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CB discusses Aqueduct, flooding

Community Board 10 held its monthly meeting Thursday, September 6 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 135-45 Lefferts Boulevard in South Ozone Park. Representatives from the Department of Consumer Affairs, FEMA, and the 106th Precinct joined Councilmember Joe Addabbo and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer to address board members on multiple issues of neighborhood concern.
Pheffer spoke about the ongoing debate surrounding Aqueduct Racetrack, vowing to continue her fight to ensure the track’s preservation, should the state take over control of its property.
“Our responsibility is to make sure our voice is heard as a community,” Pheffer said. “The community has to have a chance to speak.”
The debate over Aqueduct stems from the impending expiration of the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) contract to operate the grounds. Some locals feared NYRA’s franchise would not be renewed due to multi-million dollar debts to the state, as well as a questionable track record regarding the track’s maintenance.
On Tuesday, September 4, however, Governor Eliot Spitzer released a recommendation offering NYRA a 30-year franchise renewal and forgiveness of its debts, in return for the right to own and operate the land on which Aqueduct sits.
Pheffer is encouraged by the deal, which still requires approval from the State Legislature and the U.S. Bankruptcy court, but said there is “still more work to be done to ensure that we have a voice in preserving the tradition of Aqueduct racing.”
Later, Addabbo spoke on the importance of pressuring state and federal leaders to reduce flooding in southern Queens.
“The U.S. government does not recognize Queens as having a flooding problem,” said Addabbo. “And we shouldn’t have one. As one of the most technologically-advanced cities in the world, we should not be so crippled by a rainstorm.”
Addabbo added that the city cannot afford to “talk about the year 2030, as [Mayor Bloomberg] would like, until we solve today’s problems.”
Captain Joseph Courtesis, commanding officer of the NYPD’s 106th Precinct, was also on hand, warning locals of a string of burglaries on 114th Place in South Ozone Park.
“Any suspicious behavior, we would welcome a call to 911,” said Courtesis. “We would send someone out immediately.”
Ricky Wong, of the External Affairs Division of the Department of Consumer Affairs, spoke to Board members and attendees on the importance of hiring licensed contractors.
Finally, FEMA representative Betty Fuentes explained how locals whose property was damaged during recent storms in Queens could qualify for loans to pay for repairs.
“People want to know if they qualify. Well, the first step is making the call,” said Fuentes, who noted that callers may be referred to FEMA’s Small Business Administration unit.
“That unit does not deal only with businesses, despite its name, so if you get referred over there, don’t worry,” she said.
Those interested in seeking help should call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA.

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