Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why the MTA is so bad

From the NY Times:

...the problems plaguing the subway did not suddenly sweep over the city like a tornado or a flood. They were years in the making, and they might have been avoided if decision makers had put the interests of train riders and daily operations ahead of flashy projects and financial gimmicks.

An examination by The New York Times reveals in stark terms how the needs of the aging, overburdened system have grown while city and state politicians have consistently steered money away from addressing them.

Century-old tunnels and track routes are crumbling, but The Times found that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget for subway maintenance has barely changed, when adjusted for inflation, from what it was 25 years ago.

Signal problems and car equipment failures occur twice as frequently as a decade ago, but hundreds of mechanic positions have been cut because there is not enough money to pay them — even though the average total compensation for subway managers has grown to nearly $300,000 a year.

Daily ridership has nearly doubled in the past two decades to 5.7 million, but New York is the only major city in the world with fewer miles of track than it had during World War II. Efforts to add new lines have been hampered by generous agreements with labor unions and private contractors that have inflated construction costs to five times the international average.

New York’s subway now has the worst on-time performance of any major rapid transit system in the world, according to data collected from the 20 biggest. Just 65 percent of weekday trains reach their destinations on time, the lowest rate since the transit crisis of the 1970s, when graffiti-covered cars regularly broke down.

Only one post today, please take the time to read the entire article. It breaks down the issue perfectly.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Joel Wiener: Agent of gentrification

From Crains:

In the world of New York housing, where landlord-tenant battles are both routine and brutal, Joel Wiener has plenty of scars.

One of the city’s top 10 rental apartment owners, Wiener’s been sued for overcharges and shoddy repairs, and denounced by politicians for making housing too expensive for the working class.

None of it, though, has slowed his rise. From a disclosed net worth of $124 million in 2001, the 68-year-old Wiener today has a fortune of $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s benefited from soaring property values as gentrification spreads to one city neighborhood after another.

His Pinnacle Group manages about $2 billion worth of property—some 10,000 units, almost all rent-regulated, in every New York borough save Staten Island. The firm has also made millions converting about 25 buildings to condominiums.

Through his lawyer, Ken Fisher, Wiener declined to comment on his net worth.

Kim Powell, who co-founded an anti-Wiener group called Buyers and Renters United to Save Harlem in 2005, says his wealth has come at the expense of tenants.

Powell and other critics say landlords like Wiener are helping to accelerate the demise of affordable housing by snapping up buildings in once undesirable neighborhoods and driving out existing tenants with high rents. Gentrification was a major issue in the recent campaign that saw Mayor Bill de Blasio elected to a second term. He’s pledged to build 300,000 affordable units by 2026.

“The harassment comes dressed up in a pinstripe suit,” Powell said. “This is a family empire that’s mushroomed into a billion-dollar estate.”

Some yeshivas not providing basic education

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted Monday night that some yeshiva students are not being taught the basics.

But how soon Hizzoner will fix the problem remains to be seen. CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer was demanding answers Monday.

“The issue must be resolved,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio was talking about charges of poor education at some yeshivas, and a complaint filed against the city to force the schools to comply with a state law that non-public schools provide education “substantially equivalent” to public schools.

The mayor’s comments were an admission that the problem exists, Kramer reported.

“There’s a full investigation going on,” de Blasio said, “and there’s a series of discussions going on with yeshivas to address that problem. It will be resolved.”

There was no indication when things would change.

Is cashless tolling really a trap?

From CBS 2:

Countless drivers are reporting that ever since cashless tolling took effect at Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridges and tunnels, they have gotten hit with a mountain of fines.

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, cashless tolls have transformed the speed to get through the city’s congested bridges and tunnels. But now, commuters are complaining cashless tolls have caused them countless problems.

Since cashless tolling took effect, surprise fines have been piling up on unsuspecting drivers like never before.

Tom Reilly of Staten Island said at one point, he owed $2,200.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

Reilly did not know his debit card information was not up to date until he got hit with more than a mortgage payment’s worth of violations at the Hugh Carey Tunnel. And in another dilemma, drivers do not know when their account has a low balance – because those convenient indicators are gone with the new gantries.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fresh Meadows hotels to debut after the holidays

From the Queens Chronicle:

With the work fence around the Marriott Courtyard and Fairfield Inn hotels in Fresh Meadows gone, they’ll soon be open to guests.

A spokeswoman for the hotel chain told the Chronicle that they are expected to open in January, although she declined to give a specific date.

The two six-story buildings are on the westbound Horace Harding Expressway between 183rd Street and Booth Memorial Avenue. The total number of combined rooms for the hotels is 218.

New theater coming to giant Sunnyside building

From Sunnyside Post:

Sunnyside will be without a movie theater no more, as Regal Cinemas has signed on to take up part of an ongoing development on Queens Boulevard.

The movie theater chain will be occupying the first two floors of the commercial tower currently under construction at 38-01 Queens Blvd.

Of the 145,000 square-feet planned for the building, developed by Curbcut Urban Partners and dubbed “The Sunnyside”, the Regal Entertainment Group will take up 38,000 square-feet of it to bring a theater to the area, according to Benjamin Malinsky, vice president of Curbcut.

The entertainment group will provide a theater to a neighborhood that hasn’t seen one since the shuttering of Sunnyside Center Cinemas in 2015, which opened in the late 1940s.

BDB knew about the NYCHA mess for quite some time

From the Wall Street Journal:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has known the city’s housing authority wasn’t complying with lead-inspection regulations since last year, his office said Sunday.

In a report issued last week, the city’s Department of Investigation said the New York City Housing Authority submitted false claims to the federal government showing it had conducted lead-paint inspections when the required work hadn’t been done for years.

The mayor was first informed of “the possibility of non-compliance” in March 2016, his office said.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who was re-elected to a second term on Nov. 7, has said “operations executives” were responsible for the lapses.

The housing authority notified City Hall that the agency wasn’t in compliance with local laws in April 2016 and with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rules in July, according to de Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie.

“As part of the agency’s response, NYCHA inspected every apartment with kids under 6 where there may have been lead paint in 2016 and will do so again by the end of 2017,” Ms. Lapeyrolerie said.

Meanwhile, all this is costing us taxpayers a ton of cash.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Van Wyck revamp in the works

From the Queens Chronicle:

Plans call for widening the Van Wyck one lane in each direction. Fink said there is enough space available so that the state can avoid any private property. He did say that in some cases, where there is not enough room on a shoulder, the new lanes might have to run up against retaining walls for the service roads.

Fink said one of the challenges is that there are 20 bridges crossing the Van Wyck in that corridor, including four belonging to the Long Island Rail Road.

“We would have to reach out to them,” he said, as any widening of the roadway almost certainly would require work on railroad trestles. Fink said a federal environmental impact study should be completed by next September, with construction slated to run from August 2019 to the end of 2023.

NYPD crackdown on drones

From CBS 2:

More than 600,000 drones were registered with the Federal Aviation Administration last year alone.

As they grow in popularity, so do the number of accidents involving some of the amateur aircraft.

To see how the NYPD is cracking down on rogue drones, CBS2’s Maurice Dubois took to the sky with the department’s aviation unit.

Although this report states that drones are illegal in NYC except at 5 city parks, in reality there are no local ordinances pertaining to drones. The FAA requires that drone operation happen at least 5 miles away from airports, which prohibits drone operation in most of Queens.

BDB looking to hire Rikers closure consultants

From Metro:

Mayor Bill de Blasio officially began the process of shuttering Rikers Island on Thursday by issuing a request for proposal to develop an action plan to close the controversial jail complex and find alternate solutions.

“We have a moral obligation to close down Rikers Island and transition to a smaller, safer and fairer jail system,” the mayor said. “To make that a reality, we’ll be looking at where we can create more off-island space by expanding existing buildings or finding new sites and maintaining an honest dialogue with communities and elected officials.

“We’re moving aggressively on the long road to closing Rikers Island, and this is a crucial step forward,” he added.

The consultant will work with the city’s goal to operate detention facilities that go beyond confinement by providing behavioral, health, developmental and re-entry support for inmates, as well as offer improved access for service providers, lawyers, visitation and transportation to court.

Proposals will be due in mid-December with the consultant chosen in early January, the mayor’s office said, adding that “there will be robust community consultation workshops and engagement with neighborhood residents.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

What goes on near Creedmoor

From Crains:

Fully 70% of Creedmoor patients are now managed by the various nonprofit organizations operating on the Creedmoor grounds. These nonprofits have been absent from each of the three Creedmoor meetings, although their presence had been requested. They shield themselves from accountability, and tout HIPAA patient confidentiality laws to keep neighboring communities in the dark.

Surprisingly, there is no requirement that wandering patients take their daily medications and there is no behavioral code of conduct protocol conveyed to them. The general lack of accountability by the nonprofits is stunning. Their managers enter the facility gates in the morning and leave at night, rarely stepping foot outside of Creedmoor to see what their patients have wrought on nearby communities.

The aggressive panhandling is rampant. Unsuspecting pedestrians are accosted daily and disheveled individuals often follow them into a Dunkin’ Donuts or wait outside an ATM to demand money. Recently, a woman sitting at McDonald’s in Queens Village was assaulted by a Creedmoor resident. A middle-aged worker in Creedmoor was sucker-punched by a patient as she bent down to pick up a food tray. She is now recuperating with 3 steel rods in her neck.

Public defecation, substance abuse and other quality-of-life infractions are now commonplace in residential communities around Creedmoor. Unfortunately, the police are discouraged from enforcing certain laws now that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have decriminalized some low-level infractions. Creedmoor officials acknowledge that well-meaning individuals should neither give money nor endure menacing shakedowns by patients who live rent-free, receive three meals per day including snacks, plus a weekly monetary stipend paid in part by the very same individuals that are being accosted daily.

Civic leaders who sought to identify why these problems have dramatically worsened over the past year were repeatedly told by Creedmoor administrators that nothing has changed. But recently, writer and former City Council candidate Dennis Saffran, who investigated Creedmoor for another story, revealed some interesting facts. It turns out that much has changed. Governor Andrew Cuomo prioritized deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill and moving them out of wards and into so-called “transitional housing.” To accomplish this, OMH simply rebranded its wards as “transitional housing” and redesignated inpatients as “outpatients” although their living arrangements never changed.

Both sides heard at Queens hearing on monuments

From PIX11:

The future of New York City’s controversial monuments was the topic of conversation Friday at Queens Borough Hall where for the first time, New Yorkers had a chance to give their two cents.

As many as 800 pieces of art across the five boroughs including a statue of Christopher Columbus in Midtown, are at the center of the debate.

Nearly two dozen residents testified before Mayor de Blasio’s advisory commission on city art, monuments and markers.

From residents who warned that erasing history would be dangerous, to others who called Columbus a “terrorist” — the opinions ran the gamut.

Outside all the talk of history, the turnout for the public testimony was noticeably low with members of the media outnumbering residents.

The midday hearing drew ire from some but the Mayor’s office insists holding a hearing like this in the middle of the day on a weekday, is standard procedure.

Legislation introduced to force junk car removal

From Brooklyn Daily:

Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) has penned new legislation that would require the city to haul away cars abandoned without plates within one month of a do-gooder making a complaint, the local pol announced during a Community Board 18 meeting on Oct. 24.

Hundreds of derelict cars have lingered for months on his district’s streets over the years, vexing communities already strapped for parking spaces — so it’s about time the city follow its own rules and tow them away, said Maisel.

“There are a couple of hundred cars that have to be towed, and the city, for whatever reason, has chosen not to take this issue as a priority,” he said. “The legislation is putting the city on the spot to force them to do what they should be doing.”

Currently, once someone files a complaint about an abandoned vehicle without any plates, the Department of Sanitation is supposed to investigate within three days, tag it if it’s a complete wreck, and then remove it within another three days, according to a spokesman for New York’s Strongest. If it looks still in working order, then it’s up to the police department to haul it off, the spokesman said. And the police don’t have a time limit for towing away plateless cars.

The city has fallen short of its duties to address quality-of-life issues such as derelict cars dumped on the street, and it’s leaving locals fed up, said Maisel.