Woodhaven Cleaning Up

Civic Tackles Noise Polluters, Graffiti

Recent campaigns to combat noise pollution and graffiti vandalism around Woodhaven and plans for the creation of a group home for developmentally disabled adults in the neighborhood were hot topics during the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting last Friday night, July 27.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (left photo) and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (right photo, standing at left) addressed attendees at last Friday’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters. Seated at the dais in the right photo are Steve Forte, Janet Chan-Smith, WRBA President Ed Wendell, Alexander Blenkinsopp and Maria Thomson.

During the session at the Woodhaven Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters, P.O. Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit recently teamed up with the WRBA, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and City Council Member Eric Ulrich on an enforcement operation targeting individuals in the neighborhood deemed to be chronic noise polluters.

According to Severino, 102nd Precinct officers and DEP officials visited the homes of individuals who had received four or more complaints about excessive noise reported to the city in a 30-day period. During their inspection, the DEP agents-armed with noise meters-checked the decibel levels and issued Environmental Control Board summonses whenever violations of the noise code were found.

Severino noted that the ECB summonses were more severe than standard tickets issued by the Police Department, as the offenders are required to appear in court and could face fines costing several hundreds of dollars.

“Getting the word out that you’re not just going to get someone to come by and tell you to knock it off,” added WRBA President Ed Wendell. “You could get the DEP to come into your house with meters. It’s very intrusive, and the fines are heavy. I think it’s a good [program].”

Wendell added that the operation- combined with a “noise busters” hotline established by the WRBA to accept noise complaints and pass them along to 311 and the 102nd Precinct for action-have helped drop the number of reports of excessive noise around Woodhaven.

“For most complaints, if they are at chronic locations, a supervisor responds,” Severino explained. “We issue a summons, and if a summons doesn’t work, we take the stereo. It’s been a success. The number of calls have dropped.”

Turning to the war on graffiti, Wendell stated that the WRBA is continuing with their “missions” to remove tags scrawled onto mailboxes and Fire Department call boxes around the neighborhood.

In recent months, Wendell said, a team of volunteers-working in conjunction with Assemblyman Mike Miller and the assistance of Ulrich’s office-have been going around to paint over graffiti on the public fixtures in one of three “zones” of Woodhaven.

In one of the areas, the civic president stated, up to 44 percent of the mailboxes had been tagged with graffiti. Within a few hours time, he noted, the WRBA mission to repaint all of the tarnished boxes was accomplished.

But “within 10 days, up to 56 percent of these mailboxes were tagged,” Wendell lamented. In response, the WRBA took photos of the vandalism and passed them on to the 102nd Precinct for further investigation.

By his own analysis, the WRBA president stated, it seemed that each of the damaged mailboxes were smeared with “a variation of the same two tags,” indicating that it may be the work of one or two vandals in the area.

Even so, Wendell noted that the WRBA would continue its anti-graffiti missions,” recruiting volunteers during the session to take part in scheduled cleanups on Aug. 4, Aug. 9 and Aug. 19. He also stated that the group would ask local residents to “adopt a mailbox” on their block and report any vandalism to the WRBA.

Angst over group home plan

Representatives of a nonprofit group looking to build a new group residence in Woodhaven for developmentally disabled adults heard criticism from some residents over providing information about the project.

Loucas Louca and Paula Ben- Moshe of HeartShare Human Services of New York, which operates a day habilitation program in Fresh Meadows, explained that the organization planned on demolishing a building at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and 89th Avenue and replacing it with a two-story structure for up to 13 residents.

Louca stated that wheelchairbound adults would reside on the first floor of the building, while the second floor would house adults requiring ambulatory care. Staff will be on call at the facility 24 hours a day to provide around-the-clock care and support to the residents.

“Our main gaol as an organization is to have the residents live a normal life,” said Ben-Moshe, who noted that HeartShare operates 38 group homes across the city. “We are an asset to the community.”

While explaining that they were “not necessarily” opposed to the project, several residents expressed concerns that the organization offered little notice to nearby residents about their plans. Ben-Moshe apologized for the misunderstanding and assured them that the organization would notify neighbors of the plan.

Another attendee expressed concern of only “two to four” staff members being on call during overnight hours and asked how the residents would be safely moved out of the building in the event of an emergency.

Ben-Moshe stated that “we’d never endanger anyone,” adding that the staff is trained to have the residence cleared within 150 seconds.

HeartShare representatives indicated that they would be at the WRBA’s August meeting to explain their plans further.

Addabbo and Miller

With the state legislature in summer recess, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Miller dropped by to update residents on a number of topics still being discussed in Albany and around the Empire State.

Addabbo spoke about the MTA’s restoration of some bus services which had been cut back in its “doomsday budget” of 2010 as well as the planned fare increase which the authority plans to implement next year.

“I just don’t think they’re good in math,” he said. “They can’t cut spending to the point where they’re cutting services to riders, but they need to drop administrative costs first.”

The WRBA’s Maria Thomson asked Addabbo if the NYPD would provide additional police officers to the 102nd Precinct, noting that the neighboring 106th Precinct recently received extra officers to help patrol around the Resorts World New York Casino/Aqueduct Racetrack site. The senator responded that he would advocate for more officers, but that the NYPD has a policy of adding more officers “where the [crime] numbers are.

“I don’t agree with it, but the city goes with a different formula,” he added.

Miller ran through highlights of the budget passed by the state in April, including a tax reduction “for 99 percent of New Yorkers,” the elimination of the MTA payroll tax for certain small businesses and private schools, tax incentives for businesses to hire at-risk youth and the restoration of funds for the summer jobs program.

Other news

Ken Lazar of the Department of Buildings (DOB) sought to dismiss a rumor circulating around the area that the agency was issuing random violations to residents who had not used brackets to secure air conditioners placed within open windows.

Lazar told residents that the department was not actively looking for such violations, adding that the building code requires residents to follow manufacturer’s instructions when installing air conditioners in their homes or apartments.

Residents are welcome to report suspected building code violations to 311 for inspection, Lazar stated, including suspected illegal conversions, improper construction, illegal curb cuts or zoning violations.

“[Calling] 311 is the key,” he added, advising residents to make sure to receive a complaint number from the operator, then following up by checking the Buildings Department website, www.nyc.gov/buildings, or by calling their local community board.

Alexander Blenkinsopp, the WRBA’s communications director, noted that the civic group’s recent “experiment” in reporting illegally posted advertisements around Woodhaven and Richmond Hill to the city’s 311 hotline had mixed results.

Blenkinsopp stated that the civic group filed a dozen reports of illegal signs to 311, with the city issuing a response on their website within three days. But in seven of the 12 incidents, he stated, 311 indicated that the complaint had been “resolved” or unfounded, even though the signs remained posted at the reported locations.

In reaching out to the Sanitation Department, Blenkinsopp noted, the agency explained that the incorrect responses may have been the result of the improper reporting of the illegal signs to 311. He stated that the civic group would once again call 311 about the illegal signs, but refer them to the operator as “illegal postings” to better explain the situation to the operator.

Residents of the Forest Park coop complex aired grievances over the recent resurfacing work conducted by the Department of Transportation along Woodhaven Boulevard between Park Lane South and Forest Park Drive, adjacent to the apartment buildings. They claimed that the DOT unnecessarily closed certain streets bisecting the boulevard, making it difficult for residents to get around while the nighttime work progressed.

Furthermore, they charged that the DOT also parked large equipment used to mill the roadway along the service road bordering the co-op complex and had left rocks and other materials along the roadbed.

Miller stated that his office would look into the situation.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association generally meets on the third Saturday each month at 1 p.m. at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven. For more information, visit www.woodhaven-nyc.org.