2017-05-10 / Front Page

Community Board 2 Holds May Meeting

By Thomas Cogan

It has been a longtime assumption that when the new Kosciuszko Bridge was built and spanned Newtown Creek as the old one had, parkland would be laid out at its bases on the Queens and Brooklyn side of the water.  At May’s Community Board 2 meeting, a two-part park on the Queens side was a matter for the board’s consideration, having first been considered by its land use committee.  Other business included several reports by representatives of political officers and community organizations, along with a plea by a quartet of defenders that a coffee vendor under the 40th/Lowery Street train station was being treated unfairly.  Near the end of the meeting, when the usual board committee and city departmental reports are made, one of them included news that surprised everyone in the room at Sunnyside Community Services. 

One of the first speakers was Rachel Murdock, of Neighborhood Housing Services of Queens in Woodside, who was at the meeting to talk about homebuyers’ education.  She said that NHS, with offices all over the city, can offer grants of up to $20,000 for education in household set-up and repairs.  Classes are given in various facets of home-buying and maintenance; one given on Saturday, May 20 is a homebuyer’s education course in Manhattan at the NHS Home Ownership Center, 307 West 36th Street, 12th Floor.  It lasts all day (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) and costs $125.00, but Murdock said there are smaller, free classes too.  She said further information is available at 718-457-1017.  CB 2 Chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith testified that she learned how to set up drywall in an NHS class. 

An announcement from Public Advocate Letitia James’s office said there is to be a Talk to Tish Town Hall, Tuesday, May 16, 7:00 p.m. at CUNY Law School in the 2 Court Square Building, Long Island City.  Two June events followed.  The first is the Riverkeeper Newtown Creek Community Visioning Workshop, to be held Saturday, June 3 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Kingsland Wildflowers, 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn.  Riverkeeper’s Chrissy Remein made the announcement.  Then, Christian Murray, otherwise at the meeting to cover it for the Sunnyside Post, said that on the same day, Saturday, June 3, the annual Hunters Point 5K Race will begin at Hunters Point Park at 8:30 a.m.

Shawn Slevin, who has led the Swim Strong movement locally for several years, warned of the danger to young children of drowning in shallow waters, whether in swimming areas or in the home.  She said that drowning is the leading cause of death for children under five years of age and most of those deaths occur in homes.  She was followed by the vendor defender, who had allies.  Angelique Mann came forward to speak for the man who until lately sold coffee to commuters on the No. 7 train line or to other passers-by in the community space below the 40th /Lowery Street elevated station.  Ultimately, though, he was banned from his sales spot for selling coffee without proper certification. 

According to Ms. Mann, a nearby storeowner staged a campaign of complaint until the vendor was told to move out.  At the meeting, three others, Victor Mann, Naomi Berkowitz and Alvin Hong, came to the front of the room to say that the coffee man was quite friendly and established a faithful clientele.  Crackdowns on independent vendors at 40th/Lowery and 46th/Bliss Street, the next station outbound, have been demanded by that unidentified storeowner and perhaps others, apparently because they believe they are being undermined by such wildcatters as the banished coffee man.

A consumer affairs application for an enclosed sidewalk café with 14 tables and 28 seats was made by Crabhouse, 2-03 Borden Ave., which was represented by one of its owners, Shi Li, or Skinny, whose other local restaurant interests include Skinny’s Cantina, 47-05 Center Blvd.  When asked the hours, he said noon to 11:00 p.m.  Later, when the vote to accept or reject the application was taken, Crabhouse got two votes of abstention and one of rejection but otherwise sailed through.

Half of the new Kosciuszko Bridge, the half going over Newtown Creek from Brooklyn to Queens, was opened with great ceremony in late April, and Queens-to-Brooklyn is expected to open three years from now, in 2020.  Representatives from the city’s Department of Parks and the state’s Department of Transportation came to the meeting to talk less about the bridge than about the park that is proposed for the Queens bank of the creek.  Jonathan Lands of Parks’ capital division introduced Jim Lau of NYSDOT as designer of the park and Robert Adams, also NYSDOT, as the project director.

Adams said the park comprises two parcels of state-owned land (designated as Big and Small) and is about an acre in size.  He said it is currently at the scoping and budgeting stage and will be the topic of further meetings.  He called it “upwind of Phelps-Dodge,” site of the old copper smelter on the creek in West Maspeth, whose abundant pollution is a curse that never stops cursing.  Adams said the water near the parkland will be constantly tested for toxic runoff.

There was much discussion of its status as a “destination park” and the land use committee members explained why this site was taken over others that were seen and considered also.  Mitch Waxman of the Newtown Creek Alliance expressed his approval of the state site as parkland but asked that the completed park be named after Bernard Ente, founder of the NCA and a photographer of the creek and adjacent waters (as is Waxman).  Ente died in 2011, so a park named after him is viewed as a fitting memorial.  The vote in favor of the site for a park was done by raised hand and was nearly unanimous.

The committee reports included Dorothy Morehead’s on the environment.  She was urging anyone interested in a Department of Environmental Protection meeting concerning “the quality of our waters for the next 20 years” to attend the next environmental committee meeting Thursday, May 25 at the CB 2 office, 43-22 50th St.  Also, Motri Savard of the health committee reported that NYU will be opening a Queens medical office, perhaps next year, at 21-21 44th Drive.

The surprise came with Department of City Planning report by Penny Lee, who has given monthly reports at CB 2 meetings for more than 15 years (not to speak of explaining DCP presentations at meetings on several occasions).  At the May meeting she said that next month’s report will be her last.  The real surprise, however, was her disclosure that she is leaving city government and the city itself, moving with her family to Charleston, SC, a place she has become familiar with since 1981.  She told the meeting how glad she was to have worked with the board all these years and got a standing ovation.  Several emotional moments followed.

 

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