2006-11-22 / Editorials

Farmers Hail Spitzer
To The Editor:

With the election of Eliot Spitzer, we can halt the upstate/downstate schism wrought by fear-mongering, solution-void naysayers. The opportunity to make real, positive and substantive change, to move beyond divisive rhetoric, is ours to take.

On all levels, agriculture unites the citizens of New York state. The partnership between the citizens of the great state of New York, and the largest most diverse industry in the Empire State, agriculture, has long roots.

Over the years we have partnered in every way, from greenmarkets, meat markets, fish markets, flower shops, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), food co-ops, the local food in your supermarket, greenscaping in your public and private spaces, the wool and fibers for clothing, and the turf on the ball fields. For those of you who escape to the countryside from time to time, the farmers partner with you at pick-your-own, farm market, local supermarket, restaurant, and outdoor recreation venues.

Equally important, farmers live the agrarian archetype and create the rural landscape and a treasured quality of life. Today these long-time partners and keepers of the rural landscape would like to join with you in welcoming and supporting Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer.

Mr. Spitzer has a solid history of working

with the stakeholders and getting things done. He is listening; he can accomplish some of the changes that are so desperately needed to give New York and New Yorkers a new breath of life.

Here in the country, the same farmers who create and maintain the rural landscape, who produce and deliver your safe, local food and who play a large role in your quality of life, these farmers have never been more stressed by the status quo. Over the years, Eliot Spitzer has crossed the state, meeting farmers and seeking our opinions and concerns. He has seen dairy farmers intent to stay in business, but powerless to stem the decline in milk revenues. He has picked berries on a farm where the tempting development value of the land exponentially outstrips all projected future farm revenues. And he has gathered a diverse group of working farmers to provide hands-on, experience-based feedback on the issues impacting agriculture.

Thank you for your support in this most important election. We need the help of each and every one of you to make this transformation. Your vote for Eliot Spitzer the person whose attention to detail and positive policies and actions can and will give all of us all the best possible tomorrow. With sincere regard, Jim Barber, Embar Farms, Middleburgh, N.Y. Alexander (Sandy) Gordon, Gordon Farms, Berne, N.Y. Norman Greig, Greig Farm, Red Hook, N.Y. Larry Lampman, Fox Hill Farm, Ancramdale, N.Y. Jackie Moody-Czub, WestWind Farms, Schaghticoke, N.Y. Why Wait For Rezoning? To The Editor:

The Auburndale Improvement Association, the oldest civic association in Queens, has been actively involved in lobbying for contextual rezoning of our community. We have requested our members to sign a letter which appeared in our newsletter addressed to Queens Planning Commission Chair John Young requesting that contextual rezoning be undertaken in the Auburndale area as soon as possible. Over 4000 of these letters were also hand delivered to homes throughout the Auburndale community.

Close to 800 of these letters were signed and returned to our civic association. Thanks to the hard work of our executive board, these letters were duplicated and copies were sent to Borough President [Helen] Marshall as well as to local Councilmembers [Tony] Avella, [John] Liu and [David] Weprin. The original was sent to John Young.

It is clear that the residents of Auburndale are concerned about the overdevelopment of their neighborhood. Contextual rezoning is a positive step toward curbing the proliferation of out of context, oversized construction. It is working in Bayside and other areas where rezoning initiatives have already been passed. The new R2A classification is particularly effective in keeping new construction in character with existing housing stock. It also allows most homeowners to expand their homes if they so choose.

So what is holding back the rezoning of Auburndale and the other communities? We have been told that we had to wait for the Douglaston-Little Neck rezoning to be completed. That rezoning plan had been held up for months despite the fact that the majority of the Douglaston-Little Neck neighborhoods agreed with City Planning's new map and advocated acceptance of the plan through civic association support. Certain forces in the community spread misinformation about the rezoning, causing delays. This worked to the detriment of the other communities awaiting rezoning. Not fair!

We were also told that City Planning is swamped with all the requests for rezoning from all over the city. Unfortunately, every day that we wait is another day of loss. Certain developers are zeroing in on communities that have not been rezoned, taking full advantage of loopholes and regulations that allow them to do as they please.

The latest that we have heard is that City Planning has hired an additional planner to assist in the rezoning in Northeast Queens. We have also heard that Auburndale and other parts of Flushing will be rezoned, first north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks, then the area south of the tracks will be done last. In any event, we are at the ready, and have lined up many volunteers willing to assist City Planning by helping with the survey part of the rezoning process. But we must get started!

It is important for all residents in areas that are awaiting rezoning to continue to contact City Planning, elected officials and civic associations to press for contextual rezoning as soon as possible to ensure community stability and preservation. Also, support your neighbors in other areas that are undergoing the rezoning process. We all have to work together and keep up the pressure to maintain the character and quality of life in our communities. Henry Euler Zoning and Housing Chair, Auburndale Improvement Association, Inc. Bayside Restoring FM-CP To the Editor:

There have recently been several articles and letters that raise numerous concerns regarding the condition and restoration of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP). I welcome this opportunity to highlight many of the improvements that Parks & Recreation has and will make to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Parks & Recreation and other city agencies and private organizations have worked closely together, investing more than $421.78 million in the past 13 years, to preserve and improve Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, one of New York City's prized flagship parks.

Many of these improvement projects have been completed or are underway, but Parks is not done yet. We are creating a master plan for the park, conducting studies on how to best restore areas of the park, and following through on their findings. We are restoring, maintaining and improving the park, as well as creating new, stateof the-art facilities.

Twenty studies in as many years have been conducted on the condition of the waterways surrounding the park, including Flushing Bay and Creek, Meadow Lake, and Willow Lake, which have led to solutions for various problems.

For example, pollution of the water systems was attributed in part to a combined sewer overflow. In partnership with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), we are resolving this problem through the construction of retention tanks located beneath soccer fields 8 and 9 in the park. As part of DEP's mitigation for the retention tanks, DEP will reconstruct the Flushing Bay Promenade and construct a state-of-the-art recreation center at Fowler Avenue, two vital projects with a total cost of $250 million. The renovation of the Promenade is complete while the recreation center construction is scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2007. The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) along with Parks' help is restoring Pier II in the Marina. The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, with help from Parks and local youth, is doing shoreline restoration work along Meadow Lake. In the past month, Parks has cleared the path between the two pedestrian bridges in the Willow Lake area. In addition, Parks is currently fixing the wooden access bridge for temporary use until more permanent repairs can be made through capital construction, which has funding available. Moreover, the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy is working with Parks & Recreation to schedule tours of the area.

Since the outdated Ederle Amphitheater was taken down in 1996, Parks is creating a new modern pool and ice rink, which will be the largest recreation facility ever built in a city park. This unique structure, which is currently under construction at the cost of over $60 million, will replace the World's Fair ice rink and provide a much-needed indoor swimming facility. The facility will house an Olympic-size pool and NHL-standard ice rink that will serve as a year-round facility for competitive and recreation use. In place of the Ederle Amphitheater, Parks created a new boardwalk and landscaped picnic area.

In addition to these capital projects, Parks has devoted time and money for restoring the park. In the past six years, we renovated four out of six playgrounds and constructed three new comfort stations: the carousel comfort station in 2002, the Ederle Site comfort station in 2004, and the

soccer field comfort station in 2005. Over the past 10 years we have planted 3,000 new trees. The renovation of the playgrounds alone cost approximately $6 million. In the past five years, we restored five out of the seven soccer fields and added two new ones. This year, we restored a little league baseball field with funding from the Mets. We also have $1 million allocated to renovate the Unisphere fountain.

The Queens borough president's office, along with City Councilmember James Gennaro, have committed a combined $4.5 million to renovate the 1939 boathouse that sits adjacent to Meadow Lake, and we have received over $625,000 from the local assemblymembers to reconstruct the paths around Meadow Lake. With assistance from TASCA, Row New York, and the organizers of the Hong Kong Boat Festival, we continue to raise funds for both projects.

The park is teeming with activity also because of new developments occurring at the numerous private institutions within the park. The Hall of Science has added a new wing, a playground, and is now working on a pre-school playground. The Queens Theatre in the Park and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are in the process of being renovated while the Queens Museum of Art has just submitted design proposals to renovate. The Mets are creating a new state-of-the-art stadium. At the same time, the Queens Botanical Gardens is creating the first-ever green building designed by the New York City Department of Design and Construction to achieve the highest level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a nationally accepted rating system for sustainable design.

There are also two non-profit organizations, Unisphere, Inc. and the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, that continuously raise funds for projects throughout the park. For example, Unisphere, Inc. is currently funding a structural evaluation of the interior of the New York State Pavilion tower. In addition, Unisphere, Inc. sponsors gardens in the park, funds programming for children, and since 2004, holds a yearly fundraiser. We are also indebted to the hundreds of volunteers who contribute their time to the betterment of the park.

Allow me to close by focusing on the New York State Pavilion, the source of recent commentary. During this administration, Parks has sought support, as well as new uses for this important icon of Queens. In 2004, Parks issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to solicit new uses for the Pavilion. The responses, though well meaning, were unrealistic in terms of funding and would bring dramatic and permanent changes to this site. Parks also sought additional assistance for the Pavilion from the University of Pennsylvania. Their efforts resulted in recent funds to further document, stabilize and protect the Pavilion floor. This work is expected to result in an exhibition on the Pavilion and the Texaco map at the Queens Museum of Art in the fall of 2007, as well as allow us to gain greater attention and support for the Pavilion as a whole. Further, Parks will soon be seeking bids to undertake a detailed structural analysis to follow up on structural monitoring undertaken during the recent pile driving for the Queens Theatre in the Park addition. Based on past and recent visual inspections and onsite investigations, Parks engineers do not believe the structures are in immediate danger but this study will provide both a condition assessment as well as detailed plan for phased stabilization. Parks is also seeking contributions to maintain the overall physical condition of the structure and is eager to discuss viable uses for this important survivor of the 1964 World's Fair.

Parks & Recreation works hard to overcome the challenges in maintaining and funding a park of this size, with so many important structures and features. This sampling of projects clearly shows Parks & Recreations' dedication to all 1,255 acres of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

We appreciate and need the input of the community in order to best care for their parks. Community involvement and strong public-private partnerships are vital in caring for all parks. We welcome your concerns and invite you to join us by volunteering in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, one of Queens' communal backyards. Call us at 718-760-6561 or visit our web site at www.nyc.gov/parks. Sincerely, Dorothy Lewandowski Queens Borough Commissioner

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