2014-11-12 / Features

CB2 Talks Hunters Point Library

By Thomas Cogan

At November’s Community Board 2 meeting, there was supposed to be a presentation by two speakers about the Hunters Point Library, that great building by the river which thus far is only a castle in the air—but they sent their regrets and the topic had to be postponed at least until December, though that didn’t stop one local resident from suggesting that the project is a boondoggle that has to be reduced severely.  The plan for designated bicycle lanes on Vernon Boulevard was presented by a Department of Transportation representative and got a largely favorable reception.  The departure of Commander Captain Brian Hennessy from the 108th Police Precinct was noted with surprise and disappointment.  The de-mapping of a dummy street in Woodside seemed a simple matter for approval but became complicated and protracted before being decided, if it was.  

Jason Banrey of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s staff, announced that the Sunnyside slow traffic zones, described in a special CB 2 meeting in mid-September, would be in effect beginning next spring.  He also repeated one of the day’s news items, that the 25 miles-per-hour speed limits would be enforced on most city streets beginning the next day, November 7.  The Citibank rental bike program would be coming soon to Long Island City, Banrey added, Van Bramer having protested that the bank’s bike-sharing program, Citibike, wasn’t worthy of the name if it didn’t include Queens in its customer base.

During the public commentary segment, Cathy Chambers said she was trying to see what the level of interest was for having the Sunnyside greenmarket on a year-round basis.  At present, food-sellers set up marketing each Saturday from spring through late autumn next to the Torsney and Lou Lodati playgrounds at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street.  Before a motion for approval was passed, the question for Chambers from one board member was about setting up a greenmarket where there is none, in Woodside, near Bush Playground.  Chambers said she would look into that too.  

CB 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said he had heard funding for the Hunters Point Library is now available.  He had to add though that two speakers on the evening’s agenda, Howard Pollack of the Department of Design & Construction and Frank Genese of Queens Public Library, were unable to appear at the meeting to explain the status of the proposed library beside the East River, at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, ground for which has yet to be broken. They left word they might be able to be at the meeting in December.  Peter Johnson, a Hunters Point resident, arose to ask just how much taxpayers’ money has been sunk into this project with thus-far nonexistent results.  He said that the building itself, as described, would be impractical if ever put up.  He dismissed it as a fantasy for the white middle class that should be pared down and put at the base of one of the Hunters Point South residential buildings that themselves have yet to be erected.  

Sean Macias of the Department of Transportation had a report about the East River Greenway that mainly covered the bicycle lanes on Vernon Boulevard.  He said that bicyclists in ever-increasing numbers have been using the Greenway but have found sharing the road with motorists an uneasy experience.  Realizing this, DOT proposes to give them separate lanes on one side of the roadway.  By giving them 11 feet of two-way space and separating their lanes from vehicular traffic with Jersey barriers, they can establish swift and safe routes.  Macias showed illustrations of how it was done in other places, notably Columbia Street near the Brooklyn waterfront.  Two commentators spoke, with contrasting opinions.  Brian Howell said that Jersey barriers are merely another impediment, like the parked cars, trucks and school buses that already crowd Vernon Boulevard.  Ben Creed said the barriers could be a win-win for cyclists and motorists.  The sheer number of bicycles on the streets is less important than where they will go, he said, agreeing with Macias that ease and swiftness of traffic can be assured.  A motion supporting Jersey barriers as protection for bicycle traffic was passed by the board with a raised-hands vote.

Behind the stores fronting on Roosevelt Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets in Woodside is Firecom Inc., an alarm systems manufacturer.  Between the company’s entrance and the Long Island Railroad tracks is its parking lot, which is perhaps 40 feet wide, runs the length of the block and has spots for more than two dozen vehicles.  The lot is also Vaux Road, an actual city street that is open only to vehicles coming and going from Firecom, which leases the block of roadway from the city.  The company has submitted a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application to have Vaux Road de-mapped, preparatory to purchasing it from the city.

The Firecom-Vaux Road situation was explained to the board by Kevin Fullington, an attorney for the company.  The board’s land use committee, through Lisa Ann Deller, its chairwoman, made a motion to approve the application.  Board Vice Chairman Steve Cooper said a proviso should be added restricting Firecomm from developing anything other than the parking lot, following the purchase.  Patrick O’Brien, another board member, agreed, saying
that Firecom would probably develop only the parking lot but could develop something else, though in that event it would have to appear before land use committee and board once again.  Dorothy Morehead of the board said the proviso was not necessary, an opinion backed by most of the board, which passed the unadorned motion, 21-10.  Cooper persisted, however, raising a second motion that would confine use of the de-mapped street to a parking lot.  Penny Lee of the Department of City Planning said that this is one ULURP application and shouldn’t have a further motion as a rider to the motion already approved without it.  And yet, perhaps to get the matter out of the way for the evening, the new motion was brought to a vote and approved.

Chairman Conley said that Commander Captain Brian Hennessy of the 108th Police Precinct has been transferred to the 115th Precinct in Corona, where he will be in command .  Conley expressed disappointment for CB2’s loss, saying that as commander of the 108th, Captain Hennessy was tirelessly cooperative with the board.  Conley’s reaction was shared by the board, which unanimously approved his motion to present the former commander with a commendatory certificate at the December meeting, should he be present.

A certificate from the borough president’s office citing board membership for 10 years was presented to Anne Hart.  Brooke Barr, principal of P.S. Q343, the Children’s Lab School, introduced herself to the board.  The school was opened in September on 42nd Street, between Queens Boulevard and 47th Avenue.  Noting the objections of those who believed the entrance should have been on 43rd Street (the school goes through the block), she said it was not there because 43rd Street is at a lower level and would have presented problems for wheelchair access.  Finally, approval was quick and unanimous for the renewal application for an unenclosed sidewalk café (14 tables, 42 seats) by Skinny’s Cantina, 47-05 Center Blvd.  

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