In the last few weeks of 2011, a Woodhaven resident named Diane was in church and saw a brief mention in the church bulletin that 84th Street was going to be turned from being a one-way street northbound to southbound. The vote was scheduled to take place at the next meeting of Community Board 9.
She made phone calls, she wrote emails, and ended up very frustrated because no one was listening to her. Or if they were listening, they weren’t taking her concerns too seriously. In an early January email to Community Board 9 and the Department of Transportation, she wrote:
“I urge you to consider these matters before making your decision and to PLEASE take a ride through the neighborhood streets that I am referring to so that you can see for yourselves how dangerous a situation this would be to all motorists, and pedestrians alike. If you have not already done so, I would also appreciate your reviewing my prior correspondence . . .”
Like all of her previous emails, it was ignored. She could have given up. She could have let it go. She didn't. And eventually, someone did listen. Susan Farrell, a Woodhaven resident and a member of CB9, saw her email and could read the frustration between the lines. She forwarded the email to the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association and with one simple sentence got the ball rolling.
She wrote: “You might be interested in this 84th Street mess.”
The next few months were amazing, as the community rallied against the plans that would harm our neighborhood. But more than just rally or make noise, we made our case persuasively. And in the end, we prevailed and learned how important it is that we work together.
We were the Davids in this battle against Goliath, but we prevailed because once the battle was engaged we hung together. The best way to protect and preserve our community is to treat this like a union. If something bothers one resident of Woodhaven, even if he or she lives clear across the neighborhood, it needs to bother you just as much and you need to be there for them.
Then, down the road, they’ll return the favor when something bothers you. And if we always stick together there are not many Goliaths we can’t handle.
We begin 2013 and straight off the bat there are a few battles on our radar. The redistricting commission has plans to divide Woodhaven into two City Council districts, thus weakening our community. We will be going to a hearing on Monday, January 14, to voice our objections and we hope to make our case as persuasively as we did early last year.
If you read this and want to be part of the crowd that travels to LaGuardia Community College on that Monday, drop us a line at email@example.com or leave us a message at 718-296-3735.
We also find ourselves in the middle of a different kind of fight. This one features two groups from outside our community fighting over a right of way that cuts through Woodhaven. One group wants to use it as a walking/bicycle path and the other wants to run a railroad through it.
A third group representing the residents of Woodhaven whose lives this will impact the most are now in the midst of getting organized and they will need our support. Otherwise one, or both, of these Goliaths will come in and use our community to serve their own needs. We need strong community representation to ensure that we have a strong voice in this debate.
All of this and more will be discussed at the next Town Hall meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, at 1 p.m. on Saturday January 1, at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue. We hope to see you there.