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The Civic Scene: Queens Civic Congress wants city to provide better services

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The recent general membership meeting of the Queens Civic Congress was held in the Al Oerter Recreation Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and featured a community and neighborhood roundtable by and for the member civic associations.

The first order of business was the installation of Patricia Dolan as president of the QCC and Richard Hellenbrecht as executive vice president by City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens).

During the meeting, concerns were expressed by members that the newly created Charter Revision Commission might eliminate what little influence communities in the outer boroughs have on government. The belief was that the city government might try to eliminate the community boards, which sometimes oppose some of the proposals emanating from City Hall, as well as the borough presidents and city public advocate.

Another concern was the increased water rates with the rumor of increasing rates for the next several years. The city Water Board is appointed by the mayor. One comment made was that there are about $112 billion in uncollected water taxes currently on the books.

People complained about the elimination of some bus routes. One suggestion was to use smaller buses and combine routes by making them circular. The V subway line will be eliminated and the M will take its place. Queens civic leaders have been complaining of the lack of ridership on the V because it duplicates other parallel lines.

The lack of money by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could easily be made up if it could stop people sneaking through turnstiles in the subways and walking through the back doors of buses.

If you take away station agents, what makes you think people will not walk through turnstiles? The policy of the MTA and union is that a station booth clerk or bus driver should not put their lives in danger by trying to stop a fair beater physically.

The city Department of Buildings was singled out again for criticism. It seems people are unhappy zoning law code violations are not enforced enough. It seems people on nearby blocks have had their property reported to 311, claiming illegal basement rooms. Some people who believed they did not have an illegal room let inspectors into their homes, although they were not legally required to do so.

Those who do illegal things know they do not have to let DOB inspectors into their homes, which is why they do not get caught easily. Sometimes a previous owner had done something wrong or the laws had changed and many innocent people were given violations. Cards from building contractors appeared in people’s mailboxes in these neighborhoods. People are annoyed and the Queens district attorney is investigating these 311 scams.

There were complaints about bottle clubs taking the place of bars, which have to be licensed by the state Liquor Authority. People bring their own bottles to the bottle club and drink. There is no license to be removed to stop a bottle club from operating. People have to work with the NYPD to close disruptive bottle clubs.

One topic no one mentioned was the problem of the city Department of Education closing high schools. Jamaica High School is one school scheduled to be closed due to poor statistics. Groups such as the Jamaica Hill Civic Association was vehement about not closing Jamaica HS. There is currently a court case by the NAACP and the United Federation of Teachers that questions the way the DOE evaluates statistics which lead to school closings.

City Comptroller John Liu is evaluating the way the DOE judges statistics for school closings. Some people claim closing schools is a way to give charter school buildings to business people who want to make big money running schools. Some people claim the reason these schools do well is because they do not take special education or disruptive students and those who speak foreign languages —those who need lots of services and pull down graduation statistics.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The city Planning Commission is continuing to rezone communities to keep larger homes from intruding on Woodside and Sunnyside, but they are permitting larger commercial buildings along Queens Boulevard.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Back in 2006, the DOE had mandated that students must pass standardized tests in math and English to advance to high school. Due to many different reasons, some students cannot pass these tests. Now, a number of sixth- through eighth-grade students are stuck in these middle school classes.

Updated 5:55 pm, October 10, 2011
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