2017-01-11 / Front Page

Elected Officials Appear At CB 2 & Discuss 2017 Plans

By Thomas Cogan
The New Year began for Community Board 2 welcoming to the new commander of the 108th Police Precinct and appearances by a few elected officials, the city comptroller among them. There was discussion of an alternative light rail line that’s not the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector, which might be cheaper to construct and travel a longer distance. Other topics included Access-A-Ride, hotels serving as homeless shelters and the promise of using unclaimed land that is now city property, as sites for affordable housing. At next month’s meeting, the vote will be taken on the Universal Church’s plan to build a large new home in the middle of neighborhoods in Woodside. In response to this, three young Woodside protesters showed up to make their objections of the project known. 

There were announcements about the Sunnysider of the Year Dinner; an environmentalists’ march on Washington in the spring; an ongoing chamber music series in Long Island City and ongoing artistic exhibitions in Hunters Point. 

Succeeding Deputy Inspector John Travaglia as commander of the 108th Precinct is Captain Ralph Forgione, a Queens native in his 29th year on the force. He spoke only briefly but included the steadily falling crime rate in his remarks. He said the rate might be even lower if grand larceny statistics, especially those related to automobile break-ins, weren’t keeping it at a higher level. He put the blame on careless owners who leave valuable items (laptops, electronic navigation devices) on display in their parked cars for passing thieves to see and steal. The new commander’s first community council meeting will be held on January 24th at 7 pm at Sunnyside Community Services, where the CB 2 meeting is also held.

The first of the elected officials introduced by CB 2 Chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith was Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, whose district is within the community board’s district in parts of Woodside and Maspeth. She reported that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is proposing a light rail system that could be built on existing track, beginning on the Montauk track on lower Skillman Avenue, and running a circuitous, nine-mile route to Jamaica. It would thus be different from the proposed, non-MTA Brooklyn-Queens Connector, for which a route would have to be contrived and tracks built. Financing for the MTA project would come from air rights sold by the MTA. Rather than challenge the feasibility of the plan, Carol Terrano, a board member from Woodside, said it doesn’t address the serious problems of the district, such as housing and schooling needs and overcrowding on the elevated and underground trains. Terrano cheered, however, when Crowley said she had secured $500,000 for repair of Little Bush Park in Woodside, near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

One of the district’s two Assembly members introduced himself: new Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, who defeated Assembly Member Marge Markey in a primary in the late summer and won the general election in November. The last elected official to speak was City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who came to office after defeating former Governor Eliott Spitzer in 2013. He began by warning that the impending Trump administration might trim as much as $70 million in federal funds normally allotted to the city. He addressed the Access-A-Ride issue by saying that his office conducted an audit of the MTA’s beleaguered ride service for the elderly and disabled and would have more to say about it at a later date. Richard Gundlach of the board said that in view of all the heavy criticism it might be a good idea to replace Access-A-Ride with Uber. The comptroller said that was one of several possibilities under consideration. 

When Board Member Sam Vargas asked about the use of hotels as shelters for the homeless, Stringer said it was deplorable that 25,000 families are living in hotel space while many New York City Housing Authority apartments are deliberately kept vacant.  But using NYCHA apartments for the homeless would be only stopgap, he said, since the really critical need is for more affordable housing. That, he said, could be built on unused land that is owned by the city. He emphasized that several hundred such land parcels exist, many of them of ideal size and location for affordable housing. Many developers, though, would like to purchase them and instead build market-rate housing. Stringer said there should be a “land bank, land trust” institution that would not only erect affordable housing, but see that it remains affordable over the years. (Meanwhile, he fears that the city’s homeless population might number 55-70,000 by the end of 2017.)

Three teenagers, a girl and two boys, were among the public speakers hoping to make persuasive appeals to the attendees. The three were from the Little Manila neighborhood of Woodside, near the Universal Church, 69-03 Roosevelt Ave., which wants to tear down its current headquarters building and replace it with a much larger and higher one, fronting on 69th Street and standing closer to 30th Avenue, a block north of Roosevelt. The three said they had talked to residents in the immediate vicinity of the proposed site and found them strongly opposed to the Universal Church’s rebuilding plan. Hearing the visitors, Patrick O’Brien, former CB 2 chairman, was a little skeptical and told them that mere indirect testimony from those residents could look and sound a little dubious. In reply, the three said they would assemble a collection of written statements from them for consideration by the community board or for the Board of Standards and Appeals. CB 2 will vote to accept or reject the Universal Church’s proposal at its next meeting, Thursday, February 2nd. The BSA will probably make its decision in the spring.

Dan Miner, former head of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation and an active environmentalist, attended the meeting to try to organize against what he said were “attacks on our climate” by President-elect Donald Trump and Congress.  He was also publicizing “a massive march on Washington, DC” on Saturday, April 29th “for clean energy, jobs and climate justice.”  He gathered several signatures for enlistment in the People’s Climate Movement and referred everyone to peoplesclimate.org and beyondoilnyc@gmail.com for further information and updates.

The Sunnysider of the Year 2017 Dinner, honoring Anthony Lana and being presented by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and Sunnyside Artists, will be held January 31st, 6:30 pm at Tangra Ballroom, 39-23 Queens Blvd. Pat Dorfman of the Sunnyside Chamber announced that tickets to the dinner are $50 in advance and $55 at the door. They can be ordered at Eventbrite or 718-909-4806.

A representative of Forte New York Chamber Music Series announced Forte’s fifth event of the 2016-17 season, to be presented January 15th, 5 pm at New York Presbyterian Church, 43-23 37th Ave. (between 43rd & 48th Streets). 

The six-person chamber group will present Master Series I, with violist Nicholas Cords as special guest. Further 5 pm Sunday concerts will be held at the church February 5th, March 5th, April 2nd and May 7th. The church can be reached by subway at 46th Street (Broadway) or by the Q66 bus (Northern Blvd). Admission is free.

The arts in Hunters Point were the topic of an announcement by Steve Cooper, former vice-chairman of the board, who drew attention to the 7,000-square-foot artists' space, sponsored by Plaxall, at 5-15 46th Ave. He said a large exhibition of work by local artists recently closed there but more exhibitions are expected in coming months.

Community Board 2 Chair Denise Keehan-Smith will be the speaker at the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, to be held January 17th, 12:30 pm at Soleluna restaurant, 40-01 Queens Blvd. She will talk about the function of the city’s 59 community boards and how she became involved in community service. The “showcase luncheon” has a prix fixe of $22.

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