In December 1998 and January 1999 we printed the following article in response to a resident who asked what we do for our $5 dues. I don’t recall if we ever got the $5, but it was a great opportunity to chronical some of the things that we do to support and protect the community.
Richard C. Hellenbrecht
You ask “What have we been fighting for?” Well, I will try to list for you a few of the neighborhood issues that this organization has been involved in over the years.
1. Buses on Commonwealth Boulevard-the city wanted to use Commonwealth Boulevard to speed buses back to the Queens Village Depot. Our quick response and the demonstrations we organized resulted in a safer and faster route to the bus garage that does not impact any community .
2. The hill on Little Neck Parkway – The intersection at Little Neck Parkway and Jericho Turnpike used to have an incline of approximately 45 degrees which resulted in numerous accidents as well as abandoned cars during winter storms. The B.C.C.A. organized demonstrations that eventually lowered the hill and Little Neck Parkway was completely reconstructed.
3. Reconstructed Commonwealth Boulevard – Years ago, Commonwealth Boulevard was extremely dangerous with bumps and hills all over the place and railroad tracks from the old Creedmoor spur broke up the surface near 87th Drive. The B.C.C.A. demanded and eventually won a complete reconstruction of the boulevard, and served as community adviser throughout the construction.
4. Traffic Controls on 86th Avenue, at P.S. 133 and at Little Neck Parkway – these extremely dangerous intersections had no proper traffic controls. We had asked for many years for a four way stop sign at the school and a traffic light at Little Neck Parkway. Demonstrations at both locations resulted in traffic lights and significantly fewer accidents.
5. Reconstructed Bellerose Playground (P.S. 133) – following our continued demands, the city finally reconstructed Bellerose Playground, rehabilitated the park house and now provides a parkie during the summer.
6. Removed the “Pigeon Tunnel” – after the Creedmoor railroad spur was removed many years ago, an underpass under the Cross Island Parkway was blocked up. However, this became easy prey for vandals and vagrants. After many years of working with our local elected officials at the state level, the B.C.C.A. was successful in permanently removing the tunnel by a multi-million dollar state project that reconstructed the Cross Island Parkway. This project removed a very dangerous hill and provided a safer entrance/exit configurations on the northbound and southbound Cross Island Parkway.
7. Illegal Apartments – The B.C.C.A. is extremely active, borough-wide and city-wide, in attacking the problem of people illegally converting apartments. We testified in front of the City Council in support of the Borough President’s and Mayors 1996 initiative to strengthen anti-conversion laws. Locally, we identify and report illegal conversions to help protect and preserve our neighborhood.
8. Blockbusting – The B.C.C.A. was instrumental in identifying the problem of unscrupulous real-estate brokers attempting to bust up neighborhoods by “steering” local residents into prematurely selling their houses, often below market rates. Our action and involvement with other civic groups resulted in the Secretary of State establishing a non-solicitation order that covers our area and most of eastern Queens to this day and continues to protect our area. The B.C.C.A. has reported numerous blockbusters and has testified at the hearings on behalf of residents.
9. Potholes & Trees – You may think the City routinely fixes potholes and prunes or removes trees. Not so. The B.C.C.A. periodically surveys Bellerose streets for dead or overgrown trees, graffiti’d stop signs, potholes, etc. Late in 1997 we submitted a list of 74 such menaces (probably just scratched the surface), many of which have finally been fixed. Without this activity, they would never be fixed.
You also asked about some of the community service programs that the B.C.C.A. has been involved in. There are a number of programs that fall into this category. Here are a few examples:
Each year we work in cooperation with the local schools, St. Gregory’s and P.S. 133, to provide citizenship awards for outstanding graduates. In addition we sponsor an essay contest, focusing on community improvement and other local issues. Both of these programs include a certificate from the organization and savings bonds – the citizenship winner also receives a beautiful medal at the graduation ceremony. Another activity is our annual holiday decoration contest, which provides a financial reward for families decorating their properties during the holiday season. This has resulted in a significant increase in beautiful decorations over the past 5 or 6 years. Of course, we also put out a monthly newsletter, called Action News, which discusses community-related issues and reaches out for comments and questions from the membership. Finally, we conduct monthly meetings (except during the summer and February) and invite speakers on local topics and other issues of interest. Meetings regularly feature our local community patrol officer with an update on criminal activity in the area.
These activities may sound simple and may not seem to have a significant impact, however it is important to note that this organization is continually mindful of local problems and is organized and ready to act on behalf of the community to respond to City, State or external elements that can harm the community. It is also important to note that all of the members of the board of the B.C.C.A. are volunteers and no one serves with any pay whatsoever. In addition, nothing can be accomplished by any one organization in a vacuum. For that reason we have representatives active in a number of organizations seeking neighborhood improvement. Let me identify a few:
A. Community Board 13 – Two of our board members are also members of committee Board 13 and actively involved in transportation, land-use and Parks issues. Community boards our formal entities of New York city government providing coordination of city services and advocating for neighborhood development. Community Board 13 comprises the largest Community Board in the city and one of the most diverse.
B. Queens Civic Congress – the Congress is a coalition of 100 civic associations throughout Queens that seeks to leverage this combined clout to improve city services and increase the investment by the city in neighborhoods throughout Queens to ensure our long-term viability. One of our board members is chairman of the Platforms and Resolutions Committee for the Congress.
C. 105th Precinct Community Council – this council meets monthly with “Top Brass” of the 105th Precinct to ensure that manpower is maintained and adequate coverage of our neighborhood continues to be a priority. At the last B.C.C.A. meeting, the commanding officer spoke to our members for almost 45 minutes, thanks to our active involvement in the council. The Deputy Inspector does not often visits civic associations.
D. The Rose House Advisory Board – the Civic Association is actively involved in the community advisory board with a residential center for mentally ill homeless men and women at Creedmoor. This board, initially established to protect the community from a men’s shelter placed there overnight by Mayor Koch in the mid-70’s, has resulted in a prototype, humanitarian approach to treatment of mentally ill homeless people and the committee continues to advise the center and advocate for funding, staff and enhanced programs for its clients.
E. Borough President’s taskforce Creedmoor Redevelopment – the state is in the process of selling-off several hundred acres of property on the former psychiatric center just west of us. Without proper controls, this entire area could fall prey to improper development that could over tax our infrastructure, crowd our streets and deprive us of the light, air and green space that we are accustomed to. As a result, the civic association and several others forced the governor to abide by established laws that require formal taskforce to monitor any future development of the area. We are arepresented on this committee. The Queens Civic Congress, of which we are a number, has prepared and submitted a master plan for the redevelopment of Creedmoor to the taskforce and to Empire State Development, which will preserve and protect the character of the community and prevent over development and “Big box” stores such as Home Depot.
F. The Bellerose Business District – the B.C.C.A. is a charter member of the Joint Bellerose Business District Development Corporation, with its mission to unite the merchants and building owners on Jamaica Avenue/Jericho Turnpike in order to improve the shopping strip and identify and seek government sources of funding for improvements to increase business and improve the area. This year the B.B.D. will introduce holiday decorations, welcome signs and directory brochres. We are currently seeking a one-half million dollar federal government grant to install new lighting reminiscent of the original lighting of the 1920’s and 30’s .
G. Borough President’s Task Forces on Zoning and Illegal Conversions – in order to maintain and strengthen the zoning resolutions and penalties against infractions, the B.C.C.A. is represented and attends all of the Borough President’s meetings of these two committees.
H. VIN Etching and bike registration – with the 105th precinct and St. Gregory’s Chuirch – protects dozens of neighbors cars and bikes from theft.
I. Fought the relocation of the sanitation garage from Alley Pond Park into Bellerose – an idea which is back again.
We believe that activities such as these provide strength and unity and promote cooperation and support from neighboring communities. The Bellerose area is therefore stronger for the effort we put in and is constantly ready to meet challenges that may arise.