Board 1 Hears Needle
Community Board 1’s April meeting agenda did not contain any items likely to provoke extensive controversy, so the meeting, at the Astoria World Manor on Astoria Boulevard, was dispatched fairly briskly. But some disputes arose. One had to do with the board’s interest, if any, in needle exchange for users of controlled substances, and another with a moratorium on renaming streets.
Board Chairman Vinicio Donato presented certificates for long-time service to several members, among them Julian Wager, on the board for 25 years. Wager brought up the needle exchange issue, saying that Community Board 2 would be trying to resolve the issue at its monthly meeting, May 6. At Board 1 and Board 2 March meetings, groups from Queensbridge Houses raised objections to the plan by the Department of Health to place a van in Queensborough Plaza, where drug users could make syringe exchanges so they wouldn’t resort to sharing needles with other users, a move likely to lead to HIV infection. Queensbridge residents expressed disgust that a street beside their buildings was designated as the site where the van should be placed. At the Board 1 April meeting, Wager said that since the van site was bracketed by both community boards, the issue concerned Board 1 as much as Board 2, shouldn’t Board 1 say something about it before the Board 2 May meeting, he asked? He had earlier said that the needle exchange plan was reportedly being relocated to another spot well within Board 2. Donato declared that the issue was therefore not Board 1’s responsibility. Wager maintained that such reasoning was merely a way for the board to avoid an issue that it should have something to say about. "Can’t we lead instead of follow?" he asked, but found nobody to agree with him.
Wager also stirred up the matter of the city’s moratorium on renaming streets. Referring to a recommendation by City Councilmember Eric Gioia that a certain street should be renamed in honor of a putatively meritorious person, he concurred. That prompted some board members to cite the moratorium, which has been in effect for five months and has caused several renaming attempts to be rejected. Added to that, Board Member Rosemarie Poveromo said that if anyone is nominated despite the moratorium, all those nominees who have been denied these past five months should have prior consideration. Others soon recognized a dispute with no hope of resolution during this particular evening and moved to table the motion that Wager had raised—a motion that passed, despite Wager’s vote against it.
District Manager George Delis had a series of announcements. First, the Steinway Street Bridge over Grand Central Parkway is now under repair, with the sidewalk and about a third of the eastward roadway closed off. Delis said that a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit in the open lane is being strictly enforced. When repair is complete on the currently inactive lane, another will be shut down, and each repair phase will last 10 weeks.
Delis was disappointed to report that only four arrests for illegal dumping were made throughout the district in 2003, since there were many more than four dumping incidents. Also, he encouraged local businessmen to join the Adopt-a-Basket program, which would entail maintaining trash baskets on the streets by keeping them lined with plastic bags and removing and replacing bags that have become filled.
When committee reports were made, the head of the environmental protection committee, Joan Asselin, yielded to Anthony Gigantiello, president of C.H.O.K.E. (Citizens Hoping for a [K]leaner Environment), a group that monitors power plant activity in Astoria and Long Island City. His latest report was about KeySpan’s 250-megawatt plant that stands at 37th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, amidst the mammoth Ravenswood power complex. This is a natural gas cogeneration plant, built within the past four years. It works on the principle of recapturing heat escaping from turbines to produce steam. It also produces a lot of noise, Gigantiello emphasized. Even at the quietest of times the plant’s steam ejector provides a heavy stream of steam and a strong hiss, which becomes a great roar during start-up operations, the man from C.H.O.K.E. added. He said it was not necessary to build this addition the way it was built, with the steam ejector facing the community of residences and small manufacturing sites just across the boulevard, when it might have been built to face the East River, with Roosevelt Island residences at a greater distance from it.
The meeting began with four public hearing items aimed at doing business in the summer weather, requests either to renew or obtain licenses for unenclosed cafés. Brick Café, located at 30-95 33rd St., wanted to renew, while Olympic Café Billiards, 23-44 Steinway St.; Seven One Eight, 35-10 Ditmars Blvd., and Racks Café Billiards, 19-26 Steinway St., wanted to obtain. After getting assurance from one that its double-parking problem had been solved, and after rearranging the table plan of another, the board acceded to all applications by an average vote of 29 to 2.