The concerns were many and varied at a community forum on Tuesday in Springfield Gardens, but the issues raised were ones commonly heard at similar meetings — problems related to illegal dumping, overgrown trees and traffic.
Some 50 people turned out for the gathering organized by City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) at Birch Family Services on Farmers Boulevard. Representatives from various city agencies were on hand to answer questions.
Deborah Thomas, principal at Birch, was concerned about speeding and car accidents in the area surrounding the school and asked Dalila Hall, Queens deputy commissioner for the city Department of Transportation, how they could get some signage to decrease speeding and also acquire traffic calming devices.
Hall said she would forward Thomas’ request to staffers at the agency’s school safety unit, who will come out and evaluate the situation to determine what’s lacking and what’s needed. “We’ll see what we can get you, because you are in a high traffic location,” Hall said.
Reba Perry-Ufele, who lives across the street from Brookville Park, has noticed illegal dumping of garbage on the sidewalk in front of the green space, but when she contacted the city about the issue she was transferred between the Parks Department and the Department of Sanitation, each of which she said, pinned responsibility on the other.
“I’m a homeowner and it’s disgraceful that I have to come outside and see this,” Perry-Ufele said. “Raccoons are living in my backyard now because of all the accumulation of garbage.”
Mark Edwards, the parks manager for District 13, said if it’s on Parks property, meaning on the sidewalks and adjacent to the park then that agency would remove it, however, if it is not, the Department of Sanitation should pick it up. DOS Community Affairs Officer Iggy Terranova agreed, and said he would look into the matter and send sanitation police to the area to try and catch the dumpers.
Eloese Gregory, 75, of 145th Avenue in Springfield Gardens, came to the meeting seeking assistance in trying to get a tree removed from in front of her home. She said its overgrown roots have lifted the sidewalk and she is tired of cleaning its shedding foliage. “It’s a bad tree,” she said.
Sanders said, as an environmentalist, he believes people need to work harder to get along with nature, but added that he understood Gregory’s concerns. Edwards said it is unlikely that the Parks Department would remove a tree that is not dead, but said he would forward the information to the agency’s forestry department.
Olga Kaye, of 172nd Street in Springfield Gardens, also had a complaint about a tree. In her case, she said the plant’s roots have grown into the sewer and are breaking up the sidewalk.
“The sidewalk is buckled and if me or my neighbor are walking in the dark, we could easily trip,” Kaye said. “The sidewalk is supposed to be level. It’s about five inches or more higher than where it was originally.”
When Sanders asked how many people at the meeting had tree-related problems, about eight additional individuals raised their hands. He referred Kaye and the others to his chief of staff, who he said would collect their information and pass it along to the forestry department. Sanders said he would try and get the agency to send someone to inspect tree conditions in the district.
Veronica Hicks, of 159th Street in Jamaica, complained of big rigs being parked in her neighborhood on blocks that prohibit trucks except when making deliveries. Eula Hinds of 145th Avenue had a similar concern. She said tractor trailers trucks idle in front of PS 231 on Springfield Boulevard and she worries about the safety of the children.
Detective Jovoda Cooper, community affairs officer for the 105th Precinct, said officers are aware of the problem and they have a truck enforcement unit that goes out and gives fines and boots offending vehicles, but they don’t have the resources to stay on top of it as well as they would like to.
“We only have a couple of boots, and once we put a boot on a truck, we have to wait for them to pay the summons ... A lot of them think of it as [the cost of] business for the day,” Cooper said, adding “Some trucks have tried to drive off with the boots and have broken the boots, so we have to wait for them to be repaired.”
Sanders praised the attendees for taking an active interest in preserving the quality of life in their communities.
“We may not solve every issue in one night, but we can at least come together to discuss our mutual interests and shared concerns for our neighbors and our environment,” he said. “It’s truly democracy at its finest.”