It looked like a scene out of a Mark Twain novel, with community activist and Assembly candidate Francisco Moya painting a paneled enclosure around a construction site at the intersection of 104th Street and 47th Avenue in Corona Thursday. But unlike Tom Sawyer, Moya said he wants the job of cleaning up graffiti — and the gangs who create it.
Along with Corona district leader Jim Lisa and a handful of supporters, Moya claimed fighting gang violence as a focus in his campaign for the Jackson Heights assembly seat, which is open because the previous officeholder, Jose Peralta, vacated it earlier this year when he won a special election to replace ousted state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was ejected by his fellow Senators after his conviction on a domestic violence charge.
Monserrate and Republican Humberto Suarezmotta are also running for the open Assembly seat.
“I’m someone who grew up in this community, loves this community and will fight to defend it,” Moya said.
Moya said he has a six-point plan to clean up gang violence in the community. This plan includes increasing funding for the Gang Crimes unit in Queens, increasing the amount of lighting in streets where gangs or violence are 30 percent higher than anywhere else in the community and increasing the amount of street corner cameras and foot patrols. He also proposed measures to prevent kids from getting into gangs, such as removing graffiti — the symbols and territory markers of gangs — building a community center in Corona and creating a youth mentoring program.
“Youth in this community need an outlet,” Moya said.
As part of his announcement, Moya and his supporters cleaned up wood paneling surrounding a construction site that had been defaced with the signs MS-13, a violent transnational street gang of mostly Central Americans that began in Los Angeles and has spread throughout North America.
Moya’s father Edgar, who was present at the event, said the clean-up was inspired by the recent murder of Corona resident Jose Cortez.
“Based on the last incident, I think this is very serious,” Edgar Moya said.
Two other Corona residents, Juan Paucar and Brandon Perez, have been charged with manslaughter after they allegedly beat Cortez outside of a bar on Northern Street on July 24, investigators said. However, police sources said the incident was based on a dispute between and was not gang-related.
Nathan Smith, a consultant for Moya’s campaign, said the incident was nevertheless indicative of the violence that has grown in the community.
“It’s an incredibly violent neighborhood, and this murder has shocked people and woken up the community,” Smith said.
Alex Rosera, 41, a supporter of Moya who has lived in Corona for most of his life, said the community has changed for the worse over the years.
“This neighborhood has done this incredible 180 from where you could leave your bike out on the streets and now we’re covering gang signs with paint,” he said.
Rosera, who came with his 11-year-old nephew, also said he was worried for the children in the neighborhood, especially as PS 16Q and St. Leo’s School are both on 104th Street.
“If this gets root in the neighborhood, there’s a lot of social consequences,” Rosera said.