2016-10-19 / Front Page

CB 1 Meets; Floating Hospital Talks About Healthcare

By Thomas Cogan

The October Community Board 1 cabinet meeting at Kaufman Astoria Studios seemed an exceptionally quick affair after the first four scheduled speakers were done and the fifth was absent.  Florence Koulouris, CB 1’s district manager and moderator of the meeting, said that everyone might go home early.  But when one of the unscheduled speakers began to talk about food carts in the streets, everyone knew a much longer meeting would follow.  It was further lengthened by a crime report from Patrol Officer Ed Negron of the 114th Police Precinct, in which he disclosed a grand larceny problem similar to that of the neighboring 108th Precinct.  

First of the scheduled speakers was the team of Andres Ledesma and Rosa Pitino of Con Edison.  Ledesma warned again about natural gas leakage and said that the substance added to the odorless gas to give it an odor is called mercaptan.  Pitino explained the current gas service upgrade work in Astoria, largely in Dutch Kills, since it is taking place in an area bounded by 36th Avenue (north) and 41st Avenue (south); 31st Street (east) and 24th Street (west).  It involves drilling and excavation work, parking restrictions and temporary lane closures, especially during the weekdays the work is in effect.  Con Edison is assuring the public that customers will be notified if interruptions of gas service prove necessary.

Cynthia Davis, director of community outreach for The Floating Hospital, said that it is now 150 years old, having been literally launched in 1866.  The first patients were newsboys from the New York Times.  Several of them had

been sickened by the unhealthy air had been circulating in Manhattan as they tried to sell their newspapers.  It served as a waterborne health center for the poor until after 9/11, when it was transferred to a dock in Brooklyn.  The time came when it was thought best to make it land-situated, and so it was transferred again, installed at 41-43 Crescent Street, near Queensboro Plaza North.  Davis was at the meeting to say that a branch of the hospital, a clinic offering primary care and mental health treatment, has been opened at Reality House, 8-13 Astoria Blvd., 2nd floor.  Hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  The telephone number is 718-784-2240, ext. 195.  Walk-ins are welcome.

Gregory Dennis, director of the early childhood program at the Long Island City YMCA, 32-23 Queens Blvd., opened his address by saying that one’s brain develops faster in early childhood than at any time thereafter.  He said that at the Y he brings in special guests to work with toddlers, his term for children who have learned to walk but are not yet six years of age.  Brently Winstead, a human resources coordinator at the Y, said he works with six-year-olds, and from there all the way to the elderly, who are known as Silver Sneakers.

Joan Deraval, an assistant coordinator at YAI Astoria Day Habilitation, 37-11 35th Ave., 3rd floor, was the next speaker.  YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities has been in business since 1957, has several offices in New York and has been in Astoria since 2004.  Deraval said two of the local organizations that use YAI are HANAC and the Astoria Performing Arts Council (APAC).  She said YAI is seeking volunteers for its Seeing beyond Disability program.  Further information is available by calling 718-482-8121, ext. 480; or email joan.deraval@yai.org.  One woman at the meeting called YAI’s work “fabulous,” with excellent supervision.

The formal agenda having been completed, it was time for the informal.  As he began, Joseph Marziliano, external affairs officer of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, began to talk about food carts in the streets and the desirability of licenses for mobile street vendors.  He said he knew his topic was controversial and wasn’t surprised by low growls of chagrin in response.  He understood that it’s bothersome one vendor might have a 10-year wait after applying for a license and further so that several in the city have multiple licenses, which puts them in a position of power.  The current proposal is to issue about 600 licenses per year for several years, a seeming remedy brought into doubt by the slightest scrutiny.  Koulouris said that food carts already cause major issues in the CB 1 district, and now an untold number will be added.

Marziliano said that vendors must be competitive or perish.  He said that though licensed, they are not graded as bars and restaurants are, but should be.  One man observed that vendors on those terrible waiting lists are often forced to go the black market route.  Marziliano described the way the department tracks vendors, also mentioning their obligation to get their carts or trucks washed daily (which drew skeptical murmurs).  Fran Luhmann-McDonald said there should be chips in every license plate, so wandering vendors can be tracked by GPS and their whereabouts always be known.  She added that any vendor removing the chip would be subject to a $10,000 fine.  If and when the license expansion program reaches the City Council she will demand of her representative, Councilman Costas Constantinides, that he vote no, she said.

Patrol Officer Ed Negron began his 114th Police Precinct report by bringing up the problem of grand larceny in general and mail fishing in particular.  He said the latter, which these days is getting as much publicity as evil clown sightings, is probably less worrisome if letters containing checks are dropped in mailboxes before carriers empty the boxes in late afternoon, thus preventing thieves from getting a nocturnal hold on one’s bill-paying envelope with a stick and a wad of gum and treating the enclosed check to a new version of money-laundering.  He said that writing checks with a Uniball 207 ballpoint is best, since its ink is the hardest to remove by anyone intent on increasing the check’s value and changing its intended recipient before cashing it in the hapless owner’s bank account.  

He also said that there is a 7:00 p.m. public meeting Thursday, October 27 at Riccardo’s, 21-01 24th Ave., where the new precinct sector and community relations plan will be explained.

Norman Chan of the Department of Parks announced that Astoria Heights Playground, 30th Road and 46th Street, will be closed Monday, November 7 for repairs that are expected to take a year to complete.  (Van Alst Playground, 21st Street and 30th Avenue, is currently closed for repairs.)  Before Astoria Heights is closed, there will be a pre-closing fair Friday, October 28th.


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