The Civic Scene: Queens civic newsletters warn of telephone scams

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The Sanitation Action Center can be reached at 212-219-8090 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. An orange sticker will authorize Department of Sanitation workers to pick up the appliance. People are reminded to leave their outside lights on at night to deter criminal activity.

The November/December Mid-Queens Community Council newsletter warns people not to dial area code 809. This is a number used in a scam in which a message is left on a person’s answering machine asking him or her to call a number beginning with 809 to retrieve information about a relative who has died, been arrested or been injured. It is the area code for the Dominican Republic.

On its Web site, AT&T warns that phony e-mails circulating the Internet claim that if callers dial the 809 number they will be charged $2,400 per minute; however, the company claims this is untrue, as the per-minute rate for phone calls to the Dominican Republic is less than $3. AT&T states: “Some 809 numbers terminate with pay-per-call services that permit the levy of additional fees. Since numbers located offshore are not subject to U.S. laws, there are no legal requirements that consumers be informed in advance of the extra charge.”

Another scam is when someone asks you to press “9,” “0” and then the pound sign. This enables the person to make long-distance calls that will be billed to your number, the Briarwood Civic reports.

It is illegal for cars and trucks to park on sidewalks. Call 311 and a worker will contact your local precinct.

The November newsletter of the Lost Community Civic Association, which is east of Little Neck Parkway, editorialized that the Department of Buildings is not enforcing the zoning laws to protect our R-2 neighborhoods. The DOB does not do a good job of reviewing plans modified by contractors after they have been approved.

The civic also reported that traffic control on our streets is not studied enough to prevent accidents that can kill people. Enforcement of existing traffic laws is spotty, the civic says.

The January newsletter of the Queens Village Civic Association warns people that a new law makes it illegal to place flyers on the windshield or under the wipers of vehicles. The fine for a first offense is $70. Call 311 to report violators.

The January Creedmoor Civic News devoted its front page to reporting on the rowdy homeowners at a town hall-style meeting convened by City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis). The 400 or so residents screamed and shouted as they vented their frustration and anger at the Buildings and City Planning departments. Some even yelled at Weprin.

This event at MS 172 in Floral Park was caused by inappropriate zoning, which permits builders to bulldoze sound houses in beautiful neighborhoods, and by the Department of Buildings’ lack of enforcement of the building code. People are frustrated by the way the DOB seems to find anything a builder or new homeowner does legal.

Homeowners are angry that when something is built illegally and there is agreement that it is illegal nothing is done or the slap on the wrist is meaningless. People are angry at the Landmarks Commission, which has repeatedly refused to landmark older areas of Queens so they can be protected from developers.

The page ended with the comment that some people want City Planning and Buildings to be reorganized and put under the control of the borough presidents, who would be more accountable.

The January newsletter of the North Flushing Civic Association spoke of its anger at the Salvation Army for starting to build on its site on the corner of Parsons Boulevard and 32nd Avenue. The Salvation Army wants to build a large building where one-family homes stood in a residential R-2 neighborhood.

It never followed through on working with the community on the structure to be built. This area is being inundated with houses of worship, and its quality of life is changing for the worse.

Good news of the week

After two years the ex-Enron CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, has been indicted for masterminding the biggest corporate fraud in U.S. history. He has been charged with 42 counts of fraud, insider trading and lying about the firm’s finances.

Many Americans have lost their life savings and victims range from investors to employees who had invested in the company. I read that he took $103 billion out of Enron prior to its collapse.

Numerous people have been indicted or pleaded guilty. Why is this taking so long? How could this have happened with all the federal watchdog agencies we have? What is being done for all those who lost everything?

Bad news of the week

I recently read a letter on the danger anti-freeze poses to animals. Puddles of anti-freeze attract dogs, cats and even children because of the sweet taste. Small amounts can cause kidney failure. The writer urges people to keep anti-freeze safely locked away and to clean up any spills.

It seems that only California and Oregon require bittering agents be added to anti-freeze. New York state should do the same. U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) supports this change. The federal government should take steps to enforce it.

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