Every neighborhood has one, and even many blocks. Some call them the real mayors of New York. All this week Borough Reporter Ruschell Boone is introducing us to the unique characters who seem to know everyone and everything going on in their sections of Queens. She kicks off our Queens Week coverage with the mayor of Long Island City.
Everyone seems to know Frank Carrado, who at 86 is arguably the most popular resident in Long Island City.
"I got to know all of the politicians," says Frank Carrado. "I got to know all of the police department. The whole police department knows me."
Denizens of the neighborhood call him the 'Mayor'. It's a title he says not even Mayor Bill de Blasio can challenge.
"Down at the waterfront we were cutting ground and I was joking with him and I said to him you know you're the mayor of New York City. I said 'But I'm the mayor here.'"
Carrado is a Long Island City institution.
The mayoral title came late in life. It started in 2005 when he began taking pictures with this digital camera. He paired the photos with old ones of the same areas. It created a buzz and soon many people were taking pictures with him.
"Actually, I did all of this in five years and I don't know how the hell it happened," Carrado said.
Carrado's stories of growing up in Long Island City have made him even more popular.
"They would break into the railroad cars — all the kids in the neighborhood," he said. "They would get cases of chewing gum, cases of cigarettes, cases of women's brand new shoes."
He unpacks these old tales in his favorite daily hangout, the Paris Health New Direction smoothie shop on Vernon Boulevard.
"The railroad got smart and you know what they did? They stopped us from getting the shoes. You know what they did? They sent only one at a time," he said.
Carrado was born and raised in Long Island City when it was more industrial and mostly Irish and Italian. His family lost their first apartment in the Midtown Tunnel construction because it was above the entrance. The tales are endless.
"I'm just scratching the surface with you now," Carrado said. "I mean I ain't got the time. I could be here for weeks. "
The neighborhood has changed a lot, but there's only one thing that bothers him about the new residents — they're not so interested in becoming familiar with the past.
Boone: Do you feel like Long Island City is missing that community feel?
"Oh Yeah," Carrado said. "Definitely, but you see, what you don't know you don't miss.