Community members gathered in Whitestone on Tuesday night to air local, national and global concerns with their local congressman.
Organized in collaboration with the We Love Whitestone Civic Association, constituents from northeast Queens and Long Island posed questions, comments and concerns to Congressman Tom Suozzi, who was elected to fill Steve Israel’s seat last November.
Civic president Alfredo Centola began the forum, which took place at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, with a major local concern: helicopter and airplane noise.
“I’m one of the lucky people to live beneath the helicopter route,” Centola said. “[At] 4:44 this morning, there was a helicopter that started vibrating the house … I just want to make sure that we understand the airplane noise and the helicopter noise are two separate issues.”
Suozzi, who was recently appointed as co-chair of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, said the group is aware of the nuances of both issues. The lawmaker said the caucus very recently asked Congress to fund a study of the health effects aircraft noise imposes on northeast Queens residents to provide objective evidence to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He also said that Delta Airlines recently stopped flying its MD-88 jet, a particularly loud model, out of LaGuardia Airport.
Still, Suozzi acknowledged, much more needs to be done to provide relief.
“[Helicopter noise] has now evolved into what is literally an outrageous assault on our daily lives,” a lifelong Whitestone resident added later. “It’s here; it’s now; it’s today.”
A resident who emigrated from Ireland to Whitestone took to the microphone to ask the congressman about his stance on immigration policy.
Suozzi, who also sits on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, said he does not agree with the president’s recent travel ban and “is very much in favor of a path to citizenship.”
“I’m all for enforcing the rules; I’m all for shutting down the border,” he continued. “But I think that we should be creating a path to citizenship.”
Topics also discussed at the town hall included the ongoing situation in Syria, illicit spas reportedly operating in northeast Queens and Russian involvement in the presidential election.
“Whitestone is a very nice community,” Suozzi said. “I’m really impressed by the questions here tonight. When I was campaigning in this area, I felt a very strong sense of neighborhood. People really look out for their neighborhood and they care … And I’ll be around.”
Suozzi revealed that in his first 100 days in office, an astounding 35,000 people have contacted his office and he has received 1,200 meeting requests. The Congressman also officially opened up his Queens office in Little Neck on April 19.