De Blasio blasts blizzard and DOE at CB 13 meet

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City Pubic Advocate Bill de Blasio visited Community Board 13 during its monthly meeting Monday to update the board about the involvement his office has with major issues affecting the city.

De Blasio said the city failed its residents when the December winter storms wreaked havoc on the city.

“That was a classic instance of city government not responding when people needed it,” he said. “It was also a man-made problem that the city of New York did not declare an emergency.”

De Blasio said streets around hospitals, including Elmhurst and Jamaica, had not been adequately cleared within two days of the Christmas blizzard.

The public advocate also said he works with schools and found that parents are frustrated that the city Department of Education is not listening to them.

He said parents are also not getting proper notification of when a school is to be closed.

He called the city Panel for Education Policy, a body dominated by appointees of Mayor Michael Bloomberg that voted to close several schools, “the ultimate rubber stamp.”

“It’s like something out of the Soviet Union,” he said of the PEP.

De Blasio said his office is also involved with the city budget and he criticized Bloomberg for trying to cut 6,000 teachers.

“Literally the last thing that should be cut is classroom teachers,” he said.

He also chastised the mayor for attempting to close 17 child-care centers across the city, saying the centers give children a chance to succeed in school.

CB 13 also voted against an application to build a one-story commercial building in Cambria Heights.

The public hearing at St. Clare’s School´╗┐, at 137-25 Brookville Blvd. in Rosedale, was an extension of one held Feb. 15 at the Alpha Phi Alpha Senior Center in Cambria Heights, where residents expressed concerns over traffic, congestion and parking, according to Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of CB 13’s Land Use Committee.

Jamaica Associates Inc., the applicant, wants to change the zoning from an R3-2 residential district to a C1-3 commercial zone so it can build a one-story commercial building at 226-01 Linden Blvd. in Cambria Heights.

Hellenbrecht said the property used to be occupied by a farmhouse but is now vacant and adjacent to the Cambria Heights Community Garden, which is maintained by the Cambria Heights Civic Association’s Beautification Committee.

Jerry Caliendo, architect for the project, said the developer reached out to City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the community garden and the Cambria Heights Civic Association and agreed to provide water, light and winter cleanup for the garden if the developer gets approval to build the structure.

CB 13 member Kangela Moore said Cambria Heights residents told her they were left in the dark about the proposed construction.

“The community was very passionate and do not want this to go through,” he said.

But Caliendo said the developer had four or five meetings and Hellenbrecht said “there was outreach in this case.”

CB 13 member Derrick Warmington said he was concerned that the building would become vacant like other properties on Linden Boulevard.

“If the community does not want this type of investment there and the community will not support this venture, I’m wondering whether you will have another vacant building in the community,” Warmington said. “Who’s going to support it if the community is against it?”

Caliendo said the construction has the advantage of being new, which he said would attract shoppers to the building.

Hellenbrecht also said the developer agreed to not rent the building to a pawn shop, check-cashing store or liquor store, which community residents feared might happen.

The land-use chairman also said state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), the Cambria Heights Civic Association and the president of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, which owns the community garden, all oppose the developer’s plans.

Joe Goldbloom, a staff member for Comrie, said the councilman opposed the application.

“Cambria Heights fought very hard for that garden and we see no future for this property at this time,” he said.

CB 13 voted 22-1 with two abstentions against the proposal.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:33 am, October 12, 2011
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