In its heyday in the early 1960s, the organization had as many as 1,500 members. But that number has dwindled to 90 paid members. That’s where Jerry Eng, the new president of the group, comes in.
Eng has lived in Jackson Heights since he moved to the United States in 1955. A former teacher at the Bronx High School of Science, Eng recently retired, so he’s focusing his attention on growing the association.
“The purpose of the organization is to improve the quality of life in the area,” he said. “There is also getting to know your neighbors and fostering goodwill among each other.”
Part of Eng’s plan is to make the civic group more inclusive. Growing up, Eng recalled that he was one of only two Asian students in his school. Most of his peers were Jewish.
Around the 1970s, the Jewish community began moving out, while a wave of South Americans, including Colombians and Ecuadorians, began moving in. Afterward, south Asians from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh moved into Jackson Heights as well.
“Now you’ve got the young professionals coming in,” Eng added. “It’s changed a lot.”
The challenge for the longtime Jackson Heights resident is convincing more neighbors and community members to join the homeowners association, which can be difficult when people are inactive and indifferent.
So far, they’re off to a great start. Their first meeting of the year in September drew a full house. The North Queens Homeowners Civic Association meets every second Thursday of the month at the Lexington School for the Deaf in East Elmhurst.
“It’s very important to have an organization to speak for homeowners,” Eng said.