A standing room only crowd of residents packed this month’s Woodhaven Residents' Block Association Town Hall meeting to vote on the Top Ten issues that we, as a community, should be focused on solving.
Each resident was offered 10 straws which they could use to vote on various issues, some proposed by the WRBA and others nominated by residents in attendance. If you felt really passionate about something, you could drop all 10 of your straws into a cup representing that issue. Or, you could spread out your vote amongst a few issues, the ones that impact you the most.
Looking at the over two dozen issues she had to choose from, one resident remarked that she needed more straws. Our elected officials, the police, and our city – they all face similar tough choices every day because you’ll never have enough resources to tackle every single problem. So you need to weigh all of the problems at hand and choose wisely, looking to get the biggest bang for your buck.
On that count, I feel the residents chose wisely, pointing to Illegal Conversions as the top problem plaguing the residents of Woodhaven. Indeed, it is a problem all over New York City, and one that feeds many of the other problems that we face. The lack of parking, caused largely by the many additional drivers crammed into illegal living spaces. The dirty streets, caused largely by residents who must improperly dispose of their household trash so as not to draw attention to their illegal housing. The additional noise, overcrowding, traffic, crime – any time you cram more people into an area than it is able to handle, all of these other problems will be exacerbated and the residents of Woodhaven recognized that.
Noise, predictably, was near the top of the list (2nd Place) as was Crime (5th) and Graffiti (7th). A group of residents from 98th Street made their case against developing the abandoned Rockaway Rail Line and so “No Way Queens Way” finished in 3rd place. People were visibly angry at those who do not clean up after their dogs (4th Place) and at their water bills (6th). If you’ve recently stepped in one or received the other in the mail you probably agree.
The need for more police tumbled all the way to 8th place after a first place finish the last time we ran this poll at the end of 2011. Gangs (9th) and Dirty Streets (10th) rounded out our Top Ten.
There were some issues that residents were disappointed didn’t finish higher. Prostitution (11th) in Woodhaven is an issue plaguing the residents near the intersection of Rockaway Boulevard and Atlantic, and if you speak to those that live near the problem you will understand their anger.
One resident wrote to complain about the prostitutes “using our streets as public restrooms, littering, leaving used contraceptives on the streets and even flashing drivers.”
Captain Henry “Hank” Sautner, newly installed at the 102nd Precinct, recently noted that they have made over half a dozen arrests at that location in his first two months on the job, and they plan on watching that area very closely, especially as the weather heats up.
And Abandoned Houses finished lower on the list than some expected, particularly in the wake of the “Hell House” of 90th Street that the WRBA lobbied hard, and successfully, to get sealed this past fall. Again, sometimes there are not enough resources, or straws, to go around and it gets hard to pick and choose from the many problems we all face on a daily basis.
Do you disagree with the choices the residents of Woodhaven made? Well, the issues that matter to you might not ever get addressed if you sit at home instead of getting involved.
Our next public Town Hall meeting is a rare weeknight one, starting at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 20, at the Woodhaven Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue. Our guests will be the NYPD’s citywide Community Affairs Division to discuss the newly reactivated Blockwatcher program. The WRBA has signed up over 50 residents to take part in this initiative to make our streets safer.
We hope that you’ll find your way to our meeting and join your friends and neighbors of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.