Tag Archives: Community Board 9

Civic Virtue statue leaves Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

The controversial statue, officially called “Triumph of Civic Virtue,” which stirred debate for the last few years, was hoisted from its pedestal on Queens Boulevard just before 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 15 as bystanders looked on — many of whom were saddened by the action.

It has been moved to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn effectively leaving the borough on loan to the cemetery. Many have opposed the move for several reasons, particularly though for its artistic value and the manner in which it was moved.

A week before the move, which took close to 10 hours of preparation, Councilmembers Peter Vallone and Elizabeth Crowley joined with Community Board 9 and Triumph of Civic Virtue to rally against the move. The coalition alleged that those opposed had purposely been stymied from attending a November 13 hearing on the move to Green-Wood.

And just days before, Community Board 9 voted to oppose the planned move, also citing that the aged statue was a work of public art, given to Queens more than 70 years ago and should be preserved as such. The statue should have been restored and kept in Queens, said Community Board 9 chair Andrea Crawford.

See more photos of the statue’s removal

    

Electeds rally against relocation of Triumph of Civic Virtue to Brooklyn


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY CHRISTOPHER BARCA

The city may have won the battle regarding the relocation of the Triumph of Civic Virtue statue to a Brooklyn cemetery, but those opposed to the plan say the fight is not over.

“They’re taking one of the last pieces of fine art in Queens from us,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone. “They might as well put a bag over the statue’s head and put him in the back of a truck.”

The fence-enclosed statue, standing adjacent to Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, has been the topic of bitter dialogue directed toward the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) from Community Board 9 and its constituents since July. At a November 13 public hearing, however, the NYC Design Commission ruled that the statue will be moved in the coming weeks to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where the family of Frederick MacMonnies, the statue’s sculptor, is buried.

To make matters worse, Vallone claims that he and other officials, who hosted a rally alongside Community Board 9 at the statue on Saturday, December 8, were kept in the dark about the meeting in order to negate their opposition to the controversial plan.

“It was clearly designed to be secretive,” Vallone said. “An email was sent out, but the message was sent six days after Sandy, when nearly everyone’s email was inaccessible.”

The statue features Hercules standing triumphantly, representing virtue, while two sirens, representing vice and corruption, are trampled underfoot. City politicians like former Congressmember Anthony Weiner have deemed the statue sexist in recent years, but CB9 district manager Mary Ann Carey scoffs at the claim.

“I don’t understand why people give this sculpture a meaning it doesn’t have,” she said. “They aren’t two women, they’re just two sirens. They have tails. I don’t know any women who have tails.”

Whether or not the statue is indeed sexist, the city sees the uprooting of Civic Virtue as a necessary measure.

“The relocation of Civic Virtue by Frederick MacMonnies to Green-Wood is part of a public-private initiative to ensure the long-term preservation of the sculpture, which will be conserved this spring,” said a spokesperson for the city. “Civic Virtue will remain fully accessible to the public, and we are working on establishing a vibrant, welcoming public space in Queens while the statue is on loan to Green-Wood.”

The statue’s preservation will be paid for by the Brooklyn cemetery, officials said, and no other option were proposed for the restoration.

When the statue is actually moved, the base will remain at its current location, as there is a preliminary plan in place to turn the area into a public sitting plaza. According to a statement from Borough President Helen Marshall, seeing the statue go is bittersweet, but Queens residents should still benefit from the Civic Virtue site, even if the statue resides elsewhere.

“I’m glad that the statue will be restored and we’ll work to see that the base of the statue and the area around it will be transformed into a public sitting area with benches and landscaping,” Marshall said. “I would like the area to pay tribute to outstanding women who have made significant contributions to our borough and city.”

Community Board 9 votes down block conversion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Residents living on a stretch of 84th Avenue have reason to rejoice.

Community Board 9 unanimously voted on Tuesday, October 9 in opposition to a Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal to convert the street between Myrtle Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard from a two-way to a one-way eastbound street.

“Let’s get a rational study by the DOT,” said Andrea Crawford, the board’s transportation committee chair, when introducing the vote.

At the board’s September meeting, 84th Avenue residents spoke in opposition to the proposal, saying the DOT had not conducted a proper study on the street. By becoming a one-way, they said, the street could become a thoroughfare for speeders and divert traffic to other streets. Several residents returned, along with new speakers, for the October meeting to ask the board again to oppose the block conversion.

DOT representatives were not able to respond to requests at press time regarding the next step. A spokesperson said in Septemberthat an analysis from the agency showed the conversion was feasible, but DOT was waiting for the board’s vote before moving forward.

Residents, on the other hand, didn’t seem to agree with the feasibility, and are happy their community took a stand against it.

Laurence Levy lives on 84th Avenue and spoke to the board last week about his unhappiness with the DOT’s proposal for the block.

“I felt that we were pretty persuasive at the meeting,” he said afterward.

Levy noted that by changing the street to a one-way, it would only divert traffic to other blocks, causing an even bigger problem for more residents.

Should the street have changed, drivers would feel more inclined to speed and threaten the families and elderly living on the street.

“It’s a safety issue number one. You would make a dangerous situation, now already dangerous, by increasing the speed of the cars coming up the road,” Levy said. “Basically we would be making it easier for everybody in South Richmond Hill, Ozone Park to get where they want quicker. The burden would be on us essentially by sacrificing a direction in the road.”

The reroute would have also pushed traffic to other surrounding blocks, he said, and not really offering a solution.

“All you would be doing is shuffling the deck,” he said.

QueensWay vs. LIRR debated at public forum


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

As the fate of the land that was once the Rockaway Beach rail line remains uncertain, residents of the area are divided between a nature walkway and revival of the LIRR.

At a public forum on Saturday, September 30, hosted by the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, there were advocates for the QueensWay — the proposed nature walk’s official name — and for the reinstatement of the LIRR line, which has not been in use for half a century.

The QueensWay would open economic development to the neighborhoods running from Rego Park to Ozone Park, and help arts and culture in southern Queens to flourish, said Andrea Crawford, a member of Friends of QueensWay. The Queensway, she said, would be a safe area, closed at night.

“This isn’t just a biking or hiking path,” she said. “This will help spur an economic development all along where the tracks run with restaurants, with shops, with all the things that feed into the great cultural space that Queens is.”

Crawford, also chair of Community Board 9, said an LIRR path was not ideal for the area, which has been heavily developed since the original line completely stopped service in 1962.

The train line, on the other hand, would cut the commute from south Queens to Midtown by roughly a third of what it is on the current “A” and “J” train services, according to transit advocate John Rozankowski.

“Today, if you want to get from Midtown Manhattan using the “J” train, the trip takes you a solid hour,” he said. “If the Rockaway line is reactivated, that same trip will take 23 minutes.”

Rozankowski said a new, faster and quieter Rockaway Beach line should be the top priority for the land, because it would bring tourists to the area and provide faster access to Manhattan for those who work in the city. “Reactivating the Rockaway line will launch a spree of economic growth in southern Queens,” he added. “And what that means is property values around the railroad and around the small businesses will soar.”

Woodhaven residents on both sides of the issue are worried about what impact either project would have on day-to-day life, and voiced some of these concerns following the two presentations.

Several living on 98th Street said a potential LIRR line would heavily impact their life and over-urbanize their quiet neighborhood. Joe Guzman, who lives on 98th Street and Jamaica Avenue, said he moved to Woodhaven for a touch of comparatively suburban life. Guzman brought into question whether or not Resorts World Casino New York City had anything to do with the push for the line in order to attract more customers.

The QueensWay, at the same time, could also possibly affect Guzman and his neighbors, he said, and suggested the city simply clean up the heavily polluted strip of land.

“I understand that it’s all junked up there and it’s messy, [but] the trees there provide already quality of life,” he said. “If you look at the tracks, you’re going to probably have to remove most of the trees.”

Those in favor of the Rockaway Beach line noted that there currently was no mass transit system that ran north to south in Queens and, as a result, traffic on Woodhaven Boulevard was unbearable.

“I commuted to Woodside for nine years along Woodhaven Boulevard,” said Allan Rosen. “If the Rockaway Line is not reactivated, the MTA will propose taking two lanes of traffic and parking away from Woodhaven Boulevard, replacing them with exclusive lanes for Select Bus Service.”

Community comes out against one way conversion in Kew Gardens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

The city wants to go “one way,” but the community wants to go another.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed turning 84th Avenue between Lefferts Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue from a two-way street to a one-way eastbound thoroughfare. Several residents spoke out to Community Board 9 on Tuesday, September 11 against the proposal, saying it would make the street incredibly dangerous to live on.

“I’m not sure making 84th Avenue one way will do anything but increase the speed, force traffic on to 85th and possibly even 86th Avenue,” said Dominic Pistone, president of the Kew Gardens Civic Association. “I don’t really know why this was proposed. If anything, when you make a street one way people tend to go faster on it because they don’t have to worry about hitting anybody going the opposite direction. It’s a dumb idea.”

Every resident on 84th Street who appeared before the community board spoke against the conversion.

Among worries about speeding, residents were also concerned about double-parking on the street, parking on blind corners and delivery trucks blocking traffic while delivering to The Atria, a senior living residence.

“It’s bad enough as it is,” said John Kenny, who lives on 84th Avenue. “If the DOT wants a study they can come to my yard at 5:30 in the morning…and can see what’s going on.”

“DOT received a request from the Borough President’s office to review the feasibility of conversion 84th Avenue between Lefferts Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue from two-ways to one way westbound,” a DOT spokesperson said in an email. “While DOT analysis shows that a conversion would be feasible, the agency is awaiting a Community Board vote on the matter before proceeding further.”

Biz owners blast Woodhaven rezoning


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Some Richmond Hill residents are not as open as some Woodhaven neighbors are to new zoning rules that were put into effect a few weeks ago. The critics say that the new regulations do not accommodate the growing population in the area.

Vishnu Mahadeo, president and executive director of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said he and other Richmond Hill residents and business owners lobbied against some of the downzoning in the neighborhood.

“This zoning is now going to destroy the fabric of family in the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community,” he said.

Religious institutions have been, or will be, hit by the new zoning rules, Madaheo said. One instance was a Hindu mandir (temple) on which construction was suspended because of insufficient parking available.

The majority of residents, however, were behind the rezoning, said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9.

“The people who actually lived there, not the businesses, supported the zoning,” she said. “The community applauded us for the downzoning.”

Should everything be upzoned across the neighborhoods, there would be expansion and overpopulation that the neighborhood’s infrastructure could not support, Crawford added.

Rezoning will preserve character of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Parts or all of 229 blocks in Woodhaven and south Richmond Hill will be rezoned, after the city council approved the divisive plans to preserve the character of the neighborhoods.

The new area, approved on Wednesday, July 25, is mainly bordered by Park Lane to the north; 103rd Avenue to the south; Eldert Lane to the west; and the Van Wyck Expressway to the east.

Residential zones R3-1 and R5 will remain in tact, according to the Department of City Planning. R3-1 is mostly north of Atlantic Avenue; R5 includes most of Atlantic and south of the avenue.

Jamaica and Atlantic avenues will be designated as commercial corridors, with the department citing easy accessibility to the streets via mass transit.

There had not been redistricting in the neighborhoods since the early 1960s, officials and residents said.

Community Board 9 had raised concerns years ago that one- and two-story homes were being bought and demolished, according to City Planning, and disproportionate buildings put up in their place.

“Hopefully it stabilizes the neighborhood,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9.

City Planning announced in late February that the department was reviewing the area in order to update the nearly 50-year-old map.

Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said in a statement earlier this year that rezoning would help adjust to the population and commercial growth Woodhaven and Richmond Hill have experienced over the years.

“The Woodhaven and Richmond Hill neighborhoods in Queens are characterized by very appealing one- and two-family wood-frame homes built in a variety of traditional styles,” Burden said. “The neighborhoods have seen their populations grow in recent years but due to antiquated zoning, they are experiencing growth in the wrong places.”

Controversial statue may move to Brooklyn


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A city agency is sneakily planning to restore and move a controversial Queens statue, which has been bashed as sexist by politicians, to what could be its final resting place — a Brooklyn cemetery.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) plans to bury the near century-old Triumph of Civic Virtue statue, which sits near Borough Hall, in the privately-owned Green-Wood Cemetery said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

However, the DCAS did not inform residents or Community Board 9.

“We’re against it,” said CB9 Chair Andrea Crawford. “We believe that we should have been contacted. Whether the officials like the artwork or not, it belongs to the people of Queens.”

After Vallone was informed the about the fate of the 22-foot public artwork, the councilmember wrote letters to DCAS Commissioner Edna Handy to keep the statue where it is.

“The statue used to have a working fountain and kids used to play in it,” Vallone said. “That’s the way it should be now.”

Vallone praised the city for finally trying to restore the piece, which is crumbling, discolored and covered with pigeon droppings, but questioned the process of how the city transfers public property to a private entity.

The city has held firm.

“The city is looking into options that preserve the sculpture and best serve the community,” DCAS said.

The statue, which was originally completed in 1922, was designed by renowned New York sculptor Frederick MacMonnies and placed in front of City Hall.

It features a bare Hercules, who represents virtue, standing firm as mythical sirens, which symbolize vice and corruption, curl around his legs.

The artwork was given to Queens in 1941, to commemorate the opening of Queens Borough Hall, and because then Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia couldn’t tolerate seeing a “naked man” outside City Hall every day, according to Vallone.

A few years ago, then Congressmember Anthony Weiner and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras viciously attacked the statue, saying that it degrades women because the Sirens embody feminism.

“As chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, I felt that [way] because you see this huge man stepping on two women,” Ferreras said. “I’m glad that it’s leaving Queens. It’s a great location in the cemetery.”

Weiner placed the statue on craigslist for sale, with shipping not included, and said the proceeds would go to benefit the city.

However, since then, officials from CB9 have fought to keep it, and Vallone has joined the battle to defend the statue of the heroic demi-god.

“They want it moved, because it’s sexist,” Vallone said. “I don’t agree with that at all. Hercules represents virtue and the sirens represents vice and corruption. And we need more of that [virtue] in government today.”

The family of MacMonnies is going to pay for the statue to be restored and transported to Green-Wood, where the sculptor’s family members are buried, but not MacMonnies himself.

“Green-Wood Cemetery has offered to be the permanent home for Civic Virtue,” Richard J. Moylan, president, said. “While we have had discussions with city officials, nothing has been confirmed at this point in time.”

Borough President Helen Marshall, another public official known to have found the statue distasteful, has now said she is disappointed it won’t be returned to Queens and talked about the future of the site in Kew Gardens.

“Informal discussions have already taken place about the future of the site,” Marshall said. “It is my desire and my wish to create a public plaza and sitting area that will honor a woman or women from Queens.”

 

Star of Queens: Alexander Blenkinsopp


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Alex Blenkinsoppw

Alexander Blenkinsopp

Director of Communications, Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

Member, Community Board 9

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Alex Blenkinsopp is the director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) and serves on Community Board 9.

“I’ve always cared a lot about Woodhaven and about Queens,” he said. “When I joined the WRBA in 2009, I hoped to give something back to my community. Through the Block Association, I met many people who had the same goal. Our successes the past few years show that a group of passionate, generous residents can make a real difference in the character of a neighborhood.

“On Community Board 9, I’ve seen how much work goes on — often unnoticed by the public — to improve our quality of life. It’s an honor to be part of this local representation and to serve with people who take their Community Board responsibilities so seriously.”

CURRENT ROLE: Blenkinsopp is a graduate student pursuing two master’s degrees — one in public policy and another in business administration.

Previously, he interned at the White House, and worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has also worked in the private sector for an investment and technology development firm.

PERSONAL: Blenkinsopp is a lifelong resident of Woodhaven. He attended St. Thomas the Apostle School for nine years. He attended Regis High School, a Catholic school in Manhattan, on a full scholarship. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his master’s degree in criminal justice from Oxford.

INSPIRATIONS: “My parents have been a huge inspiration,” he said. “They’re responsible for my moral core, my priorities in life, and my work ethic. My dad taught me to be a birder and nature enthusiast, which is great because I’ve resided close to Forest Park and Jamaica Bay my whole life. My mom, who grew up in the Bronx, taught me to be a die-hard Yankees fan — not always a popular thing around here! And they both taught me to stand up for what I believe in.”

CHALLENGES: “It’s a struggle to try to make government bodies responsive and accountable, and to help them do their work better,” said Blenkinsopp. “Residents all over Queens and throughout New York City are frustrated with city agencies that are slow to address our complaints, politicians who draw district lines or accept big checks behind closed doors, and officials who ignore our suggestions. The vast majority of people who work for these government bodies are dedicated public servants, but unfortunately a few bad apples can spoil the barrel.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “Finally making the all-star team while playing in the Ridgewood-Glendale-Middle Village-Maspeth Little League. I wasn’t a great baseball player, but I hustled and tried really hard!

“A close second was being on the team that built the new consumer protection agency. It will protect millions of Americans from unfair and abusive practices when it comes to credit cards, mortgages, and other financial products. It’s simply wrong when hard-working people get ripped off by unfair terms hidden in the fine print.”

 

The Forest Park Carousel rides again


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Forest Park Carousel

After nearly four years, children — and adults — were able to rush the Forest Park Carousel, choose their favorite horse and take a spin on the historic ride.

The Forest Park Carousel, shuttered since 2008, hosted St. John Evangelical Lutheran School students, politicians and civic leaders who fought to save the carousel to enjoy the first ride before it reopens to the public this weekend.

“It went real fast,” said Jason, 6. “It was a lot of fun.”

It wasn’t just the youngsters that enjoyed themselves.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, who had ridden the carousel as a child and fought to have it reopened in the late 80s hopped on board with the kids.

“It was great,” Carey said. “I enjoyed it very much. The children loved it.”

After years of civic groups campaigning, the Parks Department announced earlier this month that New York Carousel would operate and reopen the 109-year-old ride.

“When a community speaks out in one voice and they are heard and the result of their speaking out is seen, that’s a perfect snapshot of how government should work,” said Senator Joe Addabbo.

Addabbo added he is excited to bring his daughters, Alexis and Arianna, to the same ride he once visited with his father as a child.

“I cannot wait for this weekend to be here with my two girls and be standing beside them riding this carousel.”

The carousel will be open to the public on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.

 

Woodhaven against street changes, for rezoning


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

It was a successful evening for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, which worked to further a vote against street changes they felt could negatively impact their neighborhood.

Community Board (CB) 9 voted unanimously against the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed alterations, which could turn 84th Street into a southbound one-way street and make 89th Street one-way instead of two-way.

“It was a good feeling after two-and-a-half months of putting together e-mails, videos and flyers,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “There was a lot of community involvement.”

Wendell, ecstatic about this vote, claimed that if these changes were to occur, there would be no way to get through the area except to take Woodhaven Boulevard.

These possible modifications were brought to his attention when a resident spotted a notice on her church’s bulletin board, alerting her that several local roadways would be altered. Feeling that these changes would negatively impact her neighborhood, she contacted CB 9, which passed the message along to Wendell.

A crowd of 175 gathered on Tuesday, March 13 to watch the proceedings over this vote. According to Wendell, most of Woodhaven’s residents were very against these street changes.

A vote for rezoning was strongly voted in favor of during the evening as well. According to Wendell, the zoning laws have not been reviewed and adjusted since 1961, rules he feels need to be reassessed due to Woodhaven’s overcrowding.

“You don’t want someone knocking down a nice one-family home and building condos for six families,” said Wendell. “[Rezoning laws] put the break on development in a community so you don’t get too densely populated.”

Now that the local community board has voted for rezoning, it will be passed along to the city.

 

Woodhaven opposed to redistricting, traffic changes


| ecamhi@queenscourier.com

Woodhaven residents continued to show solidarity against recent rezoning and redistricting issues within their community.

During the Woodhaven Residents Block Association’s (WRBA) monthly town hall meeting, Ed Wendell, president of the civic group, urged residents to attend Community Board 9’s (CB 9) upcoming meeting to vote on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) much criticized traffic change proposal.

The proposal, which Wendell said most residents oppose, would convert 89th Avenue to a one way street while changing 84th Street from a one-way northbound to a one-way southbound street between Liberty and Atlantic avenues.

CB 9 was slated to vote on the proposals during a public hearing on February 14 in Kew Gardens, but they postponed it due to complaints from the community about the meeting’s “inconvenient” date and time. They will now be meeting on March 13 to vote at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Avenue.

Meanwhile, Maria Thomson, WRBA financial secretary, asked residents to voice their opposition to recent redistricting plans drafted by Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR). She said the plans would unfavorably split one square mile of Woodhaven amongst three separate Senate districts.

“This is a very, very big deal,” Thomson said. “We don’t want to be sliced and diced. It weakens our strength at the state level.”

Thomson and Assemblymember Mike Miller advised residents who attended the February 18 meeting to act with urgency in voicing their opposition to the redistricting plans.

“You don’t have much time to do it,” Miller said. “The vote is at the end of the month.”

Woodhaven street changes face roadblock


| mchan@queenscourier.com

While the city’s plan to change the direction of two streets in Woodhaven is still on the table, major feelings of opposition within the community have not been rerouted.

Residents remain angry at the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to convert 84th Street from one-way northbound to one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic Avenues and turn 89th Avenue from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street.

However, at a public hearing held on February 1, agency officials told locals that the community will ultimately make the final decision on whether or not to implement the changes.

“Neither one of these proposals is mandated to improve because it is a high-accident location, so this can be voted up or down by the community,” said Maura McCarthy, DOT borough commissioner. “The DOT is not going to implement this over the objection of the community. We only do that if it’s a big safety problem. Neither of these locations are accident-prone locations, so this is really up to a community vote.”

According to the DOT, the request to convert 89th Avenue to a one-way operation came from Community Board 9 (CB 9) in 2008 due to the narrow roadway width — coupled with parking on both sides — while the westbound direction was recommended to foster the safe curbside drop-off of students.

“The DOT receives a lot of requests for traffic changes, whether it is adding a stop sign, traffic signal or changing street directions,” McCarthy said, “We take each request, analyze the request and then bring it before the community board to have a vote.”

Still, local leaders said the changes would severely inconvenience residents traveling back and forth between Woodhaven and Ozone Park. It would also cause some residents to be forced to go “at least six blocks out of their way” to get home.

“I think we’ve done everything we can to make sure our opposition is well known. I really don’t know what else we could do. We’re not going to lie down on the street,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA), who said he left the meeting feeling positive and productive.

CB 9 was slated to vote on the proposals during a public hearing on February 14 in Kew Gardens, though they recently postponed it due to complaints from the community about the meeting’s “inconvenient” date and time. They will now be meeting on March 13 to vote in Woodhaven.

“Every board member will vote how they feel is appropriate. We do whatever the community wants us to do because it’s their request, but half of the people are for it and half of the people are against it,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of CB 9. “It’s really up to the people who are directly affected.”

Residents opposed to Woodhaven street changes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0312w

The city’s plan to change the direction of two streets in Woodhaven is heading down a one-way road to opposition.

While the project is only in its proposal stage, plans to convert 84th Street from one-way northbound to one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic Avenues and turn 89th Avenue from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street have been met with resistance from residents and local civic groups.

“Both of these changes are not good for the community. They weren’t asked for by residents,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA). “It doesn’t make very much sense, and it’s a bad change.”

Wendell said if the changes are implemented, the “symbiotic” relationship between Woodhaven and its adjacent neighborhood — Ozone Park — would suffer by the newfound difficulty that would come from traveling back and forth.

He said the 84th Street alteration would eliminate one of the main northbound entry points into Woodhaven, leaving only Woodhaven Boulevard and 76th Street as northbound roads that cross Atlantic Avenue.

“It’s like the doors of a supermarket — with the entrance and exit doors next to each other. If you close one of those doors, it’s going to cause problems. This cuts off one of the valuable entrances back into Woodhaven from Ozone Park. This is going to hurt both communities.”

Wendell also said turning 89th Avenue into a one-way street would severely inconvenience residents — some of whom would be forced to go “at least six blocks out of their way” to get home.

“In order to get home, the only way they can do it is to make this really awkward turn on Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, which is congested already,” Wendell said. “That’s the move this is going to force all these people to make. These residents are not going to have a choice. It’s going to be the only way to get home.”

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the request to convert 89th Avenue to a one-way operation came from Community Board 9 (CB 9) in 2008 due to the narrow roadway width, coupled with parking on both sides. The westbound direction was recommended to foster the safe curbside drop-off of students, a DOT spokesperson said.

CB 9 has yet to vote on the proposal, according to District Manager Mary Ann Carey, due to “so much controversy” revolving around the issue. The board postponed the original meeting to vote on the plans in order to seek more input from the community, although Carey said CB 9 sent out notices to residents back in 2008 when she said the plans were first proposed.

“There are so many different opinions. There are a few who are for it, but there are so very many who spoke in opposition of it. CB 9 more than likely goes with the community, but when the community is divided, it’s hard to decide,” Carey said.

The proposals will be voted on during a public hearing scheduled for February 1 at 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ozone Park.

Carey said that although feedback from the community board carries a lot of weight, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) will make the final call.

Resisting rezoning Richmond Hill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Ed Wendell.

While some local leaders laud the city’s plan to rezone Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, one local business organization said it would negatively impact and cap the growth of the community.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, plans to rezone stem from concerns raised by Community Board 9, local civic organizations and area elected officials who say that existing zoning — which has remained unchanged since 1961 — does not closely reflect established building patterns or guide new development to appropriate locations.

Therefore, the Department of City Planning is looking to rezone 231 blocks of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven to reinforce the predominant one- and two-family homes that are characteristic of the community, while redirecting new residential and mixed-use development opportunities to locations along the area’s main commercial corridors near mass transit resources.

“The whole idea of rezoning is to keep neighborhoods stable, safe and healthy,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9. “It’s about maintaining the character of the neighborhood. If you start to tear down the single family and two family homes to put up larger, multiple dwellings, the infrastructure can’t support it, and the school system can’t support it. It makes the area so overly-dense that the neighborhood spills out onto itself. It explodes at the seams.”

The plan also deters expansion in a neighborhood that already struggles with lack of space and overcrowding, said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).

“Through a residential point of view, expansion takes away parking, and it cripples our services, crowds our schools, and creates more garbage and noise,” he said. “You do not want areas currently zoned for two-family homes to suddenly spring up with large apartment buildings. That’s a no-brainer.”

Wendell said many of the neighborhood’s problems frequently get tied back to overcrowding, including increased noise, fights, garbage and lack of parking.

“We are absolutely in favor of anything that would help cut down on overcrowding,” he said.

Still, Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the plan would limit the capacity to build in the neighborhood — subsequently keeping families from growing.

“The community keeps expanding,” he said. “How can you reduce the capacity of the community? The community board needs to review the census data and make it relevant to the zoning.”

Mahadeo said he has a petition with over 2,000 signatures from residents who do not want to be “down-zoned.”

But Crawford said “it’s not down-zoning anything.”

“It’s zoning to correct the neighborhood,” she said, adding that the majority of people against the plan are landlords looking to tear down homes to put up large apartment complexes. “There are many people who live here and support it. They bought into a neighborhood, and they wanted a specific style of the neighborhood. We’re not saying don’t allow for larger structures. We’re saying it has to be sensible, and this does reflect what is necessary and what is allowable.”

The Department of City Planning is currently conducting community outreach meetings on a proposal prior to initiating the formal public review process, which can take up to seven months. The city agency will speak to residents on January 21 at WRBA’s monthly meeting.