Community Board 14 March Meeting Recap


 The ongoing concern of the coronavirus certainly did not keep Rockaway residents from attending this month’s Community Board 14 (CB14) meeting. On Tuesday, March 10, locals and CB14 members packed the Knights of Columbus, all eager to hear the jam-packed agenda planned. However, with an agenda set with two presentations, and reports from the Transportation Committee, the room was nearly empty by the end of the night.

Due to the absence of the Chairperson Dolores Orr, Al Moore took her place on the board, and District Manager Jonathan Gaska read the report from the Chair. Gaska gave an update on the proposed plan for Arverne East, stating that it is officially back. Arverne East is the area directly east of Beach 58th Street all the way down to Beach 32nd Street, from the freeway to the boardwalk. About 17 years ago, CB14 approved the proposal plan for Arverne East, but it looks much different than it does today. Gaska stated that the updated proposal states Arverne East will have 1-2 family housing, that will be mid-high rise in height, resulting in about 115 more units than was originally discussed with the board. Additionally, there will be about 15-20 blocks of park space composed of interpreted trails, as well as the possibility of creating a major hotel. Gaska also stated that a small portion will be affordable housing, which resulted in a backlash from the board. In response, Gaska said although majority of these new units will be affordable housing, the numbers are on the upper end of the affordable scale. Aside from the affordable issue, CB14 is deeply concerned that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was created 17 years ago, and is not up to date. Because too many of things have changed downtown east since, Gaska assured the board that they will be setting up meetings with the Land Use and Housing, Transportation, and Parks Committees in the next two months, to work on amending the original ULURP, in order to ensure the EIS is adequate.

After Gaska read the report from the Chair, acting Queens Borough President (QBP) Sharon Lee spoke briefly, thanking the community for the opportunity to serve as Borough President. She encouraged the room to vote on March 24 for the next QBP, and she also brought attention to numbers in the NYC budget. Queens families are not getting their, “fair share.”

Lee explained that in regards to Queens students, elders, and hospitals, Queens residents receive the least amount of dollars among the five boroughs. After relaying these facts, Lee concluded by urging the room to get out and vote, stating, “I wanted to equip you with facts. We all want the same thing. We all want to strengthen our community, and we want to strengthen our borough.”

Next, the floor opened to the public, with eight speakers signed up to speak. On behalf of the Droesch family, Keith Goldberg proposed the renaming of Beach 134th Street, between Newport and Cronston Avenue, to be “Clare Droesch Way.” Goldberg explained Clare Droesch’s outstanding basketball career, and all she has done for the community. The effort, he said, is fully supported by block residents. A representative from Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office spoke up, stating that they had already begun the legislation process.

As the public speaking portion continued, representatives from the Far Rock Strong Team Crate elaborated on the great opportunities they provide for the kids, and are reaching out to CB14 for additional resources. Currently, they host after-school activities at the Hammels Community Center. But, unfortunately, they are losing this location, and are actively trying to find another place to provide their services for the kids on the peninsula.

When public speaking came to an end, the Council for Airport Opportunity provided the room with a presentation. Representatives from the council stated that they will be opening an office on Mott Avenue in about 2-3 weeks, which will be a career center for people who are interested in jobs in the aviation industry. The council assured the board that there are a lot of job opportunities, and they are, “embracing the community, and improving lives.”

Following this presentation, CB14 member, Felicia Johnson, spoke on behalf of St. John’s Hospital, regarding the patient who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Johnson said the patient has been in isolation since he was admitted, and is in fact, getting better. Johnson said that the hospital is safe, open for business, and is following the Department of Health and Central Disease Center (CDC) protocols.

The next presentation was from the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), providing an update on the Queens Public Library Arverne branch expansion on Beach 54th Street. This was a follow-up discussion from a previous CB14 meeting. In this presentation, the DDC stated that by 2023, an annex will be created of 5,000 sq. ft., with a public community space, which will allow more room for children activities. This annex will include audio-visual technology, a living green wall so children can water and watch plants grow, as well as a solar panel roof, so children can see how much power the panel’s producing. Because this additional space will be more children-oriented, the existing library’s community room will be more for the adult programs.

In terms of the long-term plan, the DDC stated that after the annex is built and proves successful, they will be able to apply for additional federal funds to rebuild the existing library. After constant back and forth, CB14 finally motioned to approve the Arverne library expansion plan.

Chris Tedesco, from the Transportation Committee, was the evening’s last presenter. Tedesco began with proposed safety improvements on Cross Bay Blvd. He stated that the Broad Channel Civic unanimously approved this safety plan back in February. The plan includes that the bike lane redesigns will be in both directions, including a northbound crossover, allowing one to cross at 1st Road to the larger bike lane. They’re also moving the parking lane out from the curb, as well as eliminating the left turn protected lane at East 4th Rd., but not the actual left turn. Aside from these safety improvements, Tedesco also stated that a signal study was conducted in November at the BCAC ball field, because the Broad Channel Civic has been advocating for a traffic light in this spot. Currently, they are awaiting the study’s result, and hopefully, a traffic light will be installed.

Tedesco then moved on to the Queens Bus Network Re-Design, and stated, “We got the shaft on pretty much everything.” He said the committee did not see anything redeeming for Rockaway residents at all. Regarding the possible elimination of the Q53, Tedesco did state that it will most likely end up in the next rendition, but as it stands right now, it will still be eliminated. For the other bus re-routes, he reported that the NYC Transit Authority couldn’t even give them a definitive ending for these new routes. Due to their consistent lack of clarity on specific issues of the redesign, Tedesco said, “It’s unacceptable that they can’t tell us where this new route begins and ends…they don’t know the plan themselves.” After Tedesco relayed his disappointment in the Transportation Committee’s meeting with the NYC Transit Authority, CB14 agreed to send a letter to the DOT, consisting of a bullet point list stating everything that is wrong with the redesigns.

As the meeting came to a close, the packed room that it was at the start, was nearly empty. The remaining board members, and the very few community members in the audience, were astonished at the lack of participation and disrespect of the board members that had left early. CB14 member, Jon Cori, expressed his frustration by stating, “It’s disgusting to see so many people leave before the meeting is even over.”

By Marina Cregan