As June slipped into July last year, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the novel coronavirus were at some of their lowest levels since the pandemic began, not only in Queens and the city as a whole but nationwide. That would soon change with the emergence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Meanwhile, people here were awaiting the results of the June 22 primaries for city offices, starting with the mayoralty and including all 51 seats on the Council. The new ranked-choice voting system, along with the increased use of mail-in ballots and, in many cases, the sheer number of candidates on the ballot, made the wait longer than it used to be. To top it off, the July 1 editions of the Queens Chronicle joined other media outlets in reporting on the Board of Elections initially flubbing the results by including test ballots it had run through the system in its first announced tally.

July

And life went on, with plenty of other issues coming to the fore, including, as always, transportation. The Chronicle’s Western Queens edition on July 1 also reported on the three options for redesigning 21st Street with buses in mind that the Department of Transportation had presented to the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association at a June 23 meeting. And the front page was dedicated to the DOT’s plan, presented to Community Board 2, also on the 23rd, to turn 39th Avenue in Sunnyside into a “bike boulevard” that would prioritize cyclists and pedestrians. Many backed the idea; many did not. Residents also debated the future of Davidson Playground in Sunnyside, the former Phipps Playground bought by the city and renamed for a fallen firefighter.

The BOE released new tallies for the primaries July 6, showing that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had won the Democratic contest for mayor and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards had narrowly held on in the race for his seat. In Western Queens, Democratic Council primary winners included Tiffany Cabán, Shekar Krishnan, Julie Won and incumbent Bob Holden (D-Middle Village). All cruised to victory in November.

Cases of the coronavirus rose as the Delta variant spread, with Dr. Teresa Amato of Northwell Health’s Forest Hills Hospital telling the Chronicle, “It is really contagious so if you’re thinking about getting a vaccine, you should think about getting it as soon as you can so you don’t have to worry.”

Middle Eastern politics were the focus when an Astoria falafel shop, King of Falafel & Shawarma, was besieged online with negative reviews after a photo of its social-distancing sidewalk decal was posted. The sticker showed Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and said, “Nice step on us we love it.”

Thirty-one Queens eateries were set to participate in the city’s Restaurant Week, which was extended to more than a month in an effort to help businesses recover from the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.

Gov. Cuomo’s plan for an AirTrain between LaGuardia Airport and Citi Field was OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration on July 20. The Port Authority project was, however, later shelved by Gov. Hochul, who took power after Cuomo resigned in disgrace for alleged sexual harassment of women in and out of state employ.

A city fireman, John DaSilva, was indicted July 21 for allegedly driving drunk when he killed another man, Grady Romero-Duarte, on June 30, 2020 in a crash in Jackson Heights.

A Woodhaven man allegedly committed a “sexually motivated robbery” of an 11-year-old girl in Jackson Heights on July 25. He was arrested and charged several days later.

July went out with a bang — dozens of them, actually — when two gunman fired at least 40 rounds into a crowd on a Corona sidewalk, wounding 10 people. The shooters fled the scene on the backs of two getaway scooters driven by a pair of accomplices. None of the injuries were life-threatening, the July 31 shooting was deemed to be gang-related, and no arrests were immediately made.

August

JetBlue determined that it will not move operations from its Long Island City headquarters to Florida or any other destination, after months of publicly leaving that option on the table, in a development first reported by the Chronicle. It also promised 1,800 new jobs at area airports.

Twenty-eight people alleged to be members or associates of three gangs that are centered in public housing projects in Astoria and Long Island City were hit with an indictment laying out 141 charges total, including for murder, officials announced Aug. 5.

Cuomo announced on Aug. 10 that he would resign on the 24th.

Mayor de Blasio rolled out his “Key to NYC Pass,” requiring proof of Covid vaccination for access to indoor public spaces such as restaurants, gyms and performance venues. It took effect Aug. 16.

Eleven residents of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City filed suit against the New York City Housing Authority for failing to maintain its properties, forcing them to live in unhealthy and unsafe conditions. They announced the action at an Aug. 17 press conference at the complex.

As the government of Afghanistan collapsed in the face of a Taliban onslaught and U.S. pullout, two Army veterans of the war there from Queens, including Noah Almonor of East Elmhurst, spoke to the Chronicle about the situation in exclusive interviews.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority set a series of meetings about congestion pricing, the long-debated plan to charge new fees for driving into much of Manhattan, which Hochul supports.

September

Queens suffered heavy losses the night of Sept. 1 when the remnants of Hurricane Ida drenched the Northeast, killing eight people in the borough, most of them drowned in basement apartments — which reignited the debate over whether to legalize those that are unauthorized.

Gov. Hochul surveyed the damage here the next day, saying she had spoken with President Biden and that he had promised emergency funding for recovery. Biden himself came to East Elmhurst and Flushing Sept. 7, offering reassurrance and warning, “Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy, and the threat is here. It’s not going to get any better.”

The 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks was marked in various ways at a number of locations across Queens, including in Middle Village, where a memorial featuring the names of all those lost in the Twin Towers was displayed. Holden said he would introduce a bill to landmark the Maspeth fire station, which saw the greatest loss of any single FDNY house that day: 19 fallen.

A group of environmentalists and civic activists sued to block the LaGuardia AirTrain plan Sept. 20, saying that the Port Authority and FAA did not seriously consider viable alternatives that might achieve the same goals, as required by law.

Richards held a town hall on issues facing northwestern Queens on Sept. 22, with repairing the damage from Ida the main topic of discussion.

October

After facing a challenge in court, de Blasio’s mandate that all school personnel be vaccinated took effect.

Hochul announced on Oct. 4 that she wanted alternatives to the AirTrain looked at. Shortly afterward, a number of Queens officials and activists called on her to stop the plan altogether, at a previously arranged news conference.

Federal officials outlined what help was available to residents harmed by Ida at the Oct. 5 meeting of the Borough Cabinet and discussed the concerns brought up by the officials present.

De Blasio said on Oct. 8 that the city would end the Gifted and Talented program in public schools, sparking outrage and debate across the boroughs.

Responding to Hochul’s request, the Port Authority on Oct. 12 announced it was stopping all preparatory work on the AirTrain and instead focusing on alternatives.

Early voting in the Nov. 2 election began Oct. 23.

Holden filed an ethics complaint against Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Corona) after she allegedly directed an obscenity-laced tirade against his chief of staff over the phone, threatening to go to “f---ing war” and drag race and gender into a dispute between the two lawmakers about the role hospitals played during the virus crisis.

In a reversal of its previous policy, the city banned restaurants from using propane to heat outdoor dining sheds, insisting on more costly gas or electrical lines instead and citing safety concerns.

November

A new law barring food and drink establishments in the city from providing single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks to customers unless they ask took effect Nov. 1.

Adams easily won the mayoralty on Nov. 2, and his fellow Democrats carried City Council seats in Western Queens, though Republicans held onto one district elsewhere in the borough and flipped another.

The City Planning Commission voted Nov. 15 to allow outdoor dining permanently. The issue has Queens community boards split, with six in favor, six opposed, one tied in its vote and one declining to make a recommendation.

The DOT held a fourth public meeting on the 21st Street bus plan Nov. 18, presenting three options for redesigning the street. The head of the OANA later told the Chronicle his group would prefer a fourth, one with curbside bus lanes in effect only during rush hours, as is done on many Manhattan thoroughfares.

De Blasio added more uncertainty to the ongoing debate about “geographic screens” that give preference to students who live within a district or borough when they apply for high school, saying on Nov. 22 that he could not give a definite answer on the issue. The city had planned to end all screening but faced an outcry, and the mayor told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer specifically that he had heard concerns about having local options available “from parents in Queens.”

A 61-year-old Asian woman, GuiYing Ma, was left in critical condition after being attacked by a man wielding a large rock outside her North Corona home on Nov. 26. She was put into an induced coma, and as of late December, she still had “no verbal ability and can’t understand people talking,” according to a friend who organized a fundraiser to help pay for her care. While hate crimes against Asians have risen sharply in the last two years, it was not immediately clear if bias drove the attack.

Anticipating the arrival of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the city on Nov. 26 issued a new indoor mask advisory, and Hochul said hospitals may begin restricting elective surgeries Dec. 3. Infections soon began skyrocketing, and continue to, though most indications are that Omicron is less harmful than previous mutations of the virus, though much more transmissible.

Hochul announced on Nov. 30 state plans for two clean energy projects that would bring power from locations upstate to Astoria for distribution.

December

In a Dec. 9 exclusive, the Chronicle reported that the New York Hall of Science in Corona was so damaged by Ida that it likely will not fully reopen until next September, a year after the storm, with a partial reopening planned for February. Restoration work at the museum had finally shifted from debris removal to repair on Dec. 6.

That happened to be the same day Blasio announced that all private sector workers in the city would have to be vaccinated, effective Dec. 27. On Dec. 10, Hochul announced that masks would be required for entry to any business in the state that does not require vaccination to get in.

An off-duty NYPD lieutenant shot and killed one of three men who mugged him outside a Woodside nightclub in the early morning hours of Dec. 16. One suspect was arrested and another got away.

De Blasio’s successor, Adams, continued establishing his incoming administration by naming key department heads, such as Keechant Sewell as police commissioner and David Banks as schools chancellor. And Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) announced on Dec. 17 that she had secured the votes to be the next Council speaker, edging out Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona).

The city installed 16 smart composting bins on or near 31st Avenue in Astoria in the first half of December, trying a new approach to trash reduction and reuse of food waste; people must sign up to be able to unlock and use them.

As the month drew to a close, the city continued scrambling to respond to the Omicron surge, establishing new test sites and giving away at-home diagnostic kits — neither one to the degree needed, according to critics, such as the elected lawmakers charged with writing the laws the executive branch is supposed to implement.

Find Part I at qchron.com.

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