BY TRONE DOWD
On Monday, Community Board 13 kicked off the first meeting since breaking for the summer with a new chairman, Clive Williams, who introduced a new mission statement for the board moving forward.
“Being chair was not one of the things on my bucket list,” he said. “It was more serendipitous than it was a function of my ambition. But I just want to share with you my short and direct agenda.”
He said that he will always work towards “advancing the expectations, aspirations and goals of our community.” He hopes to be transparent and accessible and take into account the board’s diverse needs and concerns.
While the board saw a shift in leadership at the meeting, the issues at hand remained the same. The inundation of shelters was one of the topics brought up during the meeting’s public session by several attendees, including Queens Borough President Republican candidate Bill Kregler.
“These shelters are put here in the middle of the night,” Kregler said. “They’re turning hotels into shelters. They’re constructing brand new hotels and turning them into shelters.”
He mentioned that he lived nearby Engine 292 Rescue 4 in Woodside, where a Holiday Inn Express is being built.
“[Mayor Bill de Blasio] is creating an industry and not solving the problem,” he said.
Several other attendees at the meeting said that they were concerned about new shelters being added to the neighborhoods represented by CB 13. Cambria Heights resident Elvis Jackson said that he was frustrated that another group home was coming to one of his neighborhood’s residential zones.
“There are 64 [supportive housing] facilities in this community board,” Jackson said. “This is way more than any other community in Queens.”
Jackson accused the new chairman of the board being complacent on the matter. Williams, who also resides in Cambria Heights, clarified that he wasn’t talking about allowing the issue to persist, but instead embraced the opportunity to care for the people who reside within CB 13’s neighborhoods and face any number of issues—from drug addiction and homelessness to mental health issues.
One Springfield Gardens resident told Williams that it wasn’t his “responsibility as a homeowner” for 22 years to “cure the ills of this city.”
Later in the meeting, Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) spoke briefly to residents about his office’s latest initiatives, including efforts to raise money for those suffering in Puerto Rico. Earlier this month, members of the state assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the U.S. territory to survey the damage. Vanel said that the devastation was immeasurable.
“What we saw was horrific,” Vanel said. “Unfortunately, our federal government has been slow to respond in Puerto Rico. So, what we are doing is coordinating efforts by collecting goods like toiletries, diapers, batteries, flashlights all across the state.”
In Queens, Vanel said that the drop-off location will be at the Jamaica Armory, located on 93-05 168th St. He also pointed out that monetary donations are also being collected by the state and encouraged people to visit www.ny.gov/puertorico for more information.
“This is very important,” he said. “Unfortunately, with factors like climate change, this will occur again. It’s sad, but we have to stand with them.”