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Queens communities need law barring yard paving

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The recent heavy rain storms, backing up of sewers and heavy water flow going into basement windows has caused problems for many homeowners. One cause of sewer overloading is trash blocking sewers, which causes basement backups.

Another cause has been the soil paving. The recent building of McMansions and other larger houses with the paving of yards with cement has left few open soil spaces to absorb heavy rains. The flowing storm water backs up at the sewers and then into houses.

This past February, the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association printed an article, "No More Hard Yards." It explained that the Department of City Planning was preparing an amendment to the zoning resolution to forbid builders from completely paving yards. These paving rules are a response to the severe flooding which took place in parts of Queens. The West Cunningham Park Civic Association printed this article in its May/June newsletter.

The North Flushing Civic Association June newsletter had a front page article about the law forbidding front lawn paving. It reminds people that there must be 20 percent to 50 percent of planting area in front of houses. Existing paving has been grandfathered into law.

The new law is directed toward new and existing homeowners who want to pave over their front or back lawns. This law became effective this April. If there is no place for water to flow, you might get water flowing into your house as a sewer backs up or heavy flowing rain water comes through your windows. Report violators by calling 311, Community Board 8 at 718-264-7895 or your local community board.

Another new law being publicized by Queens civic associations is the Lawn Litter Law. The law states that if you place a sign on your property stating that you do not want unsolicited materials, then flyers cannot be left there. There is a problem as to how it will be enforced, though. The city Sanitation Department has been designated as the enforcer, but the method is not defined.

A Sanitation inspector came to the May CB 8 meeting and told us that after the sign is on your property and a flyer is placed on your land, then you have to call 311 two times and they will come and get the flyer and fine the delivering organization. But now I read that you have to pick up the flyers, obtain a form notarized after you sign it and then mail all that to Sanitation. People and several legislators and civic leaders have complained about this system.

At any rate, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and CB 8 have made signs which you can put on your lawn.

The Holliswood Civic Association, West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Civic Association of Utopia Estates, Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association and Bayside Hills Civic Association have been some of the civics that put information about the new litter law in their newsletters.

There is a law forbidding the watering of your lawn with a hose or a sprinkler between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. from March through November. Water on a lawn during the day in the summer mostly evaporates and is not absorbed by the lawn.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The city Department of Education has a love/hate relationship with cell phones. Despite the parental protests and court attempts to permit children to carry cell phones, the DOE has refused to let students carry cell phones in school.

It seems logical that cell phones could distract from classroom learning. Even so, during the winter, when it gets dark early, parents want their children to reach them quickly if there is a problem. The DOE has prevailed in the courts.

After banning cell phones, the DOE now has a privately funded program to give cell phones and extra minutes to approximately 2,500 middle school students as a reward for good behavior, regular attendance, homework completion, class participation and high grades. Teachers can now text important test information to students. This sounds contradictory.

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