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Local News April 11, 2013  RSS feed

TRASH TALK AT BOARD 2

Say L.I.C. Street Cleaning Is Dirty Business
by Max Jaeger


A resident of Community Board 2 speaks during the public comments portion of the board’s regular monthly meeting, Apr. 4. 
(photo: Max Jaeger) A resident of Community Board 2 speaks during the public comments portion of the board’s regular monthly meeting, Apr. 4. (photo: Max Jaeger) Street cleaning remains a contentious issue in parts of Long Island City, but reconciliation appeared as a third alternative at the board’s meeting last Thursday, Apr. 4 at Sunnyside Community Services.

While board members and residents are scrapping with one another over how to handle debris, some are side-stepping the fray to focus on the issue at hand: dirty streets.

Patrick Thompson, lead pastor of New-City Church in Long Island City has been organizing street cleaning teams to tackle trash to his area.

“We have to work as neighbors and as a community to take ownership of this problem,” he said.

He told the board residents can make a serious difference by volun- teering one hour, once a month.

Thompson said he mobilized more than 50 people for weekend cleanups. The last event was Apr. 5, and there are additional cleaning days planned for May, June, and July.

He said residents need to refocus their energies away from “working to see which petition can get the most signatures or working to discredit the concerns of other side.”

Diane Hendry addressed the board, suggesting that a the two sides could strike a deal.

“Both sides have common goals,” she said. “We want clean streets and more parking.”

Hendry proposed designating block stewards to keep residents informed and hold them accountable for trash, adding that a monthly street sweeping would augment the community’s efforts.

Hendry also called for public ash trays and more waste receptacles, resident parking permits and a return to 150 metered parking spaces on 48th Avenue.

“Everyone gets something they want; everyone has to swallow something they don’t want,” she concluded.

Board member Moitri Savard said she will be holding an information session Saturday, Apr. 11. where she hopes the community can come together to talk and learn more about the issue.

Board 2 Chairperson Joseph Conley said he reached out to the department of sanitation, asking it to identify problem areas, educate residents in those areas, and issue warnings rather than summonses.

“This [issue] is driving a wedge into the community,” Conley said.

He cited the collective efforts that Hunter’s Point residents mounted to clean up after Hurricane Sandy.

“We need to get back to Hurricane Sandy time and realize that we’re a community that solves everything,” he said. “The only goal is having cleaner streets and a cleaner community.”

Gifted and talented

The board made a motion to stand in support of the gifted and talented program at P.S. 122 in Astoria.

Jean Carubia, chair of the board’s Education Committee, warned that the Department of Education plans to reduce the size of the program from four classes to one class of 20 kids.

The program has been serving students in grades 6 through 8 for the last 25 years, Carubia said. It feeds into selective high schools in the city, and many students start a path of accelerated learning through P.S. 122’s gifted and talented program, she said.

“The parents are not happy in Astoria,” she said. “Where are the gifted and talented children supposed to go in District 30?”

The board also voted to oppose a program where the city and state departments of education would share student information with a private nonprofit called In Bloom, which uses the data to create educational aids tailored to specific students’ needs. In Bloom is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Carubia said the Education Committee had a number of issues with the program.

There’s no parental notification and no opt-out provisions, she said. She stated that Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan’s office is trying to introduce a parental opt-out provision into the bill.

“My committee asked the question: ‘Why should parents have to opt out instead of opting in?’” Carubia said.

She added, the program doesn’t make clear how data will be stored or expunged.

In Bloom would receive information on students’ age, race, gender, address, disabilities, disciplinary history and grades, she noted.

“The committee is decidedly opposed,” she said.

Dredging the creek

Dorothy Moorehead, chairperson of the board’s Environmental Committee told attendees about the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) plan to remove a sludge tank in Newtown Creek—the change would alter how waste water is handled in the area and free up additional park land.

Currently, sludge is piped to a facility along the East River, put into a holding tank and then loaded onto barges to be taken to Wards Island.

The new protocol would have the sludge pumped directly onto barges at Whale Creek—eliminating the need to pipe waste to the East River and reclaiming park land at the mouth of Newtown Creek.

Initially, the DEP sought to pipe waste directly to Ward’s Island, but found the project wouldn’t be feasible, Moorehead told the board.

She said the Army Core of Engineers will dredge Newtown Creek in October so barges laden with sludge can navigate the shallow tidal estuary.

The dredging shouldn’t impede cleanup efforts in the creek, Moorehead said. Contaminated sediment will be sent to the proper authorities, she added.

Moorehead also reported on soil contamination testing in the creek. Newtown Creek was designated a Superfund cleanup site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2010.

She stated the testing helps identify who is responsible for the creek’s contamination. The creek has been an industrial hub for decades, and the use wrought untold negative impact on wildlife, she said. Possible responsible parties include BPAmerica, National Grid, Exxon-Mobil, Phelps Dodge Refining Corporation, Texaco and the City of New York, according to EPA documents.

“What [the EPAis] trying to do is determine what is in the sediments and who’s responsible,” she explained. “It’s an investigation— something like you’d see on CSI in one hour—happening over the course of 20 years.”

Things are looking up for the creek, she added.

Birds and fish are returning to the body of water, and part of the EPA’s study will look at what animals are using the creek, Morehead said.

There is also less feces from wastewater operations present in the creek than there has been in years past.

“[Hurricane] Sandy, by the way, cleaned out a lot of it,” she said. “Newtown Creek was the only water body cleaner after Sandy than is was before,” she said citing a city-wide fecal coliform study conducted by Riverkeeper after the hurricane.

Reports from the Chair

Conley told the board that a speed hump has been installed on 71st Street and 51stAvenue. The area was identified by residents as a problem.

He also told the board that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is conducting a traffic study on Greenpoint Avenue from Queens Boulevard to Skillman Avenue.

The board reached out to La- Guardia Community College students to find out how traffic issues are affecting them, Conley said.

He called the problem a longstanding issue, citing numerous complaints and letters on file with the DOT that request traffic studies.

Youth-run farmers market

Kids in and around Hunters Point will get a chance to learn about nutrition and eating locally while picking up some small business skills this summer.

Ryan Morningstar of Grow NYC told the board about a youth-run farmers market organized by Grow NYC, the YMCA and the Hunters Point Development Corporation.

The market is slated to operate 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays from July 13 to Nov. 23 at 48th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard—a precise location hasn’t been declared according to a Grow NYC spokesperson.

Morningstar said the organization has submitted all the required paperwork and is awaiting approval.

Grow NYC is a nonprofit organization that has been running farmer’s markets in the city since 1976—most notably, the Union Square Farmers Market.

All youth involved will be employed through the YMCA’s youthwork program, which will ensure they are legally elligable to work and that all labor laws are adhered to, Morningstar said.

Small business fair

Entrepreneurs looking to open up shop can learn more about the process at Woodside on The Move’s (WTM) first annual Queens Business Conference, said WTM Executive Director Adrian Bordoni.

He said the event will provide help and resources to area merchants.

A panel of speakers from city agencies and a separate panel of business owners will take questions from area business owners and those considering setting up in Woodside.

He said WTM has also invited Con-Ed so merchants can access special deals for commercial locations.

Community Board 2 meets the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th St. in Sunnyside. The next meeting is scheduled for May 2.