Thursday, September 29, 2016

Living in a McMansion's shadow

"This is a photo comparing the size of a typical rebuild with the older homes in Floral Park, NY. If you've never been to Floral Park, Queens, get prepared to see a dumpster on every corner. That's the new status symbol.

Buyers buy little houses with nice-sized yards and cut down old growth trees to stuff oversized houses on the old property. The new houses overshadow the neighboring houses and have little, if any, landscaping. A lot of the times, the trees and grass at the curb are eliminated and the front lawns are paved over to make room for the multiple cars owned by the multiple families living in what used to be one family/one owner houses.

The streets are now crowded with cars and the neighborhood is hotter and noisier due to the loss of noise buffering, cooling trees and bushes in vanishing yards. Rebuilds have less frontage and there's more cement all around. What used to be suburban, is slowly becoming more urban." - anonymous

Supervised shoot-up program being studied

From the Daily News:

The city will study whether to set up sites for drug addicts to shoot up safely with $100,000 approved by the City Council Wednesday.

The controversial program known as supervised injection facilities gives addicts a place to use drugs under medical supervision to avoid overdoses or spreading HIV and other diseases.

The study, which will be done by the Health Department, “will assess the feasibility and impact of NYC having a program that provides a safe, clean haven to high-risk, vulnerable New Yorkers and will help prevent drug overdoses and disease transmissions,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The money comes from $5.6 million approved to fight AIDS in the current city budget.

I can't wait for the siting hearings for this bright idea!

Rego Park bioswale serves as butterfly habitat

From Wall Street Journal:

The sighting didn’t occur in some flower-filled field but in Queens, perhaps better known for shopping malls than wildlife. When I heard that an employee of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection had discovered three chrysalises in a planting bed near 97th Street and 63rd Road, I boarded the M train to join the festivities.

“They were munching on Asclepias incarnata,” otherwise known as milkweed, the species’ favorite food, said Maria Corporan, the supervisor gardener who discovered them earlier this month. “I always look at the plants to see if there’s any diseases. I was like, oh my God, I guess we’ve got monarchs here.”

She wasn’t referring to fully formed butterflies but the humble caterpillars that precede them. The caterpillars create chrysalises, or pupas, the cases that protect and envelope them as they transform.

Ms. Corporan showed me a picture on her phone. To my surprise, the caterpillars were rather attention-grabbing on their own—large and with a monarch’s characteristic orange, black and white pattern.

She pointed out two of their chrysalises in the planting bed. I was surprised she found them, even though she saw the caterpillars at work. The chrysalises hung like jade-colored dewdrops, hidden on the underside of a dogwood shrub’s leaves.

Ms. Corporan feared that the third one, hooked onto a sweet pepperbush, was too close to the bed’s guardrail and could get knocked loose by a passerby. She took it back to her office, hoping it would emerge there.

I assumed that the butterflies would require a habitat at least the size of a vest-pocket park, but the planting bed appeared to be no more than 20 feet long and less than 10 feet wide. And butterfly habitat wasn’t even its primary purpose.

It was a bioswale, a piece of land designed to filter silt and pollution from surface water that might otherwise overwhelm water-treatment plants during heavy storms. “We’ve built over 2,500 around the city,” with thousands more planned, said Vincent Sapienza, the Department of Environmental Protection’s acting commissioner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fuzzy memory on Rivington House deal

From the NY Post:

First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris suffered numerous memory lapses about the Rivington Street nursing-home fiasco, telling investigators more than two dozen times that he couldn’t recall incidents, ­emails or details, records show.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s right-hand man claimed he couldn’t remember a meeting with Stacey Cumberbatch, a city commissioner, or the content of any conversations they had about Rivington in 2014.

His schedule showed a July 25, 2014, meeting with Cumberbatch, then head of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, where the deal was on the agenda.

Shorris also said he believed his decision that the property should remain a nursing home — rather than be sold on the open market — was communicated to the agency.

But he couldn’t recall how.

“I’ve asked myself that question. I do not remember the exact mechanism. I just don’t,” he told investigators for city Comptroller Scott Stringer, according to a transcript of the July 27 interview obtained by The Post through public-disclosure laws.

Asked if he had met with Cumberbatch about Rivington in 2014, Shorris replied, “Probably. I can’t say I remember exactly.”

Cuomo unveils plan for new Penn Station

From NY1:

With its low ceilings and cramped corridors, Penn Station is anything but beloved by train travelers.

"It is decrepit, and it's an affront to riders who use it," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "Well, why are you so negative on Penn Station? Because it's terrible!"

On Tuesday, Cuomo unveiled the latest proposal to make Penn Station a glorious terminal again.

The $1.6 billion renovation would move Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road across Eighth Avenue into the Farley Post Office Building, to be renamed Moynihan Train Hall.

"New York will not have seen anything like it in decades," Cuomo said.

As part of the plan, the cramped concourses inside the existing Penn Station will be renovated and expanded to ease the space crunch for commuters.

"Right now, it's about 25 feet wide, so everybody's channeled in that cattle-call area," Cuomo said.

Cuomo says all the needed approvals and funding have been obtained, and that after decades of delays, the dream of a new Penn Station will finally be realized.

"I don't announce plans with caveats. This is what is going to happen," Cuomo said.

Dutch Kills shelter responsible for hundreds of 911 calls

From Queens Gazette:

Civic and local leaders are trying to figure out how the city chooses clients for its homeless shelters, and why so many people with a history of mental or psychiatric conditions are dumped in the shelter system, rather than being placed in facilities where they can obtain proper care and supervision.

Case in point: a homeless shelter for 200 women located at the former Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th St. in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City.

Just released statistics show that there are currently 180 women living in the shelter. Fifty of those women are employed and close to living on their own, while 110 to 120 women have a history of psychiatric problems.

At a meeting last week attended by representatives of shelter operator Acacia Network and community leaders, police officials reported that officers at the 114th Precinct had responded to another 291 emergency (911) calls between June 1 and September 18, each involving shelter clients. The calls ranged from felony counts and drug possession to lesser counts of harassment and resisting arrest.

“Do the math,” Dutch Kills Civic Association President George Stamatiades said. “Officers at the 114th Precinct have responded to the shelter 641 times since it opened in October 2015. Throw that number at people who complain that police response is slow.”

The fact that cops were called to the shelter 291 times in just over three months, is in itself, startling.

“But when you add to that the fact that the same officers responded to 350 similar 911 calls involving shelter residents between November 2015 and February 2016, you have to question what’s going on there,” Stamatiades said.

“Many of the calls were placed by people inside the shelter – counselors and security guards who had problems with women who became combative,” a law enforcement source said. “They called 911 when situations got out of control, or when they posed some kind of imminent danger to others.”

“A number of the calls from the shelter were ‘aided’ requests for an ambulance or medical assistance for residents,” the source said. “There were a number of calls involving disputes and other conditions that required police intervention.”

People living near the shelter made 911 calls when they spotted shelter clients exposing themselves for cash to motorists, and to remove clients who were using basement laundry rooms to have sex with “customers.”

The Patel family owns this hotel and Acacia Network runs the homeless program. Now I believe it is clear why Maspeth is fighting a shelter in their neighborhood so vehemently.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Costly steaks

From the Daily News:

The city Conflicts of Interest Board announced Monday that two NYPD chiefs and a retired chief have each paid a $1,500 fine for glomming pricey restaurant dinners courtesy of then-Queens Library boss Thomas Galante's expense account.

Just-promoted Chief of Personnel Diana Pizzuti admitted that she accepted "gifts in the form of meals" at Christo's Steakhouse ($151 per-person), San Pietro ($124-per-person), and Quality Meats ($145 per-person). Galante also picked up the tab at Quality Meats on W. 58th St. for Pizzuti's husband, Robert Iovino, who was celebrating his 55th birthday.

Housing Police Chief James Secreto, and retired Transportation Chief James Tuller, were cited for dining out at Wolfgang's Steakhouse ($154 per person), Christo's Steakhouse, Quality Meats and San Pietro when they were borough commanders in Queens.

Homeless hotels have become an epidemic

From Brooklyn Daily:

Sunset Parkers came out in force to Community Board 7’s Sept. 21 meeting concerned that the city is quietly turning area hotels into homeless shelters. Numerous buildings billed as inns for tourists are actually homes for the transient, but the city is not broadcasting that fact, and locals are fed-up with the lack of transparency, said one resident.

“It feels like a bait-and-switch situation where we were told there was going to be a hotel but it’s a shelter,” said 23rd Street resident Maya Visco, referring to a stalled hotel that is operating as a temporary family shelter on 24th Street between Third and Fourth avenues. “You know I’m a home owner, my kids go to school here. I’m in it for the long haul and I want to know what is going on here, and I feel there is a serious lack of transparen­cy.”

Sunset Park only has one official homeless shelter — a controversial place for single men on 49th Street between Second and Third avenues. But the area is exploding with hotel development, and the Department of Homeless Services is actually renting rooms in five area inns without alerting locals, according to Community Board Seven district manager Jeremy Laufer.

“As they keep telling me, these are not shelters so they do not have to inform us when they are renting there,” he said.

This despite de Blasio having banned the use of hotels as shelters back in February.