Tag Archives: Community Board 5

Carl Berner, Middle Village civic leader, dies days before 111th birthday


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Robert Holden

Carl Berner was someone Middle Village residents affectionately remember as a civic leader, a Mr. Fix-It, and someone who put his community before himself.

Berner died Monday, January 7 at 110 years old. He was born on January 27, 1902, and just missed his 111th birthday.

“If you needed something, anything, with plumbing or even your sink, he knew how to solve it,” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, on his longtime friend.

In 1938, Berner helped to establish a neighborhood civic group, which later grew into the Juniper Park Civic Association.

The supercentenarian was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1928. He found himself in New York looking for work.

He learned English, but was still slightly discriminated against because of his German accent. After a grueling search, he found work and became the first night manager at the Chrysler Building. Years passed and he held other odd jobs, but when the Depression hit, he opened his own toy company. The company thrived, and some of his products became collectors’ items.

Holden said that Berner was good with his hands, and this helped not only his business, but also his neighbors. In 1938, he and his wife moved to Middle Village.

“[Berner] said to me, ‘I take pride in my neighborhood,’” said Holden.

Decades passed, and Berner grew older, but it seemed that something as trivial as age could not stop him from doing his day-to-day activities.

“I would see this elderly man, climbing a ladder and getting onto the roof,” said Holden. Berner would frequently walk around the neighborhood, and Holden said that even at 105 years old, he was up on step ladders fixing things. He also used his walks to pick up trash that he found along the roads.

“I just said, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing,’” said Holden.

Vincent Arcuri, chair of Community Board 5, said Berner was “a leader in community activism; a model for children and adults.”

He received several awards for his volunteer work in the community, including the “Partner in a Cleaner New York Certificate of Appreciation” from the mayor and the Department of Sanitation.

In his home, Berner lived “a simple life,” with oatmeal every morning and very minimal technology.

Holden said that he only had a television, a rotary phone, and “shunned all of the modern stuff.”

“He lived like a 19th century person,” laughed Holden. “He never wanted to go to the doctor, he never took medication. When he was 105 he would walk two miles a day.”

However, Holden said that during the last year of his life, Berner started to “slow down,” and an attendant moved into his home. After his passing, there was no ceremony and he was instead cremated, according to his wishes.

Carl Berner on top of the Chrysler Building when was younger. 

 

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Ridgewood plaza a reality


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The proposed plan for Ridgewood’s 71st Avenue Triangle will become a reality when a temporary pedestrian plaza is installed where the road meets Myrtle Avenue and Stephen Street.

This project furthers Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to create public, open plazas throughout the city.

Ridgewood residents and area business owners met Tuesday night, September 4, with the city Department of Transportation (DOT) and officials from the Local Development Corp., Business Improvement District (BID) and Community Board 5 to brainstorm designs for the temporary plaza.

“We need to improve Myrtle Avenue,” said John Mistretta, the original owner of Joe and John’s Pizzeria, which has been open on Myrtle Avenue for nearly five decades.

Mistretta believes that with this new pedestrian plaza, people will be encouraged to come and walk around more frequently, hopefully restoring the success of the area’s retail businesses.

“We need to make it more like it was 40 years ago. There was a big, main shopping area, now it’s slowed down,” he said.

Along with promoting local businesses, the 71st Avenue Triangle was chosen as the plaza site because of its proximity to bus transit. The change will also widen crosswalks, hopefully eliminating any pedestrian-vehicle conflict.

Emily Weidenhof, project manager for the DOT, said that the installation will not affect any emergency response time, traffic will be minimally impacted, and any parking spots lost will be reclaimed on the opposite side of Myrtle Avenue.

Weidenhof encouraged those at Tuesday’s meeting to discuss among themselves just what was needed for the temporary plaza. She noted a need for pedestrian crossings, convenient seating, good lighting and continued maintenance.

“Your input is extremely important. That’s what helps these things meet your needs,” Weidenhof told the crowd. “If we get to the community, we can come back to enhance it in a more permanent condition later on.” In order to promote and enhance the temporary site, plans of public art forums and street fairs were discussed. The Ridgewood BID will be responsible for maintenance of the area, and business owners expressed a need for public trash and recycle bins.

The DOT, Ridgewood LDC and BID are continuing to work with local business owners and residents to accommodate all of their needs. If the temporary plaza proves successful in the community, a permanent site will be established by early next year.

“Build something, more people will come down,” said Mistretta. “We gotta give it to the people, to get it back.”

 

CB5 chair: Glendale homeless shelter could be environmental nightmare


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Community concern caused by a rumored homeless shelter in Glendale may have been premature.

The site in question, 78-16 Cooper Avenue, “does not meet Building Code requirements for residential occupancy and, due to the age and condition and previous occupancies, could be an environmental nightmare,” Community Board 5 said in a release.

Rumors began circulating last week that the owner of the property, Michael Wilner, was in talks with a nonprofit that could potentially use the site for a homeless shelter.

No application for a shelter has been submitted, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) said.

“The building, which currently has several active Department of Building violations, may contain lead paint, asbestos and various PCB contaminants. The cost and time to convert this structure to a residential facility would be extensive and possibly twice as much as new construction,” Vincent Arcuri, chair of CB5 said.

The vacant factory currently has nine open Department of Building violations.

Prior occupants included an aircraft parts manufacturer, knitting mills, machine shops and Eastern Cabinet Company, Arcuri said, while adding there are rumors the facility was also used as part of the Manhattan Project.

“The site is located adjacent to a known Brownfield site and, due to its low elevation and location, may contain underground pockets of PERC (dry cleaning fluid) from the many defunct knitting mills in the area,” Arcuri said.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley came out against the site being used for a homeless shelter, saying the nearly 3 acre space should serve the community.

Wilner would not return requests for comment.

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an emergency condition, the site may be able to be used, however.

Nine new shelters have opened in the city recently, prompted by the homeless population’s record numbers. There are 43,774 people currently in homeless shelters, according to the DHS.

 

Traffic plan divides Glendale


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Glendale neighbors are at odds over a plan that will divert one block’s traffic to neighboring streets.

For years, residents and officials have pleaded with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to put the brakes on vehicles speeding down Doran Avenue.

Though DOT studies determined that cars were in fact speeding down the block, speed humps were unable to be installed due to the prevalence of driveways and utilities.

At the Community Board 5 meeting on Wednesday, July 11, Queens Borough DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy presented a plan to curb the speeders — reverse the direction of Doran Avenue between Woodhaven Boulevard and 89th Street.

“We believe by splitting it in the middle, it will give the community better circulation to get to their homes,” McCarthy said.

Currently, the street runs westbound from Woodhaven Boulevard, and residents complain drivers rush down the block to beat the light situated on 88th Street.

“We have a problem on our hands, I see it and I live it every day,” said Regina Crowley, who lives on Doran Avenue and is the sister of Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley.

More than a dozen locals spoke at the meeting that had more than three times as many attendees as normal. The speakers were split nearly 50/50 on the plan.

“The proposal flies in the face of basic equity,” said Toby Sheppard Bloch who lives on Rutledge Avenue. “These changes will cause more traffic on Rutledge and 74th Avenue than is currently on Doran Avenue.”

Traffic that now travels on Doran would be diverted to the neighboring two-way streets, Rutledge and 74th avenues.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley agreed that the burden of traffic should not be dumped from one block to another.

“What we do need is to come up with a plan that the community board can accept and the surrounding streets can also agree with that will help decrease the speed of vehicles coming down Doran Avenue,” she said.

McCarthy said that the DOT anticipated residents on other streets would be concerned about increased traffic as a result of the change. The department surveyed the surrounding streets and found speed humps can be installed, but the blocks would have to wait for studies to be done after the plan is put into place.

“We don’t put a speed hump on a street unless there is speeding,” McCarthy said.

The plan went before the community board’s transportation committee, which met after the paper went to press.

 

Pedestrian plaza proposed for Glendale


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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A proposed pedestrian plaza may be placed in Glendale, but not before plans are processed by pols and the public.

The proposal from the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation would turn 70th Street between Myrtle and Cooper Avenues into a pedestrian plaza. The street runs next to famed German restaurant Zum Stammtisch — which said it would maintain the outdoor seating area and provide camera security, according to the DOT — and adjacent to the Glendale Veterans Triangle.

As is often the case when a street is closed, traffic was one of the first issues broached by locals.

“This street is dangerous as it is, I’m not sure how closing it would help,” said local Maureen Wiles.

Potential traffic is also among the concerns of the local community board.

While Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said the plan is still very early in the process, he wants to see traffic counts for 70th Street and determine if emergency vehicles’ response time would be affected by the street closure. These two questions must be resolved before the community board supports the plan, he said.

Before any plans, which are still in the review stage, are finalized, the area’s councilmember also wants to make sure residents’ concerns and opinions are heard.

“The creation of a new plaza in Glendale must include public input and be welcomed by the community,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said. “As future plans for the plaza are discussed, I’ll continue to work closely with Ted Renz of the Ridgewood Local Development Corp. and the Department of Transportation to ensure that any concerns from the Glendale community are answered.”

The DOT assured that there will be workshops and other opportunities for the local community to provide feedback, according to a spokesperson.

Renz and the local business group proposed the plan, which has yet to be rendered. Renz could not be contacted as of press time.

Some locals are already imagining the space’s potential.

“As long as it would not disrupt the traffic in the area, I think it’s a great idea,” said resident Mark Potts.

Senator Joseph Addabbo also supports the plaza, calling it a “wonderful addition to this community,” in a letter to the DOT.

“An outdoor space seems like it would liven up the area, especially on nice days” said Vic Owens, a Ridgewood resident who frequents the neighborhood. “I’m for it.”

Community Board discusses hydrofracking, new gym


| dbeltran@queenscourier.com

There were several important issues brought up at Community Board (CB) 5’s first meeting of the new year, but none drew as much attention, or speakers, as the issue of hydrofracking.

In the process of hydrofracking water, sand and chemicals are shot into the ground to push out natural gases. One of the many problems, Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5, said, is that there is no filtering process to clean out contaminated water that comes back up. This increases the possibility of drinking water being contaminated, he said.

According to officials, no one knows what chemicals are going into the ground. Officials also pointed out earthquakes that were pin-pointed back to the area of the hydrofracking.

“There are numerous stories in other states where this process has backfired and contaminated drinking water,” said Giordano. “I just hope hydrofracking never happens in New York State.”

A public hearing was also held about whether to allow Retro Fitness to open a gym at 65-40 Otto Road in Glendale. One major issue was parking. While the owners of the gym said they could fit 70 parking spots and probably be able to build more, board members said they wanted that guaranteed in a lease. The owners also agreed to pay for a stop sign and maintenance of the property, as members said there is constant graffiti in the area.

Two board members then spoke about an abandoned factory in Glendale that is being torn apart. They claim that it has asbestos, preventing their families from being outside in their yards. According to the members, the owner works with no permits and even though the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has placed stop orders on the site, they continue to work.

“The Community Board has been involved in this since 2003. We protested the application for alteration,” said chair Vincent Arcuri. He added that test results from the DEP for asbestos came back negative.

Ridgewood park honors Anthony Venditti


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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At Detective Anthony J. Venditti Memorial Plaza’s rededication in 1995, a passage from the book of Ecclesiastes was quoted. Paul Kerzner of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation echoed the same sentiments on Sunday, October 16 at the plaza honoring the slain police officer.
“I have seen all matter of things; a just man perishing in his justice and a wicked one surviving in his wickedness. Be not wicked to excess and be not foolish,” Kerzner said. “Now 16 years later we ask again; why should you die before your time?”
Twenty-five years after being killed in the line of duty, the Ridgewood park memorializing Venditti was rededicated recently with family, local leaders and fellow police officers — even Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly — in attendance.
“Besides rededicating this plaza, we’re here to celebrate Anthony’s life,” said Vincent Acuri, chairperson of Community Board 5.
Over 150 people attended the dedication of the square on the corner of St. Nicholas and Myrtle Avenues.
“Memorials are designed to commemorate great events, special people, great victories, great tragedies,” said Monsignor James Kelly, pastor of nearby St. Brigid’s Church. “This memorial park recalls a great tragedy, a good man and the dedication of New York City’s police personnel to law and order.”
Venditti was killed while on an undercover assignment on Myrtle Avenue in front of the then-Castillo Diner, steps away from where his memorial now stands. He was 34. The square was renamed after the slain officer in 1989 and the memorial plaque was added at the 1995 rededication.
“We will never forget Anthony’s service or his sacrifice, said Kelly. “Today we celebrate his life and honor his memory,”
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani sent along his best wishes.
“This rededication ceremony keeps [Venditti]’s legacy alive for his loved ones and the community he dedicated his life to protecting,” he said.
Bouquets were presented to Venditti’s wife Patricia and mother Anna before 60 white carnations were placed on the memorial honoring Venditti which reads: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself; who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”