An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

New York Times

March 22, 2009
Fort Totten

An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk
By JAMES ANGELOS

FORT TOTTEN in Bayside, Queens, sits atop a hilly peninsula near the Throgs Neck Bridge, where the waters of the East River meet Long Island Sound. The fort was built during the Civil War to guard the city against attack from the East River, but it closed in 1995, and since then, much of the land, along with many of its dilapidated Victorian buildings, has been handed over to the city.

A park now covers 50 acres of Fort Totten, and the Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Army Reserve 77th Regional Readiness Command and other groups, use some of the buildings on the remaining 100 or so acres.


Since the fort closed, the Fire Department has been in charge of security there, hiring private guards to patrol the fort and to staff a security booth at its entrance. But in February, the fort’s neighbors learned that the department would eliminate that security detail starting March 1, citing budget cuts.

The move has unleashed local fears that the park and its historic buildings, some of them abandoned, will be vulnerable to vandalism, arson and other crimes. Earlier this month, a few dozen residents held a rally at the fort’s entrance, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

At one point, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. spoke on a megaphone.

“During the toughest economic times,” Mr. Vallone said, “that’s when you have to keep the community and the people the safest.”

A group of security guards who had worked at the fort watched the protest.

“There will be a lot of chaos,” predicted one guard, Alexander Bolotinskiy, as he watched a car pass the empty security booth, where the sign still read, “Please Stop and Show ID.”

Steve Ritea, a Fire Department spokesman, said the change was part of a wider cut in security expenditures that would save nearly $1.2 million annually.

The Police Department, Mr. Ritea added, will continue to include the fort in its patrols. Fire marshals stationed at the fort will also provide an element of safety, he said.

But some residents are not placated. Among them is Carol Marian, president of the Bayside Historical Society, which is housed in the fort.

“This park is not a normal park,” Ms. Marian said, pointing out the many old buildings. “We have hidden corners where people can lurk.”

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Bayside activists protest lack of security at Fort Totten

Rally organizer Warren Schreiber talks with a fellow Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Brennan at a rally outside of the gates of Fort Totten in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci

Rally organizer Warren Schreiber talks with a fellow Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Brennan at a rally outside of the gates of Fort Totten in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci

Times Ledger

Bayside activists protest lack of security at Fort Totten

By Christina Santucci and Stephen Stirling
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 4:37 PM EDT

Dozens of residents and community leaders descended on the security gates at Fort Totten Saturday morning to protest the recent termination of private security services in the historic park — a move they say could lead to a spike in crime in the area.

For the past two years, the FDNY has spent $650,000 annually to provide a 24−hour security detail for the fort. Due to budget cuts across the city, however, the FDNY recently announced it would not hire a private security firm to guard the area and instead turned over control of the fort to the 109th Precinct March 1. The 109th, which is based in Flushing, covers the adjacent Bay Terrace neighborhood.

The decision has not sat well with a number of residents and civic groups in the area, however, who contend the FDNY gave little notice of the decision and could unintentionally create a hotbed for crime that could spill into the surrounding communities.

“Shame on the FDNY,” said Kim O’Hanion, Parks Committee chairwoman of Community Board 7. “What they’re doing here is totally unacceptable.”

Though several of the buildings at Fort Totten are occupied by law enforcement agencies, some buildings have been long abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said without security these abandoned buildings could become havens for vandals and vagrants who could commit serious crimes or start fires in the structures.

About half a dozen guards from PD Security in Bellerose lost their jobs at Fort Totten. Mandouh Elzab of Richmond Hill, who had been working at Fort Totten for about six years said that two to three weeks ago, at about 2 a,m. a man came to the guard station needing medical attention.

“He was in very bad condition. I called the ambulance and stayed with him. If nobody is here, who is going to help this guy?” Elzab asked.

Protesters also said they were miffed by the last−minute warning the FDNY gave before making the decision to halt security at the fort.

“They should have come to us, the parties that are interested and affected, and let us know and have a say,” Schreiber said. “There have to be ways to solve this situation. But they gave us no warning.”

Community Affairs Detective Kevin O’Donnell of the 109th Precinct recently told TimesLedger Newspapers that the precinct would patrol the area, but not provide a constant security detail.

“If [the FDNY] drops security, it would just become part of the regular patrol of that area,” he said. “We don’t do security, we patrol neighborhoods.”

The fort, bounded by the Long Island Sound and Cross Island Parkway, is also home to an Army National Guard unit, an NYPD K−9 unit, an emergency services unit, an EMS academy and the auxiliary Coast Guard.

Schreiber, who has been leading the fight against the cutbacks, said it is unbelievable there are so many law enforcement agencies present at the fort, yet no one manning the front gate on a regular basis.

“We feel they betrayed the community,” Schreiber said. “They made an agreement to provide security here. All we’re asking for is the status quo. We’re not asking for them to reinvent the wheel.”

Rally to Protect Fort Totten

PROTEST RALLY

PROTEST RALLY

*IMPORTANT RALLY*

PROTECT THE FORT!

ORGANIZED BY

BAY TERRACE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE

&

FRIENDS OF FORT TOTTEN PARKS

DATE: SAT., MARCH 7, 2009 AT 11:00 AM

PLACE: FORT TOTTEN FRONT GATE

CROSS ISLAND PKWY @ 212TH ST.

GUARD SERVICE IS GOING TO BE REMOVED FROM THE ENTRANCE TO FORT TOTTEN PARK DUE TO MAYOR BLOOMBERG’S BUDGET CUTS!

THE INCREASED POTENTIAL FOR VANDALISM, ARSON & BURGLARY OF HISTORIC

BUILDINGS AND SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOODS, AND THE SECURITY OF OUR

HOMES AND COMMUNITY ARE SERIOUSLY AT RISK!

JOIN US IN PROTECTING THE FORT

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

rally-flyer

New plans announced for Bay Terrace Shopping Center at community meeting

New plans announced for Bay Terrace Shopping Center

New plans announced for Bay Terrace Shopping Center

Queens Chronicle

New plans announced for Bay Terrace shopping
by Laura Shin, Chronicle Contributor
01/29/2009

Consumers who frequent the Bay Terrace Shopping Center have several changes to look forward to in the coming months. Cord Meyer Development Co. representatives revealed new plans for the property and addressed concerns at the Jan. 22 meeting of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance.
Empty space on the second level may soon be home to new eateries such as a steak house and an Italian restaurant. “Unfortunately, things are slow because of the economy, but we are working on some nice things,” said Mary Hughes, vice president of leasing for Cord Meyer.

Hughes explained that there had been a deal with Petco for that space, but it did not work out. Rumors that a Trader Joe’s was coming to the shopping center had circulated, but Hughes said that is not possible due to lease restrictions with Waldbaum’s.
Reports about a Panera Breads opening in the FedEx Kinko’s and Camelot space, however, were confirmed. “We should see construction plans in about three weeks and an opening by early summer,” Hughes told attendees of the standing-room-only meeting.
She also dispelled rumors about a New York Sports Club coming to the center, explaining that a gym facility would require a change of use in the lease agreement and there is no guarantee for such a change.
The five representatives of Cord Meyer, including Anthony Colletti, its chief financial officer, stood at the head of the crowd as local residents and community leaders offered praise, questions and concerns.
“We are accountable,” Colletti said. “We don’t just build and leave; we’ve been there for a long time,” he said, assuring members of the community that all complaints would be heard.
Cord Meyer has a 104-year history and a 60-year history at the shopping center.
Colletti responded to one resident’s concern about the ever-popular Ben’s Deli. “We are pleased they are staying,” he said. “We wish them to stay forever.”
After months of negotiations and no resolution, the deli reported last November that it would leave the property. Earlier this month, however, the deli renewed its lease and will remain at its current location.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) made an appearance at the meeting and offered good words about Cord Meyer and encouraged everyone to “come out and patronize the stores.”
Community members eagerly raised their hands hoping for their chance to speak. Some complimented Cord Meyer for the cleanliness of the property and good security. Others expressed concern over traffic and pedestrian safety.
Cord Meyer officials explained that they are not able to write traffic summons and that traffic laws are not enforced in parking lots in New York City.
In response to various suggestions, Cord Meyer officials said installing a trolley on the site is not feasible due to expense, liability and traffic. They also said having a sidewalk run across the parking lot is “impractical.”
Representatives from Waldbaum’s were also present at the meeting. Community members commented on various issues such as prices, availability of organic foods and the lack of delivery service.
“I’m here for you. I listen to every word you say,” said Bill Reilly, representative for Waldbaum’s, as he wrote down every comment. “Some things we can do, other things are harder.”
BTCA President Warren Schreiber ended the meeting by assuring attendees that the civic association is working on a community survey in which residents will be able to report their concerns and suggestions.

Civilians, cops tag-team vs. graffiti

BTCA Graffiti Busters

BTCA Graffiti Busters

Queens has made major strides in the war on vandalism.

Graffiti complaints dropped dramatically across the borough in 2008 — including a 20% decline in Queens’ northern precincts — even as citywide totals jumped more than 10%, according to preliminary NYPD stats.

The number of graffiti complaints includes calls from the public to report vandalism to the NYPD, as well as all graffiti-related criminal charges the NYPD files against suspects after they’re arrested.

In addition, cops collared 214 fewer taggers in Queens than they had in 2007 — a 23.1% drop that contrasted with a 10% leap citywide in graffiti arrests, NYPD records show.

Skeptics warn the numbers may indicate only a lack of vigilance in reporting graffiti and catching offenders — not a true dip in the colorful crimes — but others view them as a major accomplishment.

In 2008, the 109th Precinct reported 182 graffiti complaints which resulted in 55 arrests. During that same period, the 111th Precinct received 117 graffiti reports which resulted 27 arrests.

BTCA’s Graffiti Busters can often be seen removing grafitti, stickers, illegal postings and other forms of vandalism in Bay Terrace. Any one of their regularly schedluled clean-ups will often result in the removal of 30-50 tags and markings. All of these volunteer community groups should be applauded for their efforts.

For more on this story……….

Bay Terrace Community Alliance – Meet Your Local Merchants Night

It was standing-room-only at the BTCA’s January meeting. The huge turn-out on January 22nd, solidified the BTCA’s reputation as the “Voice of Bay Terrace.” In addition, the organization’s credibility was further enhanced by the presence of State Senator Stavisky, Gene McSweeney from Assemblywoman Carrozza’s office, Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky, four announced candidates for City Council in the 19th District, a former candidate for the State Assembly, Mac Harris who is head of FDNY operations on Fort Totten and members of the press.

Bay Terrace Shopping Center

Bay Terrace Shopping Center

There is no doubt that the representatives from Cord Meyer Development (Bay Terrace Shopping Center) and Waldbaum’s Super Market heard the community’s concerns loud and clear. Both companies should be applauded for caring enough to not only accept our invitation but also their willingness to answer any and all questions. There are high hopes that the suggestions, comments and in some cases criticisms which were offered will result in positive change.

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January 22nd Meeting in Bay Terrace – Important Shopping Center Updates

The Voice of Bay Terrace

The Voice of Bay Terrace

BAY TERRACE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE, INC.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

THE BAY TERRACE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE WILL WELCOME REPRESENTATIVES FROM BOTH CORD MEYER DEVELOPMENT & WALDBAUM’S WHO WILL ANSWER QUESTIONS AND PROVIDE UPDATES CONCERNING THE BAY TERRACE SHOPPING CENTER.

Special Guests Include:

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky

The next meeting of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance will be held on Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 7:30 PM sharp. The meeting will take place in the Benenson Family Center/Chabad of Northeast Queens located at 212-12 26th Avenue, Bay Terrace, NY.