Monday, June 30, 2008

New Willets Point video + tweeding by CB7

Community Board 7 playing hardball on Willets Point redevelopment

Community Board 7 has threatened to nix Mayor Bloomberg's Willets Point redevelopment plan Monday night unless the city consents to giving the Queens Borough Board a binding vote on the proposal.

The community board is balking at being forced to vote on the plan when the city hasn't even purchased the roughly 60-acre industrial zone near Shea Stadium.

"They're asking us right now to sign off unconditionally on a hypothetical plan without a developer and without funding," said Chuck Apelian, who heads the community board's special committee on Willets Point.

Last Monday, that committee approved Mayor Bloomberg's sweeping plan to transform the gritty industrial maze into a glitzy residential and commercial development.

But the committee issued a series of demands that the board expected the city to satisfy by Monday night's meeting - or face a thumbs-down. That vote, however, would only be advisory.

Chief among the committee's demands is for the city to give the Queens Borough Board veto power over the Willets Point plan after it goes through the normal city land-use review process.

Jeff Roberts, a spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp., said: "We're working closely with the committee and the City Council on a reasonable arrangement to meet the requests of the committee."

A city source told the Daily News that the administration is pushing to have the Willets Point redevelopment controlled by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development rather than the EDC.

The community board's request would have the project remain in EDC's hands, because all dispositions of city land controlled by EDC must be approved by the borough board.

"It's a good idea," said Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), chairwoman of the Council's land-use committee.

Katz said the community board's request is one of several options being discussed with the city that would give the community more control over the plan if and when it clears the land-use review process.

You're demanding a binding vote by the Queens Borough Board? You might as well just vote "yes".

DATE: Monday June 30, 2008

TIME: Rally – 6:30PM
Community Board 7 Public Meeting & Vote – 7PM



Foreclosures hit Jamaica hard

For many Americans the foreclosure crisis is nothing but a jumble of numbers and percentages, but here in the far edges of Queens, the human toll of the housing collapse is felt full force.

Foreclosures have popped up like weeds through the pavement, engulfing entire city blocks and profoundly altering people's lives.

In one of the highest concentrations of foreclosures in the city, a three-by-three-block section of South Jamaica, the Daily News found 98 properties in foreclosure from January 2006 through this month. This is ground zero of New York's foreclosure mess: Linden Blvd. to the north, Foch Blvd. to the south, 145th St., Inwood St., 146th and 147th Sts. west to east. No street is spared.

The tragic toll of housing nightmare

Revisiting the Kelo decision

The Kelo decision was enormously unpopular, with polls showing that between 80 percent and 90 percent of Americans disagree with the idea, even when property owners received market value for their land. Still, that hasn’t stopped the politicians and urban planners, who moved in quickly. In the first year after Kelo, according to a study by the Castle Coalition, which tracks eminent domain seizures, state and local governments condemned or threatened to condemn more than 5,400 properties, compared to slightly more than 10,000 such actions in the previous five years. In the eminent domain business, a threat to condemn is usually just as good as an actual taking, since a homeowner can’t sell a house under those conditions and a business would find it difficult to do things like get credit.

Pols Remain Masters of Domain

Most Americans object to such takings because the intended uses of the land don’t justify violating property rights when the owner is unwilling to sell to government. But as Jacobs observed, another important objection is that government planners often do a lousy job of anticipating the marketplace when they take property to be developed into something new. What I call mega-project ‘state capitalism,’ the grandiose schemes of politicians and their planners to invest public money in big projects like stadiums, downtown super-malls, and subsidized entertainment districts, has been on the rise for years, often with disastrous results which should have given the Supreme Court justices pause before they gave their blessings to seizures that "provide appreciable benefits to the community."

Indeed, the very redevelopment project that sparked the Kelo lawsuit, an effort by the town of New London, Ct., to turn its Fort Trumbull waterfront into a haven for high-priced homes and 21st century jobs, has sputtered. The ground where Susette Kelo’s home stood is now barren, because the townhouses that the city-sponsored developer was supposed to build there have never gone up. Interest in the area isn’t very great and the developer hasn’t been able to get financing. In fact, what began more than a decade ago as an extravagant ‘public-private’ scheme to redevelop this whole area around tourism, research and development and luxury residential uses has produced little except ongoing construction on a $17 million Coast Guard station.

State capitalism provides more examples of losers than winners.

The result has been a disaster for the taxpayer.

A little toxicity never hurt anyone

Construction work is now going on at the site, which is slated to become a Karl Fischer building with 180 apartments. The property was once a paint factory and is listed as an “e” site, meaning that it requires a cleanup before anything can be built. A few weeks ago, we noticed that piles of (possibly contaminated) soil at the site were not being covered by tarps. Neighbors are also concerned about whether protocols are being followed - and more to the point – want to know exactly what toxins are on the site and what the risks are.

Work at “Toxic” Bedford Ave. Lot Worrying Neighbors

How dare they question development practices in this city? Who the hell do these people think they are? What a bunch of NIMBYs to be concerned about what toxic waste will do to their health!

Recession-proof real estate

Advice from Barbara Corocoran:

1. Pick the right town. Look for plenty of older homes, a charming downtown, good public schools and no more than one "For Sale" sign every three blocks.

2. Buy a recession-proof house. Look for a house with character, plenty of sun, in the most popular construction material, style/paint color for the region - and with an average price for that block.

3. Choose smart financing. Don't wait for mortgage rates to go lower, shop online to find the best rate, put 20% down, get your mortgage commitment updated, pay a little extra each month to shrink your principal, and buy mortgage insurance to protect against falling values.

4. Recession-proof your current home. Intentionally underprice it to create a buying frenzy, clear our your clutter, let the sun shine in, scrub it clean and eliminate odors. Then, rent a good camera on a sunny day and take plenty of pictures for the online listing, know that the first offer you get is usually the best, promote your property online and hire a killer broker.

NY Times visits Cathedral Prep

...Cathedral Prep has a singular tradition. Founded in 1914, the school is the minor seminary for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which serves 1.6 million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens. It is the last free-standing high school seminary in the United States for boys who are considering becoming Catholic priests. Its graduates are a rare species.

Listening Early for the Call of Christ

Cathedral’s students are not required to become priests, only to be open to that possibility, an openness that they must confirm in a letter signed by both the student and his parents at the end of his sophomore year. Along with following a regular high school curriculum, students attend daily Mass, do apostolic service in their communities, have regular spiritual guidance sessions with priests, and take classes in religion and theology along with three years of Latin.

City planning at its smartest

Elmer Blackburne, a goateed 73-year-old, unfolded a battered card table on the sidewalk in front of the building’s propped-open door, and laid his megaphone on top of it. A worker in blue coveralls poked out his head, and then the door jerked closed.

So it has gone for the last few Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when the neighbors have gathered to picket the site of a former auto repair shop that will be R & B Live Poultry, once renovations inside are completed. Neighbors have filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

The sign on the building’s exterior, decorated with photographs of various animals, says that R & B will sell “chicken, fowl, rooster, guinea hen, goat, sheep, lamb.” The signs in the pickets’ hands read, “Stop the Slaughterhouse” and “No Animal Markets Next to Homes.”

For weeks, neighbors have been protesting the arrival of the slaughterhouse, saying that it will breed disease, produce noxious smells and torment asthma sufferers with clouds of chicken feathers.

On the Edge of a Residential Strip, Fear of Feathers

According to federal and state officials, the city is home to about 90 slaughterhouses, and this is not the first time the arrival of such a business has alarmed its prospective neighbors. A bill that has already passed the State Senate and is awaiting action by the Assembly would prohibit slaughterhouses in New York City within 1,500 feet of a residential building. However, such legislation would probably not affect existing businesses like R & B.

Crane inspector suspended for neglect of duty

A SENIOR Department of Buildings crane inspector has been suspended after The Post notified the agency he had cleared several complaints last year that claimed unqualified operators were working in the industry and that some of their licenses were fraudulent.


The complaints were filed via the city's 311 hot line a year before two cranes collapsed on the East Side, taking nine lives.

Records show that Michael Carbone, chief inspector for the DOB's emergency-response team, closed at least five of the complaints as "not valid," "unjustified" or as a "licensing issue" not requiring emergency action.

"Michael Carbone has been suspended for 30 days without pay for neglect of duty," said a DOB spokesman. "Because of the ongoing investigation, I can't comment further."

The Post found the complaints in the DOB database, which is available on the Internet, while researching a story on an unrelated matter.

Third world flooding solution

Almost a year after massive floods crippled the subway system and left millions of riders stranded, New York City Transit is employing a low-rent solution to keep water off the tracks in Queens. Whenever the forecast calls for rain, workers rush to flood-prone areas and roll blue tarp over sidewalk subway grates.

Six cement-filled buckets keep each tarp in place. Short poles protruding from each bucket allow yellow "construction area" tape to be wound around the whole set-up.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall is also concerned.

"What if there's a fire on the line, where does the smoke go?" said her spokesman, Dan Andrews.

"If the gratings can be arbitrarily covered up, then why are they there in the first place?" GRATE! MTA'S LAME SUBWAY FLOOD FIGHT

NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said the temporary solution was "low-tech" but "effective" while more permanent solutions are in the works.

"But those take time to design," he added.

Well, you've had a year, how long does it take?

Luxury living at L Lofts!

Hey remember that post about the L Lofts, where I said, "For a project that boasts of its outdoor space, they managed not to show any on their site."

This is probably why:

What a view from those balconies!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Building crap on the graves of our forefathers

A Florida man who owns a weed-strewn Colonial-era cemetery in Queens wants a judge to declare the graveyard abandoned - and let a developer build houses where Dutch settlers buried their dead.

A lawyer for Ralph DeDomenico contended the bodies interred at Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows disintegrated long ago - and dared the city to exhume them to prove him wrong.

DeDomenico, 59, wants to sell a developer the irregularly shaped 85-by-110-foot swath of land for the construction of two homes.

State law forbids building on a cemetery.

"Why can't you get it in your head? This ain't a cemetery anymore," argued Gerald Chiariello, DeDomenico's Forest Hills-based lawyer. "It's a dump."

Not everyone agrees.

Lawyer Paul Kerson, representing the Queens Historical Society and a local civic association, has written to Chiariello threatening "appropriate legal action" if anyone builds on the 182nd St. plots.

Kerson's letter also noted that the city put the cemetery under consideration as a potential landmark in 2000, outlawing construction through the designation process.

Lisi de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, confirmed the graveyard is still on the commission's calendar, but legal issues have hampered action.

Fighting to keep builder off Colonial graves at Brinckerhoff Cemetery

New York's Finest

A team of NYPD narcotics cops is under investigation for arresting four men in Queens club after surveillance tapes revealed the cops never bought drugs from them, The Post has learned.


The stunning accusations stem from a "buy-and-bust" operation in January when undercover cops allegedly framed two brothers and their friends who were merely drinking beer and chatting inside Club Delicioso in Elmhurst.

The quartet was originally charged with selling two bags of cocaine worth $100.

But their ordeal ended Thursday when the charges were dropped, thanks to several hours of video surveillance shot inside and outside the club showing that the cops never even had contact with their "suspects."

So many developments, so few supermarkets

Neighborhood supermarkets are a vanishing breed in New York City, and developers are having a tough time wooing them back.

Supermarkets snub developers

Several real estate professionals said operators of chain grocers are turning down offers for ground-floor retail space, particularly in new luxury high-rises and emerging neighborhoods.

A third of the city's supermarkets have closed over the past five years, many torn down for new construction, according to a recent Department of City Planning study, which declared a citywide shortage of at least 100 stores. Elected officials have called the problem a crisis.

Yet they continue to upzone neighborhoods and rubber stamp mega developments anyway. Great job. So glad you voted yourselves a raise.

Forgotten NY visits Kneeland Avenue

Who else would? (Click photo for page)

A long overdue change

The new service, called Select Bus Service, will save time mostly by requiring riders to pay fares before they get on the bus, using coins or swiping their MetroCards at curbside machines at each stop.

Riders Will Pay Before Boarding, and Save Time, on Revamped Bus Route

The idea is to cut boarding times by eliminating the lines that often form at the front door of a bus while passengers wait to swipe or pay. That wait is a primary factor in slow travel times for buses.

There will be more than one machine at each stop, to keep lines from developing there. The machines will provide receipts, and when the bus arrives, passengers may board either in the front or the back, with no need to show the receipt to the driver or to swipe again.

To keep people honest, inspectors will ride the buses and ask passengers for their receipts. If a passenger does not have one, the inspectors may give them a $100 ticket for fare-beating. Officials said that during the first week, while passengers are adjusting to the system, the inspectors will hand out warnings instead.

This is how transit works in San Diego. It was a pleasure riding on their lines.

Doesn't look like they are planning to bring it to Queens, though. From Gothmist:

The MTA hopes to bring SBS to other routes, like the 1st / 2nd Avenues' M15, 34th Street's M34 and M16, and 5th / Madison Avenue's M1, M2, M3, M4, M5 & Q 32 routes in Manhattan, Hylan Boulevard's S79 route in Staten Island and the Nostrand Avenue B44 in Brooklyn.

Where there's a will, there's a way

Builders around the city are racing to get projects started in order to beat a looming deadline.

Upcoming changes in the 421-a tax abatement policy — which will make requirements for receiving benefits stricter, in addition to lowering the level of benefits — are driving builders to get multifamily developments in the ground prior to June 30.

Meanwhile, those who realize they won't make the deadline are figuring out creative ways that they can work around changes in the 421-a policy, like carving projects into small individual units and cutting back on monthly maintenance fees.

Racing to dig before 421-a code changes

Even the musicians have noticed the crap

Back in 1981, Popp came up with the name The Tapes because at the time there were names like The Ramones, The Talking Heads and The Dead Boys, so he wanted to follow the pattern. And since back then CDs were not yet invented, he wanted to keep it simple and call the band "The Tapes."

"People hear that [name] now and must want to put their fingers down their throat," laughed Popp. However, he has no plans to change it. Nor does he have any plans to move from the house in Queens that he's lived in his entire life. As for his College Point neighborhood, Popp said it has changed a lot over the years thanks to over-development.

"We've got the East River, Flushing Bay. As a kid I would go in boats and swim up the docks. Now a lot of it is destroyed. They ripped down the one- or two-family homes and stuck in four- or six-family ones." said Popp. "Also, there used to be plenty of parking."

Veteran College Pt. rocker going strong with new CD

Willets Point protest tomorrow


(New York, NY) June 27, 2008 – Willets Point land and business owners along with hundreds of their employees will hold a protest outside Queens Community Board 7 prior to their vote on the City's redevelopment plan for Willets Point on Monday, June 30. They will be joined by supporters from the Castle Coalition and Institute for Justice who oppose Eminent Domain abuse.

The Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA), a group of land and business owners who have been operating various industrial and manufacturing family businesses for 30-70 years at Willets Point, continue to combat the City's campaign of misinformation to get approval on the redevelopment of Willets Point without a formal plan or identification of a developer.

Key Points In City's Continued Misrepresentation of the Willets Point Redevelopment Plan:

• The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) continues to claim that the entire 65-acre site is contaminated and requires environmental remediation. WPIRA owns approximately 45% of the land in Willets Point and many of their sites have already been remediated. It has not been proven that Willets Point needs to be seized and capped with 6-10 feet of fill in order to address contamination.

• Willets Point is NOT blighted, it has been intentionally neglected by the City of New York for decades and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman is partially to blame. In 1991, at the request of Shulman, The New York City Public Development Corporation commissioned a study of Willets Point. The report stated, among other things that:

- "The area desperately needs a renewed infrastructure."
- "The lack of adequate infrastructure is the most obvious impediment to the success of Willets Point"
- "Willets Point has no sanitary sewers and the few storm sewers that exist are collapsed or perpetually clogged."

Shulman ignored the advice of the experts and the pleas for help in installing infrastructure from her constituents. Because of Claire Shulman's inaction during her tenure as Borough President, the City of New York today intends to spend upwards of $3 billion dollars to redevelop the area during an economic downturn.

• The EDC continues to misrepresent its efforts to relocate businesses. At a Community Board 7 meeting on June 23, Board Member Joe Sweeney reprimanded the EDC for not reaching out to the business owners in a more effective and timely manner. While the EDC has publicly touted agreements, the track record is weak in that after 4 years they have been able to sign a contract with only 2 of the estimated 260 businesses in Willets Point. Furthermore, the contracts are contingent on the approval of the City Council to pass the City's $3 billion redevelopment plan.

• At the moment, the City has no definitive plans to address the impact on increased traffic and transit congestion in the Borough that would lead to virtually stagnant conditions on major roadways in and out of Willets Point and neighboring Flushing. The City's own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Willets Point stated that the plan would create immitable traffic congestion on the Van Wyck

• WPIRA employs over 1500 highly-skilled workers who are paid above-average wages and benefits. These 9 businesses alone generate close to a billion dollars in economic activity and millions in tax revenue for the city.

City Council Members continue to express their disapproval of the City's plan:

• On June 23, 2008, Queens Council Members Tony Avella, Hiram Monserrate and John Liu urged Community Board 7 to vote against the plan.

• On April 21, 2008, 29 New York City Council Members sent a letter to Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber about the redevelopment plan for Willets Point and wrote, "This plan is unacceptable, and we wish to inform you that without significant modifications, we will strongly oppose it, leaving no chance of moving forward."

• On March 13, 2007, Council Member Melinda Katz wrote to Deputy Mayor Lieber stating her previous request that "the certification of the project be postponed until such time that agreements in principle can be reached on the outstanding issues with all concerned parties." Katz requested a postponement of certification to allow the negotiations to continue.

DATE: Monday June 30, 2008

TIME: Rally – 6:30PM
Community Board 7 Public Meeting & Vote – 7PM



Inspector eats the worm

NYC Investigators Arrest Restaurant Inspector

NEW YORK (NBC) -- A city health inspector has been arrested after he was accused of shaking down a Brooklyn restaurant for $500 and a bottle of tequila.

Etibar Aliev was expected to be arraigned Friday in Brooklyn court on several charges, including receiving a bribe.

The city's Department of Investigation says the 42-year-old went to the restaurant Tuesday and suggested he could close it because of violations.

The DOI says that's when Aliev said he could help the restaurant avoid closing. He later arranged a meeting at the restaurant with the establishment's owner.

With DOI investigators monitoring the meeting, Aliev offered to help with future inspections and took the $500 bribe.

The DOI says that on his way out of the restaurant Aliev asked for the bottle of booze.

White lines

"Hey Crappy,

Can someone explain the rationality of turning hundreds of parking spots along Vernon Boulevard into a bicycle lane?

Earlier this week, without notice, the west side of Vernon Boulevard, from approximately 45th Avenue all the way passed the Costco on Broadway, became a No Standing Anytime zone and bike lanes are being painted on both sides of the street, moving the center lane divider 3 feet over. Previously there were either no parking restrictions or a street sweeping restriction for just a few hours on Mondays on this mile and a half long strip. Hundreds of cars were regularly parked in these spots by power plant workers, area residents and park visitors. The competition for parking spots in the neighborhood had already increased with the loss of dozens of spaces next to and under the Roosevelt Island Bridge when restoration work began on the bridge last year, this latest move will only ratchet things up even further.
Why was this done? Why was it deemed more valuable to have an infrequently used bike path for leisure activity instead of vital parking spaces for workers and residents? Despite the claims of Mayor Bloomberg, Al Gore and the rest of the Eco-Gestapo, a car is a necessity if you live, work or want to shop outside of Manhattan. Why do bicycles suddenly need their own lane on these surface streets when I’ve seen bicycles happily pedaling along Vernon Boulevard without a problem for years? One more dumb question, why weren’t the parking spaces between Borden Avenue and 45th Avenue similarly effected since the white markings of the bike path seem to extend for most of that strip of street? Oh that’s right, there are parking meters on those spots.

Please tell me this is only temporary. Please tell me this isn’t part of Gioia’s “green-line” plan because perhaps he should come tour the area and see the beautiful industrial plants and brick wall that cyclists will be enjoying."

- Anonymous

This is the "if we build it, they will use it" mentality, which is pretty stupid thinking. We have a mayor who sees cars as evils while the vast majority of people in Queens know they are necessities because our public transportation sucks. You can't haul your groceries home or take your kids to school by bike. If Mayor Bloomberg left his SUV home and made a trek out to Queens once and awhile by transferring to an overcrowded bus after enduring a hellish train ride, maybe he'd understand. Unfortunately, this decision seems to be permanent for the duration of the Bloomberg administration.

Please don't vote for yet another Manhattan-centric asshole next year. That's really all I can say.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Is Richmond Hill Republican Club a goner?

A landmarked Richmond Hill building riddled with uncertainty since 2001 will have a new future, but this hasn’t eased the worries of those trying to preserve it.

What remains of the Richmond Hill Republican Club House, a 100-year-old structure that sits on Lefferts Boulevard facing the Richmond Hill Library, are four walls.

Clubhouse revamp causes concern

After a stop-work order was placed on the demolition on Friday, alarm bells went off for several community residents, who feared the new owner would try to underhandedly demolish the building.

Construction taking place next door to the club house, formerly the Simonson Funeral Home, caused the old building to shake — likely a result of the contractor’s failure to properly shore up the foundation. Some community members speculated that this was done intentionally, at the request of the landmarked building’s new owner, so that the structure would come down and the property’s value would go up.

Yusupov denied this and said he plans to move forward with renovation work as soon as permitted.

This doesn't sound suspicious...

A federal Customs agent was being grilled by Queens cops Thursday night about how a friend ended up dead on his kitchen floor with a bullet in his chest from the agent's gun, police sources said.

Federal agent grilled in pal's death

Eric Alke, who works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told police that Adrian Moldovan, 50, picked up the weapon from the kitchen table in Alke's Forest Hills home and shot himself after they had been out drinking, sources said.

Before the shooting, Alke and Moldovan, a real estate agent, pounded down bottles of Budweiser and shots of Jagermeister for three hours at nearby Morrison's Irish Pub, a source said. Police were combing surveillance video from the tavern to examine the men's behavior.

After several hours of questioning, Alke retained a lawyer and clammed up, sources said.

The shooting took place about 3:30 p.m. and somehow Moldovan's bloody body ended up in the driveway with Alke's landlord giving him CPR, a witness said.

Holy Cow! Scooter gets namesake park

Smokey Oval Park, a 4.4-acre cluster of ballfields and playgrounds in Richmond Hall, Queens, was formally rechristened Friday morning for Phil Rizzuto, the Yankee great who died in August.

‘Smokey Oval’ in Queens Is Renamed for Rizzuto

The park had been informally known as Smokey Oval since it was acquired by the city in March 1938. That name — which referred to the soot and ash that once emanated from a nearby Long Island Rail Road terminus — became official in 1987. The name is also inspired by an oval-shaped mound at the front of the park.

The park is near the intersection of 126th Street and 94th Avenue, adjacent to Atlantic Avenue.

Sewer money down the drain

Millions of dollars in water and sewer taxes that could bankroll a flooding fix for water-weary Queens neighborhoods are instead being siphoned off to plug holes in the city budget, Queens lawmakers are charging.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said while many communities in the borough are begging for aging sewers to be replaced, the Bloomberg administration is using water and sewer taxes to subsidize a variety of other city services.

In the current fiscal year, the administration pumped $68 million in citywide water and sewer taxes into the general fund, city officials confirmed. Next fiscal year, that number is expected to reach $112 million.

Gennaro, who heads the Council's environmental committee, pointed to those diverted dollars to underscore the fact that the administration has pledged just $564,000 to study sewer flows in Queens, which was declared a federal disaster area following severe storms last summer.

Councilman James Gennaro calls for tax money to fix Queens flooding



It's a dirty little secret among city commercial-property owners - that there is no penalty for lying on an application for a lower property-tax assessment.

The city agency that reviews such applications can't raise assessments, so the worst that usually happens is that the application is denied, according to the city Tax Commission and the Manhattan DA - and they're seeking legislation to close the loophole.

"For the property owner, it's, 'Heads we win, tails we win,' " said DA Robert Morgenthau. "You can ... lie with impunity."

When asked for substantiating paperwork, property owners often just withdraw their applications.

The NY Times has a good example of the abuse:

In 2004, city investigators discovered that the owner of a parking garage in Lower Manhattan had cheated the city out of roughly $210,000 in property taxes over seven years.

On Thursday, the owner, 45 Realty Associates, pleaded guilty to filing false documents, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced. The punishment? A $20,000 fine.

Brooklyn blog helps bust crackhouse

Most neighborhoods in Brooklyn have at least one blog — and in some places, there seems to be one in every house, every bedroom — but not many read like, where the subjects over the last year or two veered away from apartment sales and plumbing tips and block parties and sounded more like rat-a-tat police reports.

“Fighting and drug deals going down in the driveway of this house,” one person wrote in 2006 about a home steeped in reports of suspicious activity on 93rd Street in Bay Ridge.

Brooklyn Blog Helps Lead to Drug Raid

Months later, the bloggers are celebrating, days after the police raided the two neighboring homes in question, 346 and 348 93rd Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues, and arrested five people, including three brothers who lived there.

As descriptions of crack houses go, the ones the bloggers gave of the homes on 93rd Street were hardly novel, with stories of addicts slumped on the steps outside and cars coming and going at all hours. Men inside chased strangers away, neighbors said, waving sticks and making threats while the rest of the street peered out behind drawn blinds.

But peering turned to blogging, and blogging turned to action, as neighbors started filing complaints with the 68th Precinct station house and attending Community Board 10 meetings and generally making noise until a narcotics investigation began, leading to the arrests.

It's actually more of a message board like to Astorians...or not.

Queens subways swamped due to overdevelopment

There may be a building boom in Flushing and Long Island City, but the No. 7 subway line that links them cannot accommodate any more trains and already carries one of the borough's heavier passenger loads.

Queens subway riders struggle for comfort

The MTA is aware of the situation, but No. 7 line manager Lou Brusati said solutions will not happen overnight.

"There are 2,500 people on most of our trains on the 7 line," Brusati told an audience at a forum in Jackson Heights earlier this year, adding that the trains are crowded even during nighttime hours. "The whole line is above capacity. You need another line."

The No. 7 line is becoming Queens' development train, linking downtown Flushing to Long Island City, both of which are increasingly home to high-rises and thus a population spike.

Muss Development announced June 18 that more than 60 percent of units in the first phase of luxury project Sky View Parc in Flushing had been sold. The development, planned as 1,100 units in six towers, has as its only subway access the 7 line.

Crowding is an issue on four of Queens' 12 subway lines, where Metropolitan Transportation Authority data show the tracks cannot hold any more trains per hour. The 7, E, F and V trains are packed to 100 percent capacity at peak times with the N, R and W lines coming close to that status.

I want everyone to click on the link, print this article out and mail it to your elected officials and community board with thank you notes for causing this mess. And then send an e-mail to this reporter and thank her for understanding that overdevelopment affects everyone (even luxury condo dwellers) whether they realize it or not. Allowing unchecked development to continue in light of this situation is criminally insane. Of course, you'd think the blackouts and floods would have already made an impression...

Sprucing up Remsen Cemetery

As Independence Day approaches, the city is hammering out plans to beautify a Revolutionary War-era graveyard near the Forest Hills-Rego Park border - and keep vandals out.

The future of Remsen Cemetery - near Metropolitan Ave. and Woodhaven Blvd. - may include new fencing, benches and a path by the tombs of Col. Jeromus Remsen and his family, according to sources close to the talks.

The news comes as the Parks Department closes on a $50,000 deal to buy the cemetery from a nearby American Legion post that owned and maintained it for decades, said those familiar with the sale.

Parks Department to fix up Remsen Cemetery to salute Revolutionary hero

All that and a crane thrown in for good measure

Here we have an update on the November 2007 QC post entitled, "At Least There Are Banks Nearby".
Can't wait to see who decides that buying here is a good idea. How much is the factory view vs. the graveyard view?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thompson to Parks on Reservoir: "I don't think so."

Citing concerns about the environmental impact, increased truck traffic, and the vendor selection process, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today announced that his office has rejected a contract by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a portion of the Ridgewood Reservoir into sports fields.

In a letter to Parks’ Chief Contracting Officer, the Comptroller’s Office returned the contract “to allow additional time for your agency to respond to our concerns pertaining to potential scope changes due to environmental review uncertainties and for administrative issues.”


Parks submitted the $3.3 million contract forged with Mark K. Morrison Associates LTD (MMA) for registration on May 29. The agreement called for MMA to provide landscape design services for the reconstruction of Highland Park at the Ridgewood Reservoir site in Queens.

Parks has been considering a $50 million “renovation” project that would replace a large swath of Ridgewood wilderness with athletic fields, claiming that the project is necessary to help combat child obesity. However, Thompson has consistently urged the City to rethink its plans to develop the 50-acre site.

Thompson also cautioned that Parks was in the process of meeting with agencies regarding environmental assessment issues, and that an Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) EAS could be included as a separate fee in any proposal. That information would help in determining whether adverse effects on the environment may be significant enough to warrant further analysis.

The Comptroller further questioned the selection process. The vendor was selected from among three participants through a quasi-competitive process. Thompson noted that changes to the design that may arise from the environmental and public assessments may significantly impact the vendor’s proposal.

“Given the sensitive ecological nature of the location, we strongly believe that the environmental assessment process must have maximum transparency,” the letter reads. “In that light, we are also concerned that it may be a conflict of interest to have the EAS vendor be a subcontractor to the architect, who has a vested interest in pursuing the construction.”

Thompson's letter to Parks is here: Ridgewood Letter

Unions love Willets Point land grab

Thursday, June 26th 2008

(Gill for News - Central Labor Council and Queens pols speak Thursday on steps of City Hall to laud deal on Willets Point development jobs.)

Some of New York's biggest union leaders lined up on the steps of City Hall Thursday to cheer Mayor Bloomberg's new megadevelopment plan - the $3 billion Willets Point project in Queens.

One after another, they gave glowing praise to one more giveaway to real estate developers - one that had been opposed by a majority of the City Council.

The labor leaders touted the "historic" concessions on future jobs at Willets Point they claim to have secured from City Hall in return for backing the project.

When asked about the 225 private businesses and 1,300 current workers that would be forced to move out of Willets Point if the Council approves the mayor's plan, the union leaders were mum on labor solidarity.

Ed Ott, director of the Central Labor Council, began stumbling over his words and looked perplexed when a reporter asked about the small percentage of affordable housing the city was slating for Willets Point.

He did not address the matter of whether City Hall should even be using the power of eminent domain to take private land from one group of citizens only to hand it over to a more powerful private group.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, says he simply wants to transform the 61-acre maze of dirt streets, junkyards and industrial businesses - an area the city has virtually abandoned for decades - into a $3 billion wonderland of retail shops, movie theaters, office buildings, a hotel, a convention center, 6,000 units of largely market-rate housing and even a public school.

"It's just a big land grab," says Dan Feinstein, whose family has run Feinstein Ironworks in Willets Point for more than 75 years.

"How in the world does the mayor justify what he's trying to do?" Feinstein says. "He's nationalizing our property like we're in Venezuela or Russia, then determining which of his friends will get it."

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens), who represents Willets Point, has made it clear from the start that he won't support any rezoning of the area that doesn't address things like good-paying permanent jobs, fair relocation of existing businesses and workers, and a significant amount of affordable housing.

Monserrate has lined up 28 fellow members out of 51 to publicly oppose the plan.

That explains why City Hall decided to announce an agreement with union leaders on jobs. Bloomberg's aides will ask the unions to be the mayor's foot soldiers to pressure the Council on behalf of the project.

Until now, most unions stayed away from rezoning or economic development issues, except for the construction trades, which City Hall could always count on to back giant projects that generated jobs.

A few months ago, the Central Labor Council began meeting quietly with City Hall to hammer out new agreements about the "nature of development and how it affects people in the community," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

With Bloomberg and his aides rezoning scores of neighborhoods to create instant sources of new wealth potential for developers, the labor leaders realized it was time to demand more benefits for workers and local communities.

"This is the first time we went as a group to negotiate," Ott said Thursday.

They won some significant concessions. There's a commitment to require any developer to provide prevailing wages for construction, service workers and security guards, as well as a "living wage" of $10 an hour or more to retail workers.

Hotel workers union leader Peter Ward said he expected any hotel on the site to allow an expedited "card check" method for unionization instead of the more drawnout process of holding a union election.

"I would have preferred more," one union leader admitted to me Thursday, "but it's a start."

In order to win those concessions, though, the union leaders ignored how the city is treating existing businesses and workers at Willets Point. They ignored the plans of the city to build mostly market-rate housing in a borough where the median income is less than $50,000 a year.

They got something for their own members while they ignored other workers in need. With labor solidarity like that, it's no wonder unions are getting weaker.

How not to publish a newspaper, part 17 (website edition)

I believe the Democratic Presidential candidate's surname is "Obama".

N.Y. Court: Illegal Immigrant Not Eligible for More Workers' Comp

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York's top court says an undocumented immigrant injured while working as a printer properly received basic workers' compensation, but he isn't eligible for additional payments because of his legal status.

The Court of Appeals notes Ronnie Ramroop got temporary disability benefits for five years after a printing press crushed four of his fingers, which was consistent with the court's 2006 ruling in another case.

But the judges say that under the law, additional compensation for impairment of earning capacity must be due solely to the injury. Ramroop's status as an undocumented immigrant, not legally employable in the U.S. and ineligible for a state vocational rehabilitation program, represents a different obstacle to getting work.

This guy got tax money for 5 years despite not being here legally? Nice racket.

House helps city transit

The House approved financial help Thursday to mass transit systems in New York and elsewhere facing a surge in riders because of high gas prices.

Mass transit gets $237 million

The House voted 322-98 to authorize $1.7 billion over the next two years to lower fares and expand operations as more riders flock to public transit. New York City will get $237 million of that, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-Manhattan. The transit measure, which must still be considered by the Senate, marks the first time federal money would be used to support local mass transit operating costs.

Pool appears before lux condo is built

From A Fine Blog:

If anyone is wondering exactly where the water table lies on the coast of LIC this picture should answer your question! But, what a view!

A Lot To Watch With View And Swimming Hole

There is a building permit on the DOB website which indicates a 29 story building going up, with 546,772 square feet of residential space.

Woodside slideshow

New York Issues Almost 700 Unlicensed Contractor Violations

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York authorities say they've concluded a massive effort to crack down on unlicensed home improvement contractors. They've issued nearly 700 violations and seized more than 130 vehicles during a five-week sweep.

The city's Department of Consumer Affairs conducted hundreds of routine and undercover inspections along with officials from Westchester and Nassau counties.

The department says there are more than 10,800 home improvement contractors licensed to work in New York City. That amounts to a 70 percent increase in licensed contractors from five years ago.

Officials say consumers should be very careful when they hire people to renovate their homes.

The agency has fielded more than 900 consumer complaints about contractors this year.

Recommendations ignored at Willets Point

From the Willets Point Planning Study 1991 EDC Report:

Hmmm... the City never followed through with this and instead have come up with a totally different scheme. There's an interesting summary here.

Yes, people actually live in these!

Which of these structures is inhabited by human beings?

If you guessed "all of the above", you're right!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sand avalanche in Maspeth!

These photos are from an accident this morning on Grand Avenue over the LIE in Maspeth. A truck hauling sand overturned making his turn from the LIE westbound service road onto Grand Avenue.

The sand spilled onto the LIE shutting down the westbound LIE.

The FDNY searched the sand for anyone who may have been trapped. As far as I know only the driver of the truck was hospitalized.

It happened about 8:00am and the truck was up-righted about 10:45am.

Residents and civic groups have complained about the large number of trucks exiting the LIE and clogging the commercial district of Maspeth. Below, Tony Nunziato, local merchant, civic activist and state assembly candidate, at the scene. He spearheaded the effort to get trucks off Grand Avenue 4 years ago. An article about DOT's delay in responding is in the current issue of the Juniper Berry.

Originally from Juniper Civic.

Courtesy, professionalism, respect

"OK.. my friend lives on 82nd Street at the corner of 60th Drive in Middle Village. He was approached last week by one of his neighbors (of Polish decent) who lives on 60th Drive between 82nd and 83rd Streets - his backyard faces the backyards of Harry's Hardware and Kelly's Bar. The neighbor recently installed security cameras due to the MULTIPLE break-ins to these businesses.

Last week at 5:15pm, in broad day light (and it's on VIDEO!)... a Hispanic man, in his late 40's, balding in the front with some what of a ponytail, wearing a HOME DEPOT work shirt, rides up on his bicycle.. gets off.. looks around... as if TIME IS OF NO ESSENCE.. and tries to jimmy the back gate open (of another Polish person's home)..he steals the bicycle from the backyard, and rides off.. and then leaves the bike that he rode up on behind.

The Polish man called the police to report the "crime" as this is a crime... trespassing, breaking and entering, and theft.

The 104th responded to call, took the report, and when the Polish man asked for them to watch the video, the responding officers "had no interest".

They didn't want a copy of the video on disc nor, did they want to see what the gentleman looked liked in case he matched the description of crimes of this nature...

"We dont need it" .. The responding officers-.stated something to the effect.. maybe "if the detective wants to see it"...

They left and never came back for the video, nor has anyone contacted the Polish family.

Now, my point is this... WHY DOESN'T ANYONE GO THE EXTRA MILE? WHY? Can this be the person breaking into these businesses repeatedly?

Is this the same person that broke into Harry's and stole a Power Washer? Perhaps one of these business: Harry's, Kelly's or the Tobacco shop would recognize this person as being a local "patron"...

This Polish man told my friend that he was going to put it up on YOU TUBE to broadcast "BIKE THIEF.. BE ON THE LOOK OUT" for this person. Because our precinct is LAME - they have no INTEREST -

He also was thinking of generating fliers with this person's photo and posting them in local businesses. He has discs for anyone interested, so if you want one..I can put you in touch with him...

Neighbors are doing what they need to do to secure their homes and family... they turn to local police and what do they get? THEY GET CRAP.

Where the hell is our tax money going? We keep spending.. and securing... AND THE 104TH... JUST RIDES AROUND ALL DAY.. EATING BAGELS AND HASSLING YOUNG ATTRACTIVE WOMEN AROUND THE PARK... THEY GET A 911 CALL, THEY RESPOND.. AND HAVE NO INTEREST?" - anonymous

Well, this is an improvement - at least the cops showed up this time. Usual response from 104th Precinct: "Sorry, we're busy in Ridgewood."

Contractors boozin' up at noon

Construction accidents have claimed the lives of 20 in New York this year alone and as federal safety watchdogs kick off a two-week crackdown on high-risk building sites, CBS 2 HD found it wasn't hard to find workers having a liquid lunch, then heading back to work where they may be putting everyone around them in harm's way.

NYC Construction Workers Still Drinking On Job

At an Upper West Side watering hole, it seems like it's happy hour, with patrons clinking glasses and guzzling booze -- except it's noon, and the construction workers having some drinks still have to go back to work building a high-rise condo complex nearby.

Here's the video

It simply had to be said

With NYU considering adding a 40-story building or two to its Silver Towers property as part of the school's expansion, Greenwich Village preservationists are campaigning like mad to get I.M. Pei's creations landmarked. Which is funny, because if the Silver Towers were scheduled to be built today, there would probably be hunger strikes and riots against them. [Curbed]

Where Queens women go to give massages

3 women arrested in Smithtown spa raid

A Smithtown spa was raided by Suffolk police Tuesday after neighbors complained that they suspected it was a front for prostitution, police said.

Three Queens women were arrested at 5:20 p.m. at the Blue Spa at 207 Terry Rd. and were charged with prostitution. One also was charged with providing massages without a license.

The three, all from Flushing, were held overnight at the Fourth Precinct pending arraignment Wednesday at First District Court, Central Islip.

The arrests came after Suffolk police "conducted an investigation where it was discovered that women performed unlicensed massages and sexual acts for a fee," a police report said.

"Police seized $1,342 in cash, massage tables, and other items commonly used in prostitution activity," the report said.

Queens whores apparently are making a mint on Long Island. They might be here, too, but you never hear about any of them being arrested for it.

Our contaminated parks

Difficulty of Work Blamed for Delays Replacing Park Space Lost to Yankee Stadium

A parks department official was called before the City Council to explain why an effort to replace recreation space lost to construction of the new Yankee Stadium has been plagued by delays and cost overruns.

1) The Parks Department is in charge of the project
2) The property they're replacing the current parks with is a toxic wasteland

City choosing to forget

The review acknowledged toxins exceeding state standards “were detected in soil samples from throughout the project area.”

Oil contamination was identified in dirt and groundwater.

National Park Service executive Jack Howard noted soil near the Harlem River had “petroleum-like odors.” With reason: The lot had hosted a Valvoline Oil facility and a power plant.

Then there's this from Brooklyn:

About a quarter of Thomas Greene playground has been fenced off so that National Grid can dig underneath the Parks Dept. facility and see how polluted it is. The playground sits on a site once occupied by the Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant.

Gowanus Playground Fenced Off for Pollutant Dig

The re-greening of the High Line

The renderings for the High Line have been unveiled. They are quite unique, interesting and impressive. As they should be, considering the cost. Just a few notes...

"...derived from the High Line's self-sown landscape."

You mean the weeds that were growing up there?

"...landscape of native species that once grew spontaneously on the High Line..."

You mean the weeds that were growing up there?

"...between tall buildings, where trees originally grew up once the trains stopped running."

You mean that accidental landscape that sprung up? I thought those were no good. And are those Chinese sumacs (aka "ghetto trees") in that drawing? That's an invasive species!

In summary -

Manhattan: The Parks Department seems to want to preserve weeds and exotic vegetation in the non-natural setting of The High Line, all for the low price of $120M.

Queens: The Parks Department wants to spend $55M to bulldoze a forest containing threatened species at Ridgewood Reservoir and replace them with boiling hot carcinogenic artificial turf.

From the NY Times: Amanda M. Burden, the city’s planning commissioner, who joined Mr. Benepe at the news conference, said in a statement... “This amazing and totally unique public open space will be celebrated worldwide and stand as one of the great legacies of the Bloomberg administration.”

Because Bloomberg's legacy is, and should be, the motivation for everything that takes place in this city. However, the Comptroller is not buying his plan for the Ridgewood Reservoir.

2 fam... er, one family house for sale

"The very spacious finished basement offers a full bathroom, full kitchen and a family room." (wink, wink)

From Middle Village, NY 11379 Homes for Sale $699,000 on You Tube.

Here we go again...

Congestion Pricing Plan Could Return Under New Name

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Congestion pricing may be back, but it might have a new name.

The plan was shot down, but it may have new life in Albany with support from Gov. David Paterson.

Paterson reportedly says Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan was unique and well thought and could help solve the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's budget woes, which could mean fare and toll hikes and service cuts.

The plan would charge drivers a fee for entering the Central Business District of Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.

The Ravitch Commission, which was formed to look for new ways to fund the MTA, meets for the first time on Wednesday. The commission may give congestion pricing a new name because it caused so much controversy.

More Greenstreets proposals

"Attached are two ideal candidates for Greenstreets.
1. The first one is on the junction of Utopia Parkway and Fresh Meadow Lane, where drivers face a dangerous S-Curve. My proposal would straighten the parkway, resulting in a larger traffic triangle, and more park space.

2. The second proposal would turn the widest point of Hillside Avenue near Springfield Boulevard into a parkway. The central traffic island would instead be replaced with an express route. This two block stretch would resemble Eastern Parkway, with bike lanes and benches on both sides. Homes on both sides of the busy avenue would be shielded from the traffic and pollution.

Please note that I am not an architect nor a traffic engineer, just a concerned local resident who wants to improve our city's landscape." - anonymous

Oh, well then the city has no use for you. (Just kidding.)

From Streetsblog: Want a New Public Plaza in Your Neighborhood? Apply Now. Why not submit your suggestions to them?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

That's the way to do it!

Springfield Gardens residents are turning up the heat on the owner of an under-construction motel they believe will become a haven for drugs, prostitution and gangs.

Dozens of protesters car pooled from the motel site Monday evening to the Great Neck, L.I., home of Saleish Gandhi, who according to city Buildings Department records, owns the property on Springfield Blvd. and North Conduit Ave.

Springfield Gardens residents rally outside sex motel owner's home

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), who has been spearheading local protests, noted that Gandhi has a history of operating "hot-sheet motels" that offer hourly rates.

"We're slowing the construction down," Sanders' aide Donovan Richards said of the rallies. "A lot of [Gandhi's] neighbors came out to support us."

For the past month as many as 50 protesters have gathered three-times a week at the motel site.

On Monday protesters, chanting slogans, marched in front of Gandhi's home overlooking Little Neck Bay and the Throgs Neck Bridge. They also left flyers on the property and on a car parked in the driveway.

Ah, shady Queens developers. They all live in Great Neck, don't they?