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The Civic Scene: Watch out for scams via phone or Internet

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The January - March 2001 newsletter of the Utopia Estates Civic Association warns people not to dial the 809 area code. Unsuspecting victims respond to post-card, answering machine, pager or e-mail messages telling them to call an 809 number immediately. The message may be about a family member who has died or telling you won a prize.

This number is really in the British Virgin Islands; it’s like our 900 numbers here in the USA but is not covered by U.S. regulations. If you are caught by this scam you can be socked with a huge phone bill.

The April 2001 Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association and the May 2001 Auburndale Improvement Association newsletters printed a warning from Assemblyman Mark Weprin about identity theft — when someone uses your identification to apply for a credit card, open a bank account or makes unauthorized purchases using your credit card number. Protect yourself from identity theft by checking purchases on your credit card. Avoid accepting bonuses of credit from banks or credit card companies, shred checks and bills from credit card companies which have your card number, and never give your credit card number, social security number or bank account number over the phone unless you initiated the call and know exactly who you are talking to. Be very cautious about giving this information on the Internet. You can ask people who call you for their phone number and offer to call them back; if they refuse to give that information or they hang up, then you know it is a scam.

The May 2001 issue of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association informed its members that the “Do Not Call Registry” of New York State went into effect on April 1. When a person registers, telemarketers have one month to remove that name from their lists. If they call anyway, they can be fined. You can include cell phones and fax lines, and can register over the Internet at www.consumer.state.ny.us, call the NYS Consumer Protection Board toll-free hotline at 1-800-NYS-1220, or write to the Consumer Protection Board, 5 Empire State Plaza, Suite 2101, Albany, NY 12223.

The May 2001 newsletter of the Auburndale Improvement Association informs residents that overnight parking by commercial vehicles is illegal. Local Law No. 62 states that no person shall park a commercial vehicle on a residential street from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. except emergency vehicles. Call your local precinct after 8 p.m. to have a summons served. You do not have to leave your name. Keep calling if necessary. There is a Night Hawk Program to handle these complaints: 718-385-0906 or 718-345-3193.

The April 2001 issue of the Rosedale Civic Association Inc. newsletter alerts people to the formation of the Queens Coalition for Parks by several civic, park, sports and social groups. The Queens Coalition for Parks works with Parks 2001, an umbrella group based in Manhattan. The Queens Coalition for Parks is working to restore basic park services to all Queens parks. It is seeking funding for parks to be raised from the current 0.4 percent of the city budget to a full 1 percent, so there could be more staff, increased park enforcement, improved volunteer and educational programs in every district, more horticultural and forestry services. the group also stresses that dollars generated in parks should stay in parks. For more information contact Fred Cress, president of the Queens Coalition for Parks at 718-341-1395, fax: 516-678-2463.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

Recently the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Minor League Class A team affiliated with the Mets played their first home opener in the $38.5 million KeySpan Park in Coney Island. A full house enjoyed the game and the view of the Parachute Jump and the famed boardwalk, and it seemed like all of Brooklyn was thrilled to welcome back pro ball after the Dodgers left more than four decades ago.

The bad news is that a year ago the Mets organization, needing a place to put their newly purchased Queens Kings for a year which they obtained from the Toronto Blue Jays farm system, arranged to have the city’s Economic Development Corporation give $6 million to refurnish the baseball field at St. John’s University. The civic associations around St. John’s University didn’t want thousands of people and cars coming into their communities for 38 games, so they protested. State Senator Frank Padavan was furious because he had arranged to obtain, for St. John's University, the baseball stadium in Creedmoor for $1 million. Padavan, Assemblyman Weprin, and the civics sued the city. The people of Queens, who are loyal to their civic associations, didn’t come to the Queens Kings Games. I hope it is a lesson not lost on future politicians.

If the people of Brooklyn are happy with their new team then that is good. Oh, the Mets organization disbanded the Queens Kings, which is what they had planned to do all along. They just needed a field for a year. What rankled the residents of Queens was that a private university obtained a renovated $6 million stadium while many high school fields and city parks, like Cunningham park, need renovations. Goes to show!

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