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Editorial: Save the farm

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It’s hard to fault John Klein Jr. for wanting to sell the last working farm in the county of Queens. In a modern economy the two-acre farm was too small to support itself. Selling the family farm that was once 200 acres must have been a difficult decision, but it was one that almost anyone would have made.

Nevertheless, the community has good reason to be concerned about this transaction. Most troubling is the possibility that the company that bought this farm is connected with the infamous Thomas Huang. Huang is a convicted felon who purchased the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater in downtown Flushing and than ran the property into the ground. Huang held the economy of Flushing hostage for more than decade. To this day it remains unclear what he intended to do with the RKO Keith’s.

The farm was sold in November for $4.3 million to Audrey Realty in Flushing. According to city records, the deal was closed by John Huang, the vice president of Audrey Realty. At the Main Street address listed for Audrey Realty is a door without a door knob. Audrey Realty shares the same address as the development company owned by Thomas Huang.

It is believed that the buyers intend to build as many as 22 two-family homes on the site. We can think of no reason why the city would ever trust any company that is even remotely related to Thomas Huang. This man should have forfeited his right to do business in New York City.

So far the city Buildings Department has taken a hands-off approach to what may well be an impending disaster. The department acts as though there is nothing it can do. If the department tried a little harder it, could find just cause to frustrate efforts to develop this property.

We believe that the property is worth saving as a farm. The farm could be a valuable resource in a borough that is growing far too fast. The Klein Family farm serves as a reminder of a time when nearly all of Queens was farmland. It’s been a great place to take schoolchildren.

The city should use every means possible to stop the development of this property, including purchasing the property for the sale price. This would be an investment that would pay quality-of-life dividends far into the future.

Editorial: Better think twice

When City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) agree on an issue, it’s time to stand up and take notice. Regular readers of the TimesLedger papers know that Padavan rarely misses an opportunity to take a jab at Avella.

Both Avella and Padavan have been critical of the mayor’s plans to allow Korean wholesalers to build a complex of 180 businesses on the site of the old Flushing Airport. They raised concerns about the effect the development would have on traffic along 20th Avenue in College Point.

It was only a decade ago that 20th Avenue was nearly a rural road boarded by swamps and weeds on the stretch that passes through the College Point Industrial Park and the former Flushing Airport. Today the street is home to a major complex of shopping centers. Since the stores opened, the traffic on this road – one of the only roads connecting College Point with the rest of the world – has been horrendous. There is no evidence that anyone planned for the impact of this development.

What’s worse, there’s no evidence that the city has considered the impact of this new development. The people of College Point and neighboring Whitestone have endured unprecedented growth. They deserve to know that the city has considered the impact its new plan will have on their quality of life.

Editorial: Homeland insecurity

From the get-go the danger was that the Department of Homeland Security would inevitably be seen as a cash cow by every state and municipality in the union. It’s not surprising at all that U.S. Reps. Anthony Weiner, Joseph Crowley and Carolyn Maloney – all Democrats – held a press conference last week to complain that firefighters in Montana would be getting more Homeland Security funds than firefighters in New York City. Gasp!

According to the protest, the state of Montana receives $9.07 per person in federal Fire Act funds while New York City gets a mere $9 per person. Standing in front of a firehouse in Long Island City, Crowley said, “Our New York City firefighters are the front line warriors in the war on terror. The lack of funding for our firefighters is inexcusable.”

The disparity is the result of a cap placed on Fire Act funding, which limits how much any municipality can receive, despite its population.

“Bush has turned the Homeland Security budget into just another pork barrel spending program,” Weiner whined. “The president's budget shortchanges New York City in the terror fight.”

We expect our representatives in Washington to fight to see that the city gets its fair share of Federal dollars. But this is the wrong place to draw the line. Homeland Security is too important to America and to New York City to become a political football in an election year.

Editorial: Holy cow, councilman

Visit City Hall and it’s easy to find Councilman Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica). He’s the guy with a foot placed permanently in his mouth. In the past year the councilman has been the subject of one embarrassing report after another. And last week was no different.

Brooklyn Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez has reported that the councilman threatened her with perdition. Quoting from the first Psalm, Jennings told his colleague, “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Jennings was reportedly angry about Gonzalez’s criticism of his work as the chairman of a City Council committee. Although there’s nothing that prevents a council member from quoting scripture, calling a colleague “ungodly” and saying she will “perish” is, at best, over zealous.

Once again Jennings has shown that he has trouble knowing where to draw the line. The councilman is already under investigation for charges that he ordered staff to clean his home and made sexually offensive jokes. That scandal followed another involving an ad placed in Chinese-language news papers proclaiming his affection for the Chinese community and his relationships with Asian women.

It may be that Jennings is the victim of misunderstandings. Perhaps he’s not as strange as he appears. But it’s hard to deny that the scandals have damaged his ability to represent the people of his district.

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