2016-05-18 / Front Page

The Dutch Kills Civic Association’s Meets For May

By Thomas Cogan
The Dutch Kills Civic Association’s May meeting was in two parts, on Thursday and Friday, the second day being marked by a street corner demonstration to demand that the Department of Transportation install more stop signs at a crossing of streets where the current signage is called inadequate.  The plan for the demonstration was announced at the Thursday meeting, but most of that night was given over to an appeal by a local restaurant owner that the meeting consider her application to install outside tables and chairs for the summer period, preparatory to bringing it before Community Board 1 at its monthly meeting, five nights later.  The community garden the association is planning to set up on 29th Street, a block away, has been given or purchased trees, plants and shrubbery for installation.

Beija Flor is a corner restaurant at 38-02 29th St., whose owner, Lucia Cruz, will submit an application to CB1 to have a 13-table, 26-chair unenclosed café located on the 38th Avenue side, starting near the corner entrance.  At the DKCA meeting, she was praised as the owner of a restaurant that in its time in the community has established a reputation for good cuisine and good behavior, as some others have not, including at least one of its direct predecessors, according to some at the meeting. 

To bolster her case, Cruz said Beija Flor has maintained Monday through Thursday hours from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., with Friday and Saturday closings at 1:30 a.m. and has not thus far had serious complaints.  The new café would close at 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday, though indoors would still be open till 1:30 a.m.

But few restaurants live entirely free of criticism, and Beija Flor is no exception.  One visitor to the meeting said it is a “beautiful” place but its patrons can be “boisterous.”  Knowing it to be a Brazilian-cuisine restaurant, she feared that when the Olympics come to Brazil this summer, attention to and enthusiasm about the games will lead to louder-than-ever behavior from Beija Flor’s clientele, far though they may be from South America. 

George Stamatiades of the DKCA board was all for endorsing Cruz and Beija Flor, however.  He said that the restaurant’s alcohol license, the driving force behind creation of the café and the quest for approval from CB1, comes up for certification every two years and can be taken away by the State Liquor Authority if it has been adjudged too disruptive to the neighborhood during the preceding months.  Patrol Officer John Glynn of the 114th Police Precinct took no stance in the matter but said that “from 10 to two” it is necessary to heed the sensitivities of the neighborhood and persons trying to get some sleep.  At worst, he said, a bar or restaurant can accumulate a paper trail of complaints when it should be maintaining a “partnership” with the community.  Still, despite its favorable reputation there was a shred of doubt about Beija Flor when a vote was taken to endorse sending a letter of support to the community board regarding the outdoor café.  There were nine votes in favor but five against.

It was a day of progress for the community garden, named Windmill Garden.  The association had received two small trees from the Parks Department that Steve Morena, the man in charge of building up the garden, said he found rather skimpy.  He went to a local landscaper to get some shrubbery and blueberry bushes, to put them in the long and narrow lot located at 39-22 29th St.  It is currently filled with wood chips and perhaps a boxed flower or two, though that should soon be changed.

According to police statistics, there were 24 vehicle collisions at the intersection of 29th Street and 39th Avenue in the nearly two-year period from June 1, 2014 to April 13, 2016.  At that crossing in October 2015, a boy was struck by a minivan.  It wasn’t a fatal incident, but City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the situation must be fixed before there is indeed a mishap involving loss of life.

There is a stop sign at the southeast corner of 29th Street to calm the traffic proceeding north.  Also, there are stop signs on the south and north corners of 39th Avenue and 28th Street, purportedly to calm the traffic proceeding east on 39th Avenue, many to 31st Street three blocks away or to Northern Boulevard, a block farther.  Those wanting a similar set-up at 29th Street and 39th Avenue, or more specifically, “all-way” stop signs, to detain what is sometimes a speed chute on 39th Avenue east of 28th Street, have been told by the Department of Transportation that the intersection doesn’t meet federal criteria for such a sign.

In April, a DOT crew made a most unusual move, installing a bicycle corral in the roadway on the north side of 39th Avenue, just off the corner of 29th Street          and beside the restaurant, Dutch Kills Centraal.* An official DOT announcement said there was a double purpose:  to put a bicycle corral in place that also would act as a calming device to 39th Avenue traffic, including traffic turning left from 28th Street.  As a traffic calmer it is debatable; but otherwise, as an installation of a bike corral that, in the words of DKCA’s Thea Romano, “circumvented notification, public comment and a vote by members of Community Board 1,” it is a fait accompli

The Friday demonstration beside the stop sign on 29th Street was undermined less by rainfall, which let up  for an hour or so as a blessing, than by the failure of a New York 1 television crew to arrive, apparently because it was stuck in evening rush hour traffic, made worse by wet weather.  The fight for what DKCA believes would be a better situation at 29th Street and 39th Avenue is bound to continue, however.  All-way stop signs at the corner; speed humps on 29th Street between 41st and 39th Streets (an additional traffic calmer); and removal of the roadway bike corral on 39th Avenue (though it is adorned by some lovely potted plants) are demands the association and Councilman Van Bramer will continue to make.    

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