Tag Archives: Alex Blenkinsopp

Civic fumes over a trashy situation in Woodhaven


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Frustrations aimed at the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) over their overnight enforcement policies came to a head during the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting on May 16 at the Emanuel United Church of Christ.

The WRBA has repeatedly petitioned the DSNY to change its practice of issuing pricey overnight summonses to business owners along Jamaica Avenue for illegally dumped trash. In recent months, the WRBA has received numerous summonses over garbage found in front of the group’s headquarters, located at 84-20 Jamaica Ave.

“They ticket overnight because that’s when people bring their bags to the curb for pickup,” explained Gregory Mitchell of City Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office. “Unfortunately, there’s an issue that if people dump garbage in front of somebody’s business, the property owner can get a ticket themselves.”

The WRBA held a recent closed-door meeting with board members, elected officials and DSNY supervisors. According to WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp, the DSNY officials explained that if they wanted a change in policy, they would need to petition their local city council member to change the regulations.

“When we were told by our city agencies to go to our City Council member because they’re not going to do anything about it, we realized this is a screwed up situation,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”

Ulrich was considering changes in legislation back in October 2014 in the form of an “LS request” to investigate the feasibility of the proposed policy change.

“There’s really no way for us to legislate our way out of that problem,” Mitchell said. “We can change the law, but that’s not going to stop people from dumping garbage in the street.”

Blenkinsopp voiced his frustration over the situation to Mitchell. “It sounds like it took an awfully long time to find out we wouldn’t get any results from that process,” he said.

Assemblyman Mike Miller also voiced his displeasure over the situation.

“They don’t care,” said Miller, who participated in the aforementioned closed-door meeting with DSNY officials. “When we challenged them, they said, ‘That’s the way it is. This is the process. This is how we do it.’ It has to be changed.”

Miller explained that he has introduced legislation calling for a Citizen Review Board to deal with and discuss incidents such as wrongly issued summonses.

Mitchell proposed a follow-up meeting between WRBA board members and DSNY officials. He also mentioned that he would try to bring a DSNY supervisor to the next public WRBA meeting to address these concerns. In addition, he advised WRBA members to keep reporting incidents of illegal dumping to 311.

However, according to WRBA President Martin Colberg, the group once reported an illegally dumped mattress in front of their office, only to be hit with a pricey summons while sitting inside. Colberg said that he was considering installing security cameras outside WRBA’s Jamaica Avenue office to not only catch violators in the act, but to prove the group’s innocence to DSNY.

When asked if they could take their fight beyond City Council, Blenkinsopp explained that they have yet to receive a reply from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office regarding the matter.

“Back when he was public advocate, Bill De Blasio wrote a letter supporting a change in this law, but now that he’s mayor, he’s no longer responding to our reminders,” he said. “We can’t get the mayor to respond to his own previous policy decisions and to be consistent in his stance on this.”

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Community Board 9 district manager says she’s willing to work with probation committee


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Mary Anne Carey says she is not holding any grudges.

The longtime district manager of Community Board 9 has been placed on six months’ probation after a battle with the board’s executive committee, which came to the brink of ousting her.

There was speculation about the board voting to remove Carey at its June 11 meeting, during which members went into executive session. This forced the public, the media and Carey to wait outside as the board had a nearly hour-and-a-half discussion on removing the tenured manager.

In the end no vote was taken, a source close to the board said. Members instead decided to put Carey on probation until December.

A committee will be set up to monitor Carey’s management of the board office.
Carey said she is planning to stay put until she believes she can no longer serve the board.

“At this point, I’m certainly going to work with the committee and do whatever they want us to do,” she said. “When I’m ready to retire, they will be the first to know.”

She said some members of the board approached Carey earlier this year and suggested the 30-year manager retire amid allegations of mismanagement in the board’s office.

The complaints included a perceived lack of communication and dated technology in the office.
Carey, addressing this criticism, said her office got little funding and was not able to keep up with what seems like constant updates.

“Any kind of training, nobody’s told us we need any kind of training,” she said. “We can’t spend $10,000 or $15,000 to get somebody to program the computers. Nothing can be done overnight.”

Alex Blenkinsopp, one of the members who planned to vote Carey out, said his colleagues on the board changed his mind. He added he believes changes will be made for the better of the board.

“We’ve come 30 years with her,” he said. “We can afford to give her another six months. I’m confident that everyone will be on the same page about what needs to be done and that all CB9 members will be aware of whether those goals have been met.”

 

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WRBA will keep up fight for unity


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

In an attempt to keep the community in one piece, members and residents of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) said they plan on attending and speaking at the January 14, 2013 hearing on redistricting at Queensborough Community College.

At the organization’s December 15 meeting, several residents voiced concern over the latest set of district lines, which have been sent back to the drawing board after several neighborhoods were chopped up.

Attendees sat at tables designated to show what City Council district they would potentially be in. Some worries included who was in which district, or what landmarks would be included in certain areas.

“These are the things that define us as a community,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They are splitting it and taking it away from us, so we are not pleased with it.”

The WRBA sent letters of testimony to support earlier lines that kept Woodhaven within one district, Wendell said. The most recent update, however, backtracked on all that the neighborhood said was right about the lines.

“They decided to do the opposite of what we suggested,” said WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp. “And that’s a little odd.”

Uphill battle in Woodhaven fight against graffiti


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, Ed Wendell stopped the car every few blocks to inspect one of the graffiti-covered mailboxes in his neighborhood.

If untagged, he and fellow Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) member Alex Blenkinsopp felt it a small victory. If retagged, Wendell rolled down the window, despite the raindrops, and snapped a picture of the graffiti on the box.

Over the past two years, the WRBA has been trying to clean up graffiti in the neighborhood, which is mainly found on mailboxes or fireboxes. In the last few months, members have gone out to repaint them — sometimes to find them retagged a few days or weeks later.

Wendell, president of the WRBA, and members have mapped out the neighborhood into three zones to keep track of common graffiti areas.

They went out to clean up “Zone A” on Saturday, July 14, where Wendell said 44 percent of the mailboxes had been tagged. By day’s end the entire zone — bordered by Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue — was cleaned, he said. By Tuesday, July 24, however, Wendell said 56 percent of the mailboxes in Zone A were tagged again.

Residents, armed with green and blue paint courtesy of the U.S. Post Office, have not only been recording which boxes are marked, but the tags as well, in an attempt to combat consistent graffitists.

“Now what we’ve added to it is keeping track of the tags themselves,” Wendell said, noting that Zone B extends from 85th Street to Woodhaven Boulevard, and Zone C from Eldert Lane to 80th Street .

The 102nd Precinct currently has two officers who, along with regular duties, are assigned to specialize in graffiti: identifying, removing and preventing.

Wendell and Blenkinsopp said the association has been working with these officers.

“I’m sure they have a lot of information they can pass along to us,” he said.

A precinct spokesperson said officers had been in touch with the block association, which has been forwarding emails and information to the graffiti officers.

Wendell said he’s hopeful some of these taggers will be caught, noting that he would be open to those guilty helping in the clean up efforts.

“I’d love to see when they catch one of these guys,” he said.

Despite a plethora of mailboxes covered sometimes in several, varying tags, Wendell said graffiti in the neighborhood is not as bad as it was in the 1970s, when an entire subway car could be covered in spraypaint. One popular tag throughout the neighborhood back then, he said, was called “Fred board in the head.” The tag featured a man’s face with a board of wood nailed to it.

Today’s popular tags run the gamut, he said.

Blenkinsopp and Wendell also mentioned that others have argued graffiti is a form of expression or artwork, but mailboxes or other public landmarks were not the correct medium.

“This is different,” Blenkinsopp said. “They’re getting their name out there and they’re marking their territory.” He went on to mention 5pointz in Long Island City as a positive place to use graffiti, as it was designated for such.

“I’d like to hear more of a citywide effort to solve this,” Wendell said.

Star of Queens: Alexander Blenkinsopp


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Alex Blenkinsoppw

Alexander Blenkinsopp

Director of Communications, Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

Member, Community Board 9

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Alex Blenkinsopp is the director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) and serves on Community Board 9.

“I’ve always cared a lot about Woodhaven and about Queens,” he said. “When I joined the WRBA in 2009, I hoped to give something back to my community. Through the Block Association, I met many people who had the same goal. Our successes the past few years show that a group of passionate, generous residents can make a real difference in the character of a neighborhood.

“On Community Board 9, I’ve seen how much work goes on — often unnoticed by the public — to improve our quality of life. It’s an honor to be part of this local representation and to serve with people who take their Community Board responsibilities so seriously.”

CURRENT ROLE: Blenkinsopp is a graduate student pursuing two master’s degrees — one in public policy and another in business administration.

Previously, he interned at the White House, and worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has also worked in the private sector for an investment and technology development firm.

PERSONAL: Blenkinsopp is a lifelong resident of Woodhaven. He attended St. Thomas the Apostle School for nine years. He attended Regis High School, a Catholic school in Manhattan, on a full scholarship. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his master’s degree in criminal justice from Oxford.

INSPIRATIONS: “My parents have been a huge inspiration,” he said. “They’re responsible for my moral core, my priorities in life, and my work ethic. My dad taught me to be a birder and nature enthusiast, which is great because I’ve resided close to Forest Park and Jamaica Bay my whole life. My mom, who grew up in the Bronx, taught me to be a die-hard Yankees fan — not always a popular thing around here! And they both taught me to stand up for what I believe in.”

CHALLENGES: “It’s a struggle to try to make government bodies responsive and accountable, and to help them do their work better,” said Blenkinsopp. “Residents all over Queens and throughout New York City are frustrated with city agencies that are slow to address our complaints, politicians who draw district lines or accept big checks behind closed doors, and officials who ignore our suggestions. The vast majority of people who work for these government bodies are dedicated public servants, but unfortunately a few bad apples can spoil the barrel.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “Finally making the all-star team while playing in the Ridgewood-Glendale-Middle Village-Maspeth Little League. I wasn’t a great baseball player, but I hustled and tried really hard!

“A close second was being on the team that built the new consumer protection agency. It will protect millions of Americans from unfair and abusive practices when it comes to credit cards, mortgages, and other financial products. It’s simply wrong when hard-working people get ripped off by unfair terms hidden in the fine print.”