Monday, August 26, 2019

At Last, Wear-and-Tear Repaving

Late at night on August 23, 2019, the New York City Department of Transportation provided wear-and-tear repaving of a 20-foot-wide center portion of Willets Point Boulevard, between approximately Northern Boulevard and 127th Street.

The affected roadway – which fronts scores of businesses, many of which are featured in our “Willets Point: Open For Business” video (2017) – had fallen into severe dilapidation due to the City’s deliberate neglect over several decades.

This wear-and-tear repaving comes 3 months after Willets Point United sent a formal petition to NYCDOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia signed by 50 business and property owners, pleading again for repaving; more than 6 years after Queens Community Board 7 declared that “road wear and tear rehabilitation must be implemented now for the remaining [Willets Point] Phase 2 property owners,” as a condition of CB7’s 2013 approval of special permits sought by Queens Development Group to enable its scandalous proposed shopping mall on nearby public parkland; and decades after Willets Point business and property owners began to complain about the horrendous street conditions created and perpetuated here by successive City administrations.

Credit for the wear-and-tear repaving is due to former NYS Senator Tony Avella, who always demanded that the City provide road repair services at Willets Point, and hosted our “Willets Point: Open For Business” news conference in 2017; Irene Prestigiacomo, who walked door-to-door to collect petition signatures over several days; Sam Sambucci, who has pressed the need for street repair at CB7 committee meetings and annual budget hearings; CB7 Chair Eugene Kelty, Vice Chair Chuck Apelian and District Manager Marilyn McAndrews, who arranged and attended an on-site Willets Point visit with NYCDOT; and NYCDOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia and Queens Borough Planner Andrew Arcese. We must also note the mysterious lack of help from City Council member Francisco Moya, NYS Senator Jessica Ramos, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz – each of whom has rejected our requests to meet to discuss circumstances at Willets Point.

Although we are thankful that NYCDOT has provided wear-and-tear repaving of Willets Point Boulevard, we must note that it does not substitute for a long-lasting, comprehensive overhaul of our streets and sidewalks, which NYCDOT claims will be funded by $17 million in the City’s budget – work which we still expect NYCDOT to implement as soon as possible.

Moreover, as of this writing, NYCDOT has not repaved 127th Street between 34th Avenue and Willets Point Boulevard, surely one of the most notorious dilapidated roads in New York City.

And finally, any repaving by NYCDOT does nothing to re-open Willets Point streets which the New York City Economic Development Corporation has unnecessarily closed, and which we have requested be reopened. In particular, 37th Avenue provides a unique, direct connection between 126th Street and Willets Point Boulevard, and should be open.

Case in point: EMS recently required 15 minutes to respond to an emergency on Willets Point Boulevard – and actually remarked that they would have arrived significantly sooner, except for the many closed streets preventing access. (In 2008, the EMS response time to Willets Point was 6 minutes and 16 seconds – roughly 9 minutes less than the recent response that is complicated by multiple street closures.)

Any neighborhood has a right to rapid and timely EMS response, which is prevented now at Willets Point by NYCEDC’s needless closure of streets, particularly 37th Avenue. We hope that NYCEDC will follow NYCDOT’s lead and provide what we are requesting at Willets Point.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

DOT's Nicole Garcia Doesn't Respond to Petition for Street Repair

On May 23, 2019, Willets Point United sent its Petition – requesting that the Department of Transportation provide urgently-needed street repair and maintenance services in Willets Point – to DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. The Petition, signed by fifty Willets Point businesses and property owners impacted by the severely deteriorated roadways, was accompanied by a cover letter from Willets Point United founding member Irene Prestigiacomo, who also requested a meeting with Commissioner Garcia.

The Postal Service return receipt shows that the Petition and cover letter were delivered to DOT on May 24, 2019.

However, in the six weeks since receiving the Petition and cover letter, DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia has not responded to it.

DOT Queens Commissioner
Nicole Garcia hasn't responded to
Willets Point street repair petition.
Queens Chronicle photo
by Michael Gannon.
Meanwhile, during that timeframe, DOT was able to replace all of its street signage along nearby 126th Street, to accommodate the New York Mets street renaming ceremony held on June 27 to honor former Mets player Tom Seaver. That ceremony followed DOT's complete repaving, earlier in May, of the seven block stretch of 126th Street that fronts Citi Field stadium.

DOT prioritized that ceremonial work for the Mets, while continuing to neglect severely cratered streets in the heart of Willets Point, that are the topic of the Petition.

Intersection of Willets Point Boulevard and 127th Street,
as neglected by DOT on Commissioner Garcia's watch.

Commissioner Garcia is supposedly a "public servant," whose first priority must be to "represent the interests of citizens".

We submit that she isn't doing so, when she gives no response to our Petition for urgently-needed street repair while accomplishing ceremonial work for the New York Mets.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

“Seaver Way” Tactics: City Council Throws Knuckleball

The City Council is up to its old tricks again – giving just one day or less notice that it will hold a public hearing on Wednesday morning (June 26, 2019) regarding the New York Mets’ proposal to rename a seven-block stretch of 126th Street “Seaver Way,” for former Mets player Tom Seaver.

This is a textbook example of the Council discouraging and preventing public testimony at a hearing, by withholding adequate advance notice.

Weeks ago, the Mets announced that they would hold a street renaming ceremony on June 27, 2019 – which they would be hard-pressed to do, without first obtaining City Council approval of the name change. Thus it stands to reason that powers-that-be have known that there would be a City Council hearing on the proposal prior to June 27, but they chose to publish no information about it until just one day before.

Which Council members are the sponsors of the Mets street renaming legislation?

Francisco Moya
District 21
Peter Koo
District 20

Paul Vallone
District 19
Francisco Moya, Peter Koo and Paul Vallone.

Their bill – which reveals the absolute bare minimum about the proposal – would simply rename 126th Street “Seaver Way” and amend the City map accordingly. The bill does not even identify who “Seaver” is, or provide any rationale or justification for changing the existing street name.

And bizarrely, although the legislation specifically concerns a street that is under control of the New York City Department of Transportation, the Council did not refer the bill to its Committee on Transportation (which “has jurisdiction over … transportation agencies and facilities, including the Department of Transportation”), but instead referred the bill to the Committee on Parks and Recreation (which “has jurisdiction over New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation”).

The Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation lacks jurisdiction over 126th Street, and is not the proper committee to evaluate this proposed street name change. It is, however, conveniently chaired by one of the bill’s sponsors: Peter Koo.

Why is the City Council resorting to such shameful tactics to circumvent proper review and suppress public testimony about the 126th Street / Seaver Way renaming?

Perhaps Council members know that a Seaver street renaming is redundant and unnecessary, given that the Mets are also working on plans for a Tom Seaver statue at Citi Field – just as other teams throughout the country have traditionally erected statues to honor their special retired players. It may be unprecedented for a team to honor a player with both a larger-than-life statue, plus a renamed public street fronting its stadium. In the case of Seaver, it must be asked: Why the redundancy? Isn’t a Tom Seaver statue enough, as other ballplayer statues are elsewhere?

Perhaps Council members know that the street whose name would be changed – 126th Street – is sandwiched right in between two of the City’s most ethnic neighborhoods: Flushing (with its dominant Asian population) and Corona (with its Latino majority). A public hearing held with good advance notice might draw contemporary residents of Flushing and Corona, who may prefer honoring individuals other than Seaver, a caucasian sports figure whose Queens career ended 36 years ago.

Whatever their reasons, by their handling of the proposed 126th Street / Seaver Way renaming, City Council powers-that-be have revealed their disdain for participation by the very public that they are sworn to represent.

The name of a taxpayer-owned public street is at issue. Officials should have facilitated public participation in this matter, not shamefully suppressed it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

DOT Gives Mets Brand New Roadbed, “Stolen” from Willets Point

On Thursday, June 27, 2019, the New York Mets will hold a ceremony to rename a portion of 126th Street “Seaver Way” – aided and abetted by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).

It’s no coincidence that DOT very recently repaved the seven-block stretch of 126th Street to be renamed “Seaver Way.” And DOT repaved it, even though the condition of that street beforehand did not require resurfacing.
126th Street, freshly paved by DOT preceding
the "Seaver Way" renaming ceremony.

Could it be any more obvious, that DOT repaved that street to beautify it for the photo op during the Mets’ street renaming ceremony? That's an unjustifiable expenditure of taxpayer funds.

But for Willets Point, the biggest insult is that DOT needlessly repaved 126th Street, while not repairing the nearby, severely dilapidated streets in Willets Point, which property and business owners have pleaded with the City for decades to fix.

Willets Point Boulevard, approx. one block from
"Seaver Way," neglected by the City for decades. 

If these street conditions existed in any other neighborhood of the City, they would be deemed an emergency and repaired right away on that basis.

Irene Prestigiacomo, a Willets Point property owner who has implored the City to stop neglecting the crumbling Willets Point streets and the many businesses that operate there, sums up the sentiment: “Seaver was a good ballplayer, but it’s a shame that the street renamed for him had to be beautified by DOT on the backs of scores of taxpaying Willets Point property owners, businesses and workers, who have asked the City for street repaving for years, but been denied. As we see it, the Mets have stolen a brand new street for Seaver, that rightfully should have gone to Willets Point.”