2016-10-19 / Front Page

Gianaris Speaks At Dutch Kills Civic Association

By Thomas Cogan

The Dutch Kills Civic Association has been a little unmoored recently, after Thea Romano, its president, moved to Florida, reportedly saying that living in New York had become too expensive for her.  Monthly meetings were managed in September and October by George Stamatiades while a new election of officers was readied.  Nominations for that election were made at the October meeting.

Otherwise, the meeting welcomed four political candidates to discuss their beliefs.  No replies were allowed, no challenges or accusations made.  When the regular meeting resumed, the familiar topic of the Verve Hotel as a shelter for women was addressed, before Commander Deputy Inspector Peter Fortune of the 114th Police Precinct made his crime report and promoted the precinct’s reorientation to Steady Sectors and Neighborhood Cooperation Officers, a tactical reform that is gradually being applied citywide.  Finally, there was a lot of anger expressed about a local taxi fleet owner’s alleged extortion of motorists over parking spaces.   

Of the political candidates, the first to speak was State Senator Michael Gianaris.  He began by saying his 12th District has the best neighborhoods in the city. He spoke of pedestrian safety, school space and hotels/homeless shelters, finding fault with the city for telling hotel owners to go out and make deals so homeless persons can be moved into the hotels that have been opened to them. He urged all to get out and vote, because politicians are aware of which neighborhoods vote and how.

Marvin Jeffcoat is challenging Senator Gianaris .    He believes the city should differentiate between the homeless who need homes and those of them who need

mental care.  He said that regulations in the city “are strangling” job development, by showing more interest in controlling situations than improving them.

The contestants in the 30th Assembly District are Tony Nunziato and Brian Barnwell.  Nunziato, a native of Woodside and since 1980 a resident of Maspeth, was first to speak.  Maspeth has also been engulfed in the homeless shelter controversy.  He has been active there as a staunch opponent, saying that such shelters only warehouse the poor.  His campaign motto is, Taking Action, Getting Results. 

This year, Brian Barnwell successfully campaigned to defeat long-time incumbent Marge Markey in a primary.  He calls for lowering taxes for the middle class, which would include lowering property taxes for home-owning seniors.  He announced his mobile telephone number—917-363-7081—to his audience and said all his constituents would know it too, since he believes a representative should be accessible to his people.

The last political speaker was Robert Ardini, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, seeking the seat in the state’s 12th Congressional District held since 1993 by Carolyn Maloney, who was not present at the meeting.  Ardini, who grew up in Whitestone and now lives in Long Island City, said he greatly respects Maloney but believes she has been in office long enough.  He said he has three main issues:  the national debt, which he calls “our invisible problem;” gridlock in Congress; and term limits, which should be established for all representatives and senators and allowed to take effect far enough into the future that all will have at least the chance to establish a career in Congress.

When the regular meeting commenced, Stamatiades issued his latest denunciation of the women’s shelter at the former Verve Hotel, 40-03 29TH St.

He said it has a large force of armed guards stationed on all eight or nine floors, at a cost of $3,000 per day, to watch over more than 200 women who, he said, are in desperate need of psychiatric help.  He said he met a homeless woman in the neighborhood recently and asked if she lived in the ex-hotel, now called Pam’s Place.  She said no, stressing that if she were a resident there, she would fear for her life.

Commander Deputy Inspector Peter Fortune came to talk about community-based policing, but first had to make a crime report.  He said that in 2015 the neighborhoods had the benefit of the lowest rate of burglary in the precinct’s history; and the rate in 2016 may be even lower.  Also, he praised the raid in Astoria Houses a few weeks ago that yielded caches of weapons and drugs.

The neighborhood-based policing program is a citywide venture that is being introduced gradually in the 114th and other precincts.  Already, D.I. Fortune has taken the precinct’s specialized units and revamped them.  He has established four of what are called steady sectors (named Adam, Boy, Charlie and David), each headed by two non-commissioned officers (NCOs).  He said the realignment doubles the force of crime fighting.  Additional resources lead to better response time and there’s better face-time in the community too, he said.  He looked at his audience and said he saw skeptical expressions on faces.  That’s understandable, he was skeptical too, he said, but added that as he proceeds he sees a better program developing.  He called the NCOs at the heart of the program “the most-well-rounded officers in his command.”

Several workers in the Dutch Kills vicinity came to the meeting to air their side of a squabble with a taxi fleet owner who rented a garage on 29th Street (next to the Holiday Inn and across from the Nesva Hotel) and, they say, declined to park his taxis in it but left them parked in street spaces.  Taxis indeed take up room on the street, which the workers say should be open to them; and they claim moreover that the fleet owner has offered to park their vehicles in the garage, but for a price.  Stamatiades told the workers that the fleet owner said he would like to get his side of the story out, but couldn’t come to the meeting that night.  Any further development depends on what he has to say, so his presence at the November meeting would be appreciated.

The November meeting will also present the election of DKCA officers.  When nominations were made, the incumbents were all re-nominated, with the obvious exception of the president.  The incumbents are:  Tony Benetatos, vice president; Gloria Moloney, treasurer; Alexandra Tselepsi, corresponding secretary; Margie Pisano, financial secretary; and Jimmy Natale, sergeant-at-arms.  (It was noted that there is no one in place as recording secretary.) 

Nominated for president, to replace Thea Romano, was George Stamatiades.  He said he would accept the nomination and give the office a couple of years but said also that the organization has to prepare now for the future and encourage younger members to run it eventually.



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