‘PETRIFIED’ OF YOUTHS
WRBA Hears About Teen Vandals, Bad Homes
Unruly students walking home from school, neglected properties and improvements at Forest Park were among a host of issues raised by attendees at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting last Saturday afternoon, Mar. 16, at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters.
Two residents informed the civic association’s leadership of repeated problems involving children during afternoon hours on school days along 92nd Street north of Atlantic Avenue. The neighbors claimed that the youngsters are from J.H.S. 210 in Ozone Park.
One man in attendance claimed that the youngsters vandalized his vehicle as it was parked in front of his 92nd Street residence, covering the side window with graffiti.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” the man said. “Nothing ever gets done.” He lamented seeing what he claimed to be a large police presence in other neighborhoods in the city, including Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
A woman claimed that the youngsters— in groups of 10 to 20—cause mischief on her block on a regular basis, smashing flower pots and trampling on stoops. When neighbors yell at them to leave the property, the attendee stated, the youths shout back at them.
“The neighbors on the block are petrified,” she added. “They’re afraid to make the phone calls to police.”
Ed Wendell, WRBA president, urged residents on the block to become more active in seeking a greater police presence in the area to combat unruly youths. He urged them to make a personal appeal at the 102nd Precinct Community Council, which meets on the third Tuesday each month in Richmond Hill.
“If we treat this like a union when a problem is happening” in the area, he noted, “that’s when you get attention.”
Building woes inWoodhaven
Action has been taken by the city to stop the flow of sewage from a dilapidated home on 85th Avenue near 88th Street into the street, according to Dorie Figliola, a representative of Assemblyman Mike Miller. She noted that the home in question had 46 outstanding Buildings Department violations on it dating back to 2005, and the property owner owes more than $20,000 in fines.
In recent months, a neighbor reportedly brought the problem to the attention of local elected officials and the civic association. However, Figliola noted, city agencies such as the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) could not take immediate action since there were tenants living inside the residence.
“Those people were living without heat or hot water,” she said. “We’re sorry it took so long, but it’s finally done.”
Wendell, however, lamented the delays in getting the problem resolved, charging that the release of sewage from the home was “a dangerous condition.”
“You had human waste spilling out into the street next to a nursery school,” he said, going on to note later that some parents and students were forced to walk into the street in order to avoid passing through the sewage on the sidewalk.
The civic president added that the WRBAhas received complaints from residents regarding the condition of a vacant property at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and 89th Avenue, where a group home for developmentally disabled adults is slated to be built.
HeartShare Human Services of New York is planning to demolish the existing home at the site and build a new facility for up to 13 residents in its place, as previously reported. Neighbors complainted the location is boarded up, and the property and sidewalk is strewn with debris, dog feces and broken glass.
Wendell stated that organization made complaints to the city’s 311 hotline, and urged area residents to do the same when observing such problems at the location. He noted that he also reached out to HeartShare representatives and that the organization recently sent workers to shovel snow from in front of the site following a snowstorm.
Sprucing up Forest Park
Improvements are being made to areas of Forest Park through funding provided by City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Eric Yun, Crowley’s spokesperson.
He noted that Crowley recently allocated $300,000 for improvements to Mary Whelan Playground, located off the corner of Park Lane South and 79th Street. The Parks Department is currently in the process of beginning its study for the project; Yun hoped that the agency will present plans to the WRBA at a future meeting.
Crowley is additionally funding improvements which are currently underway in the area of the George Seuffert Bandshell, located on Forest Park Drive off Woodhaven Boulevard. Yun added that FEMA crews are going through Forest Park removing trees damaged or knocked down during Hurricane Sandy.
Lost trees will be replaced with new trees which the Parks Department will plant, he stated.
Asked byWRBAmemberArlene Annunziata about a plan to have the Forest Park Carousel declared a city landmark, Yun stated the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Parks Commissioner Veronica White are working with Crowley on such a proposal. The owner of the carousel has also been contacted about the idea.
It was noted that the Forest Park Carousel will open for the season this Saturday, Mar. 23.
The impact of ‘sequestration’
New York City stands to lose hundreds of millions in federal funds if the full effect of budget cuts known as “sequestration” is implemented, according to Evelyn Cruz, a spokesperson of Rep. Nydia Velázquez.
“It will be impacting all of us,” she said, mentioning that the automatic budget cuts will slash funding for city after-school programs by $12.3 million in New York State. Affordable housing benefits for seniors will also be reduced, as will the Hurricane Sandy relief package, which will be slashed by $560 million. Federal workers are also being furloughed for specific periods of time, Cruz added.
While Velázquez is supportive of a budget that is balanced, she observed, Congress “needs to pass a budget that doesn’t impact services.”
One resident in attendance, Colin Bucca, charged that “we’re handling it backwards.”
“The people who can’t do the job, why not furlough them?” he said, getting applause from attendees in referencing elected officials in Washington who failed to agree upon a budget deal before the Mar. 1 deadline, when the sequestration went into effect. Cruz responded that she agreed with his sentiment.
P.O. Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit was asked for an update regarding a recent attack by a pit bull on a woman in the neighborhood. Severino reported the victim was injured, and the fate of the dog remains under investigation by the ASPCA.
“It’s very unfortunate,” he said of the incident. Some suggested that the pit bull attacked as a result of its own nature, but Severino sought to refute that “bad stereotype,” adding, “With any kind of dog, it’s how you train them.”
Following up on the WRBA’s February meeting—which centered around a presentation for those interested in the NYPD Block Watchers Program—Severino mentioned that, as of last Saturday, 63 Woodhaven residents had signed up for the initiative. The program trains individuals in proper reporting and description techniques in order to serve as “extra eyes and ears” to the NYPD.
The 102nd Precinct has a goal of enrolling 100 residents in the four communities it patrols—Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens and Ozone Park—and Severino commented the interest shown by Woodhaven residents is encouraging.
In the aftermath of a deadly accident on Jamaica Avenue near 80th Street in which an elderly Woodhaven resident was struck by an allegedly drunk driver, WRBA members called for the installation of speeding cameras and other traffic control devices around the area.
Rudy Giuliani of City Council Member Eric Ulrich’s office noted that the council member will be gaining more of Woodhaven in the final redistricting plan for all City Council districts across the city. In preparation for that change, the lawmaker’s office is seeking a Woodhaven resident to serve as a community liaison.
Steven Forte, the WRBA treasurer, reported the civic group is entertaining fund-raising ideas as it is presently operating while “underfunded.” The WRBA has a dinnerdance scheduled to take place this fall which serves as the main fundraising event of the year. He invited local residents to offer their own suggestions for supplemental events.
With the organization’s annual membership drive scheduled to take place soon, Forte urged local block captains and other WRBA members to reach out to those in their area who are currently not a part of the group.
The WRBA is also seeking to form committees of members to work on specific issues, Wendell added. The committees being considered are Parks, Traffic and Roads, Church and Faith, Schools and Yard Sale. The latter committee aims to help coordinate yard and garage sales around Woodhaven.
In addition to committees, the civic president noted, the group is also forming several clubs of a more recreational nature. They include the Woodhaven Poetry Club, the Joe Virgona Photography Club (named for a former WRBAmember) and the Woodhaven Supper Club (which aims to visit and review local restaurants).
Wendell also solicited donations in order for the WRBA to sponsor a WORKS Little League Baseball team this season. The civic organization needs to raise $400 in order for a team to take the field in April.
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association generally meets on the third Saturday each month at 1 p.m. at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave. For more information, call 1-718-296-3735 or visit www.woodhaven-nyc.org.