2018-03-07 / Features

City Agencies Answer Questions At CB 2 March Meeting

By Thomas Cogan

Community Board 2’s March meeting began with reports from representatives of political officials and followed with a guest speaker, the executive director of Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital, who talked about health care facilities in Queens.  Later there was a consumer affairs application by a restaurant in Hunters Point for an unenclosed sidewalk café.  In the middle was the community public comment segment, which included notices of this year’s film festival at the Museum of the Moving image, a continuing complaint about construction of a huge (67 stories) building on 44th Drive, near Court Square, and gripes about Citibike’s allegedly baneful effect on Hunters Point.  Most of them were somewhat familiar issues, but another familiar issue assumed greater magnitude when one speaker bypassed his usual topic to take up this other one instead.

Barry Druss, who usually comments on transportation and ideas he has for improving it, came to the microphone and said he would leave transportation aside this month and talk about hotels and the homeless in the Greenpoint Avenue-Hunters Point Avenue neighborhood that retains the very old name of Blissville.  He was succeeded by several of his Blissville neighbors who said they have seen an already bad situation turn dangerous, especially since the City View Inn’s homeless families were moved out of its 33-17 Greenpoint Ave. address in late January and replaced entirely by homeless men, while the Fairfield Inn on Van Dam Street started taking in the homeless.  Druss conveyed his distress by saying ominously, “The fear factor is much too high here.”

Right after Druss, Charlie Romeo, a Blissville resident for 35 years, said he was slow to realize the significance of the homeless in local hotels entirely (the Best Western Hotel, 38-05 Hunters Point Avenue, became a homeless shelter last year, and while the Fairfield Inn’s location at 52-34 Van Dam might be outside Blissville, it’s not very distant) but now that he does he believes that if the neighborhood puts up resistance, “we can win this one.” 

Another man alleged several crimes being committed by the homeless, and right after him a woman introduced herself as Erica, saying she was proprietress of Bantry Bay Publick House, 33-01 Greenpoint Ave., quite near City View at 33-17.  She said the homeless situation there was manageable when it housed homeless families but has become horrible as an all-men’s shelter. Asked by the board’s Sam Vargas if she has called 911 lately, she said she had, twice.  Vargas said she should call more often so the police will have a long record of her calls.  She said that she doesn’t want to appear too bothersome.

The most poignant story was related by Maria Davis, who said she has resided in Blissville since 2001 and must take care of two autistic daughters.  She said she came out of her house recently to see a large man smoking marijuana and blocking her way.  She got by him but he violently cursed her as he followed her for a few steps.  She also said she saw a man drag a woman out of a store by her hair as the terrified owner looked on.  All this, she said, has happened only since local hotels have taken in many homeless persons.  She expressed sympathy for the downtrodden, saying she had a difficult early life herself and now has severely handicapped daughters dependent on her.  She would like to establish a local residence for autistic persons, who like her daughters might need a lot of aid should they outlive their parents or guardians.

In contrast, the last critic of the situation, Walter Gottschalk, attacked City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer for not standing up for Blissville or any neighborhood with a homeless problem, proof of his irresponsibility being that he was not at the meeting.  Kenny Madrano, the councilman’s aide, said he is very concerned with the problem and was at another event that night. (Madrano spoke personally by saying he has relatives living in Blissville.)  Finally, the Department of Homeless Services will hold a meeting about the Fairfield Inn at St. Raphael’s Church, 35-20 Greenpoint Ave., Thursday, March 15, 6:30 p.m.

The meeting’s guest speaker, Susan Browning, spoke of the evolving health care situation in Queens, which is of course affected by demographics.  The growth of the senior citizen population has now been joined by a surge in births that practically assures a generation of child-raising and succession.  She said that Long Island Jewish Forest Hills has been designated Baby Friendly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is attentive to the mothers who produce them and other women, notably those over 50 with pelvic ailments that are acquired with aging. For the older and not-so-old, bariatric and stroke specialists are available in greater number now.

Pat Lowenhaupt of the One World Film Festival, announced its opening this month, with films being shown in the several theatres of the Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria.  From Thursday, March 15 to Sunday, March 25, 189 films will be shown.  As many as 4,000 attended past festivals, a total likely to be matched or exceeded this year.  With two films of her own on the bill, Kate Marx was another promoter.

Nigel Rowling recommended the festival as part of his commentary, but his main thrust was to condemn Citibike, to which he assigned an alternate name that rhymed quite disrespectfully.  He said the big bank’s bicycle installation in Hunters Point has taken away parking spaces and seems a typical case of corporate appropriation.  A woman who said she enjoys riding Citibikes nevertheless thought he had a point.

The consumer affairs issue of the month was an application for an unenclosed sidewalk café with four tables and eight seats by Piatto Pizza, 1-50 50th Ave. by Piatto Pizza, 1-50 50th  Ave.  Before the application was amended, the owners wanted nine tables and 18 seats.  One person who came to criticize the application, Andrew Lasser, said even four tables, situated on what is effectively Center Boulevard, would be too much; he suggested three. Before the
end of a long meeting, Sam Vargas suggested tabling the application till next time.  Approval was unanimous.

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