Brown Brings Good News On Crime To Board 2
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's latest informational tour led him to the April meeting of Community Board 2 two days after his appearance at the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce April luncheon. He brought good news about the crime rate, said a few words about the Sean Bell case and answered some questions. Following his appearance, Robert Adams of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) presented the latest summation of the Kosciuszko Bridge project. Then Penny Lee of the Department of City Planning, made a report on Queens West and Long Island City. She also introduced Mandy Ikert, who is to make regular reports to the board concerning zoning changes and other matters, much in the manner of her predecessor, Neil Galgliardo. Committee reports kicked up a little dust about a dog run and the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Brown said the crime rate in Queens is down 20 percent so far during 2007, after the borough led the rest of the city in that respect from 2003 through 2006. There were 72,000 arrest cases in the borough last year. The district attorney's latest reference to the Sean Bell case was to say the three indicted policemen are to be tried in open court, "where everybody will get a look at [the trial]" because the incident "happened in Queens County and should be tried in Queens County". He said that the trials are on schedule to begin next January. At question time, he was praised for his Second Chance program, which entails non-violence and mediation classes in schools and a summer recreation program in the interest of stemming crime at its early stages. "I feel very strongly about crime prevention," he said, deploring the practice of "sending kids to Riker's Island for minor crimes, where they'll learn how to commit major crimes". His response to a question about community courts was not favorable, however; they may be effective in the Times Square area of Manhattan, he said, but in the wider reaches of Queens the demand for them would be more than the current legal infrastructure could handle.
Robert Adams spoke of the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) issued in mid-March concerning the Kosciuszko Bridge. As he spoke, a PowerPoint presentation appeared on screen. Photographs showed how the roadway of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway lacks shoulders as it crosses Newtown Creek on the Kosciuszko Bridge and has a perilously short acceleration lane on the connection with the Long Island Expressway. The steep rise of the roadway as it reaches the apex of the bridge gives motorists a poor sight line to the traffic ahead. The accident rate on the bridge is six times the average on other New York state roadways, Adams said.
He said the bridge was built as a four-lane span nearly 70 years ago and was made part of the BQE when that highway was constructed after World War II. It was expanded in place to six lanes during the 1960s, an engineering move that necessitated elimination of the drainage system on either side of the bridge. In looking at the question of what could be done now, NYSDOT delineated six plans: a no-build plan, which would entail merely continuing repairs on the current span as needed, and five alternatives that included rebuilding in place or building a new bridge parallel to the old one, which would be dismantled when the new one was completed. It is clear that NYSDOT favors a parallel bridge plan. A new bridge would have 12-foot lane widths, with 10-foot shoulders. The exhibition showed an elaborate plan to improve the exit to the LIE, since that ramp is currently the scene of most of the traffic accidents on the bridge. The roadway reaches its apex 125 feet above the creek on the current bridge; a new one would have an apex about 30 feet lower, which would give motorists improved sight lines. A drainage system on the new bridge would stem the polluted runoff that at present simply falls from the roadway to the creek and banks below. The plan would require a few commercial and residential property seizures and consequent relocations: Adams said the number of commercial seizures would be few and, by actual score, the residential seizures would be three in number. Asked about bikes and walkways, Adams replied that one parallel bridge plan would include a route for pedestrians and bicyclists, the other would not. A plan for a park below the bridge is also foreseen. The final decision on what to build is due this fall; any new construction would not be started until 2011.
Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley praised NYSDOT for its informational program, further versions of which will be available at all-day open house presentations in Brooklyn and Queens. The Queens event will be held Thursday, April 26 at DeVry Institute, 30-20 Thomson Ave., Long Island City. Each event will include an open house from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with presentations at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Conley also praised the Department of Buildings for the efficient way it handled the monthly half-day inspection to which the board (and other boards) is entitled. Board 2's most recent half-day was Friday, March 23, when Conley showed departmental inspectors several points within the district that he finds questionable or outrageous, such as 64-09 Tyler Ave. in Woodside or the structure, believed to be a tennis club, being added to the old Swingline Building on Skillman Avenue in Long Island City. Dorothy Morehead, a board member, asked about the vacant property in Sunnyside on Queens Boulevard near 46th Street, beside the attached T-Mobile and Starbucks Buildings. Conley said that the property owner is in no hurry to improve the lot, which at present is fronted by the standard plywood fence.
Penny Lee, delivering her Department of City Planning report, said the structure on the roof of the Swingline Building is not only a tennis club but also an all-around recreation facility whose owners are already applying for a liquor license. She said the site plan for Queens West beside the East River in Hunters Point is nearly complete and should provide both triumph and disappointment for all advocates in the matter when it is announced. The Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue projects are separate but do meet geographically, and the hope is that work on them can begin simultaneously this year. Mandy Ikert, who Lee introduced, and who will make City Planning reports, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Architecture and Urbanism School and later worked in tsunami-devastated areas of Asia.
Among those making committee reports was Patrick O'Brien of the city services committee. He said that the dog run at Sherry Park on the westbound side of Queens Boulevard, where the Exit 39 ramp of the BQE ascends, is on schedule to be built between this fall and the fall of 2008. At the same time, it appears the dog run proposed for construction on a space beside Lou Lodati Playground on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside may never be built. Carol Terrano of the health committee was indignant that $100,000 was secured by City Councilmember Eric Gioia for a dog run, when, she said, it could certainly be spent on worthier causes. Barbara Coleman of the youth committee said that the St. Patrick's Parade, which is held annually on the first Sunday in March, this year disrupted traffic at St. Sebastian's Church on Roosevelt Avenue near Woodside Avenue. The parade starts each year at about 1:30 p.m. and goes from Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street in Sunnyside to Woodside Avenue and 61st Street, crossing Roosevelt Avenue in the process. Coleman said it might either begin later on Sunday, say 3 p.m., or else be held on the first Saturday in March.