Local Hero Rewarded, Maloney, SEIU Reps Address Board 2
To open the May meeting of Community Board 2, Mike Novak, a Sunnyside resident who early Easter Sunday, April 8, rescued a young woman who was being sexually assaulted, was presented with an award in appreciation of his actions. He replied that he did what anyone would have done.
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney added her praise to the many citations Novak has received in the past few weeks. She then told the audience at Sunnyside Community Services that she is getting funds toward building a high-speed rail system between New York and Boston. She hailed jetBlue’s arrival on Queens Plaza, adding that from its offices one can look down on the new Dutch Kills Green, the park for which she obtained vital funds so it could be built. She expressed concern about Newtown Creek, cleanup of which, when it is completed, would be a larger pollution removal project than when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Mar. 24, 1989 and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels of crude oil.
Maloney is also pursuing a credit card owner bill of rights and an overdraft bill. She said if microloans can work abroad, they can work here, so she favors establishing them. She said the 9/11 Health Compensation Bill is in the works, the result of a decade-long effort on her part to get it through. She called it her finest achievement.
As they had at the Board 2 April meeting, representatives from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ continued their campaign against TF Cornerstone, the developer of several high-priced high-rises on the banks of the East River in Hunters Point. At least 25 SEIU, Local 32BJ members chanted for their speakers, especially one Joe Eisman. As did the other speakers, Eisman attacked TC Cornerstone, for several practices that he said undermine standards for workers. Having seen their plea for a motion of support from the community board tabled in April, Local 32BJ this month presented a statement that the board could adopt or adapt as a motion. The statement supported providing workers with industry-standard safety training, advancement opportunities and retirement benefits. Patrick O’Brien of the board said, as he had in April, that the board might have general sympathy for workers rights but should not insert itself into a particular dispute. Another board member, Kate Brennan, said the Local 32BJ statement was generic and quite supportable, and since Board Chairman Joseph Conley had said that TC Cornerstone had sent a letter to the board that had arrived the day of the meeting, the two statements could be compared, in the process of making a motion. Board 2 member Sam Vargas moved to table the matter again, so a greater effort could be made to get better information from both labor and management, on which to take conclusive action at the June meeting. The motion passed with two dissenting votes.
The public comment segment of the meeting began with a complaint by Woodside resident Jim Condes that a large plan to build three elementary schools on 39th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets is a misguided proposal, nonetheless so for the enthusiastic approval of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Congressmember Joseph Crowley. According to Jean Carubia, head of the Board 2 education committee, the city School Construction Authority made a deal with the owner of several land parcels on 39th Avenue, buying them all and initiating the construction plan. Condes said that no matter how critical the need for new schools, the presence of them in this part of Woodside would be disastrous. He said the neighborhood could not bear the influx of young students and a parade of school buses twice a day. Current parking would be thrown into chaos, he said. Nevertheless, he believes that with such prestigious support, the pact is a done deal.
A woman from the Lincoln Court Association in Sunnyside Gardens complained about a recent street fair on Skillman Avenue as disruptive and dubious as a local event. She said that street fairs are organized by a company called Clearview, which in the case of this latest fair enlisted the support of the local Kiwanis Club. Rita Lowery, who runs Welcome Home Real Estate at 46-15 Skillman, said a generator for a children’s carnival ride set up outside her door was so noisy it was a waste of time for her to have a table on the street. She understood that Clearview was supposed to consult local merchants and businesses before the fair but remembered no such consultation for her or anyone else on the block.
The Board 2 Land Use committee considered two new applications for unenclosed sidewalk cafés, Skinny Café at 47-05 Center Blvd. and The Dog and Duck, 45-20 Skillman Ave. Skinny Café applied to place 14 tables with 42 seats on the sidewalk, The Dog and Duck 10 tables and 20 seats. Land Use committee member Lisa Ann Deller wanted the number of tables at The Dog and Duck reduced to eight and the seats to 16 because two tables blocked the opening to the restaurant basement. The Skinny Café application was approved unanimously, while the vote on the Dog and Duck, contingent on the tables and chairs amendment, passed with two abstentions.
A third land use vote concerned a Department of City Planning zoning text amendment to the city Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP). Penny Lee of the City Planning department said the text amendment was largely in the interest of protecting water quality. It passed unanimously.
Lee also announced that documents were in preparation and a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) was pending in the matter of the proposed Hunters Point branch of the Queens Borough Public Library. She hoped the plan would receive certification in June so it would not pass uncertified into summer, when nothing was likely to be done. Earlier in the meeting, Kristin Kuehl, representing Queens Library, had told the board that if the proposed reduction in funding of $26.7 million goes through, there will be only one library in the system open on Saturday (presumably Merrick Boulevard) and none on Sunday. Also, 18 branches would be closed altogether while 26 others would have their hours reduced severely.
She directed her listeners to the www.savequeenslibrary.org Web site for more information.