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Boro Prez to help revitalize Richmond Hill

Three days and a bit of shoe leather later, there is an advocate for the revitalization of Richmond Hill in Borough Hall.

Last week Borough President Helen Marshall met with business leaders of the south Queens neighborhood, took a 2 1/2-hour walking tour of the area and spoke to a group of about 25 people as the featured guest at a town hall meeting sponsored by the Richmond Hill East Business Persons Corp.

Marshall had been called to the area by RHEBPC President Michael Butler, who is intent on bringing business and development to Richmond Hill in much the same way that Jamaica has been rejuvenated on the other side of the Van Wyck Expressway.

“It’s quite obvious that Richmond Hill has been left behind and it’s time to bring it up to the forefront,” Butler said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize something has to be done in Richmond Hill.”

On June 12, Butler led Marshall on a 2 1/2-hour walking tour of Richmond Hill, taking her from the desolate Long Island Rail Road tracks at Lefferts Boulevard to a rundown commercial area along 130th Street.

“Lefferts Boulevard was really a mess along the LIRR,” she said. “All along the LIRR path needs redevelopment. It runs through Queens, picks up fares, but never worries about what it leaves alongside its tracks.”

The borough president left impressed by the possibilities for development. With the AirTrain set to begin service this fall and immigrants from India and the Caribbean enlivening the area, the time is ripe to improve Richmond Hill, she said.

“He has visions of this area being better,” Marshall said of Butler at the town hall meeting last Thursday night. “We got a good look at some of the areas that could be improved.”

An enthusiastic Marshall spoke about her walking tour for about 30 minutes and then fielded questions from residents and business people for nearly two hours. Her indepth responses often exceeded 15 minutes.

Marshall said housing, always a volatile issue in Richmond Hill, is at the top of her development list. She answered a query about illegal conversions by firmly stating she was against them because they are unsafe, but said more can be done to accommodate the influx of immigrants to the neighborhood.

“We have so many people coming in and we don’t have enough decent housing for them,” she said. The borough president said she would convene an illegal conversion task force July 3 to address the unlawful transformation of single homes in multiple family dwellings.

Others wanted to know why the neighborhood does not have a major supermarket or commercial bank and why the Republican Club on Lefferts Boulevard between Hillside Avenue and Jamaica Avenue has been allowed to deteriorate.

The Richmond Hill East Business Persons Corp. is a non-profit group comprised of about 50 area business people, professionals and residents, and many left impressed that the borough president gave so much energy and time to a small community organization.

“I’d say it was the best impression from a borough president that we’ve ever had,” Butler said. “She’s very enthusiastic in reference to the redevelopment of Richmond Hill. We’ve been left out for a long time and she’d like to spearhead its rebirth.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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