Mayor hosts town hall in eastern Queens
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Nov 07, 2017 | 1123 views | 0 0 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As part of his mission to host a town hall in all 51 council districts around the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted his 43rd town hall at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village last Thursday.

The mayor fielded questions from dozens of residents living in Councilman Barry Grodenchik’s eastern Queens district.

Before he spoke with residents about their concerns for their neighborhoods, however, the mayor took some time to denounce the attack that took place on Halloween in Lower Manhattan.

“The idea that someone could possibly decide to mow down innocent civilians with a truck is so troubling, and the fact that it happened has left everyone unsettled,” de Blasio said. “But as painful as it was, I heard so much pride and so much defiance from New Yorkers who didn’t change their lives.”

Following a moment of silence for the victims, de Blasio announced a number of commitments, including funding for two park projects in the area.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a tree-lined path used by joggers, walkers and cyclists running through nearby Cunningham Park and Alley Pond Park, hasn’t been improved in 20y years.

Through the City Council, Grodenchik’s office recently obtained $1.25 million for upgrades, and de Blasio stated further that his office will invest an additional $4 million for the project.

“It’s a beautiful place for walking, running, biking and for families,” de Blasio said.

The Redwood Playground in Cunningham Park, which hasn’t been updated in over 30 years, will also receive a $4.3 million upgrade, including new basketball courts and exercise and recreation area.

Marc Haken, president of the Friends of Cunningham Park, was relieved to hear improvements were coming to the park.

“There were tears in my eyes to hear that,” Haken said.

In terms of transportation, 110 lane miles have been repaved in Grodenchik’s district, a length equivalent to the distance between New York and Pennsylvania. The area will also see three new Select Bus Service routes to shorten commute times for residents.

Regarding the new bus routes, de Blasio told the crowd “we need your help to plan with community leaders to get it right.”

Eastern Queens has also added pre-K seats at a higher rate than anywhere else in the borough. In School District 29, pre-K seats were tripled in the last four years, while in District 26 seats were quintupled.

For high school students, de Blasio announced that each room in Van Buren’s building will have an air conditioning unit to improve the learning environment, especially in warmer months like September and June. The air conditioning units will be installed by the end of next year and is part of the city’s initiative to have an air conditioning unit in every classroom.

De Blasio also acknowledged the 105th Precinct and Detective Brian Moore, who died two years ago after suffering injuries from being shot in the head during patrol.

He praised the precinct for driving down crime overall in the area, adding that the new 116th Precinct, which will open on Conduit Avenue in Rosedale, will lessen the burden placed on the 105th Precinct.

Across the city, the homicide rate has decreased by 20 percent over a one-year period. Iin Grodenchik’s council district, there weren’t any homicides or shootings for the year.

Several residents questioned the mayor and the 105th Precinct’s Commanding Officer Inspector Jeffrey Schiff on how the precinct’s practices could be improved.

The first question of the night, asked by a Van Buren student, inquired how students could be protected against mentally unstable patients from Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, who walk around the facility and neighboring streets.

“We know that the folks that are living there are living with certain challenges, and we want them to overcome those challenges, but we also want to improve the safety of our community and the quality of life,” de Blasio said.

In addition to an increased communication between police officers, civic groups and the organizations housing the patients, 105th Precinct commanding officer Inspector Jeffrey Schiff said officers are planning to meet with Creedmoor’s new executive director sometime soon to discuss the community’s concerns.

A controversial topic of the night was the installation of the bike lanes, specifically along Northern Boulevard and 210th Street.

A Little Neck resident expressed his disdain for the new bike lane on Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and Cross Island Parkway. Like many others in the crowd, who cheered in support, he’s had to wake up and leave home earlier every morning due to the congestion the bike lanes have caused.

“Philosophically, I agree with [de Blasio] as biking for a transportation alternative as I also bike with my children on the weekends in the park,” the resident said. “However, I don’t believe the lanes were thought out because it’s affecting a major artery in northeastern Queens.”

During the mornings, “a minute or two drive is now taking 20 minutes,” the resident claimed.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg explained that the bike lanes were still in the installation phase, and therefore the traffic patterns need time to adjust.

She said DOT officials will continue to monitor the situation.

“If it really isn’t working, we’ll continue to make the adjustments,” Trottenberg said.

“Good people say ‘hey, we can do something good for the world,’ and sometime it works exactly as planned and sometimes it needs modification and sometimes it doesn’t work,” de Blasio said. “We have to be honest enough, so if something is not working we have to start making modifications.”

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