About two dozen residents braved the rain and wind Tuesday night to attend the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association's (BHPOA) first meeting of 2018, held at PS/MS114Q.
BHPOA board member, Elda Vale, standing in for Board President Hank Iori, started off with a recap of their last meeting in 2017 and praised the “spectacular” mayor’s town hall meeting held in Rockaway this past December.
Dave Randall, standing in for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, who “was busy working on the budget and the bill to eliminate the Cross Bay bridge toll” stopped by briefly to introduce himself.
Councilman Eric Ulrich then took the stage, starting with highlights from the mayor’s town hall meeting. He commended both the mayor and the residents of Rockaway on a powerful, productive event, which he said, “was a big success.”
“I was very appreciative to the mayor for holding the meeting and coming here. Rockaway is not the friendliest territory,” he said, citing the cold reception the mayor received during the St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2017. “He did a very good job of listening to our concerns, addressing those issues and then following up,” Ulrich said.
Discussion highlights of the meeting included limited beach accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers due to lack of beach mats on every beach in Belle Harbor. Ulrich thanked Mary Ellen Olsen for bringing the situation to his attention and said the mayor committed money that night for the additional beach mats. Expect to see them roll out this summer.
Residents vented about lack of sand on the beach and the long time waiting for the jetty project to get up and running. Ulrich said, “Following that town hall meeting, the mayor personally met with the head of the Army Corps of Engineers and they agreed to move the timeline up a year and to make it higher on the priority list. The mayor heard the community’s concerns and the challenges of living between the ocean and bay. They’re now aggressively lobbying to get the ball rolling.”
Fare integration across all forms of travel, including the ferry is on Ulrich’s to-do list. He’s pushing the MTA to have one method of fare payment for all modes of NYC transportation, making public transportation much easier to use. But, he says the MTA claims integrating the MetroCard at this point isn’t feasible because it is going to be phased out in the very near future. Ulrich joked, “but of course when the MTA says very near future that could be in the very far and distant future, but I’ll take them at their word.”
He spoke a bit about the new city council appointments and the reshuffling of his assignments, including his own role back on the education committee. He took a moment to compliment Principal Welsome and her staff on the “excellent job” she is doing at PS/MS114Q, highlighting her focus on professional development and the initiation of a robust writing program.
He also shared that in addition to his role on the education committee, he’s now serving on the environmental committee and although no longer on the veterans committee, says he will remain involved in veterans issues as needed.
The reconstruction project on Beach Channel Drive between Beach 116th Street and Beach 124th Streets was confirmed by Ulrich. It’s set to begin the second week of April and continue through 2020.
He wrapped up his talk by again commending the community on their decorum during the mayor’s town hall meeting. “People were appreciative and even when they were venting and critical, they were polite. The mayor has a new-found respect for this community,” he said.
The floor was then open for comments. Daniel Ruscillo thanked Ulrich and the mayor for successfully getting the DEP to change filters every month as opposed to every four months as was protocol for the Water Treatment Plant, effectively mitigating the offensive smells permeating Beach Channel Drive. This, he notes is one change that complements 18 different projects being implemented at the plant to control the odors.
Another resident voiced concerns about the condition of the boat launch on Beach Channel Drive, while another echoed the warm and fuzzy feelings from the mayor’s town hall event. The resident said that only after speaking to the mayor did his problem get resolved and did so quickly. “My issue of trying to raise my house did not fall on deaf ears.”
Lew Simon then mentioned the possibility of bringing back the old Rockway Beach subway line and also raised concerns about the bus lanes on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevards, suggesting that they also be used as an HOV lane to ease congestion during rush hours.
In closing, Ulrich reminded everyone of the free snow-shoveling program for the homebound elderly. Call or email his office for more information
Representatives from St. John’s Episcopal Hospital (SJEH) were up next with updates on the expected completion of Phase I of the emergency department’s (ED) expansion and renovation project this April. Renee Hastick-Motes, vice president of external affairs, said the new 22,000 square foot ED will include 19 private treatment rooms, 21 waiting positions, six rapid evaluation beds and 14 private areas for psychiatric emergency care. Phase 2 begins in September 2018.
Dr. Tarantino, associate director of wound care at SJEH, spoke about the opening of the SJEH Wound Care Center at the hospital (327 Beach 19th Street). The center has two new hyperbaric oxygen chambers and performs synthetic skin grafts, debridements, compression wraps, and has podiatry services to successfully treat chronic wounds.
Belle Harbor resident, Barbara Larkin took a moment to praise the new wound care unit and staff who recently treated her elderly mother.
Other residents suggested the possibility of a trauma center and a cardiac catheterization lab as part of the future of the hospital. Hastick-Motes reminded the audience of the importance of reaching out to elected officials with these requests as SJEH relies on state funding for improvements.
Lastly, Portia Cook-Dyrenforth, Rockaway Administrator for the Parks Department and Joseph Mauro, Parks deputy administrator, gave their summer plan update. The Sandpiper Park on Shore Front Parkway between Beach 106th and Beach 107th Streets will break ground this summer, followed by construction of the handball courts at the same location. Tribute Park, now closed due to damage from the last nor’easter will be repaired and reopened within the next few weeks.
Zumba and Yoga on the beach are back and in anticipation of the record number of beach-goers expected this season, the department hired ten additional staff members to assist with beach maintenance and garbage removal.
Thanks to coordinated efforts with the Parks Department and Daniel Ruscillo, co-chair of Community Board 14’s transportation committee, improvements in bicycle signage on the boardwalk and new signage near the ferry terminal are coming this season.
One last proposal was made by Lew Simon who requested keeping lifeguards on the beaches until 8 p.m. Parks said it’s not likely this summer, but a possible consideration for next.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS