Saturday, August 30, 2014

DeBlasio planning to destroy something that actually works

From Huffington Post:

Even though nearly 70 percent of New York City's public school students are black or Hispanic, very few will be attending the city's most elite public schools when the doors open next week. According to some alumni of these specialized high schools, that doesn't mean their admissions systems are necessarily unfair.

The chance to attend one of the eight exam-based institutions -- like Stuyvesant High School -- depends on the student's score on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). These schools are considered among the city's best, and competition to get in can be fierce.

"In my opinion, the test system is purely on the basis of merit. There's no room for discrimination or bias," Larry Cary, president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, told The Huffington Post.

Cary is part of the newly formed Coalition of the Specialized High School Alumni Organizations, which represents over 100,000 graduates of those New York City schools. This week, the group announced that it believes the admissions process based on a single exam should remain unchanged.

According to data from the NYC Department of Education, black and Hispanic students last year made up only 12 percent of incoming ninth-graders offered spots at the exam-based high schools. This year, the numbers are basically the same: The share of black and Hispanic students accepted to the prestigious schools adds up to 11.5 percent.

The New York state legislature established the entrance exam system in the early 1970s for Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School. As more specialized schools opened, they adopted the same system for the most part. (The city has a ninth specialized school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, that chooses its students based on a combination of auditions and academics.)

Over the years, there have been attempts to reform the admissions process to ensure that the benefits of attending the best public high schools reach all communities in the city. Just this June, state legislators introduced a bill that would require the specialized high schools to factor multiple measures, such as GPA, into their admission decisions, as opposed to relying only on the SHSAT.

The Coalition of the Specialized High School Alumni Organizations disagrees with that approach. The group argues instead for a new initiative to give underrepresented communities access to better SHSAT test preparation and for a policy of letting students on the cusp of admittance apply again.

There are bright children of all races. The reason why there are fewer Black and Hispanic students accepted into prestigious schools is mainly because they tend to be stuck going to shitty middle schools which don't prepare them adequately for test taking of this caliber. So instead of fixing the middle schools, DeBlasio wants to dumb down the admissions process. Of course, the graduates of these schools are smarter than DeBlasio.

Assembly stalling on Forest Park cameras

From The Forum:

While a sexual predator responsible for six attacks in Forest Park remains at large, the application to install security cameras on the grounds is still being reviewed by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, with no firm date set for the completion of the process.

“There was an initial delay by the city Police Department returning the preliminary application to the Ways and Means Committee,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), who formally requested the extra security measure. “After final review, the application will be sent to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York for their own independent review of the NYPD’s application for the security cameras. Since we have no control over these processes, I cannot guarantee a date for the installation of the cameras; however, the process is moving swiftly and we will continue to follow up to ensure the cameras are installed as soon as possible.”

The bureaucratic procedure has done little to assuage the anxiety of park patrons and area residents. According to the NYPD, the suspect has struck half a dozen times during daylight hours over a two-year period inside the expansive, 507-acre flagship green space: On Aug. 26, 2013 he used a stun gun to subdue and rape a 69-year-old woman near Myrtle Avenue and Forest Park Road; on March 29, 2013, the suspect sexually assaulted a 23-year-old jogger; on Nov. 18, 2012 he assaulted a 40-year-old woman as she walked her dog; on Aug. 15, 2012, the man fondled a 34-year-old woman at Woodhaven Boulevard and Park Lane South; he struck and attempted to disrobe his youngest victim, a 13-year-old girl, on Sept. 7, 2011; and on March 25, 2011, in what cops believe was his initial attack, the man jumped a 54-year-old female jogger from behind on Park Lane South, the NYPD said.

Overdevelopment headed to the Bronx

From DNA Info:

The Department of City Planning would like to see waterfront development come to the areas around some Metro-North stations as part of a plan to foster economic growth and accommodate a booming population in the borough, according to a new report.

In the study, which focused on improving underused areas around the stations as well as better integrating them into the community, the department advocated redeveloping the waterfront by the University Heights and Morris Heights stations to help people more easily reach the Harlem River.

Many of the Metro-North stations in the Bronx have underutilized areas around them or are next to recreational areas that are cut off from the rest of the community by highways and other obstructions. They also are underutilized despite being in densely populated areas, compared to the subway, the report said.

Wills instroduces jail voter bill

From the Times Ledger:

Although jail detainees are kept behind bars, City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) says their votes should not be.

Wills introduced a bill at last week’s Council meeting outlining a process for the city Department of Correction to administer absentee ballot applications ahead of elections, distribute them to eligible voters and then return their ballots to the city Board of Elections.

In New York, inmates convicted of misdemeanors and those awaiting judicial rulings on felony charges are eligible to vote. Close to 81 percent of those in the state prison system are detainees who have been charged but not convicted of crimes, and are therefore eligible to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice policy institute, at New York University’s School of Law.

“I encounter more constituents than I would like ... that if they were in Rikers or another jail, they didn’t know they could vote. I have had people come up to me and tell me their voter record is messed up and they were never locked up or they had a misdemeanor conviction,” Wills said.

Neither the BOE nor DOC responded to requests for comment on the bill and how voting currently works in city jails.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Little Bay crapper on hold again

From the Queens Courier:

The completion of Little Bay Park’s comfort station is being postponed yet again, officials said.

The Parks Department said the most recent delay was due to a harsh winter and an unusually high amount of soil that had to be removed from the construction site.

The new deadline for completion is set for next spring and, once finished, it will end a project that has sputtered along for a decade.

Costa still not sold on Astoria Cove

From Crains:

At issue is the planned 1,723-unit Astoria Cove development on a peninsula that is also home to one of the city’s largest New York City Housing Authority housing projects.

The dispute stems from an unusual decision by the development team to impose on itself a requirement to build permanently affordable units. In exchange, the developer would be able to build a larger building—a tradeoff based on the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program.

The hitch is that the language in Alma’s proposal allows the makeup of those units to vary widely. While on the lower end of the spectrum, the team could build 345 units set aside for low-income households—the scenario that the team has committed to publicly—the team could get the same development bonus by instead setting aside nearly 700 units for moderate-income households.

It is that second scenario that concerns Mr. Constantinides. He noted that under that second scenario, the developer could charge $2,600 for a one-bedroom, a sum that he noted is equal to what luxury rental buildings along the waterfront farther south in Long Island City command in today’s market. The development team insisted that it has ruled out that higher-end scenario, and indeed in its public statements and various applications makes clear its commitment to affordable units for low-income households.

149th Street bridge should be repaired some time next year

From the Queens Tribune:

While the long-defunct 149th Street Bridge has caused headaches for Queens residents for years, the saga may be reaching its end.

The Dept. of Transportation said it plans to begin construction next fall for the 149th Street Bridge, which has been in need of major repairs for the last few years. While the bridge originally closed in 2010, it has yet to reopen due to problems with the previous work that was done.

The 149th Street Bridge, which stretches over the railroad, closed in May 2010 for demolition and reconstruction, with a scheduled reopening for November 2011. Numerous delays stalled the project’s completion, with the DOT discovering cracks in the cement of the new bridge in May 2012. The bridge was not safe for vehicular traffic and remained closed as a result, opening to pedestrian traffic only in June 2012.

For the next two years, the DOT remained silent on the bridge, until June 6, 2014, when it confirmed that the bridge has to be torn down and rebuilt again. The agency is pursuing litigation against the firm responsible for the bridge’s initial design.

Flushing’s elected officials recently met with Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall to discuss the reconstruction’s progress. According to the DOT, the new design should be finalized by the end of the year, with a slated completion scheduled for November 2015.

Pre-K certification not going well

From Crains:

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday that New York City is far behind schedule in submitting contracts with pre-kindergarten providers, which he says raises possible safety problems with some of the sites slated to be used for Mayor Bill de Blasio's signature program.

Mr. Stringer said that only 141 of more than 500 contracts have been submitted to his office even though school starts in just eight days for 50,000 students in the city's significantly expanded pre-K program. He said failure to provide those contracts to his office—which is required to review all city contracts—is preventing his team from doing safety checks.

"It is risky to be launching a program like this without the proper review," said Mr. Stringer in an interview. "Not getting the contracts means we can't do our due diligence."

"We can't sacrifice safety for expediency," he said.

Officials in the comptroller's office said they have found serious safety issues with a few of the vendors whose contracts they have inspected, including one which employed a staffer who had been charged with conspiracy to commit child pornography.

The sites that do not have approved contracts will still open Sept. 4 even if the paperwork has yet to be submitted by then to the comptroller.

Avella & Liu go head-to-head on NY1

NY1 is providing free access to the debate between Tony Avella and John Liu. Click here to view.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Please clean up the yuck

Hi QC, here's a forward of an email I sent to Forest Hills Gardens Corporation:
---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Aug 26, 2014 4:12 PM
Subject: Smelly, stinky, sticky, sickening sidewalks of Austin Street

I am writing to your organization to let you know about the horrible conditions on Austin Street.

The sidewalks on Austin Street have leakage from trash bags. These stains are smelly and sticky. In front of Chipotle restauraunt (70- 30 Austin St.) And the mall at 70-19 Austin St. I passed theses stains around 1pm today, what a stench. I don't want to step in that and track the rotting matter into my car or home. This environment discourages patronage of Austin street businesses. Even worse, it encourages rodents, roaches, causes allergies and is a growth area for mold and food borne bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria.

This is more than the first time I witnessed this condition here and at other locations on Austin St. I am appalled that this condition exists ant where in NYC.Businesses should be putting their trash out in leak proof, rat proof, containers. Any leakage should be cleansed as soon as the business opens. I have attatched pictures of these sidewalks.Thanks for taking the time to help keep Forest Hills beautiful and vibrant. -Joe

Future of crappy plaza still under debate

From the Queens Courier:

Supporters of the controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza defended the space during a meeting about the plaza’s future, calling it an oasis in a neighborhood that is starved of public space.

But others said the plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, is detrimental to business owners who feel that the loss of parking and the cut-off of two-way traffic is causing sales to drop.

“We wanted to create an open environment for the community,” said Darma Diaz, chief operating officer for the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), which is responsible for the upkeep of the plaza. “This plaza gives the opportunity for the community to have a place to go.”

She noted that public space is so minimal in the area that children have to use the nearby municipal meter lot, located at Elderts Lane and Glenmore Avenue in Brooklyn, for activities.

“This is the only place we have in our neighborhood where children could get together,” said one attendee of the Aug. 21 meeting at Queens Borough Hall. “We have never had a place for us to get together [until the plaza].”

But Khemraj Sadoo, owner of Super Clean Laundromat, located on the same street as the plaza, said there is viable space just two blocks down on Elderts Lane in Brooklyn and wants the plaza moved.

“We need the plaza moved,” Sadoo said. “Who will accept such a plaza in front of his face with such loss of business?”

I don't know, every time I see a photo of this plaza, it is empty. Maybe the community doesn't really need or want it. As for children getting together do what?

Fake cabbie assaults homeless family

From the Queens Courier:

A man claiming to be a cab driver tried to sexually assault a woman in Elmhurst before attacking her young children who were also in the vehicle, police said.

The 26-year-old victim was picked up with her three children, ages 1, 3 and 5, by the suspect at 207th Street in Manhattan on Sunday, officials said. Stating that he was a cab driver, he agreed to drop them off at 79-00 Queens Blvd., the site of the former Pan American Hotel, which was recently converted into a homeless shelter.

After stopping behind the building at about 2:45 a.m., the driver attempted to sexually assault the victim while her children were still in the car, according to police. When the woman tried to get out of the vehicle, the suspect elbowed the 5-year-old in the head and forcibly removed the 3-year-old from the car before fleeing.

Update 8/29: The perp was apprehended, and is being charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Affordable housing welcomed, yet feared

From NY1:

A stretch of Pitkin Avenue in East New York, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, could soon be transformed. The area is the first that the de Blasio administration is targeting for rezoning to pave the way for more affordable housing.

"A lot of us out here, we can't afford this high rent," said one resident of the area.

However, while many locals are desperate for better and cheaper housing, there is widespread concern that the development the city wants will not actually be affordable by neighborhood standards and will lead to gentrification.

With that in mind, the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation is building 60 of what it calls deeply affordable units on a vacant lot. Rents will range from $600 to $1,000 a month, depending on income and apartment size.

"We're really targeting the people that live in the neighborhood now and the rents that they can afford," said Michelle Neugebauer of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation.

However, additional affordable housing may come attached to market-rate developments, which worries Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

"We have seen many neighborhoods in Brooklyn lose the tremendous diversity that make those neighborhoods strong. We don't want to see the same thing happen out in East New York," Jeffries said.

Fresh Direct really got a sweetheart deal

Very interesting post over at Atlantic Yards Report:

ESD is about to give Fresh Direct a $9 million grant and a $1 million loan to move/expand from Long Island City to the South Bronx.

That's on top of $10.5 million from the New York City Industrial Development Authority and $1 million from the New York State Department of Transportation and $5 million in New Markets Tax Credit Equity.

Add $15 million from the investment fund Brightwood Capital, $40 million in the company itself, and a whopping $84,168,000 in an EB-5 loan.

Unmentioned are previous promises (which may have been adjusted) of $18.9 million in state Excelsior tax credits; $4 million in state energy grants and incentives; up to $1 million in vouchers for the purchase of electric vehicles; about $74 million in city sales tax exemptions, mortgage recording tax deferral, and real estate tax exemptions; $4.9 million in city energy benefits; $1 million capital grant from Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation; and a $3 million loan and $500,000 capital grant from the Borough President

Let's put aside the strangeness of the city and state subsidizing a cross-borough move based on a perceived threat from New Jersey, an unlikely base for a delivery service that needs quick access to Manhattan.

Or that Fresh Direct is moving after having gotten subsidies to stay in Queens through 2025.

Or that neighbors (see South Bronx Unite) pose some heavy concerns about the project's environmental impacts, and that if the promised job total is not reached, there's no "clawback provision" to recover subsidies. (See Good Jobs New York timeline.)

The really strange thing is the reliance, according to ESD Board Materials (p, 51ff.), on the EB-5 immigrant investor program, in which foreign millionaires, mostly from China, park $500,000 in a purportedly job-creating investment, get green cards for themselves and their families, and later get their money back. (In this case, they're getting a relatively high--for EB-5--rate of 4.5%.)

The developer gets cheap capital. The public is supposed to get 10 jobs for each investor.

According to promotional material supplied almost surely by the New York City Regional Center, the private investment pool set up to market EB-5 investments (and reap fees), the project would not be $166 million in total, but $208 million.

That's not the only misleading part. EB-5 funding is said to make up just 40% of the project, rather than more than 50%.

And Fresh Direct is said to be providing the rest of the funds, which is clearly not true.