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The Civic Scene: Community facilities alter residential areas

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The July meeting of the Kissena Park Civic Association featured a slide presentation by Tyler Cassell, president of the North Flushing Civic Association, illustrating the growth of unregulated community facilities changing a nice residential community of well-kept one- family homes into a hodgepodge of religious institutions of various sizes and shapes.

As I had described in a recent column about a Queens Civic Congress, Joe Amoroso, vice president of the Kissena Park Civic Association, explained how the community facility law permits people to buy one-family homes and turn them into religious institutions or hospitals or medical centers with bulk bonuses.

The slide presentation by the North Flushing Civic Association shows how the “as of right” rules help these community facilities change a neighborhood of tasteful one-family homes into a mishmash of buildings.

These concerns do not reflect any religious or ethnic intolerance but just the desire of people who bought homes in one type of community to maintain that quality of life and not have a large building with a catering hall next to them. This could happen to any house in any neighborhood. This could happen next door to you. Work with your civic association. You may have to form a civic association in your community to help us convince the City Planning Commission to change the facility law.

The June issue of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association described how one large community facility, St. John’s University, tried to get Community Board 8 to grant them a variance to expand their garage at 170th Street and Union Turnpike and to build another large garage along the service road of the Grand Central Parkway. The latter would be near where cars and trucks exit and enter the Grand Central Parkway.

A facility can only build so much under the law and has to obtain a “variance from the law” to build more. Although the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Associations isn’t near the St. John’s Campus, the homeowners are concerned because someone may want to do something like that in their own quiet residential community.

The story in the Fresh Meadows Homeowners newsletter was rather cynical.

The April 2002 newsletter of the Kissena Park Civic Association tells its members to beware because the 18-inch law is back. The Sanitation Department moratorium on the law, which states that store and homeowners have to keep the 18 inches from the curb into the street clean, has been ended. All litter and debris in the street in front of property has to be swept up. Fines can range from $50 to $250.

The July Jamaica Estates Association bulletin informs its members that there is a Dead Bird Hotline. As a defense against the West Nile virus, the state Health Department has established its Dead Bird Hotline to allow the public to report dead birds. Call 1-866-537Bird, toll free. People are urged not to permit standing water because it attracts mosquitoes which carry the virus.

I might add that another reason to renovate Cunningham Park is because there has been a low area in the southern part of the park which looks like a swamp after a heavy rain as water gathers there for a couple of weeks. I have told this to park officials.

The area is between the two parking lots in the southern part of the park south of the tennis courts and the park house in the south part of the park just south of the extended walking track and picnic areas near 193rd Street.

The Rosedale Civic Association’s May newsletter urges people to adopt a street tree by supplying it with 15-20 gallons once a week from May to September. One should cultivate around the tree by gently loosening the top two inches of soil and keep garbage and dog waste out of the tree pit. During the winter keep deicing salt away from the tree. To learn more about adopting a tree, or to volunteer call the New York Tree Trust at (212) 360-TREE.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

One can talk about private property and not having the government interfere with one’s property, but some homeowners are very inconsiderate. I just received a call from a resident on 197th Street in the West Cunningham Park Civic Association area asking me for advice. The couple rent an apartment in one of the two- family houses there and have been telling the owner of the property, who is a nice person, that tree roots have raised the sidewalk.

The owner did nothing. The wife just fell on the raised sidewalk slabs, broke her nose and scraped her forehead. They have a good health plan, but she should not have had to go through the pain and suffering caused by falling on the raised sidewalk slabs.

My wife went through the same thing on a slightly raised sidewalk on 75th Avenue a couple of years ago. She dislocated several fingers which now ache when it becomes humid. That owner just put some cement on the edge of the slab, although we never complained to him. These cheap homeowners are putting us at risk for a bad fall. I don’t know why the city isn’t checking for these dangerous raised sidewalks.

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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