“It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” Last night, these Notorious B.I.G. “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” lyrics came to mind when the development team and New York City Department of Transportation Deputy Commish Al Silvestri presented the first phase of Arverne East at Community Board 14’s meeting. With a price tag of $30.3M in financing just for the first phase of the megadevelopment of the sorely neglected ocean front, CB 14 was none-too-pleased about the construction plan, which board members said will exacerbate traffic on the heavily-used Edgemere Avenue, which happens to be a main evacuation route on the peninsula. So, while Yankees fans were rejoicing, some even cashing in on their win over Cleveland, CB 14 was stuck on the dugout.
First, some announcements. The Knights of Columbus is collecting toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, razors, shaving cream, etc.) for the veterans at St. Alban’s Veteran’s Hospital through October 17. Items can be dropped off any day from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Knights’ tap room. NY midterm general elections are on November 8. Early voting is from October 29 to November 6.
Regarding QueensLink, a proposal to build a new transit line along the abandoned section of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch line which runs north-south from Rego Park to Ozone Park in Queens, CB 14 Chair Dolores Orr expressed her indignation at NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ support for the competing proposal, QueensWay.
“I was stunned when the mayor made the announcement that he’s in favor of a park on the train tracks, which are actually in Forest Park. So, it’s $34 million for a study to build a park inside a park? Rather than giving residents of southeast Queens a link along those train tracks to connect us to a direct train to Midtown, instead of having to go through part of Queens, then through all of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Hopefully, the mayor will look at all the information provided with the study and change his mind. By the way, the MTA supports QueensLink, which is rare for the MTA to think a community group’s idea is feasible,” Orr said.
Next up was a policing report from NYC Transit District 23’s new commanding officer, Captain Arsenio Camilo, who oversees all 12 train stations on the peninsula and Broad Channel, and 100th Precinct’s Neighborhood Community Officers (NCOs).
Captain Camilo said, “Currently, there are no transit crime trends to report. However, when you are taking that hour-and-a-half to two-hour commute to Manhattan, and you may close your eyes, please secure your property because somebody will grab it. In regards to the homeless situation, we have a daily night initiative at Mott Avenue. From midnight to 5:30 a.m. when the train arrives at Mott Avenue, we have DHS, EMS and our officers there to remove homeless individuals off the train, offer them services and make sure the train is clear for commuters.”
When a CB board member inquired how homeless individuals are removed and intense situations are deescalated, Camilo responded, “We have DHS and EMS professionals there to mitigate any problematic situations. When we wake up homeless individuals sleeping on the train, we ask them if they need any services, then we either transport them to a shelter or hospital.” When asked about the homeless at Beach 116th train station, Camilo answered, “There is not a homeless condition there. That’s our home base. Nightly every half hour, 45 minutes to an hour, we test the trains.”
Next, 100th Precinct NCO Lieutenant Powell gave the following report: “For the last 28-day period compared to 2021, there were zero murders, zero rapes, seven robberies (up from two in 2021), eight felonies (down from 10 in 2021), one burglary (up from zero in 2021), nine grand larcenies (down from 19 in 2021), and five grand larcenies auto (up from two in 2021). Crime is trending down, which is a good sign,” Powell said.
When asked what sector the robberies are mostly concentrated in, P.O. Kalenko answered, “Sector Adams, which covers Beach 66th to Beach 73rd. There was only one incident, in which an individual was severely injured when he was attacked for his Rolex watch outside his home.”
With Halloween approaching, the officers cautioned to be mindful with children trick-or-treating. P.O. Kalenko warned, “Fentanyl pills look very similar to candy. Make sure and check all the candy your children collect.”
Next, Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s office rep, Ciara Donley, shared some encouraging news regarding efforts to cleanup Beach 116th Street.
“Councilwoman Ariola has started a Beach 116th Street Task Force to address the community’s concerns. She has been meeting with the business owners, and this week, she invited the Queens Chamber of Commerce to a community meeting. She also secured a little bit of extra funding specifically for Beach 116th’s cleanup initiatives. In addition, she’s meeting with the NYPD commissioner’s office and the deputy mayor to go over safety concerns and has set up a meeting with some of the adult homes and facilities that house the individuals who are contributing to the problems expressed by the community,” Donley shared.
Now for the uproar over Arverne East. When the civil engineer from L&M Development presented a series of slides showing the first phase of road construction from Beach 32nd Street to Beach 38th Street, which would provide two lanes with parking on both sides, except for additional sidewalk space on the north side of “Shore Front Parkway,” immediately board members were confused. Orr asked, “So you’re saying that Edgemere Avenue is now going to be Shore Front Parkway?” The answer? “Well, that’s just a legal issue that we will work with D.O.T. on,” the engineer replied.
One board member questioned how traffic will be diverted due to the freeway already being blocked. Answer: “We have really taken that into consideration. There will be a lot of signage to keep everyone in the know. Also, construction will only take place 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.”
To this, one board member piped up, “So, you’re saying that construction will take place just when that road is filled with school buses transporting students to P.S. 106.” Answer: “Well yes, but we already met with the school principal to arrange an alternative route, where we’ll create a cul de sac for the school buses to enter and exit safely.”
Another concern expressed by the board was how the construction will impact the route changes on Seagirt Boulevard, which will soon have only left/right only lanes and a center lane.
DOT Deputy Commissioner Al Silvestri replied, “I think ultimately the desire is to weave those two together and to reconstruct the whole thing. Ideally that’s what we want to do, and it will be a city priority.
One board member expressed his concerns that Edgemere Avenue is the only storm evacuation route for hundreds of residents. Silvestri said, “All traffic plans are shared with Office of Emergency Management.” To which the board member responded, “So, you’re saying that this traffic plan was sent to OEM.” Silvestri fumbled, “Well no.”
With question after question piled up by CB 14, at the end, it was clear board members felt duped. Stay tuned for more developments in future editions of The Rockaway Times.