Tag Archives: Community Board 11

Star of Queens: Paul Di Benedetto, president, Bayside Historical Society


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

COMMUNITY INVOLVMENT: As president of the Bayside Historical Society, Paul Di Benedetto heads the board of directors and helps to define its mission.

The group, formed in 1964, works to archive and preserve Bayside’s history by maintaining those properties that have already been landmarked, as well as working to landmark other sites in Bayside. Di Benedetto said the group was originally formed to save Fort Totten and the Lawrence Cemetery. The two sites are now a NYC landmark and since then the society has been working to provide maintenance for both.

The society also works to educate people about Bayside’s history.

Di Benedetto has been president of the society for a year. He is also a member of Community Board 11.

BACKGROUND: Di Benedetto has been living in Bayside since 1995. He said he originally moved there because of its proximity to Manhattan, where he was working at the time, and fell in love with the historical houses in the area.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Di Benedetto says his favorite memory in working with the society is seeing the look of joy in children, and even adults, as they learn of the area’s history. “It’s great to see how they take [history] up too and how it relates to them.”

INSPIRATION: Di Benedetto said he didn’t like the fact that land developers would come in and destroy many of the homes in the area.

“I didn’t like the fact that developers and short-sighted people were coming and buying the houses,” he said. “They’d clear the properties and put all this asbestos in the air.” In working with the society, Di Benedetto hopes to halt, if not completely stop, this kind of development.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “It’s a lack of understanding,” Di Benedetto said about trying to get sites landmarked. “People are afraid for some reason.” Di Benedetto said he tries to get people to understand that by landmarking a site, their house or property is “locked in time.”

 

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Community board blocks developer


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A notorious Queens developer has hit a roadblock in Bayside after a community board unanimously voted down a variance that would have allowed him to complete construction in the area.

Tommy Huang — whose properties have racked up a laundry list of complaints and violations, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) — was denied variance approval by Community Board 11, meaning he may not be able to finish constructing four single-family homes in Bayside.

The properties in question — located at 39-39 223rd Street and 39-01, 39-15 and 39-19 Mia Drive — have been a problem site for years, local leaders said. The 223rd Street site has accumulated 93 complaints and 46 violations from city agencies so far, according to the DOB.

The controversial builder’s “shoddy” developments have also been allegedly tied to the death of an immigrant worker last year in Elmhurst when a 20-foot faulty concrete wall constructed by Huang’s company collapsed on top of him, State Senator Tony Avella said.

“[He] is no stranger to the Queens community. He is infamous in engaging in unscrupulous building practices on a repeated basis, with his unsafe construction practices dating back almost 20 years,” said Avella. “Previous patterns of behavior are the best indicator of future behavior.”

According to Community Board 11’s district manager Susan Seinfeld, board members felt the work permits Huang received back in 2004 were obtained “erroneously and improperly to begin with.”

“It was a misuse of the zoning done purposely,” she said.

The development was also deemed an “interior lot” and not a “through-lot,” officials said, which means Huang may be violating zoning resolutions if he does not include a 30-foot rear yard as required for the site.

The variance application will still need to go through the borough president’s office and then to the Board of Standards and Appeals, Seinfeld said, but there is currently a stop work order on the homes, which are built but not completely finished.

“This was a recommendation to the Board of Standards and Appeals to please not approve the variance because it was wrong to begin with,” Seinfeld said.

Community Board 11: Potential ferry good, just not here


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The city’s plans to push for ferry piers in metro waterfronts would not sail well with a local community board if the Bayside Marina is chosen as a landing site.

Community Board 11 voiced concerns against the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) proposed revisions to its Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP), which includes plans to install ferry landings throughout the five boroughs.

District Manager Susan Seinfeld said the community board supports the citywide initiative for mass waterfront transportation, but felt the potential location of a ferry terminal at the Bayside Marina would have a negative impact on residents directly across the marina, as well as Little Neck Bay.

“This is all hypothetical because no one said there would be a ferry there,” Seinfeld said. “What [the community board] is saying is that if there was a proposal for a ferry there, that would be a problem.”

Seinfeld said Little Neck Bay waters are too shallow for ferries to safely travel through. There is also no place for vehicles to park at the Bayside Marina, she said.

“[The community board] did not believe that it was a logical place should anyone propose it,” Seinfeld said.

A DCP spokesperson said there is no ferry proposal for Little Neck Bay.

The WRP is the city’s key coastal zone management tool, establishing the city’s policies for development and waterfront use. A new, comprehensive waterfront plan was reissued by the DCP in early 2011 to lay out a 10 year blueprint of the future of the city’s waterfront, which includes creating and mapping a new designation to be called the “Priority Marine Activity Zone” to promote waterborne transportation such as piers for ferry landings.

Community Boards 2 and 8 voted to approve the proposed revisions during a June 28 public hearing held by Borough President Helen Marshall.

Star of Queens: Susan Cerezo


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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Susan Cerezo

Queens Ambassador for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, NYC Chapter

Community Board 11 Member

 

Community Involvement: Susan Cerezo joined Community Board 11 in 2011. As a member, she assists in assessing the needs of the district, which adds to the long list of volunteer work she has done in Queens over the last five years.

In 2008, Cerezo became a member of the Flushing Cancer Action Council of Queens Library HealthLink. The CAC conducts health programs, educational seminars and coordinates free screening tests in an attempt to fight cancer in Queens.

In 2009, she became the Queens Ambassador for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, NYC Chapter. The organization supports blood cancer patients and meets with legislators in Albany to discuss issues benefiting better treatment.

Cerezo is also an active member of the St. Anastasia’s Church in Douglaston.

Personal: Born and raised in the Philippines, Cerezo received a bachelor’s degree in optometry at Centro Escolar University before immigrating to the United States. Her father served as a medic under General Douglas MacArthur.

Cerezo and her late husband, Nestor, raised two children in Mineola, Long Island. Chris, 36, is a National Sales Executive at Napa Technology. Melissa, 33, is a city planner for the Department of City Planning.

Occupation: Cerezo worked for Group Health Insurance Company, now Emblem Health, for over 35 years. She was also a fraud and abuse auditor for Medicare in Queens County and a reviewer for claims referred by legislators and the State Insurance Department.

Inspiration: “I was inspired by my daughter,” said Cerezo.

Her daughter, Melissa, encouraged her to join Community Board 11. As a city planner, Melissa is actively engaged with members of the community boards in Manhattan.

Challenges: Although the CAC offers free screenings, they still face the challenge of getting underprivileged residents to the tests. “Some make appointments, but they don’t show up,” said Cerezo, “because they won’t get paid at work.”

Favorite Memory: “My most favorite memory from doing community work is when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed The Oral Chemotherapy Bill,” said Cerezo. “It was a great victory.”

Residents concerned over new natural gas pipelines


| RubenMuniz@queenscourier.com

A massive, new natural gas pipeline that may be coming to the tri-state area has many of the region’s residents up in arms.

At the most recent Community Board 11 meeting, it was revealed that Spectra Energy, a Houston-based gas and electric giant, is proposing to build 16 miles of new pipeline and five miles of connecting pipeline through areas in New Jersey — including Bayonne, Hoboken and Jersey City — ending underneath Manhattan.

The company said the 30-inch thick pipeline would help alleviate New York City’s dependency on pre-existing natural gas pipelines, while lowering natural gas prices for home and business owners. However, many said it would be a biological safety hazard, causing more harm than good.

“It’s a very real problem,” said Dale Bardman, president of Jersey City No Gas Pipeline, an organization formed to block the pipeline from coming to fruition.

“Queens would be exposed to these airborne toxins just as Jersey City, Manhattan, Brooklyn and anywhere the air carries them.”

Bardman said he fears the pipe could be a target for terrorist attacks.

Spectra has had more than 300 public meetings about the project with community leaders, according to spokesperson Marylee Hanley, and has made significant changes based on residential input.

The pipeline, Hanley said, would be safe — with available 24-hour surveillance along the tubes — and would provide an additional supply of natural gas to the region, while creating more than 5,000 jobs.

“We understand the communities’ concerns,” Hanley said. “[This pipeline] will be one of the safest lines in the United States.”

The pipeline could potentially go into service in November 2013, Hanley said.

Group home for individuals with autism coming to Bayside


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A proposed group home in Bayside that will house eight individuals with autism was unanimously approved by Community Board 11 last week.

Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a non-profit organization, is set to purchase the home at 78-42 Springfield Boulevard. QSAC — which has 21 facilities in Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Nassau County — provides educational, residential, therapeutic and family support services to more than 2,700 people each year, officials said.

“The individuals that will be moving into this community all live in Queens,” said Cory Polshansky, the organization’s deputy executive director and CEO. “We’ve been searching for a house for a very long time. The house and the location were consistent with the needs of the individuals moving in.”

Polshansky said QSAC had first projected the home to be in Bellerose — but the proposal, he said, was shut down by Community Board 13.

“Rather than fight the community board, we decided to look for another house,” he said.

According to Polshansky, the Bayside facility will have 24-hour supervision. He said the eight residents — who have already been selected and range in ages between 20 and 22 — will be assisted with activities. Staff members, he said, will also teach them independent living skills. Polshansky said they have not yet closed on the contract, but the organization expects to shell out an estimated couple hundred thousand dollars in renovations.

Oakland Lake Park path to receive much-needed work


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Oakland Park

It took nearly two decades, but the makeover is almost complete.

The Parks Department announced plans for a $1.6 million remodeling of the pathway around Oakland Lake Park at a recent Community Board 11 meeting, ending a 16-year initiative to revitalize the park and allowing locals to finally enjoy the wetland.

“I’m very relieved,” said Jerry Iannece, chair of Community Board 11. “We are getting completion on a project we’ve been working on for almost two decades.”

The Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] spent years rebuilding and cleaning the ecosystem of the lake and created a park booming with wildlife for locals to enjoy, except there was no dry path to walk on.

The trail is flooded and overrun with mud and grime, making for an unstable surface that is difficult to walk through and spoils footwear, say park-goers.

“Oakland Park is a natural wonder,” said Vince Tabone, general counsel of the Friends of Oakland Lake and Ravine. “It’s a unique experience to take friends and family. It takes away from the full experience that you have mud on the pathway.”

The Oakland Lake Path Improvement plan involves building a new raised boardwalk around the lake and imputing drainage pipes under the path to prevent flooding from excess water running down the park’s slope, according to a Parks spokesperson.

The agency expects to start the project by spring 2013 after a review by the Department of Environmental Conservation and awarding a private contractor the bid.

It should be ready for residents within a year of this process, according to representatives from the department.

No one is more proud about the new path than Iannece, who is running for the 25th Assembly District seat. He has been leading the charge to protect the park since 1996 when he was president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association.

With the completion of the walkway set for the near future, Baysiders can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I could bring my kids here and we could do the nature walk,” said Bayside resident Jorge Chong. “It’s the only park around here with a lake.”

 

Auburndale Atrocity


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Contrasted against a sea of well-kept homes and pristinely-manicured lawns in Auburndale looms an abandoned property – a massive four-unit building left destitute, much to the dismay of locals who take pride in their neighborhood.

The structure, located at 47th Avenue and 198th Street, once a single-family home, was converted into four separate houses by a self-certified builder roughly 10 years ago.

“They tried to squeeze in as many properties as possible,” said Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece.

According to Iannece, because the builder was self-certified, they did not need to acquire permission from the city and could undergo construction without any supervision, inspections or guidelines. The Fire Department refused to sign off on the property as livable and the owner went into foreclosure. The outcome was a four-home complex that garnered over 30 violations from the Department of Buildings (DOB).

“This is why self-certification was abolished,” said Iannece, who alleged that this practice leads to builders taking too many liberties and architects putting their licenses on the line.

Iannece alleged that in 2006, the builder went into negotiations with the owner, and in 2009, a bank from the Midwest took over the property. According to Iannece, the bank paid up the remaining violations, which had amounted to “tens of thousands of dollars in fines.”

The building is now a target for squatters and debris, littered with trash and stripped of any remaining value, according to neighbors.

Bayside – The ‘Sea Biscuit’ of BIDs


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Call it blitzkrieg marketing or whatever you will, but with the intention of re-establishing Bayside and The Bell Boulevard Business Corridor as “THE” destination everyone thinks of first this season when going out to shop or dine, The Bayside Village Business Improvement District’s (BID) recent consecutive weekends of socially- conscious, retail-promoting, pedestrian-building, music-filled festivals  just pulled Bayside out from behind our neighboring business districts. We outperformed Douglaston, Little Neck, Great Neck, Astoria, Flushing, Whitestone, Austin Street, Fresh Meadows and Sunnyside in social and street activity and draw for consumers.

Like the “Sea Biscuit” of BIDs, Bayside just pulled way out from the back of the pack to rebuild an audience and create an excitement about Bell Boulevard and Bayside that the local businesses and community leaders have all been asking for, and that’s been long overdue.

It’s been over 17 years since Bayside has had a permit issued for any type of festival or block party, and thanks to the guidance of Susan Seinfeld and Jerry Inanecce from Community Board 11, the Community Affairs officers of Captain Ronald Leyson’s 111th Precinct and Chanel Green of the Street Activity Permit Office, the permit process went smoothly, the events were executed flawlessly and people were literally dancing and singing in the streets of Bayside again.

This month we’ll be following through to highlight the season with a series of exclusive, velvet roped fashion shows.

A very special thanks needs to be extended to Keil Bros Garden Center & Nursery for their generous help with our LIRR Station Beautification Program that helped return the station park back into an attractive “Green Space.”

So, all in all you’d have to admit, “Bayside’s Back” and on the rise.

 

Gregg Sullivan is the executive director of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District.