Community Board 14 March Meeting Recap

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It was a short and sweet gathering at the Knights of Columbus for the March Community Board 14 (CB 14) meeting on Tuesday. On the agenda: a construction update on the Rockaway Beach Hotel, the Rockaway Business Alliance’s plans for community events, safety issues within the 101st Precinct and more.

CB 14 Chair Dolores Orr kicked off the night announcing hopes for future meetings with the Parks Department to explain the impact of piping plovers and why they cause beaches to be closed, and a Youth Services Committee meeting with the Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation (RDRC) to connect youth with potential job openings.

Orr also spoke about the budget for the NYPD in Queens, giving the 100th Precinct a plug for the lowest crime rate out of all Queens precincts for 2016-2017, with the 101st coming in fourth out of 16 Queens precincts. Deputy Inspector Janice Holmes, of the 100th Precinct, then provided some updates on the community. She briefly spoke about the robbery that took place at Carvel on March 9, saying the suspect, who had robbed another store in Brooklyn earlier that day, was identified and they’re searching for him. She also warned about another recent robbery spree within south Queens and Nassau County, in which pharmacies have become a specific target.

Orr then spoke more about the Borough Board Expense and Capital Priorities. She pointed out that out of all the boroughs, the Queens Community Boards’ budget is lower than in other boroughs. She also spoke about the budget for some continuing capital projects like the reconstruction of Cross Bay Boulevard and raising streets in Broad Channel, installing storm sewers on the main street on the west end of the peninsula, from Beach 169th to Beach 222nd Street, installing safety fences along Seagirt Boulevard so people can’t cross in the middle of the street, replacing the bulkhead at all street ends, adding check valves and tide gates on storm water outfalls across the district, and more. Some new expense projects that may or may not be feasible include designing and constructing storm sewers at several points in Far Rockaway, upgrading the Rockaway Treatment Plant, having more Parks maintenance crewmembers in the summer, installing two-hour muni-meters along Mott Avenue and more. She also spoke about the expense for education, saying that Queens schools have the lowest per pupil spending despite 108.11 percent of seats being filled within Queens schools, while other boroughs are far below capacity.

District Manager Jon Gaska reminded people that if there are streets on the peninsula that need to be repaved, to contact him as soon as possible. The street must be in bad shape to get on the list. Email Gaska at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, he gave a reminder that anyone looking for a street activity permit for a block party or other event, must give 90 days notice to the Mayor’s Office and must have a petition from at least 70 percent of the residents on the block that support the event. He also said that the expansion of the Joseph P. Addabbo Health Center will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on April 10. The Center is undergoing a 22,000 square-foot expansion that will more than double its space.

The meeting was then open for public speaking, which 10 people signed up for. First to speak, Far Rockaway resident Gordon Williams talked about supporting a petition for a dog park in Far Rockaway. Lew Simon spoke about helping residents with post office problems and urged people to contact him if they need help. He also said that the first phase of the new St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Emergency Department should be complete by April. A Pre-K for all community outreach specialist reminded the audience that 3K is now available at local public schools and the last day to apply for Pre-K is March 30, and 3K is May 11. There will be an info session at Arverne Library and anyone with questions about either program are advised to call 212-637-8031.

Musicians, Dan Klohe of Solshyne and Tim Farrell of 3 Sheets to the Wind, spoke about rumors that a group of residents are trying to stop live music on the boardwalk. They spoke about the benefits of live music in Rockaway and encouraged any naysayers to come out and experience it for themselves and have an open conversation about their issues. A representative from Urban Upbound said there will be a job fair at Ocean Bay Community Center (57-10 Beach Channel Drive) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested must wear business attire and bring a resume. Two representatives spoke about a proposal for a new project-based charter high school in Far Rockaway by 2020. For more information, see www.ourlegacyacademy.org. Others spoke about encouraging solar energy for homeowners and addressing failing schools in the community.

After public speaking, representatives from the construction team of the Rockaway Beach Hotel on Beach 108th, were on hand to provide updates on the project. They said that the design is complete and the site has been cleared and demolished. Foundation work has begun. Some areas were found to be contaminated, but these concerns were removed. They’re now at a stage where watering wells are being created low down so that the site can have underground parking. The foundation work will continue on through June and July. After that, work will begin on the first floor of the six-story building. The façade work will continue until the end of the year. The first half of 2019 will include mechanical and plumbing work and the interior will be finished in the second half of 2019. The hope is to finish at the end of 2019 and prepare for a soft opening in the first quarter of 2020, with the hotel fully-operational by spring 2020. They will continue to attend community board meetings to provide further updates. Some expressed concern about a recent gas leak connected to the project’s construction, which the reps admitted they miscalculated where the gas line was and said precautions are being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

The Rockaway Business Alliance (RBA) was on hand to speak about a Department of Transportation-sponsored event, Weekend Walks, with the goal of making streets pedestrian friendly. Last year’s Rock-a-Block events in the Beach 90s were a success, so RBA is hoping to bring such an event to Beach 116th sometime in May. Permits from the city is still required, but the Community Board chose to show its support.

The Parks & Public Safety Committee provided its notes on a meeting they held with the 101st Precinct. The committee met with Captain Tavalaro because of the recent violent crime taking place within the 101st Precinct, including the murder of two teens. The captain said that the shootings were gang-related and that it is believed there are more than 400 gang members on the peninsula. Some suggested a gun buyback program, but from past experience, these types of events were not successful as gang members weren’t the ones to turn in weapons. Another suggestion brought up was to copy a program in California, in which there is a community football or basketball league with two-hour mandatory tutoring through the Board of Education. Each school in Far Rockaway would have a team so kids from around the community can get to know each other in a positive way. The committee also requested a summer detail with more officers at the Beach 17th park, which the Community Board unanimously voted in favor for.

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