2007-03-23 / Columnists

Simon says...

Lew M. Simon
Lew M. Simon Commentary From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23 rd A.D. Part B

Neponsit Property Coming To Resolution

The weather has just been marvelous. It was a great heat wave. All of a sudden snow again. The snow caused the bus company to cancel our buses on Saturday due to poor road conditions. Those who planned to go on March 17 will go on Saturday March 24. The following trip will be on Saturday April 21. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 8 a.m. Call 718-945-1216 if you have any questions.

During the mid-1970's, police officers were first issued bulletproof vests. I went door to door selling bumper stickers that read, "We Support the 100 Precinct Council." The money was used to buy vests for our police officers. I'm prepared to do that again for our auxiliary police officers.

At the same time, one of our local City Council members needs to propose legislation to purchase vests for them. The city has a budget surplus. Come on Joe. Come on James. Do the right thing.

About two weeks ago, LaRay Brown, Executive Vice President of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, called me to let me know the decision by the HHC on the Neponsit Home.

She stated that they had listened to the concerns of the community and their capital committee decided on March 12 to turn the land back to New York City. HHC would not try to change the zoning and make a profit by selling the land for residential use.

We are under the belief that the decision in Aldrich v. City of New York, based on Chapter 456 of the Laws of 1906, allowed the city to acquire a seaside park for public health, recreation, a bathing pavilion and a hospital only. Now it would take an act of the legislature creating seven acres of new parkland to replace each acre of the Neponsit property if it were to be used for another purpose.

The question remains who will take care of the security and care of the grounds of the Neponsit property? Does the city have the money to level the buildings and remove the demolished rubble? The Parks Department says that they don't have the funding to take care of their current parks, let alone another park. Shame on the city and the HHC for closing this fantastic facility. It took care of many poor senior and disabled people.

LaRay Brown did not know whether the property would be taken by the Parks Department or DCAS (Department of Citywide Administrative Services). HHC would not give up title until the city agency accepts responsibility for the property. She estimated that HHC spends $200,000 to $240,000 a year for security and landscaping. There has been no discussion about leveling the buildings. She expected that a decision about the future of the property would be made within a year. The Land Use Committee of the City Council would be involved in the decision.

My first wish would be for the buildings to be used as a nursing home again. We were told that the Economic Development Corporation would advise the mayor on the future use. Our Assemblywoman, Audrey Pheffer, would have an important role in the final decision.

We would like to thank LaRay Brown for always being there, being responsive and being sensitive to the needs of Rockaway residents. Stay tuned. We'll keep you abreast of what's going on.

In early April our State Democratic Minority Leader Malcolm Smith will spend a day on the peninsula doing a listening tour. He will make various stops at Senior Centers and city housing and meet with community and civic leaders from all parts of the Rockaway peninsula.

We expect discussion on lifeguards, transportation, health care, education, school construction and other topics. The senator has made improving the quality of life in Rockaway a priority. He has been a great friend and advocate.

Beach 99 Street and Shorefront Parkway is a likely location for the proposed dog run. A number of parking concerns have been raised by those who do not live in the area. The Parks Department requires that a 501C(3) organization be formed to run the dog run, according to Jill C. Weber, Rockaway Parks Administrator. The date of the next meeting on the dog run will be announced soon.

The groundbreaking for the Arverne East development is planned for early 2009. They plan 1650 new units in 1-3 family homes and one mid-rise building, a hotel, movies, mid-box retail store and a new school site designated at Beach 32 Street. There is no commitment for paying for school construction or operation. The west end of this project will be low and mid-rise housing with 100% parking. Between Beach 40 Street and Beach 58 Street will be a lot of open space. The developer is responsible for constructing the infrastructure including sewers, water supply and streetlights. The housing will be 70% to 80% market rate with 20% to 30% affordable.

If you are part of a youth organization focusing on poverty, academic enrichment or health a grant may be available to help with your work. You can get more information by going to www.youthbridgeny.org/ or calling Elana Bekermen at 212-983-4800 ext. 147.

We are seeking interns or volunteers who are computer literate to help with constituent services. If you are interested in getting involved call my office at 718-945-1216. School credit may be arranged.

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