July 10, 2015 By Christian Murray
Additional cops, greater library funding and an injection of money into local schools, arts institutions and parks were among the items in the City budget that Long Island City and Sunnyside/Woodside residents will benefit from in upcoming years, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
The district is expected to get its share of additional cops, school crossing guards and library funds that all constituencies across the city will receive. However, when it comes to specific local items, Van Bramer said that he has allocated plenty of funds toward traffic safety improvements, playgrounds, district schools, seniors, arts institutions and cultural groups.
“Libraries were the biggest winner in the budget,” Van Bramer said, who is the chairman of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee. “We were able to get an additional $43 million in funds for six day service for libraries across the city. Therefore the Woodside Library branch will be open on Saturdays in the next couple of months.”
Van Bramer, who is also part of the city’s budget committee, didn’t have a precise date when the libraries would open Saturdays, only that it would be soon.
Funding for the Hunters Point Library in Long Island City is now complete, with Van Bramer allocating $3 million toward it in the budget. The $30 million library is expected to open in 2017 after several years of delay. The city broke ground on the project in May.
The district is also expected to get its share of the 1,700 additional cops that are being added to the force. However, the decision as to how many is not yet known.
“We don’t know what the allocation will be or when they will arrive,” Van Bramer said. “The NYPD will decide.”
On a local level, Van Bramer has allocated nearly $120,000 once again to the Doe Fund, where workers are paid to sweep the streets and empty trash in sections of Woodside, Hunters Point and Dutch Kills.
Funds have also been set aside for additional trash cans in Sunnyside and Woodside as well as for graffiti cleanup removal throughout the district.
Van Bramer said that schools in the district are also receiving an injection of funds.
He said $1.3 million has been allocated to 23 schools within the district for tech upgrades such as new laptops, SMART Boards and software. The schools are scattered throughout the district—in Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and the south west portion of Astoria.
He has allocated funds to specific projects such as a $1 million to study and implement traffic and pedestrian safety improvements around IS 125 in Woodside.
“This is a large amount of money for one project,” Van Bramer said. However, “I have always been a big advocate for traffic safety,” he said, referring to his advocacy for slow zones and additional traffic signals.
Furthermore, Van Bramer allocated $100,000 toward countdown clocks at bus stops throughout the district. These are likely to be placed at certain bus stops on Queens Blvd. However, the details have yet to be flushed out.
Funds have been set aside for Hart Playground, located next to the intersection of Broadway and 37th Avenue in Woodside. In this year’s budget, $320,000 was allocated toward the park on top of $500,000 secured in previous years.
“I’m committed to renovating the entire park and will allocate funds until it is done,” Van Bramer said. The playground has not been updated in decades.
Furthermore, $1.2 million has been set aside for upgrades at Rainey Park, which is on Vernon Blvd near Ravenswood.
In Woodside, Broadway from 49th Street to 69th Street will be lined with new trees, at a cost of $200,000. Van Bramer said he was not sure when the planting would begin or how many trees the $200,000 would fund.
Van Bramer also allocated about $100,000 toward local arts groups, such as the Flux Factory, Hip to Hip Theater, Queens World Film Festival, Thalia Theater and the Sculpture Center.
Specific allocations to cultural institutions include $1.2 million to MoMA PS1, which will be used to expand its exhibition and program spaces.
Nearby in Astoria, the Noguchi Museum will receive $650,000 for infrastructure updates, with support from Borough President Melinda Katz. The Museum of the Moving Image will be getting a $575,000 check to complete its new exhibit hall for the Jim Henson (the creator of the Muppets) collection. The exhibit hall is expected to be completed by winter.
Van Bramer also secured $500,000 toward bike safety improvements on Vernon Boulevard—as part of the participatory budgeting process where people voted for projects that they wanted to see funded in the neighborhood.
The aim is to provide a safer bikeway, with a special focus in the Queens Plaza area where Queensbridge Park connects with Vernon Blvd.
Van Bramer said that the real benefits of the budget will become more apparent over the course of the next year as plans start taking shape.
However, he insisted that the budget was “incredibly good for the residents of the 26th Council district.”
For further details on the budget, please click here