Representatives from major city agencies gathered in the basement of the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Corona last Thursday to discuss what is to be done about Roosevelt Avenue, the major corridor many refer to as the “old Times Square” because of the high crime and prostitution rates.
“Since the avenue is just a block or two away, I’m hoping that some of you took the train to get here and got to see firsthand what we’re dealing with,” Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said.
As part of Ferreras’ New Deal for Roosevelt Avenue, the councilwoman promised to form the Roosevelt Avenue Task Force to combat crime, clean up the street and improve lighting.
“I’ve been trying to get this up and running for two years so this is a very important point for me as a Council member, to deliver and get all of these people to the table,” she said.
Deliver she did as officials from the departments of Transportation, Sanitation, Buildings, Consumer Affairs, Environmental Protection, the MTA, the Mayor’s Office, Queens District Attorney’s Office, the 115th Precinct, community boards 3 and 4 as well as others sat down in a semicircle getting ready to lay everything out.
“The everyday person walks down the block and sees these blighted areas and to them, it doesn’t make sense that if a flier is on a telephone pole you call one agency, if it’s on the sidewalk you call another and if it’s on the subway trestle, it’s another,” Ferreras said. “We need to make sure that everyone involved in making this a better area are talking to one another regularly.”
In the 1990s, a Roosevelt Avenue Task Force was put in place when the city declared the area an impact zone. Meaning, extra officers were specifically assigned to the corridor.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) has frequently brought up the need to make Roosevelt Avenue an impact zone and to bring back the task force that helped make the corridor safe.
While she acknowledges that the task force in the ’90s helped a great deal, Ferreras said that it is going to take more than police officers and public safety measures to make Roosevelt Avenue a safer area.
“The one that was established before was specifically addressing crime and it was very important to the area and brought crime down,” Ferreras said. “I believe that we have to get every agency here, not just officers because it’s the blight of the other things that allows for this type of crime to continue and for me, the real focus is not only focusing on public safety.”
The actual meeting was closed to the press so representatives could feel more comfortable and focus on creating a game plan.
The task force will meet quarterly to discuss progress and brainstorm ways to improve one of the busiest corridors in the borough.
The next meeting is set to take place on January 22, 2014.