2015-01-14 / Features

CB 2 Meets For January 2015

BY THOMAS COGAN

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority review of Sandy damage at and necessary repair to two subway tunnel fan plants in Long Island City was a prime item on the docket of January’s Community Board 2 meeting, the first one managed by new Board Chairman Patrick O’Brien.  Other items addressed included a City Council proposal on term limits for board members; a move for establishing no-smoking rules in apartment houses, announced by a CB 7 member who has been traveling to speak to a number of community boards in the borough; and a Department of City Planning suggestion for alleviating heavy traffic near the Vernon Boulevard Mall, which was attacked as leading to further loss of precious parking space in Hunters Point.

Subway tunnels all over the city were damaged during Superstorm Sandy, which occurred just before Halloween in 2012.  In the CB2 district, two were affected:  Steinway tunnel, running from Grand Central in Manhattan to Hunters Point and including the Vernon-Jackson and Hunters Point Avenue passenger stations; and the 53rd Street tunnel, linking Lexington Avenue-53rd Street in Manhattan with the 23rd-Ely segment of the Court Square stations.  The MTA team that came before the board explained that the storm damaged the fan plants located outside each tunnel and each plant now has to have customized repair.  At the Steinway tunnel plant, 50th Avenue and 2nd Street, replacement of the damaged transformers will require construction of a new plant, where the transformers will be situated on the roof.  At the 53rd Street tunnel plant, 44th Drive and 5th Street, a protective belt, made of what one of the speakers called “durable materials that will last a long time,” will be wrapped around the existing structure.  On-site construction will begin in the fall and should come to an end about two years later, in 2017.

Electronic equipment such as television sets and home computers can no longer be left at the curb for Sanitation to pick up, and the Department of Sanitation’s Bruno Ciano was at the meeting to explain the revised rules of separating refuse.  The electronic material must be taken to designated drop-offs, he said.  His address was diverted by a couple of board members. The first, a woman calling herself a Sunnyside Gardens resident, said that she and her neighbors have had their refuse receptacles used by outsiders, who drop their own refuse into them without feeling responsible for separating their stuff between collectible and recyclable.  The proper residents consequently find that when Sanitation inspectors check for negligence, they are the ones subject to fines, the Sunnyside woman said.  Carol Terrano, a Woodside resident, had a similar complaint, saying that she has been ticketed at 2:00 in the morning.  Ciano expressed surprise, but Terrano surmised that Sanitation can pay inspectors to make busts even in the early morning but doesn’t seem to be able to assign any of them to patrol the neighborhood to check on the presence of outside violators.

The CB 7 member spoke during the public comment segment, explaining that he is on a borough-wide quest to establish no-smoking rules in apartment residences.  He said he would be on his way to another community board that very evening and means eventually to get to every community board in Queens.  When he asked if the board’s health committee had a comment, Carol Terrano, the committee head, said it would be back to him with its judgment.  Matt Wallace, representative for Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, said that Van Bramer and Councilman Daniel Dromm have introduced a term limits bill for community boards what would limit board membership to a maximum of 12 years.  O’Brien said that at present the board will hold off taking a stand on it.  Sam Vargas of the board took a stand immediately, saying that CB 2 and any board should press for autonomy and resist legislative meddling, such as this bill represents.  O’Brien said the matter should be discussed at a later, and better-attended, meeting.

The latest Hunters Point parking protest was initiated by a Woodside resident who nevertheless considers himself “a fan of Long Island City.”  Christian Amez said it is an outrage that the Department of City Planning has proposed, as a means of alleviating the traffic problem, that parking spaces be removed from Vernon Mall, at the south end of Vernon Boulevard, throwing in a dubious promise to create an equal amount of spaces elsewhere.  Planning’s Penny Lee said that the department’s business is to propose conceptual ideas, not declare edicts, so the parking spaces are safe for now.  But a woman on the board was just as upset as Amez, saying that when all the proposals and promises are done, there will be fewer parking spots.  Lee persisted in promoting the department’s suggestion that even though the Vernon Mall spaces should be removed, an equal amount of them could be found somewhere in the neighborhood.  Joseph Conley, having gone from board chairmanship to heading the transportation committee, said that something could be done, just as was done when the meters at Vernon Mall were reduced from 12-hour parking to two-hour.  In the old situation, commuters “owned” the meters, getting there early to insure their park & ride and return from Manhattan in time to avoid ticketing.  If that problem could be solved by reducing the 12-hour limit, this one can be solved too, he said.  Lee said that Planning would attend the next transportation committee meeting to make its case. 

Carol Terrano also had a complaint about a New York State Department of Transportation repair job on the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, at its underpass at 61st Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard. There, a vertical girder has been inserted between the roadbed and the sidewalk of the underpass, presumably as temporary support for a weakened structure.  It blocks the sidewalk, if not entirely, so NYSDOT in its wisdom has closed the crossing on the north and south sides of Laurel Hill Boulevard,  putting pedestrians on notice that they must use the “other side.”  Because the BQE splits 61st Street into two opposing lanes and curves at Laurel Hill Boulevard, it is necessary to cross both lanes of 61st Street before crossing Laurel Hill Boulevard—three crossings where one sufficed before.  Terrano said that aged and infirm persons, many residing in the Big Six towers nearby, are badly inconvenienced by this, and she has been in contact with NYSDOT to ask when the situation can be alleviated.  She says that NYSDOT has a “What’s the problem?” attitude, exemplified, she said, by Charles O’Shea, external relations director for the city, who sent her an email she found inconsiderate.

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