As the new year approaches, we’re looking at some of the big stories to watch in Queens in 2019.
The city’s location of homeless shelters around the borough continues to be a sore spot for Queens residents, with particular flashpoints in College Point and Glendale.
The Department of Homeless Services got an earful at a town hall meeting at P.S. 29 on Dec. 18 from furious northeast Queens residents over plans to bring a single-men’s shelter to 127-03 20th Ave. Residents are planning to sue the city over the proposed shelter’s placement.
All eyes will also be watching for developments in the long-running drama in Glendale, where the city touched off protests when plans for a shelter for 125 families at 78-16 Cooper Ave. back in 2014.
The city backed down then but revisited the idea earlier this year when Councilman Robert Holden, who organized protests at Cooper Avenue and later at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth before he was elected to the Council, called for the site to become a much-needed new home for P.S. 9. The Community Education Council of District 24 also separately called for a high school to be built at the P.S. 9 site.
The school is located in a decrepit building built in 1906 in an industrial part of Maspeth. DHS and the School Construction Authority were on board with this plan, and it is in the mayor’s office waiting for approval.
The Karina Vetrano murder case will be retried beginning Jan. 22 after Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise stunned courtwatchers by declaring a hung jury after just 13 hours of deliberation in November. Chanel Lewis, the 22-year-old Brooklyn man stands accused of killing the Howard Beach jogger during a brutal assault in Spring Creek Park in August 2016, not far from Vetrano’s Howard Beach home.
Lewis’ Legal Aid Society defense attorneys argued that his videotaped confession was wrongly obtained and should not have been admissible in the trial. If convicted, Lewis faces life in prison.
Straphangers will be facing a transit nightmare in April when the 15-month shutdown of L train service begins for repairs to the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Canarsie Tunnel. Several subway lines in western Queens will feel the brunt, especially the beleaguered No. 7 subway line. The MTA plans to provide extra bus options over the Williamsburg Bridge and NYC Ferry will augment its service. The city’s Department of Transportation thinks a substantial amount of the affected commuters will choose cycling to and from work.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will spend much of the year gearing up for Census 2020 which she says is crucial to the future of the borough. Her former deputy borough president, Melva Miller, stepped down earlier this month to become the new executive vice president of the Association for a Better New York, a nonprofit civic organization that is working to make sure that as many New Yorkers as possible are counted during the census.
“In 2010, Queens was severely undercounted for a number of reasons,” Miller said. The undercount, she said, cost the borough millions in federal funding, and another undercount could costs Congressional seat.
“We want to provide solutions, whether that is technology, whether that is content creation, whether that is pop-up centers or translation services,” Miller said. “The end game is to work out a get out the census campaign in a micro-targeted way in the communities that are most vulnerable.”
Of course, Amazon’s planned HQ2 campus in Long Island City will be a top story in the year to come and many years after that. The City Council held the first of three oversight hearings into the deal that was struck by the state and city which provides nearly $3 billion in tax cuts and subsidies in return for the promise of 25,000 jobs over the next 10 years with the potential to expand to 40,000 jobs over the next 15 years.
Amazon and city officials were grilled for hours at City Hall earlier this month. A second hearing will be scheduled in January by the Finance Committee chaired by Jackson Height Councilman Daniel Dromm which will examine the incentive package and find out if it was a good deal for the city and the state.
A third hearing will be scheduled for February to examine how the HQ2 campus surrounding the Anable Basin at the end of 44th Road will impact Long Island City and western Queens.