2007-08-29 / Features

News Of The Neighborhoods


City Warns: Don't Mess With Our Fire Hydrants!

City Comptroller William Thompson is very touchy when it comes to protecting street trees, light posts, street signs and fire hydrants throughout the five boroughs from vandals who are set on chopping, tagging and unplugging the municipal property.

Thompson, who recently reported that the city has collected more than $5 million from New Yorkers who damaged city property, said that fire hydrants are a prime target for vandals in Queens.

Thompson said his office has collected 18 claims equaling more than $43,000 since Fiscal Year 2001 for damage to fire hydrants in the borough. During Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007, the comptroller's office has collected 11 claims for damaged hydrants in Queens. In fact, for the past five years Queens has led the other boroughs in the number of claims recovered by the city for damaged hydrants. In 2007 alone, 363 hydrants were broken or stolen by vandals in Queens, city records state.

"We want to send a message," Thompson said. "If you damage a hydrant, your wallet should suffer some damage as well. Anyone who destroys or damages city property needs to realize that it has value and costs money to repair."

Ridgewood Couple Says 'I Do' On Cyclone

Robert Meyer, 39, and Teri Muroff, 38, will remember their wedding as a day filled with highs and lows.

On August 16 the Ridgewood couple took their wedding vows and then stepped into a car on Coney Island's famous Cyclone roller coaster for two trips.

More than 50 family members and friends and a minister joined the couple on the Cyclone platform for the ceremony.

The couple described the roller coaster as a symbol of their relationship.

"Coney Island is a very special place for us," Muroff said. "We feel that the symbolism of the ride- its ups and downs- represents life and marriage."

'Stop Lawn Litter' Bill Signed

Fresh Meadows homeowner Robb Gallagher mumbled to himself last week as he walked across the front lawn of his 73rd Avenue home. Soggy sale brochures lay in clusters across the lawn, creating an eyesore and targeting Gallagher for a fine from Department of Sanitation inspectors. "It's a no-win situation," said Gallagher. "You pick them up at 11 o'clock in the morning and they're back at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

"My wife likes to find a sale as much as anyone else," Gallagher added. "But what good is a dollar off an item when you have to pay a fine for these [circulars]?"

From Astoria to Bellerose, flyers are being delivered to lawns and stoops several times a day, creating an eyesore and a litter problem for homeowners and landlords alike.

But all that is about to change, thanks to a bill co-authored by state Senator Frank Padavan and Assemblymember Mark Weprin and signed last week by Governor Eliot Spitzer, allowing homeowners and residents to post signs prohibiting distributors from dumping advertising flyers on their property.

Dubbed the "Lawn Litter Law", the bill calls for fines from $250 to $2,500 for businesses that leave flyers on property where a sign measuring at least 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, advising distributors not to leave their litter on the lawn, is posted.

Weprin is currently working on an amendment to the law that would address the problem at apartment buildings where only a few people welcome the advertisements.

The amendment does not prohibit delivery of the flyers to multiple dwelling units. Instead, it calls on landlords to provide a bin or other receptacle in the building lobby where restaurant menus, flyers, and other advertisements could be dropped for pickup by interested tenants. Under the amendment, landlords would have the option of posting a sign indicating how many copies of each may be left in the bin.

Weprin noted that there are exceptions to the law, including weekly publications such as newspapers that are published regularly and contain appreciable news content. Political literature is also exempt under the current Lawn Litter Law. Enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the city Environmental Control Board (ECB). Homeowners or residents who have posted proper signs and are still receiving the materials should call 311 to file a complaint with the ECB.

Lost Whippet Volunteers Call For Airline Pet Care Reforms

Volunteers who scoured Queens for Vivi, the champion whippet missing since February 2006, are mounting a campaign to prevent such events from recurring.

Dubbed the "Vivi Crusade," the campaign involves a handful of animal activists who are calling on the airlines to revamp the way they handle dogs, cats and other small animals on flights across the U.S.

Volunteers say the airlines currently treat the animals like luggage, putting them into cages that are dumped into the cargo hold of the airliner. To further their cause, the volunteers are gathering information on incidents reported nationwide recounting the death, injury and escape of animals that take to the skies.

Vivi escaped from an open cage on the tarmac at the John F. Kennedy International Airport while crew members were loading cargo onto a Delta Airlines flight in February 2006.

The award-winning whippet was on her way back to her home in California after competing in the Westminster Kennel Club show in Madison Square Garden.

Volunteers searched for Vivi for months, following tips of sitings that took them from Bayside and Fresh Meadows to Forest Park. Despite continued reports of Vivi sighttings near the park, the pooch has not been found.

Volunteers are hoping to kick off a new awareness of the way airlines handle animals through a program of education. To that end, the group has developed a questionnaire to gather information on airline incidents of injured, misplaced or deceased animals.

Howard Beach resident Bonnie Folz, who coordinated the search for Vivi, is cofounder of the "Vivi Crusade". Folz said she hopes pet owners will obtain a copy of the questionnaire and that they will pass it along to veterinarians, breeders, owners and animal groups, who will share their experiences.

Folz said that while the search was disappointing, it enhanced efforts of animal rescuers which led to the rescue of 40 other dogs over the year-long recovery effort.

"We hope to start off by educating the public and the airlines," Folz said. "We don't want to go into this thing like gangbusters. We just hope to improve what is already in place."

A sample of the questionnaire is available for viewing at www.vivicrusade.org. Copies are available by e-mail at pawsativebt@aol,com, or fax requests to 516-379-0975 or mail them to Vivi Crusade, 3392 Bay Front Pl., Baldwin, New York 11510.

Spaced-Out Teacher

While many students believe their teachers are strictly from outer space, students in Chelsys Ng Atmadjaja's Flushing science class can attest to it.

Atmadjaja, who teaches science at J.H.S. 185, spent several weeks last spring at Space Academy Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and is ready to apply what she garnered from the experience to her class lessons.

Atmadjaja, one of 265 teachers from 21 countries and 43 U.S. states, said it was a dream come true when she arrived at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. "It was very exciting, but I wasn't sure what to expect," she said.

Atmakjaja said she received a full scholarship which covered airfare, housing, meals and other expenses. Honeywell sponsors the program as part of the company's "Hometown Solutions" program.

A spokesperson for Honeywell said the firm, a major manufacturer of aerospace products, developed the program in 2004 to provide a special educational experience to international math and science teachers.

Teachers chosen to participate in the program complete 50 hours of professional development and real-life astronaut training in space science and exploration. Activities such as moon walk simulations and water challenges are closely monitored by counselors who offer the teachers tips and encouragement.

Atmadjaja said she was eager to be accepted into the program because she wanted to bring real-life Space Camp experiences to students at her Flushing school.

"Students get excited when they see astronauts and hear about space experiences. Hopefully, sharing my experiences will bring outer space closer to the classroom," she said.

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