A Look Back at the Stories That Shaped Queens in 2018

By Eagle Staff

A borough of nearly 2.5 million residents generates countless stories, all with a varying impact on individuals and the community.

Yet from Amazon’s arrival to the 2019 district attorney race, some stories, garner the most attention or affect more residents than others.

Throughout the week, the Eagle will highlight the stories that shaped Queens. Here are a few of the Eagle staff’s picks:

Chanel Lewis is charged with murdering Karina Vetrano. His first trial ended in a split jury in November. Image via Queens DA’s Office.

Chanel Lewis is charged with murdering Karina Vetrano. His first trial ended in a split jury in November. Image via Queens DA’s Office.

The Queens Daily Eagle Celebrates Six-Month Anniversary

The Eagle soared off the presses for the first time on June 25, 2018 with stories about Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Bronx Judge George Grasso, who lives in Queens. For the past six months, the Eagle has only gotten better, continuously breaking stories about the Queens criminal justice system, the 2019 DA race and the borough’s diverse communities. Stay tuned for more great coverage.

Howard Beach Jogger Murder Trial Ends in Split Jury

After deliberating for nearly 13 hours, the 12-person jury in the trial of Chanel Lewis, the man accused of killing Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in August 2016, told Justice Michael Aloise it had reached an impasse. Aloise declared a mistrial on Nov. 21.

Lewis, 22, was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and first-degree sexual abuse. The first-degree murder charge and one of the second-degree murder charges were based on the sex abuse charge.

“After deliberating for an entire day, at this point we are split,” the jury wrote in a note. The new trial date is Jan. 22.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris.  Eagle  photo by Jonathan Sperling

State Sen. Michael Gianaris. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling

Amazon Is Coming to Town

Amazon, the online retail giant and data repository, will receive nearly $3 billion in city and state tax incentives to establish a corporate campus in Long Island City. The deal, which was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in November, enables Amazon to sidestep the Uniform Land Use Reform Process that the majority of projects are subjected to. The state has taken control of the deal, which enables Amazon to avoid ULURP in a move that has provoked significant backlash from community groups and local lawmakers, including State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

State Sen. Jose Peralta Dies

Queens State Sen. Jose Peralta, the first Dominican-American elected to the Senate, died in November . He was 47.

In the days after Peralta’s sudden passing, community leaders and everyday residents reflected on his service to Queens and praised his deep commitment to his hometown.

“I am heartbroken and shaken over the tragic news of Senator Jose Peralta’s untimely death. The communities we served together, our colleagues, all of Queens and I are joined in grief today,” said Councilmember Francisco Moya, who succeeded Peralta as assemblymember from District 39. “In private, Senator Peralta often had a gentle demeanor. But that belied the fierce fighter he was for the people whom he dedicated his life to representing. He was a tireless advocate for his constituents, our Dominican community and our neighborhoods. At the end of the day, his decisions were always motivated by a drive to bring his community everything it deserved.”

Moya said Peralta was a “kind man and a friend ... a terrific husband and an amazing father.”

State Sen. Jose Peralta died in November. AP file photo by Mike Groll.

State Sen. Jose Peralta died in November. AP file photo by Mike Groll.

Peralta was born in Washington Heights before moving to Queens, where he attended Flushing High School and later Queens College. He served as a community liaison for the State Assembly, performing outreach in the Latino community, and advocated for immigrants in the New York City Central Labor Council.

Peralta represented Senate District 13, which includes parts of Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst. He lost the Democratic primary to state Sen. Jessica Ramos in September.

Three Leaders Announce Bid for Queens DA

Richard A. Brown has served as Queens district attorney since 1991 and has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election in 2019, but that has not stopped three Queens leaders from declaring their candidacy for the Democratic nomination for DA.

Councilmember Rory Lancman, chair of the City Council’s Committee on the Justice System, was the first to declare his candidacy in September. Former Supreme Court, Criminal Term Justice Gregory Lasak announced his bid in October and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz threw her hat in the ring in December.

All three have said they institute an immigration hardship plea policy and will decline to prosecute low-level marijuana offenses and