Tag Archives: Community Board 2

Safety improvements at fatal Long Island City intersection


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

Months after 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak was struck and killed near LaGuardia Community College, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has answered students and residents’ pleas for safety enhancements.

Drudak, a student at the Applied Communications High School inside the community college’s building, died after being struck by a minivan that lost control and mounted the sidewalk at the intersection of Thomson Avenue and 30th Street in Long Island City. Four of five other pedestrians hit in the same incident were students at LaGuardia.

After Drudak’s death, residents, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Community Board 2 and LaGuardia Community College officials called on the DOT to enhance pedestrian safety at the intersection.

“No New Yorker should feel their life is in jeopardy when they are walking along the sidewalks of our City streets” said Van Bramer.

Since April, the DOT has implemented short-term improvements including adjusting the timing of signals near the intersection and installing pedestrian countdown signals at Thomson and Skillman Avenues, 30th Street, 30th Place, 31st Street and 31st Place. The agency has also added signs and improved markings at Thomson Avenue and Van Dam Street.

In the latest changes, the DOT said it has redesigned Thomson and Skillman Avenues by closing the slip ramp and making it illegal for vehicles to makes left turns from Thomson Avenue onto Skillman Avenue.

The department added it has installed new signs and plastic markers to limit left turns from Thomson Avenue to 30th Street.

There is also a brand new 550-square-foot pedestrian space at the intersection of 30th Street and Thomson Avenue. It is bordered by stone blocks, plastic markings and six planters.

According to the DOT, all the changes were aimed at improving safety for the large volume of students and residents that walk through the intersection daily.

 

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Developers change 5Pointz plans, BP approves application


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After receiving harsh disapproval from the Long Island City community, the developers who plan to turn the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz into two high-rise apartment buildings have decided to make changes to their proposal.

According to Joseph Conley, chair of Community Board (CB) 2, G&M Realty’s plan has been altered to include about 78 affordable housing units, an addition of 10,000 square feet to the initial 2,000 square feet planned for artists’ studios and community use of the parking garage for below-market rates.

Conley said the changes came after Jerry Wolkoff, whose family has owned the property for the past 40 years, heard of the community’s vociferous objections to the initial plan.

The new plan also includes the installation of art panels on the street to continue to display artists’ works. There will also be a program to curate the works and establish a community advisory group to work with CB 2 before, during and after construction.

“He wanted to make sure, before he moves forward, that he came back and met with a group of people to talk about how he could reestablish connections and solidify connection with the community he’s been a part of for 40 years,” said Conley. “The important part is that it shows his concern about the community.”

The Wolkoffs intend to demolish the graffiti-covered warehouse on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street and construct two apartment towers there. One would reach 47 stories and the other 41 stories, with close to 1,000 rental apartments, 30,000 square feet of outdoor public space and 50,000 square feet of retail space between them.

CB 2 voted against the owners’ land use application in June. However, constructing the towers is within their rights. The Wolkoffs are continuing their application to the Department of City Planning to build to larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules.

“Our vote does not change,” said Conley. “It’s not a question that he will do a bait-and-switch. He will be obligated to [do] what he said as he goes forward. Mr. Wolkoff immediately made the changes without hesitations. It expresses his willingness to work with the community.”

David Wolkoff previously told The Courier that his family has and will continue to listen to what the community has to say.

“We had always taken into consideration what the community wants,” he said.

However, according to Marie Cecile Flageul, a spokesperson for 5Pointz and an event planner, artists were not consulted in the recent changes to the Wolkoffs’ proposal.

“5Pointz is not included in the plan,” said Flageul. “The extra space will not be given to any of the 5Pointz collective. We wished the community board would have consulted us before saying the changes are satisfactory.”

On Wednesday, July 17 Borough President Helen Marshall announced she approved the Wolkoffs’ land use application.

The application will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission, the City Council and finally the mayor.

 

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Board votes down outdoor seating at Alobar


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

Alobar customers will now have to spend the summer indoors after a final vote from Community Board 2 (CB2) denied the restaurant the use of its backyard space.

The popular restaurant at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point must adhere to a stipulation of its liquor license prohibiting outdoor seating.

Owner Jeff Blath met with CB2’s City Service and Public Safety Committee on June 12 to discuss opening his backyard space to customers. He said the board told him it could not make an exception for his restaurant without setting a precedent for other establishments.

“They were really clear that Alobar is an excellent addition to the neighborhood,” said Blath. “The reason was that if they say yes to Alobar, they have to say yes to everyone.”

Blath said he finds the decision “disappointing.” He previously noted the effect on his business, saying he loses dozens of customers who ask for the outdoor seating.

“It’s thousands of dollars a month and it’s enough to put people out of business,” said Bath. “It’s enough to make people lose their jobs.”

CB 2 Chair Joseph Conley previously told The Courier the board has had to deal with establishments whose backyard seating caused disturbances to neighbors and the community. He added that residents in the area have voiced their opposition to the plan.

However, Blath said he gathered nearly 500 signatures for a petition and has spoken with his neighbors that say otherwise.

Before the meeting, Blath built 11-foot-high walls to block out noise and had a sound engineer suggest other changes to make the seating area quieter. He was also trying to work with the board to cut back hours at the backyard from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“I was willing to bend over backwards to make this happen,” said Blath. “When you see another place just a block away from you go out of business, it scares you. My heart is in this business. I can’t help but think what’s going to happen.”

Blath is looking to appeal the board’s decision with the State Liquor Authority.

CB2 did not respond to calls as of press time.

 

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Long Island City, Astoria bike lanes to get makeover


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano / Graphics courtesy of DOT

Vernon Boulevard’s bike lanes are set to get a makeover this summer to provide extra safety for riders and more space for drivers.

According to a plan the Department of Transportation (DOT) presented to Community Board 2 on June 6, the two one-way bike paths on each side of Vernon Boulevard would become a two-way protected lane. The lane would have a five-foot buffer running alongside the west side of the street. The lanes would also be painted green to provide easier visibility.

“This project is intended to knit together existing sections of the greenway by providing a continuous, protected bike lane serving neighborhoods along the East River waterfront,” said DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera.

The existing bike lanes were set up as part of the Queens East River Greenway in 2008, which connects the waterfront from Hallet’s Cove in Astoria to 45th Road in Hunters Point.

After hearing community concerns over the lack of parking, DOT also plans to create a protected bike path through Rainey Park in Astoria. That would free up 35 parking spaces between 34th Avenue and 33rd Road.

According to the plan, the two-way bike lane will help beginning riders feel more comfortable on the streets and bring more bicyclists to the path. The wider path would allow joggers to benefit from the space, too.

“The project, which DOT has proposed for implementation this summer, has the support of Community Board 1 and the agency continues to work with Community Board 2 on this initiative,” said Mosquera.

 

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Outdoor seating still in question at LIC’s Alobar


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

It seems Alobar still has to overcome a few more hurdles before getting the chance to use its backyard space this summer.

The popular restaurant, located at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point, has not been allowed to offer customers outdoor seating as a stipulation of its liquor license.

Alobar’s owner Jeff Blath met with Community Board 2’s City Service and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, May 8 to discuss opening the backyard space to customers.

Blath previously told The Courier his business loses thousands of dollars when the weather is nice. He said turning down customers who request an outdoor table pushes them to other establishments.

Committee Chair Patrick O’Brien said it was a good meeting since Blath listened to recommendations and was open to working with the community board.

“He understands the concerns, and we are sensitive to any business,” said O’Brien. “We want to hear both sides of it.”

O’Brien noted that residents have strongly voiced their opposition to opening up Alobar’s backyard seating area because of the noise it would cause.

The committee neither approved nor denied the proposal, but suggested Blath work with sound engineers to see if there is something that could muffle sounds from his backyard. The committee also asked Blath to consider offering only brunch or lunch in the backyard if it ultimately gets approval.

The committee would also have to make sure Alobar can legally use the space for the intended reasons, O’Brien said. The body is scheduled to continue discussions on Alobar’s backyard at a June 12 meeting.

Blath did not respond to multiple phone calls as of press time.

 

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LIC’s Alobar petitions for outdoor seating


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

With summer just around the corner, Alobar in Hunters Point is seeking permission to serve patrons outdoors.

The popular restaurant at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard is not allowed to offer its customers backyard seating as a stipulation of its liquor license.

Alobar’s owner Jeff Blath said when customers see his outdoor seating area, they often request a table there, but he has to turn them down. According to him, the business loses thousands of dollars when the weather is nice.

“I have to tell them no, and customers will usually respond with, ‘We’ll go somewhere else’,” he said.

Community Board 2 granted Alobar its liquor license. CB 2 Chair Joseph Conley said the board has previously had to deal with establishments whose backyard seating caused disturbances to neighbors and the community.

He cited Lounge 47 as an example. After years of neighbors’ complaints about excessive noise during late hours, the establishmen closed. It was located at 47-10 Vernon Boulevard.

“By and large, from past experience, people do not want them because they are a negative impact to the way of life,” said Conley. “It is very clear the community has spoken about this. Residents that live there are opposed to it.”

However, Blath maintains Alobar has been a good neighbor and will stay that way. His petition has gained 438 signatures from neighbors and customers.

“Now that I’ve been around, I’ve proven myself to be a good neighbor. I welcome speaking to neighbors and hearing from them,” Blath said. “I want to be able to go to the community board with a good number of people to show it’s what people want.”

Blath plans to make the case that Alobar is a quiet restaurant. There will be no speakers to play music, he has built 11-foot-high walls and set up an awning to muffle noise.

If CB 2 approves use of Alobar’s backyard space, the restaurant will stay open until 10:30 p.m. Blath considers that a reasonable time compared to some other establishments, which stay open past midnight.

“I’m asking for less than everyone else,” he said.

The next board meeting is on May 2. Conley said he welcomes Blath to come and bring his proposal.

“Based on the facts, there could be something unique,” Conley said. “Each case is looked at individually.”

 

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Hunters Point residents split on alternate side parking


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Hunters Point residents are taking sides when it comes to a proposal for alternate side parking.

At a Community Board 2 meeting in January, residents became aware of the Department of Sanitation’s (DOS) proposition for alternate side street parking west of Jackson Avenue between 45th and Borden Avenues due to requests made by some residents in fall 2011.

As part of the proposal, the streets would be swept twice a week, the south and east sides on Wednesdays and the north and west sides on Thursdays. Streets in the area south of 47th Road would be cleaned from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and streets to the north would be cleaned between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Blocks with meters would be cleaned in half-hour segments between 7:30 and 9 a.m.

Dr. Moitri Savard, Community Board 2 member and a local family doctor, has been leading the battle for cleaner streets for about two years and is taking matters into her own hands.

“We just want our streets to be cleaner,” said Savard, who has now started the LIC – Environmental Community Organization (LIC-ECO) to clean the streets as they wait for the changes.

But other residents are worried about the vehicle congestion as cars do the “double parking dance,” switching in and out of spaces.

Longtime resident Diane Hendry believes the community should be accountable for litter and more trash baskets should be added. Hendry also suggests residents get parking permits, as well as resident short- and long-term parking to alleviate congestion.

According to spokesperson Kathy Dawkins, the DOS is still waiting for recommendations from the Community Board after its next public hearing.

“The Department of Sanitation prepared the plan in response to requests by the Community Board and the local councilmember who sense the changing nature of the area,” said Dawkins.

The LIC-ECO group is planning “LIC Cleanup!” for Saturday, May 11 to clean 48th Avenue between 5th Street and Vernon Boulevard.

Community Board 2 did not respond to calls for comment.

 

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Farmers’ market may return to Hunters Point


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

http://queenscourier.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=106816&action=edit&message=10#

The community has spoken and Hunters Point might be getting its beloved farmers’ market back on weekends.

At a meeting of the Hunters Point Civic Association, residents voiced their opinions on important issues, with many shedding light on their desire to bring back the farmers’ market. After one resident volunteered to lead the issue, Down to Earth Markets was contacted.

“We are very excited to be bringing a farmers’ market back to the neighborhood and happy to be working with Down to Earth Farmers’ Markets,” said Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association.

Down to Earth Markets manages 20 farmers’ markets in New York City and Westchester and Rockland Counties and strives to bring “locally crafted products” to the residents of each community.

There had previously been a market on 48th Street on Saturdays, but when the day was shifted to Wednesdays, the change did not go over well with residents and the operation closed down.

“It was an outcry from the residents that they wanted to have it back,” said Frankie Rowland, director of community relations and marketing for Down to Earth Markets. “We want to return the market to 48th Street on Saturdays.” At a recent Community Board 2 meeting in Sunnyside, representatives from Down to Earth Markets, including Rowland, presented their plan to the residents and board members.

“Local is a big aspect of what we do. We want to support local agriculture,” said Rowland. “We want to provide fresh local food to the residents of the area and allow them to have direct interaction with each other.” The farmers’ market would feature locally grown produce, fruits and vegetables in season, and local bread. In addition, there may be vendors selling local honey, olive oil, cheese and eggs.

According to Rowland, the first step was reaching out to Community Board 2 and now they will have a follow-up meeting with the civic association. The meeting will then be followed with the organization pursuing proper permits from the Department of Transportation.

If the farmers’ market is approved, it will be launched in June or July on 48th Street between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street and will open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until the last Saturday before Thanksgiving.

 

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LIC residents blame parking problems on Manhattanites


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Long Island City dwellers have circled the block for the last time.

Residents of the rapidly-developing district, sick of searching for scarce parking, blame Manhattanites for using the neighborhood with lax street-side laws as their personal parking lot.

“It’s a convenient place for those living or working in Manhattan to leave their cars for the day or weeks,” said Peter Johnson, a Long Island City resident who claimed the problem has persisted for years.

One Manhattanite who works for Citicorp left her car parked at the edge of Johnson’s house for several months. She told him she occasionally stopped by during her lunch break just to turn the car on to recharge the battery.

“[She had] no qualms about taking the parking that should be for residents,” said Johnson.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), street storage of vehicles is prohibited. On streets that are without regulations for alternate-side parking, including residential neighborhoods, cars are not allowed to remain in the same spot for seven consecutive days.

Johnson suggested resident parking stickers as a possible fix to the parking problem. The DOT said residential permits are not under consideration as the agency does not have the authority or funding to implement a system.

“We do know that people are leaving their cars on the streets for long period of time,” said Community Board 2 Chair Joe Conley.

In May of 2012, board members conducted an impromptu experiment, scrawling dates and times on cars in dust along 47th Avenue and 48th Avenue to track their movement. Cars didn’t move for several weeks.

As part of a separate cleanliness initiative, Community Board 2 reached out to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) in hopes of bringing street cleaning to the neighborhood. Conley believes the parking regulations necessary for street cleaning will alleviate some traffic tension.

“Throughout the rest of the district we have alternate side parking so cars have to move,” said Conley. “In Hunters Point we don’t have restrictions so cars can stay there forever.”

Conley also believes the area’s booming population and residential upswing has attributed to parking woes. The formerly industrial neighborhood, which mainly saw circulation increase during week days, is now subject to seven straight days of traffic. Conley added that while LIC has always suffered from a serious parking shortage, turnover of parking is essential to residents and businesses in the neighborhood.

 

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Dangerous Sunnyside intersection prompts DOT study


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

A transit advocacy group is moving to make changes to a hazardous Sunnyside intersection.

Representatives from the Queens Committee of Transportation Alternatives say the juncture of Borden Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue, running above the Long Island Expressway, is perilous for pedestrians and cyclists due to unclear markings and poorly-timed traffic signals.

“Frankly, it’s an absolute nightmare,” said Transportation Alternatives member Steve Scofield, who rides his bike through the intersection frequently. “There really is no safe way for a pedestrian or cyclist to get through the intersection safely.”

Many northbound cyclists choose to navigate the intersection illegally to optimize safety, crossing Greenpoint Avenue and riding against traffic on the southbound side. Scofield said it’s safer for bike rides to move in the opposite direction rather than be at the mercy of drivers with limited visibility. Nearly half of cyclists who cross the intersection use this method.

According to Streetsblog.com, a cyclist was struck and killed by a livery cab at the intersection in April 2012.

The driver of the cab was not charged with any crime. According to CrashStat.org, since 1998 there have been four accidents at the crossing, all of which resulted in injuries.

In order to create a safer intersection, Scofield wants to implement protected left signals and shared lanes for bikes and cars; convert Hunters Point Boulevard into a westbound one-way street; and add more lights for cyclists and pedestrians.

In August 2012, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer sent a letter to then Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy, alerting her to the traffic calming measures needed at this intersection.

“This daunting intersection has had a history of accidents in recent years due to a lack of the appropriate traffic light timing and issues with speed control,” said Van Bramer. “These hazards have put the lives of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists in danger and action must be taken before another life is lost. ”

According to a spokesperson from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the agency will conduct a study on the intersection based on Community Board 2’s recommendations.

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Bike Share Comes to L.I.C.


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The city recently opted to “share” its bikes with the borough.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer announced on May 11 that “Citi Bike,” New York’s bicycle share program, will add 10 stations in Long Island City – building upon the locations currently planned in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“Citi Bike,” which is the nation’s largest public bike share system with 600 docking stations and 10,000 bikes, will provide a new, eco-friendly mode of transportation for residents. The program – sponsored by Citi – will launch in July of 2012 and will be operated by Alta Bicycle Share, which will split any profits with the city.

“[This] is a big victory – one that will improve life in L.I.C. in a number of ways,” Van Bramer said. “Cycling is healthy, it’s great exercise and it brings people together in a number of ways. It allows families to explore the neighborhood in ways that maybe they hadn’t before. It’s going to bring a lot of people to the neighborhood. It’s going to bring people to our cultural institutions. It’s going to bring people to our restaurants and small businesses. People will be able to come from all over the city with their bikes and park them in these docking stations and explore what we have to offer, which is a great deal.”

According to Van Bramer, the 10 docking stations have been strategically placed to provide riders access to premier locations in L.I.C., including waterfront parks, the business district and LaGuardia Community College. The councilmember also expressed hope that the bike share program will expand to other parts of Queens in Phase 2 of its launch.

“I expect it to be successful and hope it will be well utilized and future expansions will take it to more and more neighborhoods in Queens, bringing all of the benefits beyond L.I.C.,” he said.

Every bike in the network will be equipped with a bell and both front and rear lights, as well as an inscribed safety message encouraging helmet use and cautioning riders to yield to pedestrians, avoid riding on sidewalks, ride with traffic and obey all traffic lights and signs.

The docking stations are solar-powered and wireless and can accommodate between 15 and 60 bikes. They will be located on sidewalks, curbside road space, plazas and other locations suggested through a community process. A community forum on the bike share will be hosted by Van Bramer, Community Board 2 and the DOT on May 21, allowing residents to learn more about the program.

“I’m extremely proud to release this plan for the Citi Bike network,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “New Yorkers created this plan during the past six months, contributing time and expertise in workshops, on-line and in dozens of meetings to discuss and plan the city’s newest transportation system.”

Community Board 2 approves liquor licenses


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Michael Pantelidis

Casa Enrique and the M. Wells Dinette inside MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center were both recently approved for liquor licenses by Community Board (CB) 2.

The proprietors of the Long Island City establishments made presentations to the board members and community residents during an April 24 meeting, requesting the right to sell liquor inside their respective restaurants.

Winston Kulok, the owner of Casa Enrique – an authentic Mexican restaurant located at 5-48 49th Avenue – also received permission to serve food in a small garden area in the rear of the eatery until 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

In an attempt to ease concerns of disorderly conduct, Kulok said he is a “responsible operator” and that his restaurants are “food oriented.” The restaurateur went on to say that he has 20 pages of signatures from residents in support of his application.

M. Wells and MoMA PS1 submitted a joint application to allow for an overlap between the two facilities during catered events or receptions. CB 2 voted to allow the restaurant to sell liquor and remain open until 2 a.m.

Peter Katz, chief operating officer of MoMA PS1, and Sarah Obraitis, owner of M. Wells, said they welcomed the partnership and believe it will be greatly beneficial for L.I.C. Both also emphasized that they are not aiming to cause any trouble with their pairing.

Despite previous incidents of loud noise and disorderly conduct from visitors of the museum, M. Wells and MoMA PS1 received overwhelming support from the residents in attendance – who were excited over the restaurant’s return.

Western Queens provides DOT bike lane input


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and residents of western Queens recently “pedaled” closer to protecting bike riders.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer sponsored the first-ever Queens Bike Forum in Sunnyside on March 2, allowing members of the DOT’s Bike Program Staff to receive recommendations from residents regarding the best ways to develop safe and efficient bike lanes in western Queens. During the forum, which was held at Community Board (CB) 2, cycling enthusiasts from around the 26th District also shared suggestions for ideal bike route locations.

“The goal of this forum was to make sure that the community has input in the DOT’s bike lane implementation process,” said Van Bramer, who often cycles himself. “The roads of New York City are for everyone and we want to make sure that everyone stays safe. In my opinion, a well-planned and well-organized bike lane can do that. One of the best ways to achieve that is by bringing the community and the DOT together to decide which bike lanes are best and where they can be best installed in our neighborhoods.”

According to DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel, the department received a great deal of information from the community, and after reviewing the suggestions, officials will return to CB2 within the next few months to present a report of the findings. The DOT will also ask the community to aid in prioritizing the list of bike route locations, said Gastel.

Many residents are hopeful DOT improvements will allow them to feel safe cycling around their neighborhood.

“There are some bike lanes already, but the paths need to be better laid out. They don’t seem to flow well or be safe enough,” said Thomas Haggerty, a resident of Woodside. “I tend to take my kids bike riding in the park, but if they could make it safer on the streets I would certainly consider that.”