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Yesterday, I discovered that there’s another eight o’clock, as it tuns out there’s actually one in the morning.

That’s what time I had to get to the corner of 40th street and Queens Boulevard, as Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer had called together the Sunnyside community for a rally. The purpose of the rally was to protest the rough treatment which the MTA has offered 7 line riders of late. The 7 train, which is the central arterial of Sunnyside, is in the midst of a weekend maintenance cycle which has, and will, shut down the line for at least 12 weekends in 2015 alone.

This is in addition to a recent spate of week day service outages and break downs – which have spawned a series of local horror stories about 30 minute daily commutes stretching into two to three hour long endurance tests.

More after the jump…

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An enclave of Astoria known for its concentration of cultural amenities is getting a new name: the Kaufman Arts District. The city will designate the area on Friday which covers, according to the New York Times, “31st Street to the west, 34th Avenue to the north, Steinway Street to the east and 37th Avenue to the south.” The new name, of course, comes from the Kaufman Astoria Studios, a major cultural force in the neighborhood. The area also includes the Museum of the Moving Image, Queens Council on the Arts, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and the United Artists Kaufman Astoria movie theater. The arts institutions in the area presented the idea of a cultural district to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who helped push it forward. Unlike creating a Business Improvement District, which comes with many city approvals and hurdles, the Kaufman Arts District will become a reality with the Council Member’s proclamation.

The area will be similar to the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District, which is supported by millions in city money to foster more local arts-related businesses. For right now, the Kaufman Arts District isn’t getting any money or amenities. The Times reports that the special street signs haven’t even been ordered yet.

In Astoria Arts District, a Once-Gritty Pocket Will Embody Culture [NY Times]

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Next Thursday, March 27th, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on the 22 consecutive weekends of closures and annual ongoing service disruptions for the 7 train. (Residents, as you may guess, are struggling with the lack of 7 train service.) Carmen Bianco, President of MTA NYC Transit, will be on hand to hear concerns and field questions. The event is open and free to the public.

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This morning, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer joined Long Island City residents to call on the Department of Transportation to install crosswalks and additional signage on 49th Avenue. The Council Member, in particular, is looking at the intersection of 11th Street and 49th Avenue (adjacent to the off ramp of the Pulaski Bridge) where two large housing complexes are located. Residents have found that the intersection is the site of an increasing number of vehicular collisions. The DOT hasn’t yet implemented any safety improvements for the area. Council Member Van Bramer tweeted the above photo of this morning’s rally, saying “It’s unacceptable to wait for a tragedy to occur. Residents who live on 49th Ave in #LIC deserve safety improvements.”

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Today, the Horticultural Society of New York, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Senator Mike Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and the local students at Bryant High School unveiled the school’s new rooftop garden and green space. The roof garden features 57 green roof modules with perennial shrubs, flowers, herbs and seasonal vegetables. It’ll be used primarily for classroom instruction. Bryant High School is one of the first public high schools in Queens to receive its own rooftop garden, and the garden is one of four new educational green spaces available to students in Western Queens.

Senator Ginaris stated today, “The Bryant High School rooftop garden will not only help our young people develop an appreciation of the environment from a young age; it is also a testament to our community’s resiliency. The funding for this green space, and five others like it throughout western Queens, is a result of our efforts following the July 2006 blackout. I am proud to see that we have used a dark time in our past to make such a positive impact, and I thank the Horticultural Society, Global Kids, and everyone at Bryant for helping make this happen.” Here’s one more photo from the ribbon cutting event. GMAP

Photo via Twitter

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Documentary filmmaker Dan Hendrick is raising funds for his new feature-length film Jamaica Bay Lives!, a documentary highlighting the problems affecting the estuary. He hopes to chronicle the long history of neglect and underinvestment of this wildlife refuge and the recent efforts to transform the bay into a “world class” harbor estuary. He has raised more than $11,000 online and is hosting a fundraiser/house party in Long Island City tomorrow evening with Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. If you’re interested in attending the party, email JamaicaBayLives@gmail.com for more information.

Jamaica Bay Lives [IOBY.org]

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The Department of Transportation will install two Neighborhood Slow Zones in Queens by 2014, one in Sunnyside Gardens and Woodside and another in Sunnyside south of Queens Boulevard (map pictured above). A press release by Council Member Van Bramer, who requested the slow zones, says “The ultimate goal of the Neighborhood Slow Zone program is to lower the incidence and severity of crashes. Slow zones also seek to enhance quality of life for local residents by reducing cut-through traffic and traffic noise in residential areas.” The slow zones will be marked by high-visibility blue gateway signs at all streets entering the area, with special signage noting the 20 mph speed limit in the zone. The DOT will also install speed bumps and road stenciling of “20 MPH” to make it clear motorists are in a reduced speed area. The DOT selected these particular locations because of schools and daycare centers in the area, a significant number of crashes, and community support. Check out a map of the Sunnyside Gardens and Woodside zone after the jump.

Map via the Department of Transportation

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This just in from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s office. The City Council reached an agreement with 5Pointz developers to build two condo towers at the 5Pointz site today:

I am proud to announce that we have come to an agreement with the applicants who have submitted a special permit for the property located at 22-44 Jackson Avenue, known as 5 Pointz, in Long Island City. The concessions provided under the compromise will give Western Queens residents as well as artists a wide variety of interactive amenities future generations will benefit from. After working with the applicants on appropriate community give backs, the City Council will be approving the Special Permit. I worked with the applicant to assure that they would do several major give backs. G & M Realty has agreed to build & staff the buildings with 100% union workers, including SEIU/32 BJ & the Building Trades Council, which will lead to over 1000 new jobs in Long Island City. As the son of union parents, nothing is more important to me than building pathways to the middle class. There will also be an increase in the number of affordable units from 75 to 210. Creating affordable housing is incredibly important in the rapidly growing community of Long Island City. I worked to make sure that there would also be a preference for local residents in the affordable units. There is a commitment to the arts in this building. G & M Realty has agreed to increase the amount of artists studio and gallery space to 12,000 square feet. Furthermore, this space will be available to local artists at reasonable rents. G & M Realty has also agreed to offer Johnathan Cohen (Meres) from 5Pointz the opportunity to curate the nearly 10,000 square feet of art panels & walls in the building. It was important for me to honor the history of the building over the last 20 years and to recognize what it had become to the graffiti and aerosol art world. There will be significant amenities to the community as well. The applicant will build a public park that is over 32,000 square feet that will create desperately needed green space. There will also be over 50,000 square feet of retail space and a 250 space public parking garage. By working closely with both the applicants and the community we have ensured that the public will be provided with a responsible development that will guarantee the community of Long Island City continues to thrive.

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The Queens Activist Committee, a leg of Transportation Alternatives, is pushing hard for streetscape improvements throughout the borough of Queens. The Committee is focusing on three initiatives: bike lanes on the Pulaski Bridge and 11th Street, traffic calming on 21st Street, and a “Complete Street” revamp for Queens Boulevard. Miller Nuttle at Transportation Alternatives updated us on the recent headway gained for each of these proposals. 1,392 residents signed the petition to bring protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements and Select Bus Service to Queens Boulevard. (Transportation Alternatives took to the streets this weekend to gather more support from residents and business owners.) Nuttle says that the DOT has been receptive to some changes, although Transportation Alternatives is primarily engaging with community boards and local pols for now. On a related note, last Friday Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer held a press conference (pictured) calling for streetscape improvements for Queensboro Plaza. He, along with local pols, community residents and Transportation Alternatives, called on the DOT to extend the pedestrian countdown clocks along Queensboro Plaza, install additional street signage that will make pedestrians aware of cycling lanes, and make Queensboro Plaza an essential focal point of the DOT’s Western Queens Transportation Study.

As for the Pulaski Bridge bike lanes, it’s happening. Nuttle expects plans for a dedicated bike lane across the bridge to hit the community board as soon as this fall. The plans also call for a bike lane on 11th Street, to help riders access this bridge safely and to reduce speeding on the approach to the bridge.

Finally, the Committee is making moves on safety improvements for 21st Street. The proposals, for 21st Street between Queens Plaza and Hoyt Avenue, include speed humps by schools or senior centers, bike lanes and pedestrian refuge islands. There are close to 1,000 signatures on a petition asking for these improvements. Transportation Alternatives will present its full plan to the Community Board 1 Transportation Committee next Wednesday, October 9th. The meeting will be held 6:30 pm at 45-02 Ditmars Boulevard, LL Suite 1025. “The organization is more energized that ever before,” Nuttle told us. “I think the campaigns really set a new tone for what can happen in the borough.”