Following a series of sexual assaults reported in Kissena Park and Kissena Corridor Park over the summer, de Blasio said the city will add security lights at Kissena Corridor Park. Councilman Peter Koo previously funded three full-time security guards to help patrol the two parks.
“New Yorkers really depend on parks, kids, seniors, everyone,” de Blasio said. “We have to make sure our parks are safe.”
The mayor also announced that the Q44 bus, which runs from Flushing to Jamaica, will receive a $10 million upgrade “to make it go even smoother and faster.” He touted that since it was converted into a Select Bus Service (SBS) route with a dedicated bus lane, it has been “a big hit.”
To address ongoing trash problems in the area, which have plagued local businesses, de Blasio said the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) will increase its basket collection in downtown Flushing to twice a day. That change is effective immediately.
“It really is obnoxious when you see a litter basket, but it’s overflowing so it defeats the whole purpose,” he said. “That means it needs to be picked up more often.”
De Blasio touted some of his accomplishments and its effect on local neighborhoods. On crime, the mayor said the 109th Precinct has seen major crime decrease 5.5 percent in one year.
On affordable housing, the mayor pointed to the One Flushing development, which will add 232 affordable apartments to the area. A quarter of those units, about 66 apartments, will be specifically for seniors.
The mayor added that Koo’s district has increased pre-kindergarten enrollment by five times since the city rolled out its universal pre-K program. The next step is making sure every three-year-old has a seat in 3K, which will roll out in the next four years.
De Blasio then took questions about neighborhood concerns, such as helping small businesses survive, steering troubled schools in the right direction, and quality of life issues.
John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, asked the mayor if the city will have another comprehensive public planning process to address local needs after the Flushing West rezoning was taken off the table.
John Young, who heads the Queens office for the Department of City Planning (DCP), said while the rezoning is no longer being considered, the city did come up with “a number of strategies” to clean up and revitalize the area around Flushing Creek.
He discussed the Flushing Waterfront Revitalization Plan, a set of recommendations and zoning change proposals that were included in the city’s report to apply for the state Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) program.
According to a DCP fact sheet, the plan seeks to “facilitate the development of a vibrant, inclusive mixed-use neighborhood that would serve as an extension of Downtown Flushing.”
The rezoning recommendations would allow for the creation of affordable housing, spur economic development, reconnect the area to the street grid and create access to new public open space.
If the recommendations on the privately owned sites are implemented, they would have to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires public input and hearings.
“If everyone redevelops their site on the waterfront, we could grow eight acres of new open space in an area that severely needs open space,” Young said.
Residents also asked about the city’s Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP) to reduce combined sewer overflow runoff that pollutes Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. Specifically, they asked about a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) policy where chlorination is added to the rainwater and sewer overflow.
DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said on Flushing Creek the city built a $400 million storage tank a decade ago that captures roughly half the waste water. On Flushing Bay, the city has also submitted a $1.6 billion plan to build a 25 million gallon storage tank.
Defending the chlorination issue, Sapienza said what DEP has done is add bleach to disinfect the combined sewer overflow, a practice that he said many municipalities around the country are doing.
“To build enough storage capacity to capture every drop of rainfall, there’s just no place to put it and we frankly can’t afford it,” he said.
The mayor was also asked to reconsider his e-bike policy, which will be implemented starting in January. According to de Blasio, state law already makes the use of electronic bikes on New York City streets illegal. The city will begin to enforce that law in the new year.
E-bikes have become a favorite mode of transportation for food delivery workers.
“It has been happening for a long time, but it has not been legal and we’re not going to allow it to continue,” he said. “You can use a car, a regular bicycle, by foot, there are all sorts of other ways to deliver food.”
The mayor added that the city will look at ways to change the state law “to protect public safety.” But for now, de Blasio said it has become “increasingly clear” that e-bikes have become a safety problem for pedestrians.
He noted that businesses will be penalized for using e-bikes, rather than the individuals.
“We told the businesses, you have until January to change your approach,” de Blasio said.