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Woodhaven Plan to Fight Graffiti

Civic Launches 311 Follow-Up Pgm.

Reporting more vandalism to 311 is the center of an antigraffiti strategy unveiled during the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting last Saturday, July 19, at Emanuel United Church of Christ.

Former WRBA President Ed Wendell spoke about graffiti in the area and asked residents to call 311 and notify the WRBA every time a complaint. This will enable the group to track and follow-up on the cases with police and other city agencies.

Wendell asked the crowd if they had seen graffiti while on their way to the meeting; many hands went vertical.

He stated the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (WBID) will deal with vandalism on the Jamaica Avenue commercial strip, while WRBA will tackle graffiti on neighborhood streets.

For residential graffiti, he said residents should contact 311 and also notify WRBA so they have a record of the complaint.

He advised attendees that complaints can be made for any house, provided the vandalism is on the first floor.

“It doesn’t have to be on your house,” he said.

He encouraged the group to make at least two calls a week.

“If you do two a week, you will have 25 by Oct. 1,” Wendell said. “We have a problem in this community with graffiti,” he said. “We have a four point plan to fight graffiti, to clean up graffiti in the area.”

He said increased numbers of complaints lead to more awareness of the problem, and added that staying on top of the issue leads to removal.

“Our experience has been the city will eventually come and clean it up,” he said.

A slight change in the law could aid cleanup efforts, it was noted. Previously a homeowners approval was needed before any clean up. The change now requires a homeowner object to graffiti removal, which should make it easier to clean residential vandalism, Wendell added.

Following his presentation, he reinforced the need to report every complaint to WRBA.

“Again, the follow up is important,” he said. “If you call it in and report it to us we will follow up. Again, always report it.”

Wendell offered a small cash reward to whoever calls in the most complaints.

“The person that reports the most of them, I am going to hand $25 dollars,” Wendell said.

WRBA President Martin Colberg agreed with the need for greater action from the community.

“Call in and we can get ahead of the game,” Colberg said. “We need to get on top of it to beautify the community.”

Collapsed building stays up

Colberg reported the latest on “a very touchy subject, the collapsed building on Jamaica Avenue,” he said.

The partially collapsed building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. damaged the headquarters of the Woodhaven Richmond-Hill Volunteer Ambulance Coprs next door, and forced the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center to move.

The owner of the partially collapsed building got a judge to postpone the demolition, Colberg said.

“The owner filed another lawsuit and the judge gave him time to rebuild,” Colberg said.

As previously reported by the Times Newsweekly, the WRBA was told at last month’s meeting by a Department of Buildings (DOB) official that the owner would have to show significant progress toward rebuilding it, or the building would be torn down by October.

This arrangement is still in effect. The roof has reportedly been partially rebuilt since then, sufficient progress for the judge to give the owner more time to rebuild, Colberg said.

“By October, construction must be partially completed,” he said. The roof will be completed, but that is not enough.”

“I definitely let them know we are very disappointed in the court system,” he added. “I really stressed to the DOB that this has been a stress to the community. This is something that has been going on for over a year. We have to stay on top of DOB.”

Aside from damaging the ambulance corps and the inconvenience to seniors that use the center, Colberg is frustrated by the pace of the process.

“I would like to see this done. Let’s get this over with,” he said.

“They need to speed this process up. We want more than a roof by October,” Colberg said.

Basement apartments

In anticipation of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to provide more affordable housing, the WRBA has begun circulating a petition against the possible legalization of basement apartments. This position was outlined at previous meetings, and residents were asked to sign.

Safety issues and the change to the community’s traditional character of small family homes are main reasons for opposition, members said.

“Our community went through a multi-year process in deciding what our zoning should be,” WRBA board member Vance Barbour said.

“What we’re afraid of is there is going to be wholesale change to that. We want to try to make sure we stand up for the community. We have to be very careful of that,” he added

“How are we going to know it’s going to be safe,? Colberg asked. “We need to find another way to get affordable housing. Woodhaven is very serious and against this.”

Updates

Legislative aide to City Council Member Eric Ulrich, Greg Mitchell, gave an update from that office.

He said the council member had secured funding to provide new lighting and garbage cans for Jamaica Avenue.

Mitchell also mentioned Select Bus Service (SBS) possibly coming to Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards, slightly touching a sore nerve for some residents that are concerned parking will be lost as a result

“Select bus is still in progress now, they are still doing a study,” he said. “They’re studying it right now.”

With SBS possibly coming to Woodhaven, a major concern for residents is the actual installation of bus-only lanes on the boulevard, where parking could become a casualty.

“The intention is to try and speed up bus service,” Mitchell said.

One possibility that could impact parking less could be “a bus lane only during certain hours, like rush hours,” Mitchell said.

“If you take any spots off Woodhaven, it’s going to create a big problem for people on the next block,” Jose Vazquez, a resident who lives near Woodhaven Boulevard, said.

Another resident shouted out, “Who asked for it? No one in Woodhaven wants it!”

Some members, however, were not as quick to suggest everyone was against it.

“It’s not fair to say no one in the community wants it,” Barbour said.

“I would love for there to be a select bus lane. But it doesn’t make sense to take up parking. We don’t want to lose parking,” he added.

“I just want to say to those people that say the community doesn’t want it, you don’t speak for me, transportation activist and resident Emily December said.

“We don’t want to lose parking either,” she said.

Anecdotal evidence garnered from speaking with people at bus stops and while doing canvassing for the Riders Alliance supports SBS coming to Woodhaven, December said.

“People tell me they want better bus service,” she said.

Colberg attempted to stake out a middle-ground, and wants the best solution for the community

“We just have to make sure this is works for the community. We have to get something that works for everybody,” Colberg said.

Angel Vasquez, chief of staff to Assemblyman Mike Miller told the group that “there have been a recent rash of stealing rims and tires.”

Vazquez said Miller has introduced a bill to get serial numbers put onto the rims and tires so, if stolen, they can be tracked. There is currently no way to know if rims or tires on another car are stolen property, he advised.

He also said the office got 75,000 for local precincts and 250,000 for more cameras.

“We want it in certain locations where there is crime,” he said.

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The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meets on the third Saturday of each month. For more information call 1-718-296-3735

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