2016-05-11 / Front Page

CB 2 Discusses Major Road Improvements

By Thomas Cogan

At the May meeting of Community Board 2 there was a Department of Transportation presentation about proposed improvements to sections of Northern Boulevard, Newtown Road, Broadway and other streets in Woodside.  It was voted upon by the full board, as was another item from Northern Boulevard, the latest attempt by the representatives of a fast food restaurant to get a variance approved and a new lease secured.  That was a holdover from last month, while another item from April, an application for repairs for a house in Sunnyside Gardens, drew the wrath of a local architect, who declared it dishonest to the point of illegality.  There was other business and an announcement that surprised the meeting and compels further action next month.  

The announcement came from Board Chairman Patrick O’Brien, who said that he was resigning that office, surprising many if not all of those who could hear him.  He said he has a lot of concerns outside of board business and that the latter has had such an impact on his activity he must relinquish the office, though he’ll remain as a board member.  That immediately meant there would have to be election of a new chairperson next month.  Lisa Ann Deller, first vice chairwoman, said nominations could be accepted that evening and at the June meeting.  Denise Keehan-Smith, board secretary, was the first and only nominee that evening. 

O’Brien served 15 months, succeeding Joseph Conley, who stepped down in December 2014 after 23 years as chairman.  He said his resignation was a closely-held secret that he wanted to keep until the meeting.  He was therefore annoyed when he got a phone call from a media reporter one morning, asking him to comment about it.

He said some person or persons who know who they are were pledged to confidence and have disappointed him. 

The DOT presentation was centered on Northern Boulevard from Honeywell Street, in an industrial part of Long Island City, to Broadway in Woodside, including Newtown Road, Woodside Avenue and 54th Street.  The presentation was also made to Community Board 1, confined to the parts in its district. In either district, the plan involves extending crosswalks, building pedestrian traffic islands and adjusting vehicle routes to advance pedestrian safety and traffic calming. There was also a bicycle-vehicle proximity plan that Tom Ryan of the Northern Woodside Coalition said made no sense regarding safety.  But when the time came for a vote, the transportation committee said it had earlier approved the plan as it related to CB2, and the full board expressed unanimous approval with a raised-hands vote.

Last month, a Board of Standards and Appeals application for a variance in the parking and drive-through area of the Taco Bell restaurant at 60-06/12 Northern Boulevard was eventually tabled because the argument was inconclusive and one of its critics had left the meeting earlier than expected.  In the interim between the April and May meetings, the Taco Bell representatives had been in consultation with the critic,

Tom Ryan of the Northern Woodside Coalition.  He and they were present at the May meeting to declare that they had come to an agreement about such issues as lighting and noise, which had generated complaints in the residential streets behind and to either side of the Taco Bell building and grounds.  Ryan read a list of 18 bullet points, including those for signs entreating less disruptive behavior by patrons of this 24-hour restaurant or another prohibiting left turns into the parking lot.  The pact between the Taco Bell reps and the neighborhood group moved the land use committee to approve the variationat its own meeting.  A roll-call vote yielded approval also, and unanimously.

The outcome of another item from last month brought sharp criticism this month during the public comment phase of the meeting.  It was a complicated case involving exterior house repairs in Sunnyside Gardens, which is a landmark neighborhood where such repairs need the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  The crux of the matter was repair of a slate roof.  The owner of the house re-covered the entire roof with composition shingles that the commission deemed all right for small repairs but not for complete replacement.  The motion for a roll-call vote was to allow the owner to obtain permits for the roof repair already done, meaning all of it.  The total vote favored the motion, but there were 13 votes that did not and there was some fierce debate after the vote was taken.  At the May meeting, Laura Heim, an architect with an office on 46th Street near Skillman Avenue, denounced the total installation of shingles that were not slate, and at the same time the board vote that mainly favored it.  “We don’t reward cheaters,” she said, adding that the owner had plainly broken the law. 

The other voting item was about an application by Tournesol, a restaurant at 50-12 Vernon Blvd., for an unenclosed sidewalk café with four tables and eight seats.  Lisa Ann Deller of the land use committee said the committee was not able to vote on the application but said it would probably have approved.  The full board did, unanimously.

The environment committee report by Dorothy Morehead included an item about an aeration program in Dutch Kills—not the community but the inlet near Newtown Creek. Morehead said that the Department of Environmental Protection is conducting the program in a high-handed manner that has angered the local group, Newtown Creek Alliance.  She said that the NCA seems to have persuaded the DEP to put off implementation of the plan pending consultation.

Two announcements were about the same meeting.  On Wednesday, May 18, there will be a special CB2 meeting about an ongoing issue, proposed housing, including affordable housing, at 50-25 Barnett Avenue.  It will be held at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th St., where CB2 meets regularly, at 6:30 p.m.

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