Planning Commission OKs Dutch Kills Rezoning
"Today was one of those days you don't want to have, but we had it," said George Stamatiades on the evening when the Dutch Kills Civic Association held its September meeting, three days after the City Planning Commission had unanimously voted approval of a rezoning plan for Dutch Kills. The approved plan largely resembled the one that had survived the scrutiny and amendments of Community Board 1 and the borough president's office. The next and final stage in the approval process will be the City Council.
Stamatiades and his associates spent the day on the telephone with several councilmembers, particularly Tony Avella, Eric Gioia and Melinda Katz, members of the council Land Use Committee, which Katz chairs, and the zoning and franchises subcommittee, which Avella chairs. They were attempting to secure a date when the council would hold its hearing on Dutch Kills rezoning. From the way he described it, Stamatiades might have concluded it was a cat-herding operation: in one phone call after another, one council member would hand him off to another, pleading that the decision was a shared responsibility. At what was literally the end of the day, Stamatiades related, Avella announced a date, Gioia contradicted it and Katz offered no clarification. There would be no decision in September. Stamatiades said that the Zoning and Franchises Committee next meets Thursday, October 2, and Land Use at a later date. If a joint meeting could be arranged, he said, the issue could be passed to the full council after a required five-day interval (which applies to each committee, hence the necessity of a joint meeting) and the city council could receive and (presumably) approve it on Tuesday, October 7. Stamatiades said that an issue he and others had been working on for decades would thus be brought to a conclusion.
There were those who disagreed with this timetable. Megan Friedman, a 28th Street resident, said that further negotiations with Avella might move the joint committee hearing, and consequently the city council hearing, up a week. Eric Palatnik, attorney for the industrialists in Dutch Kills, would like the hearings delayed so there would be time for remedial measures for what he sees as injustices suffered by his clients as a result of rezoning. Friedman, a passionate partisan of the residents' cause, said there was no time to squander; gaining a precious few days was important, whereas further delay was deadly.
Chief among the other items covered in the meeting at St. Patrick's school at the first DKCA meeting in three months was Deputy Inspector Paul Vorbeck's review of the summer. The commander of the 114th Police Precinct made a report that included two violent incidents, one of which caused the death of a man known and respected within the DKCA and the community. Community Board 1 District Manager Lucille Hartmann was introduced to the meeting, though hardly a stranger to many who were there, and Rudy Sarchese, a Board 1 member, announced a protest rally against Federal Express, opposing its plan to build a shipping center in Astoria.
Vorbeck had a peculiar fact in his crime report: the rash of car thefts in the 114th Precinct brought about the disappearance of many Hondas of model years in the early 1990s. He emphasized the importance of getting vehicle identification numbers (VIN) etched on windshields, which are said to render automobiles undesirable for theft and resale. Continuing the automotive theme, the commander said the automobile repair shop at 29- 15 38th Ave. has recently received 58 summonses for vehicles on sidewalks, double parked or too close to a hydrant. An ironic fact he imparted was that felony assaults declined by two-thirds during the summer—but one such assault, on Crescent Street early this month, resulted in the death of Nicholas Nowillo, who often attended DKCA monthly meetings. His daughter, Doris Nowillo Suda, is a businesswoman and local activist, and was present at the September meeting. (The other violent crime involved a mother heading with her daughter to visit the girl's school in Manhattan. She was stabbed by a stranger who rode up to her on a bicycle. The rider, apparently deranged, was later arrested; the woman was for a time on the critical list, but reportedly is recovering.)
Hartmann, the second district manager that Board 1 has ever had, succeeded George Delis in the spring. She told the meeting that she began working for the board 30 years ago as a receptionist. She left in the 1980s to work in Mayor Edward I. Koch's office before returning and eventually becoming assistant district manager. She told the meeting that she recalled working in the mayor's office in 1986 when one day George Stamatiades called seeking somebody to talk to about the need to rezone Dutch Kills. As for Rudy Sarchese, he made the same plea in the evening that he'd made in the morning at the Board 1 cabinet meeting, asking everyone to rally with him on Saturday, September 20, from noon to 2 p.m. in front of the FedEx Office store at 31-46 Steinway St. He said that FedEx wants to purchase some 22 acres of land on 20th Avenue from Con Edison in order to build a shipping center. If built, he said, the shipping center would subject Astoria to heavy FedEx truck traffic round the clock.
Next month's meeting might be a candidates' night, if enough candidates can be scheduled to attend. Democratic incumbents Marge Markey of the 20th Assembly District and George Onorato of the 12th Senate District are facing opponents: thus far, Tony Nunziata is Republican-Conservative-Independent candidate for the Assembly seat and Tom Dooley is the Republican state senate candidate.