2017-04-12 / Front Page

Hunters Point Civic Association Gathers For April Meeting

By Thomas Cogan
The Hunters Point Civic Association meeting for April had two speakers. The first, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, must and will show up anywhere in the borough, usually to deliver a message as broad as Queens’s 108 square miles (a statistical fact she imparted to her audience at the Irish Cultural Center on Jackson Avenue), with perhaps some narrower references addressed to the members of the community she is visiting.  The other speaker kept it local, though a police precinct itself contains a few communities, if the 108th is any example.  Commander Captain Ralph Forgione, in office since the first week of January, spoke more extensively than he had at his January and February community council meetings (he was unable to attend the one in March) and showed himself to be informative, entertaining and even a little brash.

Katz said she has been in politics for multiple decades.  In her first days as a member of the state Assembly, she recalled, she used to hear a lot about the need to fund life and culture in Manhattan because that was “the real New York.”  It’s different now, and not only for Queens, but as its president she concentrated on her borough.  She again told the anecdote about the time she was an assistant to Claire Shulman, then the borough president.  It was 1989 and the Citibank building on Court Square was new.  Shulman told her that Citibank was only the beginning; further building in Long Island City would soon practically surround it with other towers, as large or larger.  For a long time that didn’t happen and the big green building stood alone, but the building boom of the last few years has transformed.

Long Island City and other parts of Queens.  Of her borough now Katz says:  “People want to make and spend their money here.”

She said that as borough president she looks for civic service in any applicant for employment in her office.  Church, synagogue and mosque work are probably a good thing, for instance.  As for being on a community board, to which she makes appointments, that is certainly good but sometimes openings are few, indicating a lot of activity.  Community Board 2, which covers Hunters Point, has at present only two openings, she said.

She turned to observations both laudatory and critical.  She said she was glad the New York State Pavilion, left behind from the 1964-65 World’s Fair, has conclusively been saved, but is frustrated that schools are not being built as needed, perhaps leaving a doubtful situation for young students moving up from the successful pre-kindergarten facilities.  She also lamented the long, involved process of getting traffic lights installed where they’re needed (and is utterly astounded that on busy 111th Street there are crosswalks that have no stoplights), which prompted someone in the audience to say it’s more than that in Hunters Point and other parts of Long Island City, where even crosswalks are lacking and being a pedestrian is an unnecessary adventure.

Capt. Forgione assumed command of the 108th Precinct in the first week of 2017.  His first disclosure to the meeting was that he never had a particular desire to be a precinct commander, though he added that he is now applying himself to it enthusiastically.  His specialty in other precincts was traffic control and he was rated the most efficient traffic officer in Queens while at the 110th in Elmhurst and the 112th in Forest Hills.  He called himself “a whiz” at traffic control and is busy practicing his wizardry in Long Island City.  “I am all over Borden Avenue,” he said in reference to a chronically disorderly street that he’s intent on straightening out by taking a hard line on driving (he said he won’t tolerate any more two-way traffic in one-way lanes) and parking (summonses galore have merchants screaming, but he’s unmoved).

He went over the list of recent index crimes, including that of a man who shot his wife at their home in Woodside.  She’s recovering, the commander said (the police officers had her transported to a hospital before going after, and finding, her husband, winning a precinct award for their conduct), while her spouse and assailant is looking at long prison time.  He then described an elaborate larceny scheme whereby criminals were surreptitiously reading, or “skimming” automatic teller machines (ATMs) at local drug stores and using the customer card information to plunder their bank accounts.  He said three suspects have been apprehended and there may be more.  A woman in the audience said she knows someone who has been hit by these operators and, adding that her friend is willing to talk about it, might she and he come in and talk to the captain about it?  The commander said he’s at the station daily from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and would gladly see them. 

The last question he entertained was about interaction that might take place between the police and immigration agents when the police are dealing with possibly illegal immigrants.  He said what one of his lieutenants had said at the 108th Precinct Community Council meeting the previous week: that the police pay attention only to matters at hand concerning immigrants and don’t inquire about their status vis-à-vis the federal government.

Last month and this, there was an announcement of the LIC-Astoria Lions Club blood drive, to be held Saturday, April 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Irish Community Center, 10-40 Jackson Ave.  The club’s plea is that the community’s hospitals are in need of blood, and it declares that a donation can help to save as many as three lives.  Donors must be between 16 years of age and 75 (and 16-year-olds must have parental permission while those over 75 must have doctors’ notes).  Low-fat food consumption and plenty of fluids are recommended before donating and no tattoos should have been applied in the past year.  Questions of eligibility may be answered at 1-800-688-0900.  For any other questions, call John Edebohls at 718-309-6792.

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