2013-08-07 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Cemetery Desecration

A copy of this letter was received at the
Queens Gazette.
Commissioner Veronica M. White
New York City Department of Parks and
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10065

Dear Commissioner White:

I hope that you received my July 2 letter regarding the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground located on 46th Avenue, between 164th and 165th Streets in Flushing, Queens. The Conservancy, of which I am a Co-Chair, is looking forward to your visit to the site in the near future. There has been progress made in cleaning up this cemetery, which is under the auspices of your agency. There are other issues that we need to talk to you about including making sure that the cemetery is locked at night, maintenance concerns and replacement of the four headstones and erection of other headstones to honor the known and unknown dead who rest at the burial ground. Borough President Helen Marshall has set aside funds to pay for some of the headstone work.

My concern today regards a letter that I received from a woman who lives across the street from the cemetery on 164th Street. She reports that rowdy young people congregate in the cemetery at night and frequently stay until four o’clock in the morning, disturbing residents living in the area. She claims that the police have been notified of the problem, however, there has been no response from them that she is aware of. I am sending a separate letter to Deputy Inspector Brian J. Maguire, who heads the 109th Police Precinct, which covers the neighborhood where the cemetery is located. I will request that he look into this problem, if he has not already done so. The cemetery must be respected at all times of the day. These young people must not be allowed to loiter outside of the cemetery late at night either, when the gates should be locked. This problem of unruly youth in and/or around the burial ground would never be tolerated at other resting places like Flushing Cemetery, which is directly across from the burial ground.

The young people involved in this problem, evidently enter the cemetery at night because the four gates are not always secured. They must be locked at night, every night! This also applies to the gates of the playground north of the cemetery. Anyone can jump over the fence separating the two sites. This is the responsibility of your agency. I contacted a Parks employee who, I was told, is responsible to lock the gates of the cemetery on a daily basis. He claims that he cannot always do this because of all of his other responsibilities at various park sites in Northeast Queens. This excuse is not acceptable. Arrangements must be made to secure the cemetery so that the dead are respected and that adjacent residents can sleep at night. The burial ground site is not far from Kissena Park. Why couldn’t a Parks person working at Kissena Park be assigned to open and close the burial ground and adjacent playground on a daily basis?

The Parks Department owes a debt to those who rest at the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground. In 1935, the City of New York excavated the cemetery, turning up bones of the deceased and pennies that had been placed over the deceased people’s eyes. Those bones were desecrated and the pennies were stolen. The grave stones disappeared, stones paid for by the families of the deceased people. It behooves all of us, especially you, Commissioner White, to do all that can be done to rectify the injustice and disrespect visited upon those resting in this burial ground. How would you feel if this desecration happened where your departed loved ones rest?

I look forward to your response and to your visit to the site. Please contact me at 718-224-2357 at your earliest convenience. The Conservancy would appreciate a written response as well. Thank you.

Mandingo Osceola Tshaka
Co-Chair, Olde Towne of Flushing Burial
Ground Conservancy
Cc: Queens Parks Commissioner
Dorothy Lewandowski
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, c/o Ido
Shargal, CAU liaison, Queens
Queens Borough President Helen
State Senator Tony Avella
Assemblymember Edward Braunstein
Councilmember Peter Koo
Community Board 7, Queens
Local newspapers

Woodhaven’s Tree

To The Editor:

When Sandy hit, Woodhaven lost a living treasure, our own live Christmas Tree, which stood over three stories high in our Forest Parkway Plaza area. The Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) 27 years ago, after having many cut trees for Christmas, planted this tree. It was about eight feet tall at the time. Through these many years, our Christmas Tree has been the focal point of our Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (then the Woodhaven Business Improvement District) sponsored Holidays In Woodhaven Weekend. That weekend, the first weekend in December, always began on Friday with our Tree Lighting Ceremony, when all of our young people and those young at heart gathered to count down to the lighting of our tall, beautifully decorated tree. All the children from our local public and parochial schools would submit handmade decorations to decorate our tree. Also at the tree lightings, free Santa hats were distributed, courtesy of the WBID. This Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony attracted over 300 attendees in good weather. I remember one year during a driving snowstorm, without a stage, as we huddled under our majestic tree we welcomed our Mayor, honorable Michael R. Bloomberg and 100 hearty Woodhavenites to begin our holiday weekend. Our Woodhaven Tree was honored in 2011, when it was chosen in the Daily News top ten New York City Holiday Trees as No. 4 on their listing, along with our neighbor, Sunnyside’s Holiday Tree. We were No. 4 after No. 1 Rockefeller Center, No. 2 Citipond at Bryant Park and No. 3 Broad Street at the Stock Exchange. Being No. 4 with these million dollar locations places us in very pricey company. Imagine, we are a small BID in Queens with one of the lowest budgets, covering 25 city blocks and we still rate No. 4 amongst 10. We were followed in this list, to name a few, by the Seaport Tree, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Washington Square Park Christmas Tree. This was another wonderful memory of our GWDC planted tree. This entire Forest Parkway Plaza area, which was created by GWDCsecured funding 27 years ago, when our tree was planted and then recently redesigned with GWDC granted funding. I know that many grown ups have memories of when they were youngsters and attended our Tree Lighting Ceremonies, around our own Woodhaven Tree.

When our Christmas Tree fell due to the Sandy Storm, there were many tears shed. But immediately, I contacted the Parks Department to plant an evergreen type tree which would be planted in time for our 2013 Tree Lighting Ceremony. For our 2012 Tree Lighting Ceremony, as promised by the WBID, we had a Christmas Tree. A beautiful artificial tree was placed and lighted at our Tree Lighting Ceremony. This tree was there throughout the holiday season. Then recently, as I stated in my article of Jun. 25, 2013, “In error a street tree was planted in the place of our Christmas Tree in our plaza area. It is thriving and will be transplanted and a Christmas Tree planted in its place in September, 2013.” This is why, when press releases were released on Jul. 11, 2013, Facebook petitions and protests regarding the little street tree were circulated, it was interesting to us. So to all of those who participated in this “protest”, please be at ease, the WBID had handled this matter in June, 2013. Now our WBID will make sure that when our little tree is transplanted, it will remain a Woodhaven tree.

In line with our street trees, if you are fortunate enough to have a tree in front of your home or store/business, please try to water it regularly. In this hot summer weather our trees need watering. I hope that this clears up our Christmas Tree and street tree misinformation.

Maria A. Thomson
Executive Director
Greater Woodhaven Development
Corporation, Woodhaven Business
Improvement District
84-01 Jamaica Avenue

Bring Hostels To Queens

To The Editor:

Roosevelt Island, technically in Manhattan, but geographically connected to Queens, is about to become host to a world class Cornell University technology campus. A hostel just across the bridge in Queens would be a logical destination for visiting applicants and professors interviewing for jobs.

As executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, I am proud of the borough’s well-deserved reputation as one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the entire world. The mix of culture, landmarks, cuisine, beaches and parks is unmatched by any other community.

In fact, recently, the Queens Chamber received a grant from Empire State Development through the “I LOVE NY” campaign to develop a free mobile phone app, called “This is Queens”. The app features all the restaurants, hotels, cultural venues and events taking place in the borough and is a testament to all that Queens has to offer. Young people are moving to the borough in greater numbers than ever before and many of our businesses are thriving. Young tourists want to visit and explore our great borough.

It is time for the City Council to pass legislation this year and allow the hostel industry to expand and flourish in the city. I know Queens is ready.

Jack Friedman
Executive Director, Queens Chamber of

FDNY Siren Overuse

To The Editor:

I have enjoyed your informative paper since its inception, yet have never felt the urgency to send a letter. I do now!

It is 8:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning in August. I live in the Upper Ditmars area of Astoria, and am accustomed to the multiple planes flying consistently overhead. Of course, I chose to live near an airport, what else could one expect?

However, I have just counted five instances of FDNY sirens passing both 76th Street and Ditmars Boulevard in a 45-minute period. Yes, you read correctly, five!

Well, you may be thinking, they must be racing off to an emergency, that is what they are paid to do. Serve the public!

If this was the case, I would be so impressed. As a former Air Force medic and a current civil servant for the city of New York, I once thought our FDNY paramedics were heroes. Now, I consider them a group of children playing with their newest toy, the siren!

They simply ring the siren to get past a red light, or just to say hello as they pass my street! They are completely ruining the quality of life here, it has never been this bad, started this spring of 2013. I am planning to leave NYC because of this! Yes, I did complain to 311, it has since gotten worse. It almost seems like retribution. They turn on the siren for a few seconds as they pass, then turn it off.

Such a disgrace and black eye for FDNY.

Joy Galanda

Frostier Relations

Now that Russia has granted political asylum to Edward Snowden, this is most certainly going to cause U.S.-Russian bilateral relations to become even frostier. With President Obama scheduled to attend the G20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia in September, this issue with Mr. Snowden will most certainly be a political thorn in the president’s side. President Vladimir Putin will use this issue to pressure President Obama to give ground on issues such as the Syrian civil war and missile defense. This is the last thing that our country needs. Fasten your seatbelts, folks. We are going to be in for a very bumpy ride!

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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