By Madina Toure

Concerns about crime and sanitation issues on Hillside Avenue were addressed by about 40 neighborhood residents at a town hall that launched the Jamaica Hills Merchant Association.

Established with a $10,000 grant from City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), the association was formed by the merchants on Hillside Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 172nd Street to guarantee equal access to city resources for the 89 businesses along the corridor.

Lancman said he wants to promote the association’s website, www.shopjamaicahills.com—which he and the Queens Chamber of Commerce started—and eventually establish a business improvement district.

“This is your opportunity to raise your concerns and make government know what it is that you need done for you,” Lancman said at the town hall meeting announcing the association June 10 at the Exit Realty Office at 164-13 Hillside Ave.

The chamber conducted a survey along the association’s coverage area, according to Gregory Rose, the chamber’s communications and intergovernmental manager.

Joseph Seminara, a captain for the 103rd Precinct, said the precinct has recorded slightly more than 50 crime complaints on Hillside Avenue—three times fewer than Jamaica Avenue—and made more than 140 arrests, many of those at collision-prone intersections where people get into car accidents and pedestrians are struck by cars.

The numbers indicate the high level of cooperation from business owners, he said, noting the 103rd and 107th precincts have revamped 169th Street and Hillside Avenue.

“Now there’s an island, there’s a turn signal, there’s expanded lanes once you get on the northern side,” Seminara said.

He also said there are 70 impact officers from the 103rd Precinct stationed on Hillside Avenue and on Jamaica Avenue between 150th Street and Merrick Boulevard.

The city Department of Transportation is studying Hillside Avenue over the next 12 to 18 months as part of a citywide plan to revamp parking in commercial corridors.

“I know it’s a long way away considering that you have parking problems now, but we do see the need and we are tackling this citywide, not just in Queens,” Richard Gippetti, a borough planner for DOT, said.

He also noted that the agency would roll out LED lights in Queens over the next 18 months.

Residents raised concerns about garbage not being picked up, trouble makers in front of businesses, lack of safety, jaywalking and suggested the use of auxiliary officers.

Nasrin Chowdhury, 44, who owns a bridal shop on 167th Street and Hillside Avenue, said people feel uncomfortable approaching individuals who stand in front of businesses for a long time gossiping, smoking or drinking, for example..

“They feel very intimidated,” Chowdhury said.

Bruno Iciano, community affairs liaison for the city Department of Sanitation, advocated the adopt-a-basket program for businesses and acknowledged past collection issues, but stressed that residents should make complaints swiftly.

“All complaints have to be answered in a timely manner,” Iciano said.

Tim Hughes, 64, who lives on 89th Avenue and Merrick Boulevard, praised the 103rd Precinct.

“When you get involved directly, it does work,” Hughes said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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