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Congressman Weiner addresses the meeting
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It was candidates' night at the 95th Annual Meeting of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, which was held May 7 at the Kew Gardens Community Center.

All six candidates for the City Council seat being vacated by Melinda R. Katz, who is running for City Comptroller, accepted the invitation by Dominick Pistone, the Association's President, to appear, as did City Councilman Tony Avella, a mayoral candidate, and Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner sounded every bit like a candidate for Mayor, but said he is still undecided whether to give up his Washington post to run.

The City Council candidates included Deputy Mayor Karen Koslowitz, Lynn Shulman, former State Assemblyman Michael Cohen, Joseph Nocerino, Mel Gagarin and Heidi Chain. About 130 people showed up for the event, enjoying a bountiful spread of wines, cheeses, fruits and cookies, and socializing before the business of the evening began.

Before the candidates spoke, Mr. Pistone, on behalf of the Civic Association, first bid a fond farewell to Police Officer Jeffrey Fisher, who is retiring, presenting him with a plaque for his years of dedicated service to the community. Officer Fisher choked up as he received the plaque to a round of applause, declaring, "Kew Gardens is my second family," and vowing, "I'll still be around." Captain Charles McEvoy, Commanding Officer of the 102nd Precinct, had good news for residents: Crime, he said, is down 19% and "the Precinct is doing fantastic."

The City Council candidates represented a variety of public service backgrounds, with some serving as former elected officials. In general, they declared strong support for increased funding for education and protections and programs for the elderly. But they also touched on many issues that are of particular concern to the Kew Gardens community.

Ms. Shulman vowed to support landmarking efforts in Kew Gardens and to work on the often controversial issue of community facilities' entitlements under the Zoning Resolution. As a Council member, she also promised to help find ways to keep the Kew Gardens Post Office, which currently occupies rented space on Austin Street, from losing a lease scheduled to expire in 2011.

Mr. Cohen vowed to oppose residential property tax increases if other ways can be found to raise revenues. For example, he said, increasing the stock transfer tax even by one cent a share would raise $1 million annually for the City.

Mr. Nocerino, whose family includes three children ages 7 to 15, said he would fight to make the new schools now under construction on Metropolitan Avenue zoned for local residents. He would ensure that the citywide transition of 6th grade pupils to middle schools, as will soon occur at P.S. 99, proceeds smoothly. He said he would oppose the kind of overdevelopment that has been occurring in our neighborhood.

Mr. Gagarin, taking his turn at the podium, took up the issue of the so-called Pasta Lovers Hotel project on 82nd Avenue, which has been vociferously opposed by surrounding residents, but that is proceeding without community input because it can be built "as-of-right" under the existing zoning. Mr. Gagarin said he advocated for all such projects to be subjected to review by the local Community Board so that the community has a voice in the process.

Ms. Chain, who is an attorney in the City's Department of Finance, promised that her office would man a round-the-clock hotline to take calls from constituents, and would have a staff member assigned to deal with constituent problems.

Ms. Koslowitz, our former City Council representative and most recently Deputy Borough President, who had attended the reception, was unable to stay long enough to speak. Ms. Chain was followed by City Councilman Tony Avella. Long an advocate of neighborhood preservation, he took up the issue of over-development. "I think," he said, that the City "can do a better job making sure that the character of neighborhoods is preserved." He blamed much of the inappropriate development on the Department of Buildings, calling it the "the most incompetent and corrupt agency in the City," and one that "has to be reformed."

As a general theme, Mr. Avella also objected to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's overturn of term limits that allowed him to run for a third term.

Congressman Weiner, the final speaker having just flown in from Washington, also came out strongly against the term limits repeal, calling it "a disgrace." He added that his own decision on whether or not to run for Mayor has not yet been finalized.

Murray H. Berger, the Civic Association's Executive Chairman, emphasized to Mr. Weiner the importance of the preservation of our Post Office, a federal issue and a topic that had earlier been touched on by Ms. Schulman. Mr. Weiner said he intends to "keep plugging away at the issue," and that "I'm hopeful and pretty confident" that the Post Office will be able to stay where it is. As Mr. Weiner could not be more specific at this time, Mr. Berger cautioned, "Whatever it takes, we want that Post office to stay where it is. There is no place else for it to go."

In other business of the evening, Bjorn Matz, a Vice President of the Civic Association, presented the report of the Audit Committee, saying a review of the Association's books found them to be in good order. Renee Levine, Chair of the Nominating Committee, presented the slate of Officers and Board of Governors, headed by Mr. Pistone as President. Two members of the Board, Glenda Maurer and Paul Winter, had resigned and two members, Donna Stryczek and Dick Eden, were proposed for seats on the Board. The membership voted unanimously in favor of the proposed slate.

Mr. Berger ended the evening with an urgent call to Kew Gardens residents to put pressure on our elected federal officials to find a long-term solution for the Post Office by writing or calling the offices of Congressman Weiner and Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillebrand, demanding action in our behalf.

"This is serious stuff for our community," Mr. Pistone added.

Earlier Articles:
  •   Let It Snow - Scenes from Forest Park
  •   A Community Discovers Its Village Roots
  •   Spirits Alive! (2007) at Maple Grove Cemetery
  •   Day of Remembrance at Maple Grove Honors the Dead with a Celebration of Life
  •   Summer in the City
  •   Concerns Over P.S.99, Post Office, And Impact Of Potential Landmarking Draw Large Crowd To Town Hall Meeting
  •   Kew Gardens Community Day (2007)
  •   A Parking Lot Becomes a Flea Market
  •   A Touch of Soho on Austin Street
  •   Kew Gardens Merchants - The Bliss Café
  •   Kew Gardens Lights Up for the Holidays
  •   Queens Borough Hall Garage in Kew Gardens
  •   The House on 116th Street
  •   New Development in Kew Gardens
  •   Autumn Scenes in Kew Gardens
  •   Lantern Festival at Maple Grove Cemetery (2006)
  •   They Lift Up their Voices Every Friday