2016-04-20 / Front Page

CB 1 Meets At Kaufman

By Thomas Cogan

The Community Board 1 cabinet meeting for April brought half a dozen speakers to the board room of Kaufman Astoria Studios to talk about matters ranging from everyone’s energy future to swimming schedules and other sports agendas for this summer in Astoria.  It was also the first meeting that Commander Peter Fortune of the 114th Police Precinct could address as Deputy Inspector Fortune.  He had a crime report that was reassuring in spots but disturbing in others; for instance, burglaries, which formerly had been a great problem, were down, but there was a large increase in grand larcenies.  When he described a few of the ways the larcenous are bilking the unsuspecting of their money these days, his listeners were probably as shocked to hear what he was saying as, by his admission, he had been when first he’d heard it.  There was also a health report that said the Zika virus would be at least a potential public health hazard for some time to come.    

The leadoff speaker was Ed Birdie, director of community relations for SENY, covering southeastern New York for the New York Power Authority (NYPA).  He discussed the K-Solar program and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV).  The latter refers to the power transformation the governor says is needed in the state in the next decade and a half.  “If Alexander Graham Bell came back,” Birdie said, “he wouldn’t recognize telephony, but if Edison came back he’d find much of energy production familiar and he’d be able to repair it.”  The governor’s quest for a new energy vision is an attempt to break from fossil fuel’s historical grip.  His goals, Birdie said, are to have half of all the state’s power coming from renewable sources by 2030 and by that same date to have greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 40 percent. 

K-Solar attempts to realize expansion of solar programs while keeping the costs down.  As part of the NY-Sun Initiative it aims to bring affordable solar power to school districts, to help them renew their energy costs.  Fully 315 school districts, about 40 percent of public school districts statewide, have registered for K-Solar as part of the governor’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative, the goal being “to create the next generation of energy leaders . . . by educating students through hands-on STEM-based curriculum and activities.”  Birdie concluded by saying that at present, the power industry is as one-way as it has ever been, generating and distributing energy to a waiting public, but tomorrow’s could be two-way, with a public that has the means to sell back  excess energy to the industry.

Joe Marziliano, an external affairs officer for the Department of Health, was at the meeting to warn anyone who could hear him that the Zika virus could become a serious problem in the United States if Americans travel to Central and South America this year and bring it back with them.  In Brazil, where Zika is prevalent, the Olympic Games are on schedule for two weeks in the summer, so thousands of visitors could have contact with it there and bring it back to their home countries.  There, mosquito bites could pick it up and spread it.  Marziliano said that spraying and administering larvicide to marshlands will be effective only if the public follows a campaign of eliminating standing water sources, where mosquitoes lay eggs and reproduce countless others.  It is imperative to dump out bird baths and any other vessel (abandoned tires, say) where rain or water of any other source has collected.  CB 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris said she’s all in favor of spraying, wanted neighborhoods to be given schedules of spraying times. 

When spray trucks make a surprise appearance and clouds of pesticide are soon landing on unfortunate bystanders, it  undermines the purpose of protection, she said.

In Deputy Inspector Fortune’s crime report he said that occasions of grand larceny were up 70 percent during the latest reporting period.  This was probably owing to the last weeks of the tax season, since going after online tax returns as a means of identity theft has become sophisticated.  Fake checks for making withdrawals from bank accounts have also become a good means of doing bad, but skimming devices are what the commander said he found most astonishing.   Pinhole cameras can be mounted near automatic teller machines (ATM) to capture depositors’ personal identification numbers (PIN) as they make deposits or withdrawals.  Persons hanging out around those ATM with Bluetooth devices in their ears can pick up PIN by distinguishing the clicks made by rightful users.  He said that many of these perpetrators are from Romania and Albania and are quite organized.  There are even “sweep” devices that can pick up numbers on credit and debit cards while they are still in owners’ wallets.  (A woman showed a card that is meant to block such detection if carried with those cards, but it might only make one worry how the crooks will find a way to defeat it.)

Rodney Norman of the Department of Parks’ Citywide Aquatics had news of summer swimming programs, such as one for seniors at the Astoria Pool that Koulouris endorsed enthusiastically.  It begins just after the Monday, July 4 holiday, a weekend event this year.  The children’s program, including swimming instructions for 2,000 learners, will be held not only in Astoria but also in Flushing Meadows and Jamaica.  Registration is in the second half of June.  Jonathan Gamberg of City Parks Foundation (not part of the Parks Dept.) spoke of Summer Stage in Queensbridge Park, July 26-31, then of sports program, beginning with tennis in Astoria Park, beginning Tuesday, July 5; instructions from 9:00 to noon.  A tennis program for seniors will also begin then.   The 14 tennis courts in Astoria Park are due for renovation in May and should be ready for full play in July.  Registration begins this month.    For further information about these activities, which include golf and track and field, see www.cityparksfoundation.org or call 212-360-1399.

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