2013 proved to be a very busy year for area civic groups.
Quality-of-life issues such as the proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale and the trash-carrying trains roaring through southwestern Queens neighborhoods dominated many an agenda.
2014 should prove to be no different.
The Juniper Park Civic Association, led by President Bob Holden, plans to hit the ground running in 2014. One of the first items on the Middle Village group’s agenda, according to Holden, will be to establish a good working relationship with the de Blasio administration as it settles into City Hall.
“With the new administration, we hope to develop a good relationship with Mayor de Blasio,” Holden said. “The last four years under the Bloomberg administration were unproductive since Bloomberg stopped listening and was mostly dictating.”
Holden also noted that transportation issues will be a key focus of the group, much like they were last year, and its agenda will be wide-ranging.
“JPCA will also be working on making the Long Island Expressway through Middle Village and Maspeth quieter. The concrete roadbed causes much more noise than asphalt. We are calling on the state to remedy the situation,” he said. “We will continue to address truck, rail and other transportation issues including air traffic noise.”
Responding to activists across the borough and on Long Island, the state government is looking for ways to quell such noise.
In November, Gov. Cuomo ordered the Port Authority to conduct a study on the noise and form a roundtable with the objective of mitigating the rumble of jets in the skies above Queens and Long Island.
Staying firmly on the ground, the Newtown Civic Association will be fighting to bring an LIRR station back to Elmhurst, an issue it feels will benefit the community.
Located on the Port Washington line at Broadway and Whitney Avenue, the station was closed and razed in 1985. But last summer, pressured by civic and elected officials, the LIRR began a feasibility study to determine whether a new Elmhurst station will be possible.
Newtown Civic Association Treasurer Robert Valdes-Clausell said the results of the study will be revealed this month.
He says the issue will be one of the group’s top focuses in 2014, as bringing back the station would tremendously benefit the area in both the short and long term.
“This is essential because the population of Elmhurst is skyrocketing and the development along Queens Boulevard is booming,” Valdes-Clausell said. “If this plan comes to pass, you can take the LIRR and be in Penn Station in 13 minutes. You could be on the East Side of Manhattan in just nine minutes.
“Understand what that development would do for the area,” he continued. “Property values, quality of life and investment in infrastructure go up.”
Additionally, Valdes-Clausell noted that handicapped residents would be able to safely cross Queens Boulevard without having to risk being struck by a vehicle.
“Those people will be able to use the station, even if they aren’t taking the train, to take the elevator from one side of Queens Boulevard to the other,” he said. “It creates a transportation hub and interconnectivity with the buses going into Manhattan.”
The Glendale Civic Association also has a lot on its plate, according to the group’s president, Kathy Masi.
In addition to issues like traffic and overdevelopment, one of 2013’s biggest issues will continue to be paramount.
“The number one issue is the homeless shelter and its impact on the community,” Masi said. “It’s just not a smart idea.”
Last month, the Department of Homeless Services hosted a public hearing on the potential construction of a 125-family shelter, which is planned for the site of a former factory on Cooper Avenue.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) all testified against the shelter, which would be operated by Samaritan Village, a Briarwood-based human service agency.
Crowley and some area civic leaders, including Masi, have alleged that the ground the building sits on may be contaminated, making the site unusable for housing.
“Putting people on contaminated land there is a bad idea,” Masi said. “We’re going to work on community outreach,” she continued. “We do the best we can.”