A City Council candidate was attacked in southeast Queens Saturday as he confronted two men who were dumping trash in Hollis.
Al-Hassan Kanu was recording with his cellphone as he approached the two men at 202nd Street and 99th Avenue and asked why they were throwing trash beneath an overpass in a residential area of the neighborhood.
One of the men, who was the driver of a rental truck, can be seen on video punching Kanu multiple times in the head and his surgically repaired left shoulder before grabbing Kanu’s cellphone and throwing it to the ground as the assault continued. The two attackers jumped back in the truck and drove off. Kanu was checked out at Queens Hospital in Jamaica before reporting the assault at the 103rd Precinct.
A witness to the attack told Kanu that illegal dumping is a constant quality-of-life issue in the area, with people leaving furniture, car parts, food and even dead animals at the locations.
“Nobody wants to do anything,” the witness told Kanu. “I come walking here every day. Sanitation was just here yesterday, but there’s a different pile of stuff here every day. It’s been going on for a long time.”
Kanu said he was investigating a complaint made to Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s district office, where Kanu used to serve as a district director, but Miller’s spokeswoman said he “wasn’t acting on a complaint received through our official channels.”
It was later determined that the constituent who lodged the complaint with Miller’s office also sent an e-mail to Kanu, who went to the location on his own accord, something he does often while combating illegal dumping in southeast Queens.
“Illegal dumping cannot continue in our community and we need to enforce the laws we have on the books and make sure it stops,” Kanu said Sunday. “It should not take citizens to post these incidents on social media for enforcement to occur. I am doing well and I want to thank Queens Hospital and the 103rd Precinct for helping me after the attack, as well as everyone who has reached out to me personally.”
Kanu is no stranger to violence. His family moved to southeast Queens from war-torn Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. He graduated from York College before his activism led him to enter public service as an intern for then-Councilman Leroy Comrie.
When Comrie was elected to the state Senate, Miller succeeded him and appointed Kanu as district director. Now Kanu is among nearly a dozen candidates in District 27 campaigning to succeed Miller, who is term-limited.
Just a week before the attack, Miller endorsed Kanu as his successor.
“More than ever southeast Queens needs dedicated competent community-oriented leaders, and Al Kanu fits the bill for District 27,” Miller said. “I’ve seen Al’s work up close as my district director, and also while he worked for then-Council member Leroy Comrie. Al has been a tireless community advocate for over a decade, organizing to keep homeowners in their houses, connect families to affordable housing and mitigate flooding issues in our residential community.”
There have been no arrests, according to the NYPD.