Civic seeks unused funds

Assemblymen Ed Braunstein (l.-r.) and David Weprin join Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik (c.) and Jerry Iannece (r). in recognizing CB 11 members Gary Sekdorian (third from l.-r.), Steve Newman and Alan Palzer for their years of service. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, told Community Board 11 Monday night he was investigating a combined $5.42 million he claims has not been used by the city Parks Department after being allocated by U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and then-City Councilman Tony Avella for improvements in Little Bay Park more than seven years ago.

He said he would call on City Comptroller John Liu to audit Parks to find out what happened to the funds that were intended to expand a parking lot and build a comfort station at the park.

“Seven years have passed and there’s not a shovel in the ground. It’s not unreasonable to ask what happened to the funds,” Schreiber said. “We want this money to come back to the community and used in the locations it was intended for.”

A spokeswoman for Parks wrote in an e-mail that the department is currently working to bring the projects to the construction phase.

“The final construction documents are currently being reviewed by the New York State Department of Transportation, who Parks staffers have been communicating with daily. Although navigating through the multilevel regulatory process has taken longer than anticipated, we expect to put the project out to bid, pending approvals from the state,” the e-mail read.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he believed the funds were still in place, but that it was absurd the project was taking so long.

“It’s ridiculous. The Parks Department should reach out to us, especially when coordinating with state agencies. That’s our job,” he said.

As the controversial livery cab bill sits stalled on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, the community board decided to ask the governor to have Albany clarify several of the bill’s points before signing it into law.

Both houses of the state Legislature passed a bill in June that would authorize the city Taxi & Limousine Commission to issue 30,000 permits renewable every three years for livery cabs to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs, a practice largely conducted illegally. It would also issue 1,500 additional yellow taxi medallions.

CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said the TLC’s commissioner had previously made a presentation about the then-proposed legislation to the community board, but at the time most of the “nuts and bolts” were not in place. On Monday, stakeholders on both sides of the debate brought their arguments before the community board at MS 158, on Oceania St. in Bayside.

Guy Palumbo, executive director of the Livery Round Table, said he was not against the idea of outer borough taxis, which he said would bring the city an estimated $1 billion.

“We don’t disagree with the concept. We do disagree with the details,” he said.

He said the legislation was not clear on how or even if the TLC would enforce a policy against automatic refusal, whereby in theory the driver of a commissioned car with a street-hail permit could refuse to pick a passenger up, claiming he or she just received a call to pick up another passenger.

TLC spokeswoman Dawn Miller said the commission would be doubling its enforcement staff, but the law does not explicitly ban automatic refusal.

Board members were also concerned about the additional cars on the street as a result of the law.

Miller said the large number was forward-thinking, and that she expected current cabs would transition into street-hail taxis.

“We don’t expect there to be 30,000 new cars on the street that weren’t there before,” she said.

State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) said he voted against the bill because he thought it would devalue the medallions that are already on the market, and because it was unclear the impact it would have on the community.

“I think many of us are satisfied with Kelly’s Cabs and Four Two’s,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been enough discussion about the impact on our community.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 2:08 pm, October 6, 2011
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