Several Vernon Blvd residents sign petition AGAINST rear yard spaces

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33 Responses to Several Vernon Blvd residents sign petition AGAINST rear yard spaces

  1. Sonny L.

    Anna Finn is being ridiculous. I live on Vernon, it is a truck route. There is a happy compromise for all residents. She seems to think the only people affected live above a backyard, which is unfair to the rest of us. It is Springtime and Summer is approaching. All anyone is asking for is FAIRNESS.

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  2. BW

    I live on 50th and tho there may be street noise the back of my apt enjoys peace and quiet which would disappear if the restaurant behind me is allowed to open their yard. I think that, in this issue, the voices of those DIRECTLY affected should be the voices heard. The many should not be allowed to trample on the rights of the few.

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  3. Anonymous

    Our city has zoning for a reason. The commercial zoning is to allow services and entertainment for the community. Being able to enjoy the outdoor eating when possible is something that enhances the options of all residents. As I said before it should not be "all or nothing" for either side. Compromise on a set of ristrictions that restaurant owners need to abid to to have the privilege of using the backyard of their establishments. I think that is were most reasonable people in the neighborhood stand. I think there is very few people that want bars pumping music at late hours of the night, weather you live on Vernon or away from it.

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  4. EnoughAlready

    "I think that, in this issue, the voices of those DIRECTLY affected should be the voices heard"

    If that's the case, there would be no patio seating in any patio in any borough of NYC. You don't have a right to say what happens to yard space that isn't yours. The owner of the business has a right to use the yard that they pay for especially if the landlord of the building doesn't object.

    Noise has to reach a certain level before a violation is issued. No violation was ever issued to Lounge 47 when it was open despite 96 noise complaints. I guess it couldn't have been that loud.... And no, the sound of dishes, forks falling on the ground, and people talking doesn't create a strong enough argument for forcing a restaurant to forgo a third of its space.

    Nobody forced you to rent/buy an apartment on a two-way commercial strip zoned for businesses. You should be able to tolerate moderate noise.

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  5. SC

    I didn't want a 50 story building blocking my view of the city, but alas, that's what happened.

    The majority want the backyard spaces open. To have a handful of people block it is ridiculous. Nobody's looking for all night ravers till 4am. But reasonable outdoor use should be allowed.

    Ultimately it will happen... as there are a lot more people in the neighborhood for it than against it. As this new population becomes more and more involved in the community, the ability to block it will decrease. Might as well face facts and work out a nice compromise now while you still can.

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  6. Anonymous

    Of course the abutters of any proposed backyard use of a restaurant have considerable more say in this matter than someone who simply signs a petition to eat outdoors and retreat back to their quiet nest on the riverfront.

    There is nothing in the city's zoning that says a restaurant is allowed to use their backyard as of right for customers. Period. If the restaurant can't ensure residents aren't going to be annoyed by nighttime noise, then their proposal should be rejected.

    Yes, Sonny, Vernon is a busy street, but there isn't traffic barreling through people's back gardens. That's exactly why the back gardens are so important. Those spaces have long been the refuge of urban dwellers. It's the only reprieve people have from the constant din of city living. Why should they give it up for you or anyone else? You want to compensate them for this loss? I didn't think so.

    Just because many of the new residents have shitloads of money and want to impose their wants on other people doesn't mean they should be entitled to. I know that must really irk so many of you, and maybe it flies in the face of your life experience so far. But on this issue -- Tough Titties. I'm hoping the CB maintains the strict licensing requirements regardless of the threats and hysteria coming from the other side.

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  7. Taxpayer

    If you decide to live on a commercial street with restaurants and lounges, that is what you chose. If you don't want to be next to a restaurant with a backyard, you should move to a non-commercial street. You certainly don't have any moral position to tell the rest of the community to kiss off because the tiny few of you don't want to see a restaurant use it's backyard. The neighborhood has changed and if CB2 doesn't reflect that, it will change to. Time for those opposing this to change their attitudes and try to be good neighbors to the rest of the neighborhood

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  8. Sonny L.

    Bravo, Taxpayer! Well said. It is true, we all should have a voice, including those of us across the street form said establishments.

    Thanks!

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  9. EnoughAlready

    Community Board members are appointed by the Borough President, so while NYS Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan didn't technically appoint 3 of her former aides to the board, what influence did she have in their nominations and/or appointment? Or is it just a coincidence that 3 of her aides are making decisions that affect Long Island City businesses?

    Diane Ballek: According to her LinkedIn page, she currently holds the title of Director at the NYS Assembly and has served as an assistant to Catherine Nolan. She is also a member of CB2 Queens on the following committees: Public Safety, Executive Budget & City Services. What's more interesting is that the city services committee oversees liquor license applications from restaurants and bars within the community. Keep in mind that Community Boards only serve an advisory purpose to the NYS Liquor Authority. The NYSLA does NOT and should not reject an application based solely on the opinions of the Community Board. CB2 members Donald McCallian & Santiago Vargas also served as aides to Catherine Nolan.

    Catherine Nolan has long held a biased position regarding bars on Vernon Boulevard that want to use their outdoor space. A new pizzeria set to open called "L'inizio" is no different. According to her representative, Nolan is concerned that “the approval of this application would break the precedent and could lead to many other establishments along Vernon Boulevard to reapply and change their status”. What’s worse, the Community Board’s Chairmen and quite a few of the board members share her unreasonable position.

    Even more interesting- I was told by a source that she has been friends with the Garrett family for over 20 years. (It's public knowledge that William Garrett pulls the strings behind the yard space debacle) Garrett currently serves as a Community Board member on the Land Use Committee! Wouldn't you love to know the story behind his appointment to the board?? I sure would.

    Catherine Nolan refuses to allow Vernon Boulevard restaurants to ever use their backyard spaces, no matter how many compromises the restaurants are willing to make to appease the surrounding neighbors. And there have been many compromises, such as: shutting the outdoor space at 10 or 11 pm on weekdays, not allowing smoking in the yard, and not playing music in the yard.

    Does a biased woman who puts favors for her friends ahead of our rapidly changing community deserve a seat in the NYS Assembly? Should a Community Board chairman who try to sway the votes of the board members by announcing his personal opinions?

    Everything stinks of cronyism! and I bet there's more where it came from. yuck!

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  10. The other side of Sarcastic

    If you don't like cronyism, leave the City, State and Country.

    Gentrification, been around since 1620!

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  11. Anonymous

    I am fully in favor of a clearly disgruntled group of 10-20 people with less flexibility than the MTA deciding everything for Long Island City's future. They are clearly more enlightened than the rest of us, and their condescending tone about rich newbies and those who haven't lived here long enough in their opinion is exactly the type of discourse needed to move forward. NYC is not a thriving metropolis of millions and LIC should not be a thriving community of tens of thousands - instead, decisions should be restricted to a select few. After we get rid of this silly nonsense of building thriving businesses, lets move on next to banning cars and buses, then altering flight paths to LaGuardia, and finally instituting No Talk Thursday's across the neighborhood so 10-20 people who choose to live in New York City can get the peace and quiet only they deserve.

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  12. Anonymous

    Those concerned. The residents, old and new, of LIC. Not just the neighbours.
    Outdoor dining (Tournesol, BElla Via, etc.) is ok, just not next to ME?!
    Welcome to LIC 2014. Garrett for City Council. Yuck.

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  13. Tom

    This is absolutely the reason small business is failing in nyc. Jackasses that have no idea how a bar or restaurant run but need to bitch about how they pay the bills for 3-4 months out of the year. You locals make me sick. Move the f... Out if you don't want to listen to noise.
    Stop your belly aching and put your money in a real home outside the city with a huge backyard where you have nothing to listen to accept nature. Even than you'll bitch.

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  14. Really

    I like how we're being told where else we can eat. As if I want to drop 100 dollars at Riverview, Skinny's Cantina and Shi every night. Or eat the soggy, yet burnt pizza at Bella Via (Co - conspirator of back yard closure). Or maybe I'd love one the the roaches at Tournesol to jump up in my dinner plate like they have in the past. LIC Bar smells like mold and their drinks suck. Dominies, an awesome hangout, great brunch, but their food also kind of sucks. So does Creek and the Cave whose outdoor garden smells like bug spray 24/7. Woodbines, Alobar, El AY Si and Blend on Vernon are the ones to beat in terms of food quality and have the prettiest yards. They're just better. Period.

    Dominies and Creek support the Vernon restaurants' right to fair competition, because they know it would look pathetic not to support them. However, I think the other sucky places don't want the competition. Who knows maybe they're in the pockets of local politicians just like the Garretts.

    Please don't tell us where we should be eating. We want to enjoy summer in the gardens of the best restaurants in town without having to deal with small town BS a stones throw away from NYC.

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  15. LIC Community Perspective

    Hey all you newly civic-minded neighbors ; )

    Have you seen the blog post on how lower speed limits in Long Island City will save lives?

    Funny, I didn't see any comments on that post. Not one. Nor did I see our industrious signature seeker put up a new petition that states a position on tougher penalties on those driving with suspended licenses.

    Oh wait, I forgot... we have come together to spend our (meager) collective political energy on telling our local government that we want to get trashed in yards.

    (There's a name for these kinds of "problems.")

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  16. Down with narcissists

    LIC Community Perspective, you are confused if you think the people driving the backyard eating push care about those kinds of things. If it doesn't directly affect them, they don't give a crap.

    We're talking about a bunch of narcissists who are willing to wreck their neighbors' quality of life, simply because there isn't a continuous line of restaurants ready to cater to their whims 24 hours a day within spitting distance of their million-dollar aeries. They will never be satisfied, never, no matter what happens in LIC. We can have 18,000,00 Michelin restaurants here and they'll find a way to moan about it. Just read "Really"'s comments and the kind of entitlement that surrounds these people. With supporters of restaurants like him, who needs adversaries?

    As for Sonny, is it necessary to point out that loud Vernon Blvd. traffic does not mean we should create disruptive noise in backyards too? A roadway is for traffic, and a backyard is for relaxation and enjoyment of residents. Duh.

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  17. Taxpayer

    What a silly comment. Maybe no one objects or finds anything controversial about the speed limits, whereas a few selfish people who chose to live on a commercial street and deny thousands of others a service that other neighborhoods provide is appropriate for comment. Sonny is absolutely correct- don't live on a commercial street if you don't want to see commercial activity

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  18. Cool Your Jets

    LIC Community:

    It was actually lowering speed limits (to 25 mph) on Queens Blvd aka "the blvd of death" and Northern blvd, not all over LIC. And as a lifelong LIC resident, I'm shocked that it took this long to do it.

    People most often comment on the matters that move them. Speed limits and pedestrian safety, while VERY important, just don't inspire passionate discussions. Our social lives are vital to our mental health and local hangouts are essential to maintain and build new friendships in a growing community.

    The issue of dining outdoors may seem trivial to some, but if LIC is going to be a "destination", as Jimmy Van Bramer calls it, it has to keep up with other trendy neighborhoods. That means, LIC needs cool spots that keep people coming back and investing in the area so that our property values don't drop.

    More importantly, I'm very concerned about the influence of one resident, William Garrett, who is coincidentally a CB2 member. Who would nominate him to the Community Board when his actions against new restaurants have proven he is incapable of being an objective member of the board? This "backyard space debacle" is now part of a larger, (and more important), conversation: Are CB2, Cathy Nolan, and other local politicians really acting in the majority's favor as well as the direction this neighborhood is heading? Are they part of an organized clique that is doing favors for certain restaurants and residents? If 'cronyism' is what's going on, shouldn't it be investigated? What other decisions are being made by a select few that could impact the majority of residents?

    This also has led to the discussion of term limits for community boards and thank heavens for that!

    Down with narcissist:

    Dude, you're the one with the entitlement issues if you think living here first entitles you to have the only say in the development of the community. You enjoy YOUR backyard. The restaurant's yard does NOT belong to you. They should be able to keep it open until 10 or 11pm (as the city permits) on weeknights without this level of drama. A reasonable amount of noise is to be expected and anyone who lives in a gentrified neighborhood in every other borough understands this reality. You don't own all of Vernon blvd. Get over it!

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  19. LIC Res

    Move.

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  20. SC

    So I've readily posted issues on the new project zero traffic issue map about the need for more stop signs and lower speed limits. And I want the backyards open. And I'd be more than happy if a few more places opened on my block down by the water as well, and would hav no issue if they had outdoor space.

    Soooooo... what? It's about making the neighborhood better for everyone, not simply for a few.

    Again... there are more of us who want this than don't. And as the new residents take more of a role I'm the community board, the backyards will be opened. So read the writing on the wall now and make yourself a nice compromise while you still can.

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  21. Charles

    @SC.
    Ok. Now that you've "readily posted" I guess there is no more to be said on these matters. Mission accomplished.

    Except, perhaps, but, however: No.

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  22. Anonymous

    I love the implicit threat in SC's inclusive, neighborly comment. I think General Custer was even more tactful to the Indians before he tried to slaughter all of them.

    How disturbing the quality of life of many people who live in the neighborhood is somehow "better for everyone" is a claim I'm having a hard time getting my head around.

    If restaurants and bars made more trustworthy commitments to be good neighbors with their outdoor spaces, I would be totally behind them. But they haven't or they won't, so I think it's more likely that they simply don't give a crap about anyone and are only in it to make a buck.

    So tell me, SC, why should I think their attitude will result in a better neighborhood for everyone? BS.

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  23. Alobar Owner

    To Anyone who says that we don't need the business:
    At 11 AM today a table of 4 walked in.
    Guy #1 says to his friends: this place has great brunch!
    Guy #2 Says (to me): Is your back yard open?
    Me: No, I'm sorry. But I can seat you right next to the open doors.
    Guy #2: Oh, I really wanted to sit outside. Lets just go to Skinny's.
    Guy#1: The food here is better... but OK.

    This happens multiple times a day every Saturday & Sunday that we have nice weather. We are only in May, imagine how much this happens in June, July, August, and September.

    Please don't assume that just because you walk by my restaurant and its sometimes busy that we don't greatly need this revenue.

    And please don't assume that we want to be "heard in your living room all hours of the night." We have asked for closing the outdoor seating at 8PM and were denied.

    And lastly to the PERSON DIRECTLY ABOVE MY COMMENT please stop saying we will be irresponsible with this. Pat O'Brien said, in front of the SLA Board, that we were excellent, responsible, operators of our liquor license. We have an excellent track record of nearly 3 years.

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  24. Mel

    Wow, the harping continues! Why all the fuss!
    Vernon blvd and the rest of Lic restuarant
    Owners are responsible. get over it, move to
    The country already! Geez

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  25. Native

    Not once has the complaining, anti yard dining minority brought up the thanks that is due to all the "narcissists" and "new residents with s*itloads of money."

    These folks have invigorated a community once known for deadbeats, warehouses and hookers and have doubled if not tripled you property values over the past 5-10 years.

    If backyard dining is THAT much of drain on your quality of life and you miss the old days so much, sell and buy a sprawling place on a quiet island all your own; you may even have some dough left over to import a couple hookers. Ah the good ol days.

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  26. Look Who's complaining

    Pardon me, but you move away...Mel, Native! What makes you think older people that live in LIC don't have money? They don't have big ass mortgages, like you "rich" people, they just have MONEY with property looking at you fools paying the way to man.

    You didn't come in and fix a neighborhood or make it better. It is now a smelly restaurant garbage filled, stained sidewalks, dog crapping... and not picking up after, garbage strewed, over crowded place to live!

    Hookers make better neighbors than loud, entitled, gentrified aholes.

    Half of you don't have to nickles to rub together.

    Yep the good old days!!!!!!!!!!! LMAO

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  27. Native

    My name is not Mel
    I am not they
    I too have money and own property
    You have bad grammer

    TO. TOO. TWO.

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  28. Look Who's complaining

    WOW what a response, the statement was made to both, two, you and Native! still LMAO

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  29. Sonny L.

    Dear Look Who's Complaining,

    I fail to see your point. Also, I believe it is "two" nickels.

    Regards,

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  30. Candice

    Where is Van Bramer during all of this fixing his hair? Our tax paying dollars pay his salary to be there for us when we need him. The business owners should call the news on this situation and get him out there helping you guys. How people think he's so good forbusiness is mind boggling.

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  31. Sonny L.

    I whole-heartedly agree with the point SC is making.

    Opening the back yards should be a non-issue. There is a reasonableness that can be accomplished in this and there should be concessions made on both sides of the argument. No one is seeking a 2 AM closing in the outdoor spaces. Just reasonable hours for all to enjoy. Remember, this is also a seasonal proposal which can be achieved in an objective and reasonable manner.

    I think concessions can be made because I have to believe in our neighborhood and in our neighbors.

    There is too much anger and emotion. Take those off the table and I am sure that everyone can come together as a community. After all, this is Long Island City, a fantastic community and proponent of the arts, small business growth, and confers a general conviviality other neighborhoods lack. We CAN do this TOGETHER. I think it's time everyone put down their daggers and resolve this in a communal fashion.

    Currently we are laggards where LIC is a known leader. Let's act accordingly.

    Besides, how great would it be for families to enjoy a nice meal at Woodbine's, Blend, Alobar, and other places on a nice afternoon? That is not a lot to ask, it is reasonable.

    How much more progress through unity. What about art installs in back yards?

    Someone argued that the petition has "outsiders" on the petition for re-opening the spaces. Those outsiders have money, patronize the arts and come to LIC for this such as the Taste of LIC, the theatre, and accomplished local artists. Work together and grow. Alternately, infighting can only take away from the endeavors of everyone.

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  32. Sonny L.

    Be Nice is correct.

    Also, LIC Community Perspective: You should start that petition. Most of us would distribute and help have it signed. It will be happening with the street signs and the speed bumps, in due time. That is a good issue but this article is not about that. If you care, then together we will stand and get it done. The other question is, have you contacted 311 or the powers outside of the CB? They are not the ones who make the decisions, they simply petition on the behalf of the community. You, too can do your part. I guarantee folks will rally behind you, as we have also voiced in favor or getting the traffic slowed on these dangerous areas.

    Best of luck and let us know how we can help.

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Obama’s step-grandmother visits PS/IS 78
From left are, principal Louis Pavone; kindergarten teacher Melanie Gutierrez; Debra Akello, MSOF executive director; Mama Sarah; and Rosela Rasanga, far right, wife of governor of Kogelo, Kenya. (AP Photo/Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, Gerry Gianutsos) Photo: AP

From left are, principal Louis Pavone; kindergarten teacher Melanie Gutierrez; Debra Akello, MSOF executive director; Mama Sarah; and Rosela Rasanga, far right, wife of governor of Kogelo, Kenya. (AP Photo/Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, Gerry Gianutsos)
Photo: AP

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Sara Obama, who was married to the president’s late grandfather and lives in Kenya, is in the United States to help develop a better healthcare and education system for her western Kenyan Village where the president’s father was raised and is buried.

The event at PS/IS 78 was kept hush-hush to ensure that it didn’t turn into a media event.

“This was the only school in New York that she went to [while here],” PS/IS 78 Principal Louis Pavone said. “I think she is going to one in Washington.”

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New commanding officer appointed to 108 Police Precinct
Capt. John Travaglia

Capt. John Travaglia

Nov. 20, By Christian Murray

A new commanding officer has been appointed to the 108 Police Precinct, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City.

Captain John Travaglia, who has spent a significant portion of his career in Queens, will be taking over the command following the departure of Capt. Brian Hennessy.

This will be Travaglia’s first time as a commanding officer. He was most recently the executive officer at the 114th Precinct that covers Astoria. Prior to that, he was an executive officer of the 104th Precinct that covers Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood.

Travaglia takes the top job at a time when there has been an uptick in burglaries and other property-related crime in the precinct.  However, Astoria too has seen a jump in burglaries and other property-related crime.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he has scheduled a meeting with Travaglia and has heard good things about him. “We look forward to meeting him as we all work to keep the neighborhood safe.”

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City Harvest to package 225,000 pounds of food to deliver to shelters

cityharvestNov. 19, By Michael Florio

There is no shortage of residents looking for a hearty meal these days and one organization is looking to provide the hungry with some relief this winter.

City Harvest, a food rescue organization, will host its second annual 24-Hour Repackathon tomorrow in Long Island City, with the mission of delivering food to the hungry during the holiday season.

The event will take place at 55-02 2nd Street where hundreds of volunteers will aim to package more than 225,000 pounds of donated food—which will then be distributed to families and shelters across the city.

The volunteers will be given 24-hours to pack the food and will work in 3-hour shifts.

The event started last year as a way for City Harvest to package the donated food and increase awareness of poverty. Last year, 215,000 pounds of food was packaged in 24 hours.

The food will be delivered to more than 500 soup kitchens and food pantries, and will be enough to feed more than 2,100 families.

Samantha Park, the communications manager at City Harvest, said that the majority of the end recipients are from working families.

“There is usually at least one person in the family working full time,” she said. “With the expensive cost of living and other expenses, it is really difficult.”

Park said that one-in-five New Yorkers now live in poverty.

Park said that City Harvest tries to focus on gathering fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables. The organization also receives a large supply of canned/sealed food, such as peanut butter and tuna fish, which has a long shelf life.

“This food is very nutritious,” she said.

Park said that the group has enough volunteers for tomorrow’s event.

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President of Dutch Kills Civic Association suddenly leaves, differences over bicycles
Rendering of proposed corrral

Rendering of proposed corrral

Nov. 19, By Michael Florio

The president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association has abruptly left the organization.

Dominic Stiller, who became president of the civic association in January 2013, alerted the organization of his resignation last Monday with a letter to the board.

Stiller’s resignation was based on differing views toward bicycles.

The organization recently held a vote where its members agreed to oppose the placement of bicycle corrals in the Dutch Kills neighborhood if they led to the removal of parking spaces.

Earlier this year, Stiller called for a bicycle corral to be placed in front of his restaurant–Dutch Kills Centraal–located at 38-40 29th Street. His proposal, which he presented to full Community Board 1 in October, would have created room for up to eight bicycles–as well as two planters– but would have removed one parking space.

Community Board 1 voted against the proposal, stating that Stiller didn’t have enough community support.

Stiller said it was not Community Board 1’s denial of his bicycle corral that led him to resign. Instead, it was the vote held by the Dutch Kills Civic Association to kill the concept.

Stiller said the association is more concerned about keeping all the street spaces exclusively for car owners. In his letter he called this view “short sighted and unsustainable,” claiming that it is not working for the greater good.

“There is a recent awareness in the city and country about the importance of providing livable streets… and encouraging alternative forms of green commuting and transport,” Stiller wrote in his departure letter.

“I wish the Dutch Kills Civic had an interest and awareness and open mind to lead or at least support this cultural change locally; it doesn’t,” he wrote.

The new president Thea Romano said the Dutch Kills Civic Association is not opposed to bicycles and noted that the organization has supported bicycle lanes in the past. However, she said, the members are interested in preserving parking spaces.

“We have been fighting for parking for many years,” Romano said. “Whenever there is new construction project, we always request that there is a parking plan put in place.”

“There is a very limited amount of parking space in this community,” Romano said. Therefore, “when he came forward [in April] and said he wanted to take a space away, the board let him know that we weren’t with him.”

Stiller’s term as president was up on December 31st, but he had initially planned on maintaining a position on the board. Now, he said, he will find other ways to improve Dutch Kills.

“Thank you for working with me as president of the DKCA, I hope my resignation from the presidency and the board provides certain awareness to my commitment to alternative progressive methods of urban quality of life improvements. As Dutch Kills moves into the 21st century, these changes will be inevitable,” Stiller concluded the letter.

Romano claims that the association’s vote was not against Stiller’s bicycle corral but to preserve parking. However, she believes Stiller took the matter too personally.

“A lot of the stuff that he has been putting out there is just not true. He is putting such an awful light on the Dutch Kills Civic Association,” she said. “He took it very personally, that’s what it comes down too. One hundred percent.”

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New commanding officer appointed to 108 Police Precinct
Capt. John Travaglia

Capt. John Travaglia

Nov. 20, By Christian Murray A new commanding officer has been appointed to the 108 Police Precinct, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City. Captain John Travaglia, who has spent a significant portion of his career in Queens, will be taking over the command following the departure of Capt. Brian Hennessy. This will be Travaglia’s first time as a commanding officer. He was most recently the executive officer at the 114th Precinct that covers Astoria. Prior to that, he was an executive officer of the 104th Precinct that covers Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood. Travaglia takes the top job at a time when there has been an uptick in burglaries and other property-related crime in the precinct.  However, Astoria too has seen a jump in burglaries and other property-related crime. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he has scheduled a meeting with Travaglia and has heard good things about him. “We look forward to meeting him as we all work to keep the neighborhood safe.”
City Harvest to package 225,000 pounds of food to deliver to shelters
cityharvestNov. 19, By Michael Florio There is no shortage of residents looking for a hearty meal these days and one organization is looking to provide the hungry with some relief this winter. City Harvest, a food rescue organization, will host its second annual 24-Hour Repackathon tomorrow in Long Island City, with the mission of delivering food to the hungry during the holiday season. The event will take place at 55-02 2nd Street where hundreds of volunteers will aim to package more than 225,000 pounds of donated food—which will then be distributed to families and shelters across the city. The volunteers will be given 24-hours to pack the food and will work in 3-hour shifts. The event started last year as a way for City Harvest to package the donated food and increase awareness of poverty. Last year, 215,000 pounds of food was packaged in 24 hours. The food will be delivered to more than 500 soup kitchens and food pantries, and will be enough to feed more than 2,100 families. Samantha Park, the communications manager at City Harvest, said that the majority of the end recipients are from working families. “There is usually at least one person in the family working full time,” she said. “With the expensive cost of living and other expenses, it is really difficult.” Park said that one-in-five New Yorkers now live in poverty. Park said that City Harvest tries to focus on gathering fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables. The organization also receives a large supply of canned/sealed food, such as peanut butter and tuna fish, which has a long shelf life. “This food is very nutritious,” she said. Park said that the group has enough volunteers for tomorrow's event.
President of Dutch Kills Civic Association suddenly leaves, differences over bicycles
Rendering of proposed corrral

Rendering of proposed corrral

Nov. 19, By Michael Florio The president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association has abruptly left the organization. Dominic Stiller, who became president of the civic association in January 2013, alerted the organization of his resignation last Monday with a letter to the board. Stiller’s resignation was based on differing views toward bicycles. The organization recently held a vote where its members agreed to oppose the placement of bicycle corrals in the Dutch Kills neighborhood if they led to the removal of parking spaces. Earlier this year, Stiller called for a bicycle corral to be placed in front of his restaurant--Dutch Kills Centraal--located at 38-40 29th Street. His proposal, which he presented to full Community Board 1 in October, would have created room for up to eight bicycles--as well as two planters-- but would have removed one parking space. Community Board 1 voted against the proposal, stating that Stiller didn’t have enough community support. Stiller said it was not Community Board 1’s denial of his bicycle corral that led him to resign. Instead, it was the vote held by the Dutch Kills Civic Association to kill the concept. Stiller said the association is more concerned about keeping all the street spaces exclusively for car owners. In his letter he called this view “short sighted and unsustainable,” claiming that it is not working for the greater good. “There is a recent awareness in the city and country about the importance of providing livable streets… and encouraging alternative forms of green commuting and transport,” Stiller wrote in his departure letter. “I wish the Dutch Kills Civic had an interest and awareness and open mind to lead or at least support this cultural change locally; it doesn't,” he wrote. The new president Thea Romano said the Dutch Kills Civic Association is not opposed to bicycles and noted that the organization has supported bicycle lanes in the past. However, she said, the members are interested in preserving parking spaces. “We have been fighting for parking for many years," Romano said. "Whenever there is new construction project, we always request that there is a parking plan put in place.” “There is a very limited amount of parking space in this community,” Romano said. Therefore, “when he came forward [in April] and said he wanted to take a space away, the board let him know that we weren’t with him.” Stiller’s term as president was up on December 31st, but he had initially planned on maintaining a position on the board. Now, he said, he will find other ways to improve Dutch Kills. “Thank you for working with me as president of the DKCA, I hope my resignation from the presidency and the board provides certain awareness to my commitment to alternative progressive methods of urban quality of life improvements. As Dutch Kills moves into the 21st century, these changes will be inevitable,” Stiller concluded the letter. Romano claims that the association’s vote was not against Stiller’s bicycle corral but to preserve parking. However, she believes Stiller took the matter too personally. “A lot of the stuff that he has been putting out there is just not true. He is putting such an awful light on the Dutch Kills Civic Association,” she said. “He took it very personally, that’s what it comes down too. One hundred percent.”
Two businesses about to leave Vernon Blvd., casualties of impending rent hikes
vernon boulevard 002 Nov. 18, By Christian Murray The business body count is continuing to mount on Vernon Blvd—as two commercial tenants are getting ready to leave. The Institute for Face & Body Solutions and LIC Chiropractic will be moving out of 47-12 Vernon Blvd in upcoming months. The building is about to be sold and they have been told that they should be prepared to leave. The owner, who runs the beauty shop, said that she is a middle of negotiating a new space nearby. Meanwhile, Dr. Angelo Ippolito, the owner of LIC Chiropractic, has already found space on 47th Avenue, just around the corner. The owner of the beauty shop said that the combined rent (of both the beauty shop and LIC Chiropractic) will most likely double to $9,000 per month. The loss of the two businesses adds to the carnage on Vernon Blvd in the past 18 months—with the closure of Cranky’s Cafe/1682 French Louisiana, Communitea, Papo Fried Chicken, Mario’s Deli and the impending closure of the Chinese restaurant New City Kitchen Express. “The rents are very high and it is very difficult for your typical business to make money,” said Rick Rosa, the managing director for Douglas Elliman’s Long Island City office. “Unless a business is filling a niche it can be very tough.” Meanwhile, at 47-12 Vernon, two of the four apartments upstairs have already been vacated. vernon boulevard 003
LIC Landing to put up an enclosure, to be open all winter
02 Nov. 17, By Christian Murray Fancy a winter coffee with waterfront views. LIC Landing by Coffeed, which is located by the water at Hunters Point South Park, plans to enclose its space this winter providing its patrons with protection from the elements. “We want to make the park more of a destination—a draw for both tourists and residents throughout the year,” said Frank ‘Turtle’ Raffaele, the chief executive of Coffeed. “After all, this is the Central Park of Queens.” Raffaele is currently receiving quotes for the enclosure—which would be constructed of glass or Plexiglass. He hasn’t decided whether it will be a 400 sqft. enclosure placed directly in front of the pick-up window (catering to about 40 people) or whether it will be 1,200 sqft. and cover the entire canopy area (catering to as many as 200 people). LIC Landing will be serving its full menu—which includes coffee, tea, wine, beer, pastries, burgers and salads—over the winter months and there will be waiter service for those who request it. Raffaele aims to have the enclosure up by Christmas, once the New York City Parks Department has signed off on it. In future years, he would put it up in October and then take it down in mid March. “We want to be open 365 days where we can serve customers as well as the ferry traffic,” Raffaele said. “This is a big win for Long Island City,” he said. The Long Island City community has been a large driver behind Raffaele’s decision to stay open. He said that the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, a group that plans events and oversees neighborhood parks, as well as the Hunters Point Civic Association wanted him to do it, as well as several of his customers. “Even if I break even or lose a bit of money that’s OK,” Raffaele said. “We are serving our customers.” Furthermore, he said, many of his employees will be able to work all year round. LICLanding1
Urban Market opens with promise of competitive prices
2-14 50th Avenue

2-14 50th Avenue

Nov. 14, By Christian Murray Hunters Point’s second supermarket—Urban Market-- opened on 50 Avenue today with the promise of providing residents the lowest prices in the neighborhood. Sam Mujalli, the owner of the 8,000 square foot store, said that his supermarket will provide Foodcellar (which has been the only supermarket in the area since it opened in 2008) with some stiff competition. Mujalli claims that his prices will be between 15% and 18% cheaper than Foodcellar’s. He said that he can provide these low prices since he has 11 supermarkets scattered throughout New York City and can buy in bulk. Furthermore, he said, his family has deep roots-- and connections-- in the industry.
Sam Mujalli

Sam Mujalli

“My family has been in the supermarket business for 45 years,” Mujalli said. “We didn’t just open a store overnight. My grandfather started it and then it went to my father and then me,” he said. Mujalli said that his grandfather opened a tiny store in Detroit before moving to New York and setting up a small store in Brooklyn. The family’s first big store was a Met Food in a tough section of the Bronx, he said. “Every two weeks people would come in to the store and take our money,” Mujalli said, as he rolled up his fingers into the shape of a gun. The family no longer owns that store. Mujalli said that 50 percent of the produce he will offer at Urban Market will be organic, with the remainder standard items. “You have to give people a choice,” he said. The store has a large produce department as well as an extensive cheese selection and a gourmet deli. Several elected officials came to the store to offer their support at the opening this morning—such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. Gianaris said the store was needed since there has been a lack of supermarkets in the area for some time. He predicted the supermarket would do well. Meanwhile Mujalli said that he was excited to open in Hunters Point and appreciated the buzz surrounding the opening of the supermarket. “Lots of people have been on Facebook and Instagram in the past two months wondering when we were opening.” urbanmarket2
Darren Aronofsky and Patti Smith to appear at Museum of the Moving Image
SmithNov. 12, By Michael Florio Singer Patti Smith will join director Darren Aronofsky at the Museum of Moving Image next week to screen his film Noah. Smith and Aronofsky will talk about the film and their collaboration following the movie on Monday, November 17, at the museum. Smith will perform her song “Mercy Is,” which is featured in the film. Noah, which premiered last spring, is a based on the Old Testament story and stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson. “Noah is a remarkable cinematic accomplishment, a dazzling epic as well as a thoughtful and very timely interpretation of the biblical story,” said David Schwartz, the Museum’s Chief Curator in a statement. “We are thrilled Darren Aronofsky and Patti Smith will be here to discuss the movie, and it will be very special to hear her live performance.” Tickets for the event cost $25 and are currently on sale.
Station LIC on track to open November 17
StationLICphoto1 Nov. 11, By Christian Murray The railroad-themed bar/restaurant that is coming to Hunters Point is on track to open next week. Station LIC, located at 10-37 Jackson Avenue, will be opening on Monday, Nov. 17, according to its owners. Gregory Okshteyn, a co-owner who had originally planned to open the bar/restaurant in spring, said he had to push back the date several times since he had to overcome several obstacles -- such as obtaining a certificate of occupancy to getting the gas turned on. But the main delay, he said, has been his desire for perfection. “We want to show it off in its grandeur,” Okshteyn said. “We are patient and we want to do it right.” A few extra months is not much of a delay in the scheme of things. Okshteyn signed the lease 2 ½ years ago and has spent plenty of time on design and construction since. Okshteyn, who designs bar/restaurants for a living, set his sights on converting the triangular shaped building into a station house from the get-go. The establishment sits directly above the Vernon/Jackson subway station. Okshteyn, who has lived on Center Blvd for the past three years, was able to nab the location by happenstance. He was walking past the site with Rabbi Zev Wineberg, who is in charge of the JCC-Chabad LIC, and suggested to him that it would make for a great place for a bar/restaurant. Rabbi Wineberg just happened to be investigating the location in his quest to find space for a synagogue. He handed Okshteyn a copy of the lease. The building had been empty for the 20 years—although it had been used for the movie ‘Cocktail’ starring Tom Cruise. The location is best known among long-time residents as the home of Blessinger’s, a local watering hole that was there for 50 years (1930s through the 1980s). Okshteyn, who wanted to know about the history of the location, was able to find a Blessinger via Facebook who was able to provide him with some background information. Construction began on the bar/restaurant in January. Okshteyn said that during the demolition phase the first thing he got rid of was the sheet-rock. In doing so, he uncovered the wooden beams, exposed brick walls and iron columns that are now features of the establishment. The bar/restaurant has two levels. The upstairs has capacity for 55 people—including the bar area—and the downstairs has room for 16. In the downstairs hallway, Okshteyn has photos of famous train wrecks that took place in Europe and North America in the past century. The building’s exterior currently features a red light denoting the point of entry to the station. However, Okshteyn has plans to permit artists to paint murals on the outside walls—perhaps on a quarterly basis. He wants to create a place where artists, filmmakers and photographers all feel welcome. The bar/restaurant is likely to offer American bistro-style food such as broccoli Parmesan fritters, fried green olives stuffed with gorgonzola, jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon along with sandwiches and salads. Larger plates will consist of spice rub roast chicken, fried eggplant Parmesan with smoked mozzarella and its own house burger called the Station Burger that will feature grass-fed beef, maple glazed bacon and pepper jack cheese. However, Okshteyn is looking to offer what will be known as the Ponzi burger. He said the concept is that you get your burger for free under the condition that you buy the next persons. The idea is that you will meet the person who bought you your burger and you will also meet the person who you bought the burger for. “I want people to get to know their neighbors,” Okshteyn said. “I even put the tables close together for this reason.” The venue will be open at 5pm during the week and noon on weekends. The establishment is permitted to open until 2 am. stationLICphoto4use stationlicphoto5
DOT to add protective barriers to Vernon Blvd bike lanes
Jersey barriers

Jersey barriers

The Department of Transportation plans to put up jersey barriers on Vernon Boulevard—from 46th Avenue to 30th Road in Astoria—as a means to protect bicyclists from motorists. The jersey barriers represent another step by the DOT to provide a smooth bicycle connection between the parks in Long Island City and Astoria. The bike lanes on Vernon Blvd – from 46th Ave. to 30th Road-- were redesigned last year, when the DOT created a two-way protected bike lane running along the west side of the street. A buffer of 5 feet– between cars and cyclists--was included. However, Shawn Macias, project manager for the DOT, said that the agency has received feedback since its 2013 redesign that some cyclists want more protection that the existing buffer provides. He said that some motorists use the bike lanes to turn their vehicles around or will even park there illegally. Therefore, Macias said the DOT plans to put up jersey barriers where the 5-foot buffers are currently located. The DOT will not be placing the barriers across the entire strip—just in certain locations Community Board 2 at its monthly meeting Thursday approved the plan. Macias said that since the DOT redesigned the bike lanes in 2013 bicycle and pedestrian traffic has gone up significantly.

2014 10 Vernon Blvd Cb1 Cb2

Capt Brian Hennessy, head of the 108 police precinct, transferred
Captain-Brian-Hennessy1Nov. 6, By Christian Murray The commanding officer of the 108 Police Precinct—which covers Sunnyside, Woodside & Long Island City—has been transferred to head up a larger more crime-ridden Queens precinct. Captain Brian Hennessy, who has spent just 18 months as the commanding officer of the 108, started today as the commanding officer of the 115th Precinct, which covers Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and the north section of Corona. That precinct is larger and has more problems--such as gang activity, prostitution and drugs. The move represents a promotion, since gaining experience in a tougher precinct is often viewed as the way captains climb up the NYPD ladder. While the 108 has had some high-profile crimes recently—such as the robbery of an 81-year old at a Chase ATM and a wave of burglaries in Sunnyside—the precinct is still viewed as a low-crime area. The crime rate—based on the number of reports—is flat so far this year, compared to the same period in 2013. The number of murders and reported rapes are down—although the number of burglaries are up about 7 percent. Hennessy said he enjoyed his time at the 108 Precinct. “I love this community and its leaders,” Hennessy said. “There are so many people who care and want to get involved,” he said. “It was an honor to be there.” The NYPD has yet to appoint a new commanding officer. In the interim, Capt. Richard Hellman, the executive officer of the 108th Precinct, is in command. However, Hennessy’s short stint did disappoint many—since most commanding officers stay at a precinct for two-to-three years. “I am very upset that he is leaving us so soon,” said Diane Ballek, the president of the 108 Community Council. “He is the best captain we have had in a long time,” Ballek said. “If you needed to reach him he was always there,” she said. “He would talk to people [with quality-of-life issues] for an hour some times.” His predecessor Capt. Donald Powers was viewed by many as less responsive and not so much of a people-person, several people said. “I am disappointed [that Capt. Hennessy has been transferred] since I believe he was doing a good job,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I appreciated working with him and thought he was responsive and a straight shooter who cared about our neighborhood.” Van Bramer said he would be asking NYPD officials whether Hennessy’s short stint represents a new policy or whether what happened was an anomaly. Van Bramer also said he wants a new commanding officer to be named soon. “We cannot have a prolonged absence of leadership,” he said.

Crime Numbers 2014

Wolkoff claims that the 5 Pointz name is his, plans to use name for new towers
JacksonAvenueNov. 5, By Christian Murray Jerry Wolkoff, who is the final stages of demolishing Long Island City’s famous graffiti Mecca, said he plans to call his residential development 5 Pointz. Wolkoff, whose company G&M Realty filed an application to trademark the name in March, has received a wave of criticism from artists who claim they made the name famous. A spokeswoman for the artists told DNAinfo yesterday that Wolkoff’s trademark attempt was an effort to bank on their name. "It's ironic that the same corporation which single-handedly destroyed all the artwork known as 5Pointz is trying to capitalize on its name," she told DNAinfo. "The disrespect continues, I suppose,"  said Jonathan Cohen, who was the curator at 5Pointz and goes by the tag name Meres One. Wolkoff said the property is known as 5 Pointz. “People would go to 5 Pointz to see the street art,” Wolkoff said. “They would go visit my building—not anyone else’s building—to see the art.”
Jerry Wolkoff (source: Newsday)

Jerry Wolkoff (source: Newsday)

Furthermore, Wolkoff said, he worked with Meres in coming up with the 5 Pointz name in the first place. He said that Meres did not come up with the name alone--despite reports saying otherwise. “We collaborated on it,” Wolkoff said. “Do you think I would just let any name go up on my building?” Wolkoff said that Meres used to walk around 5 Pointz thinking it was his building—particularly after he announced his plan to develop the property. “I gave him permission to use it for all these years…and he would work with artists,” Wolkoff said. But the property was always mine to develop, he said, and deep down Meres and his crew knew that. Wolkoff is about to start construction at the beginning of 2015 on two high-rise apartment towers containing 1,000 rental units. Wolkoff said that he is always going to be criticized by a handful of artists. However, he hopes that will change once he has completed the two towers and the artists are invited back to display their street art. But he said that he has come to the realization that developers are not typically seen in a positive light. “I am the man with the black horse because I am the developer and they will always be riding the white horse,” he said.  

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