Elmhurst Community Fridge in need of volunteers

Community fridge could close without volunteer help

The Elmhurst Community Fridge that serves the neighborhoods of Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona could be shut down in the near future without the help of more volunteers.

The community fridge, located at 77-02 Woodside Avenue, has been open for two years and offers donated food and pantry items for a community hit hard by the pandemic.

But as March winds down, volunteers are finding themselves short-staffed and on the brink of closing the community refrigerator. Organizer Sean Sutherland attributes the lack of volunteers to both burnout and people going back to work.

“It’s become very difficult to operate with barely even a skeleton crew,” Sutherland said. “Three consistent volunteers just isn’t enough.”

Sutherland says the core volunteers of the community fridge decided about a month ago to shut down the fridge if they couldn’t give it the proper upkeep it deserves.

He says volunteers are needed to clean the refrigerator and to pick up food that has already been donated or pre-paid for.

“We have a lot of people who depend on us in the neighborhood for meals,” Sutherland said. “Thankfully we’re turning a corner on the amount of donations we receive.”

The community fridge has a number of different entities including several local bakeries and food stands in the area donating food on all different days of the week. Recently it’s been more of a deficit of volunteers than either money or food donations.

“We still don’t have enough people to pick those donations up,” Sutherland said. “I think we need 10-15 people who are consistent and some backup people, so at least 20.”

He estimates that the community fridge feeds about 40-50 people per week.

Volunteers in the area who are available to volunteer a half-hour every week of picking up donated food and dropping it off at the community fridge are encouraged to visit to volunteer. Additional help is also needed to clean the fridge a minimum of three times per week.

“You want a clean fridge,” Sutherland said. “You want some pride.”

Community rallies against illegal Airbnb in wake of shooting

Bayside residents are in an uproar after a shooting took place earlier this month outside of an Airbnb rental, which left one injured and launched stray bullets into the surrounding area, piercing through cars and even a child’s car seat.

“We are appalled by this incident and will do everything in our power to root out the bad actors and restore our quiet streets to the safe, welcoming neighborhood that we know and love,” Roseann Foley Henry, president of the Bellcourt Civic Association, said.

The property, located at 208-16 38th Avenue in Bayside, has been in the early stages of foreclosure for the last two years and is currently occupied by squatters who have illegally rented it out creating concern for the quality of life in the area.

Members of the community gathered with elected officials outside of the house early Friday morning to call on Airbnb to permanently ban listings at the address and for the city to intervene by issuing an order to vacate.

“We are calling on the city to stop giving our community the run around and issue a vacate order on this property before anyone else gets hurt,” New York State Senator John Liu said. “We also call on Airbnb to stop illegally allowing this property to be listed on their website. Two years is too long for our community to have one home hold an entire block hostage.”

The illegal rental property has been at the core of the issue, playing host to a barrage of late-night parties that have led to numerous complaints of excessive noise, litter, and confrontations with neighboring residents.

Mounting concerns from members of the community culminated into fear after one party-goer was shot in the torso. The victim is reported to be in stable condition, however no arrests have been made as police continue to investigate.

Following the shootout on March 19, elected officials sent a letter to the NYC Department of Buildings calling for a vacate order on the property, and a letter to Airbnb calling for the company to permanently ban any future listings at this address.

Liu said that it is up to the city to redouble its efforts so that it can gain access and properly inspect the property.

“There are several problems at this location that are preventing a satisfying resolution for our community,” Liu added. “At the end of the day, the city needs to be the one to step up and recognize the dangers here as reason enough to vacate the premises and keep our community safe.”

According to Joseph Marziliano, district manager of Community Board 11, the property in question was already problematic for the neighborhood, several years before squatters began listing it to renters online.

“For five years, this problematic property has plagued our neighbors, first as a zombie home, then as an alleged squatter’s den, and now as an illegal Airbnb with a shooting spilling over into the streets,” Marziliano said in a statement. “We are urging Mayor Adams’ administration to issue a vacate order to restore peace to our community.”

Assemblyman Edward Braunstein said that the absentee property owner only emboldened the squatters to not only illegally list the property, but to advertise rooms for rent within the single-family household.

“Enough is enough. Several times in the past, my office has worked with residents to get AirBnb listings at the property shut down, only for it to appear again under another account,” Braunstein said. “While authorities continue their investigation to apprehend the individuals responsible for the shooting, AirBnb must permanently ban listings at this location… we must use every tool at our disposal to address this serious matter once and for all.”

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