Budgets, Sidewalk Cafés, Elections Head CB 2 Agenda
The agenda at the November meeting of Community Board 2 entailed discussion of the board’s Fiscal Year 2011 capital and expense budget and election of officers. Three applications for sidewalk cafés in Sunnyside and Woodside were reviewed and news about Newtown Creek as a possible Superfund site was heard. In both the public comment and committee reports there was further word about drilling for natural gas in New York and Pennsylvania, which could affect New York City’s drinking water, though the drillers have promised otherwise. The on-and-off matter of the adult entertainment palace near an upper level exit of the Queensboro Bridge is on again.
Initiating the capital budget discussion, Board Chairman Joseph Conley immediately brought up the issue of new sewer lines in Woodside and other parts of the community board district. He said that if complaints about flooding and runoff persist, the city must regard inadequate sewers in the district as a chronic problem, letting the issue lapse only if complaints fall off. It is certain to remain among the leading items on the long list of concerns the board submits to the city each year. Another would be the desire for a new 108th Police Precinct headquarters, no doubt more centrally located than on 50th Avenue, deep in Long Island City. It’s a top 10 item year after year, Conley said, but at all levels of the Police Department it’s about as popular as mosquitoes. When he asked for board suggestions about what items should be moved up the list, down the list or eliminated altogether, there was the usual annual concern for favorite items. One such is library construction in Hunters Point. Amid massive residential construction there is a space called Parcel 8, where the library is supposed to go. Library advocates generally believe the currently planned facility would be too small. Each year when expense budget items are discussed, Conley always repeats the fact that Community Board 2 is in the only district in Queens without a Beacon school, a school-based community center for students and adults. This year, he said, finally getting one might depend on the efforts of a new local representative on the City Council.
That new representative would be Jimmy Van Bramer, a board member and Sunnyside resident, who was elected to the council November 3. He did not arrive at the meeting until it was in progress but got a big hand when he did. He said he would “almost miss being here till 10:30” one Thursday a month but would do his best to be present as a city council representative.
It was time for new board officers to be elected or old ones reelected. For the past four years the roster of officers has consisted of Joseph Conley as chairman, Steve Cooper as first vice chairman, Patrick O’Brien as second vice chairman, Diane Ballek as treasurer and Lisa Ann Deller as secretary. Nominations to replace any or all of them were sought but none was offered, so the roster remains intact for a fifth year.
During the public comment segment, Dan Jacoby, activist and sometime legislative aide, excoriated state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis for failing to reveal the hazards of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas beneath the soil of Southern New York state. Instead, Jacoby said, the commissioner was too compliant with, and was being “led by the nose” by, drilling interests such as Chesapeake Gas. That company recently said it would not drill near any part of New York City’s watershed area, in an apparent attempt to allay local fears that chemicals used in drilling would get into the drinking water. In reply, Jacoby noted that the city’s watershed area constitutes only 4 percent of the territory subject to drilling in southern New York and Pennsylvania. When Dorothy Morehead made her environment committee report, she expressed concern that farmers in those parts, characteristically hard pressed for money, are likely to surrender to financial offers from the drillers if the latter wait them out. Jacoby said the city Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a statement on safety and feasibility in gas drilling. She hoped the city could buy the leases owned by Chesapeake Gas that apply to the watershed area.
The Department of City Planning report by Penny Lee preceded the report from the environment committee and both had to do with Newtown Creek. The thin body of water separating much of Queens from Brooklyn has become a BOA, according to Lee: a brownfields opportunity area. Environmental consultants will study the possibility of raising the creek’s status from acutely polluted to usable for various industrial and recreational activities. Morehead said the Environmental Protection Administration is attempting to get federal officials to make the creek a Superfund site; though she said that even if that were achieved, the cleanup would take 15 to 20 years.
The veterans’ committee report by Marvin Jeffcoat began with a moment of silence for those killed in the Fort Hood shooting that day. He read several statistics about the veterans living in or moving out of the veterans’ residence at 21-10 Borden Ave. and turned then to remarks made a few days earlier by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. They included the statistic about 131,000 military service veterans who are currently homeless and on the streets. The secretary said that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are among them, a fact that Jeffcoat said he found shocking.
The city services report by Patrick O’Brien brought up the new 50-day law on graffiti. The city can now cite a shop owner for having graffiti scrawled or sprayed on the owner’s property and request it be cleaned off. If it has not been cleaned off in 50 days the city can do the job if the owner has also neglected or declined to file a formal report stating the city is not wanted on the property.
GLC Entertainment has tried to open an adult entertainment facility on 21st Street, hard by a traffic exit from the upper roadway of the Queensboro Bridge, and then put off the effort. Now the opening is said to be imminent. O’Brien said if the State Liquor Authority holds hearings on the matter this month at a meeting in Harlem, he will attend to register the board’s disapproval.
Three establishments very much open in Sunnyside and Woodside were at the meeting to apply for sidewalk café status, either unenclosed or enclosed. Bucharest, a restaurant at 43-45 40th St. and Manolo’s, a Mexican restaurant at 46-26 Greenpoint Ave., want unenclosed cafés. Bucharest wants to set up four tables and 16 seats just around the corner from Queens Boulevard; Manolo’s wants to install 12 tables and 24 seats along 47th Street. Riz Bagels, at 57-20 Woodside Ave., where the avenue and 58th Street meet, wants to continue operating an enclosed sidewalk café that happens to be attached to a McDonald’s on Roosevelt Avenue. After getting an assurance from the owner that closing hours would be 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends, Manolo’s won approval unanimously. Bucharest was similarly successful, as was Riz Bagels, which one board member called a credit to the community.