Thursday, June 25, 2009

Civic Group Seeks to Gain Footing in Maspeth

By Conor Greene

When Kathy Hamilton moved from Maspeth to Middle Village two years ago, she noticed that quality of life issues such as illegal garbage dumping and problems with traffic were going unaddressed. She also noticed there was no local civic association in the area, something she changed with the founding of the Maspeth West End Block Association, which has been meeting each month since September.

Ten months into her role as a neighborhood civic leader, Hamilton reports mixed results. The group was successful in lobbying the city to install a stop sign in the neighborhood, but has been less successful in other areas, such as a push to bring a supermarket to the area, or in having officials from the 104th Precinct respond to their grievances.

“When I first moved here, I noticed there was a lot of illegal garbage dumping, a lot of traffic, people fighting outside, smoking pot on the corner, and so my neighbor (Melinda Garcia) and I decided to develop this block association,” said Hamilton, who holds a master’s degree in social work. “Now I’m a homeowner, so I guess I look at it differently. Over there [in other neighborhoods] there is more influence with the politicians, but over here there is not really any influence.”

The group is focused on the western portion of Maspeth and holds its meeting in Trinity-St. Andrews Church on 60th Street. The area it represents and seeks to improve roughly stretches from the Long Island Expressway south to Metropolitan Avenue and east to Fresh Pond Road.

While the group’s June meeting attracted several dozen residents, including many new faces, Hamilton and others expressed frustration that nobody from the precinct was there to address problems they are hoping to address (see related story). Hamilton said that while an officer from the precinct attended a meeting last year, she has since been told that her group should attend one of the other meetings 104th Precinct officials attend each month elsewhere in the area.

“If they make their way to every other meeting, they should come here once in a while,” said Hamilton. “They don’t have to attend every meeting, but [next] month in particular we are going to try to contact the elected officials to see if they can get someone from the precinct over here.”

In response, Community Affairs Officer Tommy Bell told the Forum that a precinct representative has attended prior MWEBA meetings. “What [Hamilton] was told was that we have a lot of civic meetings to attend every month and we try to attend as many as possible,” said Officer Bell. “But, she should also make an effort to attend either the 104th Precinct Community Council meeting or the COP 104 meeting which was set up to bring all the civic groups together to address many of the groups’ individual complaints.”

Overall, Hamilton says the feedback she has received from neighbors has been positive. However, one group member said she was met with some skepticism and apathy when she walked around the neighborhood spreading word about the association. “They say they joined all the civics in the past and nothing ever got done,” the resident recounted at last week’s meeting.

Hamilton noted that the group’s success in getting a stop sign installed sounds very minor to residents who aren’t aware of the red tape involved in such a request. “That does seem kind of minor, but obviously we’re doing something,” she said. “I just ask [skeptics], do you have any suggestions? Otherwise we’re not going to get anything done.”

At this month’s meeting, Jeff Gottleib, representing state Senator Joseph Addabbo, told Hamilton her group is not getting the attention it needs because its members are too quiet. Hamilton’s response: “Not anymore.”

The group generally meets on the third Thursday of each month at 60-11 60th Street beginning at 7 p.m. For details, contact Hamilton at (347) 499-8223 or

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