CB4 Fields Complaints About Trash, Vermin
By MEGAN MONTALVO
|Jorge Munoz, also known as “The Angel of Queens,” hands locals food in Jackson Heights. Photo provided by anangelinqueens.org.
For more than 40 years, Alfonso Buffa has lived in Jackson Heights. During that time, he has watched the neighborhood go through several changes.
As the local officials have come and gone and the ethnic demographics shifted, Buffa said he has remained a faithful resident.
Yet, in recent times, Buffa admits there is one change he cannot accept – vermin.
On Sept. 10, Buffa presented a complaint at Community Board 4, wherein he stated that the vermin and cleanliness problem had reached an all time low.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over 40 years and I cannot believe how bad the neighborhood has become,” Buffa said. “We have a serious problem with rats and pigeons.”
Buffa said he owns property adjacent to Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street, which he occasionally rents. According to him, the issue with vermin and pigeons is so bad that he said he is unable to rent the property.
“If people come by for a showing, they are immediately turned off by the neighborhood,” Buffa said. “The neighborhood has had a few issues with trash and littering in the past, but now it just seems to be worse than it ever was.”
For Buffa, the root of the issue lies with the local food cart vendors and Jorge Munoz, who is better known within the community as “The Angel of Queens.”
Every evening for the past eight years, Munoz has fed day laborers and homeless people on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in Jackson Heights.
Last year, Munoz received nationwide recognition when President Barack Obama honored him at the White House. In June, the New York Yankees presented Munoz with a $10,000 donation and collaborated with him to help him cook and distribute food.
But, despite his notoriety, Buffa said Munoz is to blame for much of pest problems in the area.
“This guy comes every night in a big, white van with a bunch of food and just leaves it there,” Buffa said. “I’m not saying that I am against him feeding the homeless, but there is a way to do things, and this isn’t it. He leaves the food, and it just stays there and attracts rodents.”
During his presentation to CB4, Buffa asked members for help with tackling the trash issue. The members, however, requested that Buffa to take his complaint to CB3, whose district encompasses Jackson Heights.
“The man is bringing the food from Corona into Jackson Heights,” Buffa said. “This is affecting both of our communities.”
Although Munoz could not be reached for comment as of press time, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said that Buffa’s claims against Munoz are baseless.
“I have personally gone out with him to feed the hungry, and I know for a fact that he cleans up after himself once he leaves,” Dromm said. “If anything, he often leaves the area cleaner than it was before he came there.”
As for Buffa’s pigeon complaints, Dromm said that it is due in-part to the lack of mitigation funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“We used to have a net under the 7 line to catch feathers, but it was very old and it eventually broke,” Dromm said. “We would like to have pigeon mitigation systems to help relieve the issue, but there is just not enough funding from the MTA.”
Dromm also added that neighbors have been seen feeding the birds, which contributes to their overwhelming presence.
Currently, Dromm has workers from the Doe Fund routinely cleaning the nearby 37th Road Plaza in Jackson Heights. His office has also been working with Munoz to help him receive a food license.
“This man is doing a good thing for our community,” Dromm said. “He should not be attacked for feeding the hungry.”
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or mmontalvo@ queenstribune.com.