Tag Archives: Community Board 5

Glendale pols appeal to Mayor de Blasio over proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A new mayor, but the same old homeless shelter issue.

Representatives for Glendale penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the proposed homeless shelter on 78-16 Cooper Ave.

Assemblymembers Mike Miller and Andrew Hevesi, Congressmember Grace Meng and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley criticized the analysis by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in the letter and the agencies support for the shelter. The city is seeking a five-year $27 million contract with non-profit Samaritan Village, which would operate the facility.

“The reality is that the vast majority of the arguments made in the letter for building this facility were so generic and broad that they may be used to justify the building of transitional housing facilities anywhere in the City of New York,” the letter said.

Last year, Samaritan Village announced to Community Board 5 that it proposed the site for transitional housing for 125-families.

The letter by public officials points out that city shelter stay lengths have increased within the past year by 16 percent and it also highlights that the building is about 1.3 miles away from the nearest subway train and “not accessible to residents of the facility, who will need public transportation to commute to off-site linkage services, educational institutions, stores, and workplaces.”

The homeless shelter proposal is currently in its second phase of review, an environmental assessment. Some feel that the proposal could lose in that phase, because the building sits on contaminated ground.

The third and final review phase will be conducted in a financial analysis by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

 

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Woodhaven Boulevard safety still in flux


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The city’s five-year study on Woodhaven Boulevard safety improvements show some solutions worked better than others.

The thoroughfare, which connects Middle Village, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, among others, is one of the most trafficked in the borough and is prone to many accidents, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

DOT officials collected feedback from residents and community leaders on the results of the study at a meeting on November 21.

“They have been very cooperative. They have accepted feedback, and they are trying to do the best that they can,” said Community Board 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri Jr. “I think we need to concentrate on the areas that seem that they’ll never be resolved and come up with out-of-the box solutions.”

Within the last three years, the DOT has implemented some ideas to reduce accidents on Woodhaven Boulevard, like extending sidewalks and medians in the stretch from Queens Boulevard to 62nd Road, which gave pedestrians more space.

The DOT also made the southbound traffic on the service road at the intersection of Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard a “must turn right” lane in 2011. In 2012, they shrunk the two lanes of the service road into one because it was too narrow.

These solutions had varying results.

Woodhaven Boulevard from Queens Boulevard to 62nd Road had a total of 293 crashes from 2011 to 2012, up from an average of 254 accidents per year before the solutions were implemented, according to NYPD data.

However, accidents at Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard have decreased 29 percent to an average of 64 from 90 per year, according to the same data.

For future improvements, the DOT plans to change the service road on both sides on Woodhaven Boulevard between Atlantic Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard into one lane of traffic and one parking lane. Currently, from one parking lane and two narrow lanes for traffic.

The department is also planning to create a dedicated bus lane on the northbound side, from the Belt Parkway to Liberty Avenue.

Some people felt more could be done on Woodhaven Boulevard. Not everyone at the meeting believed the solutions were assured to reduce accidents.

“The solutions are, in my opinion, theoretical,” said Community board 9 Chair Jim Cocovillo. “On paper, they are designed to work, but you know as well as I do that many times they don’t.”

After analyzing feedback from the community, the DOT will begin preparing to make the improvements for next year and continue to monitor the troubled thoroughfare.

 

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Middle Village man has contentious plan to fix community parking issues


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

One Middle Village resident is proposing a divisive plan to relieve parking problems in the community.

Matthew Crafa will meet with Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee to present his idea, which involves changing the parking signs around the perimeter of Juniper Valley Park to open up new overnight spots.

Parking is not allowed around most of the perimeter of the park from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. except for a tiny stretch on 71st Street. To avoid receiving tickets, residents in the neighborhood do not park their cars there overnight, leading to a scramble to find parking, Crafa said.

“We don’t live in Manhattan,” said Crafa, who moved into the neighborhood about a year ago. “There’s plenty of parking here. This is nonsense.”

Crafa and his neighbors on 75th Place have recently paved over the grassy areas in front of their homes to create extra parking spots.

Crafa said people constantly block his driveway and the fire hydrant on his street because of the limited parking.

Crafa believes that vehicle usage has increased in the area over time, due in part to the lack of public transportation in the community, which has no subway line. Opening up the parking around the nearly 56-acre park would alleviate the issue for residents in the area by instantly creating hundreds of parking spaces, he said.

However, Crafa’s plan has already met some opposition.

“We’re willing to look at ideas, but it was something that was done because kids were getting out there anytime of the night,” Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden said. “This was an idea from the 104th Precinct, that the only way we could have any effect on anybody who hangs out over there would be with parking restrictions.”

Photo courtesy Bob Holden

Holden said the restrictions were enacted in the late 1980s to prevent youngsters from gathering with dozens of cars at the park after closing to drink and play loud music.

He believes that opening up overnight parking around Juniper again will encourage people to congregate at late hours.

Photo courtesy Bob Holden 

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Second Myrtle Avenue pedestrian plaza gets community support


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Transportation

Call it the Myrtle Avenue makeover.

Community Board 5 (CB5) is in favor of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to transform the corner of Myrtle and 71st Avenues into a pedestrian plaza.

The plan to makeover the space was almost fully accepted at the board’s most recent transportation committee meeting, except for a few minor changes.

Photo courtesy the Department of Transportation 

“It’s a nice attribute for the community,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and a member of the community board. “Pedestrian plazas have become very popular throughout the city.”

The DOT will install new lighting, bike racks, plants, chess tables, chairs and umbrellas for shade, and raise the sidewalk for the new square.

Renz said the BID will look to create art and music programs and variety of services at the plaza for the community to enjoy when it is completed.

But before that, the DOT has to tweak the plan and present the final designs to the community board’s transportation committee for approval at an upcoming meeting.

The plaza is just one of two coming to Myrtle Avenue. The city’s Department of Design and Construction is in the final design phase for another public square at the intersection of Myrtle and Cooper Avenues in Glendale, which is known as the Glendale Veterans Triangle. It is expected to go out to bid and start construction by next year, according to Renz.

Rendering courtesy of the Department of Design and Construction

 

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Ridgewood Reservoir reopens after renovations


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The Ridgewood Reservoir has been resurrected.

A crowd of politicians, civic leaders and members of the community oversaw the reservoir’s grand opening on Tuesday, which heralded the completion of phase one of the site’s revitalization plan.

The nearly $7 million renovation included construction of new fencing, lighting, repaving of pathways and the addition of a handicap-accessible ramp.

“This is a historic spot for Queens and more importantly the Ridgewood community,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. “It’s a natural resource that many didn’t know about because it wasn’t accessible. Now it’s more accessible.”

The reservoir, situated near the Brooklyn-Queens border in Highland Park, was used to supply water to Brooklyn starting in the 1850s. Three basins make up the more than 50-acre space, which was officially decommissioned in 1990, according to the Parks Department.

The plan to revitalize the reservoir started in a few years ago as a part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative.

Representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation presented three concepts of a master plan for the reservoir at a public meeting hosted by the Park Services Committee of Community Board (CB) 5 on June 27.

The presentation showed dramatic changes to the reservoir to allow more people to enjoy the green space.

In the first concept plan presented, the public will only have access to the third basin, while the other basins will be locked and opened only for maintenance. There will be stone paths weaved through basin three and the gatehouse between basins one and two will be restored and turned into a ranger station. There will also be viewing platforms around basin two, where a large pool of water currently sits.

The second plan includes all modifications from the first, but adds access to the first basin. A rock climbing wall and a meadow area will be placed in basin three, a boardwalk in basin one and a boat dock in the second basin.

The final concept features the most access. This plan will contain all the mark-ups of the first two plans, plus baseball fields, a comfort station and a waterworks-themed adventure playground in the third basin.

Despite the ideas to renovate the reservoir, many people in community are opposed to a complete transformation of the site.

“What we see as wetland portions, we’d like them to be preserved that way,” said Vincent Arcuri Jr., chair of Community Board 5.

There is no money allocated to the master plan as yet and current ideas have to be reviewed and presented to the community board again.

 

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More bike lanes coming to western Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Mike DiBartolomeo

The wheels are turning in the right direction for one community’s push to get more bike lanes.

At a recent Community Board (CB5) Transportation Committee meeting, the Department of City Planning (DCP) revealed a list of streets that could have bike lanes in place by early 2014.

The DCP is looking to add six potential new routes to the area and streets that are under consideration are Eliot Avenue, Juniper Boulevard South, Central Avenue, Cooper Avenue, Woodward Avenue, Onderdonk Avenue, 80th Street and 69th Street.

Currently, there are a few lanes in the district, which encompasses Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village and Glendale, but hardly any at all that connect the bike-friendly neighborhoods surrounding the district to the north in Sunnyside and Long Island City, and parts of northern Brooklyn.

Map courtesy of DOT

“If you look at the bike map right now there is a big hole where Community Board 5 is,” said Donald Passantino, a member of the CB 5 Transportation Committee and an avid bike rider. “Part of this is that these [lanes] are supposed to connect with other neighborhoods.”

The board requested new lanes throughout the community last year through the Department of Transportation (DOT). The request was then turned over to City Planning, which has been assessing streets that the community recommended for new bike lanes.

Now the DCP will review bike planning practices with the DOT and continue to analyze the most practical streets for lanes, and then in the coming weeks meet with the community again to get additional input, according to a DCP representative.

“The real advantage of bike lanes more than anything else is that they calm traffic,” Passantino said. “The [street] looks narrower, which forces cars to drive slower and cuts down on deaths.”

City Planning will meet with the community board members again this month to talk about potential lanes.

Community Board 5 Bike Lane Street Design Presentation

 

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Glendale rallies against proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A senior center, a school, maybe even a park is fine, but residents in Glendale want to shut the door on a proposed homeless shelter.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. led a protest on Friday in front a defunct factory at 78-16 Cooper Avenue, which nonprofit Samaritan Village plans to transform into transitional housing if its proposal is approved by the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

“We are against a 125-unit homeless shelter that the city is planning to ram down this community’s throat,” said Vallone, who is running to be the next borough president. “This is the wrong location and it’s the wrong size.”

The community has been against this proposal since last year when rumors started. But recently Samaritan Village negotiated with Michael Wilner, the owner of the property, and submitted a proposal to the DHS. The nonprofit also sent a letter to Community Board 5 and local leaders to officially notify them of the plans.

Wilner could not be reached for comment as of press time. And when The Courier contacted Samaritan Village, which operates multiple shelters around the city, the group said that it would not comment as the proposal is still being reviewed.

The nonprofit said it plans to insert 125 families in the building and it will have security.

Community members are worried that adding that number of people in the neighborhood would inundate already overcrowded schools.

Residents also believe that Glendale isn’t a good fit for the shelter, because transportation is limited since there are no subway lines.

The factory, which used to manufacture plane parts, is contaminated, according to multiple sources, and the building would need millions in tax dollars to repair.

So instead of a homeless shelter, residents said they would prefer to see a school, a park for local kids or a senior center for the many elderly in the area.

“Right now I’m looking for someplace for my mother,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

“I’m looking for something that I’d feel is appropriate, but I have to look upstate. So we need something in our neighborhood.”

They aren’t completely sure what the site should become, but there is a unified belief that a homeless shelter will damage the community so they don’t want it.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Augie Trinchese. “I’ve lived here for 41 years and I don’t want to see my property value go down.”

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Glendale community to fight proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Not in my backyard.

That’s the sentiment of residents, business owners, politicians and civic leaders about a proposed homeless shelter in an empty, rundown Glendale factory.

The community is planning to prevent nonprofit Samaritan Village from buying the property at 78-16 Cooper Avenue and transforming it into transitional housing if the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) gives its approval.

“They [Samaritan Village] need to be reasonable about it and do what is in the best interest of the community and the people that would reside there,” said Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association. “It wouldn’t make sense to put them in area where there is no transportation.”

Last week, Samaritan Village told Community Board 5 in a letter that the nonprofit has submitted a proposal to DHS requesting to convert the site in question. There are no shelters in CB 5, according to DHS, so it would be the first in the area if the plan comes to fruition.

The nonprofit wants to house 125 families on the property, but opponents of the homeless shelter believe that would overwhelm the schools in Glendale, which many say are already overcrowded.

The site, which was a factory devoted to making airplane parts more than a decade ago, rests on toxic and contaminated land, according to Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who has toured the area a number of times.

Crowley, who also plans to fight the proposal, said the building is in dire need of repairs that would cost taxpayers “tens of millions of dollars.”

“It looks like the plan is not economically feasible and would be a waste,” she said.

Last year, when rumors surfaced that Samaritan Village wanted to buy the property from owner Michael Wilner of Wilner Realty Management LLC., the Glendale Civic Association quickly voiced its opposition.

Masi conceded the shelter is a good cause, but said it would be better for Samaritan Village to pick a different location. She suggested the shuttered Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica or St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst.

Samaritan Village declined to comment on the pressure from the community against its proposal and why it choose that site.

“Our proposal is under review,” a spokesperson for the organization said.

For the moment, no meetings have been scheduled with CB 5. The board is waiting to see the full proposal and the Department of Homeless Services’ assessment, which will be “carefully reviewed,” according to a DHS official.

“What we need to do right now is to communicate that this is an inappropriate site to the applicant and to the Department of Homeless Services,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5.

Samaritan Village: Glendale Homeless Shelter Notification Letter

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Glendale, Middle Village still dealing with train noise, pollution


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

After years of drawing attention to the issue, Glendale and Middle Village residents say they are still waiting on promises from public officials to fix trains that disturb and pollute their neighborhoods.

Residents say the trains loaded with garbage and construction debris wake people up on their way through Queens to a town upstate. They add that the railroad cars make screeching sounds and idle behind houses while the engines emit harmful gases from diesel fuels.

The MTA-owned trains are leased to companies including CSX and New York and Atlantic Railway.

At the end of March, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi was able to allocate $3 million from the state budget towards updating the engines. Retrofitting the trains in question, which were designed in accordance with 1970s standards, will significantly reduce the impact of gases in the community.

“We are still in the process of working with the MTA and we’ll see how that is going play out,” said Alex Schnell, chief of staff to the assemblymember.

Congressmember Grace Meng, who toured the Fresh Pond Rail Yard in Glendale in April to learn about the problem, wrote a letter to the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies concerning the federal budget. She asked for $30 million from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to retrofit old trains with the new engines.

“This level of funding would help alleviate the significant unmet demand and would assist in upgrading inefficiencies,” Meng said in the letter.

As of press time, Meng had not received a response.

For residents like Anthony Pedalino, elected officials’ actions to date have not been fast enough.

With the open car locomotives running below ground level, Pedalino and others suggested that a tunnel be built or adequate covers set up for the cars to stop the leak of foul smells.

“That protection is the least they can do,” Pedalino said.

He sends out emails to a number of public officials almost daily to remind them about the issue.

“I think locomotives with new engines are a big plus and will cut down on a significant amount of pollution. This is a wonderful start,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. “I can understand people being upset, even though that’s some good news.”

 

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Committees approve Ridgewood industrial zone


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Ridgewood may soon become more industrial.

Community Board (CB) 5’s Zoning, Land Use and Special Economic Development Committees approved the idea of a proposed industrial business zone in the neighborhood at a July 1 meeting.

“For as long as I can remember, that has been the legal use for those businesses in that zone,” said CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano. “I think the sentiment is that this provides that certain areas be set aside for manufacturing.”

At the next CB5 meeting, the committees will recommend their position to the full community board.

“It is obvious to me that the committee members feel that manufacturing is important in both NYC and the U.S., and we should try to foster that,” Giordano said.

The next CB5 meeting is scheduled for July 10 at Christ the King High School at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

 

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Star of Queens: Mercy Wong, Community Board 5 member, co-founder, We Love Ridgewood Theater


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

profile mercy wong

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Since Mercy Wong lives near the Ridgewood Theater, she is interested in how the community could use the now-shuttered establishment. As a member of Community Board (CB) 5, Wong is involved with the campaign to re-designate the theater for uses that would enhance her community.

With the theater slated for sale, the focus has shifted to involving the community and negotiating with the new owners.

“We want the community to be aware that the theater is being sold,” she said. “It’s an important piece of the community.”

Wong said CB5 and We Love Ridgewood Theater are set on engaging the owners in the hope they will be receptive to “keeping the place relevant.”

BACKGROUND: Wong moved to New York in 2004 after attending the University of California, Berkeley. She received her graduate degree from Columbia University’s architecture school.

Wong works for HLW International, a 128-year-old architecture firm. She mainly works on designing corporate and commercial buildings, but Wong said her personal interest is “doing things that can help the community architecturally, which is why I was drawn to the theater.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “The moment I decided that I was going to do something about the theater. It kind of opened up a world to me that I wasn’t quite familiar with before.”
Wong said she now feels more connected to the place where she lives. As an architect, she feels lucky to have a chance to work on a project like this, helping re-purpose a historic property.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Ridgewood Theater is Wong’s first project as a CB5 member. She is tasked with imagining uses for the building and its historical facade and negotiating with the new owners. She hopes the community will be involved in the decision and potentially benefit from it.

“If there are performance arts or an entertainment venue, that’s good because it’s something that can bring age and ethnicity together.”

Other possible uses on Wong’s list include an art gallery, small restaurant and gathering place for seniors.

INSPIRATION: Wong says that she is “very humbled to be surrounded by members [of CB5] that have been there for a long time.

BY LUKE TABET

 

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Western Queens to get more bike lanes


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Department of City Planning

Make way for the cyclists.

Residents and members of Community Board (CB) 5 have been brainstorming where to install bike lanes.
The Department of City Planning (DCP) met with CB 5 and residents of the neighborhood on Saturday, May 11.

“A lot of western Queens is tough for bike routes, but we’re going to try to do the best we can,” said CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano.

The industrial area already has accomodation for bikes in Highland Park, Cypress Hills Street, Cooper Avenue, 78th Avenue, 79th Street and Forest Park. DCP is planning to install bike lanes in both directions along the Cooper Avenue underpass from 69th Drive to 74th Street.

Community members at Saturday’s meeting mooted areas along Dry Harbor Road, 80th Street, Elliot Avenue, Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue. Some of those spots are major arteries congested with trucks, making it a challenge for CB 5 to accommodate bicyclists there. DCP is targeting areas where bikes will have minimal conflict with vehicles including trucks and cars.

With summer coming up and more people hopping into the saddle, Giordano said he hopes the community will have a better idea of where the bike lanes are going within a few months.

“You have more and more people riding bicycles these days,” he said.

Officials said the bike lanes are perfectly feasible and the routes will even be attractive. They added that lanes can be installed on both one- and two-way streets. They will either be shared lanes that put bicyclists on the road with vehicles or separate lanes to the side of the road.

For people going on longer rides, DCP and CB 5 are considering a connection from Grand Street to the Williamsburg Bridge in western Queens and a route from 62nd Road to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the east.

Now that the community has voiced its requests, DCP will study the feasibility of proposed routes and receive community board input. It will be up to the Department of Transportation to actually implement the routes. A timeline has not been established.

“We need to increasingly be concerned about the safety of the cyclists, the pedestrians and the drivers who have to look in all sorts of directions,” Giordano said.

 

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New train engines to improve Queens air quality


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi's Office

Antiquated, high emission train engines have been a great concern for residents in the industrial areas of southwest Queens. But now, an upgrade is on the way.

Freight trains passing through areas of Community Board 5 and 9 have been running past residential homes for years, causing the track’s neighbors to question any potential health risks.

“This is a quality of life issue,” said Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES).

CURES has worked feverishly to ensure upgraded locomotive engines for the area, and through work with Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and a coalition of elected officials, managed to secure $3 million in this year’s legislative budget to upgrade engines.

“This is the first win in what will be an ongoing fight to protect the health of countless families in Queens,” Hevesi said.

“With New York State’s recognition that outdated trains can be severely damaging to communities they pass through, we have taken the first step toward fixing this problem.”

The funds will kick off a pilot project that will upgrade the first of a number of antiquated, high- emission trains.

The trains, owned and leased by the LIRR, are currently equipped with “archaic” 1970s engines, and operate throughout the city and Long Island, carrying waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches.

However, after the upgrade, there is expected to be an annual reduction in nitrogen oxide, a known byproduct of diesel engines, by up to 76 percent, or 120 tons of emission over 10 years, according to Hevesi’s office.

After years of work advocating for modernized engines, Parisen said that she and the other members of CURES are “ecstatic” simply because they no longer need to convince agencies and the government that the upgrade needed to be done.

“They all acknowledged that this needs to happen, now it’s just a matter of how we’re going to do it,” she said.

The allocated $3 million is going to the LIRR and the MTA, Parisen said, and they are going to upgrade however many trains they can with the amount.

“The locomotives now are doing the most damage to the most densely-populated areas,” she said. “We need to make sure the neighborhood gets the best locomotive possible.”

The coalition plans to continue petitioning the state until all necessary fleet upgrades have been completed, said Hevesi’s office.

 

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Votes split on USTA expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of USTA

The votes are in on the much-debated expansions to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the results are mixed.

Half of the six voting Community Boards are in favor of the US Tennis Association (USTA) moving 0.68 acres out of its current property — so long as the organization meets certain conditions set by each board.

Board 6 voted 21-6 and Board 8 26-8 in favor on Wednesday, March 13; Communty Board 3 voted 33-1 against the next night. The six advisory decisions will now go to Borough President Helen Marshall, who has 60 days to decide on the expansions. Marshall’s decision then goes to the City Council and the City Planning Commission.

Marshall will hold a forum on the plan April 4 at Borough Hall. The Borough Board, led by Marshall, will vote on the plan April 8.

Two boards voted against the proposal last week, one of which could switch to yes if USTA meets nine regulations — similar to those set by other boards — including setting up a conservancy for the park. Community Board 7 voted yes, but with eight conditions, on March 11.

Each board has recommended USTA discount court prices for seniors and children, and invest in the park’s crumbling facilities.

“Community Board review was the first step in a multi-layered governmental review process that also includes the borough president, City Planning, City Council and State Legislature,” said Tennis Center Chief Operating Officer Danny Zausner. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue as we move through the different phases.”

Parkland advocates against the plan, however, say they’re going to continue informing residents of the downside of the plans. “I think the community boards’ vote will have no impact whatsoever on the BP’s vote or the City Council members,” said NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft. “They seem perfectly willing to give away additional parkland to this private business for concessions.”

 

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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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