The Juniper Park Civic Association is not happy with the approach of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and the city to cleaning up the district and has decided to take one matter into its own hands.
At the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, there is an abandoned newsstand that has been an eyesore for about 10 years. In 2009, Crowley held a press conference calling on the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Long Island Rail Road to allow the community to demolish the newsstand and create a temporary green space in its place.
Now, almost four years later, the structure still stands, surrounded by illegally parked cars for sale. The shredded awning that once stood atop the newsstand is no longer there, though it is unclear if it was taken down or if it fell down on its own.
“Elizabeth Crowley promised to have this cleaned up in 2009 and the area is still blighted,” JPCA President Bob Holden said. “At this point, we’re kind of used to it. And I’m not just blaming Crowley for this. I am upset with the city’s lack of follow through.”
The lack of initiative is why Holden and the Juniper Juniors, a local volunteer youth group, are going to the intersection Crowley sought to clean up long ago and clean it up themselves.
“We’re going to meet up and help remove some of the graffiti and clean up the area,” Holden said.
In addition to the cleanup, Holden said the group will be re-enacting a photograph taken of Crowley in front of the newsstand from 2009.
While Holden largely blames the councilwoman for not acting, Crowley insists she has been working on the issue but that it is more complicated that just knocking down a newsstand.
“I held a press conference three and a half years ago and called on the LIRR to allow us to knock this down,” Crowley said. “It took a while to get them to agree but when they did, I put $100,000 into the Parks Department budget to take down the stand and place a green space there.”
Then, the Department of Design and Construction intervened and told Crowley that she could not create the green space because it would be torn up soon.
“DDC said they were working on a major project on the intersection,” Crowley said. “The road is actually over the train tracks, which is why it was owned by the LIRR. But when I put funds into a project, it has to be standing for five years so I couldn’t ethically knock the stand down before the bridge project started.”
Crowley said she made an agreement with the DDC to include the removal of the newsstand in its plans for the intersection.
“I had to go around DDC’s rules so I moved the funds out of the Parks budget into the DOT budget so that the stand can be taken down during phase one of a two-phase project,” Crowley said.
The councilwoman said now that DOT has the money, the newsstand should be coming down in a matter of weeks.
“Unfortunately, when the city is involved in a project, it becomes bureaucratic and it takes time to get something done,” Crowley said. “No one else brought attention to this issue before me and I never forgot about it. It’s just been taking longer than we originally had thought.”