Tag Archives: WRBA

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


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star

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.

 

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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.”

 

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Woodhaven QueensWay forum brings in new ideas


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File Photo

New ideas are flowing in for the abandoned Rockaway Beach rail line.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Assocation (WRBA) hosted what attendees are calling the truest, open public forum held thus far regarding the QueensWay and Rockaway Beach line.

Advocates for the proposed 3.5-mile QueensWay park along the abandoned rail line addressed those with reservations about the project and vice versa on Monday in Woodhaven.

Ed Wendell, WRBA president, brought a new idea to the table. He said the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway that currently runs through Forest Park has been “a problem for 20 years,” and QueensWay officials should use this space as their “lab experiment.”

“Why don’t we focus on cleaning up the existing greenway,” he said. “Show us what you can do, and the community will be much more receptive.”

Alexander Blenkinsopp, a WRBA member, called this idea “brilliant,” and offered an additional option for “each community to decide what they want done with their stretch of the tracks.”

The old rail line runs up 98th Street from the Rockaways to Manhattan.

“If the people of Forest Hills really want the QueensWay, let them have it in their neighborhood,” he said. “And if it’s so wonderful, the residents of Woodhaven will see how great it is in Forest Hills and will eventually welcome it into their community as well.”

Wendell echoed many people when he said one main concern to address before moving forward with building a new park is security in existing greenspaces such as Forest Park.

“We see women jogging in the morning using flashlights,” Wendell said. “How terrifying is that? That they have to do this.”

He said that park officials as well as cops in the 102nd Precinct should be given proper resources to patrol the park before more acres are added via the QueensWay, which would connect to Forest Park.

A feasibility study to determine the possibility of creating the new park is currently underway, and QueensWay supporters noted it is “just a study” and “there really is no plan yet.”

However, residents doubt a QueensWay study would show the QueensWay is not feasible.

“Any proposals that come back are going to have to take into account a lot of people’s concerns,” Wendell said. “There are a whole lot of emotions and feelings on it.”

 

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Woodhaven noise complaints raise concerns


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

With summer coming, concerns about noise are among the top worries in the neighborhood, as addressed at the June 15 meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA).

WRBA President Ed Wendell said many sound abusers have been a constant problem for residents. He added they often continue the noise, if not even raising the volume, if 3-1-1 is called.

WRBA recently ran an online survey that drew replies from 45 people, Wendell said. He explained that thirty-two of the complaints were for loud parties, while 39 of the total incidents took place between 6 p.m. and midnight.

“I know a couple of people here in this room have issues with neighbors that are chronic locations where the behavior, while not only rude, in some cases borders on harassment,” he said. “It sounds like what’s happened is they’ve complained a number of times, the people that have been complained about got wind of it, and now they’re fighting back with behaviors that would be considered harassment.”

While many of these complaints relate to parties, WRBA Treasurer Vance Barbour said he recently encountered two vehicles blasting music on Jamaica Avenue so loudly that the vibrations shook the cars’ windows.

“It’s just ridiculous,” he said, “They’re just wiping out our whole commercial strip.”

There were 53 calls to 3-1-1 from May 25 to June 17 within Woodhaven’s zip code, according to city data. Thirty of those calls fell under the categories of “loud music/party” or “car/truck music.”

The 102nd Precinct is taking a proactive approach to combating chronic noise makers, according to community affairs officer Jose Severino. Officers in the past have given a warning to partiers, only to turn the corner to hear the music return, he said.

Now, Severino said the precinct is issuing summonses and nipping the problem in the bud.

“I’m taking a different approach,” he said. “I don’t want to go in August, I want to go right now and take care of it.”

 

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Residents want landlord held responsible for Woodhaven building collapse


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Twitter / @FDNY

BY LUKE TABET

Concerned Woodhaven residents want to know what repercussions, if any, a local landowner will face after his building collapsed last month, damaging the adjacent Volunteer Ambulance Corps and forcing residents to leave the Woodhaven Senior Center.

An abandoned furniture store at 78-19 Jamaica Avenue crumbled onto the street on April 12, crushing a minivan parked out front and shutting down a section of the road while debris was removed.

The 78-19 Jamaica Avenue LLC owns the building, according to the Department of Finance.

At a May 18 meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA), many voiced their desire to see the landlord held responsible for alleged negligence that led to the vacant building’s collapse.

According to the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) website, the structure had 35 violations and a partial vacate order before the collapse.

An impending Environmental Control Board hearing will determine if the owner — who could not be reached — is at fault for the violations.

The Woodhaven Senior Center is currently covered by a tarp, which must be proven watertight before seniors will be allowed back into the building.

 

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Woodhaven graffiti surges


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Tag, you’re it.

About 60 percent of mailboxes in Woodhaven are tagged right now, according to Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) president Ed Wendell. By the end of last summer, nearly, if not all, mailboxes and fire poles in the neighborhood were graffiti-free, he said.

But during the winter, when Wendell said it’s harder to do cleanups, the vandals went back to make their mark on their favorite “canvas,” USPS mailboxes.

“It’s not really good painting weather,” he said. “You just do your best. When the springtime comes, you just do it all again over.”

Captain Elwood Selover, head of the Citywide Vandals Task Force, spoke to the 102nd Precinct Community Council on Tuesday, March 19 about how the NYPD combats graffiti.

While it’s considered a relatively minor crime, Selover said graffiti in a neighborhood can give a certain feel of lawlessness. By tracking certain marks, the division has been able to arrest taggers for up to 100 charges, he said, across several boroughs.

Captain Elwood Selover at the 102nd Precinct Community Council meeting about graffiti. 

“The little things take care of the big things,” Selover said. “People are doing jail time for it.”

Because vandals traditionally like to have their own tags, the unit has been able to track handwriting, and determine which are gang related.

Wendell said he hopes to have Selover or someone from the unit speak at a WRBA meeting soon so residents can get an idea of how the NYPD tracks taggers. He said he and other WRBA members will start going out and repainting mailboxes when the weather gets warmer.

“When you leave it alone,” he said, “You’re telling the people who did this ‘We’re not serious about enforcing it.’”

 

 

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Woodhaven residents upset over slow response to sewage issue


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

Woodhaven residents want to know why it took so long to stop the sewage that was spewing into the streets of their neighborhood.

At the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) March 16 meeting, several members inquired why the feces-ridden puddle continued to be a problem, considering how close it was to a nursery school.

“When there’s a fire, the Fire Department can rush into a house,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They don’t need to ring the doorbell and get permission – there’s a fire. In this case here, this to me was every bit as bad as a fire, because you had human waste spilling out into a street right next to a nursery school.”

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) put out an emergency bid to finally fix the lingering problem. Until then, agencies could only slap the landlord with fines, officials said. There’s a $20,000 lien against the house because of fines racking up since 2005, according to Assemblymember Michael Miller’s office.

Children from neighboring St. Luke’s Nursery School had to walk into the street to get out of the waste-filled puddle coming from the house, Wendell said, and the block was never closed off or a crossing guard installed at the site.

“That sidewalk should have been closed, it should have been a hazmat situation,” he said. “Something should have been done.”

The situation with this house was unique because it dealt with tenants, according to Rudy S. Giuliani, chief of staff for Councilmember Eric Ulrich. In normal circumstances, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would shut the water off, he said. But since the city did not want to make the tenants suffer for an absentee landlord, the city looked to take other options such as sending in HPD.

Giuliani said Ulrich’s office is working on finding out what took so long to fix the problem.

 

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Block Watchers: Looking out for Woodhaven


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY ADJANI SHAH

They’re keeping an eye on your street.

A representative from the Block Watchers, a citizens’ patrol initiative, informed and trained members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) at the civic group’s February 20 meeting.

There are about 70 registered Block Watchers in the Woodhaven community thanks to the meeting.

Officer Dion Harris, of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, said the program’s intent is for residents to serve as watchdogs for the police. This includes knowing which situations require a call to 9-1-1, or 3-1-1, observing situations and not getting physically involved in altercations.

Harris also taught residents how to identify a perpetrator or a vehicle to better inform police. Another item was how to identify a street, even if signs were not visible.

“Think about what you saw, that’s what you will report,” he said.

For more info about getting involved in Block Watchers, contact the WRBA at 718-296-3735.

 

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Broken sewage pipe soils Woodhaven street


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

A broken pipe in Woodhaven has residents concerned about public safety after gushing water, rife with human waste, has soiled the corner of 85th Street and 88th Avenue.

“It’s disgusting,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) president Ed Wendell, who’s been tracking the problem for a few weeks now. Wendell and other WRBA members have contacted city agencies about the problem, but most agencies cannot interfere with a private residence.

Wendell said he drove past the house a few weeks ago and water had been pouring into the street. When he went back two days later, during a bad cold snap, he said the water had frozen with bits of toilet paper and other unmentionables solidified. A snow storm a few days later covered the ice, leading people to think there was nothing but sidewalk underneath. As a result, Wendell said, people were slipping and sliding on the feces-infested ice.

But a bigger problem is one particular neighbor: St. Luke’s Nursery School next door.

The school’s director did not want to comment on the matter.

For everyone’s safety — especially that of the children — the sidewalk either needs to be closed off, or the city needs to install a crossing guard during school hours, Wendell said.

The home’s owner, Noris Requena, according to records, could not be reached at press time, nor could the person listed as the home’s resident.

Because it’s a private home, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cannot forcibly go inside.

Since the problem is inside the house, the city is limited on how it can intervene, said Rudy Giuliani, chief of staff for Councilmember Eric Ulrich. In a normal situation, the city would shut water supply to the home, but since the home is rented out authorities have opted to keep the water on. DEP has visited the home several times, Giuliani said, but the problem seems to be with an absentee landlord.

The next step, he said, was for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to intervene since the city has not been able to track down the landlord.

 

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Final redistricting lines released


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Queens_Feb6

The final district lines that will go before the City Council were released on Monday, February 4, with moderate changes to the map that was released just two months ago. The new maps were released two days before the Districting Commission was to vote on the lines and discuss the changes district-by-district and borough-by-borough.

Several neighborhoods opposed the lines released in early December, mainly insisting the plans would divide neighborhoods and certain demographics. Independent residents and civic organizations made their unhappiness known at several hearings.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) opposed the December map, as the neighborhood would continue to be divided between two councilmembers. The district currently represented by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley was essentially flipped with that represented by Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

Members spoke out against the lines at a January 14 hearing. WRBA President Ed Wendell said he was disappointed, but realized at this point change probably would not have come. He said the WRBA would “have to work twice as hard to get our elected officials’ attention.”

Kris Gounden, an Ozone Park resident who’s been active in the West Indian community, said he was disappointed that parts of South Ozone Park were still incorporated into the 32nd District, despite pleas by residents.

“We want someone that’s born of us,” he said. “That looks like us. That’s more likely to speak of our own interest.

 

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Residents fight against redistricting division


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

In their last attempt before the maps went to the City Council for votes, residents told the New York City Redistricting Commission changes had to be made to keep neighborhoods such as South Ozone Park and Woodhaven in one piece.

“This isn’t about which district we end up with, this isn’t about which representative we get,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) President Ed Wendell. “We just know that when we’re divided, it weakens our position.”

The Monday, January 14 hearing was the third before a final draft is sent to the City Council for a vote. Representatives have three weeks to vote either in favor or against the map; the new Council lines will be adopted if the legislature can’t come to a vote by deadline. The commission will re-explore lines after this latest round of hearings and make any changes it feels necessary.

Concerns about neighborhoods in Flushing and Bayside were addressed at the meeting — particularly Mitchell Linden, Broadway and Murray Hill — where many say the towns were split or dislocated from traditional districts. Councilmember , reading from a prepared testimony, called for the commission to keep these neighborhoods united, as they had been in the past.

Wendell, one of several WRBA members to speak, harkened back to the first draft of Council lines in which Woodhaven was almost completely in one councilmember’s district. The second draft, however, essentially flipped Woodhaven’s representatives and divided the area again.

Colin Bucca, another Woodhaven resident, told the commissioners continuing to keep Woodhaven in two would ruin the integrity and the character of the neighborhood.

“It’s not just equations on a spread sheet, it’s not just lines on a map, it’s people,” he said. “A neighborhood is defined by the people that live there. I live in Woodhaven; that’s my neighborhood.”

Many others spoke about neighboring South Ozone Park being placed in District 28, but wanted the western line of the district pushed to Woodhaven Boulevard — incorporating such landmarks as John Adams High School.
The desire for a unified Indo-Caribbean community has been the driving force behind this push, something that many in attendance spoke to.

“We are disappointed that South Ozone Park, part of the same community of interest, remains falsely divided along Lefferts Boulevard,” said Videsh Persaud, a program coordinator for the Indo-Caribbean Alliance. “While we appreciate the changes that were made in Richmond Hill, the process is incomplete without adjustments to South Ozone Park as well. These are part of the same community, and they must be kept in the same district.”

Kris Gounden, a community activist for the area, said residents want elected officials who understand their cultures and needs. Gounden said the city had suppressed the Indo-Caribbean community in south Queens and had stunted its ability to grow and prosper.

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Queensway closer to reality


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Because of a state-secured grant, the much debated Queensway project is one step closer to getting off the ground.

The Trust for Park Land has received $467,000 from Governor Andrew Cuomo to study the feasibility of a three-and-a-half mile greenway on what once was the Rockaway Beach LIRR line.

This study would look at the plethora of things that go into converting the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, the environmental impact of the project and community feedback. Because more homes have been built around the tracks since service stopped in 1963, any use of the land would require studies to see how it will affect residents.

Friends of the Queensway, an advocacy group for the nature space, say it’s the first step in making the five-year-old dream come true.

“This is tremendous,” said Friends of the Queensway member Andrea Crawford. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The walkway, expected to be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, would celebrate the culture and diversity of Queens, Crawford said. If approved, it would run through neighborhoods such as Forest Hills, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

“There’s a hundred and something languages spoken within a mile of the Queensway,” she said. “So that’s what makes this so exciting. It really represents Queens.”

Others, however, have different ideas on what the land could be used for, particularly transportation for south and central Queens. A new Rockaway LIRR line would connect south Queens to the rest of the borough via mass transit, ease traffic problems and streamline a significantly long commute to Manhattan.

Either project would potentially run right through the middle of Forest Park as well.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who has pushed for a new Rockaway Beach LIRR, thinks this new study should include a look at new transportation options as well. Goldfeder said he is working with rail advocates to ensure transportation is included in the study.

“I am opposed to any plan, or any study, that would exclude the opportunity and possibility of transportation via rail line,” he said. “I’m working with transportation and rail advocates that will work with the Trust for Public Land and do a rail feasibility study at the same time.”

Some just want the strip of land to be cleaned up and maintained.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) has not taken a position on either side, but instead thinks the city should address the years of neglect. Either project would misuse state funds and be disruptive to residents living around the area — effectively ruining the character of the neighborhood, said WRBA President Ed Wendell.

“We heard from our residents; they’re dead-set against either plan,” Wendell said.

WRBA will keep up fight for unity


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

In an attempt to keep the community in one piece, members and residents of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) said they plan on attending and speaking at the January 14, 2013 hearing on redistricting at Queensborough Community College.

At the organization’s December 15 meeting, several residents voiced concern over the latest set of district lines, which have been sent back to the drawing board after several neighborhoods were chopped up.

Attendees sat at tables designated to show what City Council district they would potentially be in. Some worries included who was in which district, or what landmarks would be included in certain areas.

“These are the things that define us as a community,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They are splitting it and taking it away from us, so we are not pleased with it.”

The WRBA sent letters of testimony to support earlier lines that kept Woodhaven within one district, Wendell said. The most recent update, however, backtracked on all that the neighborhood said was right about the lines.

“They decided to do the opposite of what we suggested,” said WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp. “And that’s a little odd.”

Woodhaven on redistricting: Send lines back to the drawing board


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Woodhaven Residents Block Association

The newest set of proposed city council district lines, set to take effect next year, have some Woodhaven residents upset that they might once again be split into two districts.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) has taken a stand against the proposed redistricting lines, saying they would split up the neighborhood and exhaust and overlap the efforts of city representatives. “We just feel overall you should never split a community,” said WRBA president Ed Wendell. “I just don’t believe in that.”

If the neighborhood has a problem, such as downed power lines after a storm, Wendell said the WRBA, as a resource for information, would have to either sift through who lives in which district or provide both city council offices with a full list of complaints. The result would be over-exhausting resources from the two offices.

“Not only do I think it’s bad for the community, I don’t think it’s fair to the elected officials,” Wendell said. “Now they have to cover a lot more ground. There’s overlapping — it’s doubling of efforts.”

Woodhaven, in the preliminary map released earlier this year by the NYC Districting Commission, had the bulk of the neighborhood within the boundaries of Council District 30.

The new map, released last month, however, divides the neighborhood back into two districts. City Council District 30 would include all streets bordered by Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue from north to south, and 75th Street to Forest Parkway from east to west. The district, according to the new map, would also encompass the co-ops in the northeastern corner of Woodhaven. The rest of the neighborhood would be represented by Council District 32.

Roughly two thirds of Woodhaven is served by Councilmember Eric Ulrich; the other third by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. Both have represented the neighborhood since 2009.

Alexander Blenkinsopp, communications director for the WRBA, hopes that the City Council would vote the new lines down and send them back to the drawing board.

“The Commission decided to throw Woodhaven under the bus,” Blenkinsopp said. “It should be embarrassed about how its final proposal treats our community. Now that the final decision is in the hands of the city council, we want all city councilmembers to know that a vote in favor of this gerrymander is a vote against Woodhaven.”

During a September WRBA meeting, when the first draft of the map had come out, both councilmembers made it apparent that Woodhaven would be completely within one district.

Neither Ulrich nor Crowley was able to comment at deadline.

Fate of defunct Queens rail tracks to be debated


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

The future of 50-year defunct rail tracks that run from Rego Park to the Jamaica Bay will be debated on Saturday, September 29 at a public forum hosted by the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).

The hearing, to be held at the Queens Tabernacle at 1 p.m., will host advocates for a natural walkway, Friends of Queensway, and those who are for a revival of the Rockaway Beach rail line, which ended all service in 1962.

Regardless of what becomes of the trail, the impact on residents must be taken into place, said WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp.

“My entire life, I’ve resided just a block away from those tracks.  I know that either proposal, if it became a reality, would have an enormous impact on those who live nearby, and on Woodhaven as a whole,” he said. “Other neighborhoods have publicly weighed in on this debate.  Now it’s time for the people of Woodhaven to hear the arguments for each side, ask tough questions, and make known where they stand.”

Residents may ask either side questions when the presentations are completed.