BHPOA Meeting Focuses on New Developments

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 As the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association reconvened, the hot button issue of the night was building, building, building.

About 50 people gathered at P.S. 114 on Tuesday, March 15 for the BHPOA’s first meeting since November. BHPOA President Paul King immediately addressed the main topic of the meeting saying, “There’s been a lot of overdevelopment on the peninsula. Some of those projects are closer to home,” he said. Those projects closer to Belle Harbor were later discussed, but King first provided some updates on the beach action. He said with new leadership at the Parks Department, the civic and Councilwoman Joann Ariola are hoping to hold a meeting with them soon. He announced the Army Corps of Engineers would be at their next meeting in May or June to provide updates. In the meantime, King said that groin work planned for Beach 125th and 130th this summer, will instead happen next year, as work is currently taking place further downtown, and expected dredging and sand replenishment later this year will change the original schedule.

Next, Belle Harbor’s elected officials, Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Councilwoman Joann Ariola were all on hand to provide updates. Addabbo explained that Albany is currently negotiating its $216B budget and he addressed a topic of concern for the meetings—Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Legalizing ADUs would allow homeowners to turn things like attics, basements, garages or backyard sheds into additional apartments. After seeing the effects of flooding from Hurricane Ida causing deaths in illegal basement apartments in Queens, locally, the legalization of ADUs doesn’t have much support. “I don’t agree with ADUs,” Addabbo said. He explained that Governor Hochul took it out of her budget as a statewide issue, but $25 million had been allocated for localities to decide whether they want to legalize ADUs.

Addabbo also said he’s sponsoring a bill along with Pheffer Amato saying cop killers should never be granted parole, and in the wake of increasing utility bills, he’s introducing a bill saying utility companies must give customers 60 days notice ahead of rate increases so they have a chance to dispute them or save up.

Pheffer Amato also shared that she is against ADUs. She’s also against Good Cause Eviction. “They’re taking away power of ownership over your home where you could not evict somebody. That’s been taken out of our budget and the next step is making sure it doesn’t get in our main budget,” she said. After someone brought up concerns over the condition of the boardwalk in Riis Park, Pheffer Amato said she will bring this up at an upcoming meeting she’s having with the National Park Service. She suggested people send photos to her office. She’s also currently working on legislation to change insurance laws for women facing breast cancer so they have more of a choice in their follow up procedures and she’s supporting funding for 9/11 cancer research, childcare support and SUNY and CUNY infrastructure.

Ariola spoke about the many ways she’s been keeping busy since entering office. She spoke of the covid testing vans she helped secure for the area. She spoke of staying on top of the Army Corps and Parks Department so they listen to the community’s wishes when it comes to things like dune crossovers. With the city budget, she’s working towards obtaining funding for an after-school program at P.S. 114. She’s been meeting with Phil Banks, deputy mayor for public safety and local precincts to address the community’s public safety needs. She said despite being only one of five republicans on City Council, that she has a good working relationship with her democrat colleagues, which will be helpful to get things done.

The meeting then switched gears to focus on all of the new developments taking place or in planning stages. A neighbor named Eric Rasmussen, who is on a committee focusing on the Neponsit Home, provided some updates. The building, which hasn’t been used since 1997, is slated to be demolished. Once that happens, the property, currently overseen by NYC HHC, will be transferred to the Parks Department, as a covenant in the property deed says it must be used as a healthcare facility or parkland. Demolition was expected to begin this spring but will instead begin after the summer is over as NYC Lifeguards currently utilize this property as a shack and storage facility. The BHPOA says they will keep a close eye on anything going on with the property as progress is made.

John Signorelli provided some updates on the demolition of the old PS 256 building and development of a playground. Abatement will be completed this month and the demolition is expected to be complete by September, six months ahead of schedule. The playground is expected to be complete by February 2023. While the building is demolished, a wooden fence and netting will go up around the area to protect surrounding homes from debris.

Another development of concern is the plan for ALMA’s Surfside property from Beach 105th to Beach 108th Street. The tenant association SHAFT asked the BHPOA for their support in fighting against a proposal to build four new buildings on the property that would bring an additional 2,000 units with only 1,500 parking spaces, while eliminating current parking for the existing units, the dog run and the pool on the property. A Rockaway Civic Association survey showed 94.3% of people are against this project. Councilwoman Joann Ariola chimed in, saying she’s been on top of it with meetings and when it comes to the ULURP process for the zoning changes for this development, she will do everything to make sure it doesn’t become reality. “That’s the most narrow portion of the peninsula. It cannot support a project like that, but beyond that, they’re not talking about infrastructure, roadways, schools, everything else that’s needed. We’re a hard no on this. That’s not happening,” she said.

A plan to demolish the Chai Home on Beach 125th and replace it with a nine-story rental property was also addressed. The 90-foot building, thirty feet higher than neighboring oceanfront buildings, would have 58 units and 29 parking spots on a street that doesn’t allow summer parking. A Rockaway Civic Association poll showed 88.5% of people are against this proposal. Ariola said she would not back the project. “I will not support the proposal as put forth,” she said.

The issue of ADUs was also brought up again with the BHPOA saying they were against it. “People will take advantage and it can do bad things. We can’t have this undermined by the stroke of a pen in Albany. We need to keep on top of them,” King said.

Dealing with worldwide issues, local resident Andrey Gordiyenko was invited to speak about what’s going on in Ukraine and how Rockaway can help. Born in Kiev in 1993, Gordiyenko shared memories and spoke of some of the atrocities taking place now with the war, including civilians being targeted, and how citizens are taking actions themselves to fight back. “This war was expected to last two to three days. We’re on 22,” he said, speaking of the Ukrainian’s strength. To help, he suggested contacting federal representatives and encouraging them to enact a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He suggested Russian oligarchs, such as those who own properties in Manhattan, should have their properties taken away. He encouraged people to join protests. He also provided a list of reputable organizations to donate funds to including Razom for Ukraine, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Ukraine’s Armed Forces via the National Bank of Ukraine.

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