Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cars with placards park wherever, whenever

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s crackdown on rampant parking permit abuse by city officials is so far a no-go.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer found, some school personnel are still ignoring the rules.

CBS2 found a mountain of abuses Friday, after Mayor Bill de Blasio gave school officials 50,000 new permits and then tried to deal with the blowback by ordering the NYPD to ticket and tow the violators.

Multiple drivers with placards were spotted parking in no standing zones, and in zones where signs read, “no parking anytime.”

Board of Standards and Appeals Reform Legislation Passes New York City Council

City Hall – Yesterday, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation aimed at reforming the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). In the past developers have been able to circumvent city zoning laws restricting building forms, use, height, density, through the BSA even though local Community Boards and elected officials objected to their decisions. This legislation aims to reform applications, decisions, notifications, staffing and transparency around the BSA to be more accountable to the public. The BSA is a five-member body tasked with reviewing requests for variances and special permits related to affordable housing and city planning in the zoning law. The package includes nine bills and featured bipartisan support from sponsors including Governmental Operations Chair Ben Kallos, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Minority Leader Steven Matteo and Council Members Karen Koslowitz (D-29) and Donovan Richards (D-31).

Application Reform:

Introduction 1392-A, by Kallos – Sets minimum application requirements for developers to show why zoning laws should not apply to them including key financial disclosures with analysis by real estate professionals, neighborhood studies showing unique conditions, and affirmations under penalties of perjury with fines for knowing violations of up to $15,000.

Decision Reforms:

Introduction 418-A, by Koslowitz – The BSA will be required to write decisions with responses to recommendations from Community Boards and Borough Boards.
Introduction 282-A, by Van Bramer - The BSA will be required to write decisions that respond to any relevant evidence and arguments submitted by the City Planning Commission, Community Boards, Borough Boards, lessees and tenants as well as owners.

Notification Reforms:

Introduction 1200-A, by Richards –Proof of service will be required for applications and materials mailed to Council Members, Borough Presidents, Community Boards and other city agencies, with verification of receipt to be posted online.
Introduction 514-A, by Matteo - Notifies property owners when variances are expiring and penalties will be incurred in the coming six months.

City Staffing Reforms:

Introduction 1390-A, by Kallos -The Department of City Planning will appoint a BSA coordinator to appear before the BSA to submit testimony in defense of the zoning resolution, and such testimony would be available online.
Introduction 1391-A, by Kallos - A state certified real estate appraiser with no less than 5 years’ experience will be available to work for or consult with the BSA to review and analyze real estate financials provided by developers.

Transparency Reforms:

Introduction 1393-A, by Kallos - The number of pre-application meeting requests, number of applications, number approved or denied, and an average length of time until a decision would be reported biannually.
Introduction 1394-A, by Kallos – The location of all variances and special permit applications acted upon by the Board since 1998 would be available as a list and a layer on an interactive map of the city.

“We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents. Developers will have, to be honest in applications that include the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Board of Standards and Appeals will have to consider community objections and write decisions outlining why they disagree. The City Planning Commission will have to watch over our zoning laws,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight of the Board of Standards and Appeals. “Thank you to the Municipal Art Society and Citizens Union for their reports and guidance, Borough President Brewer, as well as Council Members Koslowitz, Matteo, Richards, and Majority Leader Van Bramer for their long-standing leadership on this issue, and our Community Boards who fight the Board of Standards and Appeals on behalf of all New Yorkers every day.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

It's Joe Crowley's world...we just live in it

From the NY Post:

Rep. Joe Crowley helped push through $10 million in funding for a Bronx merchants association that was represented by his brother’s lobbying firm, The Post has learned.

The federal infrastructure money, which Crowley (D-Queens) and Rep. José Serrano (D-Bronx) led the effort to secure, came just months after Crowley’s brother, Sean, lobbied the House and the US Department of Trans­portation on behalf of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative, records show.

The merchant co-op, which was awarded the federal funding in August 2013, has shelled out at least $827,000 to the lobbying firm Davidoff, Hutcher and Citron since 2009, federal and state records show.

Sean Crowley is a partner at the firm and has worked there since 2006.

“Everything about this reeks of a conflict of interest,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. “The congressman was not elected to help his brother’s lobbying firm — he was elected to represent his constituents.”

Council members think terrorists are heroes

From the Queens Chronicle:

On Monday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx), a native of Puerto Rico, released a letter to the parade’s board commending the organization “for recognizing that Oscar Lopez Rivera represents the voice, tenacity and resolve of Puerto Rico and its people.”

The letter, signed by 30 members of the City Council including seven who represent Queens, concludes by saying, “We stand in solidarity with Oscar and express our full support for the board’s decision to recognize and uplift the legacy of Oscar Lopez Rivera.”

The Queens Council members who signed on include Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria); Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights); Julissa Ferreras Copeland (D-East Elmhurst); Peter Koo (D-Flushing); Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans); Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).

The Chronicle contacted the offices of all Queens Council members to ask about either their reasons for signing the letter or whether they intend to march. A handful responded via email.

“Oscar Lopez Rivera was pardoned by President Obama because he was never convicted of a violent crime,” Councilman Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) wrote. “He is one of a number of people being honored at the parade for his work highlighting the struggles of his people. The parade is an event that gives all of us an opportunity to celebrate the Puerto Rican people and I proudly support their efforts.

“Additionally, I am curious as to why some people are so unwilling to give Oscar a second chance but glowingly highlight a visit from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to dedicate Easter Rising Way in Maspeth [last November] an effort that I also supported.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) said she was not attending the parade but that her reasons had nothing to do with Lopez Rivera.

She also took issue with any implied criticism tying Adams, a leader in Northern Ireland Sinn Fein political movement, to terrorism. While he had been imprisoned by the British as a young man, he has continuously denied involvement with the Irish Republican Army, a violent revolutionary group long tied to Sinn Fein.

“Adams was central to bringing peace to a long, bloody conflict in Northern Ireland,” Crowley wrote. “I’m pleased that while he was visiting New York City, he could make time to celebrate a historic moment in Maspeth at the co-naming of Easter Rising Way.”

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) will attend.

Do you ever feel like you're living in a bizarre nightmare by staying in NYC?

A suspicious house in Broadway-Flushing

James Farrell/Queens Tribune
From the Queens Tribune:

An incoming Broadway-Flushing house is raising alarm for neighbors, who fear that the eight-bedroom, 10-bathroom structure is not in character with the neighborhood.

Neighbors became concerned that the building’s occupancy had changed after learning that the original plans, which called for a single-family house, had been amended. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and urban planner and City Council candidate Paul Graziano gathered dozens of residents last Thursday for a press conference outside the structure, located at 33-05 157th St., as work was proceeding behind a green construction fence. Avella called on the DOB to release the amended plans, which residents say have been kept from public view.

Janet McCreesh, president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, said that she had hired an expediter to get the plans from Queens Borough Hall but was unsuccessful after three attempts. After that, McCreesh turned to Avella’s office, who received them the Tuesday after the press conference.

The DOB told the Queens Tribune that the single-family status of the house did not change in the amended plans. According to the DOB, the amended plans, which were approved by the department as being in compliance with the city’s Zoning Resolution and Construction Codes, show only minor changes, replacing some of the proposed bathtubs with standup showers. The DOB also added that while it wasn’t sure why there could have been delays in the expediter’s attempts to get the plans, all permitted construction plans are publicly available for viewing at its Queens borough office.

(Great photo showing the ridiculous size of the house.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tenants want overseer for torched building

From DNA Info:

Tenants of an apartment building destroyed in a five-alarm fire are going to court to force the appointment of an independent official to oversee rebuilding, saying letting the owners do it would be like the “fox guarding the hen house” after a contractor was arrested for starting the blaze.

More than a third of the tenants of the Martinique Plaza, at 56-11 94th St., have signed on to the suit, which will be filed in housing court this week by Legal Aid.

The petition asks that a judge appoint an independent administrator to oversee all capital improvements to the 111-unit building, which was destroyed on April 11.

While the fire scorched the sixth floor, the more than 100 apartments below were flooded as firefighters battled the fire.

And the now-homeless tenants say they don't trust management — and fear they'll be priced out of their units, which are below the median rent for the area.

“We don’t want someone like that in charge to fix this building up," Sateesh Nori, the Legal Aid lawyer representing the tenants, said.

“The fox is guarding the hen house. Someone is responsible for a fire, you don’t want them then responsible for repairing the damage to the fire."

Tenants — who met with city officials at a meeting on Tuesday in Elmhurst to discuss their options — said the management company has been reaching out to select tenants promising them a new apartment if they don't take any legal action against them, they said.

They also said the building's superintendent changed his story since the evening of the fire, when he said there wasn't any work being done on the roof, to the time the fire marshals came out with its cause.

Mayor announces crackdown on parking placard abuse

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a controversial plan to issue parking permits to school staff members.

Now, he says City Hall plans to crack down and end rampant abuse.

“Parking is one of the biggest quality of life concerns of all New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.

As CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reports, the man who just gave anyone who works in a city school a placard bonanza – 50,000 of them – announced that just as he giveth he can taketh away.

Abusers will not only be fined or towed, but subject to “permanent ineligibility.”

“We’re concerned also about the placards that have been provided to police and other first responders,” de Blasio said.

Kramer: “Are you really going to tow cops and teachers’ cars, and really, really going to do it?”

De Blasio: “Sure.”

Kramer: “Why?”

De Blasio: “Because it’s against the rules. It’s as simple as that… It’s not fair to residents of neighborhoods.”

As part of the crackdown, the mayor is hiring 100 additional traffic agents to go after placard abusers, adding more tow trucks and creating a new $100 parking fine for placard misuse.

The chief enforcer will be the NYPD’s Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, who is also creating a new 16-member task force of cops.

Council Land Use Chair is stealthily tweeding

From the Observer:

The chairman of the City Council’s powerful Committee on Land Use, a crucial gatekeeper for all developers seeking zoning changes in the five boroughs, has several hundred thousand dollars from real estate interests socked away in a state political account for an undeclared office — and he has used the money to make periodic payments to an operative known to be plotting his own bid for a Council seat.

State Board of Elections records show Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield has $308,641.71 stashed in a campaign account called “GreenfieldNY” — a separate entity from his re-election committee, “Greenfield NYC.” Both troves of political lucre report as their headquarters the home address of a Democratic Party apparatchik named Kalman Yeger and his wife Jennifer Berger, who works for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board, with which the Greenfield NYC account is registered, forbids donations from corporations, business partnerships and law firms, so as to reduce the influence of private interests and to amplify and empower individual citizens. The state rules governing the GreenfieldNY account, however, include no such stipulations.

Of the funds in the GreenfieldNY account, $86,600 would be outright verboten under city rules. All but a few of the contributing companies are real estate entities, or are businesses belonging to individuals who also deal in property development and management.