State kills NE Queens watchdog – QNS.com

State kills NE Queens watchdog

State leaders agreed to dismantle a commission that aimed to preserved the northeast Queens shoreline, including Aurora Pond in Udalls Cove, pictured here.
By Howard Koplowitz

A commission created to protect the northeast Queens shoreline, including Udalls Cove, Fort Totten and Alley Pond, was eliminated in state budget negotiations between state leaders, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) said Tuesday.

While Padavan said he was not given justification for the dismantling of the Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission, City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) said he believed the move was politically motivated.

Padavan was in a prolonged and contentious battle to retain his seat in November against Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows), who lost the race by 480 votes in what became the longest contested election in the state’s history.

“I’m not surprised that the funding had been eliminated since the funding came from Sen. Padavan,” Avella said.

The commission’s dissolution is contingent upon state leaders passing the budget that was agreed upon in negotiations between Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D−Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans).

Padavan declined to say whether he believed killing the commission was payback.

“If it is politically motivated, it is despicable,” he said, noting that the nine−member commission operated under five previous governors who belonged to both parties. “I would think no, but it’s hard for me to say.”

Padavan said he learned the commission was being scrapped after reading the budget and questioned why his colleagues who represent the area — state Assemblywomen Ann Margaret Carrozza (D−Bayside) and Nettie Mayersohn (D−Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) — did not speak out. The group had received state funds of $120,000.

“Why they didn’t put their two cents in, I don’t know,” he said.

The commission, a citizen watchdog group that aims to preserve the northeast Queens shoreline, was created in 1973 through legislation sponsored by Padavan. Seven out of nine commission members are appointed by the governor and are volunteers who do not receive a salary. The other two are full−time and part−time employees.

Padavan said the commission helped keep development out of Little Neck Bay, the Udalls Cove property on Northern Boulevard and Fort Totten.

Under the agreement reached between Paterson, Silver and Smith, the commission’s duties will be shifted to the state Parks Department.

In a statement, the senator called the move “a senseless action” and said it would not save money because the commission only had one full−time and one part−time employee who are paid.

Padavan said there would be significant costs related to the plan because more state Parks workers would have to be staffed to carry out the commission’s functions. But the senator also expressed concerns that Paterson would not dispatch state workers to the shoreline.

Northeast Queens Nature Chairman Bernard Haber, a Douglaston resident, doubted that the state could adequately replace the body.

“There’s no way the state Parks Department can do the work of our commission,” he said. “They’ll have to hire a lot more people to do that.”

“It’s just a shame that the people of New York City will be deprived of oversight of a 10−mile waterfront,” Haber said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

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