2009-02-11 / Features

Construction Of Kosciuszko Bridge Replacement To Start

BY THOMAS COGAN

It has been decided the 70-year-old span over Newtown Creek will be replaced by a new bridge, to be constructed while the old one is still in use. It has been decided the 70-year-old span over Newtown Creek will be replaced by a new bridge, to be constructed while the old one is still in use. The official news about the Kosciuszko Bridge is that after years of deliberation between communities in Queens and Brooklyn and such state agencies as the Departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation, it has been decided the 70-year-old span over Newtown Creek will be replaced by a new bridge, to be constructed while the old one is still in use. The news was delivered to Community Board 2 at its February meeting by two representatives of the state DOT. Also, a text amendment proposal from the Department of City Planning, regarding a 1993 ruling on waterfront areas, was explained and voted upon. Women from the Census Bureau and the Girl Scouts spoke; and proposals, rumors and conflicts brought up or revived at the meeting highlighted a library for Hunters Point, a proposed visit by retired U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki, recently named head of the Department of Veterans Affairs by then President-elect Barack Obama, to the Borden Avenue veterans' shelter, parking on Skillman Avenue, restaurant events and antennas on an apartment building roof.

The Department of City Planning's Penny Lee told the meeting that a revision is sought for the DCP's 1993 waterfront zoning resolution, following a two-year study by Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden that concluded the resolution needed, in the proposal's words, "greater design flexibility". The text as amended would apply to Community Board 2's waterfront on Newtown Creek and the East River, excepting the point where they meet, where the Hunters Point South (HPS) housing complex is to be built. As Lisa Ann Deller, head of the Board 2 land use committee, said, the 1993 resolution is "too linear", not allowing for "meandering" approaches to and walkways along the waterfront. Lee said Gantry Park, at the Queen West houses north of HPS, provides a living example of what might be accomplished all along the waterfront, while the plans for the land and waterfront around the Silvercup Studio buildings, just south of the Queensboro Bridge, provide what DCP considers great promise. That is evidently not the official view north of the bridge, in Community Board 1. "It's too much of a burden on private developers," said John Carusone, Board 1 zoning and variance committee chairman, and board members overwhelmingly agreed; at the Board 1 January meeting, the vote on the waterfront text amendment was 28-1-1 to reject it. But the Board 2 vote was almost the mirror opposite, with just two opposing votes and one abstention.

Plans for the Kosciuszko Bridge have been debated for many years. Adam Levine and Robert Adams of the state Department of Transportation told the Board 2 members and the audience at the Sunnyside Community Services Center, that after studying the possibilities of repairing the 1939 bridge in place or building an entirely new one while leaving the old open to traffic, the latter was chosen by state DOT. The obviously greater expense of the latter choice would be justified over the years—and the truly great faults of the old structure would no longer be a concern. And thus, what the state DOT calls the greatest project it has ever undertaken will commence. Where the old bridge had six lanes, the new bridge will have nine, with five in constant flow toward either Brooklyn or Queens and four for the entrance and exit ramps. When the new bridge is completed, as it is expected to be in 2013, the old one will come down. The DOT officials told the meeting that a bikeway/walkway is a feature of the new bridge, while at the base of the bridge, park and waterway facilities will replace the currently dismal (and state-owned) shoreline. The latest documents for the project are available for viewing at the Queens Borough Public Library Sunnyside branch, 43-06 Greenpoint Ave.

There were presentations for Census 2010 by Rosemarie Fogarty and fire safety by Marty Castle of the Fire Department. Fogarty apprised her audience of the census forms they would be asked to fill out next year and also to appeal for census workers for the same period. Several times she intoned the Census Bureau's mantra, "It's in your hands." Castle distributed literature about fire safety for seniors and caregivers and warned his listeners to keep their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms functional. He recommended changing the 9-volt batteries twice a year and distributed free ones to anyone interested. Fogarty and Castle were followed by Carmen Estamo, a young woman who is currently recruiting women volunteers for the Girl Scouts— not to sell cookies, she said, but for teaching leadership skills development. Gil Maddock, a Sunnyside resident, was next, speaking of a program he is working on in Harlem and would like to expand to Queens. It's called RBI, or Rejuvenating Baseball in the Inner City. He has several other plans in operation, including one for teaching financial literacy to young persons, lest they get in over their heads with credit card purchases and the like.

Another proposal along the East River waterfront, a Queens Library branch for Hunters Point, was brought up by area resident Don Dodelson. He said he has formed a "Friends of the Library" group in hope of having the branch built on a spot directly across the river from the United Nations building. He said he had raised some money but needs much more and thus needs fundraising advice. (His telephone number is 718-340-8407.) Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said the site was "a spectacular piece of property" and added that he has been seeking money for the library from MetLife Insurance Company as some sort of compensation it might make for largely forsaking its Queens Plaza offices and commitment to the borough.

Conley's own report included the notice that the Board of Standards and Appeals is allowing Omnipoint Communications to install its T-Mobile antennas on the roof of the apartment building at 47- 10 Laurel Hill Blvd. without the "stealth" design that was agreed to at the board meeting in November. What is odd and outrageous, he said, was that the Omnipoint people are quite willing to build a device that conceals the antennas. Conley said they are also willing to return for another meeting and added that he is insistent on the stealth design to hide what he believes is an eyesore.

When the time came for committee reports, Marvin Jeffcoat of the veterans' committee said a public relations release from the Institute for Community Living (ICL), which runs the veterans' shelter on Borden Avenue, has revealed that Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff, would be visiting the shelter, at a date to be announced. Jeffcoat also said the current population of the shelter is 210 men and 20 women. Pat O'Brien of the city services committee addressed a continuing conflict between residents and a group on Skillman Avenue that wishes to "daylight" the intersection of Skillman and 51st Street, as a pedestrian safety measure by removing several parking spaces. O'Brien tried to allay the anxiety of residents and drivers, since there's no prospect of immediate success, the group being only a petitioner. He turned to the issue of troublesome club/restaurants on or around Roosevelt Avenue and 54th Street. He said three of them either have had their liquor licenses cancelled or will soon find themselves without them. Indeed, the Roosevelt Avenue establishments are boarded up as if they contained deadly diseases, while on 54th Street, Divas displays an "Open" sign that challenges belief. But another restaurant, a Long Island City favorite, is in no such peril. Lisa Ann Deller of the land use committee made a motion to approve the renewal of an application by Minetta's, 10-76 Jackson Ave., for an unenclosed sidewalk café, with 13 tables and 27 seats. It was approved by acclamation.

After mourning the death in January of Buster Sabba, Woodside Herald publisher and community activist, Conley announced that the booming voice of Joe Ruzalski, another local activist, will be heard no more; he, too, died last month. A memorial ceremony for him will be held Saturday, February 21 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 49-10 Queens Blvd.

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