After years of watching their block’s quality of life deteriorate, in an area one resident called “one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Jackson Heights,” shareholders at Sheila Terrace, a co-op at 37-30 73 St., have had enough.
Beginning in the 1980s, Joe Galindo, who has lived at the address since 1967, started seeing tell-tale signs of change. Over the past four years, he has lodged multiple complaints with various city agencies and elected officials to try to correct the many issues plaguing the block.
Last Friday night, the residents, who, according to Galindo, paid up to $330,000 for their apartments, met in the building’s lobby to take a united stance in combating the situation and to plan a course of action.
Surrounded by grocery stores, restaurants, travel agencies, a discount household center and street peddlers, the building has become something of a mecca for the homeless, who, according to Debbie Singh, vice president of the building’s board of directors, sleep in front of the property.
“The street has gotten disgusting,” Singh said. “Because of the street vendors, people throw food and garbage on the ground. They hang out 24/7. There are squabbles. The noise is unbearable.”
She indicated that the building is getting infested with mice, a problem she called “overwhelming,” and also complained of the constant parade of cars that are double- parked in front.
“There is no peace anymore,” Singh said. “The value of the property is going down. We would like the elected officials to do something.”
Among her suggestions was “getting the vendors to close at a certain time. We need more traffic cops and more visits from Sanitation. They have to try to alleviate the crowds.”
Galindo has tried to talk to the vendors, but “the nicest word they have for you is motherf-----,” he said.
Other residents had similar stories.
Ten-year resident David Pook complained about demonstrations or parades every Sunday. “A big group meets at the corner, holding up posters, possibly against police brutality,” Pook said. “I don’t think they have a permit for that. And in the evening you cannot walk on the sidewalk; it smells of urine. They smoke, talk, have coffee. It’s a sidewalk.”
Another resident complained that the block “is like 42nd Street in the ‘70s,” while several others said there are illicit activities going on behind the house next door, including the dealing and usage of drugs and the blasting of radios at all hours of the night.
“People do whatever they want [with] impunity,” said another outraged shareholder.
On hand to hear the complaints were law enforcement officials and representatives of several elected officials.
“I’m here now. I’m getting this,” said Juan Toro, a detective from the 115th Precinct, who repeatedly promised to “take the complaints back to the commanding officers,” but added he could not guarantee what action might be taken.
He acknowledged that the sidewalks in front of the building “are very congested.” The detective added that certain laws protect the vendors, who, several residents said, claim harassment every time their practices are questioned.
“We’ve got to be careful how we approach the situation,” Toro said.
He recommended that complaints be lodged with 311, which would provide “a paper trail. It’s a way for us to refer to something.”
Andrew Ronan, the chief of staff for Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), reminded 311 callers to get a complaint number and welcomed them to contact his office for follow-up. He also suggested the formation of a block association for the street.
A representative for state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and a Community Board 3 member also attended the meeting.