May 3, By Christian Murray
Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at a town hall meeting in Long Island City Thursday and addressed several local issues from traffic safety, the lack of green space to the sanitation garage by Ravenswood Housing.
The meeting took place at Queens Vocation & Technical High School in a forum where local residents asked the mayor, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and city agency commissioners a range of questions.
The mayor began the meeting by discussing several citywide issues. He told the 500-plus crowd that every officer in the NYPD would be wearing body cameras by 2019 and how he planned to introduce universal pre-K for 3-year olds.
The question-and-answer session dealt heavily with transportation and land-use issues.
The first question was posed by the external affairs director at LaGuardia Community College who asked what could be done to reduce the traffic dangers outside the college, which has approximately 50,000 students. She elaborated on the death of a 16-year-old student who was killed by a minivan while walking along the Thomson Avenue sidewalk in 2013.
“What we need are safe streets,” said Helen Ho, the executive director at the college. She said that the intersection where Van Dam Street, Thomson Avenue and Queens Boulevard meet is extremely dangerous and a street redesign was needed.
Mayor de Blasio acknowledged the issue, referring to it as a “real problem,” and agreed that work needs to be done.
De Blasio then said the city will commit $17 million in capital funds to increase safety at that intersection and the greater Thomson Avenue area.
One resident came to the meeting asking for stop signs at the intersection of 50th Ave. and Center Boulevard, as well as at 51st Ave and 5th Street.
The DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was at the meeting and said that the agency has been conducting engineering tests to determine whether the level of traffic volume warranted traffic signals or signage was needed. At this point it had not reached that level.
“We will keep coming back,” she told attendees, adding that she is aware of how quickly the area is changing and how the population growth is affecting traffic patterns.
The mayor was also asked about how the city would address the lack of green space in the Court Square section of Long Island City.
De Blasio said he was hopeful that it might be addressed in the likely rezoning of the Court Square/ Queens Plaza district.
“In any rezoning it’s a chance to take stock of the needs of a community,” De Blasio said. “If people say open space…there a lot of ways we can achieve it in the rezoning process.”
The mayor noted that a lot of money comes into a neighborhood during a rezoning and if “open space” is concern “there’s a real opportunity to attach real dollars to it.”
One resident had concerns about the proposed Sunnyside Yards project, claiming that the approximately 20,000-unit proposal did not include enough affordable housing. The resident wanted all the units in the proposal to be affordable as opposed to 60 percent.
De Blasio, however, was quick to remind the resident that the development is years away.
“This is a sort of project your talking 10 or 20 years to ever come near achieving,” de Blasio said, adding that he was aware of the “tremendous concern at a community level” about it.
De Blasio said that some of the units in the proposal had to be market rate. He said if it were 100 percent affordable it would be too costly for the city to finance resulting in fewer units. He said a partnership with developers was therefore needed.
The mayor was also asked about whether the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX), a light rail system that would go from Astoria to Sunset Park, would come to fruition. The Mayor said it was needed, given how stretched the subway system is, and is working to make sure it happens.
The Department of Sanitation Garage at 34-28 21st Street was also discussed and how the facility and the sanitation trucks idling on the streets caused noise and pollution.
Van Bramer at the town hall said the facility has “plagued the Ravenswood community for decades and decades.”
De Blasio acknowledged that the facility was a concern and said that money had been put aside in the executive budget to address it.
He said that $130 million is being allocated for a new sanitation garage to replace the existing facility putting an end to the problem.
For a full viewing of the meeting, see below.