2017-06-07 / Features

CB 2 Takes Care Of Business Before Summer Break


On June 1, Community Board 2 held its last meeting until September.

The first speaker was Captain Ralph Forgione, Commanding Officer of the 108th Police Precinct, who gave the board and other attendees of the meeting at Sunnyside Community Services a brief crime report and a few words about domestic violence. There were two applications for unenclosed sidewalk facilities at local restaurants, one of which ran into opposition that might have surprised a few at the meeting. A citywide text amendment for self-storage got a presentation by the Department of City Planning and a solid endorsement from an economic development activist. NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer came by to make an announcement about the Board of Standards and Appeals. Finally, Penny Lee, the longtime City Planning liaison with the board, was honored with awards and confections upon her retirement.

Capt. Forgione read much of the crime report the way he had the night before at the 108th Precinct meeting, but he also brought up a topic not covered then – domestic violence – which he said is taken very seriously by the police now. Steve Cooper of the board recalled an old routine used by the police when answering a call to resolve a domestic spat: officers would take the hotheaded husband for a walk and urge him to calm down, before returning him to his home.

“We don’t do that anymore,” the Captain told him. Board member Patrick O’Brien asked the Commander what he could do about businesses that park their vehicles on the sidewalk in such residential/ light industrial neighborhoods as the one at 48th Avenue and 35th Street. The captain asked a nearby sergeant and a patrol officer to look at that situation.

The public comment period followed, opened by a woman who deplored Mayor Bill de Blasio’s hesitancy regarding shutting down the prison on Riker’s Island, choosing instead to close it incrementally during the next decade. Dino Panagoulias, a small property owner in Dutch Kills, read an email he had sent to Councilman Van Bramer, objecting to his resolution to freeze rent raises by landlords such as he, the son of Greek immigrants who scrimped and saved to buy a building and run it in ethical fashion before passing it on to him. Pat Dorfman promoted the second Boulevard Film Festival, running in mid-July. She said there have been hundreds of entries, and it looks to be a stellar event. Juanita Martinez, of Public Health Solutions, 40 Worth St., briefly described how PHS helps people obtain or retain free or low-cost health coverage and apply for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also known as food stamps. PHS’s contact number is 646-619-6538 and its website is www.healthsolutions.org/navigator. Monica Guzman of Sunnyside Community Services said that SCC will create a meritorious service award named after Gert McDonald, the indefatigable Sunnyside political activist, who died May 21 at the age of 100.

The first application for an unenclosed sidewalk café came from Bareburger, at 49-19 Vernon Blvd., which sought permission for 20 tables and 40 seats. At least one board member spoke of Bareburger as a fine eatery and a good neighbor, never a cause for complaint. At voting time, it enjoyed unanimous approval. But Bar 43, located at 43-06 43rd St., ran into objections.

Bar 43 has in the past been popular at CB 2 meetings, but a source of several complaints at the 108th Precinct meetings, where people identifying themselves as nearby residents have called it a site of frequently loud and disruptive behavior, lasting as late, or early, as four in the morning. Two such complainants revived those charges at the board meeting. One of the restaurant’s partners was asked what the place’s closing time is and answered that it’s 2 a.m., “on average.” That caused Lisa Ann Deller to ask that Bar 43’s case be held over, saying her land use committee needed “a more thorough discussion” with the owners.

More complicated than applications for unenclosed sidewalk cafés was the Department of City Planning’s amendment proposal regarding selfstorage facilities and their place in the city’s Industrial Business Zones (IBZ). The thrust of the amendment is to give precedence in IBZs to manufacturing jobs, thus checking the encroachment of self-storing warehouses on space that, in the judgment of the DCP, would be better reserved for manufacturing. It’s jobs first and Big Yellow, CubeSmart et al. second.

At the meeting, the DCP proposal was presented by the department’s Alexis Wheeler and enthusiastically endorsed by Armando Chapelliquen of the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development and its Equitable Economic Development Plan, which he coordinates. ANHD stresses that industrial and manufacturing jobs pay well (far better than retail and restaurant jobs, for instance); employ immigrants and people of color (and pay them well) by an overwhelming margin; and can be relied on to remain in the city if industrial policy support keeps manufacturers from being priced out. At the same time, new self-storage installations could be handled on a case-by-case basis within 27 community board districts in four boroughs (Manhattan excepted) containing the industrial zones designated as vital by the DCP. Outside of them, they could be built as-of-right.

The board vote was unanimously in favor. What the DCP calls “the affected community boards” and all five borough presidents have 60 days from the DCP’s May 22 issuance date to vote their acceptance or rejection. (This month should be busy.) Planning Commission hearings and City Council review will follow.

Van Bramer’s visit included a warning and an award. He said that the City Council has put the Board of Standards and Appeals on notice that it cannot any longer disdain the decisions of community boards and the efforts of local activists with the cavalier attitude for which it has become infamous citywide. He said also that safety training procedures for food delivery persons are being drawn up, no doubt to protect pedestrians on sidewalks from the delivery conveyances – bicycles to motorcycles – they often find bearing down on them.

He also presented a framed City Council Certificate of Merit to Penny Lee, who is retiring from the Department of City Planning after what she disclosed was 31 years. Later, she was called up to the front again to receive a framed certificate from the community board, to which she made DCP reports for many years, right up to last month, when she announced she was leaving and would be living in Charleston, South Carolina, though she promised to visit here regularly. The board had an additional award of several dozen little cupcakes, most of which went to the hungry board members and other attendees. Penny Lee made a memorable valedictory statement, saying, “I have loved coming here.”

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