*** originally posted on Astoria Social Media: 4 April 2014 ***
Big Fat Disclaimer: If you’re looking for the real news story re: last night’s meeting, try one of the local news blogs (DNAinfo/LIC-Astoria or Astoria Post should have something soon). What follows is a general recap of the issues that were raised.—Tracy Infield
1 Western Queens Gazette publisher Tony Barsamian noted that there are a lot of people flooding into Astoria and wonders if we really are having more burglaries and robberies or does it only seem so because we’re hearing more about it? Precinct deputy inspector Kevin Maloney acknowledged a recent spike, especially around the Steinway/30th Ave areas. Note: Lock those windows by the fire escape! Note too: The 114th has community meetings the fourth Tuesday of the month.
2 The next woman did not have a question; in fact, I had a hard time following her. But something about child custody, Brooklyn, and (I think) Michigan (?). Aravella Simotas handled this one by sending a staffer over to investigate further privately.
Then NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer spoke, then State Senator Jose Peralta. Stringer mentioned the recent agreement with ExxonMobil to increase transparency re: its hydraulic fracturing practices.
3 Then came a dad with an urgent question for Corrections regarding his son at Rikers. No one on the panel from the DOC, but again a staffer was sent to further discuss the matter with him privately.
4 Then a community spokesman from Ravenswood Houses: “Sanitation is pounding on us—we need to find you a home.” Issue is sanitation trucks blocking fire hydrants, the smell of trash, and more. Department of Sanitation community liaison Iggy Terranova responded that they are very aware of the problem and concerns. If I recall correctly, they are looking for an alternate home for the trucks, but a suitable space is hard to find. (They thought they found one, but apparently is was in CB3 territory.)
5 My notes for this one say “not a question.” Basically a 28th Street/Ave homeowner who noted the middle class is collapsing. He and his wife own their home, but taxes are bad… no increase in income… a daughter heading to college… who’s going to be left to patronize the businesses here if the middle class is squeezed out? You can sympathize with everything he said—a lot of us are in the same boat—but unfortunately this is just a bigger issue than anyone here can respond to/handle on the spot.
6 I don’t even want to talk about #6: Let’s just say he has issues with the judiciary system. He said his question was for Aravella Simotas but after several minutes it seemed pretty clear that, again, this was… not a question. Not surprisingly, Simotas recognized him (from previous complaints). After he said his piece, he didn’t leave or sit down, he went to the back of the line for another go.
7 A man representing Friends of Astoria Heights Park; my notes say “mudslides?” Further investigation (Google) revealed this recent article in the Queens Ledger: “Park group pushing for improvements in Astoria.” The man noted everyone they’ve dealt with has been very helpful, and things have improved, but he’s wondering if there’s any way to speed up the progress? (Short answer: No.) Parks rep said he is aware of what is needed, but these things (funding) take time. (Note the Friends have been at this for awhile; see their Facebook page.)
8 Neighbors of Sunset Lounge (32-72 Steinway) are having issues with the noise. I recall seeing this guy at a CB1 meeting. You can’t hear the noise from the front of the premise (on Steinway); the noise is bad on 38th St, where they live. This, too, has been going on for awhile. (He and the owners are texting buddies.) And even when they do lower the music, it turns out that the music was drowning out the rowdies on the roof.
9 Frances McDonald (of CB1 fame) spoke about the Hallets Cove and Astoria Cove developments in Old Astoria neighborhood. Not a problem with developments, per se, but a concern about infrastructure. ConEd rep responded that they’ve done 5- and 10-year forecasts of the necessary upgrades and always try to be respectful of neighborhood needs while making such upgrades.
10 Rod Townsend query: Have we given any thought towards expanding bus routes? More QNS to BK? DOT rep response: Yes, they’re looking into it. I believe he said Q19 is going down to Hallets Cove, and they’re making progress on a route that goes from the waterfront to Court Square.
11 Missed this one. It was 8:30. I needed a break.
12 Senior asks about SCRIE program: A.2257—legislation raising the senior citizen rent increase exemption. Good news: Yes there will be an increase. You’ll see it sometime in July.
13 Another repeat customer from CB1 meetings. Issue with chopper/helicopter noise. FAA lady noted unfortunately they HAVE to fly that low to stay out of plane traffic. Something to do with routes. Even when LGA is closed, there’s still JFK. Guy seemed sad but at least he got an answer.
14 DOT query. Cresent and 30th road traffic issues.
15 Return of guy with judicial problems (#6). Moderator requested he let others speak before he spoke again.
16 Teacher at an after-school math program at 21-15 Steinway: The kids get out late; can we get better lighting there and also an additional garbage can? I believe the DOT lady said they can check to be sure the lights there are up to speed. Iggy from DOS said flatly, “We’re not gonna put out more garbage cans.” This was more straightforward than anyone was prepared to hear. People actually started speaking from the audience, including one who went straight up to the mike: Patricia from 28th Ave, who noted there are NONE on that street. Iggy noted they are on commercial streets (Broadway, 30th, etc) She said 28th IS commercial—every block has a business. I believe they made a date to go for a walk on 28th Ave to investigate together. (I wonder if they will?)
At this point, our new Borough President, Melinda Katz, arrived and spoke a bit. Note: If you’ve got a teen that needs an internship, contact her office.
17 Not a question. Industrial real estate broker offered his 2 cents on changing face of Astoria.
18 A question about what kind of pesticides are used. Something about Roundup and vinegar.
19 Matt Callahan from Snowdonia: Does the recently announced “Kaufman Arts District” designation mean we getting arts funding to develop this area? Matt Wallace from Van Bremer’s office and Helen Ho from the mayor’s office answered this one. Short answer: No. Essentially, arts districts operate as non-profits. Moderator sums it up like this: “So no one has any money.”
20 Question about the Steinway Mansion.
21 Guy concerned about a liquor wholesaler moving to 42nd St and 30th Ave by PS 70. Hit out at CB1’s Lucille. Actually, this is a Q for the state liquor board. Man persists that there was bad news about Astoria on channel 11 at 7 and channel 7 at 11 (or some permutation of this), whereupon the moderator said, “I thank you for informing us what’s happening on the news.” (Basically… it was not a question.)
22 Question on status of theater at the Astoria park diving area. Parks and Costas respond. It’s been funded; they’re now in design phases.
23 Return of guy from #6? (Notes are getting scrambled at this point. It’s getting late. I’m hungry.)
24 A woman from Queensview co-op (across from Ravenswood Houses) wants to know why Ravenswood isn’t recycling. It’s hypocritical to fine Queensview for not recycling when across the street they don’t recycle at all. Her issue is not that she wants to stop recycling, but she wants them to do so, as well. Apparently this is a question for NYCHA; no representative on last night’s panel.
25 Woman wants to know if its possible to make a few traffic fixes for people who can’t see over SUVs for oncoming traffic at 28th St and 23rd Ave.
9:30 pm: Meeting’s over! At this point, real reporters and serious journalists swarmed the stage to take (full) names and titles and get direct quotes from the participants. I went home, got wine, and watched Vikings.