Tag Archives: Gary Giordano

LIRR bridge work to close Glendale street


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Tom Walsh

A portion of a Glendale street is closed as the Long Island Rail Road reconstructs an overpass above it.

The LIRR is making repairs to the railroad bridge that runs above 65th Street between Otto Road and Shaler Avenue in Glendale, according to Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5.

The tracks, which are owned by the LIRR, are leased for use by New York and Atlantic Railway (NY&A). According to NY&A President Paul Victor, the project will require the entire bridge to be replaced. What makes this project more difficult is that it must be done “under traffic,” which means train operations will not stop during the construction.

Only one of the four tracks will be out of service at a time, according to Victor, which will allow NY&A’s freight trains to continue to operate during construction.

“The street is going to probably be closed for a two month period, give or take,” Victor said.

Giordano told the Ridgewood Times in a phone interview that he received verbal confirmation from the LIRR that “in all likelihood, the project will not be completed before the end of calendar year 2015.”

Emergency vehicles and residents should be prepared to use Cypress Hills Street or 80th Street as alternate routes while the bridge is closed, Giordano said.

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CB 5 sounds off on waste-by-rail company’s permits


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

After learning of the extended time frame for public comments regarding two waste-by-rail permits, members of Community Board 5 (CB 5) collectively voted against them during its meeting Wednesday night at Christ the King High School in Middle Village.

The board unanimously recommended denying the renewal of permits for One World Recycling Inc. and Coastal Distribution, which operate through the Fresh Pond Rail Yard that runs through parts of Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood, until certain stipulations are met.

One World Recycling submitted a permit renewal and modification application to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), requesting to increase their daily throughput from 370 tons to a total of 1,100 tons.

The permit submitted by Coastal Distribution requests to expand the type of waste it transports to include commercial and residential waste.

“The big problem we have is that somehow the idea of mixing commercial solid waste and construction and demolition debris…we disagree with that,” said Vincent Arcuri, chair of CB 5. “We also had a concern over the years, and continue to be concerned about the lack of solid covers on the construction and demolition rail cars.”

The current method for sealing construction and demolition debris in rail cars is by using a mesh lining to cover the rail car. The mesh leaves the waste vulnerable to rain and pests, as well as subjecting residents of the communities the rail cars pass through to dust, odors and vectors.

“We had success with the Department of Sanitation and them getting Waste Management to put the, what I would call, the putrescible or municipal solid waste in sealed containers,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5. “But the construction and demolition debris continues to move back and forth in our neighborhoods.”

Another issue raised by Arcuri about waste-by-rail operations is the lack of control of pollution from the rail cars traveling through the communities in CB 5.

“We’ve been working with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration), the state and the CURES (Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions) group to basically upgrade all of the engines in the Long Island Rail Road’s transportation department,” Arcuri said.

The official stance of CB 5 is that “putrescible solid waste garbage should be transported separately in sealed containers as Waste Management currently does in its agreement to transport city garbage in sealed, odorless containers,” Arcuri said.

“Construction and demolition debris should also be loaded and transported in sealed, odorless containers that will totally prevent dust and odors from escaping,” he continued. “There should not be a renewal of, or granting of any permits to these two companies unless the above mentioned items are accomplished. And these companies should certainly not be permitted to expand their operations until these stipulations are included in their permits by New York State DEC.”

The board’s next step is to send their recommendation to NYSDEC before Aug. 9, the deadline for the public comment period.

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EXCLUSIVE: Councilwoman envisions light rail line between Glendale and LIC


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

BY ANTHONY GIUDICE AND ROBERT POZARYCKI

Commuters in Glendale and Middle Village deal with limited public transportation options. Most residents in both communities live a mile or farther away from the nearest subway station, and local bus lines through the area have a reputation for being slow and overcrowded.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley hopes to change this situation with a plan to introduce light rail service between Glendale and Long Island City on the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch, which currently offers only freight service west of Jamaica. She hopes to pitch the idea to the Department of City Planning in the coming weeks.

In an exclusive interview with the Ridgewood Times on Monday at her district office, Crowley said a new diesel-powered light rail line would address the transportation needs in Glendale and surrounding communities. The light rail line could also encourage redevelopment of underutilized industrially zoned areas adjacent to the line for business or residential purposes.

“A light rail is inexpensive, it’s clean and it’s quiet,” Crowley said. “I think an ideal plan would be to start [at The Shops at Atlas Park] where you’re not necessarily in the backs of the people’s yard or you don’t have at-grade street level crossing.”

Up until March 1998, the Montauk branch offered passenger service between Long Island City and Jamaica and stations in Glendale, Ridgewood and Maspeth. Passenger service was discontinued at that time due to lack of ridership; a New York Times report noted that just two passengers arrived and departed daily at the Glendale station, located along Edsall Avenue and 73rd Street, near an entrance to All Faiths Cemetery.

Crowley doesn’t suggest rebuilding the former Glendale station, but rather creating a new stop at The Shops at Atlas Park, noting that the shopping centerwhere her district office is also located—could serve as an active park-and-ride option for local residents.

“If we were able to get a rail here, people could potentially use this spot as park-and-ride, or the community around us could take a bus to the train or walk to the train,” Crowley said. “It provides options for public transportation that would effectively get more cars off our streets.”

Local civic activists have long advocated for returning public transit to the Montauk branch; members of the Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees recently called for rebuilding the former Fresh Pond station located at the corner of Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue on the Ridgewood/Glendale border.

Crowley, however, suggested building a new station a short distance to the east of the Fresh Pond stop near the Metro Mall, which could connect riders to the M train at its Metropolitan Avenue terminus.

“There could potentially be inter-borough connections here,” Crowley explained. “If we were to have the first stop over by the Metro Mall, then you could transfer to the M train and get quickly into Brooklyn.”

She also pointed to an area near Flushing Avenue in Maspeth as another potential station site, noting that it’s close to the connecting LIRR Bushwick branch, another freight rail line that Crowley suggested could potentially also accommodate light rail service.

From Long Island City, riders could connect to the 7, E and M lines at stations located within walking distance of the Hunterspoint Avenue station where the Montauk line terminates.

Crowley noted, however, that these plans are in the infancy stages and there is currently no estimated cost or timetable for this project. In addition to meeting with the Department of City Planning, she would further research the idea in meeting with operators of light rail systems in New Jersey cities.

Regarding costs, Crowley suggested the expense would be minimal compared to large-scale MTA capital projects such as the 7 line extension in Manhattan. The MTA—which is requesting billions in funding for capital improvements—would need funds to build the light rail stations and purchase cars and equipment.

The LIRR currently leases the Montauk line west of Jamaica to New York and Atlantic Railway exclusively for its freight rail operations based out of Glendale’s Fresh Pond Railyard. When asked if this would pose a complication to her light rail plan, Crowley remarked that other cities allow light rail to operate on freight tracks, and that both functions could coexist here.

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano told the Ridgewood Times in a phone interview Wednesday that the idea has “merit,” but there could be opposition from residents living near the Montauk line.

“Those who might not be that pleased with it are the people who own homes in east Glendale,” he said. “That’s the difficult part, but we need to get ourselves out of our cars as often as possible and use public transportation. In that sense, it can be very good.”

The CB 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees would likely review Crowley’s plan and may also hold a public hearing on the matter, Giordano said.

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Ridgewood march against proposed MTA bus rerouting plan


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy the MTA

Members of the United We Stand Neighborhood Association, a newly formed civic group on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border, will be holding a march and rally in Ridgewood this Saturday to oppose the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) proposed plan to reroute the B26 and Q58 buses.

The MTA’s proposal would take these two buses off of Wyckoff Avenue and instead reroute them onto Ridgewood Place. The MTA cites dangerous turning conditions at the three-way intersection at Palmetto Street and Myrtle and Wyckoff avenues as well as heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic as reasons for the proposed changes.

This location has been the scene of many traffic-related injuries, several involving MTA buses, including the fatal accidents that killed Ella Kottick Bandes in 2013 and Edwin Torres in 2014.

“The whole idea of rerouting buses in the area of Myrtle and Wyckoff was due to the need to make traffic conditions safer for pedestrians,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. “Unfortunately, two people were killed in vehicular accidents at that intersection. The decision on which blocks to reroute the buses to was studied by the MTA. This was done to save lives. The whole reasoning was for pedestrian safety.”

The United We Stand Neighborhood Association was formed in April of this year to combat this rerouting.

“We are a newly formed group,” said Flor Ramos, member of United We Stand Neighborhood Association, in a phone interview with the Ridgewood Times. “We got together mainly because of the situation with the bus rerouting. Nobody wants those buses around there.”

Protesters will assemble at the intersection of Putnam and Wyckoff avenues at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. They will begin their protest at noon and march along Putnam Avenue to Ridgewood Place, ending on Palmetto Street, which is the proposed new route for the buses.

“Now it’s totally going to affect our quality of life,” Ramos said. “There is the noise issue and the fumes. Now you will have double the noise from screeching breaks and compressed air making that horrible bus noise echoing through the streets. We won’t be able to leave our windows open. These are all residential house along this new route. Wyckoff Avenue is all commercial.”

Currently, the Q58 travels down Putnam Avenue, turns right onto Wyckoff Avenue and right again on Palmetto Street, where the Ridgewood Terminal is located. The B26 travels straight down Wyckoff Avenue to Palmetto Street to the Ridgewood Terminal.

“That intersection is the beginning of our commercial district,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, who supports the bus route changes. “Since day one, we have been working with the city for the mayor’s Vision Zero plan and have advocated for improvements in that area.”

The proposed changes would have the Q58 turn right onto Ridgewood Place, then right again on Palmetto Street, while the B26 would turn left onto Putnam Avenue, right onto Ridgewood Place and right onto Palmetto Street.

“Overall, the buses will be making five new turns with this new route,” Ramos explained. “The B26 will add three more turns and the Q58 will add two more turns. They will be taking the accidents from there and bring them to the new location. That is going to cause a lot more problems.”

Members of United We Stand Neighborhood Association believe that moving the bus routes to Ridgewood Place would put more children and elderly at risk since the streets of the proposed reroute are very narrow, which would make it difficult for a bus to turn.

“Sending out a bus through there, all they’re doing is bringing that problem to our streets,” Ramos said. “There is nothing they can do about making the streets wider.”

“You have wider streets on Wyckoff and Palmetto,” Ramos continued. “There is about a 5-foot difference in width. The sidewalks on Wyckoff are much wider, giving bus drivers a better view of pedestrians passing through there.”

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Pilot program promoting public transportation launched in CB 5 area


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy NYC DOT flickr

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) pilot Go Smart NYC program has launched in the areas of Community Board 5 (CB 5).

Go Smart NYC is designed to increase residents’ use of public transportation, biking, carpooling, or walking in order to reduce the traffic congestion and emissions caused by single-occupancy motor vehicle trips.

The DOT chose CB 5 as the pilot area due to its population, proximity to public transportation options and bike lanes, walkability, as well as its high level of car ownership.

“The congestion and traffic in our communities can sometimes be unbearable. Go Smart NYC plans to alleviate that with the click of a button,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said. “Walking, biking, public transportation and carpooling are all viable urban modes of travel and I look forward to this program’s roll out and working with the DOT to make it as effective as possible for everyone.”

Residents can sign up for the program through the Go Smart NYC website. After registering, participants can order a free, personalized travel toolkit, with information about walking, biking, public transit, carpooling and Vision Zero safety and education materials.

“I am excited that Community Board 5 has been selected for the kickoff to the city’s launch of Go Smart NYC,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5. “Middle Village, Ridgewood, Maspeth and Glendale are home to a wealth of local businesses, and this program encourages residents to shop and explore these neighborhoods by foot, transit and bike. The more we can walk or use public transit, the better off we will be as a society.”

Registered participants will be able to log their trips online in order to earn discount rewards at over 20 local businesses that are partnering with the DOT to help encourage sustainable travel choices and local shopping. To further enhance residents’ experiences with walking, biking or public transit, the DOT will assist the local community board in installing city benches, city racks, and a real-time bus information sign at an area bus stop.

“The Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and Ridgewood Local Development Corporation are delighted to be partners for DOT’s new innovative program Go Smart NYC,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue BID. “This is a win-win: increase of residents’ use of public transit, biking, carpooling or just plain walking will reduce traffic congestion. At the same time, it will encourage people to shop locally and support our merchants.”

Go Smart NYC will run in the areas of Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth until November. DOT is also looking at the possibility of expanding the program to other areas of the city in 2016, if the pilot is successful.

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Four-day Ridgewood street festival back on the calendar


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/file photo

Despite Community Board 5’s disapproval, the four-day Fresh Pond Road Street Festival will happen this September.

Lucy Dolce of the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens, which sponsors the annual fair, said Thursday that the Street Activity Permits Office (SAPO) granted approval of its application.

The festival will occur on four consecutive nights, Sept. 3 to 6, along a five-block stretch of Fresh Pond Road between Menahan and Woodbine streets. Back in March, Board 5 voted to recommend denial of a street fair permit for the festival over concerns regarding traffic and various quality-of-life issues.

Following the board’s vote, the organizers appealed their case to the SAPO, which makes the final determination on all street permits citywide. The Fresh Pond Road festival has been a late summer fixture in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, featuring a variety of games, rides, vendors and other attractions.

But the festival’s presence garnered stiff opposition from residents for myriad reasons, from traffic congestion and lost parking spots related to the road’s closure, to reports of disorderly behavior among patrons and refuse left behind on the roadway.

Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano confirmed the SAPO approval, noting that the office indicated the reasons the board gave for the license’s denial weren’t enough to shelve a festival that has occurred regularly since the mid-1990s.

Dolce charged that the allegations of unruly behavior at the fair were exaggerated and that the organizers worked to make sure Fresh Pond Road was swept clean immediately after each night’s festivities.

“We didn’t want any problems with the festival,” Dolce said. “But no matter what we did, it wasn’t right. No matter what I said or what we did to prove ourselves, it was never enough.”

As for parking and traffic concerns, Dolce sympathized with the situation but remarked that the four-day inconvenience was a small price to pay for a festival that helps support the community.

“They should be proud that in our community we can put together a four-day festival without any major incidents happening,” she said. “Do you think the police department would let us go forward if they thought something would go wrong?”

Giordano said the festival itself “has been a benefit in some ways, but members of the Ridgewood community who live near there have difficulties with the fair.”

“The fair, while it is enjoyable for many people, does — in the opinion of many community board members — put strains on the community” with regard to traffic, Giordano said. He noted that Fresh Pond Road, as one of the area’s main north-south arteries, is “a tougher block” to close than most other locations where street fairs are held, such as Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.

“At the same time, the federazione, to my knowledge, has used the funds they have earned for some good purposes,” he added.

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CB 5 committee considers stricter liquor license rules


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Bar and club owners seeking liquor licenses in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village may soon need to show Community Board 5 more than just their business credentials.

Members of the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Public Safety Committee met Monday and considered a proposal that would require new applicants to complete a written form stating their intentions with regard to their businesses.

Christina Wilkinson, an active member of the COMET (Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together) and the Juniper Park Civic (JPCA) associations, proposed the idea to the committee. This measure was introduced in response to the recent influx of bars, pubs and nightspots to Ridgewood and Bushwick.

According to Wilkinson, community boards 1 and 4 in Brooklyn have already adopted this practice in response to the rapid growth and popularity of their respective neighborhoods.

“At one point, Greenpoint was in the same boat that we’re in. They didn’t think it was going to be all that bad, and it got bad,” Wilkinson said. “I think we should be better prepared. Let’s learn from them. It’s working for them.”

Public Safety Committee Chair Robert Holden expressed support for the idea and asked District Manager Gary Giordano to discuss the issue with the Executive Committee. “We’re just trying to get more information,” he explained.

Newly appointed board member Alex Maureau agreed. “It’s also a good way for the local owners to get to know us, and vice versa,” he said.

Giordano voiced support for a shorter version of the written form. “I think it has a lot of merit,” he said. “We could certainly work out something.”

According to Giordano, the board can grant recommendations for or against liquor licenses. The board also notifies the 104th Precinct and Lt. George Hellmer, the precinct’s special operations coordinator, of establishments with a prior history of problems. The precinct, in turn, will notify the board of any prior arrests, summonses or felonies committed at establishments seeking licensing.

“I never want to be in a position to be okaying liquor licenses,” Giordano said. “In some cases, we have taken votes at community board meetings related to certain establishments that have been a problem. But we comment to the negative and I would prefer it that way.”

Under the current policy, prospective bar owners seeking liquor licenses must notify CB 5 30 days prior to applying for licensing from the State Liquor Authority.

Holden proposed that the extra form, if approved of by the Executive Board, be made available to bar owners as a PDF document on the board’s website. The agreement would be signed and submitted to the community board prior to seeking State Liquor Authority licensing.

P.O. Charles Sadler of the 104th Precinct Community Affairs Unit explained that he has adopted a “proactive instead of reactive” approach to new nightlife in the area. He said that he had personally visited five of Ridgewood’s newest bars, including The Monk and Onderdonk and Sons, in an effort to reach out to local bar owners.

Owners of each of the five establishments met with Sadler and other officers at a recent nightlife meeting hosted by the precinct. According to Sadler, all of the new bar owners and managers were made aware of the precinct’s regulations and guidelines, and all pledged respect and compliance.

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Local pol opposes liquor license for Maspeth’s Knockdown Center


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of The Knockdown Center/Ariana Page Russell

The Knockdown Center in Maspeth again seeks a full liquor license — and again faces strong opposition from a local politician and Community Board 5.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan wrote a letter to State Liquor Authority (SLA) Commissioners Jeanique Greene and Kevin Kim asking them to deny the new liquor license application from the arts venue at 52-19 Flushing Ave. during a recertification hearing held on Tuesday.

The SLA did not make a decision on the matter at the hearing; it will be considered again at its June session.

In the letter, Nolan wrote, “The community board and the Maspeth community have very serious concerns that their quality of life will be seriously diminished if this establishment is granted a liquor license. I support and strongly endorse their concerns and would ask that your agency once again reject the application at the recertification hearing.”

During their March 12, 2014, monthly meeting, Community Board 5 (CB 5) unanimously voted in opposition to granting the Knockdown Center a liquor license.

“Our position has not changed since we made our recommendation last year,” said CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano in an interview Wednesday.

Nolan went on to explain why she feels the Knockdown Center should not be granted a liquor license.

She noted that the center is currently located in the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), making the area better suited for a manufacturing or industrial business. The zoning was created to provide financial incentives to businesses that went into manufacturing. The Knockdown Center was previously a door factory.

“A study by the New York Industrial Retention Center supports this reasoning and claims that commercial businesses like the Knockdown Center can disrupt and ultimately lead to a breakdown of the zones,” Nolan wrote. “As a supporter of the IBZ, I would be very concerned by this proposed outcome.”

Nolan also mentioned that the center has repeatedly applied for a place of assembly permit to have as many as 5,000 people at their events, which could lead to hundreds, and possibly thousands, of visitors traveling through the community.

“With only three bus lines and a considerable distance from the train, the added volume of people will further strain the already limited transportation options residents have in Maspeth and the surrounding communities in Queens,” she said.

Nolan cited the Knockdown Center’s previous events where large groups of people gathered in the area, which has several residential homes and apartments. One such event took place on Nov. 11, 2014, when the Knockdown Center held a concert.

“Throughout the night, there were both large crowds present, customers sitting on stoops of nearby homes and allegedly public urination in the streets,” Nolan said. “Several residents called in noise complaints that were filed with the city’s 311 system.”

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Evergreen Park renovations celebrated at Glendale groundbreaking


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

City officials and civic leaders celebrated the start of Evergreen Park’s reconstruction during a ceremony Friday morning at the Glendale green space.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley joined Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and others to ceremonially break ground on renovations to the playground on the national observance of Arbor Day.

“It’s really appropriate, because it’s Arbor Day, that we have all of this green coming into this park,” Lewandowski said.

Construction on the park began in early April and is expected to take about one year to complete. The first phase of the park’s reconstruction will include replacing the underused bocce and shuffleboard courts with a garden-inspired playground, spray showers, new shrubs and plantings.

According to Lewandowski, the new playground, themed with the title “Play in the Garden,” will feature new spray showers with “large green misting leaves and directional jets and bubblers, in a field of leaves and vines.”

“It’s going to promote innovative play for toddlers and young children,” Lewandowski said. “This will be a really creative spot where kids can play. The days of the old concrete spray shower are gone. This will be much more interactive for children.”

Crowley allocated $1 million in funding for this first phase of the park’s reconstruction. The councilwoman considers Evergreen Park a “special place” as it’s where she used to play softball while growing up.

“This project is a long time coming,” Crowley said.

Community Board 5 was well represented at the affair in the form of Chairperson Vincent Arcuri, District Manager Gary Giordano, Parks Committee Chair Steven Fiedler, Paul Kerzner and Tom Dowd. Also on hand were Mike Liendo and David Sands, the respective president and vice president of the Liberty Park Home Owners Association, and Barry Grodenchik, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s director of community boards.

Community members, including Sands and Liendo, first approached Crowley back in 2009, shortly after she was elected, regarding refurbishment of the park.

According to Fiedler, a design committee rejected the plan on two occasions before finally granting approval to proceed.

“I’m glad to see this move forward,” he said. “It’s a great design.”

Crowley also announced that an additional $2.4 million in funding for the second phase of improvements was secured in conjunction with Katz and the mayor’s office. These improvements may include refurbishment of the asphalt field, basketball courts and comfort stations.

“I want to make sure everybody stays engaged as we come together to plan the next phase of this project,” Crowley said.

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Principal Ann Marie Scalfano and first-graders from P.S. 68 also attended the groundbreaking ceremony. The children carried handmade signs and banners thanking Crowley for her funding and support of Evergreen Park.

“It’s exciting, because this $1 million allocation will go a long way in making Evergreen Park a better park for the community,” Crowley said. “The park is uniquely named ‘Evergreen’ and it’s important to keep it young and fresh for the young people of the community.”

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Is state balking at Ridgewood Reservoir wetland declaration?


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) appears to be moving away from possible wetland status for the Ridgewood Reservoir, according to the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Parks Committee.

For nearly five years, the board and environmentalists have pressed the DEC to declare the 55-acre site on the Brooklyn/Queens border in Glendale as a wetland. The declaration would recognize the sensitive ecology that formed in the reservoir since it was taken out of the city’s water system decades ago and grant the state authority to regulate its future use.

But CB 5 recently learned that DEC officials weren’t so sure that much of the Ridgewood Reservoir meets the criteria for wetland status.

According to Steve Fiedler, CB 5 Parks Committee chair, the DEC indicated that Basin 3, the westernmost and largest of the three reservoir chambers, did not meet the minimum qualifications for a wetland. In past years, the city planned to clear this basin and transform it into athletic fields and other active park space, but those plans were scrapped due to community opposition and financial constraints.

Basin 2, the center chamber which includes a large natural lake, did not meet acreage requirements under DEC wetland criteria, but Fielder said the agency would likely declare it a wetland due to “extraordinary community concern.”

Fielder added that DEC officials indicated they did not evaluate Basin 1, the smallest and easternmost chamber, because inspectors were unable to enter due to heavy vegetation along the basin walls.

The committee co-chair charged in a phone interview that the DEC failed to properly evaluate the reservoir as a wetland, echoing sentiments in a resolution Board 5 adopted at its April 8 meeting in Middle Village.

“They did no plant evaluation, they did no soil evaluation and they did no testing,” Fiedler said. “They just went in and looked around and found it very dry after a rainstorm. They also went in during the winter when [they] shouldn’t be looking for wetland environments.”

In a letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano wrote that a preliminary assessment prepared by Round Mountain LLC for the city Parks Department “identifies an important wetland in the south end of the west basin.” Giordano noted that such characteristics were confirmed in a site visit by Round Mountain officials last May.

“It is very important that NYS DEC engage in an in-depth study of plant life at the Ridgewood Reservoir, and that in-depth soil samples be taken, and not limited to the dry season,” Giordano wrote to Martens. “If it is not feasible for NYS DEC to conduct the necessary plant life studies required for wetland determination in the spring and summer, DEC should be able to rely on expert studies that have been performed during the past 15 years related to the Ridgewood Reservoir.”

The DEC did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Buildings Department approves revised Glendale shelter construction plans


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

While the battle over the proposed Glendale homeless shelter is far from over, the Department of Buildings (DOB) gave its blessing to the shelter’s revised blueprints.

The DOB approved on April 2 amended building plans to convert a long-defunct factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a hotel with 70 dwelling units. In March, the agency approved plans for 103 units but quickly reversed course and withheld them for further review.

Issues stemmed from the previous classification of the site as “lodging,” but the revised plans approved on April 2 describe the building as a class B hotel. This change would allow operation of a hotel as-of-right, without requiring changing the location’s manufacturing zoning, which would involve a public review process.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) previously reached a five-year, $27 million agreement with the nonprofit Samaritan Village to operate a homeless shelter for up to 125 families at the factory site. Its owner, Michael Wilner, is reportedly leasing the site to Samaritan Village and is responsible for the factory’s renovation.

While construction may take place at the shelter site, the contract itself must be approved by City Comptroller Scott Stringer before it can be used as a homeless shelter. A spokeperson for Stringer told The Courier his office has yet to receive the contract, and therefore has yet to make the decision.

Meanwhile, the fight goes on for community activists opposed to the shelter’s opening. Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said in a phone interview the advisory body would file a formal challenge of the plans with the Buildings Department. The public has until about May 11 in order to officially file a challenge with the agency.

“We will do some consultations with attorneys and try to make the best of it,” Giordano said.

The Glendale Middle Village Coalition, a group of civic and business organizations, continues to raise funds for its legal challenges to the plan.

It previously filed an Article 78 proceeding against the DHS’ environmental assessment which determined that 78-16 Cooper Ave. — used for industrial manufacturing for decades and located adjacent to a chemical storage facility — is safe for reuse as a shelter.

The coalition hopes a judge’s ruling will force the DHS to perform an environmental impact study on the site, which could cost millions and take several years to complete.

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Historic Highland Park bridge to get makeover


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Plans for the rehabilitation of the historic stone bridge in Highland Park headlined the Community Board 5 Parks Services Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Joannene Kidder, the chief staff manager and director of community affairs for the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Division of Bridges, gave a presentation on the proposed plans for restoring the pedestrian span located on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Kidder explained that the DOT, rather than the Parks Department, is involved with this project because the DOT is better equipped to perform bridge inspections and maintenance.

The presentation highlighted defects on the underside of the bridge including spalling (the fragmenting and flaking of the concrete of the bridge); cracking of bricks; efflorescence (a powdery substance that forms when brick and mortar are exposed to moist conditions); and graffiti and painting.

“Essentially what we’re doing is we’re going to take the entire superstructure down and reconstruct it from there up,” Kidder said of the proposed improvements to the bridge. “The substructure is in good condition, so we’re not expecting to do an entire reconstruction from under the ground up.”

The bridge is set to receive a lightweight, reinforced concrete slab on the top side of the archway as well as waterproofing. The DOT will clean the surfaces of the bridge; replace any missing stones in the structure; refill and repaint any missing mortar to match the existing mortar; and pressure wash all graffiti off of the bridge, while adding graffiti-proof surfaces.

The surrounding area of the bridge is also getting upgrades. The streetlights will be replaced with LED fixtures; under-deck lighting will be added; and an 8-foot-wide gravel path will be installed underneath the bridge’s arch. Additionally, crews will install curbs and re-grading for drainage and erosion control, and add more than 80 trees and shrubs to the landscape near the bridge.

Board members questioned why the path was being made of gravel and not asphalt.

“When you install asphalt, now you have an impervious surface that now has runoff and that drainage has to be accommodated somewhere,” Kidder said. “With the gravel, all the rainwater, all the stuff will just percolate back into the soil. They want as few impervious surfaces as possible inside parks.”

The contract for the project will be put out to bid this summer, and construction is planned for the fall. Work is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016.

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CB 5 eyes city budget: district manager wants more cops, building inspectors


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Strini/PropertyShark

Speaking during the annual Community Board 5 preliminary budget hearing on March 11 in Middle Village, Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano called for more city funds to boost the 104th Precinct’s roster.

“What I do on behalf of the community board is in response to the preliminary budget as I see it,” Giordano said. “The estimated budget of the City of New York is in the neighborhood of $77 billion. And what I would normally focus on, as far as the expense budget goes, is our need and desire for 20 additional police officers in the 104th Precinct.”

According to Giordano, in 1995, patrol personnel were numbered at 203 officers, not including supervisors, and that number is down by 25 percent today. Even though crime is down, Giordano stated, the reduced staff at the precinct leads to response backlogs.

Other priorities for the expense budget, he touted, included “sanitation collection, cleaning dump-out locations, sanitation enforcement, education [and] fire department staffing.”

The district manager also recommended that the Department of Buildings hire more qualified building inspectors for Queens.

Community Board 5 District Manager, Gary Giordano (left) with Mark Hoffer from PANYNJ (center) and CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri during the CB 5 monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 11. (Photo by Anthony Giudice)

Community Board 5 District Manager, Gary Giordano (left) with Mark Hoffer from PANYNJ (center) and CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri during the CB 5 monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 11. (Photo by Anthony Giudice)

“I think the Buildings Department is down to like 19 inspectors for Queens County,” Giordano explained. “Since the economy is heating up and we’re going to see more construction, and we’re likely to see some pretty large buildings built … we need enough competent buildings inspectors to make sure that whatever construction is taking place is getting done according to plan and according to law and we also need those buildings inspectors to check on illegal uses.”

Parks in Maspeth and Middle Village are set to receive capital funding for reconstruction. Frank Principe Park in Maspeth will get $5 million and Juniper Valley Park is slated to receive funding to reconstruct either the running track or turf field, but the debate is not settled yet, Giordano said.

Projects that have already been funded and are currently underway include the installation of larger sewer pipes and the relocation of gas mains in the Penelope Avenue area in Middle Village and the Calamus Avenue/69th Street area.

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Speed bumps installed along Juniper Valley Park, residents call for more safety measures


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

It’s going to be a bumpy ride for speeders along Juniper Boulevard North after the installation of three speed bumps last week.

The stretch along the north side of Juniper Valley Park has long been a source of community concern. Cars and motorcycles would routinely zip along the street, which had no traffic lights or stop signs, residents said.

After a request from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the approval from Community Board 5 (CB 5), speed bumps were installed at 78th Street, 77th Place and 75th Street to deter cars from speeding, according to a Department of Transportation (DOT) representative.

But on the south side, residents are calling for a traffic signal to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street.

For over a year now, CB 5 has been asking the DOT to do a traffic signal study to possibly add a traffic light on Juniper Boulevard South.

“The transportation members of the board felt a traffic light would be more efficient on [the south] side,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5. “A lot of people go to the park each day. They should have a safe place to cross.”

The community board is calling for a light on 78th Street where there is an entrance to the park.

The request for a light at the intersection was denied once already by the DOT but the board is asking for a reconsideration.

The DOT did offer to put a speed bump in the area of 78th Street, due to a request from Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, according to a DOT representative.

But CB 5 turned it down because they would like to see a light there.

Board members feel that even though speeding is a problem all around the park, this spot would be safer with a traffic light because it will eliminate two problems: speeding and crossing issues, Giordano said.

The request for a reconsideration of a traffic signal study was made on March 31.

The DOT has yet to make a decision. Giordano hopes that the DOT will decide soon, especially because school is now back in session and P.S./I.S. 49 sits just two blocks away on 80th Street.

But if the DOT does again deny a traffic signal, Giordano said the board will be more open to other options.

“If the traffic signal gets denied again,” Giordano said, “then we will be more open to possibly putting a speed bump there.”

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Stalled Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village transportation projects suffer more setbacks


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Ridgewood residents were hopeful that reconstruction of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would finally start this spring, but it’s been delayed again.

The path, which is elevated over LIRR tracks where Metropolitan Avenue intersects Fresh Pond Road, carries major truck traffic and is long overdue for repairs. In 2007, city officials informed Community Board (CB) 5 it was in danger of collapse.

Financial troubles delayed its original reconstruction start date back in 2009, and at a recent CB 5 Transportation Committee meeting, it was said that it’s been pushed back yet again, because the project has to undergo review and redesign.

The bridge is just one of a few major transportation projects, together worth about $115 million, in CB 5 that just keep getting delayed. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge alone could be a $25 million project, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said.

“You are talking about a lot of money for one district,” Giordano said. “We keep bringing them up at our transportation meeting because we believe that they need to be done and want don’t want to forget about them.”

Developers are now considering building an abutment, eliminating one track under the bridge, to help the building process.

There is also the Grand Street Bridge project, which connects Maspeth to Brooklyn over Newtown Creek.

The 111-year-old bridge is so narrow that it can’t support two-way traffic, although it is a two-way span, with all the big rigs and city buses that traverse it. The new bridge would cost about $50 million.

The plan for a new bridge was ready to go when Sandy struck in 2012 and flooded the area. Now plans are being redesigned to meet new flood regulations.

Besides the bridges, major street rebuilding plans have also been set back.

The Wyckoff Avenue Reconstruction Project, estimated to cost about $20 million, was supposed to start during the summer of 2010, but has been pushed back to 2026, according to the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The project would give Wyckoff Avenue new sewer lines, new water mains to replace the 70-year old ones, as well as a new concrete base on the roadway, new sidewalks and new curbing from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue.

The community has been waiting on a similar project in south Middle Village for about two decades. The area from 73rd Place to 80th Street, between Metropolitan Avenue to Cooper Avenue, are due for new sidewalks, sewer lines, new water mains, signage and street lights, estimated to cost about $20 million. The project has a due date of 2022, according to the DDC.

The projects are pushed back because the city keeps putting funding to higher priority initiatives, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said. But Arcuri said the planned repairs would help boost the community and should be pushed.

“When you rebuild the streets, the property value increases,” Arcuri said. “It becomes an economic boost to the community.”



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