Friday, May 22, 2015

Be grateful you don't live next to this

Hi Crappie,

A couple weeks ago, one of my neighbors here in Elmhurst decided to decorate his lawn with one of those illegal garbage bins. I guess this is legal because the bin is on private property, so Sanitation cannot remove it (?!- I have reported it to 311, to no avail).
To make matters worse, this neighbor is a slob to begin with (see the attached photo of his front lawn on a given day). The bin is ALWAYS overflowing, even though he claims that the company picks up clothing regularly. Ugh!


Yearly inspections of catch basins now mandated

From the Queens Chronicle:

A bill passed unanimously by the City Council last week that would increase inspections and repairs to clogged catch basins is one step in fighting the problem of flooding in Queens, according to two borough councilmen.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), would force the Department of Environmental Protection to inspect catch basins on a yearly basis rather than every three years. It would also require the DEP to report twice a year to the mayor and Council speaker about inspections, maintenance and repairs.

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said he fully supports the measure as another tool in preventing flooding. His district includes a part of Utopia Parkway that has a long history of severe floods due to heavy rainstorms and the topography.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Lancman said he had been surprised to learn that the DEP only inspects catch basins every three years.

“It should be every year and this bill does that,” he said.

He pointed out that the public can call 311 to report a clogged drain, but sometimes debris and sediment are underneath and can’t be seen.

Holiday Inn coming to Woodside

From Sunnyside Post:

The western Queens hotel boom has not neglected Woodside, with an eight-story, 135-room Holiday Inn Express planned to go up on Queens Boulevard.

The hotel is going to be located at 64-06 Queens Boulevard and is being developed by Century Development Group, a Flushing-based company.

The project will include a restaurant, recreation room and office spaces, according to city filings. There will be meeting rooms as well as 39 parking spaces and 21 bicycle parking spots.

While most of the 135 rooms are standard guest rooms, some will be booked for extended stays only, no less than one month.

On its website, Century Development Group heralds the hotel’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport and Manhattan, as well as Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Queens Museum and Citi Field.

Raymond Chan Architect of Flushing is designing the building, according to records. Century Development Group estimates that the hotel will be complete in 2018.

Trib honors Caliendo

From the Queens Tribune:

Gerald Caliendo’s architecture business started with four employees, but has since grown into one of the premier establishments in the industry.

Caliendo was one of the honorees of the Queens Tribune’s third annual Business Achievement awards, held on Monday at Queens College.

The company, Gerald Caliendo Architects, started in 1994 in Briarwood, looking to get established in the architect business.

Since then, it has grown to about 45 employees and work on projects citywide.

In an interview with the Queens Tribune, Caliendo partially credits that growth to working with Phil Agusta, former commissioner of the Boards of Standards and Appeals.

He said that working alongside Agusta enabled him to learn the ins and outs of zoning and variance laws, something other businesses know little to nothing about.

You can click the tag below containing his name to see his proud Queens Crap history.

This is my favorite Gerry story of all time.

Fireworks coming back to East River

From LIC Talk:

The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks extravaganza is finally returning to Long Island City this summer after a seven year hiatus. Four barges will be placed on the East River between 23rd and 37th Streets, so there will be no better viewing location than our own waterfront parks, balconies, terraces, and rooftops. For LIC, this will be where Mardi Gras meets New Years Eve in Times Square and the Superbowl of Christmases.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Queens Council on the Arts now lobbying for liquor licenses

From the Queens Ledger:

The Knockdown Center continued its years-long fight to secure a liquor license at the Community Board 5 meeting last Wednesday, during which affiliates, employees and the owner of the center all took to the microphone and handed out pamphlets advocating for the board to reconsider their vote last year to deny the license.

The move comes after the center’s recertification hearing last month with the State Liquor Authority, during which a vote on the license was postponed until the SLA’s June 2nd session. The SLA had previously denied the center’s initial application in May of 2014.

A handful of other community members attended the meeting to make the case for the center, however a board rule limiting the number of people who can advocate for a certain issue during a public forum to three precluded many from speaking.

In a letter she was unable to read aloud but passed on to this newspaper, Lynn Lobell, Grants and Resource Director for Queens Council on the Arts, said her organization was a strong supporter of the center.

“Local artists value Knockdown Center as an important arts resource,” the letter read. “QCA supports the Knockdown Center because they are committed to be a positive force in the community.”

Pardon me, but why in hell is the grants director for a tax exempt not-for-profit arts organization such as QCA lobbying a community board for a liquor license?

Nonprofit boozed it up and got reimbursed

From Crains:

A Queens nonprofit received more than $150,000 in reimbursements from the state Office of Mental Health for inappropriate expenses, including almost $11,000 for alcohol at a two-day executive and board retreat in Montauk, L.I.

From July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, the Office of Mental Health paid PSCH $6.8 million to provide services and housing to people with mental illness. During that time, the Flushing nonprofit, whose initials stand for Promoting Specialized Care and Health, submitted $152,580 in expenses that were not in compliance with its contract terms, according to an audit conducted by the office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

An October 2012 retreat at the Montauk Yacht Club for board members and executive staff cost the nonprofit about $63,000. The state agency reimbursed PSCH for half those costs: OMH paid $10,723 for alcohol, $6,312 for dinner and $5,746 for rooms for an additional night's stay.

"The rules for conference costs are clear," Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement. "And lavish parties with alcohol, cruises and extra guests are not allowable. State agencies must make sure that contractors are reimbursed for legitimate expenses only."

About two-thirds of PSCH's $152,580 were costs that were "not actual, reasonable and necessary in the provision of contract services," the audit said. They included duplicate charges, and expenses that were incurred during a different period than the one in which PSCH was applying for reimbursement.

The auditors also found PSCH was reimbursed $22,901 for a staff picnic at Cunningham Park in Queens, where expenses included $14,955 for the picnic and $3,420 in gifts to staff, such as coolers, T-shirts, pens and umbrellas. Another $1,300 was spent on ice cream.

de Blasio's grand NYCHA plan

From the Queens Courier:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan Tuesday to help revitalize public housing and fix financial problems of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) by using the housing complexes more efficiently and reducing expenses.

The plan, NextGeneration NYCHA, involves various initiatives targeted to save the reeling city agency, which has only “one month remaining of surplus cash on hand and after that will go into deficit,” de Blasio said.

This includes leasing land in public housing complexes to developers to build more units, half of which must be used for affordable housing for families earning no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income, or about $46,600 annually for a family of three.

Also, 10,000 completely affordable units will be created in complexes in Brooklyn and the Bronx on underutilized, street-facing lots currently used for parking, trash or storage sites. These programs will cross over with de Blasio’s goal of creating 80,000 affordable housing units in 10 years.

If you're over 40, the city has a job for you!

From the NY Post:

The city’s narcotics cops are being told to stop arresting suspects over the age of 40 — a major strategy shift designed to target younger dealers, who are more likely to carry guns and use them, The Post has learned.

Top brass issued a directive that makes it all but impossible for cops to bust older drug suspects, in order to combat a spike in shootings — which are up 7 percent in 2015 compared with the same period last year and 12 percent over the last four weeks, police sources said.

The new policy was laid out in a May 14 memo obtained by The Post that scolded police bosses for busting people outside the 18-40 demographic — and demanded written explanations for arrests of midlife perps.

Division commanders who got that memo immediately ordered the rank and file to stop making collars in that age group and threatened officers with transfers and other discipline if they did not comply, according to multiple police sources.

The memo was signed by Assistant Chief Brian McCarthy, head of the Narcotics Division, who admitted at a meeting last week the directive came from higher up, said a source who was in attendance.

Artificial turf may cause childhood cancer

From CBS 2:

CBS2 first reported last January on concerns over artificial turf playing fields being a potential danger to kids.

Now in a CBS2 investigation, Carolyn Gusoff has found these fields may be linked to a growing number of cancer cases in young athletes.

Experts said the bad things in question include a number of chemicals.

“We know some of these chemicals do cause cancer,” said Dr. Robert Cohen of Northwestern Medicine.

Now, the issue is building steam — from New Jersey to Long Island and even New York City, where there are hundreds of similar fields.

“These are many years that children are playing on this surface, and they’re growing up on this surface, and now, we’re seeing throughout the country these cancer clusters,” said New York City Parks Advocates President Geoffrey Croft.

Croft said he has been petitioning the city to remove the 200-plus crumb rubber fields currently in local parks.

But the Synthetic Turf Council, which represents the companies that make the fields, insists the substance is safe. They cited 60 studies.

One of the studies cited was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which examined four crumb rubber fields in 2009 and found that harmful chemicals were “below levels of concern.”

But Long Island U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said the EPA study is in adequate.

“Common sense tells us that four fields is not an adequate sample in an entire country,” he said.

Israel insisted that the agency should do more testing.

“The only way we’re going to know whether these fields are truly safe or unsafe is for the EPA to get its act together, and update the study, and let the American people know so that they can make their own judgments,” Israel said.

In a statement, the EPA acknowledged its original study was limited, and that more testing needs to be done. But the agency did not commit to doing it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pan Am hit with $30K fine for lack of fire safety

From DNA Info:

The owner of a building that houses a controversial homeless shelter failed to appear at a hearing to address safety violations there days before it was evacuated due to a fire and has yet to pay a $30,000 fine, records show.

Steven Berger, who bought the former Pan Am Hotel in 2014 under 7900 Development LLC, skipped an April 27 hearing for safety violations that were found by fire officials during a March 10 inspection — a list that included improper fire exits and fire-rated doors and windows, according to city records.

He was hit with $30,000 in fines and penalties and hasn't paid yet, the city's Environmental Control Board said. The violations were defaulted, and he has to either pay the hefty fine or reopen the case, a spokeswoman for the ECB said.

Just days after the hearing those improper exits were put to the test when a fire broke out in a room at the building, know as the Boulevard Family Shelter, after 2 a.m. on May 6, according to the FDNY.

Hundreds of residents at the 216-room shelter had to evacuate with only four employees on duty, and many told DNAinfo New York the process was "chaotic."

City closed firehouses and then overdeveloped LIC & Greenpoint

From LTV Squad:

Over the last 10 years, Long Island City (LIC), Williamsburg and Greenpoint transformed from neglected low-population industrial neighborhoods to tightly packed thriving residential areas. Dozens of factories and warehouses have been replaced with high rise apartment buildings. Basic NYC government services have not kept pace with the growing population, and one of the most overlooked and life threatening of those services is the NYC fire department.

In 2003, former Mayor Bloomberg closed 7 firehouses in NYC. Two of those were located in Williamsburg (engine 212) and LIC (engine 261). 2 years after closing these fire houses, Bloomberg rezoned much of North Brooklyn for high rise development (LIC was already rezoned in 2001). Less services + large population density. What could go possibly wrong?

In the case of Engine 261, response time to fires in the area immediately went up. Some area residents didn’t even know they were losing a firetruck: The community board covering Roosevelt Island was not properly notified.

The same increase in response time has affected Northwest Brooklyn, where response time increased up to a minute. A minute is a long time when a building is on fire. A minute is often the difference between life and death. Just check out the videos from the recent gas explosion on the Lower East Side, where an off-duty fireman helped rescue a woman from a fire escape and took a quick look for additional victims. By the time he got back to the ground, the building is fully engulfed. If there had been additional victims trapped upstairs, they would not have made it. All of this happened before the first truck due arrived!

Simply stated – there’s a higher density of firehouses in Manhattan compared to neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that have been rezoned for high rises buildings. These ‘outer boro’ neighborhoods will soon have the same population density as Manhattan without the services to match.

FDNY personnel is spread thin in these neighborhoods, and many of the new residents of these neighborhoods are new to the area (or new to the city), don’t know that their fire houses were taken away, or that they are being short changed on services. The only reason they don’t know is because there haven’t been any articles written on this subject at all, and no stories in the press or even on other blogs.

BDB losing support among black community

From the NY Times:

Dozens of black ministers, justice reform advocates and civil rights activists and four black members of Congress gathered last Monday at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem to discuss a delicate matter: What to do about Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Over the course of the morning meeting, attendees voiced a series of concerns: Mr. de Blasio, some complained, seems to have lost his appetite for criminal justice reform. The mayor, they said, has been too slow to take action against the police officer whose use of a chokehold on Eric Garner, an unarmed black man on Staten Island, led to Mr. Garner’s death. Other participants grumbled that Mr. de Blasio and his staff have simply not done enough to communicate with black community leaders on issues like affordable housing.

The unusual congregation of community influencers, convened by the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, was part gripe session, part strategic huddle, revealing the first hints of frustration with a mayor who won 96 percent of the black vote when he was elected in 2013.

Black voters have been an essential base of support for the mayor, remaining largely enthusiastic about him even as his support has wilted with other groups in the city. The bonds were forged in Mr. de Blasio’s early criticism of stop-and-frisk policing, and reinforced by politically resonant images of his biracial family broadcast during the 2013 campaign.

Yet the perception that Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has eased up on his commitment to police reform has plainly begun to rankle some: At a weekend gathering this month at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, publicly lamented that “broken windows policing,” the aggressive enforcement of minor violations, was still policy across the city.

Mr. Jeffries, who also attended the gathering at Abyssinian, said in an interview that there was “growing disenchantment with the administration in the black community.”

“The disenchantment relates to policing issues, the mayor’s support of broken windows, his lack of support for banning
chokeholds and his willingness to support making resisting arrest a felony,” Mr. Jeffries said, adding: “We’re very early in the mayor’s first term, and there’s a lot of room for progress.”

Banks vs. blight

From the Epoch Times:

New York regulators said Monday that 11 lenders have agreed to monitor and maintain vacant properties in an effort to protect them and combat neighborhood blight.

The banks, mortgage companies and credit unions represent nearly 70 percent of the New York market and will adopt practices to limit the damage from so-called “zombie properties,” according to the Department of Financial Services. They agreed to best practices that include checking within 60 days any residential properties that are delinquent on loans to begin determining if they are abandoned, the department said.

The 11 lenders are Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi Mortgage, Ocwen, Nationstar, PHH, Green Tree Servicing, Astoria Bank, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, M&T Bank and Ridgewood Savings Bank.

“The wave of zombie properties that arose in the wake of the financial crisis harms local communities and threatens the long-term health of the mortgage market,” department Superintendent Ben Lawsky said. Many homeowners defaulted on mortgages in the aftermath of the 2008 national financial crisis when the housing bubble burst. “These commonsense actions are an immediate and vital part of repairing that damage as we continue to pursue additional legislative reforms,” he said.