2002-10-12 / Front Page

Stop The Bulldozers!

Arverne Encroachment On Hold
After Protest And Media Coverage
By Gary G. Toms

Arverne Encroachment On Hold
After Protest And Media Coverage
By Gary G. Toms

In the September 28 issue of The Wave, a front-page story exposed the plight of a number of Arverne homeowners who were battling the city over the issue of encroachment and the possible destruction of their property. It looks as though the homeowners can breathe a little easier, at least for now, as city officials have pledged to work with them to address the problem.

On October 3, City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. hosted a standing room only town hall meeting at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. The meeting featured officials from the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Parks Department, who listened to the complaints of about 200 to 300 residents from the Arverne area and other communities.

"If the city is doing this to people in Arverne, they could do it in my community too," said a concerned resident from the Edgemere area.

The battle with the city began when certified letters were sent to many homeowners indicating the city's intent to remove sections of property in and around their homes to raise the street by two feet in order to widen it and put in new drains, which will correct sewer and flooding problems. The boundary for the project extends from several homes on the corner of Beach 69 Street and Beach Channel Drive to Thursby Avenue. The homeowners contend that while the city may indeed own a section of the property, it does not give them the right to just come in, rip up sidewalks, walkways and driveways, and destroy their homes without proper notice or a discussion of compensation for damages to their homes.

In an effort to address resident’s concerns, the agencies gave presentations on the controversial project, and they acknowledged that many of the residents had legitimate complaints.

Jonathan Gaska, District Manager for Community Board 14, attended Sanders’ meeting, and he feels confident that the agencies will do the right thing for the community.

"One of the good things that came out of the meeting was the fact that DDC admitted that the letters sent out to the Arverne residents were misleading. They stated that the letters could have been handled differently, with regard to the wording," said Gaska.

"The majority of the discussion involved property and the rights of homeowners."

Many residents asked why the agencies involved were taking action at this point in time, believing that the construction is somehow linked to Arverne-By-The-Sea. The representatives explained that the project, part of a $50 million renovation effort that will improve many of the roads and sewers lines in the area by raising the streets and installing storm sewers, had been in the planning stages long before the Arverne-By-The-Sea project was mentioned.

Gaska told The Wave that some people may not be impacted by the project, and if they are, it will only be by a few feet.

"DDC will be meeting with residents to discuss plans and options regarding the project," said Gaska.

The community board representative also stated that the DDC was committed to answering questions and defusing a tense situation.

Assemblywoman Michele Titus, who toured the project area and met with homeowners two weeks ago, shared her thoughts on the town hall meeting.

"I am hopeful at this point because DDC said they would sit down with each homeowner to discuss problems. As long as that happens, I expect that things will go smoothly," said Titus.

"They also discussed the possibility of removing medians in the project area, which would prevent them from having to rip up the sidewalks and stairs on or near many of the homes."

Titus noted that several representatives mentioned they would consider halting the project for at least a year, as a result of intense opposition by homeowners and recent media coverage.

"I truly feel the story that appeared in The Wave, and later The Daily News, played a major part in both the massive turnout at the meeting and the city’s immediate response," stated the Assemblywoman.

Two days after The Wave broke the story, the story was written in the Sunday edition of the New York Daily News by reporter Warren Woodbury.

Councilman Sanders came away from the meeting stating that while many questions still linger regarding the project, the town hall discussion was a step in the right direction for city officials.

"I think the meeting was good. It was a chance for people to get pure information, and we have not gotten pure information regarding this project," said Sanders.

Sanders mentioned that this meeting was the first in a series of meetings aimed at addressing the concerns of Arverne residents.

"I am very happy that the agencies came out to take part in the discussion, but we will be doing more to address this problem."

The councilman informed The Wave that he understands the city’s position, since the property does technically belong to them, but he quickly noted that he totally understands the Arverne community’s resistance to the plan.

"We need the sewer project, but we must make sure we don’t ruin the quality of life for the people in Arverne," said Sanders.

"We’re trying to develop options for the residents to help make the situation better."

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