Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quality of Life Problems Highlight Civic Meeting in West Maspeth

By Conor Greene

Quality of life issues, including music blaring from cars, increased truck traffic and problems at a local bar were on the minds of Maspeth West End Block Association members as the fledgling group tries to tackle issues in that section of the neighborhood.

The meeting last Thursday at Trinity-St. Andrews Church on 60th Street attracted several dozen residents, many of whom aired complaints about problems they say detracts from the quality of life in the neighborhood. The 104th Precinct did not have a representative at the meeting, so the group wants to schedule a sit down next month with police officials to address the ongoing problems.

Problems at the Moonlight Bar

A source of pain for many residents in the vicinity of Flushing Avenue and 60th Place is the Moonlight Bar. Establishments operating under various names have been in business there for about three years, but the problem has gotten much worse in the past few months with loud music played into the early morning hours. “It’s an intoxicated, very horrible clientele,” said resident Diane Boudreau, who has lived in her home two doors down from the bar for 11 years with “no [prior] problems.”

“They are very nasty, very rude and they destroy property,” said Boudreau of the Moonlight customers, adding that many appear underage, and several have threatened residents who complain about their behavior. “A lot of people are frustrated [but are] afraid of retaliation,” said another nearby resident, Eugenia Ihrig.

Problems at Moonlight were also raised at a June COP 104 meeting in Maspeth Town Hall. A resident told the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Keith Green, that he had called 311 numerous times with similar complaints. Deputy Inspector Green said that the precinct has received prior complaints about the establishment, and agreed it has recently become a problem again. Residents also contacted Community Board 5 officials about the bar, who responded with a letter to the establishment’s owner.

Community Affairs Officer Tommy Bell told the Forum that issues at that location are being addressed. “The Moonlight Bar has been the subject of enforcement pretty much each week,” he said, adding that the owners have been issued numerous summonses a host of city agencies. “We have heard the calls from the community and as long as the complaints prove to be valid we can and will take the necessary enforcement action,” said Bell.

Jeff Gottleib, representing state Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), said it is often difficult to fight against the renewal of a bar’s license because many former agency commissioners wait represent bar owners in the hearings. As a result, the best chance of progress comes at the local level, he advised the residents.

“No one should lose a night’s sleep, especially if they have to go to work the next day,” said Gottleib. “I don’t see any great hope in the SLA coming down here and handling this. It has to be handled on a local level with the police.”

Traffic Woes

Other complaints centered on disruptions caused by honking horns and loud music from cars cutting through the neighborhood to Flushing and Metropolitan avenues. “It’s just constant,” one woman griped, adding that drivers routinely disregard a stop sign at 60th Street and 62nd Avenue that was installed several months ago through the efforts of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office.

The vehicle noise issue was exacerbated when the city Department of Transportation recently combined two traffic triangles at the intersection of Grand and Flushing avenues into a single green space, according to another resident. Traffic patterns at 64th Street were altered to accommodate the change, which the resident said “made it much worse” because cars are now backed up waiting to get onto the avenues.

“I think I’ve heard every boom box sound inside my house,” said Douglas Gorowski. Another woman complained that there is very little police presence in the neighborhood. “I don’t see the police,” she said.

Residents also said there has been an increase in truck traffic cutting through residential streets. Often, the large vehicles damage parked cars or are unable to navigate tight turns. In addition, commercial vehicles from nearby warehouses often park on residential streets overnight. “If the police were on the street they would see it,” griped one frustrated resident. “It’s a joke.”

The group’s president, Kathy Hamilton, said there also has been an increase in graffiti in the neighborhood. “It seems to be getting particularly worse and keeps happening,” she said, noting that as soon as the building owner cleans it up, the vandals strike again. Gorowski, whose property has been struck several times, said the fact that he knows who is doing it makes it more frustrating. “Somebody better catch them – you don’t want me to catch them,” he said.

“We really need police presence in the area. How much can an individual take?” said Hamilton. “People are just doing what they want.”

Pushing for a Supermarket

Hamilton also brought up one of the group’s biggest issues: the need for a supermarket in the area of West Maspeth. Since the closing of C-Town on Fresh Pond Road several years ago, many residents, especially seniors and those without vehicles are forced to rely on smaller bodegas which often charge much higher prices.

The residents focused their attention on two possible locations: a former auto dealership site at Forest and Metropolitan avenues that might be the future home of a Walgreen’s pharmacy, and the former Rite Aid property at Metropolitan Avenue and Tonsar Street, which previously was a Key Food supermarket. Several in attendance expressed concern that the owner of the Tonsar Street site would seek a zoning change allowing condos to be constructed there.

A representative for Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said that it is difficult to push for a certain type of development on a specific site, since it involves private property owners and businesses.

Met Oval Complaints

Finally, several residents raised continuing issues they are having with the Metropolitan Oval soccer field on 60th Street, which is privately owned and operated. Complaints included illegally parked cars, pickup games at all hours of the night and a huge pile of trash that has been left on the property for months.

Hamilton said the owner declined an invitation to address these issues at a previous meeting. “If I have to get a dumpster to throw out the garbage, why doesn’t this guy have to?” she lamented.

Gottleib told the residents that the city has laws intended to prevent this type of problem. “We’re dealing with a public nuisance. There are laws in New York City against public nuisances,” he said. He told the civic group that it needs to set up a meeting with officials from CB 5, the 104th Precinct and local elected officials, including Councilwoman Crowley, who did not have a representative at the meeting.

After hearing residents bring up all the various issues, Hamilton determined that a July meeting is needed to address these problems, which all involve police matters. “It’s all about the same thing – the police don’t patrol here,” she said. “Something’s got to be done.”

The group will meet again on July 16 at 7 p.m. in Trinity-St. Andrews Church in hopes of discussing these issues with officials from the 104th Precinct.

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