Tag Archives: Community Board 13

BP Katz approves zoning amendment to speed up post-Sandy recovery

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

More help is on the way for Queens residents affected by Hurricane Sandy trying to rebuild their homes.

Borough President Melinda Katz recently approved amendments to citywide zoning codes, which will allow more Sandy-affected homeowners to rebuild their homes faster and to return them to how they were before the storm instead of having to alter them to fit current regulations.

The zoning change is a result of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s overhaul of the city’s Build it Back program, which has started construction on 412 homes in Queens to date, and completed construction on 222.

“This is a vital text amendment that will finally relieve the red tape that had burdened entire neighborhoods and prevented thousands of homes from fully rebuilding since Hurricane Sandy,” Katz said. “Thanks to joint inter-agency collaboration, home and property owners will soon be able to rebuild their homes to their original form prior to the storm, with improved flood resiliency elements.”

The amendment was also approved by Sandy-impacted community boards 10, 13 and 14. It would allow, among other things, more residents to rebuilt their homes faster by waiving document requirements.

Under current laws, before reconstruction can begin on residences, homeowners are supposed to provide documents to show changes made to homes since 1961, which is difficult for most people since their homes probably traded hands since then or documents were destroyed in the storm.

Also, some homes could be required to be constructed much taller than others in the neighborhood because of current zoning. The amendment will create zoning pockets, which will allow homeowners to build shorter and wider homes, which are prevalent in surrounding neighborhoods.

Now with support from Katz, the amendment must be approved next by the Department of City Planning and then the City Council before it can go into effect.


Star of Queens: Mohamood Ishmael, president, Queens Village Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Mohamood Ishmael has been a member of the Queens Village Civic Association for over 20 years. He had served as treasurer before becoming president in 2011.

In April, he became a member of Community Board 13, where he is committed to providing community service.

“As a civic leader I see myself as an advocate to preserve and improve the quality of life for all of our residents,” said Ishmael. “It gives me great satisfaction in seeing positive results on many of the projects and issues that we have worked on. Sometime, a great accomplishment might simply be getting a stop signed installed that could prevent a serious accident.”

BACKGROUND: Ishmael has been living with his family in Queens Village for over 27 years. Along with his community and civic services, he is a Certified Public Accountant who is currently the vice president of finance for a healthcare organization.

Ishmael is also an adjunct professor of accounting at York College of the City University of New York.

“As an immigrant from Guyana I consider myself successful and feel obligated to give back to the University and community that made it possible for me to succeed.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: I recalled a few years ago, as a result of our civic leaders’ effort, we prevented a developer from getting a variance to proceed with his project. The project was out of character with the area and it would have created congestion.”

He continued, “on a personal note, my favorite memory was having my five-year-old granddaughter lead us in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the last civic association installation dinner.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: It is a challenge to motivate people to get them to participate and to accept positions. I think most residents feel that it is much easier to call someone to complain and have them take care of their issues.”

INSPIRATION: “I realized many years ago that if a community does not have advocates, it will be shortly changed in the allocation of resources and services. In other words, if the residents of a community do not participate, quality of life in that community will decline.”



Springfield Gardens doesn’t want liquor store near school

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Springfield Gardens wants to make sure the area around its high school stays dry.

A construction site across the street from Springfield Gardens High School could be the new home for a liquor store. But the community is calling for its owner to put a cork in it.

“We are not going to get drunk to a liquor store,” said State Senator James Sanders. “What does he think we are, high?”

By law, a liquor store cannot be within 200 feet of a school, according to the New York State Liquor Authority. Measurements showed the school’s doors are roughly 75 feet away from the proposed site of the liquor store.

Officials said once the dismissal bell rings, hundreds of students flood out of the high school’s doors and linger in the area. The youths socialize and stop in surrounding stores.

“We don’t want our young scholars seeing drunkards, people bobbing and weaving across the street,” Sanders said.

“This is not something the community wants,” echoed Franck Joseph, Community Liaison for Councilmember Donovan Richards. “It is very disrespectful, and a backhand slap. It shows a disregard to the community.”

Community activists Michael Duncan and Joan Flowers joined Sanders and Richards at a press conference on Friday, May 11 calling on the liquor authority to shut down the proposal.

Lawrence McClean, district manager of Community Board 13, said while owners are required by law to notify the local community board if they wish to open a liquor store, they have heard nothing.

“People are trying to get away with things in the dark,” he said.

McClean and the board have sent a packet with signatures to the liquor authority in strong opposition to the proposal. They were yet to hear back, but hoped the liquor authority does not even entertain the plan.

Richards said he tried to meet with the would-be owner, Tarsem Singh, but to no avail. Richards and Sanders hope to sit down and discuss the feasibility of using the space for something more “community-appropriate.”

“Put in an after-school youth center,” Sanders said. “We could have a place where we’re teaching values. It’s their future we’re concerned about.”

Singh could not be reached for comment. The liquor authority did not return repeated calls.



Council hopefuls get ready to fill Comrie seat

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sondra Peeden/Manuel Caughman/Facebook

The race to replace Councilmember Leroy Comrie for District 27 already has multiple contenders who are raring to address community issues.

Manuel Caughman, community liaison for Assemblymember William Scarborough; Bryan Block, Community Board 13 chair; Joan Flowers, local attorney; Sondra Peeden, a political consultant; and Daneek Miller, a community and labor activist, have all filed their names with the Board of Elections.

“I believe that as large a city as New York is, we can still get to a place where we have a sense of community, where people are willing to reach out and help each other and extend themselves on behalf of their neighbor,” Peeden said.

Peeden and her fellow candidates are focused on a variety of issues, namely education, foreclosures and crime.

“I want to work with young people [to] make sure they’re safe, and not perpetuating the things they can do when they’re misled or don’t have guidance in their life,” Miller said.

Caughman believes controlling gun violence is a goal to pursue and said he wants to work with police to development technologies needed to combat crime.

When it comes to education, Peeden sees the need to take schools out of mayoral control and bring it back to the community. Similarly, Caughman thinks more parental input is necessary.

Miller, if elected, hopes to look deep into school policies so they can continue to meet Department of Education (DOE) standards and avoid threats of closure.

Late last year, Comrie met with Miller about being his successor. After some thought, Miller said he took him up on his suggestion.

“[I feel] it’s a necessity to have a voice for the working people,” said Miller, who is currently the president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056. “If you have a record of bringing people together, folks gravitate towards that.”

The primary election is slated for June or September.

Block and Flowers did not return calls for comment as of press time.



Idlewild Park set to get $3.5M education center

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Idlewild Park is set to get revamped, adding a new, state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot nature and education center.

The potential construction area in Idlewild is an “incredible resource,” according to Blake Middleton of the award-winning Handel Architects LLP. Middleton is the head designer for the new, $3.5 million facility, working with both the Eastern Queens Alliance (EQA) and the city Parks Department.

Handel Architects has worked on many well-known projects, such as the 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan’s Downtown Dream Hotel. The idea for a new facility in Idlewild was proposed in September 2010.

In a presentation to Community Board 13 on Monday, September 24, Middleton explained that the new structure was designed in a way that will allow it to work with the wetland environment, as requested by the EQA, including permeable pathways and rain gardens.

For several years, the EQA has been focusing a large part of its work on the “restoration and preservation of wetlands in Idlewild.” Furthermore, it has aimed to establish a salt marsh environmental science learning center.

Handel Architects has designed a structure to accommodate this, housing exhibition spaces, classrooms and administrative spaces.

The center will be naturally ventilated to minimize the amount of energy used. The facade of the building will be covered in a lattice screen of recycled plastic lumber, which is durable, requires no maintenance and is made from 100 percent recycled milk and water jugs.

“The idea is to treat the building as if it is a large filter,” said Middleton.

It is designed to be able to collect and channel rain water into two separate rain gardens at either end of the pavilion. This will filter the water, which will then be absorbed by the area’s native plants.

Designs have been approved by the Parks Department and also by Community Board 13; on Monday, October 1 they were presented to the NYC Public Design Commission.

Construction is scheduled to go to bid in late spring of next year, estimated to be completed in the following 12-14 months.

Once occupancy is permitted, the nature center anticipates community meetings, nature walks, field trips and more. Maintenance is assumed to be provided by grants, donations from benefactors, private investors and occasional fundraising.

Council speaker addresses Community Board 13’s concerns

| AKurtz@queenscourier.com


When City Council Speaker Christine Quinn visited with members of Community Board 13 last week, one issue came to the fore right away: safety.

“It has been a number one issue with regards to this board. We’ve had an increase in shootings. This board and this community feel that we need an additional precinct,” said Bryan J. Block, CB 13 chair.

Community members echoed his request, complaining that the current response time from officers of the local 105th Precinct is “atrocious.”

Lawrence McClean, district manager of CB 13, pointed out that the board, which includes more than 10 neighborhoods, spans 13 square miles and makes up 12 percent of the entire borough of Queens. Hence, he said, “the problem affecting police response time is the size of the district.”

In addition, McClean speculated that the slow response time of police officers in the area could be due to traffic buildup on the Cross Island Parkway.

Community members implored Quinn to support their request for an additional precinct because it would “help protect the community better.”

“In the scheme of the city’s capital budget, we could find money to build a new precinct,” Quinn said in reply. “However, the challenge is getting the officers to staff that precinct.”

She emphasized that there is a shortage of New York City police officers right now and said, “We are in a position, unfortunately, where we are at a much lower patrol strength than we were at our all time high right after the Safe Streets, Safe City program was put in place.”

But Deputy Inspector Joseph G. Courtesis, commanding officer of the 105th Precinct, told The Courier that, despite being the largest precinct, the 105’s response times are better than both the city and borough average, due in part to a satellite precinct.

“We do have a satellite precinct down that way,” he said. “The only difference is that there’s no administrative staff at the satellite. Officers do start and end their tours there. The community at the south end is definitely getting the same service that the north end does. We are the largest precinct, but our response times are better than the city and borough average, so the satellite is working.”

In addition to requesting another precinct, the members of CB 13 had other complaints. They voiced concerns over the threat food carts pose to small businesses in the area, complained about the presence of pawn shops and gaming cafes, and one official expressed her concern over the long hours bodegas stay open.

“I can’t see the reason for them [bodegas],” said Assemblymember Barbara Clark. “They’re the most awful looking businesses. They cause young people to congregate, and they also sell loose cigarettes.”

Quinn said that the council might be able to address these problems from the perspective of consumer affairs and zoning.


Synagogue expansion faced with resistance in Cambria Heights

| lguerre@queenscourier.com


Neighbors in Cambria Heights are fighting the proposed expansion of a popular Orthodox Jewish synagogue — citing rude worshipers and an increase in disturbances.

The Ohel Chabad Lubavitch plans to build a structure in its backyard expanding the main building and connecting four nearby houses, which it owns, to create additional space for worship and overnight stays since followers can’t drive home on Sabbath.

Hundreds of congregants visit the synagogue daily to pray and visit the grave of the former leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, and his father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Schneerson, which is located in the Montefiore Cemetery adjacent to the buildings. On the anniversary of Schneerson’s passing that number could be over 30,000 visitors, according to Community Board 13 District Manager Lawrence McClean.

There is currently an insulated tent behind the house that connects the four houses and leads to the grave. The plan will expand this and make the structure permanent.

However, residents and community leaders are standing firm against it.

“This is a residential area,” said Ann Miller, who has lived in the neighborhood for 32 years. “Our quality of life is affected.”

Community members like Miller allege that by creating the expanded building the number of congregants will balloon, creating piles of trash and traffic congestion as followers look to park their cars in the blocks surrounding the synagogue.

The community and the synagogue have had a rocky relationship in past years.

McClean said residents have found followers parked in their driveways and scraps of trash on their lawns after services and events.

“The community was so badly trashed in the early days that they have emotional scar tissue,” McClean said.

Residents are concerned that the expansion will amplify problems with an increase in the population and hope the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which has the final say, blocks the synagogue from obtaining a variance to bypass residential zoning rules.

The upcoming public hearing on May 15 will be the fifth time the BSA will meet about the expansion and McClean thinks this is a result of the panel not trusting the plan. “Ninety percent of the time the BSA approves an applicant, but because they’ve spent so much time they are waiting for the Ohel Chabad to work with the community,” McClean said. “The perception is that they have not been working with the community.”

Although many residents are against the expansion, The Courier found a resident living nearby who wasn’t bothered by it.

“I believe that everyone should be able to practice their religion. There are so many churches in this neighborhood alone. To me it’s a welcome change.”

Abba Refson, director of the Ohel Chabad, refused to answer a reporter’s questions, saying, “because the case is pending we don’t want to comment at this time.”