Monday, August 1, 2016

WRBA Names Honorees For 45th Annual Fundraiser

Woman of the Year Josephine Wendell
The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will welcome civic leaders, elected officials, and fellow residents to Roma View Fine Catering on Friday, October 21, 2016, for the organization's 45th annual fundraiser.

The event will celebrate a very successful and eventful year for the WRBA, and will highlight the achievements of three honorees.

The Woman of the Year will be Josephine Wendell.  Wendell volunteers for the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, and as the official photographer for Project Woodhaven, she has been ubiquitous, taking over 40,000 photographs in the neighborhood since 2009.

The Man of the Year will be Richard Kaiser, a longtime resident who has volunteered for St. Thomas the Apostle for decades, including coordinating the parish's large annual rummage sale.

Man of the Year Richard Kaiser
The Business of the Year will be Health Max Pharmacy, located at 80-07 Jamaica Avenue.  Health Max gives back to the community, hosting many free events throughout the year, with face painting, hot dogs, music, and more.

"Each year, our fundraiser provides a fun, happy opportunity to gather with many people who care about Woodhaven.  We're thrilled to celebrate this year with highly deserving honorees," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "Everyone who attends the fundraiser helps the Block Association's work for the community, so we hope to see you there."

The WRBA's annual fundraiser provides a major source of funding for the organization's continued operation.

To buy a ticket to the fundraiser with a credit card, please visit http://bit.ly/Wdhvn5.  To purchase an advertisement in the Fundraiser Journal, please download and submit the form available here: http://bit.ly/Wdhvn8.  You can also e-mail info@woodhaven-nyc.org or call the WRBA office at 718-296-3735 to buy tickets or Journal ads.

Health Max Pharmacy, Business of the Year
Adult tickets (for those 12 years or older) to the fundraiser are $70, and tickets for children 5 to 11 years old are $30.  Tickets includes a full buffet dinner with soda, beer, and wine.  The event kicks off at 7 p.m. and concludes at 11 p.m.  Roma View Fine Catering is located at 160-05 Cross Bay Boulevard, in Howard Beach.

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rally Protesting SBS Plan To Be Held August 6

People who will be affected by the proposed Select Bus Service (SBS) changes to Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards will hold a rally to protest the plan.

The rally will occur on Saturday, August 6, at noon, at the southeast corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue (outside the bank), in Woodhaven.  Residents, business owners, commuters, and anyone else who wants to object to this plan are invited.

At a November forum with DOT, attendees raised their hands to indicate
opposition to the SBS proposal.
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, the Task Force for a Better Woodhaven, and the Queens Public Transit Committee (QPTC) are all sponsoring the rally.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and MTA have put forth an SBS plan that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  It would eliminate a lane of traffic in each direction, reserving them for bus use only; ban key left turns off the Boulevard; and move bus stops
off of sidewalks and onto medians, so that riders will have traffic passing them on both sides, among other changes.

“Woodhaven welcomes improvements to our bus service and other public transit, but this plan is the wrong approach,” said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  “Over and over, DOT has been trying to sell this plan to the public rather than seriously changing the proposal to incorporate community feedback.  This rally will be a chance to let DOT know once again what we think of their SBS plan.”

"On our commercial thoroughfare, we are very concerned about the safety of pedestrians crossing the Boulevard and of bus riders who will have to access buses from islands instead of the sidewalk," said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District and the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation.  "We're also concerned about how other shopping strips will be be affected, and we would like to help them by speaking up against this plan."

“Please come out and help us advocate for faster and safer transportation, not Vision Zero Select Bus Service which will steal traffic lanes, safe bus stops, left turns, reasonable speed limits, and parking.  We don’t need more gridlock and tickets that separate our people,” said QPTC Chair Philip McManus.

Last year, organizations pushing an agenda that ignores our community’s concerns held a so-called ‘rally’ outside City Hall.  That event supposedly indicated support for SBS in our community.  Yet that event was held far away from here, and included almost nobody from our community.  Moreover, it was very poorly attended, even though a massive, influential public affairs agency touted it.

The SBS plan will affect the entire stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard, from the Rockaways to the Queens Center Mall and every neighborhood in between.  Anyone interested in signing the petition opposing the plan is encouraged to do so at www.SaveOurStreets.nyc.  More information about this plan is available at www.SaveOurStreets.nyc/faqs.

# # #

Contact:
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Thursday, May 26, 2016

DOT Event Showed Overwhelmingly Critical Community Opinion on SBS Plan

The Department of Transportation and MTA held an "open house" last night that was well attended by people from Woodhaven and other communities affected by the proposed Select Bus Service (SBS) plan along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards.  Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly critical and cast doubt on numerous aspects of the proposal.

A large crowd that packed the house at PS 306 in Woodhaven included scores of residents and business owners who asked for significant changes to the SBS plan.  Many expressed concern about forcing bus riders to wait on medians in the middle of the boulevard, removing a lane of traffic 24/7 for use by buses only, and banning left turns onto major cross streets.

Other concerns expressed at the meeting included the city's poor track record of clearing snow from bus stops and crosswalks, the SBS plan's failure to consider alternatives arbitrarily placed outside the scope of the project, buses' tendency to speed, buses' failure to use existing bus lanes on the boulevard, lack of transparency regarding data the DOT and MTA are using, impact on parking, and locations of individual bus stops, among other issues.

Several of these concerns had been expressed in a letter the WRBA sent to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia in November 2015.  DOT still has not responded to that letter.

A large crowd attended the SBS open house at PS 306 in Woodhaven last night.
"Many residents and business owners from Woodhaven and beyond made clear that they oppose the plan as it currently stands.  There's no way DOT and MTA can move ahead in good faith without taking this feedback seriously," WRBA President Martin Colberg said.  "There has been virtually no genuine community feedback in favor of this plan, but as we saw last night, there's plenty in opposition."

Multiple residents expressed concern that the DOT personnel were not taking residents' feedback seriously.  On numerous occasions, residents needed to ask DOT employees to write down their input, because the city officials made no proactive effort to record the feedback.  A DOT representative told a resident that the session was not to collect feedback, but rather to tell residents what was going to happen on the Boulevard—displaying a clear disinterest in what the community had to say, even though a purpose of the workshop was supposedly to collect feedback.  Multiple residents felt that the DOT personnel were brushing off any feedback that was critical of the SBS plan.

"DOT should listen carefully to the disappointed and frustrated residents who spoke up last night, not dismiss them.  Unfortunately, many attendees felt this was a dog and pony show, rather than a true effort to collect feedback," WRBA Director of Communications Alex Blenkinsopp said.  "DOT demonstrated an ability to respond to community input when they reinstated some of the left turns.  They have an opportunity to regain the faith of the community by making the significant changes requested at the open house."

The WRBA asks all who oppose the SBS plan to sign the petition at www.SaveOurStreets.nyc.  For more information about how the SBS proposal will affect the community, visit www.SaveOurStreets.nyc/faqs.

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, January 4, 2016

WRBA Announces Town Halls for 2016

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has set its calendar of monthly town halls for 2016.

The meetings will alternate between two locations.  Some will be held during weekends and others on weeknights.

"We want as many residents as possible to attend our town halls.  We've set our meeting schedule to try to accommodate as many of our neighbors as we can," WRBA President Martin Colberg said.  "We hope people will pencil these dates and times onto their calendar right now, and that they'll join us all year long."

Below are the dates, times, and locations for this year's town halls:

  • January 16, Saturday, noon at the American Legion Hall
  • February 20, Saturday, noon at the American Legion Hall 
  • March 19, Saturday, noon at the American Legion Hall
  • April 16, Saturday, noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • May 19, Thursday, 7 p.m. at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • June 16, Thursday, 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall 
  • July 16, Saturday, noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • August 20, Saturday, noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • September 17, Saturday, noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • October 13, Thursday, 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall
  • November 19, Saturday, noon at the American Legion Hall 
  • December 16, Friday, 7 p.m. at Emanuel United Church of Christ

The address of Emanuel United Church of Christ is 93-12 91st Avenue (at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard).  The American Legion Hall's address is 89-02 91st Street (near PS 60).

If circumstances beyond the WRBA's control necessitate changes to this schedule, the Block Association's membership will be notified.  This notification will be made via The Grapevine, the WRBA's e-newsletter (to which anyone can subscribe by e-mailing the WRBA); via Twitter (@WoodhavenNYC); and via the WRBA website (www.woodhaven-nyc.org).  One can also always find out about the next town hall by calling the WRBA at 718-296-3735.

# # #

Contact:
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
info@woodhaven-nyc.org

Friday, November 27, 2015

WRBA Urges DOT to Consider "Busway" Alternative to SBS

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association today urged the Department of Transportation to pause plans for Select Bus Service (SBS) and to study an alternative: running bus service along the defunct train tracks of the Rockaway Branch right of way along 98th Street.

The recommendations came in a 12-page letter (available here) to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia.  The letter described the potential benefits of the alternative proposal—which the WRBA calls "the Busway"—and enumerated the shortcomings of the current SBS design concept.

"With SBS, DOT has been pushing a zero-sum proposition: a supposed improvement for bus riders at the expense of auto drivers, local businesses, and residents adversely affected by the altered traffic flows," the letter says.  "The Busway seems to be a different type of proposition: a win-win that has the potential to improve bus service without disadvantaging other vehicles."

The Rockaway Branch right of way, crossing over Park Lane South.
The Busway proposal arose after Assemblyman Mike Miller mentioned the idea at two WRBA town halls.  At last Saturday's town hall, the suggestion received overwhelming support.  For over three years, the WRBA's position has been that the defunct railroad should be left as is.  But the controversy over the misguided SBS concept proposal has led the community to consider alternatives and to urge DOT to study the Busway.

The Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) and Woodhaven Business District (BID) support the WRBA's call to consider the Busway in lieu of SBS.  Assemblyman Miller, Senator Joe Addabbo, and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder also support exploring the possibility.

"The process that DOT used to come up with its SBS design concept was severely flawed, and if it were implemented, it would be extremely detrimental to our community," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "We believe the Busway would likely be much better for our community, and we hope that other neighborhoods join us in urging DOT to consider it."

The letter to Commissioner Garcia describes some of the possible benefits of the Busway: it is close to Woodhaven Boulevard and runs parallel to it, it avoids buses having to share the road with other vehicles, it would allow buses to travel safely at faster speeds because there are no intersections or red lights, it is a better option for properties abutting 98th Street than reactivating train service or converting it to a park, and it allows riders to wait for buses in relative peace and safety, among others.

The letter also enumerates the severe problems with SBS: it promises to worsen congestion by removing two lanes of traffic, it will inconvenience drivers and cause heavier traffic flow on our residential streets by eliminating left turns onto Jamaica Avenue and other thoroughfares, it will force bus commuters to wait on a median in the middle of the Boulevard, and it will encourage unsafe speeding by bus drivers, to name a few.

"The WRBA states as emphatically as possible: implementing the current SBS design concept along the Woodhaven Boulevard–Cross Bay Boulevard corridor would be yet another in DOT's long track record of mistakes in our area.  We exhort DOT not to commit this error," the letter says, listing a slew of recent local DOT failures.  "There is an opportunity for the agency to turn a new leaf—to start doing a better job to consider the community's feedback.  DOT can seize this opportunity by treating the Busway proposal, and the WRBA’s feedback on SBS, with the utmost seriousness."

The WRBA maintains that DOT should exhaustively study this alternative before implementing any aspect of SBS, especially because there has been no indication that the costs and benefits of the two options have been compared.

The letter to DOT comes ahead of a public meeting with the agency on Monday night, organized by the GWDC and Woodhaven BID in partnership with the WRBA.  That meeting will occur at 7:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall (89-02 91 Street, at the intersection with 89th Avenue).  Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

# # #

Contact:

info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, July 6, 2015

WRBA Offers a Chance To Do Good Work While Helping a Good Cause

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will sponsor an event this month to make the neighborhood cleaner and raise funds for a worthy charity.

Woodhaven residents Asta Lukosevicius (left) and
WRBA Director Janet Chan-Smith (right) paint over graffiti
on a neighborhood mailbox.
On Saturday, July 25, the Block Association will lead a group of volunteers in painting every mailbox in the neighborhood.  Many of Woodhaven's more than 100 mailboxes have been vandalized with graffiti.  The WRBA will solicit pledges from residents to support the clean-up effort.  All proceeds will be donated to the NYFAC Foundation, a charitable organization that works to enhance the lives of individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

"Over the last few years, many of our members have pitched in on efforts to fight graffiti and make our community neater, but this event will be special," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "We expect to reach every corner of Woodhaven while attracting new volunteers who are interested in supporting a deserving charity."

Residents may pledge donations (for example, 25 cents per mailbox painted) and may cap their pledges (for example, 50 cents per mailbox, up to a maximum of $25).

"I have seen time and again how generous the people of Woodhaven are, and this clean-up fundraiser will prove once more that residents here care about both their neighborhood and assisting those who can use a helping hand," said WRBA Director Edward K. Wendell.  "We are proud to work with the NYFAC Foundation to help improve the lives of people with autism."

Those interested in donating can make a pledge by e-mailing the Block Association (info@woodhaven-nyc.org) or at the next WRBA town hall, which will occur on Saturday, July 18, at 10 a.m., at Emanuel United Church of Christ (91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard).  Donations can by made with cash, check, or online (e-mail the WRBA for more information regarding online payment).

Those interested in volunteering for the clean-up should call or e-mail the WRBA.

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Woodhaven Is Asked To Help Family Find Missing Man

Joseph Logue, missing man believed
to have been seen recently in Woodhaven.
The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association is asking the neighborhood to help find a missing Brooklyn man who used to live in Woodhaven.

Joseph Logue, 21 years old, has been missing since March 3, 2015.  He lives in East New York, Brooklyn, where he was last seen by his family.  He has brown hair and brown eyes.

He is bi-polar and diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He has been without medication and, under these conditions, he speaks to himself.

The family formerly lived in Woodhaven, and there have been reports that he was sighted in his former community within the last week (he and his family lived at 86-17 88th Avenue).

"Joseph could be in our neighborhood right now.  We ask the people of Woodhaven to keep an eye out for him," WRBA President Martin Colberg said.  "His family is worried about him.  Joseph's father describes him as a good kid who helps out the local church.  We hope Joseph is reunited with his family soon."

When he was spotted in Woodhaven, he was wearing the same clothing he was wearing when last seen by his family in Brooklyn: light gray Reebok sweater, white shirt, blue jeans, and white and gold Nike sneakers.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the 75th Precinct Detective Squad at 718-827-3548.

The NYPD Missing Person poster for
Joseph Logue.

# # #

Contact: info@woodhaven-nyc.org

WRBA office:
(718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, November 3, 2014

Toy Drive and Participatory Budgeting Slated for Next Town Hall

The next Town Hall held by the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will occur at noon on Saturday, November 15.  The WRBA is asking residents to bring toys to donate to Toys for Tots, and also to come prepared with ideas for the participatory budgeting brainstorm that will occur at the meeting.

The Town Hall, which will be held at the American Legion Hall (89-02 91st Street), will kick off Woodhaven's second year of inclusion in participatory budgeting.  Councilman Eric Ulrich has earmarked a million dollars that will be allocated to projects that residents vote for.  Residents will come up with the options on the ballot, and the WRBA Town Hall will be Woodhaven's first chance to propose ideas.  To make the final ballot, ideas must be for physical, tangible projects that cost at least $35,000.

The Town Hall will also be a chance for Woodhaven residents to donate toys for the annual Toys for Tots run to St. Mary's Healthcare System for Children in Bayside, Queens.  Each November since 1999, the East Coast Car Association has a "toy run" featuring more than 100 cars and motorcycles—many of them classics—which begins at the Forest Park Bandshell and concludes at the hospital.  All toys donated by residents will end up in the hands of children at the hospital.  To learn more about the toy run, click here.

Donated toys should be new and unwrapped.  No stuffed animals, please.  Those who wish to donate at a time other than the Town Hall can do so between now and November 15 by dropping the toys off at the WRBA office (84-20 Jamaica Avenue) or, if it's closed, at Spirare Cleaning & Tailoring just next door.

"This Town Hall will be a chance for our residents to make two kinds of contributions," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "They can contribute their ideas to help make their community better, or they can contribute toys to help make the lives of children better.  We hope the many generous people in Woodhaven will do both."

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Friday, October 24, 2014

After Careful Study, WRBA Gives Sanitation Dept. a Failing Grade on Illegal Signs

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association issued a detailed, data-driven report on Sanitation's performance regarding illegal signs—the culmination of four years of work by the WRBA.  The report's findings reflect disappointing performance by the city agency.

Woodhaven residents have become accustomed to illegal postings—signs and stickers that offer to buy houses, junk cars, and a variety of other commercial transactions.  These postings are affixed to lampposts, utility poles, and other public property.  Residents may call 311 to report these signs.  The Sanitation Department is then responsible for removing them and prosecuting whomever posted them.

"Illegal signs are an eyesore that disadvantage law-abiding businesses, distract drivers and pedestrians, signal that the rule of law is being ignored, and are sometimes used by scammers," said WRBA Director of Communications Alexander Blenkinsopp.  "Our study shows that when Sanitation says an illegal posting has been addressed, there's a better than 50% chance it's not true.  That performance deserves a failing grade."

The WRBA's report provides rigorous evidence that the current approach to illegal postings is not working, that 311 has become an ineffective tool for reporting illicit signs, and that the Sanitation Department and elected officials must dramatically rethink their approach to this problem.

Based on 164 service requests the WRBA filed with 311, reporting a total of 142 illegal postings, we learned the following:

  • Over 63% of our 311 requests were not addressed properly.
  • Of the postings Sanitation claimed to have addressed, 47% of them were actually not removed at all.  An additional 7% were only partly removed (meaning a significant portion of the sign or sticker remained).
  • This year, nearly 28% of our 311 requests regarding illegal postings appear never to have reached Sanitation at all.
  • Sanitation personnel often take shortcuts instead of thoroughly removing signs and stickers.

The full report is available here.

The WRBA report points out that previous proposals to deal with the illegal sign problem are unlikely to succeed.  Instead of simply pointing out problems, though, the WRBA advances six possible solutions, any one of which would likely improve Sanitation's performance.  One of those solutions is a renewal of a proposal the WRBA made three years ago: empowering residents by letting them get involved in the process of removing signs.

"The WRBA is a volunteer organization, but this report is as professional and comprehensive as any that the city could have commissioned at great taxpayer expense," said Block Association President Martin Colberg.  "When it comes to illegal signs, the Sanitation Department should stop ignoring and blocking involvement by residents who have no agenda other than caring for our community and bringing about positive change."

The report notes how pervasive the problem has become citywide, and how illicit postings also hurt legitimate forums for advertising, like local newspapers.  The WRBA welcomes the opportunity to work with any organizations or elected officials anywhere in the city to build support for real solutions to the ongoing issue of illegal signs.

# # #
Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, October 6, 2014

WRBA Asks Sanitation Dept. To End Unfair Practice

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association is fighting the Sanitation Department's unfair practice of issuing tickets to property owners in the middle of the night for garbage dumped outside their properties.

It is a common nighttime occurrence for people to dump trash outside Jamaica Avenue storefronts.  Then, Sanitation Department agents writes summonses in the middle of the night, fining the victimized property owners for failing to dispose of this rubbish that they never even had the chance to see.  This practice not only adds insult to injury; it also costs struggling business owners hundreds of dollars.

The WRBA has been hit repeatedly by this unjustifiable practice.  In recent weeks, it has received Sanitation tickets at 1:05 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. for trash dumped long after business hours outside its Jamaica Avenue storefront.

Today, the WRBA wrote to Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, asking her to end the practice.  Previous efforts to communicate with Sanitation Department personnel have not resulted in any discernible changes.

Last year, then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wrote a letter to the Sanitation Department (available here) to defend the WRBA and encourage the end of middle-of-the-night ticketing.  He called for the rules to be changed to mirror those regarding shoveling snow; property owners cannot be fined in the middle of the night for failing to shovel snow that had just fallen.  Council Member Eric Ulrich also said at the time that he would pursue legislation to cease the practice.  So far, though, property owners continue to be fined for dumping they could not possibly have prevented or corrected.  Moreover, Sanitation Department agents routinely take the trash with them when they write the ticket, without providing any photographs to the property owners—meaning that the property owners have no evidence of the infractions for which they are being fined.

"Enough is enough.  The Sanitation Department has refused to listen to us, and they've refused to listen to Bill de Blasio.  This unfair practice must end," WRBA President Martin Colberg said.  "The Sanitation Department should use its resources better—with more stings for illegal dumping, or by doing a better job removing signs illegally posted on public property.  Instead, it's taking advantage of small businesses and residents who literally could not have avoided the tickets they're receiving.  It's frustrating and it's wrong."

The WRBA has previously called on the Sanitation Department to end this practice, and for its elected officials to pass legislation if Sanitation refuses to do so.  Now, the WRBA renews its call for the Sanitation Department to act appropriately, and also asks Mayor de Blasio to help put an end to a type of enforcement he criticized while he was Public Advocate.

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office:
(718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, September 22, 2014

Huge Participation Expected for Great Woodhaven Yard Sale

This Saturday, the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will host a community-wide yard sale—a coordinated day when homes across Woodhaven can all hold yard sales at the same time—and more than 80 households have already signed up as participants.

This second annual Great Woodhaven Yard Sale will occur on Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Participation is totally free.  The WRBA has created a map showing the locations of all participating households (no exact addresses, only locations), which will be distributed to shoppers.  The map is attached.

Last year's Great Woodhaven Yard Sale saw more than 60 households setting up shop.  Buyers came from all over the city and beyond to check out the sales across Woodhaven.

"The Great Woodhaven Yard Sale is back by popular demand," said WRBA Director Vance Barbour.  "Last year was a lot of fun as many Woodhaven residents found new homes for items they no longer wanted and bargain-hunters found great deals.  It's no surprise participation has grown so much."

Part of what made last year's event so sucessful is that it united typically isolated events into a full-neighborhood happening, while maximizing both buyer and seller interest.

A handy, printer-ready version of the map is available at http://bit.ly/gwys-print (no period at the end).

A map of locations participating in the Great Woodhaven Yard Sale of 2014. Every flag represents a yard sale.
The rain date for the Great Woodhaven Yard Sale is Sunday, September 28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Households who want to sell merchandise and become last-minute additions to the map that will be distributed Saturday should e-mail us at info@woodhaven-nyc.org, call us at 718-296-3735, or fill out this online form: http://bit.ly/YardSale2014 (no period at the end).

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, September 8, 2014

WRBA Will Welcome Special Guests at Next Town Hall

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will feature two sets of guest speakers at its next Town Hall, on Thursday, September 18.  The first is Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner, the commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, who will introduce a new Community Affairs officer to Woodhaven.  The second are representatives from HeartShare Human Services of New York, an organization that has opened a new group residence in Woodhaven.

Deputy Inspector Sautner, who is in regular touch with the Block Association's leadership, will be attending his first WRBA Town Hall of the year.  This will be an excellent opportunity for Woodhaven residents to ask questions and find out about policing issues affecting our community.  Deputy Inspector Sautner will be accompanied by Officer Jose Severino, a regular attendee of WRBA meetings, and a new Community Affairs officer who will replace Officer Brendan Noonan, who was transferred.

A group of WRBA Directors and Woodhaven residents, including
WRBA President Martin Colberg (second from the right), with
Deputy Inspector Sautner at the 2014 Night Out Against Crime.
HeartShare will also be attending their first WRBA Town Hall of the year.  The nonprofit had attended a Block Association meeting back in 2012 to answer questions about a new residence they were planning to build at the northwest corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and 89th Avenue.  The home is now nearing completion and is expected to open this month.  It will house 10 developmentally disabled people.  Four WRBA Directors recently toured the home and were impressed by it.

"We try to make all our Town Halls useful and enlightening.  But with Deputy Inspector Sautner and HeartShare in attendance next week, this Town Hall should be even more informative than usual," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "Crime and policing are constantly on the minds of our residents.  And the HeartShare residence, which is located in the middle of our neighborhood, has been the subject of many rumors, some of them misinformed.  This is a chance to find out what's really going on in Woodhaven."

The Block Association will also provide an update on our graffiti clean-up program.  We recently achieved our goal of painting every single tagged mailbox in Woodhaven this season.

The September 18th Town Hall will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at the American Legion Hall (89-02 91st Street).

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, August 4, 2014

WRBA Announces Honorees of 43rd Annual Fundraiser

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will welcome civic leaders, elected officials, and fellow residents to Roma View Fine Catering on Friday, October 10, 2014, for the organization's 43rd annual fundraiser.

The event will celebrate a very successful and eventful year for the WRBA, and will highlight the achievements of four honorees.

The Man of the Year will be Allan Smith, a historian of Woodhaven who has long been involved in the community, especially with the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.  Smith has worked to preserve and raise awareness of the neighborhood's rich, eventful past.

The Woman of the Year will be Margie Schmidt, the owner of Schmidt's Candy,
Allan Smith regularly appears at local events, reminding fellow residents of
the importance of their community's history.
a Jamaica Avenue fixture that has been delighting Queens residents for almost 90 years.  Schmidt's grandfather founded the store and she has continued her family's tradition.

The Business of the Year will be The Avenue Diner, owned by Paul Vasiliadis.  The Avenue Diner has established itself as an anchor establishment on Jamaica Avenue with its full menu of high-quality offerings and its support of Woodhaven's organizations.

This year's inductee into the Woodhaven Hall of Fame will be Lewis' of Woodhaven, whose two locations provided countless Woodhaven residents with just about anything they needed.  The business might be gone from Jamaica Avenue, but it is certainly not forgotten.

"We are excited to celebrate the contributions of some people and businesses who are very important to Woodhaven," said WRBA President Martin Colberg.  "This year's fundraiser will not only recognize some deserving honorees.  It will also help the Block Association continue its good work for another year."

The WRBA's annual fundraiser provides an essential source of funding for the organization's continued operation.

To buy a ticket to the fundraiser with a credit card, please visit http://bit.ly/Wdhvn3.  To purchase an advertisement in the Fundraiser Journal with a credit card, please visit http://bit.ly/Wdhvn4.  You can also e-mail info@woodhaven-nyc.org or call the WRBA office at 718-296-3735 to buy tickets or Journal ads.

Adult tickets (for those 12 years or older) to the fundraiser are $65, and tickets for children 5 to 11 years old are $30.  Tickets includes a full buffet dinner with soda, beer, and wine.  The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m.  Roma View Fine Catering is located at 160-05 Cross Bay Boulevard, in Howard Beach.

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
info@woodhaven-nyc.org
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Woodhaven Barbecue Will Thank Veterans on Flag Day

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA) will host a community barbecue this Saturday, June 14, from noon to 4 p.m., to thank the members of American Legion Post 118 for their service.

The barbecue is open to all.  There will be no charge for the hot dogs, burgers, and salads that will be served to express Woodhaven's gratitude on Flag Day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

WRBA Launches 2014 Membership Drive

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has launched its membership drive for 2014, an effort to increase the number of Woodhaven's 39,000 residents who are part of the WRBA and its work.

The drive represents the organization's first major recruitment effort in several years.  It began with a mailing to all current members, asking them to renew their membership and to bring at least one new member aboard.

To enable prospective members to learn about the organization, the WRBA will hold an "open house" this Saturday, June 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the WRBA's office (84-20 Jamaica Avenue).  Anyone interested is invited to stop by.

"The Block Association's members are its lifeblood.  Without members at our town halls, at our events, and at our rallies, our organization would not be able to accomplish all it does," said WRBA Treasurer Steve Forte, who is spearheading the membership drive.  "If you're not already a member, please join us.  And if you are, please convince a neighbor to enroll too."

Monday, May 5, 2014

WRBA Cleans Up Woodhaven Playground

Fifty volunteers took part in a clean-up of Forest Park's Mary Whalen Playground, organized by the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA).

The clean-up, which took place on a beautiful morning on Saturday, May 3, resulted in the collection of over 100 garbage bags of leaves and other debris, and left the playground and its vicinity in a considerably neater and cleaner state.

"In just a couple of hours, we managed to make a significant, visible improvement in Woodhaven.  That's what can happen when residents in our community come together," WRBA President Martin Colberg said.  "We're grateful to everyone who dedicated their Saturday morning to making the playground a better place for our neighborhood's children.  Thanks to the Parks Department as well for their role in making the event a success."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WRBA Announces Remaining 2014 Town Halls

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has set its calendar of monthly Town Halls for the remainder of 2014.

The meetings will alternate between two locations, and will be held at several different times and days of the week.

"We hope that the variety in our schedule will ensure that anyone who wants to attend will be able to make it to at least a couple of Town Halls," WRBA President Martin Colberg said.  "With these dates set months in advance, it should be easier for residents to plan their schedules and stay on top of what's happening in their community."

Below are the dates, times, and locations for the rest of this year's Town Halls.

  • April 24, Thursday, 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall
  • May 17, Saturday, 1 p.m. at the American Legion Hall
  • June 21, Saturday, 10 a.m. at the American Legion Hall
  • July 19, Saturday, 10 a.m. at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • August 16, Saturday, 10 a.m. at Emanuel United Church of Christ
  • September 18, Thursday, 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall
  • October 18, Saturday, noon at the American Legion Hall
  • November 15, Saturday, noon at the American Legion Hall
  • December 13, Saturday, noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ

Monday, February 24, 2014

Woodhaven Rally Will Call for Action on Damaged Building

In response to an apparently dangerous situation that threatens to kill the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WRHVAC), there will be a rally in Woodhaven on Sunday to request swift and decisive action from city agencies.

The rally will occur on Sunday, March 2, 1 p.m., in front of the Ambulance Corps, which is located at 78-15 Jamaica Avenue.

On April 12, 2013, the second story and facade of the building at 78-19 Jamaica Avenue collapsed, pouring rubble all over 79th Street and destroying a car.  Miraculously, nobody was injured.  The collapse badly damaged the WRHVAC headquarters next door, and forced the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center to move its operations off the Ambulance Corps's premises, thus depriving the WRHVAC of much-needed rental income.

Before its collapse, the building next door to the Ambulance Corps had been cited for numerous violations, and the Department of Buildings had issued a partial vacate order.  But the problems remained unresolved until the collapse, which the Fire Department reportedly attributed in part to heavy rainfall.

Now, over 10 months later, more fines have accrued and an arrest warrant has been issued for the owner of the damaged building, but the edifice remains a serious threat, both to the WRHVAC and to residents and neighbors.  Recently melted snow from the collapsed building has caused water to flood into the Ambulance Corps headquarters and might have compromised its structural integrity.

Monday, December 16, 2013

WRBA Announces New Officers

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA) has elected its officers for 2014.  The new slate of officers reflects the organization's recent growth and outreach to all corners of the community.

Martin Colberg will serve as the organization's president for the coming year.  Giedra Kregzdys will serve as vice president.  Stephen Forte will continue as treasurer.  Their new terms will begin on January 1, 2014.  The officers have all served on the WRBA's Board of Directors, and were elected to their posts by their fellow directors.

Monday, December 2, 2013

WRBA To Host Another Public Forum on Inactive Railroad Tracks

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA) will convene a public forum to discuss the future of the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, which runs along 98th Street.

The main purpose of the forum is to provide Woodhaven residents with an opportunity to voice their opinions, comments, and concerns about the railroad tracks, which have become the subject of much debate as well-funded and politically powerful interests push competing proposals for developing or reactivating the line.

The forum will be held on Monday, December 9, 7:30 p.m., at Emanuel United Church of Christ (91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard).  All are welcome to attend, but only Woodhaven residents will be permitted to speak.

"Except for the WRBA's meeting last year, Woodhaven residents have not had a true, open forum to voice their concerns about the future of this land," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "They were promised open forums, 'many of them,' at a QueensWay meeting in September and that promise was not kept."

The WRBA hosted a special forum in September of last year, dedicated exclusively to the question of what to do with the railroad tracks.  The extremely well-attended meeting featured presentations by a speaker supporting each of the two leading proposals: returning the tracks to use for an active train line, or converting the route into a walkway and bike path dubbed the QueensWay.  Once those speakers presented their proposals, residents in attendance had a chance to offer their thoughts and answer questions.

After that forum, the WRBA announced its official position on the rail line, deciding not to support either of the proposals at this time and calling on the City of New York, which owns the property, to end its years of neglect and fulfill its responsibility to maintain the land.

The defunct railroad tracks run through Woodhaven, crossing over Jamaica Avenue at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill border. They are located just east of Woodhaven residences on 98th Street, including the Forest Park Co-ops.

# # #

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
info@woodhaven-nyc.org
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

WRBA Hosting The "Great Woodhaven Yard Sale"

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will be hosting a community-wide yard sale—a coordinated day when homes across Woodhaven can all hold yard sales at the same time.  This will maximize interest and unite typically isolated events into a full-neighborhood happening.

The "Great Woodhaven Yard Sale of 2013" will occur on Saturday, September 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Participation is totally free.  The WRBA will distribute handouts and will create a map showing the location of all participating households (no exact addresses, only locations) at no cost to participants.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Block Association Lauds Landmarking of Carousel

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted today to designate the Forest Park Carousel a New York City landmark.  The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association wholeheartedly applauds this decision, which formally recognizes the carousel as the gem it is.

"This is tremendous news.  The Forest Park Carousel means so much to countless residents in Woodhaven and across the city.  This designation is long overdue, but now that it's here, we're thrilled," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "With the carousel landmarked, we know it will be around for posterity, which is exactly how it should be."

The WRBA submitted testimony to the Commission urging the designation.  The testimony, available here, points out that the carousel is a beautiful work of art, a historic specimen that embodies our community’s heritage, and a form of entertainment that has amused generations of Woodhaven residents.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Woodhaven Residents Graduate From Citizens' Police Academy

Five members of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association graduated on Tuesday, June 18, from the NYPD's Citizens' Police Academy, an in-depth 14-week program that provides extensive training and education about the Police Department's work.

The Block Association members who graduated—WRBA Treasurer Stephen Forte, Janet Forte, Marie Paz, Elaine Carillo, and Susan Sweeney—received their diplomas from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly in a ceremony at One Police Plaza.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Block Association to Host Etching Event with 102nd Pct.

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association and the 102nd Precinct will host a free event to protect residents' property.

The event will occur this Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the WRBA's office (84-20 Jamaica Avenue).  Residents will be able to register electronics and other valuables with the NYPD, enroll their vehicles in anti-auto theft programs, and set up appointments for vehicle identification number (VIN) etchings.

The New York Police Department will engrave an identifiable serial number on all portable valuables, such as computers, fax machines, bicycles, cell phones, and the like.  The NYPD will add those serial numbers, and the owners' names, to their records.  This etching makes it easier to return stolen or lost property to its rightful owner, and makes it more difficult for thieves to sell engraved valuables.  The event is part of the NYPD's Operation ID program, a citywide initiative that has proven effective.

"This is an excellent chance to safeguard some of your most valuable possessions, which also happen to be some of the most inviting targets for thieves," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "We're very pleased to continue our strong relationship with the 102nd Precinct to serve Woodhaven and the surrounding community."

Monday, February 18, 2013

WRBA Provides Notice to Residents of Inspectors in the Area

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association would like to inform residents that state and federal agencies have sent inspectors to Woodhaven to conduct searches for the Asian long-horned beetle.

The beetle is an invasive species that devastates trees.  Official inspectors are going door-to-door, requesting access to the area around residences—especially backyards—to determine whether nearby vegetation is harboring any Asian long-horned beetles.  Unfortunately, many residents have been unaware that the these surveys are taking place, leading them to be understandably suspicious of individuals seeking access to their property.

This photo, provided by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture,
shows an Asian long-horned beetle.
"These inspectors are doing important work to protect trees in Woodhaven and across Queens," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "If someone claims they're from an official agency and asks for access to your property, request to see their identification and make sure they are dressed appropriately."

There are two kinds of inspectors conducting the surveys: state and federal, the latter being from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  New York State inspectors do not have a uniform but should always be wearing an official orange vest with lettering.  Federal inspectors should be dressed in either green pants or blue jeans, and should have on a black coat with USDA lettering.  In all cases, inspectors have official badges and/or official IDs and will produce them on request.

If, however, someone claiming to be an inspector does not produce identification, is not dressed properly, or does not properly identify themselves, do not grant them access to your property.  Residents who feel uncomfortable or suspicious should call the police.

The WRBA has received calls from residents who were concerned about purported inspectors.  Some of this confusion arose from those personnel identifying themselves incorrectly or not wearing the proper attire.

The WRBA has spoken with an inspection field manager and has expressed concern about some of the reports we have received.  The Block Association hopes that the USDA takes steps to make sure that their inspectors properly identify themselves.  The WRBA also hopes that improved openness and communication with residents will help inspectors keep Woodhaven free of this destructive pest.

If they experience any problems with inspectors, residents should feel free to notify the WRBA at info@woodhaven-nyc.org or (718) 296-3735.

Residents who suspect an Asian long-horned beetle infestation should collect an adult beetle in a jar, place the jar in a freezer, and immediately notify the USDA by calling (866) 265-0301.


# # #

Contact:

info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, January 7, 2013

Woodhaven Residents' Block Association Looks Back on Successful 2012

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association capped off an exceptionally successful year by recruiting dozens of residents to join the NYPD's Block Watcher program, a Police Department initiative that trains residents to serve as supplementary eyes and ears for the local precinct.

The announcement of the recruiting effort, which came at the WRBA's December Town Hall, was just one of the organization's many accomplishments last year.

"The WRBA had a banner year in 2012, just as we did the year before, but we know that 2013 will be even bigger and better," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell. "The Block Association has experienced a renaissance the past few years, growing into an organization of volunteers who have accomplished great things for their community.  With such dedicated members and a wonderful neighborhood supporting us, I'm certain the best is still ahead."

The WRBA's first town hall of the new year will occur Jan. 21 at 1 p.m., at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps., located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave.

Here is a chronology of some of the organization's other highlights in 2012:

Monday, November 26, 2012

WRBA Condemns City Council Redistricting Final Proposal

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association blasted the New York City Districting Commission's proposal to split Woodhaven's representation in the City Council.

The Commission had initially proposed placing nearly all of Woodhaven in a single City Council district.  The WRBA submitted testimony to the Commission lauding this proposal, and even urged tweaks to ensure that a sliver of Woodhaven left outside the district would be incorporated.  Instead of heeding the WRBA's testimony, the Commission did the very opposite by discarding their original plans for Woodhaven and slicing the neighborhood into three parts spread over two districts.

"The Commission decided to throw Woodhaven under the bus.  It should be embarrassed about how its final proposal treats our community," said WRBA Director of Communications Alex Blenkinsopp.  "Now that the final decision is in the hands of the City Council, we want all City Council Members to know that a vote in favor of this gerrymander is a vote against Woodhaven."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Block Association Thanks Woodhaven for Generosity in Hurricane Recovery

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association thanks its neighborhood's residents and friends for their tremendous generosity in supporting the organization's Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Due to the selflessness of Woodhaven's residents and friends, the Block Association was able to raise thousands of dollars, as well as nearly 50 car-loads of clothes, food, water, and other supplies.  In addition, dozens of volunteers contributed numerous hours to sort, pack, and transport the donations, all of which went to Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Breezy Point, and other neighborhoods south of Woodhaven that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

WRBA Expresses Its View on Rail Line

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association announces its official position on the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, which runs along 98th Street in Woodhaven.

The two leading proposals for the rail line are to return the tracks to use for an active train line, or to convert the route into a walkway and bike path dubbed The QueensWay.

The WRBA held an extremely well-attended forum on the issue on Sept. 29, received e-mails from residents, and solicited input from across the neighborhood.  After carefully considering a multitude of viewpoints expressed by Woodhaven residents, the WRBA has decided not to support either of the proposals at this time.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

WRBA Supports City Council Redistricting Proposal, Urges Tweaks


The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has submitted testimony to the NYC Districting Commission, praising the body's proposal for placing nearly all of Woodhaven within the same City Council district.

Currently, the neighborhood is divided between two districts.  The Commission's draft map leaves only a small segment of Woodhaven outside the district.  With the Districting Commission holding a hearing in Queens this week, the WRBA testified that the proposed lines would represent significant progress, though there is still room for improvement.

Monday, September 17, 2012

WRBA To Host Forum on Inactive Railroad Tracks

With debate swirling around competing plans for the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association is ensuring that the people of Woodhaven will have an opportunity to develop and voice an informed opinion on the matter.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, at 1 p.m., the WRBA will host a special forum dedicated exclusively to the question of what to do with the railroad tracks, which run along 98th Street in Woodhaven. The meeting will feature presentations by a speaker supporting each of the two leading proposals: returning the tracks to use for an active train line, or converting the route into a walkway and bike path dubbed The QueensWay. After those speakers present their proposals, they will hear the questions and thoughts of the residents in attendance.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Woodhaven Asks For Help Catching a Thief

A recent theft in Woodhaven was caught on camera, and the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA) is confident that someone will recognize the thief and help bring him to justice.

The culprit appears to have only one arm. He stole a package from outside a house in the vicinity of 94th Street and 86th Avenue—and a surveillance camera recorded the entire crime.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WRBA Announces Honorees of 41st Annual Fundraiser

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will welcome civic leaders, elected officials, and fellow residents to Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant on Friday, September 21, 2012, for the organization's 41st annual fundraiser.

The event will celebrate a very successful and eventful year for the WRBA, and will highlight the achievements of three honorees.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Woodhaven Hails Reopening of Forest Park Carousel

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association is thrilled about the plans to reopen the Forest Park Carousel this summer.

For over three years, the WRBA has fought to make the carousel operational again.  These efforts have taken a variety of forms, including working with our elected representatives, writing letters to city officials, petitioning, organizing rallies of support in-person and online, publicizing the cause in the media, and even creating a popular "Save the Forest Park Carousel" t-shirt.

Now, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has found a concessionaire to operate the carousel, overcoming the major obstacle that has kept this Woodhaven antique behind locked fences for far too long.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Woodhaven Dials and Donates on "311 Day"

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association logged 81 complaints and raised over $500 on its first "311 Day."

The 311 Spring Cleaning and Fundraiser was held on Saturday, March 31.  It was a coordinated effort by Woodhaven residents to improve their neighborhood by calling 311 and filing requests for City agencies to address local problems.  Many individuals and businesses pledged donations for each 311 request logged.

The donations will benefit the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps.  The WRBA will present the Corps with the collected donations at our next Town Hall meeting on April 21, 1 p.m. at the Ambulance Corps's headquarters (78-15 Jamaica Ave.).

"We're always looking for new ways to help our members engage with and better the neighborhood," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "Our first 311 Day was clearly a successful experiment.  Not only will Woodhaven be much cleaner and safer, but the Ambulance Corps will come out ahead too."

The majority of the 311 calls were requests for graffiti cleanup on homes.  Potholes and dangerous conditions were also popular reasons for logging complaints.

One of the findings from 311 Day is that practice makes perfect—that the more 311 requests you make, the more quickly you can make them.  By using specific wording, for example, a caller can log a graffiti complaint in less than four minutes.

The WRBA plans to follow up on each complaint and release periodic progress reports to evaluate how well the city responds to Woodhaven's needs.  The first progress report will be issued at the beginning of June.

"If dozens of Woodhaven residents took just a few minutes every week to call something in to 311, we would get the attention we need for so many issues that should be addressed," said WRBA Secretary Arlene Annunziata.  "If you see graffiti, or illegal signs, or a broken sidewalk, you can make a huge difference with very little time.  Call 311 and then send the request number to the Block Association so they can follow up."

To share a 311 request number with the WRBA, e-mail info@woodhaven-nyc.org or call us at 718-296-3735.

# # #

Contact:

info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WRBA Opposes Special Master's Plans for Woodhaven

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association opposes the congressional district lines proposed by a court-appointed Special Master. The lines would make Woodhaven one of the only Queens neighborhoods in a predominantly Brooklyn-based district, and would split Woodhaven between two congressional districts.

Yellow lines: proposed district borders.  Red lines: Woodhaven's borders.
Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, the Special Master, released proposed maps that would place nearly all of Woodhaven in the same district as Williamsburg, Bushwick, Red Hook, Sunset Park, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, as well as Chinatown and the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The proposed district spans three boroughs and is shaped like a crooked boomerang.

Mann was appointed a little over a week ago and had until March 12 to craft congressional district maps.

"I understand that the Special Master needed to work in a hurry, but this proposal sloppily tosses Woodhaven into a district that includes almost none of the neighborhoods we've shared a district with for decades," said WRBA Director Alexander Blenkinsopp. "We certainly didn't expect our congressional lines to look exactly the same post-redistricting. This proposal, however, splits up Woodhaven and essentially separates us from the rest of Queens. It will be extraordinarily difficult—and unlikely—for a member of Congress from this district to represent Woodhaven well."

Woodhaven is currently in Congressional District 9, which includes portions of only two boroughs. The Special Master's proposal places Woodhaven in a different congressional district than most or all of the nearby Queens neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Glendale, Ozone Park, Middle Village, Kew Gardens, and Howard Beach. The proposed district appears to pay little heed to the neighborhoods with which Woodhaven shares a Community Board, a police precinct, a school district, bus lines, shopping strips, and countless other common elements.

The proposal also divides Woodhaven, locating the majority of the neighborhood in a different district than Forest Park—which is core to the community's identity—and the Forest Park Co-ops, home to thousands of Woodhaven residents.

"We sincerely hope that Albany gets its act together and agrees on more sensible congressional lines so that the Special Master's proposal doesn't become law," said WRBA Director Vance Barbour. "We don't favor gerrymandering; that's why we criticized gerrymandering of Woodhaven's state senate representation. But Judge Mann's proposal doesn't do much better for our neighborhood."

The WRBA plans to submit to Judge Mann written feedback on the proposal by the deadline of 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Update (3/7/2012, 9 a.m.):  The WRBA's letter to Judge Mann can be viewed here.

# # # 

Contact:

WRBA office: (718) 296-3735

WRBA Reminds Residents To Attend Next Week's Community Board 9 Meeting

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association is calling on residents to attend the upcoming Community Board 9 meeting. It will be held on Tuesday, March 13, at 7:45 p.m., at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps (78-15 Jamaica Ave., in Woodhaven).

During the meeting, Community Board 9 (CB9) will vote on two issues that are very important to the people of Woodhaven. First, CB9 will vote on changes to the direction of traffic on two streets in their neighborhood: 89th Avenue and 84th Street, respectively. And second, CB9 will vote on rezoning parts of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

The Block Association strongly opposes the street changes because the neighborhood had not been properly consulted in the planning and because the re-directions would greatly inconvenience residents and lead to potentially dangerous rerouting of traffic.

In addition, the Block Association supports the rezoning, which would be the first time that Woodhaven's zoning regulations were modified in nearly half a century. The rezoning would help preserve Woodhaven's character by preventing the future construction of dense developments on residential streets and by making it much more difficult to bring "McMansions" and illegal conversions into the neighborhood.

"Even if you don't say a word at the meeting, your attendance still matters," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell. "We will ask you to raise your hand if you oppose the street changes or if you favor rezoning, so it is extremely important that you show up if you care about the future of Woodhaven."

To help move the meeting along efficiently, the WRBA plans to select three people to make the case against the street changes and two to speak for the rezoning. The Block Association cannot (and would not want to) prevent any member of the public from signing up for a three-minute slot to address CB9. But simply coming to the meeting would be an important show of support, and would tell the CB9 members—the people who will cast the votes on these issues—where Woodhaven stands.
# # #

Contact:

info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
http://www.woodhaven-nyc.org/

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Woodhaven Mobilizes Against Traffic Changes

The people of Woodhaven were loud and clear: They overwhelmingly oppose the changes to the direction of traffic on two streets in their neighborhood.

Over 100 residents showed up for a standing-room-only public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to voice objection to the changes to 89th Avenue and 84th Street, respectively. The meeting, which had been requested by the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA), showed that the neighborhood was not properly consulted in the planning of the changes until now, and added to the uncertainty of who was responsible for trying to push the changes through.

Maura McCarthy, the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Queens Borough Commissioner, delivered a presentation on the street re-directions. She stated at the outset that the changes were not motivated by safety considerations.

"Neither of these two locations are accident-prone locations," McCarthy said. "So this can be voted up or down by the community. DOT is not going to implement this over the objections of the community."

And the community certainly had objections. One after another, residents described the extensive detours they'd need to make to get to and from their homes, the potential safety hazards from diverting school bus and other traffic down different streets, the problems posed to ambulance crews attempting to respond to emergencies, and so on. There was strong consensus in the room that the alterations would make their lives more difficult and lead to less safe conditions in the neighborhood.

When it came to traffic on their streets, the residents who live on and around those streets clearly knew best—even pointing out errors on the maps relied on by DOT—and they were disappointed that they had heard about the changes only after they were about to be voted on by Community Board 9.

"Obviously what is happening tonight is the result of a lack of communication," WRBA Director Steve Forte told McCarthy. "When a request comes into your office, how do I as a community member know about it so that I can voice an objection?"

Intense questioning by Woodhaven residents revealed a total breakdown of decision-makers' communication with the neighborhood, as well as a disquieting lack of candor about who was behind the changes.

McCarthy explained the process the DOT supposedly followed for proposing the changes: "We get suggestions from one person, ten people, a hundred people. We investigate it. We go back to the Community Board. And the Community Board canvasses the community and takes a vote. So that is the process we've gone for."

But WRBA Director Alexander Blenkinsopp asked who in the audience had been canvassed by Community Board 9, and nobody raised a hand.

"In that case, Commissioner, it seems like perhaps the canvassing needs to be redone and the proposal should be retracted by DOT," Blenkinsopp said to applause from the audience.

And when Blenkinsopp asked McCarthy who had requested the change on 84th Street, she replied, "I received this request from an elected official who is no longer in office," eliciting loud grumbling from the audience. McCarthy declined to name the person, though she later added that the proposal "has been supported by other elected officials also." Yet again, McCarthy declined to name those elected officials. Community Board 9, however, later told the WRBA that Boston Market, located on 83rd Street and Atlantic Avenue, had been responsible for the request.

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has publicly written to the DOT asking them "to drop the proposal" on 89th Avenue, inside her district. The WRBA is not yet aware of any public statements made by Council Member Eric Ulrich about the street changes. Ulrich represents the 84th Street area.

For all the displeasure and frustration the street change proposals caused Woodhaven, the incident might have the positive result of spurring better communication with residents in the future.

When asked by the WRBA how much public objection there must be before the Department of Transportation decides not to advance a proposal to Community Board 9 for a vote, McCarthy said, "That's a very good question, and certainly, this evening has pointed out the outreach—or lack thereof—on my agency's part. We typically do not, for short stretches of street, reach out to a large community. We rely on the [Community] Boards to do that outreach, and maybe we will rethink that process going forward."

Mary Ann Carey, District Manager of Community Board 9, stated that she has received "about 60 letters in opposition" to the changes. But the Community Board was scheduled to vote on the changes the evening of Valentine's Day in Kew Gardens—a time and place very inconvenient for Woodhaven residents to show up and voice their concerns.

Assemblyman Mike Miller received applause when he proposed postponing the vote until the Community Board could meet in Woodhaven. He has since formally requested a postponement, which the WRBA strongly supports.

"I believe the Community Board certainly has heard you this evening," McCarthy said at the end of the meeting.

A video of the entire hearing is available here.

# # #

Contact:

info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, January 30, 2012

WRBA Opposes Gerrymander That Would Split Woodhaven

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association strongly objects to plans to carve up its neighborhood among three different state senators.

The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), the body charged with redrawing district lines, released its proposed maps last week. The Block Association applauds LATFOR's decision to keep all of Woodhaven within a single Assembly district -- as it has been for the past decade -- but strongly urges the Task Force to reconsider its Senate boundaries.

"LATFOR's decision to split up a one-square-mile neighborhood among three different senators is bewildering and has no basis in the character, demographics, or needs of our community," said Alexander Blenkinsopp, the Block Association's communications director. "When it comes to the Senate lines, the people of Woodhaven are being treated as pawns in Albany's gerrymandering games."

Two of the three districts that encompass parts of Woodhaven have been referred to as among "the 20 ugliest gerrymandered districts." Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. described one of those districts as "something that looks like a baby alien popping out of a stomach."

The division of Woodhaven under the proposed plan is illustrated in the attached map. The lines are not only unsightly and convoluted, but they will also hurt Woodhaven's representation. Some Woodhaven residents will be in the same district as Astoria -- clear across the borough. Other Woodhaven residents will be in a district that stretches all the way out to Green Acres Mall in Nassau County.

"Woodhaven is a cohesive community with a clear identity. That's why we're pleased LATFOR drew an Assembly district that includes all of our neighborhood," said WRBA Director Vance Barbour. "But the proposed Senate lines will dilute Woodhaven's voice in the upper chamber of New York's legislature and make it more difficult for fellow residents to know who's representing them. Our neighborhood would become an orphan to three different senators, rather than a priority to one of them."

LATFOR will hold a public hearing for Queens on Tuesday, February 7, at 3 p.m., in Room 213 of Queens Borough Hall (120-55 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens). The WRBA hopes to testify at this hearing.

The proposed maps for the entire districts that would include Woodhaven can be viewed here, here, and here.

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Contact:

info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Woodhaven Residents' Block Association Brings Successful Year to Close

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association concluded an extremely successful year by providing information that led to the arrests of two Franklin K. Lane High School students who had vandalized the freshly painted elevated subway over Jamaica Avenue.

The announcement, which was made at the Block Association's December town hall, was just the latest in a long series of accomplishments this year.  Another high point was the addition of two new members to the organization's Board of Directors: Martin Colberg and Steve Forte, both longtime Woodhaven residents.

"I'm very pleased to be part of an organization that is accomplishing so much for our neighborhood," said Colberg.  "The Block Association has done a great deal to make it a better place to live.  I encourage all Woodhaven residents to join and get involved with the WRBA."

Forte expressed a similar sentiment, saying, "This has been a busy year for the organization, but there's still a lot to be done.  We might be just volunteers, but we're working hard to tackle the challenges facing the neighborhood.  I'm confident that 2012 will be an even busier and more exciting year for us."

The WRBA's first town hall of the new year will occur Jan. 21 at 1 p.m., at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps., located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave.

Here is a chronology of some of the organization's other highlights from a very active 2011:

  • In January, in the wake of a blizzard that left much of New York City crippled, the WRBA restarted its Block Captain program, to provide a network of contacts throughout Woodhaven to help centralize information about which blocks need attention from city services.  The Block Captain now covers nearly half of the neighborhood and has proven very effective in getting the help that residents need -- including a diabetic girl in Woodhaven who needed dialysis but couldn't get to her appointment until her family's street was plowed.  The WRBA worked with Assemblyman Mike Miller to ensure the street was clear and the girl could receive her treatment.
  • In March, the Block Association rallied for the CCNS Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center, which was on the chopping block because New York State budget cuts would have eliminated its funding.  Dozens of residents turned out to express their support for the senior center and to object to the cuts.  The senior center was ultimately saved.
  • Also in March, the Block Association hosted a free art show at Emanuel Church of Christ.  About a dozen artists displayed their work.  The show was an outgrowth of the Block Association's Writers & Pints nights, which brought Queens Poet Laureate Javier Paolo to Woodhaven in 2010.
  • In April, the WRBA was joined by Assemblyman Miller and well over a dozen volunteers for a successful graffiti clean-up in the neighborhood
  • In June, the WRBA worked with the Richmond Hill Block Association to organize a rally to save Engine Company 294, which was threatened with closure by a plan proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Over 200 people showed up at the rally, and the fire company was spared -- a huge victory for a community that have seen more than their fair share of dangerous fires in recent years.
  • Also in June, the WRBA submitted written testimony to a New York City Council committee, supporting proposed legislation to increase fines for residential noise while also urging the City Council to consider other options for tackling this problem.  The testimony drew upon dozens of residents' responses to a Block Association questionnaire.  Overwhelmingly, Woodhaven residents said that noise conditions have adversely affected their quality of life, that not enough is done to handle noise complaints, and that noise conditions have worsened in recent years.  Numerous excerpts from these responses were included in the testimony, which was over 10 pages long.
  • In September, the WRBA gathered at Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant with residents, elected officials, and civic leaders for a fundraiser to celebrate the Block Association's 40th anniversary.  The evening was a great success, as everyone had a good time and some attendees walked away with terrific prizes.  It was a terrific opportunity to recognize our honorees: the Man of the Year, Assemblyman Mike Miller; the Woman of the Year, Eleanor Errante; the Business of the Year, the Leader-Observer; and the Hall of Fame inductee, the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps.  The fundraiser also brought in over $4,000 for the WRBA, which struggled with very limited funding this year.
  • In its ongoing fight against illegally posted signs, the WRBA asked two of its elected officials in November to support changes to the law. The changes would allow private citizens' testimony to be used in prosecuting those who visually pollute our neighborhoods by posting unsightly advertisements on telephone poles, lampposts, and other public property.
  • Also in November, the Block Association announced the launch of a committee to advocate landmarking the Forest Park Carousel, which has been closed and behind locked gates for far too long.  The carousel is a true historical specimen that has brought joy to generations of Woodhavenites, and the Block Association is determined to see it reopened.
  • In December, the WRBA hosted a well-attended Christmas Parade Watching Party, which cheered on the marchers on Jamaica Avenue.

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Contact:
info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Monday, November 28, 2011

Block Association, Combating Illegal Signs, Urges Changes to the Law

In its ongoing fight against illegally posted signs, the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has asked two of its elected officials to support changes to the law. The changes would allow private citizens' testimony to be used in prosecuting those who visually pollute our neighborhoods by posting unsightly advertisements on telephone poles, lampposts, and other public property.

The Block Association has been informed by the Department of Sanitation that if a private citizen removes an illegal sign, Sanitation is unable to prosecute those responsible for the signs. Only a sworn statement by a trained officer of the law, such as a Department of Sanitation officer, would serve as adequate evidence.

Unfortunately, the Department of Sanitation cannot remove signs as quickly as private citizens can, and every hour that an illegal sign remains visible is an incentive for unscrupulous businesses to flout the law with their eyesore advertisements. So the Block Association has sent a message urging its City Council Member Eric Ulrich and its State Assemblyman Mike Miller to pursue legal changes that would allow private citizens to tear down signs, and then provide testimony, sworn statements, and photographs to aid prosecution of whoever is responsible for the signs.

"It is a win-win policy to allow citizens to remove illegal signs without invalidating any potential prosecution of the lawbreaking companies," the Block Association's letter states. "It empowers citizens, relieves the Department of Sanitation of some of the burden of enforcement, diminishes the incentives companies have to break the law, and leaves intact the chance to pursue legal recourse against law-breakers."

There is precedent for this type of law. The New York City Administrative Code specifically states that sworn statements or testimony by private citizens might be useful in prosecuting illegal dumping. But there is no similar provision for prosecuting illegal posting.

There are laws at both the city and state levels prohibiting illegally posted advertisements, so legal changes could be pursued by both our city and state representatives.

"Illegal signs blotting our neighborhood are a growing problem, and the WRBA has been fighting them for well over a year," said Alexander J. Blenkinsopp, the Block Association's communications director, who wrote the letter on behalf of the organization's board of directors. "But the problem will persist, because tearing down signs is only a temporary solution. We need our elected officials to work with us on a longer-term solution: changing the law to empower our residents."

Miller and Ulrich held an event last week to call attention to the problem of illegally posted signs, so they are natural partners to work with the Block Association in pushing for these legal changes.

"The Block Association has been relentless in tearing down illegal signs. We have a zero-tolerance approach," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell. "But we need the law to be on our side. We applaud our local representatives' willingness to recognize this problem in our community, and we hope that they -- and other lawmakers -- will help make this commonsense change we're suggesting to preserve our neighborhood's character."

The entirety of the Block Association's message to Miller and Ulrich is available here.

# # #

Contact:
info@woodhaven-nyc.org
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

WRBA Celebrates 40th Year With Fundraiser

The residents, elected officials, and civic leaders of Woodhaven will gather at Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant on Friday, September 23, 2011, for a fundraiser to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association.

The WRBA's founding mission in 1972 was to foster "an interest in civic, social and political affairs." The all-volunteer organization continues that mission today, advocating on behalf of the Woodhaven community. The civic group has struggled financially, though, meaning that the fundraiser -- which has been held annually -- is especially important this year to buy the WRBA some breathing room.

"We're proud of what we've achieved," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell. "When they came for our firehouse, we were there. When they came for our library, we were there. If it concerns our community and our neighbors, you can be sure that we'll be there."

At this year's fundraiser, the WRBA will celebrate the contributions of four honorees.

Assemblyman Mike Miller, who has worked closely with the residents of Woodhaven in identifying and resolving a variety of issues, is Man of the Year.

Eleanor Errante is 2011's Woman of the Year. The longtime district leader was an eloquent spokesperson for the area's older residents earlier this year when the city considered closing the local senior center.

The Leader-Observer is the Business of the Year. The 102-year-old paper has been a mainstay in the lives of Woodhavenites.

The Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which has worked tirelessly to assist the residents of Woodhaven and has provide a fertile training ground for young emergency medical technicians, will be this year's inductee into the WRBA Hall of Fame.

In addition to advocating on behalf of Engine 294, the Woodhaven Library, and the CCNS Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center, the WRBA has recently been at the forefront of fighting against noise abuse, illegal conversions, illegally posted commercial signs, and unwanted solicitations from real estate agents. The WRBA has also been instrumental in sealing an abandoned house that was being used as a drug den, and recently took to the streets with cans of paint to cover up nearly 100 instances of graffiti vandalism.

The WRBA survives on the support of those it serves -- the residents of Woodhaven. The Block Association hopes that a good turnout will help keep them alive and fighting.

Each ticket to the fundraiser is $65 and includes a four-course dinner with wine and beer. The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant is located at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard, in Rego Park.

The event will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant is located at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard, in Rego Park. Each ticket is $65 and includes a four-course dinner with beer and wine. Tickets can be purchased at the WRBA office (84-20 Jamaica Avenue), at the Block Association's monthly Town Hall meetings (the next meeting is Saturday, August 20, 1 p.m. at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue), or by credit or debit card online at http://events.woodhaven-nyc.org/2011/08/2011-fundraiser_9247.html.

For more information, call the WRBA office at 718-296-3735, e-mail info@woodhaven-nyc.org, or visit http://www.woodhaven-nyc.org/.

# # #
Contact:
WRBA office: (718) 296-3735
www.woodhaven-nyc.org

The photo above depicts two of the honorees at this year's WRBA fundraiser: Eleanor Errante (left) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (right).