Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dog run in Astoria to cost $1M

From the NY Times:

Dog owners in Astoria, Queens, have for years suffered dog-run envy. As fancy new runs have popped up around New York, Astoria residents have wondered when they might get their own.

Now, through the participatory budgeting process and public largess, their moment appears to have arrived. Local officials recently announced that they had pooled enough money to convert a basketball court under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge into a dog run.

But many residents, including some in the vanguard of the yearslong lobby for the run, were stunned by the estimated price tag: $1 million.

“I didn’t trust my ears initially,” Erin Kirby, media and marketing secretary for the Astoria Dog Owners Association, said. “We were shocked by that.”

City officials said the projected cost was in line with the budgets of other recently built dog runs. Still, for many Astorians the estimate has been a bittersweet introduction to the high costs of capital projects in the city.

All Queens libraries will be open 6 days a week

From DNA Info:

All 62 branches of the Queens Borough Public Library will soon be open at least six days a week, thanks to increased city funding, the library announced Tuesday.

The last time all library branches in the borough were open six days a week was more than a decade ago, the library said.

Guess who pays 1/3 of all U.S. tolls?

From the Daily News:

Drivers in New York and New Jersey pay the heftiest price for their commutes — accounting for almost one-third of all tolls collected across the U.S., a new report says.

The report, which was released by the International Bridges, Tunnels and Turnpike Association, indicated that drivers in the two states forked over an astounding $4 billion of the $13 billion in tolls accrued across the country.

“The primary reason (for New York and New Jersey drivers paying the highest tolls) would be the concentration in the region of bridges and tunnels connecting the greater New York metro area,” said Neil Gray, director of government affairs at IBTTA.

“The facilities have been in place for a long time, they were very expensive to build, they are expensive to maintain and they are tremendously expensive to replace.”

Gray added that the greater New York metro area has a very high concentration of commuters, which is likely to account for the costliness.

Cuomo flip-flops on pork spending

From Capital New York:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted legislative earmarks during campaigns, investigated them as attorney general and promised in 2012 that he would banish them from the state budget.

Now, he's approving them.

In the last week, leaders of the state Legislature publicly disclosed lists of earmarks they secured under the State and Municipal Facilities Program, which fiscal analysts have likened to the old “member item” program that let legislators direct money to local groups and projects at their discretion.

But unlike the past, agencies that report to Cuomo are reviewing — and signing off on — the projects before the money is released. According to critics, that means the Democratic governor is approving “pork” spending that skews to support powerful incumbents: Republicans in the state Senate and Democrats in the Assembly — even after railing against spending for “pet projects” earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Vallone to block Douglaston historic district extension

From the NY Times:

On Thursday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a hearing, the first of four, to clear a backlog of 95 items that have been on the agency’s to-do list for up to four decades. Among them is the Douglaston extension, which in addition to 17 homes includes a Tudor-style apartment building, a church and an elementary school, most of which date from the 1850s to the 1910s. A final determination will be made next year on whether to declare these properties landmarks.

While many in the existing Douglaston Historic District, as well as New Yorkers across the city, might view living in a landmark with pride, there are those who consider it onerous. Where some see history and beauty, they see bureaucracy, expense and limitations on what they can do with their properties.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a Democrat whose district includes Douglaston, has already said he will block the expansion of the historic district in light of residents’ opposition. The City Council has final say over land-use matters, and members almost always defer to the local representative. As a result, Ms. Carroll, the commission director, anticipates the agency might not expend resources approving something that will only be defeated.

US being screwed out of jobs

From the Daily News:

Paragons of American corporate citizenship are perverting an immigration program that was designed to boost the country’s high-tech economy.

The U.S. Department of Labor has let businesses as prominent as Walt Disney World and Toys R Us use a special category of work-related visas not only to cut costs but to send jobs overseas.

President Obama wants immigration reform? It’s never going to happen this way.

So-called H-1B visas are intended to admit into the U.S. highly educated, highly skilled workers whose talents are desperately needed. For example, a company may apply to bring computer engineers from abroad if it cannot find enough of them in America. That, at least. was the theory.

Now, it turns out that consultants that specialize in helping companies move operations overseas are securing most of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually — and are using them to help eliminate jobs wholesale.

With calculating cruelty, the consulting firms obtain visas and bring workers in to copycat the tasks of U.S. workers slated, whether they know it or not, for the unemployment line.

When the knowledge download is done, the visa workers fly back overseas, often to India, to train their countrymen to join the company payroll at a much cheaper rate.

Lots of kids in shelters & special ed

From Capital New York:

New York City has massive numbers of New York City schoolchildren living in temporary housing, as well as a large and growing special education population, according to an Independent Budget Office report released Tuesday.

The large population of high-needs students may present new policy challenges for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña.

According to the IBO report, there were 82,807 students living in some form of temporary housing during the 2013-2014 school year, including 27,772 who were living in shelters.

There are about 1.1 million schoolchildren in New York City.

The number of families living in shelters has increased substantially during de Blasio's tenure.

That's a lot of pot!

From Eyewitness News:

Six men have been arrested for possessing more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana.

Members of the DEA's New York Drug Enforcement Task Force discovered them transferring cardboard cartons containing the drug from a tractor trailer parked in Elmhurst, Queens, to two smaller vehicles early Monday morning.

In addition, it is alleged that the suspects possessed between $200,000 and $300,000 in United States currency.

Weiyang Yao, 47, of Cucamonga, California, Yuejiang Zeng, 53, of San Gabriel, California, Shan Wu Zhang, 30, of British Columbia, Canada, and Duanzhao Zhang, 38, Tong Shun Zhang, 29, and Tong Zhew Zhang, 24, all of Brooklyn will appear in Queens Criminal Court Tuesday

They will each be charged with first-degree criminal possession of marijuana. If convicted, the defendants each face up to five and a half years in prison.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

About those scooter cabs...

From WPIX:

There's a new cab service in the city but it may be illegal.

"Motoconcho" is the city's only known Vespa taxi service.

Customers can order a ride through an app, then a message is sent to a Vespa driver – who arrives within minutes.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says such vehicles cannot be used as cabs and the company's owner may be violating city rules.

Dustin Rodriguez says the Taxi and Limousine licenses only apply for cars not scooters.

As seen previously.

Meng wants the EPA to take over plane noise issue

From DNA Info:

A lawmaker wants a federal environmental agency to take over efforts to fight airplane noise because the current overseer is "doing virtually nothing" to deal with it.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng first introduced legislation in July that calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to take over work being done to mitigate noise in neighborhoods close to airports.

She's been vocal about the EPA stepping up its monitoring of noise for months, but now wants it to take over the whole process, currently handled by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The FAA has failed the residents of Queens," she said, adding that the EPA is "better suited to handle the problem."

Her bill, the Quiet Communities Act of 2015, would bring back the EPA's Office of Noise Abatement and Control — which monitored noise issues until President Ronald Reagan defunded it in 1981, Meng said.

Airplane noise in Queens isn't new, the congresswoman pointed out.

But it's gotten worse since 2012, when the FAA implemented new flight paths.

More people living in overcrowded conditions

From the Daily News:

The last few years have seen a huge surge in the number of apartments and homes deemed to be “overcrowded,” a new report by Controller Scott Stringer has found.

There were 272,000 overcrowded units in New York City housing nearly 1.5 million residents as of 2013, census data show. That’s a spike of nearly 20% from 2005.

Not surprisingly, nearly 70% of these overcrowded homes and apartments — those with more than one occupant per room — are occupied by an immigrant head of household.

Stringer said the growing trend toward cramped living makes for unhealthy conditions by exacerbating asthma, creates dangerous illegal apartments, and sometimes forces families into homeless shelters.

Congestion pricing DOA in Albany

From Capital New York:

Shortly after Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez called on the City Council to pass a resolution supportive of congestion pricing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while he's open to the idea, Albany isn't.

"I’ve said it’s something that is worth looking at, but as you’ve heard right now in Albany there’s no appetite for it," he said, following an unrelated press conference.

The MTA is facing a multi-billion-dollar hole in its $30 billion plan to fix up the region's subway and mass transit system.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the mayor are engaged in an ugly battle over who should fill the gap.

One proposal that's been around, in various iterations, for years now, would put tolls on the East River bridges and along 60th Street and reduce them on inter-borough crossings, like the Verrazano Bridge.

Transportation experts like the idea. De Blasio has declared himself open to it. Rodriguez, who chairs the Council's transportation committee, supports it.

But the idea also appears to be dead on arrival in Albany.

Eyesore at Alley Pond

Hi Crappie, please post this photo and help me get some support for both a garbage corral and a better location for this garbage dumpster at the park. Presently the dumpster is located at 79-20 Winchester Blvd at the entrance to Alley Pond Park. It's the first thing you see when you enter the park. Why would the Parks Department want their garbage dumpster located within feet from the main entrance to the park? This dumpster has been an ongoing issue for years. It's an easy fix. They just have to spend a small amount of our money and build a corral to hide the overflowing garbage can. Thank you.

Bellerose, NY