By Gina Martinez
Newly elected Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-LittleNeck) answered Whitestone residents’ burning questions at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening. The congressman, who opened his Queens office Wednesday at 250-02 Northern Blvd., attended the town hall meeting hosted by We Love Whitestone at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church.
Residents asked about pressing community issues like the closing of Rikers Island, illegal spas and helicopter noise.
One resident came up to the microphone and complained about the helicopter noise that he said is starting even earlier now that the weather is getting better. The man said that at 4:44 a.m. his house began vibrating and continued to shake throughout the day. He and others asked what could be done for people who live under the helicopter route.
Suozzi, who is co-chairman of the bipartisan Quiet Skies Caucus, said it was holding its first meeting in about two weeks to discuss the issue. He said he reached out to representatives in the area, and will hold monthly staff meetings with experts and interested parties to find solutions. The congressman said he expects health studies to be the most persuasive way to have routes re-examined and changed.
“We need the health studies to demonstrate objectively that there are serious implications,” Suozzi said. “We can look at health issues caused by helicopter noise like sleep deprivation, post traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure and hyper tension. We also need to establish a complaint system to show the impact on the community, and solutions to lower the DNL threshold. We need an outside agency to oversee the routes for Queens and Long Island’s North Shore.”
One resident complained about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island in 10 years. He is worried that Queens residents will bear the brunt and have a jail built in College Point next to the new police academy. He and other residents were upset that a prison could potentially be built in their backyard. Suozzi said as long as residents do not want the prison, it won’t happen.
“I can’t imagine that they would have any success in doing that,” Suozzi said. “There’s no way that people who have been living in neighborhoods for long times are going to allow them to build a prison. I’ll stand with you on those issues. There’s no way — not going to happen. I’ll stick with you guys.”
A local business owner of a fitness studio complained about the number of illegal spas that “are a front for happy endings.” She said the Department of Buildings shut down the spa next door, which had men coming in and out.
“I want this to end for the safety and comfort of patrons, and to keep the community a high-quality place to live,” said the woman, who was frustrated when the spa reopened and the illegal business continued. She asked Suozzi what kind of legislation could be passed to stop the spas from re opening.
“It’s not a question of more legislation,” Suozzi said “It’s a question of enforcement. We need the mayor’s office, DOB and police to work together to prove that this is going on and to break it up.”
Alfredo Centola, president of We Love Whitestone, said some progress has been made. He said last year his group worked with an inspector from VICE and the mayor’s office and supplied a list of eight illegal spas in the community. Seven were shut down.
“They didn’t catch them for exclusively sex acts, but they were shut down,” Centola said, “Of those eight, five stayed closed and did not reopen, which isn’t so bad.”
He encouraged residents to send an email if they have any suspicions and they would pass it along to the authorities.
“We send them lists when people complain about what they see,” Centola said. “They hit a few of them, but sometimes aren’t able to catch them in the act. It’s a long process. If you see something going on, send an email.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart