Largely due to the election of a divisive Jamaica Estates native to the nation’s highest office, 2016 was probably the most tumultuous year in the United States since the Vietnam era.
Northeast Queens was thankfully spared much of the madness, but there was plenty of big news affecting its residents. To scratch the surface: a savage snowstorm made northeast Queens’ roads undriveable, a stately Bayside home formerly owned by a federal judge was destroyed amidst community outcry and a vocal state senator just announced his longshot candidacy in the nascent Democratic primary race against Mayor de Blasio.
Lest we forget, let’s take a look back at what made headlines in the Chronicle’s northeast Queens edition this year.
After more than a decade, the Parks Department finally revealed that the comfort station in Little Bay Park — which was first funded by then-Councilman Tony Avella and former Congressman Gary Ackerman in 2004 — would be completed in February. The agency was true to its word.
An extreme 30-inch blizzard hit New York City in late January, making the roads undrivable. The issue was especially acute in Queens, with many criticizing the city for poorly plowing the streets.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens) announced that he would not run for re-election in early January. Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi won the crowded Democratic primary for the seat later in the year, and state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Nassau) kept would-be opponent Phillip Pidot from facing him a primary race after months of litigation.
Former Mets catcher Mike Piazza was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in early January. His recognition in Cooperstown was a few years overdue to many fans, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t glad it happened.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Bayside civic activists called on the city to change Department of Buildings rules after the agency issued a stop-work order at a McMansion construction site in the neighborhood at 146-10 216 St. The building was criticized for being out of character with the community.
The Greater Jamaica Development Corp. revealed that it would be doing a business study for Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue enterprises at a legislative forum held by the Jamaica Estates Association.
An unusually large number of dead raccoons popped up in Fresh Meadows causing some concern among members of the community.
The New York Community Aviation Roundtable — a body created at the order of Gov. Cuomo to create a dialogue between communities affected by airplane noise and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — met in March. Its LaGuardia and JFK committees could not agree on a set of bylaws to ratify at the acrimonious event, during which southeast Queens activist Patrick Evans accused Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and others of being racist.
Mayor de Blasio visited the Clearview Senior Center in Bayside for a town hall in March. The city’s top elected took questions about overdevelopment, airplane noise and other issues at the event.
Bayside High School turned 80 this year. Area elected officials, such as Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Avella, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and Braunstein gave the institution proclamations at a ceremony.
The United States Postal Service renewed a lease for its Fresh Meadows office after Meng requested it in March. Area residents had been worried about a possible closure.
A handsome home in Bayside formerly owned by federal judge Nicholas Garaufis was laid to waste to make way for a new home in April. The structure’s loss was mourned by Queens preservationists.
The Jamaica Estates Association hosted an evening with Bukharian Jews from their neighborhood in April, where the civic group got to learn about the demographic’s food, culture and other aspects of its lifestyle.
Korean Community Service of Metropolitan New York Executive Director Linda Lee revealed well-received plans for her group to buy the Bayside Jewish Center — the subject of an acrimonious battle between the area residents and the city last year over a high school planned at the site — with the Northwest Bayside Civic Association.
At a hearing on cease-and-desist zones — areas in which residents can sign up for a list that would prevent real estate agents from soliciting them — held by the New York Department of State after Avella requested it, area residents and real estate brokers testified at a contentious event that led the state senator to accuse the brokers — who greatly outnumbered homeowners —of “hijacking” the event.
Jamaica Estates civic activist Martha Taylor was elected chairwoman of Community Board 8 two months after the resignation of former chairman Alvin Warshaviak. Taylor received a proclamation from Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) honoring her community service during the meeting at which she was elected.
The Chronicle reported that former CB 11 member Melvyn Meer, whose requested membership renewal was not renewed by Borough President Melinda Katz, hypothesized that Vallone asked her to not renew his application because of the board member’s vocal opposition to the planned high school at the Bayside Jewish Center site.
After months of no progress on the airport roundtable, Avella called on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to appoint a facilitator to impartially oversee the body, which has not been done to date.
Katz and Vallone announced that, thanks to funding from the de Blasio administration along with their own capital funds, the Bay Terrace Library would receive major upgrades.
The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, reportedly the largest in the United States, marched through the neighborhood in a display of patriotic pride.
For the first time in team history, the Bayside Commodores won the city PSAL AA division baseball title in a thrilling 3-2 defeat of Eleanor Roosevelt High School at Yankee Stadium.
Community Board 11 unanimously passed a motion supporting the co-naming of a street section in Bayside after the late Bayside High School softball coach Steve Piorkowski, a beloved man whose battle with cancer was covered in national media. His widow and dozens of his former students spoke in support of the plan before the board.
The Chronicle reported about a house on a placid Bayside block where a civic activist alleged 25 children were living. Dozens of pairs of children’s shoes were seen through a glass door at the front of the home.
Northeast Queens residents went to Fort Totten to see its tremendous fireworks display on the Fourth of July at the former military base.
Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Weprin warned whoever dumped tires in and near Cunningham Park of the dire consequences of their acts. The issue has not been in the news since.
The Chronicle reported that diners throughout Queens are being squeezed by the $15 minimum wage hike, taxes and other factors.
Legislation introduced by Meng in Congress’ lower chamber to restore the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control to oversee airplane noise was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), which was considered a victory for quiet skies advocates.
Avella and the Northwest Bayside Civic Association called on the city to allow residents where bioswales — raingarden-like landscaping features designed to catch stormwater runoff — are planned to opt out of receiving them.
Queens Quiet Skies and Avella revealed that LaGuardia Airport departures increased largely in recent years. Noise made by planes from the airport have irked area residents for years.
The Ahles House in Bayside was finally landmarked in August, a decision praised by many in the neighborhood.
The police arrested Jamaica resident Yonatan Galvez Marin for the murder of Jamaica Hills resident Nazma Khanam, whose stabbing death was widely considered to be a likely hate crime before Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the man allegedly murdered her after trying to rob her.
After the Queens Colony Civic Association worked with Grodenchik and Avella to phase out the use of two hotels in Bellerose as homeless shelters by the city, a plan to get all of the homeless out by the end of the year was announced by the lawmakers and civic association president Angie Augugliario.
A group of investors threatened to attempt to develop a restrictively zoned parcel of land next to Udall’s Park Preserve if the Parks Department did not forgive the property’s back taxes and buy its tax lien.
Northeast Queens residents expressed concerns and approval to the Chronicle about the planned revamping of the T Building at Queens Hospital Center, a structure once used for the treatment of tuberculosis, into a residential building with affordable and supportive housing units.
Complaints about the Par Central Motor Inn — a hotel in Jamaica Hills where rooms are rented to homeless people and paid for by the city — were voiced to the Chronicle. The office of Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) has received complaints about the site.
A Parks Department employee broke parts of his back and neck after falling through a hole in the floor at an unused building in Fort Totten, resulting in the criticism from NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft about the structure being approved for cleaning.
Two hundred and fourth street at 32nd Avenue by the Bayside Fields was co-named after Piorkowski. An emotional ceremony was held with Vallone, who secured the sign, other elected officials, Piorkowski’s family and his former colleagues.
Flushing resident Paul Graziano officially announced that he will challenge Vallone in the Democratic primary race next year for his seat during a sitdown interview with the Chronicle. The land use expert previously ran against the councilman in the same race in 2013, though he is more confident in his chances this time around.
The Department of Design and Construction revealed its plans to resume its sewer and water project in Bayside Hills at the meeting of the area’s civic association.
After years of negligence, three artery roadways in Douglas Manor were repaved by the Department of Transportation. Vallone and Braunstein had reached out to the de Blasio administration. The initiative was well-received by advocates from the upscale subneighborhood.
Bellerose resident Fariha Nizam was the victim of anti-Muslim harassment on a Manhattan-bound bus. Around the same time, students from St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows made remarks urging members of minorities to “sit in the back” while they were on a bus. Both incidents, which followed the election of Donald Trump, shocked area residents.
All of northeast Queens’ elected state officials were re-elected in November, but some neighborhoods got a new congressman: Suozzi won the race for the third congressional district. The victor campaigned heavily in Queens, receiving endorsements from Katz, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Vallone and other leaders. He plans on opening a district office in the borough.
In December, the Chronicle reported that the Macy’s in Douglaston would be closing. It is not completely clear what will replace the department store, although some have said that Lowe’s is expected to set up shop at the site.
Glen Oaks residents got their cooking gas restored by Con Ed hours after a press conference was held by village president Bob Friedrich and Republican City Council candidate Joe Concannon calling for the problem — which lasted for more than a month — be fixed.
Avella launched his Democratic primary campaign against de Blasio outside of the contested Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, where area residents have urged the city to not house homeless people. The state senator previously ran in the same race in 2009.