The Civic Scene: Boro’s needs put on hold as Congress wastes cash

By Bob Harris

The Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association believes much of its infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. Members want a new library, new ball fields at PS 164 and PS 165, seasonal street paving, reconstruction of local water mains and storm/sanitary sewers, new buses for local and express routes and a rebuilt bridge at the south end of Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

If Congress gave New York City back more of the money we send to Washington, D.C. as taxes, then some or all of these needs could be met.

The West Cunningham Park Civic Association is pressing to have many areas renovated in the western part of Cunningham Park. While our past and current members of the Assembly, state Senate and Council have provided some money from their discretionary funds, more is needed in this heavily used and worn park.

Credit has to be given to park managers, who persuaded the Department of Parks and Recreation to do some repairs internally, as well as to the Friends of Cunningham Park, who obtained grant money. But more is needed.

There is much erosion around the oval walking/running path in the western park of Cunningham Park, near the homes of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association residents. There are depressed areas that fill with water when there is a lot of rain. And part of the path parallel to Union Turnpike near 196th Place is crumbling and presents a danger to those who use it.

The two areas in the oval that play host to summer concerts, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Philharmonic are dirty and dusty by the time the summer heat scorches the area. What is necessary during this season is proper maintenance of the grass and improved irrigation.

There is a large spring kettle pond to the south of the park, behind the tennis courts. Water that gathers here is ideal for mosquito breeding. These low areas should be looked at and corrected. It will probably require more than park workers to repair.

The Eastern Queens Alliance is fighting for the restoration of the degraded wetlands at Idlewild Park. They would like the wetlands to be part of an Idlewild Park Salt Water Marsh Environmental Center. Wetlands are valuable to an area because they reduce erosion and serve as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt and groundwater.

Wetlands can act as natural protection for the low-lying areas of Springfield Gardens and Rosedale and should prevent the annual flooding of these areas. The destruction of these wetlands for development is counter to the way nature works.

Many endangered species of wildlife live in wetlands. Idlewild Park has been designated a Forever Wild Preserve by the city Parks department.

The problem is that the needs and wants of the above civic associations require money that often comes from Congress, yet Congress wastes money on foolish projects. This is money that could come from the industries it proposes to help.

Some of the current 8,000 pork barrel votes of Congress have been: $202,000 for the National Cherry Festival in Michigan; $560,000 for a Montana Sheep Institute study; $350,000 for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio; $1 million for the World Food Prize of the Iowa Historical Society; $800,000 for a Grammy education program in California; $500,000 for improved catfish health in Mississippi; and $350,000 for sweet potato research in Mississippi.

This list also includes $405,000 for a Civil War theme park in Kentucky; $280,000 for asparagus study in Washington; $400,000 for oral history curriculum in Alaska; $725,000 for a Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia; $202,000 for the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in New York; $450,000 for ornamental fish research in Hawaii; and $4.5 million for the Riverfront Project in Kentucky.

Other pork barrel votes include $1 million for a grizzly bear DNA sampling project in Montana, although the state’s criminologists don’t have the money to sample criminal DNA; $1 million for an automated nursery project in Mississippi; and it goes on and on.

Also, North Dakota gets $1 million to unclog traffic jams, although it has few cars; Alaska gets $7 million for education and cultural exchanges with its historic whaling partner, Massachusetts, although commercial whaling has been outlawed; and Alaska and Hawaii get $250,000 to celebrate 50 years of statehood, although it will not be until 2009.

While all this money was voted, New York City was denied money for counter-terrorism training and equipment for the New York Police Department and the New York Fire Department. Civics in Queens want money to maintain their quality of life, and there are probably more people in Queens than in most of the areas in most of these states.

Most of these projects, and even some in New York City, are not needed. Our nation will squander our money resources on nothing, and then what will we do to maintain ourselves? Can we afford to keep increasing our deficits yet not educate our children, maintain our infrastructure and take care of our senior citizens?

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