By Eric Yun
Woodhaven residents were angered and confused by a recent report from Congressman Anthony Weiner’s office stating that the neighborhood had the highest rate of vacant storefronts in Queens, especially since the numbers were inaccurate.
Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) conducted a study on vacant storefronts as part of a larger initiative to stimulate Queens’ local small businesses. Unfortunately, due to confusion over where Woodhaven ends and where Richmond Hills begins, Woodhaven was branded as the worst neighborhood in the borough. However, only a small section of Woodhaven was counted—the rest of the stores were in Richmond Hill.
“When it came out we were really shocked,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (BID). She noted the Woodhaven BID generally has vacancies of 10 percent or lower. “We're really very pleased Weiner is looking after the prospects of small businesses on a federal level, Unfortunately, Woodhaven came out looking like a vacant lot.”
To dispute the numbers, members of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA) drove down Jamaica Avenue with a video camera and counted how many vacant storefronts were in their neighborhood. According to this survey, vacancies in Woodhaven were approximately 8 percent.
Edward Wendell, president of the WRBA, acknowledged that it is sometimes difficult to understand local boundaries. However, “there was no cooperation with locals who could have helped,” he said.
The mistake has Wendell questioning the numbers and methods used for Weiner's report. “I would love to see the raw data,” Wendell said.
Weiner’s office issued a correction this week. “While the streets surveyed where correct, the neighborhood designation for Jamaica Avenue was imprecise,” Weiner said. “Since Woodhaven begins west of 98th Street, and only about 22 percent of the street was in this area, it should have been labeled 'Richmond Hill/Woodhaven.'”