There were five of us, best friends from different schools, different blocks, but all from the same community. On Sundays, we could always find a convenient time to meet for Mass. We lived in walking distance of five parishes and often we attended the latest mass, 6:30 pm at Our Lady of Hope. As young teenagers we would stroll to Juniper Park to our private spot and gaze at the city where the upper playground declined into the lower. There we would share our hopes and dreams; we built plans for college, for careers and we shared our political views. It was the place where I, the lone democrat, strengthened my love for policy and debated my ideals with friends who identified themselves with a political party different then mine but we had hopes, dreams and ambition much the same. We all still live near the neighborhood, except for one of us, but she spends more time in Middle Village than her out of town dwelling.

We felt pride and devotion for our neighborhood, a feeling unrivaled by any other place. Juniper Park was an integral part of my growing up, of who I am today. Juniper Park is the community space that defines Middle Village, with a continuity of character in the homes that is the look and feel of the community beyond the park. Middle Village, like most great neighborhoods, was not happenstance and would not be so great if not for the work of community leaders.

At one time, in the not so distant past, government forces that cared more for headlines than real communities sought to transform Juniper Park into a municipal swimming destination. Community leaders and local elected officials together have been successful in showing New York City that we are a strong community with NO available space in Middle Village or our surrounding areas of Maspeth and Glendale for homeless shelters, half way houses or public housing. We must always persist in our vigilance against these threats to our community.

We are the backbone of New York City. A community comprised of selfless hardworking individuals; we are nurses, cops, firefighters and teachers. Our hard work and sacrifice contribute greatly to the larger success and stability of New York City and although we live so close to the center of the capitol of the world, we like that our neighborhood remains a semi-suburban community, an idyllic place to raise a family and to achieve the American dream.

But today Middle Village and its Maspeth and Glendale neighbors may be facing one of its greatest challenges ever, one that compromises the very esthetic and quality of life of our low density community, OVERDEVELOPMENT. We have experienced the ramifications, suffered flooding in our homes, a longer commute time to work brought on by traffic and congestion, and overcrowding in our kid’s classrooms. There is no government action plan in the works, no plan to address our aging infrastructure or to enforce building codes and zoning regulations to ensure that our community keeps its character.

Protecting our neighborhoods from overdevelopment is an issue I understand. Overdevelopment threatens our community with buildings out of character with the neighborhood, with infrastructural demands exceeding our road and sewer capacity, cemented over lawns that put excess pressure on our sewers and flooding for the entire neighborhood, and excess people pressure that violates the fundamental characteristic of our community as a low density housing neighborhood. It overextends our schools, the safety of our streets, and cleanliness of our sidewalks.

We must be ever vigilant against the forces that would destroy the character of our neighborhood for greed. Juniper Civic is to be praised for enforcing zoning codes upon infamous over-developer Tommy Huang and making him remove the extra floor from his illegal building.

We must continue this vigilance. We must fight illegal conversions. We must fight violators of building codes and zoning. We must downzone to maintain the low density character of our neighborhoods. We must add more trees not shoddy buildings to our neighborhoods. And like many cities that care about the character of its neighborhoods we should add architectural review boards to our civics and community boards to force developers to seriously uphold the character of the neighborhood over its exploitation.

Elizabeth Crowley has a Masters Degree in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute's Graduate school of Architecture where she studied Architecture, historic preservation, environmental and city planning. She is a member of the American Planning Association and New York's local chapter. Elizabeth's planning expertise is in economic and workforce development.

Elizabeth Crowley holds a Bachelors degree is in Restoration/Preservation from SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, where she graduated Magna cum Laude and participated in the school's Presidential Scholars program.

After graduating, Elizabeth worked on active construction sites utilizing her skills in preservation on historic renovations. Elizabeth's work includes the New York City's historic landmarks of Radio City Music Hall, Central Synagogue and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Elizabeth Crowley works as an educator. Her work has brought job training services and education programs to thousands of New Yorkers in need. This work includes partnerships with businesses and community centers throughout New York City. Through economic development initiatives Elizabeth Crowley has helped to build job opportunities and economic success for thousands of New Yorkers.

The local Crowley family started over 75 years ago when Elizabeth's father the late Walter Crowley was born in his Maspeth house to Irish immigrants. Elizabeth, born the fourteenth of fifteen children to Mary and Walter, was raised in Middle Village and today the Crowley family has expanded to over 100 residents living in and very much invested in the communities of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.

Both of Elizabeth's parents served on the New York City Council and her cousin Congressman Joseph Crowley is one of the youngest and most promising representatives in Washington. Elizabeth is very proud of her community and continues her family's tradition by raising and educating her children, Dennis and Owen locally.

NOTE: Elizabeth Crowley’s opponent, Councilmember Anthony Como, did not send his Op-Ed article by press time of the Juniper Berry.