Tag Archives: Queens Civic Congress

Queens civics band together in ‘Fight the Blight’ initiative


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Don Capalbi

A Flushing civic group has started a grassroots initiative to stand up to out-of-scale construction sites that residents say are destroying neighborhoods.

The Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association is asking its neighbors to “Fight the Blight” by compiling addresses and photos of egregious buildings, which will then be delivered to the City Planning Commission.

“Little by little, things are getting worse. There are more and more blights, and they are getting more egregious, both in quality and quantity,” said Don Capalbi, the civic’s president.

The worst example, local leaders say, is a roughly 2,300-square-foot row house being built at 146-15 56th Rd.

“It’s just a monster,” Capalbi said of the two-story home. “It’s destroying the entire block.”

Queens Civic Congress, a coalition of about 100 local groups, has been urging the city to establish a zoning district that would limit row house occupancies to single families.

“This particular house is a serious example of what can go wrong,” said Queens Civic Congress President Richard Hellenbrecht. “It just towers over everything. Every row house district in the city could eventually fall into the same rut.”

Oversized homes in low-density areas could also worsen congestion and inundate local schools, the local leaders said.

“It’s just a situation that can’t be set aside,” Capalbi said. “It’s a situation that affects much of our borough.”

Councilmember Peter Koo has also stepped in to help the group catalogue.

“If you see something out of context, say something by taking a photo and contacting the civic association,” said Koo’s spokesperson, Jonathan Chung. “Together, we will fight the blight.”

Residents can e-mail submissions to FightTheBlightQueens@gmail.com.

 

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Op-ed: Prohibit the installation of tolls


| oped@queenscourier.com

 STATE SENATOR TONY AVELLA

Once again, congestion pricing plans, which include the imposition of tolls on the East River bridges, have been circulating throughout the city.  Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg first began to push his own congestion pricing plan in 2008, I have been vehemently against congestion pricing in any form whether it is through charging drivers a fee to enter Manhattan or through the implementation of tolls on the East River bridges.  Congestion pricing in any form is nothing more than an undue tax on working and middle class families and small businesses. That is why I recently held a press conference with Assemblymember David Weprin, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Civic Congress, announcing legislation I will be introducing in the State Senate that would prohibit the installation of tolls on any bridges controlled and operated by the City of New York, which include the East River bridges.

The imposition of tolls on the East River bridges, including the Willis Avenue, Third Avenue, Queensborough, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, is not a revenue-generating option that the residents of this city should be forced to endure.  Such tolls would place an unfair burden upon Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan residents who would be forced to pay to travel between the boroughs.  Given the always increasing cost of living in the city and with constant bus and subways fare hikes, city residents are in no position to again face another huge increase in their daily living expenses.

Penalizing businesses, especially small businesses, and individuals for using their cars is not a viable option or solution for reducing traffic.  New Yorkers still need to get to work and conduct business and raising taxes should never be the first option.  It would have a devastating effect on those families near or at the poverty level.  Everyone agrees that we need to address traffic congestion problems throughout the city, but the first step has to be improving mass transit.

A popular plan being circulated by an organization called Move NY, led by former Transportation Commissioner Sam Schwartz, would charge all drivers that enter Manhattan by crossing either the East River or 60th Street a toll, while drivers on bridges linking the other boroughs, would see their tolls go down.  According to Move NY, this would lead to more funds dedicated to transportation in the region, with the majority of it going to improved transit service.

In a perfect world, this plan could work.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; we live in the real world, where the next fiscal crisis could be just around the corner.  What happens to this plan then?  What happens when the legislature raids the funds dedicated to transportation, which has happened time and again? How can this plan guarantee that the tolls for the outer borough bridges don’t go up again, when more funds are needed?  As the saying goes, there are only two guarantees in life-death and taxes.

In the end, congestion pricing and any plan to impose tolls on the East River bridges is merely another revenue generating plan, not a traffic-reducing plan.  It should be the responsibility of the leaders of the city to find ways of decreasing traffic congestion without placing a new fiscal burden upon those who can least afford it.

Avella represents the 11th Senate District

 

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Queens legislators balk at plans to toll East River bridges


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But some Queens legislators balked at the idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE COURIER/File photo by Walter Karling

 

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Star of Queens: Jackie Forrestal, Hillcrest Estates Civic Association


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

IMG_1377

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jackie Forrestal has been active in the Queens community for years. She is a board member of the Central Queens Historical Association. She also served on the St. Joseph’s Advisory Board until the facility closed in 2004.

Forrestal is the corresponding secretary for the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, while her husband Kevin is president.

BACKGROUND: A lifelong resident of Queens, Forrestal graduated from Martin Van Buren High School and studied at Queens College.

For decades, Forrestal and her husband have volunteered their time and efforts to help countless organizations.

Last year, she was honored by the Queens Civic Congress with the Queens Civic Award for Outstanding Community Service.

She has also been the recipient of a Woman of Distinction Award from Community Board 8 and was one of 29 women to receive the City Council’s Pacesetter Award in 2006.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Forrestal remembers the day she and her husband moved to Hillcrest Estates.

“In 1974, we moved into our first home on 164th Place as homeowners and were invited by the neighbors to square dance,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Honestly, my biggest challenge has to be saving Jamaica High School from closure,” she said. “This historic and renowned school should not be closed. The phase-out of Jamaica High School is incredibly unjust and unfair to students.”

INSPIRATION: Out of her love for the Queens community, Forrestal has spent decades fighting to preserve programs and institutions to improve the standard of living for residents.

“I love people and I find serving them to be very satisfying and fulfilling,” she said. “Hillcrest Estates is a very special place, my civic work is a nurturing pastime.”

BY LUKE TABET

 

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Hollis co-op goes smoke-free


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens Smoke Free Partnership

Queens could be going smoke free, one apartment at a time.

The Queens Smoke-Free Partnership has converted 220 apartment homes into smoke-free zones and is furthering its work throughout the borough through various initiatives.

“Smoke-free housing is very up and coming,” said Yvette Buckner, the Queens borough manager at the Partnership. “We’re helping to formalize a policy and make Queens a healthier place.”

The Hilltop Village Cooperative in Hollis is one of the new smoke-free sites. Melvin Doby, board president of Cooperative Building 1 at Hilltop Village, sees the new initiative as a movement towards better health and one in which residents need to compromise.

Before the smoke-free space was implemented, Doby went out and spoke with his shareholders in Building 1. He admitted that some people had issues, but regardless, the motion passed with a significant majority vote.

“People say, ‘It’s infringing on our rights, our liberties,’ but when you signed on the dotted line, you signed [to] play well with others,” he said. “It’s a shared space. Our apartments are not air-tight. Second-hand smoke is a problem.”

After the building was made smoke free, designated smoking areas were put in place around the vicinity. Doby said that the co-op has a large elderly population, many of whom rely daily on oxygen tanks. If smokers are free to roam as they please around the property, Doby said it could be a great health concern.

“It’s just something to accommodate everyone,” he added. “It’s also a common courtesy.”

Within the next year, the Partnership plans to work with the Queens Co-op and Condo Association and the Queens Civic Congress to create more smoke-free units.

Aside from smoke-free housing, the Partnership is working on limiting tobacco marketing and exposure to youth and working in conjunction with community groups and youth organizations.

“We’re trying to keep them healthy where they live, work and play,” said Buckner.

 

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In memory of Patricia Dolan


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The sudden and tragic death of Queens Civic Congress President Patricia Dolan has left the civic community shocked and grief stricken.

She was struck and killed by a vehicle on her way to a community board committee meeting on the evening of November 15.

Dolan was a person who dedicated herself to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.  She was not only concerned with local issues in her community but with county and city-wide issues, such as education, transportation, the environment, libraries and zoning.

As part of her job as president of the Queens Civic Congress, an organization made up of over 100 civic and community groups, Dolan frequently testified at city agency hearings, wrote letters to city officials and the newspapers regarding concerns of her organization and hosted many important Civic Congress events.  She lobbied elected leaders for changes that would be positive for the stability of our neighborhoods.

Dolan was intelligent, knowledgeable, tenacious and fearless, and she was a role model for many of us in terms of community activism.  She was also a friend and I will miss her.  My condolences go to her family and all of her many friends.

 

Henry Euler

Queens Civic Congress Defends Creedmoor


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Queens Civic Congress (QCC), the umbrella coalition for more than 100 Queens civic organizations, congratulates Community Board 13 on its vote to oppose construction of two multi-story apartment buildings on the Creedmoor campus, adjacent to several low-density Bellrose neighborhoods.

QCC supports services for seniors and indeed supported development of low rise, low-density senior housing elsewhere on the Creedmoor site.  We are opposed to out-of-scale, non-contextual development that negatively affects built-out neighborhoods like Bellerose.  ICCC’s proposal, which seeks to effectively change the existing  zone to a higher density residential one, is clearly out of character with the nearby low density housing and just as clearly negatively affects its nearby neighbors – with nine-story buildings less than 50 feet from many one-family, one-story homes.

Without any public notice or hearing, the state sold the property to ICCC for far less than market value – an action that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating.

Queens residents should be especially wary of how ICCC acquired the Creedmoor property, which is state owned land. Creedmoor is not the only state-owned land in Queens.

The MTA – desperate for funds – owns train yards and bus depots across Queens.  In the past, developers have eyed both the Sunnyside Yards and the Jamaica Yards for high-density housing.

Now ICCC’s plan goes to Borough President Marshall for a hearing and her advisory opinion. 

QCC calls on Marshall to turn down ICCC’s plan and instead support the Creedmoor Master Plan, which calls for responsible development that will better serve Queens and the Bellerose community.

And we call on the Board of Standards and Appeals to reject this development, which will jeopardize a thriving community.

 

Patricia Dolan

President

Queens Civic Congress