Sunday, December 31, 2006

Building Boom in NYC Hits the Wall

According to today's Post, the building boom in NYC has hit the wall. We in Queens know that overall, the housing market may have levelled off, but that they will continue to tear down our neighborhoods and sit on the vacant land until demand once again goes up.

Feds Probe Death of Crushed Worker

Another account of a death on a construction site was printed in today's Daily News. This one was in our borough, in Astoria. Department of Buildings, why do you allow this to continue?

Brick Houses, Winding Paths and Unexpected Sharp Elbows

The New York Times ran a piece today entitled, "Brick Houses, Winding Paths and Unexpected Sharp Elbows" about Sunnyside Gardens. It seems that certain residents of the neighborhood would like to see it designated an historic district while others don't. It's no surprise that Prof. Meiklejohn of Hunter College's Urban Plannning Department is leading the opposition to landmarking. She is the person behind the Corona and Dutch Kills studies that said those areas need massive upzoning for immigrant influx. I guess Sunnyside Gardens should look like Elmhurst in her opinion. There are already two historic districts near the 7 train, we can't have another! Professor Meiklejohn did expose a dirty little secret, however: Landmarking increases, not decreases property values, and is used to help rich people keep their neighborhood rich, or to gentrify targeted areas. Photo is of Sunnyside in 1900, when the Gardens was still decades away from being built.

The View No Longer Is Pleasant

The American Saltbox architectural design dates back to the colonial era. It was popular throughout the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries and its style was purely functional. The houses were built no higher than two floors with an attic and central chimney, and were small in area in order to conserve heat in the winter. The roof would slope down almost to the ground on the north side to serve as a windbreak, which created a shed-like structure where the kitchen would usually be located. The name “saltbox” comes from the asymmetrical shape of the house, which was said to resemble that of receptacles of the time period that were used to store salt. This house stood on the north side of Metropolitan Avenue at the corner of Pleasantview Street.
Once again, a relic of our community’s past was demolished in the name of progress. In 1986, a 49-unit condominium, which looks more like a prison with balconies, was erected in place of the saltbox house and some of its neighbors. This is one of the most extreme examples of over-development in Middle Village.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Major" Disaster

Major James Cating served in the Union army during the Civil War and received a battlefield promotion for bravery. In 1865, the war hero settled in Maspeth and established Cating Rope Works, which became one of the area’s major employers. He was also a master builder. Among the houses he constructed were three along 69th Street north of 53rd Avenue – one for himself, one for his brother and one for his sister. Two of these houses are pictured here.
In 1998, the three one-family houses were knocked down and a dozen cookie-cutter two-family houses were built in their place, ruining both the history and character of that part of Maspeth, not to mention eliminating your chances of finding a place to park around there.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Wrecking the Rows

With the impending rezoning of downtown Jamaica to include 10 to 30-story buildings, much of the low-rise feel of the area is in jepoardy. Of particular interest are the Electus B. Litchfield Rowhouses on 146th Street, just west of Sutphin Boulevard between Hillside and Jamaica avenues. Litchfield, a railroad magnate and developer who created neighborhoods that were serviced by his rail lines, constructed this rowhouse block in 1912-1913.
These romantically- designed houses, with eclectic finishes including oriel windows, gabled attic dormers and Federal Revival-style detailing, have seen better days; much of downtown Jamaica went through a period of severe disinvestment 40 years ago that it still has not recovered from. Still, the buildings have more or less survived, many with much of their original detailing intact. And then.....BAM! Recently, on the west side of the street, a four-story apartment house that neither respects the setback or height of the rowhouses was built. A lack of landmarking; lack of contextual zoning; and lack of political will created this monster and damaged this block. A similar situation happened on 36th Street in Astoria not too many years ago - and it will happen again and again until we as voters put a stop to it. Wake up, borough of homes - it's time to save things that mean something.

City's Building Boom Enters a New Phase

At least now we're talking about improving infrastructure... from the NY Sun:

City's Building Boom Enters a New Phase

Queens Village Trifecta

R.S.D. again:

"It started as a small growth in the front, and just kept getting bigger and bigger until the neighbors started to wonder what the heck was going on.

First the porch, then the attic, and then this monstrosity emerged from what used to be a decent-looking home at 92-87 224 St.

DOB's response to a complaint about the creature in the front? A violation for "not having the plans on the premises." A simple little violation that's used when the inspector really doesn't want to give out the summons the homeowner deserves. Hey, it's still a violation, right? Well, it's easily dismissed, once the plans show up. And of course, no need to pay a fine, because the violation was "cured."
Meanwhile, the appendage is still there, and the complaint is closed.
But wait, what about that illegally enlarged attic that will be used for (wink, wink) storage? Pay a $250. fine, and go on your way. Sure, there's still an "uncured violation," but you really can't expect the poor innocent homeowner to remove it all, can you? The nerve of you to even think that."

A close look at the 2nd photo shows that after all this time, the right side ceiling still isn't finished, and the holes for the light fixtures on the four pillars are still open with bare electrical wires hanging out.

The pair of white "storm doors" in the front aren't storm doors at all, but they're heavy-duty aluminum and glass storefront doors, the same type that are used on stores throughout NYC."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

House Tumor

More from R.S.D.; this is at 220-20 Davenport Ave:
Sometimes, when homeowners get reported to the Dept of Buildings for having an illegal occupancy, they get mad. When they're actually caught with an illegal conversion, they can get furious. They want to "get back at" the people that reported them.
With the anonymous complaint system in place, how do they seek revenge on the one person who reported them when they don't know who it is?
Heck, they might as well get back at the whole neighborhood, then.
This is one homeowner's intelligent response. He had a 285 square foot "horizontal enlargement" approved by the beauty pageant people at DOB. Yes, this green monster attaches itself to the original house like a parasite. Pure beauty, wouldn't you say?

Daily Snooze

The New York Daily News today published a year-end review of everything that went on in Queens in 2006. Of course, the details of overdevelopment projects along the waterfront are highlighted while related stories, such as anticipated hospital closings and the Astoria blackout, two topics that are directly connected to our lack of preparedness for the avalanche of new development, are just footnotes:

The year's 'cooler' moments

If that isn't bad enough, we have our illustrious Queens Borough President lauding the effort to convert a former Jamaica courthouse into Queens Crap. Check out the photo of the architectural rendering for this and shudder... The plan is to basically take the facade of this beautiful building and embed it into a glass nightmare.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Glendale Yeshiva Gets DOB’s Okay

by Sam Goldman, Times Newsweekly, December 7, 2006

After a long struggle, the owners of the former Monarch knitting mill have finally received a certificate of occupancy, bringing their vision of turning the site into a yeshiva a step closer to fruition.

The certificate of occupancy, granted by the Department of Buildings to YGS Congregation Inc. on Monday, calls for a two-floor, 28-foot high structure with a lecture hall, a kitchen and cafeteria, a mikvah (a traditional Jewish bathing room), a library and classrooms for the yeshiva.

The site has been the focus of controversy for several years, but in recent months (as previously reported by the Times Newsweekly) the Glendale Civic Association had announced plans to file a lawsuit against the city and the DOB, demanding that the city crack down on what the GCA claimed to be numerous code violations by the developers at the yeshiva site and other locations in the area. The lawsuit also seeks to end the city’s self-certification program.

In November, representatives of the GCA told the Times Newsweekly that the DOB was alerted in October 2005 to as many as 20 buildings code violations found by an architect hired by the civic group to examine plans for the yeshiva site. At that time, it was noted, the blueprints called for the construction of transient hotel rooms to ostensibly house students overnight. The GCA had contested that these rooms would violate existing zoning statutes. However, the DOB reportedly did not issue any violations to YGS.

New plans for the yeshiva were later submitted to the DOB, where the hotel rooms were removed and “classrooms” were added to the plan instead. The GCA contends that the revised plans did not differ greatly from original blueprints, and that the developers were trying to circumvent DOB regulations.

The GCA’s private architect again looked over the plans and again allegedly found 20 building code violations. However, the civic claimed that the DOB did not investigate the plans any further.

It was noted that the DOB had issued a temporary certificate of occupancy to the developers in order to host a Sept. 17 function at the site.

According to the Department of Buildings’ website, 61 complaints have been lodged against the site over the past two years, most of them coming this year.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, told the Times Newsweekly on Tuesday that “we pretty much expected that this was going to happen pretty soon.”

He noted that he still is worried about the issue of students staying overnight in the structure; however, he has been “informed that no one’s going to be sleeping there.”

He also mentioned two other issues that concern him:

• Up to 14 school buses a day will be used to load and unload students at the yeshiva. Giordano stated that to perform those duties on 88th Street would cause major traffic problems.

• Safety issues involving the entrances and exits of the yeshiva.

Giordano noted that, because community boards are city agencies, Board 5 cannot be a party to the GCA’s lawsuit.

He stated that he has been in constant contact with Rabbi David Neiderman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. Giordano stated that he has been a “liaison” between the board and the developers.

“When I’ve called him, he’s called me back,” Giordano said.

Yeshiva Opening Spurs Lawsuit, Renews Worry

by Colin Gustafson, Queens Chronicle, December 14th, 2006

The moment many Glendale residents have been trying to forestall for over two years came at 10 a.m. Sunday, when a line of buses pulled up to a new yeshiva at 88th Street and began unloading hundreds of students for their first day of class. The United Talmudical Seminary, located at 74 10 88th St., opened to an initial 600 pupils, despite loud objections by civic leaders who claim the facility will drain local resources and add nothing useful to the community.

The opening came six days after the city Department of Buildings temporarily certified the property for complying with city zoning, electrical and building ordinances. That approval defied calls by opponents last month to not issue a certificate of occupancy until the school had obtained a license to operate as a vocational school from the city Department of Education. The opening has also renewed concerns about increased traffic and noise problems. Since plans for its construction were first unveiled in early 2004, the yeshiva has drawn fire from residents who worry the school’s 11 buses will block roads and tie up traffic as more than 1,000 students arrive daily from Williamsburg at 6 a.m. and depart for home at 10 p.m.

“We’re going to have major problems with this school,” said Dorie Figliola at a Glendale Property Owners’ Association meeting last Thursday. “Now we have to wake up to the sound of buses idling in the street at six in the morning and blocking traffic on our way to work.”

Yeshiva officials were quick to allay these concerns, saying they had deliberately scheduled classes so as not to interfere with morning and evening traffic, especially near P.S. 113, the 529 seat elementary school located just blocks away. In addition, bus drivers will only allow students to board or disembark within the yeshiva’s fenced perimeter.

“We have made a special effort to accommodate people’s concerns,” said yeshiva spokesman David Neiderman. “Check our record. We are good neighbors.”

But some residents remain unconvinced. As early as Sunday’s opening, locals witnessed several buses blocking the entire roadway as students disembarked in the street outside the complex.

Civic leaders also worry the yeshiva sets a dangerous precedent for rapid, large scale future development in the neighborhood. The Glendale Civic Association sued the city on Nov. 9 for failing to enforce its own building codes and improperly “delegating government responsibility to private citizens” through a process known as self certification. That allows architects to approve their own plans without input from the Department of Buildings.

Citing evidence compiled against the yeshiva for over two years, the civic association will argue at a Jan. 10 court hearing that self certification has allowed developers to routinely abuse the department’s authority and paved the way for rampant overdevelopment throughout the borough.

“The yeshiva is just one of the more egregious examples of this (problem),” said Kathy Masi, president of the group filing the lawsuit. “At some point, we all need to stand up and do something about this.”

The yeshiva site was first slated to house a transient motel, but developers scrapped the plan after learning it would violate M 1 zoning rules. The Brooklyn based United Talmudic Seminary then purchased the site and, after receiving city approval, began converting planned bedrooms into classrooms. The Department of Buildings shot down an initial proposal to build a 100 student dormitory at the site.

Since work began in early 2004, the property has incurred four violations. In January, it was also slapped with a stop work order after developers failed to provide proper paperwork to inspectors. In addition, the yeshiva has prompted 61 complaints from residents, who have alleged that crews were working on weekends, building beyond the approved limits and violating the stop work order.

According to the lawsuit, a former architect for the Department of Buildings, Joseph Trivisonno, conducted two independent inspections at the site in October 2005 and March 2006, and found that the structure warranted additional violations for shoddy construction and lack of fire escapes from the cafeteria. A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

“When this kind of thing keeps happening, over and over, we can’t just sit around and wait for the DOB to do something,” said Gabriel Tapalaga, the lead attorney in the suit, “because by the time they act, you’re stuck with one of these three story atrocities.”

Here's an article which appeared in the Village Voice last year which exposed how DOB allows developers and certain religious groups to get away with building just about anything in our sister borough, Brooklyn. When the borough commissioner tried to crack down on it, he got fired!

Update on Building Collapse

The New York Post has a story on yesterday's partial building collapse which reveals that the project was part of a program whereby the city sells empty buildings to developers who turn them into low-income housing units in return for tax credits. Over the past 2 years, this company has received more than $400,000 in tax credits as per the NY Sun.

Village Idiots

R.S.D reports again from Queens Village:
A small one-family house was destroyed to make way for this, um, thing. Is it an apartment building, a three-family house, a motel?

This isn't a new building, people. This was an "alteration."

To see how these "minor" alterations affected the look of this building, take a look at the old photos of that same corner. One was taken in 1927, the other was taken about 2002.

Recognize the house?

Didn't think so.

This was supposed to be an alteration to increase the size of the house about 540 square feet, and to convert it to a two-family house. Look at the number of doors. Lot of doors for a two family house, huh?

On the bright side, the DOB is currently considering revoking the permits. Guess they thought this wasn't something a few bucks under the table could hide. Address: 90-27 Winchester Blvd.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Yet Another New Park for Manhattan

The NY Times reports that there are plans in the works for yet another park in Manhattan built upon a platform, similar to the High Line on the west side.

While St. Saviour's, costing just a fifth of what only the base for this proposed thing would cost, sits ignored in Queens. Another prime candidate for parkhood, the Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows, remains neglected as well.

Looks like Mr. Bloomberg needs to be reminded that there are 4 other boroughs of this city in addition to the one in which he resides!


Photo from
This didn't happen in Queens, but is very relevant to our topic. One worker was killed today in a partial building collapse in Manhattan and two others injured. Check out the DOB complaint history of this one. Perhaps if the city had responded to the emergency complaint lodged on 12/16, then maybe the poor guy under the sheet would be going home to enjoy Christmas leftovers tonight with his family instead of lying in the morgue.

Get this: According to the most recently approved DOB permit dated 10/17/06, it's a government building! Is it possible that work without a permit was perpetrated by New York City?

Full story on


Committee Opposes Developer’s Plan
by Robert Pozarycki, Times Newsweekly, December 14, 2006

The owners of the site of a former knitting mill and gym located at 71-13 60th Lane in Ridgewood (pictured above) are seeking to turn the four-story structure into a 55-unit condominium building. Community Board 5’s Land Use Committee passed a resolution at their Dec. 6 meeting in Glendale rejecting a variance for the proposal, suggesting that the developer redesign the plans to reduce the number of housing units to be constructed. (photo: Robert Pozarycki)

The planned conversion of a former Ridgewood knitting mill into a 55-unit condominium took an early hit, as Community Board 5’s Zoning and Land Use Committee voted to oppose the needed variance at its meeting last Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the board’s Glendale office.

Members of the committee drafted and agreed to a resolution last Wednesday recommending that the entire advisory body reject the variance application submitted by the owners of the four-story building, located at 71-13 60th Lane in Ridgewood.

Board 5 was scheduled to vote for or against the committee’s resolution at their meeting held last night, Dec. 11. No decision was rendered by the board as of press time.

In its resolution, the committee stated that it was in favor of some residential development at the site, although it suggested that the developer reduce the proposed number of housing units while providing additional off-street parking spaces. The body recommended that the developer build at least one parking space per housing unit.

The decision came after the committee heard concerns from its members, as well as local residents who stated that the current proposal provides enough parking spaces for only half of the residential units slated to be constructed. The lack of available spaces, they intimated, would compound existing traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood.

Variance for clearance

Before being considered by the Land Use Committee, members of Board 5 first heard plans for the condominium during a public hearing held prior to the advisory panel’s Nov. 8 meeting in Middle Village.

The community board held the hearing to consider a variance application submitted by the developer, Ridgewood Equities, Inc. The variance would allow for the owners to bypass an existing city zoning law requiring that all residential properties have 30 feet of clearance between the building line and neighboring properties.

Christopher Wright, an attorney representing Ridgewood Equities, informed the Land Use Committee last Wednesday that portions of the building’s northern side (near 71st Avenue) and southern wall (near Myrtle Avenue) were too close to adjacent lots, measuring less than the required 30 feet of space.

The attorney noted that the variance would allow for the units to share the “air rights” of neighboring properties in order for the proposed condominium units to obtain air and natural light. It was reported that the property is predominantly surrounded by the open backyards of homes and businesses on 71st and Myrtle avenues. Without the variance, Wright observed, the developers would not be able to use window spaces in areas where the building does not meet the 30-foot requirement. As a result, he noted, almost half of the building would be rendered uninhabitable.

Paul Kerzner, a member of the Land Use Committee and president of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, charged that the variance application denies the property’s neighbors of any opportunity to expand their homes.

“What you’re doing is taking value from those people,” he said. “If they wanted to get a variance to extend their property in the back, they would be precluded from doing that ... You’ve taken that property away from them without compensating them.”

Wright countered that the variance will not have an impact on the neighboring properties, adding that the variance covers only the knitting mill property.

The condo plan

Should the current building plan move forward, Wright stated, the developers would replace all windows on the property while also refacing the red and white brickwork. Additionally, he noted, contractors will restore existing fire escapes while installing two new elevators within the building.

The main entrance into the complex, Wright noted, would be located on the southern side of the property. All residents would enter through a lobby to be built close to the driveway leading to 60th Lane near Myrtle Avenue.

As noted, a total of 55 housing units have been proposed for the site, comprised of 15 one-bedroom apartments, 37 two-bedroom units, and three three-bedroom residences. The total gross sale value for all units is $20 million, Wright said.

To accommodate motorists living at the condominium building, the attorney stated, the developer will construct a 27-space parking lot in the rear yard of the building. Under the proposal, motorists will enter and exit the lot through a driveway leading to 71st Avenue, while the secondary driveway to 60th Lane would be reserved for foot traffic and emergency vehicles.

It was noted that the property currently remains on the open market, with the owners reportedly asking $6.5 million for the structure. Wright noted that the site must remain on the market according to regulations set by the Board of Standards and Appeals.

During the Nov. 8 board hearing, residents and members of Board 5 had expressed reservations regarding the large number of units to be constructed in the building in comparison to the number of parking spaces. Several board members also urged the developer to consider reducing the number of units and/or increasing the number of available parking spots.

Need to improve parking

At the Land Use Committee meeting, committee members and residents living near the knitting mill called on the developer to reconfigure the parking proposal to provide additional spaces to condominium residents while also allowing for both driveways on the property to be utilized by motorists.

One resident of 71st Avenue noted that most families in the area currently have two cars, outgrowing the number of available spaces on local streets and garages. As a result, he observed, many residents are forced to park their vehicles several blocks from their own home.

Another resident complained that the proposed dual entrance/exit from the lot onto 71st Avenue is too narrow and would most likely lead to numerous accidents along the residential street.

Fred Haller, a member of the Land Use Committee, stated that similar condominium projects within the board’s confines have also created enough parking spaces to provide at least one spot per unit. In citing one example, he noted that the Glendale condominium complex on 69th Place near Luther Road built parking spaces on the first floor of one of the buildings, which was a former factory.

His sentiments were echoed by committee member Michael Hetzer, who is also vice president of Citizens for a Better Ridgewood. He confirmed the numerous parking problems in the area and urged the developers to create a number of parking spaces equal to the number of residential units to be constructed.

Kerzner intimated that the entire knitting mill may even be better suited as a parking garage for the community. He noted that a converted facility would provide up to 100 parking spaces for local residents and shoppers.

One resident who heard of the idea stated that providing additional parking would be “a home run for the community.”

The attorney for the developer stated that the developer had tried to reconfigure the lot to provide additional spaces on the property. With the land available, he noted, the developer could provide between one and two additional spaces to the lot.

“I asked the architect to put as many spaces as they could, which turned out to be 27,” Wright said. “Could we squeeze one or two more? Maybe. But there are certain turning radiuses that you have to have” in order for vehicles to get around the lot.

Reserved on reductions

Wright added that the developer had considered three possible scenarios for lowering the housing units to be made available at the site. Each plan would increase the size of two- or three-bedroom apartments inside the premises.

In each case, Wright noted, the proposed number of units were lowered from 55 to between 48 and 51 apartments. He observed that the developer could lose up to $1 million in gross sales if the number of units is reduced further.

Committee member Theodore Renz, who also heads the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, stated that the economic hit the developer could take by reducing units would be minimal, adding that the loss would be compensated through reduced construction costs.

Steps to follow

Following Board 5’s vote, the variance will then be submitted to Borough President Helen Marshall for her approval or denial. Her decision will then be forwarded to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, which makes the final decision on all variances.

It was noted by Walter Sanchez, who chairs the Land Use Committee, that the BSA may still approve the variance application even if Board 5 and/or Borough President Marshall vote to reject it.

Home for the Holidays

J.W. from Saratoga County, NY, writes:

"While this image lacks the flashiness of some of the newer homes, You have to love the "bling." This home is located at 195-30 37th Avenue."

J.W. was visiting his dad in Flushing for Christmas.

A Queens Crap History Lesson

Zoning – A Hard Struggle Lies Ahead.
L I Star-Journal Editorial
Feb 8, 1940

Measured against what they were asking, the Queens homeowners got comparatively little of their campaign to restrict apartment house construction. What they did get was a blessing for residents along Grand Central parkway, Forest Hills, but it still leaves many square miles of territory in the community open of the invitation of massive human beehives that overtax public facilities and shut out the sunlight from small homes around them.

We must agree with Borough President Isaacs of Manhattan when he declared: “The unrestricted construction of apartment houses blights the whole area.

It is quite clear that our Board of Estimate has neither the inclination nor the ability to take the zoning of Queens – Borough President Lyons of the Bronx to the contrary notwithstanding. Zoning is a specialist job and it must be done by experts after sounding out public sentiment.

In that respect, Newbold Morris, president of the City Council has the right idea. “The charter should be amended,” he said, “so that the Board of Estimate would have nothing to do with zoning. It’s a matter the City Planning Commission ought to handle alone.”

The charter today gives the board power to upset the commission’s work and its net effect is to vitiate the commission and make it members nothing but advisers to men who, in most instances, know less than the commission about the subject at hand.

The latest zoning achievements in Queens are, of course, much better than nothing.

They indicate, however, the homeowner can get real improvements only by the hard way – that is, by a systematically, well organized effort led by men and women of perseverance and intelligence.

Speculator’s Interest vs. Home Owners

The speculator on vacant land is always gleeful when the apartment builder moves into the neighborhood in which his land in located. On the other hand, the home owner in the neighborhood too often is in for an unhappy time.

That is the reason for the determined campaign in Queens to put restrictions on apartment construction.

The speculator in vacant land is only waiting for a run up in increase in the value of his property so he can sell it at a profit. More often than not he does not live in the neighborhood and it does not matter to him what may be the effect of apartment development.

But the home owner stands to lose heavily when the apartment builder goes to work on his street. His problem is more than that of facing a sudden influx of strangers in what he believed would continue to be a quiet street.

His problem has a dollar and cents aspect, too.

By way of illustration:

Old Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst for decades was a quiet, tree-lined street with homes upon which the city’s assessors yearly placed higher than average valuations. Generally speaking, they were spacious house with large plots.

Then the apartment developers discovered the street. They saw its attraction as a place to live and started erecting multi-family buildings on some the vacant lots. The owners of the private houses immediately found that something was happening to their valuations. The city’s assessors, reflecting on a new condition, began look at the land rather than at the homes. Up went the land valuations and down with the house valuations.

Irony of the situation

The home owner learned that they were living now on a potential apartment site. So, whether they liked it or not, they were in effect in competition with the land speculator. If either were to sell, the most likely purchaser would be an apartment builder.

Ironically, however, the home owner was not in as advantageous a position as the land speculator. The apartment builder naturally prefers vacant land. If he must buy land with a house on it, he pays for house, and he must spend money to clear the house off the site.

So the speculator won out. He sold his vacant land to the apartment builder. Thereafter, as the process was repeated and apartment development spread throughout the community, the home owner’s land went up and up in value – on paper. And the value of his house declines.

Eventually of course, the home owner may be able to sell – when the speculators have unloaded all their vacant land. We say the “may” be able to sell, for there is nothing at all to prevent the apartment builder from moving elsewhere when the vacant land available is that particular community is all built up.

Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst is only one illustration. The same thing has happened in practically all the old communities of Queens. The home owner has been penalized for being a home owner instead of a speculator.

Queens Boro President Harvey, the same month:

Borough President George Harvey, leader in the campaign to restrict apartment house construction in Queens so that the borough’s “country-like suburban atmosphere” might be preserved, came out again too much zoning.

He said zoning, in many instances, was comparable with confiscation of property and suggested that the city Planning Commission be abolished because “We used to get along without them.” Said he: “This planning is a fine thing in theory but you just can’t do it. We can’t have someone in Manhattan coming over and saying what to do with our property in Queens. The old way was better, when we had elected official decide these zoning problems. A lot of property in Queens has actually been confiscated by this kind of planning.”

The borough president delivered himself of the observations at a hearing before the Board of Estimate on the Planning Commission proposal to prohibit unrestricted apartment house building in Forest Hills. About 200 homeowners jammed the board chambers during the February 2 meeting to plead for favorable action to the zoning change, which they said, preserved the only hope they had of protecting their property investment.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Wish

This scene is in West Maspeth. The area was once made up of the summer homes of wealthy Manhattanites, such as Governor DeWitt Clinton, who planned the Erie Canal from his mansion which sat on Newtown Creek a stone's throw from this, St. Saviour's Church. The land became overwhelmed with factories in the 20th century, and now it is heavily polluted. There is a truck route and a diesel trainyard across the street from this property. The 185 trees upon the 1.5-acre green space, many of which are old-growth, act as a buffer between all this pollution and the pre-industry homes on the other three sides of it.

The developer who bought the property last year intends to demolish the structures, destroy the trees, level the hill and build 71 units of Queens Crap. At right are glimpses of the developer's other properties.
The councilman in this area, Dennis Gallagher, was asked to help but told his constituents there was "nothing he could do." When they got angry, had the developer shut down and threatened the passage of a required zoning change he had applied for, the developer hired the Parkside Group, a powerful lobbying firm.
One of the founders of the firm happens to be the councilman's best friend and donates tons of money to his campaign.
All of a sudden, Gallagher found that there was something he could do - and now he is lobbying the community board for approval of the zoning change on behalf of the developer!

With our elected officials shamelessly doing the bidding of developers in exchange for campaign contributions, is there any mystery as to why we have so much crap here in Queens?

The St. Saviour's story can be read in detail here.

The Juniper Park Civic Association is asking Mayor Bloomberg to have the city purchase the property as part of the initiative to have every NYC resident within a 10 minute walk of a park by the year 2030. You may ask the Mayor to arrange for the city to buy St. Saviour's so that the kids who live in this area will no longer be forced to play in the parking lots of warehouses. Yes, that's what they are doing now. Submit your suggestion here:
PlanNYC2030 - Open Spaces

This is how the interior of St. Saviour's looked in 1961 at Christmastime. Queens Crap hopes that Mayor Bloomberg receives a visit from the ghost of Christmas Future, sees what a mistake it would be to lose this place, and becomes "the man who saved St. Saviour's." This place should be preserved for the people of Maspeth, who, as evidenced by this blog, are inundated with Queens Crap. One New Year's resolution for a group of residents is to continue to fight to make sure that the entire parcel is protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

In parting for our Christmas Eve celebrations, let's recall a quote from a famous poem penned by Clement Clarke Moore, descendant of original founders of western Queens:

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cookie-Cutter Crap

These houses stood on the northeast corner of 77th Place and Furmanville Avenue. They were built during the post-Civil War era, circa 1870s-1880s and were two well-preserved examples of the type of homes built in the Middle Village area throughout the 19th century.
The two detached one-family homes were replaced by four two-family attached homes in 1996. Did they need to pour concrete over every green space they had?

We are in favor of cookie cutters here at Queens Crap when they are used to make delicious Christmas treats, but not when they are wielded by greedy developers who build crap such as this.

Bravo Times Two

Local headlines reveal that some headway was made this past week in cracking down on Queens Crap:

Housing Violations In Bellerose To Be Fixed

Queens residents rip home-to-hotel switch

Bravo, Senator Padavan and Councilman Avella!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Congestion Pricing: What's the Problem With Queens?

The following was published by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Queens Crap will reserve judgment on this one. We'll let you decide whether you agree with what they wrote. One thing is for sure, however: SOMETHING needs to be done about all the traffic in Queens. When you serve as the gateway between Manhattan and Long Island, it's inevitable that traffic will be a nightmare!

Congestion Pricing: What's the Problem With Queens?

Discussion about congestion pricing in New York City continued over the past few weeks, with the Manhattan Institute releasing results of focus group discussions of the issue. Bruce Schaller, the transportation consultant running the groups, found that support for congestion pricing among New Yorkers is mixed but not the political hot potato many think it is.

The study found that New Yorkers are especially attracted to congestion pricing if they think it will increase travel choices, be equitable, and reduce travel time in severely congested corridors. Overall, the findings were consistent with a Tri-State Transportation Campaign survey that found New Yorkers evenly split on applying a London-like congestion pricing plan to New York (MTR #545).

Schaller recommends a plan that includes congestion pricing for the Manhattan CBD, high occupancy toll lanes on key city highways and higher parking rates.

Knee-jerk opposition to congestion pricing in any form came as usual from Queens politicians, now coalesced with the AAA and parking industry as the Committee to Keep New York City Congestion-Tax Free. The committee is headed by former NYC City Council member Walter McCaffrey. The group says it supports improvements in transit service though offers no way to pay for them nor identifies clear entry points for discussion of such plans, such as the next MTA capital program.

Strangely, six of the seven bridges or tunnels that connect Queens to other boroughs (and most of Queens to the Rockaways) already have tolls. So is the big fuss in Queens really just about keeping the chronically-clogged Queensboro Bridge toll-free? It is true that Queens connections to some of the free bridges in Brooklyn are pretty direct (if one were driving from eastern Queens to City Hall, for example) but the big shifts in free versus paid car access to the central business district under the Manhattan Institute plan would be in Brooklyn and The Bronx, rather than in Queens.

McCaffrey told the New York Post that congestion pricing is a tax that would “hurt those just trying to make ends meet” who “have no choice but to drive.”

But the data contradicts such statements, as Bruce Schaller noted recently in the Gotham Gazette. Most people who drive in New York are in fact wealthier than those who take transit. Schaller notes that Manhattan-bound auto commuters from the outlying parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Islandearn 35% more than their more numerous counterparts who take the subway. And the fact that, according to the Census, only 28% of Manhattan-bound commuters who live in eastern Queens, southeastern Brooklyn or Staten Island drive to work proves that most people do, in fact, have access to transit. Driving into Manhattan is a choice, not a necessity.

According to the Tri-State Campaign public opinion poll, Queens residents are not overwhelmingly opposed to pricing policies to reduce congestion, as McCaffrey’s group would like the rest of the city to believe. In fact, Queens’ residents are evenly split on the issue, with 44% for and 45% opposed.

See and For further results of Tri-State’s poll,

Rego Park Travesty

The photo on the right is starkly illustrative of the contrasting ideals of the developers of the 1920s and the ones polluting NYC streetscapes today. The Tudor shown on the right has tasteful, engaging touches designed to catch the admiring eye of not only the people who live in this house, but also visitors, vendors and businesspeople who are passing through. The house on the left was built from a template. The grassy lawn of the Tudor has been replaced by concrete ramps leading to basement garages. Air conditioning units, water meters, and cheap metal balconies that rust almost from their installation highlight the exterior instead of the life-affirming touches that marked our architecture in previous decades.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Beefing Up Code Enforcement

There is an excellent editorial in this week's Queens Chronicle (12/21/2006):

Every week, it’s the same story with a different headline. City fails to enforce building codes in Glendale. Controversial developer halted in Maspeth. Builder blasted for shoddy work in Bayside. It’s no secret that the city has failed to keep pace with development—and that, time and again, the consequence has been unmonitored construction that leaves residents with oversized eyesores and slipshod structures in their community.

With development in Queens continuing at a healthy clip, the problems show few signs of abating. This year alone, the number of citywide building code violations rose 6.2 percent, with construction related infractions constituting most of that increase. That uptick coincided with a 5.5 percent rise in the number of construction applications submitted to the Department of Buildings—and an astounding 33.7 percent jump in buildings related 311 complaints.

There is little doubt that self certification is the prime culprit. For decades, the DOB has allowed licensed architects and engineers hired by developers to approve plans without subjecting them to the detailed scrutiny of city examiners. Dating back to 1975, the policy has provided relief to a department plagued by shortages in personnel to enforce city codes. Today, nearly half of all building applications filed rely on self certification, up from 4.4 percent a decade ago.

In theory, the policy should work, since practitioners place their license on the line when vouching for a developer. But in practice, the system is ripe for abuse. With the DOB auditing just 17.5 percent of this year’s 12,672 self certified plans, many architects assume, often correctly, that they can sidestep the rules while avoiding sanctions. And once a building is certified, the floodgates are open for unscrupulous developers to railroad their projects through with minimal city oversight. Today, the DOB employs just 350 inspectors to oversee nearly a million active sites. The result: developers today are less willing than ever to cross their t’s and dot their i’s when it comes to building up to code—especially when the penalties are lax and the profit motive high.

So what can be done? That’s a tough question. The most logical recourse would be to permanently end self certification, but doing so may not be realistic. It would be far too expensive for the city to monitor every project and as long as that continues to be the case, buildings officials will have to delegate some responsibilities.

But there are some steps we can take. The first should be to make it easier for the city to revoke self certification privileges for any practitioner who knowingly falsifies an application. The next step, self evident as it may seem, would be to steer more funding to the chronically understaffed DOB so it can hire more enforcement officers to conduct audits, carry out random inspections and mete out punishments. The City Council has already beefed up penalties by passing two bills that require steeper fines and harsher mandatory minimum sentences for developers who violate a stop work order.

But if anybody could be doing more to alleviate the strain, it’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In his more than five years in office, the mayor has given huge subsidies to developers to spur economic growth, yet done little to expand the department’s capacity to monitor those new projects. His sweeping, longterm vision for the Big Apple, unveiled at the Queens Museum of Art last week, calls for even more housing by 2030 to accommodate an additional 1 million city residents. A more powerful mechanism to rein in unscrupulous developers will become all the more vital as new housing springs up in every neighborhood of Queens.

The mayor has bet much of his legacy on overhauling the Department of Education, but he should not restrict his efforts to just one perennially failing city agency. The buildings department is also in need of a serious shake up. The quicker the mayor recognizes that fact, and acts on it, the sooner we can look forward to living in a growing community that hasn’t been ruined by the people who built it.

From Across the Pond with Love

From A.D.:

"Why can't NYC do what other cities do and LEAVE old buildings alone?
NYC is a young city compared with European cities, but still has the charm associated with the buildings erected between 1650 and 1930. NYC was never bombed in the war and, so had very little excuse to build monstrous housing projects and concrete carbuncles like the Heygate or Aylesbury Estates in London.

NYC like any othe city in the 60s and 70s went through renewal projects, sweeping away neighbourhoods and building rubbish in their place. Now, that is being reversed but gone is the charm and uniqueness of the old neighbourhoods. Anything old that can be saved is now restored (this process started in the mid 70s when wholesale clearance was being questioned at high level). NYC should do the same, spruce up the old neighbourhoods, clean the bricks, restore the old signage, lighting and maybe even put up an 'el' or two; not tear them down and put unfitting monstrosities in their wake. NYC has a 'monstrosity zone' where tall corporate buildings can go up, and regeneration zones, where spruce and well designed apartments can go; but not the clearance of places like Flushing, Staten Island and Brooklyn for the sake of it.

The tide turned here in the late 70s. it started in 1973 when plans were submitted to clear the whole of Covent Garden, including the market and replace it with muck. The fruit and flower stalls were beginning to move out when people complained that heritage and historical features should remain. As you know, around 1973 saw the demise and destruction of washington street market - we wanted to do the same! In the end, objections ruled and the planning was revoked; hence only half of the area got redeveloped and the 17th century market remained. This turned the tide for wholesale clearance and it only happens now where neighbourhoods are too neglected to revitalise.

Britons and the Dutch like to see what old NYC was like as well as the modern skyscrapers..."

Special Night Vision Queens Crap

Today's Queens Crap comes from East Flushing, on 161st Street near the Auburndale border. Though the Broadway area north of Northern Blvd is protected, things can run wild south of the Boulevard, and intrepid neighborhood improvers are busily carving buildings up.

This house, on 161st between Sanford and 43rd Avenues, had been covered with temporary insulation for over a year, but in the past few months, the owner has added some ugly two-tone faux bricks, and gotten a front porch and fence started. "Started" is the operative word, because the metal framework and concrete posts have sat there now all summer and fall, just like this; note the garbage pails and wooden front door.

I don't think the neighbors are complaining. Why, the guy in the house on the left completely paved over his front yard to park his SUV.

For decades, East Flushing looked like our second picture: tidy cottage-style homes, with grassy front lawns and garages in the back.

That's so 20th Century.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Queens (Crap) Boulevard

Queens Boulevard and Thomson Avenue - It's too tall, it's right next to the 7 train, a stone's throw from the Queensboro Bridge on/off ramps, Sunnyside Trainyard and LIRR tracks and wedged between two of the busiest streets in the borough. It also has close to no open space. The builder apparently ran out of one color brick, so they finished it with another color. Not sure if this one is residential or commercial, but it would make a nice jail!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

From Ranch House to Queens Crap

This ranch house was built along 69th Street at 58th Road in Maspeth circa 1915 when the street was called "Juniper Avenue." There were numerous fruit trees and a lush lawn on the land surrounding it. The trees had already been removed and the landscape destroyed prior to the taking of this photo.

The one-family house was torn down earlier this year to make way for 4 units of Queens Crap. The plumbing work required for the houses snarled traffic along 69th Street, a major road, for almost 2 weeks.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The NYC Conspiracy of Overdevelopment

For years, civic associations have been complaining about the rampant building taking place in Queens neighborhoods. The City Council and the mayors we have had thrust upon us over the past 20 years or so really didn't give a damn. They cater to the real estate industry, not the people they were elected to represent. Even if leaders at the Department of Buildings wanted to do something about the problem, they are told by our elected officials to lay off. This has been going on for more than 20 years, as evidenced by this May 11, 1986 article from the New York Times:

Queens Fears Impact of New Multifamily Dwellings.

Borough Presidents Shulman and Marshall have done absolutely nothing about this problem except admit that there is one. Well, duh!

How about this writing on the wall?
NYT, January 9, 2000: One-Family House Defended As an Endangered Species

NYT, December 28, 2000: Owner Takes the Garden Out of Garden Apartments to Add Housing

All of these pieces of evidence have led us to conclude that in NYC, there is a Conspiracy of Overdevelopment.


R.S.D. reports from Bellerose:

"249-21, 249-23 & 249-27 88 Rd in Bellerose. Three 2 family homes were placed on a piece of property that once held one one-family home. The original home was illegally demolished last year. The developer was forced to stop when residents and civic leaders scared away the illegal immigrant workers. The Office of Emergency Management ripped a hole in the sidewalk and disconnected the gas line, which was still active in the house while it was being torn down.

Code requires that there be a minimum of 8 feet between these houses. There's only about 7.5 feet between two of them. The curb cuts are too wide and too close together, eliminating any street parking. Since the driveways are much too narrow for any cars to be parked in them, we all know the multiple cars will be parked on the street or on the concrete pad where the lawns are supposed to be. For each house, that's a minimum of two cars for the top apartment, two for the lower level, and of course two for the illegal cellar apartment.

The infamous Dept of Buildings sent out an inspector (with his seeing eye dog, we assume) and reported that the driveway is "about 8 feet" and marked the complaint, "resolved." Please, please, someone teach these people how to use a ruler!The subdivided plot of land at 249-27 88 Rd narrows down to less than nine feet. The house itself is just about five feet wide at the rear."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Queens, for a Day

By BOB BRODY, Op-Ed Contributor, New York Times

Published: December 17, 2006

EVERY holiday season without fail, tourists from all over the world pour into New York City. Visitors catch Broadway shows, admire the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and window-shop along Fifth Avenue. Hotels are booked and museums and restaurants are jammed. So it goes year-round too.

That’s all well and good, at least for Midtown Manhattan, but Queens is missing from this equation. As someone who lives in Queens, I can tell you that almost no tourist ever comes here to visit. Indeed, most out-of-towners regard New York City as synonymous with Manhattan. All they’re ever likely to see of Queens, both coming and going, are our airports. Once they hit Manhattan, they tend to stay put until it’s time to cross a bridge and head home.

That’s a shame, because Queens loses out to Manhattan on tourism dollars. More serious, by skipping Queens, tourists blow a chance to see the real New York City.

After all, Midtown Manhattan is more fantasy than reality. With its fabulous museums and fancy retailers, not to mention a white-collar work force that’s largely Caucasian, it’s practically a theme park.

Queens, on the other hand, though long stigmatized as an “outer borough,” is infinitely more representative of the city as a whole and increasingly of other major American cities as well. About 46 percent of Queens residents are foreign-born. More than half of immigrants arriving in Queens within the last five years speak a language other than English at home. Indeed, Elmhurst has a high school where students come from 96 countries and speak 59 languages.

Yet for most tourists, Queens remains an unexplored frontier. That’s in part because the city still regards promoting tourism to Queens as something of an afterthought. This year, the tourism budget for Queens, which is allocated by the city, is $33,000. (No, that’s not a typo.) Nobody in charge even has statistics on how many tourists annually visit Queens, much less how much they spend, because nobody seems to break out those numbers by borough. Not even New York City and Company, the city’s official tourism marketing agency, has any idea.

No wonder; the agency’s Web site lists 105 board and executive committee members, but only four live in or run businesses headquartered in Queens. Without a seat at the table where decisions are made, it’s hard to see how Queens can have a true voice in the city’s tourist trade.

New York City has to do a better job of getting Queens its due as a tourist destination. It could mean more jobs, and, frankly, the attention would improve our morale. So, with that in mind, here are some modest proposals to help put Queens on the map:

Settle for second billing. Let’s tout Queens not as an alternative competing directly with Manhattan — we’d never win, nor should we try to — but as an addition to it. It’s the perfect place to spend the second day in town, the second week or the second visit to the city.

Counter the perception that from Manhattan, Queens is out there. It’s not. Queens is easy to reach. It’s right across the East River. Play our underdog status as a trump card, even adding tongue-in-cheek signs on, say, the 59th Street Bridge that call Manhattan the gateway to Queens.

Trumpet our novelties. Let’s brag about how old Queens is (established in 1683), yet how new it all is, too (most of its buildings sprang up in the last 50 years); how populous it is (2.2 million people, larger than 16 states); and how, thanks to all its cemeteries, dead people here outnumber the living. And we’re home to the Unisphere, which is the largest globe in the world; the New York Hall of Science and the American Museum of the Moving Image.

Pitch the chance to witness life where New Yorkers actually live. After all, when you’re in Midtown, you’re more likely to rub shoulders with commuters and tourists than with real New Yorkers.

Promote the international angle to lend a sense of solidarity to visitors. When it comes to ethnic diversity, Queens is hands down best in show. You can buy saris on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, blini in Rego Park and empanadas in Corona. Any tourist interested in Asian cuisine should check out Flushing, home to more Chinese than you’ll find in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

All Americans, including city residents themselves, should consider a visit to Queens nothing less than a patriotic duty. More than reflecting America’s past, Queens is a civics lesson in multiculturalism, a one-of-a-kind preview of our country’s future.

Bob Brody is a public-relations executive.

Colden Street's Coldness

From Bob Bobster:

"Ah, home for 26 years. I spent six of them in apartment 7B in the Bucknell on Colden Street in Flushing. I was just a kid at the time, but I seem to remember that 2 bedroom, 1-1/2 bath flat cost around $150 a month. That was 1962-68 dollars, remember.

This picture shows the Bucknell on the left in the background during the '60s. I'm not in the picture, it's a photo of a friend and his brother. But notice the attractive, Soviet-style architecture, so familiar to anyone living near Chernobyl. It was built by Lefrak around the same time as Lefrak City. The development was called University Park, because each of the buildings were named after colleges - Notre Dame, Tulane, etc.

Other than a regular supply of cockroaches, there was nothing really wrong with the place. It was basic, working-class housing. But it certainly helped set the trend for the ugly housing that would soon sweep across the borough. Would it have hurt to invest just a little in an attractive design? I suppose it never crossed their minds."

Could Queens Crap have originated with the Colden Street apartments?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Stairway to Heaven

Both houses are on Abingdon Road in Kew Gardens.

The person submitting this Queens Crap says, "Above photo is just west of Brevoort Street and was taken in April of 2005 shortly after completion. One local resident has described the thing in front as the "Stairway to Heaven."

Photo below is about half a block west of Lefferts Boulevard and was taken in April of 2006, also shortly after completion. Nothing says "neighborliness" like being the only one on your block to put a brick wall around your house.

The houses they replaced were down before I knew what was happening, so I never had a chance to photograph the old homes."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Developer Greed 101

69-20 Caldwell Avenue, Maspeth:
Chapter 1: How to piss off your neighbors
1) Buy an oversized property for all cash.
2) Illegally cut down the street tree that the city owns so that it doesn't get in your way.
3) Cut down the decades-old pine tree on the property.
4) Erect a flimsy construction fence that blows down in the slightest breeze.
5) Destroy the public sidewalk in front of the property.
6) Demolish the 100-year-old house and accompanying barn.
7) Make sure the workers you hire drink beer and pee in the street.
8) Leave the lot empty for months and allow the construction fence to blow down.
9) Apply to subdivide the lot.

Chapter 2: How to piss off an entire neighborhood
1) Self-certify plans to build two 2-family houses with garages.
2) Erect something really ugly without the garages.
3) Get caught, revise plans slightly, and continue building.
4) Build right up against a neighboring property, blocking their side windows.
5) Make sure that basements are at ground level so that they can easily be converted into illegal apartments by whomever purchases the houses.
6) Begin jackhammering at 7am when most of the neighbors are still asleep.
7) Leave piles of bricks and wood in the street all day and overnight, taking up several curbside spaces, so that residents have nowhere to park.
8) Open the street to install plumbing and make sure to put metal plates over the holes overnight so that the entire block is kept awake by the sound of cars passing over them.
9) Repeat steps 6 and 7 for several weeks and drive neighbors crazy. Make sure major roads are closed during the height of rush hour so that you can finish your project. To hell with people in the neighborhood who need to get to work on time.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Translocating the Green Lady

More on the 2030 population prediction is printed in today's New York Post.

Number of residents expected to live in each borough by the year 2030:

Brooklyn - 2.72 million
Queens - 2.57 million
Manhattan - 1.83 million
Bronx - 1.46 million
Staten Island - 552,000

This is only counting people living in legal units. The city doesn't know how many illegal units we have and quite frankly, they don't care. It's clear that Queens and our sister borough, Brooklyn, are earmarked to be the areas reserved for those who can no longer fit in or afford Manhattan. We are sure to see a surge in historic districts designated in Manhattan so that the neighborhoods of the wealthy are spared while the neighborhoods of the working class in outer boroughs are inundated with barracks.

In the 1880's, Emma Lazarus penned the poem, "The New Colossus," which appears on the Statue of Libery's pedestal, welcoming the throngs of immigrants from overseas to the City of New York. Perhaps the Statue should be moved to Hunter's Point...and face Manhattan, for the poem is now more applicable to people migrating across the river:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Kew Gardens Colonial

Here's another one from the Q:

"The attachments show 117th Street (f.k.a. Richmond Hill Drive) in Kew Gardens. The view is looking north from 84th Avenue to Curzon Road.The pictures speak for themselves. The color photograph was taken in the summer of 2005. Within the past few weeks, the dreaded plywood fence has gone up around the white colonial style house at the far end of the street which means that it, too, will soon be history."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Mayor's Plan

From today's New York Times:

Metro Briefing - Queens: Mayor Seeks Plan for City’s Population Growth

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced an elaborate campaign yesterday to engage the public in devising an environmentally sound plan to address the city’s growing population and aging infrastructure through 2030...Mr. Bloomberg said the city would seek ideas to meet 10 main goals, including housing for almost a million people, more mass transit and the cleanup of contaminated land.

From today's Metro:

In three months, Bloomberg will present more detailed proposals to find “creative ways” to build affordable housing, ensuring that every New Yorker lives within a 10-minute walk of a park, and increasing the region’s mass transit system to alleviate traffic congestion.

This doesn't bode well for Queens. We are losing green space day by day, not gaining any. We are inundated with illegal apartments that the city won't do anything about. This was one of the major reasons for this past summer's blackout in Astoria and Woodside. There, individual apartments have been illegally subdivided into SROs. The downzoning of many Queens neighborhoods has been put on the back burner in order to accommodate the upzoning of areas near the waterfront.

Translation: "We need housing for 1 million more people? Let's dump 'em in Queens!"

Are there millionaires in Maspeth?

If you are looking to make a cool million on a house, the blue-collar neighborhoods along the L.I.E. are probably not the place to try. And, if you were a millionaire, would you spend 1.2 million dollars on this house? No joking, that is what the listing price is, despite lacking a lawn and side windows. All this is available on Hull Avenue just a stone's throw from the smog and noise of the Long Island Expressway. My, what a bargain!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Future is Today...and It's Not Pretty!

Another report from Bayside, this time at the dead-end of 215th Street south of 29th Avenue. The victim, above, was a beautiful Arts & Crafts-style house constructed in the late 1910s on about a half acre. The gardens were designed by a famous landscape architect from the Netherlands in the 1930s, when the former resident bought the property. When he passed away, at 105 years old in 2004, the house and gardens were sold to a developer.
Not only have they squeezed four (4) houses on the site - which is one more than is allowed by law, but the Department of Buildings did nothing even after repeated attempts by elected officials and neighbors to stop it - they are just more of the same: big, brick-y, awkward and inappropriate - a sea of red-brick forever.
Just for orientation purposes, the lower picture shows an orientation to the northeast of the former parcel (formerly occupied by the rare specimen tree above), while the house was located at the southeast portion.