Jo-Ann Jones (c.) and friends founded the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts.
In January, a Tribune article revealed that a local drug paraphernalia vendor, or “head” shop, that was operating a street-level store in the heart of the downtown Flushing shopping district on Main Street was displaying sex toys and aids in full view of local school children who pass by the store every day….
Attorney General Robert Abrams moved to close and investigate the “Future Fraud” pyramid scheme first exposed by the Tribune in 1978…The Tribune revealed in February that the skies above Queens might not be safe because of the dangerously low approach to LaGuardia Airport and short runways….
In late February, the owner of the “head shop,” The Jolly Joint in Flushing, agreed to remove the sexually explicit material from the window and to drop drug paraphernalia entirely...Martin Paretzky, a 71-year-old Kew Gardens Hills rabbi and a Queens diamond dealer, was reported missing – and police had no clue as to his fate. He disappeared from Manhattan’s Diamond District after missing a meeting he was scheduled to have in the city. Harvey Paretzky, a Tribune reporter and the rabbi’s son, pleaded for anyone with information to contact the police….
Supporters of President Jimmy Carter filled the Colden Center at Queens College when he held a Town Hall meeting.
A Tribune investigation uncovered phony record shops in Queens that were really stores selling only drugs, mostly to teens. The “head shop” on Main Street closed in March…Congressman Benjamin Rosenthal conducted a public hearing, prompted by the Tribune’s series on low-flying planes en route to LaGuardia Airport. He called for the FAA to investigate and correct the situation. The hearing was attended by more than 500 people.
In May, Civil Court Judge Robert T. Groh returned to work one day after being cleared of the extortion rap that he got two and one-half years before…In June, 200,000 people attended the second Flushing Fantastic International Street Festival. The driving force behind the festival was local businessman Aaron Weiss, who also founded the Flushing Tenants Council….
The Tribune revealed that barrels of dangerous, toxic and cancer-causing chemicals were being stored in the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The barrels had been in the park for 15 years. Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis inspected the site and ordered the immediate removal of the drums….
Aaron Weiss, founder of the Flushing Tenants’ Council, ran the Flushing Fantastic Festival.
A new spirit came to Flushing’s troubled 137th Street in August, when mobile “handivans” came to assist residents in improving the ramshackle houses on the block…. As a result of the success of the Flushing Fantastic Street Festival and the new unity in downtown Flushing, Aaron Weiss and JoAnn Jones founded the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, and held the first founding meeting at Flushing Town Hall in August....
Attorney General Robert Abrams ordered the pyramid scheme operation, first exposed by the Tribune in 1978, to refund nearly $3 million to its former subscribers…. President Jimmy Carter held a Town Hall meeting in Queens. Over 2,000 people attended the hour-long question-and-answer session in Colden Auditorium of Queens College….
To mark the 15th anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadows, the Tribune put on a public display in its offices of Fair photos and memorabilia, including a large-scale model of the exposition….
A sea of 50,000 people jammed Shea Stadium in October to see Pope John Paul II, who bid farewell to New York after his two-day visit to the city. The pope’s visit was the second papal appearance in Queens. Pope Paul VI ended his one-day visit to the United Nations in 1965 with a stop at the World Fair’s Vatican Pavilion.
David Oats: David, a New York World’s Fair fanatic and the head of the Queens Olympic Committee, served as editor of the Queens Tribune in three different decades. An avid historian, David kept the Tribune’s heart – the newsroom – beating for more than half of this newspaper’s life.
Reading your column this week brought back some very vivid Trib and Ackerman memories from “disasters” gone-by.
Gary is correct in stating that the only missed Tribune deadline in the paper’s history was due to a snowstorm in early 1978. But at least I’m proud to say it wasn’t for want of trying. The blizzard that hit the city was reminiscent of the famous ‘69 storm that blanketed and shut down Queens, and almost destroyed Mayor John Lindsay’s political career when Manhattan streets were cleared but Queens remained unplowed for days. (Only the 1969 Miracle Mets victory helped boost Lindsay to an almost miracle-like re-election later that year.)
I remember enjoying the vast whiteout of ‘69 – but the ‘78 storm seemed as big and presented an almost impossible task on deadline night. A hearty group of Trib staffers stayed until the paper was done (with paste-up and “computers” that were “modern” to us but dinosaurs by today’s standards.
The paper was completed – but there was one problem. Our printer (Joe Wollf’s International press in Long Island City) was so snowed-in they could not get their doors or gates open. Hence, we had a paper – but no printer. I wish we had saved the original boards of that edition – the only one that never saw the light of ink. Unable to walk to my home on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, I remember staying at the Trib office for almost two days, but grateful to the Good Food Store across the street on Kissena Boulevard, which was able to open, and a crew of volunteer photographers who braved the cold and snow to provide the pix for the next-published Tribune.
Then there was the Blackout of 1977. Again, I had fond memories of New York’s first great Blackout in November 1965. It was a frighteningly beautiful night for the city – full of the same grace in crisis spirit we saw in 2003. But the ‘77 Blackout was a very different story. At the Tribune we were in a dual-mode. At that time we were not only attempting to put the paper out, but also much of the staff was happily moonlighting on another task – getting the Trib’s founder and publisher Gary Ackerman elected to public office. He was running for the first time – for a now-discontinued position of Councilman-at-Large. This was a major, boroughwide elective post (later ruled unconstitutional by the courts – another story). It was an energetic, grassroots, exciting campaign in which the paper was very much a vehicle.
After a day of work at the paper I went out with one of my reporters/campaign workers for relaxation at Bacciagulup’s Restaurant on Main Street in Flushing to talk about the campaign and also the Trib’s coverage of the Son of Sam case that was terrorizing Queens and the city in a time later to be known as “The Summer of Sam.” At about 9:30 p.m. on that July 13 night, the lights flickered in the restaurant, and then went dark. As you recounted in your column, at first it’s all very local to you – until Larry Reich and I went out the doors and saw it wasn’t confined to Bacciagulup’s. All of Main Street was dark and transistor radios were able to break the news that, once again, all of New York – and beyond – was out.
I remember it was only a few minutes before we also realized that this was not going to be another placid New York night as in ‘65. We watched as within seconds, the plate glass windows of a fashionable men’s clothing store on the corner of Main & Kissena were shattered and looters were pulling everything from the store. Then, minutes later, the sounds of shattered glass were heard at the large appliance store across the street. And on, and on. Frustrated by not having any cameras with us we walked the darkened streets back to the blackened Trib storefront where we attempted to coordinate some kind of coverage of that dark night.
It was a very hot and humid night (no moonlight as in ‘65) and the city was already paralyzed in fear by the mysterious, bloody rampage of the Son of Sam. In fact it’s said that many actually believed he, whoever he was, caused the blackout. In the end the early scenes we saw in Flushing were repeated – in huge scale – all around the tense city. All the lights were not turned on until about 10:30 the next night. But there had been 3,400 arrests, 558 cops injured, 851 fires and $1 billion dollars in damage. A nightmarish night that makes our most recent blackout of ‘03 stand as a model of civic pride.
Pope John Paul II walked the field at Shea Stadium in his first visit to New York.
But the early light of the next morning (still without electricity) Gary, myself and some other staffers were trying to make the best of our time to come up with ways to get an original story out of this – and get Gary in the news. In a flash, so to speak, it came. They were saying a lightning bolt hit the big Con Ed plant up in Westchester, causing the blackout. Paul O’Dwyer, then the City Council President, doubted this scenario and saw it as a big Con Ed cop-out for other major failures. So we decided to drive to the plant upstate. Gary went to a local store and, when everyone else was searching for batteries, flashlights, etc., he was looking for a kite.
The idea was to get into the facility and have Gary fly the kite, á la Ben Franklin’s famed lightning experiment, and tell Con Ed to “go Fly a Kite!” with their blackout excuse.
Needless to say some incredulous guards turned us away, but we got the shot of Gary, the kite and the plant in the background and our “Ackerman to Con Ed: Go Fly A Kite” headline on the next Tribune front page. To think, from this, future great newspapers and Congressmen are born.
Fresh from our victorious journalistic-political coup upstate, we returned late afternoon to a still powerless Queens. We decided to pick up a few other reporter-campaign volunteers to ride around the borough with Gary in his old red, white and blue van which was our rolling campaign headquarters. We stopped to pick up one of our people at his home in Fresh Meadows to join our boroughwide jaunt.
Now this was a quiet, residential, one-family home street on a day where everyone is trapped at home and there is really no sounds or activity. Except for the red, white and blue “Acker-Van,” as we called it – blaring John Philip Sousa marching music from a loudspeaker on top and a huge car-top sign for ACKERMAN AT LARGE.
As we pull up, some young children playing in the street are fascinated by the arrival of this blackout day diversion. The circus had come to town! Residents were looking out their windows at the unusual scene as we waited to pick up our worker. Then, Gary decides it’s hot – we ought to all be wearing the Ackerman t-shirts we had just made up. So Gary gets out of the van, and proceeds to take his shirt off to change into the t-shirt.
The Queens Tribune clearly disputed Con Ed’s claim that lightning caused the massive 1977 blackout.
The little kids stared in wonderment at this large man from the red, white and blue truck – loudly blaring Sousa marching music – apparently undressing in the street. The bemused residents are also watching from their windows. In the middle of a blackout afternoon! And then, quite unexpectedly, Gary raises his arms to put on the shirt – and his pants fall down!
Quickly pulling them back up, Gary smiles and waves at the kiddies and neighbors, and we all pile back in the van which in music and signs loudly proclaims to anyone within seeing and hearing distance. – ACKERMAN AT LARGE!
Needless to say, Gary lost that election. The position was later abolished. But the fact that Gary was wearing an extra large pair of boxer shorts that day, may have saved the whole political and newspaper history of Ackerman and the Trib from ending on that blackout day with a case of public lewdness. In fact, Gary went the next year to become elected to the State Senate and, eventually, the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress. And the Trib went on to reach a ripe maturity.
As the old cliché goes – Only in America.