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QueensLine: Kew Gardens senator blew whistle on Creedmoor abuse in’ 43

District Attorney Charles F. Sullivan decided to present the attack and the circumstances surrounding it to a Queens grand jury. It would be the third time in eight years that a grand jury had looked into the affairs of Creedmoor. It was investigated in 1935 as the result of 15 violent deaths in 12 months and again in 1939 on reports that patients had been brutally beaten. Initial findings of the probe were that attendants at Creedmoor were making only $54 a month and that, out of the normal attendant staff of 500, there were 157 vacancies.

At the same time, Creedmoor was experiencing an outbreak of amoebic dysentery, which was the worst in 16 years and had taken the life of nine patients.

On March 12, Gov. Thomas Dewey ordered an investigation of what he called “disgraceful conditions” at Creedmoor. The investigation was ignited by state Sen. Seymour Halpern, a Kew Gardens Republican, who visited the institution incognito and reported that conditions there were “horrible.”

Dewey made public a letter from Halpern in which, among other charges, Halpern said that he found mouse droppings on dishes about to be used for patients’ food; that the attendants were afraid to eat in the hospital and consequently patronized outside restaurants; that mattresses of dysentery and tubercular patients were not disinfected before being used again; and that the attendants who cleaned the lavatories also prepared and served food.

On March 13, the Blizzard Men of 1888 held their annual luncheon at the Pennsylvania Hotel in Manhattan.

After lunch, the program was to consist of the telling of tall tales of experiences during the blizzard, which occurred on March 12, 1888, and was the worst snowstorm in New York City history (until Feb. 11−12, 2006).

The club members had been meeting for 55 years since the storm. It appeared that with every passing year the tales got taller, to the point that some of them seemed as tall as drifts in the blizzard, which were rumored to have reached 20 feet high in some places.

For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718−278−0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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