Elmhurst town hall covers drugs, heath and immigrants

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About 40 residents of Elmhurst raised concerns ranging from law enforcement to potholes at a town hall meeting held by City Council members Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), whose districts cover the neighborhood.

“We need you,” Ferreras said during the event. “You’re the eyes and ears of the community.”

The event took place in an auditorium at Elmhurst Hospital Center, at 79-01 Broadway, and featured a panel of representatives from numerous city agencies, including but not limited to the NYPD, the Department of Buildings, the Queens district attorney’s office and the Department of Transportation.

State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) was also a special guest at the event. He said he has been working in Albany to restore some of the $6 billion in cuts to education, health and mental health in the 2011 budget. He also said he is pushing rent regulation and rent reform and is fighting to make sure the Corona Senior Center, at 108-74 Roosevelt Ave., remains open.

“There’s a lot of hard choices we have to make,” Moya said.

Most of the questions for the panel centered around enforcement against illegal vendors, prostitution and narcotics selling along Roosevelt Avenue. Deputy Inspector Richard Napolitano, head of the 110th Precinct, said the NYPD does numerous sweeps and crackdowns in the area, but all three problems keep coming back.

“We really have to eliminate the demand as well,” Napolitano said.

Other questions centered around protecting the large immigrant population in the community. Jesse Sligh, of the DA’s office, said immigration fraud involving those pretending to be lawyers who say they can get immigrants green cards for exorbitant fees is rampant in the community. He said the DA does not ask the legal status of those who come forward to the office to report a crime.

“If you’re a victim of a crime, then you’re a victim of a crime,” Sligh said.

Maura McCarthy, the Queens commissioner for the DOT, also answered questions. In response to complaints about the condition of the streets, McCarthy said the heavy blizzards this winter and the recent rain have made this one of the worst years she can remember for cracks and holes.

“We are working 10-hour days to fill potholes,” she said.

McCarthy also said in response to questions that the department was investigating easing the traffic patterns on Broadway from Roosevelt Avenue to Queens Boulevard. In addition, the department has been distributing information to cyclists about the laws of proper bike lane use.

“We really like bicycle lanes,” McCarthy said. “This isn’t Manhattan. It’s Queens. We actually work very closely with community boards before we place them.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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