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By Bob Harris

The civic associations in Fresh Meadows have been concerned about the use of three hotels, which are being built in the neighborhood. Noting what is going on in other neighborhoods of Queens, the Fresh Meadows residents have been fearful that the hotels might be turned into homeless shelters. At a meeting arranged by state Sen. Tony Avella, however, the owners of the two Marriott Hotels being built along the north side of the Long Island Expressway at 183rd Street emphatically stated that their hotels are being built as regular hotels.

Avella convened the meeting of representatives from the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Civic Association of Utopia Estates, Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, and the East West United Realty in his office. The owners of the two Marriott Hotels explained that they will not rent out to the homeless because they have learned that hotels which take in homeless residents have had vandalism with rooms destroyed. They then can’t get regular hotel guests to rent rooms and when they take in more homeless, they have more vandalism.

One of the hotels will be a Courtyard by Marriott and the other will be a Fairfield Inn. The owners have carefully thought out their plans. They plan to obtain customers from family members who have students in local colleges, family members of people in local hospitals, people passing through and from tour groups who will find it cheaper to rent out rooms in Queens rather than in hotels in New Jersey. It will be a quick ride from Fresh Meadows to Manhattan along the Long Island Expressway. They will also be close to sporting events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The hotels will have meeting rooms, which can hold about 50 people and can be used for business meetings. They have no plans to have party events. There will be parking for 150 cars depending on how many buses there will be. The owners and the manager said they plan to open in March and will soon be reaching out to the community.

The civic association leaders came away from their meeting much relieved, but there is still concern about the hotel being built on 186th Street off of 64thAvenue. The owner of that hotel has never met with the local civic leaders and we don’t know what his plans are. Avella is trying to arrange a meeting, but so far there have been no results.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Federal prosecutors have brought charges against scores of people in India and the United States for operating call centers, which defrauded Americans with phony tax schemes. The crooks would call people and pretend to be from the IRS or customs officials or police officers and claim the victim owed money. The victim would be conned into buying a prepaid debit card, which the crook would then cash and send back to India. The con artists have bilked Americans out of about $300 million. People should realize that the U.S. government would never ask people to buy a debit card to pay a supposed tax bill. The crooks sometimes obtain personnel information about a victim to convince them that they are real officials. People should be very careful.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Airlines are reducing seat space and charging fees for someone to get more space or even bring a carry-on bag on a plane. To squeeze more money from people the airlines seem to be charging for everything these days. Economy class seats have shrunk an average width from 18 inches to 16.5 inches. And the space between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches to 31 inches. If the person in front of someone in economy class pushes their seat back, the person in the rear is trapped in a box-like position. My wife and I had a bad experience flying economy class recently. We wonder if people squeezed into these small spaces are not in danger of thromboses because they can’t stretch out or move around a lot.

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