2013-02-20 / Features

Dutch Kills Civic Talks Smart Cards For Seniors, Crime Statistics


After a month-long hiatus, the February meeting of the Dutch Kills Civic Association was the first occasion for new President Dominic Stiller to preside. He openly wished for good attendance and got it, at Growing Up Green school on 28th Street, near 40th Avenue. Deputy Inspector Commander Stephen Cirabisi of the 114th Police Precinct was the opening speaker. The evening also featured two special speakers: a representative of the mayor’s office and a candidate for this year’s public advocate race. There was news that Dutch Kills and other parts of the Community Board 1 (CB1) district are beneficiaries of a pilot program for the disabled; and also notice of the installation of an environmental exhibit in a nearby schoolyard.

Cirabisi said the 114th Precinct’s index crime rate is up three percent so far this year, that rate being fairly common throughout many of the city’s precincts.

Certainly he would like to turn it around, especially since it was down 20 percent for all of 2012. He said cutting the crime rate, especially shootings, in Queensbridge Houses, is paramount. He returned to the topic that has a large place in most crime reports these days: theft of electronic devices. He was enthusiastic about the app available on Apple iPhones that allows a theft victim to trace its whereabouts, even in the cybernetic cloud. Stiller asked, none too seriously, if the commander might be promoting Apple products; and, from the audience, Ray Normandeau spoke up for the tracer app on Android phones, which he considers superior.

George Stamatiades had an announcement from the city Department for the Aging (DFTA) and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) about a program currently available only in CB1 and in a CB district in Brooklyn. It allows the elderly to purchase a taxi smart card for $12.50 that would immediately be increased by $87.50 to allow the user $100 worth of rides in taxis or Access-a-Ride vehicles. The card can be renewed four times. Information about this program is available at DFTA, 212-442-3026 or at MOPD, 212-788-2830.

Claudia Filomena is representative in Queens for the Mayor’s Community Affairs Office. That, she said, entails attending community meetings to hear good news and bad, mainly the latter. She also delivers messages from City Hall, ones she said are “not wonky but digestible”.

Lately, she’s had a lot of Sandy issues to handle in the neighborhoods, since repair work has been slow in some highly damaged places. For the future, she said, the storm damage is a guide to the smart way to plan construction near waterways.

Another problem in parts of Queens is open space: lack of park and recreational areas because of residential and commercial build-out. She mentioned Jackson Heights as an example, and talked about street closings that open recreational space on a temporary basis. But she was in Dutch Kills, and the audience soon brought that to her attention.

The sanitation issue came first. Stiller said the neighborhood has a bad distribution of trash baskets, some streets having too many and others none at all. The dirtiest area in the neighborhood or near it is that which is controlled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, he added. Filomena lamented that the mayor cannot directly attack the problem, since the MTA is a state organization.

A woman asked about illegal parking all around the new park on the northeast segment of Queens Plaza. The park was built where a small parking lot used to be, and this may be the revenge of those who used to use it. The woman said city workers are the guilty ones—and of them, school safety people are the worst offenders. Filomena said city workers have a designated parking lot beneath the Queensboro Bridge but they apparently find it to be too far from their workplaces. Another parking issue of sorts is that of the taxi and body shops in the neighborhood, whose owners believe it is their right to use sidewalks for parking, particularly if their vehicles are parallel to the building lines. Cirabisi said that his forces sweep in and tow away vehicles from time to time, but after paying fines and letting the issue cool down for awhile, the owners are back to doing it all over again, accepting the fines as a cost of doing business.

Another complaint was about Rosenwach Tank Company, the water tower manufacturer on 27th Street, which is accused of taking over roadways and sidewalks as space to build, and temporarily store their famous wooden tanks.

The second special speaker was Cathy Guerriero, the first person in this election year to announce herself as a candidate for public advocate. She said that since the public advocate’s office was created in 1989 (when there was a significant reorder of city offices and the public advocate post succeeded the discontinued president of the City Council), she has wanted to be elected to it. She said she comes from a long line of city workers and union members, teachers and longshoremen. Currently a college teacher (having a doctorate in education policy), she also was director of planning for the New York Archdiocese, when Cardinal Egan was archbishop. She brought it to the attention of her audience that by the end of the year, there will be a new mayor, new city council speaker and new comptroller. Three-quarters of the city council’s membership will be new—and, of course, there will be a new public advocate. Guerriero expects rival candidates, perhaps several, but she will probably yield to none of them when it comes to passion of expression. She is staunchly pro-union, saying it’s a false choice to divide unions from small business. There have been three public advocates, and she rated all of them for effectiveness, calling Mark Green shrewdly political, Betsy Gotbaum cerebral and Bill de Blasio a man who works the ground well. She said she would demonstrate all those skills if elected. Combining modesty with assertiveness, she said, “I’m not smarter, I’m not better, but I work,” and hard enough to succeed, she maintained. The race is on.

Nick Gulotta, representing Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s office, announced the presence of Eco- House, an environmental exhibit in the playground of I.S. 204, at 37th Avenue between Crescent and 28th Streets, for the next few weeks. He also reminded everyone that the third annual Afro- American Heritage Night awards ceremony is to be held February 28 at the Jacob Riis Settlement House in the Queensbridge Houses, 10-25 41st Avenue.

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