Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An environmentally friendly Kew Gardens Cinema

From DNA Info:

Kew Gardens Cinemas may be eight decades old, but the theater is at the forefront of the latest environmental trend.

The art deco indie flick venue, at 81-05 Lefferts Blvd., near Austin Street, is currently installing several solar panels on its rooftop.

The solar panels will cover about 6,000 square feet of the building's roof, owner Harvey Elgart said in an email Friday.

Energy produced by the panels will be used to power lights and movie projectors at the six-screen theater, according to its representative. It was not clear how many of the projectors would be powered by the panels.

Living wage expanded

From the NY Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday significantly expanding New York City’s living wage law, covering thousands of previously exempt workers and raising the hourly wage itself, to $13.13 from $11.90, for workers who do not receive benefits.

The change is also intended to frame a looming debate in Albany, where Mr. de Blasio hopes to win the authority to set the citywide minimum wage at the same amount. If Mr. de Blasio succeeds in matching the minimum wage to the living wage, all hourly workers in the city would earn more than $15 by 2019, according to the city’s projections.

The executive order will immediately cover employees of commercial tenants on projects that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies going forward. Workers who receive benefits such as health insurance will earn $11.50 an hour, compared with $10.30 before.

While cautioning that it was “notoriously difficult to develop projections related to economic development,” the administration estimated that about 18,000 workers would be covered over the next five years, roughly 70 percent of all the jobs at businesses that will receive new financial assistance from the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Astoria Cove approved by planning commission despite objections

From DNA Info:

The City Planning Commission approved zoning changes that will clear the way for the massive and controversial Astoria Cove housing complex.

Ten out of 13 commissioners approved the entire project proposal on Monday afternoon. The City Council now has about two months to hold a public hearing and vote on the project, which is set to be built on 26th Avenue between 4th and 9th streets.

The Astoria Cove plan, which the developers said will not involve public subsidies, features five mixed-used buildings with nearly 1,700 apartments on the waterfront of Astoria’s Hallets Point.

The project, which will be constructed over 10 years, also includes 54,000 square feet of retail space, an elementary school, a children’s play area and 84,000 square feet of public open space.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Queens Community Board 1 recently objected the project, asking the developers to include more than the 345 affordable units currently planned.

Twenty percent of the entire project is set to be affordable, according to the developers' attorney. But the community board asked that at least 35 percent of the project be allocated for affordable housing.

Local officials have also said they wanted the massive housing complex to come with more public transportation services.

Even more homeless on the streets and in shelters

From CBS 2:

More people are living on New York City’s streets now than at this time last year.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the number of homeless on the streets — 3,357 — is down by 24 percent since 2005, according to city data. But the number is up by 177 people, or 5 percent, compared to last year.

Overall, there are more than 56,000 people living in city shelters — a number that continues to grow, according to the DHS.

Brooklyn area eyed for affordable housing is already overpriced

From PIX11:

Residents and real estate agents in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn believe developers are moving in and purchasing property, dramatically raising prices.

“Land is starting to be speculated at 2-3 times what it was going for in just the last year,” said Kyle McCullers, a salesperson with Citi Habitats.

Last Spring Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would help build or sustain 200,000 affordable housing units in the five boroughs, with construction starting in East New York.

McCullers believes developers may be purchasing land hoping to benefit from an uptick in funds to build in the area.

“Once you get new development and developers have to cover their cost, what they perceive to be low rent may not be low rent for the folks who are from the neighborhood,” McCullers explained.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why not just close LaGuardia Airport?

From Crains:

The obsolete Central Terminal building at LaGuardia Airport has drawn ridicule from business travelers. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend $3.6 billion to build a new one.

But this cost is much higher if one includes the diminished value of the properties of the 150,000 residents who live under LGA or JFK flight paths. LGA's key advantage, its proximity to Manhattan, would be all but eliminated if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority built one-seat ride express rail to JFK. For less than $1 billion, the MTA could restore the 3.5-mile disused LIRR Rockaway Beach line in Queens, producing a world-class rail link to JFK while speeding travel to Aqueduct and the Rockaways.

With this high-speed link, a strong case could be made for closing LGA. By handling displaced LGA passengers via larger aircraft at JFK, takeoff and landing noise would be drastically reduced and airline efficiency improved.

With LGA closed, this valuable 680-acre city-owned waterfront parcel could accommodate more than 30,000 units of housing toward the mayor's goal of 200,000 affordable units.

Mr. Cuomo should insist that full consideration of closing LGA be a key part of an FAA-mandated aviation noise study now underway.

—George Haikalis
President, Institute for Rational Urban Mobility

Red fox discovered in Queens

There's a blog called Queens Coyote that tracks sightings of unusual wildlife in the borough. It caught a red fox on its camera recently. The author will not reveal where in Queens it was spotted, other than "not in Alley Pond Park".

Giant Manhattan developer takes over Astoria megaproject

From Curbed:

Earlier this week, the Durst Organization bought the long-awaited development site at Hallets Point, paying "well over $100 million" for a 90 percent stake in the Astoria megaproject.

The Hallets Point development has been in the works for years, and developer Lincoln Equities finally got the greenlight from the city last fall. All told, the project will have 1,921 apartments (plus 483 affordable units), spread across seven buildings. The plans also call for an esplanade, a school and retail space, including a supermarket. Interestingly, the New York City Housing Authority struck a deal that will allow the developer to build and operate two affordable buildings on the grounds of Astoria Houses, the nearby public housing complex.

So the affordable housing will be on the grounds of the projects and the council went for this?? ROFLMAO!!!

What Resorts World must resort to

From Crains:

The jackpot at Resorts World Casino is a little leaner these days—though not for gamblers.

The 36-month-old racino at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens has enjoyed a run of record-breaking revenue and double-digit annual growth. But during the past year, its growth has slowed, just as its owner, Malaysia-based Genting Americas, is hoping to be approved by the state for a $1.5 billion luxury resort and casino in Tuxedo.

Resorts World's revenue this fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2015, will increase by "high single digits," compared with a 14% growth rate in the previous fiscal year, said Christian Goode, senior vice president of development for Genting Americas. Last fiscal year, it generated $792 million in revenue, of which $618.2 million went to paying fees and to Albany in the form of gambling taxes.

"Double-digit growth is simply not sustainable, but whether we get [a casino upstate], our efforts are full steam ahead in Queens," he added. "There is more we can do there."

Resorts World has not been as successful tapping into the robust tourism industry in the Big Apple as it would have liked. The vast majority of its customers are locals from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. To attract more visitors, Mr. Goode is considering developing a hotel near John F. Kennedy International Airport—one that would offer better amenities than the existing budget airport properties—and help the casino capture international travelers, who would be shuttled directly to Aqueduct.

"Revealing money's influence on politics"

The website "Maplight" was brought to my attention recently. You can look up who contributes to congressmembers by category. Here's an example: Joe Crowley.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Piss poor planning leads to parking nightmare

From the Daily News:

The city shuttered the decrepit Queensboro Hall municipal parking garage a week early on Wednesday after tagging the half-century-old structure a safety hazard.

But local leaders said the Department of Transportation has no concrete plan to accommodate hundreds of people — including jurors and court personnel — who use the roughly 500-space facility every day.

Workers handed out flyers to confused drivers Wednesday, outlining nearby private garages and bus routes.

The lot serves both Borough Hall and the Queens Criminal Court facilities in Kew Gardens.

Transportation officials originally planned to close it Oct. 1 but announced late Tuesday it would shutter the next day.

“This came fast,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who fears frustrated drivers will spend hours circling nearby streets, adding heavy traffic around nearby Public School 99.

“What we need right now is for the city to give us alternatives where people can park,” she said.

One of those options could be to shuttle people from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and nearby colleges, Katz said.

The borough’s criminal justice system is also expected to take a big hit, a spokesman for District Attorney Richard Brown said.

“The garage’s closing will be extremely burdensome on crime victims, witnesses, jurors and defendants, as well as the surrounding neighborhood,” he said.

New Elmhurst LIRR station in the works?

From the Queens Courier:

The wheels of the LIRR might soon be making a stop once again in Elmhurst — or at least in the next five years.

In the MTA’s 2015-2019 $32 billion Capital Program, released earlier this week, $40 million is being set aside to construct a new Long Island Rail Road station on the Port Washington Branch.

“A new Elmhurst station will provide commuter railroad service to this vibrant community,” the MTA said in the five-year plan said.

The proposed station elements include two new 12-car platforms, staircases, platform railings, platform shelters, ticket vending machines, lighting, communication and security systems, and site improvements, according to the capital plan.

Something else to dislike about Astoria Cove

From the Daily News:

The development group seeking city approvals to build a luxury housing complex on the Astoria waterfront has come under fire because one of its principals hired a firm connected to a scandal-scarred contractor to do work on another Queens site, the Daily News has learned.

Alma Realty, the lead builder behind the Astoria Cove project, hired the company, SSC High Rise Construction, to do foundation work at another project it is developing nearby, on Vernon Blvd.

“This contractor may be working for Alma but will not be employed at the Astoria Cove site,” said a spokesman for the Astoria Cove developers. “In light of allegations that have been brought to our attention, we are asking Alma to investigate these claims further and take the appropriate action.”

SSC High Rise Construction is run in part by Michael Mahoney, according to court filings and a signed affidavit by a former employee.

Mahoney and six companies he controlled were ordered by a state Supreme Court judge to pay $1.6 million in back wages in 2011, in regards to a suit brought by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo charged them with withholding millions of dollars in employees’ overtime and creating a racially tiered hierarchy of wages on construction sites, where white Irish employees were paid $25 an hour, black employees received $18 and Latino employees, $15.

Mahoney also pled guilty to felony tax evasion in 2011 in a suit brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and was sentenced to two years’ probation.

Forest Hills Stadium experimenting with sound blankets

From DNA Info:

Organizers of a summer outdoor concert series at Forest Hills Stadium said they are experimenting with ways to reduce noise from future performances after receiving complaints from community members.

They have been testing sound blankets, typically used at airports and construction sites, on the fence surrounding the stadium, said Jon McMillan, one of the organizers. They were also considering placing them at the top of the venue.

McMillan said that the group is trying to figure out whether covering large portions the fence with sound blankets is feasible and how to include entrances to the stadium into their sound mitigation plan.

Arrests of family shelter residents made in Rockaway

From the Rockaway Times:

There have been several arrests of individuals who reside at the new homeless shelter on Beach 65th St. have been arrested recently, according to police. Capt. Carlos Fernandez who oversees District 23 of the transit police, said there were nine arrests made in the last 28-day period of individuals who live at the shelter.

Those arrests were for theft of service and include violations including jumping the turnstile and entering the station illegally through the exit doors, he said. There have also been several quality of life summons issued there.

Police from The 100th Precinct also made two arrests: one of an individual who had an open container and had a warrant against him and another of an individual who was carrying a knife.

There was also a reported burglary within the shelter, during which a resident’s prescription medication was stolen, Capt. Craig Adelman said.