Meng Talks Top Political Topics In F.H.
Queens’ newest member of Congress came to the 112th Precinct Community Council meeting last Wednesday night, Feb. 20, at the Forest Hills stationhouse to make a reintroduction to residents and review some of the issues being eyed on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Grace Meng-who took office in January as the representative of the all-Queens Sixth Congressional District, which includes Forest Hills and Rego Park-told the crowd her first seven weeks in Washington, D.C. have been “very exciting,” as she participated in debates on issues ranging from the Hurricane Sandy relief package to gun control.
Elected last year after representing parts of Flushing for two terms in the Assembly, Meng noted that she was assigned to the House Small Business and Foreign Affairs committees.
As part of the Small Business panel, she hopes to find ways to make it easier for businesses in her district to survive and thrive.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, especially in Queens,” she said. “We’re trying to do more so they aren’t facing as many obstacles as possible.”
Regarding her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Meng mentioned her participation in the recent hearing with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding the response to last September’s terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
“I know a lot people have questions which are not answered,” Meng said, adding that she is examining legislation supported by Clinton to boost security at American embassies around the world to prevent similar attacks from taking place. The congresswoman noted that the State Department lost funding in recent years and is struggling with legal loopholes to correct potential security issues.
With last December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut still fresh in the minds of many, Meng stated, she and her Congressional colleagues are looking at new gun regulations. One bill she is sponsoring would close a loophole that allows gun dealers to continue selling firearms with few regulations even after losing their license.
Meng also joined the New York Congressional delegation in supporting bills providing $60 billion in relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. She informed residents that she additionally supported the passage of a bill allowing religious institutions which suffered losses during the superstorm to receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
During her first few weeks on the job, Meng noted, she has worked with members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle on legislation, and she told residents that she would continue working with a bipartisan spirit.
“I think the American people are sick and tired of hearing people blame each other,” she said. “I was very proud to work with my Republican colleagues to pass my first bill. It’s something I think the American people really want to see.”
Meng then took questions from members of the audience on various national and local issues, one of which focused on discrepancies in federal aid between homeowners and small businesses. The congresswoman stated that she is supporting a bill to equalize the interest rates for disaster loans provided by the Small Business Administration to both homeowners and business people.
Asked by another resident if she opposed severe cuts to Medicare and Social Security as the federal government works to balance its budget, Meng replied that she supported and signed a letter circulated among members of the Bipartisan Freshman Caucus-a group of over 80 firstterm Democratic and Republican representatives- to leave such cuts “off the table.”
Citing an analogy used by one of her colleagues, Meng said, “if you take care of a tree, you don’t just prune it.”
The congresswoman informed residents she and other members of the New York delegation are opposed to the end of Saturday deliveries by the United States Postal Service.
Meng also stated the time had come to reform the nation’s immigration laws to not only address illegal aliens but also reform the process by which law-abiding individuals attempt to gain citizenship.
“I always have so many people come to my office. They come to this country legally. They apply for their children or their family legally, and its a process that unfortunately takes seven, eight, 10 years,” she said. “The situation that faces legal immigrants is a serious issue. … Those people who have done everything by the books as they should are facing obstacles, too.”
The 112th Precinct continues to have one of the lowest crime rates in the entire city, according to Capt. Thomas Conforti, the force’s commanding officer. He informed residents robberies have plummeted by 60 percent in the first few weeks of 2013-“better than I could have predicted,” he said.
The captain noted that the precinct also made arrests regarding a recent robbery pattern in the vicinity of Queens Boulevard and 67th Avenue in Forest Hills.
“The perpetrators were quickly identified by plain clothes officers in the area,” he said. “As a result, two of the individuals were arrested for the robberies. We’re confident they were responsible for all of the robberies, but they were only charged with two because they were identified” for those cases.
“The 112th Precinct has the fortunate problem of only being the precinct of property crime, meaning that we were not victims of violent crime,” Conforti added, noting that the command has been battling rashes of vehicle break-ins.
Many of the incidents took place in the Forest Hills Gardens area and in the vicinity of Jewel Avenue and the Grand Central Parkway, the commander stated. In response to that, the precinct used “unique strategic deployment” between the end of January and early February resulting in the arrest of four suspects for auto break-ins.
After that operation took place, Conforti stated, the number of reported burglaries plummeted. However, those numbers went up again when the special operation was curtailed. The commander stated that the operation would be relaunched in order to quell the problem.
A resident advised the captain that youths have been observed loitering and acting loudly during nighttime hours inside a park located in the area of Alderton Street and Ellwell Crescent in Rego Park Gardens. Conforti responded that officers would investigate the situation.
The commander was asked by a resident of 113th Street in Forest Hills to take enforcement action against deliverymen who illegally operate their bicycles and scooters on sidewalk, stating that the condition poses a safety hazard to all residents. Conforti noted that the command confiscated 227 scooters last year for riding violations and would again take “targeted enforcement” action against reckless deliverymen in the area.
Cops of the Month
In recognition of their efforts to track down two individuals who allegedly attempted to break into pizzerias in Forest Hills and Rego Park, Police Officers Thomas Daniele, Anthony Fallacaro and Ronald Mazzaglia were honored as the 112th Precinct’s Cops of the Month.
Conforti said the three officers were working the midnight shift on the morning of Jan. 7 when they responded to a call of a reported burglary attempt at a pizzeria located on 67th Avenue near Queens Boulevard.
Upon arriving, the commander noted, the officers were provided with a description by an eyewitness. In inspecting the pizzeria, he added, the officers reportedly noted that the roll-down gate had been forcibly pried open, but there was no other visible signs of a burglary at that time.
Conforti noted that Daniele, Fallacaro and Mazzaglia resumed their patrol when, about two hours after the 67th Avenue burglary attempt, they spotted two individuals matching the description provided to them earlier standing in front of a pizzeria located in the vicinity of 63rd Drive and Booth Street in Rego Park.
The three officers reportedly stopped and questioned the individuals. During a search, Conforti added, they found tools typically used in burglaries.
Police later spotted the two suspects on surveillance camera footage obtained during their investigation breaking into the pizzeria on 67th Avenue earlier that morning.
Conforti said that both suspects did not reside in the Forest Hills area and had criminal histories. One of the men had been released on parole three months before the burglary, while his alleged accomplice had been arrested 25 previous times on assorted charges. They remain in jail on high bail, the commander added.
For their efforts, Daniele, Fallacaro and Mazzaglia were presented with plaques by Conforti, 112th Precinct Community Council President Heidi Harrison Chain and Congresswoman Meng.
Lt. Brian Goldberg introduced himself to residents as the new special operations coordinator for the 112th Precinct. The 20-year NYPD veteran was previously assigned to the 105th Precinct.
Chain announced that the NYPD is now accepting registration for the Citizens Police Academy. The 14- week program, held on Mondays each week at the police academy in Manhattan, gives participants a condensed overview of the procedures of the Police Department and the daily responsibilities of a police officer.
Those interested in participating in the Citizens Police Academy can contact the 112th Precinct Community Affairs Unit at 1-718-520-9321.
Chain also noted that the March meeting of the community council will feature a forum on domestic violence, and the April session will tackle the issue of identity theft.
Conforti invited residents to follow the 112th Precinct through the social media websites Facebook and Twitter. The precinct’s pages were still under construction as of last Wednesday, but were expected to be online shortly thereafter.
The 112th Precinct’s Facebook page is www.facebook.com /112precinctnypd, and its Twitter handle is @112precinctnypd.
The next 112th Precinct Community Council meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday night, Mar. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the stationhouse located at the corner of Austin Street and Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills. For more information, call the Community Affairs Unit at 1-718- 520-9321.