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Queens Chronicle

Old fights renewed, new ones emerge

Elections and Sandy aside, 2012 finds residents often fighting government

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Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu Jan 3, 2013.

Take your big-ticket 2012 headlines about superstorms and elections and throw them out the window for a moment. Sure, the year was filled with its fair share of natural and political change. But scratch a little deeper and you’ll find 2012 was the year residents felt divorced from their government, when city agencies were called out for dubious practices.

The year was pockmarked with calls for transparency and fair representation. In short, there was often a gulf between government’s practices and voters’ desires.

Take your pick: redistricting, school closures, delayed landmarkings and allegedly misguided regulations. All were abundant in 2012.

Return to Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath, where allegations of dubious responsiveness to the disaster and warped priorities continued.

Bizarrely enough, the 2012 elections ranked as one of the year’s lesser concerns. A redrawn 6th Congressional District emerged, causing a tit-for-tat over who would run. The spat of rumor-mongering ended with an incumbent’s retirement and a four-way Democratic primary.

For an area that has seen its fair share of recounts and ugly campaigns, the calm end of 2012’s election season seemed fortuitous.

The rest of the year? Not so lucky.

JANUARY

The Federal Highway Administration promised to study “dead man’s curve,” a dip and twist in the southbound Whitestone Expressway near Exit 36S, which has claimed many lives.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) continued his apparently lifelong crusade against the minute embodiments of government malfeasance, beginning the year lambasting the city’s backlog of curb repairs. He lambasted the city and mayor Bloomberg for ignoring bread and butter issues for “sexy” projects like bike lanes.

St. John’s University introduced a new scholarship for all Catholic high school graduates admitted into the school, with a minimum of $10,000 in assistance over four years.

Avella blasted the Department of Sanitation for fining residents who put out their garbage too early, calling the practice illegal.

Elected officials at the state level called for a fairer tax structure for the borough’s co-ops and condos, which are currently classified as revenue-generating properties.

Community and civic organizations in Northeast Queens gathered to blast a redistricting process they feared would divide otherwise similar and contiguous communities.

The Parks Department approved design plans that would allow the Center for the Women of New York to move into a building in Fort Totten Park.

FEBRUARY

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) tentatively threw in his hat in the first of what would be two Congressional toe-dips, as he considered challenging U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn) for a seat that was eventually nixed.

MARCH

Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) introduced “Alice’s Bill,” which would impose tougher criminal penalties on anyone staging a car accident for financial gain.

The City Council approved the reinstatement of the historical names of six streets in Douglaston.

Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) announced his exit from Congress after 38 years. The announcement set off a realignment of the race for the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District, with Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Lancman entering the Democratic Primary for the open seat. Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) then entered the race as the Republican challenger.

Avella demanded a probe into new district lines which removed the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center from his district, citing his ongoing feud over expansion plans.

APRIL

The special cleaning of sewers in Northeast Queens brought the promise of fewer overflows to the tune of 45 million gallons per year.

Jeff Gottlieb announced he was entering the race for the open 6th Congressional District seat, sparking outrage from Lancman, who claimed the newest opponent was a plant by the Queens Democratic Party to split the Jewish vote.

The West Cunningham Park Civic faulted the Big Apple Circus for a growing number of quality of life complaints.

A pair of reports issued by Comptroller John Liu slammed the Department of Finance over reassessed co-op and condo values, adding to a growing din of residents upset to see their taxes skyrocketing.

About 100 protesters rallied outside MS 158 to decry the potential doom of a beloved Beacon program in Bayside.

Gottlieb dropped out of the 6th Congressional District race after it was revealed he purposefully set fire to his own apartment in 1971, facing arson charges but pleading guilty to a misdemeanor instead.

Brinckerhoff Cemetery was finally put on the landmarking docket after a dozen years waiting.

MAY

A spat within the Bayside Village BID ended when Lyle Sclair was selected the new executive director of the business collaborative, replacing Gregg Sullivan.

A benign brain tumor was discovered in Halloran after using a free scan being offered to constituents. An ensuing operation removed the tumor with few complication and the councilman returned to work.

JUNE

Meng handily defeated her Democratic opponents, Lancman and Crowley, in the primary for the 6th Congressional District race to replace Ackerman.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission delayed the vote to designate Brinckerhoff Cemetery a history landmark.

JULY

The ayor agreed to tax co-op and condominiums as if a state tax abatement had been extended, even though legislation to prolong the break another year was stalled in Albany.

Neighbors of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center revealed ongoing security and crime issues on and around the campus, demanding more help from the NYPD.

Bayside residents and elected officials banded together against a USPS plan to move its main post office on 42nd Avenue to a 216th Street location, which has no parking.

The MTA announced it would restore service on several bus lines scheduled to be nixed, including the Q27, Q30, Q36 and Q42.

AUGUST

A rainstorm early in the month caused flooding in Fresh Meadows once again, as residents demanded a sewer upgrade to mitigate what had become a constant headache.

Brinckerhoff Cemetery received landmark status from the LPC.

The $262,400 tram taxpayers funded for Fort Totten was found gathering dust and not being utilized by residents.

Changes in flight paths and frequency instituted by the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly caused a jump in quality-of-life headaches, including noise and pollution. The experimental run was eventually made permanent, much to the chagrin of elected officials.

SEPTEMBER

A healthcare union, 1199 SEIU, filed an unfair labor practice charge against St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, claiming officials withheld financial information relevant to contract negotiations.

The Alley Pond Golf Center announced an extensive repair and renovation, aimed at improving safety.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky won the primary for her seat, facing J.D. Kim in the general. Nily Rozic was the Dem pick for the Assembly seat vacated by Rory Lancman, facing Republican opponent Abe Fuchs.

OCTOBER

Avella caused a stir when he stormed out on an Islamic Day parade that featured heated anti-American diatribes by invited speakers.

Strawberry’s Sports Grill, an eatery opened by former Met and Yankee great Darryl Strawberry, unexpectedly closed down without warning, citing ongoing financial troubles.

The city proposed the rezoning of 420 blocks in Northeast Queens to maintain the area’s low-density character, with single-family homes and garden apartments.

The city was hit by a historic storm named Sandy, epic in size and strength, on Oct. 29. Extensive damage in the form of flooding, power outages and washed-away homes were left in its wake.

While the borough’s southern end, from Rockaway to Howard Beach, endured the worst, and faces years in recovering, the impact on the northeast portion was similar to that of post-Hurricane Irene and a microburst, which both hit over the last two years: downed trees, flooding and damage to the above-ground electrical grid.

NOVEMBER

Some parts of the area were without power for weeks. It was later discovered the Department of Buildings was handing out violations for downed trees on houses. The agency maintained there would be no fines attached.

The storm revealed vulnerabilities in the area’s infrastructure, specifically an antiquated power grid. Calls for a faster response from Con Ed were mixed with exploring the possibility of an underground grid, though no changes were coming anytime soon.

Disgraced former St. John’s University dean Cecilia Chang was found dead in her Jamaica Estates home. She allegedly took her own life while facing trial over charges she stole more than $1 million from the school and enslaved foreign students.

Meng became congresswoman-elect when she defeated Dan Halloran for the 6th Congressional District seat, becoming the first Asian-American lawmaker from New York State to enter Congress.

In other races, Stavisky retained her seat, while Ron Kim won the race for Meng’s former Assembly seat, making the Democrat the first Korean representative in the state house. Rozic won the race for Lancman’s vacant seat.

Community Board 11 voted against a proposed variance for a long-controversial and incomplete Tommy Huang development next to the Cross Island Parkway.

Redrawn councilmanic district lines drew the ire of locals, who saw their lines shift to neighborhoods they claim don’t match the character of their homes. Oakland Gardens residents in particular were left wondering why they were not incorporated into Bayside’s district. The plans were ultimately scrapped.

Lancman announced he was running for the Council seat to be vacated by Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) in 2013.

Avella announced his 2013 borough president candidacy.

DECEMBER

The City Council finally gave Brinckerhoff Cemetery landmark status, ending a saga that had lasted over a dozen years.

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