Tag Archives: East River

Attorney postpones $25M lawsuit as Avonte Oquendo’s family awaits test results


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 2:52

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

As tests are underway to determine if the human remains and clothing found in College Point belong to missing teen Avonte Oquendo, the family’s lawyer has decided to hold back on the lawsuit until the results are known.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police also found jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said. Another arm and a skull were additionally found over the weekend. As of Monday, the search is continuing at the scene in College Point. 

Police said most of the body has been recovered.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s family is still remaining hopeful, even though the developing investigation have been “weakening” for them, said Perecman.

“They’re a strong group so they’re doing the best they can,” said Perecman. “A small window has opened up of recognition of the grim reality. But they are still holding on hope.”

Perecman said they hope to have the test results by Wednesday.

He initially said on Friday that he would be filing a lawsuit Monday, focused against the Department of Education and school safety, seeking $25 million. Yet now he said he will be holding off with the lawsuit until the test results come in because the “nature of the lawsuit could change.”

The autistic teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

 

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LIC community voices outrage against upcoming No. 7 train suspensions


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City residents and business owners are telling the MTA enough is enough.

The No. 7 train will soon be going through another round of suspensions causing it to not run in parts of western Queens and Manhattan for more than a dozen weekends this year, starting in the end of February, according to a notice from the MTA.

This news again upset residents, business owners and local politicians who gathered in front of the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue subway station on Friday to tell the MTA they are fed up with the constant disruptions and the lack of notice.

“Real people’s lives are affected in real ways here, this is not a game,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is about human beings, they’re trying to survive and the MTA is trying to kill us. We’ve got to stop this now.”

From February through July, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized, the transit agency said. There are nine tentative weekend shutdowns scheduled for August through November.

Business owners are tired of potential financial losses, residents are sick of longer commutes and local politicians just want the MTA to finally listen to their ideas and communicate with the neighborhood.

“It outrageous and all we are asking for is the opportunity to be heard, to present some common sense ideas that we have presented to them year after year after year,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who has suggested the MTA offer a shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city. “The MTA needs to listen to us once and for all.”

Rebecca Trent, LIC resident and owner of The Creek and The Cave on Jackson Avenue, said the area has grown by 500 percent and the suspension will only make business owners’ jobs harder.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive this, I do not know and neither do many of my neighbors,” Trent said holding back tears. “What they are trying to do to this neighborhood is disgusting, we deserve better, enough is enough.”

Along with the shuttle service through the Midtown tunnel, Trent also said that in order to compensate the Long Island City community for the “irresponsible shutdowns,” the MTA should give local businesses, who will suffer, free ad space at the E and G subway stations and on the trains.

Richard Mazda, artistic director for The Secret Theatre, said he has had to put up with the disruptions to his business every single year and has faced problems during the annual LIC Arts Open festival, with artists and friends not being able to attend.

“You must have known that you were going to do this work, you have stage managed the release of this information so that we couldn’t fight you, but we will,” Mazda said to the MTA. “This is like the worst movie you have ever seen.”

The latest round of work, including continued installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC), replacement of critical track panels and reconstruction inside the Steinway Tube under the East River, is expected to modernize, improve a fortify the Flushing No. 7 line, according to the MTA. The work will also include tunnel duct reconstruction and replacement and improvements on components damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the No. 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “We have made every effort to schedule these project simultaneously to get as much work done as we can during these periods.”

 

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Queens legislators balk at plans to toll East River bridges


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A plan to reduce five Queens bridge fares by nearly half is not worth tolling free city crossings, some borough lawmakers say.

Under a proposal by transportation coalition, Move NY, drivers in the cash lane would have to pay $7.50 one way and $15 round trip to travel across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges. 

It would also cost the same amount to cross 60th Street in Manhattan, north and southbound.

As a trade-off, E-ZPass tolls on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges would be lowered by 47 percent. Cash fares on those bridges would go down by 33 percent.

“We toll nearly every single crossing between every borough in the five boroughs of New York City already, yet we’re giving over half a million folks a free ride,” said Move NY Director Alex Matthiessen. “It’s not fair to transit riders and certainly not fair to other drivers, who are paying through the nose in tolls.”

The electronic tolling plan, which would require no booths, would raise $1.5 billion in net revenue toward improving the state’s mass transit infrastructure, create 35,000 new jobs and restore bus service cut in 2010, Matthiessen said.

Motorists paying cash would be billed by mail, easing gridlock by dispersing traffic throughout the city, according to Matthiessen and Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

But some Queens legislators balked at the idea.

“I am skeptical about tolling the free bridges because once the free bridges are tolled and the infrastructure is in place, we all know from experience that it would be very hard to reverse that,” said Assemblymember David Weprin.

The plan also failed to get support from Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who have been fighting to eliminate the $3.75 cash toll residents have to pay on the Cross Bay Bridge to enter the Rockaways.

“Imposing tolls on motorists on bridges that are currently free is not the right way to go,” Ulrich said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not ‘take this or that.’”

While the Cross Bay Bridge toll has been a “major thorn” in the community’s side, Addabbo said the swap is not enough.

“At this point, cutting it in half would ease the pain by half,” he said. “It would still be half the pain.”

It also costs residents on the peninsula the same amount to get into Brooklyn on the Gil Hodges.

State Senator Tony Avella said the rates, while discounted in the first year, would only increase annually. He plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit tolls on East River bridges.

“The two things for sure in this world are death and taxes,” he said.

Move NY is led by Sam Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner. The ambitious tolling plan is in its drafting stage, officials said, and still requires public input.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have tolls at all,” Hems said. “But, unfortunately, we do and we have this inequity right now.”

THE COURIER/File photo by Walter Karling

 

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Sandy changes Hunter’s Point library plans


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Exterior_roof_terrace

Fear of another Sandy is altering plans for the Queens Library’s upcoming Hunter’s Point destination.

The land supporting the 21,500-square-foot facility, to be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue on the banks of the East River, will be graded an extra foot higher to avoid any possible flooding that could occur during another Sandy-type storm. While initial plans already placed the structure above the 100-year-flood line, library officials, architects and members of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) agreed an extra measure of caution was necessary.

“The building hasn’t been built yet,” said Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King. “There’s no reason not to make it even higher.”

According to a spokesperson from the DDC, the library, which will sit 150 feet from the shoreline, will be built to withstand dangerous weather, as are other Queens Library facilities.

“Since the lowest floor of the library will be above the level of the floodwaters from Sandy, it is not likely that the building would be damaged by a similar storm,” said the spokesperson. “In addition, the building is designed to withstand winds considerably stronger than Sandy’s. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the project team decided to increase the elevation of the lowest floor by half a foot.”

According to King, none of the branches of the Queens Library existing in the hard hit areas of Arverne, the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel and Seaside suffered structural damage. Aside from broken glass, minor flooding and damage to interior equipment and books, the buildings remained intact. The Broad Channel branch had been graded up, similarly to what will be done at the new Hunter’s Point location, which kept the building from experiencing as much damage as the other branches.

“Anything that could have been done had been done in the sense that any precaution that had been taken when they were built near the beach was taken,” said King. “There are no basements, they were built on one level. They were as safe as they could have been but it was a very extraordinary circumstance.”

Changed to the building’s plan will not affect the timeline, cost or the design at this stage of construction, said the DDC spokesperson.

The structure will feature a cyber-center, roof terrace and communal garden as well as separate reading spaces for adults, teens and children. According to King, the building will place an emphasis on environmental preservation, implementing ecologically-sound features to create an entirely carbon neutral structure.

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Today’s Forecast

Thursday: A slight chance of showers after 3pm. Cloudy, with a high near 56. West wind 9 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Thursday night: A slight chance of showers before 10pm. Cloudy, with a low around 47. West wind 9 to 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Limited subway service returns this morning

Limited subway service will return to New York City tomorrow morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. Fourteen lines will be providing partial service days after the system sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history. There is no indication as of yet what lines or stops will be in service. There will be no subway service between 34th St in Midtown and Downtown Brooklyn. Read more: Queens Courier

Mayor mandates car passenger minimums in Manhattan

Cars with less than three passengers will be virtually barred from entering Manhattan, Mayor Bloomberg announced today, in a desperate bid to relief gridlocked city streets. This post-Hurricane Sandy rule will be enforced from 6 a.m. to midnight tomorrow and Friday. Read more: NY Post

Old Howard Beach residents wonder why they weren’t evacuated

As the flood waters from Hurricane Sandy ebb back in to Jamaica Bay, some are questioning why residents of Howard Beach were not evacuated. Howard Beach lies on the edge of Evacuation Zone A, which, for Queens, includes the Rockaways, parts of Long Island City, Broad Channel and nearby Hamilton Beach. Read more: Queens Courier

Bellevue Hospital evacuating patients after power outage

Bellevue Hospital began evacuating hundreds of patients Wednesday after fuel pumps swamped by 17 million gallons of water from superstorm Sandy conked out, putting backup generators in peril. The decision to clear out capped two challenging days at the city’s flagship public hospital — where lights flickered, elevators shut down, plumbing failed and the National Guard had to man a bucket brigade. Read more: Daily News

Prominent Queens attorney and philanthropist John G. Nicholas dies at age 79

John G. Nicholas, a prominent Queens lawyer and philanthropist, died on Oct. 15. He was 79. His family said the cause of death was heart failure. “He was a true humanitarian and he placed his faith in people,” said his son Charles Nicholas, 51, an attorney from Syosset, L.I. “He was a defender of the oppressed.” Read more: Daily News

Riverview: A restaurant with a view


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alex DiBlasi

For a room with a view and captivating cuisine, Riverview is the borough’s best. Overlooking the breathtaking Manhattan skyline, the upscale Long Island City restaurant provides top-notch eats against a stunning backdrop. The space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing diners to take in the gorgeous cityscape while indulging in its perfect plates.

We began with a goat cheese salad — warm, lightly fried goat cheese rounds over delicate mesclun and garnished with ripe cherry tomatoes and crispy apple skin, tossed in a honey balsamic dressing. The salad was fresh, light and perfect for summer — definitely a dish we would go back for again and again.

The scallops, a signature Riverview appetizer, were absolutely delicious. Sautéed and dressed with a cauliflower puree and tangerine syrup, they were gobbled up as soon as they hit the table.

We sampled one of the restaurant’s pizzettas, topped with prosciutto, spinach, mushrooms, mozzarella and ricotta. The flavors balanced each other spectacularly and the fresh ingredients made for an incredible pie.

The lobster ravioli was a favorite. Hearty pasta pillows stuffed with lobster meat and served in a saffron cream sauce were so tasty, we couldn’t resist diving in with a spoon.

For our entrees, we tasted the duck and the salmon. The duck was incredibly savory, cooked in a honey lavender sauce and accompanied by sweet potato mash and sautéed spinach. The flavors worked wonderfully together, providing an excitingly new dish unlike anything we had seen before. The salmon was tender and flaky, joined by tasty roasted beets and asparagus.

For dessert, we sampled both the house-made crème brulee and tiramisu. The crème brulee was rich and hinted with notes of orange while the tiramisu was light with just the right amount of coffee essence.

The meal was spectacular and the view was incredible. We can’t wait to head back to Riverview for one of their famous weekend brunches, enjoyed on their gorgeous outdoor patio while watching boats on the East River sail by.

Macy’s, local pols to meet about moving fireworks back to East River


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

liducks fireworks2

Macy’s executives are planning on meeting with local politicians, including Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., to discuss moving its Fourth of July fireworks back to the East River. The meeting was scheduled for today, but was cancelled, said Vallone.

This July 4 was the fourth year in a row that the Macy’s fireworks display was on the Hudson River, leaving nowhere in Queens to see fireworks on the holiday.

Joining Vallone will be New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and State Senator Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn. To help their case, they will present Macy’s with a petition to return the fireworks to the East River. Since it was launched on June 28, over 3,000 people have signed the petition, said Squadron spokesperson Amy Spitalnick.

Vallone has been urging the department store to return the fireworks to the East River for years, but with de Blasio and Squadron’s help, Macy’s has finally agreed to sit down and discuss the move. “The East River is the heart of New York City and the people of Queens and Brooklyn should have front row seats,” he said. “Having it here on the East River helps Queens and Brooklyn businesses.”

Though Vallone would prefer that the fireworks were on the East River each year, Macy’s is likely to agree to alternating them between the Hudson and East rivers.

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

DOH to begin spraying for West Nile Virus Monday

Starting Monday, the city Health Department will be spraying parts of the five boroughs to fight the West Nile virus. Helicopters will spray larvicide on marshes and other non-residential areas of Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx. Read more: [NY1]

Hallets Point project could break ground as early as fall 2013 

A proposed, billion-dollar residential and retail project on a desolate stretch of Astoria’s waterfront could break ground as early as fall 2013 — much to the delight of local community leaders. The Hallets Point project, which would create about 2,200 units of housing in seven residential towers, a supermarket and a park along the East River, is expected to begin the city review process within the next few months, a project official said. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

UPDATE: Reports: deadly Queens SUV shooting erupted over woman 

A dispute at a city nightclub – reportedly over a woman – seems to have sparked the execution-style killings of three men in Queens. The New York City Police Department says at least 63 shots were fired at a Jeep Grand Cherokee Saturday morning on 144th Avenue in Springfield Gardens. Three men who were inside were killed, a fourth was injured. Police say the gun may have been an AK-47 assault rifle. Read more: [NY1] 

Cop guns down pit bull when responding to domestic dispute call at a Queens home 

An NYPD detective shot and killed a pit bull when it charged at him while the officer was responding to a domestic-violence call at a Queens home, police said. While the detective was at the house on 112th St. near 107th Ave. in Ozone Park, the dog ran toward him and the officer pulled out his weapon and fired once at the canine, police sources said. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Lawsuit accuses Qns. neighbor of scaring away home buyers — so they could snatch it up on the cheap

That’s a hell of a way to bring down the price of a home. A Queens couple are accused of being the neighbors from hell, scaring away potential buyers of the home next door just so they could snatch it up on the cheap, according to a lawsuit filed last week. Ozone Park homeowners Charles and Karen Neglia say their neighbors, Guido and Milagros Florentin, are spreading lies to keep rival buyers at bay. Read more: [New York Post] 

Queens shut out, Macy’s fireworks again over Hudson River


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

For the fourth summer in a row, there will be no Fourth of July fireworks on the East River, and no place for Queens’ residents to see them in the borough. Instead, the 36th Annual Macy’s July 4 Fireworks will again take place on the Hudson River.

Restaurants near Long Island City’s Gantry Plaza State Park, a popular spot for viewing fireworks when they were on the East River, have seen the effects of the fireworks’ relocation. Since they moved, restaurants have fewer customers on July 4. Though some report greater differences than others do.

At Riverview Restaurant & Lounge there has been a significant difference for the last three Independence Days. Located just across from Gantry Park, at 2-01 50th Avenue, it was a tradition for people to come to the restaurant and watch the fireworks, said Riverview’s event coordinator, Doris Nowillo. Whether inside or outside, people could see them because of the restaurant’s large windows.

When the fireworks were on the East River, about 200 people would come to the restaurant, but now it is less crowded than an average night, she said.

Even after three years, people still call the restaurant, not knowing that the fireworks are only on the Hudson this year. After we tell them, they hang up and don’t make a reservation, said Nowillo.

“[July 4] would triple our business,” said Mimi McKenna, a hostess at The Waterfront Crabhouse (2-03 Borden Avenue). There used to be people lined up outside waiting for a table, but for the past few years, no one has had to wait to be seated, she added.

Italian restaurant Bella Via has seen about a 20 percent drop in customers since the fireworks relocated, but still does good business on the holiday, said owner Sal Polito.

Though the restaurant no longer has as many customers from other Queens neighborhoods, as it did when the fireworks were on the East River, it’s still busier on July 4 than other nights, said Polito.

Ryan Linchow, manager of Pan-Asian fusion restaurant Shi, at 4720 Center Boulevard, just across from Gantry Park, said that since the fireworks moved his restaurant has also had a 20 percent drop in customers on the Fourth of July. But “last year was still really busy,” he added.

It’s not just local restaurants that are pushing for the fireworks to return to the East River. “If there was a petition [to bring the fireworks back to the East River], all of Long Island City would sign it,” said Nowillo of Riverview Restaurant and a 37-year L.I.C resident.

Nowillo got her wish. On June 28, State Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district includes parts of Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced an online petition demanding that the fireworks return to the East River. Squadron and de Blasio, along with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, will meet with Macy’s in the coming weeks to move the fireworks back to the East River in 2013.

“What we all were told was a one-year hiatus on the Hudson has now become the new norm—leaving more than half the city out of the July 4 celebration,” said de Blasio at a press conference on June 28. “We look forward to sitting down with Macy´s to find a way to bring the show back to the East River, where more New Yorkers can be a part of it.”

In early April, Squadron along with other Brooklyn and Queens politicians, including Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who represents Long Island City, sent a letter to Macy’s chairman, president and CEO, Terry Lundgren, urging him to bring the fireworks back to the East River this July 4. But they couldn’t convince the department store to make the move this year.

 

On July 3, following the 7:10 p.m. Mets game vs. the Phillies, the Mets will have its annual fireworks night at Citi Field.

 

 

 

Headlines from around the web


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Teen dies after East River plunge

A 15-year-old boy died after falling into the choppy currents of the East River last night, sources said. Police received a 911 call at 8:15 p.m. for a teen who fell from the promenade near the FDR Drive and East 105th Street, into the chilly water, cops said. NYPost 

 

‘Killer’ in Bronx girls 1998 murder eyed in 4 other rapes: source

The monster busted for the vicious 1998 rape and strangulation of a 14-year-old Bronx runaway is now the prime suspect in up to four other sex attacks in the borough, The Post has learned. “We’re looking at him for at least three, and possibly four other rapes” during the same time period, a law-enforcement source said of James David Martin. The fiend pleaded not guilty yesterday to the murder, rape and sodomy of Marleny Cruz, 14, on Feb. 23, 1998. Prosecutor Rachel Singer told the judge that Martin, 40, made videotaped statements to cops admitting he’d arranged a date with the girl at his mother’s apartment. NYPost

 

Stop-and-frisk incients on rise in the city

New statistics show the number of police stop-and-frisks over the first three months of the year is more than 10 percent higher than the same quarter last year. More than 203,000 street stops were made by police from January through March, compared to 183,000 stops in the period last year. NY1

 

Pettitte returns to pitch for the Yankees

Andy Pettitte is retaking the mound at Yankee Stadium this afternoon for his first Major League Baseball game in a year-and-a-half. The 39-year-old left-handed pitcher retired after the 2010 season but signed with the team in the off-season and spent the last few weeks getting ready in the minor leagues. NY1

 

Estranged husband and wife run against each other for state assembly seat

The War of the Roses is erupting on Long Island, where a Nassau County man is set to challenge his estranged wife for state Assembly. Mark Schimel has been given the Nassau County GOP nomination to seek the Great Neck seat that currently belongs to his estranged wife — Democrat Michelle Schimel. NYDailyNews

More housing coming to Astoria?


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Halletts Point - Waterfront Park - by James Corner Field Operations

The proposed development of a rarely traversed section of Astoria may “point” to significant upgrades in amenities for the neighborhood.

The Lincoln Equities Group, a real estate company based in New Jersey, hopes to build seven residential towers, dubbed Hallets Point, a supermarket and a waterfront park along the East River.

Hallets Point, which would be near the Astoria Houses, would create roughly 2,200 units of housing. Approximately 1,800 of the units would be market rate, with 400 to 500 – or 20 percent – reserved for affordable housing.

The privately-financed project, which is expected to create 1,400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, has an estimated cost of over $1 billion.

“This project will bring much-needed economic development to a section of Queens that badly needs it and will incorporate things like a supermarket, affordable housing and new parkland to greatly improve the Hallets Point community,” said Andrew Moesel, a representative of the project. “Astoria Houses is a large development, but the peninsula itself is a collection of rundown warehouses and mechanical shops. There aren’t many things adding to the community, but this development, along with bringing new residents to the area, will bring the much needed amenities this community has not had for many years.”

The public review process for the project is expected to begin next year; however Hallets Point, which will offer panoramic views of northern Manhattan, has reportedly received mostly favorable reactions.

“I’m excited about the development, because I think it is long overdue and the area is most definitely in need of redressing,” said Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Residents Association. “This development will create a state of connection between the waterfront and the rest of western Queens. But I am most excited about the supermarket, because that has been an absentee in our community for over 25 years.”

Senator Michael Gianaris, who is “cautiously optimistic” about Hallets point, says his main concern is ensuring the transportation infrastructure of the neighborhood is able to sustain the additional residents.

According to the senator, shuttle bus service to the Astoria Boulevard subway station is among the proposed solutions to the increase in traffic.

“If done properly, this can be a development that benefits the entire community, while creating affordable housing, which is in desperate need,” said Gianaris. “But the devil is in the details, so I want make sure that as we go forward, all [the developer’s] promises are kept.”

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., whose father’s law firm is acting as a consultant to the developers, says the potential strain the buildings could place on community services has prevented him from fully committing to the project.

“I’m undecided at the moment,” said the councilmember, who claims every other elected official and community group has supported the project. “It has a lot of pros and a lot of cons. The pros are that it will bring needed development to an underserved area and will provide amenities, like a beautiful waterfront park. The cons are that there will be a very large series of buildings that will place a strain on the services to the community, like transportation and schools. It’s going to be such a neighborhood changer. Whatever ends up happening, a lot of people are going to be happy and almost as many people are going to be upset.”