Things That Are Dumb: December 2016 - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the December 2016 Juniper Berry Magazine

Things That Are Dumb: December 2016

Never-beginning bridge project still has not yet begun

We were told that the deck replacement for the bridge over the LIRR at Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road would happen just after Independence Day. Then it was pushed back to around Labor Day. Soon after, we were assured that it would start the first week of October. As we go to press in late November, there still is no work happening at the intersection. The equipment is sitting idle in the old Mobil gas station behind a chain link fence, but not one hour of labor has been undertaken on the span itself.

The delay of this project has been blamed on the awarding of a contract to an inexperienced company with a small staff that bit off more than it could chew. There is no word on when work will actually start, and it puts other construction projects in the area in peril. This bridge deck replacement was supposed to have been completed well before the June 2017 commencement of reconstruction of the M train viaduct which will shut down service to Middle Village and through Ridgewood. Either both projects will be underway at the same time ‒ causing major disruption to traffic in the area ‒ or the delay of one project will cause a delay in the other. After the M train work is completed, the MTA will move on to L train tunnel repairs. A lot is riding on getting that bridge work done, and done soon.

Crowley kept Maspeth shelter plan a secret for 3 months

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has stated that she did not know about the proposed homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth until about a week before a meeting held at the Maspeth Library on August 3rd. However, in October, a meeting of the Queens Borough Board was held where Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks revealed that he had conversations about the shelter with Crowley in June. A DHS spokesperson later clarified that a meeting was held between Banks and Crowley about the shelter in May 2016 ‒ almost 3 months before the Maspeth Library meeting. Why Crowley decided to keep this proposal from her constituents is a good question. Revealing the plans early on could have been key in preventing it from happening in the first place, but instead she just sat back and let it play out. Even more frustrating is the fact that State Senator Joseph Addabbo revealed that the Queens elected officials were called into a meeting at City Hall back in 2014 and told by Mayor de Blasio's staff that the borough was about to be inundated with homeless shelters. The elected chose to say nothing and allowed it to happen. Knowing this, Senate District 15 voters sent him back for another term.

Crowley's shelter lawsuit is a complete joke

Elizabeth Crowley wanted to wow the crowd at the August 31st meeting held at the Knockdown Center, so announced that she had her in-office counsel draft a 5-page lawsuit that was allegedly filed in an attempt to stop the shelter. The lawsuit is aimed at the fact that Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth was supposed to house homeless adult families and the hotel does not have kitchens. According to the lawsuit, it is illegal to house families in shelters without kitchens. The city countered that the law is clear in that it is families with children that cannot be housed in hotels without kitchens. They also tried to discredit the lawsuit based on lack of standing, meaning that Crowley does not have the authority to enforce the laws passed by the council because only the council as a body can sue. All of this became moot when the city decided to place homeless single males at the Holiday Inn Express instead. Crowley has announced no strategy to get the City to stop using the hotel as a de facto shelter.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso claims there are 1500 homeless people in CB5

A curious thing happened at the CB5 meeting held in November. Council Member Antonio Reynoso, whose district comprises mostly areas of Brooklyn plus a part of Ridgewood, announced that he did not agree with the Maspeth protests over housing homeless men at the Holiday Inn Express. He claimed that CB5 has 1500 people in the homeless shelter system. This is interesting, considering that neither Mayor de Blasio nor DSS Commissioner Steven Banks have alleged that so high a number come from CB5. FOILed records from 2014 and statements from City Hall have the number of homeless from CB5 at ~250 people. Where Reynoso got his inflated numbers are anyone's guess, but we noticed that none of them are housed in Ridgewood, where the vast majority of CB5's homeless hail from originally.

Silenced at our own press conference

Council Member Eric Ulrich had been promising to reserve the steps of City Hall for a press conference for the groups that are part of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force, and their allies, for weeks. He finally arranged for it on October 21st. Dozens of Maspeth residents boarded a bus outside the Holiday Inn Express and headed to City Hall to exercise our First Amendment rights. When we arrived, we were greeted by groups from other groups from Rockaway, Elmhurst, Woodside, and Sunset Park. The Queens Civic Congress sent representatives as well. Several homeless individuals and families came down in the pouring rain, hoping to get a chance to tell their stories. Unfortunately, the elected in attendance seemed to think that the event was arranged entirely for them and them alone. Eric Ulrich's chief-of-staff approached Robert Holden and asked that we not hold up signs blasting de Blasio and the Department of Homeless Services. Holden refused. No one other than elected officials was allowed to step up to the microphones. So we drowned them out with our chanting and they scurried inside City Hall to continue their lovefest with the press.

Unnecessary destruction of wildlife

On November 10, a small band of coyotes was captured and euthanized by the Port Authority of NY and NJ. These coyotes were found inhabiting an employee parking lot within the LaGuardia Airport earlier in the year. While there had been no incidents involving these wild animals, the Port Authority decided to proceed with euthanasia after obtaining approval from the Department of Environmental Conversation. Many felt that the decision to kill these coyotes instead of relocate them was too heavy handed. One animal activist, Jean Shafiroff, even offered to pay to have the coyotes moved. This decision comes with bad timing as less than a month ago, NYC launched a new campaign titled WildlifeNYC. According to their website, one of the campaign's goals is to promote conservation and coexistence between humans and wildlife through public policy. The site has a page devoted to coexisting with coyotes. The Port Authority mentioned in a statement regarding relocation that the attempts to move them have failed. However, as we recall, last year a female coyote had been successfully caught in Middle Village and was relocated by the NYPD. ‒ Tim Brown

Sanitation doesn't do what it says it will do

A press release was blasted out by the Department of Sanitation prior to Election Day indicating that Tuesday, November 8th was a holiday and that residents who normally receive Tuesday garbage and organics collection should place their materials out at curbside Tuesday evening after 4 p.m. for collection. We were assured that they would pick the trash up the following day. However, many reports came in that this did not occur and the bags were left outside people's homes until their next regularly scheduled collection date. If the logistics can't be worked out for holidays ‒ something that Sanitation has dealt with for decades ‒ then we all better brace for when it snows!

DOT working at a snail's pace

The following responses were received with regard to removing the press parking space on the westbound Queens Midtown Expressway service road just east of 69th Street:

2/17/2016: Thank you for your email requesting the readjustment of signage along the Queens Midtown Expressway Service Road. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has forwarded your suggestion to the appropriate operational group for future reference. – Roseann Caruana, Customer Service Unit, NYC Department of Transportation

7/6/2016: This is in response to your February 18th web form requesting the removal of NYP license plate only signage since the Queens Ledger has moved from the Queens Midtown Expressway between 69 Street and 69 Place. DOT's Borough Engineering staff has completed a field investigation at this location. As a result, a work order has been prepared to remove the signage. This work should be completed this summer. ‒ Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia

12/2016: The sign is still there.

Liz Crowley's truly embarrassing NY1 appearance

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley wants her constituents to think that she is intelligent and looking out for their interests. Yet whenever she faces the slightest bit of questioning, her veneer quickly falls apart. On October 12th, Crowley was a guest on the NY1 program Inside City Hall. Host Errol Louis questioned her about the shelter protests in her district, and asked her why protesters yell White Lives Matter at them, which resulted from City Hall trying to start a race war. Groups such as Juniper Park Civic Association and Citizens for a Better Maspeth have never chanted hate speech nor do we condone it at our protests. Crowley has never once attended any of the nightly protests that we have held outside the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express, outside Steven Banks' home in Brooklyn or at protests outside the shelters in other neighborhoods that we were asked by those communities to attend. So instead of defending her constituents, Crowley told Louis that we chanted it because the administration lied to us.

Thankfully, reporters who have actually attended the protests have publicly confirmed that we don't behave that way, and NY1's own reporter, Ruschell Boone, who has covered this topic extensively, corrected Louis' account on The Call the following night. Crowley also spilled the beans during her NY1 appearance that she is supporting a zoning change for 8 acres of property in the Maspeth/Woodside area to encourage affordable housing to be built ‒ which usually results in displacement and gentrification rather than keeping people of limited means in their own neighborhoods. She also strangely alleged that Marge Markey lost to Brian Barnwell because of the involvement of the Catholic Church. This train wreck of a council member appropriately ended her appearance on the program by pushing her much touted light rail plan which will never happen.

CB5: Maspeth is no Glendale

Queens Community Board 5 was very concerned about the prospect of a homeless shelter opening up on Cooper Avenue in Glendale back in 2014. They quickly formed a Homeless Shelter Committee in order to try to stop the shelter from opening. Members of the board were in constant communication with JPCA President Robert Holden to encourage him to form a coalition in order tom spearhead the fundraising for a lawsuit, which was done and filed. The project has been on hold for 2 years now. But when word came of the city's intention to open a shelter at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, there was stone silence from CB5. They organized an August 31st public hearing at the Knockdown Center, but that was as far as they went. When Bob Holden put them on the spot in October by asking why there was no committee formed to fight the Maspeth shelter as there was for Glendale, the members of the board looked at each other quizzically but none of them had an answer. The board selected Dmytro Fedkowskyj of Middle Village to chair the committee and it is stacked with people who do not live in Maspeth. Their first meeting came in November ‒ 3 months after the announcement of the shelter ‒ and the committee's focus is on learning to live with the shelter rather than shutting it down. The fact that the city lied about placing homeless couples in Maspeth and instead placed mostly unemployed single men is of no consequence, and they have expressed no interest in a lawsuit.

New bike lanes are causing major problems

The DOT installed new bike lanes along Eliot Avenue, 80th Street and 69th Street. The seldom used bike lanes cause traffic jams, especially at corners where DOT should paint turning lanes for vehicles. This causes unnecessary bottlenecks, frustration and air and noise pollution. Also, DOT has enough marking paint for bike lanes, yet they don't have enough paint for car lane markings. This causes a safety hazard especially on two-way streets where out of town motorists not familiar with local traffic patterns can cause head-on collisions.

Elected officials knew about city's shelter plans years ago

During a meeting of the Borough Board held at Queens Borough Hall, on October 19th, DHS Commissioner Steven Banks revealed that Elizabeth Crowley was made aware of the city's plan for the Maspeth homeless shelter back in June 2016 ‒ a full 2 months before the secret meeting at the Maspeth Library that she attended and acted surprised at. Banks' spokesperson later clarified that he actually had met with Crowley on May 19th and discussed the proposal at length. That same night at a debate in Rockaway, State Senator Joe Addabbo told the crowd that all of Queens' elected officials were called into a meeting at City Hall back in 2014 by Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Emma Wolfe who told them that the borough was about to be deluged with shelters. For some reason they chose to sit back and wait for it to happen instead of notify their constituents and formulate a strategy to fight the plan.