Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Billboard vs. Mike Miller

Alrighty then.

Perhaps it's time for a new sign?

Queens Gymnasia...Ya think?

De Blasio doesn't mince words about Cuomo

From Capital New York:

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his most blistering criticism to date of Governor Andrew Cuomo, telling reporters inside his City Hall office Tuesday that the governor was more concerned with backroom deals than with serving New Yorkers.

"There is a kind of deal-making and horse-trading that he engages in that I think often obscures the truth. It gets so convoluted I'm not sure he and the people around him remember where they began," de Blasio said.

De Blasio in the past had said he and Cuomo were old friends working together. But on Tuesday, just days after the State Legislature defeated some of his top priorities, de Blasio said his legislative agenda was derailed by a governor whom he said exacts "revenge."

The mayor also insisted he would have won a longer extension of mayoral control of city schools had Cuomo not pressured the State Senate to push for a one-year deal. De Blasio had pushed for permanent control but in the end, agreed to a three-year extension.

De Blasio spoke in measured tones for nearly 30 minutes about what he said was Cuomo's role in defeating his agenda in Albany. He blamed Cuomo for unduly influencing the Republican-controlled Senate, saying he had been "disappointed at every turn" by a governor he endorsed for re-election last year.

Do people even read books anymore?

From Crains:

At one time, New Yorkers regarded chain bookstores as corporate invaders certain to drive independently owned bookshops out of their communities.

But now it is the chain bookstores that need saving—and in one Queens neighborhood, locals are stepping up.

Forest Hills residents are trying to rescue a Barnes & Noble that appears to be on its final chapter. The business, which like all brick-and-mortar bookstores has lost sales to Amazon and other Internet retailers, is minimally profitable and faces closure when its lease expires Jan. 31.

"Saving a chain store may seem ironic at first sight, but we already lost all of our small bookstores in the area," said Michele Dore, co-founder of the new (if awkwardly named) civic association Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens—Our Communities. "This is where locals have been going to for decades. It's simply a part of Forest Hills history."

Since 1995, the store at 70-00 Austin St. has become a popular hangout spot for teens, seniors and families. But talks between Barnes & Noble and its landlord, Muss Development, have bogged down over a proposed rent increase.

“We would like to extend the store at the rent we're paying or somewhere around it,” said David Deason, vice president of development at Barnes & Noble. “As a public company, we can't afford to operate a store and lose money. We have shareholders to think about. We will stretch as far as we can go.”

But competition from e-commerce has eroded the store's elasticity. Muss Development's chief operating officer, Jeff Kay, said Barnes & Noble has received multiple rent reductions in the past.

Queens getting countdown clocks

From the Queens Courier:

Where’s the bus? That common question among Queens commuters will be answered with countdown clocks set to be installed at the borough’s 10 busiest bus stops within the next two years.

Borough President Melinda Katz announced on Tuesday she allocated $200,000 in the city’s 2016 fiscal year budget to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) for the purchase and installation of the real-time devices that track the estimated time of arrival for buses.

While the MTA oversees the bus system, the DOT is responsible for the countdown clocks and other bus-related infrastructure such as signage and shelters.

The DOT, through analyzing data such as ridership levels, commuter transfers, proximity to prominent facilities and dependency of bus service, will recommend to the MTA and Katz which 10 locations will receive the countdown clocks. The final locations will be determined through conversations among Katz, the DOT and the MTA.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shulman back to her old tricks again

Crain’s New York Business has an eye-opening article, reproduced below, questioning the propriety of Claire Shulman’s local development corporation (LDC) instigating the re-zoning of 60 acres of Flushing waterfront property, and the LDC hiring the NYC Department of City Planning as a subcontractor.

However, nowhere does Crain’s mention that this isn’t the first time that Shulman’s LDC has attempted to influence a re-zoning – and its prior attempt was deemed unlawful by the NYS Attorney General.

Crains 6-29-15

You wouldn’t know it from the Crain’s article, but Shulman’s LDC has already illegally attempted to influence the re-zoning of Willets Point property. Re-zoning is legislation, and all local development corporations are prohibited by law from attempting to influence legislation. After a 3-year investigation, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in 2012 that Shulman’s LDC had “flouted the law” in the Willets Point re-zoning, and Shulman’s LDC signed a stipulation that it would never do it again. The NY Times reported that Shulman’s LDC admitted its illegal activity, as did the NY Daily News:

NYDN 7-3-12

Crain’s does not report that history, or mention AG Schneiderman's prior finding of illegality by the LDC – instead giving the mistaken impression that the LDC’s rezoning of Flushing waterfront property is an isolated case. But it isn’t. It’s the LDC’s second re-zoning attempt – after the first has already been deemed illegal.

If, as AG Schneiderman has already determined, it was unlawful for Shulman’s LDC to attempt to influence the re-zoning of Willets Point, then it must be no less unlawful for Shulman’s LDC to now attempt to influence the re-zoning of the Flushing waterfront.

All of which begs the question: If AG Schneiderman was satisfied in 2012 with a wrist-slap for Shulman’s LDC, what will he do now if he finds a repeat offense? As the saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Big Bad Bill doesn't impress anyone in Albany

From AM-NY:

Who's afraid of Mayor Bill de Blasio in Albany?

Not state Senate Republicans, who denied his request for permanent mayoral control of New York City schools, granting him one year instead.

Not Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who didn't deny he and his team were the unnamed officials in news reports who belittled the mayor as "incompetent" and clueless on influencing the legislative process.

Not advocates for charter schools, who won a lifting of a cap for new schools over de Blasio's opposition in the three-way agreement last week among Cuomo, state Senate Republicans and the Democrat-led state Assembly.

"There isn't a fear factor with Bill. There is a fear factor with Andrew," political consultant George Arzt said.

After the legislature went home, mayoral aides who spoke on condition of anonymity sought to paint a more positive picture of how de Blasio fared, saying they secured the affordable housing requirement he had championed in the real estate tax abatement known as 421-a.

Aides also indicated they had no plans to rethink their approach in Albany. The mayor said he didn't regret campaigning aggressively, albeit unsuccessfully, against state Senate Republicans last year.

Elmhurst perv alert

From CBS New York:

Police are looking for a man who they said flashed two young girls in Elmhurst, Queens.

The man exposed himself to a 10-year-old girl who was sitting in a parked car on Grand Avenue and 79th Street around 3 p.m. on May 28, police said.

Around 7 a.m. last Wednesday, police said the same man exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl sitting in a parked car near Calamus and Grand avenues.

Flag vandalism suspected in Rockaway

From CBS New York:

It’s a mystery in Rockaway Park – someone or something is making a mockery of the American flag, and residents want to know what is causing it.

Old Glory waves prominently along Rockaway Beach Boulevard, mounted on angular poles that are attached to utility posts between Beach 110th and Beach 116th streets.

...over the weekend, some American flags on the strip disappeared. Poles were bent, and some flags were left dangling.

Many residents said given that the damage was done just before Independence Day, it is disgraceful.

A representative of the local community board said the main concern right now is safety. The board is looking to have the poles taken down before someone gets hurt.

The Rockaway Civic Association put up most of the flags right after Superstorm Sandy. Others, including the now-damaged ones, went up around Memorial Day.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Baby seal causes a stir in Bayside

From Eyewitness News:

Don't let the emergency service unit, or crime scene tape around the boat slip at the Queens Bayside Marina fool you.

A baby seal stranded on the boat slip gathered quite the audience on Sunday afternoon, many pulling out cameras to get a shot.

"I saw Eyewitness News, I stopped to see what was happening, and then I heard it was a baby seal," says Suann Dugan.

Park services believe the seal may have become stranded after the tide went back out, leaving it about 100 feet from the water. At one point the baby seal started to moved towards the water, but took a break right at the edge.

de Blasio: Tweeding is just fine

From the Observer:

In May of last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio was blunt.

“I do think it’s time to end member items. I think that’s the smart path going forward,” the mayor, a Democrat, told reporters. He added that he respected the City Council’s desire to keep them.

“But I think this may just be one of the areas of respective disagreement,” he said.

Since then, Mr. de Blasio has done nothing to abolish so-called member items–and appears to have lost any desire to take up the fight in the future, sources say. The quiet decision to back away from a pitched battle with the City Council represents another win for the body, and may also be evidence that Mr. de Blasio’s quest to end member items was little more than a talking point.

Mr. de Blasio’s office did not return a request for comment.

In the city’s $78.5 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year, just under $50 million was allotted for discretionary funding. The cash includes a $16 million pot of money that goes to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, with the rest of the money being split up roughly evenly among the members of the City Council. It can then be dispensed at the individual council member’s discretion to various nonprofits, charities and pet projects.

These member items, though representing a very small slice of the hefty budget, have drawn scrutiny from good government groups, reporters and some elected officials. The system, critics say, can breed corruption by giving politicians the ability to reward allies with taxpayer money and patronage. Used in the worst way, member items can be a vehicle to buy votes.

Mr. de Blasio may be done trying to fight this battle with the Council, sources say. The reforms to member items put in place last year—a more equal distribution of funding based on poverty levels of the 51 districts—appeared to placate the mayor. Previously, the speaker had sole discretion to award member items as he or she saw fit, and members close to the speaker often brought home the most cash.

Transit infrastructure can't keep up with population

From the Daily News:

New projections show the New York region’s population should reach 20.5 million people by 2020, further taxing the region’s already overcrowded and cash-strapped subway, bus and train systems.

The projections — calculated by the mapping service ESRI for The Associated Press — estimate the region is growing at a clip of almost 100,000 people annually. Long Island, Westchester County and much of northern New Jersey are included in the metro area.

The importance of these systems can’t be overstated: 31% of metro area commuters use transit to get to work, the U.S. Census estimates.

As the region’s population booms, the strains on mass transit are increasingly evident.

Overcrowding was the single biggest cause of delays on the New York subway system during the last year, MTA stats show. Ridership has also grown on NJ Transit and the PATH trains.

Yet politicians display little appetite for funding transit, while fare hikes have riders digging deeper.

Bird strikes up despite goose slaughter

From CBS New York:

Bird strikes affecting flights are on the rise in the Tri-State area.

As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, a new report suggests the problem keeps getting worse.

There were 175 bird strikes last year at LaGuardia Airport — the most since the FAA started tracking the incidents in 1990.

So the millions of dollars that taxpayers have spent to kill birds in NYC parks that the government deemed a threat to aircraft were actually thrown down the toilet? When is that waste of a program going to end as it has just been proven to be ineffective and unnecessary?