By Joe Anuta
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) held a town hall meeting last Thursday where city representatives were asked questions by northeast Queens residents and civic associations, although one neighborhood group that was not invited called for a boycott of the event.
The hall was held at PS 193, at 152-20 11th Ave., and many of the residents put Hilary Gietz from the city Department of Transportation on the hot seat over requests for stop signs and speed bumps at various locations throughout Whitestone, College Point and Flushing — but most notably several residents asked for stop signs along 3rd Avenue near the newly reconstructed playground at Francis Lewis Park.
“Something has got to be done,” said Alfredo Centola, of the Malba Gardens Civic Association.
But Gietz replied that the bumps were once approved but never slated for installation due to community backlash.
Centola co-hosted the meeting along with Kim Cody from the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association and Debbie Markell, of the Waterside Estates Cresthaven Home Owners Association.
But no one from another area civic, the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association, was invited to the event, which prompted a letter from its President Devon O’Connor.
O’Connor sent the open letter out to members of the community, indicating he was “shocked” to learn his group was not on the invite list. He called the group’s exclusion a “silly political jab” before calling on his membership to skip the meeting.
“Now, we all need to band together as a united community to tell Sen. Avella he was not elected to persecute his community,” O’Connor said in the letter. “Let’s send a clear message to Sen. Avella: It’s time to put an end to this bullying!”
When asked at the town hall why O’Connor’s group was not invited, Avella declined to answer.
A day later, his office sent a statement about the meeting and the groups in the area, offering another slight to the civic.
“Sen. Avella held a productive town hall discussion last night and was thrilled that respected local community groups co-hosted the event,” spokesman Xavier San Miguel said. “Groups like the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Association, the Malba Gardens Civic Association or the Waterside Estates Cresthaven Home Owners Association contribute to our democracy in a meaningful way and continue to provide real results for Queens County.”
Avella and the panel of representatives from numerous city agencies fielded questions for two hours from the crowd of about 50 people.
John Zullo, of De Phillips Athletic Club, said the city Parks Department has locked the bathrooms at College Point Fields hours before the Little League games actually end. Parks pledged to make sure the bathrooms are locked later.
Antonio Melone said the DOT repaved its roads in a manner that caused flooding and that, after waiting for more than five years for the city to replace his curbs, he had to do it himself.
Avella called the wait “a disgrace,” and revealed that the city has a 23-year waiting list for residents to get their curbs replaced.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.