By Katie McFadden
With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, there was light attendance at this month’s Community Board 14 (CB14) meeting at the Knights of Columbus on Tuesday evening, November 14, but the meeting was chock full of important information.
In her opening remarks, CB14 Chairwoman Dolores Orr announced that despite pushback, the city was going ahead with installing a Public Health Vending Machine at 1600 Central Avenue in Far Rockaway on November 15. Such vending machines offer items like naloxone, fentanyl test strips, toiletry kits, safer sex kits, sharps containers and some offer sterile syringes, for free.
Next up, the local police precincts provided updates. Captain Carol Hamilton, officially the new commanding officer of the 100th Precinct, announced that the precinct recently received 16 new officers that are currently undergoing training at various foot posts and on car patrols. She said crime is down overall, nearly 35%, although felony assaults are up, at sixteen versus six. Most of those were domestic incidents and arrests were made in fifteen incidents. An officer from the 101st Precinct shared that they’re down 50% in shootings. Both officers reminded people to watch out for package thefts as we approach the holidays.
Next up was elected officials. A representative for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato spoke of her recently passed bill that will require new parents to watch a video on drowning risks. The assemblywoman is also hosting a cat adoption event at her office (95-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd.) on Saturday, November 18 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in partnership with Noah’s Ark and CatFixerNY. If people don’t want to adopt, they’re welcome to learn about volunteer opportunities and donate toward the local rescues.
Recently re-elected Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers was on hand to thank voters for their support and provide updates. She announced that two of her bills, one to streamline the process regarding decisions on bike lanes and one regarding redesigning truck routes, would likely pass in City Council on Wednesday. She also announced that her office is holding a District 31 turkey giveaway. The Rockaway event will be held Saturday, November 18 at 34-11 Beach Channel Drive, but she recommends people reserve their bird ahead of time by calling her office at 718-471-7014.
Four people signed up for public speaking. Artist Patrick Clark was on hand to say he’ll be requesting an opportunity to speak about the next steps for his mosaic piece at Tribute Park. He also announced that he has formed a Tribute Park Arts Conservancy group that is planning the restoration of the piece and is currently putting together a proposal. The group would handle the maintenance and funding for the park’s art pieces.
Eugene Falik spoke about the Resilient Edgemere project and how when HPD held community input meetings, the community requested more commercial space for businesses, but instead, in their report, HPD said the community requested more housing. “We need more stores, not housing,” Falik said.
David Daniels of D. Daniels Sanitation announced that due to the city enacting commercial waste zones, the city recently selected three carters for Rockaway, but his company, which has been serving the peninsula’s commercial sanitation needs for 29 years, was not selected as one of the three carters. This will essentially put D. Daniels out of business once it goes into effect, expected sometime early next year. He asked the board if they could do anything to rectify this situation.
Ozzie Edwards, a former CB14 member, said that CB14 needs to hold more committee meetings to address problems in the neighborhood. He is also taking things into his own hands by going door to door to recruit 12,000 to 13,000 community members to get together to really enact change. “Instead of talking, complaining, I’m hitting the streets and working. I’m not accepting excuses,” Edwards said.
Next up was a presentation by a representative from City Planning, discussing the Economic Opportunity aspect of the Mayor’s “City of Yes” plan that could change the way zoning works in the five boroughs. The formal public review for the Economic Opportunity portion of the City of Yes plan officially began on October 30, so the representative was on hand to discuss it. The representative laid out 18 proposals that the city has come up with to make it easier for business owners to find space and grow, to support growing industries, to foster vibrant neighborhoods and to provide new opportunities for businesses.
Among them are simplifying rules for business types allowed on public streets, enabling commercial activity on upper floors, allowing growth for things like urban agriculture, life sciences, nightlife, amusements and home-based businesses, putting some limits on the space auto repair shops can take over, allowing for commercial space on residential campuses, as in allowing businesses to operate in 49% of someone’s residence, allowing corner stores in residential areas, and more.
Only being sent information on the proposals shortly before the meeting, the board members had many questions and felt they didn’t have enough time to look into the 60-page document that breaks down each of the 18 proposals. “This makes no sense to me,” one board member said. Another board member recommended that the representative meet with a CB14 committee like Land Use or Economic Development first so the committee members could look into this more deeply and present recommendations to the full board. The city representative said he requested to meet with a committee first but was told to present in front of the full board. He said he’d be happy to meet with a committee. One board member pointed out that the general public needs to be more involved in these meetings as well to be informed. “The community needs to come out, not only when they have concerns. They need to come out before these issues happen,” she said. Everyone is encouraged to look at the city’s proposals for the City of Yes plan at NYC.gov/planning
Lastly, the transportation committee gave a presentation about their meeting with the operators of Circuit, a new electric vehicle transportation pilot starting on the peninsula. The committee was happy to report that Circuit listened to many of their concerns from the September CB14 meeting and addressed them, including expanding north to south service. Circuit will operate eight vehicles in the off-season and eleven in the summer, offering customers rides around the peninsula for $2.50. The first two months, rides will be free. Rides can be requested and paid for through an app. Circuit will provide an iPad at Ocean Bay Houses for residents there to use to request rides if they don’t have a smartphone, but this transportation service is open to all. This effort is made possible by a grant that will help them operate for two years.