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Local News May 27, 2010  RSS feed

Residents, Reps Sound Off On Cuts At WRBA Meeting

Say Woodhaven Branch Vital To Area
story and photo by Ralph Mancini

Local librarian Maria Concolino criticized crippling cuts her branch will have to come to grips with at the Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting, as executive officers of the civic organization look on. Local librarian Maria Concolino criticized crippling cuts her branch will have to come to grips with at the Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting, as executive officers of the civic organization look on. Recent layoffs at a local library prompted community members at the May 19 Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) meeting to question how donations and taxpayer dollars are being spent.

During last Wednesday’s session at the Woodhaven/Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a slew of residents and civic officers claimed that the Woodhaven branch of the Queens Borough Public Library, located at 85-41 Forest Pkwy., is being “shortchanged” considering the site’s growing circulation.

A former branch employee who recently lost her job unleashed her frustration regarding the recent turn of events: “This is the worst time for this to happen. Libraries in Queens are now being used more than ever.”

She went on to mention how instrumental the library is as a place where people can go to apply for jobs on the Internet. She further pointed out that many students rely on the local branch for homework assistance.

“There are a lot of families that don’t speak English and can’t help their children with their school work,” she said.

Librarian Maria Concolino reported that the latest round of cuts would force the termination of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs and Toddler Time classes on Saturdays.

Civic members were further apprised of the fact that the Woodhaven site never received a self check-in kiosk with which most locations are equipped.

Concolino was puzzled about the whereabouts of sizeable donations of $500,000 and $1 million to the library. “Where did the money go? Why can’t they use that money to keep staff?”

Another concern she raised was the lack of air conditioning in the branch, which has the remaining librarians bracing themselves for the upcoming hot, humid days of the summer season.

WRBA Treasurer Vance Barbour joined Concolino in scrutinizing the utilization of library funds. In fact, he was confused by the drastic budget slashing in light of Borough President Helen Marshall’s recent $80 million allocation to local library sites and called for a public audit.

Kate Mooney of City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley’s office added that the legislator “did have [Chief Excutive Officer of the Queens Library] Thomas Galante in her office; they were looking at issues and requests. There is an eternal problem here. Manhattan gets more than it should.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo also sounded the alarm on the injustices being endured by Queens libraries and scolded city government for reducing weekly days of operation.

“Libraries should be open seven days a week. Queens has the most visitation and circulation in the city, but gets the least amount of money. It’s a formula that must change,” he observed.

Pols on Aqueduct

Addabbo and Assemblyman Mike Miller both expected the selection of a new casino operator at Aqueduct racetrack to take place sometime this summer, possibly as early as June.

Unlike in past years when the governor had more authority in the process, Miller stated that New York State’s Lottery Division would be responsible for the recommendation of the managing entity that would be placed in charged of about 4,500 Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).

Addabbo was among those who hoped that the decision would be made sooner rather than later.

“There’s so much at stake for the people. Thousands of construction jobs, union and non-union, are waiting. Thousands of post-construction full-time and part-time jobs also await,” he added.

The senator proposed changing the language in the outgoing requests for proposals (RFPs) that would indicate that the local community also have a voice in evaluating prospective casino operators.

Street lights, traffic

Community Board 9 Parks Chairperson J. Richard Smith informed residents about the recent installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Park Lane South and Forest Parkway.

Other local residents, such as WRBA board member Roger Henin, however, were critical of a high number of speeding cars in the neighborhood that are reportedly moving at speeds exceeding 60 miles-per-hour on side streets with 30 mile-per-hour speed limits.

Miller assured them that he would speak to Department of Transportation Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy about the addition of speed bumps and other measures to mitigate the problem.

Miller on Ridgewood Reservoir

In response to an inquiry by WRBA Financial Secretary Maria Thomson about the Ridgewood Reservoir at Highland Park, located at the Brooklyn-Queens border, Miller revealed efforts on the part of the Assembly to place the reservoir under state jurisdiction by classifying the basins as wetlands.

While the state legislator agreed with the city Parks Department’s proposal to renovate the walkways at Highland Park with the addition of extra lighting, he denounced the agency’s intentions of dredging up the reservoir area.

The low-lying wetlands, he said, serve as a habitat for 20 different species of wild life, including a wide variety of turtles and birds.

Rally comments

Although WRBA President Edward Wendell lauded the community spirit shown by Woodhaven locals and elected officials in participating in a staged rally against the closures of Engine companies 293 in Woodhaven and 294 in Richmond Hill, he took issue with the overwhelming presence of minors in the march.

“Do we really want eight-yearolds fighting our battles,” he asked regarding students from P.S. 254 at the demonstration. “Let’s be cautious about using children … they don’t know what’s going on. Let’s get adults out there.”

He also encouraged neighbors to “get mad” about living under the constant threat of losing city services.

“We shouldn’t have to depend on our elected officials—we should do it ourselves. We need to build a communication network between communities to spread the word when something like this happens.”

Barbour urged civic members to create email addresses for themselves or to join forces with a friend with internet connectivity to stay abreast of the latest happenings in the surrounding areas of Queens.

WRBA’s next session is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16 at the Woodhaven/Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps., located at 78-18 Jamaica Ave.