CB 14: Pipeline Pile On, School and Shuttle Woes

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The Community Board soundly rejected the Williams-Transco Pipeline in dramatic fashion at Tuesday night’s monthly meeting at the Bayswater Jewish Center. Before the stunning turnabout, which occurred toward evening’s end, the meeting was already rife with drama as folks cried foul about the termination of Far Rockaway stops on the NYC Ferry Shuttle; the closing of special education preschool program, On Our Way Learning Center; the placement of homeless families, and the expansion of the pipeline.

The meeting also included two announcements by CB 14’s District Manager, Jonathan Gaska, who said that permits for block parties and other street events must be submitted 90 days in advance of the proposed event. Gaska said, “If you’re now looking to get a permit for the month of June or the first two weeks in July, it’s out of the question.” He also announced that he sent a letter to MTA NYC Transit President Andy Byford, officially inviting him to speak at the June 12 meeting to discuss subway concerns.

Next on the agenda was public speaking. Of the 12 people who spoke, six expressed their disdain with the proposed expansion of the Williams-Transco Rockaway pipeline. Among those was Rockaway Beach Civic Association (RBCA) member, Jill Lauri, who stated, “After listening to Williams’ representatives at a CB 14’s Environmental Committee meeting, I’m convinced that Williams cannot be trusted. They have a poor track record, and bought out many local community groups with large sums of grant money. I ask those who accepted money to publicly disclose how much they have received.” Note, this information about Williams’ Rockaway Community Grant recipients can be found on their website: http://co.williams.com/communitystakeholder-relations/rockaway-community-grant-program/.

Two representatives from the soon-to-be closed Far Rockaway-based special education preschool program, On Our Way Learning Center (OOWLC), made a passionate cry for folks to sign their petition and reach out to pols to expedite the state approval process for the new proposed school that will keep all current staff and students. For further info, see OOWLC’s online petition:change.org/p/education-for-all-in-the-rockaways.

Nicolette Peters, a new community liaison for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said that the assemblywoman is on top of the OOWLC issue and has urged the state to expedite the process to start the new program. Stacey Amato is also hosting a free rain barrel giveaway on May 20 at Broad Channel VFW. For more info, contact the Assemblywoman’s office at 718-945-9550.

Next up were representatives from NYC Ferry and NYC Economic Development Corporation. They announced the addition of three new bigger boats; more frequent service during weekday rush hours, where boats will be arriving every 30 minutes; an express service that will run directly to and from Rockaway and Pier 11/Wall Street (skipping Brooklyn Army Terminal); an app offering real-time tracking; email alerts if a boat is off schedule, and the great news that a Far Rockaway school won the city-wide schools’ vessel-naming contest. Look out for “Ocean Queen Rockstar!”

However, folks wanted answers about the east end ferry shuttle. One CB 14 board member said, “The shuttle no longer goes to Mott Avenue, and instead the last stop on the east end is on Beach 36th Street. Residents who don’t live near that street have a long walk to get home, some even paying for a taxi. Why can’t the shuttle at least go to Wavecrest, where they can at least transfer to the Q22? It’s unfair that east end ferry riders don’t have that convenience, and now that east end A-train service will be shut down for the summer, more people are going to need the shuttle.” Another board member spoke about the high price of parking at the lot opposite the ferry dock on Beach 108th Street. She said, “Currently, it’s $8 a day. That’s a lot of money for Rockaway. I thought there was some talk that it was going to be free?” Another board member questioned security on the ferry and the need for crowd control agents, especially during the summer. The representative answered, “The deck hands are trained for security. We don’t have specifically designated security officers.” The reps said they will look into the concerns mentioned and will hopefully come back with answers at the June CB 14 meeting.

CB 14’s Health and Services Committee Chair Sonia Moises then spoke about what was revealed in their meeting with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) regarding placement of homeless individuals and families in the east end. According to Moises, DHS claims that they are only proposing 962 homeless families for their planned location site on Beach 67th Street. The agency claims that these families were chosen because they listed their last place of residence as Rockaway. She explained, “DHS said they try to place families back in the last zip code they resided. For example, many homeless families with children already enrolled in a school are suddenly placed in neighborhoods outside of the school district they were formally attending. So to mitigate that, DHS tries to keep these families housed in the zip code of their previous home.” Also as for tallying the total number of homeless people living in shelters on the peninsula, according to Moises, DHS said that it’s difficult as they do not include in their roster, families living in privately-owned hotels such as La Quinta in Far Rockaway. Hotels and other private entities are not required to disclose that information when first opening these homeless colonies. As for the certainty of 962 homeless families coming to Beach 67th Street, Moises said according to DHS, it has not been determined. Moises said she is going to invite DHS to CB 14’s June meeting to address residents’ concerns.

Now for the drama. The Williams Pipeline. Dan Mundy, CB 14’s chair of the Environmental Committee, said due to insufficient information provided in the 797-page environmental impact report provided by Williams, the Committee decided to not take a position on the pipeline. However, in order to protect Rockaway’s reefs interests in case the pipeline expansion is approved, Mundy said, “We should make a motion requiring that Rockaway is guaranteed mitigation to protect the wealth of our reefs, so that the money does not go to Long Beach or elsewhere.” This set the crowded room in uproar with some board members shouting that requiring mitigation makes it sound as though the community was accepting the pipeline. One board member said, “If we support this motion, we may not be able to vote against the pipeline.” After Mundy withdrew the motion, the Board decided they were going to take a position on the pipeline and made a motion to vote on whether to reject it. Some members who were on the board of other local organizations that accepted Williams’ grant money in the past, had to publicly recuse themselves from the vote and state why. The final vote? With six board members requesting refusals, and two voting “no,” a whopping 23 board members strongly rejected the Pipeline. So locals, CB 14 voted NO to Williams!

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