Elmhurst activist killed in Jackson Heights car crash


Robert Valdes-Clausell, an active presence in the Elmhurst community, died Sunday in a car crash, police said. He was 56.

Valdes-Clausell served as the Newtown Civic Association treasurer and also frequently fought to preserve structures in the neighborhood, including the Elmhurst library. He was also an advocate for the restoration of an Elmhurst stop on the Long Island Rail Road, which is set to be rebuilt as a part of the MTA’s capital plan.

“Robert Valdes-Clausell’s passing is a great shock to the Elmhurst community,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm.  “Robert was involved in numerous organizations and was a strong advocate for the community. As a board member of the Newtown Civic Association, Robert fought to keep historical buildings in Elmhurst intact, advocated for the reopening of the Elmhurst LIRR and was involved in many other worthy civic activities. His presence will be sorely missed.”

Marialena Giampino, spokesperson for the Newtown Civic Association, said she is still in shock and disbelief.

Words can not express the sadness and great loss that the Newtown Civic and the Elmhurst community will endure,” Giampino said. “Robert was an extremely intelligent, dedicated and extraordinary person, always putting the greater good of the community and others before himself.”

Valdes-Clausell was in the process of creating a nonprofit society called Newtown Preservation Society to expand his mission to preserve “what was left of former Newtown, so that Elmhurst’s great history would not be forgotten,” she said.

According to authorities, who arrived at 77th Street and Astoria Boulevard at about 12:50 a.m., Valdes-Clausell was driving his 2006 Ford Explorer eastbound on Astoria Boulevard when he lost control of the SUV, which then crossed three lanes of traffic and came to rest after striking the concrete barrier in the left lane.

The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is still investigating.

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