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Van Bramer’s Visibility and Work-Ethic has Produced Results for Sunnyside/Woodside

Jan. 25, 2012 By Christian Murray

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has just completed his second year in office and his biggest strength to date has been his visibility.

Most events, whether large or small, Van Bramer always manages to be there. Whether it’s a detective getting an award for community service or a local group holding an art show, the ever-present Van Bramer appears. When a rally is being held he is often its architect and the TV cameras—and print reporters—focus in on him.

This visibility is part of the reason why Van Bramer has built a strong reputation and his constituents continue to reach out to him. In his first year in office he said he handled 1,521 constituent cases. In 2011, that number almost doubled to 2,894. (click for Van Bramer’s report)

“He is all over the place and he is backed up by a great staff,” said Don McCallian, president of the United Forties Civic Association.

Van Bramer said his constituents reach out to him because “we are very responsive and people know we will do something.” He said his office has a policy where constituents must get a response within 24 hours.

Since Van Bramer has been in office, Sunnyside/Woodside has undergone a great deal of change. There are firm plans in place for the revitalization of two parks and the construction of an elementary school in Sunnyside. Graffiti clean-up programs have been introduced and expanded; local libraries are being improved; and new parking measures have gone into effect.

Local Parks

Van Bramer, who secured funds for the revamp of Lou Lodati/Tornsey Park (located on Skillman Avenue at 43rd Street) in 2010, said he expects construction to begin late spring, which will include a dog run, a resurfaced softball field, basketball courts, Ecuadorian volleyball courts and additional greenery. He said the project should take about a year.

In the 2012 fiscal budget, Van Bramer was able to obtain $600,000 in city funds to improve Thomas P. Noonan Park (located on Greenpoint Ave. and 43rd St.). The primary focus will be on upgrading the section of the park that includes the iconic rainbow sprinkler. The plans have yet to be unveiled but the revamp is also likely to include new benches and playground equipment.

Meanwhile, improvements to Windmuller Park (52nd street) in Woodside were completed in 2011. The $1.7m upgrade was primarily made to the one-acre sitting plaza, which is one section of the 3-acre park. In recent years, the other sections of the park have been revamped—including the running track and children’s playground.

But Van Bramer’s funding of one park did create controversy. He allocated or sponsored $47,000 of taxpayer funds to the Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park, a group that raises money to maintain and upgrade Sunnyside Gardens Park.

That park is a members-only park that costs hundreds of dollars to join. The $47,000 of funds for fiscal year 2012 followed his 2011 fiscal-year sponsorship of $25,000. (search under budgets below)

Van Bramer said the funds were for fixing the perimeter of Sunnyside Gardens Park. He did not rule out allocating funds to the private park in fiscal year 2013. “I would have to see their proposal.”

Schools

Van Bramer has pushed hard for the addition of new classrooms and schools given the overcrowding problem throughout Sunnyside and Woodside. He has been a strong advocate for the construction of a new elementary school between 43rd and 44th Streets (btw Queens Blvd and 47th Ave.). The plans are 80% complete, he said, and it has a scheduled opening date of September 2014.

Additionally, there have been a series of discussions that are likely to lead to the construction of new buildings at PS 11 in Woodside, which is located at 54-25 Skillman Ave. However, there is also the possibility that those plans are shelved in favor of acquiring new land nearby– to construct a new school, Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer was also able to ensure that the PS 150 after-school program (43rd Ave, btw 41st and 42nd) remained funded—by restoring funds that had initially been taken out of the budget.

Libraries

Van Bramer was able to secure funding last year for the creation of a $125,000 teen reading room at the Woodside library. Meanwhile, the Sunnyside Library, which reopened in January 2010 following an extensive renovation, continues to have Saturday service—one of the few Queens branch libraries to do so.

Van Bramer attributes theses successes, in part, to his leadership role in restoring $130 million for cultural institutions and libraries, which also saved jobs throughout the borough.

He was also able to draw on his 10 years of experience as the chief external affairs officer of the Queens Public Library—prior to being a councilman.

Rezoning

The city council also rezoned a 130-block section of Sunnyside and Woodside in 2011, following an 18 month community consultation period. Van Bramer, who held a number of public meetings on the proposal, said he was pleased by the results since it “prevented out-of-character developments in our neighborhood, while allowing for some increases [on Queens Blvd] – but nothing that would render it unrecognizable.”

However, Van Bramer argues that developers are often able to run roughshod over prevailing city zoning code and the wishes of local community boards by obtaining a variance from the New York Board of Standards and Appeals, a city agency. He plans to introduce legislation to stifle this practice.

Quality of Life issues

Van Bramer implemented a $30,000 an anti-graffiti program in 2010, where certain streets are cleaned on a monthly basis by a city contractor. The streets and avenues include Broadway, Skillman Ave., Roosevelt Ave., Woodside Ave., and 48th Avenue. In 2010, 43rd and 47th Avenues were added. Sunnyside’s business improvement group, Sunnyside Shines, is in charge of cleaning Greenpoint Ave. and Queens Blvd.

But nagging problems such as the shortage of neighborhood parking remain. Some changes were made to the shopping district. For example, 60 of the 150 muni-meter spaces underneath the 7 train were converted from 12-hour parking zones to four-hour maximums. The idea was to reduce commuters driving to Sunnyside to take the 7 train to work each day.

The number 7 train continues to be a problem, one in which Van Bramer gets a lot of constituent calls on. Recently he held a public hearing on the 11-weekends the service will be down between Queens Borough Plaza and Times Square stations.

This week he proposed allocating $250,000 of discretionary funds for a shuttle bus from Vernon Blvd directly to Grand Central via the Midtown tunnel that would have run on those weekends.

The MTA rejected his plan arguing that it would not be any quicker, according to published reports. LIC residents currently have to take shuttle buses to, say, Queensboro Plaza and take the N train.

Van Bramer’s novel solution was cheered on by the press and met with universal applause by constituents.

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30 Comments

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IrishSunnysider

Sort of veering here so I apologize but I have one question on his bus proposal for the 7. I understand that the MTA didn’t give it the time of day but why should that stop him? Just use the funds to pay a company to go back and forth between the stops. Why should the MTA stop him from doing what many think is a good idea?

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Just Looking

@Mike Novak I dont thrive on dialectic. I thrive on thoughtful conversation. The harsher the words, the louder the voice, the quieter I become. And I don’t want to have these conversations with people in the street or have people in the street talking about me. Been there done that, didn’t like it.

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Lucky Lu

I think JVB has done a great job. Importantly, he has been vocal and noticeable on important issues in our community, and transportation issues especially. He and his staff are readily available to listen to the constituents and take action. I’ve been very pleased with the response I’ve gotten from his office when I’ve contacted them with any concerns or comments I have.

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Mike Novak

@Just Looking….why won’t you use your real name? 😉

As far as comparing Jimmy and Eric. In my opinion, there is no comparison. Eric polished the apple of his core supporters while Jimmy has worked hard for EVERYONE in the neighborhood. I know that in today’s political climate, its hard to imagine an elected official who actually acts like one who represents the broad spectrum of people in their constituency. Jimmy has shown over and over again that he serves all the people in his district and not just a group of core supporters.

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Just Looking

@ Mike Novak I give you credit for using your real name, but then you thrive on dialectic. Some of us don’t.

@ Velociraptor Your screen name says it all. You live to rip your prey to shreds.

Gioia did a great job, and JVB is doing a great job. This community has been well served by both men.

News outlets have well developed relationships with politicians, community organizations and business people. The latter send press releases, the former use them as an occasion to write stories. If you want deep down investigative reporting, you have to pay for it. There are news outlets with wells of financial support, but for the most part hyper-local community outlets are not among them.

When we all chip in to pay Christian enough to quit his day job we can complain. Otherwise, no.

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Roxy

The south side seems to be having another epidemic of “dog poop” on the sidewalks. This morning, I counted four enormous loads just on the south side of 47th Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets.

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Anonymous

Everyone is ignoring the south side. They think we don’t vote over here! It’s dirty, noisy, unsafe.

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SouthyMom

I for one voted for him. He’s helped the neighborhood out and the proof is in the pudding. The truth is he’s everywhere and no one can dispute that. He’s done right by us. 

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Mike Novak

@velociraptor: at least I have the balls to use my real name when I post things here. Let us know when you grow a pair.

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South Side Pride

he is still neglecting the southside..take a walk down greenpoint to 40th street there is graffti everywhere,now walk along skilman and see the difference..a little bit of help over here please!

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Mike Novak

Face it Raquel, you are so full of hate and loathing, if you found a gold bar in the street, you would complain that you had top bend over to pick it up.

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Holier-Than-Thou

It was a positive column on JVB. Lots of criticism from posters but only sartke made mention of what else JVB could do. Me, I agree with Sartke. People drive recklessly on our streets. I’d like police patrolling on foot and bike. I’d like more programs for the parks and libraries. I’d like people to clean up after their dogs. I’d like the 7 line to have a “finish date.” And can someone open a good Chinese restaurant?

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Raquel

This article could have come from the Woodside Herald, which is having a big love affair with our local politicians to the point of nausea.

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SunnysideUp

@Velociraptor
So what do you expect Sunnyside Post to write about? A councilman based in Boston or anywhere else? It writes about a councilman in NY who lives in Sunnyside and does the best for our community. And if his name is frequently mentioned in articles only make sense to me, since he is obviously easily accessible being a Sunnyside resident. It’s like the teacher is mentioning your kid’s achievements in the class for the other
children to know and you have a problem with that.

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velociraptor

I don’t mind acknowledging when someone does a good job. I do mind when I see a cult of personality emerging. Perhaps this site should be renamed the Van Bramer Post.

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onlyworm

I have to agree with Mike. Every politician is going to be criticized, but I have lived in the area for over 15 years and I have to say, I’ve seen more positive change in our area because of Jimmy then prior reps. I don’t know if there are any comparison charts with others in the city, but I am sure Jimmy is on the top of the list for getting things done.

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velociraptor

@Mike Novak

Oh please, enough with the hate card. You’re the one who seems “full of hate” towards anyone who doesn’t see things exactly as you do.

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Mike Novak

Jimmy Van Bramer is doing a TREMENDOUS JOB for the neighborhood. His record of accomplishments speaks for itself. This article is full of FACTS, most of you are full of HATE. Shame on you haters. Jimmy Van Bramer is a HUGE upgrade over Eric Gioia.

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velociraptor

Oh my. JVB is such a dreamboat! Does the lovey-dovey eyed person who wrote this have a pin-up photo of JVB over his/her bed?

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SunnysideUp

The article is great and I am sure neither his mom or his PR person wrote it. Read the whole thing people. It is very objective. It states things for and against Van Bramer. And besides why cant you just be happy for once? We have a council member who is a Sunnyside resident and is doing his best to help the area. How many communities have this advantage? Jimmy Van Bramer keep up the good work. WE ARE VERY PROUD YOU LIVE IN OUR AREA.

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sartke

Neighborhood parking is not a problem for the majority of residents, as we do not own cars – something JVB should always keep in mind. On the other hand, speeding and aggressive drivers are problems that affect everyone who lives in Sunnyside and has to cross a street once in a while.

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Casey

What a poor article. Increase Government spending now means results. This is the country’s main problem.

Reply

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