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Queens Chronicle

Central Queens civics stay focused

Leaders seek a year of growth for the community and their groups

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 10:57 am, Thu Jan 16, 2014.

In diverse, populated areas such as central Queens, civic associations often have a full plate of issues to deal with.

According to Kew Gardens Civic Association President Dominick Pistone, the group will run the gamut of topics ranging from enhancing business to construction, among other issues.

In other words, 2014 will be just another year in the life of a Queens civic group.

However, 2014 will be unique for one reason. The Kew Gardens Civic Association is celebrating its centennial this year.

“That’s the biggest thing right now,” Pistone said. “I’m sure we’ll have a small celebration.”

On a serious note, he sees a busy year ahead for his association. One of the biggest concerns facing the group is maintaining independently owned shops and stores throughout the area, especially along Lefferts Boulevard.

“We’re concerned about our commercial strips. We want to make sure we don’t have empty stores,” he said. “And we’re trying to make sure that they don’t stay empty for long. It’s tough, the big box stores have taken business from the smaller stores.”

Additionally, he says his group will fight to keep the Department of Transportation from changing any traffic patterns in the coming year, as well as making sure the Department of Buildings enforces building and zoning regulations.

The civic also plans to develop opinions on borough-wide issues such as the debate over what to do with the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line.

Pistone says he is unsure of what the group thinks about the potential creation of an elevated park on the rail tracks called the QueensWay.

“I have no idea how the association feels about it,” he said. “It’s been raised a few times, but we haven’t got a real sense of what the association thinks. We’ll definitely be following it.”

The Briarwood Action Network has its hands full as well. However, association president Aida Vernon says the group has been focusing heavily on community growth through camaraderie in addition to construction.

“We’re very personal, we’re about winning hearts and minds,” Vernon said. “It’s a very diverse neighborhood. We try to look for common ground to unite the members of the community and that’s been tremendously popular.”

The Briarwood Action Network formed in 2011 and has been working to establish a strong bond with area residents ever since.

Vernon heralds the group’s annual food drive for the Briarwood Family Residence, a temporary housing shelter for 90 families, and the annual “It’s My Park Day” event featuring live music and food as two examples of events hosted by the group that unite residents. Both will continue in 2014.

The association will also maintain its focus on the Kew Gardens Interchange Project that has impacted area roadways for years. Vernon believes the Briarwood Action Network has played a significant role in keeping residents apprised of construction schedules.

“We’ve been pressing [the Department of Transportation] for timely information about when traffic patterns are going to change so we can keep people informed,” she said. “The project will be going on here for another year at least, so we’re going to stay on top of the DOT, which is a big initiative.”

Much like the other area civic groups, the Forest Hills Civic Association doesn’t have one single issue it is presently focusing on. Instead, its goals are vast.

In order for those goals to be met, however, association president Barbara Stuchinski believes that adding more members would go a long way in achieving what they set out to do.

“We have to expand our active membership to get more folks involved,” Stuchinski said. “Everyone turns out for a major crisis but disappears when things are quiet.”

The Forest Hills Civic Association plans to continue advocating for the upkeep of area parkland as well as branching out into schools to inspire the neighborhood’s youth to get involved with their community.

“We want to become involved with our schools,” she said, “in order to introduce younger groups to the meaning of civic associations.”

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