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CB 5 proposes use of ‘beautification’ crews

The streets of Community Board 5 may get scoured by regular clean-up crews under a community beautification plan floated by District Manager Gary Giordano at last week's meeting.

City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) announced at the same March 12 gathering that a handful of local capital projects would go forward as planned despite the city's budget crisis, while board members also passed resolutions calling for the closure of Indian Point and criticizing the city's reorganization plans for school districts.

Giordano said he hopes to use surplus funds that were left in the community board budget from a staff opening he never filled to pay for two crews of five young adults to do "graffiti removal, park cleanups, street cleanups, planting and painting."

The proposal, which was endorsed by a community board vote, still needs the approval of the city's Office of Management and Budget, Giordano said.

The crews, which would likely be organized by a non-profit group that would be contracted out to run the beautification program, would also help disseminate public service information to the community, Giordano said.

For instance, Giordano wants to organize a safe-driving campaign to "get into people's heads to slow down and give pedestrians the right of way and for pedestrians to cross only when they have the right of way."

Gallagher appeared at the meeting to announce that four projects in the Community 5 area whose funding had been threatened would go forward.

The revitalization of Myrtle Avenue will still receive $500,000 in City Council funds, which will be appropriated to the city Economic Development Corporation for streetscape work. The project is also getting state funds secured by state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) and state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), Gallagher said.

Victory Field at Myrtle Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard will be rehabilitated as the borough's first totally synthetic baseball field with $1.1 million in city council funds, a project that should go to bid shortly, Gallagher said.

The renovation of the Ridgewood Library to render it handicapped accessible and create a children's library should start in June, Gallagher said.

The funding for all three projects had been temporarily removed because of the budget crisis but was reinstated after Gallagher pleaded his case, the councilman said.

"When it comes to these types of things I'm a pit bull," the councilman said in a phone interview. "This is funding that was set forth for the community, and I wanted to make sure that it remained in the community."

A new parking lot for the 104th Precinct at Shaler Avenue is in a design phase, Gallagher said, with $1 million devoted to that project and an additional $60,000 in the hopper to improve the precinct's antiquated phone system.

The board also weighed in on two citywide debates: the threat posed by the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County and the mayor's plans to reorganize the city's 32 school districts into 10 regions.

By a vote of 24-5, the board passed a resolution calling for the closure of Indian Point, which many consider a potential target for terrorists. A recent state report concluded that the evacuation plans in the event of a catastrophe at the facility were inadequate.

The board also approved by a 20-to-7 vote a resolution urging the mayor to delay the implementation of the citywide school district reorganization, citing the lack of public participation in the process.

"It's really going to disassociate the parents from the whole system," said Vernon McDermott, the chairman of the board's Education Committee.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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