Originally, this article was to read “Why I Love Maspeth.” Trying to qualify this statement, I thought long and hard about how to put my feelings into words. Despite the effort, there was nothing solid I could legitimately put down on paper. Oh yes, if I were like any one of the masses I might be able to force myself to write some politically correct jargon, designed to be “agreeable.” Since I cannot do that, I guess I can never be a politician. Instead I have to endeavor to call things as I see them.
Unfortunately, 2010 Maspeth is not the Maspeth I grew up in and despite what our elected officials, the 104 Precinct and their bogus statistics say, our community is not as good as it was a generation ago. It actually gets better the further back you go. We are heading the wrong way; which is the way America is going in general. This statement no doubt offends those thinned skinned politically correct elements. Well that’s just too bad because they are the root cause of why our nation is in its current mess.
So what is the truth? In reality there are just a handful of people in Maspeth who are out there actually fighting for this community. These are the members of the Juniper Park Civic Association and those of the other community groups. I have been a member of JPCA since the late 1990s and over those years have attended numerous meetings at the civic and even a few at Community Board 5. JPCA is a major player in the affairs of the area and this is because of its leadership. Their dedication and passion for this neighborhood is sincere and second to none. However, more than once I have heard remarks like “these people are extreme” or “it’s only their way.” Another criticism heard is that “they have too much to say,” and the response to that was and still is, “having too much to say is called leadership!” We need to recognize our true leaders for the assets they are and for their accomplishments.
You are probably wondering where this is going. Here it is. About three years ago at a JPCA meeting Juniper Park Civic Association President, Robert Holden, spoke flat out and let our elected officials and the 104 Pct. know that Maspeth is a cornerstone in this area of Queens. His statement was that if Maspeth goes then so does the rest of this part of Queens. He stressed that we want maspeth to be the kind of place where people want to be, to live and raise a family. They were also put on notice that JPCA will support those who do right by our community but will fight anyone who seeks to do it harm. I have never heard this anywhere else but at the JPCA meeting.
This is why Maspeth survives. Look around; most of you are more than old enough to remember the 70s, 60s & even the 50s. You know the way it was; how the surrounding areas fell, how decent working class people left along with the businesses and jobs. Why are JPCA people so passionate about preserving what we have and making that better? It’s not just Bob Holden. Add Tony Nunziato, Lorraine Sciulli and the rest of the JPCA Executive Board and watch how they all fight for this place and I can state for a fact that they give it everything they have and more.
The Sons & Daughters of America’s Greatest Generation
I have to believe that there are many more people like this in our community. They just need to be motivated to get themselves involved. What does it take? There are many sons and daughters of America’s Greatest Generation, the WWII Generation, who were the children of the previous WWI Generation. These people worked, sweated, bled and died for this place. They instilled in us the character to survive, to fight for our family, our home, our country and its way of life.
Let’s talk about schools for a moment and the plight that Maspeth finds itself in from the rampant overbuilding of the schools in Maspeth. We have more schools per acre of community than any place else in the city. Problem is that most of the students are bused in from other areas. Maspeth doesn’t have the birth rate to support the schools being built which is why the kids will be here from other neighborhoods where the School Construction Authority doesn’t want to build schools. Why? Because those areas are too run down and the SCA wants to put the money in the better communities. Maspeth is the victim here because it is still a stable neighborhood. I won’t go into the fact that we have a Council Member, Elizabeth Crowley, who backed the high school on 74th Street with the proviso that the kids in Maspeth get first dibs on entry. When that didn’t work she settled for what we’re getting, a high school, right near two other schools with no accommodation for the local children, of whom there are few because of the lower birth rate.
Maspeth: A great deal to offer
No question, working class people are having a difficult time making ends meet. Bottom line is that what amenities we have left here in Maspeth are rare and are worth the fight to preserve. I know this first hand because I lived on Long Island and you couldn’t go anywhere without a car. Getting to and from work was a nightmare. The taxes I paid on a single house would have paid the entire block where my parents lived in Maspeth. I would most definitely say that Maspeth and the neighboring communities have a great deal to offer. Let’s not lose it, or even worse, to simply give it away the way our elected officials did with our industry, our manufacturing, our country and our way of life.
Let’s take a look at our history. In the late 1970s and through the mid-80s our manufacturing and industry were bailing out. We lost hundreds of jobs and, more importantly, we lost the taxes they paid to keep this place going. When Phelps Dodge announced they were closing in 1983 some of the retired employees contacted their local politicians and were given the cold shoulder. A few years ago, when Stop-n-Shop moved, the community, through the JPCA, informed the politicians that we need a police station and a post office. We were told that we have nothing to say and instead received another school to handle the education of another neighborhood.
JPCA fighting the good battles… alone.
In 2003 when Keyspan made a deal with a Queens developer to build a Home Depot on the site of the Elmhurst Gas Tanks, it was the Juniper Park Civic Association that led the fight to make it a park. They won, Keyspan donated the site to NYC for $1. There were no other community groups at the protests. Without the JPCA there would be no park there; that’s a fact.
Most recently there was the battle for St. Saviour’s Church, our historic landmark. Despite a long and valiant battle by the JPCA, the church was saved only by taking it apart but the historic land remains in jeopardy. Why? Because the politicians are more interested in a campaign contribution than doing right by the people who employ them. An effective political leader would have enough connections to get the attention of the mayor that this is historic land and must be saved for future generations. These officials work for us but no one other than the JPCA seems to understand that fact. Had a thousand or more residents stood up and made their voices known things would have been different.
In the battles against the Cross Harbor Tunnel which could bring thousands of trucks a day into Maspeth or the decade long fight to divert trucks away from Grand Avenue the JPCA has essentially been the voice for Maspeth.
What can we do?
Hell, “we have nothing to say?” How about “you’re fired!” After all, we are all equal here in America, so if it is OK for us to lose our job than why shouldn’t it be equally OK for the politicians responsible for this to also be thrown out on the street? Maybe it wouldn’t be so easy for them to undermine their community if we did our job on election day. Throw them out of office! Don’t keep voting for the same tired, tunnel visioned idiots we keep electing! Too harsh you may think? No, not harsh enough!
If you still think it’s OK to “sit it out, uninvolved,” you deserve the consequence of that indifference. Take a look at all the illegal apartments, occupied by transients who roam through our community driveways where our kids play! Take a look at some of the trucks parked on our residential streets and in our community driveways. What are the contents in those trucks? Does anyone care or do we wait for the “explosion” or other possibilities from those contents? “If you see something, say something,” is the catchy phrase but first, my friends, you have to be awake, out of your “long winter sleep” to even start to take action toward your safety and our community’s survival.
In reality we all live on the edge, waiting for our turn to be the next headline in the newspapers or the next lead story on the nightly news shows. The head in the sand attitude is exactly why other neighborhoods fell into decay. Learn from history and do something about it.
What can you do? For starters, How about supporting those volunteers in the Juniper Park Civic Association. Moreover, how about making it known who they are and the effort they give. How about a JPCA/Maspeth Tea Party? How about saying something when the ugly signs of decay rear their head. How about taking responsibility and taking this community back to the place it once was. Tony Nunziato tried in the last election when he ran for the State Assembly but couldn’t win against the incumbent. Again, the community failed to stand up and support those who are fighting for them. So think about what I have said. It’s time we fight for our community, find out what is really going on, get to know those who fight for you and then do something to support their effort. If you don’t then we will become just another statistic and a memory of a bygone era.