2017-09-20 / Front Page

Community Board 1 Cabinet Resumes Monthly Meetings

By Thomas Cogan
This month, the Community Board 1 cabinet resumed its monthly meetings after the summer break. September’s meeting, held as usual at Kaufman Astoria Studios, began with an introduction of Chris Boccia, the new superintendent for the Queens West 1 sanitation district, by Florence Koulouris, CB1’s district manager and moderator of the cabinet meetings.  It proceeded to a presentation dense with facts and statistics by two women from the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, or MOCS.  Servicing contracts is a huge business in the city and the MOCS women explained how their office is trying to modernize and move out of a superannuated age of paperwork.  Next to speak was a woman from DEP, the Department of Environmental Protection, talking about rain gardens, a new sustainability innovation that more and more people are finding out about at this time.  There were short reports from Con Edison, the Department of Design and Construction and the Department of Aging.

Jennifer Geiling and Kerryanne Burke were the two MOCS women, with Geiling doing most of the talking.  She said that $15.3 billion is being spent by the agency in fiscal year 2016, through 40 city agencies and for 9,000 vendors.  The greatest part of that massive budget, 31 percent or $4.7 billion, is for human services.  Professional services take up 27 percent or $4.2 billion; construction services 19 percent or $2.9 billion; standardized services 12 percent or $1.8 billion; goods 9 percent or $1.3 billion; and architecture/engineering 3 percent or $0.4 billion.  All that money and bureaucracy has to cause delay and frustration, especially if ever greater funds are being processed the way they were decades ago and the constant problems of procurement and payment receipt only get worse.

Geiling said that there has been some technology application but it has been entirely internal or “city-facing.”  The VENDEX system is paper-based and foothills of the stuff are generated.  It is being replaced by an online portal.  An innovation called PASSPort integrates vendor management into a user-friendly portal. A shared portal brings vendors and city agencies into closer contact.  Access to contracting opportunities and streamlined review procedures are meant to be time-cutting.  Vendor information is shared across city agencies.  Better reporting capabilities are of benefit to both agencies and vendors.  The old VENDEX questionnaire is now online and has been advanced to an earlier stage of the process; before, it was a later-stage ticket to the award phase. 

Geiling said the first release of PASSPort, comprising self-service account management, vendor enrollment and commodity enrollment, is out this summer.  The second release, comprising the procurement roadmap, solicitation management, contract development and contract management, will be out next year.  Koulouris said that there were several persons in the room who will be affected by these changes, dealing as they do with the complexities of doing business with the city. 

Karen Ellis of the Department of Environmental Protection told the attendees that thus far more than 4,000 rain gardens, described by DEP as planted areas designed to collect and manage storm water that runs off streets and sidewalks when it rains, have been installed citywide.  One aim is to improve water quality in local areas.  Rain gardens are one segment of green infrastructure, designed to create a sustainable city.  DEP asserts that these gardens will purify the air, reduce hot weather temperature, improve street drainage and reduce the number of puddles and ponds.

When a potential site is examined, the underlying soil is tested for its ability to absorb storm water.  At any site selected, sidewalk and curb are removed and an excavation of about five feet is made.  Stone and treated soil that allow infiltration are added to the excavated area.  A new sidewalk is installed, with one or two curb cuts that allow water to flow in or out.

Grasses and plants, and perhaps a tree, are planted.  The city inspects each rain garden for effectiveness and thereafter maintains it to keep water flow effective.

One woman asked if the public has any input in the process.  Ellis replied that all the rain gardens are created on city property, so generally the city alone determines the projects’ locations and installations.  Several complaints about installations have been lodged, mainly about construction noise.  Koulouris asked about mosquitoes’ attraction to standing water in these gardens.  DEP says in its literature that mosquito larvae development requires at least 72 hours in standing water while rain garden drainage takes fewer than 48 if the garden is running well.  (Complaints about poor drainage can be made at 311 or 718-595-7599; email RainGardens@dep.nyc.gov.)  

Joanna Rojas of the Department of Design and Construction reviewed recent repair work, mainly milling and resurfacing, on 21st Street.  A Con Edison representative said its recent programs included replacing outmoded infrastructure in Astoria Houses.  Another project was done on 35th Avenue and Ed Cádiz commended Con Edison for doing what he believed was a superior job of resurfacing the street when the project was completed; better, he said, than anything the city could do.

Darnley Jones of the Department for the Aging said there would be a public meeting Tuesday, October 24 between 10:00 a.m. and noon at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th Street, between 43rd Avenue and Queens Boulevard.


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