On Wednesday evening, November 1, the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association drew a large crowd for its meeting at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. Mrs. Jennifer Martin, president of the association, chose a highly charged topic for this meeting. There were many questions, comments, suggestions, and grievances voiced by community members.
Deputy Inspector Scott Henry of the 107th Precinct opened the program with a short report about the level of crime in our neighborhood. He stated that although we are fortunate to live in a relatively low crime area, those who feel that they have not seen enough patrol cars should call the precinct and report this.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, rav of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, brought up the problem of tractor-trailers parking illegally on Main Street. These vehicles pose a safety threat by obstructing the view of pedestrians as they are crossing. The police inspector acknowledged that this is a citywide problem that is very difficult to stop even by ticketing or giving summonses to the drivers, and that the police must make it as unpleasant as possible for the truckers to prevent this problem.
Next, Mrs. Martin opened the floor for discussion about the challenges of sharing a common driveway, which clearly is a big predicament in our community. In response to questions about how to prevent problems with shared driveways, Inspector Henry stated that the police are not authorized to issue summonses on private property, and this situation is treated as a civil matter. The audience complained, and Mrs. Martin suggested that “good neighbor” letters can be procured from local assembly offices and sent to residents who are causing problems, in hopes of alleviating the issue. She also advised that as a community, we should work on enacting legislation to change the fact that it is very difficult to prevent people from parking in a private driveway that is not theirs.
Following this, a tow truck company owner shared practical tips on how to improve the situation, among them, putting up warning signs that vehicles blocking will be towed and include rates for repossessing the vehicle. She explained that if the community comes together with a service agreement signed by everyone, then they can have the offending vehicle towed away.
The next topic discussed was what to do about community driveways in disrepair. A representative from the New York City Department of Transportation spoke about property owners’ responsibility with regard to sidewalk repair. The property owner is responsible for repair of the sidewalk outside his home, as community driveways are considered private property. Joe Horowitz, an engineer, shared his expertise regarding drainage. Drainage system maintenance must be done by a group, as doing this work on an individual basis will just exacerbate the problem. Repaving a driveway will affect drainage because now the pavement is raised above the catch basins.
Mrs. Martin concluded by saying that the common element of the issues addressed is that we need to work together as a community to create solutions, and that she hoped that this meeting would be the first step in motivating people to do so. When Rabbi Schonfeld commented that until now, we have been told that this is “our problem,” Mrs. Martin agreed that the next step would be to meet with local politicians and get them involved.
It was gratifying to see the large turnout for this meeting. The message – that we need unity to accomplish a goal – applies not only to physical goals, but to spiritual ones as well. May we accomplish both together as a community.
By Susie Garber