Community mourns Lois Arcuri

Glendale lost a beloved member of its community last week.
Lois Arcuri, the wife of Community Board 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri Jr., passed away on Friday, May 4, from lung-related complications.
Outside her wake Monday evening, Vincent spoke fondly of his wife, saying that she was devoted to her friends and family, her homemaking, and living as a good Christian.
The Arcuris were married for roughly 50 years and raised four children together, but Vincent said Lois helped every child who crossed her path in life.
“She was the matriarch of her family and she helped raise a lot of people’s children from her family and the community,” he said. “All her many nieces and nephews looked upon her as their second mother.”
Lois was very active with the Saint Pancras Parish in Glendale at taught cheerleading with the local Catholic Youth Organization.
CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano said he met Lois when he took the position in 1989.
He said she was always supportive of his and Vincent’s work in the community, “and always told me when Vinny was working, when was the best time to get a hold of him,” before the days when everyone could be reached by cell phone.
“She was just a wonderful, wonderful lady,” Giordano said.

(Heather Senison)

Water board raises rate by 7 percent

The Water Board voted to increase the 2013 rate by 7 percent last week, despite weeks of opposition from the public in hearings held around the city.
Although the rate is the lowest increase in seven years and is 25 percent lower than what was expected at this time last year, according to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), critics say the rate increases every year to some degree, and needs to be capped.
Even with the 7 percent hike, water rates in New York City are among the lowest in the nation, even though DEP manages a system that includes 19 reservoirs, 295 miles of tunnels and aqueducts, 14,000 miles of water and sewer mains, and 22 wastewater treatment plants.
However, a series of budget-tightening measures over the last three years allowed DEP to keep the rate increase low this year, Commissioner Carter Strickland said in a statement.
For example, under the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, an agreement reached with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the city deferred $2 billion in capital investments while at the same time achieving higher water quality, according to DEP.
“The lower-than-expected rate increase demonstrates our commitment to keeping rates low while delivering the renowned service that residents deserve,” Strickland said.
“Though rate increases are difficult during tough economic times,” he added, “we are moving in the right direction and maintaining the highest standard of quality New Yorkers have come to expect.”
Although DEP was able to defer or eliminate more than $5 billion in unfunded mandates, Strickland said at a Water Board hearing at Christ the King High School in Middle Village on April 26 that unfunded mandates are the main driving force behind increasing water rates.
Regardless, legislators such as Assemblyman David Weprin recently introduced bills to cap the annual water rate increase at 5 percent.
He also introduced a bill to restructure the Water Board, so seven of its members would be appointed by the mayor, one by the City Council, one by the comptroller and one by the public advocate.
Weprin said it is a conflict of interest for the Office of Management and Budget to appoint the Water Board members.
A third bill Weprin introduced would prevent the city from forcing homeowners to pay charges associated with their water bills while they are appealing decisions to keep them from facing late penalties and possible liens on their homes until a final decision is reached.
“Many New Yorkers affected by the recent economic downturn are already struggling to pay their water bills at the current rate. Yet, the New York City Water Board continues to raise water rates year after year,” Weprin said in a statement responding to the rate hike. “The time has come to say enough is enough. These increases are simply unacceptable.”

Federal red tape holds up city’s first outdoor film studio

Senator Charles Schumer and other local representatives are calling on the National Park Service (NPS) to green light construction of an outdoor production studio outside of Kaufman Astoria Studios.
The project would close 36th Street between 35th and 36th avenues in Astoria for the studio, which would be guarded by what speakers called an iconic new gate.
It is the gate that’s holding up the $2 million project, however, after minor changes to its appearance triggered NPS to call for a renewed review after construction was already reviewed and approved.
“The one thing California has over us is that they have an outdoor movie studio,” Schumer said. “We’ve lagged behind Hollywood as the center of film and television for this reason, because they want to be in New York. They know the talent is here.”
If the project is approved, the studio will open for the summer of 2013 and create thousands of jobs over the next year, Schumer said.
Outdoor studios allow for exterior and special effects shots. The project is aimed at attracting film and television clients who might otherwise go to Los Angeles, New Orleans, or other cities with outdoor studios.
“It would be a destination not only for film and TV clients, but for tourists,” Schumer said. “But unfortunately, instead of going forward, this project has been held up by needless delays and a sea of bureaucratic red tape that could postpone construction and threaten the ability of the studio to allow filming here by the summer of 2013.”
Schumer pointed out that New York is doing well in film and television, with 188 films and 23 primetime television shows shot in the city in 2011. However, clients are expressing interest in filming in the outdoor studio, he said, but scheduling can’t be secured until the project is approved.
In the 1970s, NPS deeded the land outside Kaufman Astoria to New York City with the stipulation that the site, which was a silent film mecca in the 1920s, continue to be used for filming.
According to the deed, NPS must sign off on projects to assure that the land is being used for that purpose.
Although NPS already approved the project, when the Public Design Commission proposed slight changes to give the gate a grittier, more industrial look, the agency called for a completely new review of the project.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who also spoke at the press conference, grew up in Astoria and said he used to ride bikes with his sister along 30th Avenue in the 1970s, when the area looked abandoned.
“Like an old warehouse, business, factory district with nothing going on,” he said. “And to see 35th Avenue reborn the way you see it today, it would not have happened without Kaufman Astoria and the Museum of Moving Image.”
“But we can’t have it as good as we want it to be without this outdoor soundstage and studio,” he said.

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