Noise At Astoria, DeMarco Parks Riles Residents
A police proposal limiting noise around Astoria Park through a no standing zone along the west side of Shore Boulevard, between Ditmars Boulevard and Astoria Park South, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. between Memorial and Labor Day, was put off until April after numerous residents raised objections during a public hearing at Community Board 1.
"Right now, without Shore Boulevard closed, the noise is horrendous," Gloria D’Amico, speaking first, told the board at its March 18 meeting. "Where are those cars going to go?" D’Amico, a resident of Shore Boulevard between 21st Drive and Ditmars Boulevard, asked. "We’d like to voice our strong opposition to this proposal," she said on behalf of herself and her neighbors.
Others decried losing on-street parking and a beautiful view, but at least one resident saw the proposal as perhaps the final opportunity to do something about the long-standing suffering of people in the area.
"I’m so fed up with noise, I’m practically ready to pack up and move out," he said, saying spring, usually a time to open windows, was time to shut them and turn on the air conditioner in his house.
George Cruikshank conceded it’s a tough call on a controversial issue. Prior efforts to restrict cars around Astoria Park resulted only in their being moved from one place to another during the warm weather months.
Cruikshank credited Deputy Inspector David Barrere, commanding officer of the 114th Police Precinct, as proactive. "The signs will have a presence. Let’s give [Barrere] the tools he needs, he said.
Other residents, fearful that parking restrictions will cause driveways to become blocked with cars that would otherwise park on Shore Boulevard, said, "If the proposal stands as is, we have no choice but to be opposed."
"The issue is motorcycles, not cars," said a resident of Shore Towers, who pointed to the seasonal nature of the situation and suggested, "We need a greater police presence in unmarked cars."
Residents near DeMarco Park, in particular, were concerned about the displacement of people and cars from Shore Boulevard. "We already have our share of people hanging out in cars," said Maria Bernardo, a resident of Shore Boulevard north of Ditmars Boulevard. "A no standing zone will just move kids to other areas."
"We have tried closing Astoria Park many years ago," said Vinicio Donato, chairperson of Board 1. "It didn’t do anything but cause problems for others."
Donato said the community board has requested more speed bumps, lights and traffic cameras around Astoria Park from the city Department of Transportation (DOT). At his recommendation, a residents’ committee will be formed to meet again with the police and DOT officials and try to find a solution before the summer.
The city’s public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and two members of the City Council have proposed legislation to limit motorcycle noise and speeding. Under the law, the city would have the power to impound the motorcycles of first offenders and would be able to force repeat offenders to pay as much as $2,000 in fines or spend four months in jail. Captain Paul Inzarella, executive officer at the 114th Precinct, said he will be consulting with District Attorney Richard Brown about enforcing civil forfeiture laws against drag racers on Shore Boulevard.
In other business, reports on further cuts in library services by Governor George Pataki and the closing of eight fire companies in the city by Mayor Michael Bloomberg were heard.
George Stamatiades, a member of the board’s capital, expense and community development committee, after returning from a lobbying trip to Albany, said the governor is seeking to cut another 15 percent of the budget for libraries. Stamatiades also noted that the state is using 1990 census figures in its funding formulas. Queens’ population increased 14.2 percent in the 2000 census. The board unanimously agreed to send a letter of opposition.
Christine Rankin, an advocate for the eight fire companies, said the proposed closing of Engine Company 261 at 37-20 29th St. in Long Island City would threaten the safety of 15 schools and day care centers in the area. Board 1 has already sent a letter in opposition, said Public Safety Chairperson Antonio Meloni. After a motion was brought by Meloni, the board unanimously approved to support a proposal by City Councilmember Peter Vallone to name a new firehouse on Astoria Boulevard for three firefighters who perished in an explosion and fire on Father’s Day 2001.
After a report by Mary O’Hara, chairperson of the housing committee, the board unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the Hallet’s Cove Apartments, a senior housing project to be built on 13,000 square feet along 8th Street and 28th Avenue.
The board’s approval included stipulations that 50 percent of its residents come from within Board 1 and that Board 1 residents be given priority for employment opportunities. The board also asked that an advisory committee for improving traffic and safety be formed.
In a public hearing, the board voted 30 to 4 in favor of an application to renew the license for an unenclosed cafe with 12 tables and 22 seats at the Plaka Cafe, 34-02 Broadway. The extension is for a period of five years.
In January, the City Council approved new regulations for the granting of permits for sidewalk cafes. Procedures are said to streamline the application process and increase fines for unlicensed cafes to $2,000. Also included are raises of about 400 percent in permit fees, depending on the size and location of a cafe.
Board Members Vinicio Donato, Joseph Guarino; Gerald Caliendo, Elizabeth Erion. Anthony Petrocelli, George Stamatiades, Mannie Wilson, Linda Perno, Norma Nieves–Blas and Catherine Smoak received certificates from Borough President Helen Marshall in recognition of their service, Donato and Guarino for 30 years, Caliendo, Erion and Petrocelli for 25 years, Stamatiades for 20 years and Wilson, Perno, Nieves-Blas and Smoak for 15 years.