A look back to April 1963 in Queens

By Greater Astoria Historical Society

In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.

This is the way it was in April 1963 in Queens.

On April 16, Borough President Mario Cariello reiterated his opposition to Con Edison’s proposed nuclear reactor in Ravenswood, charging that nowhere in the project had the possibility been ruled out of sabotage from within. The borough president insisted that “the accidental emission of nuclear waste might contaminate the thousands of nearby food manufacturing and processing plants and seriously injure people.”

Cariello asserted: “The East River might be further polluted by the millions of gallons of water required to be used and reused daily in this proposed plant.” Moreover, he continued, the psychological effect of the plant would sharply curb the growth of the borough.

“The mental fear will discourage people from becoming Queens residents and will retard the borough’s development,” he said. Although his remarks expressed concern about nearby industry and residential development, no mention was made about the safety of residents already living around the plant.

Elsewhere in that long ago April, an East Elmhurst group has charged in a letter to the mayor that three white youths in Astoria painted a black youth’s face white. Police arrested the three youths, two 13 years old, and one 15 years old, and they were held for action in Family Court. The 12-year-old assaulted youth was a student at JH 141 in Astoria, one of 130 students transferred form JHS 127 in East Elmhurst where he lived.

Mayor Robert Wagner and Dr. Calvin Gross, superintendent of schools, were notified of the bias incident by a committee headed by a teacher, Helen Marshall of East Elmhurst, who would eventually become borough president of Queens after serving in the City Council and the state Legislature. The committee also charged that the black students were being “chased out of the school area by gangs of white boys” and that in the previous week, a garbage can cover was thrown at one youth.

Evangelist Billy Graham met Master Builder Robert Moses on April 17 at the World’s Fair groundbreaking for the Billy Graham Pavilion. Amid a chilly morning, temperature in the low 50s and wind-whipped dust, Graham met with Moses, president of the World’s Fair. “Did you ever think you’d get to meet Moses?” a reporter quipped to the minister. Graham broke into laughter. He compared Bob Moses with the first Moses and said: “He’s much like the biblical Moses. He has the same dynamic drive, moral convictions, and the ability to get things done.”

The site of the old Elmhurst Courthouse probably will become a sitting park after demolition of the building at Broadway and Justice. The onetime Elmhurst Town Hall, which last housed the Second District Municipal Court, was considered a fire hazard. Borough President Cariello, who had sat as a judge in that court for many years, sealed its doom when he said “to fireproof the building would be prohibitive.”

The future of Flushing Town Hall might be different, however. The building on Northern Boulevard and Linden Street was also a retired courthouse, but it had caught the eye of the Landmarks Commission, which plans to block any plans to tear it down. Officials mulled its future as a converted a teen center or a senior center.

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