Dutch Kills Civic Association celebrates 30th birthday

State Sen. George Onorato, Executive Director of the Dutch Kills Civic Association George Stamatiades, association President Gerald Walsh and state Assemblywoman Marge Markey strike a pose at the association's 30th anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy Gerald Walsh.
By Rebecca Henely

The Dutch Kills Civic Association celebrated its anniversary earlier this month, marking 30 years of civic activism in the Long Island City community.

“We’ve changed the Dutch Kills area drastically,” said Gerald Walsh, president of the association.

During its anniversary party Nov. 5 at Ricardo’s Restaurant, at 21-01 24th Ave. in Long Island City, the association designated outgoing state Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria) Statesman of the Year. Walsh said Onorato has been good to the association. Onorato, 82, has been senator since 1983 and is retiring this year.

“We had a wonderful, wonderful turnout and we had a wonderful evening,” Walsh said.

George Stamatiades, one of the principal reorganizers and the current executive director of the association, said the group was founded by Vincent Nenna in 1979, who died some months after he began it. Stamatiades and a few others reinvigorated the group the next year.

“Our whole agenda or mission statement would be to handle quality-of-life issues,” said Walsh, who joined the group in 1989.

One of the first issues the association worked on was the prostitution around the Queens Plaza area, which Stamatiades said the civic got cleaned up with the help of area precinct commanders and the Queens district attorney’s office by 1985.

The Dutch Kills Civic Association was also one of the civic groups to fight to get the Dutch Kills community rezoned from industrial to residential. The area had been made industrial despite the homes in the area, and those who wanted to build a residential property or extend their homes had to get a special permit, a process which could be expensive, Stamatiades said. While some major hotels were built and still continue to be built among residences, the area was rezoned a few years ago.

“That was our biggest fight over the years,” Walsh said.

Stamatiades said the association has worked on numerous projects in the last three decades. Association members renovated an abandoned building which they later sold and deposited the $25,000 in profits with the New York Community Trust, an organization that makes charitable grants, which has allowed the association to build interest of $1,800. In addition, the association created the Western Queens Gazette 28 years ago, which the association later sold to a private company. They also worked to bring the Long Island City Queens Library branch and charter schools to the area.

But s ome ideas have not always worked out well. An idea to buy a car made to look like a police vehicle and have civic association members use it to patrol the area for prostitution was rejected as too dangerous by the police. Yet Stamatiades said that since the association was created, the community has been a safer place.

“The future is bright,” Stamatiades said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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