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The city’s quality of life needs to be maintained

By Bob Harris

It is the obligation of the city to maintain the things which make our life worthwhile. We pay all kinds of taxes and license fees which are supposed to make our surroundings pleasant, but often the city does not use this money to maintain our quality of life.

The other day I drove to Union Turnpike and was disgusted to find that the weeds around the trees on the mall and on the side streets and around the various sign poles and fire hydrants were more than a foot high. This is either neglect or a new way of decorating the tree pits for our city trees.

The last mayor decided to beautify our city by planting one million trees, but did not make arrangements to have tree pits weeded. For the past few years, I called my local councilman or assemblyperson who usually had their offices on Union Turnpike. This year I was traveling and busy, so I didn’t notice that the weeds in the tree pits were growing and growing.

As I have been driving around eastern Queens, I noticed the high weeds on the Main Street mall and the Kissena Boulevard mall, plus around every city side street tree and between the cracks where curbs meet the sidewalk. When they finally made our boulevards and avenues and turnpikes more presentable the city should put down woodchips in the tree pits and tar where the weeds grew along the curbs or between the cement slabs to inhibit the growth of future weeds.

Another case of neglect by our city is the deteriorating curbs which I specifically see on the south side of Union Turnpike east of 188th Street. Not only can a car or truck hit the broken curb and blow a tire but vandals can throw the blocks of cement around if they desire. This is great for the place where travel people say tourists want to visit. What are they looking at, third-world conditions?

Of course we have the deteriorated La Guardia Airport, but this will be taken care of since Vice President Biden called it a third-world airport.

Then, there is graffiti on city signs, sides of buildings, mailboxes and on the walls of highways and overpasses. We are lucky that a number of civic-minded people do paint over graffiti and the local police precincts do organize anti-graffiti events. The city did pass a law which requires owners of property to cover graffiti or the city will do it and charge them a fee. In the past I have covered over graffiti or supervised teens who were given community service for doing graffiti but my neighborhood now has little graffiti. I do contact Community Board 8 to tell them of graffiti covered buildings. Their number is (718) 264-7895. You can call your own community board.

Two civic leaders recently passed and it is fitting that we mention them:

Jack Friedman, Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, passed earlier this year. I remember him when he was on School Board 26 fighting for the eastern Queens community. His work on Community Board 11 is to be commended. He operated a photo store on Bell Boulevard.

Frank Skala just passed a couple of weeks ago. He was a true civic leader who formed the East Bayside Homeowners Association and even produced a civic newsletter. I first met him when we were young UFT members attending AFT and NYSUT, and for a while, AFT conventions. Frank was such a strong fighter that he carried $1 million in liability insurance. He fought so vociferously that the local politicians did not want to put him on Community Board 11 for years but they finally relented. His daughter Bonnie and my daughter attended junior high school together. His grandchildren will miss him.

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