In our last issue of the Juniper Berry, we published several articles that were critical of our City Councilman, Dennis Gallagher, and of Ken Rudzewick, President of Maspeth Federal Savings. These were not personal attacks, but focused on their involvement (or lack thereof) with respect to issues important to our community. These two, who have willingly thrust themselves into the public spotlight over the years, should be able to handle a little negative press. However, the truth is that they will go to great lengths to silence those who draw attention to their unethical tactics.

On June 21st, I, along with five other members of JPCA, attended a city council public forum regarding problems that the borough of Queens has experienced with the Department of Buildings. This took place at P.S. 113 in Glendale. Anthony Nunziato, Sr., Robert Holden, Manny Caruana and I were among the first people to sign up to testify. We also brought copies of the Juniper Berry that a city council aide told us we may place on a literature table outside of the auditorium. When Christina Wilkinson attempted to do so, she was told by another city council official that she could not put the magazines there because the council members did not want outside materials to be distributed. When she pointed out that this was a taxpayer-funded public forum, taking place in a taxpayer-funded public school, and sponsored by elected officials who are funded by public money, the representative responded by removing everyone’s literature from the table and declaring that there would be no distribution of materials at all!

More shenanigans went on inside the auditorium. As I mentioned, JPCA members were among the first to sign up to speak. Periodically, the sign-up cards were handed to Dennis Gallagher, and quite frankly, I haven’t seen so much shuffling of the deck since my last pinochle game. This resulted in everyone who had arrived after we did being allowed to testify before us. It was not until Robert Holden complained to Council Speaker Quinn’s representative that two of us were finally called to speak. The first to do so was Manny Caruana. To rousing applause, he asked the council members in attendance to give back all of the campaign money that they accepted from developers. Robert Holden suggested that a moratorium on all building should be considered for Maspeth and Middle Village until our zoning changes are put into effect. Everyone was given three minutes to speak, and some were allowed more time to make their points, but Mr. Holden was told after about a minute and a half that his time was up. Anthony Nunziato and I were not allowed to speak at all. Obviously, the articles I wrote about Dennis Gallagher in the last issue of the Juniper Berry had a lot to do with that. His retaliation came by way of denying us our right to free speech in a public forum.

Additionally, the last person that should be put on a committee to investigate the workings of the NYC Department of Buildings is Councilman Dennis Gallagher. But that sordid story will be saved for future discussions in the Juniper Berry.

[Incidentally, this meeting was a bogus attempt by Queens’ council members to make their constituents think that the council is part of the solution rather than a big part of the problem. Land Use Chair Melinda Katz, who probably accepts more money from developers than the rest of the council put together, left the meeting after about 15 minutes. All of the council members who were present are into their second terms; they’ve had the past 5 years to close the loopholes that developers exploit. Why haven’t they repealed the antiquated infill provision, which encourages developers to over-build our area? The answer is simple. Although their constituency cries out for action, doing nothing allows the council members to keep their campaign coffers overstuffed with real estate money.]

The following week, on June 28th, 2006, the 14-year old son of a JPCA executive board member was distributing copies of the Juniper Berry on the public sidewalk outside of the main branch of Maspeth Federal Savings. A security guard came out of the bank and confiscated the box. Anthony Nunziato, Robert Holden and Manny Caruana went to the bank to confront the security guard, who admitted that he was ordered by a bank executive to take the box. The box was returned to them, but he who ordered the confiscation would not come out to defend his directive.

On July 13th, the western edition of the Queens Tribune featured a story about the Ken Rudzewick-orchestrated ouster of Tony Nunziato from the presidency of Maspeth Town Hall, and his removal from Community Board 5 by Councilman Dennis Gallagher. (This article is also available on our website, www.junipercivic.com) Mysteriously, the free newspaper, published on Thursdays, had completely vanished from its usual distribution points throughout Maspeth and Middle Village by that Saturday, while other free papers, such as the Courier and Chronicle, could still be found in abundance. Of course, a typical ghost-written anti-Tony letter to the editor appeared in that same paper three weeks later. [Dennis, you are becoming so predictable!]

The Councilman failed to attend the August Community Board meeting and did not send a representative. Tony, though no longer a board member, has had perfect attendance at community board meetings this year.

Trampling on the constitutional right to free speech is a weapon in the Gallagher-Rudzewick arsenal of dirty tricks that has been fired with frequency as of late. We’re here to remind them that interfering with the distribution of press materials is not only thuggish behavior and an abuse of power, but also a violation of the first amendment and a federal crime. They may pose for photo ops with boy scouts and veterans all they like – the fact is that their behavior is absolutely un-American!

As a side note: Elizabeth Goldsmith of the 10th Senatorial District detailed her experience as a Queens political candidate, and how the Board of Election lost 2,000 of her petition signatures, in a great letter that appeared in the August 24th edition of the Times Ledger. Her comment speaking of the Queens political machine, that “they select and we elect” is so very true. Dennis Gallagher was selected by the machine, and we elected him because we really had no other choice. Queens has the same type of democracy that the Iraqis had in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein.

In closing, I would like to note that the Midville Dodgers – a volunteer baseball organization for high school-age baseball players sponsored by the Juniper Park Civic Association – won the National NABF High School Baseball Championship for the year 2006. That’s right – the best team in America right here in Middle Village. A very sad footnote to this achievement is that Councilman Gallagher is no longer funding the team since he is waging a war on our civic, community leaders and most of his constituents.