Crowley addresses impact of terrorism on Queens

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U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) assembled a collection of postal, medical and police officials Monday night to provide firsthand accounts of how America’s war on terrorism is being fought on numerous fronts in Queens.

The public meeting at the Maspeth Town Hall attracted about 40 area residents who listened to presentations by the borough postmaster, doctors at Elmhurst Hospital and high-ranking NYPD officers.

Crowley opened the meeting by enumerating the ways Congress has responded to Sept. 11 through legislation, including an airline bail-out package, billions of dollars of aid for the New York relief effort, and a Patriot Act expanding the power of federal law enforcement agents.

Recognizing that “this is the first time for everyone that the effects of war have been brought home,” Crowley said representatives are constantly learning how best to deal with the conflict.

Crowley acknowledged the error House leadership made in choosing to send representatives home when the anthrax scare hit the Capitol last month. Although he agreed with the decision to close the building for testing, he said legislative sessions should have been held in a gymnasium or conference center “to show that the people’s business continues no matter what may come.”

Crowley said he is currently helping to devise a bill that would address how the government could bounce back if a terrorist attack killed a significant number of congressional representatives.

With city agencies facing 15 percent cuts in funding and aid to non-profit organizations potentially being slashed in half, state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Elmhurst) expressed optimism the belt-tightening would be short-lived.

“It is going to affect our community in a small way, but hopefully this will change in the next fiscal year,” Markey said.

Flushing Postmaster General William Rogers said every mail facility in Queens has been tested for anthrax and none have shown any evidence of contamination by the bacteria. Likewise, all of the suspicious pieces of mail tested in the borough have come up negative for anthrax.

Rogers advised anyone who receives suspicious mail to bag it, do a thorough hand washing and call 9-1-1 so police officers can evaluate it and determine whether a hazardous materials team should be called in.

But Rogers assured those in attendance that mail is handled by numerous postal service employees, providing multiple levels of screening before it reaches the addressee.

“By the time it gets through them, if something is questionable, they’re going to bring it to someone’s attention,” he said.

He also advised people sending electronics in the mail to remove the batteries, because if a switch were tripped the noise from within the package would render it suspicious — and perhaps force the evacuation of a building.

As for the medical response to the anthrax threat, Dr. Joe Masci of Elmhurst Hospital said the facility’s doctors were educated about the bacteria as soon as the first cases emerged.

“We brought ourselves up to a level of preparedness for anthrax,” he said.

He recommended that borough hospitals establish “a system of sharing resources and communicating information that makes geographic sense,” due to the possibility of Queens being cut off from Manhattan in the event of another attack.

On the security front, Deputy Chief Edward Cannon of Patrol Borough Queens North said police are trying to boost their patrols with volunteer and private help, along the lines of a community block watch.

Capt. Jim Albrecht of the Transit Division said the NYPD is paying close attention to underwater tunnels, which were assessed as potential targets for terrorism in an analysis conducted years ago. Over Thanksgiving, more uniformed officers will be stationed in mass transit locations to watch over holiday travel.

Capt. Frank Darsillo of the Intelligence Division encouraged people to call suspicious activities into police because civilian leads “have led to fruitful investigat­ions.”

“We track down every lead, no matter how ridiculous it may sound when it comes in,” Darsillo said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154

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