Tag Archives: Community Board 5

DOT proposes expanding bike network in CB 5 area


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Gear up for round two of bike lane construction in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

Aaron Fraint, project manager with NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) bicycle program, presented three options for a second phase of bike lane creation to the Community Board 5 Transportation Committee members on March 24.

All three options focused on creating a network of lanes.

“We would like to do a set of streets that all connect to each other because we see the bike network as just that, a network, rather than sets of routes that aren’t connected to anything,” Fraint said.

The first option would connect Ridgewood to Rego Park through Middle Village via Metropolitan Avenue, 69th Street and Eliot Avenue ending on Woodhaven Boulevard.

“Metropolitan Avenue is very busy corridor…with a lot of commercial and industrial activity,” Fraint said, which is why creating safe bike lanes is so important.

The avenue is also 41 feet wide, which allows just enough room for a shared bike lane in both directions.

The DOT proposed using “sharrows,” symbols with a green background that notify motorists that bicyclists may be present.

Option two connects Glendale to Rego Park through Middle Village by using Central Avenue connecting to Cooper Avenue to Woodhaven Boulevard, with a north/south route on 80th Street turning into Dry Harbor Road and 63rd Avenue, ending on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Fraint said that both Central and Cooper avenues — which are 40 feet wide — have enough space for 12-foot-wide shared lanes in both directions with 8-foot parking lanes.

Cooper Avenue already has a shared bike lane on the extra-wide sidewalks that were installed on the underpass after its reconstruction. These connect to a shared bike lane on 80th Street, so “we would pick up where shared lanes left off on 80th Street and bring it over to Woodhaven Boulevard,” Fraint said.

The final option seeks to connect Ridgewood to Long Island City through Maspeth along Fresh Pond Road, 59th Drive to Rust Street. In the opposite direction, the route would take Rust Street to 60th Street then to 60th Avenue and back down Fresh Pond Road.

A segment of Fresh Pond Road, which is 44 feet wide, can accommodate 14-foot shared lanes in both directions, keeping the configuration of one travel lane in each direction and parking on both sides.

59th Drive is one-way westbound from the turn off Fresh Pond Road up until 60th Street, and at 26 feet wide, “we will be able to keep the condition as is, but add a shared lane for cyclists,” Fraint said.

As 59th Drive continues past 60th Street, it becomes a 30-foot-wide two-way street, and the DOT is looking to put in a center line and shared lane symbols.

The DOT is still working out what type of bicycle facilities would be the best fit on Rust Street.
Fraint added that a lot of cyclists are using that route and it is a logical connector between Ridgewood and Long Island City.

After the board heard all three options, they discussed which ones they would like to see implemented in the community.

“I do like the Metropolitan, 69th and Eliot [route],” said John Maier, co-chair of the committee. “I think Eliot makes a lot of sense.”

For option two, Maier said that Fresh Pond Road is “already a traffic nightmare,” but that cyclists do use the route and it is worth taking a look at.

Panel members agreed that the first option would be the best fit for the communities. They liked option two, with some modifications to the 80th Street section. The DOT needs to further study the third option before the board accepts it. The DOT hopes to begin installing the accepted routes during 2015.

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CB 5 eyes city budget: district manager wants more cops, building inspectors


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Strini/PropertyShark

Speaking during the annual Community Board 5 preliminary budget hearing on March 11 in Middle Village, Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano called for more city funds to boost the 104th Precinct’s roster.

“What I do on behalf of the community board is in response to the preliminary budget as I see it,” Giordano said. “The estimated budget of the City of New York is in the neighborhood of $77 billion. And what I would normally focus on, as far as the expense budget goes, is our need and desire for 20 additional police officers in the 104th Precinct.”

According to Giordano, in 1995, patrol personnel were numbered at 203 officers, not including supervisors, and that number is down by 25 percent today. Even though crime is down, Giordano stated, the reduced staff at the precinct leads to response backlogs.

Other priorities for the expense budget, he touted, included “sanitation collection, cleaning dump-out locations, sanitation enforcement, education [and] fire department staffing.”

The district manager also recommended that the Department of Buildings hire more qualified building inspectors for Queens.

Community Board 5 District Manager, Gary Giordano (left) with Mark Hoffer from PANYNJ (center) and CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri during the CB 5 monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 11. (Photo by Anthony Giudice)

Community Board 5 District Manager, Gary Giordano (left) with Mark Hoffer from PANYNJ (center) and CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri during the CB 5 monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 11. (Photo by Anthony Giudice)

“I think the Buildings Department is down to like 19 inspectors for Queens County,” Giordano explained. “Since the economy is heating up and we’re going to see more construction, and we’re likely to see some pretty large buildings built … we need enough competent buildings inspectors to make sure that whatever construction is taking place is getting done according to plan and according to law and we also need those buildings inspectors to check on illegal uses.”

Parks in Maspeth and Middle Village are set to receive capital funding for reconstruction. Frank Principe Park in Maspeth will get $5 million and Juniper Valley Park is slated to receive funding to reconstruct either the running track or turf field, but the debate is not settled yet, Giordano said.

Projects that have already been funded and are currently underway include the installation of larger sewer pipes and the relocation of gas mains in the Penelope Avenue area in Middle Village and the Calamus Avenue/69th Street area.

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Community Board 5 prefers waterborne option for Cross Harbor Freight Program


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Despite a presentation from Port Authority (PANYNJ) representatives at its Wednesday meeting, Community Board 5 members remained steadfast in supporting water transportation over new rail infrastructure as part of the proposed Cross Harbor Freight Program.

Mark Hoffer, director of New Port Initiatives for PANYNJ, spoke to attendees at Christ the King Regional High School on the proposed options set forth by the Cross Harbor Freight Program to relieve the congestion and the region’s dependence on freight trucks.

“We’re looking to improve the movement of goods in the greater New York/New Jersey region by enhancing, improving the transportation of freight across New York Harbor,” Hoffer explained.

The PANYNJ released its Tier I Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) last November and has presented 10 options, with an 11th “no build” option. Of the 10 current options, five would be waterborne options and five would be rail tunnel alternatives. The “no build” option would only continue building projects that are already in the pipeline to be constructed, nothing new would be added.

The program is currently in the public hearing and comment stage and PANYNJ is seeking the public’s input.

“No decisions have been made to build anything,” Hoffer said. “It’s important, obviously, for us to hear from the public about how they feel, and which alternatives they think might be better than others or if there are options that you think we missed, what those might be.”

Board 5 members voiced their opinions on the proposed options of the Cross Harbor Freight Program during the meeting’s public forum.

Bob Holden, Board 5 Public Safety Committee chairperson, believes that creating an intermodal rail station in Maspeth would bring more truck traffic “in the heart of our neighborhoods in Queens.”

Several members of the board agreed with Holden’s opinion and feel that a rail option would negatively affect the communities, while one of the five waterborne options would better suit the area.

A representative for Assemblywoman Margaret Markey presented a statement by Markey on the Cross Harbor Freight Program.

“Community Board 5 already faces a severe impact from current operations on rail lines that pass through many of our communities,” according to Markey’s statement. “I will focus my formal DEIS comments on the heightened threat that we will face as this program proceeds. Our neighborhoods must not be unfairly forced to pay the price to achieve the laudable goal of reducing cross harbor truck freight traffic.”

Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri thought back to the days when freight was shipped through New York without all of today’s roadways and bridges.

“How did we do it without these bridges, without the thruways, without the expressways and why can’t we do it now?” he asked.

Hoffer answered Arcuri’s question by saying, “the world changed.”

“We’ve made some bad decisions in the past, the government made some bad decisions in the past,” Hoffer said. “We let a lot of our transportation infrastructure go to pieces and we fell in love with the internal combustion engine.”

All these factors and more have lead to the current situation of a “truck-centric” system. Hoffer assured those in attendance that PANYNJ are looking at waterborne options.

Following the presentation, the board adopted a resolution from its Transportation Services Committee to submit official comment in opposition to the Cross Harbor Freight Project. The resolution indicated the board believes “the current options of the Cross Harbor DEIS are inadequate for a variety of reasons.” The panel urged that waterborne alternatives be considered.

The public can submit official comment to the Port Authority by email at feedback@crossharborstudy.com through Friday, March 20.

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CB 5 committees pan Cross Harbor Tunnel plans


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

File photo

Building a Cross Harbor Tunnel would shift the tri-state area’s traffic problems into Brooklyn and Queens, members of the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Transportation and Public Transit committees declared during a meeting Tuesday night in Glendale.

Panelists panned options in the Port Authority’s Cross Harbor Freight Program that call for a train tunnel or a combined train/truck tube through the harbor between rail yards in New Jersey and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The options include increased activity on the Long Island Rail Road’s Bay Ridge line and the connecting Fresh Pond Rail Yard in Glendale — the only freight rail terminal linking geographic Long Island and the rest of the country.

Though the Port Authority claims the tunnel plans would help reduce tractor-trailer traffic on its existing Hudson River and harbor crossings, CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri charged, the proposal wouldn’t remedy congestion, but rather move it elsewhere in the city.

According to Arcuri, the tunnel plans included the creation or expansion of intermodal shipping facilities and warehouses near the Fresh Pond Rail Yard as well as Maspeth and East New York. At these sites, goods would be loaded and off-loaded between train cars and small trucks. Citing analysis performed by the Glendale-based Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), Arcuri said, the tunnels would effectively add hundreds of truck trips each day onto local streets.

“By taking the largest tractor-trailers off the road and putting [their cargo] on the trains, they’re adding thousands of smaller trucks to our area,” he said. “We need to come up with a comprehensive argument against this current plan.”

John Maier, Public Transit Committee co-chair, echoed those sentiments, noting that much of the tunnel program’s concepts are based in “theory.” Municipal waste and construction and demolition debris from the city and Nassau and Suffolk counties make up the bulk of all local freight rail shipments. Other goods, he noted, are largely shipped by truck.

“The tunnel would do more to alleviate traffic outside of New York City than within it,” Maier said. “It’s not creating a lot of jobs because a lot of [shipping] is automated. It’s not a lot of yard jobs. It’s not a lot of anything, really. It would only reduce 6 percent of traffic on the Hudson River crossings while adding much more than 6 percent of traffic to East New York and Maspeth.”

Jean Tanler of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association stated that companies in the neighborhood’s Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) expressed similar concerns about a Cross Harbor Tunnel, but also pressed for easier shipping methods to reduce costs and travel time.

“There’s definitely demand,” she said. “It would save companies a lot of money to shave off a day of transit, either by rail or by barge.”

Local logistics also make a Cross Harbor Tunnel plan unfeasible, according to CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano. The plans indicate a tunnel would bring between 16 and 21 trains through the area each day — and current freight rail facilities are already overwhelmed with traffic.

“Right there, it’s physically impossible to pull that off unless the trains just rolled through at all hours of the day,” Giordano said.

Arcuri concluded that “the current plan is unacceptable” and that the board needed to present a resolution not only dismissing the Cross Harbor Tunnel, but also advocating for increased barge shipments and container float operations across the harbor. The chairperson said a resolution will be developed and considered at the committees’ next meeting on Tuesday, March 24.

Meanwhile, Queens residents will have the opportunity to speak out on the Cross Harbor program during a public hearing on Tuesday, March 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens.

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CB 5 blasts Maspeth creek aeration plant plan


| info@timesnewsweekly.com

Rendering via DEP

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Revisions to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) plans for a Newtown Creek aeration facility in Maspeth were panned by Community Board 5 members during the advisory body’s meeting this week.

The proposed aeration facility, located at 58-26 47th St. on the creek’s waterfront, would house a 70-foot by 40-foot aeration building equipped with two blowers, external transformers, ventilation and air conditioning units.

Air would be diffused along the length of a pipe from the facility into the creek in an effort to increase dissolved oxygen levels in the surrounding water and reduce pollution levels.

Ray Meshkati, accountable project manager for the Newtown Creek East Planned Aeration Project, was optimistic that the project would be approved. “We think that we should be able to place this on line sometime in 2018,” he stated.

Meshkati’s optimism, however, was met with sharp criticism from board members after it was announced that public access to the waterfront space was omitted from the updated plans.

“This board passed a resolution in 2013 asking the DEP to give us several options in terms of public waterfront access,” Land Use Committee chair Walter Sanchez said.

Board 5 chair Vincent Arcuri also expressed outrage and concern over the changes.

“I don’t like people, especially agency people, going back on what they said to us,” Arcuri said. “Gary [Giordano] and I met with the commissioner and out of that meeting a sketch was produced showing future dedicated space to the promenade. Why this final document comes out without that future space shown or dedicated is an insult to me, this board and the community.”

Tom Smith, a representative from the Department of City Planning, explained that the DEP was granted a mayoral override allowing for the omission of public access along the waterfront and proposed promenade area due to questions over public safety.

“The concern from the agency was that this area may have a safety and security issue,” Smith said. “This would not be a staffed facility at all hours of the day. There’s little pedestrian traffic and any waterfront access would be significantly removed from the street itself.”

DEP Director of Community Affairs Ibrahim Abdul-Matin echoed these concerns: “The understanding is that as the larger area, which is mostly an industrial area, develops, there is going to be a larger plan for the entire waterfront. I can’t comment as to how [public access] will fit into a larger plan until there’s a much more comprehensive look at that waterfront as it develops and changes.”

Board 5 member John Maier expressed similar concerns regarding the override of the original plan. “Public space will create energy and activity that’s not there now, but could be in the future,” he said. “I think to deny the public access is to deny the potential. That’s sad and unfortunate.”

The expansion plan also faced opposition from the local Newtown Creek Alliance. In a Feb. 11 letter, NCA Program Manager Willis Elkins petitioned the DEP and DEC for a delay in the project, citing concerns over habitat, wildlife and quality-of-life issues.

“We feel that the expansion should not advance without a serious re-evaluation of alternatives that can offer long-term solutions to improving water quality,” Elkins wrote.

The proposed expansion is part of a larger system of automatic air blowers and diffusers installed along the length of the creek. The first aeration facility, built along the English Kills near the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, was completed in 2008.

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Community Board 5 nixes Ridgewood street fair’s permit


| info@timesnewsweekly.com

festival-file-photo

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO AND ROBERT POZARYCKI

After hearing complaints from Ridgewood residents, Community Board 5 recommended Wednesday night that the city deny a street fair application for this summer’s Fresh Pond Road Street Festival.

Twenty-two of 34 members voted against the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens’ application for the feast that shuts a five-block section of Fresh Pond Road, from Woodbine to Menahan streets, on four consecutive evenings.

At previous meetings, area residents complained the festival brought quality-of-life problems including increased traffic, fewer available parking spaces and some rowdy behavior.

The board narrowly recommended last year’s street fair permit, 18-15. Wednesday’s vote marked the first time since 1996 that the board recommended the permit’s denial.

During Wednesday’s meeting at Middle Village Christ the King Regional High School, Board 5 chairman Vincent Arcuri said the board’s Executive Committee was deadlocked on making a decision about this year’s festival.

“We had the most information we’ve ever received from an applicant for any event,” he said, “but the committee came up with no consensus.”

Board 5 member John Maier, who sits on the Executive Committee, proposed the motion to vote against the street festival permit: “Since I was unable to be there [last month] due to travel issues, I would have been the deciding vote and there would have been a vote on the table to deny the festival.”

Lifelong Ridgewood resident Margaret Chance reiterated previously voiced concerns over the festival during the board’s public forum.

“For the past 20 years, we’ve had negative impact from the Italian festival,” Chance said. “It’s way too long. Every year, it’s increased for longer days and longer hours.”

Chance also cited the relocation of bus stops and an excess of traffic and illegally parked cars on streets as major concerns surrounding the festival.

“Fresh Pond Road is way too narrow,” she said. “The vendors set up too early and the trucks and rides are way too wide to fit comfortably on Fresh Pond Road to allow two-way traffic to go along while the feast is not happening.”

Board 5 member Lucy Dolce, who is also a member of the Federazione, made an impassioned plea to the board to approve the festival permit.

“We have complied with everything this board wanted and more. We’ve done it all,” Dolce said. “This is a festival for families. These are four days for a working class community to be able to take their children and enjoy something at a very cheap cost.”

Proceeds from the festival benefit the Ridgewood-based nonprofit that provides free services to local senior citizens. According to Dolce, the organization no longer receives city and state funding and uses the proceeds from the festival to offset operating costs.

Dolce refuted the charges of police complaints and crime at prior festivals. “There have been no complaints. The police department would not allow us to continue if there were complaints,” she said.

Dolce abstained from the vote due to her membership with the nonprofit organization.

The 22nd Fresh Pond Street Festival is tentatively scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 3, and run until Sunday, Sept. 6. The Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office will have the final say on the matter.

The board did, however, recommend approval for several other local street festivals scheduled to take place this year on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood, Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village and Grand Avenue in Maspeth.

Editor’s note: A previous version incorrectly stated the vote was the first time Board 5 voted against the Fresh Pond Road street festival.

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BP Katz denies proposed Ridgewood rental building in industrial zone


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of  Nicholas Strini/PropertyShark

Ridgewood residents concerned about the loss of industrial space scored a major victory after Borough President Melinda Katz rejected a variance for a new three-story building with a penthouse on land zoned for manufacturing uses.

The decision comes after Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Community Board 5 opposed the project, which would be located at 1506 Decatur St., also known as 11-01 Irving Ave.

The total proposed size of the building would be nearly 5,000 square feet, and there would be two apartments on each of the three floors, and the penthouse above.

However, the area is part of the South of Myrtle Avenue Manufacturing Area (SOMA) Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), and although the block has low row houses with multiple dwellings, the land is zoned for manufacturing use. Katz and supporters of the city’s manufacturing sector hopes that it could be used as its zoning intended.

“Even though the applicant’s site is narrow and small, some manufacturing businesses may be able to utilize the space due to technological advances in recent years. They can operate and function cleanly and more efficiently using a smaller footprint,” Katz said in her decision. “Therefore, this site should be development with uses that are compatible with the industrial nature of the SOMA IBZ.”

The site is a 2,258-square-foot vacant lot that once had a residential building that was demolished in 1971, according to Katz. 11-01 Irving Ave LLC, which submitted the proposal for the project, purchased the land in 2013 for $180,000, according to city records, more than double its trading price in 2005 ($81,000).

Community Board 5 denied the plans for the site in a 21-13 vote in June for similar reasons as those given by the borough president.

In her decision, Katz said the loss of the manufacturing businesses over the past decades made many parcels of industrial land be redeveloped for other uses, but some should be preserved for the future of the industry.

“Industrial Business Zones were created for the purpose of protecting industrially zoned areas from other types of development while the manufacturing sector of the New York City economy reshapes itself,” Katz said.

The proposal will now go to the Board of Standard and Appeals, which has the final say on the plan.

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DOT unveils new proposal for intersection between Queens and Brooklyn


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DOT

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is trying to untangle an intersection where Wyckoff Avenue, Myrtle Avenue and Palmetto Road meet.

By restricting car turns, the department hopes to prevent the many injuries and some deaths that have occurred because of the “confusion and chaos” of the area, according to a representative from the DOT. They presented all of these problems and possible solutions to Community Board 5 on Wednesday.

“This is a problem area, to say the least,” a DOT representative told the board. “So we’re looking very closely at this area. The injuries and deaths need to stop.”

Like a tangled clump of yarn, there are 25 different turns that cars can make, with just as many pedestrian injuries. Between 2008 and 2012, 29 people were injured in some combination between the intersections. In the last five years two people died on the eastern side of the intersection, according to NYPD records collected by the transportation department

Along with banning five turns, they also want to extend curbs for pedestrians in order to shorten the distance needed to cross the many streets where Queens and Brooklyn meet. The labyrinth of intersections also holds a huge transit hub with access to M and L subways and B13, B26, B52, B54, Q55 and Q58 buses. All of which creates huge volumes of people competing with huge volumes of cars all trying to reach their final destination.

The intersection that straddle the Brooklyn-Queens line has always posed a problem for the transportation department and for members of the community board.

“We have looked at this intersection twice in 10 years,” Chair of the Community Board Vincent Arcuri said. “And we just can’t seem to figure out the best solution yet so hopefully we can figure something out this time around.”

The DOT is also considering installment of flashing yellow warning lights on the subway support columns and in January they installed more lights under the train overpass.

The final decision will be made next Tuesday during the board’s transportation committee meeting.

 

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Phillie’s Pizzeria II plans to offer outdoor seating


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SOPHIA ROSENBAUM

Phillie’s Pizzeria II is hoping to add some outdoor seating to its Middle Village location for customers to enjoy a slice out in the sun.

The pizzeria is slated to present an application to the Department of Consumer Affairs at Community Board 5’s monthly meeting that would establish an outdoor sidewalk café along the 74th Street side of the restaurant.

Sal Gallina, who co-owns the pizzeria with his brother Phil, said the addition would allow Phillie’s customers to choose to eat outside and wouldn’t affect pedestrians walking on the sidewalk.

But the plans for the outdoor café are at a standstill until Community Board 5 approves Gallina’s application, although Gallina thinks he has a good chance.

“CB 5 is on my side,” said Gallina, 39. “I have a good relationship with them and [the outdoor seating area]’s not going to bother anyone.”

Right now, Phillie’s can seat 70 people in its dining area and enclosed café.

The Gallina brothers have already worked with an architect to figure out the best location for the expansion, which will include four tables and eight to 12 chairs.

“It’s just something that I wanted to do to accommodate my customers,” Gallina said. “The more I can do for them, the better it is.”

Gallina said the outdoor café will cost a few thousand dollars with most of the expenses going toward the licensing and permit fees. He has already paid $3,000 in paperwork fees alone.

If all goes well at the board meeting, Gallina said, he hopes to open the outdoor café by the end of spring. Since the expansion is so small, he will not need to hire another waiter to service the extra tables.

Gallina said he is all about providing his customers with the best experience possible.

“People are always looking to sit outside in the summertime,” he said. “So we figured, why not let them sit outside and enjoy a nice day with a good slice of pizza?”

 

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Addabbo sends list of bus problems to MTA


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

A local legislator is hoping to put the brakes on bus problems in the region he represents.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo recently sent a list of complaints from constituents to the MTA about bus service on nearly 10 lines, including some that travel through the subway scarce neighborhoods of Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, hoping the agency can resolve the issues.

The note includes problems such as buses frequently arriving 20 or more minutes behind schedule, multiple buses bunching together and buses passing by commuters with “not in service” signs. The lines include the Q18, Q11/Q21, Q54, Q55, Q67, Q38 and Q29.

“As we negotiate our state budget funding and administrative decisions, we must realize that these resources must be allocated rationally and efficiently,” Addabbo said. “Acknowledging that the MTA provides a critical service and that state resources are not infinite, we must impress upon the MTA to improve service for my constituents given the resources it has.”

Last month, The Courier revealed exclusively that the MTA plans to reduce overall service in April of the Q54, which riders in Middle Village and Glendale depend on to connect to subway lines in Jamaica and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

During weekday “PM peak” hours—from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.—the Q54 will run every six minutes and 30 seconds, instead of every five minutes, according to the MTA’s January Transit & Bus Committee Meeting. During the evening schedule, which follows “PM peak” hours, the Q54 will run every 20 minutes instead of every 15.

 

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Ridgewood residents divided over planned luxury apartment building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Aufgang Architects

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Some Ridgewood residents are opposing a planned upscale building with a rooftop dog run, because it may be limited to renters of a certain pedigree.

Developers appeared at a public hearing at the Community Board 5 meeting on March 12 to introduce their proposed zoning change of the planned building’s site, 176 Woodward Avenue. But the meeting became feisty.

Residents who oppose the upscale building fear that it will gentrify of the neighborhood.

“What are we going to get that comes with this to make sure that our neighborhood could handle this and that it’s not a complete rift from the incomes that are in that neighborhood, so that when this wonderful looking project shows up all the folks that can’t afford wonderful looking projects in New York City don’t get kicked out,” Manny Jalonschi, a lifelong Ridgewood resident, asked.

The structure planned is a 90,000-square-foot building with 88 housing units, commercial retail space on the ground floor and 118 spots of underground parking. Owners are seeking a zoning change from manufacturing to residential. The building, which is being designed by Aufgang Architects, is estimated for $18 million.

More than 6,700-square-feet of the building will be dedicated to retail space on the ground floor, and a 3,115-square-foot community facility will be built to accommodate artists in Ridgewood and nearby Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Preliminary room renting prices are $1,100- $1,200 for a studio, $1,400- $1,600 for a one-bedroom and $1,700- $1,800 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the developer, who also said these estimates could change.

Some Ridgewood residents at the meeting voiced support, citing that the community has already changed.

“I support the zoning law, because it’s going to have a good impact on the community,” Ridgewood resident Joe Pergolese said. “People are trying to come into the community, so what we need is a building to happen there.”

The community board’s Land-Use Committee plans to meet and discuss the feedback of the project at the next meeting on April 7, before making a decision to support or oppose the rezoning. Councilmember Antonio Reynoso is also collecting feedback about the issue before voicing his support for either side.

 

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Contentious Maspeth Knockdown Center faces opposition in liquor license application


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Knockdown Center/ Ariana Page Russell

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In round one in the fight for The Knockdown Center to obtain a liquor license, it seems the local community board won’t be in their corner.

The center recently applied for a cabaret liquor license from the State Liquor Authority (SLA), according to Community Board 5, despite heavy opposition from residents and elected officials. The cabaret class license will allow the center to serve liquor at events, which have “musical entertainment,” for 600 or more people.

The community board wrote a letter to SLA opposing the license, outlining fears of negative impacts the center could have on the neighborhood.

“This is an accident waiting to happen,” said Bob Holden, a member of the board and president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. “This is a blue print for disaster right here.”

The center, a former glass and door factory turned arts hall, has hosted everything from weddings, Tiki Disco parties, a mini-golf art exhibition, and most recently a flea market. Owners also want to host art classes and large exhibits in the future.

In the letter, the board cited various reasons why they don’t want the center to have the liquor licenses, including extra pressure it will put on the 104th Precinct during events, the possible influx of vehicular traffic and problems it could bring to the immediate residences.

“All too typical with young people partying at raves and other events, which this could certainly house there is extensive alcohol abuse, but also abuse of prescription drugs and drugs like molly and ecstasy,” the letter stated. “There is a residential community very nearby, just on the opposite side of Flushing Avenue from the site in question. Problems with intoxication, fights, calls for ambulances and noise from loud music will hurt the residential community.”

Members are also worried that the center is taking away the opportunity for industrial jobs, as the site is zoned for manufacturing.

Recently it was revealed that Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t include $1.1 million in his preliminary budget for the Industrial Business Zones (IBZ) program, which were created to save and foster manufacturing jobs in the city. There are two IBZs in the board, one in Masepth, and the newly approved zone in Ridgewood.

“We should start talking about how we could protect our manufacturing zones,” said John Maier, the co-chair of the board’s Transportation Committee. “How we can go and address our elected (officials) and the city government to help ensure that these facilities don’t [effect] on our IBZs (Industrial Business Zones)?”

The center has been working on obtaining its Place of Assembly and Certificate of Occupancy, and has maintained it will not harm the community.

“We are excited that the community is getting involved and expressing their concerns,” said Tyler Myers, manager of the Knockdown Center. “We know that our direct neighbors are excited about it. The concerns of the larger community weren’t true last summer, and won’t be true [in the future].”

 

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Industrial Business Zones in danger of losing funding


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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Ted Renz is hoping what he fought so hard for won’t soon end.

Just last November, Renz, director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, was at the forefront of the fight to get the neighborhood included in the Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) program.

But only three months later, the IBZ may be in jeopardy, as Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t include $1.1 million in funding in his preliminary budget for the program, an initiative left over from the previous administration to save manufacturing jobs.

“We are disappointed that it wasn’t in the mayor’s budget,” Renz said. “We thought that he was a big supporter of manufacturing jobs. We hope that it will be reinstated (in his final budget).”

IBZs were created to stabilize industrial areas and spur growth in the manufacturing sector by offering tax credits of up to $1,000 per employee for businesses that relocated to them, and additional services to help companies grow.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg allocated nearly $4 million to 16 IBZs in 2006.

However, since its inception, funding decreased to about $1.1 million in 2013. Bloomberg himself hasn’t allocated money to the initiative since 2010, but the City Council has restored it every year, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The move could mean de Blasio, who supported manufacturing jobs during his campaign, will engage a different strategy to assist the sector, although his administration has not come up with any specifics.

“The de Blasio administration is committed to making smart, impactful investments that will help industrial business thrive in New York City, and is working with our agency partners to take a fresh look at the suite of programs that support this critical part of the city economy,” a spokesperson for the mayor said. “Spending differences in one program do not speak to the overall commitment to industrial firms and their jobs.”

Despite the decline in funding over the years, the program has grown to 21 IBZs, including Ridgewood and Woodside last year.

Community Board (CB) 5 especially pushed for the Ridgewood IBZ against opponents, which are owners who wanted to use their properties for residential use instead of industrial.

“It enables us to promote businesses more in that area and advocate for businesses, and provide programs for manufacturing,” said Renz, who is a member of CB 5.

In March, the city council will review the preliminary budget, and some are touting the IBZ’s signficance. “I am committed to restore it,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said. “I know it is important not just to Maspeth and Ridgewood, but the rest of the city. It is something that the council treasures.”

 

 

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Stalled Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village transportation projects suffer more setbacks


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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Ridgewood residents were hopeful that reconstruction of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would finally start this spring, but it’s been delayed again.

The path, which is elevated over LIRR tracks where Metropolitan Avenue intersects Fresh Pond Road, carries major truck traffic and is long overdue for repairs. In 2007, city officials informed Community Board (CB) 5 it was in danger of collapse.

Financial troubles delayed its original reconstruction start date back in 2009, and at a recent CB 5 Transportation Committee meeting, it was said that it’s been pushed back yet again, because the project has to undergo review and redesign.

The bridge is just one of a few major transportation projects, together worth about $115 million, in CB 5 that just keep getting delayed. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge alone could be a $25 million project, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said.

“You are talking about a lot of money for one district,” Giordano said. “We keep bringing them up at our transportation meeting because we believe that they need to be done and want don’t want to forget about them.”

Developers are now considering building an abutment, eliminating one track under the bridge, to help the building process.

There is also the Grand Street Bridge project, which connects Maspeth to Brooklyn over Newtown Creek.

The 111-year-old bridge is so narrow that it can’t support two-way traffic, although it is a two-way span, with all the big rigs and city buses that traverse it. The new bridge would cost about $50 million.

The plan for a new bridge was ready to go when Sandy struck in 2012 and flooded the area. Now plans are being redesigned to meet new flood regulations.

Besides the bridges, major street rebuilding plans have also been set back.

The Wyckoff Avenue Reconstruction Project, estimated to cost about $20 million, was supposed to start during the summer of 2010, but has been pushed back to 2026, according to the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The project would give Wyckoff Avenue new sewer lines, new water mains to replace the 70-year old ones, as well as a new concrete base on the roadway, new sidewalks and new curbing from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue.

The community has been waiting on a similar project in south Middle Village for about two decades. The area from 73rd Place to 80th Street, between Metropolitan Avenue to Cooper Avenue, are due for new sidewalks, sewer lines, new water mains, signage and street lights, estimated to cost about $20 million. The project has a due date of 2022, according to the DDC.

The projects are pushed back because the city keeps putting funding to higher priority initiatives, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said. But Arcuri said the planned repairs would help boost the community and should be pushed.

“When you rebuild the streets, the property value increases,” Arcuri said. “It becomes an economic boost to the community.”



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Board approves proposed bike lanes in Ridgewood and Glendale


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of City Planning

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Plans to add new bike lanes to Community Board 5 (CB 5) got the green light.

After an endorsement by freshman Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, CB 5 approved the proposed bike lanes in Ridgewood and Glendale on Wednesday with a 29-5 vote.

The Department of City Planning will begin implementing the phase one bike lanes of the proposal this summer, which connect to the Brooklyn network of paths.

One set flows parallel on Woodward and Onderdonk avenues from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue. Another set runs on Harman and Himrod streets from Evergreen Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue.

“I’m very excited for this first step. I wish it could have been more,” said John Maier, co-chair of the CB 5 Transportation Committee. “I look forward to working with City Planning and the board to find phase two and possibly phase three.”

The city agency will also continue to evaluate the phase two bike lanes of the proposal, which could eventually add more paths and connect routes in Maspeth and Middle Village.

Phase two contains an expansive network of lanes throughout the rest of CB 5. However, residents have complained about a proposed lane on Elliot Street through Mount Olivet Cemetery between 67th Street and Mount Olivet Crescent. The two-way street is so narrow it is already dangerous for car traffic.

 

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