Civic associations work to improve Queens

By Bob Harris

The September/October 2015 newsletter of the Auburndale Improvement Association Inc. included a petition which people could sign against the two zoning changes City Hall is proposing. In their November/December newsletter they stated that they received nearly 300 signatures. Copies were sent to the mayor, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the City Planning Commission, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Council members Paul Vallone and Peter Koo, state Sen. Tony Avella and Toby Stavisky, Assembly members Ed Braunstein and Ron Kim, Community Boards 7 and 8 and the Queens Civic Congress.

It is interesting that at the end of November the Queens Borough Board voted 12-2 against these proposed zoning text changes. The Borough Board is a body chaired by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and consists of the chairs of the 14 community boards in Queens and the related five council members. The council members did not vote since they will have the final vote on these proposals in the City Council. The things which members were concerned about were the ending of mandatory parking for new housing, the aging infrastructure and the fear of what might happen to all the positive zoning changes civic leaders have fought for over the decades.

The 2015 newsletter of the Bayside Hills Civic Association’s President’s Message spoke of the Christmas and Hanukkah songs and prayers which were to be sung at the annual BHCA Holiday Lighting Festival, which took place earlier this month. They told of information from the 111th Precinct Community Council about credit card “skimmers” found in the pumps of several gas stations in the area. The “skimmer” reads your credit card number and then is retrieved by the criminal so gasoline can be bought with your card number. One should check their credit card statement to see if unauthorized gasoline was bought with your number.

The October 2015 newsletter of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association had an article about feral cats in Cunningham Park and on some streets. It seems that people can feed feral cats if they have them spayed and tend to their medical needs. If there is a problem with feral cats, one should call 311 or their local community board. The civic also decided to sign the petition of the Historic Districts Council of Manhattan, which opposes the proliferation of tall inappropriate buildings throughout the city. Many groups have already signed this petition.

The September newsletter of the Cambria Heights Civic Association wrote about opposition to a four-story religious structure proposed for their community. Those who want the building have appealed to the Board of Standards and Appeals, a five-member organization appointed by the mayor, which can issue waivers to the existing zoning laws to help applicants who feel that the zoning rules hurt them. Regretfully, the BSA is used by developers to circumvent the zoning rules and help developers build and build. The civic has been asking residents to send the BSA pictures, videos and information to show how any variance to the zoning would have an adverse impact on the community.

The Cambria Heights Civic had an article that tells about how when new water mains and storm and sanitary sewers were installed recently notices of water shutoff and no-parking were not distributed in a timely manner, causing disruptions. We must all keep watch that the city notifies us promptly if they are working in our area. The civic also warns people to make sure that any new meters installed are working properly and not charging you more for water than in the past. One can contact DEP Customer Service and if they don’t help contact the New York City Public Advocate.