By Joe Anuta
Residents of northern Queens, put down that beer! You might have an alcohol problem, according to a new study released by the city.
Neighborhoods such as Corona, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Flushing and, of course, bar-laden Bayside have some of the highest rates of alcohol-related emergency room visits in all the five boroughs.
The report, released by the city Department of Health Monday, detailed alarming increases in drunken injuries for the 42 percent of all New Yorkers who consume alcohol. Since 2003, citywide drunken emergency room visits tripled for legal drinkers and quadrupled for underage drinkers.
And specifically for northern Queens, increasing numbers of drinkers — both legal and underage — have been hospitalized with ailments such as liver damage, car accidents and injuries incurred from falling or fighting while imbibing, the report found.
In total, 1.5 percent of emergency room visits were alcohol-related for underage residents and 4 percent for 21-to-64-year-olds in 2009 — numbers that are alarming both residents and officials.
“It’s scary as hell,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), a member of the Council’s Health Committee. “I didn’t think northeast Queens, of all places, would be featured. I’m glad [the city] is highlighting this.”
People closer to the action, such as Tara Vaccaro, bartender and manager of The Local, at 39-24 Bell Blvd., have noticed an increase in unbridled inebriation — and she believes the rise in injuries is tied to the economy.
“I think [the problem] is going up this year,” she said, adding that passed-out barflies have been appearing on the sidewalks near her bar. “A lot of people got laid off, so they come to the bars to drink all day.”
But they might want to think twice.
Other numbers in the study showed that alcohol-related illnesses or injuries are one of the leading causes of death in New York City, while alcohol is involved in 46 percent of homicides and 28 percent of car crashes.
The Queens neighborhoods in question were joined by a handful of other worst-offenders from other boroughs.
But the good news is that city alcohol consumption is still slightly below the national average for nearly every age group and type of drinker, and the department also provided a set of solutions to help Queens kick the habit.
The city recommended that doctors routinely screen patients for alcohol problems, that the alcohol companies stop child-friendly labeling and that bodegas and bars stop serving visibly intoxicated patrons.
The other piece of good news?
The Rockaways in Queens had one of the lowest percentages in the study.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by phone at 718-260-4566.