On the first day of Women’s History Month, the leading ladies of College Point announced they would be spearheading the neighborhood’s newest community advocate group: A Better College Point Civic Association.
Residents Jennifer Shannon, Sheryl Kleven, Kat Cervino and Margaret Loughlin banded together to form the group following years of prior community involvement. The women had already been serving in leadership roles — Shannon as the community’s Facebook page creator and admin, Kleven as the Graffiti and Litter Free College Point founder, Cervino as the Coastal Preservation Network president and Loughlin as an area real estate company owner.
“We are definitely a group of people that are go-getters and during the pandemic unfortunately we didn’t see things getting done,” said Shannon. “It seemed a very natural next step to team up because we all had a common goal to make our community a better place.”
The women have worked together to head community engaged activities throughout the years, but their teamwork began ramping up along with the pandemic. Their first act was feeding their frontline workers.
“I saw a lot of nurses and doctors getting applause and people bringing them food and I thought, ‘What about the nurses in College Point?’ We’re like the forgotten town,” said Loughlin.
The work eventually grew into addressing other issues, such as food shortages in food pantries. They teamed up with area businesses and organizations to create the #collegepointstrong partnership to help their vulnerable neighbors get through the hard year.
As time progressed, College Point residents sought out Shannon, Kleven, Cervino and Loughlin for help in correcting other nuisances, such as noise, drag racing and other on-the-ground issues.
“Historically, we’ve got a lot of problems in this town and not enough addressing them,” said Cervino. “I think each of us brings our own set of contacts and relationships ... When people come to us one or more of us knows someone to call who has some sort of influence and it’s proved effective ... We’re all paying close attention, jumping on complaints or comments, getting our troops out there and working and finding solutions.”
Shannon said the women made the push to become a legally recognized civic association because the existing College Point Taxpayers Civic Association wasn’t active anymore and hadn’t held a meeting for some time.
“At best that’s very disingenuous,” responded Brock Weiner, the taxpayers’ civic treasurer. “They know why they left and it doesn’t have anything to do with us not being active.”
Weiner agreed that the pandemic slowed down the civic’s activities, but said its work has by no means stopped — the group has been organizing food collections and mask giveaways for the past year, and is planning its next virtual meeting in the next few weeks. He added that the civic has never consistently advertised its work on social media, so an outsider might assume it has slowed significantly, but its plans are ongoing.
Weiner said he believes A Better College Point Civic Associaiton was started for other reasons, mainly that the women wanted to do their own thing. He even said some of the new civic founders had shown interest in running for board member positions on the taxpayers’ civic, though elections would not take place until April or May.
“They just didn’t want to wait,” Weiner speculated, adding that there’s no hard feelings between the two groups. “That’s fine. I wish them well. If they need help from us we’ll be there for them ... They’ll do their own thing. I’m sure they’ll do good.”
The civic founders are still filling board positions and reviewing member applications, but they are already in discussion with community leaders to address pertinent issues. Keeping the streets and green spaces trash-free is a high priority, as is eliminating opportunities for drag racers to utilize public space. The civic is also well on the way to coordinating a neighborhood watch with the 109th Precinct. The idea to recruit residents as public observers for suspicious or illegal behavior was suggested on the Facebook page in November, and Shannon said the NYPD is already planning out when and how to train the volunteers.
“I think that the priorities are the quality-of-life issues the residents are bringing to our attention. We’re filling a void,” said Kleven.
The civic’s goals not only focus on bettering life in College Point, keeping the area safe and acting as its environmental stewards, but also actively involving members of the community. Because of significant local business sponsorship, residents can refrain from paying dues for their first year as members.
This story has been updated to include contact information for A Better College Point Civic Association.