Friday, December 19, 2014

Liquor license expedited for Council party

From the NY Post:

They pulled the strings so the bartenders could pull the taps.

The City Council booked its holiday party at a swanky new bar that still needed a liquor license — so they just called in a favor for a rush permit to get the beer flowing, sources told The Post.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito agreed to have Wednesday night’s party at Barleycorn Craft Bar & Grill, which is owned by the pal of top staffer Steve Feder.

But after the invitations had already gone out, the council learned that the Park Place watering hole was still awaiting a license from the State Liquor Authority, the sources said.

That’s when they turned to First Deputy Chief of Staff Ramon Martinez, who is known as “the fixer” for his ability to solve problems. Feder asked Martinez at a senior leadership meeting to pressure the SLA — and state officials gave the bar its license just hours before the party started.

An SLA spokesman denied doing any favors for the council and said it simply issued a permit that was applied for in April.

Live from Jamaica: The next hot neighborhood!

From Cleanup Jamaica Queens:

It is so funny when I read the other day, that Jamaica is going to be one of five new "hot" areas come 2015. Funny, because the below quality of life issues that plague this community continue over and over again and Jamaica certainly does not look like the next "hot" neighborhood, especially with the large majority of slobs, bottom of the barrel folks, slumlords, a poor excuse of elected officials and a lack of enforcement on many issues.

Plus, no matter what city agency you talk to the same thing "not enough man-power". This excuse has gotten so fucking old and if NYC was a business, it would have been shut down decades ago. How about enough with the fucking excuses and just enforce the fucking laws on the books. How can you keep cramming more and more people into this city if you 1) do not have the infrastructure to handle it and 2) you say you don't have the 'man power".

Latest Jamaica shit sights:

Miller & Wills: there's a big difference

Overall, a good video, but Addisleigh Park should have been mentioned, since that's what he talks about in the beginning.

A woolly mammoth in Baisley Pond Park?

Libraries will be open longer

From the Daily News:

Queens Library branches will stay open later after the busy system, which serves more than 11 million customers a year, rejiggers its hours next year.

Branches will either open earlier at 10 a.m. or remain open later until 8 p.m. for at least two days a week, starting Jan. 5, 2015.

The library is pushing for a funding increase to keep all the branches open six days a week, officials said.

Trying to make Corona cool

From DNA Info:

The seller of newly built luxury condos on Northern Boulevard is calling the section of Corona "NoCo" to infuse it with some "cool" — but the moniker has confused residents who say they've never heard of the nickname.

The area has become home to a handful of buildings in the past year with pricey apartments and high-end amenities on Northern Boulevard west of 106th Street.

Adrian Lupu, who is selling units at Sage House Condos on 112th and Northern Boulevard, said he came up with the name "NoCo" once construction began last year.

"I started about a year and a half ago to call it that. We sort of picked up on the SoHo trend," he said. "We're trying to bring the cool to the neighborhood."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Galante gone

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Board of Trustees of the Queens Library voted unanimously on Wednesday night to oust embattled CEO Tom Galante for cause. The board approved a resolution following an executive session of more than two hours at the library's Jamaica central office.

Attorney Dan Kurtz was in the session.

Galante has been under fire for more than a year since a series of reports in three Daily News led to investigations by city agencies and the FBI, who are probing the library's and Galante spending of the library's funds.

He's suing.

Oy vey, I need a drink!

"An interesting fact about my district that most people do not know is that Forest Hills has no forest, but it has a lot of hills."

What hills are you talking about? And what about Forest Park?

Speaking of Forest Park, Liz Crowley wants us to know that you can go to Forest Park and see the Ridgewood Reservoir. Because it somehow picked up and moved from Highland Park.


"You can get some of the most authentic restaurants in the city."

I guess there are a lot of fake restaurants out there.

This is what DeBlasio considers to be affordable?

From the Daily News:

Only in New York could you win an “affordable housing” lottery and still wind up paying almost $3,500 a month in rent.

Mayor de Blasio broke ground on a housing complex near Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Monday, where most units will run between $2,500 and $3,500 a month.

More than half the units at Pacific Park — formerly Atlantic Yards — will be set aside for “middle-income” New Yorkers — defined as earning 121% to 165% of citywide median income. Families of four whose income is between $100,681 and $138,435 will qualify.

By comparison, middle income for a family of four is defined as $94,560 in Philadelphia, and $72,400 to $88,300 in Chicago.

The Brooklyn tenants will pay 30% of their income for rent — the standard for all affordable housing, regardless of income. That will bring the rent as high as $3,461.

Danny Dromm makes up rules to silence opposition

From City and State:

After waiting for more than eight hours to testify at a New York City Council hearing on Dec. 11, a former state assemblyman was not allowed to speak—because he would not bend his knee and pledge his troth to the committee chair.

Chair of the Education Committee Daniel Dromm told former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin that “the rules of the Council” dictate all members of the public swear or affirm that they are telling the truth before they testify at a Council hearing—even though the rules only specify that government officials be sworn in.

Benjamin, who represented a district in the Bronx for four terms in the Assembly and is now a columnist for City & State, waited in City Hall all day to speak in opposition to a resolution calling on the state Legislature to impose racial diversity on the city’s elite high schools by changing their rigid admission standards. Benjamin, an African-American who attended the top-rated Bronx High School of Science, and who favors the current system, was ordered by Dromm to raise his right hand and swear that his testimony would be truthful, or else he would not be allowed to testify.

“You are not a court of law, and you have no oversight over me,” said Benjamin to Dromm in a heated exchange. “The fact that I am here proves that I want to give testimony, period.”

“The rules of the Council,” responded Dromm, after consulting with his colleague Brad Lander, chairman of the Rules Committee, “require that you be sworn in.” He then dismissed the panel without allowing Benjamin to voice his perspective.

Though Dromm spoke as though he were respecting ancient standards of protocol, the Council’s rules regarding swearing in have been around only since May of 2014, and explicitly do not “require” members of the public to be sworn in.

Council Rule 7.50.e, adopted as part of a package of progressive rules reform earlier this year, states, “The chairperson of each committee shall ensure that representatives of [c]ity governmental entities affirm prior to testifying at a committee meeting that their testimony is truthful to the best of their knowledge, information and belief.”

People who line up to give testimony have not been summoned before the Council: They come forward on their own volition to petition their government or to air a grievance. The barriers to do so are high enough: finding out when a committee meets, attending during the workday, and waiting, sometimes for hours. All this to get the floor for two or three minutes to speak—usually only to the committee chair and some staffers, because the rest of the Council members have left—and then to be waved off for the next panel. These concerned citizens, unlike the cynics and hacks they face, actually believe that their opinions matter, and that these hearings are not just a showcase for elected egos.

Girls kept in the dark

From the Daily News:

Some teen girls are learning how to rough it in a Queens park.

But this is no camping trip. The kids are members of a rowing club that uses the World’s Fair Boathouse in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which has been without running water and electricity for the last three weeks due to a blown transformer.

The team has been using flashlights and generators to bring light into the historic space — and hauling buckets of water into the bathroom just to get the toilets to flush.

“Water splashes everywhere,” said Ivanna Espinoza, 14, a member of Row NY. “It’s really gross.”

The transformer malfunctioned in November, cutting power to the boathouse and that section of the park, officials said. The damage dates to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Parks Department officials pointed out there is a comfort station near the Ederle Terrace area on the other side of Meadow Lake. But others said that is a far walk - especially in the dark.

Row NY leaders have been careful to keep an eye on the girls, walking them to cars and even driving them to the subway or home to avoid dark paths and roadways.

Land abandoned by city was cared for by residents

From Crains:

Residents of Bayside, Queens, insist that they really did take good care of the six acres of parkland tucked behind their homes along 207th Street. For years, that narrow strip along the Clearview Expressway between 23rd and 26th avenues had been a place where neighbors played baseball, rode bikes and walked their dogs.

And because the city had abandoned the property, area residents regularly mowed the grass, planted trees and shrubs, cleared walkways and in some instances built garden sheds on it. But when officials at the city's Parks Department finally got wind of what was going on, they cried foul.

In May 2010, the Parks Department sent out a blizzard of letters demanding that homeowners "give back the land" and remove any and all fixtures placed on city property. Outraged residents protested, but in the end, after a heated two-year battle, the city prevailed.

Now the Parks Department is hoping to build on that success, using it as a model to go on the offensive against what turns out to be a surprisingly widespread problem in the city. Currently, the agency, which oversees the city's 1,700 parks, has 89 cases of "incursions" on its plate. Queens, a borough noted for its green space, leads the pack with 49. In addition, there are 22 active cases in Staten Island, 14 in Brooklyn and even four in Manhattan. Only the Bronx has no such cases.

Meanwhile, the land on which the city triumphed over area residents sits vacant, and there are no plans to develop it for public use.

I gotta wonder if the release of this statement is just a coincidence.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Avella calls for shut down of Pan Am homeless shelter

From the Queens Courier:

State Sen. Tony Avella has joined the opposition to the planned conversion of an emergency homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel into a permanent facility due to what he called “horrendous” conditions at the site.

Avella, who is chairman of the Senate’s Social Services Committee, joined residents and local leaders to speak out against the proposal to convert the shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst to a permanent facility under a $42 million contract with the city.

“It is an outrage to take an abandoned hotel, warehouse homeless families inside it, ignore shocking City Code and HPD violations, waste an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars in the process, and then award a $42 million contract to a questionable-at-best organization, making the entire situation permanent,” Avella said.

According to the senator, the shelter houses over 700 residents, made up of families of which many have small children. Each unit at the shelter holds four to five people.

Because the shelter uses former hotel rooms, they are not equipped with cooking facilities. The senator and organizations such as Elmhurst United claim this goes against a NYC Administrative Code requiring that each unit at a family shelter have a kitchen, and in order to do this, there would need to be major renovations at the site.

The shelter has also had a large number of violations such as failure to provide hot water or heat for days, reports of bed bugs, peeling of lead paint in one unit, and garbage left sitting in front of the entrance to the children’s play area, according to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Due to all these conditions, Avella said he calls on the city to reject the contract that would covert the former hotel into a permanent homeless shelter because he believes it is “not fit for long-term housing for the homeless.”

Katz was no help

From the Queens Courier:

Whitestone and Flushing parents were sent back to the drawing board after meeting with Borough President Melinda Katz to discuss their desire to create a gifted and talented program for middle schools in the northern and central Queens area.

Lisa Fusco and a growing number of parents are building a case for the creation of gifted and talented programs for middle schools in their district. During a meeting with Katz and education officials on Wednesday, the parents were told that the district’s superintendent was the only one with the power to extend the program from its limited elementary school reach to middle school.

“They’re giving us the run around,” Fusco said. “We’ve spoken to [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] before and that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We’ve tried everything else.”

Mango declined a request for comment.

Fusco’s fourth-grade daughter is enrolled in the gifted and talented program in P.S. 79 and — unlike in many other school districts — the program does not continue into middle school within District 25, which covers most of central and northern Queens. Neighboring districts 26 and 30 provide the program to students in middle school. More than 150 parents have signed a petition to bring the program into their middle schools in places like Flushing and Whitestone.

DOE won't notify DOB about kids in illegal conversions

From Brooklyn Daily:

The Department of Education has no plans to share information with other city agencies to help combat the illegal home conversions that contribute to school overcrowding, the agency’s head told the District 20 Community Education Council on Dec. 10.

“It’s certainly not, I don’t think, the Department of Education’s role to play in this — it would be more of Housing,” said schools chancellor Carmen Fariña.

There is a link between school overcrowding and diced-up homes, a member of the education council said.

“We have a significant overcrowding problem that’s being made significantly worse by tremendous number of illegal conversions of homes, and its a tremendous problem in the community,” said Mark Bramante.

This paper’s analysis of city data shows that the areas around the district’s most crowded schools generate the most complaints to 311 about illegal construction activity.

Residents and lawmakers have publicly called on city schools to alert the buildings department about possible illegal conversions.

“When they’ve got 12 kids listed at one address, they should be telling the Department of Buildings,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Sunset Park). “I don’t think the city is taking this seriously right now.”

Fariña said she is well aware of the issue, saying even the local councilman recently buttonholed her about it.

“Vincent Gentile actually cornered me at some meeting to bring this up, so it isn’t that I’m hearing it for the first time,” she said.

But Fariña contended that a dearth of space for new buildings and the time required to construct schools are larger contributors to overcrowding, and said focusing on illegal conversions might vilify students living in the buildings.

Housing boom causes rise in Queens industrial rents

From the Real Deal:

Owners of industrial sites in Queens have seen their property values rise a staggering 60 percent over the past year as developers increasingly warm up to the borough, according to a new JLL report. And as the supply of industrial properties continues to shrink, rents are seeing marked increases. Epitomized by the likes of the Durst Organization snapping up a site in Hallets Point for $130 million and speculators looking to gentrify gritty parts of Long Island City, industrial property values have risen 60 percent year-over-year, according to JLL. And now many of those industrial properties – concentrated near John F. Kennedy International Airport and neighborhoods such as Long Island City, Astoria, Maspeth, Flushing and Jamaica – are seeing rising rents.

Knowing what's important

Immigrants! Gays! Food! Gays!

(I also like the outdated shot of Queens Center.)

Compare this to Van Bramer's video, which mentions none of the above: