Civic Group Eyes New Trees, Graffiti Removal
One of seven Democrats running for Queens borough president spoke with residents at the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) meeting last Thursday, May 2, at I.S. 93.
City Council Member Leroy Comrie of Jamaica was the third candidate for Queens’ top office to speak to the civic group in the last two months. Two other competitors- State Sen. Tony Avella and former City Council Member Melinda Katz-appeared at RPOCA’s April session.
The remaining candidates-including City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., State Sen. Jose Peralta and Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik-were invited to RPOCA’s April and May sessions, but did not attend either meeting.
Currently the head of the Queens City Council Delegation and chair of the City Council Land Use Committee, Comrie-formerly president of Community School Board 29 before being elected to his seat in 2002- stated he has worked “all [his] life trying to make government more accessible to the people.” He pledged to carry that same attitude with him if elected borough president.
“The strength of this borough is its people,” Comrie said. “You have to have someone [as borough president] who makes sure you’re heard first.”
As head of the Queens delegation, Comrie stated he and his colleagues from the borough brought millions of dollars over the years to improve schools, libraries and a host of cultural centers. Should he be elected borough president, he noted, he would continue to secure as much money as possible to support those institutions, especially the borough’s schools, which are currently “about 15,000 seats” short of the necessary amount to prevent overcrowding.
Calling himself a candidate with a “singleness of purpose,” Comrie stated he would use the borough president’s office to help “create opportunities for every Queens resident” and “give them a platform” for greater access to government.
Asked by RPOCA Third Vice President John Maier for his ideas on improving transportation, the Council member stated he would work with the MTA to change bus routes- many of which, he claimed, “don’t make sense”-and expand the Access a-Ride program for seniors and persons with disabilities. He also pledged to pursue a long-term capital project to bring another subway line into Queens from Manhattan.
RPOCA President Paul Kerzner asked about Comrie’s stance on the proposed reactivation of the Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road. While Comrie stated he was supportive of bringing additional train service to southern Queens and Rockaway, he noted he would sit with both supporters and opponents of the project and examine all the options.
Questioned by RPOCA board member Peter Comber about the recent loss of hospitals in Queens, Comrie stated he would work to secure capital funding to expand the borough’s current hospitals and also find space for urgent care and other types of medical centers.
More trees for Ridgewood
As the leaves change and fall this autumn, the Parks Department will be planting scores of new trees around Ridgewood and surrounding communities, according to Kate Mooney, a representative of City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.
Mooney told residents Crowley provided $174,000 for new street trees around the community. She also forwarded to the Parks Department’s Forestry Division a list of locations formulated by the RPOCA of where trees could be planted.
Though the Parks Department could not follow the RPOCA list verbatim, Mooney stated, the agency “will be reviewing the entire area” of Ridgewood within the 30th Council District’s confines (generally north and east of Forest and Myrtle avenues) and prioritize planting trees at spots currently occupied by stumps.
Mooney added that the Parks Department and Crowley would soon hold a ceremonial “public opening” for the walkway around the Ridgewood
Reservoir, which has been reconstructed by the Parks Department.
“It will be a wonderful promenade for Queens,” Mooney stated.
Graffiti removal underway
With the warm spring weather having arrived in the city, the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC) has resumed its graffiti cleanup program, Kerzner announced. He distributed a list of 36 properties which the GRRC catalogued as being in need of graffiti removal.
Approximately 25 of the 36 locations have been visited by the GRRC graffiti cleanup crew, Kerzner said. Depending on the surface, the vandalism was removed either through power-washing or covered over with paint. The civic president urged members who see graffiti on any location to report it to the GRRC for cleanup by calling 1-718-366-8721.
Kerzner also mentioned that the GRRC knows of 161 property owners around the confines of Community Board 5 (Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village) who have not signed waivers allowing for graffiti on their buildings to be removed. A list of the locations, he noted, would soon be published in order to urge the property owners to clean the locations themselves or have the GRRC remove the vandalism for them.
The GRRC charges a one-time fee for removing graffiti from a building up to three times in a given year.
Fresh from the farm
Kevin Burns of Glendale Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offered an overview of the program where residents, for a fee, can get farm-fresh, organic produce shipped in from Long Island to Glendale on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
The Glendale CSA partners with Garden of Eve Farm outside Riverhead to grow and deliver items such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats and eggs to participants in the program. The items are shipped in every Saturday to Burns’ Glendale home and distributed to members.
Participants pay a one-time, upfront fee to the CSA, which then provides the funds to the farm operators for its agricultural expenses. Depending on the conditions in the growing season, Burns stated, members can get quite a bounty of seasonal items every week between June and November.
Registration for the Glendale CSA is ongoing. For additional information, visit its website, www.glendalecsa.org.
Retiring from Con Ed
Kerzner announced that he would soon retire from Con Edison after over 35 years on the job. Much of his time at the utility company was spent managing its Renaissance Housing Program, which rehabilitated vacant dwellings across the city and transformed them into viable housing.
The Renaissance program, Kerzner explained, was modeled after the Cinderella program run by the now-defunct Brooklyn Union Gas. The Cinderella program was brought to Ridgewood in the 1970s to restore a vacant multi-family home on Palmetto Street through an effort by Kerzner and then-Assemblywoman Rosemary Gunning.
Kerzner recalled that Gunning authored and sponsored legislation allowing non-profit groups to acquire vacant buildings from the city. To that end, Kerzner and Gunning founded the GRRC, which subsequently bought the Palmetto Street property and-with the help of the Cinderella program-transformed it into a low-income co-operative apartment building.
Upon joining Con Edison’s Renaissance program in 1978, Kerzner said, the utility company helped restore 92 buildings and created 3,003 units of affordable housing, including at a location in the vicinity of Norman Street and Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood.
Without the actions taken by the GRRC, local utility companies and Gunning, Kerzner noted, “we would have had a lot more vacant buildings” during the city’s decline of the 1970s “and Ridgewood would be a lot different today.”
The next Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday night, June 6, at 7:30 p.m. at I.S. 93 auditorium, located on Forest Avenue between Woodbine and Madison streets.