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Queens tackled forming community boards in ‘62

By The Greater Astoria Historical Society

In 1962, people in Queens ask themselves what is a neighborhood and how many neighborhoods are in Queens?

These basic questions form a major stumbling block in the development of new Queens community planning boards, a spokesman for Borough President Mario Cariello concedes. Starting in January 1963, the new City Charter mandates the creation of a number of CPBs whose function is fuzzily described as “advising on any matter relating to the development or welfare of their districts.”

Manhattan has 12 boards and Brooklyn eight, but there were upwards to 50 names applied to Queens locations.

“We can’t have 50 planning boards. It would be simply too unwieldy. Even if we can establish a workable number of districts,” the spokesman says, “it will require a great deal of tact to draw the boundary lines without ruffling anybody’s feelings.”

Still to be decided: the number of members on the board. The borough president’s office receives more than 200 letters from clergymen, civic organizations and professional people willing to serve on the unpaid appointed positions.

These problems are compounded by the charter’s failure to spell out the exact role of the boards. In fact, the spokesman was able to give only a general description of what the new bodies would do.

“The primary function will be the power to recommend on matters of local improvement,” he said. “Also, they will be an effective method of sampling public opinion.”

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The mayor proposes raising the city sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. Penny boost opposed. Businessmen smart at tax plan. Queens merchants charge higher taxes will drive a large segment of the retail business out of the city and into the suburbs.

Eastern Queens merchants claim shoppers already cross into Nassau County to shop. Proposed increases include doubling the tax on cigarettes to 4 cents a pack.

John Patterson, president of Gertz Department Stores, urges strong protests against the tax increase.

He says, “I feel it’s my duty to warn the residents of Queens time is short. Legislation may be jammed through in a matter of days.”

Shoppers sign petitions of protest at the Jamaica and Flushing stores.

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“Maybe the heat’s got them,” police Sgt. James Gaines said to his partner Patrolman Robert Tangel, when a number of drivers halted them to report some guys driving a car across Little Neck Bay.

“No, its spring fever,” opined Tangel, when the drivers responded that the car was not swimming.

The officers find a number of motorists parked on the Cross Island Parkway who are watching an “amphibious-type car” swimming across the bay. The boat, or car, waddled ashore at Fort Totten, turned around and went back into the water.

After a leisurely trip across, the vehicle comes ashore near the Bayside public dock, drives on to the parkway and disappears from sight.

“I can see if this keeps up, it’s going to be harder and harder to write out a ticket,” one officer remarks to the other.

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Manager Casey Stengel, of the hapless New York Mets, reports on Opening Day, “The attendance got trimmed again.”

This was Stengelese meaning that the Mets are playing terribly.

“We were a fraud,” he says. “All those people came out to watch us play. We had them believing we had a better team this year, but we didn’t look it. The starting pitcher was lousy and the infielders were worse.

“My infield I was building up all spring wasn’t there. We were making all kinds of double plays in Florida and couldn’t make one when we needed it.

The Mets had four balks called against them by the sixth inning. Casey comes out to question the plate umpire’s interpretation of the rule. On his way back to the dugout, Casey stops to demonstrate to his pitcher how to come to the proper stop in order to avoid the balk.

For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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