Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

City Council Redistricting

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association firmly believes that whenever possible, the entirety of the neighborhood should be represented by a single representative at each level of government. Woodhaven is a cohesive community, which means that common issues affect the whole neighborhood, not just a fraction of it. Having a single representative at each level of government would help ensure that our collective voice is heard, not diluted. Multiple representatives make it difficult for residents to know who's representing them and whom to ask for help.

Woodhaven's current City Council representation is split roughly evenly between Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and Council Member Eric Ulrich.  Our currently divided representation is not optimal.

Every ten years, the lines of New York's City Council districts are redrawn.  This once-a-decade process is now underway and is being conducted by a body called the New York City Districting Commission.  In September 2012, the Commission put forward its initial proposal.  These preliminary maps united almost all of Woodhaven in a single City Council district.  The WRBA submitted testimony to the Commission, applauding its proposal and urging tweaks to ensure that 100% of Woodhaven would be included in a single district.  Our press release on the proposal is available here, and the full text of our testimony to the Commission is available here.

In mid-November 2012, the Commission released what was expected to be its final proposal.  Startlingly, the Commission chose to divide Woodhaven in the revised maps.  Not only was Woodhaven split into three residential areas spread over two districts, but much of the areas represented by Crowley and Ulrich would be switched, maximizing the confusion and unfamiliarity for City Council Members and constituents alike.  In a press release, the WRBA blasted this proposal and called on City Council members to vote against it.  This column expressed the WRBA's surprise and displeasure at the Commission's about-face.

In a surprise twist, a gerrymander in Brooklyn led to enough outrage that the Commission withdrew its proposal and went back to the drawing board.  The WRBA calls on the Commission to use this opportunity to correct its shabby treatment of Woodhaven and to unite our neighborhood, as it had originally planned to do.

On January 14, 2013, a contingent of Woodhaven residents attended the Commission's Queens hearing at LaGuardia Community College.  Here are pictures and videos of Woodhaven's participation at the hearing, and here is media coverage showing that the WRBA's presence was felt:
  • Leader-Observer, "Woodhaven Takes Fight to Districting Commission," 1/17/2013
  • Times Newsweekly, "Battle To Keep Areas Together," by Sam Goldman, 1/24/2013
  • Queens Tribune, "Residents Want Council Lines Redrawn," by Luis Gronda, 1/17/2013
  • The Forum, "Woodhaven Squawks Over Redistricting," by Ross Barkan, 1/17/2013
  • Queen Chronicle, "It's back to the old redrawing board," by Michael Gannon, 1/17/2013
  • Queens Courier, "Residents fight against redistricting division," by Terence M. Cullen, 1/16/2013

Below are more links to coverage of our fight to unite Woodhaven at the City Council level:
  • Times Newsweekly, Editorial: Woodhaven and Redistricting, 1/17/2013
  • Times Newsweekly, "United Front To Close The Divide," by Robert Pozarycki, 12/21/2012
  • The Forum, "WRBA Calls for Woodhaven To Be in One District," by Luis Gronda, 12/20/2012
  • Queens Courier, "WRBA will keep up fight for unity," by Terence M. Cullen, 12/20/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Panel Erases District Plan," by Robert Pozarycki, 12/7/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "City Council redistricting map arises anger, controversy among civic leaders," by Domenick Rafter, 11/29/2012
  • DNAinfo, "Woodhaven Community Group Blasts New City Council District Map," by Nigel Chiwaya, 11/29/2012
  • Times Ledger, "New Council lines inflame Woodhaven," by Steve Mosco, 11/29/2012
  • Queens Gazette, "WRBA Condemns City Council Redistricting Final Proposal," 12/5/2012
  • Leader-Observer, "Woodhaven continues to be split in two," by Andrew Pavia, 12/5/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Carving Up Woodhaven," by Robert Pozarycki, 11/23/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Woodhaven on redistricting: Send lines back to the drawing board," by Terence M. Cullen, 11/27/2012
  • Queens Tribune, "Council Redistricting: Final Lines Draw Praise, Criticism," by Ross Barkan, 11/21/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "New Council Maps Jeered," by Robert Pozarycki, 11/30/2012
  • Queens Politics, "Second Round Of District Lines Are Far Worse Says Civic Group," 11/28/2012
  • Gotham Gazette, "What Is Going On With City Council Redistricting? A Primer," by Ross Barkan, 1/6/2013
  • Queens Chronicle, "City Council Districting Commission should try again: Speaker Christine Quinn," by Peter C. Mastrosimone, 11/30/2012
  • Capital, "A Council redistricting body finds its way," by Azi Paybarah, 11/30/2012
  • Capital, "Can Christine Quinn fix a Council map just by asking?," by Azi Paybarah, 11/30/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Woodhaven Civic Supports Council Maps," 10/18/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "Woodhaven civic likes redistricting," by Josey Bartlett, 10/18/2012
  • Queens Gazette, "WRBA Supports City Council Redistricting Proposal," 10/17/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Working To Keep Woodhaven United," by Alexander Blenkinsopp, 10/11/2012

You can also click here to learn about our work for Woodhaven in State-level redistricting, and click here to learn about our efforts regarding congressional redistricting.

Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

Inactive Railroad Tracks Along 98th Street

The defunct Rockaway Branch rail line's tracks run along 98th Street, often very close to Woodhaven residences and their backyards.  The tracks cross Jamaica Avenue and Park Lane South at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill border, and run past the Forest Park Co-ops and Victory Field.

Debate has been swirling around competing plans for the inactive line.  The two leading proposals are returning the tracks to use for an active train line, or converting the route into a walkway and bike path dubbed The QueensWay.

On September 29, 2012, the WRBA hosted a special forum dedicated exclusively to the question of what to do with the railroad tracks.  At the forum, a speaker for each of the leading proposals made their case.  After the presentations, we opened up the floor to residents who voiced their questions, comments, and concerns.  To learn more about this meeting, including photos and videos, click here.

The forum was extremely helpful in the WRBA's formulation of its stance on this issue.

After carefully considering a multitude of viewpoints expressed by Woodhaven residents, the WRBA has decided not to support either of the proposals at this time.

Here is an excerpt of the WRBA's position statement:
The Block Association would like to note that among our neighbors, there is very strong opposition to an active railroad. Many residents have raised numerous valid concerns about how their homes and their daily lives would be adversely affected by having trains run along this passage. We cannot endorse a plan that would impose such high costs on so many of our fellow Woodhaven residents, and which has engendered so much opposition from our community. We hope elected officials, city agencies, and all other interested parties take note of this widespread sentiment among our neighbors. 
The WRBA also does not support the QueensWay. Woodhaven residents have raised several important concerns about this proposal, including its implications for parking in the neighborhood, the reduced privacy for homes abutting the path, and a lack of police and other security presence. We also observe that Woodhaven already enjoys an abundance of jogging and cycling paths, including an already-existing Queens Greenway that passes directly over the proposed QueensWay route. 
In light of the diverse -- and sometimes conflicting -- opinions we've received from our community, we believe that leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible. 
We do, however, recognize that this strip of land has declined into a truly deplorable state. It is full of trash, fallen trees, and unsafe conditions. We call on the City of New York, which owns the property, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining it after years of neglect. 
Finally, we urge those who are disappointed by our position not to cast aside our neighbors' concerns as mere selfishness or "NIMBYism." Any change to the rail line, especially reactivating it, could have a considerable negative impact on many residents. The harm they would suffer is as real and significant as any advantage that would be received by the beneficiaries of a revived rail line or QueensWay. To dismiss Woodhaven's concerns is to ignore half of the equation. Our residents are as important as the residents of other communities. We remind critics that the best way to change Woodhaven's collective mind is to make a more persuasive case about how our neighborhood would benefit from -- or at least not be harmed by -- their proposals. 
We thank our neighbors for taking the time to weigh in on this matter.
The full statement can be read here.

The WRBA's efforts to represent its community's interests in this debate have received substantial attention:

  • Queens Chronicle, "'Queens high line' faces Woodhaven opposition," by Domenick Rafter, 10/25/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Group rails against plans," by Steve Mosco, 10/26/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "WRBA Says 'No' To Rail Plans," by Robert Pozarycki, 10/18/2012
  • Queens Tribune, "WRBA Opposes Both Track Plans," by Ross Barkan, 10/18/2012
  • DNAinfo, "Community Groups Resistant to Proposed 'Queens High Line' Project," by Nigel Chiwaya, 11/15/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Round 2 of Rail Debate," by Sam Goldman, 10/4/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Civic weighs park and rail plans," by Steve Mosco, 10/4/2012
  • The Forum, "The Great Debate: Revived Train Line or Bike Trail," by Luis Gronda, 10/4/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "Woodhaven holds forum on LIRR line," by Domenick Rafter, 10/4/2012
  • Queens Tribune, "Residents Consider New Rail Options," by Ross Barkan, 10/4/2012
  • Leader-Observer, "Residents debate future of rail line," by Kathleen Lees, 10/3/2012
  • New York Daily News, "QueensWay supporters and opponents to face off at forum," by Lisa L. Colangelo, 9/27/2012
  • Queens Courier, "QueensWay vs. LIRR debated at public forum," by Terence M. Cullen, 10/1/2012
  • WPIX 11, "Mocker update on inactive railway debate," by Greg Mocker, 10/1/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Woodhaven meeting on Rockaway railbed set," by Alicia Taylor-Domville, 9/26/2012
  • DNAinfo, "'Queens High Line' to be Debated at Hearing," by Nigel Chiwaya, 9/25/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Fate of defunct Queens rail tracks to be debated," by Terence M. Cullen, 9/27/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Woodhaven Eyes Abandoned Line," by Robert Pozarycki, 9/20/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "WRBA to hold rail line forum, 9/20/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Editorial," 11/23/2012
  • WPIX 11, "What to do with abandoned railroad tracks in Queens?," by Greg Mocker, 9/28/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Senate Candidates Tussle At WRBA," by Sam Goldman, 10/25/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Leave Rockaway Branch alone and let city clean it up," 11/6/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Done Deal?" by Mildred Facinelli, 10/18/2012

Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

State Redistricting

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association firmly believes that whenever possible, the entirety of the neighborhood should be represented by a single representative at each level of government.  Woodhaven is a cohesive community, which means that common issues affect the whole neighborhood, not just a fraction of it.  Having a single representative at each level of government would help ensure that our collective voice is heard, not diluted.  Multiple representatives make it difficult for residents to know who's representing them and whom to ask for help.

In January 2012, a legislative task force proposed new lines for New York's Assembly and Senate districts.  The proposal placed all of Woodhaven within a single Assembly district, but split the neighborhood among three separate Senate districts.  The WRBA supported the Assembly proposal and strongly objected to the Senate proposal.

See the WRBA's press release on the proposed district lines.

The WRBA also submitted written testimony to the task force, making its case for unified Senate representation.  View the testimony here.

Our views on the redistricting proposal have received some attention:

  • New York Daily News, "Queens lawmakers and civic leaders rail against proposed legislative districts," by Joseph Parziale and Lisa L. Colangelo, 2/7/2012
  • Queens Politics, "Block Association Says NO to New Lines," 1/31/2012
  • The Forum, "WRBA Urges Residents to Reject Redistricting Plan," by Jean-Paul Salamanca, 2/23/2012
  • Leader-Observer, "South Queens up in arms over proposed district lines," by Lisa Fraser, 2/15/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "'Unacceptable' Redistricting: Few Favor New Political Map for State," by Robert Pozarycki, 2/2/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "Proposed district lines enrage Queens leaders," by Anna Gustafson, 2/2/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Qns. residents slam Albany's plan," by Howard Koplowitz, 2/2/2012
  • Queens Tribune, "New District Maps Raise Concerns On All Sides," by Domenick Rafter, 2/2/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Senate Redistricting plan is divisive," by Michael Pantelidis, 1/31/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Woodhaven opposed to redistricting, traffic changes," by Erica Camhi, 2/21/2012

Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

Illegally Posted Signs

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association has worked hard to rid our neighborhood of signs and advertisements illegally posted on telephone poles, lampposts, and other public property.  These signs are eyesores and break the law.

Our efforts to combat illegal signs have received some attention:

  • Project Woodhaven, "Sign Warriors," by Ed Wendell, June 2010
  • Times Newsweekly, "WRBA Goes on a Huge 'Tear,'" by Ralph Mancini, 6/24/2010
  • Queens Tribune, "There Is Relief For Annoying Signs," by Domenick Rafter, 6/3/2010
  • The Forum, "Illegally Posted Signs, Noise Irk Woodhaven," by Eric Yun, 10/20/2011
  • Queens Chronicle, "Illegal signs prompt call for change in law," by Anna Gustafson, 12/1/2011
  • The Forum, "Dozens of Illegal Signs Removed," by Jean-Paul Salamanca, 12/1/2011
  • Times Newsweekly, "On A Mission To Stop Illegal Signs," by Robert Pozarycki, 12/1/2011
  • Times Newsweekly, "DSNY Should Let Residents Help Them Fight Litterbugs," by Alexander Blenkinsopp, 5/31/2012
  • The Forum, "Woodhaven Residents' Block Association Combats Noise and Graffiti," by Jeremiah Dobruck, 8/2/2012

Our message to elected officials about illegally posted signs

Our latest effort has been a message we sent to our Assemblyman Mike Miller and Council Member Eric Ulrich, urging changes to the law.  Our entire message is below.

From:  Woodhaven Residents' Block Association
Date:  Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Subject:  A longer-term solution to the problem of illegal signs
To:  Miller, Mike; Ulrich, Eric

Cc:  [...]

Dear Assemblyman Miller and Councilman Ulrich,

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association (WRBA) appreciates the event you held yesterday to call attention to the issue of illegally posted signs, especially in Woodhaven. As you know, this is a real problem on which the WRBA has focused for over a year (see coverage here and here).

Tearing down illegally posted signs is only a short-term solution, however, because new ones soon go up in their place. We would like to use this opportunity to encourage you to explore longer-term solutions to the problem. In particular, we believe it is a shortcoming that Department of Sanitation personnel -- rather than private citizens -- must observe the illegally posted signs in order for the offense to be prosecuted.

Every hour that an illegal sign remains posted provides an incentive for businesses to flout the law with their eyesore advertisements. The best way to combat the problem is to remove the signs as quickly as possible and to prosecute those responsible for them. Unfortunately, we have been informed by Mr. Iggy Terranova, community affairs officer at the Department of Sanitation, that if a private citizen removes an illegal sign (and private citizens, such as the WRBA, are often the best-situated to remove signs swiftly), the Department of Sanitation is unable to prosecute those responsible for the signs. According to Mr. Terranova, only a sworn statement by a trained officer of the law, such as a Department of Sanitation officer, would serve as adequate evidence in the proceedings against someone accused of illegally posting signs.

Though the relevant laws for illegal signs (NYC Administrative Code §10-119 and §10-121) are silent on the evidentiary adequacy of affidavits or testimony by private citizens, it is worth noting that another section of the New York City Administrative Code specifically states that sworn statements or testimony by private citizens might be useful in prosecuting illegal dumping (see NYC Administrative Code §16-119(f)). The WRBA believes that the Environmental Control Board and the Department of Sanitation should make any changes that would permit private citizens' sworn statements, testimony, and photographs to serve as useful evidence in prosecuting illegal posting, too. In addition, the WRBA welcomes any changes to New York State law (and in particular, New York Penal Law §145.30) that would facilitate such changes.

Please join the WRBA in pursuing these modifications. It is a win-win policy to allow citizens to remove illegal signs without invalidating any potential prosecution of the lawbreaking companies. It empowers citizens, relieves the Department of Sanitation of some of the burden of enforcement, diminishes the incentives companies have to break the law, and leaves intact the chance to pursue legal recourse against law-breakers.


Alexander J. Blenkinsopp
Second Vice President
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

Illegal Conversions

What is an illegal conversion?

An illegal conversion is an alteration or modification of an existing building to create an additional housing unit without first obtaining the approval of the NYC Department of Buildings.

Examples of illegal conversions include:
  • Using for residential occupancy a property zoned for manufacturing or industrial use.
  • Creating a housing unit in a building designated for manufacturing or industrial use.
  • Adding an apartment in the basement, attic, or garage without obtaining the approval or permits from the Department of Buildings.
  • Creating a rooming house (single-room occupancy) or dividing an apartment into single-room occupancies.
Why are illegal conversions harmful?

Illegal conversions reduce the quality of life by bringing more people to live in a neighborhood than it can support.  This unplanned growth can strain the capacity of the buses and subways, as well as the sanitation and sewer systems.  It can cause overcrowding in schools and create parking shortages.

Most important, if the construction does not meet the Building Code standards, the building may not be safe to occupy.  The lives of the occupants, as well as those of the City's emergency responders, could be at risk.

Building owners who receive violations for illegal conversions face court hearings, fines, and daily penalties for the use of each illegal unit.  These penalties can amount to thousands of dollars.

What to do if you suspect an illegal conversion?

If you suspect an illegal conversion, contact the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association.  We will anonymously log the complaint with the Buildings Department and request that a Buildings Inspector be routed to the site to inspect the property.  We will also check the legal use of a building.

In addition, we will monitor the Buildings Department website to see what actions have been taken and contact you to confirm these actions.

Source: New York City Department of Buildings.

To view a PDF of our original leaflet containing all the information above, click here.