Tag Archives: Martin Colberg

Woodhaven residents join area lawmaker in opposing Select Bus Service plan

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Many of those gathered at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) town hall meeting on Saturday voiced their opposition to plans for Select Bus Service (SBS) plan along the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor in the months ahead.

“Something is going to happen. There will be Select Bus Service,” state Senator Joseph Addabbo said. “But for those of us who live in and around Woodhaven Boulevard, we will live with whatever they do here. We have to be heard.”

Many residents expressed concerns over the loss of a lane, as well as the loss of parking along Woodhaven Boulevard and Park Lane South, under the DOT’s current SBS plan.

“I don’t believe removing the right lane of traffic is correct,” Addabbo added. “Putting people in the median to wait for buses is not safe. It’s a bad plan.”

Others feared the ban on left-hand turns onto Jamaica Avenue will not only hurt businesses along the busy shopping strip, but would also increase traffic on narrow residential side streets.

“Think of the two schools on 89th Street,” Addabbo added. The senator fears that local streets could become thruways and truck routes for vehicles seeking to avoid congestion on Woodhaven Boulevard potentially caused by the SBS changes.

“The one thing we said from day one is that something has to be done,” explained WRBA president Martin Colberg. “But what works in one community is not always going to work in another. There has to be a line where it has to stop here and we have to rethink this.”


Jose Vasquez, president of the task force known as Committee for a Better Woodhaven, began a petition in opposition to SBS and has since collected over 80 signatures from residents. Vasquez collected more signatures at the WRBA meeting and plans to present his petition to the DOT and the MTA at the next Community Board 9 meeting.

Addabbo applauded his efforts and urged residents to write similar letters so that their voices can be heard.

“We’re a smart-thinking community,” Colberg said. “We’re not going to let anything just be shoved down our throats. That’s not going to happen. I understand the mayor wants something done in terms of SBS, but then I invite the mayor to come to Woodhaven and see how this going to affect us.”

According to Addabbo, the DOT aims to finalize their SBS plans for Woodhaven Boulevard by the end of the fall.

“There will be a follow-up meeting to address concerns before the plan is finalized,” added Gregory Mitchell of Council member Eric Ulrich’s office.


Woodhaven graffiti cleanup will also help local charity

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

This summer’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) graffiti removal campaign will do more than just make the neighborhood more beautiful.

The civic group, which annually paints over graffiti found on local mailboxes across the community, will use the effort to raise funds for the NYFAC Foundation in Howard Beach, which supports families and children affected by autism.

On July 25, WRBA volunteers plan to scatter across the neighborhood to repaint more than 100 vandalized mailboxes. The organization will supply all the paint and tools necessary to get the job done, but local residents can pledge donations for the NYFAC Foundation per repainted mailbox. They may cap their pledges at a certain amount, such as 50 cents per mailbox up to a maximum of $25.

“Over the last few years, many of our members have pitched in on efforts to fight graffiti and make our community neater, but this event will be special,” WRBA President Martin Colberg said in a statement. “We expect to reach every corner of Woodhaven while attracting new volunteers who are interested in supporting a deserving charity.”

Ed Wendell, a WRBA director, hopes that partnering with the NYFAC Foundation not only gives local volunteers the incentive to participate, but may also convince local vandals to think twice about messing up the volunteers’ hard work later.

“It’s a nice way to turn it from a negative to a positive story,” Wendell said. “Hopefully, some of these taggers, when they see this, may make them feel a little bad about [the vandalism].”

Andrew Baumann, longtime president and CEO of the NYFAC Foundation, expressed gratitude for the WRBA’s efforts.

“We are very grateful — and very humbled — that the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association would select us as the beneficiaries of their fundraising efforts,” Baumann said. “The association’s efforts will go a long way toward helping us ‘better the lives of those with autism’ and toward beautifying the community.”

Anyone interested in donating to the campaign is encouraged to email the WRBA at info@woodhaven-nyc.org, or visit the WRBA’s next town hall meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 18, at Emanuel Church of Christ, located at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. Those who wish to volunteer during the cleanup should email the WRBA or call 718-296-3735.


Rash of violent crimes raises concerns at Woodhaven meeting

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Woodhaven residents and elected officials expressed concern and outrage during Thursday night’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting over the recent rash of high-profile crimes to hit the area.

Two recent shootings rocked the area. The first occurred roughly three weeks ago around 4 a.m. outside the Port O’Call nightclub near Atlantic Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. The more recent shooting was on the night of June 6 at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 89th Street.

Then the community was stunned by the June 10 discovery of a dead body near Victory Field in Forest Park now being investigated as a homicide.

“It’s just a bad wave right now … but it’s not just us. It could happen anywhere in the city,” P.O. Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit told WRBA members during the session at American Legion Post 118. “We have leads in most of these crimes … but both shooting victims are being uncooperative, so it’s making our investigation difficult.”

One resident expressed fear over personal safety in light of the shootings. “I could stop by Jamaica Avenue to get a container of milk and be caught in a shootout,” she said.

In an attempt to calm concerns, Severino explained that several safety measures have been implemented in the wake of the shootings, including outside help from Central Command.

“Right now, we have multiple shooting posts to help increase visibility in multiple locations where those crimes happened,” he said. “We have an automatic shooting initiative in place and will be there for 24 to 72 hours after.”

Regarding the Forest Park homicide, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley called the murder “unsettling” and shared in the community’s concerns.

“Safety in Forest Park is so important,” she said. “I myself often run in the park. We’ve been on top of the 102nd Precinct to make sure they have patrols there.”

Another resident raised the question about security cameras in the park. “About two weeks ago, we noticed a security camera mounted on a light post,” she said. “But last weekend, that camera was gone. Ironically, it would have been in the same spot where the murder was.”

Angel Vazquez, Assemblyman Mike Miller’s chief of staff, explained that he was working to get the NYPD to sign off on an agreement allowing for the installation of cameras at specific locations within the park.

According to Vazquez, the first part of the six-stage process of approval was just completed. Going forward, the camera plans would require three-way approval from the Assembly, Dormitory Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Greg Mitchell of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office echoed Crowley’s concerns.

“Safety is our number one priority,” he said. “Through our budgeting, we did approve those emergency call boxes that will be going into Forest Park.”

Mitchell said he has been in touch with the capital department of the NYPD and expects the call boxes to be installed as soon as the upcoming budget passes.

WRBA President Martin Colberg urged residents to remain vigilant: “The biggest thing we can do is to call 311 or 911. Let’s get some kind of response out there and try to help each other as much as we can.”


Civic fumes over a trashy situation in Woodhaven

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Frustrations aimed at the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) over their overnight enforcement policies came to a head during the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting on May 16 at the Emanuel United Church of Christ.

The WRBA has repeatedly petitioned the DSNY to change its practice of issuing pricey overnight summonses to business owners along Jamaica Avenue for illegally dumped trash. In recent months, the WRBA has received numerous summonses over garbage found in front of the group’s headquarters, located at 84-20 Jamaica Ave.

“They ticket overnight because that’s when people bring their bags to the curb for pickup,” explained Gregory Mitchell of City Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office. “Unfortunately, there’s an issue that if people dump garbage in front of somebody’s business, the property owner can get a ticket themselves.”

The WRBA held a recent closed-door meeting with board members, elected officials and DSNY supervisors. According to WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp, the DSNY officials explained that if they wanted a change in policy, they would need to petition their local city council member to change the regulations.

“When we were told by our city agencies to go to our City Council member because they’re not going to do anything about it, we realized this is a screwed up situation,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”

Ulrich was considering changes in legislation back in October 2014 in the form of an “LS request” to investigate the feasibility of the proposed policy change.

“There’s really no way for us to legislate our way out of that problem,” Mitchell said. “We can change the law, but that’s not going to stop people from dumping garbage in the street.”

Blenkinsopp voiced his frustration over the situation to Mitchell. “It sounds like it took an awfully long time to find out we wouldn’t get any results from that process,” he said.

Assemblyman Mike Miller also voiced his displeasure over the situation.

“They don’t care,” said Miller, who participated in the aforementioned closed-door meeting with DSNY officials. “When we challenged them, they said, ‘That’s the way it is. This is the process. This is how we do it.’ It has to be changed.”

Miller explained that he has introduced legislation calling for a Citizen Review Board to deal with and discuss incidents such as wrongly issued summonses.

Mitchell proposed a follow-up meeting between WRBA board members and DSNY officials. He also mentioned that he would try to bring a DSNY supervisor to the next public WRBA meeting to address these concerns. In addition, he advised WRBA members to keep reporting incidents of illegal dumping to 311.

However, according to WRBA President Martin Colberg, the group once reported an illegally dumped mattress in front of their office, only to be hit with a pricey summons while sitting inside. Colberg said that he was considering installing security cameras outside WRBA’s Jamaica Avenue office to not only catch violators in the act, but to prove the group’s innocence to DSNY.

When asked if they could take their fight beyond City Council, Blenkinsopp explained that they have yet to receive a reply from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office regarding the matter.

“Back when he was public advocate, Bill De Blasio wrote a letter supporting a change in this law, but now that he’s mayor, he’s no longer responding to our reminders,” he said. “We can’t get the mayor to respond to his own previous policy decisions and to be consistent in his stance on this.”


Star of Queens: Martin Colberg, president, Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Martin Colberg is the president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA), a civic association that addresses problems in the community of Woodhaven.

BACKGROUND: Colberg grew up in the Woodhaven and Richmond Hill areas, and has been in Woodhaven for the past 10 years.  Four years ago, Colberg attended his first WRBA meeting, and found the ideas of the association very interesting, saying “I was excited to put some more time and effort into my community.”

GOALS: Colberg has recently been named the new president of the WRBA, and is also the first Latino president, since the start of the association, 42 years ago. Colberg believes this to be a great representation of the growth and diversity in the neighborhood.

According to Colberg, his goal in the coming year will be to continue to get others involved in helping their community.

“I definitely want to concentrate on outreach, among other things in the coming year, just to get more numbers in our membership,” he said.

Colberg wants to concentrate on getting the younger generation involved in their community, hoping he can partner with schools or create a program, so that younger people can realize that they are needed.

BEST MEMORY:  One of Colberg’s best memories was watching his community come together to help those in need after Superstorm Sandy.

“It was such an eye-opening experience to watch so many members of the community put so much money, time and effort into helping those in need,” he said. Colberg recalled keeping the office open for a full week, as a drop-off station, and watching people come multiple times to give their time or make donations of clothes, food or money.

“I remember people getting to their last quarter tank of gas and still making one more trip to the Rockaways to help out.”

INSPIRATION: Colberg’s drive is just seeing others in his neighborhood get involved, saying, “in the fast-paced world that we are in, not a lot of people have that extra time to put into helping their community, but when they do show up, I feel like I have to help out as well.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: As the new president of the WRBA, his biggest challenge is yet to come.  Looking forward, he feels his challenge would just be to gain more exposure and get more people involved, which he believes he can accomplish by the end of the year.



Transit committee finds new support for restarting Rockaway Beach Line

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jeff Liao

One by one, members of the Queens Public Transit Committee (QPTC), an organization focused on improving transportation in the borough, thanked Community Board 5 (CB5) last week.

The board voted to support the idea of restarting the defunct Rockaway Beach Line last month, in part to help ease traffic congestion issues on major thoroughfares, such as Woodhaven Boulevard.

The news was significant for QPTC, because the 3.5-mile trail could also be transformed into a park.

“Getting more people like CB5 is tremendous because they realize overcrowding is becoming a major problem,” said Phil McManus, chair of the QPTC.

In November of last year, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, who has voiced support for a new train, announced that Queens College will be doing a study of both the train and park ideas.

The Friends of the QueensWay (FQW), a group made up of residents that live near the trail who are pushing to transform the former rail line into a public green space, has argued against restarting the line.

“After over five decades of abandonment and multiple studies concluding that rail reactivation is not feasible, the time has come to utilize the over 50 acres of land that make up the QueensWay,” according to a statement from FQW. “As evidence shows, rebuilding this abandoned land will dramatically improve the quality of life, create jobs and safer streets, and highlight the incredible history and cultural diversity of central and southern Queens.”

FQW also said that the new park will have a much needed bike path, which could be used for transportation.

Not everyone has taken a side though. Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) would like to see formal proposals, instead of making a decision on speculation.

“We want to make sure a lot of concerns are answered. Can’t say that we are for or against,” said Martin Colberg, president of the WRBA.

McManus said the QPTC isn’t opposed to doing both ideas in some capacity, but a FQW representative said that isn’t a possibility.

“I just don’t see that as being realistic,” said Travis Terry, a member of FQW Steering Committee. “I wouldn’t even like to consider that option until there is some proof.”