"As I write this, the Art Deco Eagle Cinema on 73rd Rd. in Jackson Heights is being gutted to make way for a Rite-Aid drug store. The so-called Jackson Heights Historic Assn and so-called Jackson Heights Beautification Group have been totally silent on this, basically because they don't seem to recognize the part of Jackson Heights that lies west of "Little India" on 74th St. "Little India" has been failing for years; attendance was off over 50 per cent before its closing, which was blamed on a Mumbai studio strike in an article in the Times over a year ago. But while that Times article suggested the Bollywood cinema would revive after being shuttered, it was already known to local pols that the drug-store chain had made its move.
These phony civic groups have their match in local politics. A traffic survey commissioned by the Queens DOT (which used a consulting firm--who paid? from where?) and whose public forums were heavily attended by two elected officials (Dromm, Peralta) and one appointed via backroom deal (Den Dekker) reached several conclusions—part of a "solution" to the intense traffic and environmental assault along 73rd Street and 37th Avenue, its epicenter being that dreadful intersection (which Environmental Defense once labeled "a canyon of death.")
Now, why the person who advises Danny Dromm and serves as a go-between to the "godfather" of Tammany Hall East, Congressman Joe Crowley — the person who brokered the Den Dekker backroom deal — would have known about the conclusions of this report IN JUNE is already curious, because it would indicate that politics, and not necessarily sound planning, influenced this report. That would not be unusual, as there was a 1998 and a 2007 report that already made practical recommendations that the then-local-Councilperson (Helen Sears, for one) buried, because a major source of her campaign financing came from the Jackson Heights Indian Merchants Association, which wanted to push back residential parking and replace all of it with meters to accommodate the EXTRA vehicular traffic they wanted to attract from the burbs to the bargainland of JH.
And they want to turn the street in front of the Rite-Aid Theater into a pedestrian mall. Aside from the discussion we could have about how destroying all the movie theaters in a neighborhood will come back to bite the community (and JH has capitulated on all but one, which is in its death throes) when they wind up as check cashing places and crap merchants once the retail-store accommodation turns sour. And it will--with a Duane Reade a block away and FIVE MOM-AND-POP pharmacies along 37th Avenue before you reach 75th St., you have to wonder why the self-proclaimed "progressive" Mr. Dromm signed on to this travesty. Den Dekker, who NO ONE VOTED FOR and who lives in Woodside, is also on board.
The results of the current study, due to be presented in Sept at CB 3 for a kangaroo-court vote, has been held back for many months now--why? Maura McCarthy of the Queens DOT is a functionary, a puppet, she's proven that by years of inactivity and ineffectiveness in this district, for sure. One can only surmise that the Dems game plan is to use it as a carrot before this fall's election to make sure that the "team" wins and Hiram Monserrate goes down in flames. But that 'carrot' feels more like a stick to all residents west of 74th St, who have nothing to do with Hiram and his issues and are being sacrificed in the pursuit of partisan politics. It will be brutal for the residents of 37th Avenue, where the commercial trade ends and it becomes all residential down to the massively botched repair and redirection of entrance/exit of the BQE. We're already buried in noise, exhaust, 24-hr commercial activity, and no enforcement of traffic or sanitation law. (I would go as far as to say that the traffic report protects some really bad actors, including Apna Bazar and Subzi Mandi, both registered in Middlesex County, New Jersey, but major contributors to the JH Indian Merchants Assn, who in turn are major contributors to local pols.
I was once told, with a shrug—by the same Dromm-Crowley Dem party apparatchik I mentioned above—that the noise and traffic and environmental assault of western Jackson Heights was "mostly a cultural issue." In that context, the forthcoming traffic study; the destruction of the Eagle Cinema to make way for yet another chain drug store; the laissez-faire attitude about some of the most awful instant-ghetto buildings that have gone up on 73rd St. (self-certified by scammers); the accommodation of EVEN MORE vehicular traffic on a street that already is clogged and jammed all day long (just ask the Elmhurst Hospital ambulance drivers who cannot get through on 37th Ave west of 73rd St. NOW); the lack of enforcement needed here (foot patrol for the 115th ends at 74th St.) all says one thing to me: "Don't worry Jake, it's Chinatown."
We need your help!!!" - anonymous
Photo from Lost City