Thousands of fish killed in Flushing Creek by NYC sewage overflows

Councilmember Peter Koo, Riverkeeper, and Guardians of Flushing Bay are having an emergency press conference in response to the mass fish kill-off in Flushing Creek. It is believed that this environmental destruction is caused by the Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) system used in this area.  You can join in the fight to upgrade this unsafe infrastructure on Friday, August 11, at 2:00PM on the Tidal Gate Bridge in Flushing Meadow Corona Park.  The press conference will demand that the City take meaningful action to reduce CSO in the Creek.

The New York State website describes how a CSO system works.

Combined sewer systems (CSS) are sewer systems that are designed to collect storm water runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe and bring it to the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) facilities.  During rain events, when storm water enters the sewers, the capacity of the sewer system may be exceeded and the excess water will be discharged directly to a waterbody (rivers, streams, estuaries, and coastal waters).  The untreated water may contain untreated sewage that may impact human health.

When the city of Bremerton, Washington, spent more than $50 million that achieved a 99.9% reduction in CSO events and volume, it made this animation explaining how the CSOs work.  Combined sewers are an outdated technology that need to be upgraded so human and industrial waste are correctly treated to avoid raw sewage being dumped into our waterways.  There are many options on how to decrease or eliminate CSO that New York should use to fix problems like this.  New York State is one of the larger CSO contributors in the United States.

About ten percent of the CSOs in the United States are found in NYS.

About 24 hours after the last CSO discharge from a recent rain storm, CUNY Queens College measured almost zero oxygen in Flushing Creek.  It’s unclear how often or severe these die-off events occur since the ‘average’ dissolved oxygen levels collected do not adequately identify these extreme events.  The City’s current plan to chlorinate rather than capture CSO is not a viable long-term solution.

Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek are actively used areas for recreational boating, fishing, and Dragon Boat practices (though the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend will be held at Meadow Lake).  The Eastern Queens Greenway is working to create a family-safe path from Eastern Queens to Flushing Meadows / Corona Park to connect the community to their parkland and waterways.  We need to start developing Flushing Bay into an area that can be enjoyed by the ever-growing population of Flushing.

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Image courtesy of Guardians of Flushing Bay

The Community Praises the Protected Bike Lane on Oceania Street and 210th Street

Oakland Gardens residents and the students of Nathanial Hawthorne Middle School 74Q just got a big safety improvement that our community leaders are excited about. Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik, Congress Member Grace Meng, Assembly Member Nily Rozic, Assembly Member David Weprin, and Community Board 11 Queens Chair Christine L. Haider all spoke yesterday praising the bidirectional, protected bike lane.

One of the biggest group of supporters at the event were members of the Eastern Queens Greenway which created a petition requesting this improvement. We felt that improving this street was important because of the rampant speeding and car crashes. On July 1st, 2015 at 6:07 PM a mother and her two daughters (8 and 10 years old) were killed at this location in the backseat of a car their grandfather was driving. Deborah Burns (the 47 year old, Jackson Heights driver who killed the family) was later indicted for three counts of manslaughter for driving 60 miles per hour in a school zone with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. Narrowing the street with a bike lane to reduce speeding was supported by the DoT and Community Board 11 who voting unanimously to build the bike lane earlier this year.

Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik spoke about supporting the design.

The safety of our children is always a top priority. I thank DOT for its attention to the streets near Middle School 74Q and look forward to a safe school year.

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Photo courtesy of @BarryGrodenchik

Assembly Member Nily Rozic iterated her commitment to street safety in our neighborhood.

My office has continued working closely with MS 74Q, CB 11Q, and our local bike advocates to ensure appropriate measures would be taken to improve safety in the area. While local residents will have to adjust to DOT’s proposed changes, they are a necessary step forward to prioritize everyone’s safety by greatly reducing the number of collisions we have seen in the area.

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Photo courtesy of @nily

Congress Member Grace Meng talked about how protected bike lanes can dramatically increase the safety for neighborhood children.

Nothing is more important than protecting our children, and it’s essential that we do all we can to keep them safe. These critical improvements are a long time coming and they will go a long way towards keeping kids out of harm’s way as well as improving conditions for motorists and pedestrians. As an alumna of Middle School 74Q and a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids’ Safety Caucus – the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues – I applaud these traffic enhancements and look forward to the improvements being completed in time for the new school year. Many thanks to Council Member Grodenchik and the Department of Transportation for leading this important effort.

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Photo courtesy of @RepGraceMeng

Assembly Member David Weprin focused on how by reconfiguring street space we can make a safer, more efficient design for everyone.

Improvements to traffic safety are always a welcome announcement here in Queens. The increased space for drop-off and pick-up in front of MS 74Q, one-way conversion of 210th Street, additional bicycle lanes, and all around enhancements to crosswalks and curbs in the area will create safer conditions for the Oakland Gardens community. I commend Council Member Barry Grodenchik for working with the city Department of Transportation to implement these life-saving traffic safety improvements.

Community Board 11 Queens Chair Christine L. Haider spoke about the Community Board’s unanimous support of this protected bike lane.

Community Board 11Q is very concerned for the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. This area, in front of MS 74Q, has had several accidents, including a fatal one. The DOT’s plan will narrow Oceania Street and, hopefully, maintain a safer area for all. CB 11Q voted unanimously at our March 6th public hearing, all 31 members in attendance, for DOT to implement this proposal.

Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White, agreed that this redesign helps increase safety and quality of life for community members.

Transportation Alternatives applauds Council Member Grodenchik and the parents of MS 74Q for advocating for this vital series of street safety improvements on Oceania Street. Oceania’s unnecessary width leads to speeding and other dangerous behaviors, and reclaiming that space for walking and biking with a road diet, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian safety improvements will dramatically reduce injuries and fatalities for all users by slowing down cars and increasing the visibility of people on foot and bike. This project will also improve access to MS 74Q, Cunningham Park, and the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, making it a big win for the quality of life for all Queens residents.

The community at Nathanial Hawthorne Middle School 74Q played a major role in getting this street design improved. PTA President Cathy Grodsky spoke about how important this change is to the students.

We are all so grateful for the Council Member’s steadfast commitment to MS 74Q and to all the schools in our wonderful district. We are hopeful that these new traffic changes will help alleviate long-standing issues and make the streets safer for our students.

CLIMB President Michael Vitti pointed out that designs give community members the option to travel around their neighborhood without their car.

We want to thank Barry Grodenchik, NYC DOT, the Community Board, the City Council, Friends of Cunningham Park, Transportation Alternatives, and everyone else who made this new bike lane possible. 210th Street and Oceania Street was a wide, dangerous speedway but now has been calmed to create safe passage for bicycles, pedestrians, and cars. This type of green infrastructure is what keeps New York City on the forefront of Vision Zero to limit injuries in the community. This is even more important to us because our mountain bike trails and the Motor Parkway Path now have safer access for those who choose to leave their cars at home.

Our own Eastern Queens Greenway advocate Joby Jacob showed how connecting the community to it’s parkland is good for everyone.

Oceania Street and 210th Street connect numerous park facilities, including a school playground, a popular mountain biking trail, a playground for small children, and the forty-mile long Brooklyn Queens Greenway. The Eastern Queens Greenway is dedicated to a vision of family safe connections between our parks. We are very happy to stand with MS 74Q, Council Member Grodenchik, CLIMB, Transportation Alternatives, and others to ensure the safety of the students, parents, faculty, and staff of MS 74Q. We believe this traffic calming as well as the two-way parking-protected bike lane will ensure the safety of many people heading to enjoy the wonderful park facilities in Eastern Queens. We also can’t wait to see more of our neighborhood kids feeling safe enough to ride their bikes to school.

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Photo courtesy of @juaninQNS

We look forward to the implementation of this protected bike lane and for the redesign of Eastern Queens streets to better serve all road users.

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Photo courtesy of @nily

Brutal Crimes Should Have No Place in Our Parks

(This article is published with permission from the Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy where it was originally written.)

For many years the Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy has advocated for park improvements to increase safety.  We have requested better paths and fewer fences so the park is more welcoming and less desolate.  We have asked for better design and maintenance so the park does not have overgrown areas that provide cover for illegal dumping, rape or murder.  Kissena Corridor Park needs to be designed to bring in the community, not crime.

On July 19th, 2017 an attacker sexually assaulted a 32 year old women and, what is believed to be the same attacker, sexually assaulted a 17 year old women the next day on July 20th (according to QNS).  On July 20th, police apprehend a suspect in Kissena Corridor Park based on witness accounts (CBS).  The suspect, who was charged with rape and robbery lives close to the park (New York Post).

In June of 2016, three women were attacked around Kissena Corridor Park within 6 days of each other (AMNY).

In December of 2015 a man was charged with the stabbing death of 28 year old women found in Kissena Corridor Park (NY Daily News).  At 3:00 PM homeless man discover the body and went to a nearby church to call 911 (Queens Gazette).  The body was found only about 300 feet from an entrance, right next to a gated area (NY Daily News).

Although the NYPD reports that crime is decreasing city-wide, our parks may be an exception.  By one study crime has increased 23% in our green space (Times Ledger).

It is time for the City of New York to take responsibility for cleaning up Kissena Corridor Park and give it the resources to support the growing community around it.

If you’d like to make the park more accessible to the community, please sign our petition to build better paths and connecting it to Flushing Meadows Park and Kissena Park.

To help us develop this parkland into something every Queens resident could be proud of, please consider coming to Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy’s next meeting from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Thursday, August 17 at:

Flushing Hospital, 5th Floor Auditorium
146-01 45th Avenue
Flushing, NY 11355

The Tour de Flushing Was a Great Success & We Have Pictures to Prove It

Thank you to everyone that came out to the first ever Tour de Flushing.  We had around 150 cyclists, far more then we ever expected would come out for our friendly little neighborhood bike ride.

The route was a little less than 20 miles including a wide variety of path conditions (while out on the ride we decided to skip Fort Totten Park).

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https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21195160

Everyone met at the Unisphere, which was the first time we saw how many people were excited to ride their bikes through Eastern Queens.  Before starting the tour, we rode “around the world” once to signify the diversity of our community and of our riders.

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New York 1 came by and made a great video explaining why a ride like this was important to our community.

The ride snaked its way through many of our Queens neighborhoods where we talked about local history and our advocacy to help make the area safer, as the Queens Tribune and QNS described .

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The Tour de Flushing ended at the Queens Quaker Meeting House.  About half of our riders decided to not to come to the Meeting House, usually because they wanted to try the food of one of the many neighborhoods we passed through.  But we appreciate everyone who came out to any part of the ride, no matter how long or short.

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If you’d like to stay in touch with us for future events, please follow us on facebook and twitter or follow us via email by typing it into the form on this page.

If you’d like to see better infrastructure in this neighborhood, please consider helping our advocacy work by signing these petitions for some of our active campaigns:

Motor Parkway East will connect the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway trail in Queens with the 14-mile Motor Parkway Trail being built in Nassau.

Rebuild Utopia Parkway As a Complete Street so that it is safer for everyone who uses the street: pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and bus riders.

The Kissena Walk will build a trail in the parks that would connect Bayside and Flushing Meadows / Corona Park. This would allow families and kids to avoid busy streets like Main Street, College Point Boulevard, and Booth Memorial Avenue.

You can also come down to one of our monthly meetings where we can help you advocate for safety improvements you feel the neighborhood needs.

We hope to see you again real soon.

Learn to bike course for autistic beginners is looking for participants and volunteers

I’m Joelle, a member of the Eastern Queens Greenway. On August 13th I’m volunteering to support ELIJA (Empowering Long Island through Its Journey with Autism) and the Autism Community by holding a Bike New York Learn to Ride class. In comparison to other classes Bike New York runs, this class will be specifically geared towards individuals with higher functioning autism ages 10 to 18. As always, the classes are free and Bike New York will lend out the bikes and helmets at no additional cost.

If you would be interested in teaching Learn to Ride, and working with individuals with high functioning autism, then I invite you to come to our training session at on August 6th.  We will have a training class from 10:30 AM to 11:00 AM for those who do not have experience with autism and then a training from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM to teach you how to help students learn to ride.

Both the Learn to Ride class as well as the training session will take place Flushing Meadows Corona Park Aquatic Center (outside at southeast corner of building).

These events have been the culmination of a five year cycling journey for me, as five years ago, I began to cycle together with my dad on a big red tandem bike. In our first ride we participated in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, in which we fundraised for ELIJA, a program which my sister attends. About two years after this, I fell in love with road cycling and since then I have never stopped.

Autism is a spectrum disorder which affects every individual who has it differently. Many, however, struggle socially, which is why this program is all the more crucial for individuals on the spectrum. I am hoping that through Learn to Ride, many individuals will have a new outlet to interact socially whether it be with their peers or within the NYC/Long Island cycling community.  In fact, according to research, motor-based physical exercise benefits individuals with autism, not only physically, but socially, behaviorally, and academically.

I encourage anyone who is interested in either teaching or participating in Learn to Ride to contact me at joellelemond@gmail.com.  I hope that everyone can participate in any way that they can.  Our first class can be found by simply going to IMATHLETE.com and searching ELIJA. Happy riding everyone!

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Assemblywoman Nily Rozic Supports the Kissena Way

Today Assemblywoman Nily Rozic publicly announced her support of the Kissena Way project.  We are overjoyed at her interest in building a family safe path connecting the parks of Eastern Queens.

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The Assemblywoman’s district (shown here in yellow) covers much of the Queens section of the Brooklyn / Queens Greenway.  Making this a continuous, protected route would connect communities through out Eastern Queens with paths that are safe enough for all our neighbors to use.

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We sincerely thank the Assemblywoman and the rest of Team Nily for their ongoing dedication to our parkland and our community.  In this same parkland, the Assemblywomen is also spearheading upgrading New York City’s only surviving velodrome.

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Peye Wong, Leona Chin, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Joby Jacob

If you agree with the Assemblywomen, you too can help build the Kissena Way by signing this petition requesting a child safe route between Kissena Park and Flushing Meadows Park:

https://campaigns.transalt.org/petition/make-kissena-corridor-park-accessible-everyone-our-community

CB11 Transportation Committee Revisits Already Approved Bike Lane / Street Design

On Monday, July 17th the Transportation Committee of Community Board 11 held an emergency meeting to discuss ideas about a protected path connecting Bayside and Douglaston.  Earlier this year the same Community Board’s General Committee had already voted to approved DoT’s design for this path, 18 in favor, 11 against (color photo below).  The ideas proposed last night (black and white photocopy) eliminates the protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard that was approved and instead creates a shared bike/pedestrian sidewalk.

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The ideas presented were from Community Board Member Bernie Haber. Bernie has claimed to be the longest serving Community Board Member. Directly before the meeting Committee Members were given Bernie’s packet which included hand drawn sketches and multiple claims without citations. Once the meeting was opened, Bernie spoke for approximately half an hour about his feelings for what should be built without allowing questions until the end.

In addition to mixing cyclist and pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk, Bernie is proposing excluding the three feet high, concrete physical protection against drivers that DoT has proposed and replacing it with a four foot wide grass buffer.  Although the grass may be more esthetically pleasing to drivers and cyclists, it is better suited for residential streets, not a 7 lane trucking route known for its speeding. Bernie has admitted that his proposal would require the movement of multiple street lights, the cutting down of Parks Department trees, pouring large amounts of concrete, and taking land that is currently being used by other agencies.

To give some history of Northern Boulevard, Bernie spoke about how proud of he was that he and this Transportation Committees increase the width of traffic lanes on Northern Boulevard from 60 feet to 70 feet many decades ago. This changed spurred other sections of Northern to remove sidewalk space for automobiles. Bernie did not mention that now Northern Boulevard has been designated a Vision Zero Priority Corridor, which means that it is in the top 10% of most dangerous streets in New York City.

Board Member and Lawyer Albert Galatan pointed out that this meeting was not valid since it did not give the community the legally mandated notice.  (Editor’s note: we believe he was referencing the New York Open Meeting Law Article 7, §104. Public notice. “1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given or electronically transmitted to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.”) Community Board 11 President Christine Haider said the meeting was valid since she had asked Committee Members about their availability on Thursday July 13th. The meeting was publicly announced on Friday July 14th and held on Monday July 17th. Even with this lack of notice, there was still a strong turn out from the public, overflowing out of the committee room.  Speaking to the public after the meeting was over, it was clear that the vast majority of the neighbors came out against Bernie’s proposal.

Since the 12 page packet was only given to the Committee Members at the start of the meeting, Board Member John Kelly requested that the Committee should be given time to review the new information before it is sent to DoT so that this process is not rushed.  The committee disregarded and voted to move it forward.  Board Member Paul DiBenedetto was unable to attend the meeting but submitted a letter of support for Bernie’s ideas, presumably before he’s seen the full proposal since both Paul’s letter and the proposal were distributed at the same time.

Bernie had expressed some of his ideas at the General Meeting where the Community Board voted to accept DoT’s plan. At that meeting the DoT said that Bernie’s ideas would require substantially more work and a large amount of coordination between all of the current tenants of the land Bernie would like to build on. DoT said implementing something like what Bernie is proposing could take at a minimum of 5 years and would require funds being allocated. At that meeting DoT said they would review Bernie’s ideas as a future enhancement, but that they would like to implement the fully designed path they had already presented. The majority of the Community Board agreed and voted for DoT’s plan.

Before the Transportation Committee meeting started last night, Community Board 11 President Christine Haider expressed dislike for recent media attention, specifically calling out the Streetsblog article for being inaccurate in the claims that this meeting was not for the public and just a delay tactic against the already approved bike lane.  During the meeting Christine mentioned very clearly, multiple times that the Committee’s goal is not to un-do the earlier vote approving DoT’s project or to delay it in any way. After the vote to submit Bernie’s ideas to the DoT has passed, Bernie began to interrupt Christine saying that his ideas should delay what was previously approved by the full Board. Bernie’s emergency meeting, rushed plan (voted on immediately after it was given), and his admitting to trying to delay DoT’s progress, is more in line with the media’s claims then Christine’s idea that the board approved route should be implemented without delay and that improvements could be made later. We will see which side is true depending on if DoT does delays their building of the path.

Monthly Meeting & Emergency CB11 Transportation Committee Tonight

Tonight is our monthly in-person meeting.  As usual, it’s going to start at 7:30 PM at the Old Quaker Meeting House in Flushing.  We hope you can make it to discuss what areas of Eastern Queens you feel could use street safety improvements.

137-16 Northern Boulevard
Flushing, New York 11354

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If you live or are connected to Community Board 11 and would like to help support the Northern Boulevard protected path, please come to the CB11 Transportation Committee meeting tonight, Monday the 17th.  Unfortunately even though the CB11 General Meeting voted on June 5th to install this path, the Transportation Committee has called a meeting to re-vist the vote and possibly delay the implementation.  On Friday the 14th the Community Board posted:

Scheduled Committee Meetings at 46-21 Little Neck Parkway:

Transportation Committee, Monday, July 17th 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Board office to discuss suggestions received for the Northern Blvd. proposed plan.

There has been news coverage of this event from the local branch of Streetsblog.

If you’d like to share your opinions on a possible delay to the Northern Boulevard protected infrastructure, please come down to the Transportation Committee tonight at 7:30 at:

46-21 Little Neck Parkway
Little Neck, NY 11362

 

First annual Tour de Flushing fun bike ride organized by the Eastern Queens Greenway

Come take a bike ride with us to celebrate the summer and see what’s happening in Eastern Queens!

We’ve had a lot of good news in our neighborhood this year. The city will begin repaving Vanderbilt’s Motor Parkway, thanks to the $1,250,000 Barry Grodenchik was able to secure. Due in large part to our volunteers, there will also be 7 miles of new protected bike lanes on Northern Boulevard, East Hampton Boulevard, and Oceania Street that will be built by next spring.

On Saturday, July 22nd at 9:00 AM, we will be doing a “Tour de Flushing” to bring attention to these major accomplishments. The 20-mile bike ride will travel through our historic greenways, parks and streets. We’ll start at the Unisphere and end at the historic Flushing Quaker Meeting House.

After the ride, we’ll get some grub in Downtown Flushing, so bring some
cash as well.

Please RSVP via Facebook or Eventbrite at:

https://tourdeflushing.eventbrite.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Flushing River Visioning Workshop needs your help this Friday evening

Our friends at Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay are working to create a cohesive community vision for the Flushing Waterways.  You’re invited to Friday night’s visioning workshop to share your ideas and experience to improve our neighborhood. We can work together on the most pressing issues of our area, including restoration, remediation, resilience, and recreation.

When:
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Friday, June 23, 2017

Where:
Queens Museum – New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Corona, NY 11368

Please make sure to RSVP:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/riverkeeeper-flushing-waterways-community-visioning-workshop-tickets-35048604319?aff=es2

Price:
This event is free, just bring your interest in helping our community.

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Working together we can solve issues like park/waterfront access, waterfront design, sewage overflow, infrastructure improvements, the equitable future of public space and more. We look forward to seeing you on Friday.