If North Queens found its voice in the first half of 2020, it learned how to use it throughout the second half. Whether it was to protest the proposed Main Street busway or to show support for small businesses, the residents in the northern neighborhoods stepped up for one another this year.
Here’s a look back at what the last six months of the infamous 2020 looked like in North Queens.
Francis Lewis High School was vandalized June 23. The culprit spray-painted “Defund Schools,” “BLM” and “this is where you put [Principal] Dr. Marmar” on the building and trash receptacles before leaving behind a can of gasoline.
A 7-year-old girl was dragged from her bed and pushed down the stairs of her Flushing home June 22 morning by a stranger. Pete Haughton of Brentwood, LI, was charged with attempted abduction and other charges. The case is still pending and Haughton’s next court date is Jan. 29.
The MTA announced safety and traffic flow improvements on the southbound side of the Whitestone Expressway were completed four weeks ahead of schedule. The construction added an extra lane, as well as new signs and lights.
Multiple elected officials demanded action from NYCHA after it was revealed that 10 apartments in Flushing’s Bland Houses complex had been without cooking gas since February and 10 others since March. The gas was restored to the 20 apartments in late July.
Democratic state Committeewoman of Flushing Sandra Ung became the first to announce her bid for the City Council District 20 seat. She’d be the first female Asian-American to fulfill the role, but faces Uber driver Hailing Chen, Flushing Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Choe, former Director of Chinese Planning Council of Queens Neng Wong and 2019 Queens borough president candidate Dao Yin in the June primaries.
The Downtown Flushing Business Improvement District Hub revealed through a survey that the community and area businesses opposed the city’s plan to implement the busway on Main Street that would prohibit cars and other private vehicles. The community raised concerns that the busway would increase congestion on side streets and dissuade shoppers from coming to the neighborhood. The opposition would grow in the coming months, beginning July 31 — the MTA held a press conference on the conversion, but was met with a number of protesters.
Flushing Town Hall won a nationwide poll against nine other nonprofits. The cultural institution won $20,000 from CIT Group to fund its virtual programming bringing music and art to viewers during the pandemic.
Police brutality protests reached a two-month mark, and demonstrators in Flushing commemorated the ongoing movement with a march to Corona to demilitarize and defund law enforcement.
Kevin Martin, a 14-year NYPD veteran serving at the 109th Precinct, was charged with tampering with evidence and misconduct on July 30. Civilian Complaint Review Board records show that Martin has been accused of misconduct at least 45 times and has been involved in six lawsuits during his tenure. The case is still pending and Martin’s next court date is March 3.
Area elected officials, small businesses and community leaders met at the Murray Hill LIRR station to demand state government action relating to rent. The group backed legislation that would provide rent relief to tenants struggling in the time of the pandemic. The bill has sat in the Senate Rules Committee since the summer, though on Dec. 28 Gov. Cuomo extended the residential eviction moratorium to May.
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee and the Queens Botanical Garden, as well as various community organizations, dispersed 2,020 seed planters across the borough to symbolize renewal and growth out of the multiple chaotic events of the year.
The New World Mall in Flushing was slapped with a vacate order by the Department of Buildings for operating against Cuomo’s executive order limiting indoor retail spaces. Two days later, the mall was permitted to open again, but only stores with exterior entrances were allowed to resume operations.
Nettie Mayersohn, who served as the District 27 assemblymember for 28 years and introduced unprecedented legislation, such as the Baby AIDS bill and Victims Impact bill, died on Aug. 13 at the age of 96. Three days later, Claire Shulman, the first woman Queens borough president, died at age 94.
A $53 million project to renovate the Flushing Bay Promenade was proposed by the Port Authority as part of the AirTrain project, which is in its early phases of development.
After visiting Flushing’s Pomonok Houses in February to find that over half the complex’s trash compactors were inoperable, Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing) and the New York City Housing Authority each pledged to secure $125,000 to replace a total of 80 of the defunct compactors. Six months later, Rosenthal announced Aug. 21 he had secured his funding, but then NYCHA said that only nine needed replacing. Rosenthal’s funding will cover five compactors and is still undergoing the state Dormitory Authority application process to move forward.
Sponsored by the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, New Inspiration Cares, Crystal Windows and GrowNYC, an art installation depicting New York City during the pandemic was launched Aug. 26 at Maple Playground in Flushing.
Soho KTV, a karaoke bar in Flushing, was raided and shut down by the city’s Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 30 for serving over 75 customers indoors in direct violation of the city and state’s restrictions on indoor dining during the pandemic. Two days later and less than a mile away, CJ Diamond Cafe was raided by the Sheriff’s Office for allegedly serving over 130 people inside on Sept. 1. As authorities arrived, as many as 100 people attempted to flee through the karaoke bar’s emergency exit. Several other speakeasies, many in Flushing, were raided during the remainder of the year.
Renderings for Flushing Point Plaza, a three-building complex in Downtown Flushing, were released by designers Lu Ning Architecture. The development was approved by Community Board 7 in 2017 and is expected to contain condos, a hotel and retail space.
Queens College was listed as one of the top schools in the county by the Princeton Review for the 29th consecutive year — the educational institution has made the list every year since its inception.
Abeda Khanam of Jamaica, a public school teacher and mental health advocate, was recognized by the state Senate as a 2020 Women of Distinction honoree and was celebrated in front of Masjid Omar bin Abdul Aziz, her mosque, and presented a plague by her nominator, state Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside).
Ahead of the City Planning Commission hearing on the Special Flushing Waterfront District, community activists opposing the plan marched from the Flushing Library to the office of City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing) to demand he side with them. Koo would not reveal how he would vote until the days before the December hearing, sparking several other protests to his door in the coming months.
Community Board 7 voted against the latest proposal for the RKO Keith’s Theatre, which included plans for condominiums, retail space, community space and a hotel. The board was concerned that the latter element would contribute to increased traffic in the already-congested neighborhood.
The 109th Precinct welcomed its new commanding officer, Capt. John O’Connell, Sept. 21, and said goodbye to Deputy Inspector Keith Shine, who moved to the Transit Bureau after two years in Flushing. A few days later, the nearby 107th Precinct welcomed its new commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Denis Mullaney, on Sept. 25, the same week he celebrated his 20th year in the force. Former CO Deputy Inspector Scott Henry moved on to the Transportation Bureau.
Two more Flushing bars were raided by the City Sheriff over the Sept. 26 weekend — the owners and employees of Home Run KTV and the Zebra Lounge were slapped with desk appearance tickets for serving 192 and 107 patrons inside, respectively, just a few days before the ban on indoor dining was set to expire.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) revealed Sept. 25 that she had received several racist and hateful voice messages in the week following the passage in the House of a resolution aimed at denouncing anti-Asian discrimination fueled by the pandemic.
Joe Oppedisano crashed his seaplane into a Whitestone pier on Sunday, Oct. 4. He and passenger Jose Urena survived after jetskier Jarrett Schupak helped them from the wreck, but third passenger Margaret O’Neill, 61, succumbed to her injuries.
Dimitrios Lymberatos, a Whitestone pharmacist, found out his business was under federal investigation and, in an attempt to derail the surveillance, mailed a package of cocaine to the lead Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
The Queens Botanical Garden’s annual Taiwan: A World of Orchids exhibit, typically a large and popular event, was limited to just a weekend.
Community Board 8 submitted its fiscal year 2021 budget requests, which looked nearly identical to the ones it submitted the previous year, though the members were skeptical any would be granted amid the city’s budget cuts across all agencies.
The Kew Gardens Hills Library, which had only been open for to-go service, closed temporarily to act as a Covid-19 rapid testing site from mid-October to early November.
The Department of Transportation announced that the controversial Main Street busway project would be installed within two weeks, five months after its initial start date.
The We Love Whitestone civic association held its first in-person meeting since the pandemic, where members met with their precinct’s new commanding officer and voiced concerns over drag racing on the Cross Island Parkway.
CB 7 approved a street co-naming nomination for Locke Avenue, the road directly in front of Whitestone’s St. Luke Roman Catholic Church, to honor Monsignor John C. Tosi, who served as its patriarch for 15 years and died May 23 at age 73. The commemoration was approved by the City Council two months later and Councilmember Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) hopes to host an unveiling ceremony in the spring.
The Parks Department announced it would conduct a study to better link 20 miles of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway. Though no concrete plans were included in the proposal, the agency said it would address safety and infrastructure concerns.
Community Board 7 voted Nov. 9 to approve the Department of Sanitation’s application to extend its lease for an overflow parking lot in College Point though with some conditions, one of which was additional street cleaning on College Point Boulevard. The application still needs to be approved by the City Council and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who was sworn into the role Dec. 3.
A Better College Point, Coastal Preservation Network and Graffiti & Litter Free College Point proposed a neighborhood watch group for the community to deter crime.
Two College Point retailers were arrested for selling “Virus Shut Out Cards” that claimed to repel the coronavirus. The credit-card-like equipment was covered with chlorine dioxide, which has not been proven to prevent Covid-19, and could actually be harmful if inhaled in large amounts. The defendants, Po Shan Wong and Zhen Wu, are set to return to court Feb. 12.
The Mary Louis Academy decided to shut its doors for two weeks after one student, who had attended classes all day, tested positive for Covid-19.
Despite being originally planned for June, the Main Street busway was delayed for six months after several businesses and community leaders sued the DOT three days before the planned launch.
Community Board 8 revealed at its Nov. 18 meeting that a Department of Homeless Services “high-quality borough-based shelter facility,” which will house 175 single adult men, is set to open in Briarwood in 2022. At its next meeting, the board voted against the project, 36-3.
St. John’s University announced that the Rev. Brian Shanely would serve as its 18th president, succeeding Conrado Gempshaw, who served in the position for the past six years.
The Department of Design and Construction announced that 17 rain gardens would be installed in Community District 8 the week of Nov. 30. Green infrastructure was a top request by the community board in its fiscal 2021 budget wishlist, but it had asked the agency to finish construction before beginning new projects, which the agency did not do for the next wave of bioswales.
The City Council Zoning Subcommittee unanimously voted to approve the SFWD plan Dec. 9 after the developers agreed to make some modifications that included more community benefits, such as guaranteed jobs for Flushing residents, doubled public waterfront access and affordable housing. The next day, the full Council voted 39-5 to approve the 29-acre development. The only Queens councilmembers to vote against the project were Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria).
Assemblymember David Wepirn (D-Fresh Meadows) announced Dec. 9 that he would run in the 2021 race for city comptroller. The bid is his second attempt to fill the seat; he finished in last place in 2009.
The city Parks Department and animal activist group NYCLASS rescued 10 domestic ducks from Bowne Park on Dec. 11. The group believes they were abandoned by street vendors who were shut down by the police two weeks earlier.
A video of the Whitestone Republican Club’s maskless holiday party and conga line went viral, gathering mostly negative national attention, but the political organization defended its right to choose how it would assemble.