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The Civic Scene: CB 8 member makes zoning issue a priority

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Anna Sawchuck has been president of the Jamaica Hill Community Association for six years and has been working in many places during that time. She and her husband, Ed, have raised their three children: Edward, a lawyer; Patricia, an actuary; and Susan, a systems analyst.

The Sawchucks have been residents of Jamaica Hill for 46 years and members of the association since it was formed in 1973. The community is just west of Jamaica High School, where many of the residents went to school, and Thomas A. Edison Vocational & Technical High School, which has worked with the association by having students plant trees, shovel snow for senior citizens and clean Captain Tilly Park.

The association holds its membership meetings at the Margaret Tietz Rehabilitation Center, which is near many of their homes.

Sawchuck worked in accounts payable for an advertising agency, and for the past eight years she worked as a school secretary at PS 50. She also worked as a volunteer, being president of the Home School Association of Immaculate Conception School and president of the Ladies Guild of the Annunciation Church.

Sawchuck attended Eastern District High School, where she was head girl of the school chapter of ARISTA. She then attended Brooklyn and Queens colleges. Occasionally the Jamaica Hill Association invites the principal of Edison High School to speak to its civic. The members have taken computer training at Edison.

Anna Sawchuck took on a new job a year ago as a member of Community Board 8, where she sits with the presidents of other civic associations and other community leaders. She and Ed will now have more meetings to attend.

In her civic, she has to contend with how to help the owners of several homes that sank in June 26001, a problem that caused the foundations to crack. The Buildings Department forced the homeowners to evacuate their homes, although it can’t seem to stop other homeowners from demolishing their homes and building giant monstrosities. These homeowners still had to pay their mortgages and taxes on their sinking homes.

Working with Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) and his special assistant, Jeff Gottlieb, Sawchuck is trying to find out the cause of the sinkings so blame can be assessed.

The city recently has magnanimously decided that the homeowners don’t have to pay taxes on their damaged property. Why should they pay taxes if they can’t live in their homes? They think a recent sewer job may have caused the problem.

Another job Sawchuck is involved with is the neighborhood residents’ desire to downzone the community so it would not be economically feasible for speculators to buy homes, tear them down and then build several homes in their place. The association is working with Paul Graziano and Patricia Dolan, civic leaders associated with the Queens Civic Congress, to do the rezoning.

When asked why she volunteers, Sawchuck stated, “My community is important to me, and I want everyone to enjoy the best quality of life.”

She certainly works hard at it!

Good and Bad News of the Week

The City Water Board, one of those state-created public corporations consisting of seven members who do whatever they do besides setting our water rates, decided to raise our rates 6.5 percent next month. Speaking against the rate increase were Gennaro, who heads the Environmental Committee; Rich Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13; and Corey Bearak, vice president of the Queens Civic Congress.

They felt that water rates should not be established until the budget is decided so a reasonable rate can be set. There is also fear that the rate rises will be allocated to fund capital water projects that will then be dropped and the money collected for the general city budget. In the state Assembly, Mark Weprin (D-Bayside) also is fighting.

At a recent Community Board 8 meeting, Gennaro announced that the Water Board had agreed to raise the rate only 5.5 percent. It is amazing that in the past few years water rates have gone up higher and higher. Originally the water rate was proposed at 9 percent this year.

One article I just read reported that the mayor wanted to sell the third water tunnel to private investors. This could solve some of our budget problems for this year, but then the property will be gone forever. Will we sell Gracie Mansion next year?

Updated 7:13 pm, October 10, 2011
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