Monday, December 27, 2010

This Week's Forum South and West

New York to Lose Two House Seats: Slow Growth Rates Blamed

By Jason Barczy

The state of New York, and possibly the city, will lose some of its political muscle as the 2010 census count calls for New York to lose two seats in the House of Representatives.

U.S. Census Bureau director Robert Groves released the initial numbers from the 2010 census Tuesday, reporting the United States has grown 9.7 percent in the last 10 years to a population of 308,745,538.

New York grew by just 2.1 percent to a population of 19,378,102, putting it among the lowest five growth rates in the country and dropping its number of House seats from 29 to 27, tying it with Florida for the first time ever. The loss of House seats for New York leave the state with the smallest Congressional delegation it has had in 200 years.

“It’s not good when your state delegation gets smaller,” said Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens). “But I’m confident our city delegation won’t see any reduction. Since Queens is one of the fastest growing counties in the state it seems there will be the same number of representatives for the county.”

Weiner said that his offices are seeing a surge in growth for New York City and Queens has grown by five percent.

“I think Queens will be held harmless in the redistricting process,” Weiner said. “It seems there’s more than enough people to have the same number of congressmen and thankfully there’s a lot of people in New York City.”

New York has been losing seats in the House since 1950 when it had control of 45 seats. The state also lost two seats in 2000.

“By taking out two additional voices from the city and voices from the Greater New York area there has been a diminished representation in our government,” said Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). “The districts are going to have to cover more people and that is a problem.”

The elimination of which congressional districts is yet to be determined by the state legislature with most critics saying one will come from the western half of the state and one possibly coming out of New York City.

Beginning in February, the Census Bureau will release population and race breakdowns down to the neighborhood level for states to redraw congressional boundaries.

Addabbo credits the high cost of living in New York as the reason there has been a slow population growth.

“There are going to be less people able to adapt to the high cost of living,” Addabbo said. “There’s a segment of the population that needs a reduction in property taxes and it’s mainly our seniors and veterans but we should reduce property taxes for everyone.”

The entire Northeast saw growth of just 3.8 percent, the lowest in the country compared to double-digit increases in the South and West. Texas was the big winner, pick- ing up four seats in the House. Florida picked up two.

Ohio joined New York losing two seats while New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania each lost one. Michigan was the only state to see a net loss in population.

New York still remains among the top five most populous states in the country, ranking third behind California and Texas respectively. Overall, the country saw its lowest population increase since 1940, just after the Great Depression.

On December 14 results from the American Community Survey (ACS), which is vastly different from the Census survey, were released. The results provided a look at how New York’s racial makeup, along with income, education and housing has changed between 2005 and 2009.

“We’ve always been a county of immigrants and Queens County is the most diverse county in the state and probably the entire country,” Weiner said. “Its diversity is its strength and the economic engine that drives the county.”

According to the ACS, 47 percent of the population in Queens County is foreign-born—the second highest for a county in the country, next to Miami-Dade County. In Ozone Park, the Hispanic population is up and in South Ozone Park the African- American population has dropped by half; Caucasians are moving out of Rego Park and Asians are making their way into Forest Hills and Woodhaven. Maspeth and Middle Village’s population is primarily non-Hispanic whites. But, the survey notes that Hispanic occupancy is on the rise.

Queens also shares the longest commute for workers in the country, along with Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island, at an average of 42.5 minutes.

“I think the borough is ever-changing,” Addabbo said. “We do live in the most diverse borough, in not only the country but in the world, and will have that kind of diversity for many years to come.”

Residents and Pols Vow to Continue Fight Against Meter Hikes

By Eric Yun

With New York City seeking ways to close its midyear budget deficits, a proposal from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to raise the rates on parking meters was met with resistance by local residents, business owners and politicians.

On Sunday, Council Members James Vacca (D-Bronx) and Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn) held a press conference at the Ridgewood Memorial Triangle located at the intersection of Myrtle and Cypress Avenues. Calling the proposal “penny- wise and pound-foolish,” Vacca and Reyna promised they would fight the Mayor’s proposal and introduce legislation to prevent further hikes.

Meter rates were stagnant at 50 cents per hour for 17 years. In 2009 the rates were raised to 75 cents per hour. The current proposal would raise the price to one dollar per hour. At city munimeters, an hour of parking would cost three dollars, up from $2.50.

“This Band-Aid approach to the budget is unsustainable and empties the pockets of consumers and merchants, while the economy is still recovering,” said Reyna. “We are sending the wrong message when we continue to burden working fami- lies, who are watching where every quarter is being spent.”

Vacca and Reyna said motorists are being priced out of the city, which would be a huge economic blow for outer-borough communities like Ridgewood.

“Motorists are being besieged by overzealous ticketing, gas prices over $3.25 and registration fees that seem to go up every year,” said Vacca. “The City is simply giving drivers another reason to turn their cars around and shop in the suburbs, where parking is free and there’s no risk of tickets.”

And after shopping in Long Island or New Jersey, residents might wonder if they are better off living in those neighborhoods, Vacca said.

Herman Hochberg, the founding president of the Ridgewood Local Development Company and the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District agreed that raising parking prices could severely hamper small businesses.

“This isn’t Manhattan,” Hochberg said. “There are different people and a different culture here.” Without the amount of public transportation available, many residents of Queens are forced to take their cars to go shopping, Hochberg said.

Even with the protests over the fare hikes, Mayor Bloomberg can proceed through the Department of Transportation. In an attempt to curtail future hikes. Vacca and Reyna are co- sponsoring legislation that bars the city from raising prices more than 25 percent over any five-year period unless the City Council grants special authorization.

If that law were in place today, there would not be another hike until 2014, the Council Members said.

Many of the residents at the press conference seem resigned to the fact that the city will continue to make budget cuts that negatively affect them.

“The Mayor is raising everything,” said local resident Manny Ortiz. “They need to come up with a better solution.”

Teen Draws Communities Together to Donate Blood

By Eric Yun

Lisa Horner said she was shocked by the tremendous support she received at Saturday’s blood drive inspired by her daughter Carly Nieves, held at Christ the King High School (CTK).

Carly, a 14-year-old student at I.S. 73 in Maspeth who is battling leukemia needs frequent blood transfusions. But because of a shortage throughout New York’s blood centers, Carly is sometimes sent home without the treatment she desperately needed.

“When you’re told there’s no blood for her, it’s just devastating,” Horner told community members when she urged them to donate blood last month.

Despite hardships, Carly has finished her studies with honors at I.S. 73 and maintains a positive outlook on her life.

To help spread awareness about the need for blood donors, Carly and her mom teamed up with Christ the King Regional High School, the New York Blood Center and Friends of Karen to raise blood and funds for the cause.

Horner wasn’t sure what to expect at the drive, but the community and her friends came together to donate blood. “There are friends I haven’t seen in 30 or 40 years who came out to support us,” she said.

One of the biggest contributors to the blood drive were CTK students. Michael Michel, president of the school, said Carly’s sister, Juliana, a Christ the King pre-school student, first approached him about helping her sister.

“When you have a four-year-old girl ask, ‘Can you help my sister,’ it’s heart- breaking,” Michel said. “I wanted to do what I could to help.”

Michel said this was a great opportunity to get his students involved and
educate them about donating blood. More than 150 students turned out on Saturday; some donated blood while others volunteered their time. The school is hopeful that the first time experience for students will inspire lifelong participation.

“We need to get the young kids involved and educate them that donating blood is easy to do,” Michel said. The drive was such a success that there have been discussions about making it an annual event, Michel continued.

A total of 200 pints of blood were donated at the event and 54 people enrolled for the bone marrow registry. These contributions will help both Carly and the many others throughout New York City that need blood transfusions.

“There was a wonderful turnout for Carly’s cause,” Lisa Horner said. “I’m so grateful.”

Parking and Traffic Issues Discussed at CB5

By Eric Yun

The year’s last Community Board 5 was used by board members as a chance to relax and enjoy a holiday party, but plenty of issues were still discussed.

Local elected officials, Council Members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assembly Members Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) and Borough President Helen Marshall wished the community a safe and happy holiday season and New Years.

Crowley also told the community that as the Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee in the City Council she would con- tinue to fight against closing fire companies and against the FDNY proposal to charge fees for assisting motorists involved in crashes.

No Parking on Flushing Ave.

During the public hearings, William Grodnick, a member of the New York Army National Guard complained about the lack of parking on Flushing Avenue, 59th Avenue and 60th Street because of illegally parked tow trucks from American Auto Towing and Service located at 60-05 Flushing Avenue.

Residents voiced this complaint before. Last year, the Juniper Park Civic Association highlighted how numerous commercial vehicles block fire hydrants, driveways and crosswalks in that area of Maspeth.

Grodnick asked the board to help him contact authorities to clear the street because calls to 311 and the police department have gone unanswered.

“The parking is atrocious over there,” said Grodnick. “I come home from a hard day at work and I can’t find any parking.”

The owner of the company, who identified himself as Sammy, told The Forum that their trucks are parked legally, and the only driveways they block are their own.

However, local residents said the cars from the company are constant nuisances.

“They’re double parking all the time in front of my house,” one homeowner said. “I just want to live in peace.”

The Board asked Grodnick to assemble more facts and pictures and present them at the next Transportation Committee meeting.

Dangers on Mount Olivet Crescent

In other traffic related news, the board discussed changes to Mount Olivet Crescent between Eliot Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue. Repeated requests to install traffic lights at the intersection were finally heeded, but the Board said further analyses need to be conducted.

The problem, explained Vincet Arcuri, Chair of CB 5, is that cars speed down the downhill street towards Metropolitan Avenue to catch the traffic light. This has caused several accidents where drivers have hit side mirrors of parked cars or collided with other vehicles
travelling up the narrow street because they failed to yield.

One suggestion from the board was to make the street one way. However, J.P. DiTroia, President of the Fresh Pond Crematory located at 61-40 Mount Olivet Crescent, protested any changes to traffic regulations.

“Any disturbance of traffic would be a hindrance to the bereaved families,” DiTroia said.

Some suggestions include installing speed bumps along the street, but Arcuri feared speed bumps on a downhill road could lead to disastrous consequences.

World War II Factory Studied

During World War II, many of the small industrial factories around Queens were converted for war-time use. One site at 1127 and 1129 Irving Avenue at the edge of Ridgewood was used as a site for atomic bomb testing and manufacturing.

The Wolff-Alport Chemical Corporation extracted rare earth elements from monazite sand, a mineral found in Brazil, generating the radioactive byproduct thorium, according to
the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Health Department conducted a thorough survey of the area that was completed in September. The findings were presented at a public meeting held on December 13 in Manhattan.

CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano relayed the Department’s findings. The radioactive materials at the site are not a significant risk to the workers or the sur- rounding community, the Health Department said.