A Look Back at the Stories That Shaped Queens in 2018

Mets ace Jacob DeGrom dominated hitters on his way to winning the 2018 National League Cy Young award. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II.

Mets ace Jacob DeGrom dominated hitters on his way to winning the 2018 National League Cy Young award. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II.

By Eagle Staff

A borough of nearly 2.5 million residents generates countless stories, all with a varying impact on individuals and communities.

Yet some stories garner the most attention or affect more residents than others. Throughout the week, the Eagle will highlight the stories that shaped our borough.

Yesterday, the Eagle highlighted stories about Amazon’s arrival, the death of State Sen. Jose Peralta, the candidates for the 2019 Queens District Attorney’s race and the murder trial of Chanel Lewis, who is charged with killing Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano.

Read on to see a few other stories that shaped our borough during the past 12 months.

With a Boost from Queens, Democrats Take Back the State Senate

For the first time in nearly a decade, Democrats will control the state Senate. State Sen. Michael Gianaris from Astoria chaired the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which navigated the party to victory.

Gianaris was also named Deputy Senate Majority Leader.

Four other Queens state senators, including two freshmen, were picked to chair committees or subcommittees in the upcoming legislative session, which begins next month.

State Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos will chair the Labor Committee, where she said she plans to focus on workers’ rights, labor organizing and the wage gap.

State Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos. Photo courtesy of Jessica Ramos.

State Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos. Photo courtesy of Jessica Ramos.

“Income inequality is the challenge of our time and collective bargaining the people’s weapon of choice. Work binds us together, raises families, and builds communities,” said Ramos, who defeated the late-State Sen. Jose Peralta in the Democratic primary. “As incoming Chair of the Senate Labor Committee, I want to make it abundantly clear that our mission is to harness and strengthen worker power. We will lift the floor and we will swell the ranks – protecting our immigrants, working moms, and every New Yorker.”

State Senator-elect John Liu, the other Queens freshman, will chair the New York City Education Subcommittee. Liu is a the former New York City Comptroller.

State Sen. Leroy Comrie will chair the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo will chair the Gaming, Racing and Wagering Committee.

The Homelessness Crisis Persists in Queens

As winter sets in and temperatures drop, homeless Queens residents have again started seeking shelter inside Queens courthouses, their presence highlighting New York City’s deep homelessness crisis, court staff and union representatives told the Eagle last week.

Overall, there were 60,602 people — including 22,284 children — staying in city shelters on Christmas Day, according to the most recent daily census report published by the Department of Homeless Services.

Queens Community Districts 12 and 13 account for a significant amount of the city’s homeless population.

On Aug. 31, 3,264 individuals staying in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters reported a most recent zip code inside Queens CD12, according to data provided by DHS. CD12 includes much of Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, South Ozone Park and Springfield.

Community District 13 accounts for the next highest number of homeless New Yorkers utilizing city shelters of Queens district, but the district accounts for less than half the number of homeless individuals as CD12. On Aug. 31, 1,587 individuals had reported most recent zip codes inside CD13.

DHS have attempted to develop shelters in Ozone Park, Glendale and College Point but have faced intense backlask from several Queens council members and community organizations.

Councilmembers Robert Holden, Eric Ulrich and Paul Vallone have all publicly opposed new shelter development in their council districts.

In a July interview, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr., who represents Ozone Park, told the Eagle that he and other residents demand more community input when it comes to siting homeless shelters in residential areas.

“You get the phone call saying, ‘Oh, you’re getting [a shelter]’ and there’s no community input. This creates the animosity,” Addabbo said. “It’s no way to treat a homeless person looking for help and it’s no way to treat middle class people trying to make ends meat and own a home.”

Charmel Lucas, who resides in a Manhattan shelter and works for Picture the Homeless, said she understands the pushback from community members who do not want a shelter near their homes, but she wants to see that not-in-my-backyard energy channeled into a movement for more affordable housing.

“At the end of the day, homeless people don’t want to see shelters built, we want to see extremely low-income housing built,” Lucas said. “It’s ridiculous to build shelters when people just really need a place to live.”

Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance demonstrate outside New York City Hall. Photo by Nick Gulotta via Law at the Margins.

Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance demonstrate outside New York City Hall. Photo by Nick Gulotta via Law at the Margins.

Taxi Drivers Fight for City Support

During the past year, at least eight yellow cab drivers, many of whom lived in Queens, committed suicide.

Each faced crushing debts related to the decline in the value of taxi medallions since the surge in ride-hailing app vehicles like Uber and Lyft throughout New York City.

In August, the City Council passed a slate of bills to enact the first for-hire vehicle cap. The legislation limit the number of for-hire vehicles to the current number of cars so that the city can study the impact of the industry.

"Powerful corporations have increasingly taken control of our economy and, in many ways, of our democracy, for their own financial gain. But this moment shows that massive wealth and power does not always prevail,” said Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “This moment shows that workers, their organizations, and the brave and clear-minded elected officials who have their backs, can still win. And we must continue to win for the working people of this city.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio also signed off on the measures.

“Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock,” de Blasio said in an August statement. “The unchecked growth of app-based for-hire vehicle companies has demanded action – and now we have it. More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation. And this action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt.

AOC Arrives

In June, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surprised many pundits when she defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary to represent New York’s Congressional District 14, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.

Ocasio-Cortez has energized progressives and socialists across the country and has championed a Green New Deal to shift the United States to renewable energy sources and tens of thousands of new jobs.

Crowley remains the influential chair of the Queens Democratic Committee.

DeGrom Wins the NL Cy Young

Mets ace Jacob DeGrom took home the 2018 National League Cy Young Award after one of the best seasons in Major League Baseball history.

DeGrom finished the city with a 10-9 record and led the league with a 1.70 earned run average. He issued just 46 walks and 10 home runs while striking out 269 batters.

In addition to dominating hitters, DeGrom dominated the Cy Young voting, earning 29 of 30 first place votes.