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

Emanuel United Church of Christ's address 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 any 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 us); via Twitter (@WoodhavenNYC); and via the WRBA website (www.woodhaven-nyc.org).  Information about the next town hall will also be available by calling the WRBA at 718-296-3735.

# # #

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

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.


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.

Left to right: Martin Colberg, Stephen Forte, and Giedra Kregzdys
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.

In a sign of the Block Association's growth, all the new officers joined the Board of Directors just within the past three years.  In addition, Colberg will become the first Latino to serve as the WRBA's president in its 42-year history.

"The WRBA has worked extremely hard to expand our presence in the community, and the fact that we will now be steered by relatively new members shows that we've succeeded in that mission," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell, who has led the organization since 2010.  "Our new officers reflect our community and the continued progress we will make, in 2014 and beyond."

The past four years have been extremely active ones for the WRBA, during which the organization expanded its online presence, successfully fought two objectionable street-direction changes, provided testimony to government bodies on issues ranging from noise to redistricting, engaged in multiple graffiti clean-ups, fought to get a house sealed after it had been taken over by squatters, provided urgently needed relief to our neighbors in the Rockaways and others affected by Hurricane Sandy, and gave Woodhaven residents a voice on the future of the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, among many other things.

"Ed and the rest of the Board have done a tremendous job over the past several years, so I know I have big shoes to fill," Colberg said.  "But I also have a solid foundation to build on, and I'm grateful for this opportunity.  I'm looking forward to continuing the WRBA's good work and its outreach to everyone in Woodhaven."

The WRBA's next Town Hall will be on January 18, 2014, 1 p.m., at Emanuel United Church of Christ (91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard).

# # #

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

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.

"With so many participants expected, and with such a wide variety of merchandise that will be offered, we think it will be an unmatched weekend community event in Woodhaven," said WRBA Director Vance Barbour.  "We hope you'll be a part of it, as either a seller or a buyer."

The rain date for the Great Woodhaven Yard Sale will be Sunday, September 29.

Households who want to sell merchandise can be a part of this event by signing up with the WRBA by September 13.  This can be done by e-mailing info@woodhaven-nyc.org, calling us at 718-296-3735, or by filling out the form online here: http://bit.ly/WoodhavenYardSale (no period at the end).  Those who sign up in time will be included on the map.

# # #

Contact:

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

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.

One of the many colorful creatures of the Forest Park Carousel.
The Forest Park Carousel features a colorful menagerie of horses, tigers, and lions, including some of the last creations hand-carved by artist Daniel Carl Muller over a century ago.  Experts have acclaimed it as a rare specimen.  It is also decorated with beautiful paintings depicting settings in Woodhaven and the rest of Queens.

"Even when I was a young boy, I knew the carousel was special.  I'm elated that the Landmarks Preservation Commission agrees," said Alex Blenkinsopp, the WRBA's communications director.  "The Landmarks Law is meant to safeguard our city's irreplaceable treasures.  In this case, the law worked exactly as it should.  The carousel is here to stay, and we couldn't be happier."

The Block Association has a long track record of advocacy for the Forest Park Carousel.

The ride had been shuttered for years until last summer, when the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation inked a deal with a concessionaire to operate the carousel again.  The WRBA had fought hard to reopen the ride, taking such steps as 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.  With the Forest Park spinning again, the next logical step was to ensure it would be preserved through landmark status.

One of the WRBA's concerns was that the designation might unduly restrict the ability of the concessionaire, New York Carousel Entertainment, to operate and maintain the carousel.  But as described in the WRBA's testimony, these concerns were assuaged after New York Carousel Entertainment -- which has proved to be an excellent steward of the attraction -- met with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

There are six operating carousels in New York City, according to the Commission.  The Forest Park Carousel became the city's third amusement ride to be independently landmarked.

The WRBA thanks its allies in the fight to landmark the carousel, including the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society (which partnered with the WRBA on its testimony), the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

# # #

Contact:

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

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.
The graduates. Left to right: Elaine Carillo, Susan Sweeney,
Stephen Forte, Janet Forte, and Marie Paz.

The program covered a wide variety of subjects, including criminal justic
e law, hostage negotiations, child abuse, counterterrorism, and school safety.  The graduates even had the opportunity to use the NYPD's sophisticated firearms training simulator.

"The Citizens' Police Academy taught me a remarkable amount about the Police Department's work.  It deepened my appreciation for all that goes into policing, and it made me much more aware of how I can help the police in my community," said WRBA Treasurer Stephen Forte.  "I look forward to applying those lessons in my civic involvement with the Block Association."

The total number of WRBA members who have completed the program in the past year now stands at eight.

"Equipped with this training, you're now among the best-informed members of the public on the challenges facing the Department," Commissioner Kelly said in his commencement address.  "From this day forward, the Department is proud to consider all of you our allies in the community."

The Citizens' Police Academy occurs twice a year.  If you are interested in participating in the program, please contact the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association by e-mailing info@woodhaven-nyc.org or calling (718) 296-3735

# # #

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

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."

Those who stop by will also have the chance to learn more about and register their autos in the NYPD's Combat Auto Theft (CAT) and Help End Auto Theft (HEAT) programs, which help safeguard your vehicle by allowing the police to stop your vehicle if it's being driven at unusual times or by unusual persons.  In addition, this event will also allow residents to make an appointment for a vehicle VIN etching.  The police will come to your home and etch your auto's VIN on all the vehicle's glass, which deters theft and makes it easier to trace stolen parts.

Those with questions should contact the WRBA at info@woodhaven-nyc.org or call (718) 296-3735 and leave a message.


# # #

Contact:

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

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:
  • In January, the WRBA made its voice heard for the first time on the issue of redistricting, praising its redrawn Assembly district but vigorously opposing its State Senate lines.  The WRBA staked out a clear and forceful position: We are a unified community and we will fight attempts to carve up our neighborhood.  Though the State Senate lines ended up unfavorable to Woodhaven, our Assembly borders ultimately united all of Woodhaven for the first time in years.  Just as importantly, the WRBA's work on state redistricting in early 2012 served as useful preparation for the battle we're now waging almost a year later: ensuring that Woodhaven's City Council representation is united.
  • In February, the Block Association enjoyed one of its most resounding victories when it defeated the Department of Transportation's attempt to change the direction of traffic on two streets: 89th Avenue and 84th Street.  The WRBA called for a public meeting on the street changes, drawing well over 100 impassioned residents whose arguments made clear that there was no good reason for the changes.  Community Board 9 agreed, unanimously rejecting the street changes the next month at a meeting packed with WRBA members who showed up in force to express their opposition.
  • In March, the WRBA launched two initiatives to improve quality of life in the neighborhood.  First, it began its Noise Busters program—a network of volunteers who would all call 311 to report each noise complaint brought to the WRBA's attention.  The program increased the attention that Woodhaven noise complaints received from local authorities.  Second, the Block Association held a "311 Day," a challenge to residents to report as many issues as possible to 311.  Over 80 requests were logged with 311, and with generous donors agreeing to sponsor each call, the WRBA used the event to raise $550 for the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
  • In April, we cheered on the WORKS Little League team we sponsored—the WRBA Devil Rays—as they began the season.  Residents from across Woodhaven chipped in to sponsor the team, which made it possible for over a dozen children to play a season of baseball.
  • In May, we received word that the Forest Park Carousel would reopen—a thrilling development for the WRBA, which had fought for three years to get the carousel up and running again.
  • Throughout the summer, the Block Association pursued an ambitious goal: eradicating graffiti on mailboxes and fire call boxes throughout the neighborhood.  With a sustained series of clean-ups, the effort met with success, dramatically reducing the amount of graffiti on public property in Woodhaven and even leading to additional charges against one known vandal.
  • In August, the WRBA publicized a theft suffered by a Woodhaven resident at the hand of a one-armed bandit.  A security camera recorded the thief stealing a package from the victim's porch, and revealed that the culprit was missing a limb.  The WRBA disseminated the footage and the thief was soon caught.
  • In September, the Block Association organized an extremely well-attended forum to consider the future of the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, which runs along 98th Street in Woodhaven.  At the forum, a speaker for each of the 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—made their case, and residents had the opportunity to speak their minds.  After carefully considering a multitude of viewpoints expressed by residents, the WRBA decided not to support either of the proposals at this time.  The organization also called on New York City, which owns the property, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining it after years of neglect.
  • That same month, the Block Association called attention to an abandoned house on 90th Street that was being occupied by squatters.  In 2011, the house had been the location of a party that resulted in the beating death of an innocent teenager.  Due to the WRBA's calls to address this "house of horrors," the city finally took action and sealed the house, to the relief of neighbors on that block.
  • In the final months of the year, the WRBA rallied to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy.  The generosity of Woodhaven's residents and friends enabled the Block Association to raise thousands of dollars and dozens of carloads of clothes, food, water, and other supplies.  Numerous volunteers contributed many hours sorting, packing, and transporting the donations, which went to Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Breezy Point, and other neighborhoods south of Woodhaven that were hit hard by Sandy.  The WRBA also ran a toy drive that benefited children impacted by the hurricane.
  • Woodhaven closed out the year with another generous gesture, donating $500 to purchase gifts for the developmentally challenged adults of the Forest Park Aktion Club.  This was the third year the WRBA has donated to the Aktion Club, which is affiliated with Glendale Kiwanis.

# # #

Contact:

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

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 map shows how Woodhaven's residential area would be divided if
the Districting Commission's proposal is approved.  The blue areas
would fall within Council Member Elizabeth Crowley's district.  The
orange area would fall within Council Member Eric Ulrich's district.
"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."

Woodhaven is currently divided between two City Council districts: District 30, represented by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley; and District 32, represented by Council Member Eric Ulrich.  Instead of preserving the current division, the Commission significantly worsened the split by switching large parts of the neighborhood from Crowley to Ulrich and vice versa.  In addition, the final proposal places the far west portion of Woodaven in the same district as the extreme northeast corner, but excludes any residential area in between.

At the WRBA's Town Hall on September 15, 2012, both Crowley and Ulrich made public statements indicating that the Commission's original proposal was preferable for Woodhaven.

At that Town Hall, Crowley said the initially proposed lines are "good news for Woodhaven.  It actually puts you all together in one Council district."  Ulrich said, "I think that Woodhaven, just like I think where I live in Ozone Park, should be in one district.  It should be in one district.  People ought to be able to hold their elected officials accountable.  It ought to be easy for them to know who represents them in the City Council....  I just think that's the right thing to do.  It's the fair thing to do."

Now the WRBA is calling on Ulrich and Crowley to make good on their public statements and to vote in the best interest of their Woodhaven constituents.  The Block Association has written to both Council Members and urged them to vote against the final proposal.  The draft lines will be enacted unless a majority of City Council members vote to send the Commission back to the drawing board.

"We don't know why the Commission decided to split and scramble Woodhaven's representation, but we won't just sit there quietly as the City Council rubber-stamps this awful proposal," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "This is an opportunity for City Council Members—both our current representatives, as well as those who might want Woodhaven's support in the future—to show whether they actually care about our community."

The WRBA has been an extremely strong voice for Woodhaven on redistricting matters this year.  In January, it vigorously objected to the gerrymandered State Senate lines that split Woodhaven three ways.  In March, the Block Association opposed the congressional lines that divided Woodhaven into two portions and basically separated Woodhaven from the rest of Queens.

# # #

Contact:

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

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.
WRBA members and volunteers who contributed to the
Hurricane Sandy relief effort, outside the WRBA's Jamaica
Avenue office.

"The generosity of Woodhaven and of our friends has been overwhelming," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "In the face of a disaster that devastated our neighbors, our community stepped up in a huge way to help out those in need.  A lot of people are hurting right now, but the community spirit we've seen over the past week leaves no doubt that South Queens will be back better than ever."

Residents from across Woodhaven contributed to the cause, and donors from far out of state shipped supplies or donated money.  Though gasoline was in short supply, Woodhaven residents sprang into action, using their remaining gas to make sure supplies reached those in need.

The WRBA was fortunate to collaborate with an array of organizations and offices to maximize their efforts, including those of Assemblyman Mike Miller, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol, the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department, the Hamilton Beach Civic Association, the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, Queens Tabernacle, and the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

"This was a huge team effort," said WRBA Board Member Martin Colberg.  "Those who are without heat or electricity, those who lost their belongings or their homes—those are our neighbors, and it was wonderful to see how many people in Woodhaven and from all around are doing everything they can to help their neighbors."

In an effort to be as transparent as possible and to help donors see how their contributions are being used, the WRBA publicly posted a thorough accounting of the funds it has received.  That accounting is available at http://bit.ly/DonationAccounting.  In addition, the WRBA has been providing regular updates about its relief efforts on its Facebook page and Twitter feed (@WoodhavenNYC).


# # #

Contact:

WRBA office:

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

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.

The Block Association would like to note that among our neighbors, there is very strong opposition to an active railroad.  Many residents have raised numerous valid concerns about how their homes and their daily lives would be adversely affected by having trains run along this passage.  We cannot endorse a plan that would impose such high costs on so many of our fellow Woodhaven residents, and which has engendered so much opposition from our community.  We hope elected officials, city agencies, and all other interested parties take note of this widespread sentiment among our neighbors.

The WRBA also does not support The QueensWay.  Woodhaven residents have raised several important concerns about this proposal, including its implications for parking in the neighborhood, the reduced privacy for homes abutting the path, and a lack of police and other security presence.  We also observe that Woodhaven already enjoys an abundance of jogging and cycling paths, including an already-existing Queens Greenway that passes directly over the proposed QueensWay route.

In light of the diverse—and sometimes conflicting—opinions we've received from our community, we believe that leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible.

We do, however, recognize that this strip of land has declined into a truly deplorable state.  It is full of trash, fallen trees, and unsafe conditions.  We call on the City of New York, which owns the property, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining it after years of neglect.

Finally, we urge those who are disappointed by our position not to cast aside our neighbors' concerns as mere selfishness or "NIMBYism."  Any change to the rail line, especially reactivating it, could have a considerable negative impact on many residents.  The harm they would suffer is as real and significant as any advantage that would be received by the beneficiaries of a revived rail line or QueensWay.  To dismiss Woodhaven's concerns is to ignore half of the equation.  Our residents are as important as the residents of other communities.  We remind critics that the best way to change Woodhaven's collective mind is to make a more persuasive case about how our neighborhood would benefit from—or at least not be harmed by—their proposals.

We thank our neighbors for taking the time to weigh in on this matter.

# # #

Contact:

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

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.

The orange and purple sections show how Woodhaven would be divided
under the proposed City Council lines.
"We are firmly in favor of the way the Districting Commission's Preliminary Draft Plan unites nearly all of Woodhaven.  It is a huge step forward," the WRBA states in its testimony.  "Though we are generally pleased with the way Woodhaven's proposed district lines are drawn, we would prefer that no part of Woodhaven be separated from the rest of the neighborhood."

Approximately 98% of Woodhaven would be placed in District 30, which is currently represented by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.  The remainder would fall into District 32, which is currently represented by Council Member Eric Ulrich.  Currently, Crowley and Ulrich each represent roughly half of Woodhaven.  The small portion excluded from District 30 by the proposed lines includes 98th Street between Jamaica Avenue and 91st Avenue, as well as nearby stretches of 97th Street, 89th Avenue, 91st Avenue, and Jamaica Avenue.  The WRBA's testimony advances several arguments for placing the remaining 2% with the rest of Woodhaven.

"We understand that not all neighborhoods are happy with the proposed lines.  As the draft map undergoes modifications, we encourage the Commission not to make any sweeping changes that would undo the good work it has done regarding Woodhaven," the testimony reads.  "The proposal, however, is not perfect, and we hope that the Commission finds a way to keep every square block of Woodhaven in the same district, which its initial proposal almost—but not quite—managed to do."

The WRBA has been an extremely strong voice for Woodhaven on redistricting matters this year.  In January, it vigorously objected to the gerrymandered State Senate lines that split Woodhaven three ways.  In March, the Block Association opposed the congressional lines that divided Woodhaven into two portions and basically separated Woodhaven from the rest of Queens.

The full text of the WRBA's testimony before the NYC Districting Commission can be read here.


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Contact:

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

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.

The defunct railroad tracks crossing Jamaica Avenue.
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.

"My entire life, I've resided just a block away from those tracks. I know that either proposal, if it became a reality, would have an enormous impact on those who live nearby, and on Woodhaven as a whole," said WRBA Director of Communications Alex Blenkinsopp. "Other neighborhoods have publicly weighed in on this debate. Now it's time for the people of Woodhaven to hear the arguments for each side, ask tough questions, and make known where they stand."

All are welcome to attend, but the forum is for the residents of Woodhaven to ask questions and voice their opinions. The forum will also play an important role in helping the WRBA formulate its position on this issue, since the organization has not yet officially taken a stance.


The defunct railroad tracks crossing Park Lane South.
To make the forum as accessible as possible to those who would be most directly affected, this meeting will be held just around the block from the rail line, at Queens Tabernacle, 86-03 96th Street, in Woodhaven.

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.

Those who attend the forum will receive a written summary of each side's proposal. After the forum, the WRBA will post those summaries on its website, www.woodhaven-nyc.org, so that those who can't attend will be able to read about the competing plans.

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Contact:

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

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.

Late in the afternoon of Monday, July 23, UPS delivered the package to the residence and left it on the porch. Within two minutes, a silver minivan pulled over across the street. The driver of the vehicle waited seven minutes, then backed up the vehicle, exited, opened the gate, walked up to the porch, and took the package. A video of the crime is available online at bit.ly/PackageTheft.

"You can be sure this isn't the first time he stole something that was delivered to a residence in the area," said Martin Colberg, a member of the WRBA's Board of Directors. "We know what the criminal looks like, we know that he seems to be missing his right arm, and we know he was driving a silver minivan. Someone out there will recognize this thief, and we want them to turn this guy in."

The video also provides several still images of the culprit.

"This is yet another example of how useful video surveillance cameras can be for our neighborhood. Now we need to put this extremely strong evidence to work and make sure this thief gets caught," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell. "He might be from Woodhaven, or he might be from a nearby neighborhood. Wherever he's from, you should let us know if you have any clues, because you might be his next victim."

If you have any information that could help solve this crime, please contact the WRBA at 718-296-3737 or info@woodhaven-nyc.org. Or you can call the 102nd Precinct at 718-805-3207.






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Contact:

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WRBA Announces Honorees of 41st Annual Fundraiser

Bill Johnert holds aloft a winning raffle ticket at
last year's WRBA 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.

The Man of the Year will be Bill Johnert, a district leader who previously served as the WRBA's president and has long been involved in improving the neighborhood.  A well-liked and recognizable figure in Woodhaven, he has made a difference during his years of work in the community.

For the first time, the WRBA will not have a Woman of the Year.  Instead, it will have Women of the Year—those who run the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center.  At their center, the sisters help economically disadvantaged women to become more fluent in English, to learn math and computer skills, and ultimately to attend city colleges and enter the job market with better-paying positions.

Sonia Saleh, Sr. Catherine Feeney, and Sr. Janice Algie,
who play important roles at the School Sisters of
Notre Dame Educational Center in Woodhaven
This year's inductee into the Woodhaven Hall of Fame will be Emanuel United Church of Christ.  The church, located at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, marked its 135th anniversary earlier this month.  Emanuel has opened its doors to many Woodhaven organizations, including the WRBA, which will hold its May Town Hall there.  It has hosted the same Boy Scout troop, Troop 169, continuously since the 1930s.

"All of this year's honorees are true friends of Woodhaven," said WRBA Secretary Arlene Annunziata.  "They are a wonderful reminder of how terrific our neighborhood is, and why it's important to work on its behalf."

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.

Members of the Emanuel United Church of Christ
community, celebrating their church's 135th anniversary
To buy a ticket to the fundraiser with a credit card, please visit http://bit.ly/wdhvn2.  To purchase an advertisement in the Fundraiser Journal with a credit card, please visit http://bit.ly/wdhvn.  You can also e-mail info@woodhaven-nyc.org or call the WRBA office at 718-296-3735 to buy tickets or Journal ads.

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.


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Contact:

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

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.

WRBA Director Alexander Blenkinsopp,
riding the Forest Park Carousel as a 5-year-old in 1989.
"The carousel is part of our community's identity.  We couldn't be happier that the Parks Department has done the right thing—something we've requested for years—and gotten a deal done so that our community can enjoy it again," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell.  "The ride 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.  We're overjoyed to have it back."

The Forest Park Carousel features a colorful menagerie of horses, tigers, and lions, including some of the last creations hand-carved by artist Daniel Carl Muller over a century ago.  It is also decorated with beautiful paintings depicting settings in Woodhaven and the rest of Queens.

"For a long time, I've said that our carousel is the jewel of Forest Park and a treasure that deserves better than the treatment it has received the last few years.  Finally, we have a concessionaire who promises to restore it to its former glory," said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation.  "This is a real victory—not just for the people of Woodhaven, but for all of New York City.  Our Forest Park Carousel is back for everyone to enjoy."

New York Carousel Entertainment LLC will operate both the Forest Park Carousel and the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Carousel, according to news reports.  Woodhaven's carousel is expected to be running again by Memorial Day.

The Block Association supports New York Carousel Entertainment's stewardship of the carousel, and encourages the company to work with the community to preserve the ride and make it an attraction once again.

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Contact:

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

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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Woodhaven Sounds Off About Noise in City Council Testimony

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has submitted written testimony to a New York City Council committee, supporting proposed legislation that would increase fines for residential noise while also urging the City Council to consider other options for tackling this problem.

The testimony draws upon dozens of residents' responses to a Block Association questionnaire. Overwhelmingly, Woodhaven residents say 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 is over 10 pages long.

"When you live in an urban setting, some amount of noise is unavoidable. For too many Woodhaven residents, though, noise has made life miserable—to the point where they can't open their windows, sleep at night, or host visitors without embarrassment," said Alexander J. Blenkinsopp, WRBA Director of Communications. "This testimony gives the people of Woodhaven an opportunity to voice their opinions to the lawmakers who can and should do something about this growing problem."

The WRBA's testimony supports proposed legislation that would stiffen penalties for nighttime noise emanating from residences. But the testimony also notes that without proper enforcement, the problem will not be solved. For example, the testimony notes that the 102nd Precinct—which covers a very large area—tends to have only four patrol cars out on any given night, making it very difficult for police to respond to noise complaints and enforce the law. "The 102nd Precinct needs more police officers," the testimony states, while also encouraging the City Council to explore other alternatives not included in this legislation.

"This legislation is definitely a good step, and it shows that at least some members of the City Council recognize how important an issue noise is in their constituents' lives," said WRBA President Edward K. Wendell. "But creating noise is already illegal, and as our residents have said loud and clear, calling 311 doesn't get results. Fortunately, our residents have proposed creative alternatives, and we hope our representatives consider those options and others too."

The testimony also describes how residential noise is linked to more serious problems, including out-of-control house parties like the one in Woodhaven that resulted in the fatal beating of 18-year-old Anthony Collao in March; how noise has diminished residents' pride in Woodhaven; and how numerous residents have been driven to frustration or even despair by incessant noise. In addition, the testimony commends the 102nd Precinct on their remarkable work under trying circumstances.

The testimony was submitted to the City Council's Committee on Environmental Protection, which is holding a hearing today on the legislation. Council Member Eric Ulrich, who represents part of Woodhaven, co-sponsored the bill. Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who also represents part of Woodhaven, sits on the Committee.

This is the first time in recent memory that the WRBA has submitted written testimony to a legislative body. The dozens of residents who took the time to share their experiences and thoughts make this testimony an important window into how noise affects many people's lives.

The full text of the testimony is available at http://content.woodhaven-nyc.org/WoodhavenNoiseTestimony.pdf.

# # #

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