Elmhurst civic activist killed in Jackson Heights crash

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One of Elmhurst’s most active community leaders was killed in a single car crash on Astoria Boulevard Sunday, according to the NYPD.

Robert Valdes-Clausell, 56, suffered a medical episode, most likely a heart attack, sources said, before losing control of his 2006 Ford Explorer and crossing three lanes of traffic. He slammed into a concrete barrier near 77th Street, police said.

Valdes-Clausell was found unconscious and unresponsive by officers and transported by EMS to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead.

“Robert Valdes-Clausell’s passing is a great shock to the Elmhurst community,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Robert was involved in numerous organizations and was a strong advocate for the community. As a board member of the Newtown Civic Association, Robert fought to keep historical buildings in Elmhurst intact, advocated for the reopening of the Elmhurst LIRR and was involved in many other worthy civic activities.”

He was also a vocal critic of the homeless shelter at the former Pan American hotel.

“Robert knew a lot about the legalities of the multiple dwelling laws so we leaned on his knowledge quite a bit,” said Jennifer Chu, a founding member of Elmhurst United. “We were also representatives of the 110th Precinct at the Citizens Police Academy. He was very involved in everything.”

Valdes-Clausell was working on a startup of a non-profit Newtown Preservation Society and was a member of the Land Use Committee at Community Board 4.

“His presence will be sorely missed,” Dromm said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Posted 12:00 am, January 15, 2016
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