CB14 Goes Back to Work

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After a summer hiatus, Community Board 14 (CB14) got right back into the swing of things with their monthly meeting on Tuesday, September 10. With informational presentations, an executive board election, budget and parks issues and plenty of residents armed with various concerns, it was a busy night at the Knights of Columbus.

To start the meeting, Chair Dolores Orr provided some updates on the controversy regarding National Grid refusing to provide new gas hookups until a new gas pipeline is approved. The Public Service Commission is now investigating National Grid’s claims that they won’t have enough gas to provide new connections if the pipeline doesn’t get installed. During public speaking, Kim Fraczek and JK Canepa of Sane Energy expanded upon this issue, explaining more about why National Grid’s claim is likely bogus. On October 10, at 7 p.m. at Bungalow Bar, there will be a community meeting to discuss this issue and alternative ways to cool and heat homes with renewables.

In his briefing, District Manager Jon Gaska announced that the foundation for the new Far Rockaway Library is almost complete, and he warned people that need to drive near the downtown Far Rockaway area, to consider giving themselves extra time to leave as construction due to the redevelopment, is causing delays. He also made mention of the city’s new decision that it is now the city’s responsibility to repair sidewalks damaged by tree roots, rather than the property owner.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato was on site to provide information on 9/11-related bills that she sponsored that recently passed legislation. This includes creating a 9/11 Remembrance Day and mandating that schools across the state hold a moment of silence each September 11. She also announced that she is working hard on trying to solve some of the issues on Beach 116th Street and is open to suggestions from the community.

Chief of Staff Manny Silva spoke on behalf of Councilman Donovan Richards and announced that the Participatory Budgeting process will begin soon, giving residents a say in how tax dollars should be spent in the community. He encouraged those in District 31 to get involved in the process and contact Richards’ office. Regarding the infrastructure upgrades for the downtown Far Rockaway redevelopment, there will be a groundbreaking on Mott and Central Avenues at 11 a.m. on September 18. He reiterated Gaska’s point that the project will cause some disruptions as construction goes on, but it is being sped up and will take three years rather than seven. He also said that Richards’ office is working hard to urge the Department of Transportation to work faster on installing speed control devices planned for Beach 61st Street. In regards to Hurricane Dorian and the Bahamas, Richards’ office is collecting new supply items that will be donated to those who need it.

During public speaking, District Leader Lew Simon discussed the uptick in car break-ins and urged people to lock their car doors. Several residents from the St. John’s Home have been involved in these incidents and officials are planning to meet with the St. John’s staff.  Simon is also staying on top of complaints regarding the new bus lanes in Rockaway Beach, which are causing confusion and he’s in touch with the DOT. Eugene Falik also touched upon some DOT issues and suggested that DOT itself should comply with traffic laws.

Roxbury resident Peter Geist brought up concerns about State Road leading to Breezy Point. He explained that the road is hazardous due to failure to maintain the plantings along the road, which are covering pedestrian and bike lanes, causing walkers and bikers to go into the driving lanes, creating a dangerous situation for all.

Gordon Williams brought up concerns over the lack of upkeep with O’Donohue Park. He spoke about crumbling bleachers and picnic areas. Silva addressed this, saying they’re waiting on additional funding to provide updates to the park.

A rep from Rockaway United spoke about his efforts to bring microgrids to the peninsula to provide power and encouraged others to get involved with this effort. A rep from the Queens Royal Priest Hood spoke about a 5k run/walk on October 5 for all. Anyone is encouraged to participate for whatever cause is important to them. The run/walk begins on Beach 90th at 11 a.m. and goes to Beach 17th Street. Reps from Far Rock Strong were on hand to let people know about their organization that encourages youth to get out of the house and engage in activities like basketball, book clubs, literacy programs and other programs both on and off the peninsula.

A big issue brought up was regarding the recent decision to close the beaches to surfers due to Hurricane Dorian. Clare Hilger, Jeremy Jones and Bridget Klapinski all provided points about this issue, calling it “embarrassing.” Hilger said that those who run the beach are “out of step” and that nobody understands the water better than surfers. Jones spoke about the bodysurfing contest being postponed until Sunday. Surfers from as far as California allegedly came to town for the event and were surprised to see that was how New York handles some of the best surf of the year. Klapinski said that she hopes that Parks will work better with residents and surfers when it comes to issues such as this, so that hasty decisions to close the beach aren’t repeated in the future.

Following public speaking, Halleh Saleh of the NYC Department of City Planning was on hand to give an informational presentation on the upcoming Coastal Flood Resilient Text Amendment, which will concern coastal areas across the city. More on this process will be discussed later as it will come back to the community board near the end of the year as part of the ULURP process.

Some time was spent discussing CB14’s budget and certain amendments were made regarding capital and expense priorities. Each community board has an opportunity to let the City Charter know their community’s budget needs. However, with some items still on the list since at least the 1990s, it was joked that many of the items requested will likely never see the funding.

The Parks Committee report included information on the Beach 108th esplanade near the ferry, and Bayswater Park. The Beach 108th project will include replacing the sea rail, creating a plaza area with trees and benches, additional bike racks, covered trash cans, new pavers and paintings and a new plaza area that would help with the queuing of ferry riders. The committee requested that some type of bathroom also be added to this area. The design for this project will be complete by Spring 2020, construction will begin by Spring 2021 and it is expected to be complete by 2022.

Bayswater Park will soon see a more than $55 million upgrade. The park plan will increase resiliency and improve the current park amenities. The plan calls for additional entrances, relocating the comfort stations, creating formal parking spaces, formalizing trails, adding berms, creating paths were people can see marine life such as fish and crabs, increasing basketball and handball courts, adding a maintenance building, revamping the picnic areas, adding a playground with water features and fencing and much more. The design will be complete by Spring 2020, with construction beginning in the spring or fall of 2021 and the park will be completed in stages, either by fall 2022 or spring 2023.

The community board held a vote for a vacancy on the executive board—to fill the position of secretary and treasurer. There were four candidates on the ballot, however due to a tie, the position has not yet been filled.

Due to Yom Kippur, next month’s CB14 meeting will be held on October 15.

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