One Queens school at 20% capacity as one across street overflows

Parents want to know why 80% of the classrooms in a brand-new school building are empty, when it's across the street from a school crammed with 800 kids too many. Public School 19 in Corona, Queens, has 2,000 kids - 800 over capacity. It uses four makeshift trailers in what used to be the playground. "It's too tight in there," said Hector Patron, whose son Leonardo is in kindergarten there. "It's a good school, but I don't know why they don't let some kids go across the street." PS 307 - which is directly across the street - opened this fall with a ceremony attended by the mayor, who promised it would alleviate overcrowding in the neighborhood. It now has just 207 students in three grades, even though the building can hold 1,000 pupils. An Education Department spokesman said PS 307 had already helped to relieve some overcrowding, by reducing the number of kindergartners at PS 19 by 50 this year. "Just as overcrowded classrooms present instructional challenges," said William Havemann, "so does splitting a school between two locations." He added that the overcapacity did not interfere with learning. Data show the school has done a good job improving tests scores of English-language learners, who make up more than half the student population. Nonetheless, kindergarten classes have an average of 25 students. There is no space for computer labs and little separate space for art, science or gym. The president of the district parent council said she has raised the issue repeatedly with district staff and with Education Department officials, but has gotten nowhere. "They said they didn't want to upset the parents, but they never discussed it with them," said Marge Kolb, president of the District 24 Community Education Council. Next year, the Education Department plans to add more kindergarten classes to PS 307, if needed, but will only add one grade. "Why aren't we using more of it?" said Alma Renta, whose son Braulio is in Continue Reading

Continental Airlines to cut 3,000 jobs, capacity

DALLAS - Continental Airlines said Thursday it is cutting 3,000 jobs and reducing capacity by 11 percent, citing record fuel costs that have pushed the industry into its worst crisis since 2001. It also said its two top executives will forgo pay for the rest of the year. The job cuts represent about 6.5 percent of the company's work force of 45,000. Houston-based Continental said it will begin pulling back on flights in September, when departures on its mainline operations will drop about 16 percent below September 2007 levels. Fourth-quarter capacity will fall 11 percent. Shares of Continental rose 68 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $15.18 in the opening minutes of trading. The company also said Chairman and Chief Executive Lawrence Kellner and President Jeff Smisek will not take salaries or incentive pay for the rest of the year. Last year, Kellner got a salary of $712,500 and total compensation that the company valued at nearly $6 million, down 9.3 percent from the year before, according to an Associated Press analysis of a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, about one-third of Kellner's compensation was in stock and option grants that are now worth far less than they were when granted in February 2007 because of the slump in the company's stock. In a filing Wednesday, the company said 2008 salaries would be $296,875 for Kellner and $240,000 for Smisek. Continental becomes the latest airline to make major cuts as the carriers try to cope with record high fuel prices, which have nearly doubled in the past year and pushed Continental to a loss of $80 million in the first quarter. In a statement, the company said it plans to offer details on flight and destination reductions and eliminations by the end of next week. Fewer flights will also mean fewer planes. By the end of the second quarter, Continental will operate 375 mainline aircraft and it plans to mothball 67 planes through 2009. It has already pulled six planes this year. The Continue Reading

Robert Chambers says he suffers from “diminished capacity”

Robert Chambers is mounting a "stoned out of his mind" defense. The Preppie Killer says he's not guilty of dope-peddling charges because he suffers from "diminished capacity" due to chronic drug use. Chambers' court-appointed lawyer, Valerie Vanleer-Greenberg, outlined the strategy in a notice to the court. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon said the papers didn't have enough detail - and gave her more time to resubmit them. Vanleer-Greenberg said she plans to have a forensic psychopharmacologist examine her client "as soon as I can find one." Chambers and his girlfriend, Shawn Kovell, were busted last month after being caught selling thousands of dollars worth of cocaine to undercover cops, authorities said. He was hit with new charges Thursday because he allegedly scuffled with one of the cops who tried to arrest him. The judge asked Vanleer-Greenberg if she wanted to make an argument for bail for Chambers - who is locked up at Rikers - and she demurred. "Bail is not uppermost in our thoughts," she said. Prosecutors have said they expect the 41-year-old to spend the rest of his life in prison. Chambers served 15 years for manslaughter in the death of Jennifer Levin, who he claimed died during "rough sex" in Central Park in 1986. Continue Reading

Matthew Broderick is acting his age in ‘Diminished Capacity’

His hair may be graying, and his face is a little thicker and softer these days. But at 46, Matthew Broderick is still boyish enough that it's shocking to realize his breakthrough in movies came 25 years ago. "It's amazing - nobody thinks they'll do anything that long," says Broderick, who has two films opening within a week of each other. "I've been an actor for almost 27 years. That's a long time. I should probably quit. Acting is a tough living. It's still exciting for me, which is good." Broderick, who embodied precocious teens in films like "WarGames" (1983) and 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - both made when he was in his 20s - has decidedly adult roles in his two latest movies. In "Diminished Capacity," opening Friday, he plays a man suffering memory loss after a severe concussion - while trying to deal with a forgetful uncle (Alan Alda). "Finding Amanda," which just opened, has Broderick playing a gambling addict. For "Diminished Capacity," Broderick studied up - just a little - on the effects of concussions. "I'm not a huge researcher," he says. "A family friend is a neurologist, so I asked him about concussions and what it's like. But it's not so simple. It seems that it's different for everybody." While "Diminished Capacity" is billed as a comedy, it does have dramatic undertones, which isn't something most moviegoers associate with Broderick. But beneath the actor's cheerful smile lies something darker, says "Capacity" director Terry Kinney. "Matthew has a look like a deer in the headlights - and I mean that in the best possible way," Kinney says. "He has this truly innocent face, but there's a sadness in his eyes that's very compelling. His humor can be very dark." Case in point: "Finding Amanda," in which Broderick's inveterate gambler goes to Las Vegas to retrieve a niece who has become a prostitute. "Wormy is a good word for him," Broderick says of the character. "I've played some wormy roles, Continue Reading

Bus in fatal crash had wrong tags, was filled over capacity

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A tour bus that ran off the road and crashed, killing two people, was filled over capacity and had improper registration on board, Kentucky State Police said Saturday.Neither the improper tags nor number of people onboard had anything to do with the cause of the wreck Monday on a rural stretch of Interstate 65 in southern Kentucky. The bus was route from Niagara Falls, N.Y., to Alabama.There were 66 people onboard the bus, including a driver and a co-driver, Kentucky State Police Trooper Todd Holder said. The bus had a capacity of 55 people, Holder said.Registration tags that were found on the bus actually belonged to a different bus, Holder said. The tags that were supposed to be on the bus expired in 2005, he said."They took registration from a properly registered bus, or their other bus, and put it on this bus so it would be legal as it went down the road, or appear to be legal," Holder said.Calls to C&R Tours in Birmingham, Ala., were not returned.Police said a preliminary investigation indicated the bus driver apparently dozed off around 3 a.m. and ran off the road, striking an overpass. Two people were killed, including the driver, and 64 were injured.The bus was carrying members of an extended family home to Alabama from a reunion in Niagara Falls, officials said. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Trump seeks to ban transgender people from serving in U.S. military ‘in any capacity’

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. military will not accept transgender troops into its ranks or allow them to serve in any capacity, reversing a policy that began under the Obama administration – and triggering intense criticism from lawmakers and civil libertarians.In a series of morning tweets, Trump said that, after consulting "with my generals and military experts," the U.S. government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."The U.S. military, he said, "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."Trump's decision was made Tuesday, and he informed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later in the day, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday. The policy allowing transgender troops to serve was "expensive and disruptive" and affected military readiness, she said. Democrats disagreed. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, called Trump's announcement "an unwarranted and disgraceful attack on men and women who have been bravely serving their country." Related: It’s unclear how Trump's tweets will affect the estimated 6,000 transgender troops who are already in the military. Under the policy announced in July 2016, those troops were allowed to serve openly. Prior to that, the military discharged them for medical reasons.It's also uncertain whether a series of tweets constitute a presidential directive, and whether Trump must sign documents to make the new policy effective.After the tweets, the Pentagon issued a statement saying only that it would work with the White House "to address the new guidance" provided by the president. Brad Carson, the former chief of Pentagon personnel issues and an architect of the policy, said Trump's sudden announcement Continue Reading


THE LAWYER for the shooter accused of killing a man and locking Queens in fear during a six-hour reign of terror hinted at an insanity defense yesterday as his trigger-happy client was carted off to a mental hospital. "His mental capacity is going to play a part in this issue on whether he had the intent to commit these crimes," said Todd Greenberg, lawyer for Matthew Colletta, who also injured six other people during his bizarre rampage targeting red cars. "From what I know of Matthew," said the lawyer, "this is out of character for him." But a police source yesterday raised questions about Colletta's penchant for violence, saying the 34-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic should have never been released without bail after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend on Aug. 20. "It wasn't like it was his first time in trouble," the source said of Colletta, who has a past drug conviction. During the alleged attack, Colletta chased Philomena Atkinson, 23, and threatened to use a hammer to bash her head. Court records show he dragged and choked her, but was charged with misdemeanor assault. Queens Supreme Court Justice Alex Zigman, who couldn't be reached yesterday, issued an emergency protective order to the victim - but released Colletta on his own recognizance. Prosecutors said yesterday they requested $1,000 bail in the assault case. They noted the Queens man had no prior convictions for violent crimes. Colletta - who sources say was tanked on booze and cocaine and went after red targets because he thought he was being chased by the Bloods gang - faces up to 25 years in prison in the shooting spree that killed Long Island dad Todd Upton. Colletta's arraignment was postponed yesterday as he was sent to a psychiatric facility, officials said. Greenberg said Colletta had been in and out of mental hospitals for years, including a stint at Queens' Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. "He's going to be held responsible either being confined to a psychiatric Continue Reading

Nearly half of city schools are overcrowded with students beyond their capacity: officials

Nearly half of city schools are bursting at the seams, officials said Tuesday. Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose acknowledged that 575 of 1,311 buildings — 44% — house more kids than they’re supposed to. “We have individual buildings, and in some cases entire neighborhoods, that are overcrowded,” she said at a City Council oversight hearing. “For our school communities, overcrowding is primarily experienced as larger class sizes.” Some 490,000 kids attend overcrowded schools, and 80% of the buildings with the problem are elementary schools. The school system overall is only 93% full — but the available seats aren’t in places where kids live or want to go to school, leaving some schools with empty seats while others are overcrowded. The biggest problem is in Queens, where schools are at 105% of capacity. “In classes it’s over 30 kids and one teacher,” said Zeinab Sheta, who has a son and daughter enrolled in third and sixth grades at Public School 13 in Elmhurst. “The teachers can’t correct all the homework. Students switch notebooks to correct it themselves.” “The situation to me is still pretty dire,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), chairman of the education committee. “Too often, instruction occurs in hallways, closets, stairwells and other inappropriate spaces in overcrowded schools.” The city is planning to create 33,000 new school seats as part of a $13.5 billion capital plan through 2019 — but that may not be enough. An Independent Budget Office analysis found the city was 75,000 seats short last year of the number needed to avoid overcrowding. “A significant number of students would be left in overcrowded schools” even with the new cash, said Sarita Subramanian, the budget office’s education budget and policy analyst. The budget office said the greatest Continue Reading

FDNY hopeful claims failed lung-capacity test is an issue of genetics rather than health: lawsuit

Aspiring firefighter Rickey Lall said he won’t breathe easy until he lands a job with the FDNY. The Bronx African-American man sued in Manhattan court over his rejection by the department, insisting his failure to pass a lung-capacity test is an issue of genetics rather than health. Medical testing has demonstrated that pulmonary function among blacks is roughly 12% lower than in whites — a difference not significant enough to disqualify Lall, according to court papers. “FDNY’s failure to account for their differences in their testing of candidates was improper, illegal and and unlawful,” the lawsuit charged. “We will review the suit when we are served,” said city Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci. Continue Reading

Dylann Roof told cops he wanted to buy an AR-15 assault rifle after police found high-capacity clips in his car

He wanted even more killing power. Deranged hatemonger Dylann Roof told South Carolina cops during a March traffic stop that he wanted to buy an AR-15 but was short on cash. The startling admission came after cops uncovered several 40-round assault rifle magazines inside his black Hyundai sedan during a “field interview” investigation after Roof was spotted loitering at a Columbia park, according to The State. Three months later, Roof used a .45-caliber Glock handgun to massacre nine black worshippers at a historic Charleston church. He bought the weapon with birthday money he received in April when he turned 21. “Roof wanted even more ability to kill than he had,” state Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, told The State. “This suggests to me that if he had had access to a more powerful weapon, he would have killed a lot more people.” The new details revealed Friday show Roof had even more interaction with police than previously thought. Previous records reviewed by the Daily News show he was arrested Feb. 28 at Columbia’s Columbiana Centre shopping mall on drug charges. A cop confronted Roof, who was dressed in all black, because several mall employees complained he was asking bizarre questions, such as, “What time do you close?” and “How many associates are working?” Roof nervously explained that he was asking the questions because his parents wanted him to get a job. He was arrested after a search turned up a bottle containing strips of Suboxone, a narcotic used to treat opiate addiction, which he didn’t have a prescription for. Just two weeks later, the very same cop who had arrested Roof was off-duty when he spotted the 21-year-old idling in his black Hyundai Elantra at a downtown Columbia park. He called in police, who conducted a “field interview” with Roof and asked to search his car, according to documents obtained by The State. Continue Reading