Queen Civic Congress wages battle against illegal apts.

By Bob Harris

The Queens Civic Congress is an umbrella organization of approximately 100 civic and co-op associations in Queens. The goal of the QCC is to maintain the quality of life for Queens residents. While it supports the general idea of providing more affordable housing, it opposes the proposals which would legalize the currently illegal basement/cellar apartments which some people build.

Civics constantly battle to prevent some homeowners or developers from building dangerous apartments in basements so they can make money. Some people subdivide their basements into cubicles with combination locks on doors.

A few decades ago, I saw such rooms opposite St. John’s University and I wonder if those firetraps are still there.

Whether individual rooms or apartments, these cellar rooms are fire traps because there is often only one entrance. Also, the construction material in the units, usually built illegally, may be plastic or something else which could give off noxious fumes during a fire in a confined space.

Some owners build cheaply rather than safely. There are already too many civilian and firefighter deaths caused by fires in basements.

Civics have fought illegal cellar apartments because of the number of new people who might come to live in a neighborhood. Many communities are zoned R2 or were changed to R2A to prevent overdevelopment, which would further overtax the aging infrastructure of electrical, gas, water and sanitation lines.

More students could overcrowd local schools. Transit services, as well as parking spots in many areas, could become completely overwhelmed by more people.

Zoning has been a major tool used to maintain strong and viable middle-income areas in the outerboroughs. It is interesting that the zoning committees of our community boards are often the largest committees. People care about their quality of life and what is built is of importance.

Affordable housing is needed, but there are ways to obtain it without legalizing what is essentially dangerous. For various reasons the city has taken over numerous residential and commercial buildings which are vacant.

Other properties have tax liens against them and could be seized. These all could be inexpensively upgraded and be made available. Also, major developers who receive all kinds of abatements and special privileges should be made to build more affordable housing quickly.

Preserve our low density residential neighborhoods.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: City Comptroller Scott Stringer is issuing a directive which will standardize how information technology contracts are handled by all city agencies. Remember how the company which was hired to update the 911 system billed the city $147 an hour for fake work. He now wants contractors to submit time sheets for hourly work. He is also trying to limit overbilling.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has imposed a $1.2 billion penalty on Toyota for concealing safety defects from the public. There were faulty parts that caused sudden, unintended acceleration in several models.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The World Health Organization has released a report which states that in 2012 pollution killed 7 million people worldwide.

Automobiles, dung–fired stoves in India, indoor pollution from cooking and urban sprawl cause the use of more energy to commute, and the use of coal in China are some causes.

People in polluted areas live five years fewer that those with clean air. Pulmonary and cardio-vascular diseases are rising.

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