Tag Archives: Community Board 11

Little Neck intersection co-named after Native American tribe

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

The northeast corner of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway in Little Neck has been co-named Matinecock Way after a Native American tribe that once lived in northeast Queens.

The co-naming ceremony was attended by Native American chiefs, families belonging to the Matinecock tribe and other First Nations of Queens, Councilman Paul Vallone, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein and representatives from the Bayside Historical Society, among other neighborhood groups.

The last of the Matinecock tribe was driven out of Douglaston and Little Neck in 1656 in the battle of Madnam’s Neck.

The Bayside Historical Society and the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee were the first groups to suggest the co-naming to Community Board 11. The new name was signed into law in July with the support of sponsor Vallone.

The councilman said that generations to come will hear about the Matinecock tribe from the street sign and that the community will always be reminded of the first people who lived in the area.

“I think this is 350 years overdue,” Vallone said.

Historian Jason D. Antos said the historical significance of the spot will be remembered from that day forward.

“For it was here that the Matinecock had their final stand in what was known as The Battle of Madnam’s Neck,” Antos said. “And now, more than three centuries later, this place will no longer serve as only a painful reminder of their downfall but an everlasting tribute to their legacy.”

Reggie Herb Dancer Ceaser, chief of the Turkey Clan of the Matinecock Tribal Nation, said that the legacy of the tribe is carried on by descendants still living on the land of their ancestors in the northern Queens area.

“We are still here,” Ceaser said. “This is an opportunity for people to see that we’re still here and remembering the original inhabitants of this area.”


Bayside civic leader Frank Skala dies at 78

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Tony Avella

Bayside civic leader and retired school teacher Frank Skala died late Sunday evening in Long Island’s St. Francis Hospital.

Skala, 78, was an active community leader, serving as a member of Community Board 11 from 2003 until failing health forced him to step down in the spring of 2015. He also founded the East Bayside Homeowners Association in 1974, and was awarded a Liberty Medal in June from state Senator Tony Avella for his community service.

According to information provided by Avella’s office, Skala was a lifelong Queens resident who lived for more than seven decades in a house purchased by his parents in 1940 on Bayside’s 219th Street.

“To capture the legacy of Frank Skala and his contribution to Bayside, Queens, would require more than several sentences could possibly allow,” Avella said.

Skala completed all of his education in Queens, attending P.S. 41, Bayside High School and Queens College for both his undergraduate history degree and graduate degree in education. His career teaching junior high school American history and geography spanned for a total of 33 years.

Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld recounted memories of Skala, who refused modern conveniences such as a cellphone or computer and would always send flowers after hearing of someone suffering from an illness or accident.

“Frank was a very unique person: very opinionated, very old-fashioned,” Seinfeld said. “A real old timer who did not like modern technology but was the most thoughtful person.”

Skala is survived by a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.


Parking meters upgraded along Bayside’s Bell Boulevard

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Bell Boulevard in Bayside has had new “pay-and-display” parking meters installed as part of a citywide update.

According to Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld, all meters in New York City will eventually be switched to a new model being used as part of an upgraded system.

The new hardware has a similar appearance to the old meters with the exception of a more compact, rectangular shape. Solar panels are built directly onto the top of the meter, instead of attached to a separate upward-facing platform as before.

The old meters will remain on the street until the new ones can be completely integrated into the system, but are not usable.

To patrons of the commercial Bayside commercial stretch, the switch is a major improvement over the old meters, which were frequently broken or out-of-service.

Bell Boulevard shopper Eileen Anderson said she once found three broken meters in a row on Bell Boulevard, and had to go to a meter on a completely different corner than where she parked her car.

“I was a little frustrated,” said Eileen Anderson, “I was annoyed.”

Local food service worker Juan Carmona said he often saw meters with red lights on to warn users of malfunction and has also experienced difficulty with meters not accepting payment cards or just not working.

“It frustrates me, but I work right here so it doesn’t make me late.”


Star of Queens: John Shehas, Community Board 11

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Background: John Shehas grew up in Brooklyn Heights, New York. He lived in Brooklyn until he got married. He later moved to Astoria for two years, then moved to Hollis Hills in 1995. He has been residing in Hollis Hills for the past 20 years with his wife and two daughters.

Occupation: Shehas works for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 813. This local union was created more than 50 years ago and is one of the most diverse locals in the country. Working for Local 813, Shehas is the business manager and helps people with their jobs. He has been working in the industry for the past 23 years.

Community Involvement: Shehas has been newly appointed to serve on Community Board 11. He is also a part of both the Safety Committee and Landmark Committee. Being on those committees, he helps to make decisions and give opinions to better the community.

Biggest Challenge: “To do my best to help the community get better and stronger,” Shehas said. “It’s a real great group of people we have, and we really do stick together. Community Board 11 gets it done.”

Greatest Achievement: “There had been a big rain sewer problem,” Shehas said. “There was never rain sewage installed in the area before, so when it rained it would flood. It took about 15 years, but they finally ended up putting sewers in to prevent flooding.”
Last summer there were several robberies that were taking place in the area. Six homes in town had reported that there had been a burglary or an attempted one. The community wanted more lights after these incidents, so with the help of Shehas and Councilman Mark Weprin, they helped the community get more lights in the back of homes.

Biggest Inspiration: “The community and the people,” Shehas said. Being involved with the local union helps him with political challenges. “Between my job and being on Community Board 11, it helps me make the right decisions politically and to better the community.”


Bayside residents rail against high school proposal at CB 11 meeting

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Bayside residents showed up in large numbers to Monday’s Community Board 11 (CB 11) meeting to contend with a proposed high school planned for the former Bayside Jewish Center.

Although many were interested in speaking on the issue of the proposed school, most of the attendees had not realized they needed to pre-register for the public participation segment of the evening and were not allowed to have the floor. The few who did get to speak out against the school received a raucous applause from the rest of the audience.

“Put simply, this project is not needed and is not wanted,” said Nancy Kupferberg, a Bayside resident who has had two of her children attend nearby Bayside High School. Kupferberg appeared on behalf of many others to present a total of 3,100 letters from community residents, students and staff members to express their concerns about the proposal.

“What my experience tells me is that we don’t want this,” added Ana Baires, a resident of the area around Bayside High School. She spoke of teenagers loitering around her house and causing trouble.

The residents were so eager to speak on the matter that many members of the frustrated crowd spilled out into the hallway. Chairwoman Christine Haider said a discussion will be held in the future when the community board has more information about the project.

A staffer from Councilman Paul Vallone’s office was on hand to talk to residents and explain the process that the School Construction Authority (SCA) must follow to build the school. Vallone was an early supporter of the school’s installation, citing overcrowding in District 26. His office has since said that while the councilman is cautiously optimistic about a new school, he has not taken a stance on where it should be located.

While the SCA has put in a bid to for the Bayside Jewish Center, the deal is not finalized and several studies must be done to prove the area’s suitability for a school. A traffic study will analyze the potential impact on parking and congestion patterns, and an impact assessment will measure potential effects on the environment.

After passing the relevant studies, the proposed school will then be discussed by community boards and the general public, and would later be voted on by the City Council. Public hearings with the SCA may be scheduled as soon as this summer, according to a representative from Vallone’s office.


Residents rally against high school planned for Bayside Jewish Center

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Residents living near the Bayside Jewish Center rallied with state Sen. Tony Avella on Thursday against a proposed high school planned for their neighborhood.

Around 75 people showed up at the intersection of 32nd Avenue and 204th Street and largely complained of overcrowded traffic and buses due to the existence of several other schools in the nearby vicinity, including a number of elementary schools and Bayside High School, which serves a student body of more than 3,000 only four blocks away.

While the protesters agreed that new schools should be built for local students, they did not think that their community could accommodate a school with a planned capacity of between 800 and 1,000 students.

Avella said the School Construction Authority (SCA) has systematically chosen school sites without the support of residents and elected officials, citing an unsuccessful 2013 outcry against an elementary school being built on 48th Avenue. He is introducing legislation which would amend education law to require detailed analyses to be made available upon the proposed construction of a new school in a city of over a million in population.

“Too many times, SCA has been allowed to barge into a neighborhood and construct a monstrous school wherever they choose,” said Avella. “We cannot allow this to keep happening.”

Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said that he and many others were frustrated with the lack of participation afforded to the community in the decision-making process for a new development.

“Above all, what they should be doing is consulting us, and asking the residents, what do they want, what should we put here, what do you need,” Euler said.

Members of Community Board 11 spoke before the crowd to offer their objections at not being consulted on the location of a new school.

“Come to the community and ask,” said board member Paul DiBenedetto. “They don’t know, they just look on a map.”

Some attending the rally even placed blame on the owners of the Jewish center for selling the property to the SCA, asserting that the building’s owners did not take enough care to choose an appropriate buyer to fill their place.

“They shouldn’t turn their backs on their neighbors, and impose on them an outsize school that would completely demolish the quality of life,” said Lance Premezzi, a resident of 32nd Avenue since 1950.

Councilman Paul Vallone, however, indicated that while compromises with the community will have to be made in the process leading up to the school’s construction, he looks forward to seeing a new school in his district, whether it is installed at the former Jewish center or at an alternative site.

“Any project of this size will always have opposition but in the end, we must weigh the merits of the site against the overwhelming demand for additional seats,” Vallone, who was initially an outspoken supporter for the creation of the proposed high school at the Jewish center, said in a statement. “The significant overcrowding in our schools is an issue that has been put off for too long and will only continue to worsen if it is not addressed.”


Controversial Bayside elementary school to start construction this summer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy the Department of Education 

The School Construction Authority is collecting bids to find a company to construct a controversial four-story, 468-seat elementary school in Bayside on the former Keil Brothers Garden Center and Nursery site.

The school, P.S. 332, will cost between $46.2 to $48.6 million and should be open for students from pre-K through fifth grade in September 2017, according to a Department of Education representative. Although a specific time wasn’t given, construction on the nearly 80,500-square-foot facility is expected to start in the late summer, the spokesperson said.

Dozens of residents held a rally two years ago in front of the site at 210-07 48th Ave. to protest the new school. Homeowners nearby said it would impact parking and present dangerous traffic problems for students.

The City Council gave the green light for the project in November 2013 after a vote. Councilmen Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. were the only legislators who voted against it. However, state Sen. Tony Avella, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Community Board 11 also opposed the project.

Supporters of the plan said it would relieve congestion from the district’s schools, which, like schools in many other parts of the borough, are suffering from overcrowding.

That could be the reason why the size of the proposed school inflated over the years. Original plans were for a 456-student institution.

Construction companies have until May 22 to submit their bids.


Study aims to improve northeast Queens buses

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Major changes could soon be underway for mass transit users in northeast Queens.

In their most recent meeting last week, Community Board 11 members updated the community with news of a $500,000 allocation in state funds to study bus service restoration in northeast Queens.

The funding was secured by state Senator Tony Avella during negotiations before the state budget was passed on March 31. As part of the deal, the MTA is now required to immediately begin a yearlong study on ways to improve bus service and examine the effects of budget cuts implemented in the last five years.

As part of the study, the MTA is also required to seek public input. Representatives of the transportation agency have already been meeting with community boards in affected areas to facilitate the dialogue and present the preliminary results of an assessment study on northeast Queens bus service which is slated to be finished in May.

Chris Petallides, co-chair of Community Board 11 Transportation Committee, said that although the board did submit a wish list of needs and particular concerns, how to ultimately streamline and improve bus service is a decision that rests with the MTA.

“Not that I want to downplay our input, but we are not experts in this,” Petallides said. “The best we can do is give them our personal experiences about delays, specific lines.”

Workshops have also been held to assess public opinion on what services are needed for bus riders in northeast Queens. Issues raised at these meetings included requests for more routes, requests for later service on existing routes, and complaints of drivers not stopping to pick up customers because buses are crowded, among other concerns.

In a released statement, Avella underscored the lack of transportation options faced by his constituents.

“Northeast Queens, and specifically the 11th Senatorial District, has always been underserved in terms of bus service and mass transportation options,” said Avella. “That is why it is vitally important for the MTA to do this study and thoroughly examine the feasibility of extending or rerouting existing bus routes in these neighborhoods.”



Bayside and Oakland Gardens residents reject plan to replace wooded area with parking lot

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Bayside’s Community Board 11 rejected a developer’s request Monday night to build a parking lot on a pristine patch of land that runs along 77th Avenue after neighborhood residents banded together to stop the destruction of open space protected under decades-old zoning.

Oakland Gardens resident John Hatzopoulos spearheaded a grassroots effort since early February to save a piece of land that residents say gives the neighborhood its charm.

“We put a lot of hard work into spreading the news that they were trying to bring the trees down,” Hatzopoulos said. “But it was worth it. So many people came out to save the trees.”

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants Corp., built a complex of co-ops in the 1950s along with a city agreement that they would leave a strip of land undeveloped. The land separates the co-ops from residential homes on 77th Avenue, where Hatzopoulos and his fellow troop of tree lovers live.

But the corporation tried to renegotiate its deal with the city in an attempt to turn the land into a community building and a parking lot, according to the request they submitted to Community Board 11.

Residents worried that the creation of a parking lot would destroy their quality of life, greatly increase traffic and make the area dangerous for their children.

The corporation did not return calls for comment but several representatives attended the meeting. They argued that the parking spaces are needed to fulfill their contractual obligation to provide parking spaces for the co-op’s residents.

But the community board ultimately rejected the corporation’s request and the decision will now be sent to Borough President Melinda Katz before it ultimately goes up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

“I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to fight this all the way up the government ladder,” said Hatzopoulos, speaking for the several hundred residents who signed a petition against the corporation’s request. “We care about these trees and no one has the right to take them away.”


Oakland Gardens residents gain support in bid to save woodland

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The tree huggers are gaining some political muscle.

A group of Oakland Gardens residents have been building support over the last few weeks to stop a developer’s plan to break a deal made with the city by paving over hundreds of trees and shrubbery in the area for a parking lot and community building.

Now they’ve gained the support of state Senator Tony Avella.

“I’m opposing it. I see no reason to support it,” said Avella, whose coverage area includes the endangered strip of trees that runs along 77th Street between Springfield Boulevard and 217th Street.

Avella continued, “There’s the issue of the effects this would have on the quality of life,” adding: “This may violate the original agreement.”

The 1,200-foot-long strip of land is owned by Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp., which also owns co-op buildings in the area. The agreement to keep the land forested was reached in 1950 when the city allowed the property owner to break several zoning laws to construct the co-ops that still stand today. In exchange, the corporation agreed to leave a strip of land undeveloped that separates the co-ops from several blocks of private homes on 77th Street.

But the corporation now wants to renegotiate its deal with the city that would allow them to  turn the woodland into a parking lot and a community building, according to city records.

“We just couldn’t believe that they are trying to take this beautiful piece of land away,” said John Hatzopoulos, who has lived in one of the private homes on 77th Avenue with the unbuilt land directly behind his home. “So you can imagine my joy when [Avella] decided to support our cause.”

Avella plans to meet with Hatzopoulos and several other residents who have been circulating a petition against the development.

“This application rubbed me the wrong way,” Avella said. “The opposition is very clear and strong. We have a great chance to defeat this.”

Community Board 11 will consider the corporation’s request on March 2 during a public meeting. The corporation wants to create a parking lot with 98 spaces with an entrance on Springfield Boulevard and a community building.

The decision will ultimately be up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp. didn’t return calls for comment.


Oakland Gardens residents fight plans to clear woodland for a parking lot

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A Queens developer really does want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

But a group of self-proclaimed tree huggers in Oakland Gardens — who know what they’ve got before it’s gone — are banding together to stop a developer’s plan to uproot hundreds of trees and shrubs from a strip of wilderness behind their homes.

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp., came to an agreement with the city in 1950 that allowed them to build co-ops in Oakland Gardens even though the co-ops broke several zoning laws, according to city records. In the agreement, Windsor Oaks agreed to not build on a strip of land they owned that separates the co-ops from several blocks of private homes.

Now, the corporation is trying to renegotiate its deal with the city that would allow them to  turn the wooded land into a parking lot and a community building, according to city records.

“I came to this neighborhood precisely because of this beautiful surrounding of trees with so many birds in them,” said John Hatzopoulos, who has lived in one of the private homes on 77th Avenue with the unbuilt land directly behind his home.

“So yes, you could definitely call me a tree hugger,” he continued.

This tree-filled divider is about 200 feet wide from north to south and more than 1,200 feet from west to east bordered by 217th Street and Springfield Boulevard.

Along with 300 people in the neighborhood who have signed a petition, Hatzopoulos is hoping to convince the city not to allow the agreement to be made. In a request made to Community Board 11, the corporation wants to create a parking lot with 98 spaces with an entrance on Springfield Boulevard and a community building.

In the original agreement of 1950, the city required the corporation to not only leave the area undeveloped but to also maintain a “ landscaped appearance” and that “the planting in the area shall be suitable and shall be maintained at all times in good condition.”

The emphasis on aesthetic was a requirement from the community but if the corporation succeeds in creating a new deal with the city, the area would undergo major construction.

“If that happens, we will have to move,” Hatzopoulos said. “I came to this area 20 years ago knowing that this spot cannot be developed. I saw that there was a deal made with the city and it couldn’t be broken. Who knew you could break deals with the government?”

Community Board 11 will weigh in on the corporation’s request at their meeting in March. It will ultimately be up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

The corporation didn’t return calls for comment.


BP Katz holds hearing on Bayside car dealership

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Friday, Sept. 19

Members of the Bayside community urged Borough President Melinda Katz to uphold Community Board 11’s decision to remove a Star Toyota and Scion dealership from the area during a hearing Thursday morning.

“For 40 years, this business has been a bad neighbor,” a community board 11 member said. “There’s excess noise in the night and in the day. Unlicensed cars constantly speed through the neighborhood, blowing every stop sign.”

Katz didn’t make a decision during the meeting but she remained skeptical that the dealership was sincere about responding to the community’s complaints about broken sidewalks, trash and fixing the fence.

The dealership’s manager, Michael Koufakis, didn’t attend the meeting but his lawyer, Todd Dale, said that all of the issues that the community raised were addressed.

“When presented with these problems, we took care of it,” he said, referring to the broken sidewalks and fence and all of the trash in the area.

“I find that, as borough president, people clean up right before these meetings and then they go back to their bad habits afterwards,” Katz said.

According to Katz’s spokesman, the borough president will make a decision to either allow the variance to be renewed or echo Community Board 11’s decision. She plans on making her decision before the case goes to the Board of Appeals (BSA), the last stop before a final decision is made. The variance allows the business to operate in a residential zone as long as it cooperates with the community board.

Neighbors of the dealership hope that the BSA and Katz will reject the variance application.

Rennie Xosa lives behind the dealership’s parking lot. He, as well as community board members, said that the lot is used by the dealership to showcase cars to customers, an act that would be illegal under the business’ zoning rules.

“I have this beautiful backyard but I often can’t use it because there are people over there checking the car alarm system, honking the horn, testing how loud the radio goes and all of these other things that shouldn’t be going on there,” Xosa said. “I won’t let these people kick me out of my own neighborhood. I’m staying here and fighting them.”


Bayside residents tell car dealership to hit the road

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Wednesday, Sept. 17, 4:38 p.m.

Community Board 11 unanimously refused to renew a zoning variance that allowed a Bayside Toyota dealership to operate in a residential area after neighbors complained.

Star Toyota and Scion has been operating on Northern Boulevard for 40 years with the variance, but locals want the dealership gone for being, according to one board member, a “bad neighbor.”

“The community wants them removed because they don’t respect us,” said board member Steven Behar. “It’s as simple as that.”

Residents complained that the dealership parked their cars on residential streets and illegally dumped garbage in the neighborhood.

As a requirement of the variance, the dealership must meet with the community board every 10 years so their business can be reviewed.

After reviewing the business this time, the board decided to act on the complaints and vote down the renewal.

There are two more steps in the process: Borough President Melinda Katz is expected to announce a decision on Sept. 18 and, if she supports the community board’s decision, the Board of Standards and Appeals will make a final decision.

“We’re hoping that with the new [mayoral] administration and a real show of community support, we can have the BSA do what’s right for the community,” Behar said. “We’ve tried to solve this with them but they wouldn’t work with us so now it’s come to this.”

But Michael Koufakis, the dealership’s manager, said he’s open to the community’s complaints.

“I’m here every day. If anyone has any concerns, they can call me and I’ll make a reasonable effort to resolve it,” he said. “We will be addressing some of the issues that came to our attention through the community board.”

Further west on Northern Boulevard, a Flushing real estate business attempted to remove a condition in a similar variance.

Paul Luciano, owner of Utopia Real Estate, asked Community Board 7 to remove a restriction contained in the variance that prevents the building’s owner from making any alterations without the board’s permission.

But the board voted to maintain its power over the business, which has been in Flushing since 1957, by keeping the conditions of the variance in place.

“They [the community board] just want to hold the power over us for no reason,” Luciano said.
But locals said they feared changes would alter the nature of the neighborhood.

“If we’re not careful, our area will start to look like Main Street,” resident Terri Pouymari said.


Five city trees illegally chopped at former Bayside Hills gardening center site

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Updated Saturday, July 27, 11:40 a.m.

The former site of the Keil Brothers gardening center in Bayside Hills isn’t a place for timber anymore.

Five city-owned trees with an estimated value of more than $340,000 saw the buzzer last week, resulting in complaints from residents and possible criminal charges and fines from the Parks Department.

Four ash trees and one American sycamore were killed. The trees were estimated to be at least 30 years old. The Parks Department is working with police to investigate the killing of the trees.

“Arborcide is a serious crime that deprives communities of the cleaner air, cooler streets and additional oxygen that trees provide,” Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said. “NYC Parks is working with the NYPD to investigate the arborcide of these five Bayside trees, and will pursue full replacement value.”

The Keil Brothers merged with Garden World in Flushing earlier this year, and sold part of the site to the Department of Education and the section in question to 48 Garden Realty LLC in July, city filings show.

Trees on both the 48th Avenue side of the property and the 210th Street side were cut. However, only the saplings on 210th Street were privately owned, while the sprawling 50- to 60-foot-tall city trees on 48th Avenue belong to the city.

Representatives for 48 Garden Realty LLC could not be reached for comment as there is no contact email or number listed for the the firm.

Residents weren’t happy about the landscape change and Councilman Mark Weprin promised charges would come.

“Arborcide is a criminal offense, and I will be working to support the Parks and Police Departments to see that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Weprin said.

Photo courtesy of John Richard

Although leaders at Community Board 11 said they hope new trees will be replanted, and the Parks Department is promising to seek full replacement, residents are still troubled by the loss.

“It was devastating. Instead of an empty lot, I was looking at a forest,” said John Richard, who lives across the street. “It’s sad because it takes 45 years to grow those things, but a day to cut them down.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated the trees were cut by the lot’s current owner, 48 Garden Realty LLC, based on misinformation. The Parks Department confirmed that the NYPD investigation is still ongoing.



Bayside BID envisions innovative parking garage for municipal lot expansion

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Rauch Foundation

Some modern parking lots aren’t just places to park.

Scattered around the country and even in this state, there are eye-pleasing, sleek parking structures with cool lighting and sometimes pro-green features that double as event spaces or commercial and residential mixed-use facilities.

The trend is to avoid the architectural tragedy that is a looming concrete box, for an artsy, efficient structure that solves parking issues and attracts people. Officials from the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID), which plans to conduct a feasibility study to expand the Bayside municipal lot on 41st Avenue, are hoping to erect a forward-thinking innovative garage that people want to park in and be in, they explained in an annual meeting on Monday.

“What’s cool about this juncture for Bayside is there are endless possibilities,” said Jocelyn Wenk of the Long Island think tank Rauch Foundation, which has been researching ways to improve main streets in communities through modern parking garages with its Build a Better Burb website.

Wenk, the site’s editor, explained their results at the BID’s meeting, which highlighted colorful renderings from around the globe of flamboyant parking structures and some that seamlessly blend with nearby residential designs. The optimistic presentation gained excited “oohs and aahs” from the crowd of local residents and leaders, followed by skeptically inquiries.

“What they could put on there is interesting,” said Christine Haider, chair of Community Board 11. “I wish them luck.”
Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $20,000 toward the upcoming feasibility study, which will examine costs and other difficulties with expanding the lot in addition to its design.

At this point, BID members can’t definitively say what can be done with the space, which sits a block from Bell Boulevard on 214th Place. And while they believe it should be revolutionary to help draw business, they recognize obvious limits.

“You’re not going to put a structure that belongs in Las Vegas there,” BID Chair Dominick Bruccoleri said. “A project like this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to do.”