Senator Joe Addabbo speaks at the Ridgewood Legislative Forum.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso answers questions from Ridgewood residents.
A group of Ridgewood residents met for the first of two legislative sessions to be held over the next two months. The wide-ranging discussion covered a number of topics on a local, state and federal level.
The forum, which was sponsored by the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA), crowd-sourced questions from social media and those in attendance. Those questions were then posed to Councilman Antonio Reynoso and State Senator Joseph Addabbo.
One of the biggest knocks against Ridgewood is the lack of free, on-street parking in a residential neighborhood with only a small portion accessible by subway.
While there's no obvious solution – Reynoso dismissed the often discussed topic of overnight residential parking permits, noting that it's come up in the City Council often, but would need significant from more than one district, making it an uphill battle – residents did discuss some potential solutions.
“Every time we bring it up, it's an issue that divides many folks,” Reynoso said,
A significant issue, eyed by some of the residents and explained by RPOCA's Geoffrey Elkind, is official vehicles mostly belonging to the MTA taking up valuable parking spaces, while the MTA designated lots sit vacant under the elevated train.
Reynoso and Addabbo both said they would engage the MTA in some dialogue related to the issue, but to address the problem in the long term, according to Reynoso, it's about investing in alternative transportation so people become less reliant on vehicles.
Reynoso talked about increasing access to public transportation and improving the city's biking infrastructure as the city grows.
“The city is growing,” he explained. “The streetscape is not growing.”
Ridgewood is home to one of the largest historic districts in New York City, but currently there's a significant portion of the neighborhood that has been deemed historic on both a federal and state level, but not a city level.
“Approximately 3,000 buildings were designated by the state and the federal government, however the city has only designated a little over 35 percent of those buildings as city historic buildings,” said RPOCA President Charles Ober. “So we have a large group of buildings that are not recognized by the city and it looks like there's nothing in the hopper.
We got about 1,200-1,300 buildings that are now historic buildings and it took five or six years to get through the process and right now, there's nothing going on,” he added.
Reynoso explained that the landmarking process is not necessarily a simple one in New York City, but in the last three weeks they have been having hearings in the City Council to discuss landmarking and how long it takes.
“The landmark process is not an easy process,” he said. “The documentation and the work that they have to do legally does take a lot of work and we cannot designate the entire district in one shot. It does need to be done in portions.”
Reynoso also said that it's his goal in the next two and a half years – the rest of his council term – to get everything in Ridgewood with historic significancd landmarked.
With approximately 2,000 empty tree pits in Ridgewood, residents asked for a more consistent stream of funding to replace trees in the community.
“We have received money for trees in a sporadic manner,” said Ober.
He followed up, putting Reynoso, who contributed $300,000 from this year's budget towards trees, on the spot, asking him if he's willing to set aside capital money for trees until all the pits are filled.
Reynoso guaranteed Ridgewood residents that he would contribute at least $300,000 towards planting trees every year that he is in the City Council.
Housing and development
The forced eviction of long-term tenants and the overdevelopment of Ridgewood was one of the most discussed issues.
Concerning development, Reynoso explained that the only real way to prevent high-rise buildings and overdevelopment is to go through a community rezoning process.
“I'm willing to go through that process,” Reynoso told the residents.
He explained there will have to be some concessions, such as upzoning near transit hubs, in order to allow for more affordable housing, although Ridgewood is not necessarily one of the communities where the city is looking to build more affordable housing.
“We're having an issue with speculative investors coming into the neighborhood and they are not really interested in the neighborhood in particular and that's a big blight,” said Ober. “They're only interested in short-term gain.”
The development has also hurt the characteristics of the neighborhood, according to Ober.
“They're buying up six-family houses and their harassing the tenants and clearing out the buildings and offering low amounts of money to get the tenants to leave,” Ober said. “These tenants are rent-stabilized tenants, and they are part of the backbone of this neighborhood.”
Reynoso explained recent legislation made it a criminal act to solicit someone after they have told you they are not interested in selling their property or taking a buyout from a rent-stabilized living situation.
Ober said the practice has led to a lot of homeless tenants, who accepted buyouts and could not finance their new apartment.
“Within two years, their money's gone and they can't afford to rent,” Ober said.
The next Ridgewood Legislative Forum is scheduled for November 5 at 7 p.m. at IS 93, 66-56 Forest Avenue.