Tag Archives: Newtown Civic Association

Elmhurst says it suffers from truck troubles


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Elmhurst community leaders are hoping the NYPD will tow away the perturbing parking problem plaguing the neighborhood.

The Newtown Civic Association is outraged over illegally parked commercial trucks on public streets in Elmhurst – often present overnight or for multiple days.

According to Newtown Civic Association Treasurer Robert Valdes Clausell, companies hoping to avoid hefty parking rates prefer to leave their tractor trailers – as large as 18-wheelers – on public streets, hogging spots meant to be reserved for citizens.

“Elmhurst has experienced, in the last 10 years, a 40 percent increase in population. A lot of those people drive vehicles and as a result, this has further congested an already busy parking situation,” said Valdes Clausell. “So if you include commercial vehicles parking overnight, then you have a big problem. Trucks take up five or six residential parking spaces, and 18-wheelers are so large they could take up eight spaces.”

City law mandates that commercial trucks cannot be parked on residential streets between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., and can only be present in one place for a maximum of three consecutive hours. The fine for violating the law, however, is frequently cheaper than garage fees, and towing the massive trucks is difficult.

“The fine is no more than $300, and that’s assuming they get caught or ticketed. But to park commercial vehicles is a lot more – it could cost upwards of $500 or $600,” Valdes Clausell said. “The fine is a small price to pay compared to overnight commercial parking for an 18-wheeler in New York.”

The stagnant trucks are also hot spots for graffiti, which Valdes Clausell calls “very unsightly” and “an eyesore.”

Although he admits officers of the 110th Precinct have been responsive to the complaints and have ticketed vehicles, Valdes Clausell believes more must be done to discourage illegal parking. Members of the Newtown Civic Association are urging police to increase enforcement by towing away the trucks – a practice utilized by the 104th Precinct, which reportedly ticketed 60 trucks and towed five tractor trailers in Maspeth in December alone.

According to published reports, 145 summonses for a variety of violations – primarily parking – have also been issued to commercial vehicles parked in the Elmhurst area.

“We need tougher enforcement and better resources at the 110 so they can do a better job of stopping this. Ticketing is not enough – you need to tow them away,” Valdes Clausell said. “Just like it was done in Maspeth at the 104, we need a task force. Otherwise it is only getting worse. It is putting a Band-Aid on a mortal wound, which is hemorrhaging more and more every day.”

Thomas McKenzie, president of the Newtown Civic Association, has been less cordial in his words towards police. He has called the 110th Precinct over 50 times, written six emails to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and has now involved Internal Affairs – due to the lack of progress made by the precinct. McKenzie went as far as to name a community affairs officer from the 110 a “doofus dimwit detective.”

“This is very frustrating because the police have ignored us,” said McKenzie. “The cops don’t do anything.”

Others believe the police are not to blame.

Beyond hording parking, Valdes Clausell believes the trucks are severe safety hazards as well.

“The problem is worst around 51st Avenue and Queens Boulevard – that is also one of the most dangerous parts of Queens Boulevard,” he said. “It is not made for truck parking so it creates a pedestrian danger when crossing Queens Boulevard, because the trucks are so tall you can’t see the traffic that is oncoming. You have to venture out into the street.”

Group wants to preserve ‘historic’ Elmhurst library


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Over 106 years, some structures become staples of their communities.

This is the sentiment one Elmhurst civic association has expressed regarding the neighborhood’s historic library, which is set to be torn down and replaced with a larger, more modern facility.

Members of the Newtown Civic Association are puzzled by Queens Library’s decision to destroy the community “landmark,” which opened in 1906 and is one of the last remaining libraries built with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“The existing design that they have shown us doesn’t work on many levels,” said Robert Valdes Clausell, treasurer of Newtown Civic and property manager of the Continental, a co-op building located next to the library. “Not only does it not do justice to the area of Elmhurst and the historical structure, but the actual design is a disaster. What we have advocated for is that the original library’s exterior, the part from 1906, be preserved. It deserves and warrants restoration because it will teach future generations about the history of Elmhurst, public libraries and contributions of men like Carnegie to the democratic process.”

According to a representative from the Department of Design and Construction, the Landmarks Commission deemed the library, which is set to be demolished this winter, did not warrant landmark status due to the numerous restorations it received over the century it stood in Elmhurst. The contractors are incorporating some of the bricks from the old library in the new structure, according to the spokesperson.

Queens Library officials say the new structure, which is scheduled to open in 2014, will adequately service the community, while also paying homage to the library’s legacy in Elmhurst. The preservation of the existing structure was also cost-prohibitive, according to a library spokesperson.

“Elmhurst is a thriving neighborhood that needs a state-of-the-art library to support education, job growth and intellectual development,” said the spokesperson.

While Clausell agrees with the need for more space for what is currently the second busiest branch in Queens, he does not feel that warrants a “lack of inspiration.”

Clausell, Nicholas Dovas and Thomas McKenzie, the organization’s president, recently met with officials from Queens Library to voice their concerns and offer their input.

Along with classifying the new design as a “failure of imagination,” the Newtown Civic trio has expressed apprehension regarding the new building’s potentially negative effects on traffic, parking and daily life in the community. The association has also taken umbrage at the lack of library access the community has had since the branch closed in November.

“[The new library] eliminates any parking for a facility that relies on massive deliveries and pickups of books,” said Clausell, who claims no transportation study was conducted before committing to a design. “They are also planning on opening up the back of the building to the public. This will disturb the peace and quiet of the rear of the building. They are looking for litigation and confrontation from their neighbors. It is opening up a Pandora’s box.”

According to the library spokesperson, officials are working with the Elmhurst community to address their concerns, and the new structure is expected to “be a beautiful community magnet that will add significantly to the quality of life in Elmhurst.”

Although many in the community will be saddened by the loss of their landmark, Queens historian Jack Eichenbaum believes the benefits of the modern facility will also be significant.

“Carnegie libraries are beautiful, but that library was built a century ago when the population of Elmhurst was very small,” said Eichenbaum. “That population has grown dramatically with many immigrants, and libraries are very important to immigrants. It is a shame to lose these kinds of buildings, but in this case it is counteracted by the need for a bigger, and hopefully better, library.”