Pols Talk Issues at Wdhvn. Block

From Traffic Bills To Graffiti

Two local politicians updated the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) on their recent legislative work to increase traffic safety and combat graffiti at its meeting last Saturday, May 17, at the American Legion Post 118.

Woodhaven Block Residents’ Association Members posed with American legion Post 118 Commander John Lawless, far right after Saturday’s meeting. Members of the American Legion have supported a military unit for the last four years by sending troops items not provided by the military like razors, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Pictured, from left to right are WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp, Jennifer Farley, Vice Commander Hector Johnson, Daisy Croke, Assemblyman Mike Miller, WRBA member Vance Barbour, Richard Smith, WRBA President Martin Colberg, City Council Member Eric Ulrich, WRBA member Janet Chan-Smith and Lawless.

Assemblyman Mike Miller came to the WRBA monthly meeting to give residents an update on the work of his office. Legislatively Miller is pushing for a few measures to increase street safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

He wants to lower maximum speeds on New York City side streets from 30 to 25 mph; announced the passage of a bill to bring 40 additional speed cameras to the city and continues to support implementing a dedicated crossing time for pedestrians on the city’s most dangerous streets. Though a dedicated crossing time has not yet been implemented, Miller remains hopeful and supportive of the idea, he said.

“We need to be able to protect children and seniors, anybody crossing the street,” Miller said.

Miller believes the additional speed cameras will save lives, and research used to champion Vision Zero’s implementation has repeatedly recommended slowing drivers down as possibly the best way to avoid traffic fatalities.

“The idea is to try and slow people down. People drive crazy,” Miller said. “We need to be able to protect pedestrians.”

Update from Eric Ulrich

City Council Member Eric Ulrich also gave the WRBA an update on the issues his office has been working on for the community. He began by telling the group that some graffiti in their area could be gang-related, and that local police are monitoring any spray painted chatter about crimes.

He then attempted to explain to residents complaining of repeat graffiti offenders that judges often sentence vandals to very short sentences or community service, instead of handing out longer prison time.

Ulrich mentioned stiffer penalties for graffiti vandalism, as offenders can be sentenced on a class A misdemeanor charge in New York State Courts, but Ulrich feels harsh sentences are rarely given out.

“We do try to trap them. The problem is in the courts,” Ulrich said.

He believes the community needs to stay on top of the graffiti situation and, “I think the more we clean it up and discourage them, I hate to say it, but it becomes somebody else’s problem.”

Association members Vance Barbour and Alex Blenkinsopp floated some ideas to Ulrich at the meeting. Barbour thinks the state needs to pass laws restricting the availability of spray paint cans by requiring a $20 deposit for purchase. Blenkinsopp asked Ulrich how judges use the class A misdemeanor charge at sentencing.

“The state has passed laws, the city has passed laws … but for some reason, the courts don’t take it very seriously and most likely they will plead it down to a Class C or get 25 hours community service,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich also took the position against a possible ten cent plastic bag fee for New York City supermarkets currently being kicked around in the council. His office conducted a constituent survey on the issue, and 190 out of 200 responses were against, he said.

“I think it will hurt senior citizens and new immigrants and working-class people,” Ulrich said. I just think the way they are going about it with the ten cents fee is not the best approach. (There’s) good intentions, there’s a way to do it, but there’s a better way to do it,” he added.

Community policing update

P.O. Jose Severino from the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit came to the meeting to briefly discuss some crime issues within the precinct, and answer some questions from the group. He also distributed “safeguard your car” fliers that gave residents some tips on keeping their car, and anything valuable inside safe.

“It’s as simple as not leaving anything valuable visible in your car,” to attract a potential criminal, he said.

He also reported that the Green Dot money card scam remains a problem.

“With the Green Dot scam, it seems to be the elderly and immigrant communities being targeted,” Severino said. “We’re just advising that nobody would ask for immediate payment over the phone,” he added

After he spoke briefly on the scams, Severino took a few questions from the group on their concerns. Community affairs officers like Severino hear about issues directly from the public, and take those concerns to the command so police brass can address them.

WRBA President Martin Colberg raised the issue of reckless driving and said, “It’s really becoming an issue on Atlantic Avenue.” Drivers are “drag racing, jumping (traffic) islands, its a safety concern,” he said.

Severino noted that the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative has emphasized pedestrian safety and enforcement for reckless driving. He reminded WRBA that Atlantic Avenue is now an “arterial slow zone,” and said he would bring the feedback back to the precinct.

The Woodhaven Block Residents’ Association generally holds Town Hall Meetings at American Legion Hall 118, located at 89-02 91st St., in Woodhaven. Call 1-718-296-3735 for meeting times and locations.

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