Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Possible parkland usurpation in Astoria

"There's some city property near the BQE...not sure, but it may be parkland. As a kid, some of us locals used to play softball there, but it is now being used by contractors that are storing demo containers filled with debris and construction materials. They also are parking commercial vans and pickups there." - Anonymous
That's a sturdy-looking structure!
Looks like the remnants of a grassy field.
The 1951 map above shows the outline of what appears to be the contributor's ballfield.
I tried to look up this property, but according to the NYC Tax Map, this property doesn't exist. Which is probably why local businesses did what they did with it.

More problems with AirBnB

From the NY Post:

Hookers are using the controversial Airbnb home-sharing Web site to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels, The Post has learned.

One escort service is even saving a bundle by renting Airbnb apartments instead of hotel rooms for clients’ quickies, says a 21-year-old call girl who works for the illicit business.

“It’s more discreet and much cheaper than The Waldorf,” said the sex worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Hotels have doormen and cameras. They ask questions. Apartments are usually buzz-in.”

The prostitute, a buxom brunette who charges up to $500 an hour, said her escort service generally rents an Airbnb apartment in the Financial District or Midtown West for up to a week at a time — then cycles numerous hookers through the place for trysts around-the-clock.

The agency flies under the radar by having its workers secure the apartments through their own Airbnb profiles, then has them pay the rent with prepaid debit cards. The apartments usually cost between $200 and $400 a day.

Smoker joker

This guy was shamelessly spitting and smoking inside the 7 in Corona.

I told the operator when I got off but I don't know if they did anything.

Anyway I wish there was a way to publicly shame these people.

East Elmhurst

Steinway Street eyesore

Hey Crappy,

Spotted this gem on Steinway Street on a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Love it! The vinyl covers the entire facade outside of the storefront, and just for good measure, they put perforated / one-way window ads in too... in case we couldn't see the rest.

Anywho, thought you'd appreciate it more than most. At least it's not John Ciafone!

And P.S.: 311 definitely got a phone call... the complaint is already logged.

Keep up the muckraking!


Questions for Katz

From Crains:

What kind of development would you like to see in Queens?

For things that are already happening, we have a task force for the Willets Point area; we have a task force for Flushing Commons. I'd love to see more retail and hotels in Jamaica. One of my goals is also to have much more affordable housing there, to utilize the zoning that we put in place five years ago, to build hotels for economic development. In Long Island City, we have a great opportunity to leverage the Cornell tech school that's coming to Roosevelt Island. And for people in their 20s, we want them to stay in Queens.

What's it like working with the de Blasio administration?

For someone like me, who's been in elected office 20 years, I spent the whole time with a Republican administration. So it's a different atmosphere. What I find now from most of the commissioners and the deputy mayors is the openness to other elected officials—our ideas, what we think is best for our constituents. There seems to be a team effort, more than there has been with the other administrations.

Do you think you'll be more active than your predecessor, Helen Marshall, who was known as being low-key?

Everyone brings their own characteristics, but for me, if I'm home on a Thursday night, it means someone screwed up my schedule. Although I'm not sure I've been home on a Thursday night yet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The livin' ain't easy but the rent is free

From the NY Post:

Crafty hobos are turning the Manhattan Bridge into a veritable shantytown, complete with elaborate plywood shacks that are truly “must see to believe.”

One of the coffin-sized living spaces — which have been built into the bridge frame near the Manhattan entrance — is secured with a flimsy bike lock and bolted to a metal beam by its inhabitant.

The pods are built into the underside of the upper deck, below car traffic but above the subway and bike lanes.

To reach his makeshift studio, the bridge dweller — a stocky, neatly dressed Chinese man in his 40s — climbs a chain-link fence to a nook above the bike lane, witnesses said.

He unlocks the red bike lock with a key, slides a plank of wood back like a door and crawls in.

Several yards away, another vagrant spends his nights in a similarly rustic abode, sleeping on a roll-out mat and stashing belongings in a red tote bag.

His bathroom is a milk jug, his decor a scrap from a magazine.

The 10-by-1¹/₂-foot shacks are cramped, but the rent-free homes sure beat the cost of living legit in neighborhoods nearby — like Brooklyn’s trendy DUMBO, so named for its location “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass.”

The owner mentioned in this article says the cops destroyed his first shanty, so he had no choice but to build here.

Fireworks returning to East River

From CBS New York:

The Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show will return to the East River this year.

The annual display will be set off from the Brooklyn Bridge and barges on the East River, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

As public advocate, de Blasio would join other Brooklyn leaders each year asking Macy’s and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to bring the fireworks back to the East River.
Now that he’s in charge, it’s happening.

Does Queens really need larger trucks on its streets?

From the Forum:

Should Congress approve a proposal to increase the size and weight limits for semi-trailer trucks, Queens residents already worn down by thousands of trucks passing through such neighborhoods as Maspeth would further see their quality of life deteriorate, borough leaders said.

“It’s crazy – we have trucks coming up residential blocks now; our streets can’t stand all this weight,” said Roe Daraio, president of the COMET – Citizens of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together – Civic Association – a group that has for years been fighting truck traffic in the Maspeth area.

Congress is now considering whether to allow bigger trucks to travel the country’s roads as it works on reauthorizing the surface transportation bill, otherwise known as MAP-21. With pressure from some of the country’s largest trucking companies and businesses pushing for increased size and weight limits – with many business owners saying it would help to significantly curb costs – a vote could come as soon as this month.

Specifically, Congress is looking at a proposal that would increase weight limits for single-trailer trucks to 97,000 pounds – 8.5 tons more than what is currently allowed.

A national nonprofit, the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, is working to stop the plan, and it issued a release stating that Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith, a trustee and former president of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, also strongly opposes any increase to truck sizes or weights.

Worker dies in fall

From NBC:

Authorities say a construction worker died after a 10-story fall from the roof of a midtown Manhattan office building.

Authorities say the man landed on scaffolding about 25 feet above the sidewalk on the south side of West 33rd Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues. It happened about 3:30 p.m. Monday.

Police diverted traffic from the street. Detectives were investigating the cause of the fall. Some were seen peering out at the scaffolding from a second-floor window.

City contractors cheat workers out of prevailing wages

From the Daily News:

The mayor's campaign to build more affordable apartments has a dirty little underbelly: Many of the contractors who build cheaper units have been cited repeatedly for cheating workers out of a decent wage, a Daily News investigation has found.

Last week, Mayor de Blasio promised to “lift up working families” with soon-to-be built affordable apartments the city is sponsoring on a vacant lot in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

But at an affordable housing project a few blocks away, builder MDG Design and subcontractor F. Rizos, settled federal wage-cheating charges in April 2013 by agreeing to pay $960,000 in back wages.

Just one month later, MDG was hit with more wage-cheating charges on another city project, this time for $4.5 million in back wages, a city record.

Yet MDG was chosen by the former Bloomberg administration that very month to turn a city-owned warehouse in Williamsburg into 55 affordable apartments and stands to build hundreds more in the coming years.

Many taxpayer-funded developments in New York City require contractors and their subcontractors to pay “prevailing wages.” Some contractors jump through hoops to avoid this.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"The World of Tomorrow"

Click photo to see a video about the history of the 1939 World's Fair, including some of the last video footage of the Aquacade before Claire Shulman had it torn down.

Remembering Vincent Seyfried on the anniversary of his passing

From [horse brook sketch book] by Matthew Kremer:

seyfried's text is most useful
for the insight it provides
into the various changes
in infrastructure that
occur in the latter half
of the 19th century
and beyond in elmhurst.
following an account of the
great storm of october 1903,
he notes, which gorged its
waters with a raging torrent,
horse brook faded gradually
out of the news, and the housing
developments covering its sources
in woodside cut off all flow of water.
to this, the historian laments,
almost all trace of the old-
time brook is obliterated.

as an author reputed to have
written the most formidable history
of the LIRR currently available,
as well as other monographs
about the growth of queens,
it is strange that seyfried's
study of elmhurst doesn't
have an index of any kind--
it just sort of ends after a
series of haphazard photos
of cord meyer and
other local ephemera.
the narrative proper,
alive for centuries of
increase and progress,
draws to a close in the 1920s
in a foreboding prologue:
once the subway structure
was completed, new buildings
arose behind a new curb line
and elmhurst no longer looked
the same. the modern era--for
better or worse--had begun.

Main Street a mess

From the Queens Chronicle:

Downtown Flushing is hard enough to navigate with all the buses, people and general congestion, but add to that the poor condition of the streets and it becomes even more than problematic.

Dian Yu, executive director of the Downtown Flushing Business Improvement District, says the numerous potholes and uneven pavement along bumpy Main Street are actually interfering with business. “The conditions discourage people from coming downtown and it doesn’t look good,” Yu said on Monday.

Conditions a couple of weeks ago were so bad that southbound traffic was backed up to Northern Boulevard because cars were trying to avoid the deep crevices, one Chronicle reader reported.

Community Board 7 called the city Department of Transportation last Thursday to report the conditions and on Sunday a crew was out filling in some of the potholes.

But Yu believes the problem goes deeper than that. “I just met with the DOT and particularly pointed out Main Street and 37th Avenue, which is in horrible condition,” he said. “The pothole there looks like a crater.”

Although he said the agency was cooperative, Yu thinks Main Street needs a complete overhaul. “Lots of work needs to be done,” he said. “The road is old and needs a total repavement.”

Yu knows the major problem is financing a major repaving. He said he is working with Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) on trying to secure funding.

Why should it be up to Yu and Koo to find funding? Shouldn't this kind of work be included in the agency's yearly budget?

Waiting until the cows come home?


Received a call from Carolina Gill at Assembly Member Marge Markey's office to let me know they have been receiving complaints of youth hanging out at the abandoned house at 52-29 84th Street and had followed up with the Department of Buildings.

Carolina said that she was informed by the Department of Buildings that a court order to seal the building was approved on March 26th. On March 27th, the order was forwarded to Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) who now has to hire a contractor to do the work.

We also heard from Michael Mallon at Council Member Dromm's office to say that he also followed up. I asked him to try and find out how long it will take to hire a contractor. Hopefully it doesn't take several months.

Mets try to be preservationists

From the Forum:

Queens preservationists are partnering with the Mets to save the New York State Pavilion, an iconic structure built for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park that has severely deteriorated over the years.

A portion of each ticket purchased for the Mets’ home game against the Giants on Friday, Aug. 1 at 7:10 p.m. will be donated to the People for the Pavilion, an organization dedicated to preserving and reusing the site.

Hmmm. The Mets have been sharing Flushing Meadows with the Pavilion in that condition for decades. But NOW they want to do something to help? I call B.S. on this. Save FMCP summed it up best: