Sunday, November 23, 2014

With development looming, Flushing River may get cleaned

From the Queens Courier:

Councilman Peter Koo and Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) met deep underground on Tuesday to tour the Flushing Bay Retention Facility, which serves as a storage area for raw sewage and is meant to keep the sewage from entering Flushing Creek, but can only hold so much. The small body of water receives more human waste per year than any other dumping site, according to city records, leading Koo to call the creek “shit’s creek.”

“Cleaning up this waterway has long been a top environmental priority of mine,” Koo said. “There is a popular phrase used by many when trying to explain they are in a bad situation: being up shit’s creek without a paddle. With the amount of raw sewage that still enters it, the phrase might as well be changed to, up Flushing Creek without a paddle.”

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that calls for residential development along the Flushing waterfront, Koo and advocacy groups like Friends of Flushing Creek are hoping the spotlight will help spur the city and state to take action and reduce the amount of sewage going into the creek.

“Now that the city has officially announced they are looking to develop the land along the waterfront, this is a great opportunity to shine a brighter light on this longstanding problem,” Koo said. “I will continue my work with DEP, the Friends of Flushing Creek, and every stakeholder in the community so that we can ultimately see the day where people can safely swim in these waters again.”

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

No, you just need Claire Shulman! And what's with Koo saying the word "shit"? This is conduct unbecoming a council member, no?

Exxon off the hook - for now

From the Daily News:

A federal judge is not convinced that the methane gas leaking from waste oil underneath a Queens building is a ticking time bomb ready to explode.

Brooklyn Judge Pamela Chen rejected a demand by Phoenix Beverage — which operates a large warehouse in Long Island City — to order Exxon Mobil to launch an immediate cleanup.

“There's not enough evidence that there is an imminent threat of an explosion,” Chen said Wednesday. “I, of course, hope it does not come to pass.”

...Chen sided with the Exxon Mobil lawyers who argued that the situation is being monitored and the risk of an explosion is merely speculation. Both sides have been litigating the case for years and Chen will ultimately have to decide who is responsible for cleaning up the boatloads of underground waste oil.

Briarwood subway entrance construction almost done

From DNA Info:

Construction work on the new main entrance to the Briarwood-Van Wyck F train station, which was initially scheduled to be completed last fall, is almost finished, the state Department of Transportation said.

Diane Park, a spokeswoman for the state DOT, would not, however, say when the entrance will reopen, leaving skeptical residents to wonder whether crews will meet the projected deadline after a delay of more than a year.

Park said that the project requires the cooperation of various state and local agencies, as well as Con Edison, and has to be approved by the MTA. But she noted that “things are progressing" and “we are in the inspection phase."

Photos provided by the state DOT show a complete entrance, but Park said the entryway is in the middle of "an active construction zone." The reopening, she said, will require installation of lighting, building a concrete walkway and other landscaping improvements, she said.

Special court for sex trafficking victims

From the NY Times:

In the hallway, they speak mostly in Mandarin, in accents from across China. Some speak Korean. They meet with their court-appointed lawyers in the hallway, often helped by an interpreter born in Fujian Province and hired by the city courts. A snazzy dresser, the interpreter bounces from one defendant to the next; he has found himself adding terms to his usual vocabulary: prostitution (“maiyin”), illegal massage (“feifa anmo”), unlicensed massage (“wuzheng anmo”).

This is the Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens, which is marking its 10th anniversary next month, and which serves as a model for a statewide 11-court program that began last year. The intention is to change the legal conversation around the multibillion-dollar sex trade by redefining the women in it as victims instead of criminals. Most are offered a deal: Take part in a set number of counseling sessions, usually five or six, and the charges will be dismissed and the record sealed.

After 13 months, the five New York City courts are still a work in progress, their success tracked more in individual stories than statistics.

“This court is not devised to solve the problems of trafficking,” Judge Serita said of the program, “but to address one of the unfortunate byproducts, which is the arrest of these defendants on prostitution charges.”

All defendants in the specialized courts are presumed to be victims at risk, the first of many assumptions made, in part, because of the silence surrounding sex trafficking. That silence also makes it tougher to shift social mores. Not only do the police and the justice system still treat prostitution as a crime, but the women themselves, most undocumented, often don’t define themselves as having been trafficked — whether out of fear, shame or choice.

The Queens court has changed significantly in the decade since Judge Fernando M. Camacho founded it. Dismayed at seeing the same American-born teenage girls reappearing in his court for prostitution, Judge Camacho said he wanted to break the cycle by offering them alternatives to a criminal record or incarceration.

Now, a majority of the defendants who sit in the worn walnut benches are either Latin American women or, even more often, older, undocumented immigrants from Asia, ranging in age from 30 to 50. According to statistics Judge Serita’s court has kept, Asian defendants represented 27 percent of the cases in 2010. In 2014, they have made up 40 percent.

Untouchables get props from NY1

From NY1:

"Some of them are abandoned," said Sergeant Alexander Cedillo of the New York City Police Department. "Some of them have no plates."

Cedillo has made quality-of-life issues a priority since joining the 103rd Precinct's Hillside Conditions team a few months ago.

"This was one of the big locations that we had numerous complaints, numerous complaints, was that vacant lot right there. There was about, I would say 25 to 30 vehicles," Cedillo said. "We took care of it. There was about two or three cars that were actually stolen."

The officers also do nightly checks of areas that often have drug problems, prostitution and squatters. They have also been helping community activist Pamela Hazel in her efforts to clean up some of the garbage-filled lots and abandoned property. She started calling the officers "the untouchables" a few months ago, based on the old crime-fighting police show.

"Cedillo and his team, they have been so instrumental in helping us and doing the things that other people couldn't do for us," Hazel said.

The officers are also working with some of the business owners to make sure they are keeping their property clean, and that appears to be working in some problem areas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Schneiderman fines dirty developer

From the Queens Courier:

The developer of a Rego Park building was forced to pay a combined $100,000 in restitution and back wages after ignoring legal obligations for receiving tax benefits, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The state settled with Tuhsur Development, LLC after the firm violated mandates of the 421-a program, which offers tax incentives from the city when constructing buildings.

In exchange for benefits under 421-a, landlords and developers must add properties to the rent regulation system, and building workers must receive prevailing wages.

However, Tuhsur neglected to pay prevailing wages to workers at 63-36 99th St. in Rego Park. The firm was forced to pay nearly $10,000 in back wages to three building service workers and $90,000 in restitution to the city.

Developers work on introducing "microsuites"

From DNA Info:

Through a friend of a friend, David Abramovich found a sunny room in a five-bedroom apartment in an industrial building near the Barclays Center when he relocated here from San Francisco this summer for his job at crowdfunding start-up Indiegogo.

The 33-year-old tech worker pays $895 a month. That's nearly 60 percent less than the average price for a Brooklyn studio, according to real estate firm MNS.

Altogether the Prospect Heights home has six roommates, a steady stream of guests crashing on the couch and the occasional small concert staged in the living room of the fourth floor walk-up that still has manufacturing companies on lower floors.

"A lot of people don't want to have five roommates, especially in their late 20s and early 30s, and once in a while, it's like, 'Yo, there are a lot of dishes in the sink,'" Abramovich said. "But it turns out I like to live with a lot of people. And price is important to me."

Some developers are now trying to create their own versions of these types of housing set-ups — albeit up-to-code (which Abramovich's apartment is not) — with sleeker amenities and even social directors like on cruise ships.

Recognizing the thriving underground housing market for single young professionals, whether out of college for a year or even a decade, who subdivide apartments — sometimes illegally — companies are eyeing a model based on "micro-suites," where up to three tenants, each with their own small room, share a kitchen and bathroom.

Each tenant will be on the lease — something that is rare in the underground housing market. Having only one or two tenants on a lease can be problematic if there are problems with the apartment but is a boon for those who don't have credit scores needed to rent their own apartments.

And here's an article from Crains about modular construction.

Subways will stay crowded

From NBC:

If you take the subway to get to work, you’ve noticed it: the MTA says subways are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and even as a fare hike is being proposed, the MTA says there’s nothing they can do about the overstuffed trains. Andrew Siff explains why.

Because the DeBlasio administration is all about the little people

From DNA Info:

Since he started his $205,180-a-year job, Silver has had sitdowns with Bette Midler, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Donald Trump, billionaire real estate investor Douglas Durst and the wife of a Russian oligarch to discuss their pet park projects, according to his daily schedules.

But Silver's schedules show that he held scores of meetings with heads of powerful nonprofits, wealthy donors, lobbyists and celebrities while he only had five meetings with local community groups.

Do you believe police stats?

From the Daily News:

The city experienced the lowest crime rate in August, September and October since at least 1994, new statistics show.

Total crime, which focuses on the so-called seven majors — murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto — is down 7.9% for the last three months as compared to the same period last year, data reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the record lows are proof that both his liberal and conservative critics need to back off.

“The reality of this city is that the city is getting safer and it’s getting safer because the cops are focusing on what they do and by and large are not paying attention to the left or to the right, which is appropriate,” Bratton said.

The way I look at it, if the police are refusing to take reports (and we all know they are), you can't claim that crime is down. Not to mention how much unreported crime there is because the victim is fearful or what have you.

Is the city safer than it was during the crack epidemic? Yes.

Is it safer than it was 10 years ago? I doubt it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Council proposes new mixed use zones

NYCC Engines of Opportunity - 11-19

From Crains:

While the de Blasio administration focuses on affordable housing, the City Council on Wednesday proposed new zoning to spur the city's manufacturing and "creative" economies.

The 40-page report represents the council's attempt to reverse the six-decade decline in the city's manufacturing sector, which employs 76,000 workers, down from its height of 1 million in 1940. Industrial businesses, which pay wages nearly double those in the growing service industry, are under threat by the explosion of residential development and rely heavily on zoning to preserve their footprint in the city.

The report also comes amid tension between the council and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the future of the city's 21 industrial business zones. Mr. de Blasio is looking for ways to add apartments to the IBZs, which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg shielded from residential rezoning but largely ignored during his final years in office. Critics sense a similar lack of enthusiasm from Mr. de Blasio, whose first budget slashed funding for the IBZ program and whose aides talk of putting "workforce housing" in industrial areas to advance the administration's goal of creating 80,000 affordable units.

With that in mind, the council wants to create three new kinds of zoning districts to help grow manufacturing and industrial businesses: an "industrial employment district," a "creative economy district" and a "real mixed-use district."

Mysterious oil truck at Memorial Field

Hey Crappy! So last week I was walking my dog to Memorial Field in North Flushing. I previously reported on the newly reconstructed ballfields at 149th Street and 26th Avenue, which included a new bioswale on the eastern 20' of the park, to capture rainwater and mitigate flooding. However, as with most bioswales, it quickly became a garbage magnet - which was cleaned up several days after I contacted Queens Crap.

Well, I thought I'd give it another whirl, because the bioswales are truly excellent at attracting trash as can be seen in these pics. And, since maintenance by the Parks Department is next to zero, I thought I'd reach out to you again.
Outside of the athletic fields is even more interesting. A few weeks ago, I noticed a fuel truck at the northwest corner of Bayside Avenue and 149th Street parked illegally and reeking of what smelled like burning oil. It also had yellow "CAUTION" tape wrapped around it. I figured it was a disabled truck that was going to be moved in a few days.

Well, lo and behold: two days later, the truck was gone. However, as I was walking up to the field...there was the truck! Now on the east side of 149th Street at 28th Avenue, the truck was there reeking of combustible fuel - with the yellow tape around it AGAIN!

This is a disaster waiting to happen, Crappy. Why hasn't the DEP or the 109th Precinct gotten this polluter off the streets?

- North Flushing Resident

Another illegal conversion leads to death

From the NY Post:

An apartment in the Brooklyn building where a blaze killed a tenant and injured 16 others had been illegally divided into cramped, dangerous living spaces, FDNY sources said.

The fire, sparked by a faulty refrigerator wire, broke out at about 12:35 a.m. Wednesday in a three-story building on Flatbush Avenue near Farragut Road that also housed a storefront church, ­according to the sources.

The tenement was plagued by perilous electrical conditions, ­including exposed wires, fire ­marshals said. After the blaze, the Department of Buildings ordered the remaining residents to vacate.

The owner of the building told The Post that without his consent, a second-floor tenant had created 11 illegal small rooms in his apartment.

Fun Friday Foto

We made it through another week, even though we have these mooks in charge of the decision making. Why don't you give them a piece of your mind and caption this photo.

Vibrant and diverse clothesline decor

From the Times Ledger:

Whitestone’s got an unusual problem. One of its houses has been hosting dead geese in its backyard since last Friday.

A Whitestone resident, who has been living in the area for 25 years, went into her backyard that morning and saw roughly 16 to 20 dead geese hanging on a clothesline in the backyard of a house on 150th Street and 15th Drive.

She said the yard behind the house tends to be a mess, with garbage cans that the owners collect as well as an irrigation system. She said she did not want to get the owners in trouble but was worried about the possible threat of disease in the neighborhood.

But according to another resident in the area, who has been living there for 50 years, this isn’t the first time the owners have hung up animals since they moved to the neighborhood in April 2011.

“I did see it last winter, but not as much,” she said. “Now it’s just clothesline-full.”

The occupants of the house could not be reached to explain the mysterious bird appearance.

Pharmacies also filthy

From PIX11:

Pharmacies aren’t just for prescriptions anymore.

From anti-freeze to light bulbs, cough medicine to milk, they sell it all. But are they handling it all?

A PIX11 investigation uncovered filthy conditions inside city pharmacies, clawing through state records to expose conditions that could make customers sick.