2017-05-31 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Grant Variance

To The Editor:

I am writing to share a response to recent articles I have seen regarding the Astoria Sports Complex in Long Island City. I am aware that a request for a variance to expand services has been made by owner, Steve Poliseno. This comes amid sweeping plans for development within the Long Island City area. My direct experience of Mr. Poliseno and the Astoria Sports Complex over a period of more than 15 years, as a member, is that he has a genuine regard for family-focused, affordable fitness services, and he hires from the community. This family-owned business enriches the quality of life for families with children (swimming lessons and an “active party” venue for children), senior citizens (Silver Sneakers program), and local residents of all ages. His request to build regulation fields for soccer and ice skating for hockey are an outgrowth of his willingness to respond to the changing needs of the community. The batting range of the past and dominance of baseball and basketball have given way to the demand for soccer by groups from many countries, and hockey, for those who are in need of regulation fields closer to home. I am neither a soccer or hockey player, and have no children involved in these sports activities. However, I see their importance to generations of young people in need of these opportunities in their “own backyard.”

I felt the need to write this letter because I don’t believe that Mr. Poliseno needs to be classified in the class of high-stakes corporate developers who are new arrivals banking on profit, not progress, for our community. These developers do not regard the diverse nature of our community and the income levels when they build luxury condominiums and rentals with prohibitive costs and all-inclusive facilities that serve only the residents and not the community.

If we force out small businesses like the Astoria Sports Complex, we undercut the future possibilities of employment for local residents, and we negate the longstanding commitment of business people who really care about the community because we deny them the ability to diversify and adapt to the changing demands of a working class majority within this dynamic and thriving community. I recall some years back when I wanted to bring a “Go Red” for women’s heart health event to Long Island City. Mr. Poliseno generously offered me space and time at the Astoria Sports Complex to convene discussion groups and fitness demonstrations on-site. I would like the Community Board and local leaders to help us retain our small businesses and recognize opportunities to support needed services.

Dr. Sharon M. Cadiz,
Member, Justice for All Coalition

Health Act Deplorable

To The Editor:

It is very important that lead levels be checked on all elevated subway lines. Paint chips have been falling from the elevated number 7 train. Lead levels are checked in schools and in the water supply. Lead poisoning is dangerous, especially in children. Elevated train lines should be painted with lead-free paint.

It is deplorable that the pending new health care act will cause deep cuts in Medicaid, and people living in nursing homes will have to have their families pay thousands of dollars to have them stay in their current residences or find a place for them to live. This is an abomination indeed. Where is the caring for those who need nursing home care?

There are so many empty unused lots. Affordable housing can be built on these empty spaces, giving people who have no homes a unit of their own. Housing and a place to live is not a luxury, but a necessity for life. Homeless shelters are not the answer or the cure for homelessness. Social services must get these people jobs and affordable housing. More should be built.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

Better A Bus

To The Editor:

The recent release of a February 2017 internal City Hall memo reveals that the proposed financing of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector or street car, known as BQX, by capturing a piece of rising property values that would be a result of construction will not work. This financing model is known as “value capture” was supposed to have paid for 100% of the project. This follows a past release by the NYC Economic Development Corporation of a paper concerning construction of a waterfront street car to connect various neighborhoods between Astoria, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn at a cost of $2.5 billion, which now leaves new questions needing answers. In 2015, The Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector released a study claiming it could be built for $1.7 billion. Mayor Bill de Blasio later in 2016 said $2.5 billion. In less than one year, the price tag went up by $800 million. Imagine how many more billions it might cost to complete. It takes more than a simple planning feasibility study to turn into a viable capital transportation improvement project. There have been no environmental documents or preliminary design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any basic estimates for $2.5 billion construction costs of the Brooklyn- Queens waterfront streetcar. What is the cost and funding source for the several hundred million above the $2.5 billion base line price tag to pay for two new bridges over the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek as part of project scope?

Claims that construction would start in 2019 and service begin by 2024 are now just wishful thinking. This memo also reveals that the completion date could slip until 2025 or later. The environmental review process will just start in 2017. Final design and engineering, which could take several years, would not proceed beyond 30% until the appropriate city, state or federal funding agency made a environmental finding in 2018 or 2019. History shows that construction of most major new transportation system expansion projects takes decades. There are many narrow streets along the proposed corridor. Any street car system will have to compete with existing bus, auto, commercial vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. At an estimated speed of 12 miles per hour, how many people would actually take advantage of a streetcar versus other existing options? No neighborhoods have come forward to accept the two multi-acre operations, maintenance and storage facilities necessary to accommodate 52 or more streetcars. Resolution of this issue alone could take years. Bus stops are normally every one to two blocks. Proposed spacing of street car stops every 1/2 mile will make it more difficult to attract riders. Utility relocation costs were originally estimated to be $427 million. Will New York City, like the MTA, ask utility companies to pick up the tab? It has now been revealed that these costs, along with relocation of water mains and sewer lines may be even higher.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to finance this project by taking a percentage of property taxes (value capture) on new development was always robbing Peter to pay Paul. This would reduce the amount of money available for police, fire, sanitation and other essential municipal services. Both the NYC Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation have no experience in design, construction or operations of street car systems. Mayor de Blasio will now have to ask the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to serve as a project sponsor and future system operator. The MTA, not wanting to use its own funding, would have to enter the project into United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New Starts program. MTA, NYCDOT, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are all attempting to qualify many other projects for the same federal New Starts program.

Dozens of other potential New Starts projects are being championed by many other senators and Congress members. The requests far exceed any available New Starts funding. There will be few winners and many losers.

Mayor de Blasio promised riders would pay the same $2.75 fare as those using NYC Transit subway, bus or MTA bus. This would also include a free transfer to connect with existing NYCT subway, bus and MTA bus services. He has failed for over two years to identify how New York City will provide the MTA with tens of millions in additional operating subsidies on a yearly basis to cover the cost of lost revenues.

Completion of a planning study is just the first step of any potential capital transportation project improvement. The journey for a project of this scope can easily take 10 to 20 years before becoming a reality. Given the increasing uncertainties of project financing and growing costs for utility, sewer lines and water main relocation, it appears that a new limited stop bus route along this corridor would make more sense.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Letter Carriers Appreciation

To The Editor:

I would like to praise our men and women in the USPS whose tireless efforts bring us our mail every day. In Glen Oaks Village we have a letter carrier named Diane who delivers our mail and to the many that she meets on her route, delivers with a smile and a kind word. Then there is my best friend named David Duffy, who had delivered mail in Queens for over 40 years and is now semi-retired. He has had good stories to tell on his the route and did his best for those who depended on their mail. In Mineola where I work at Northeast Plumbing, we have a mail carrier named Jimmy and he gives us our mail and picks up outgoing mail that is important for our business. He also does this with a smile and a kind word. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he would ask how we were doing and showed genuine concern and sympathy for what many of us were going through. These are just a few examples of these fine mail carriers. Lately there have be a few mail carriers who were hurt by those who did not care for them. Our prayers go out to these men and women who serve the public with dedication and hard work and deserve to be honored for all that they do. Remember this saying about our noble mail carriers: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That is so true. So I say God bless the men and women who have served us so well over the years, and who have deserved kind words for a job well done. Frederick R. Bedell Jr.

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