Today’s news:

Teen charged in golf blaze

Queen District Attorney Richard Brown said a 17-year-old Fresh Meadows resident was arraigned on arson charges Monday for allegedly setting a fire that devastated the Kissena Park Golf Course clubhouse and destroyed dozens of golf carts.

The DA said Christopher Casella, 17, of 197-01 58th Ave., was charged with 39 counts of arson and one count of criminal mischief for allegedly starting the June 25 blaze that tore through the popular public golf facility shortly after 1 a.m.

The fire damaged the clubhouse and pro shop at the Flushing course and reduced 38 brand new golf carts worth more than $400,000 to a pile of twisted metal and ash.

“The defendant is charged with setting a fire that caused extensive damage to a recreational facility that serves the community,” Brown said. “The fire could easily have caused serious injuries to responding firefighters or any people who may have been on or around the golf course. This was no teenage prank. It is a serious crime that will be dealt with accordingly.”

Brown said Casella could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Casella and two others, who have yet to be apprehended, were allegedly captured on video surveillance tapes at the Kissena Park Golf Course, at 164-15 Booth Memorial Ave., shortly before midnight June 24, Brown said. The videotape allegedly shows Casella and two accomplices climbing over a fenced-in parking area of the golf course where the golf carts were parked before pouring liquid onto the golf carts, the DA said.

Brown said the three are allegedly shown climbing back over the fence. Shortly afterwards, flames spread up over the top of the fence onto the parked golf carts before engulfing the entire area.

For a time employees were forced to use a picnic table as a front desk, but the Kissena Park Golf Course re-opened two days after the fire with carts borrowed from other public courses and has been operating on a normal schedule since.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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