Councilman Dennis Gallagher and Assemblywoman Marge Markey are planning to hold a protest rally on Monday, April 2nd at 6pm in front of 59-39 58th Avenue in Maspeth. The funny thing is that the halfway house they are planning to protest has already been shut down - a point that Gallagher and Markey are well aware of, as it was front page news at their favorite newspaper. But that won't stop them from getting themselves a little face time in front of the cameras for their next taxpayer-funded mailers to their constituents.
Here's how the story unfolded:
On March 5th, a neighbor called 311 to report that a two-family home was being converted into a rooming house illegally. As many as 20 mattresses had been delivered to the house and a lot of traffic was observed going in and out of the dwelling.
On March 22nd, the issue was brought up at the area's monthly COP104 meeting, attended by more than 200 concerned residents. At that time, the Commanding Officer said the situation was being closely monitored by the precinct.
On March 26th, the Department of Buildings inspected the property and immediately issued an "order to vacate." They found that the house had indeed been converted into a transient hotel. It so happened that Dennis Gallagher showed up at the house as inspectors were trying to gain access with a newspaper reporter in tow.
According to the NYPD, who inspected the house, it was vacated on March 27th. Additionally, summonses were issued to the owner by both the FDNY and the Department of Buildings for several violations including lack of rear exits, sprinklers and other violations.
This incident perfectly illustrates why Councilman Gallagher should not be advising residents to deny access to DOB inspectors who receive complaints about illegal occupancy. It seems that this house was used for a program for recently released inmates from Rikers Island. This program is meant to help prisoners get acclimated to life in public. The ex-prisoners, who were described as "non-violent offenders," would stay at the house from Monday through Wednesday and then return to their regular homes for the rest of the week. The trouble is that this house was not built for 20 residents - a detail missed by the owner of the property and the program facilitator.
The FDNY, NYPD and the Department of Buildings all did their jobs with relative speed. The owner was fined and the house was shut down. So why are Gallagher and the clueless Marge Markey still holding a rally? Shouldn't an effective rally have been held sometime between March 5th and March 26th?
The answer is obvious - publicity. Gallagher and Markey are attempting to squeeze at least another week's worth of newspaper articles out of this story so it will appear that they actually did something for the neighborhood, when in reality they had no involvement whatsoever. By Friday afternoon, there were flyers posted outside the windows of shops (not inside) advertising the rally.
"Why are they wasting police manpower for a protest? The place was shut down!" That's what many local cops and residents are asking about this blatant abuse of tax dollars. The 104th precinct, in which the house is located, has seen an increase in daytime burglaries over the past few months, and cops are desperately needed out on the streets to keep potential intruders from striking and to protect citizens from harm.
We'll see which of their stooges turn out to stand behind them while they are mugging for the cameras and which papers report on it as if it is actual news. (Deadlines for the politicians' Easter ads are due soon so we predict widespread coverage.)
In coming weeks, Gallagher and Markey are also planning to protest other past events, such as the passage of the Tea Act, racist Jim Crow laws and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Tune in to Queens Crap; we'll have full coverage of those rallies as well!