BOARD 5: WE NEED MORE
Say Proposed Cuts Threaten Vital Services
Budget cutbacks, the potential one-way conversion of a Middle Village street and the city’s ongoing tree planting program were major issues raised during Community Board 5’s Mar. 16 meeting at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village.
On the budget
District Manager Gary Giordano, the lone speaker during the board’s public hearing on the city’s preliminary budget for the 2012 fiscal year, called for additional resources to boost local police patrols and to keep all Fire Department units in operation.
“We’re down to the number of officers in our 104th Precinct” that the Ridgewood-based command had during the 1980s, Giordano said. He also warned that “every cut to an engine or a ladder company means greater response time” to fires and other medical emergencies responded to by the FDNY.
“And, as you know, seconds matter,” the district manager said.
Even as the Department of Education faces the prospect of laying off thousands of teachers, Giordano stated that the board must continue to press the agency for school improvements within Board 5’s confines. Citing one example, he called on the city to build a long-awaited extension at P.S. 81 in Ridgewood.
“We’ve seen school additions built all over the place, but at P.S. 81, they’ve had the same temporary school buildings in their yard for more than 10 years,” he said.
Giordano also publicly urged the Department of Buildings to continue to provide a sufficient number of building inspectors in Queens to investigate potential building code violations such as illegal conversions and single-room occupancies. He also observed that the Department of Environmental Protection should also continue with planned capital projects including sewer upgrades and the replacement or repair of broken catch basins around Board 5.
Noting that the budget “includes some significant cuts” that will have a big impact on the community presently and years from now, Giordano also expressed concern over proposed reductions of sanitation, youth and senior services around the community. Rather than continuing to make budget cuts, the district manager observed that “we need at all levels of government to continue to find the waste in government.
“We avoid the fact, I believe, that there’s a lot of fraud going on,” he concluded.
One-way is a no-go
Two Middle Village residents spoke out during the public forum against a proposal being considered by the board to convert Mount Olivet Crescent between Eliot and Metropolitan avenues from a two-way street into a one-way road for northbound traffic.
Dave Reilly stated that the change would bring additional traffic to residential side streets such as 64th and 65th streets, which run parallel to Mount Olivet Crescent. The influx of additional drivers, he said, would be largely made up of motorists who currently use the crescent to bypass traffic on Fresh Pond Road.
“I want to be sure that the traffic counts are done” before the one-way conversion is considered, Reilly said. “Sixty-second Avenue is already used as a cut-through to Eliot and Metro- politan avenues. They fly through there, and it’s only going to get worse.”
J.P. DiTroia, president of the U.S. Columbarium and Fresh Pond Crematory on Mount Olivet Crescent, also repeated his opposition to the change: “Where is the traffic going to go? I also live on that block, and it’s hard to come down that block with all the speeding.”
Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri noted that the board has received letters of opposition from the columbarium and a local funeral director to the change, as it would impact how processions travel to and from the crematory. The advisory body’s Transportation and Public Transit committees, he stated, are continuing to investigate the proposal before making a formal opinion on the matter.
More trees coming to area
Thousands of new street trees have already been planted around the Board 5 area and hundreds more are coming soon, according to the Parks Department’s Joseph Kocal, who spoke about the city’s Million- TreesNYC campaign.
The initiative, according to Kocal, was launched in the fall of 2007 as part of the PlaNYC 2030 master plan for New York City, with the goal of having one million trees planted around the five boroughs by 2017.
Since MillionTreesNYC started, Kocal said, the city has streamlined the process by which residents can request having a sapling planted in front of a home or business where viable. Requests are filed through the city’s 311 hotline and can also be submitted online at www.million treesnyc.org.
“We have a fairly significant waiting list, but we will work our way through,” the Parks Department representative said. “He went on to note that “we’re up against a lot of constraints in the urban environment” such as underground pipelines and fire hydrants that may prohibit the agency from planting a tree in a certain location.
“But if we can plant a tree, we definitely will,” he said.
The city has also amended its zoning and building rules to require that developers who erect new buildings or perform extensive alterations on existing structures plant new trees in front of each location. Those who fail to meet this requirement will not be permitted a certificate of occupancy, Kocal noted.
Regarding Board 5’s area, Kocal stated that approximately 1,275 street trees have already been planted around Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village. That number, he noted, accounts for “a significant percentage” in the number of trees placed around the city each fall and spring.
In response to the Sept. 16, 2010 microburst that brought down hundreds of trees around Board 5’s confines and thousands across the city, Kocal noted that the Parks Department is “taking methodical steps to replant as many trees as we can.” In all, 700 saplings were planted in Queens during the fall of 2010 and more will be planted this coming year.
“Community Board 7 (in Flushing) was the hardest hit, but Board 5 is right behind. We will work to replace them over the next several seasons,” he said.
Joining Kocal for the presentation was Chelsea Clarke of Americorps, who informed the public about their ongoing tree care workshops at the Queens Botanical Gardens in Flushing. At each workshop, participants learn about the benefits of street trees and how to water and cultivate trees and tree pits.
For more information, send an email to milliontreesnyc@queens botanical.org.
Pushing for hospital’s reopening
John Krall of Pegasus Health Restoration called on the advisory body to support a movement to reopen Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills as the Gloria D’Amico Medical Center. He stated that a private investor has up to $70 million in startup funding to reopen the hospital and hire 1,000 workers within four to six months.
In order to reopen, he noted, the firm must secure a license to operate from the state Department of Health. Applying for the license usually takes up to two years, and Krall—as previously reported—is calling on state and city lawmakers to push for a temporary license to be granted in order to expedite the reopening of the Parkway site as a medical center.
“The hospital is located in a strategic location,” Krall said, noting that Parkway Hospital is near the Grand Central Parkway and equidistant to both LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. “We’re talking to every politician in New York State ... I need the community boards and all the people in the community to support this.”
“Considering what happened with State Sen. Carl Kruger and David Rosen [CEO of Medisys, a health care firm that operates Jamaica and Flushing Hospital Medical Centers], it’s very possible that Jamaica and Flushing hospitals would close due to financial instability,” Krall claimed. Kruger and Rosen—along with former Parkway Hospital CEO Dr. Robert Aquino, who owns the defunct medical center in Forest Hills— were charged in a federal indictment unsealed earlier this month for their alleged involvement in an influencepeddling scheme.
Board 5 members overwhelmingly approved a sidewalk café license for Julio’s Pizzeria, located at 59-10 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood. The unenclosed café will have 20 tables and 43 seats and will operate daily from 10 a.m. to around 10 p.m.
The community board also recommended approval of a plan by JNS Counseling Inc. to open a substance abuse counseling center at 919 Wyckoff Ave. in Ridgewood. The advisory body previously approved the firm’s proposal for the center to be housed at an Onderdonk Avenue location, but according to Rosemarie Johnson of the board’s Health and Human Services Committee, the plan was scrapped over a certificate of occupancy issue.
A Maspeth resident called on police to take action against a local auto body shop that has allegedly parked tow trucks and vehicles in service illegally in the area of 60th Street and 59th Road. Those claims were supported by Board 5 member Robert Holden, who charged that despite repeated efforts to bring attention to the problem, no city agency has taken any appropriate action.
“This problem has been going on for several years,” Holden said. “The mayor’s office and [City Council Member Elizabeth] Crowley’s office know about it. This guy is still parking there. The people deserve better.”
Dominick Dale of City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley’s office stated that the 104th Precinct and Sanitation Department have previously taken enforcement action at the auto body shop, and that he would look into the situation further.
Jim Harvey and Rich Murray of Marriage Equality of New York shared their own personal stories in calling on board members to support legislation granting marital rights to same-sex couples. They circulated a petition to State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who voted against the bill during the previous legislative session, urging him to support the measure when it comes for another vote in the State Senate.
“No one has been voted out of his office because of his support for my family,” Murray said, referring to the same-sex marriage bill. “But we have had other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, who’ve been voted out because of their vote against my family. ... The laws should apply to us equally.”
Arcuri announced that the board has received demolition notices for two Maspeth locations: a garage at 60-46 69th Ln. and a property at 67- 03 53rd Rd. Board members were advised to keep a careful eye on construction and demolition work at each site and to report any questionable activities immediately.
The next Community Board 5 meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday night, Apr. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Christ the King Regional High School, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village. For more information, call the board’s Glendale office at 1-718-366-1834.
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