Looking back on a truly wonderful year.
Over the past 12 months, there were the usual civic frustrations, but many battles also came to joyous conclusions. Some of the fights were small and some were large, but all were hard fought with many of them years in the making. There also were several events held throughout the year which brought us closer together as a community including social gatherings, awards ceremonies and other public celebrations. We present the year in review.
Local parishes entered this year celebrating some major milestones. St. Adalbert, Elmhurst, and St. Aloysius, Ridgewood, both celebrated their 125th anniversaries this year while Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Ridgewood, celebrated its centennial. Each parish commemorated the occasion in their own way.
After Maspeth residents descended on Bellerose in 2016 to protest the warehousing of homeless families by the de Blasio administration, it was announced that the City would remove them from the Quality Inn and Bellerose Inn Hotels on Jericho Turnpike. In mid-January, civic leader Bob Friedrich reported that this had indeed happened.
Environmental advocacy group NYC H2O applied for National Register status for the Ridgewood Reservoir. The designation would add a layer of review to any construction plans the Parks Department might entertain.
Mayor de Blasio announced a major policy shift on February 28th which will eventually end the City's use of hotels and cluster sites as homeless shelters. The City now plans to build shelters in individual communities sized to accommodate the number of homeless that originate from them. This means homeless families and individuals will be able to remain in their own familiar neighborhoods while they rebuild their lives. The Mayor also said that the City will also provide better notification and include elected officials and the community in shelter placement decisions.
Maspeth celebrated its 375th anniversary with several themed events, including a birthday kickoff featuring music and cake, 2 walking tours of Mount Olivet Cemetery, a concert, and history articles in local papers and in the Juniper Berry.
JPCA President Robert Holden was honored by the Queens Village GOP for his decades of work as a civic leader at the group's 142nd annual Lincoln Dinner, and presented with the Harvey E. Moder Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was revealed at our JPCA meeting that many parochial school kids as well as public school kids who attended the required open house were excluded by the principal of Maspeth High School from the institution's admissions lottery. The public pressure resulted in a new lottery being conducted, admitting more students from the area.
After almost 10 years in storage, St. Saviour's was in the news again. The rebuilding project may be funded by an environmental grant in the near future.
JPCA held its first ever Polish Music Festival at the Knockdown Center which was enjoyed by more than 150 people. Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra, winner of 18 Grammy Awards, headlined the event, radio DJ Bill Shibilski was the emcee and the Wianek Polish Folk Dance Company of Middle Village provided entertainment between sets.
JPCA President Robert Holden announced his City Council candidacy against 9-year incumbent Elizabeth Crowley and more than 70 volunteers signed up to help his campaign.
The "Irish travelers" hit Middle Village and Maspeth again, but this time, a news report by NY1's Ruschell Boone rattled the scammer resulting in him sending back thousands of dollars to one unsuspecting elderly victim.
One span of the modern "new" Kosciuszko Bridge was officially opened by Governor Cuomo featuring a light show set to music. A second span is currently under construction.
The Parks Department announced it was "fully committed" to protecting the Ridgewood Reservoir, after completing an application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to declassify it as a "High Hazard" dam structure. Environmentalists and preservationists rejoiced.
Congress Member Grace Meng announced that the New York and Atlantic Railway will be moving its train repair facility from Glendale to East New York which is expected to result in a reduction in noise.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, after initially rejecting a 2015 request by Newtown Historical Society and State Senator Tony Avella to recognize old St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, unexpectedly announced that it was moving forward with calendaring, the first step in the designation process to make it an official NYC landmark.
The state's highest court rejected an appeal by the City of New York to overturn a lower court decision that prohibited the construction of a shopping mall on the Citifield parking lot, which is mapped as parkland. The decision strengthened the legal principle known as the public trust doctrine, which holds that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that the government owns and must protect and maintain these resources on behalf of the public.
The center span of the old Kosciuszko Bridge was lowered to the water and barged out to NJ to a scrap yard for recycling.
The Juniper Park Concert Series, which brought live music to the park every Tuesday night for 6 weeks, took place throughout the month and into August.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing regarding Old St. James Church of Newtown, originally built in 1735. Designation received overwhelming support from the public and advocacy groups. The agency scheduled a vote for September.
Word came that homeowners in northeastern Queens would be eligible starting in October to register for the cease-and-desist list, which prohibits aggressive real estate solicitation. Real estate brokers, real estate salespeople and other persons regularly engaged in the buying and selling of real estate are prohibited from soliciting a listing from homeowners included on the cease-and-desist list.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate old St. James Episcopal Church of Newtown as an official NYC landmark. The church predates the Revolutionary War and had been one of the oldest buildings in the city left undesignated.
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley defeated Robert Holden in the Democratic Primary. Afterward, Holden assured supporters that "it ain't over 'til it's over" and vowed to continue on in the general election on the Conservative, Reform and Dump de Blasio lines. Later in the month, the GOP offered him the Republican line, which he accepted.
The Hon. Allan B. White issued a ruling on an Article 78 brought earlier in the year by Citizens for a Better Maspeth. The decision forced the City of New York to turn over documents relating to the planned conversion of the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express into a shelter. It is hoped that the documents obtained will help the landlord of the property end the practice of renting out individuals rooms to Acacia Network on an ad hoc basis.
What remained of the old Kosciuszko Bridge was imploded on a chilly morning after a ceremony led by Governor Cuomo who watched the demolition process from a boat in Newtown Creek.
JPCA hosted a Halloween Festival at Juniper Valley Park which drew hundreds of kids and parents to hear live music, take part in fun activities and show off their costumes. We hope to make it an annual event.
In a letter to Assembly Member Cathy Nolan, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said that his agency is planning to add the Ridgewood Reservoir to the state's official wetland map via a map amendment, as the reservoir has been determined by DEC to be of unusual local importance. The official vote would take place after a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing.
After the polls closed on a very rainy Election Night, Robert Holden was ahead of Elizabeth Crowley by 133 votes. He thanked the volunteers that had gathered at Connolly's Corner for their help but informed them that there were still hundreds of paper ballots that needed to be counted. The final tally revealed that he defeated Crowley by 137 votes and he will take over her seat on the City Council come January 1st.
Waste Management announced that it bought the kind of locomotive that Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) had been waiting for. The Tier 4 switcher eliminates more than 25 tons of pollution a year compared to the ancient machines it replaces. WM will own it and New York & Atlantic Railway will operate it in Brooklyn and Queens, including at Fresh Pond Yard.
Assembly Member Brian Barnwell announced at our March meeting that after months of discussion with the State DOT, the LIE from Maurice Avenue to 108th St. will receive some noise relief. The roadbed is currently undergoing diamond grinding along with other improvements that will alleviate the noise. State DOT estimates the work to be completed by the end of the month.
NYC H2O revealed that a November letter received from State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation indicated that the agency would likely vote in favor of adding the Ridgewood Reservoir to both the National and State Registers of Historic Places at its December 7th meeting.
The 104th Precinct Community Council announced that Community Affairs Officer Charles Sadler would be awarded the Cop of the Year Award at a January ceremony in Maspeth.
As the year draws to a close, we reflect back on the year that saw civic-minded people who took on all kinds of challenges emerge victorious and some very deserving people get the recognition they deserve. The year of 2017 was definitely a winner and one for the ages.