Tag Archives: Paul Vallone

Whitestone officials pledge action to deal with overhead helicopter noise


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of George Mirtsopoulos

Lawmakers at the city, state and federal level met with Whitestone residents this month to address complaints of excessive noise pollution from low flying helicopters and outline courses of action to lessen the impact on the community.

The meetings follow the collection of data from Stop the Chop NY, a website developed by Whitestone resident Dan Aronoff to collect submitted complaints on incidents of disruptive noise from overhead aircrafts. Aronoff has been working with leaders of the We Love Whitestone civic group to call attention to the issue, and the site has collected nearly 1,800 complaints so far since its launch in June, with most originating in northeast Queens.

As a result of the meetings, some officials have agreed to accept complaints from the site at their respective offices, including Councilman Paul Vallone, state Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Congressman Steve Israel.

Officials also offered individual pledges to action, including a plan from Borough President Melinda Katz to invite stakeholders affected by helicopter noise to roundtables discussing the broader topic of aviation noise, and to facilitate additional meetings among elected representatives from Queens and New York City at large.

As part of their course of action, Avella and Simanowitz are currently in talks with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office to call the FAA’s attention to the issue of helicopter noise pollution.

“There is no reason residents of northeast Queens should be subjected to ever-increasing helicopter noise when alternative flight patterns are available,” Avella said.

Vallone plans to introduce two pieces of legislation. One of the resolutions will call on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to amend a helicopter route along Long Island’s north shore to require helicopters to either fly only over water or at higher altitudes. The second resolution would require the City Council to be notified of annual data relating to the location, routes, rules, regulations and other guidelines that exist pertaining to commercial and tourist helicopter routes.

“The never-ending attack on our quality of life by the helicopter flights across our communities has led our office to start a new united approach,” Vallone said. “Together we discussed ways to address the lack of accountability, data, complaint recording, city, state or federal regulations on this issue.”

According to Aronoff, a meeting with Assemblyman Edward Braunstein will also take place in the coming weeks, and he is expecting to attend meetings in the fall with FAA representatives and helicopter operators. While he expects fewer submitted complaints to the site after the summer due to seasonal decreases in helicopter travel to the Hamptons, he will continue to collect data on his website for later use.

Aronoff said he has received emotionally moving testimonies from users of his site affected by the issue, including music producers unable to hear the nuances of their tunes to mothers of developmentally challenged children disturbed by constant overhead noise.

“There are people who are getting in contact with me as the website developer and telling me how they appreciate what’s going on because it’s become unbearable for them,” Aronoff said. “It’s beyond just quality of life; there are real impacts to people and real lives being affected by this.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

State senators butt heads over Flushing pedestrian plaza plan


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella rallied with community activists Monday against a plan which would permanently close down a stretch of Flushing’s Roosevelt Avenue to create a pedestrian plaza.

The project has Avella at odds with a legislative colleague, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who represents the district where the street is located and supports the plaza proposal. Avella’s Senate district is adjacent to Stavisky’s area.

“If she’s in favor of it, that’s asinine, absolutely asinine,” Avella said, adding that he did not think the street could be shut down without affecting traffic conditions in the whole area. “Toby Stavisky should be ashamed of herself for supporting something that’s going to add significant traffic congestion and make dangerous situations already worse.”

When contacted by The Courier for comment, Stavisky staffers fired back at Avella, taking offense at his involvement in a cause centered in within their district boundaries. Both Councilman Peter Koo — who represents the street in the City Council as part of District 20 — and Councilman Paul Vallone of neighboring District 19 have also supported of the plan.

“Tony Avella has made more crazy allegations than Donald Trump and now he’s at it again,” said Mike Favilla, Stavisky’s chief of staff. “Considering that Tony only received 52 percent of the vote in his last primary, perhaps he should spend more time in his own district, rather than looking for fights elsewhere.”

The Korean American Association in Queens originally proposed the public plaza idea to the DOT last year. The proposal calls for the closure of Roosevelt Avenue between 155th Street and Northern Boulevard, adjacent to Leonard Square.

A public workshop held on April 16 solicited public feedback before two trial street closings, the latest of which occurred on Friday, Aug. 7, with a DOT information booth and children’s activities.

While the targeted street is slightly outside the boundaries of his constituency, Avella objected to not being notified of the plan by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and community groups attending the rally also complained of not having been sufficiently informed.

“I only found out about this on Thursday, and my first reaction was, what idiot came up with this,” Avella said on Monday. He cited concerns of traffic congestion around Northern Boulevard that could be worsened by the change.

Avella said that a side street on which cars would be re-routed from Roosevelt Avenue is too small for such a purpose, and would quickly become overrun by the additional vehicles and back up congestion onto Northern Boulevard.

At the trial street closing on Friday, residents were divided in their opinion of whether the street closure would be an asset to the neighborhood or a nuisance they would be forced to circumnavigate.

“I’m just totally against blocking the traffic here in front of the library,” said Chris Viv, a resident of the neighborhood for nearly four decades who believed that the move would complicate traffic in other areas. “Everyone’s been coming here for years driving up and down. It’s a good flow of motor vehicles, and I think it would definitely be a hazard to the area, especially with kids going around.”

Another resident, Michael Addea, said the street in question would actually be made safer if closed off to cars and that he would utilize the proposed plaza as a spot to eat lunch.

“A lot of times cars are double parked for the restaurants because people are coming out of the strip mall,” he said. “I think closing this off would be a good idea.”

The issue will be discussed again in an upcoming public workshop before being put to a vote by Community Board 7 in September.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing civic group objects to permanent street closing for pedestrian plaza


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

Updated Wednesday Aug. 5

A proposal to close off street traffic for a pedestrian plaza off Flushing‘s Northern Boulevard was met with opposition from neighborhood groups concerned that the change will worsen existing congestion and traffic problems.

The Korean American Association in Queens (KAAQ) is working to place a pedestrian plaza adjacent to a small park known as Leonard Square. The proposal will close off traffic at all times on Roosevelt Avenue between 155th Street and Northern Boulevard.

The plan was submitted to the DOT in the winter of 2014, and a public workshop was held on April 16 to solicit public feedback. A trial street closure on April 18 was deemed a success by the KAAQ after they received no resident complaints.

The overall contention against the project, however, comes from members of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, which charged that it would worsen traffic congestion and cause safety concerns.

“We already have enough traffic and problems with too much congestion. [Closing] another street is only going to add to that and we need every artery,” said Janet McCreesh, a former president of the homeowners group.

McCreesh also asserted that there were more appropriate sites for community gathering spots nearby, such as Bowne Park, which is 0.4 mile away.

“How safe and clean will it be to encourage people to sit in between Northern Boulevard and one of the biggest and busiest parking lots in the neighborhood?” McCreesh asked.

Members of the association have voted to send another letter to Community Board 7, which may publicly discuss the issue as soon as Sept. 21.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a supporter who is working with the KAAQ on the project, recalled a similar plaza successfully established in Douglaston, and said that he expects the same benefits for the community around Leonard Square.

“Any group, such as the Korean-American Association of Queens, is able to apply to the city to maintain a pedestrian plaza with the goal of creating an open area for everyone to sit, rest, socialize and enjoy public space,” Vallone said. “I also believe this plaza will have a positive effect on safety and combat the clear history of traffic incidents at this very congested site.”

Paul Yoo, president of the KAAQ, believes the homeowners association objected to the proposal because they are misinformed on its potential effect on neighborhood parking and traffic. While around 8 to 10 spots of street parking would be lost if the street were blocked off, the KAAQ is working with the DOT to come up with alternative solutions to retain parking in the neighborhood.

 

IMG_0397

Yoo said that if the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association had made an effort to reach out to the KAAQ, they could have collaborated to make compromises.

“They didn’t come to the workshop. They haven’t seen the work we’re doing,” said Yoo. “They didn’t contact us. They should come and talk to us.”

The next trial street closing of Roosevelt Avenue between 155th and Northern Boulevard is planned for Friday, Aug. 7, and will have festivities such as clowns, a bouncy castle, face-painting, balloons and stilt walkers to call attention to the initiative.

Editors note: An earlier version misidentified Janet McCreesh as the president of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, and incorrectly listed the date of the Community Board 7 meeting in which this issue will be discussed. We apologize for any confusion.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Pols at Fort Totten call for increased security at Army Reserve Centers


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Paul Vallone

Congressman Steve Israel and local officials stood outside the Ernie Pyle Reserve Center at Bayside‘s Fort Totten on Monday to call on the Department of Defense to address security concerns at Army Reserve Center facilities nationwide.

Last week, Israel sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter asking that he consider an increase in the amount of active security measures, including providing security guards at military Reserve facilities. The request follows the July 16 attack on two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which saw a lone gunman opening fire and killing four Marines and critically wounding a Navy sailor.

Security concerns at the Reserve Center were brought to Israel’s attention by a worker at the Fort Totten military facility.

Israel said that more must be done to ensure the safety of service members, whether they are stationed overseas or within the U.S.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the five service members killed in Chattanooga,” Israel said. “Unfortunately, this is a stark reminder of the devastation caused by gun violence in our country, and the security concerns surrounding our military facilities nationwide.”

Councilman Paul Vallone applauded the congressman for spearheading the initiative.

“The horrible tragedy at the Navy Reserve Center in Chattanooga has highlighted the need to address security concerns at reserve centers across the nation,” Vallone said. “We need to ensure that those who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, are in turn given the best protection we can provide.”

According to Mac Harris, director of Fort Totten Operation, budget cuts in 2009 forced Fort Totten to remove its armed guards from the facility and put in place a passive security system.

“The Army Reserve presence on Fort Totten adds to the surrounding community’s sense of well-being,” said Warren Schreiber, president of Bay Terrance Community Alliance. “In return, the Department of Defense must do everything possible to ensure the safety of troops on this base and at all Army Reserve locations. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is urged to provide Fort Totten’s Reserve facilities with adequate and immediate security.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Flushing street to be co-named after 3-year-old crash victim


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of His-Pei Liao and Amy Tam-Liao

The memory of a young Flushing girl tragically killed on a local street two years ago will live on with the co-naming of a neighborhood street.

The northeast corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue in Flushing will be known as Allison Hope Liao Way after Allison Liao, a 3-year-old girl who was fatally hit by a car on Oct. 13, 2013, while crossing the street with her grandmother.

“Allison Liao was a bright and boisterous young girl with limitless potential who had her whole life ahead of her,” said Councilman Peter Koo, who sponsored the co-naming request. “While her senseless death was devastating to our community, it has also spurred impassioned awareness campaigns on driver safety across the city.”

After her death, Liao’s parents helped to form “Families for Safe Streets,” an advocacy group of people affected by traffic violence. The Liao family was instrumental in lowering the NYC default speed limit, and the tragedy of their daughter’s death was one of the catalysts for the foundation of the Vision Zero set of traffic and street safety initiatives.

“We are deeply grateful for Councilman Koo’s assistance in the street co-naming, and more importantly, for his continued support of Vision Zero and other street safety initiatives,” the Liao family said in a statement.

Koo said that he hoped drivers who may be distracted or impatient behind the wheel will realize the potential consequences of their carelessness.

“As drivers pass Allison Hope Liao Way, it is our hope that they recall her parents’ poignant question, ‘Is it worth it?’” Koo said.

The bill also creates Ptl. Phillip Cardillo Way on 28th Avenue between College Point Boulevard and Ulmer Street in College Point. The street is outside a new NYPD academy that opened in January.

“Soon, generations of new officers will be able to look to the sign and know his story and legacy to the department,” said bill sponsor Councilman Paul Vallone of District 19.

Cardillo had been on the force for five years when he and his partner received a false call about an officer in distress at the Nation of Islam mosque on 116th Street on April 14, 1974. The two responding officers were attacked upon their arrival, and Cardillo, 31, was fatally shot. He has been honored with an NYPD patrol boat named after him, and a book published in 2007 by author Randy Jurgenson tells the story of his death and the case against his killer.

“May this sign forever remind us of the sacrifices that the men and women of the NYPD are too often asked to selflessly make, as well as serve as a symbol that these sacrifices are never forgotten,” Vallone said. “This recognition has been long overdue and I couldn’t be more proud to right the wrongs from 43 years ago.”

The bill also names the northeast corner of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway in Little Neck as Matinecock Way.

The Matinecock Native Americans once lived in communities spanning the area of northeast Queens, but the last of the tribe was driven out of Douglaston and Little Neck in 1656 in the battle of Madnan’s Neck. Matinecock graves were discovered in the 1930s at Northern Boulevard and were re-buried in the cemetery of the Zion Episcopal Church. The Bayside Historical Society and the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee were the first to bring the issue up to the Community Board.

“I am proud to finally pay the long overdue recognition to the Matinecock descendants and their ancestors who hold an important place in our neighborhood’s history,” Vallone said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Study: Bell Boulevard needs nearly a thousand more parking spots


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Confirming what many Baysiders already believed to be true, a study concluded that Bell Boulevard needs nearly one thousand more parking spaces to meet the needs of shoppers, commuters and residents alike.

The study commissioned by the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) and funded by City Councilman Paul Vallone continues the process of finding a solution to overcrowded parking conditions on the boulevard.

According to the report released this week, approximately 3,400 spaces are needed in total to accommodate all of the parking needs, but only 2,500 of those spots are currently available. Issues of short parking supply on Bell Boulevard arise from the multiple different functions which the strip serves in the community, attracting thousands of people and their vehicles to the area every day.

Lyle Sclair, executive director of the Bayside Village BID, emphasized how important it was to organize a plan to alleviate the parking strain on all of the different demographics using Bell Boulevard.

“We have to understand how to balance that without putting undue pressure on any group,” Sclair said. “I don’t think anyone would tell you that parking was working for any one group.”

Of the total 3,400 needed spots, an estimated 1,400 are generated from commercial and office uses on the boulevard. Another 1,033 spots are needed for commuters, with 23 percent of Long Island Rail Road users connecting to the Bayside station by driving themselves alone and parking their cars in the neighborhood.

An additional 1,000 vehicles were also factored in for residents who live in the area. While there are approximately 1,713 registered vehicles in the study area, many of them are parked off-street in private driveways or garages.

Several options were introduced in the study for both long- and short-term solutions to ease the scarcity of parking spot in Bell Boulevard.

“We don’t want to recreate the wheel but you have to look at every possible solution out there,” Sclair said, “and that’s what we’re trying to do with the parking plan.”

One of the solutions explored in the study was to construct a parking structure in an appropriate site, with the current location of the Department of Transportation Municipal Lot used as an example. A private developer or the BID would have to build the structure as the Department of Transportation does not perform that service, and this would have a price tag of around $10 million in city permits and design and construction costs.

A long-term surface parking lot was also looked at as a possible solution in the study. This could cost around $5 million in construction costs without factoring in the cost of the real estate, and would involve a private developer acquiring multiple local properties for the project.

“We looked at all of those programs to see what was reasonable, and what was feasible,” Sclair said. “You want as many ideas out there as possible, so you can actually get things done.”

To download the complete parking study and read more information about local parking, visit the Bayside BID’s website.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

District 19 to get $14 million in 2015-16 city budget


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Paul Vallone

District 19 in north Queens received nearly $14 million for the upcoming fiscal year out of the $78.5 billion budget passed by the New York City Council on Friday.

Councilman Paul Vallone secured almost $7 million of the incoming funding, and an additional $4.1 million and $2.5 million were allocated by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito respectively.

According to Vallone, who is in his second year in his City Council seat, the amount earmarked for District 19 in that time is nearly as much as the area received in the previous six city budgets combined.

District 19 includes the areas of College Point, Whitestone, Malba, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale and parts of Flushing.

“As promised, I’ve continued working hand in hand with my fellow elected officials and have been able to ensure that my constituents finally begin to receive their fair share of funding,” said Vallone. “This year’s budget is another clear victory for our communities and will go a long way to continue making our schools, parks, libraries and nonprofits the best they can be.”

More than $2.5 million will be used for schools, and this combined with additional funds secured from Borough President Melinda Katz will ensure that each school in District 19 will receive at least $50,000. Some schools will also be receiving additional capital funding for needed structural upgrades.

Vallone’s funding also includes $2.4 million set to go to local parks, and more than $1 million allocated toward funding the winning projects of the participatory budgeting vote in April.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Bayside residents rail against high school proposal at CB 11 meeting


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Bayside residents showed up in large numbers to Monday’s Community Board 11 (CB 11) meeting to contend with a proposed high school planned for the former Bayside Jewish Center.

Although many were interested in speaking on the issue of the proposed school, most of the attendees had not realized they needed to pre-register for the public participation segment of the evening and were not allowed to have the floor. The few who did get to speak out against the school received a raucous applause from the rest of the audience.

“Put simply, this project is not needed and is not wanted,” said Nancy Kupferberg, a Bayside resident who has had two of her children attend nearby Bayside High School. Kupferberg appeared on behalf of many others to present a total of 3,100 letters from community residents, students and staff members to express their concerns about the proposal.

“What my experience tells me is that we don’t want this,” added Ana Baires, a resident of the area around Bayside High School. She spoke of teenagers loitering around her house and causing trouble.

The residents were so eager to speak on the matter that many members of the frustrated crowd spilled out into the hallway. Chairwoman Christine Haider said a discussion will be held in the future when the community board has more information about the project.

A staffer from Councilman Paul Vallone’s office was on hand to talk to residents and explain the process that the School Construction Authority (SCA) must follow to build the school. Vallone was an early supporter of the school’s installation, citing overcrowding in District 26. His office has since said that while the councilman is cautiously optimistic about a new school, he has not taken a stance on where it should be located.

While the SCA has put in a bid to for the Bayside Jewish Center, the deal is not finalized and several studies must be done to prove the area’s suitability for a school. A traffic study will analyze the potential impact on parking and congestion patterns, and an impact assessment will measure potential effects on the environment.

After passing the relevant studies, the proposed school will then be discussed by community boards and the general public, and would later be voted on by the City Council. Public hearings with the SCA may be scheduled as soon as this summer, according to a representative from Vallone’s office.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Whitestone street dedicated to former resident


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

The Whitestone community had a strong turnout on June 12 for the dedication of a local street in honor of a late veteran known for his volunteer efforts.

The residential street on 145th Place and 17th Avenue will now be known as Robert C. Lohnes Way after Robert Lohnes, a former first class seaman in the United States Navy and retired NYPD detective.

He had lived on the street with his family for over 40 years before dying last year.

During his lifetime, Lohnes received a National Defense Medal for his nine-year stint in the U.S. Navy, and later served 34 years as a detective in the NYPD.

He was also involved in numerous volunteer efforts in the community, including the Whitestone Community Ambulance Service, Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America, in addition to helping out with response efforts during and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Lohnes passed away unexpectedly in late winter 2014 after being stricken with a form of blood cancer.

Councilman Paul Vallone and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein stood with Lohnes’ family and friends to unveil the street’s new name.

“Today, and every day, we remember and thank Bob for his service to our great country, our great city, and northeast Queens, and I am proud to join Bob’s wife and children on this very special day,” said Vallone.

“Whitestone, in many senses, is like a small town in a big city: everybody knows each other,” Braunstein added. “If it wasn’t for people like Robert Lohnes, this community wouldn’t be the special place that it is.”

According to Magaly Lohnes, Robert’s wife of 44 years, neighbors overwhelmingly supported the petition to dedicate the street to her late husband.

“A couple of the people even said they’re going to miss the mayor of 145th Place,” Magaly Lohnes said. “Because Bob was out there, he knew everybody, and everybody knew him.”

There was a solemn bagpipe performance of patriotic songs and members of the nonprofit organization Veterans of Foreign Wars were in attendance to honor their fallen comrade.

Many former members of Lohnes’ Boy Scout troops and their families were also among those paying their respects in the crowd of 50 people.

“We want to pay tribute to a man who dedicated his life to service,” said family friend Pat Connolly, who credits Lohnes with mentoring her two sons in their Eagle Scout troops. “He is sorely missed.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Little Bay parking lot expanded for 99 more vehicles


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department

The parking lot at Little Bay Park in Whitestone can fit nearly 100 more vehicles after being expanded as part of a $6.659 million reconstruction project of the park’s amenities.

Public officials and Parks Department representatives were on hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the park, and classic cars were on display as part of the event. The new parking lot was expanded to include 224 spaces, 99 more than were previously there.

“This parking lot has been sorely needed by the community and I am thankful that the construction had completed, allowing its use for the whole summer,” Councilman Paul Vallone said. “As we gear up for summer events such as local sports games and the July 1 fireworks show, the newly expanded parking lot will be important for maximizing the accessibility of Fort Totten and I also look forward to the completion of the comfort station by the end of the fall.”

Green infrastructure was also added for increased stormwater management.

Twenty-nine new retention tanks will capture and manage all of the site’s stormwater runoff, eventually releasing it back into the ground to minimize any strain on the city’s stormwater sewage system. Bioswales, or raised beds of soil and plants meant to capture and filter rainwater into the ground, were also installed above the retention tanks and planted with perennials, grasses, trees and shrubs.

The project was funded through $3.65 million allocated by the mayor, $720,000 from the City Council and $2.016 million in federal grants. Although work on the comfort station was delayed due to bad weather, construction is now underway and scheduled for completion this fall.

“This summer, you can bike, jog or drive to Little Bay Park,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “No matter how you got here, Little Bay and neighboring Fort Totten Park are popular destinations for visitors from around Queens to enjoy sports, recreation and waterfront views.”

The Little Bay Park is bound on the south by the Cross Island Parkway, and is directly adjacent to the Little Bay on the north. It offers clear views of the Throgs Neck Bridge, which runs up to the west of the park.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Councilman Vallone introduces new student ambassadors


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Paul Vallone's office

Councilman Paul Vallone introduced last week a group of high school students that will be working in his office during the second year of his Educational Ambassador Program.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my student ambassadors and all the work they’ve accomplished in the first year,” Vallone said. “They played such an important role in supporting every aspect of the work our office does and I look forward to seeing our new group achieve their great potential.”

There are nine students participating this year from three different high schools. Ambassadors Abbas Husain, Hongju Choi, Kean Gibbons and Jennifer Kim are from Bayside High School; Erika Donis, Rawlanda Hinds and David Legunsa attend World Journalism Preparatory School; and Daniel Bosko and Josh Santis study at Holy Cross High School.

The inaugural year of the student ambassador program saw teens experiencing different aspects of a city council member’s responsibilities through the expanded program in Vallone’s office.

The first student ambassadors played a critical role in organizing a toy drive for Saint Mary’s Hospital for Children and helping to put on the Holiday Parade & Winter Festival on Bell Boulevard. Student ambassadors also had an integral part in the participatory budgeting process by spreading awareness about the process and staffing multiple voting sites.

Thanks to students’ efforts to increase the visibility of participatory budgeting, Vallone noted, District 19 had a 2015 voter turnout of over 1,000 residents to award funds for locally developed capital projects.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Whitestone streets receive extra cleaning


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Paul Vallone

Whitestone is getting supplemental street cleaning through July 1 in an extension of the City Council NYC Cleanup Initiative of 2014, which saw every council member allocate funding to provide cleaning services for their district.

Councilman Paul Vallone was given nearly $70,000 as part of the program to clean streets in Bayside and College Point, but after community input and requests from Whitestone residents, he was able to add select areas in that neighborhood as well.

The cleaning is done by workers from The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides services to people with histories of homelessness, incarceration and substance abuse.

The initiative has been so well received that Vallone intends to work to get funding for it included again in the city’s 2016 budget.

“I’m proud to have been able to work with The Doe Fund to bring this cleanup initiative to Whitestone,” said Vallone. “Clean sidewalks and litter-free streets will go a long way towards beautifying and revitalizing Whitestone Village.”

Whitestone residents said that the extra cleaning makes a big difference in their community.

“Our members have already informed us about the difference they see in the village of Whitestone,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association.

The new routes will be cleaned until July 1. The cleanup area covered in Whitestone includes 149th Street to Clintonville Street; 150th Street between the Cross Island Service Road and 12th Avenue; and Clintonville Street between 14th and 12th roads.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Bayside Jewish Center to be converted to high school


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

The School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to purchase the Bayside Jewish Center and transform it into a new public high school, according to Councilman Paul Vallone.

The new school will go a long way toward solving the issue of overcrowding in District 26 schools, which are at 130 percent capacity and currently short more than 3,400 seats. The new school is set to alleviate around 25 percent of that gap.

Vallone said that he is going to work with residents to lessen the impact that a new school would have on their everyday lives, including potential effects on parking availability and local traffic concerns.

“What is critical now is making sure that the community and community board are involved in every step of the way and that we work closely with the SCA to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood,” Vallone said.

The SCA has stated that an Environmental Impact Study will soon begin at the site. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an Environmental Impact Study is done to assess significant environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment.

A public review process will be conducted after the study is completed, and then it will come to a vote before the entire City Council.

The Bayside Jewish Center has been at its current location at 32nd Avenue since 1960 and has seen the number of members in its congregation sharply drop in recent years. The center had an estimated congregation of 150 people in 2012 from 250 families a little over a decade before.

The proportion of Jewish households in northeast Queens plummeted by half from 1991 to 2001, from 44 percent of the population down to 22 percent a decade later, according to the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Participatory budget projects announced in districts 19 and 23


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Councilmen in northeast Queens announced the winning projects to be funded with their participatory budgeting allowances, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.

Councilman Paul Vallone announced the four winning projects from District 19 in a press conference in his Bell Boulevard office on Monday, with a crowd of community members waiting on his every word to see if their favored project would be chosen. This year 2,300 votes were cast the district.

The project that received the most votes in District 19 was to build a state-of-the-art music studio for Bayside High School for $400,000. The proposal received 1,430 votes, and will serve 350 students in the school’s “Career and Technical Education” program for music production and performance.

“Participatory budgeting was a great experience for our students and we look forward to the positive effect the new music studio will provide to our academic programming,” said John Hirata, Bayside High School assistant principal of operations.

An auditorium upgrade for P.S. 169 received the most votes after the Bayside High School music studio with a total of 1,041, and will also cost $400,000. The elementary school will receive replacements in lighting, curtains, seating and a sound system for the auditorium that students share with middle school Bell Academy.

“We are so thrilled to have this auditorium upgrade because both our schools really need it,” said Orit Foresta, a parent coordinator at P.S. 169. “We do a lot of arts, a lot of shows in our schools.”

The other two projects to be funded in District 19 are $90,000 in technology upgrades for P.S. 159 and the installation of three NYPD security cameras throughout the district for $105,000.

Photo courtesy of Mark Weprin's office

Photo courtesy of Mark Weprin’s office

Councilman Mark Weprin announced the winning participatory budget proposals for District 23 on Friday, April 24. Weprin was one of the first eight City Council members to offer participatory budgets to constituents in 2012, the initiative’s first year. Twenty-four districts have since adopted the process.

“It is my hope that next year, more of my colleagues embrace participatory budgeting,” Councilman Weprin said. “It’s a great way to get community residents involved — especially those who may not be actively involved in the political process.”

A District 23 proposal with 1,146 votes received the most support, and will see $455,000 in technology upgrades coming to nine local schools. All of the schools serve children at elementary grade levels except for one, the Queens High School of Teaching.

A entry for fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park was in second place for most votes in District 23, with a total of 1,065 voting in favor of the $450,000 project. The last proposal to be funded is a plan to use $300,000 for renovations at the physical education facilities of Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside and Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Bayside Village BID to hold April 14 hearing on local parking woes


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Those having a hard time finding parking near Bayside’s Bell Boulevard can vent their frustrations at a special public hearing the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) will hold on the topic on Tuesday, April 14.

Residents, drivers and merchants alike are invited to attend the session scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at Bayside United Methodist Church, located at 38-20 Bell Blvd.

The Bayside Village BID, with the assistance of Councilman Paul Vallone, recently hired an engineering firm to examine parking problems in the area around Bell Boulevard and form potential short- and long-term solutions. It is reportedly part of a revived attempt to fix parking problems in the area launched more than a decade ago.

In a letter, Bayside Village BID Executive Director Lyle Sclair said that attendees will learn information on some of the “best practices from across the region.” BID members and residents can also share their ideas and input on how to ease the pain for all drivers.

Meanwhile, Sclair urged local businesses to sign a pledge that they would keep spots in front of their shops free as much as possible.

“Many of the business owners signed a pledge that they and their workers would not park on Bell Boulevard in the metered spots that are designed for customers,” Sclair wrote. “We understand that you may need to use the parking in front of your business for pickups and deliveries. The pledge is not meant to discourage you from using the space in front of your store for business operations, but once you are done, please move your car to the surrounding side streets.”

BID members who cannot attend the April 14 meeting may schedule one-on-one consultations regarding the plan earlier that day from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the BID’s office located at 213-39 39th Ave., Suite 310.

For more information, click here or call 718-423-2434.

RECOMMENDED STORIES