Feb. 16, 2011 By Christian Murray
When Jimmy Van Bramer took office one year ago, he pledged that he would combat graffiti, create additional green space and address parking problems for local residents. Most of all, he said he would be accessible.
Van Bramer has largely met his goals.
In 2010, Van Bramer launched a $30,000 anti-graffiti hotline that provides residents with a call-in number, allowing them to report graffiti and request a free cleanup. He secured funds for the revamp of Lou Lodati Park (located at Skillman Ave. and 43rdStreet) and the so-called Woodside Triangle, a site that will be converted into a park at the junction of 34th Avenue and 59th and 60th streets.
Meanwhile, while parking problems still persist, he has introduced a bill in the city council to end 12-hour meter rules that have led to non-residents parking in the neighborhood and taking the subway to work.
“I believe council member Jimmy Van Bramer has followed through on his campaign promises,” said Brent O’Leary, who ran against Van Bramer in the 2009 Democratic primary. Sunnyside Republican John K. Wilson said he would “give him a passing grade” and respected Van Bramer’s “work ethic.”
“I feel terrific about the work my staff and I have done,” Van Bramer said, in a recent interview. “We pledged to be accessible and accountable and transparent.”
“We helped over 1,500 people [in 2010],” he said, citing council statistics. “These are all the people who have called us, or written in — or even those I have bumped into in the supermarket and drycleaner.” A significant portion of those cases, he said, involved housing, transportation and sanitation issues.
Van Bramer held eight town hall meetings in 2010, he said, where residents were able to meet him and discuss their concerns with his office and city agencies.
“Jimmy’s very responsive and available when you need him,” said Ira Greenberg, president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. Several sources held the same view.
Van Bramer is also quick to use the media to get results. His face became a fixture on New York 1 and Fox 5 News last year, whether it was bringing attention to the service cuts on the No. 7 train, the lack of city services following the Christmas snow storm, or the fight to restore city funds for Queens libraries.
In many cases, this media attention helped bring results. For example, Van Bramer said that the MTA no longer has plans to implement weekend cuts on the No. 7 train in 2011, the first time in years.
This year, Van Bramer is kicking off his first town hall meeting with a small-business focus, where a number of city agencies will be on hand discuss small-business concerns. “We need to bring the community together and discuss how our local businesses can thrive.”
Greenberg welcomed the idea saying it is an opportunity for local businesses to discuss legislation, such as sick pay, as well as access to loans. “This is very good to hear.”
Van Bramer said the graffiti hotline will continue to operate in 2011 and that his office took more than 200 calls and cleaned several hundred sites in 2010. He said his office is working with the police to combat graffiti by reporting each tag and its location.
The design plans for the rehabilitation of Lou Lodati Park should be ready by early spring and construction is expected to begin in 2012, Van Bramer said. The $1.4 million rehabilitation will include a dog run and will see the park resurfaced with well-marked sports fields. There will be trees and some green space.
Van Bramer’s plan to purchase the Woodside Triangle, which is owned by Vinny Oppedisano, is being slowed down as negotiations between Oppedisano and the city continue to reach an impasse. Van Bramer, who secured $350,000 to purchase the property in order to convert it into a park, claims that the owner is seeking significantly more than what it is appraised at. He said that his office has had some preliminary discussions about getting the property via eminent domain and it is something he will continue to look into.
The proposed primary school, which is to be located at 45-46 42nd Street, is on track to be built, he said. The Department of Education, in November, suggested that it might be ready by September 2014.
The one nagging issue that has been difficult to fix is parking.
Van Bramer said he wants to reduce the number of hours motorists can park under the No. 7 train from 12 hours to 4 hours. This way, it would free up parking for residents and shoppers. Currently, many commuters from Eastern Queens and Long Island park there for the day and ride the No. 7 train into Manhattan. He said he has introduced legislation to end 12 hour meters.
Van Bramer’s efforts helped restore $61 million in funding that saved many Queens libraries from closing. It ensured that the hours at the Sunnyside branch remained the same (still open on Saturdays) and that 14 libraries in Queens did not close. He also was the prime sponsor of a new law requiring schools to distribute library card applications to all students.
Van Bramer said one of his biggest accomplishments was restoring $296,000 of funds for the PS 150 (43rd Ave. and 41st) after-school program. That program’s very existence was in doubt when the city announced last year that it would cut its funding.
But Wilson, the Republican, wasn’t so impressed by Van Bramer’s legislative and spending efforts. “I wish Van Bramer would resist the temptation to throw more money, and more legislation, at problems,” he said.
O’Leary, meanwhile, said Van Bramer has brought “much needed funds to the neighborhood for after school programs, senior services and cultural institutions,” adding “I feel we have been well represented at city hall through his efforts.”