2009-01-14 / Front Page

Den Dekker Addresses Board 2 January Meeting

By Thomas Cogan

Den Dekker Addresses Board 2 January Meeting


Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker

Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker, the newly elected representative of the 34th Assembly District, set the year off at the January meeting of Community Board 2 with a brief address. The main business of the evening was a discussion of and vote on a proposed citywide text amendment to a resolution that would require indoor bicycle parking in newly built residential, community facility and commercial buildings. A spokeswoman for the newly created New York City Family Justice Center, Queens and an advocate for a federal Department of Peace and Non-Violence made presentations, and the board heard the latest developments on the protracted issue of newspaper boxes on the streets of Woodside. An architect from Sunnyside made a well-received announcement, while a spokeswoman for City Comptroller William Thompson made one that elicited skepticism.

Den Dekker, successor to retired Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette, said his first job was on a Department of Sanitation truck, which he described as a fine way to become familiar with borough streets. He has been an aide to other officials and is familiar with the political process. He said he takes office at a time when there is a budget shortfall of $15 billion, and though there are some excellent connections between the state and the administration about to take office in Washington, New York can’t expect the federal government to bail it out. He said he would try to attend community board meetings fairly often, but in any case would always be represented at Board 2 by his legislative aide, Manny Perez.

The next speaker was Alexandra Patino of the New York Family Justice Center, Queens. The center, opened in Kew Gardens last July, is the second of its kind, joining the Family Justice Center, Brooklyn, formed in 2004. It grows out of the initiative to combat domestic violence, passed by a voter initiative in 2001. It aims to increase “the effectiveness of service delivery to break the cycle of violence”, Patino said. She was immediately followed by Joseph Alesso, who was publicizing the drive for a federal Department of Peace and a national Peace Academy, initiated by the February 2007 bill, H.R. 808, introduced by Congressmember Dennis Kucinich  (D-Ohio). Alesso said New York City Council Resolution 627 supports H.R. 808, and added that 30 other cities throughout the country have made similar resolutions. He said he was glad to follow a group like the Family Justice Center, which a Department of Peace would certainly support. Among the Peace Department’s duties, he speculated, would be the relief of military troops burdened by peacekeeping tasks in a war zone, a matter that has caused problems in Iraq.

Martha Allen of City Comptroller William Thompson’s office, spoke of the comptroller’s proposed taxation on the weight of vehicles, a move intended to gain revenue from the presence of heavy commercial and passenger vehicles on the streets of the city. It would apply only to city vehicles and drivers. Board Vice Chairman Steve Cooper countered the proposal by noting that vehicles entering the city from outside would be under no such taxation, and that the city would effectively be subsidizing them through the duties being imposed on local vehicles. Allen looked a little distressed to be caught in the midst of an argument, and Cooper had to assure her he was critical of the message, not the messenger.
Jim Condes, a Woodside resident, launched another attack on the newspaper boxes he believes are a foul presence on Roosevelt Avenue and other streets of the neighborhood. Recognizing that such presence has become a First Amendment issue, he said that they have become a maintenance issue also, being neglected by the very publishers that put them out there or abandoned when the publications they are meant to contain have been discontinued. He said that a massive protest should be directed at the mayor’s office and relevant city departments in order to have them force owners either to maintain or remove the boxes. Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley added that photographs of the unsightly boxes should be sent to the publishers with the message that this is how they are contributing to neighborhood blight.


Laura Heim, an architect with an office on 45th Street in Sunnyside, drew congratulatory applause from the meeting when she announced that she has been elected president of the Queens chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Penny Lee of the Department of City Planning went over indoor bicycle parking requirements. In new residential buildings that would house more than a few tenants or families, the proportion would be one bicycle space for every two residents. Considering large apartment buildings, she said that bicycle parking spaces take up less room than one might believe. In any case, there are many older residential buildings currently showing the way it could be done, she said. The building developers or owners would be responsible for providing the required number of spaces and assuring that they are accessible to residents and secure against the possibility of theft. The text amendment is concerned with requiring new schools to provide the proper ratio of indoor bicycle parking spaces also. The motion to include it led to a raised-hands vote, with two showing opposition. When a roll call vote was suggested, the chair said it was sufficient to note that there were two opposed. Later, Sheila Lewandowski, board member, complained that there was inadequate notice of the resolution amendment as a public hearing item; but District Manager Debbie Markell-Kleinert said she had expedited it as promptly as possible.

In the chairman’s report, Joe Conley had more than one complaint about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. For one thing, the MTA had a plan, mercifully amended since that evening, to shut down train service on the No. 7 line between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square for the first nine weekends of the year, which would have outstripped past MTA feats of inconvenience and privation; for another, it has not only changed bus stops on Queens Boulevard with no apparent regard for riders, but, Conley noted, has even evidenced confusion in its documents between streets and avenues, such as 43rd, in the area—and perhaps all over the city.

The lone committee report, for the veterans’ committee, caused Dorothy Morehead, board member, to ask Marvin Jeffcoat, head of the committee, if he would request a better day labor program from the veterans’ shelter on Borden Avenue. She said her attempt to get yard workers from the shelter for her court in Sunnyside Gardens was hampered by an awkward supervisory program for the workers and, later, by non-response from the shelter when she inquired about further work. Jeffcoat conferred with her about it at the end of the meeting.

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