Tag Archives: Betty Braton

Easier parking may mean better biz on Rockaway Boulevard


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city’s lift of parking restrictions may drive business back to stores along Rockaway Boulevard.

According to Senator Joseph Addabbo, the Department of Transportation (DOT) removed “No Standing” restrictions along the busy commercial corridor in Ozone Park. The formerly designated curbside travel lane — from along the northern side of Rockaway Boulevard between Cross Bay Boulevard and Liberty Avenue — once limited customers from parking between 4 to 7 p.m.

Now, patrons can park at the meters for one-hour between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with more ease.

“Anytime we can help local businesses in the area, it’s a step in the right direction,” Addabbo said. “It’s been a tough time for small businesses with the economy. We cannot create non-parking areas and make it difficult for customers to shop at these stores. This little change will help.”

Wayne Zanatta, owner of Midway Cabinets, said he’s happy to see the “useless restriction” go.

“That hurt everybody’s business. It only created revenue for the city,” Zanatta said. “The removal of the ‘No Standing’ sign makes life easier for our customers, and that’s what we want.”

Zanatta said the restriction was “heavily enforced” by city agents during a busy time for his store. He said he has even tried warning customers to save them from being slapped with a $115 parking ticket.

“At five minutes to 4 o’clock, I would check to see that every customer saw and knew about the sign,” he said.

Now, the next step, Addabbo said, is to continue working with the DOT to push for re-examinations of the Liberty Avenue area.

Modifications last year converted the commercial strip 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, which businesses said also caused revenue to suffer.

“Parking conditions are always an issue, and it’s always a good thing when the DOT responds to community request for changes,” said Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10. “We’re glad that they’ve done them, and hopefully this will improve the situation. We’re hopeful that there will be some changes that will be made to the benefit of businesses on the Liberty Avenue lot.”

 

Board discusses convention center, elevator


| dbeltran@queenscourier.com


Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to build the country’s largest convention center in Queens overshadowed any previous items on Community Board 10’s agenda.

During the board’s first monthly meeting of the year, officials cited current problems with traffic near the Racino and said it would only get worse without any direct transportation to the proposed convention center.

However, Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10, said the community has to consider the jobs the site may bring, “especially in this economy.” She added that the community has had “an excellent relationship” so far with Genting America — the company that brought the Resorts World casino to South Ozone Park and will develop the convention center.

“We’re going to continue to listen and talk,” Braton said.

Patrick Jenkins, a representative for Genting, reassured Board members that their input would be taken into consideration. He reminded them of their year-long relationship with Getting and said the Racino was built with public input.

Shortly after, attention turned to the building of an elevator for the disabled at the Lefferts Boulevard train station.

Joseph Raskin, an MTA representative, presented the Board with design plans for the elevator and acknowledged that several stations needed to have work done. Raskin said the MTA will be using federally-mandated money to make any necessary repairs, as well as redesign the platform at Lefferts Boulevard to accommodate the elevator.

Plans for the elevator are already underway, and the MTA is 30 percent done with the design, Raskin said, after he presented the board with a layout of the area where the elevator will be built.

But Board members complained there currently isn’t much space between storefronts and the sidewalk. They said placing an elevator there will limit walking space.

Raskin reassured them by saying the MTA measured the sidewalks adjacent to the station and found only one side had enough space to fit an elevator. While there will be limited space on the sidewalk, he said the MTA can’t change the size of the elevator because it must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

According to Raskin, the final design will be determined in August, while the contract for the elevator will be awarded in December.

Howard Beach has come ‘a long way’ since racial incident


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Twenty-five years after escalating racial tensions in Howard Beach thrust the neighborhood into infamy, residents and local leaders alike say the “tight community” has changed for the better.

On December 20, 1986, Howard Beach emerged into the spotlight when a gang of white teens — waving bats and bellowing racial slurs — brutally beat three black men who chanced upon the neighborhood after their car broke down. According to reports, one of the three — 23-year-old Michael Griffith — was chased onto oncoming traffic on Shore Parkway, where he was hit by a car and killed after attempting to escape the mob.

Four of the assailants were charged with murder, manslaughter and assault, and the incident was deemed one of the most explosive racial crimes in the city in recent years by multiple reports — eventually making Howard Beach synonymous with hate, residents said.

“For people who are not from the area, it’ll trigger something when they hear the words ‘Howard Beach,’” said Margaret, a resident who did not want to give her last name. “That was one incident. It was a very unfortunate incident, but it shouldn’t define an entire neighborhood.”

Elected officials and community leaders shared the same sentiment, saying the infamous incident has stained the neighborhood’s name.

“There are people in every community of which race relations are what it shouldn’t be,” said Betty Braton, chairperson of Community Board 10. “We’re tarnished for something the community did not do or condone.”

Even still, Senator Joseph Addabbo said he’s “very happy” with where the community stands 25 years later.

“It’s always an effort to get Howard Beach out of that limelight,” he said. “We have come so far since then. It took a while to get to this point and I’m very happy where we are now. Howard Beach is a great community, made up of great, hardworking people. I think they do well promoting the good will of Howard Beach, where there are so many more positive things going on.”

According to the 2010 census, the vast majority of Howard Beach residents — close to 77 percent — are white, only about 2 percent are black and close to 17 percent are Hispanic.

“We’re a lot more diverse than in the past,” said Christina Gold, president of the Lindenwood Alliance. “We’ve become bonded. We’re one family. What happened 25 years ago… I don’t think we have that issue now, and we’re going to continue to be that way.”

Still, some residents said 25 years isn’t enough time for people to outgrow such “deep-rooted” feelings of hate.

“To say that it’s vanished — it’d be wonderful to say that, but I don’t think so,” said Meybol Geramita. “Unfortunately, people don’t change that quickly.”

This March, a noose — long a symbol of hatred and intolerance — was discovered hanging on a tree near Lindenwood’s P.S. 232, much to the disgust and dismay of the neighborhood. However, elected officials deemed it an “isolated incident,” pointing to the diversity of the neighborhood as proof.

“Unfortunately, no area of our great city is immune to hate crimes. We’re seeing it in Queens and also in Brooklyn, but nowhere should it be tolerated,” Addabbo said. “I think there are still remnants of [racism], but we have come a long way, and as the years go on, it’ll keep diminishing.”

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