2008-11-12 / Features

Board 2 Revisits Incident At Veterans' Shelter

BY THOMAS COGAN

At the November meeting of Community Board 2, the chief topic of the September meeting was again addressed, as Mary Wilson Hall of the Department of Homeless Services gave the department's side of an incident at the Veterans' Residence, 21-10 Borden Ave., on Wednesday evening, September 3. Among the other matters addressed at the meeting was one concerning placement of mobile phone antennas on an apartment house in Woodside that already has an extensive number of them. One of several outdoor café votes led to lengthy discussion, LaGuardia Community College and P.S. 1 made presentations and a complaint was made about dumping in an area of Hunters Point that is ignored by all but local residents who have to live with it. District capital and expense budget priorities were discussed and approved.

Hall said that what occurred September 3 was a locker search, not a "raid", as she had heard it constantly characterized in the two months since. "We're not the FBI," she said. DHS had overseen considerable remodeling of the Borden Avenue shelter over the summer, which involved temporary relocation of residents. The Salvation Army was replaced as manager of the shelter by the Institute for Community Living (ICL), said by Hall to have experience with persons suffering mental health problems. She said that DHS has to be aware of the hazard of drugs at the shelter, and has a responsibility and a right to control a drug situation. In early September, the situation was apparently acute, so a locker inspection had to be undertaken. That was what the shelter residents who attended the September meeting said was indeed a raid, in the midst of which several residents were roughed up and property was damaged—or wrecked, as was one man's laptop computer, according to their story. Hall said that during the inspection she had seen the computer on the floor, where perhaps it had fallen—but, she added, it worked when it was turned on again. She said she was "offended" by the charge of physical abuse. She said also that there has been "a real change in the culture" of the residence, suggesting that some residents fail to realize their stay there is shortterm, not permanent. She also had some positive news, describing small amenities meant to build morale among the veterans. An example she described was the occasion a few days earlier when a group of them had painted the century old Borden Avenue Bridge that crosses over the Dutch Kills waterway. Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said that Marvin Jeffcoat, a veteran and head of the board's veterans' committee, has been working closely with ICL and the residents since the September incident. He added that the many who came with complaints to the September meeting have said little or nothing further since then.

Richard Elliot, vice president of LaGuardia Community College, said the school's four buildings on Thomson Avenue would soon have new signs on them clearly identifying the institution that would be lighted from the bottom and clearly visible at night. Elliot said there is sometimes a problem of wind shear along the avenue, but the new signs would be constructed to withstand hurricane-force gusts. Tony Guerrera of P.S. 1-Museum of Modern Art was at the meeting to talk about alteration of the museum entrance, including the wall along Jackson Avenue that partially blocks a view of the one-time school building. Along with several others on the board, for half a dozen years Conley has deplored the wall as unsightly. He told Guerrera, "We've been waiting patiently for something to be done" about it. Reconstruction, which is scheduled to begin in early June, just might do it.

David Snyder of the law firm Snyder & Snyder, was at the meeting to speak for his client, Omnipoint Communications Inc., also known as the T-Mobile people. He described the company's plan to mount nine panel antennas for public utility wireless communications

and related equipment on the roof of a sixstory apartment building

at 47-10 Laurel Hill Blvd., where the antennas of other companies (AT&T, et al.) are already in place. Snyder said T-Mobile suffers a "significant" blank spot in that neighborhood beside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and needs to keep pace with its speedier rivals atop the building.

At its most recent meeting, the land use committee asked that a "stealth wall" be built to conceal the panel antennas, which are each four and a half feet long and a foot high, and Snyder indicated that was feasible. Carol Terrano, board member and Woodside resident, said she feared a greater chance of electrical pollution from the antennas, but Snyder told her, "No health and safety standards have been compromised." Conley said that the residential building would be making money on the deal; thus, he added, "I hope they're putting it back in the building," which drew chuckles. Snyder's presentation was informational, so no vote of approval or disapproval was taken.

During the public comment segment, Pauline Brown, a resident of Purves Street, had a complaint about dumping. Purves Street, which runs one block between Jackson Avenue and the railroad tracks below Sunnyside Yard, has residences on it, but Dutch Kills Street, similarly a block long and situated parallel to it, one block away, has nothing but places to park vehicles and vacant spots where trash is dumped periodically, according to Brown's remarks at the meeting. She proposed building a small park area with a dog run on Dutch Kills Street, saying that a startup budget toward financing it has been established. Conley said that the land on Dutch Kills Street belongs to the Department of Transportation and others before Brown have made proposals to improve it.

The unenclosed sidewalk café proposals were made by Bella Via Restaurant, 47-46 Vernon Blvd. and Star Berry, 42-11 Queens Blvd., which specializes in ice cream and other dessert items. Obviously aiming at a dining season some months hence, the Bella Via people made an application for a 17-table, 36-seat café, while the man-and-wife team at Star Berry were at first proposing a three-table, eight-seat setup, then cut it back to two tables and two chairs. Bella Via's application was approved unanimously, but Star Berry's prompted comments from several members. Until now, there have been no unenclosed eating areas on Queens Boulevard in Woodside, Sunnyside or Long Island City, and a few members had doubts about initiating one. There was a question of how much sidewalk space would be taken up by even two tables and wait-service; the owners said those who wanted to sit outside could nevertheless buy inside, with no need for a waiter. The application was approved, with four negative votes and two abstentions.

The latest board election being on schedule for December, nominations were made at the November meeting. The current officers: Joseph Conley, chairman; Steve Cooper, vice chairman; Lisa Ann Deller, secretary, and Diane Ballek, treasurer, were all nominated and have no opposition. Further nominations, should there be any, will be accepted before the vote is taken at the December 4 meeting,

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