President Jimmy Carter meets with members of the Forest Hills Jewish Center and Queens dignitaries after delivering a policy speech.
In January, a Flushing High School teacher was arrested and charged with using youths from the school and the surrounding neighborhoods to pose for pornographic films and photographs that were sold to collectors around the city…. The Tribune published a guide to the competing cable companies that were vying for the most lucrative franchise in the nation. Each company hired top political lobbyists and advisors, and courted favor with local community groups in order to get the right to cable Queens. Among the applicants were Orth-O-Vision, the company that set up the very first pay TV in 1974 in Queens; Warner-Amex, the communications giant; Knickerbocker Cable; Cablevision and Gotham. The decision as to which cable company got the franchise was to be decided by one man: Donald Manes…
Over 1,000 angry Astoria residents protested at the entrance to the Rikers Island bridge, opposing the planned state take-over of the prison on the island…. In April, a transit strike hit New York, and Queens streets were devoid of city buses and subways, and Long Island Rail Road entrances were closed…. Queens Councilman-at-Large Eugene Mastropieri was indicted by a federal grand jury in April on tax fraud charges. Mastropieri was censured by his fellow councilmembers in June of 1979 for misconduct in a disciplinary action, unprecedented in that body. The council was still investigating reports that Mastropieri did not reside in Queens (as required by law), but in Sands Point, L.I.… A student pilot and his instructor were killed when their single engine private plane crashed a few feet from the Whitestone Expressway shortly after taking off from nearby Flushing Airport. The incident renewed calls from local officials to close the facility…
In May, the National Guard announced that it was vacating the 75-year-old Flushing Armory on Northern Boulevard. Housing Guard Units A and B of the 106th Infantry, the castle-like building also served as a major community meeting place….In July, Councilman-at-Large Eugene Mastropieri resigned…. Donald Manes appointed Claire Shulman, director of Queens community planning boards since 1972, as the new deputy borough president…. Manes also selected Steven Orlow, his counsel for six years at Borough Hall, as the new Queens councilman-at-large, replacing Mastropieri…
College Point residents were able to win a difficult battle to stop the sale of the Poppenhusen Institute.
A giant enclosed shopping mall, larger than the Queens Center Mall in Rego Park, was proposed for the site of the famous RKO Keith’s theater on Northern Boulevard in Flushing. Lawrence Gresser, the former deputy borough president, would have been the developer of the $70 million “crystal palace” structure, to be called Flushing Plaza…. In September, College Point residents won a long and sometimes bitter battle to block the sale of the 112-year-old Poppenhusen Institute…. Korvettes department stores on Kissena Boulevard in Flushing and in Douglaston closed after an Ohio firm purchased the parent company. The Flushing store was built on the old site of St. Joseph’s Convent…. Private developer George Kauffman was named as the operator of the historic Astoria Studios, which he would expand into a state-of-the-art motion picture, television, radio and recording complex….
In October, President Jimmy Carter came to Queens to address nearly 1,000 residents, civic and political leaders in a major policy speech on the Mideast at the Forest Hills Jewish Center. His fiery speech, pledging that. “This president will never turn his back on Israel” was interrupted numerous times by placard-carrying protesters shouting “liar” and “Jerusalem is Jewish.”… A new $11 million bridge over the Flushing River was dedicated, replacing the drawbridge that had connected Flushing with Corona and Jackson Heights….
Two developers were fined and sent to jail on charges of misappropriation of close to $2 million in bank loans and down payments for the controversial Village Mall project in Bayside….Former State Senator Jack Bronston was found guilty of mail fraud in November…. $18.6 million was allocated to repair the 71-year-old Queensborough Bridge, the last remaining free passageway to Manhattan from Queens.
John started his career in journalism at the Queens Tribune in 1980. Since then he has held a number of positions at The New York Times, the New York Post, the Long Island Voice and Newsday, where he is currently executive vice president and editor.
The early ‘80s in Queens. Call it the Era of Big Threats.
A subway strike? Maybe.
Cable TV may be coming to your block.
Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.
Leave the Trib office to do a story? Only if I can borrow your jacket.
Never before or since have I worked in place where so many of the people you wrote about actually showed up in the newsroom. The Gray Panthers? Fine, please have a seat, each of you. Please don’t step on the Cub Scout. Or that man with the giant squash. These were the people of the community.
It was less fulfilling to meet, repeatedly, the local businessman who wasted time trying to impress a young reporter on his qualifications to be awarded part of that looming cable franchise.
I say this because only later did we learn that a good number of the Queens Democrats who had cadged city jobs and spent their time trying to get the Trib to publicize their own supposed do-gooder exploits were in fact crooks.
It would be years before the Parking Violations Bureau scandal brought down the whole house, sending not only a few familiar DOT hacks to prison and the fallen Donald Manes to his grave. That local fellow who thought it would be worth his time for us to write him up in the Trib never had a chance. That’s what I know now.
Still, right away back then, I did see a few valuable things quite clearly, such as how deeply David Oats believed in the value of the community press. And any fool knew instantly that the newsroom could never be big enough for both Abraham V. George and Joseph W. Queen. But it took a sustained period of observation to appreciate the journalistic stylings of one Bob Manas, scourge of Kissena Boulevard.
In the end, what I recall most distinctly of that time in Queens is just how much I didn’t know.