Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Judges skeptical of mall on parkland

From the Daily News:

The state's highest court tossed a curveball to the city and a Queens developer hoping to build a $1 billion mall near Citi Field.

At least four judges on the six-judge panel of the Court of Appeals appeared skeptical of arguments by the city, state and developer, Queens Development Group, that the mall could be built on a parking lot designated as parkland.

“The primary purpose of this activity is a private purpose: to lease space and set up a shopping mall so people will spend money in the context of going to a sports event,” Justice Eugene Fahey said Tuesday. “Aren’t we required . . . that this particular development be approved by the Legislature?”

The oral arguments, which took place in a special session in White Plains, revolved around the 1961 law allowing the construction of Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park. The mall and movie theater, dubbed Willets West, would be built on the 30-acre site where the stadium once stood.

Assistant Solicitor General Anisha Dasgupta argued for the state that the proposed mall does have a public benefit because it will include public spaces and free attractions that go beyond a standard retail center. She noted a rooftop garden would be open to kids.

City attorney Michael Pastor echoed that argument.

“This is a public attraction. . . It’s a large public space. There’s public programming there,” he said.

But those public benefits didn’t override the project’s overall purpose, which seemed to conflict with the law’s original intent to allow a ballpark in the park, Fahey said.

“We can clearly see the economic viability of the project,” he said. "(The law) was aiming to provide a home for the Mets . . . now how far can you go askew of that?”

2 Queens political dynasties challenged by civic leaders

From the Queens Chronicle:

Longtime Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden is running for City Council.

The Middle Village resident exclusively told the Chronicle of his plans on Tuesday, two days ahead of what he says will be his official announcement of a Democratic primary challenge against Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) at Thursday’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting.

The fiery Holden's biggest inspiration to run is simple, he said. District 30 desperately needs new leadership.

"We're at a point where we simply can't have Elizabeth Crowley for four more years," Holden said. "It it wasn't Crowley in charge, maybe I wouldn't run. But it's time the neighborhood had some leadership at City Hall and in the community."

The leader of his civic association for decades, Holden has long been a fierce critic of Crowley — a cousin of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) — claiming she is ineffective and out-of-touch with neighborhood residents.

"I think it's my turn to step up," he said. "I know I'm going against the party machine and it's going to get nasty. But I know how to fight. I've demonstrated that."

And as we know, long time civic advocate Paul Graziano is running against Paul Vallone.

We live in interesting times!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DeBlasio campaign promise: free pre-K for 3-year olds

From PIX11:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to expand his pre-K initiative to include 3-year-olds for fall of 2017. His Pre-K for All program launched in 2014 after state legislators allocated budget funds for 4-year-old children to attend pre-K.

“We are doubling down with free, full-day, high-quality 3-K for all for our three-year-olds,” said Mayor de Blasio. “This extra year of education will provide our children with a level of academic and social development that they cannot get later on.”

De Blasio hopes to launch a pilot this year at a cost of $36 million. That cost will more than quadruple to $177 million by 2021 when the program goes citywide. Meeting that goal will require funding assistance from the state and federal government.

Are property tax assessments done fairly?

From the Daily News:

This year Mayor de Blasio will pay $3,581 in property taxes on each of two row houses he owns in ultra-gentrified Park Slope. The city says his properties are worth about $1.6 million apiece.

Some 14 miles away, in middle-class Laurelton, Queens, Arthur Russell, 66, who retired from computer sales, will pay a property tax bill that, at $4,569, is about 28% higher than the mayor’s — even though the city says his single-family home is worth 75% less than de Blasio’s properties, at $396,000.

If Russell were taxed like the mayor, his bill would fall by roughly $3,500 a year.

“That money could be vacation money,” said Russell, who is African-American. “It’s a substantial amount. My frustration is that it’s blatant abuse. People, if you take a look at this thing, you see disparity.”

Across the five boroughs, the city Department of Finance is subjecting tens of thousands of homeowners to similarly unequal billing — with the winners located primarily in upscale neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and Greenwich Village and the losers located overwhelmingly in working- and middle-class neighborhoods like South Jamaica, East New York and Brownsville.

Often, the brunt falls most heavily on black or Hispanic property owners.

A coalition called Tax Equity Now NY, which includes the NAACP, the Black Institute, several landlords and homeowners, has teamed up with lawyers from the firm Latham & Watkins, including former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann, to file a class-action suit this week charging that the DNA of the city’s property tax system is racially biased and favors the affluent over the working- and middle-class.?

Kosciuszko Bridge will open this week

From NBC 4:

The first span of the project to replace the aging Kosciuszko Bridge is opening to drivers this week, and News 4's Andrew Siff got an exclusive look at the 800-pound original plaque that will mark the new bridge's opening along with Gov. Cuomo. But drivers shouldn't expect a major change in traffic congestion there for a few years -- here's why.

The bridge will open with a light show Thursday night.

Monday, April 24, 2017

LIC residents want park, not another tower

From LIC Post:

A local development company filed plans to build a new 18-story residential and commercial tower in Long Island City yesterday, but a community group is looking to fight the project.

Rockrose Development, a company with several projects in Long Island City, filed plans yesterday to build an 18-story, 123-unit residential tower, with retail space on the first floor at 43-12 Hunter Street. The site is known by residents as ‘The Lot.’

According to the plans filed with the Department of Buildings, the project would have an outdoor terrace and amenity room for residents on the tenth floor, and another terrace and lounge on the 18th floor, as well as an exercise room. There would also be a lobby, laundry room, and mailroom on the bottom floors.

The new building would be 228 feet tall and would have 4,054 square feet of retail space. It would also have 86,562 square feet of residential space, meaning each apartment would average just over 700 square feet.

The Court Square Civic Association is attempting to fight back against the development, as the site has long been used as a public gathering space, despite the fact that it is privately owned.

The group has launched an online petition today calling for elected officials to work with Rockrose to save the property as open space and to generally create more open space and public parks in the area.

Towing company thinks they own public property

"Here is the Runway towing business. Very similar to other areas in Queens with cars parked on the sidewalk, cars parked on city streets with no license plates, their tow trucks parked on the street and sidewalk. It is located at 124-20 South Conduit Ave, South Ozone Park. If you want to Google Map it you will see all the illegal crap going on, but here are some pictures I took." - anonymous