What’s What- Community Board 14

 What’s What- Community Board 14

By Dan Guarino

Rockaway has many community groups, elected officials, civic associations, city, state and federal departments and agencies, charitable/service organizations and more. Many may have heard of them. But how many know what exactly they do, what issues and areas they deal with and which they don’t, and where/how they can directly help Rockaway and Broad Channel residents?

What’s What, an occasional feature, aims to focus on our many organizations and offices, what they do and how they can help you.

As established by the City Charter, NYC has 59 community boards spread across the five boroughs, each with up to 50 volunteer board members. In our area, Community Board 14 Queens covers all of the Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel. Appointed by the Queens Borough President for a two-year term, each Board Member represents the communities they live in. Rockaway Beach resident Dolores Orr is CB 14’s long-serving chairperson.

Open to the public, Board meetings are held the second Tuesday of almost every month, at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Beach 90th St. Before the meeting begins, people can also sign up for public speaking to share ideas, concerns, etc.

Besides discussing current issues and follow ups, the Board has elected officials, 100th and 101st Precinct officers and city agency representatives address projects, problems, resolutions, and updates in their areas.

The Board also weighs in and takes up issues important to residents like new building developments, housing, beach closures, proposed MTA plans, JFK flight path noise, flooding, infrastructure, crime and safety issues and more.

Their actions and recommendations, including approval or disapproval of proposals, and inquiries and follow up with appropriate agencies, will then be taken up from there.

Residents can also sit in on the Board’s specialized committees which focus on particular areas and issues. These include Economic Development, Environmental Health/Social Services, Housing/Land Use, Parks/Public Safety, Transportation, Youth Services/Education and others, which report their findings, discussions and recommendations back to the Board at large.

“Community boards are bound by the NYC Charter, and interface and interact with all the city agencies that help a community to run,” notes Queens CB 14 District Manager Felicia Johnson. “The board attempts to bring together diverse organizations, people and groups to look at local issues and find a way of improving them. The community boards represent the voice of the local people.”

Unanimously hired by the Board, Johnson says “I assumed the position of District Manager for CB 14Q on March 4,” succeeding retiring Jonathan Gaska who served for 34 years. A Rockaway resident herself, Johnson says, “Since starting, I have been from Bayswater to Broad Channel to Breezy Point” to personally expand her office’s outreach to all the communities within the district.

“As DM, I handle the day-to-day operations of the community board. I consider this position to be the ombudsman of the community. You know, the person that advocates on behalf of the people,” Johnson said. “I respond to a lot of emails, and phone calls about all sorts of things. From potholes, traffic lights, signage, garbage not being picked up, etc., things of that nature. In these instances, I contact the city agencies responsible and make them aware of the concerns and offer solutions or encourage them to take care of the issue. Or ask what can or does the community or resident need to do to have the situation rectified. This may require me to contact city agencies such as DSNY, DOT, MTA” and others.

An example would be a recent letter from the Department of Transportation replying to Johnson and CB 14’s bringing up residents’ traffic safety in Far Rockaway. It stated that DOT had “recently completed its study regarding the need for additional traffic controls at the intersection Seagirt Boulevard at Fernside Place and Beach 25th Street” and were pleased to inform that “a traffic signal has been approved at this location.” It noted that work was currently expected to be completed, and the issue taken care of, by August 31 of this year.

“We also get involved in zoning issues, variances, and get requests for letters of support from organizations wanting to bring services or business into the community,” Johnson said. “I am also involved with State liquor license requests and Street Activity Permit requests.”

Johnson says the most frequent issues her office handle are things like “sanitation, potholes, street pavements, broken sidewalks, streetlight requests. Since I started, I have been working with a resident who needed to have a utility pole installed and there was a massive delay on the part of the utility company and one of the city agencies. It is June, and the issue I thought I had helped resolve was recently re-referred to me. So, the struggle continues.” The resident did note that the process was now moving along a lot quicker with CB 14’s help.

By the same token, Johnson states, “with summer just starting, this office will get its fair share of noise complaints. And they will be referred to NYPD.

Honestly, I don’t think there is anything I won’t handle. I may just refer residents to another entity, but I will do my best to give some sort of response. I have found that, sometimes, people call and just want to know that their concerns are being heard. People just want to be heard and acknowledged.”

“If you have any questions, concerns,” Johnson says, “feel free to call the office at 718-471-7300. Our address is 1931 Mott Ave #311, Far Rockaway NY 11691.”  Their email is QN14@cb.nyc.gov and website is nyc.gov/queenscb14.

Johnson says it also helps for residents to remain informed. “If you want to receive notifications, send your name and email information to the office. You will be added to the CB14 email list.”

Besides that, to get things done for the community and problems resolved, Johnson also advises residents to “get involved with local organizations, volunteer, do something.” And “if being appointed to the Board interests you, you can go online and fill out an application!”

“Many hands make light work, and there is a lot of work to do out here,” Johnson said.

Photos by Dan Guarino.

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