2015-02-11 / Front Page

CB 2 Holds Monthly Meeting


There was an angry buzz at the beginning of February’s Community Board 2 meeting as many of those in attendance conversed about Mayor de Blasio’s state of the city speech a couple of days before.  What had them agitated was the mayor’s suggestion that affordable housing could be built on a massive structure placed over the Sunnyside Yard, running from, say, the 39th Street overpass to the one at Queens Boulevard, encompassing the sidings at the yard, built in the first decade of the 20th century.  When the meeting began, speakers arose to condemn the mayor’s daydream and State Senator Michael Gianaris said it couldn’t be built for a decade at least, and most likely never.  In news about other proposals, a speaker from the Department of City Planning described a text amendment the department was hoping to effect for stairwells and elevators in non-residential offices, to gain better personnel evacuation during fires.  Also, a landmark application was made and voted upon, concerning revisions being made to a house in Sunnyside Gardens. 

State Senator Gianaris said the Sunnyside Yard proposal would entail vast construction upon vast construction, in a place where great activity is already going on, in  part of the yard at the Queens end of the East Side Access project.  Even if approved, nothing could be done toward the building of housing before the mid-2020s at earliest, Gianaris said.  There would be close monitoring of proposals by residents of Woodside, Sunnyside, and Long Island City, most of it denunciatory if the locals who spoke at the meeting were any example.  A committee formed to oppose the project was represented by Melissa Orlando and Pat Dorfman, who said the mayor proposed to build on infrastructure that was inadequate.

Commander Captain John Travaglia made a crime report, saying that major crime incidents were down 28 percent thus far this year, though felony assaults grew from nine to 12.  One of them was made on an 85-year-old man, allegedly by a person known to have serious mental issues.  The good news was that the victim, though bruised, was recovering.  Commercial burglaries have been occurring in early morning hours on Vernon Boulevard and there have been several hybrid batteries stolen from hybrid automobiles, mainly taxicabs, in the area.  Precinct traffic accidents are down, though, despite much snowy and slippery weather.  Finally, the commander said that a suspect in the bank robbery committed at the Chase branch at 59-26 Woodside Ave. in mid-January has been apprehended in Pennsylvania.

A Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, from the Department of City Planning is an application for a proposed stairwells text amendment for non-residential buildings.  The text amendment would apply to buildings 420 feet in height or mixed use buildings that extend the height beyond 420 feet.   A presentation was made by Planning’s Dakota Hendon, who explained that under the text amendment, stairwells could be increased by a quarter of their current size, to go along with elevators that are now fitted to be safe for use by personnel escaping a building fire.  He said the result of building wider stairwells would probably be bulkier buildings.  Typically, buildings of this size and non-residential use tend to be for business offices and hotels.  The aim is to have better escape for personnel from emergencies.  A Fire Department officer said the new exit plan is of key importance and fire drill training would be imperative.  Penny Lee of Planning said that several buildings in the Court Square vicinity and off Queens Plaza would be affected by the text amendment, which received unanimous approval when the board voted on it.

The landmark application came from the house at 39-90 44th St. in Sunnyside Gardens.  The young couple living there were looking for approval to install windows and a façade to replace alterations from the original that have been put up over the years.  They also wanted to install a balcony fence on the top floor that would make it a porch area.  Everything they sought was approved unanimously by the board.  To close the matter of public hearing votes:  a renewal application by Bagels Plus, 57-20 Woodside Ave., for an enclosed sidewalk café with eight tables and 23 seats, was also approved unanimously.  

Another invited speaker was John S. Cnapich, director of paternity and outreach services for the Human Resources Administration.  His topic was child support; and while he said paternity and outreach services is mainly a collection agency, it maintains a program of non-custodial support, almost entirely for men.  Other than that, it guides both men and women through family court, an area where if they have to go they probably need guidance, particularly when encountering family court judges.  He said that New York is “one of the least expensive states” for child support and other family matters.

Other speakers included Erin Keyes of Sunnyside Community Service’s friendly visiting program.  She described a program for volunteers to assist the homebound elderly, saying that those volunteers are asked to commit themselves to at least six months of service, one day a week.  For inquiry, the SCS number is 718-784-6173 x 479; email is enkeyes@scsny.org.  A woman from the Department of Consumer Affairs talked about tax assistance for those who earned up to $53,000.  Those interested should email  www.myfreetaxes.com.   

Some had complaints.  Paul Salo, who lives on 53rd Street near Queens Boulevard in Woodside, said that an unmarked truck showed up on his street a few days earlier and the driver began spray-painting red lines all over the surface.  When asked what he was doing, he said he was marking the location underneath of gas lines, adding that the whole street is due to be dug up shortly.  Salo said this was an disturbing surprise.  CB 2 Chairman Patrick O’Brien told him the driver was probably from Keyspan and said he would put in a word of complaint about the company’s abrupt behavior.  Christian Amez, who covers  everything from Woodside to the East River, objected to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s choice of Court Square Park as the site of the winning artwork from its Clare Weiss Emerging Artist Award competition, currently being conducted.  This year’s winner will display the artwork in the park on Jackson Avenue for a year, beginning this fall.  The competition has been conducted since 2011 and this year, the fifth, marks the first time the winner is to be displayed in a Queens park.  Amez said that the whole process is top-down, with no neighborhood input, just passive acceptance of an award conferred by a central city department.





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