Tag Archives: DEP

Tempers flare over burning Sandy tree debris


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By Denise Romano

The city is burning Superstorm Sandy tree debris at Floyd Bennett Field in order to convert it into reusable material, enraging environmentalists who claim that the burn-off will compromise air quality.

In a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will burn more than 15,000 trees damaged by the storm, which will be converted into biofuel, mulch and landfill cover.

A six-day pilot program began on November 28, in which some of the debris is incinerated using an “air curtain burner,” which is a ceramic lined firebox about the size of a shipping container that uses large fans to make a “curtain” of air that prevents embers and ash from escaping. The Army Corps said they have already successfully used this method in Texas, Alabama and in Brookhaven on Long Island.

Air quality results will be closely monitored during the pilot program. Results from November 29, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indicate that, “Monitored levels of fine particles, which were measured over a 24-hour period that included the pilot burn, met the EPA’s health-based standard for fine particles,” according to an update on the EPA’s website, that also indicates that the agency will do further testing on air samples in a laboratory, and report the results are they become available.

Although the EPA and city agencies are monitoring the process from eight different stations surrounding the area, environmental and health groups, including the American Lung Association of the Northeast, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, New York Law and Environmental Justice Project and Citizens’ Environmental Coalition contend that the debris is detrimental to the city’s air quality.

Groups said the operation would emit at least 26 pollutants specified in the Clean Air Act as hazardous into the atmosphere.

“Approving this proposal to allow debris to be burned would add insult to injury. Many parts of our region are still cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy and are already dealing with major indoor air quality issues because of flooding, water damage and the resulting mold growth,” said Jeff Seyler, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “This proposal would increase air pollution which can also make people sick and send them the hospital. We urge the city and state to use safe non-combustion alternatives when disposing the remaining waste.”

“It is a terrible waste to just burn the trees that came down during the storm into ashes and smoke,” said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with NYPIRG. “There is a strong market for wood chips which can be used for garden mulch and a variety of other purposes. In this way, these casualties of the storm can be given a new life.”

Local leaders are also opposed, including Saul Needle, the chair of Community Board 18, which includes Floyd Bennett Field in its catchment area.

“Many years ago, the city banned the burning of leaves and trees because the bi-product is smoke, which contains carcinogens and various other not good things,” he explained. “I can’t see how over the course of time, these things have changed. I think it’s not a good thing to do.

“Regrettably,” Needle went on, “I can’t offer a viable solution, but I think before they do the burning, they should investigate so we don’t have pollutants wafting all over the air.”

One month after Sandy, residents still face a long road to recovery


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The hum of generators and the roar of truck engines can be heard throughout Breezy Point as residents and emergency workers feverishly push to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.

Before that fateful Monday, October 29, when Sandy tore through the East Coast, life in the small beach town was relatively simple. But now, a month later, people have been working around the clock to clean up the destruction that Sandy left behind.

“We’re back to a little bit of normal,” said Breezy Point resident Liz Bianco, as she brought her young daughter to swim practice. “We’re hanging in there.”

During the storm, Bianco’s home was infiltrated with three feet of water, and although thankful she still has a home, she has a lot of work to do.

Days after the damage was done, Bianco spoke to The Courier as she filled water jugs at a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) installed water pump to take back to the local church where she and other evacuees were staying. Her two daughters, Julian, nine and Leigh, four, sat nearby.

Now, she and countless others are following procedure to restore their flood-damaged homes. The sea water inside Bianco’s house left stains on the wall and destroyed every item inside. Those who suffered a similar fate have had to throw out all of the lost items and wait for an insurer to come and survey what is left to determine what compensation they will receive.

Aside from the extensive water damage that most of the Breezy Point homes received, a fire that sparked during the storm rapidly spread and reduced 111 houses to ashes.

“These people need all the help we can give them,” said Richie Nouvertne of NASDI, LLC, a demolition remediation company. “Whatever they need the help with, we give it to them.”

Nouvertne said that they have been filling roughly 50 trucks every day with debris and garbage from people’s houses.

“We can’t get out of the way fast enough before the debris comes back,” said Nouvertne. “After we clean it, we leave the block spotless, then we’ll come back and it looks like we weren’t even there. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Despite the time that has passed, much of the disaster area hasn’t changed. Some homes still remain off of their foundations; facades of other houses are still in shambles; doors and windows have been replaced with wood panels, and the number of damaged household items continues to grow. Refrigerators, bathtubs and insulation pieces can be found all along the streets.

Recovery efforts, however, are still very apparent. Aside from sanitation trucks, the Breezy Point roads are filled with contracting, heating and plumbing, and moving and storage trucks. Mobile units from the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) and more are set up in parking lots, and food trucks and tents are set up, serving free meals to residents and emergency workers.

“There was no power, there was no hot food,” said Bobby Eustace of the FDNY’s 17th Battalion. “The one thing we can do to comfort people and to ease their pain is give them a hot plate of food.”

Local stores such as the supermarket and hardware store are up and running, taking customers day in and day out. Signs are posted throughout the streets, advertising free help clearing out homes or asking volunteers to sign up to aid relief efforts.

“All we want to do is help people. We’ve seen everyone come together. When disaster hits New Yorkers love each other,” said Nouvertne.

New law to help customers contesting costly water bills


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

(Photo: DEP)

Following a record number of disputed water bills, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio introduced legislation today that prevents late fees, liens and foreclosure on home and business owners fighting the charges.

He made the announcement at a Queens Chamber of Commerce small business forum that was held this morning at the Queens Library Flushing branch.

At the event, which highlighted city regulations and small business fines, de Blasio focused on disputed water bills because of the high number of customers that “contested sky-high water bills in 2011 after the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) installed new automated meters,” said de Blasio.

If home and business owners feel they have been unfairly charged, fighting the bill can be a long and difficult process. In the meantime, the DEP will send warnings to customers about escalating late fees and a lien sale, which can directly lead to foreclosure, said de Blasio.

They will often abandon the appeal process so they won’t lose their home or business, he added.

The legislation that de Blasio introduced to the City Council will allow owners to fight their water bills without the threat of late fees or foreclosure.

“In this tough economy, small business is struggling to survive. The last thing they need is to get soaked by the city’s unreasonably high water bills, due to faulty meters,” said councilmember Peter Koo, one of the legislation’s sponsors.

The water bill fines are just an example of the rapidly increasing fines that make it harder for small businesses to succeed, said de Blasio.

The story he’s heard from businesses all over the city, said de Balsio, is that increased fines over the last five years have “made it harder to keep the business going [and] harder to keep employing new people.”

 

 

 

Flood relief may be on way for Springfield Gardens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Officials are hoping that relief is on the way for Springfield Gardens residents, who have long suffered from the deluge of downpours.

On Tuesday, October 16, city and local officials broke ground on the fourth phase of a project to upgrade sewer and water infrastructure in the southeast Queens community.

“For years, heavy rain in Springfield Gardens meant flooded roads, damaged homes and thousands of dollars in repairs for residents,” said City Councilmember James Sanders, an advocate for the project. “With this … neighborhood upgrade under way, relief is coming soon for Springfield homeowners who have been under assault from Mother Nature for far too long.”

This most recent installment of repairs, totaling $69 million and funded by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), is part of a larger $175 million project dedicated to improving Springfield Gardens storm management.

In this phase, the area bounded by South Conduit Avenue to the north; 149th Avenue to the south; 145th Road/146th Avenue/225th Street on the east; and Springfield Boulevard to the west will receive roughly 2.8 miles of new sewer lines, nearly 3 miles of water mains, and 84 catch basins, along with new streets and sidewalks.

“Low-lying streets in Springfield Gardens will get a lift with completely reconstructed streets and sidewalks, addressing the area’s flooding and making the neighborhood greener and more inviting,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Residents are overall pleased with the work being done.

Elizabeth Simms, who lives nearby in an area that was part of an earlier phase, has seen a significant improvement in flooding around her home.

“New drains, new sewers, remaking the street has worked great. Before it was a problem, but now everything goes right down and the street is clean,” she said.

Also part of the project is the creation of a Bluebelt, a wetland that both stores and treats water runoff. This will allow stormwater to be collected in the new catch basins, and discharged into wetland systems where the water will be naturally filtered. The wetlands will store the water, allow any solids or debris to settle and excess nutrients to be absorbed by vegetation. The filtered water will then be discharged into the nearby Springfield Lake and existing streams into Jamaica Bay.

Dredging for the project is set to begin in the spring, and will be managed by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Completion is estimated for 2014.

 

Forest Hills seeks flood fix


| MKirk@queenscourier.com

IMGP4777_2

Rene Alkalay, owner of Genesis Tree of Life, a yoga and wellness center on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, is furious that area flooding has cost him nearly $75,000.

“I want to know what you’re going to do to put me back in business,” he said at a town hall meeting on Thursday, September 27.

After being awash in complaints from Forest Hills residents regarding sewage flooding into their homes following heavy rains, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz and Community Board 6 invited the community to air their grievances directly to city officials in the hopes that a solution could be found.

A line of more than 30 people formed in the packed assembly room of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, where residents, some more vocal than others, expressed their concerns to employees of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

What ensued was a two-hour forum of tales of fecal-matter-filled water spouting out of drains, gallons upon gallons of sewer water flooding into basements, toxic mold growing on walls, skin inflammations, and cars, furniture and other belongings damaged beyond repair.

Ron Green, who lives on Yellowstone Boulevard, described a tactic he used during one storm that involved clogging his toilet with a towel and placing two sandbags on top of the lid before sitting on them. In the end, not even that could prevent a shower of feces from spraying out of the toilet, he said.

“It was like a fire hose,” he said.

Clay artist Ginnie Shaknis has seen her apartment flood three times due to heavy rainfall this summer. With the help of a friend, they bailed over 200 gallons of water out of her home. Lately she’s been dipping into her supply of clay to use as a way to clog her drains.

When asked how much financial damage she has suffered, Shaknis said, “I can’t even say anymore. It just keeps happening and happening.”

Edward Coleman, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations at the DEP, essentially told attendees that there is nothing the agency can do. Because the sewers are designed to handle one-and-a-half inches of rain per hour, the city is only liable for damage done to peoples’ homes when rainfall exceeds that amount. Since none of the storms this summer surpassed that quantity, it is unlikely that residents will receive any compensation.

Attendees who brought up their issues were asked to provide information to the DEP regarding the locations of suspected faulty storm drains. Several residents also cited occasions in which they contacted the DEP with concerns of overflowing storm drains and detached manhole covers and received a response they found unsatisfactory — or no response at all. The DEP took down information from these residents and said they would look into these matters.

Koslowitz asked the DEP employees what she could do to help her constituents affected by the flooding.

“As a single councilmember, there’s nothing you can do,” said Mark Lanaghan, assistant commissioner of Intergovernmental Affairs. “The purpose of meetings like this is to learn about things we didn’t know about and to have issues brought to our attention.”

Sandra Crystal has been living in Forest Hills for the last 50 years. Her apartment building flooded on two occasions this summer.

“Who’s your boss?” Crystal asked the panel when it was her turn at the microphone. “If it’s the mayor, then that’s who we need to talk to. If the mayor lived in Forest Hills, something would be done about it.”

Koslowitz said she found the meeting to ultimately be “very frustrating.”

“We received no answers. We have to look into different ways than before. Since 2007, this situation has been prevalent. It’s unacceptable that nothing can be done. I’m going to see what I can do, alert the mayor’s office and look for answers.”

Pilot program aims to prevent flooding


| brennison@queenscourier.com

A pilot program unveiled by the city will monitor elevated flow levels in sewers in hopes to prevent future flooding.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) installed 21 manhole covers — 11 in Queens — with monitoring sensors that will alert the agency when there is an elevated flow in the sewer.

Crews will then be sent out to perform necessary maintenance to help ward off flooding during heavy rain.

Flooding in the borough is becoming an increasingly prominent issue as many residents throughout Queens were flooded multiple times during storms this summer.

“Maintaining our 7,400 miles of sewer lines requires the smart allocation of resources and this monitoring technology will alert us to the areas that are most in need of attention,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “When elevated flow levels are detected our staff will be able to inspect, and if necessary perform maintenance, on the sewer line and stop a problem before it gets worse.”

The pilot program will cost $300,000. Twenty more manhole covers uquipped with the sensors will be installed in the spring.

 

Glendale flood heroes honored


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley’s office

Two FDNY EMTs who helped save the life of three residents — including a nun — caught in a Glendale flash flood, were honored recently while Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley renewed calls for an investigation into the flooding.

Crowley feted EMTs Jimmy Guailacela and Marilyn Arroyo at the city council stated meeting on Wednesday, September 12 for coming to the aid of Sister Claudia Bradshaw and Mary and Joseph Lawrence last month as the Cooper Avenue underpass flooded with several feet of water, submerging the car.

“Jimmy Guailacela and Marilyn Arroyo displayed the bravery and selflessness that embodies all of our city’s first responders,” said Crowley, chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee. “I’m proud to recognize their hard work keeping our community safe.”

The rescue workers were joined at the ceremony by Uniformed EMS Officers President Vincent Variale, Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics President Izzy Miranda, as well as Bradshaw and the Lawrences.

“Being an EMT is definitely a calling and I love what I do,” said Arroyo. “I’m so thankful we were close enough to make it in time to help and do our jobs.”

The underpass and surrounding areas has flooded multiple times during storms recently, leading Crowley to pen a letter calling on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to investigate the reasons behind the deluge.

The councilmember met with the agency on Friday, September 14, renewing the demand for an investigation and improved infrastructure in the area.

“It is clear that the system in Glendale and parts of Middle Village are not prepared to handle heavy rainfall, which has caused thousands of dollars in damage to residents throughout my district,” said Crowley. “The city needs to acknowledge these mistakes and reimburse homeowners for their damages, and the DEP needs to lay out a plan for both short-term and long-term improvements.”

Following the meeting, the DEP agreed to conduct an investigation into the community’s flooding.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Clear in the morning, then overcast. High of 77. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the South in the afternoon. Monday night: Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 68. Winds from the South at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT of the DAY: Korean Theatre Festival in New York

The 3rd annual Korean Theatre Festival in New York, presented by Korus Players Co., an international theatre company based in both New York City and Seoul, South Korea, in association with K-R Dreams Inc., kicks off today. Ending September 23, the festival will feature four plays performed at the The Secret Theater in Long Island City. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Repeated flooding in Glendale prompts meeting between lawmaker and DEP

The latest flood devastation in Glendale has left residents with a deluge of anger and the Department of Environmental Protection is taking notice. Read more: New York Daily News

Suspect behind 13 Queens fires is arraigned

A man accused of setting 13 fires across Queens was arraigned Sunday. Thien Dinh, 43, was arraigned this morning following his arrest on Friday on charges of arson, reckless endangerment and burglary. Read more: NY1

Police find loaded gun on man sleeping on the subway

A man sprawled out on a row of seats on a subway in Queens got a rude awakening early Saturday when cops pulled him from the train and found a loaded gun in his bag, police said. Read more: New York Daily News

Search for missing diver in Queens suspended

The Coast Guard has suspended a search for a missing diver who was last seen spear fishing in the waters off New York City. The 29-year-old man went missing at about 7 a.m. Friday near Breezy Point Surf Club in Queens. Read more: ABC New York/AP

MTA is rai$ing havoc

Straphangers could face even larger subway fare hikes than already planned because of a potential $100 million hole in the MTA’s budget. Read more: New York Post

1 year on, Occupy is in disarray; spirit lives on

Occupy Wall Street began to disintegrate in rapid fashion last winter, when the weekly meetings in New York City devolved into a spectacle of fistfights and vicious arguments. Read more: AP

 

Timers will save thousands of gallons of water at city parks


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

On most cool, rainy days throughout the summer, city sprinklers run continuously, pouring thousands of gallons of water — and money — down the drain.

But a joint project between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Parks and Recreation is looking to put an end to this water waste through timed spray showers at city parks.

Timers installed on spray showers at two Queens playgrounds, Glendale and Maple, will save more than 5,000 gallons of water a day at each. An activation button was placed next to the showers at the parks, providing two minutes of water. If kids are still playing when the water stops, someone just needs to press the button again to continue the water.

“We’re working together to make a cleaner and greener and healthier city that also happens to save money,” said Adrian Benepe, Parks Department commissioner. “As a world community we have to be much more responsible about managing our water resources.”

The new initiative — part of the Water for the Future program — was announced at Glendale Playground on Thursday, August 9. The DEP’s program aims to reduce the city’s water consumption by five percent.

Before the timer was installed, showers ran nonstop, using about 7,000 gallons of water per day. The DEP expects the new plan will save about 80 percent (5,600 gallons) of the wasted water each day. Over the next year, 23 more will be installed, and by 2017 more than 400 will be in place in the five boroughs — saving 1.5 million gallons of water daily.

“NYC water is one of the city’s most precious resources, and it’s important that we conserve it wherever we can while also enhancing opportunities for New Yorkers to enjoy water outdoors,” said Carter Strickland, commissioner of the DEP.

Shifa Lalani, 9, of Middle Village, one of the dozens of kids from the Lost Battalion Hall enjoying the spray showers at Glendale Park, agreed conserving water was vital.

“People need water to drink and to survive,” she said.

 

Weekend Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The-Afternoon-Roundup2

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney names Paul Ryan as his running mate

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday – a bold choice meant to excite the GOP’s conservative base and further make the economy the defining issue of the election. Romney announced his decision Saturday morning at a naval yard in Norfolk, Va., and the duo’s first appearance as a campaign ticket came, appropriately, on the USS Wisconsin – which represents Ryan’s home state. Read more: Daily News

Queens suspect sought in sex assault on girl, 10

Cops are hunting for a creep who they say sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in the elevator of a Queens apartment building. The suspect went into the lift with the girl and started riding down to the basement level of the building near Colden St. and Franklin Ave. in Flushing about 7:30 p.m. on July 31, sources said. Read more: Daily News

Shot cop Craig Bier released from hospital

Sergeant Craig Bier, who was shot in each leg while pursuing a suspect, was released today from the hospital. Wearing a backward baseball cap and a bandage covering his right knee, the 15-year veteran left Jamaica Hospital less than two days after being shot and a day following surgery to remove a bullet from his leg. Read more: Queens Courier

Queens residents want solutions for flooding problems

The flood waters are long gone except for a small section of Utopia Parkway, where ponding often happens. Some homeowners believe the pooling is caused by the slope in the street and sinking sidewalks. They said they tried for years to get the city’s Environmental Protection and Transportation Departments to fix the problem. Read more: NY1

Queens residents rally to keep local head start program open

Dozens of pre-school children, parents and teachers in Queens rallied Friday to try to keep their local Head Start program open. The Rockaway Head Start is scheduled to close on Sept. 30 because of a lack of funding. The school serves 66 children, ages three to five. Read more: NY1

Fewer geese slaughtered near Queens airports as safety measure


| mchan@queenscourier.com

More than 200 Canada geese were corralled and slaughtered in the city last week as part of the federal government’s attempt to prevent bird strikes near high-traffic airports, but officials said the casualty count is on the decline.

The United States Department of Agriculture removed a total of 255 geese from 12 city parks within a seven-mile radius of LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports last week, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

This year’s roundup total fell from 575 last year and has drastically declined from a 1,357 count in 2010, according to the DEP.

The mitigation measure — the fourth year it has been renewed — is conducted to control the city’s goose population and prevent bird strikes like those responsible for the emergency landings of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in 2009 and most recently Delta Flight 1063, officials said.

The city said the removal process is “straightforward and humane,” adding that the geese processed for breast meat will be donated for the first time to the state and distributed through local food pantries.

But the mitigation measures continue to draw heat from animal advocates, who protest the killings each year.

“This indiscriminate slaughter is inhumane, ineffective and not supported by science,” said Patrick Kwan, New York State director for the Humane Society of the United States. “It is the wrong way to address the goose population, especially when more humane and scientific solutions exist and have been successfully implemented in Prospect Park and Central Park.”

No geese were removed from Prospect Park this year for the second time in a row. Kwan pointed to goose management programs implemented last year as a major reason for the reprieve of the park’s fowl.

As part of the program, the public is discouraged from feeding wildlife, trained herding dogs are used to move geese out of the park, and eggs are treated to prevent population growth.

Kwan urged the state to make airports and surrounding areas more undesirable for the geese — while preventing flock growth — instead of killing them en masse each year.

“Many of the geese who are currently being rounded up and killed would have never been hatched if the city had adopted the humane goose management plan we have proposed since 2009,” he said.

DEP fights car idling near city schools


| sarahyu@queenscourier.com

Stop Idling

Soon, some Queens kids will be able to breathe a little easier.

In honor of Asthma Awareness Month, a two-week long campaign from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called “Stop Idling” will be enforced through June 6.

“Stop Idling” will target areas around P.S. 206 in Rego Park; P.S. 220 in Forest Hills; P.S. 98 and 221 in Douglaston; P.S. 811 and 94 in Little Neck; P.S. 41 and 130 in Bayside; P.S. 43 and 104 in Far Rockaway; P.S. 162 in Flushing and P.S. 48 in Jamaica.

According to the DEP, this campaign is an add-on to a 2009 initiative called “Turn It Off,” which reinforced and clarified the legal, financial, environmental and health impacts of vehicle idling.

DEP’s Director of Communications Chris Gilbride said that agency inspectors are going to be monitoring the vehicles in those areas and said that if people are idling for more than a minute near schools or for more than three minutes in other locations, they will be fined $350 for the violation.

DEP officials used public health data that was available for every region of the city from a survey that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted recently.

The DEP looked at the statistics and focused on the areas where there were high rates of people with asthma and then narrowed in on the schools. They also worked with the Department of Transportation to install one-minute idling signs for drivers so they are aware.

Then, DEP officials did surveillance and observed if there was idling taking place at each location. In order to raise awareness of this campaign and this issue, DEP officials stood outside of public schools and handed out flyers to parents, teachers and staff while 1,400 flyers were sent to parent coordinators for them to send out.

Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said that the “Stop Idling” campaign is going to help produce and keep the environment eco-friendly, which will allow for a healthier lifestyle for not just kids and their parents, but for everyone else who has asthma.

“Reducing traffic and emissions from vehicles and other sources will benefit not only children with asthma, but all New Yorkers with chronic heart and lung conditions,” he said.

 

Oakland Lake Park path to receive much-needed work


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Oakland Park

It took nearly two decades, but the makeover is almost complete.

The Parks Department announced plans for a $1.6 million remodeling of the pathway around Oakland Lake Park at a recent Community Board 11 meeting, ending a 16-year initiative to revitalize the park and allowing locals to finally enjoy the wetland.

“I’m very relieved,” said Jerry Iannece, chair of Community Board 11. “We are getting completion on a project we’ve been working on for almost two decades.”

The Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] spent years rebuilding and cleaning the ecosystem of the lake and created a park booming with wildlife for locals to enjoy, except there was no dry path to walk on.

The trail is flooded and overrun with mud and grime, making for an unstable surface that is difficult to walk through and spoils footwear, say park-goers.

“Oakland Park is a natural wonder,” said Vince Tabone, general counsel of the Friends of Oakland Lake and Ravine. “It’s a unique experience to take friends and family. It takes away from the full experience that you have mud on the pathway.”

The Oakland Lake Path Improvement plan involves building a new raised boardwalk around the lake and imputing drainage pipes under the path to prevent flooding from excess water running down the park’s slope, according to a Parks spokesperson.

The agency expects to start the project by spring 2013 after a review by the Department of Environmental Conservation and awarding a private contractor the bid.

It should be ready for residents within a year of this process, according to representatives from the department.

No one is more proud about the new path than Iannece, who is running for the 25th Assembly District seat. He has been leading the charge to protect the park since 1996 when he was president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association.

With the completion of the walkway set for the near future, Baysiders can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I could bring my kids here and we could do the nature walk,” said Bayside resident Jorge Chong. “It’s the only park around here with a lake.”

 

Board approves 7 percent water rate hike


| brennison@queenscourier.com

For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents’ water bill will swell.

The seven-member water board approved a 7 percent hike in water rates at a vote Friday morning.

“The 7 percent 2013 fiscal year rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and is 25 percent lower than the increase projected at this time last year,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland.

The increase will add more than $60 per year to the average one family home’s water bill.

“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by 7 percent, than we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.

At the meeting, the DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the DEP to perform projects despite receiving no funds. That is the primary driver of the rates, the agency said.

This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.

Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.

“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”

In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.

The new rate will go into effect on July 1.

 

Water rate hike would soak residents


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Politicians and residents are worried that another year of swelling water bills will leave denizens drowning.

For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents will be paying more for their water bill if the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rate increase is adopted.

Assemblymember David Weprin called the hikes “déjà vu all over again,” comparing them to an additional property tax.

“Our proposed seven percent rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and shows that DEP is doing everything in our power to try and keep rates in check while still delivering a product that city residents can take pride in every time they turn on the tap,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Though any rate increase is difficult in these economic conditions, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

The seven percent hike will add more than $60 per year to the average one-family home’s water bill.

“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by seven percent, then we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a sparsely-attended public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.

Goldfeder authored a bill to cap annual water rate increases at four percent a year for cities with populations over 1 million.

A Weprin-sponsored bill, also in the Assembly, would limit increases to no more than five percent annually, or the rate of inflation.

A DEP representative at the hearing said that capping increases was not an option because of the many costs that are beyond the agency’s control.

The DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the agency to perform projects despite receiving no funds.

This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.

Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood in 2005, was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.

“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”

In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.

The seven-member water board, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will vote on the increase on Friday, May 4. If approved, it will go into effect on July 1.

“There has to come a time where even a city agency or a board of mayoral appointees says ‘I think we’ve pushed out citizens a little too far,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran.  “Maybe it’s time to give them a break for a change.”