10) Large Sinkhole in Forest Park. For nearly three years, a giant sinkhole large enough to swallow a station wagon sat on Forest Park Drive directly across from the Carousel. I’m a big fan of Forest Park, but there are sections of it that are poorly maintained and this was a prime example. Thanks to a little publicity, the Parks Department finally allocated some resources and repaired the hole.
9) The Second Deadliest Street. Woodhaven Boulevard was named New York’s second most dangerous street, netting eight deaths in the last three years. It’s a good thing the Department of Transportation gives pedestrians such a short time to cross it. Their theory must be that the less time spent crossing, the safer you are.
8) WRBA Playground Cleanup Day. In May, residents flocked to Mary Whalen Playground on Park Lane South and took part in a massive cleanup, gathering well over 100 bags of leaves and garbage in just under two hours, a great example of what a community can do when it works together.
7) WRBA Celebration. This year’s WRBA celebration was a special affair, honoring Allan Smith (Man of the Year), Margie Schmidt (Woman of the Year) and The Avenue Diner (Business of the Year). And it was a real treat for everyone who attended to reunite with the Lewis family as Lewis' of Woodhaven was inducted into the Woodhaven Hall of Fame.
6) Select Bus Service. The DOT and MTA are proposing to bring SBS to Woodhaven Boulevard to speed up transit times for bus commuters, but what impact will dedicating two lanes for buses have on everyone else?
5) Cemetery Cleanup. The Woodhaven Historical Society and the St. Thomas the Apostle Woodhaven History Club have been working on Woodhaven’s historic Colonial-era cemetery behind All Saints Church on 96th Street. We look forward to the day when this historic gem can open to the public again.
4) WRBA Calls Sanitation Out on Unfair Tickets. The WRBA has been fighting the Department of Sanitation to stop issuing unfair tickets in the middle of the night when home and store owners are not even aware garbage has been dumped. Despite a lot of publicity and support in the right places, DSNY has stubbornly refused to see how the unfairness of their practices should interfere with the money these tickets generate.
3) The Rockaway Beach LIRR Line. Some people want to restore the railroad (a multi-billion dollar project), while others want to turn it into an extension of Forest Park (which already suffers from lack of resources). Judging by the way the city currently manages roads, lights, sanitation, buildings and everything else, is it any surprise that residents of Woodhaven are wary of both schemes?
2) WW1 Memorial Rediscovered. As many times as we’ve all passed through Forest Park, none of us knew the significance of the trees lining Forest Park Drive, one planted for every soldier from Woodhaven killed in World War I.
We hope the city and the Parks Department will do the right thing and restore this memorial in time for the 100th anniversary in 2019. Repair the sidewalks, add some landscaping and benches, and replant trees for the young men of Woodhaven that gave their lives for our future.
And the top Woodhaven story of 2014 is...
1) The Saga of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps. This is a story of the city failing us on many levels. The collapsed building that has kept our volunteer ambulance corps out of business and forced our senior center to relocate should have been torn down a year ago. We hope that the recent repairs will allow the WRHVAC to begin their own repairs, and we hope the seniors will be back in their old home before we write a column detailing the top stories of 2015.
I’d like to wrap up this last column of 2014 by wishing all of you a Happy New Year. But my deepest New Year’s wishes go out to those who aren't having the best of times, those who find themselves on the wrong side of fortune, those who are dealing with difficulty, perhaps illness or other problems.
For those friends and neighbors, we offer prayers that the next 365 days will see an improvement in your life, so that next New Year’s Eve will be a special and memorable one.