Twenty-six-year-old Paul Gagliardotto said he’s long been politically active. He’s participated in local party politics to try to make a difference around his neighborhood in Glendale.
But since the recent redistricting process chopped up Woodhaven, Richmond Hill,
Glendale and other areas situated around Forest Park, Gagliardotto saw unified power on the local level dwindling.
That’s why Gagliardotto is taking a step back from political activism and going grassroots. He’s starting the Forest Park Civic Association—a new civic group that had its first meeting the night of Wednesday, May 2 at the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale.
The area around Forest Park—Glendale, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven— will soon be represented by three different state senators along
with its three community boards. Gagliardotto thinks that doesn’t reflect the
similar concerns of the neighborhoods.
“Instead of dividing these areas I figured this group could bring them all together,” he said.
For instance, he referenced a local push to reuse an abandoned Long Island Railroad track that runs from Rego Park to Ozone Park.
Some factions want it turned into a greenway mirroring Manhattan’s Highline, and some local politicians want to reactivate the line for transportation leading to the Aqueduct racino.
“That’s one issue where we’re going to have to make a decision,” Gagliardotto said. “I support the greenway, personally.”
Regardless though, Gagliardotto said there hasn’t been a unified voice looking out for the community the track cuts through. A group of co-ops on the southern edge of Forest Park has parking around the abandoned railway.
Gagliardotto said he took the time to count, and if either plan goes forward, the co-ops stand to lose about 100 parking spaces—and nobody is speaking up for them.
Those co-ops could also lack a political voice in the process, because redistricting will make them share a state senator with Astoria.
Sen. Michael Gianaris’ district connects all the way down to the co-ops by a thin tendril—leaving the bulk of his district in Astoria and contributing to Forest Park’s split representation.
Gagliardotto wants to change that by uniting civic groups in the area to speak out for local concerns.
“The more people that you can get to show up for your cause the better,” he said.
He’s hoping he can draw in a younger crowd too, something somewhat rare at local civics.
He’s already reached out to some local groups with overlapping neighborhoods who have given him a warm reception.
“Anyone who wants to donate their time and effort without an agenda is doing a great thing,” said Kathy Masi of the Glendale Civic Association. “And as far as I am concerned, the more people working for Glendale and the better cause, the better for all of us.”
Masi said Gagliardotto is taking on a large—but worthwhile—commitment by focusing on all the communities around the park.
“If he’s handling issues in Forest Park—the Forest Park Carousel, the crime—wow, that’s a slam dunk for all of us,” she said.
Gagliardotto hopes a core group of supporters will come out of Wednesday’s meeting to help hone some priorities.
“As of right now, it’s just me. But that’s what this meeting is for [Wednesday] night,” he said.
By Jeremiah Dobruck