April Community Board 14 Meeting Recap

By Katie McFadden

At the Community Board 14 meeting on Tuesday, April 9 at the Knights of Columbus, Rockaway got to meet the newest CB14 appointees, hear updates and listen to presentations, including about a last-ditch effort to save QueensLink.

The meeting began with updates from the 100th and 101st Precincts. Both thanked the community for their support following the murder of Detective Jonathan Diller on March 25. Captain Timothy Schultz of the 101st said they should know by next month how many officers they’ll be getting for the summer detail, and that major crime is down. New 101st Precinct Executive Officer Darnell Simon introduced himself, as well as the new 100th Precinct Executive Officer, Captain Carlos Rendon.

Both Rockaway councilwomen, Selvena Brooks-Powers and Joann Ariola, were on hand to provide updates. Coming off the budget discussion at City Hall, Brooks-Powers announced that the city has identified $6 billion in funding, that they hope to use to restore cuts to agencies and programs like the 3K schooling program. In the wake of Det. Diller’s killing and other recent shootings, city council has also called on the administration to fund a trauma facility for Rockaway. Brooks-Powers is hoping that the mayor will fund it in this budget so things can move forward on acquiring a trauma unit for the peninsula. Both council members also spoke about the upcoming vote on the City of Yes Economic Opportunity proposal that is currently being discussed. They noted that some changes have been made since community boards saw the proposal and they’re asking CB14 members to take another look and provide feedback on what items they support and which ones they do not. Ariola also mentioned the recent scoping meeting with City Planning regarding Alma’s proposal for additional buildings on the Surfside land from Beach 105th to Beach 108th and reiterated that she is fully against the proposal.

Representatives for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Congressman Gregory Meeks, District Attorney Melinda Katz and Borough President Donovan Richards were also on hand to provide updates from their offices. Areial Mathis, the new Executive Director for the Rockaway YMCA, also introduced herself to the community.

Chairwoman Dolores Orr had the new community board appointees introduce themselves. She then spoke more about the scoping meeting for the Alma project, saying that she reminded City Planning that since June 2022, Community Board 14 has a moratorium on all upzoning requests for development and would not be supporting the project. She also attended the City of Yes Economic Opportunity hearing at City Hall on Monday, saying it went on for several hours with city council members and more than 150 members of the public signing up to speak on the issue. She also discussed efforts to boost composting in Rockaway, which recently re-started after being paused during Covid. Rockaway has the lowest number of residences partaking in composting in the borough, so she hopes to spread awareness now that the collection service has resumed.

New district manager, Felicia Johnson, now a month into her position, provided some updates. She said she’s been receiving many calls and emails and is continuing to make the rounds to introduce herself to local organizations. She said she attended a task force meeting for the Addabbo Health Care center, which is looking for input on how they should utilize their new addition to the facility. Johnson recommended geriatric care and said things like pediatric dentistry and a daycare center for people with appointments are also being discussed. She also reminded people that the Sorrentino Recreation Center runs a summer camp for children for $500 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for seven weeks. There is a lottery system for 50 spots. She advised people to go to Sorrentino Center to apply (18-48 Cornaga Ave.).

About five people spoke during public speaking. One woman named Beatrice said Far Rockaway has a racoon problem that needs to be addressed. She also suggested that Rockaway should have a helicopter system to take trauma victims to Jamaica Hospital in an emergency. Another woman spoke about the homelessness issue, saying laws needs to change in the wake of squatters taking over homes. Ahead of the presentation on QueensLink, a resident named Lucas Battista spoke about the importance of bringing the rail service back to help with Rockaway’s recovery after the pandemic, rather than letting the whole line turn into a park. Adam Cardone, spearheading the effort the name the Beach 94th amphitheater for the Ramones, said the idea has support from the living band members, more than 4,000 people who signed a petition and the Rockaway Beach Civic, so he’s hoping for support from CB14 as well. Marcia Jones of the Oceanside Resident Council said more has to be done about the children’s park at Beach 54th and Beach Channel Drive, as it has been under renovation for five years.

Two gentlemen named Terrence and Cyrus gave a short presentation about the Affordable Connectivity Program and Lifeline Program, saying they’re working with assisted living programs and others on government assistance to help residents get connected with phones and tablets. They provided flyers with more information.

In the wake of $117 million in federal funds being approved for QueensWay, the 3.5-mile, 47-acre linear park that will transforms a stretch of abandoned railway to into green space, Jonathan Lazo, who represents QueensLink, the effort to reactivate the rail line that would give Queens residents easier access into Manhattan, was on hand to discuss their efforts to persuade officials to put QueensWay on pause and look deeper into QueensLink. Lazo explained that their QueensLink plan would incorporate reactivating the rail line and creating green space, while the recently funded QueensWay would likely take away any opportunity to bring back the rail line once the park is built.

Lazo said while officials like Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and others on the peninsula have shown their support for the rail line from Ozone Park to Forest Hills, that would provide more, faster transportation options for Rockaway residents, others on the mainland pushed through the park plan. So before the park construction begins, as early as next year, QueensLink is making an effort to ramp up awareness with a letter writing campaign, petitions and more to send to Governor Hochul, and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, urging them to seriously consider QueensLink instead. Lazo explained that Mayor Adams keeps reassuring them that a rail line could be added later, but looking at it realistically, Lazo said it would make no sense to build a park that they would have to rip up again to reactivate the rail line, so building the rail first should be a priority. Lazo is hoping that an Environmental Impact Study can be done on QueensLink to show whether or not it makes sense to do it. Everyone was urged to call Schumer’s office daily to urge him to support QueensLink at 212-486-4430. A motion was also made for Community Board 14 to write a letter of support for pausing QueensWay and exploring QueensLink.

The last presentation came from Hester Street, an urban planning nonprofit organization, which has received $200,000 in funding from Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, to do outreach to residents of council District 31 (mostly Far Rockaway), to assess the needs of the community, such as land use, housing, open space, education, transportation and infrastructure. Cinthia de la Rosa spoke about the effort to put out a public survey, conduct focus groups and hold wider meetings to raise awareness about this effort and gather information about the needs of district 31 residents. The survey can be found at: https://form.jotform.com/240788368513062

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