2007-05-16 / Features

Community's Affairs Addressed At CB1 Cabinet Meeting

BY THOMAS COGAN

At the May Community Board 1 (CB1) cabinet meeting held at the Kaufman Astoria Studios Commissary, City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. spoke about parks, graffiti and Con Edison.

Calling Con Edison's latest rate increase request "the height of arrogance" after the power failure in July, 2007, he asserted that Con Ed was clueless during that crisis and that their laxity forced several small business owners out of business, one of which was the Cold Stone Creamery franchise on 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard. Vallone fancied Con Ed might set up an office where Cold Stone was and use it as a billing office. He dismissed the company's current "On It" advertising as fatuous and a waste of money. As for Kevin Burke, the Con Ed chairman with the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Vallone said: "He should be fired."

On the topic of graffiti, Vallone reminded everyone that there is now a law that buildings with six or more residences must clean their walls of graffiti and that he has added a bill banning possession of graffiti tools to those under 21. The bill is being challenged as an attempt to suppress artistic freedom, a charge Vallone rejects. He has amended the bill with some elaboration about keeping such tools in a locked box when transporting them to an artistic work site. Ket, an alleged graffiti artist, has been arrested and the councilmember has been said to be responsible for putting him in jail; this Vallone also calls untrue, though he admits taking an interest in the case now that Ket may be facing trial just as Kiko did in 2006.

Vallone said he received an invitation to attend a screening of "Bomb It" at the Tribeca Film Festival, since he appears in the documentary about graffiti inscribers of years past, but begged to be excused feeling he wouldn't be too popular in the company of others also in the film, such as Kid Acne and Blek Le Rat. He did say that in the film, the "artists" and others laugh away all artistic pretensions, saying their only aim was to find a blank wall or clean subway train and just "bomb it"!

The HANAC senior residences being built at Astoria Boulevard and 29th Street are displacing yet another parking lot. The dearth of local parking spaces being lost in the area has moved Vallone to propose using a section of Astoria Park under the Triborough Bridge for temporary parking until the HANAC building and its garage are completed. While proposing taking parkland away, Vallone has proposed that a leased area used for storage near the north tower of the bridge be converted into a park for skateboarders. Currently, skateboarders are using Athens Square Park, at 30th Avenue and 30th Street and a new skateboarding area under the bridge would give them a better outlet, with no opposition to their sport. The storage operator's lease expiration date has come up and they claim to be leaving.

Other items covered included attempting to raise funds for not only District Attorney Richard Brown's office but the offices of the other four district attorneys too. Vallone said he was appalled by the 17 percent cuts made to the DAs funding and has tried to come up with some compensation, and changing the hours when Department of Sanitation tickets can be issued, from 1 to 2 p.m. to 6 to 7 p.m.

April Dubison, community affairs director for KeySpan, announced that Keyspan has a $2 million citywide program to install solar panels in various buildings and provide pulmonary machines to community health programs. She also said the company is providing $100,000 to plant 100 trees in Astoria, which struck some people as expensive, she stated that installation and long-term maintenance by the Department of Parks and Recreation is costly. Matthew Gorton, mayoral representative for Western Queens, stated that Comptroller William Thompson increased the payroll for Parks Department laborers a couple of years ago.

Adalina Merello, of the office of recycling outreach and education at the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), introduced herself as a traveling educator who advises local groups about the intricacies of recycling. There were inquiries about where to find electronic recycling centers, and Merello said one is due to be established in Astoria, as soon as a facility can be set up.

Francisco Mercado spoke of the city's summer food program that provides breakfasts and lunches to children who might otherwise go hungry or resort to junk food. Mercado said the program is underused, largely as a result of ignorance and lack of sites where the food distribution might be set up. The city's Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been asked to open sites in public housing community centers.

Simone Edwards, of Professional Service Centers for the Handicapped, told of the group's respite center on Winchester Boulevard on the grounds of Creedmoor State Hospital where caregivers to the mentally handicapped can send them for short term stays. She emphasized that patients in the PSCH program must bring their own medications since the group does not administer meds.

The Parks Department's David Bentham announced that the city pools will be open Friday, June 29. At 7:30 p.m. that night on the Astoria Park Lawn, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra will perform, and a Grucci fireworks display will follow. He also spoke of Thursday concerts, June 7, 14, 21 and 28 at the Queenbridge Houses and then, from July 5 to August 9, in Astoria Park, as part of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition's Waterfront Concert Series.

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