat,” said Hardrick, who lives nearby in Mays Landing, New Jersey. “I had a good run here.”

The two men playing blackjack left as security guards escorted people from the building at 5:59 a.m.

Ruth Modrell set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to play the slot machines one last time.

“This is a great place,” said Modrell of Bridgewater, New Jersey. “I feel like I’m a favorite daughter in the family and so does everybody else. The people here are just wonderful. You can’t win but that’s true at all casinos.”

The retired communications engineer had been visiting Trump Plaza for about 10 years, and on this final night, she was trying her hand at one or two more slot machines before heading out.

With no drinks to serve, 30-year-old Marilyn Solis was gathering up empty ash trays as the minutes ticked down. This was her second casino closing, she said. She had worked at the Sands Casino Hotel before it shut in 2006.

“I never thought it was going to happen again,” she said.

She has been filling out applications for another job, but was not optimistic.

“It’s been very hard,” she said. “You have to know somebody now to get in.”

At the front of the casino, 60-year-old Rich Everett complained that the owners had not even tried to make the casino successful. He hopes to work for himself instead by buying a limousine to take customers between the casinos, he said.

“They didn’t promote the place at all,” he said.

Soon after the doors closed, workers could be seen inside the lobby pulling up the fake plants.

The day before Linda Winsett stopped in to say goodbye to the workers she'd come to know over her decades playing the slot machines.

 “I know everyone here,” said Winsett, who was visiting Monday with her husband, Jon, a retired Wildwood, New Jersey, police officer. “They’ve always been good to me. Sad. Everyone’s out of work.”

Winsett had known the casino was failing. It had become run-down, and there were fewer employees on the casino floor. Its imminent closure was no surprise to her. “I could see it coming,” she said.

When the Trump Plaza shuttered its doors early Tuesday morning, it became Atlantic City's fourth casino to close this year, following the Atlantic Club in January and Showboat and Revel over the Labor Day weekend. Trump Entertainment Resorts is threatening to shut down a fifth, Trump Taj Mahal, if it cannot cut costs there.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump hinted that he might jump back in the game.

In August, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, formed after his casino empire emerged from one of its three bankruptcies and in which he retains a 10 percent stake. In the lawsuit, Trump demanded that his name be removed from the Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal casinos because the company had allowed them to fall into disrepair.

Still, the march of casino closures comes as New Jersey casinos' revenue lags, and as state leaders scramble to turn the tide. New Jersey casinos' August revenue was down $3.65 million compared with last year, state gambling figures out Friday show. Last week, Gov. Chris Christie held a special summit to help the troubled casino resort community, and issued a directive to let casinos begin sports betting.

“The whole industry is played out,” said Linda Winsett's husband Jon, 59, who does not gamble. “If you put six McDonald’s on one intersection, not all six are going to do good.”

"I'm going to pick up the pieces"

At mid-day Monday, a smattering of gamblers dotted the Trump Plaza's cavernous casino floor, most of them at the slots. As the day wore on, visitors streamed up the escalators to games whose dazzling names — "Dozens of Diamonds," "Invaders from the Planet Moolah" — belied the casino's future.

That future was on casino employees' minds Monday, as nearly 1,000 workers prepared to lose their jobs. Some said they said they would apply for unemployment benefits or maybe return to college, and a dealer was overheard discussing competition from casinos in neighboring states.

Theresa Volpe, 56, a cocktail server who has worked at Trump Plaza for 26 years, is looking for a job in one of the other casinos, and hopes the city can rebound to thrive again. She lives just outside Atlantic City in Northfield with her disabled sister and her mother, who is recovering from a fall. Both rely on her, but Volpe said she wasn't worried.

"I’m going to pick up the pieces," she said. "I’ll be good. We’ll work it out."

The closing of Trump Plaza has also left uncertain the future of its boardwalk restaurant, EVO. Waiter Elgun Alakbarov, 25, is applying for jobs at other restaurants, but he may leave Atlantic City instead.

"It’s time to do something different. But I'm young," he acknowledged. “People who have a family — it’s hard."

The union representing casino employees, Unite Here Local 54, will host a resource center in Boardwalk Hall from Wednesday through Friday where union and non-union workers can learn about unemployment benefits, health care, rent assistance and other resources, said Donna DeCaprio, the secretary treasurer. "It's kind of one-stop shopping," she said.

"There's already enough poverty"

On a sparklingly sunny Monday on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Janice and Malcolm Blalock had their photograph taken in front of the casinos. Retired government workers from Clayton, North Carolina, they were on a motorcycle trip and were on their way to Philadelphia.

“It’s a little bit sad,” Malcolm Blalock said of the casino closures. His wife, who described herself as a small gambler, said the casino closures reflect the ongoing struggles of a still-rebounding economy.

The pair was only briefly stopping in Atlantic City en route to Philadelphia.

Derek Ljongquist, 31, and Jennifer Cote, 33, stopped at the Starbucks in the Trump Plaza, but they had no plans to stay, either. The couple from Naugatuck, Connecticut – he a computer technician, she a health-care administrative assistant – was headed for a swim and then shopping at the Tanger outlet mall, during a visit for Cote’s birthday.
And though not gamblers, they thought the Atlantic City casinos paled in comparison with their home state's Mohegan Sun casino, though they called the Trump Plaza's closure "a shame."

“It's a shame, because there are a lot of jobs to be lost,” Cote said. “There’s already enough poverty in the city.”

"The whole vibe is different"

Like many others, longtime Trump Plaza patrons Ed Heron Jr., 68, and his wife, Marge, 67, had come to their old haunt Monday to say goodbye to longtime employees.

“This used to be our place,” Ed said. “We used to be here at least two or three times a month."

The retired couple, who live in Philadelphia, recalled steak dinners they had eaten and performances they'd seen by Cher and Diana Ross there. But what was once a fabulous casino now looked desolate, Marge said, and the couple blamed its owners for its failure.

“Ten years ago, the place was hopping,” Ed remembered.

That wasn't the case Monday, another worker at the Trump Plaza's restaurant EVO conceded. Andrea Gant, 29, is moving to Boca Raton, Florida, to waitress in another of the owner’s restaurants for the winter. "It’s hard to get a job here in the winter," she said.

It wasn't just during the winter that business had lagged, though, she said. With fewer patrons to serve, she could tell the casinos were suffering.

"You can feel it," she said. "The whole vibe is different."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[$1,300 Raised for Autistic Man]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:11:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Steven+St.+Jacques+birthday+money+burglary.jpg

A man accused of stealing $100 in birthday money from an autistic man appeared in court Tuesday and will face a judge again next week.  

Police said Steven St. Jacques, 27, of Stamford, approached the victim, a 27-year-old autistic man, near Veterans Park last Tuesday afternoon, tricked him into handing over his money, then pretended to put it back into the victim's pocket

Instead, he ran away with the cash, police said.

When police were not able to find him, they released surveillance footage that showed a man running from the scene in the hopes that someone could identify the perpetrator.

That was on Thursday.

Over the weekend, St. Jacques was identified as the suspect. They obtained a search warrant and found an article of clothing at his house that matched what they say he was wearing when the video was shot.

St. Jacques was charged with second-degree larceny and appeared in court on Tuesday, where a new court date was set for Sept. 24.

Bond has been set at $50,000 and he remains in police custody.

He has had prior arrests for alleged assault and robbery, police said.

As Stamford police investigated, police officers, members of the local police union and community members banded together to collect money for the victim and presented him with $1,300 on Monday. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com and Stamford Police]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Bear Cools Off in SoCal Pool]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:38:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/200*120/bear+thomas+see+sierra+madre.jpg

A bear used a Sierra Madre homeowner's backyard pool Sunday to cool off during a Southern California heat wave that included triple-digit temperatures during the weekend.

The bear arrived late Sunday afternoon at the home, where it explored the backyard patio before splashing into the pool. The bear stayed in the water for about 15 minutes, resting on steps at both ends, before climbing out.

Resident Thomas See said this was the first time he has seen a bear swimming around in the pool. Bears in search of an easy snack often appear in the San Gabriel Valley community on trash days, he added.

The bear appeared to head south after the swim, See said.

California's black bear population is at about 25,000 to 30,000, with most living in mountain areas above 3,000 feet, according to what the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife calls conservative estimates. In 1982, the statewide bear population was estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000.

Less than 10 percent of the state's black bear population lives in the central western and southwestern California region, according to agency estimates. About half of the population resides in an area north and west of the Sierra Nevada.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has recorded 12 "bear attacks" since 1980. An attack is defined as "physical contact, injury or death."

The last reported attack in Los Angeles County occurred in July 2003 when a hiker was knocked down by a bear at a campsite on Pacific Crest Trail in Angeles National Forest. The hiker suffered minor injuries.
 



Photo Credit: Thomas See, NBCUniversal]]>