Saturday, October 25, 2014

Van Bramer be damned, DeBlasio & Amtrak want Sunnyside yard developed

From Capital New York:

Amtrak is considering developing Sunnyside Yards in Queens as part of a nationwide evaluation of its real estate portfolio and could turn to investors as early as next spring to find partners willing to explore potential uses for those properties, the company’s chairman, Anthony Coscia, said Thursday.

Executives have been in talks with the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations about the site, Coscia told reporters at a global real estate conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Coscia mentioned the plans during a panel discussion moderated by former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff.

The Sunnyside Yards is one the largest undeveloped parcels in New York City and holds virtually limitless potential to developers willing to build a platform above the tracks. Planners have long dreamed about what could be built on the property, which remains an active rail yard used by several train companies.

It was unclear on Thursday exactly what Amtrak would pursue, whether it would sell or lease the development rights or how involved it would remain in any project undertaken on the site. There are additional development sites the company is discussing in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“We’ve completed an analysis of what we think we’re going to need for the operating business,” Coscia said after the panel at the Urban Land Institute’s fall conference. “Obviously, it doesn’t make any sense for us to sell real estate that we’re going to need to run the railroad. So, we’ve pretty much completed that and what we’re doing between now and March is trying to determine—after subtracting those needs—what sort of developable real estate sites we have that are available that we can monetize.”

Sunnyside, he said, is the perfect example of the type of site on which Amtrak believes it can make a considerable amount of money. There have been conversations about the site between Amtrak executives and Mayor Bill de Blasio, deputy mayor Alicia Glen and chief of staff Laura Santucci, Coscia said.

A spokesman for the mayor said building on the yards could fit in to the city’s ambitious affordable housing plan—which calls for construction of 80,000 affordable units over the next decade—but cautioned nothing is imminent.

Woodside strip club a nuisance

From the Queens Chronicle:

A night/strip club in Woodside has become a hotbed for crime, and officers in the 114th Precinct are unhappy with it.

During a Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday, Detective Eddie Negron came before the board and asked them to help the precinct in getting Perfection, located at 62-05 30 Ave. in Woodside, under control.

“There have been 25 major crimes, resulting in 16 arrests this year,” Negron said. “There are quality-of-life issues and safety issues that pose a threat to the community.”

According to the detective, there have been one homicide, three shootings, five incidents where a gun or weapon was found on an individual, nine physical altercations resulting in serious injuries and two cases involving fraudulent credit cards.

Negron added four of the incidents involved employees of Perfection, including the groping of a customer by a bouncer.

“An example I’ll give you is the night of Feb. 24,” Negron said. “At 2:50 a.m., an individual was found with a loaded gun, at 3 a.m. an individual with an active warrant was involved in an altercation and then at 4 a.m. a man was shot in the stomach outside of the club in a taxi. This all happened on the same day.”

Negron pointed out some of the “hired talent” have known criminal backgrounds and he has noticed possible gang activity within the club. He added that a majority of the problems are caused by residents of other boroughs.

A representative for Perfections would not return calls for comment.

Is Jamaica where the artists want to be?

From the Times Ledger:

Jamaica may provide the stage artists are scouring the city for, one study suggests.

An 18-month analysis on art workspace in Queens by Exploring the Metropolis Inc., which connects artists and performance facilities in the city, found Jamaica is ripe for an artistic revival.

David Johnson, Exploring the Metropolis’ executive director, told the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. at its quarterly meeting last week that the neighborhood could take steps to bolster its attractiveness to artists, including soliciting an affordable loft development.

“Jamaica is so well-positioned in terms of transit, it just seems like low hanging fruit,” Johnson told nearly 50 peopled gathered in the Harvest Room Oct. 15. “With the upcoming development, it’s a great opportunity to really focus on artists’ live-work space, find the space, find the developers who can do this.”

Johnson noted an East Harlem school that was transformed into a 90-unit live-work development for working artists received 53,000 applications.

“Clearly, there is a demand for this,” he said.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corp. leaders expressed interest in buttressing the area’s creative capital, saying it spurs economic development and personal fulfillment.

DSNY lax in removing illegal signs

From the Queens Tribune:

One civic group says the illegal signs that pepper the area are an eyesore and the group is calling on a City agency to find a solution for the problem.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association recently issued a report detailing the problem illegal signs have become in their neighborhood, and through many parts of the City, and are asking the Sanitation Dept. to improve its response to complaints about the signs and take them down faster.

The report, which was obtained by the Queens Tribune, describes the civic group’s experience with reporting the problem to the Sanitation Dept. for the past four years, including the agency’s response to the complaints when it has been logged into the 311 system.

The report is based on 164 service requests the WRBA has filed about the signs during that time period, reporting a total of 142 illegal postings.

According to the report, more than 63 percent of the 311 requests were not addressed properly. The group found that 47 percent of the postings that Sanitation claimed to have resolved were not actually addressed when the civic group went back to check on it. Additionally, seven percent of those signs were “partially addressed,” which meant a worker put a sticker or crossed-out the number listed on the posting, preventing people from calling the number.

They also said that 28 percent of their requests appeared to never have reached the Sanitation Dept. after filing it with 311.

On a recent walk around Woodhaven to follow up on the signs they reported to 311, WRBA member Alex Blenkinsopp found that the majority of the 17 signs that were observed were either partially removed or not addressed at all, even though they were told that the complaint had been resolved. There were also four new signs discovered while on the walk. They were previously undiscovered by the civic group and were not included in the 17 that were followed up on.

The signs are mostly posted on street light poles, mailboxes and pedestrian signs in high traffic areas like the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven. Some signs are also posted in residential areas, which, according to the WRBA, tend to take longer to address because it is not in a highly visible area.

Building booms after slowdown

From the Daily News:

New York City construction activity has returned to the boom-time levels of 2007 and 2008, thanks in part to a surge in luxury condo development.

The New York Building Congress forecasts that $32.9 billion will be spend on construction this year alone, 17% more than what was spent in 2013. And the fervor may be set to continue, with forecasts topping $35.3 billion and $35.6 billion for 2014 and 2016, respectively.

"Thanks to an improving economy, increased foreign investment and continued progress on a handful of major public and private sector initiatives, the New York City construction market has just about fully rebounded from its post-recession depths and is nearing boom territory once again," said Building Congress President Richard Anderson.

The surge in construction spending is driven in part by a rise in residential development, which is projected to account for $10.9 billion in spending in 2014, up by $4.1 billion from 2013. By comparison, developers spent just $8.3 billion on residential construction post-recession, between 2009 and 2011.

Little of the spending will go towards homes for moderate- or low-income New Yorkers, however.

Most of the money being spent in the residential space will be put towards the construction of ultra-luxury condominiums, according to data cited by the Building Congress. Developers will spend 60 percent more on new homes, while adding only 22 percent more units in 2014, an indication that apartments will be geared towards wealthy buyers.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Subways are bursting at the seams

From DNA Info:

The platform at the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue station — the second busiest in Queens with nearly 51,000 riders every day — is routinely packed during the early-morning rush as straphangers wait for the E, F, M and R trains.

Jason Chin-Fatt, a field organizer with the Straphangers Campaign, rides the F train from the station every morning and said the platforms are “excessively crowded,” especially if the 7 train, which is connected to the station along with several bus routes, isn’t working properly.

“It’s to the point that people are almost spilling over on to the tracks,” he said.

Hey, let's upzone and add thousands more people!

ICCC up for BSA vote

From the Times Ledger:

Now that another city Board of Standards and Appeals hearing is nearing, opposition is mounting again against plans by the Indian Cultural and Community Center to break ground in Bellerose to construct a four-story building on the site of the Creedmoor Psychiatric facility campus.

The group originally convinced lawmakers to sell the parcel to build a community center.

It soon changed plans, proposing to build two nine-story buildings instead of the original one-story community center and athletic field.

The new development plans irked the community, and the ICCC again changed its mind and argued in favor of building the two structures, but keeping them to only six stories..

The fourth and latest idea shrank to the one-building with a recreational center on the roof.

“We are not against the ICCC if they build what they said they would,” said Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association. “The latest incarnation of the plan is this one building.”

Community leaders, in collaboration with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), are asking the city Board of Standards and Appeals to deny the variance needed for the ICCC to develop the site at 82nd Avenue and 242ns Street.The BSA was scheduled to hold a hearing on the fourth revised proposal Nov. 25.

“I hope the board reviews the latest proposal and looks at how they got here,” Avella said. The ICCC “didn’t get here with unclean hands.”

When will that project be done?

You may now look up the status of park construction projects by visiting the Capital Project Tracker.

Help sought to finish anti-graffiti project

From the Queens Courier:

Graffiti has been a problem in Hamilton Beach for decades, creating eyesores all around the neighborhood.

And the bridge that connects Hamilton Beach to Old Howard Beach over Hawtree Creek, known to residents as the “blue bridge,” is one of the most notorious spots for defacement.

But some residents, who are fed up with the look it gives the neighborhood, took clean-up matters into their own hands.

“One day, while hanging on my boat with some friends, we all started talking [about] how the bridge made the neighborhood look degrading,” said Laura Weiser, a resident of Hamilton Beach for 12 years. “So, I decided to do something about it.”

And she did.

As Weiser was starting to paint the southern portion, on her second day of painting, she slipped, fell and tore tendons and ligaments in her left wrist. Because of this injury, she could not finish painting the side and has left it a quarter of the way done.

She is now hoping that some residents will follow her good deed and help finish painting the concrete as she will not be able to do so for another six weeks.

Jamaica Savings Bank building being renovated

From the Queens Courier:

A real estate firm investing in downtown Jamaica has plans to renovate and modify one of the area’s landmarked buildings.

The new owners of the 116-year-old Jamaica Savings Bank building at 161-02 Jamaica Ave. in the heart of the neighborhood’s downtown has filed with the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission to modify the building.

The structure, a Beaux-Arts style bank building designed by architecture firm Hough & Duell and built in 1898, was designated a landmark in 2008.

According to city records. the application seeks to “construct rear and side additions, replace doors, install awnings and infill window openings.”

The building was bought by the investment firm of the Laboz family, United American Land, LLC, under the name 161-02 Jamaica LLC for $3.7 million, according to records filed with the city in January. Jason Laboz of the firm declined to speak with The Courier about the project.

The modification of the building could be part of a plan to add new retail tenants into the property as the company has planned with the adjacent buildings on the strip.

United American Land purchased the next-door 10-story building at 160-16 Jamaica Ave. in January for $8.5 million. It filed permits to reduce the larger building down to four stories, matching the landmarked structure and the property at 160-08 Jamaica Ave., which the company owns as well.

Entire block to be demolished in LIC

From the Court Square Blog:

Demolition has moved into a new phase at 45-46 Davis Street, the former home of 5Pointz. The last time we checked in, construction crews had erected fences on Davis and Crane Street.1 More recently, they put up the scaffolding on the Jackson Avenue side, shown in the first photo. Demolition is moving along quickly in the middle section of the lot (see the second and third photos), and with the scaffolding up on the Jackson Avenue, it won’t be long before those buildings start to come down, as well.

Juvie jail to be placed in southeastern Queens

From the Daily News:

The city is searching for sites in Queens to place a “limited secure” facility for juvenile offenders, the News has learned.

Sources said locations in South Ozone Park and Jamaica are being studied.

But officials from the Administration for Children’s Services would only say they are planning to place six of these facilities across the five boroughs with 12 to 20 youngsters in each.

“We have heard a lot of talk about juveniles not bring in regular jails,” said Frank Dardani, chair of the 106th Precinct Community Council. “We want to make sure it would be secure and that they have the proper staffing.”

The 2012 state “Close to Home” law was designed to reform the troubled juvenile justice system that kept young offenders in remote upstate facilities.

Under the reforms, juvenile offenders who only need lower levels of supervision will be moved into the city to be closer to their families and support systems. So-called 'limited secure" will still be locked and fenced but will have less of a jail-like atmosphere,

Young offenders who need to be in the most secure setting will remain in upstate facilities.

Closed bridge has hurt Murray Hill businesses

From the Queens Courier:

The city’s extended closure of an overpass bridge in Flushing is set to end by 2016, according to a Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman. But the long wait could continue to hurt local business owners.

LIRR train tracks cut through 149th Street, with an overpass bridge connecting the two sides of the street. The bridge has been closed since 2009, according to residents and business owners in the area.

According to a DOT spokesman, a new bridge was ready to open in 2012, but during a final inspection the department found cracks in the foundation, leading the department to keep the bridge closed.

The lack of a bridge in the area left several businesses on 41st Avenue disconnected from the other side. Traffic withered away as a result, business owners said, and led to a noticeable reduction in customers visiting the stores on 41st Avenue, near the 149th Street overpass bridge.

The city plans on completing a final design in 2014. And in the fall of 2015 the spokesman expects a construction contract to be hashed out. The new overpass bridge should be completed within six months after that.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Council members order NYPD to ignore the Feds

From the Politicker:

The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation today to stop the Department of Correction and the NYPD from honoring immigration detainers issued by the federal government unless they are accompanied by a judge’s warrant.

The council voted 41 in favor and 6 against on two bills that will largely end cooperation with the federal government when it requests an immigration detainer — which asks Corrections or the NYPD to hold a person for 48 hours when they might otherwise be released so that the person can be handed over the the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The requests are often made when an undocumented immigrant is being released from jail for another crime, or if they have been in NYPD custody for questioning.

Under the new legislation, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he supports, the city will honor immigration waivers if the federal government requests them with a judge’s warrant — and even then, only if the subject of the warrant was convicted within the last five years of a violent or serious crime, or is a possible match on the terrorism watch list.

So they passed a law that said the NYPD should ignore a federal judge's warrant? And only 2 Queens councilmembers (Vallone and Ulrich) voted against this? Holy crap, we're in big trouble.

Home sweet homes finally repaired

From CBS 2:

Nearly two years after Superstorm Sandy, two friends in a Queens neighborhood are finally back in their own homes.

As CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported, it took extensive repair work and help from volunteers and each other.

The homeowners credit the St. Bernard Project, Catholic Charities and Friends of Rockaway for donating materials and labor to get them back in their houses.

Alan Hevesi turns to public speaking

From Capital New York:

Alan Hevesi, who served as the comptroller of New York City and New York State before pleading guilty to state corruption charges, will speak next Monday in Queens about the corrosive influence of money in politics.

A notice for the event was posted online by the Central Queens Y, home of the Hevesi Library, which he helped co-found. Hevesi is also a former member of the New York State Assembly and taught public policy at Queens College for years.

The title of Hevesi's speech is “Big Money, Congressional Combat, and the 2014 Elections.”

Hevesi was considered a rising star in Democratic circles before he resigned.

In 2006, after winning re-election as state comptroller, Hevesi resigned from office and pleaded guilty to a felony for assigning a state worker to chauffeur his ailing wife, without reimbursing the state for the service. In 2010, Hevesi pleaded guilty to what the Times called “a sprawling corruption scheme” involving the state’s pension fund. Hevesi admitted he accepted about $1 million in exchange for steering $250 million to associates.

The event will take place at 67-09 108th Street, in Forest Hills, which Hevesi represented for many years, at 1:30 p.m. on October 27, with a suggestion donation of $5 for members, and $8 for non-members.

Crazy cost associated with 911 system

From the Daily News:

The city's 911 system still isn’t fixed and the costs are soaring out of control.

Problems with the Fire Department’s dispatch desk outlined in a city investigation Tuesday are just one flaw in the convoluted 911 emergency response system that officials have been trying to fix for years.

Back in 2004 the Bloomberg administration announced ambitious plans to modernize 911 by linking police, fire and EMS systems in one well-coordinated computerized network. The choreography soon fell apart, and a system that was supposed to cost $1.3 billion and be finished by 2009 is now expected to cost $2.03 billion and won’t be finished until August 2016.

In May, Mayor de Blasio froze the city’s 911 upgrade project and ordered a 60-day review. In August, his administration outlined what he called the “root causes” of delays, including the city’s overreliance on outside consultants and lousy communications between city agencies. De Blasio cut back on consultants and put just one agency — the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications — in charge.

The Fire Department, meanwhile, made temporary fixes to streamline communications and will soon request more money for upgrades so EMS will be automatically notified of all “active fire” calls.

The supersizing of Astoria won't end any time soon

From Crains:

Another major residential development is now likely to join two other huge apartment projects in Astoria, Queens, that builders want to construct along the neighborhood’s suddenly booming waterfront.

Shibber Khan, the real estate investor and developer who operates the firm Criterion Group, has scooped up 11-12 30th Drive, a parcel that stretches from Vernon Boulevard along the Astoria waterfront to 12th Street. The property can accommodate residential buildings of up to 10 stories, and totaling 460,000 square feet, if a component of affordable housing is included.

Mr. Khan paid about $57 million for the land, which is now home to a sprawling low-rise warehouse occupied by wholesale grocer Bohea Associates. The deal follows a couple of others recently nearby.