Tag Archives: Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Package thief wanted in Woodhaven


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the WRBA

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) is seeking the public’s help in catching a one-armed thief who stole a package off a resident’s porch near 94th Street and 86th Avenue.

About two minutes after a UPS package was left on the porch, a silver minivan pulled over across the street, said the WRBA. After about seven minutes, the minivan driver, who appears to be missing his right arm, backed up the car, exited it, walked up to the porch and stole the package. The crime, which occurred in the late afternoon on Monday, July 23, was caught on surveillance video.

“This is yet another example of how useful video surveillance cameras can be for our neighborhood.  Now we need to put this extremely strong evidence to work and make sure this thief gets caught,” said Ed Wendell, president of the WRBA. “He might be from Woodhaven, or he might be from a nearby neighborhood.  Wherever he’s from, you should let us know if you have any clues, because you might be his next victim.”

If you have any information that could help solve this crime, please contact the WRBA at 718-296-3737 or info@woodhaven-nyc.org. Or you can call the 102nd Precinct at 718-805-3207.

 

The good & ugly


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE GOOD . . .

Taking back our streets.

We applaud the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) — and all others like it — in their efforts to curb vandalism.

Though we are lovers of art, we feel that graffiti is a blight on our communities.

It lowers the value of area homes and reduces sales in business districts.

And though the NYPD has resources allocated to graffiti removal, it is an uphill battle.

Often, spots that have been cleaned of vandalism will be retagged days — sometimes hours — later.

So bravo, WRBA, for your vigilance in finding, chronicling, and cleaning graffiti.

And, working with the NYPD, we hope that your efforts will help take some graffitists off the streets, making Queens a cleaner, more beautiful place to live.

THE UGLY . . .

In unrelated incidents, a two year old and a four year old fell victim to the latest spate of gun violence.

That brings the tally to three.

Three children, all under the age of five, have been hit by stray bullets this summer.

When will the madness end?

If the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 dead and 58 injured, is not enough to spur action, then this should be.

We MUST urge our legislators to increase gun control. It is time we stood up.

Write, call email – TODAY – and tell your local senator and congressmember – even the president – that you are in favor of gun control.

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Phone: 202-456-1111

 

Senator Charles Schumer: 322 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington D.C. 20510

Phone: 202-224-6542

 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: 780 Third Avenue Suite 2601

New York, New York 10017

Phone: 212: 688-6262

Uphill battle in Woodhaven fight against graffiti


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, Ed Wendell stopped the car every few blocks to inspect one of the graffiti-covered mailboxes in his neighborhood.

If untagged, he and fellow Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) member Alex Blenkinsopp felt it a small victory. If retagged, Wendell rolled down the window, despite the raindrops, and snapped a picture of the graffiti on the box.

Over the past two years, the WRBA has been trying to clean up graffiti in the neighborhood, which is mainly found on mailboxes or fireboxes. In the last few months, members have gone out to repaint them — sometimes to find them retagged a few days or weeks later.

Wendell, president of the WRBA, and members have mapped out the neighborhood into three zones to keep track of common graffiti areas.

They went out to clean up “Zone A” on Saturday, July 14, where Wendell said 44 percent of the mailboxes had been tagged. By day’s end the entire zone — bordered by Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue — was cleaned, he said. By Tuesday, July 24, however, Wendell said 56 percent of the mailboxes in Zone A were tagged again.

Residents, armed with green and blue paint courtesy of the U.S. Post Office, have not only been recording which boxes are marked, but the tags as well, in an attempt to combat consistent graffitists.

“Now what we’ve added to it is keeping track of the tags themselves,” Wendell said, noting that Zone B extends from 85th Street to Woodhaven Boulevard, and Zone C from Eldert Lane to 80th Street .

The 102nd Precinct currently has two officers who, along with regular duties, are assigned to specialize in graffiti: identifying, removing and preventing.

Wendell and Blenkinsopp said the association has been working with these officers.

“I’m sure they have a lot of information they can pass along to us,” he said.

A precinct spokesperson said officers had been in touch with the block association, which has been forwarding emails and information to the graffiti officers.

Wendell said he’s hopeful some of these taggers will be caught, noting that he would be open to those guilty helping in the clean up efforts.

“I’d love to see when they catch one of these guys,” he said.

Despite a plethora of mailboxes covered sometimes in several, varying tags, Wendell said graffiti in the neighborhood is not as bad as it was in the 1970s, when an entire subway car could be covered in spraypaint. One popular tag throughout the neighborhood back then, he said, was called “Fred board in the head.” The tag featured a man’s face with a board of wood nailed to it.

Today’s popular tags run the gamut, he said.

Blenkinsopp and Wendell also mentioned that others have argued graffiti is a form of expression or artwork, but mailboxes or other public landmarks were not the correct medium.

“This is different,” Blenkinsopp said. “They’re getting their name out there and they’re marking their territory.” He went on to mention 5pointz in Long Island City as a positive place to use graffiti, as it was designated for such.

“I’d like to hear more of a citywide effort to solve this,” Wendell said.

Star of Queens: Alexander Blenkinsopp


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Alex Blenkinsoppw

Alexander Blenkinsopp

Director of Communications, Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

Member, Community Board 9

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Alex Blenkinsopp is the director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) and serves on Community Board 9.

“I’ve always cared a lot about Woodhaven and about Queens,” he said. “When I joined the WRBA in 2009, I hoped to give something back to my community. Through the Block Association, I met many people who had the same goal. Our successes the past few years show that a group of passionate, generous residents can make a real difference in the character of a neighborhood.

“On Community Board 9, I’ve seen how much work goes on — often unnoticed by the public — to improve our quality of life. It’s an honor to be part of this local representation and to serve with people who take their Community Board responsibilities so seriously.”

CURRENT ROLE: Blenkinsopp is a graduate student pursuing two master’s degrees — one in public policy and another in business administration.

Previously, he interned at the White House, and worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has also worked in the private sector for an investment and technology development firm.

PERSONAL: Blenkinsopp is a lifelong resident of Woodhaven. He attended St. Thomas the Apostle School for nine years. He attended Regis High School, a Catholic school in Manhattan, on a full scholarship. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his master’s degree in criminal justice from Oxford.

INSPIRATIONS: “My parents have been a huge inspiration,” he said. “They’re responsible for my moral core, my priorities in life, and my work ethic. My dad taught me to be a birder and nature enthusiast, which is great because I’ve resided close to Forest Park and Jamaica Bay my whole life. My mom, who grew up in the Bronx, taught me to be a die-hard Yankees fan — not always a popular thing around here! And they both taught me to stand up for what I believe in.”

CHALLENGES: “It’s a struggle to try to make government bodies responsive and accountable, and to help them do their work better,” said Blenkinsopp. “Residents all over Queens and throughout New York City are frustrated with city agencies that are slow to address our complaints, politicians who draw district lines or accept big checks behind closed doors, and officials who ignore our suggestions. The vast majority of people who work for these government bodies are dedicated public servants, but unfortunately a few bad apples can spoil the barrel.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “Finally making the all-star team while playing in the Ridgewood-Glendale-Middle Village-Maspeth Little League. I wasn’t a great baseball player, but I hustled and tried really hard!

“A close second was being on the team that built the new consumer protection agency. It will protect millions of Americans from unfair and abusive practices when it comes to credit cards, mortgages, and other financial products. It’s simply wrong when hard-working people get ripped off by unfair terms hidden in the fine print.”

 

Woodhaven against street changes, for rezoning


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

It was a successful evening for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, which worked to further a vote against street changes they felt could negatively impact their neighborhood.

Community Board (CB) 9 voted unanimously against the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed alterations, which could turn 84th Street into a southbound one-way street and make 89th Street one-way instead of two-way.

“It was a good feeling after two-and-a-half months of putting together e-mails, videos and flyers,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “There was a lot of community involvement.”

Wendell, ecstatic about this vote, claimed that if these changes were to occur, there would be no way to get through the area except to take Woodhaven Boulevard.

These possible modifications were brought to his attention when a resident spotted a notice on her church’s bulletin board, alerting her that several local roadways would be altered. Feeling that these changes would negatively impact her neighborhood, she contacted CB 9, which passed the message along to Wendell.

A crowd of 175 gathered on Tuesday, March 13 to watch the proceedings over this vote. According to Wendell, most of Woodhaven’s residents were very against these street changes.

A vote for rezoning was strongly voted in favor of during the evening as well. According to Wendell, the zoning laws have not been reviewed and adjusted since 1961, rules he feels need to be reassessed due to Woodhaven’s overcrowding.

“You don’t want someone knocking down a nice one-family home and building condos for six families,” said Wendell. “[Rezoning laws] put the break on development in a community so you don’t get too densely populated.”

Now that the local community board has voted for rezoning, it will be passed along to the city.

 

Forest Park Carousel will ride again in spring


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File Photo

With spring comes renewal and the Forest Park Carousel recently received news that it has been given new life by the city’s Parks Department.

After three years, the revived Forest Park Carousel is expected to be up and running by the spring or summer, according to a Parks Department spokesperson.

While the carousel has stood still, local officials and residents have worked behind the scenes to get the historic ride spinning again.

“We’re very happy to hear some long overdue good news. It’s very encouraging.” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association, who has trumped up community support with “Save the Forest Park Carousel” T-shirts and a Facebook page with more than 1,150 likes.

The ride has not been operated since 2009 when its vendor, New York One, did not renew its contract.

A Request for Proposal for vendors — the fourth the Department issued — was announced in mid-December. All proposals had to be submitted by January 27. The Parks Department has yet to make a decision on a proposal, but plans to make an announcement in March.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said she is “extremely pleased” that a new concessionaire will be operating the ride.

“With a proven vendor in place, I’m confident the carousel can once again become a great centerpiece and attraction for the park and neighborhood residents,” the councilmember said.

The carousel and the surrounding area of the park provides a tremendous opportunity for a new operator, Wendell believes.

“We’re anxious to hear the other plans the vendor has,” Wendell said. “It can become a real destination.”

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is also currently in the process of reviewing the eligibility of the carousel as a New York City landmark, said an agency spokesperson.

“It’s so priceless,” Wendell said. “You’re not going to get hand-carved wood carousels anymore. When these [works of art] are gone they’re gone forever.”

The carousel — built in 1903 — features figures carved by master sculptor Daniel Muller.

“This is something special,” Wendell said. “We’ve spent a lot of time keeping it alive in people’s consciousness. Once that thing finally opens, it’s going to be a great feeling.”

Woodhaven opposed to redistricting, traffic changes


| ecamhi@queenscourier.com

Woodhaven residents continued to show solidarity against recent rezoning and redistricting issues within their community.

During the Woodhaven Residents Block Association’s (WRBA) monthly town hall meeting, Ed Wendell, president of the civic group, urged residents to attend Community Board 9’s (CB 9) upcoming meeting to vote on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) much criticized traffic change proposal.

The proposal, which Wendell said most residents oppose, would convert 89th Avenue to a one way street while changing 84th Street from a one-way northbound to a one-way southbound street between Liberty and Atlantic avenues.

CB 9 was slated to vote on the proposals during a public hearing on February 14 in Kew Gardens, but they postponed it due to complaints from the community about the meeting’s “inconvenient” date and time. They will now be meeting on March 13 to vote at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Avenue.

Meanwhile, Maria Thomson, WRBA financial secretary, asked residents to voice their opposition to recent redistricting plans drafted by Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR). She said the plans would unfavorably split one square mile of Woodhaven amongst three separate Senate districts.

“This is a very, very big deal,” Thomson said. “We don’t want to be sliced and diced. It weakens our strength at the state level.”

Thomson and Assemblymember Mike Miller advised residents who attended the February 18 meeting to act with urgency in voicing their opposition to the redistricting plans.

“You don’t have much time to do it,” Miller said. “The vote is at the end of the month.”

Residents opposed to Woodhaven street changes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0312w

The city’s plan to change the direction of two streets in Woodhaven is heading down a one-way road to opposition.

While the project is only in its proposal stage, plans to convert 84th Street from one-way northbound to one-way southbound from Liberty to Atlantic Avenues and turn 89th Avenue from a two-way to a one-way street running eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street have been met with resistance from residents and local civic groups.

“Both of these changes are not good for the community. They weren’t asked for by residents,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA). “It doesn’t make very much sense, and it’s a bad change.”

Wendell said if the changes are implemented, the “symbiotic” relationship between Woodhaven and its adjacent neighborhood — Ozone Park — would suffer by the newfound difficulty that would come from traveling back and forth.

He said the 84th Street alteration would eliminate one of the main northbound entry points into Woodhaven, leaving only Woodhaven Boulevard and 76th Street as northbound roads that cross Atlantic Avenue.

“It’s like the doors of a supermarket — with the entrance and exit doors next to each other. If you close one of those doors, it’s going to cause problems. This cuts off one of the valuable entrances back into Woodhaven from Ozone Park. This is going to hurt both communities.”

Wendell also said turning 89th Avenue into a one-way street would severely inconvenience residents — some of whom would be forced to go “at least six blocks out of their way” to get home.

“In order to get home, the only way they can do it is to make this really awkward turn on Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, which is congested already,” Wendell said. “That’s the move this is going to force all these people to make. These residents are not going to have a choice. It’s going to be the only way to get home.”

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the request to convert 89th Avenue to a one-way operation came from Community Board 9 (CB 9) in 2008 due to the narrow roadway width, coupled with parking on both sides. The westbound direction was recommended to foster the safe curbside drop-off of students, a DOT spokesperson said.

CB 9 has yet to vote on the proposal, according to District Manager Mary Ann Carey, due to “so much controversy” revolving around the issue. The board postponed the original meeting to vote on the plans in order to seek more input from the community, although Carey said CB 9 sent out notices to residents back in 2008 when she said the plans were first proposed.

“There are so many different opinions. There are a few who are for it, but there are so very many who spoke in opposition of it. CB 9 more than likely goes with the community, but when the community is divided, it’s hard to decide,” Carey said.

The proposals will be voted on during a public hearing scheduled for February 1 at 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ozone Park.

Carey said that although feedback from the community board carries a lot of weight, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) will make the final call.

Resisting rezoning Richmond Hill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Ed Wendell.

While some local leaders laud the city’s plan to rezone Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, one local business organization said it would negatively impact and cap the growth of the community.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, plans to rezone stem from concerns raised by Community Board 9, local civic organizations and area elected officials who say that existing zoning — which has remained unchanged since 1961 — does not closely reflect established building patterns or guide new development to appropriate locations.

Therefore, the Department of City Planning is looking to rezone 231 blocks of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven to reinforce the predominant one- and two-family homes that are characteristic of the community, while redirecting new residential and mixed-use development opportunities to locations along the area’s main commercial corridors near mass transit resources.

“The whole idea of rezoning is to keep neighborhoods stable, safe and healthy,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9. “It’s about maintaining the character of the neighborhood. If you start to tear down the single family and two family homes to put up larger, multiple dwellings, the infrastructure can’t support it, and the school system can’t support it. It makes the area so overly-dense that the neighborhood spills out onto itself. It explodes at the seams.”

The plan also deters expansion in a neighborhood that already struggles with lack of space and overcrowding, said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).

“Through a residential point of view, expansion takes away parking, and it cripples our services, crowds our schools, and creates more garbage and noise,” he said. “You do not want areas currently zoned for two-family homes to suddenly spring up with large apartment buildings. That’s a no-brainer.”

Wendell said many of the neighborhood’s problems frequently get tied back to overcrowding, including increased noise, fights, garbage and lack of parking.

“We are absolutely in favor of anything that would help cut down on overcrowding,” he said.

Still, Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the plan would limit the capacity to build in the neighborhood — subsequently keeping families from growing.

“The community keeps expanding,” he said. “How can you reduce the capacity of the community? The community board needs to review the census data and make it relevant to the zoning.”

Mahadeo said he has a petition with over 2,000 signatures from residents who do not want to be “down-zoned.”

But Crawford said “it’s not down-zoning anything.”

“It’s zoning to correct the neighborhood,” she said, adding that the majority of people against the plan are landlords looking to tear down homes to put up large apartment complexes. “There are many people who live here and support it. They bought into a neighborhood, and they wanted a specific style of the neighborhood. We’re not saying don’t allow for larger structures. We’re saying it has to be sensible, and this does reflect what is necessary and what is allowable.”

The Department of City Planning is currently conducting community outreach meetings on a proposal prior to initiating the formal public review process, which can take up to seven months. The city agency will speak to residents on January 21 at WRBA’s monthly meeting.