Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Community beats back overdevelopment project

From the Queens Chronicle:

The controversial rezoning plan for 40-31 82 St. near the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst border has been withdrawn following months of community uproar, according to activists, Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights) and the office of Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona).

In a press release issued Saturday, Espinal took credit for the withdrawal of the application, saying she successfully urged Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) to withdraw his previously pledged support for the project.

In a lengthy post on the group's Facebook page a day earlier, activist group Queens Neighborhoods United cheered the news but said it will continue to fight against any plan to develop luxury housing on the site.

However, a Department of City Planning spokesperson told the Chronicle on Monday that the agency had not received a withdrawal letter from the developer, Sun Equity Partners.

Sun Equity Partners did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the demise of the proposed 13-story, mixed-use structure — dubbed The Shoppes at 82nd Street. But the group's spokesman, Hank Sheinkopf, confirmed the decision in a statement issued to Politico.

"After conversations with Councilmember Moya and Assemblywoman Espinal, and taking the borough president's recommendations into consideration, we have decided to no longer pursue this rezoning application," Sheinkopf said. "We are continuing with construction as permitted under the current rezoning."

Freight rail to be expanded

From Crains:

The city unveiled a plan Monday to invest up to $100 million in freight infrastructure, the opening step in Freight NYC, an initiative envisioned by the de Blasio administration to shift more of the millions of tons of food, products and materials that are carted into the city each year by pollution-belching trucks to trains and ships.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation said it will issue a request for proposal by the end of the year for a private partner to work with the city to build a five-acre barge terminal on city-owned land in Hunts Point. That project could cost between $20 to $30 million to develop and would be used to deliver food items and produce by water to the large constellation of grocery and restaurant distribution businesses in the South Bronx neighborhood. The city has not identified the specific site or sites where the terminal could be constructed.

The city is also seeking to create a 500,000 square foot distribution center in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, which is located adjacent to freight rail, and build a 75,000 square foot ground-up air cargo facility near Kennedy Airport. By providing low cost space to rail and air freight businesses, the city is hoping to encourage the use of those transportation modalities rather than trucks. Solicitations for private partners to work with the city on those projects will be issued within the next two weeks, the EDC stated.

Another near-term goal in the report was to create as many as four small freight yards along an existing freight rail line that snakes through Brooklyn into Queens. The yards would provide new offloading points for goods carted by freight trains, potentially reducing the distance that trucks would need to travel to deliver that cargo the last miles to its final destination. Shorter delivery distances not only reduce vehicle miles, but also allow smaller delivery vehicles to be used in place of large, long haul trucks that currently rumble through the city.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much it would cost to build those small rail facilities, although they appear to be modest in scope, requiring the construction of short stretches of track parallel to the existing freight line to allow trains to park and unload without impeding the flow of train traffic along the route.

The steps could take thousands of trucks off the road and create freight-related jobs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

We should do this here!

From Metro:

...while these so-called “bandit signs” are actually illegal in Philadelphia, it’s a tough problem to fight. So Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet recently teamed up with 24 community organizations to form the city’s first-ever “Bandit Sign Brigade.” Over the month of June, some 8,000 illegal flyers were removed from the streets.

“We had groups representing every part of the city tearing these signs down,” said Nic Esposito, who is director of Philly’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet in addition to running an urban farm in Kensington and a local publishing house. “They find this a sign of disrespect, that you can come in my neighborhood and put these signs up and think that it’s totally fine to do that.”

The Bandit Sign Brigade amassed significant data on the location and types of signs being hung around Philly to aid the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections in tracking down and punishing the people responsible for the signs.

The city is also offering a cash benefit, paying 50 cents per illegal sign removed to eligible groups, up to $500 in funds for community cleaning and greening supplies.

To learn more about the Bandit Signs Brigade, visit

Crappifying Ridgewood by hook or by crook

From QNS:

Two Ridgewood residences in historic territory are slated for redevelopment to make room for more apartments, according to Department of Buildings (DOB) records.

In March, a three-story, three-family building at 1663 Madison St. received a permit to add a fourth story to its existing structure, records show. Two months later, a three-story, six-unit building at 1664 Woodbine St. — directly behind the first building on the same block — received a permit in May to add a fourth story and a penthouse to its existing structure.

With both properties located on National and State Registers of Historic Places, the new developments set an “unfortunate” precedent for the blocks of attached brick homes and make local residents fear gentrification, said Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association President Paul Kerzner.

“In theory, you can take any building in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village that is not part of the city landmarks and that can happen to any property,” Kerzner said. “I’m also concerned about gentrification, because to me it’s the artificial transfer of property value because of speculation.”

A lifelong resident of Ridgewood, Kerzner explained that national and state historic status does not protect a building from redevelopment. Only city landmark status has that power, and the areas in question haven’t been designated as landmarks yet despite Kerzner’s efforts.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Hope for the Lefferts Ave bridge

From the Queens Chronicle:

At a Wednesday meeting with elected officials and civic leaders, Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng said the MTA has devised a plan to save the Kew Gardens span and the handful of small businesses on top of it, according to multiple people who were at the gathering.

“It was a productive meeting. The LIRR came back and said there’s a way to fix the bridge to make it stable,” Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing) told the Chronicle on Wednesday. “There’s a very clear pathway forward to rehabilitate the bridge. Nothing is done until its done, but it was a very optimistic meeting.”

The MTA originally said last May that the century-old span had decayed to the point where it would have to be torn down come 2020 — the year the entrepreneurs’ collective lease expires.

But in the 14 months since, mass community outrage led to both the MTA softening its position and state lawmakers passing legislation calling for a bridge rehabilitation feasibility study.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) even allocated $1 million for one.

But shortly after Eng took over as the head of the LIRR, he met with area lawmakers and civic leaders in June to hear their concerns and discuss how to potentially save the span.

In the following six weeks, Rosenthal said, Eng stayed true to his word.

“I’m not an engineer, but there is a way to — underneath the bridge — remove the deteriorating concrete and replace it,” the assemblyman said. “Today, [the LIRR] came back and they showed it was more than just words. They showed they have a realistic, tenable plan.”

Illegal demo leads to garage collapse

From PIX11:

The owner, 1771 Weeks LLC, was ordered to “repair or replace” the garage.

Unfortunately, the owner, according to DOB inspectors, “hired contractors to unsafely begin demolishing the … rear garage … without a permit.”

The allegedly illegal work went on for two weeks.

On June 15, the birthday party was planned to take place at backyard picnic tables not far from the garage at 1771 Meeks. That’s when nearby residents heard what one man described as “sounding like a gunshot.”

The garage had collapsed and bricks came raining down on an area close to those picnic tables.

“It could have been fatal,” resident Marcel Sukhlall said, if the collapse had occurred just one hour later, when the party was scheduled to begin.

FDNY and DOB inspectors rushed to the scene. A stop-work order was issued for 1771 Weeks Ave. and vacate notices were put up on three surrounding buildings.

Hey, we can't impede progress!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Homeless people are causing mayhem

From Sunnyside Post:

A homeless man has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with a fatal stabbing in front of Duane Reade on Roosevelt Avenue early Tuesday, police said.

The police arrested Antonio Cabrera, 45, on Friday for the fatal stabbing of Velibor Flores, also homeless, at 12:31 a.m. on July 10 by 60-02 Roosevelt Ave.

From PIX11:

Nail polish remover was thrown on a woman who was then set on fire during an argument at a homeless shelter in Queens, police sources said Friday.

The victim, 51, lives at the Verve Hotel, a women’s homeless shelter on 29th Street in Long Island City, according to police.

That’s where sources said the woman argued with another woman who threw nail polish remover on the victim’s face.

The attacker is accused of igniting the flammable liquid and fleeing.

Damaged sidewalks remain after 4 months

From CBS 2:

The huge slabs of concrete look like they belong at a construction site. Instead, the slabs are at the corner of 32nd Avenue and 168th Street in North Flushing.

Residents say the sidewalk has been destroyed since March when the city removed the trees damaged by winter storms, but never fixed the sidewalk.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

670 "affordable" apartments to be constructed in Far Rockaway

From Curbed:

Following the rezoning of Downtown Far Rockaway in September last year, the city has now announced the first new affordable housing developments that have come about as a result of that rezoning. Together these two projects will bring 670 affordable apartments to the neighborhood.

The first of the two projects will rise at city-owned lot at Beach 21st Street. The city has picked The Community Builders, Inc, a housing nonprofit, to develop 224 apartments at the site, 130 of which will be offered to those making 60 percent of the area median income. The rest of the apartments will be offered at different levels of affordability. In addition to the apartments, the project will also have 90 parking spots, 8,000 square feet of community facilities including an early childhood education center, and 24,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

For the second project, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Housing Development Corporation have secured construction financing for affordable housing developer Phipps Houses to build 457 apartments in the Far Rockaway Village. There, Phipps Houses is transforming an abandoned parking lot into housing, public space, and retail.

A glimpse of Queens in the 1960s

You can't help but wonder... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

Oh yeah, tweeding happened.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Kew Gardens house dating back to 1899 is teardown-bound

From the Queens Gazette:

The three-story Tudor style home at 116-17 Grosvenor Lane was built in 1899—one of many homes located in a forest-like setting.

The Grosvenor Realty Group acquired the property in September, 2017 for $1.35 million and has announced plans to demolish the home in December.

The developer is planning to build a 65-foot-tall, seven-story residential building at the site that will feature 19 apartments and a first-floor residential lobby, along with a laundry room and parking in the cellar for an unspecified number of bicycles.

19 apartments and parking for bicycles? Great. Grosvenor Lane used to be one of the most lovely lanes in the borough. Now it's almost completely crappified.

Barriers proposed for NY Harbor

From WNYC:

In a series of public information sessions this week, the Army Corps is presenting five options for protecting the area's waterfront, four of which involve storm surge barriers:

- a five-mile long barrier at the southernmost border of the lower bay, between Sandy Hook, N.J., and Breezy Point in the Rockaways;
- a smaller barrier between Staten Island and Brooklyn, across the channel that the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge spans, accompanied by gates across the mouth to Jamaica Bay and Arthur Kill;
- a series of berms and sea walls along low-lying portions of the New Jersey and New York City waterfront, along with small gates across some waterways;
- and an option that would only use berms and sea walls.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Queens now outpacing Manhattan in building permits

From Crains:

Brooklyn and Queens led the city in new building permits during the second quarter of the year, according to city data. Manhattan came in dead last.

The city's Department of Buildings approved more than 750 new building permits in Brooklyn over the second quarter of the year, according to the agency's Construction Dashboard. Queens saw the second most activity with 614 new building permits. The city approved more than 400 permits on Staten Island, which was roughly double the numbers of Manhattan and the Bronx, where a single building permit could yield more units than Staten Island's quarterly total.

The new building permits were concentrated in Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Flushing and the southern third of Staten Island—locations that were largely consistent with activity throughout 2017.

Slick Silverstein

From the Real Deal:

Last month, Silverstein Properties’ ground lease for Queensboro Farm Products’ seven-lot development site in Astoria, Queens hit public records. However, it turns out that’s only a piece of a larger assemblage: Queensboro is just one of four landlords Silverstein is working with who collectively own 315,000 square feet of ground. Together, all the sites could give rise to nearly 4,000 apartments.

The overhaul wasn’t originally Silverstein’s idea, but that of a pair of developers who struggled for years to bring an ambitious plan they dubbed “Steinway Square” to life. Now, Henry Wollman of Quadriad Realty Partners and investor Robert Gans, who is perhaps best known for owning strip clubs, are suing Silverstein and the Astoria landlords, alleging the developer squeezed them out of their dream project.