City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (at lectern) and State Sen. Michael Gianaris (r.) lead a November rally in Long Island City opposing the Amazon HQ2 to LIC deal.
By Michael V. Cusenza
January is the spring of our inner calendars—it’s a new beginning, a grand awakening of sorts, a period of cleansing, even, as we look forward to the fresh start that comes with the ringing in of a new year.
The Forum also uses this time as an opportunity to take a look back at some of the people, places, and programs of Queens that not only shaped the previous 52 weeks, but may have an impact on the 52 weeks ahead, as well.
We began 2018 with a monumental loss: Woodhaven commerce and civic leader, Maria Thomson, died on Jan. 10 after suffering a stroke. Long-time executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, Thomson worked tirelessly for the past 40 years to promote and protect the interests of the mom-and-pop shops along Jamaica Avenue.
“Maria Thomson leaves behind a legion of family, friends and supporters who have directly benefited from her efforts in protecting the quality of life in Woodhaven,” wrote State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “I was blessed to have worked with Maria for over 25 years and to have called her a friend. She truly has made an everlasting imprint on the community.”
In April, Lindenwood community leaders and elected officials enthusiastically approved the City Department of Transportation’s proposal to turn the dangerous traffic triangle at 153rd Avenue and 88th Street into a safer mini roundabout.
June saw the stunning fall of Queens Democratic Party boss Joe Crowley. While he ended up retaining the mantle of borough party leader, he was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary on June 26 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The 29-year-old former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign organizer cruised to a 57.5-42.5 win that saw her best Crowley, one of the most powerful Dems in Congress at the time, by roughly 4,000 votes.
We also witnessed in June the beginning of one of the more remarkable grassroots efforts to fight the City. Irate Ozone Park residents stormed Community Board 9’s monthly meeting to voice their opposition to the City’s plan to establish a homeless shelter for 113 single adult men with mental illness on 101st Avenue and 86th Street. A month later, more than 700 Ozone Parkers greeted City Department of Homeless Services officials at a town hall meeting at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary church.
“We did not invest to stay here to live in fear,” Ozone Park Residents Block Association President Sam Esposito said. “We must take a stand now or we’re going to lose Ozone Park.”
November easily was the most electric month of the year in The World’s Borough. A mammoth multi-billion dollar deal struck between Amazon and the City to bring the e-commerce giant to Long Island City garnered just as many skeptics and outright opponents as supporters.
And New York Families for Autistic Children President and CEO Andrew Baumann reportedly was fired in November. A cloud of controversy has hung above the Howard Beach nonprofit since its board of directors organized an internal investigation of the agency and Baumann in October.
Also in November, the judge presiding over the case against the man accused of murdering Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano declared a mistrial due to a hung jury. The Queens District Attorney’s Office has vowed to retry Chanel Lewis.