Fireworks at CB 14 Meeting

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With some folks nationwide arbitrarily boycotting Monday night football, Columbus Day and the New World explorer himself, that did not stop Community Board 14 (CB 14) members and locals from patriotically coming out full force this past Tuesday, October 10 at CB 14’s monthly meeting at the Knights of Columbus to support and defend their beloved Rockaway — despite the overall nation’s contentious temperature. (By the way, no one was kneeling). However, with the NYPD’s approved commandeering of the former Fort Tilden Army Reserve Center as a counter terrorism bureau training unit and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) proposed plan for changing scheduling and stops for the Q22 and Q35 buses, folks from all sides came out swinging.

CB 14 Chair Dolores Orr announced that the board is setting up a Facebook page for informational purposes only. Orr said, “This Facebook page is not open for conversational posts. It basically will duplicate the information on the website. Board member, Ozzie Edwards, wisely recommended that we set up the page because it seems that in today’s age, most people flock to Facebook for information and updates, as opposed to just going to a website.”

Public speaking was pushed up as the second item for the night’s agenda. Amanda Agoglia, president of the Neponsit Property Owners Association, implored all locals to come on Saturday, October 28 on Beach 129th to fight for permanent storm protection throughout Rockaway. “After taking a bus tour of the entire peninsula with Congressman Gregory Meeks, we saw for ourselves the grave coastal protection problems threatening our beach, bay and ultimately our homes and businesses. Please sign our petition and come out on October 28 to support what our community desperately needs for protection on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy,” Agoglia said.

Former CB 14 member and newly-appointed chief of staff for Councilman Donovan Richards, Manuel Silva, stepped up to introduce himself and his new role with the councilman’s office.

The temperature in the room really began to heat up as a Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s representative explained why the former Fort Tilden Army Reserve Center was approved as a NYPD counter terrorism training unit. “The only agency that applied for the 9.1-acre lot with a two-story office building was the NYPD’s counter terrorism bureau. Given the current conditions of the 40-year-old property, these buildings would either have to demolished or drastically re-done. The NYPD made an offer clearly showing that they have the means to revitalize the site. Also, they have already been in the building since 2016 on a month-to-month leasing basis. Most importantly their plans would not affect the surrounding community, including the recreational activities with Gateway, Riis Beach, the Rockaway Artist Alliance and other community organizations,” said Irving Poy, the borough’s director of Planning and Development.

CB 14 member, Ozzie Edwards asked if any other agencies applied, including those offering services to the homeless and displaced veterans. Poy answered, “No. Given the geography of the peninsula and lack of transportation, the site does not fit into NYC’s policy for sites housing homeless services.”

Fireworks really ignited in regards to transportation. The spark started with MTA representatives who came to present their master plan for eliminating Q22 bus stops on both the east and west ends, and relocating the Q35 Rockaway base from Newport Avenue and 116th Street to Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

A CB 14 member exploded, “With all the new housing and senior centers going up in Rockaway on both the east and west ends, how do you expect this to benefit the community? When you eliminate these Q22 stops, what about the handicapped people who need to get to the closest stop to get on the bus?”

One MTA representative responded, “Well, that’s why we have Access-A-Ride, to accommodate disabled people and seniors.”

Another CB 14 member exclaimed, “Access-A-Ride?! You guys are a joke. You’re talking about a car service that takes hours to arrive? Furthermore, the Q22 is already unreliable and always packed, especially during rush hours when the school children are packed on the bus. And you are telling us that the MTA is implementing this because of low ridership? Then you want to further congest Beach 116th Street with the Q35 bus? Tell me how three buses, especially in the summer time are going to function without causing a ruckus on an active commercial strip. You need to redirect your minds from your fancy guidelines based on your inefficient research studies. Take the damn bus yourself, and you’ll see the reality!”

Another item on the table was CB’s finances. CB 14 unanimously voted to approve their fiscal year capital and budget requests for 2019.

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