Monday, April 20, 2009

Richmond Hill South Civic Has 2 Key Issues by Peter C. Mastrosimone - Queens Chronicle

Read original...

Empty houses like these in Ozone Park, and others throughout southern Queens, concern members of the Richmond Hill South Civic Association. (photo by Michael O’Kane)

When the Richmond Hill South Civic Association holds its next meeting April 23, two concerns of residents will top the agenda, according to civic officials: the blight of empty homes that have been abandoned by builders and the future of Aqueduct Raceway.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s director for community affairs in Queens, Jennifer Manley, will be the meeting’s guest speaker. Manley is certain to be asked what the city can do to get unfinished houses complete and occupied, as well as what is going to happen with the state’s plans to redevelop Aqueduct since the firm that won the bid for the work had to pull out.

How much the city government can do about private-sector construction on the one hand and a state-directed project on the other is what the members hope to find out at their meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, located at 112-14 107th Ave.

Empty houses not just in Richmond Hill but other parts of southern Queens concern members even more now that the New York Racing Association has announced that it will be selling multiple empty plots of land near Aqueduct.

“That is some concern for all those people who live around there,” said Elke Henkell of the Richmond Hill South civic group. “There are some houses on Centerville, right near the John Adams playground, that have been constructed but haven’t been lived in.”

Henkell continued, “We don’t want the same thing to happen again. All you have are these brown parcels of fence, and people graffiti them and start dumping garbage there. People who live next to these lots start experiencing rats and mice coming in.

“People feel their homes are devalued. It impedes our quality of life.”

Aqueduct itself is a concern in several ways. Residents are nervous about what will follow the state’s selection of one company to build a “racino” there with video lottery terminals because of increased traffic, and the kind of people who will be attracted to the new gambling center, according to Henkell. But at the same time, the community is looking forward to the jobs the redevelopment is expected to provide.

“We want help with the Aqueduct situation,” civic President Margaret Finnerty said. “We live right by Aqueduct, it’s in our backyard. There were jobs that were promised our community, and we were looking at it as a way to spruce up the community. We want the community to help to put pressure on the governor to move the situation forward.”