Long Time Dutch Kills Resident Speaks Out on Historic Millstones at Queens Plaza

August 12, 2010

Excerpt from Megan Dees Friedman’s Op-Ed in August 11 Queens Gazette:

A fitting home must be found for historic millstones which have languished at their peril for decades among the traffic and pollution on Queens Plaza. These millstones are connected to the grist mill in the first European community in Queens, in what was and is today, Dutch Kills.

Penny Lee of the Department of City Planning, working with powerful figures at the Dutch Kills Civic Association, without the advice of an archeologist, have decided to make this a battle of wills, insisting the millstones remain on pedestals on Queens Plaza. To treat these historic artifacts as pawns, to exclude our community from any meaningful say in their future, goes against everything this nation stands for and against 350 years of local tradition and pride. As a result of very poor planning by the city, these millstones and Dutch Kills, our community, have suffered abusive neglect. Despite the heritage of these artifacts, various city officials have allowed these millstones to be eroded, cracked, even permitted hot asphalt to be poured on them.

It is hardly surprising that the value of these millstones has been disregarded by the city since the Dutch Kills community itself has been totally “rolled over” by the planning apparatus of the city of New York. To the current administration, these historic artifacts are just as invisible as we apparently are.

The full text of Ms. Dees Op-Ed can be accessed here


Dutch Kills Not “Saved” By Rezoning

June 15, 2010

Recently approved contruction site for yet another hotel in Dutch Kills

The Queens Chronicle reported on June 10 that contruction of a 9 story hotel at 39-35 27th St. in Dutch Kills has been approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals despite the strong opposition of community member expressed at the last regular monthly meeting of the Long Island City Alliance on Tuesday, June 8.

“They are a bunch of crooks over there,” said Barbara Lorinz, president of the Dutch Kills Advocacy League and a life-long resident of the area, regarding the BSA’s decision to allow Manhattan developer, Steven Bahar, to continue construction. All of the top-ranking commissioners on the board are appointed by the mayor. Behar is quoted as saying that new zoning rules “make no sense” and that local politicians are “wimps” succumbing to pressure from residents in order to secure their votes. He further pointed out that there are over a dozen hotels in the area already and that the only reason there are complaints is that his construction is on a residential block.

Megan Dees Friedman, vice-president of the Dutch Kills Advocacy League denied Bahar’s allegations. She said the character of the community was a concern, as was residential proprty values and damage to nearby homes from the contruction site.

Lorinz stressed that Dutch Kills residents are not against all forms of development and that progress must go on. But residents also say they do not want large commercial structures overtaking their two and three family homes.

Astoria Saved?

June 15, 2010

The Western Queens Gazette reported in a front page article on June 2 that the City Council had approved a Department of City Planning proposal to rezone 238 blocks located within the jurisdiction of Queens Community Board 1. The article went on  to note that the proposal was “intended to preserve scale and character” of Astoria’s neighborhoods.

But significantly, the issue of zoning variances was not addressed in the proposal which may allow developers to come in and put up numerous “out of character” buildings like they did in the adjacent community of Dutch Kills in the interim period between the approval and implimentation of new zoning regulations. Dutch Kills has since been overrun by a series of ugly, out of character hotels, that are adding stress to it’s infrastucture.

Then there has been far too little discussion on the drawbacks of the Astoria rezoning plan itself and questions such as whether or not the proposal might permit too greater influx of population into a community that is already over-taxed in terms of its ability to provide basic services and quality of life, whether the study area boundary was arbitrarily drawn and fails to take into account the spillover effect of development and population increase in adjacent communities, whether schools, hospitals, sanitation, energy, fire and police protection for an increased population have been adequately addressed and how the cost of absorbing greater population is to be met and whether that cost is to be borne equitably.

These are the questions that need to be asked and addressed before we can truly say that Astoria has been “saved.”

Update on Alma Realty’s Proposal for 5-Story “Addition” At Asti Condominium

May 21, 2010

LATEST UPDATE: at Alma Realty’s request and with the Community Board’s consent, the public hearing will be put off until at least September.

Story originally submitted by LICA Board Member Mitch Nisonoff on 4/24/2010:

25-10 Owners Corp. is the owner of record of the zoning lot located at 25-10 31st Avenue, Block 579, Lot 7502, located at the southeast corner of Crescent Street and 31st Ave., in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens.  
Alma Realty has submitted an application for a zoning variance to permit the construction of a new 13,285 square foot, five-story “addition” over the narrow 50 foot wide portion of the site at its southeast corner. The proposed addition would contain 19 dwelling units and an entrance from 31st Avenue., even though it is set back more than a building’s depth from that avenue.  
The exact relationship of Alma Realty to the property is not disclosed in its application and we’re told that the Board of the owners corporation — the owners of record — were not even told of this application! 
Members of the Community Board 1 already have informed attorneys for Alma Realty that its plans appear to be in violation of other provisions of the Zoning Code and that, after making appropriate additional submissions to the Buildings Department, a revised application to seek additional variances first should be submitted.
As of now, Alma Realty’s current application still is pending before the Community Board and, after several months of delay when Alma Realty has not requested a public hearing, the Community Board finally has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, June 15, 2010.
Local residents are alarmed by the proposed “addition.”  If actually built, this structure will abut the property line of and have no windows facing its immediate neighbor at 25-40 31st Ave. (“The Concord”), decrease the available number of parking spots on its own property by five, adversely affect the sunlight now provided to the Concord’s courtyard and to current residents of 25-10 31st Ave. (the “Asti” condominium), and otherwise offers no significant amenities to the community.  The proposed “addition” amounts to squeezed-in tenement housing.
LICA presently is assisting the residents in their efforts to oppose this particularly egregious example of proposed overdevelopment and any application for variances pursued by Alma Realty.

Republican City Councilman Says Community Boards Are “Epitome of Democracy in Action”

May 15, 2010

City Councilmember Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) wrote an op-ed for the May 12th Queens Gazatte in which he claims that local community boards respresent “democracy in action” and that they are, in fact, “the epitome of democracy.” Come again?

According to the Queens Community Board website http://www.queenscb.org/qcsite/home.aspx : “Each Board consists of up to 50 unsalaried members appointed by the Borough President, with half nominated by the City Council members who represent the community district.” Having community boards structured as purely appointed bodies  is an open invitation for self-dealing and conflicts of interest. For example Queens Community Board 1, serving Astoria, parts of Long Island City and Woodside, is loaded with architects and others with connections to real estate developers and also a number of “insiders” to the Queens County Democratic Organization. 

Real democracy is based on accountability. In what way are community boards accountable to the people of the communities they serve?

Might it not be better for either all or a portion of community board memberships to be elected offices, which would open up nominations to the community as a whole and provide for greater diversity in terms of background and opinion on local issues? And might it not be better, in terms of accountability, for all or a portion of community board members to face the voters every two or four years?

For full text of Councilman Halloran’s article see http://www.qgazette.com/news/2010-05-12/Editorials/Community_Boards_Democracy_In_Action.html

Third Anniversary for Bloomberg’s Top Down PlaNYC2030

May 7, 2010

From the Gotham Gazette by way of Queens Crap:

Earth Day — April 22 — marked the third anniversary of PlaNYC2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s self-proclaimed “long-term sustainability plan.” While the city has taken many steps toward the plan’s goal of “a greener greater New York,” particularly in energy conservation, one gaping hole remains in the plan.

PlaNYC2030 left out any role for the city’s hundreds of neighborhoods, 59 community boards, and the countless civic, community and environmental groups that care about the future of the city. It was a top-down plan, conceived at City Hall with minimal input, and it was never approved as an official plan. In the long term this will only undermine the ability to sustain the plan itself, and both implement and improve it.

see http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/landuse/20100412/12/3239 for full text of article.

Is there a crime problem on Astoria streets?

May 2, 2010

From 5/2 Queens Chronicle:

For residents of Astoria concerned about the recent spate of crime in the area, the 114th Precinct had a reassuring message on Tuesday — “Don’t worry. Everything is under control.”

At a packed community council meeting on Tuesday, deputy inspector Paul Vorbeck of the 114th Precinct and his colleagues briefed the community on steps taken to curb the growth of crime in the area. Revealing the year-to-date crime figures, Vorbeck stated that overall crime in the area was down less than one percent, while rape was down 30 percent. Grand larceny had dipped 17 percent, but he noted that there was an increase in burglaries — which had spiked to 32 percent.

Vorbeck told residents not to be alarmed by the statistic and reassured them that having more police on the Astoria beat would help curb the rise in burglaries.

For residents around 30th Avenue who have been complaining about the increase in noise and fights in the bars around the area, Vorbeck said their concerns regarding deteriorating quality of life will be addressed. He said that establishments that have been particularly troublesome will be scrutinized further as they renew their liquor licenses.“We can’t have people shooting and fighting in these bars,” he said. “We will review their licenses. We can’t have such establishments in the area.”

The deputy inspector said he had enough officers in his precinct to deal with any crime. Countering Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.’s concern that Albany’s budget cuts would hamstring the local police force, Vorbeck stated he had about 200 cops at the precinct. “Sure, I’ll take more cops if they give them,” but he pointed out that there was no statistical relation between the number of officers on the streets and the amount of crime. 

Many years ago, there were cops in the precinct, but there were more crimes too,” he said.

Anyone see a contradiction here?

For full text of article see http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20426272&BRD=2731&PAG=461&dept_id=574903&rfi=6