Friday, December 2, 2016

Weiner used campaign cash in a shady manner

From NBC:

Ex-mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner continues his precipitous fall from grace; this time, he's been slapped with $64,956 in fines by the city Campaign Finance Board Thursday for misusing campaign funds over the past decade.

The board unanimously voted to fine his campaign for ten violations of campaign law, including accepting contributions from corporations and making impermissible post-election expenditures.

Weiner's campaign spent $1,539 on dry cleaning and bills for two cellphones. The campaign said one of the phones was a personal line used for fundraising in 2013 and the other was acquired during his 2005 mayoral campaign.

He received a $2,308 fine for these violations since converting campaign funds to personal use is prohibited.

He was fined another $22,031 for spending $600 on TVs and over $56,000 on improperly documented labor.

The former congressman's campaign spent $115,268 post-election, including $46,169 to a consultant. The CFB found that the expense was impermissible because the campaign didn't provide documentation for the individuals they paid.

Weiner allegedly accepted 21 over-the-limit contributions in excess of the allowable limit of $4,950, as well as two illegitimate gifts from corporations.

The campaign will have to repay $196,377 in unused taxpayer matching funds. A source close to the 2013 Weiner campaign said the amount is money left in his account; by law, it will be returned to taxpayers.

Closed Holliswood Hospital remains "open and unguarded"

From the Queens Tribune:

The long-vacant Holliswood Hospital at 87-37 Palmero St. in Hollis is going through court hearings for two Department of Buildings “unsafe buildings” violations, according to the Department of Buildings.

The building received an “unsafe building” violation in November of 2015, when it was determined that the building was left open, vacant and unguarded. It received the second violation this past August, according to the DOB spokesperson.

Court documents filed on Sept. 20 with the Queens Civil Supreme Court show that the specific complaints are that “many of the windows, rear and side doors are broken/open and accessible,” and that the “equipment room door at rear of property is open and accessible.” The building has had two hearings so far—one on Nov. 23 and the other yesterday, Nov. 30. An unsafe-building violation can be dismissed if the work is done to correct the unsafe condition and a new DOB inspection finds no violating conditions, according to the DOB spokesperson.

The defunct hospital has been the center of controversy in the Hollis community for at least a year, and neighbors have repeatedly cited the building as a hazard. The former drug rehabilitation center shut down in 2013 and was purchased by Flushing-based developer Steve Cheung in July 2015. In that time, the hospital has sat vacant, often with wide-open doors and broken windows.

Linda Valentino, president of the Holliswood Civic Association, says that some neighbors have reported questionable people entering the unsecured hospital. She added that other neighbors have reported a serious mold problem—the consequence of severe flooding after the sprinklers in the building’s top floor burst and saturated the whole building with water.

City mechanic does good by taxpayers

From CBS 2:

A mechanic for the New York City fire department is being honored for saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars through his ingenuity.

Jomar Pichardo’s job is to keep the city’s fleet of EMS ambulances running while working out of the department’s garage in the Long Island City section of Queens.

“I just like tinkering with stuff, so if I see something that can be fixed I’ll pretty much find a way to fix it,” Pichardo said.

He has saved the FDNY more than $700,000 annually by inventing ways to refurbish ambulance batteries and car parts that would normally be tossed away and replaced.

Pichardo created a charging room to squeeze extra life out of ambulance batteries, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Slumlord brothers sentenced to community service

From NY1:

Two Brooklyn landlords this week answered to charges of harassing and illegally forcing rent-stabilized tenants out of their apartments.

Joel and Aaron Israel own several buildings in Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

The brothers were arrested in April, accused of deliberately destroying the kitchens and bathrooms in several apartments under the guise of renovations.

Prosecutors charged they wanted to remove rent-stabilized tenants, to rent the apartments at market rate.

As part of a deal, the two have pleaded guilty to scheming to defraud and unlawful eviction.

Both will receive five years probation, perform community service, and pay a nearly a quarter-million dollars in restitution.

City cracking down on license plate covers

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio and the city’s top cop vowed Tuesday to crack down on drivers, including police officers, who cover their license plates to block enforcement cameras.

The Daily News reported that misplaced or covered license plates have let motorists violate traffic laws and dodge tickets in at least 144,852 cases over the past two years.

“If people do that, we are going to catch them and we are going to penalize them,” Mayor de Blasio told reporters during a press conference at police headquarters. “This is another area where we are going to deepen enforcement and there will be more consequences. So if someone has one of those covers I'd advise them to get them off real quick because the NYPD is coming.”

Developer illegally demolished affordable housing

From DNA Info:

A major developer that demolished a residential building by falsely telling the city it didn't contain any rent-regulated apartments should compensate for the lost units by constructing new, permanently affordable ones, local officials say.

Last week, representatives for The Related Companies attended a Community Board 4 land use committee meeting hoping to secure the board’s support to construct a mixed-use building at a five-lot site at the southeast corner of West 23rd Street and 11th Avenue currently owned and operated by U-Haul.

But ever since the committee discovered that Related filed false information with the city’s Department of Buildings allowing the developer to raze a residential building at 500 W. 28th St. in the Special West Chelsea District that shouldn’t have been demolished, the board has been “very upset,” committee co-chair Betty Mackintosh said.

Department of Housing Preservation and Development records show that the West 28th Street building housed six apartment units before its demolition — at least one of which was rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, according to a letter CB4 plans to send to the DOB.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

City doesn't have permission to house homeless at Maspeth hotel

From Crains:

The owner of a controversial Queens hotel site that's being used as a homeless shelter is suing the hotel's operator, opening up a second legal battle that threatens to undermine Mayor Bill de Blasio's plans to house the city's homeless.

Harshad Patel runs the Holiday Inn Express at 59-40 55th Road in Maspeth. This summer, he announced plans to lease rooms to the city's Department of Homeless Services for use as temporary housing. The news prompted boisterous protests from local residents, which were strongly condemned by the de Blasio administration.

While Patel built and now runs the hotel, his firm, New Ram Realty, leases the land it sits on from Kimcomatt Realty Corp. That company, which is run by Barry Haskell, denied Patel's Aug. 25 request to rent the rooms in bulk to the administration, citing a clause in the ground lease that permits rooms to be rented only to hotel guests.

As the backlash over the shelter plans reached a crescendo in early September, Patel told media outlets that he was backing off the deal due to community opposition. But the new lawsuit alleges that shortly thereafter, New Ram Realty quietly worked out an agreement to rent the rooms to the city anyway, in a deal that was specifically structured to circumvent the use restrictions in the ground lease.

On Oct. 10, around 30 homeless adults were moved into the hotel. About two weeks later, Kimcomatt filed the lawsuit in Queens Supreme Court, asking a judge to block any more homeless individuals from moving into the building, and to rule that New Ram is in violation of its lease. "The potential profit to New Ram must have been too great to turn down," the suit said, "because in blatant disregard of the terms of its lease and in contradiction to its representations to the community, New Ram has begun the conversion of the hotel to a homeless shelter."

Complaint against New Ram Realty, owner of the Maspeth Holiday Inn by crainsnewyork on Scribd

Swans saved - for now

From Sheepshead Bites:

Mute swans have a new look on life now that a bill was passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo ending the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) prohibition of the species, according to State Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, who wrote the bill.

Cymbrowitz has doggedly tried to place a moratorium on the state’s plan to cull New York’s mute swan population — which the DEC targeted for extermination in 2013. Governor Andrew Cuomo has twice vetoed legislation that would halt the DEC’s effort to eliminate the swans, which the agency says are an invasive species that threaten local ecosystems.

“The people have spoken and I’m pleased that the Governor has listened,” Cymbrowitz said. “Tens of thousands of New Yorkers signed petitions, sent letters and emails to the Governor’s office, and, in my community, called my office to tell me how much they enjoy watching the swans in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach. People were very vocal about their support of this bill, and I have to believe it made all the difference.”

The bill establishes a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s plan to manage the mute swan population, which were introduced to North America from Europe in the 1800s. It also requires the agency favor non-lethal management techniques and provides stronger evidence that the swans endanger ecosystems.

BQE to undergo 5-year overhaul

From CBS 2:

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is slated for a major rehabilitation project — one that could cause potential traffic headaches for the thousands of commuters that traverse the aged outer-borough roadway every day.

The ambitious $1.7 billion undertaking aims to repair a 1.5 mile stretch of the highway, which features 21 concrete and steel bridges towering over city streets, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

“The BQE project, what we’re calling “Sands To Atlantic,” is a huge, challenging, almost once-in-a-lifetime project,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

According to the DOT, the rehabilitation plan will work to revitalize the roadway’s crumbling, decades-old infrastructure, repair potholes and improve road accessibility.

The project is slated to begin in two years and will take around five years to complete, Trottenberg said.