#BlackLivesMatter protests across Queens

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Protesters in Hollis (Screengrab of video by QNS reporter Dean Moses)

Demonstrations in response to the murder of George Floyd by a white cop in Minneapolis as well as other police killings of black Americans such as Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and others have been reported across Queens in neighborhoods including Astoria, Queensbridge, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Flushing, Jamaica, Hollis, Whitestone, Bayside, Fresh Meadows and Far Rockaway.

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Protesters on Queens Blvd (Photo credit: Twitter user @lockebox2)

“In #sunnyside queens, we started with a modest crowd—I think it snowballed as we passed so many supportive folks on the street who joined us #BlackLivesMatternyc” one of the activists tweeted yesterday. Photos show activists on 43rd Street, under the 7 Train and on Queens Boulevard where many took a knee.

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Queensbridge (Credit: IG user morgan_s)

As this was posted Friday night, a vigil honoring Breonna Taylor’s birthday was held at Queensbridge Park. A crowd filled the park for a vigil on Wednesday. A simultaneous demonstration happened across the water on Roosevelt Island. By Thursday night, someone on Twitter said, cops were arresting people for being outside at Queensbridge. “COVID-19 response is militarized in the hood,” @UpFromTheCracks tweeted.

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Photo credit: Twitter user @CRGuarino

Several hundred people rallied and held vigil at Astoria Park on Monday. On Tuesday, protesters also rallied on 30th Avenue and marched down Steinway Street. A simultaneous demonstration was also happening in Bayside.

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Photo credit: Twitter user @undercatpro

Last Saturday, hundreds in Jackson Heights rallied at Diversity Plaza, marched down Northern Boulevard and took a knee outside the police station near Junction Boulevard. On Sunday, protesters marched by the Unisphere in Corona Park, as seen in an AP photo. That night back in Jackson Heights, a vigil was held at Travers Park.

On Wednesday, the Queens Post reported, protesters led by Make the Road New York marched to Assembly Member Michael DenDekker’s office in East Elmhurst. The group says DenDekker, who co-sponsored a repeal of a law that keeps police records confidential, can push harder for police reforms, and that he has only donated a portion of the campaign money he had taken from police PACs.

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Jamaica (screengrab of vid by Twitter user @NubianPhoenixx)

In Jamaica, protesters said “thank you” to the local precinct commanding officer when he joined them in taking a knee on Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard where someone read aloud names of various black people killed by police. A few hundred people also rallied in Hollis, where the police disclosure bill was also pushed for, on Wednesday.

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Far Rockaway (Screengrab of vid by @TheeeUgly)

“They said Far Rock was gonna riot, loot and violate. Look at this, nothing but unity and peaceful protest in our hood,” Twitter user @TheTruthSerg_ said of the march and rally in Far Rockaway on Tuesday.

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Whitestone (Twitter user @sassyveeee)

In Whitestone on Monday, a white man, driving by a BLM protest on the Cross Island Parkway overpass on Clintonville Street, yelled out, “Wrong neighborhood, bitch.” A protester yelled back at him, “Fuck you!” He pulled over, got out of his car and chased one of the protesters with a bizarre-looking object, then threatened the others. He was later arrested, it was reported. A video of the scene was captured on social media.

It was reported more than 100 people protested on the corners of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing Tuesday night. One unexplained video on Twitter shows a whole bunch of cops attacking someone.

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Seen in this photo left to right: State Sen. Jessica Ramos, Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. John Liu, State Rep. Alicia Hyndman, City Council Member Donovan Richards and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng. (Screengrab of Twitter vid by QNS reporter Angélica M. Acevedo.

Yesterday afternoon, a march took off from Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows to Borough Hall, where various officials such as City Council Member Donovan Richards spoke out. Richards, chair of the public safety committee, also spoke out at the rallies in Sunnyside and Far Rockaway and possibly others. He is running for borough president. At some point, the march passed by Sean Bell Way.

On the edge of the epicenter

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Death is all around us, and everyone is jogging.

On every temperate day during this pandemic, Vernon Boulevard, the waterfront strip with its parks and protected bikeway, is a continuous stream of joggers and bicyclists, most of them now wearing masks, as ambulances frequently go blaring by. Here on the western edge of Western Queens, we are so close to the epicenter of the epicenter, but not quite of it.

Gothamist-WNYC put out a map yesterday showing how stark a difference there is between North-Central Queens and the LIC-Astoria area. The map, comparing zip codes by number of cases per capita, shows the biggest, darkest shaded area abutting right against one of the lightest shaded areas. A similar map from the New York Times on April 1, showed the hardest hit zip code with Coronavirus cases per capita was 11370 in Jackson Heights, followed by 11369 in… Corona.

“The biggest hot spots included communities in the South Bronx and western Queens,” that Times article read. From a distance, the specificity might not matter. In late March The City published a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene list ranking “West Queens” as one of the “Neighborhoods” with the most flu-related ER visits.

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Areas with flu-related ER visits in late March, top of a list provided by the Dep. of Health and Mental Hygiene, as hyperlinked to in The City.

One reasonable interpretation for the divide is that Elmhurst Hospital bares the weight of serving a vast region of neighborhoods, including Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside. Queens Courier explains the history of how hospital closures 11 years ago led to the overburdening of Elmhurst Hospital. Astoria and LIC, by contrast, has Mount Sinai Queens, which is not without its own frequent Covid-related intake, having built a triage tent. And Astoria’s city council member, Costa Constantinides, has been self-quarantining with the virus, and he tweeted this week that his wife has been hospitalized and “hasn’t been aware enough to speak.”

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But I’ll nod to other potential factors for the steep divide, such as racial disparities that leave the “Hispanic” community (category the state uses; I don’t know where this leaves the substantial Brazilian community here – in the black and white categories probably) making up the highest proportion of Covid-deaths, at 34% in the city, followed by the black community at 28%, white people at 27% and Asians at 7%. NPR suggests one explanation for this, citing an unrelated federal report, noting that “a significantly smaller percentage of Latino and black workers reported enjoying the flexibility to work remotely than their white and Asian counterparts.”

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The state tracks mortality rates, not cases altogether, by race and ethnicity, the Times notes, adding that, “health care workers and community leaders say it is indisputable that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the Hispanic day laborers, restaurant workers and cleaners who make up the largest share of the population in an area often celebrated as one of the most diverse places on earth.”

The “enemy” is density, the Times told us recently, to the chagrin of urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti, who is profiting off planning a high-rise district in the area. Comparing North Central Queens to LIC-Astoria might be extremely helpful for everyone, I would think, because the density, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the same. Both areas have, a probably similar, mix of duplex-type row houses and mid-rise apartment buildings, along with some pedestrian-busy streets like Steinway Street and Roosevelt Avenue. There’s an idea that North Central Queens has more overcrowding within households, leading to more cases, but that seems like a theoretical explanation for now. The AP reports:

“The areas of New York that have a larger share of households with people over 65 had higher rates of confirmed cases per 1,000 people, the AP found. But other demographic variables – from high household incomes to large shares of foreign-born populations to areas with large numbers of overcrowded housing units – saw no significant link to COVID-19 case trends.”

Let’s compare the regions in some other ways. Of the population of Community Board 1, home to Astoria and upper LIC, 13% of the population is 65 or older, one percent higher than in both CB3, home of Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona and CB4, the area of south Corona and Elmhurst. In CB1, 34% of the population is rent burdened. In CB3, 53% of the population is rent burdened. The rent burdened population is at 55% in CB4. The poverty rate in CB1 is 18%; the rate is at 24% and 26% in CB3 and CB4 respectively.

Protesters turn BQX meeting in LIC upside down

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I don’t usually like to make the protesters – the ones that haunt the Sunnyside Yards and BQX streetcar planning meetings – the whole story. But last night they didn’t just create a scene, they really disrupted, true to the word, the city’s BQX outreach meeting in Long Island City. 

The drama was similar to that which happened at the Sunnyside Yards master plan meeting six months ago, when Queens protesters stood on a table, and created a people’s mic-style forum of sorts, in the middle of the gallery space where info-boards were set-up on easels. At that time, Queens Neighborhoods United dubbed the action a “#SSYshutdown.” But at that meeting, the city planners were still able to hold a separate community meeting in a room down the hall. When the protesters finally tried to get into the meeting, the door was blocked, leaving them to chant in the hall. But not this time.  Continue reading “Protesters turn BQX meeting in LIC upside down”

LIC-Astoria likes Bernie

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A RentHop study breaks down donation numbers for presidential candidates per zip code. Doesn’t seem like much has changed in recent months, citywide or in LIC-Astoria.

Last year, the new study shows, the 1106 zip code had 53 donors for Bernie Sanders, with 25 for Elizabeth Warren. That’s a nearly parallel rise from 20 for Bernie and 16 for Warren as of last October, but with Bernie doing better. The Queensbridge-Ravenswood area zip code also had 19 Pete Buttigieg donors and 16 Trump donors.

In 11101 (lower LIC), the ratio is similar: Bernie had 53 donors, whereas Warren had 35. Lower LIC also had 30-something donors for Yang (dropped out) and Buttigieg.

In 11102 (Central and waterfront Astoria), there were 41 Bernie donors, 25 Warren Donors, and 13 Buttigieg donors. In that zip, there were also 10 Yang donors and eight Trump donors.

Bernie also scored 58 donors in 11105 (Ditmars) and 42 in 11103 (Steinway).

See interactive RentHop map.

H/T amNY

 

BQX: public meetings Feb-June

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A portion of the BQX streetcar line, connecting Queens and Brooklyn, would run through 21st Street from 44th Drive to Astoria Boulevard.

The city will be holding public meetings on the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) through the first half of this year. The Economic Development Corporation’s new BQX website lists workshops in “February/March 2020” and public hearings in “May/June 2020.” The EDC released a conceptual design report in summer 2018.

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Coverage: Crain’s, Queens Courier, Gothamist, Brooklyn Eagle

 

25 to Life For 36th Ave Murder

Two years ago today, a man was killed on 36th Avenue near 14th Street. 

Today, Judge Kenneth Holder sentenced Javyn McNish, now 21, from the Ravenswood Houses, to 25 years to life, for slaying Jerell Lewis, 20, from Queensbridge, at 4:10PM on December 2, 2017. 

On that day, McNish’s friend told him that he’d been in a fight with Lewis, accounts found. McNish then, is said to have chased Lewis into the street near the Ravenswood Houses. He then shot at Lewis three times, say reports, hitting him in the chest, torso and the arm or hand. A bullet to the spinal chord is said to have paralyzed Lewis. McNish is said to have then pistol-whipped Lewis, knocking out two of his teeth. Lewis died later at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

McNish, seen on surveillance video, was later found in an apartment with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. He was charged two days after the death with murder and criminal possession of a weapon.  Continue reading “25 to Life For 36th Ave Murder”

Protesters hold press conference at Sunnyside Yards

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Screen-grab of photo from @ivanr_contreras Twitter account

The Justice For All Coalition and other activist groups held a weekday noontime press conference at the Sunnyside Yards today, calling for a moratorium on all mega-projects and large-scale rezonings. The protesters also called on the Economic Development Corporation and the Department of City Planning to:

“allocate the tens of billions of dollars intended to develop the yards instead to restore public housing, repair and expand our crumbling infrastructure, save small businesses, and restore habitability for all, not just the wealthy.”

According to a tweet from community organizer Ivan Contreras, more than 100 people participated in the rally. A flyer shows endorsements from 46 organizations, such as obvious ones including Woodside on the Move and Queens Neighborhoods United. There are also endorsements from a few non-local groups such as Coalition to Protect Chinatown & LES and Brooklyn Anti-gentrification Network. Access Queens is not listed.

The EDC is holding a “digital town hall” on December 4. I’m not sure how protesters will be able to crash it. You can sign up here.

 

Patch: Queensbridge didn’t know about Bernie rally

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From IG: BernieSanders

“Seemed to be a pretty white rally,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor told Patch

Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders held a rally, boosted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at Queensbridge Park last Saturday without giving Queensbridge residents much advance notice, the outlet reported yesterday. The campaign said it handed out flyers at Queensbridge the Friday before and reached out to Tenants Association President April Simpson “as soon as they got her contact information.”

There were no flyers put up in the buildings. A tenants meeting scheduled for the same time as the rally went on as planned. Sanders had announced a rally in “Queens” during the last primary debate but didn’t specify the location, missing an opportunity to fill in QB residents. 

As I tweeted last week, if the rally were in AOC’s district, it could have been in Corona Park. Queensbridge, which Amazon opponents had inserted into the battle over the corporate headquarters debate, served as a relevant backdrop. “Let’s acknowledge the ground that we are on, which is the ground zero for the fight for public housing, and fully funded, dignified housing in the United States of America,” AOC said at the rally. 

Re Patch 

Bernie and AOC are coming to Queensbridge Park

Senator Bernie Sanders, when asked last night at the Democratic Primary debate about his recent heart attack, announced he would be holding a rally in Queens this weekend. I wondered where, exactly.

The democratic socialist candidate, along with our neighboring local congress member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will be rallying at Queensbridge Park on Saturday. AOC, unsurprisingly will endorse the senator. 

….Also, it might go without saying there are some obvious, I think, implications here about holding a rally at Queensbridge, which played out as a major factor in the local battles against the Amazon deal. 

TransAlt’s Crescent St. bike lane proposal sees tough crowd at CB1

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Above: page from TransAlt’s Crescent Street bike lane campaign pamphlet.

Transportation Alternatives has been calling for a bike lane on Crescent Street since at least before the Citi Bike rollout in Astoria in 2017. I saw the group by the Queensboro Bridge petitioning for the lane at least once this last summer. I assumed that, compared to 21st Street, Crescent Street, which runs south (except for when it runs both ways) from the top of Astoria, through the middle of the neighborhood, through a residential part of Dutch Kills down to the entrance to the bike/pedestrian path at the bridge, would be a fairly simple thing to ask for. Well, no.

At a Community Board 1 meeting Thursday, TransAlt’s Queens committee made its case.  “Crescent Street feels more likely a highway than a residential road,” Juan Restrepo, an Astoria native and Transalt organizer said. 

A board member, clearly not moved by the stat of 24 cyclist deaths this year, received a large applause as she railed against the lane. “The ambulances can hardly get through,” she said. “And you want a bicycle lane there? You’re out of your mind!” 

One of the board members, who were also incensed about parking, asked the bike advocates if they lived on Crescent Street. Macartney Morris, QueensAlt Queens Chair, said he actually does. Morris described his window view of a busy street used by hundreds of cyclists, noting that an 88 year old man was killed by a car while crossing the intersection at Crescent and Broadway earlier this year. 

The bike advocates got some decent sized applause as well. And one of the board members asked the rest to have an open mind.

Continue reading “TransAlt’s Crescent St. bike lane proposal sees tough crowd at CB1”