Tag Archives: Community Board 5

Maspeth’s Knockdown Center gets liquor license with limitations


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

After much debate within the community, the Knockdown Center in Maspeth finally got its liquor license Tuesday from the State Liquor Authority (SLA) — but the permit comes with several significant stipulations.

In an agreement brokered between the SLA and Knockdown Center representatives, the art venue at 52-19 Flushing Ave. will be permitted to serve alcohol to gatherings of between 1,000 and 1,800 people at up to 12 events annually. Tyler Myers of the Knockdown Center said in a phone interview Wednesday that after holding six large-scale events, the venue has the right to request that the SLA “relax” this stipulation.

These large gatherings must also take place on Friday or Saturday nights, according to Community Board 5 (CB 5) Chairman Vincent Arcuri.

Additionally, the Knockdown Center will be able to serve alcohol up to 60 times a year to gatherings of between 500 and 1,000, and another 60 times annually at events drawing up to 500 guests.

For several years, CB 5 — along with local civic groups and Maspeth residents — opposed the Knockdown Center’s attempts to obtain a liquor license, citing quality-of-life concerns related to large-scale events and the fact that the facility — formerly a glass factory — was encroaching on the industrial area.

In 2014, CB 5 voted unanimously to recommend denial of the Knockdown Center’s liquor license application. The SLA denied the first application, but the venue’s representatives reapplied for a license earlier this year. At its June 10 meeting, CB 5 again recommended denial of the revised application, but 12 members voted in favor of the permit this time around.

“The ruling is the ruling,” Arcuri said in an interview Wednesday. “The only question is what [the Knockdown Center] will do for the certificate of occupancy.”

The Knockdown Center submitted an application with the city Department of Buildings for a certificate of occupancy allowing a maximum of 3,100 people on the premises at any given time. Myers said the center is moving forward with that request, but noted it will abide by the terms of the liquor license permit.

“At every step, we’ve won more and more people over,” Myers said on Wednesday. “We are going to be art-focused and be good neighbors. We are willing to take future steps to prove ourselves to the community.”

The SLA agreement also requires that the Knockdown Center, located about 3/4-mile away from the nearest subway station, must also provide supplemental transportation services for its larger gatherings.

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Community Board 5 votes against the Knockdown Center receiving a liquor license


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

The Knockdown Center in Maspeth received another thumbs-down from Community Board 5 (CB 5) in its quest for a liquor license.

At CB 5’s Wednesday meeting at Middle Village’s Christ the King Regional High School, supporters and opponents of the art venue’s request for a liquor license stated their cases during the public forum before the board took a final vote. The board’s recommendation against the liquor license was forwarded to the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), which will hear the case on June 16.

Ted Renz, member of CB 5, spoke out against the Knockdown Center, located at 52-19 Flushing Ave., getting a liquor license on the basis that it is located within the Maspeth Industrial business zone (IBZ). By allowing the Knockdown Center to operate with a liquor license, Renz believes it will further damage the IBZ by encouraging other non-industrial institutions to move into IBZ spaces.

“Earlier this month, the Land Use Committee voted 6 to 2 to deny this request,” Renz said. “I want to urge you to vote with the Land Use Committee to not recommend this position.”

Jean Tanler, director of Industrial Business Development at the Business Outreach Center network and coordinator for Maspeth Industrial Business Association, wants to keep the Maspeth IBZ strictly for industrial use.

“New York City has a well-documented shortage of industrial land and inappropriate uses such as an entertainment venue with a liquor license, [spurring] the further loss of industrial manufacturing businesses to speculation,” Tanler said. “I respectfully urge the community board to deny the Knockdown Center’s application for a liquor license, since it would create a competing commercial use in a designated IBZ and undermine the city’s industrial policy.”

Michael Merck, co-director of the Knockdown Center, supported the center’s stance on getting a liquor license.

“Since August of 2012, we’ve hosted over 50 events, projects and exhibitions on temporary permits which in turn support the work of nearly 1,000 individuals and organizations. The reality of all this is that all of our exhibitions and many of our events are free to the public,” Merck said. “And all of our community events, fundraisers, etcetera are free to the presenting organizations, but the cost to us is a minimum of several thousand dollars, with our budgets for special projects often exceeding $10,000.”

Merck believes that a liquor license would allow the Knockdown Center to recuperate some of those funds, and allow the institution to provide even more special projects and events to be shared with the community.

Gianna Cerbone Teoli, president of the board of trustees of the Queens Council on the Arts, believes the Knockdown Center can become a hub of arts and culture in the Maspeth area.

“Understand that you have the power to make this into a positive entity for culture and arts,” Teoli told the members of the board. “The 104th Precinct, there’s no speculation upon this, they’ve actually said that they have handled the first three events amazingly with no problems whatsoever … you have a group of people here with a passion beyond belief for bringing artists from other areas and they are paying for them to come into their facility.”

In the end, the board voted 29-12 in favor of the Land Use Committee’s recommendation against the Knockdown Center’s liquor license application.

Elections for executive committee positions on the board were also held during the meeting. All members of the executive committee retained their positions. Patricia Grayson, Fred Haller, John Maier and Ted Renz were all elected as members-at-large for the board.

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Improvements coming to dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Image via Google Maps

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is about to begin scheduled improvements for the intersection at Forest Avenue, Myrtle Avenue and George Street in Ridgewood.

The plans were originally presented to Community Board 5’s Transportation Services and Public Transportation Committees during a meeting in April.

The upcoming improvements include installing a concrete curb extension on the south side of the intersection on George Street, realigning and shortening the skewed south crosswalk in order to shorten pedestrian crossing distances, installing high visibility crosswalks at all crossings to increase visibility of pedestrians and adding markings to clarify direction of travel for vehicles on Forest Avenue.

The improvements are slated to begin within the first week of June.

This intersection was brought to the DOT’s attention because it is located within the Myrtle Avenue priority corridor and has seen a number of vehicle and pedestrian crashes since it is such a high-traffic area.

“Judging from the frequency and severity of crashes that occurred here between 2009 and 2013, the intersection has been designated a high pedestrian crash location,” said Arban Vigni, project manager with the DOT, at the April meeting.

During that five-year period, there were a total of 18 crashes, six of them involving pedestrians. Two of those crashes led to severe injuries.

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Four-day Ridgewood street festival back on the calendar


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/file photo

Despite Community Board 5’s disapproval, the four-day Fresh Pond Road Street Festival will happen this September.

Lucy Dolce of the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens, which sponsors the annual fair, said Thursday that the Street Activity Permits Office (SAPO) granted approval of its application.

The festival will occur on four consecutive nights, Sept. 3 to 6, along a five-block stretch of Fresh Pond Road between Menahan and Woodbine streets. Back in March, Board 5 voted to recommend denial of a street fair permit for the festival over concerns regarding traffic and various quality-of-life issues.

Following the board’s vote, the organizers appealed their case to the SAPO, which makes the final determination on all street permits citywide. The Fresh Pond Road festival has been a late summer fixture in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, featuring a variety of games, rides, vendors and other attractions.

But the festival’s presence garnered stiff opposition from residents for myriad reasons, from traffic congestion and lost parking spots related to the road’s closure, to reports of disorderly behavior among patrons and refuse left behind on the roadway.

Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano confirmed the SAPO approval, noting that the office indicated the reasons the board gave for the license’s denial weren’t enough to shelve a festival that has occurred regularly since the mid-1990s.

Dolce charged that the allegations of unruly behavior at the fair were exaggerated and that the organizers worked to make sure Fresh Pond Road was swept clean immediately after each night’s festivities.

“We didn’t want any problems with the festival,” Dolce said. “But no matter what we did, it wasn’t right. No matter what I said or what we did to prove ourselves, it was never enough.”

As for parking and traffic concerns, Dolce sympathized with the situation but remarked that the four-day inconvenience was a small price to pay for a festival that helps support the community.

“They should be proud that in our community we can put together a four-day festival without any major incidents happening,” she said. “Do you think the police department would let us go forward if they thought something would go wrong?”

Giordano said the festival itself “has been a benefit in some ways, but members of the Ridgewood community who live near there have difficulties with the fair.”

“The fair, while it is enjoyable for many people, does — in the opinion of many community board members — put strains on the community” with regard to traffic, Giordano said. He noted that Fresh Pond Road, as one of the area’s main north-south arteries, is “a tougher block” to close than most other locations where street fairs are held, such as Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.

“At the same time, the federazione, to my knowledge, has used the funds they have earned for some good purposes,” he added.

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Go Smart NYC program to launch in Community Board 5


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is set to launch a pilot program called Go Smart NYC in the confines of Community Board 5 this June.

Go Smart NYC is a federally funded, optional education and encouragement program that aims to improve travel outcomes for drivers, cyclists, mass transit users and pedestrians by providing information about all available transit options to all residents of the area. It also encourages and incentivizes travel by walking, carpooling, transit and cycling.

“Broadly speaking, the goal of this program, the way we will judge our success, is by getting as much information about all of the travel options in the area out to as many of the residents as possible,” said Alex Keating, project manager of Go Smart NYC. “And if a resident is interested, if a household is interested in more information they’ll be able to opt in and we’ll have a program there that [will] encourage and incentivize trips that are made locally or to work, any kind of trip.”

Residents within the CB 5 area will receive a Go Smart NYC mailer from the DOT which will include an introduction to the program and prompt residents to register on the program’s website. From the website, participants will be able to order a customized travel information kit with walking, biking, bus, subway and carpooling information provided by the DOT; safety and educational materials; as well as a free tote bag, pedometer, Frisbee and bike light.

Once registered, members will be able to log their trips on the Go Smart NYC website, from their desktop or mobile device, to track their progress. They can then receive data on their travel spending, physical activity and environmental upkeep, as well as earn points redeemable for coupons to local stores.

“We wanted a program that had really good community organizations on the ground, local shopping options, all of the transit options including levels of car ownership…and we thought that this area would be a great fit,” Keating said. “We hope it will be successful, and if it is successful we will continue to explore additional federal funds to continue doing it in other areas and neighborhoods is the city.”

There will be a public launch event for the pilot program on June 16, and the mailers will be delivered on that same day. The DOT hopes to expand the program to three or four more neighborhoods if the pilot goes well.

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Knockdown Center continues push for liquor license


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of The Knockdown Center/Ariana Page Russell

Continuing their quest for a liquor license, representatives of the Knockdown Center in Maspeth made their case directly to Community Board 5 (CB 5) during the advisory body’s Wednesday meeting in Middle Village.

Last year, the Knockdown Center was denied an application for a liquor license by the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA). Since that time, the Knockdown Center has been working hard to adjust their request and gain community support, even as local elected officials and civic leaders remain opposed.

“In the year since that denial, we’ve been able to audition our operational strategy and received much more support as a result,” said Tyler Myers, co-director of the Knockdown Center.

That support came in the form of a letter, dated Jan. 6, to the SLA by the 104th Precinct’s former commanding officer, Capt. Christopher Manson. In the letter, Manson noted that the Knockdown Center has been in regular contact with the 104th Precinct and “has repeatedly proven their ability to host several thousand guests with minimal impact to the precinct and the community.”

“We have performed overt and covert surveillance of the events held at Knockdown Center and have not observed any unlawful or inappropriate activity,” Manson wrote.

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Photo by Anthony Giudice

The letter also mentions that security at the center has kept contraband from entering the facility, owner of the Knockdown Center, David Sklar, monitoring noise levels during events, as well as maintaining a smooth traffic flow of vehicles and pedestrians outside of the facility.

“Throughout 2014, the Knockdown Center has proven their ability to successfully and safely host large events and have proven genuine desire to maintain the quality of life of area residents,” Manson wrote. “There is now a strong, working relationship between Knockdown Center and the 104th Precinct which could be used as a model for all licensed premises, and I have no opposition to their application to the Authority for a liquor license.”

The new commander of the 104th Precinct, Capt. Mark Wachter, reportedly echoed Manson’s “no opposition” stance after speaking with Myers and Sklar.

Rosemarie Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET); Robert Holden, president of Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA); and Christina Wilkinson, president of Citizens for a Better Maspeth, also wrote a letter to the SLA asking for certain stipulations to be included if they decide to grant the Knockdown Center a liquor license.

They ask that civics, CB 5, the 104th Precinct and neighbors on 54th Street be notified of all events that will take place at the center with the number of people expected to attend; that security be present for all events with 600 or more attendees; that a shuttle bus be available for events with an expected attendance of 200 or more; and that for events numbering 800 or more guests, additional shuttle buses will be hired to make stops at L and M train stations, as well as several others.

“We are here tonight to ask the board to reconsider your original opposition in light of our record over the last year and the new stipulations we agreed to operate under,” Myers said. “We do not take the responsibility we ask for lightly and we do not take the community it is in for granted.”

Vincent Arcui, CB 5 chairperson, said the board would take the presentation as a formal request and will hand it over to the Land Use Services Committee to discuss and report back to the Executive Committee with their recommendation after their meeting. The Executive Committee will then take action.

The next SLA meeting for the Knockdown Center’s liquor license application is slated for June 2.

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CB 5 committee considers stricter liquor license rules


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Bar and club owners seeking liquor licenses in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village may soon need to show Community Board 5 more than just their business credentials.

Members of the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Public Safety Committee met Monday and considered a proposal that would require new applicants to complete a written form stating their intentions with regard to their businesses.

Christina Wilkinson, an active member of the COMET (Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together) and the Juniper Park Civic (JPCA) associations, proposed the idea to the committee. This measure was introduced in response to the recent influx of bars, pubs and nightspots to Ridgewood and Bushwick.

According to Wilkinson, community boards 1 and 4 in Brooklyn have already adopted this practice in response to the rapid growth and popularity of their respective neighborhoods.

“At one point, Greenpoint was in the same boat that we’re in. They didn’t think it was going to be all that bad, and it got bad,” Wilkinson said. “I think we should be better prepared. Let’s learn from them. It’s working for them.”

Public Safety Committee Chair Robert Holden expressed support for the idea and asked District Manager Gary Giordano to discuss the issue with the Executive Committee. “We’re just trying to get more information,” he explained.

Newly appointed board member Alex Maureau agreed. “It’s also a good way for the local owners to get to know us, and vice versa,” he said.

Giordano voiced support for a shorter version of the written form. “I think it has a lot of merit,” he said. “We could certainly work out something.”

According to Giordano, the board can grant recommendations for or against liquor licenses. The board also notifies the 104th Precinct and Lt. George Hellmer, the precinct’s special operations coordinator, of establishments with a prior history of problems. The precinct, in turn, will notify the board of any prior arrests, summonses or felonies committed at establishments seeking licensing.

“I never want to be in a position to be okaying liquor licenses,” Giordano said. “In some cases, we have taken votes at community board meetings related to certain establishments that have been a problem. But we comment to the negative and I would prefer it that way.”

Under the current policy, prospective bar owners seeking liquor licenses must notify CB 5 30 days prior to applying for licensing from the State Liquor Authority.

Holden proposed that the extra form, if approved of by the Executive Board, be made available to bar owners as a PDF document on the board’s website. The agreement would be signed and submitted to the community board prior to seeking State Liquor Authority licensing.

P.O. Charles Sadler of the 104th Precinct Community Affairs Unit explained that he has adopted a “proactive instead of reactive” approach to new nightlife in the area. He said that he had personally visited five of Ridgewood’s newest bars, including The Monk and Onderdonk and Sons, in an effort to reach out to local bar owners.

Owners of each of the five establishments met with Sadler and other officers at a recent nightlife meeting hosted by the precinct. According to Sadler, all of the new bar owners and managers were made aware of the precinct’s regulations and guidelines, and all pledged respect and compliance.

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Ridgewood civic focuses on bike lanes and local businesses


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Transit, tenants and trees took center stage during a three-part presentation hosted by the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) on Thursday at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center.

Community Board 5 Public Transit Committee Co-Chair John Maier explained plans for new bike routes connecting Ridgewood and Glendale with other parts of Queens, including Rego Park. The RPOCA first requested the bicycle routes back in 2011. The Department of Transportation and Community Board 5 created a forum in 2013 to gather community input and feedback regarding preferred routes.

The first option for the proposed bike route plan would connect Ridgewood to Rego Park via various roadways in Middle Village. According to Maier, special road markings would be installed along Metropolitan Avenue and 69th Street. Eliot Avenue, however, is slated to receive actual designated bike lanes.

Option two would connect Glendale to Rego Park via 80th Street. Maier voiced safety concerns over the use of Dry Harbor Road for part of the proposed route and cited the narrowness of the roadway as being potentially problematic.

New pedestrian and bike passageways are also part of the Kosciusko Bridge Project, which began in 2014. Improvements also include the installation of a double suspension bridge aimed at increasing traffic flow.

Maier also announced that work may begin within the next one and a half years on long-awaited progress on the reconstruction of the bridge carrying Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road over Long Island Rail Road tracks on the Ridgewood/Middle Village border. Originally planned in 2005 but delayed repeatedly, he told residents the project has been fully funded and is in the final design phase.

Maier also pleaded for help from the community in getting the stalled Wyckoff Avenue reconstruction moving. The project would implement much-needed street repairs and sewer/water line replacement along Wyckoff Avenue between Flushing and Cooper Avenues.  He asked community members to act as advocates for the project and request sponsorship from local elected officials.

Ted Renz, Community Board 5 member and executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), also spoke about changes and initiatives in Ridgewood’s busiest commercial district. According to Renz, the BID is experiencing an influx of new tenants and residential construction.

Renz cited ongoing residential development, including the 135-unit building slated for St. Nicholas Avenue, as well as two fully occupied 45-unit buildings on Putnam and Myrtle Avenues, as evidence of the commercial district’s popularity among a new wave of younger tenants.

“We want a balanced community,” he said. “If you don’t have young people, then you’re a dying community. Living over a store, which nobody wanted years ago, is now becoming chic and popular.”

In addition to attracting new residents to the BID, Renz also hopes to apply for a grant from the New York Main Street Program, a state-sponsored revitalization effort, in the future. Renz hopes to pursue the program once he receives a strong commitment from local retail owners.

Finally, RPOCA Director Maryellen Borello sounded the call for volunteers to help with the Parks Department tree count in a 200-block radius in Ridgewood. According to Borello, the Ridgewood tree count will take place from June through August. Those interested in volunteering can visit www.rpoca.org for details.

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Local pol opposes liquor license for Maspeth’s Knockdown Center


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of The Knockdown Center/Ariana Page Russell

The Knockdown Center in Maspeth again seeks a full liquor license — and again faces strong opposition from a local politician and Community Board 5.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan wrote a letter to State Liquor Authority (SLA) Commissioners Jeanique Greene and Kevin Kim asking them to deny the new liquor license application from the arts venue at 52-19 Flushing Ave. during a recertification hearing held on Tuesday.

The SLA did not make a decision on the matter at the hearing; it will be considered again at its June session.

In the letter, Nolan wrote, “The community board and the Maspeth community have very serious concerns that their quality of life will be seriously diminished if this establishment is granted a liquor license. I support and strongly endorse their concerns and would ask that your agency once again reject the application at the recertification hearing.”

During their March 12, 2014, monthly meeting, Community Board 5 (CB 5) unanimously voted in opposition to granting the Knockdown Center a liquor license.

“Our position has not changed since we made our recommendation last year,” said CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano in an interview Wednesday.

Nolan went on to explain why she feels the Knockdown Center should not be granted a liquor license.

She noted that the center is currently located in the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), making the area better suited for a manufacturing or industrial business. The zoning was created to provide financial incentives to businesses that went into manufacturing. The Knockdown Center was previously a door factory.

“A study by the New York Industrial Retention Center supports this reasoning and claims that commercial businesses like the Knockdown Center can disrupt and ultimately lead to a breakdown of the zones,” Nolan wrote. “As a supporter of the IBZ, I would be very concerned by this proposed outcome.”

Nolan also mentioned that the center has repeatedly applied for a place of assembly permit to have as many as 5,000 people at their events, which could lead to hundreds, and possibly thousands, of visitors traveling through the community.

“With only three bus lines and a considerable distance from the train, the added volume of people will further strain the already limited transportation options residents have in Maspeth and the surrounding communities in Queens,” she said.

Nolan cited the Knockdown Center’s previous events where large groups of people gathered in the area, which has several residential homes and apartments. One such event took place on Nov. 11, 2014, when the Knockdown Center held a concert.

“Throughout the night, there were both large crowds present, customers sitting on stoops of nearby homes and allegedly public urination in the streets,” Nolan said. “Several residents called in noise complaints that were filed with the city’s 311 system.”

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Assemblywoman supports Ridgewood Reservoir wetland push


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

File photo

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan is leading the way in the fight for the Ridgewood Reservoir to receive wetland status.

As reported previously, Community Board 5 learned that Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials were questioning whether much of the 55-acre reservoir on the Brooklyn/Queens border met the requirements for wetland status.

The DEC claimed that Basin 3 of the reservoir did not meet wetland status criteria and that Basin 2 did not meet the acreage requirements. The agency could not check Basin 1 due to heavy vegetation surrounding the basin walls.

In an April 17 letter to Joseph Martens, commissioner of the DEC, Nolan expressed her concern over the fact that the Ridgewood Reservoir has yet to be fully inspected, and its future if it is not granted wetland status.

“I am very concerned that if the reservoir is not designated for wetland status then the space could be opened to development. The Ridgewood Reservoir is truly a unique site which consists of natural and largely undisturbed habitats for many species of animals,” she wrote. “I am against any development on this site and believe that it should be designated as a wetland. Both the state and city should have a strong interest in preserving this site for future generations.”

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DOT proposes changes to dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Image via Google Maps

Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT) offered a plan during the Community Board 5 combined Transportation Services and Public Transportation committees meeting Tuesday night to fix problems at a dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection.

The Forest Avenue/Myrtle Avenue/George Street intersection was brought to the DOT’s attention because it is located within the Myrtle Avenue priority corridor.

This intersection “is listed among the corridors for which the Department of Transportation will design and implement safety projects as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims at eliminating all traffic-related fatalities,” said Arban Vigni, project manager with the DOT.

The high-traffic area sees an abundance of not only vehicles, but also pedestrians, with high volumes of seniors and students using the crosswalk. Two buses, the Q39 on Forest Avenue and the Q55 on Myrtle Avenue, also pass through the area, adding to congestion.

“Judging from the frequency and severity of crashes that occurred here between 2009 and 2013, the intersection has been designated a high pedestrian crash location,” Vigni said.

During the five-year period, there were 18 crashes, six of them involving pedestrians. Two of those crashes led to severe injuries.

“It’s also worth noting that 50 percent of pedestrians that were involved in crashes were hit while crossing with the signal, whereas the average for Queens is as low as 37 percent,” Vigni said. “This basically shows that turning vehicles do not yield properly at this intersection.”

Vigni pointed out the odd geometry of the location as one reason for the high levels of pedestrian crashes at the intersection. The star-shaped intersection has Myrtle Avenue running east to west, Forest Avenue going north to southeast and George Street going southwest.

The DOT’s proposed changes include adding a concrete curb extension on the south side of the intersection.

“The curb extension would help realign the intersection somewhat and it would shorten the southwest crosswalk by seven feet,” Vigni explained.

This would not interfere with parking on George Street because there is a fire hydrant located on that corner, which restricts vehicles from parking there.

High-visibility crosswalks were already installed on April 15 to increase visibility of pedestrians.

Finally, “peg-a-tracks,” which are yellow dashed lines, will be installed in the center of the intersection to clarify direction of travel for vehicles on Forest Avenue.

The DOT plans to implement these changes in June.

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Evergreen Park renovations celebrated at Glendale groundbreaking


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

City officials and civic leaders celebrated the start of Evergreen Park’s reconstruction during a ceremony Friday morning at the Glendale green space.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley joined Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and others to ceremonially break ground on renovations to the playground on the national observance of Arbor Day.

“It’s really appropriate, because it’s Arbor Day, that we have all of this green coming into this park,” Lewandowski said.

Construction on the park began in early April and is expected to take about one year to complete. The first phase of the park’s reconstruction will include replacing the underused bocce and shuffleboard courts with a garden-inspired playground, spray showers, new shrubs and plantings.

According to Lewandowski, the new playground, themed with the title “Play in the Garden,” will feature new spray showers with “large green misting leaves and directional jets and bubblers, in a field of leaves and vines.”

“It’s going to promote innovative play for toddlers and young children,” Lewandowski said. “This will be a really creative spot where kids can play. The days of the old concrete spray shower are gone. This will be much more interactive for children.”

Crowley allocated $1 million in funding for this first phase of the park’s reconstruction. The councilwoman considers Evergreen Park a “special place” as it’s where she used to play softball while growing up.

“This project is a long time coming,” Crowley said.

Community Board 5 was well represented at the affair in the form of Chairperson Vincent Arcuri, District Manager Gary Giordano, Parks Committee Chair Steven Fiedler, Paul Kerzner and Tom Dowd. Also on hand were Mike Liendo and David Sands, the respective president and vice president of the Liberty Park Home Owners Association, and Barry Grodenchik, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s director of community boards.

Community members, including Sands and Liendo, first approached Crowley back in 2009, shortly after she was elected, regarding refurbishment of the park.

According to Fiedler, a design committee rejected the plan on two occasions before finally granting approval to proceed.

“I’m glad to see this move forward,” he said. “It’s a great design.”

Crowley also announced that an additional $2.4 million in funding for the second phase of improvements was secured in conjunction with Katz and the mayor’s office. These improvements may include refurbishment of the asphalt field, basketball courts and comfort stations.

“I want to make sure everybody stays engaged as we come together to plan the next phase of this project,” Crowley said.

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Principal Ann Marie Scalfano and first-graders from P.S. 68 also attended the groundbreaking ceremony. The children carried handmade signs and banners thanking Crowley for her funding and support of Evergreen Park.

“It’s exciting, because this $1 million allocation will go a long way in making Evergreen Park a better park for the community,” Crowley said. “The park is uniquely named ‘Evergreen’ and it’s important to keep it young and fresh for the young people of the community.”

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Is state balking at Ridgewood Reservoir wetland declaration?


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) appears to be moving away from possible wetland status for the Ridgewood Reservoir, according to the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Parks Committee.

For nearly five years, the board and environmentalists have pressed the DEC to declare the 55-acre site on the Brooklyn/Queens border in Glendale as a wetland. The declaration would recognize the sensitive ecology that formed in the reservoir since it was taken out of the city’s water system decades ago and grant the state authority to regulate its future use.

But CB 5 recently learned that DEC officials weren’t so sure that much of the Ridgewood Reservoir meets the criteria for wetland status.

According to Steve Fiedler, CB 5 Parks Committee chair, the DEC indicated that Basin 3, the westernmost and largest of the three reservoir chambers, did not meet the minimum qualifications for a wetland. In past years, the city planned to clear this basin and transform it into athletic fields and other active park space, but those plans were scrapped due to community opposition and financial constraints.

Basin 2, the center chamber which includes a large natural lake, did not meet acreage requirements under DEC wetland criteria, but Fielder said the agency would likely declare it a wetland due to “extraordinary community concern.”

Fielder added that DEC officials indicated they did not evaluate Basin 1, the smallest and easternmost chamber, because inspectors were unable to enter due to heavy vegetation along the basin walls.

The committee co-chair charged in a phone interview that the DEC failed to properly evaluate the reservoir as a wetland, echoing sentiments in a resolution Board 5 adopted at its April 8 meeting in Middle Village.

“They did no plant evaluation, they did no soil evaluation and they did no testing,” Fiedler said. “They just went in and looked around and found it very dry after a rainstorm. They also went in during the winter when [they] shouldn’t be looking for wetland environments.”

In a letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano wrote that a preliminary assessment prepared by Round Mountain LLC for the city Parks Department “identifies an important wetland in the south end of the west basin.” Giordano noted that such characteristics were confirmed in a site visit by Round Mountain officials last May.

“It is very important that NYS DEC engage in an in-depth study of plant life at the Ridgewood Reservoir, and that in-depth soil samples be taken, and not limited to the dry season,” Giordano wrote to Martens. “If it is not feasible for NYS DEC to conduct the necessary plant life studies required for wetland determination in the spring and summer, DEC should be able to rely on expert studies that have been performed during the past 15 years related to the Ridgewood Reservoir.”

The DEC did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Bioswale construction to begin later this month in CB 5 area


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Protection

The confines of Community Board 5 are about to get greener.

Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced during the Community Board 5 (CB 5) meeting on Wednesday that the construction of 200 to 250 bioswales is set to begin at the end of the month.

Bioswales are curbside gardens that collect stormwater runoff into large, underground basins through 5 feet of specially engineered soil, comprised of layers of broken stone and sandy soil.

“New York’s infrastructure is hard, it’s very dense,” said Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, director of community affairs for the DEP. “Green infrastructure is, in a sense, peeling back a layer of that hard infrastructure.”

“Part of what we’re doing is making the land spongy again,” he continued. “The goal is to improve water quality…this is one of our tools to do that.”

The bioswales help improve the city’s water quality by reducing the amount of rainwater entering the sewer system, which helps lower combined sewer overflow (CSO).

CSO is a combination of sewage water from homes and businesses and stormwater, which can become too much for the sewer system to handle, especially during times of heavy rainfall. The water then overflows and sends untreated water into the city’s waterways, such as Newtown Creek, which suffers from high levels of pollution.

One single bioswale can manage almost 3,000 gallons of water and if the bioswale becomes overfilled, the water is released into the sewer catch basin as it normally would, just at a lower rate so there is not a rush of water that could overflow the sewer system.

With the installation of the bioswales right around the corner, community issues are a major point of concern for the DEP.

“One of the big questions we get a lot is, ‘Who is going to take care of these?’” Abdul-Matin told the board. “We build it, we’re going to maintain it. It’s not like we’re going to pass the buck onto you.”

The construction and installation of these bioswales and other green infrastructure will help clean the city’s water and reduce flooding, making the neighborhoods they serve better.

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Community Board 5 appoints new members


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Nine new members were appointed to Community Board 5 this week.

The board, which includes Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and Liberty Park, received five new members from City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s 30th District and four new members in Councilman Antonio Reynoso’s 34th District.

The new members in Crowley’s district are Tobias Sheppard Bloch of Glendale, Karamjit Dawali of Glendale, Sarah Feldman of Ridgewood, David Sands of Glendale and Alex Maureau of Glendale.

In Reynoso’s district, the new members are Raquel Namuche of Ridgewood, Cathleen Knight of Ridgewood, Tom C. Dowd of Ridgewood and Carmen Santana of Ridgewood.

Richard Huber of Glendale was not reappointed this year.

Community board members are appointed by the Queens borough president largely based on the recommendation of the City Council member(s) within the board’s jurisdiction.

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