The mayor that once lived in Forest Hills

Forest Hills has had a lot of notable residents over the years. Among them is former mayor John Francis Hylan, who resided in a charming stucco Mediterranean Revival home at 2 Olive Place and Continental Avenue in Forest Hills Gardens.
In May 1932, The New Yorker reported that two white light globes were installed in front to symbolize his mayoral terms.
Hylan was raised on a 60-acre farm in Greene County in the Catskill. With $3.50 in his pocket, he made his way by stage coach and boat to New York City. In 1918, he would become the city’s 96th mayor, serving until 1925.
In 1921, his re-election bid was a success after defeating a mass transit fare increase and founding a commission to reconfigure the transportation system. He played an integral role in the creation of a subway owned and operated by the public, the Independent Subway System, which began operations on March 14, 1925.
A complete city-operated subway would come to fruition 15 years later, when the ISS/IND merged with the IRT and BMT.
Before becoming mayor, a young Hylan was employed with the Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad, which was renamed the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company and operated streetcar trains in Brooklyn and Queens.
It joined forces with the Interborough Rapid Transit System to launch a dual contract system of unregulated and privately controlled transportation. Hylan’s eventually became a lawyer who fought Tammany Hall’s advances, but eventually became their loyal candidate.
Incidentally, the earliest known sound recording of a New York City mayor features Hylan’s 1921 speech accepting the nomination for mayor.
During his tenure, Hylan focused on the need for home rule, opposing the governor’s appointed transit commission, which he emphasized holds the power to “nullify subway contracts and take away the five-cent fare.” He advocated for taking away subway leases from private companies.
In 1920, the 19th amendment granted citizens the right to vote regardless of gender. In Hylan’s acceptance speech, he stated, “In the conduct of municipal affairs, the women of this city have been a most potent factor. This administration acknowledges the splendid and efficient service which they have rendered.”
If one looks closely for signs of Mayor John F. Hylan in Forest Hills, his name is inscribed on a plaque from 1923 at the landmarked Engine 305/H & L. Co. 151.
Hylan was active in local community life. He was a judge at the Forest Hills lady popularity contest in 1930 at the Forest Hills Theatre, which featured Agnes Geraghty of Olympic swimming fame and musical comedy star Dorothy Stone.
In the early 1930s, he served as Justice of the Queens Children’s Court.
At the time of his passing, the Associated Press reported, “Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia ordered flags on all public buildings lowered to half-staff and instructed Police Commissioner Valentine to mobilize a uniformed escort for the funeral.”
His final resting place is in St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village.
In 1922, “Mayor Hylan of New York: An Autobiography” was published.
“In order to succeed, one cannot be selfish,” he wrote. “If you make rosy the path for another, your own path, beyond any doubt, will be bright. The lesson involved in this message applies equally to rich and poor, to the city lad as well as to the farmer’s son.”

CB7 votes overwhelmingly to remove Choe

John Choe is no longer a member of Community Board 7.
Board members voted 39-3 with one abstention on Monday night in favor of removing him from the board over five separate allegations that board leadership said were unethical and, in some cases, violated the City Charter.
“What’s typical and what we are finding here is a defiance, an arrogance,” said board vice chair Chuck Apelian. “Someone who doesn’t want to go with the rules just for the sake of having it his way.”
Choe has been critical of board leadership in the past, especially Apelian, who also chairs the Land Use Committee, for hiring himself out as a consultant to developers with business before the board. Most recently, Apelian recused himself from the full board vote on the Special Flushing Waterfront District because he had worked for the developers behind the project.
Board chair Gene Kelty appointed member Frank Macchio to head a special committee to look into the allegations against Choe and make a recommendation to the board, but at Monday night’s hearing in the basement of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone, Apelian did most of the talking, outlining for board members why Choe should be removed.
Choe was appointed to a new two-year term by Borough President Donovan Richards earlier this year. Following his appointment, board leadership started the proceedings to have him removed, a highly unusual move for a community board.
The most serious charge against Choe was that he solicited campaign contributions from board members for his City Council run earlier this year. Twenty-three of the 50 board members received the email.
Choe contends that those email addresses were in his 4,000-person contact list because he dealt with them outside of official board business. Indeed, one board member who received the email is Choe’s pastor, another said they had an exchange with him about bike lanes, and another served in a civic association with Choe.
Board leadership filed a complaint with the Conflict of Interests Board (COIB). That letter was rpvided to board members during Monday night’s meeting, but when pressed about a response from COIB, Kelty replied that the board never heard back.
For his part, Choe said that he also reached out to the COIB and did receive a response. He was told the charter provision about soliciting public servants for campaign contributions only applies to people with influence over policy.
“I have not had substantive policy-making decisions on this board,” Choe told board members. “Trust me, I would love to have policy discretion on this board.”
But Apelian noted that community board recommendations to the borough president are made by the local City Council member.
“Ask yourself, ‘gee, what if he won, would he kick me off the board?” he said. “Maybe I should contribute to him.”
Choe, it should be noted, was reappointed to Community Board 7 despite Councilman Peter Koo refusing to give him a recommendation.
Other allegations against Choe are that he had a poor attendance record, that he made a joke about taking a bribe during a hearing, and his criticisms of Apelian amounted to defamation.
But perhaps the charge that resonated most with the board is that Choe created a Community Board 7 Facebook page without the approval of board leadership.
When asked by Kelty if he created the page, Choe initially denied it, but later admitted that he was the administrator. Kelty said they referred the matter to the Department of Investigations (DOI), and when pressed by the board to provide DOI’s response, Kelty said the department told him over the phone that it was illegal for Choe to use the CB7 logo and misrepresent the board.
Kelty and Apelian said Choe used the page to promote the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, of which Choe is the executive director.
“You can not represent the board on behalf of your own opinion,” said Apelian. “If you don’t like what the chair says, you don’t just go ahead and do it anyway.”
Several Choe supporters attended the meeting, which was held far from the downtown Flushing location where the board usually meets and was not broadcast over the Internet, as has been done during the pandemic.
“COVID-isolated individuals” were instead asked to travel to Korean Community Services in Bayside.
Over 100 people signed a petition urging Richards to stop the proceeding and instead investigate Apelian.
Richards has made it a priority during his time in office to diversify the borough’s community boards to more adequately reflect the communities they represent. He said that is why he reappointed Choe to CB7, but acknowledged that the board has the authority to remove him.
“I reappointed John Choe to Community Board 7 because I truly believe our community boards should be diverse, both in identity and thought,” he said in a statement following the vote. “Under the City Charter, however, a community board has the ability to remove a member for cause with a majority vote, and Community Board 7 has decided to exercise this authority.”

Whitestone street reamed for late St. Luke’s pastor

The street in front of St. Luke’s Church in Whitestone now bears the name of the man who led the parish since 2005.
Member of the Knights of Columbus, who pushed for the renaming, were on hand for the unveiling of “Monsignor John Tosi Way” last Friday on Clintonville Street at Locke Avenue.
Councilman Paul Vallone sponsored the renaming, and State Senator John Liu, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein and Borough President Donovan Richards joined the councilman at the ceremony.
“It can be a little intimidating to think that I am going to be the pastor on Monsignor John Tosi Way,” said Tosi’s successor, Father John Costello. “Not Monsignor John Tosi Street, not Monsignor John Tosi Avenue, Monsignor John Tosi Way.
“Those of you who know and love Monsignor Tosi know his way could be a little daunting,” he added. “But as pastor, at the very bottom of his heart Monsignor John Tosi’s way was the way of Jesus. So that’s what I hope to model when I see that sign.”
Tosi was born in Flushing and attended St. Ann’s School, Monsignor McClancy High School, Cathedral College in Douglaston and Immaculate Conception Seminary.
He was ordained a priest in 1973 and named a monsignor in 1997. He passed away last May due to a heart condition.
Tosi also spent time at Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach, Resurrection Ascension in Rego Park, and as rector of St. James Cathedral in Downtown Brooklyn.
During his tenure at the 151-year-old St. Luke’s, Tosi made many renovations to the Queens parish based on his experiences with the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. In Whitestone, he also joined the local Knights of Columbus.
“Once we heard of Monsignor Tosi’s passing, we put our heads together thinking, ‘how can we memorialize him,’” said grand knight Enrico Urgo.
Also on hand for the renaming was Tosi’s sister, Susan Zaretti, and her husband John.
“I really, really appreciate all the love shown to him while he was here,” she told the parishioners gathered for the event. “You treated him like family and he loved this place so much.”

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