Southeast Queens residents voice quality-of-life issues at Jamaica town hall

Borough President Donovan Richards speaks at the Jamaica Town Hall Meeting held at York College on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Queens borough president’s office)

As part of an effort to address issues impacting the residents of southeast Queens, Borough President Donovan Richards hosted a regional town hall meeting in Jamaica on Tuesday, Oct. 19, with representatives from city agencies. 

The town hall was held at the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College, located at 94-45 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., with local elected officials and representatives from community boards who gathered feedback on issues from the community.

Representatives from the NYPD, Department of Housing, Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation. Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Parks, Federal Emergency Management Assistance (FEMA) and Department of Small Business Services met with residents to address their concerns. 

(From left to right) NYC DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia, NYC DEP Borough Coordinator Karen Ellis, Councilman I. Daneek Miller, Borough President Donovan Richards and state Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman. (Photo courtesy of the Queens borough president’s office)

During the meeting, the representatives were informed of illegal dumping of trash in certain areas, abandoned vehicles on the streets, infrastructure upgrades at parks, pedestrian safety and the Jamaica busway system, and flooding in parts of southeast Queens from the remnants of Hurricane Ida in September. 

Springfield Gardens resident Keisha McGregor, whose basement was flooded during the tropical storm, said there is no sewer or drainage system on her block of 224th Street, where her neighbors experience flooding during a regular rainfall. 

“It’s been like that for 40 years. We’ve called 311 and nothing has been done. My neighbor just bought his house five months ago, and when it rains, his home is flooded,” McGregor said. “We have a belly in the street. When the rain falls, it stays like a lake and takes a while to recede. When Superstorm Sandy hit, everyone was flooded and even with Ida, every street was flooded.” 

According to McGregor, her basement is filled with mold. She paid out-of-pocket to clean up her basement following Tropical Storm Ida, and is hoping the city will address the sewage problem in the area. 

In response to another residents’ question regarding flooding on the Snake Road section of Brookville Boulevard, Richards said there will be a $62 million project to begin work on phase 2 of Brookville Triangle next year. 

According to Richards, there are some complications to raise the level of Snake Road due to its location and three levels of jurisdiction that includes the city, state and federal government — which can be a slow and deliberate process. 

“When you think of bureaucracy, that road is the greatest example of bureaucracy. Under the Trump administration, it was hard to get anyone at the table, and it is something we can examine again under the Biden administration,” Richards said. “The city can’t just go in and do whatever they want to do to the road.” 

Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, who represents the 31st Council District, is working with her colleagues to send a joint letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul to invest in elevating Snake Road. 

“This is a personal dynamic for me, going down Snake Road as a child and seeing how it’s been through the years, we all agree it needs to be elevated,” Brooks-Powers said. 

Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers (Photo courtesy of the Queens borough president’s office)

When it comes to illegal dumping of trash in the community, a sanitation representative said their enforcement team is conducting stakeouts and a prolonged investigation at chronic dumping sites citywide. 

In southeast Queens, Richards is encouraging residents to report those sites as they’re working on an initiative to purchase and install cameras in locations to catch and prosecute dumpers, he said. 

In regards to transportation issues, residents discussed placing a speed bump by P.S. 48 at 157th Street, which is feasible and can only be done during the warm weather months. 

As the MTA is planning to redesign the bus routes in Jamaica, Richards said the plan is currently on pause due to the pandemic. The transit authority will return next year with revisions to the plan. 

The redesigning of the bus routes does not help the neighborhood, a resident said.  

“The transit authority has the plans back on the table and they’re looking to cut the runs and merge the lines,” the resident said. “They need to add buses to the routes, so everyone can get the buses when they need to get to work.” 

Following the meeting, residents say they hope the city agencies follow through with their concerns about the quality-of-life issues in the communities. 

Senator James Sanders Jr., who commended the borough president for organizing the event, cited the need for a functioning vocational school, creating jobs to tackle crime, and preparing for the next big storm. 

“Now is the time to dream big and deal with the problems in southeast Queens. If you dream small, you get little progress. But if you dream big, you will make big progress,” Sanders said. 

Richards is encouraging residents to stay connected with the borough president’s office, and to attend community boards and civic association meetings to raise awareness about the issues in the community. 

“The more organized we are, the more we can hold agencies accountable, and also hold elected officials accountable because we are accountable to you as well,” Richards said.