The Civic Scene

By Bob Harris

Earlier this year, the Mid-Queens Community Council newsletter had a story about the problem of returning books and materials to libraries. It seems Jim DeBonet, of the Flushing Heights Civic Association, and his wife returned books and materials to the Pomonok library, but received a notice that they had not returned their materials. His wife went to the library and found the materials with a librarian's help.

It seems many libraries were refurbished and new checkouts installed. This was good, but there is no system for users to receive a receipt when materials were returned. This leaves borrowers at the mercy of library fees and holds them liable for fines and material cost. The system to give a receipt for returned books is planned, but does not function when installed. In the past, there were people to check in returned materials; now there is only a slot to drop in books.

DeBonet went to Thomas Galante, the Queens Library director, when the branch staff would not help. It seems the new automated check-in system never did work. Dale McNeill, director of community library services, assured DeBonet that local staffs would do what was necessary to help patrons. State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Councilmen Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) are aware of the problem and sent out a letter. When returning books, insist a receipt is given. Otherwise, you are at the slot's mercy.

A more recent Mid-Queens Community Council newsletter had an article stating that there is a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone committing graffiti vandalism. Call 311 to give information, 911 for a crime in progress.

There was also a report that District 37 and the City Council are close to compromising on a bill to relax the city resident requirement for 45,000 union workers who want to live outside the city. It is claimed that the workers make an average salary of $31,000. What with higher taxes outside the city and the price of travel and gasoline, how could a lower-paid worker commute to the city? City workers should live in the city and spend their money here.

The Feb. 28 Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association newsletter told that the Willow Lake Natural Area consists of almost 100 acres of wetlands that filter water, soak up runoff, provide wildlife habitats and prevent shoreline erosion. Wetlands can mitigate a storm's surge and in the Gulf of Mexico could have lessened the force of Hurricane Katrina if they had not been destroyed south of New Orleans.

The Kew Gardens Hills Civic supports the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy. Much of the area is closed due to vandalism, but is opened at specific times by the city Parks Department for tours by Park Rangers. For information, call 718-539-8462 or visit www.fmcpconcervancy.org.

The civic is working to create a new zoning to limit the occupancy of attached row houses to single-family occupancy. Our R2A-zoned, one-family houses are limited to one family each. Some speculators are buying attached row houses and, due to the R3-2 or R4 zoning, are making them two-family homes. This adds more people, garbage, noise and cars. The Queens Civic Congress is active in this proposal. Any new zoning would not affect any changes already made.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: For years, I have complained about aircraft noise and pollution. In my travels, I had noted that often planes were less than half full. Competition kept two or three flights taking off at the same time and going to the same location.

Well, demand for gasoline has driven up the price to the point that airlines are finally cutting unnecessary flights. Perhaps we will have less noise and chemical pollution from all those planes.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has recently complained that the Federal Aviation Administration is driving away flight controllers through a “culture of fear.” If there are fewer flights, you do not need more controllers. Schumer said the local airports are only 60 percent to 70 percent staffed. “They” include trainees as fully qualified controllers. At least, there will be more than $6 million in federal money to upgrade our airports, according to Schumer and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

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