TALKING SAFETY AT QNS. CENTER
CB 4 Seeks To Protect Consumers’ Interests
Local business interests from throughout the area converged on the Queens Center mall’s community room in Elmhurst last Tuesday, June 5 for an update from City Council members Daniel Dromm and Dan Garodnick at a meeting sponsored by Community Board 4.
Among those attending the meeting were representatives of JCPenney, the city Transportation and Consumer Affairs Departments and more.
Consumer Affairs Committee Chairperson George Onourah and board member Patricia Martin welcomed the crowd, with Martin explaining that “we have challenging issues dealing with businesses.”
“There are very difficult times,” said Martin, who said that the community has reached out to elected officials for help. “We are very blessed in our community, because they respond.”
“It cannot just be the elected officials. We all have to play in the same field,” she added.
Garodnick & Dromm
“It’s nice to back,” said Garodnick, who visited this area at the same time last year.
“The issues that come out of meetings like this are frequently the ones that give rise to legislative solutions (and) legislative proposals,” he told the crowd, who used as an example the idea that parking regulations be included in online maps, which was a suggestion from the lawmaker’s mother.
Since Garodnick’s last visit, the City Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee, which he chairs, held a hearing with the Department of Consumer Affairs on “bait and switch” advertising techniques that car dealerships use and other “less than scrupulous” sales techniques.
The committee also eyed seven bills “that would tighten the rules of vendors and allow for better enforceability of vendor rules,” he said, adding that he would like to see violations tying “the license holder to the permit holder” of a street food vendor.
The committee is also looking to better police ticket sales, by allowing customers to transfer their tickets from one person to another more easily and ensuring that tickets are available to the public and not hoarded by ticket resellers.
Onourah announced that the Queens Center mall recently unveiled a plaque in honor of late Board 4 District Manager Richard Italiano. The plaque can be found on a wall near the seating area located across from Time Warner Cable on the lower level of the mall.
One vendor asked Garodnick why certain vendors are only allowed in certain areas at certain times, specifically during times other than rush hour.
“We have to strike a balance between the important entrepreneurship of people who have the legal right to sell on the street .... the need for clearance on our sidewalks so people can get through, the interests of brick and mortar businesses out there, who are often directly competing with the vendor that’s in front of them—that’s the reason why we have the regulations that we do,” the lawmaker responded.
City Council Member Daniel Dromm spoke of his own consumer affairs battle, including a fight with a Jackson Heights supermarket on an illegally built sidewalk shed.
The shed was eventually taken down and the supermarket fined.
“It was a huge victory for this community,” Dromm stated, adding that he intends to use that decision to better police other markets in his district.
Also in Jackson Heights, the city is looking to better enforce truck traffic along 75th Street. A few weeks ago, the lawmaker told the crowd, he came across a truck parking illegally on the street.
Dromm took out his smartphone to take photos, only to have the driver of the truck confront and assault him and take the Council member’s phone.
Representatives from Rep. Joseph Crowley’s office, located nearby, heard the altercation and called 911; the driver was arrested.
“I didn’t know that that is what they meant by public service,” he said to laughs.
He then turned to a consumer fraud issue with firms offering help for those filing immigration papers.
“There is now way you can speed up an immigration application,” he warned.
Capt. Mark Wachter, the 110th Precinct’s executive officer, told the crowd that “what’s driving the precinct is grand larcenies”—the snatching of phones from unsuspecting pedestrians; identity theft crimes, often through the Internet; and cars containing unattended property which are broken into.
On a brighter note, the precinct is down in auto thefts, with 39 cars stolen so far this year. However, he warned that “people don’t need keys to steal your car anymore,” with new technologies that allow keyless entry.
He reminded residents to keep their homes secure to protect from would-be burglars.
Wachter also announced that 10 rapes have occurred in the precinct so far this year.
“Any rape is bad. Fortunately, they are not stranger rapes ... these are acquaintance/date rapes,” he said, adding that all arrests have been made in all 10 cases.
There have also been four murders in the command in 2012.
Wachter also revealed that the precinct is fighting gang issues along the precinct’s Roosevelt Avenue border, which it shares with the 115th Precinct. Many of the gang members the precinct is finding are under 20 years of age.
Turning to the Queens Center mall, Wachter told the crowd that two officers are permanently assigned to the shopping center–the only precinct in the city that assigns cops to a mall—and that the mall’s security force trains with the NYPD.
There is also security force at the nearby Woodhaven Boulevard train station; Wachter said that so far, only one crime (a purse snatching) occurred so far this year.
One resident asked the panel about the feasibility of a speed hump on 59th Avenue between Queens and Junction boulevards, stating that speeding cars pose “a danger to shoppers and people who are living there.”
Felix Okolo of the city Department of Transportation responded that “we can and will examine a request for speed humps” but later added that if the street is on a bus route, placing a speed hump may be problematic.
He added that the DOT has studied the area in 2010 and continues to look for ways to make area streets safer.
“There are many ways to do it,” Wachter added, as other methods may be better than speed humps to control speeds.
Dario Centorcelli of Elmhurst Hospital center announced that a new women’s health pavilion has broken ground and will be open by next year, and that
He added that the hospital is “working harder and working smarter” to deal with the influx of patients since nearby St. John’s Queens Hospital closed.
He relayed news to the crowd from a Korean-language newspaper that some people are attempting to scam patients by offering interpretive language services. In one case, one patients paid $240 to for interpretive services.
“That is not necessary. We provide interpretation,” said Centorcelli, with a phone-based service available throughout the medical center.
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