Westmoreland Association Letter to NYC Department of Homeless Services Regarding Proposed Homeless Shelter in Douglaston

January 8, 2021

Hon. Erin Drinkwater 
Deputy Commissioner 
Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs
New York City Department of Homeless Services
150 Greenwich Street
New York, NY  10007

Re:     Homeless Shelter planned for  243-02 Northern Blvd., Douglaston,     Queens, NY

Dear Deputy Commissioner Drinkwater:

We have received from New York City Councilmember Paul Vallone a copy of your letter to him dated December 22, 2020, describing plans for a homeless shelter to be established at the above-referenced location.The Westmoreland Association is a not-for-profit homeowners and civic association, established in 1917, representing the residents of the Westmoreland community; most of the community is located in Little Neck, Queens, about one third of a mile from the location of the planned shelter.

We recognize the need for additional and improved facilities for homeless persons; we agree that such facilities should be equitably distributed across the City; we understand that the building selected for this shelter is a plausible choice; and we appreciate the decision to limit the population to single adult women aged 50 or older.   However, we respectfully offer the following initial comments and suggestions.  As we learn more about the project, and have further discussions among our membership, we are likely to have additional comments.

1.    Community Input in the Planning Process:  Your letter to Councilmember Vallone indicates that a Community Advisory Board (CAB) will be established for the new shelter.  We applaud this decision, but urge that the CAB be established now, while the planning process is underway.  We request that you not wait until after the shelter is in operation to establish the CAB.  In the alternative, if it is logistically impossible to establish the CAB quickly, we respectfully request that you work through the local Community Board 11 to immediately schedule an informational meeting for the community, and -- importantly -- to provide an interim mechanism for community input into the current planning process.  Again, it is important that you not wait until the shelter is operational before providing a mechanism for community input .  (Indeed, it is already late for this process to begin -- it would have been better to have started months ago when the DHS plans were being formulated.)

2.    Capacity:  Your letter to Councilmember Vallone indicates that the capacity of the shelter will be "75 single adult women who are 50+."  We note that New York City Buildings Department records show that the size of the building in question is 7576 square feet.  Assuming that space will be needed for offices, eating facilities, bathrooms, lobbies and other common areas,  this leaves perhaps 75 to 80 square feet per resident, or less.  This strikes us as too little space per person, and we strongly recommend that  the capacity be significantly reduced.

3.    Population:  As previously noted, we appreciate DHS limiting the population of the shelter to "adult single women who are 50+" -- we agree that this is an appropriate population for this location, which is a block away from an elementary school and two churches, and surrounded by a residential community.  We respectfully request DHS' firm and binding assurance that the population will not be changed after the shelter is established.  

4.    Transportation and Parking:
a.    What, if any, arrangements will be made for staff to park their personal cars on site?
b.    The location in question is on a City bus route, and the Long Island Railroad Port Washington Branch has a station about four blocks away.  However, there is no subway service in this part of Queens.  How are homeless residents expected to reach the shelter, and travel to work, etc. -- is it expected that some or most of them will have their own cars and, if so, what plans or expectations are there with respect to them parking their vehicles?
c.    Will the shelter provide transportation services for the homeless residents who do not have their own cars, e.g., with vans or buses?  If so, where will these be parked when not in use?

5.    Services:  We are interested in knowing about the nature of the services that the shelter will provide.  Will there be food services?  Medical services?  Other social services?  

6.    Security:  What provisions will be made for security?  Will there be full-time security on site?  Will such security be provided by City police or a private contractor?  How many security officers will be on site at any given time?  What arrangements will be made with the NYPD for regular police presence and/or additional support on an as-needed basis?

7.    Staffing:  
a.    We are interested in knowing more about the plans for staffing the shelter.  For example, what is the expected number of staff that will be on site at any given time (i.e., the staff-to-resident ratio)?  
b.    We understand that plans for the building contemplate 74 beds on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the building, which we assume are for the homeless persons in residence; and 9 beds on the first floor, presumably for staff.  What are the expectations for staff spending nights on site? 

8.    Guidelines/Standards:  We would appreciate receiving a copy of any written guidelines and/or standards DHS may have that are applicable to the establishment of shelters.

We look forward to your response, and an early opportunity to learn more about the plans for the shelter and join other community members in providing input.

Sincerely yours,

Walter Mugdan
President

cc:    Hon. Paul Vallone, New York City Council
    Hon. Ed Braunstein, New York State Assembly
    Hon. John Liu, New York State Senate
    Joseph Marziliano, District Manager, Queens Community Board 11 
    Capt. John Portalatin, Commanding Officer, NYPD 111 Precinct 

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Position of the Westmoreland Association on Regulation of Gasoline-Powered Leaf-Blowers

September 21, 2019

 

Hon. Paul Vallone

New York City Council

42-40 Bell Boulevard, Suite 507

Bayside, NY 11361

 

Dear Councilman Vallone:

 

We write to respectfully request that you work with your colleagues on the New York City Council to enact legislation that would ban or limit the use of gasoline-powered leaf-blowers.  The enormous increase in the use of these machines during the past several decades has become an intense nuisance for residents who are constantly disturbed by the noise they make.  Additionally – and perhaps more importantly – the widespread (and often unnecessary) use of these machines creates a genuine environmental and health hazard.

 

Noise:  The intense and disturbing noise from the widespread use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers, particularly by professional landscape contractors, is well known to most residents, particularly those who live in neighborhoods dominated by single and two-family homes with yards, where landscapers are often active.

 

Environmental and Health Risks:  The environmental and health risks of leaf blowing are much less well known.  Among these hazard are excessive emissions from the inefficient two-stroke gasoline engines.  The California Environmental Protection Agency estimates that operating a commercial gasoline-powered leaf blower for one hour emits more pollution than driving a 2016 Toyota Camry for about 1,100 miles.1   The pollutants emitted include hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to urban smog; fine particulates; carbon monoxide; and, of course, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas directly associated with global warming. 

 

Even less widely recognized are the risks from the particulates stirred up by the machines.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reports:

“Leaf blowers push 300 to 700 cubic feet of air per minute at 150 to 280 miles per hour.  The resulting dust can contain PM2.5 and PM10 particles including pollen and mold, animal feces, heavy metals, and chemicals from herbicides and pesticides. ... No data on the

amount and size distributions of dust from leaf blower activities have been collected, although estimates for PM10 range from <1% up to 5% of the total generated statewide.”2

 

Note that PM10 means particulates equal to or smaller than 10 microns in diameter; PM 2.5 means particulates equal to or smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter.  The smaller the particle, the greater the health risk – smaller particles are more easily breathed into the lungs, where they do their damage.  

 

The same dust and particulate matter that causes health risks for people (and, for that matter, other air-breathing animals) also causes risks in aquatic environments when these pollutants settle out of the atmosphere onto nearby water bodies.

 

Alternatives to Gasoline-Powered Leaf Blowers:   There are, or course, cleaner and quieter ways to clear yard debris and leaf litter.  Traditional hand raking and sweeping remains the best  alternative during the warmer months (i.e., May to September) when leaves are generally not falling from the trees, and relatively small amounts of garden waste need to be cleaned.

 

Electric leaf blowers – either with rechargeable batteries or corded to an outlet – are effective.  Although they typically have less power than a gasoline engine, their power is sufficient to move leaves and grass clippings, while not entraining as much dust and particulate matter into the air.

 

Another alternative is to use an electric lawn vacuum which sucks up leaf litter and other yard debris (instead of blowing it around).  This kind of equipment is much less noisy, does not contribute to smog, and does not entrain particulates in the air. 

 

Our Recommendations:   This issue was discussed extensively at the September 16, 2019 general membership meeting of the Westmoreland Association.  The following recommendations were unanimously endorsed:

 

  • Ban the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers entirely.  This has been done elsewhere, for example in some 20 cities in California, with no evidence of serious adverse economic impact on professional landscapers.3  Similar bans have been enacted in other cities.4  Here at home, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation no longer uses (or allows contractors to use) gasoline-powered leaf blowers on city parkland.

 

  • If a complete ban is not politically feasible, ban the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers from May 1 through September 30.  During these months, leaves here in New York City are not falling from the trees, yet landscapers are increasingly using the machines to clear relatively small amounts of garden waste such as grass clippings.  As noted above, these small quantities of waste can easily be managed by hand raking and sweeping.  These are the months when most residents have windows open, and when children are most frequently outdoors.  Banning the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers during these months would dramatically reduce the noise and the environmental hazards from these machines.  Note that the Town of North Hempstead in Nassau County, immediately adjacent to Queens County, recently enacted a ban on gasoline powered leaf blowers from June 15 through September 15.5

 

Along with other local civic associations that have similar concerns, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about this important issue.  We encourage you to take a leadership role in pursuing these recommended legislative actions. 

 

Sincerely yours,

 

    /s/

 

Walter Mugdan

President

 

cc:  (by electronic transmission)

            Hon. John Liu, New York State Senate

            Hon. Ed Braunstein, New York State Assembly

            Hon. Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President

            Hon. Costa Constantinedes, New York City Council

            Community Board 11

            Douglaston Civic Association

            Douglas Manor Association

            Douglas Manor Environmental Association

            Little Neck Pines Association

            Queens Civic Congress

 

 

1 See: https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/msprog/offroad/sm_en_fs.pdf?mod=article_inline )

2 See: https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/109428.html .  The NYSDEC also notes that “using a commercial-grade, gas-powered leaf blower for just two hours can cause hearing damage, and repeated use is a sure recipe for permanent hearing loss.”  This is a serious concern for  employees of professional landscape contractors, as well as residents who use the equipment.

3 See: https://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/cqs/other.htm .

4 See, e.g., https://www.parksandrecbusiness.com/articles/2018/12/leaf-blower-bans

5  See:  https://www.northhempsteadny.gov/news/?FeedID=2495   We believe that the somewhat longer period that we are recommending – May 1 through September 30 – is fully defensible and more protective.  As noted above, no leaves are falling during May or the second half of September; and by the beginning of May most landscapers and homeowners have cleaned their yards of winter debris accumulation.

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Position of the Westmoreland Association Endorsing Removal of a Dangerous and Unsightly Concrete Structure in Udalls Cove

March 20, 2017

Board of Commissioners
Belgrave Water Pollution Control District
P.O. Box #408
Great Neck, NY 11022-0488

Dear Commissioners:

At a recent general membership meeting of the Westmoreland Association the members voted unanimously to support a request that the concrete structure at the head of Udalls Cove be removed at the time that the outfall pipe from the Belgrave Sewage Treatment Plant is replaced.By way of introduction, the Westmoreland Association is the homeowners association representing approximately 330 households in the Westmoreland section of Little Neck and Great Neck.  The boundaries of our area are: on the east, the east side of Nassau Road; on the south, the north side of Northern Boulevard; on the west, the east side of Little Neck Parkway; and on the north, the north side of 39th Road a/k/a Station Road.  Our area straddles the Nassau/Queens line, with members in both counties.

The Westmoreland Association strongly supports the request for removal of the concrete structure being made by Ian Tsao, a Boy Scout from Troop 10 in Great Neck, NY.  The reasons cited by Westmoreland Association members include: Safety (the structure is dangerous, but is easily accessible); Wildlife Protection (the structure recently was home to a nesting pair of ospreys, but the nest was set on fire by vandals in April, 2016; removal of the structure would prevent a reoccurrence); and Aesthetics (the existing structure is very unattractive).

We also ask that the final section of the current pipeline extending from the shoreline to the concrete structure (about 130 feet) be removed.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely yours, 

  /s/

Walter Mugdan
President

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