Tag Archives: Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder

Queensway closer to reality

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Because of a state-secured grant, the much debated Queensway project is one step closer to getting off the ground.

The Trust for Park Land has received $467,000 from Governor Andrew Cuomo to study the feasibility of a three-and-a-half mile greenway on what once was the Rockaway Beach LIRR line.

This study would look at the plethora of things that go into converting the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, the environmental impact of the project and community feedback. Because more homes have been built around the tracks since service stopped in 1963, any use of the land would require studies to see how it will affect residents.

Friends of the Queensway, an advocacy group for the nature space, say it’s the first step in making the five-year-old dream come true.

“This is tremendous,” said Friends of the Queensway member Andrea Crawford. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The walkway, expected to be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, would celebrate the culture and diversity of Queens, Crawford said. If approved, it would run through neighborhoods such as Forest Hills, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

“There’s a hundred and something languages spoken within a mile of the Queensway,” she said. “So that’s what makes this so exciting. It really represents Queens.”

Others, however, have different ideas on what the land could be used for, particularly transportation for south and central Queens. A new Rockaway LIRR line would connect south Queens to the rest of the borough via mass transit, ease traffic problems and streamline a significantly long commute to Manhattan.

Either project would potentially run right through the middle of Forest Park as well.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who has pushed for a new Rockaway Beach LIRR, thinks this new study should include a look at new transportation options as well. Goldfeder said he is working with rail advocates to ensure transportation is included in the study.

“I am opposed to any plan, or any study, that would exclude the opportunity and possibility of transportation via rail line,” he said. “I’m working with transportation and rail advocates that will work with the Trust for Public Land and do a rail feasibility study at the same time.”

Some just want the strip of land to be cleaned up and maintained.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) has not taken a position on either side, but instead thinks the city should address the years of neglect. Either project would misuse state funds and be disruptive to residents living around the area — effectively ruining the character of the neighborhood, said WRBA President Ed Wendell.

“We heard from our residents; they’re dead-set against either plan,” Wendell said.

Local officials endorse Jeffries for Congress

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Congressional hopeful and incumbent State Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries received key endorsements from several local officials Friday afternoon on Cross Bay Boulevard as the days leading up to the June 26th primary grow fewer.

“I am honored to have the support of so many distinguished leaders from Queens,” Jeffries said. “Although our district spans two boroughs, we have the same priorities of better education for our children, preserving home ownership and getting people back to work.”

Congressmember Joseph Crowley, State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder — Jeffries’ colleague in Albany — endorsed the candidate, citing that despite being a Brooklyn based politician, they had confidence he would best represent the small portion of Queens that is part of the newly drawn Congressional District 8.

The officials said Jeffries was active in speaking with Queens residents and discussing their needs, despite Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood making up only a small portion of the district.

“Hakeem Jeffries is exactly the kind of person we need in Congress,” said Crowley, who’s chairperson of the Democratic Party in Queens. “Not only will he fight to create jobs for New Yorkers, but he will also work hard to protect middle-class families, seniors and children.”

Jeffries said what he found most energizing about the area was how the various neighborhoods were united and concerned about the same issues.

The Jeffries campaign raised a little more that $250,000 from April 1 to June 6 alone, the campaign announced last week. 947 of the 1,217 donors in that time only gave $100 or less, according to a Jeffries press release. In total, Jeffries for Congress has raised $769,544 from 2,447 donors.

With or without convention center, a push to revive Rockaway LIRR

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Josephine Wendell

Elected officials and advocates are campaigning for the revival of a long-closed LIRR line in the hopes that plans for the nation’s largest convention center at Aqueduct will not be derailed.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the convention center delay — which will now wait until voters decide on gaming laws next November — could ultimately help the campaign and plan for a Rockaway Long Island Rail Road route that serves south Queens.

“As far as I’m concerned there’s actually a silver lining,” he said. “I think everybody agrees, whether it’s a convention center or a casino, Aqueduct is right for a railway development.”

Currently, the area through which the now-defunct line once ran is owned by either the city or several entities who bought properties after it folded in 1962. There have been talks of turning the overgrown area into a nature walkway, similar to the High Line in Manhattan. An MTA spokesperson said the transit authority did not have any plans currently to revive the line.

The land can be taken back for LIRR, however, if the city or MTA choose to revive the line, according to Lew Simon, district leader. Simon has advocated the rebirth of the line since 1997 and has plans for it to be reinstated.

He compared a ride to Howard Beach on the current “A” train service — an hour and 40 minutes, he estimates — to a railroad ride, which could be under 40.

“The old Rockaway Beach line and the railroad is a win-win,” Simon said, meaning that it would not only provide a quicker commute to a growing workforce in the area, but would spark more initiative for either a convention center or other venue at Aqueduct.

The push for better, faster rail service had been a deciding factor in getting a convention center to Queens. Goldfeder said no matter the outcome, he wanted a line that would provide quick service to Aqueduct — as the planned property would eventually be developed into something.

“Aqueduct is right for development, and Queens should finally get the transportation we deserve,” he said. “I’m excited about dealing with the challenges that may arrive as we look to improve transportation for the entire borough of Queens.”

Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, said while the railway could be a good idea, the community would have to have its say once plans were drawn up. Wendell had been hopeful the line would be back, but with the news of the convention center plans shutting down he said it’s now less likely.

“We would never presume to make a decision on what is the community’s opinion,” he said, “not without really consulting with the residents.”

Any progress, however, is still in the earliest of stages, all have said. The timing, Goldfeder said, is the key advantage though.

“Even absent a convention center, we’re very likely to get some form of a responsible development,” he said. “We have more time to organize, we have more time to explore the various opportunities.”

Goldfeder asks MTA for help

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

One local official is asking for assistance from the MTA in an effort to improve a neighborhood for its residents.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder sent a letter to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota in the hopes of bringing his attention to issues in West Hamilton Beach, including noise pollution caused by the subway that runs alongside 104th Street and proposals to clean up the area that surrounds the train tracks.

“I have heard the noise coming from the train cars and witnessed the unsightly area surrounding the tracks,” said Goldfeder. “With warmer weather quickly approaching, people will be spending more time outside, and they should be able to enjoy their neighborhood without being bothered by noisy subway cars and unsightly tracks.”

Goldfeder believes cleaning up this area will create a barrier between the subway tracks and pedestrians strolling through the neighborhood. He also urged the MTA to look in to the possibility of planting greenery along the fence that runs next to 104th Street.

“Residents of Hamilton Beach have suffered with these issues for far too long,” said Goldfeder. “A small effort on behalf of the MTA will go a very long way in making Hamilton Beach even more attractive and safer for our children and families.”

According to a representative from the MTA, no such letter had been received as of press time.

Cross Bay Bridge rebate reinstated, but not right away

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Cross Bay Bridgew

Rockaway residents relishing in the relief of a reinstated, ratified rebate program are now holding their breath.

The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge Residency Rebate Program recently passed the state budget, said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, meaning Rockaway and Broad Channel residents will now be reimbursed for their travels across the bridge.

With an E-Z Pass, they currently pay $1.19 each time they drive along the Cross Bay Bridge for up to two trips a day. While additional crossings are free afterward, local elected officials and residents have long deemed the toll a problem.

Goldfeder said the toll forced Broad Channel and Rockaway residents to reach into their pockets just to go to and from work, patronize local businesses, bring their children to and from school and take care of daily errands.

The toll — the only intra-borough one in the city — was free for residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways for 12 years, but was reinstated by the MTA in 2010.

The rebate, local leaders said, would stimulate more activity and revenue between Rockaway and Broad Channel businesses, while saving residents between $800 and $1,500 a year.

“I made a pledge before taking office that I would work to eliminate the Cross Bay Bridge Toll,” Goldfeder said. “Today, I have made good on that pledge and have secured a huge victory for the hardworking families and businesses of the Rockaways and Broad Channel. The return of this important rebate program is a step in the right direction towards the complete elimination of this inherently unfair tax. This toll has been a burden for the residents and businesses of our community for far too long.”

Under the provisions of the bill, the discount program was expected to go into immediate effect once the budget was signed at the end of March. However, according to the MTA, residents may not see benefits until July 1 at the latest.

“It’s fully funded. The MTA, as of April 1, has the money necessary to give local residents a rebate for the toll,” Goldfeder said. “I’m urging them, and I have been urging them, to implement it as soon as possible at no cost to them. It’s in the state budget.”

An MTA spokesperson said the money first has to be transferred from the state to the MTA before it goes from the MTA to Bridges and Tunnels. In the meantime, the representative said, all E-Z Pass tags have to be reprogrammed, which may take a couple of months in total.

“As far as we’re concerned, all they have to do is electronically press a button. They’re playing games. The money is there. Do what you’re supposed to do. Don’t make us wait any longer,” said Democratic Assembly District Leader Lew Simon.

Simon said residents of the peninsula are prepared to “march across the Cross Bay Bridge in thousands” in order to send a “clear message” to the MTA.

“We’re not going to take it,” he said. “The money is in the budget, the budget should start right away — not by July 1.”

Peninsula Hospital’s patients absorbed by other hospitals

| mchan@queenscourier.com

While Peninsula Hospital struggles to stabilize itself financially, elected officials say they’re worried for already “overburdened” area hospitals receiving the brunt of patient overflow.

“Other hospitals are overtaxed and overburdened as it is,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “St. John’s [Episcopal Hospital] was overburdened when Peninsula was completely opened. Now that it’s closed, I can’t imagine the patient load they have to deal with.”

According to Liz Sulik, a spokesperson for Peninsula, the hospital has transferred approximately 78 patients so far. She said they were moved to a “variety of hospitals” including the North Shore/LIJ Health system, based upon their acuity levels.

However, because of Peninsula’s “isolated geographic area” and recent hospital closures over the past few years, Senator Joseph Addabbo said there are few other facilities in the area that could openly receive the patient excess.

“Every second counts when we talk about emergencies and providing health care to residents. The need just gets magnified when you think about Peninsula’s geographic location. St. John’s cannot handle the entire peninsula,” Addabbo said. “We’re already seeing a reduction in hospital beds with a growing senior population and people moving into the communities. We certainly need these beds. Now is not the time to reduce them.”

But according to CEO Nelson Toebbe, St. John’s has flourished in the face of chaos.

“While it is regrettable that Peninsula General Hospital has closed, St. John’s has been able to fully accommodate the increase of patients,” he said. “Measures have been initiated in the past several months to enhance capacity, service and access to both inpatient and outpatient care. The board of managers, management and staff of Episcopal Health Services remain strongly committed to serve the healthcare needs of the Rockaways and the Five Towns.”

Back in August, when Peninsula faced potential closure threats after its former sponsor MediSys decided to end its affiliation with the hospital, St. John’s received permission from the state to begin expansion of its emergency room outpatient care, surgery, intensive care and in-patient facilities, according to Toebbe.

The added emergency department bays and 62 new medical, surgical, pediatric critical care beds helped house the extra patients, officials said.

Still, local politicians continue to push for Peninsula’s reopening.

“Southern Queens and the Rockaways need access to quality health care,” Goldfeder said. “Whatever problems there are, we need to get the right people in the hospital to resolve them and get the hospital back up and running.”


Peninsula narrowly avoided closure, now ordered to shut down

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Peninsula Hospital has temporarily halted its emergency care services after state health officials declared the hospital’s lab to be “a danger and threat” to patients.

The Department of Health (DOH) ordered the suspension of the Far Rockaway facility for a period of 30 days after it failed inspections on February 23. Patients can still be treated at the embattled facility, so long as no blood work is required, officials said.

However, a second state mandate ordered the hospital to stop admitting new patients and cancel all surgeries and procedures. The issue also forces Peninsula to suspend any activities that depend upon laboratory services while a plan to transfer inpatients to other facilities is developed.

“Putting patient safety at risk is outrageous and unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “Our hospitals and health care facilities must be held to the highest standard to protect the health and safety of our families.”

Liz Sulik, a spokesperson for Peninsula, said the hospital is fully cooperating with the DOH and is currently developing a plan to transfer current inpatients to alternate facilities. So far, 78 patients have been transferred, officials said, though where they were taken was not specified.

Sulik said Peninsula is “expeditiously developing a plan to remedy the laboratory deficiencies and hopes to restore full services as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Goldfeder said he will work with colleagues and the communities of southern Queens and the Rockaways to ensure the medical and health care needs of the neighborhood are met in the interim.

Peninsula’s board of directors met during an emergency court hearing on February 27. However, hospital officials did not comment on results of the meeting in time for press.

Check with www.queenscourier.com for updates as this story develops.

Fighting a lack of lighting in Howard Beach

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Let there be light — please.

A local politician is hoping to illuminate a safety issue in Howard Beach before it’s too late.

According to Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, a portion of the grounds behind St. Helen’s School, including the bike path, significantly lacks street lighting.

“After personally visiting the area, I am very concerned for the safety of students, pedestrians and cyclists who may use the area after dark,” said Goldfeder, who recently sent a letter to Commissioner of Transportation Maura McCarthy — urging her to take immediate action to fix the inadequate street lighting behind the school. “We need to do anything we can to ensure the safety of the school and the safety of the children. We have to give ourselves every opportunity to ensure that we’re protecting ourselves to the best of our ability.”

In December, the Catholic elementary school witnessed a late-night robbery, in which close to two dozen of the school’s brand new computers were stolen.

According to school officials, several doors had evidence of attempted forced entry, including the side doors closer to the bike path.

Soon after, the school and church installed flood lights around the buildings, said Principal Kathleen Bollinger.

“It’s actually bright enough now to sit outside the school at night and read. I know because I’ve done it,” Bollinger said.

Still, local leaders say the area immediately behind the school is too dark.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to walk there in the dark. You feel unsafe in terms of who might be lurking around the corner,” Bollinger said.

Now, according to Goldfeder, it’s time for city officials to take matters into their own hands.

“The city needs to take a proactive approach to make safety a top priority at this location,” he said. “[The burglary] really illustrated the point and showed that there was a serious problem. My goal is for [city officials] to come out, examine the area and make their own judgment as best as they can.”

Goldfeder urged the commissioner to erect lights along the Belt Parkway eastbound, which he said would provide more light to the bike path and a safer environment behind the school.

According to a spokesperson, the Department of Transportation plans to conduct a lighting survey in the area, although when it would take place was not specified.

“In general, any place where people congregate is worth lighting well,” said Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10.

Rockaway Courthouse to be revitalized

| mchan@queenscourier.com

The former Rockaway Courthouse — saved from its longtime sentence of stagnancy — has been given a second life.

The limestone and marble courthouse, located at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive, was originally constructed in 1932. But for the last 20 years, the building has remained vacant.

Now, the city is seeking interested buyers to reactivate and redevelop the 80-year-old historic structure.

“[This] will help both the city and the community implement a coordinated strategic plan for economic development for this critical part of Queens,” said Seth Pinsky, president of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) on January 24. “We look forward to learning what creative New Yorkers have in mind for the former courthouse in the coming weeks and months.”

According to local leaders, the current site — which includes approximately 24,000-square-feet and access to mass transportation — holds the key to stimulating future economic growth and residential life.

“This great community resource has been on my radar for several years,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “This RFEI will set the stage for a real reuse plan of this former courthouse. It will become the latest addition to the continuing Rockaway renaissance that has brought new housing, recreational and retail development in recent years.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the reactivation will also remove a longstanding “blight on the community.”

“For too long we’ve allowed it to sit vacant, hurting the community,” Goldfeder said. “Any redevelopment proposals are very welcomed. In Rockaway, we’re very excited about seeing something in that facility, for it to finally have some use.”

According to Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, one developer — Uri Kaufman of the Harmony Group — had already expressed interest even before the RFEI was issued to transform the courthouse into a surgical center.

“The board had a very favorable response to this proposal,” Gaska said. “We have always seen the Rockaway Courthouse as a monument to city neglect. It was once was a beautiful building, and we’re pleased that the city is moving to try and find someone to renovate and occupy it. We’re waiting to see if any other proposals come in, and we’ll see what happens.”

Kaufman could not be reached as of press time.

Gov’s budget may slash Cross Bay Bridge toll

| mchan@queenscourier.com

The burden of paying the Cross Bay Bridge toll may soon be relieved for residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel.

A proposed toll discount program — under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal — calls on the state and MTA to reimburse residents for E-Z Pass fees, $1.19 each way, paid for while traveling over the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Local elected officials and residents who pay the toll several times a day have long deemed the fare a problem, according to Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

Goldfeder — who has been a staunch advocate for a complete toll elimination — said the toll negatively affects an already sluggish local economy and places an inherently excessive financial burden on the residents and small businesses of southern Queens and Rockaway.

“We have been advocating relentlessly to end the toll on the Cross Bay Bridge,” said Goldfeder. “From the many civic and community leaders who rallied, to the thousands of community members who signed our petition, we are one step closer to successfully eliminating this toll completely and lifting a significant financial burden off the shoulders of many hardworking families and businesses in Rockaway and Broad Channel.”

DSNY and Goldfeder update Community Board 10

| nkarimi@queenscourier.com

Bring on the snow.

During the last meeting of the year for Community Board 10, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) said they were ready for the winter weather and any blizzard it may bring.

According to DSNY Deputy Commissioner Vito Turso, last year’s snow storm on December 26 stopped the city for about 24 hours. There were 2,000 trucks on the streets, he said, but the DSNY was only able to communicate with 365 of them because two-way radios weren’t enabled on the rest.

“We let folks down,” Turso said. “With the help of other city agencies and the New York City Council, we developed a very comprehensive plan that we believe will prevent something like that to occur in the future.”

According to Turso, the plan includes putting GPS systems in city snow removal vehicles and phones to say where and how long they have been in that location. He also said there is now better communication with other city agencies, such as the Parks Department, the Department of Transportation, the police department and the MTA.

The snow plan also includes online services that locate whether people are on primary, secondary or tertiary streets. With six inches of snow or more, the DSNY will hire private contractors to plow the tertiary, small and narrow streets, Turso said.

Later on in the meeting, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder addressed his ongoing project — a petition to end the Cross Bay Boulevard toll.

“It’s only $1.40, but if you rely on that to go to work every day or take your kids to school, that adds up. I was talking to a senior in Lindenwood and she said that she breaks her pills in half when she gets her prescription because she can only afford to get it every other month. A round of trip of $2.80 is a lot of money for people who are on a fixed income and budget,” Goldfeder said, urging residents to sign the petition.

“The more signatures, the better it looks,” he said. “[Governor Andrew Cuomo] will see the tremendous will of the community.”

Patrick Jenkins, a representative of Resorts World Casino, also spoke at the meeting, telling residents that the second and third floor of the Racino would open in a couple of weeks, as well as a new seafood and steakhouse restaurant.

“We had a great month so far, so we thank the people in this room and community. We’re excited,” he said.

New sand on Rockaway Peninsula beaches

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder is seeking community input and calling for a public hearing on the projected maintenance dredging in the East Rockaway Inlet. The public hearing would involve key stakeholders, including residents, local businesses and community organizations.

“The potential for new sand on our beaches is welcomed news to our community,” Goldfeder said. “Our beaches got hit badly by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee,” he said. “The damage has left our community in desperate need of help. We should be doing everything possible to restore our beaches, not only for our local families but for the thousands of tourists that come to enjoy the very best beaches in New York City and the local businesses who depend on them.”

The project will potentially be carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is expected to involve the removal of approximately 240,000 cubic yards of sand from the East Rockaway Inlet, Goldfeder said. The removed sand would then be available for placement along the Rockaway Beach shoreline.

The new sand would only be a temporary resolution, Goldfeder said, adding that he was still urging the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite their studies and examine the possibility of installing rock jetties.

Year later, traffic patterns hurt Liberty Avenue businesses

| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chan

New traffic patterns along Liberty Avenue may be driving businesses and customers away.

A year after the Department of Transportation (DOT) installed new traffic patterns at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, stores along Liberty say their business has suffered.

“Whenever you make a change, there is an expectation that there will be some growing pains, but people will learn the new configurations,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “But it has been a year since the changes, and for the businesses along Liberty Avenue, it’s harder and harder for cars and pedestrians to get to their stores.”

Among the modifications was converting Liberty Avenue to a one-way eastbound street between 93rd Street and Cross Bay Boulevard — forcing cars to circle around if they want to visit the stores on the block. A concrete barrier was also placed along Cross Bay to prevent Liberty Avenue traffic from crossing through the intersection.

The newly sworn in assemblymember sent a letter to the DOT requesting the agency to review the changes that have adversely affected the stores.
“The new traffic patterns have really hurt the businesses,” said Goldfeder. “We want to make the streets safe, but we don’t want to affect businesses.”

Goldfeder said he spoke with several business owners in the area — many of whom have had to shut their doors or reduce staff.

Kimberly Liverpool, manager of Tommy’s Pizza and Restaurant, said she had to reduce her staff by one, while the manager of Kalish Pharmacy, Joseph Bruno, reduced employee hours.

“[Customers] have difficulty getting to us,” Bruno said. “Sales have dropped tremendously.”

Jimmy Jobah, manager of Fine Food Market and Deli Grocery on Liberty Avenue, started a petition that has received at least 100 signatures in the store to get the changes reversed. Jobah said sales have almost been cut in half in the past year.

The plans were implemented to ease traffic and make the area more pedestrian friendly. From 2004 to 2008, the area averaged over 14 pedestrian injuries a year.

Though businesses have been affected, the changes have made the once-dangerous intersection safer, according to local officials.

“[The changes] have resulted in increased safety in that intersection, and fewer accidents have occurred since the changes were implemented,” said Community Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton. “On one hand, you’ve got the greater good. On the other hand, you have some individual impact. I don’t want to see merchants impacted, but I don’t want to see pedestrians killed.”

Crashes have declined more than 50 percent at the location since these changes were made, according to the DOT.

“I would say there has been a vast decrease in collisions,” said Lyn, an area resident who often walks to the stores along Liberty Avenue. “It keeps people safer in the neighborhood.”

DOT officials said they will continue to update Goldfeder and work with the community.  Since the changes were implemented the DOT has monitored the area and will continue to as they determine if any adjustments are needed, a spokersperson said.

Goldfeder, who hopes to get a full review from the DOT, said safety and thriving business do not have to be mutually exclusive.

“We can accomplish both,” he said. “If we include more people in the conversation, we’ll come up with a result that really improves the situation.”

— Additional Reporting By Melissa Chan