Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parks, Roads and City Planning Discussed at Board 5 Meeting

By Conor Greene

This month’s Community Board 5 meeting last Wednesday in Christ the King High School was dominated by discussions about projects in area parks, but also included updates on a major road project in Maspeth, the stalled rezoning effort, and greetings from two recently-elected public officials.

Parks Projects

Steven Fiedler, chair of the board’s parks committee, presented finalized plans from the city Parks Department for upgrades at the south playground in Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village and Grover Cleveland Park in Ridgewood. Both projects are “fully funded and ready to go,” he said.

The $750,000 projects at Juniper Valley will revamp the eastern portion of the playground along Juniper Boulevard South at 74th Street. It will feature separate areas for toddlers and for children ages two to five years old.

The board voted to approve the design with two minor modifications: an area featuring ornamental grass will be eliminated to create more play space, and a sandbox will not be installed due to board member’s concerns.

At Grover Cleveland, a $1.3 million renovation will include the conversion of an existing asphalt court to a synthetic turf field. Eventually, the park will feature a softball field, two soccer fields and two volleyball courts. Construction is expected to take about six months to finish, and the design is expected to be completed this fall.

One change the board requested is that the gates be made wider so that an emergency vehicle can access the sports fields in case of an injury. The board also has the option of having the park locked at night, said Fiedler.

Several other parks issues were raised that evening. Fiedler announced that the city is preparing to move forward with phase two of the Elmhurst Gas Tanks project. Parks Department representatives are slated to present those plans to the community board in December, he said.

At the beginning of the meeting, resident Joseph Pisano requested that the board look into the possibility of creating an area for dogs in Juniper Valley Park. He noted that the park currently includes almost every type of sports field. “There is everything for everybody except a dog park for dog owners,” he said. The board agreed to look into the request.

Maurice Avenue Construction

The community construction liaison for a major project along Maurice Avenue and 54th Avenue updated residents on the effort, which includes reconstruction of the roadway and sidewalks and installation of new water mains and catch basins.

Construction community liaison Marie Antoinette Nader told residents to call her at (718) 416-3537 if there are any questions or concerns during construction. Work will take place along 54th Avenue between Maurice Avenue and 58th Street from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and along Maurice Avenue from 54th Avenue to 56th Avenue from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Residents should be aware that water in the area may be shut off during construction, with written notice provided ahead of time. Also, anybody whose property is damaged during construction should file a claim with the city Comptroller’s office within 90 days.

Anybody who wants to receive e-mail updates during the course of construction should send a message to The field office is located at 55-60 60th Street in Maspeth.

City Planning Update

Tom Smith, the area’s new representative from the Department of City Planning, provided a brief update on several projects. He reminded the board that a yard text amendment was adopted in April, which makes it illegal to completely pave over a front yard. “That has been a major concern in this district,” he said. “This finally makes that illegal”

Smith also told the board that the department is working on requirements for bike parking. It will mainly apply to residential buildings with more than ten units or commercial buildings larger than 7,500-square-feet, he said.

However, Smith initially did not bring up the issue that is on the minds of many board members and residents – the stalled effort to downzone 350 blocks of Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth. When asked by a reporter at the start of the meeting about that project’s status, he refused to provide any details. When later asked by board member Cathy Masi of Glendale, he assured her that “It’s coming.”

That was not enough for Masi, who told him that not having the new zoning is “killing” the neighborhood. “This has been going on for years… Do we have a timeline yet?” Smith responded that it “hopefully” is on track to be certified by the department in the spring, which triggers the city’s land use process.

Elected Officials Stop By

Senator Elect Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who defeated Republican incumbent Senator Serf Maltese in this month’s elections, thanked those who supported him, and vowed to win the trust of those who didn’t vote for him. He told the board he served on his local community board for ten years before being elected to the City Council, which he served on for seven years.

“I know the work that needs to be done at this level,” he said. “Having information flowing from the elected officials to the residents is of utmost importance at this time.”

Addabbo touched briefly on the mayor’s plan to centralize services at senior centers and the delivery of meals. “We’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors,” he vowed. He promised to fight for “fresh meals daily” and against the closing of any local senior centers. “He’s going to have to be convinced it is the wrong way to go,” he said of Mayor Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), who defeated Anthony Como (R-Middle Village) to represent the 30th District on City Council, said she is “honored to serve” the community.

She said that she is already “available to start the dialogue” and said she is still looking for office space. “I know it’s not going to be at its current location in Middle Village,” she said to some applause, referring to the office space currently used by Como and previously occupied by disgraced former Councilman Dennis Gallagher.

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