Roosevelt Avenue “out of control”

To those who live near Roosevelt Avenue, the city of New York has allowed the situation to get out of control. Along this 30 block stretch in Queens you can buy pretty much anything you can think of — prostitutes, forged documents, food from uninspected kitchens, items from unlicensed vendors.

“They need to create a law,” said Julissa Ferreras, a Democrat and council member for District 21. “A new law to battle all those problems is the only way to rescue this no-man’s land that has been created in the past few years. I say so because I live on Roosevelt.”

The stretch between 69th and 111th streets has evolved into an unregulated market of traveling salespeople, undocumented laborers looking for work, prostitutes, and pole dancers who charge $2.00 a pop. To make matters worse, piles of uncollected trash spoil the entire area, creating a home for rats and flies.


Roosevelt Avenue, between 69th and 111th Streets

The end result is chaos. And that is driving long-standing neighbors to abandon the area. Little Cuba has already disappeared. Other enclaves like Little Colombia, Little Argentina, Little Dominican and Plaza Garibaldi are staring down similar fates.

“Because of all of these problems, it’s necessary to create a new law to be able to authorize and coordinate all of the agencies in the city that have to participate. All of the departments, from Sanitation to Transportation, and the police have to be authorized to increase their actions. There has to be a coordinated action to be able to be effective and I am working on that. Doesn’t this look like no-man’s land?” said Ferreras, pointing out the four cardinal directions of the sector. “If you were watching it on television, would you associate it with New York, or with a poor sector of the Third World?”

It is not an exaggeration. It’s noon and we are on the corner of Roosevelt and Junction Boulevard. More than just a New York street, it is a road that has all of the elements of the congested streets of the Third World: there are some 40 points where street food vendors are covered in soot and dust from the number 7 train which passes above. The deafening roar from overhead subway lines combines with the sounds of car horns and the cries of the traveling salespeople and pedestrians. There are clouds of flies that flutter around the pots and plates where clients eat standing up or sitting on small mounds of dirt.

“These food trucks are parked 24 hours a day, without making their customary routes. Their permits are like those of the ice cream trucks: they should go from neighborhood to neighborhood. However, they don’t do it, and the Department of Transportation can’t force them to abandon the site, because it pertains to the Department of Sanitation. And the Police Department can’t stop them, nor force them to throw out the food for being unsanitary becaue the traveling salespeople have a license from the city that permits them to sell,” explains Ferreras, pointing to four enormous trucks stationed on Junction Boulevard.

When the sun goes down on Roosevelt, it’s another story. On the corners, men hand out cards offering “girls, girls” that promote prostitution and “social, social,” the so-called cards with social security numbers that allow people to work. Hands exchange cardsTraveling salespeople offer everything from egg-stuffed cornmeal to sex toys.

“This social and economic disorder threatens to destroy the mosaic beauty of Roosevelt,” Patricia Mahecha, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens, said with consternation.

Along the 13 kilometers (eight miles) of Roosevelt Avenue, between Long Island City and Flushing, the avenue crosses districts where people from more than 168 countries work and live, speak more than 100 languages and dialects, practice all religions and belong to all races. However, according to studies, the predominantly Latino areas are more affected.

“Between Queens Plaza and 69th Street, there aren’t many problems, the same between 111th and a part of Flushing. The greatest problem is between 69th and 111th which is the Latino part,” gravely concluded Ferraras.

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