In my previous articles I have presented a summary of our community’s history and how it came to be. Maspeth has always been special, representing America and its dream. Our people provided a vital part in the writing of this history. We should be proud of them for their deeds and for the price they paid. Unfortunately, much of this history is being lost to time with many people’s knowledge of past events limited to but a cursory overview of the past few years. It is because of this and because of the lack of involvement by the masses that those in power have abused our community.
I need not go into detail for those of you who have grown up in this community, as you already understand where I am coming from; you see the bigger picture and its details. Others however need some insight, which is what this article is intended to accomplish. So bear with me, read on and concentrate on the progression of events.
My recollections will begin with the late 1960’s, as first hand details prior to this period were that of a child whose world was more in tune with riding a bicycle, or watching television programs such as Captain Kangaroo and Gilligan’s Island. Politics, economics and community affairs were still many years into the future.
The late 1960’s can be regarded as a period of change and sadly not for the better. We were in the incipient stage to what was to become a major shifting in community values and, in their very nature, on our society. Western Maspeth was comprised of industrial, manufacturing and service facilities which provided solid employment for many of its residents. Housed in this area was everything from a Copper Refinery to Milk Distributors. Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues had Grandview Dairy, Bohack Square and Welbuilt Stoves, to name a few.
The politicians of the period still supported this community and when Welbuilt threatened to move, citing issues concerning Flushing Avenue’s traffic as a problem to their railroad siding operations, the city developed a major capital project which resulted in the lowering of this street and eliminating the railroad crossing. This project created a major inconvenience to Maspeth but saving jobs was considered of value. Despite this, Welbuilt closed its doors in 1975. This closing signaled a downward trend and one which the political elite failed to stop. It was also the beginning of a political demagoguery, where “by the people, for the people and of the people” became “we know better.”
Next came the mid 1970’s and with it the city’s proposal to build a homeless shelter in Western Maspeth. This enraged the community, who stuck together and defeated this initiative. About the same time a motel was proposed for Grand Avenue and again the community said no. After all we had no need for such an establishment and there was already a large hotel located on Queens Boulevard. Maspeth lost this one and the motel was termed the “No Tell Motel.” When it opened the owner invited residents to see for themselves and many people actually expected to see mirrored ceilings and charge by the hour rooms. Fortunately this was not the case.
Companies Leave Maspeth
We saw the 1980’s and one of the worst implosions to our industries. Several major companies packed it in. Phelps Dodge, Hebrew National and others closed their doors. They scuttled their facilities and left many of Maspeth’s residents without a job and wondering how they would meet their bills. And where were our leaders, out to lunch? They knew what was taking place, knew very well because Maspeth’s people told them. And their response, in a word ZIP! They had nothing to say.
This attitude continued, now secondary companies were in trouble and the children of long-term residents were leaving the area, some even the state. And our leaders sat and watched. In their view, a newly opened fruit stand constituted an improving economy. We lost major industries, most of the companies which bordered Newtown Creek either closed or were considering moving but that fruit stand was all that mattered. Several years later one of those who failed to prevent this exodus made the comment “How Did This Happen?” This question came as the result of someone figuring out that our tax-base left along with these companies. They know who let this happen, THEY DID! My advice to them, take a bow, you got what you wanted so don’t push the blame! Be aware that NO company wants to close its operations, this is bad business and depletes the bottom line.
Planes , Trains and Trucks
For this new century we have been besieged with huge over-the-road tractor trailers on Grand Avenue and aircraft flying 100 to 200 feet above our roofs. Our residents complained about the pollution and its effects, pollution which is worse than when we had industry, manufacturing AND JOBS in West Maspeth.
Next came the schools, Yes we need to educate our children but schools should be within walking distanced of the children NOT in another community. This benefits NOT the children but the bus companies and those they support. Maspeth currently has more schools than it has students to fill them. When the community voiced its objections we were told that “You have nothing to say.” Nothing to say? We messed up because our answer should have been “You’re Fired!” Instead we were again taken advantage of as we were told that these schools were to be for Maspeth’s children. Nothing is further from the truth. Just look at the buses and also look at your property taxes. Notice how they have increased in the past few years. Municipal construction projects such as schools and parks directly impact the property assessment of the community. Maspeth is paying for facilities which its people for the most part don’t /can’t use.
Now at the end of this decade we also have a garbage train and its effects. Local residents are outraged, their quality of life is destroyed and their health compromised. Many are considering selling their homes, probably at a loss. The community is literally being taken apart one piece at a time, despite the complaints of the residents.
The Future of Maspeth
Now let’s look at the future and what it may hold. Bear in mind that all this is about business/profit and Maspeth, by virtue of its location, and its strategic value. Just look at the view to the west, The Manhattan Skyline; once termed the million-dollar view. Now look at how the city’s landscape is changing. Notice how the two to six family homes within Long Island City, Greenpoint and Williamsburg are being demolished and how the high-end condos are springing up? Is Maspeth next, possibly?
The current administration’s focus is on rebuilding New York in its own image, with emphasis on the wealthy. Manhattan is being converted into a community for the ultra rich. The surrounding areas are for the level immediately below. That leaves a third level to be accounted for and Maspeth may provide the property. The advantages include the view of Manhattan and multiple means of transportation into the city, either via personal vehicle, car service or public transportation. As far as the areas surrounding these elitist locals, simply, look at history and the demographics of other wealthy areas. The wealthy have historically set up secure, posh islands of residencies surrounded by communities of servants.
This is what Europe was all about and what America was founded to abolish. We are going down a road frequented many times and we are losing our community as a result.
Who do we blame? No doubt our leaders bear the bulk of the responsibility. However, our residents are also at fault. Those who failed to get involved, failed to speak up, failed to be a part of and support their community. We have excellent community boards and civic associations. Yet it is the same few loyal residents who consistently show up at the meetings. When Juniper Park Civic formed a rally to save St. Saviour’s Church only a minute percentage of Maspeth’s residents showed up. There should have been a show of a few hundred!
As far as our political leaders, some do support us. However, the politically correct weakness of the generation destroys leaders. Be aware that residing in our community or having a relative who does DOES NOT qualify for a leadership position. What does is strength of character which is synonymous with honor, loyalty and the courage to go to bat all out with any who would seek to harm the people they serve. We need brawlers, people who came up through the ranks, those who aren’t afraid to go head to head with their constituents, those who have the battle scars to prove their character. It is up to us the people to ensure that we get the kind of leaders we deserve. We once had them. It’s high time we find those who will act in OUR best interest.
So where does this leave us. Remember who we are and where we came from. We may lose this battle but we will always have our heritage. Make our history known, support your community, get involved and speak your mind. This is where your civic associations shine; they provide the buffer, the numbers and the clout. Don’t give in, our forebears wouldn’t. Understand that although the politicians are in charge, they are answerable to the voting public. They are responsible for the decisions they make and for the policies they enact.
They accepted this responsibility the moment they decided to run for office. Hold them accountable, therein lies our responsibility.