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It was a year of protests, rallies and demonstrations in
northern Queens as residents took to the street over issues ranging
from possible senior center closures, skyrocketing property taxes,
planned postal service cuts and the threat to eliminate a fire
In January, parents and elected officials said it was time to
change the law after a convicted sex offender from Whitestone
worried parents that he might be targeting their children at St.
Mel’s School in Flushing. Joseph Denice, 24, of 15th Avenue, had
been paroled in September 2010 after serving part of a six-month
sentence for forging documents and sexually abusing a 12-year-old
boy. After his release, he started working at St. Mel’s until
parents found out his background and that he was texting a student.
They demanded tighter monitoring.
Denice was let go by St. Mel’s and later was arrested for
stealing a church checkbook and cashing checks for more than
$7,000. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five to 10 years in
Residents in Whitestone were divided in January over a plan to
enlarge the defunct White House Restaurant. Many said it would
cause parking and traffic problems. Brian Garry, who lives next to
the eatery, and others opposed the upzoning, but it was eventually
In February, controversy reignited in Flushing over business
signs not in English. Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) is
working with interested parties to rectify the situation, but
little progress has been noted. Also in February, former state Sen.
Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) suffered a minor stroke.
And in February, the owners of the Flushing Mall told the
Chronicle that the building would be torn down next year to make
way for parking during construction of the Flushing Commons
mixed-use development at the site of Municipal Parking Lot 1. The
developer, TDC Development, is still raising money for the $850
million mixed-use project.
The biggest issue raised in February was the city’s planned
tremendous increase of property taxes for co-ops and condominiums,
especially in northern Queens. Some were to be raised by 147
percent. After rallies, meetings and pressure from elected
officials, the city’s Department of Finance blamed computer
glitches and capped the increase at 10 percent.
City review began again for the RKO Keith’s Theatre’s
development project in Flushing. It was deja vu all over again as
Community Board 7 OK’d plans for the derelict theater exactly five
years to the day of the last approval. Members agreed to a revised
plan for the site, which includes a lot more housing units and
fewer parking spaces. New owner Patrick Thompson of Manhattan
bought the decaying structure at the intersection of Northern
Boulevard and Main Street in 2010 for $20 million and expects the
project to cost $160 million. The city approved the plan in
It was announced in February that the city planned to eliminate
110 senior centers in the city due to state budget cuts, including
the Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Center in Flushing and the Selfhelp
Clearview Center in Bayside. Members rallied outside Flushing Town
Hall with elected officials and eventually the centers were
Foodies were happy to learn in March that the iconic Bayside
Diner, closed since last summer, would reopen with new owners.
Located on Northern Boulevard near the Clearview Expressway, the
eatery was a favorite place to meet and dine. The diner reopened in
July and has been packed ever since.
Plans for a greenmarket in Douglaston near the LIRR station were
met with opposition by the Doug Bay Civic Association, but the
proposal was approved and the market opened in July. Parking and
traffic problems, feared by the civic, never materialized.
The city’s huge development plan for the neglected Willets Point
area slowly proceeded, with several business owners in the area
still objecting to being moved out. Various lawsuits have been
filed to stop the plan and some still remain in court. Objectors
say the city changed its plans midstream, breaking up the project
into phases, which they believe affects state approval on proposed
ramps for the Van Wyck Expressway. Work began in December on sewers
in the area, which are needed for the big project.
Area elected officials cried foul in March over the U.S. Census
numbers announced for New York City. In Queens, the population
increase was listed as only 1,343 over the 10 years. Mayor
Bloomberg and others saw the city was severely undercounted.
Also in March, veteran Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn
(D-Flushing) announced her retirement. The 87-year-old official
served the 27th District for 28 years. She was replaced by her
chief of staff, Michael Simanowitz, in a special September
In April, Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) decried the
condition of a World War I memorial near the Douglaston LIRR
station and blamed city agencies for passing the buck. In the fall,
he unveiled a cleaned-up monument after city agencies cooperated on
May brought warmer temperatures, but there was a distinct chill
in the air when the city again announced plans to eliminate some
fire companies, including Engine 306 in Bayside. Politicians
decried the move. The city eventually made cutbacks elsewhere and
saved the companies.
Flushing’s New World Mall opened in May in the former Caldor
building. Its most popular attractions are an Asian food court and
a large dim sum restaurant.
A six-year $130 million city project to prevent flooding in
Bayside Hills and improve the water quality of Little Neck Bay was
completed in June. A new facility will collect up to five million
gallons of combined sewage every time it rains that previously went
into Alley Creek and Little Neck Bay.
In June, New York Hospital Queens in Flushing announced the
death of Dr. James Rahal, 77, who headed the infectious disease
division for 23 years. In 1999, after the West Nile virus was
discovered in College Point, Rahal became a leading expert on the
disease and in 2002 he developed a national research protocol for
using the drug interferon for treatment of the virus.
June also marked in the 200th anniversary of the Macedonia AME
Church, the third oldest church in downtown Flushing. The
congregation held a street renaming ceremony and procession.
In July, a nurse’s assistant at Queens Hospital Center’s psych
ward was shot and killed and her 18-year-old son injured outside
their home at Flushing’s Pomonok Houses in what police believe was
a case of mistaken identity. Two men were arrested. Officials
believe the shootings were an attempt to get back at a drug dealer,
but the alleged gunmen shot his brother and mother by mistake. The
older brother was later arrested on drug charges.
Fed up with arbitrary decisions made by the Board of Standards
and Appeals, Halloran introduced two bills in August that would
give the City Council more authority over land-use decisions and
impose fines on negligent property owners who let their variances
In September, former borough historian Stanley Cogan died at 85.
He was also a former president of the Queens Historical Society and
the Voelker Orth Museum. Cogan was instrumental in saving historic
cemeteries in Queens.
Postal workers rallied in September in Bayside to save their
jobs. Workers want Congress to pass HR 1351, which would allow the
Postal Service to use billions of dollars in retirement pension
overpayments to meet its debts. If no action is taken, the USPS
says it will eliminate 3,700 mail processing facilities and post
offices, lay off 120,000 workers and possibly end Saturday mail
delivery. Another rally was held outside the Whitestone postal
distribution center, which may be closed, costing at least 700
In October, seniors again protested, this time about the
Whitestone Senior Center, located in the Whitestone Armory. The
state, which operates the building, raised the rent, endangering
the program. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) stood beside the
protesters in support. He was able to get an extension.
City Comptroller John Liu of Flushing ran into trouble in
October when The New York Times did an in-depth story regarding
possible illegal fundraising efforts by his campaign staff. A
federal grand jury later issued subpoenas for information from
Liu’s campaign office and his alleged supporters. The controversy
has endangered Liu’s mayoral hopes.
One big story in November was the release of Ilan Grapel, 28, of
Hollis Hills by the Egyptian government. The law student had been
incarcerated for nearly five months on charges of sedition and
inciting protesters to violence in Tahrir Square. Congressman Gary
Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) was instrumental in gaining his release
and accompanied Grapel home after he was flown to Israel.
A rally was held outside the Star Nissan service center in
Auburndale in November by frustrated neighbors who say they have
put up with noise and other issues from the dealership for 10
years. Owner John Koufakis promised to make improvements. The rally
was led by Halloran, who said he expects changes soon and will
monitor the situation. Specifically, he wants the building
soundproofed, the exhaust vented through the roof, sidewalk parking
eliminated and the garage doors kept shut.
Queens reeled with the news in mid-November that longtime civic
leader Pat Dolan, 72, of Kew Gardens Hills had been hit and killed
by a car in Hollis on her way to a Community Board 8 transportation
meeting. She was eulogized at a memorial two weeks later. The
activist was a member of CB 8, founder of the Flushing Meadows
Corona Park Conservancy, and president of both the Queens Civic
Congress and the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association.
In December, 13 civic groups from Northeastern Queens announced
a push to ensure their communities stay as one during upcoming
state legislative and congressional redistricting. Organized by Bob
Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, Eastern Queens
United comprises groups from Glen Oaks, Floral Park, New Hyde Park,
Bellerose and Queens Village.
Also this month, the Rev. Phillip Joubert of the Community
Baptist Church in Bayside was sentenced to five years in prison for
sexually abusing his daughter two years ago.
In a special tour arranged by the Department of Design and
Construction, the Queens Chronicle got a look at the new Police
Academy under construction in College Point. The academic building
and physical training facility are expected to be completed in two
years. The cost is $656 million.
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