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Keeping Your Home Healthy

Building Tips & Redistricting At RPOCA Meet

Keeping homes well-maintained and the proposed redistricting of New York State’s legislative districts were hot topics during the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) meeting last Thursday night, Feb. 2, at the I.S. 93 auditorium.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (standing at left) panned the proposed redistricting of legislative districts across New York State during last Thursday’s Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association meeting.

Numerous Woodbine Street residents also came to the meeting to call for action to correct various quality of life problems related to the operation of a produce store on their block. For more details, see the story on the front page.

Home repair 101

Al Ubell of Accurate Building gave a crash course to homeowners on steps they should take to keep their residences structurally safe and sound.

Executive officers and board members of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association were installed into duty by City Council Member Diana Reyna during a ceremony at the civic group’s Feb. 2 meeting.

“You have to look at your homes as the most treacherous place you can live in,” said Ubell, a home improvement expert who is featured every month on The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC radio.

Of the more than two million inhome accidents which occur across the United States annually, Ubell noted that many of them often involve stairway defects or stairwells which lack bannisters. “If there is a stairway in your home without a handrail, it is an accident waiting to happen,” he said.

The other most dangerous aspect in the home relates to chimney flues and vents from oil, gas or wood-burning heaters, he noted. Should they become clogged in any way, it could lead to the buildup of potentially fatal gases such as carbon monoxide or combustible natural gas.

Ubell distributed to the audience a four-page household inspection guide titled “Is Your House Healthy?” which includes a “67 Minute House Checkup Checklist” that advises the reader on how to inspect household structures and devices and rate them in good, fair or poor condition.

If a certain fixture is found in poor condition, the inspector advised homeowners to have it repaired by a professional almost immediately. While the repairs may be costly, Ubell said that it would serve as “a one-time premium that can save lives” and prevent even costlier problems in the long-term.

Speaking about making a home more energy efficient, Ubell advised residents to make sure their attics or cocklofts (the space between the upper floor and the roof of a building with a flat top) are properly insulated with 12″-thick fiberglass. He suggested avoiding other types of insulation such as styrofoam or cellulose which may prove ineffective or may result in long-term damage to a residence.

Regarding the cellulose insulation, Ubell explained that copper sulfate is used by licensed contractors in mixing the insulation. Using too much copper sulfate in the insulation could result in the deterioration of metal joints and fixtures in the roof, while using too little may attract vermin to the cellulose, a natural starch.

Ubell questioned the replacement of older windows for double-paned fixtures, observing that the cost-effectiveness is minimal to consumers. He noted that the double-paned winwith dows can act “like a Thermos bottle” by trapping too much heat into a home and leaving too much air out, reducing the amount of oxygen within a residence.

“Keep your windows open a crack,” he said, adding that residents shouldn’t “try to be overly conscious about sealing up your house.”

The inspector also cautioned residents not to erect any illegal partitions or take down walls within a home without having plans drawn up and reviewed by a licensed architect or engineer. Under city law, the Department of Buildings must also review such plans and issue permits to allow the work.

Asked by residents about a homeowner’s responsibility to remove lead paint, Ubell stated that chipped or peeling lead paint must be removed under city law by a licensed contractor. Lead paint which is largely intact may be encapsulated under a layer of sheet rock.

Redistricting and the budget

Making it clear that he wants to “represent all of Ridgewood,” State Sen. Joseph Addabbo blasted the proposed redistricting plan put forth by a joint legislative committee which would shift more of the neighborhood from his 15th Senatorial District to the 12th District, which is represented by State Sen. Michael Gianaris.

“All along I’ve said we need to keep communities together,” Addabbo said, calling the proposed realignment of the state’s legislative districts “ridiculous.” He noted that the plan is facing stiff opposition from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and good government advocates, and that the final word on redistricting may wind up being decided by the courts.

“I only hope that the interests of the people come before political interests,” he said. “When party politics come before the interests of the people, it’s wrong. … We should have the voters choose the elected officials and not have the elected officials choose the voters.”

Addabbo has advocated for the creation of an independent redistricting panel to draw new boundaries for Assembly, State Senate and Congressional districts based on the results of the 2010 Census. The senator noted that the clock is ticking on a fair redistricting plan to be put in place in New York, as primaries are slated to take place this spring.

Regarding the budget recently proposed by Governor Cuomo, Addabbo urged the public to contact his office in Middle Village with any questions.

Under state law, the legislature and governor must agree on a budget for the new fiscal year by Apr. 1.

Elected and installed for duty

With no challengers, the slate of RPOCA’s executive officers and board of directors were elected for a one-year term of service and sworn into office by City Council Member Diana Reyna. She applauded the civic group for working proactively to resolve problems facing the community.

The executive officers include President Paul Kerzner, First Vice President John Maier, Second Vice President Joseph Segreti, Third Vice President Stephen Lang, Corresponding Secretary Margaret Chance, Recording Secretary Charles Ober, Treasurer Peter Comber, Financial Secretary Helen Kuch and Sergeantat arms Carlos Ortiz.

Chaired by Patricia Grayson, RPOCA’s board of directors includes Joseph Haufe, John Hertling, A.J. Jerome, Gae Lee Kappauf, Steven Monte, Mark Montalbano, Voytek Oktawiec, Jacek Olszewski, Luis Rodriguez, Rita Sangiamo and Dick Wessely.

The next Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday night, Mar. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at I.S. 93’s auditorium, located on Forest Avenue between Madison and Woodbine streets.

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