Monday, November 30, 2009

Petrocelli gets 3 months for bribing McLaughlin

From the NY Times:

Santo Petrocelli Sr., the former owner and chairman of a company that received millions of dollars to install and maintain city street lights and traffic signals, was sentenced on Monday to three months in prison for making tens of thousands of dollars in payments to Brian M. McLaughlin, the former assemblyman and union leader who is now serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for racketeering.

Mr. Petrocelli was a founder and owner of the Petrocelli Electric Company, based in Long Island City, Queens, which hired workers represented by Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where Mr. McLaughlin was a business representative. Mr. Petrocelli, who is known as Sandy, was also sentenced to two years of supervised release. The sentence was issued by Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Mr. Petrocelli pleaded guilty on July 31 to one count of making illegal payments to a union official. He admitted that he knew the payments — not only cash, but also the use of a company car — were illegal.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Cedarbaum said she sought to discourage anyone “who may be tempted, as Mr. Petrocelli was tempted,” from “being drawn into supporting a corrupt union official over many, many years.”

How is a 3-month sentence discouraging?

Photo from the Daily News

PCBs still present in public schools

From the Queens Chronicle:

...Naomi Gonzalez, a Bronx mother of two, has instilled in her 7-year-old daughter advice that may seem unorthodox at first.

“I don’t let her drink the water in school, and she knows to ask not to sit by the window,” Gonzalez said.

Her daughter’s school, P.S. 178, is one of 85 citywide public schools — 20 of which are in Queens — where the Department of Education found traces of toxic PCB-contaminated caulk on classroom windows last year. Gonzalez, along with parents in the Bronx and Manhattan, has filed a lawsuit against the DOE and School Construction Authority. And, with the help of attorneys from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, parents from Queens may not be far behind.

“These are really, really, really bad compounds,” said Miranda Massie, a lawyer at NYLPI. “There’s no doubt that other schools that haven’t been tested have been affected.”

Before the 1970s, PCBs, which stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, were added to the caulking material used to cushion window and door frames to make them more elastic, according to the NYLPI. Although they were banned in 1979, products that may still contain the compound include electrical equipment, oil-based paints, floor finishes and caulking — which has recently been found in abundance on many school windows.

PCBs volatize into air and don’t stay in place, Massie said, affecting the quality of air students breathe, as well as the soil around a facility.

“Even if they replace the windows, that doesn’t do it,” she said. “You need a complete clean up.”

No way Jose is going away

From Interactive Journalism:

Jose arrived in the U.S. seven years ago from El Salvador. He walked from his home country to Mexico City, and then to the border, where he crossed by himself.

Jose is a day laborer. He works in construction whenever a contractor needs him, which means, in this economy, that he may stay without working for two weeks or more.

Currently he lives in a rented room in the Bronx, but there were times when he didn’t have money to pay any rent. During those days he slept in parks or shelters.

This is where the American Dream is possible, people said. Jose is skeptical about it. Nevertheless, going back to El Salvador is not an option. “Things are even worse over there.”

City to take over former Jackson Heights Catholic school


For many students in Queens, overcrowded schools are a constant reality. Each day they jostle and push through crammed hallways, squeezing into classrooms designed for fewer occupants.

Some students in Jackson Heights, however, may soon be granted a reprieve, as the city has acquired the Blessed Sacrament School building at 34-20 94th St. and will be turning the facility into a public school, set to open in September 2010. The new school is expected to eventually house 700 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

After months of speculation, the school was finally acquired from the Catholic Diocese, which had shut down Blessed Sacrament as enrollment levels at the Catholic school dropped to a precipitous low of 180 students in January 2009.

On Thursday, members of CDEC 30 brainstormed what the new curriculum for the school ought to be, with five educators from across the city presenting proposals.

Jacqueline Coombs, who has been an educator for the last 17 years, also supported the idea of having the curriculum reflect the diversity of the neighborhood.

“For example, Friday would be ‘game day,’ and we can use this day to learn how math across the world is different and how different cultures add and subtract differently,” Coombs said, alluding to the use of the abacus and other counting instruments that would be used to enhance the learning experience.

Ok, students don't need "game day" or to be taught how math is learned in other countries. Here's a crazy about concentrating on teaching them how to read, write and count so they have skills necessary to become successful in this country? Get your priorities in order. You're doing a disservice to these kids.

Same tired shit may run for different offices

From the Times Ledger:

Regarding Paul Vallone’s political future, we will be finding out during the next few months whether he will run for political office in 2010. He cannot run for the state Assembly seat in the 26th Assembly District, which is currently represented by Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside), since he lives in the 25th Assembly District.

Paul Vallone does live, however, in the 11th State Senate District represented by Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). There is a possibility he may decide to run for that seat against Padavan. His campaign headquarters on Francis Lewis Boulevard is still intact and ready to go if needed. He has also indicated he intends to move his law practice to Bayside and use his former campaign headquarters as his law office.

As for Iannece’s political future, he also does not live in the 26th Assembly District, but in the 24th Assembly District, which will become an open seat leading to a special election in the early part of next year when Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) resigns from that seat to take his elected position on the City Council.

His brother, Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) is also considering running for the Senate against Padavan. If David Weprin does not run for the vacated 24th Assembly District seat, it would seem Iannece would be the leading Democratic candidate. A major factor in that selection process, however, is who the county Democratic Party endorses.

It seems like some people are set on living off the public dole as politicians no matter what capacity it may be in. You need to thoroughly understand the workings of these legislative bodies before you throw your hat in the ring, not just throw a dart at a board and see what office you're going to run for. At least that's how it should be. As we can see, it's not the case. The perks are just too lucrative and brains often are not required.

AirTrain loses doors

From the NY Post:

A JFK shuttle train that had just undergone preventive maintenance lost two doors just before picking up its first passengers [Friday], sources said.

As the AirTrain pulled into the Lefferts Boulevard stop at 3:30 a.m., the two doors swung off their hinges. One careened onto the tracks and the other jammed into the platform.

"This is very troubling," said an airport source. "[Had] it happened when the train was crowded, people would have fallen out -- and they'd now be dead."

No one was aboard the computerized two-car shuttle -- which carries no conductor or motorman.

One of the broken doors, affixed to the outside of the cars, became "embedded into the concrete platform like a knife into a birthday cake," said a source.

An alarm sounded, but the train -- minus the two doors -- barreled on to the Howard Beach station, sources said.

Once there, it was taken out of service -- but staff didn't notify Port Authority officials until 6 a.m., sources said.

The potential tragedy -- and what caused it -- was under investigation last night, prompting one source to say, "They're reviewing it to see why it occurred, but all indications are that there was a problem in the maintenance yard."

Bloomberg spent >$100M on re-election campaign

From the NY Times:

To eke out a narrow re-election victory over the city’s understated comptroller, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spent $102 million of his own money, or about $183 per vote, according to data released on Friday, making his bid for a third term the most expensive campaign in municipal history.

And the $102 million tab is likely to rise: the mayor has not yet doled out his storied bonuses to campaign workers, which can top $100,000 a person. That spending will not be reported until after his inauguration.

He has now officially spent more of his own money in the pursuit of public office than any other individual in United States history.

Data released on Friday showed that, from Oct. 22 to Nov. 26, his campaign spent $18.6 million, much of it on last-minute television and radio advertising.

After the mayor’s campaign team discovered that a large block of undecided voters in the city either favored Mr. Thompson or planned to stay home on Election Day, the campaign scrambled.

A few hours before polls closed on Nov. 3, the campaign issued a flurry of telephone calls to registered voters, with recordings in which Mr. Bloomberg requested that New Yorkers pull the lever for him.

Chinese company awarded NYC subway project

From China Daily:

China State Construction Engineering Corp, the largest contractor in China, has bagged a subway ventilation project worth about $100 million in New York's Manhattan area, marking the construction giant's third order in the United States' infrastructure space this year.

The contract was given to China Construction American Co, a subsidiary, the Wall Street Journal quoted a source as saying.

"The new project, along with the $410-million Hamilton Bridge project and a $1.7-billion entertainment project it won earlier this year, signals China State Construction's ambition to tap the American construction market," said Li Zhirui, an industry analyst at First Capital Securities.

Li, however, said the order came as no surprise as the US government is spending massively on infrastructure projects.

The three orders only account for about 4 percent of the value of its total orders this year, Li added.

In the first three quarters of this year, the Chinese construction giant signed more than $2 billion worth of contracts in the US market. China State Construction was also the contractor for a high school, a railway station and the Chinese embassy in the US.

All along the Hell Gate

Forgotten-NY visits the arches of the Hell Gate bridge, which are full of surprises. Click photo for story.

Long time Mitchell-Linden stores in jeopardy

"A rumor has been spreading through this residential neighborhood that we might be losing the stores that many of us have shopped in since 1952. Owners of coops and private homes in the area are concerned that these will be rental units, with a portion set aside for Section 8 housing in order to get variances. The Mitchell-Linden Civic Association has been quiet on this proposal until this afternoon when a flyer was put under the doors of the apartments in my co-op. It's about time!"

"Here is a Google satellite view of the area. The stores in question are in the center with white roofs. Do you think parking might be an issue???" - Al

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brooklyn developer seeks zoning change

From the Brooklyn Paper:

A developer’s bid for a glitzy, 800-unit mixed-use apartment complex along the Williamsburg waterfront tripped at the first hurdle on Tuesday night when a community board committee rejected it 9–1.

Members of the Community Board 1 land-use committee objected strongly to the project — dubbed “Rose Plaza on the River” — because it would reserve only 20 percent of its condo units as below-market-rate housing.

The waterfront site is currently zoned for manufacturing and houses a lumber warehouse and a parking lot. The developers are seeking a residential rezoning so they can build a 3.7-acre complex with 801 units in three towers of 18, 24, and 29 stories. The site is bordered by Kent Avenue on the east, Division Avenue on the south and the Schaefer Landing complex to the north.

Rose Plaza is bigger, bulkier and will provide more housing than its neighbor to the north, which has towers of 15 and 26 stories for a total of 210 units.

Members of the committee sought improvements in the project, including setting aside 33 percent of the project for below-market-rate housing and creating some larger units for families.

“The public space and affordable housing shows that we care about the community,” said Weiss, adding that the construction of housing in what is currently a manufacturing site would “bring life and create jobs.”

To be able to do so, though, the developers need that the rezoning, which caps the towers at 185-feet, given the lot size. Rose Plaza would not be the first development to get such a waiver, but that didn’t matter to some panelists.

“You’re not special,” said Heather Roslund, a member of the committee. “I don’t buy it.”

Speaking of buying things, Dennis pointed out, Rose Plaza would add 800 units to the 2,500 new apartments that are expected to be on the market by the end of the year and another 2,500 by the end of 2010.

But Weiss was not deterred.

“By the time the project is built, the market will have changed — and we will be offering waterfront real estate,” said Weiss.

NY State almost out of cash

From the NY Times:

New York State is running out of cash.

Without a budget deal, New York will be left with just $36 million in the bank by the end of December, according to current projections. And the money will last that long, officials say, only if the state chooses to fully exhaust its emergency reserves by tapping several billion dollars’ worth of temporary loans from its rainy-day fund and short-term investments.

For weeks, Gov. David A. Paterson has invoked the shrinking amount of available cash in an effort to provoke the Legislature to deal with the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit. So far, the specter of such dire fiscal outcomes has been greeted with what amount to legislative shrugs, chiefly in the recalcitrant State Senate.

The stalemate in Albany is familiar, of course, and there are many lawmakers and experts who predict that the Legislature will act at the 11th hour, as it has before, to avoid the worst damage.

But with no end in sight to the negotiations, state officials are beginning to reckon with what could be an unprecedented cash crisis. And many say that even if the current deficit is closed, the state is at considerable risk going forward — less able, for instance, to borrow money because of worsening credit ratings and ill prepared for far more severe deficits ahead.

The joke's on the UFT

From the Daily News:

Mayor Bloomberg vowed Wednesday the city will use students' test scores to decide if their teachers should get tenure - defying the Legislature and angering the union.

Bloomberg made the aggressive move in a speech in Washington as contract talks with the teachers union have stalled - and hundreds of millions of federal dollars hang in the balance.

"You can evaluate teachers on any criteria you want, just not on student achievement data," Bloomberg told an audience that included U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "That's like saying to hospitals: 'You can evaluate heart surgeons on any criteria you want - just not patient survival rates!'"

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew reacted angrily to the plan, which would affect about 6,000 teachers this year.

"This really blew my mind today," Mulgrew said. "The state education commissioner and [Regents Chancellor] Merryl Tisch have both said publicly that the test scores are broken, and then the mayor stands up in public and says he wants to use the broken test scores to evaluate teachers."

The union last year persuaded the Legislature to pass a law barring the use of test scores in tenure decisions.

City lawyers say they found a loophole in the law - which expires in June - that allows them to use student performance to evaluate teachers who are up for tenure this year.

The mayor said he didn't consult with the union before going public with the plan. The UFT contract expired Oct. 31.

Used car dealership may get license yanked

From the Times Ledger:

A city agency wants to revoke the license of a Richmond Hill used car dealership along with obtaining $700,000 in restitution and fines from the company for what it called illegal and deceptive business practices.

The city Department of Consumer Affairs claimed the dealership, Queens Auto Mall at 134-01 Atlantic Ave. in Richmond Hill, charged customers illegal fees, prevented customers from filing complaints and refused to refund deposits on cancelled transactions.

The dealership is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has no rating from the nonprofit, but there were 19 complaints filed with the BBB.

Seven of the complaints were from refund or exchange issues, three for repair issues, three for selling practices, three involving contract disputes and one apiece for customer service problems, guarantee or warranty complaints and product issues.

Both the company’s used car license and auction license could be revoked by the agency to prevent the dealership’s owners from obtaining those licenses in the future.

The agency said it received 100 consumer complaints about Queens Auto Mall that included gripes that the dealership refused to give refunds and failed to deliver vehicles after consumers put down $500 deposits.

College Point's First Reformed Church reopens

From the Times Ledger:

College Point’s First Reformed Church reopened last weekend with its first Sunday worship service in nearly a year and a half following a June 6, 2008, fire that engulfed its steeple and caused major damage to its main sanctuary.

A congregation of nearly 50 parishioners turned out Sunday morning for the service, at which the Rev. Linda Burlew Gold rededicated the church’s refurbished building.

The church, at 118-01 14th Ave. in College Point, had been waiting for an inspection following months of reconstruction on the steeple and sanctuary that was completed in July. The city had placed a vacate order at the site shortly after the blaze as a result of water and smoke damage.

It was unclear how the fire at the church started.

But a city Department of Buildings inspector gave the church a favorable report in late October.

Burlew Gold said the reconstruction project went through numerous permits and licenses, frustrating its dedicated congregation.

The church has not missed a single Sunday service since the fire and has held services at a number of sites, including the church’s lawn and for the past 17 months in its smaller, attached chapel. Its ministries, which include 12-step program meetings and a food pantry, have also not been interrupted.

Most of the damage to the church was covered by insurance, so the church paid less than $10,000 for its reconstruction costs, Burlew Gold said.

The church dates back to 1871. Regular worship services began soon after and the church was dedicated Sept. 28, 1873. The families of some of its parishioners have been attending the church for four generations.

Lotto hoaxer's jail ticket


A Queens crook who sold strangers fake "winning" lottery tickets will spend 3½ to 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to grand larceny, prosecutors said yesterday.

Alvin Summers, 37, was accused of ripping off nearly 20 people in five counties out of up to $15,000.

He'd approach strangers with a spiel: He couldn't cash in the winning tickets because he had to be on a flight later that day, it would interfere with his welfare benefits, or some other excuse.

So instead, he'd offer the stranger the ticket, in exchange for about half the prize value.

Forest Park rapist caught

From the Queens Chronicle:

A man suspected of rape and sexual assault in Forest Park this year is in custody, police said.

Carl Wallace, 29, from Brooklyn, was arrested on Oct. 28 after cops suspected he is the same man responsible for at least one of the three sexual attacks that took place in or just outside the park within the past five months, the 102nd Precinct confirmed this week. Wallace was denied bail and has been charged with first-degree rape, predatory sexual assault, first-degree robbery and unlawful imprisonment in the first degree.

Wallace’s DNA was found to match that of a 29-year-old woman who was raped on Sept. 24 at around 3 a.m., according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office. The victim was reportedly dragged at knifepoint to a wooded area near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Park Lane South, where the defendant allegedly raped and threatened to stab her if she screamed. After the attack, the man stole cash, an iPod and identification from the victim’s bag before fleeing.

Forgotten-NY tours Catalpa Avenue

Interesting sights to be seen along the avenue known as Catalpa in Ridgewood. Click photo for story.

They're damned if they do and damned if they don't

From the Times Ledger:

Following the advice of its Land Use Committee, Community Board 12 voted to allow a developer extra time to complete its projects, which had fallen behind schedule because of difficulty in getting financial help from banks.

The economy “makes it difficult for developers to complete their projects on time,” said CB 12 Land Use Committee Chairman Cardinal Sandiford.

Sandiford said the Land Use Committee recommended the board side with the developers.

Gouranga C. Kundu, who is trying to develop residential properties at 87-12 175th St. and 88-04 175th St. said a “financial crisis” led him to come before the board.

“We are trying hard to get the financing from the banks,” Kundu said, noting he wanted an additional two years to complete work on the homes.

A representative for the other developer seeking an extension to build four three-family units on Lauren Court and 175th Street was not present at the meeting.

Adam Rothkrug, the attorney for the developer of the Lauren Court construction, said Friday his client had all the financing he needed, but construction has stalled because of “pending court actions.”

“Our delay has been mostly due to a litigious neighbor,” Rothkrug said. “The neighbors claimed that we damaged their properties [during construction]. That’s why we need more time. We would like to finish the buildings and nobody wants to see half-construction.”

Rothkrug said all but one foundation has been constructed for the properties.

On the 87-12 175th St. building, the board voted 31-1 to allow the extension. It voted 30-2 on the 88-04 175th St. building and 32-0 on the Lauren Court development projects.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Film festival con artist exposed

MYFOXNY.COM - The Fox 5 Shame spotlight is focused on the founder of a local film festival. Arnold Diaz reports that some former employees are blowing the whistle on a woman with a long history of dirty business.

Some people say that the founder of the Queens International Film Festival uses the event to line her pockets. Arnold confronted her about the claims, and now a local councilman is asking authorities to investigate her business practices.

Parks chooses illegal aliens over children

From the Sunnyside Post:

Many Woodside residents claimed at Tuesday night’s 108 police precinct meeting that immigrants and day labors are illegally entering Hart Playground (65th and 37th Ave.), frightening local children and leaving the bathroom in a state of disorder.

The problem is particularly acute every Tuesday when a mobile food service truck from St John’s Bread of Life dispenses food outside of the park, residents said. Police were told that 250 people show up for a meal and then disperse all over the playground. They said half naked men could be found in the bathroom– bathing and washing their clothes. The plumbing is often backed up, resulting in a urine-soaked floor.

The residents said that they have no problem with the food service. However, they argue that the day labors should not be allowed to enter the playground. They claim that under the Parks Department rules, an adult is not allowed to enter the playground without a child. This fact was confirmed by another news outlet.

Unfortunately, recent developments have not pleased residents. The Parks Department, according to residents, said it would allow the immigrants to use the public bathroom and to allow them to congregate in a small designated section of the playground.

“So much for the sign that says ’no adult can go into the park without a child’,” said a distraught resident.

Cambria Heights man shot over big screen TV

From the NY Post:

A Queens man was shot by a group of thugs in a home-invasion robbery — but the bumbling thieves had to ditch the massive TV they were trying to steal when they realized it wouldn’t fit in their car, authorities and witnesses said.

The victim, a retired mason identified by neighbors as Bentley White, 64, was hit in the body and taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was reported in stable condition, cops said.

The botched Black Friday heist unfolded at the house he shares with his wife and two grown children on 223rd Street, near 130th Avenue in Cambria Heights at 8:30 a.m.

White was loading a trailer with construction materials for a vacation house that he was rebuilding on the island of Jamaica as well as a 47-inch flat-screen LG TV.

It’s not clear if the thieves followed him into the house, but they shot him in the kitchen and tried to flee with the cumbersome screen.

Witness Dudley Young said that he was looking out his window and arguing as they tried to stuff the box into the trunk of their car.

"I saw three guys by the lamp pole fighting with each other over the box," he said.

"The box was on the side of their car and then they just left it."

ECB a revenue raiser for City

From the Bronx Times-Reporter:

[Rosanna] Gennarelli has been ticketed for trash a handful of times. The 51-year old has fought ticket after $300 Environmental Control Board (ECB) ticket; Senator Jeff Klein even wrote a letter on her behalf to the ECB. But Gennarelli was ticketed yet again on Saturday, November 14 and Thursday, November 19.

“I fight [the tickets] because I refuse to pay for something that isn’t my fault,” Gennarelli said.

Gennarelli has lived on E. Tremont Avenue between Philip and Randall avenues since 1996. In 2000 or 2001, the city extended a bus stop from the corner of E. Tremont and Randall avenues, in front of Pete’s Donut Shop & Restaurant, up further, in front of five private homes, the widow said. The bus stop is designed to hold two tandem buses, Gennarelli added.

Prior to the change, the city consulted Community Board 10, but Gennarelli, who returns home from work in Manhattan at around 7 p.m., wasn’t able to attend the meeting, she explained. Not only are Gennarelli and her neighbors ticketed for trash, buses and bus passengers often block her driveway, she said.

Some two years ago, Gennarelli purchased a trashcan for the bus stop. She locked it to a pole but when the city Department of Sanitation stopped by to take the trash, the trashcan was unlocked and stolen, Gennarelli said. When Klein interceded, she spoke to a DSNY supervisor who told her that trashcans are only allowed on corners.

The supervisor had Gennarelli’s property observed and found her guilty of no violations. But the ticket barrage didn’t end. Gennarelli thinks that the city uses ECB tickets to raise revenue; her tickets have all been excused.

Padavan concerned over SJU illegal apartments

From the Times Ledger:

City officials are ramping up efforts to inform individuals about illegal apartments following complaints by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and borough residents that too many college students are crammed into area homes, Queens Department of Buildings Commissioner Ira Gluckman told a Community Board 8 meeting last week.

“For the next two weeks we’re having our inspectors go to various subway stations to hand out fliers with information about illegal apartments,” Gluckman said at the Nov. 18 meeting.

The flier says a tenant should look into the legality of his or her apartment if the bedroom is in the cellar or attic, if they get electricity with an extension cord or if they lock their room with a padlock. It comes on the heels of Padavan’s October letter to Gluckman, in which he said there are at least 11 houses illegally inhabited by St. John’s University students in the Fresh Meadows and Jamaica Estates area.

The commissioner said DOB officials went to inspect each of the houses and confirmed that two were legal residences, gave one home two violations for subdividing the house and gave another residence one violation for creating an apartment in the attic. Inspectors were denied access to the other seven houses and Gluckman said they are not permitted to force their way into a house.

“We can get access warrants, but judges aren’t happy to give these out readily,” Gluckman said.

City puts parking meters in dumb place

From the Forum West:

A group of Middle Village residents living on streets off Eliot Avenue are frustrated over the city’s recent decision to install parking meters in an area they previously relied on as a safe, reliable option for parking.

According to residents of 75th Street, the city Department of Transportation suddenly installed the meters along Eliot Avenue between 74th Street and Lutheran Avenue about two weeks ago. Since there are no businesses along that stretch, the parking spaces now sit empty the majority of the time during the week. The spots are now virtually useless to 75th Street residents, who used to park there when their dead-end block was full.

Adding insult to the situation is the fact that the DOT installed the meters with no advance warning to the residents, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley or Community Board 5. Even worse, several residents who parked there before the meters were installed returned to their cars to find tickets on their windshields...

Robert Moses and the Astoria Pool

From the Daily News:

Master builder Robert Moses was in high gear in 1936, effortlessly spending truckloads of federal money as fast as he could, not only finishing up the enormous Triborough Bridge project but also installing splendid new public swimming pools all over town for the pleasure of the good people of New York - nearly a dozen of them, one a week all summer long. Most splendid of them all was the Astoria Pool, on the Queens side of the big bridge, right down in its very shadow. Characteristically Mosesean, the pool was said to be the nation's largest - 330 feet long, 165 feet wide, its 1.8 million gallons of water handily accommodating more than 3,000 bathers - and it was stunningly futuristic, boasting of all things underwater lighting, unheard of at the time. Well, it happened to cost nearly $4 million, in 1936 dollars, but then President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration had bucks to burn. Opening day was Saturday the Fourth of July, just a week ahead of the overhead Triborough, and if it was the Master Builder's lot not to be universally loved all his long life, on this particular occasion at least he won the hearts of many thousands of New Yorkers, since, amid the scorchingest summer in years, he ordered the Astoria and the other new pools not to close till midnight.

Dinner is served...

How'd you like to see this outside your window? A lady in Sunnyside had such an experience...

Looks like this was taken from one of the new condo projects on Queens Blvd.

Courtesy of Citybirder.

Forest Hills illegal construction saga drags on

"Dear Crapper,

This guy really should be in jail at this point right?

One other thing, as I was passing 108th street I noticed that there was a "for rent" sign for Albert Cohen's law office. Wasn't he under investigation by the department of elections for fraud?"

Matches Malone

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving on Main Street, 1969

See what happens when you bring in the Feds?

From the NY Times:

Federal and local authorities arrested seven people on Tuesday — including the owners of two construction testing companies, officials from three contracting companies, and an engineer — on charges they falsified testing documents at four New York construction projects.

The people arrested were charged with mail and wire fraud, and are accused of falsifying or attempting to falsify welding, soil boring and asphalt test documents, according to criminal complaints unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn.

The charges, brought by the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn and based on work by investigators for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York City Department of Investigation, represent a growing focus on construction testing, an industry that has come under intense scrutiny in the last two years from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and other agencies.

The case was based on dozens of secretly recorded conversations between some of the defendants and an undercover investigator with the Port Authority inspector general’s office and two unidentified cooperating witnesses, officials said.

Some of those charged were recorded offering or making payoffs of several hundred dollars for the falsified testing documents, and others were recorded accepting payoffs for providing false documents, the officials said.

Some of the documents, according to the charges, were to be provided to the New York City Buildings Department to obtain certificates of occupancy. Others were to be provided to the city’s Parks Department or Housing Authority in order for the companies to be paid.

Developing every open space in existence

From City Limits:

What should New York City do with its public housing? Demolish it, as public housing authorities in cities like Newark, Chicago and Detroit have done? Sell it, as private-market advocates propose? Or watch it continue to deteriorate as the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) struggles with deficits brought by cutbacks in state and federal support?

These are critical questions for the city because with nearly 180,000 apartments spread over five boroughs, NYCHA is New York's largest landlord. And in a city where housing for low- and moderate-income people is so desperately needed, public housing provides a vital service. Even if the buildings are getting old. Even if the elevators don't always work. Even if the vast superblocks typical of most housing projects are banal in design, barren of amenity and often empty and intimidating at night.

This year, an international team of graduate students from the University of Michigan Master of Urban Design Program spent a semester exploring the redevelopment potential of public housing projects on the Lower East Side, one of the greatest concentrations of such projects in the country.

They proposed that the projects' open spaces (more than 80 percent of their land area) be used for development that 1) retains all public housing in the area; 2) provides new revenue streams for NYCHA that can be used to maintain and enhance its housing stock; 3) creates the kind of economically integrated communities preferred by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in its public-housing demolition and replacement program, HOPE VI; and 4) uses development to increase project residents' social and economic opportunities.

Okay...sewers, parks, schools, electricity, police...where are we building those? Do these things not matter?

Cuomo moves to stop UHO scam

From the NY Post:

Just in time for the holidays, state authorities are going for the jug-ular -- seeking to banish forever the panhandling pests who clog Manhattan's busiest corners with folding tables and plastic water bottles.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed suit yesterday, charging the United Homeless Organization is a scam run by con artists who pocket most of the change they collect -- hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The beggars -- most of whom claim to be street people -- say that the money tossed into their jugs goes to the homeless. And it does, the suit says. They just don't bother to say they're talking about themselves.

UHO founder Stephen Riley and director Myra Walker take a big cut of the money to fund personal shopping sprees at the GameStop, Home Shopping Network, Bed Bath & Beyond and P.C. Richard, as well as their monthly cable bills, legal papers charge.

Riley, a beefy 60-year-old, shamelessly used the donated dollars -- which are supposed to be used to "feed the homeless" -- to pay his Weight Watchers bills.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, seeks a temporary injunction to shut down the UHO, then permanently disband it and keep Riley and Walker from ever taking part in charitable causes.

Illegals forced into prostitution in Queens

From the Daily News:

AS CHILDREN and their parents walked past crowded restaurants on Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights recently, men yelled "Chicas!" and handed out cards with phone numbers and pictures of busty, scantily clad women.

For Kika Cerpa, a woman in her mid-30s, those cards bring back memories of her harrowing ordeal as one of those "chicas."

Cerpa's hellish tale began in 1993, when she was lured from her native Venezuela by a boyfriend who had moved to the U.S.

When Cerpa arrived in the U.S. at age 20, her boyfriend's cousin - a brothel madame - took her passport and her life savings of almost $2,000 and told her she had to pay off her beau's debt. She was taken to a brothel on Roosevelt Ave.

Young women, many of them undocumented immigrants, are being intimidated and blackmailed to work for prostitution rings operating near restaurants, bars and clubs in the neighborhood, community leaders said.

"Once they get here, they are enslaved," said Arnaldo Salinas, a member of the Guardian Angels, which patrols the neighborhood. "I've seen scars...from women beat upon by their pimp."

Out of the 3,260 prostitution-related arrests last year in New York City, about 38% occurred in Queens, more than in any other borough, state Division of Criminal Justice Services statistics show.

There's less street prostitution, but more "deliveries" to locations all over Queens, advocates said.

What a great vibrant and diverse statistic to add to our collection! They also do this kind of thing in Brooklyn.

Illegal conversions worst in Queens

From the Queens Courier:

From the barrio to the tree-lined streets of upscale neighborhoods all over Queens, thousands of people live in danger. They live in illegal apartments.

In the worst cases, unscrupulous building owners partition off houses into multiple apartments – sometimes as many as eight units in a two-story structure, even cramming living spaces in the attic and cellar.

Frequently, there is only a single exit for as many as four rooms – a narrow hallway that can be blocked by fire or smoke. This was the case in a November 7 fire in Woodside that claimed the lives of three Bangladeshi immigrants and left three, including the building owner, with serious injuries.

Firefighters, who search for possible victims in these labyrinthine deathtraps, encounter unnecessary risk. Sometimes they pay the price for a landlord’s greed.

Beyond the obvious danger caused by illegal conversions of homes into apartment buildings, there are other problems. The clandestine increase in population density impacts the quality of life – from overcrowded schools, to street congestion and parking problems, to strains on water, sewer and sanitation.

“Each year we receive thousands of complaints about illegal conversions and make thousands of inspections,” said Tony Sclafani, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB).

Queens has the largest number of illegal conversion complaints in the city, according to Sclafani. “The style of home construction lends itself to illegal conversion,” he said.

Well then, it appears the laws need to be changed with regards to what kind of dwellings can be constructed. But since the council people depend on developer cash, don't hold your breath.

Airport cab crackdown

From NY1:

Port Authority officials and the Queens District Attorney's office announced the arrest of 18 people Tuesday in an investigation targeting unlicensed drivers who illegally pick up fares.

The operation was conducted at JFK and LaGuardia.

Authorities say the unlicensed drivers aren't drug tested, don't get background checks and aren't subject to insurance requirements.

Investigators say that hurts both customers and licensed drivers.

"In addition to fleecing travelers and tourists they also hit the honest taxi driver in the pocket book," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The 18 people arrested face charges including unlawful solicitation and criminal trespassing.

Last month, Governor David Paterson signed a bill providing stiffer penalties for solicitation.

If convicted, the drivers face up to three months in prison.

Missing home

My name is Danielle and I grew up in Kew Gardens Hills.....well for a large part of my childhood at least. My Grandparents raised me on 76th road, in a beautiful attached house with a beautiful garden. I went to school at Queen of Peace only 2 blocks from my house. Everyday my grandmother brought me to the triangle park across the street from the library. I use to believe the bank housed the ACTUAL Liberty Bell and I loved hearing stories about how the whole area use to be farm land. My grandparents raised my mother and I both in that house, it was their dream home, they purchased it in the 70's after living in a one bedroom apartment in Jamaica for 10 years after coming to this country from Cuba.

My front yard had hydrangea bushes, and lily of the valley flower, my grandmother had made a rock garden and had a large bird bath. Our back alley was also meticulously taken care of. My grandparents had a Florida room which once was an open back patio which they closed in yet always still had the feeling of being open. My grandmother had her plants lining all the windows, it was like a little jungle. We even had a landscaper for that tiny piece of property on 76th rd. In 2000 when I was 14 my grandparents retired to Florida and I was living on Long Island with my mother. The pain of leaving that house is unimaginable, to leave your memories, your childhood...... you leave your home in the hands of the next family and hope that they take care of your most prized possession.

Three years later I got my drivers license and decided to go see my old home..... I wish I never had. They paved everything. Its one huge concrete mess. From what I heard from old neighbors they had knocked down all the walls on the main floor and made one HUGE room.....and then bricked in our back Florida room to make a new kitchen. The house had the original windows which made it possible to be considered historic in a few years.....but no they ripped them out and got these big ugly white windows and vertical blinds. As I looked at the rest of the block I noticed that many others had one the same thing.....concreting their yards, building brick fences.....taking away any charm. I still cry over it....I cry as I write this email.

Thank you for your website.....its nice to see I have others that miss what Queens was.


p.s. this was my inspiration for writing you ..... here.

[Don't think that's Danielle's house, but I put 76th Road in Google Maps and found this gem.]

I think your blog is great. I have a question - who do I contact about these ugly buildings that are being built all over Queens. Somebody has to say enough is enough these developers are making Queens ugly and they have no respect for Queens, stainless steel doors with brick houses! Seriously people have to stand up!!!

Respectfully yours
Luis A.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Queens Crap!

Photo from Ben+Sam on Flickr

You get what you pay for

From the NY Times:

Federal investigators reported on Monday that a “strong association” exists between chemicals in Chinese drywall installed in thousands of homes during the housing boom and electrical problems in those homes.

In addition, investigators said that the drywall was a possible cause of respiratory problems reported by homeowners, brought on by hydrogen sulfide gas emitted from the imported drywall in combination with formaldehyde, which is common in new homes.

The finding, released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, is the second in a series of progress reports on a widespread investigation into complaints by homeowners that their newly built homes were giving off a rotten egg odor and causing respiratory problems, and that appliances and electrical systems were failing quickly.

A probe of American drywall is also in the works.

New Demolition Notification Requirements

Courtesy of IMBY:

New Demolition Notification Requirements

On December 2, 2009, contractors must follow new requirements for notifying the Buildings Department before starting full and partial demolition work. These requirements are outlined in Chapter 33 section BC 3306.3 of the 2008 Construction Code. (Click here for PDF)

Full Demolition

The Department has changed the notification requirements for full demolition work. To notify, contractors must call (212) 227-4416 within 24 to 48 hours prior to starting work. The BEST Squad will no longer accept notifications. Callers will be given a confirmation number upon notification.

Partial Demolition

Contractors must notify the Department before starting partial demolition work. In certain cases, adjoining property owners must also be notified before starting work.

• Notification to the Department: To notify, contractors must call (212) 227-4416 within 24 to 48 hours before starting work. Callers will be given a confirmation number upon notification.

• Notification to adjoining owners: If partial demolition work will involve non hand-held mechanical demolition equipment, contractors must notify adjoining property owners. Contractors must also provide proof of notification to the Department by submitting a copy of the notification letter sent to the adjoining property owner along with a certified mail receipt from the mail carrier. The letter and receipt must be submitted when requesting a construction permit.

Brooklynites call their community board out on the carpet


Community Board 13 is way too amped up over Borough President Marty Markowitz’s controversial $64 million amphitheater planned Asser Levy Seaside Park.

Salvos in the ongoing battle over the project exploded all over Wednesday night’s meeting, so much so that board Chair Marion Cleaver cut the meeting short when she thought the biting back-and-forth commentary between members and project opponents had reached dangerous levels.

Robert’s Rules of Order were supplanted by schoolyard “who can scream the loudest” rules after opponent Lori Silverman accused board members of keeping quiet about the amphitheater for fear that the community volunteers would lose their “perks” -- a word that sparked an emotional reaction in at least one board member.

“Cut the crap!” board member Freddy Schneider screamed. “What perks?”

“I don’t like to be accused of getting perks!” he screamed after being asked to quiet down.

Schneider then morphed into Al Pacino from “And Justice For All” when he was told that he was “out of order” for interrupting Silverman.

“I’m out of order? This whole meeting is out of order,” he spat as he stood up and began pointing at opponents. “Maybe we don’t have a problem with the amphitheater, but you’re making it a problem. SO SHUT YOUR GOD DAMN MOUTH!”

Silverman said she “couldn’t believe” that people would erupt over the word perks, which she saw as VIP seating at Markowitz’s Seaside Summer Concert series and free invites to dinners, Borough Hall functions and to barbecues at Gracie Mansion.

Patronage jobs were implied, although Silverman didn’t say it openly.

“I don’t think Mr. Schneider understands the meaning of the word perk,” said amphitheater opponent Arlene Brenner. “A perk isn’t money, it’s any little thing they get.”

Silverman, who board members reportedly called a “potty mouth” and encouraged to “go to Creedmore” after she last addressed the board, said Schneider “acted like a wacko.”

Cleaver did cobble together a letter asking Borough President Markowitz to “clarify” some of the key points about the amphitheater, claiming that board members are confused about the project which she said has been “fogged by misinformation.”

The letter asks Markowitz to clarify his meaning of the word amphitheater, whether the seating would be permanent, if the project would cause the removal of memorials in the park and how parking would be affected.

While board members applauded the letter, Brenner scoffed at the board’s mollycoddling of the amphitheater project.

“That letter is a crock of sh-t,” she said.

Board member Bernie Kaufman also had a problem with the letter, which he saw as a back door approval of the plan.

“I’m pretty good at English and that letter definitely states that you’re siding with some parts of the proposal,” he said.

WOW! This sounds more exciting and entertaining than anything that would go on inside that potato chip.

Times Square project forces parade rerouting

From CBS880:

It won't be just the balloons, marching bands and floats on display in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The laws of physics will also be on parade.

For the first time in its more than 80-year history, the parade route is bypassing Broadway, which cuts a diagonal slice through Manhattan, as it makes its way south from the Upper West Side to the finish at Macy's flagship store in Herald Square.

Instead, participants will use a new route, one that traverses the grid of the city's streets and avenues, includes turns around five corners, and is slightly longer than in previous years.

The demands of the new route will challenge the marching bands and handlers of the parade's signature balloons, for whom precision is key, said Brian Schwartz, physics professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

"There really is a lot of science" to it, he said.

"If they're taking a new route, they're going to have to be really careful in the turning of the corners," he said.

The new 2.65-mile route came about because parts of Broadway have been closed to vehicular traffic, making it off limits to floats this year.

Walking tour of Astoria


You notice any mistakes? Heard a big one at the beginning...

Thanksgiving, 1899 style

This Thanksgiving Menu from the Plaza Hotel in 1899 comes to you courtesy of Ephemeral New York.

Pass the Nesselrode Pudding!

The Battery Park turkey struts her stuff

From the Daily News:

Run, Zelda, run!

That was the word Sunday from shocked tourists as they snapped photos with New York's famous Thanksgiving mascot in Battery Park.

"Go hide before someone eats you," pleaded Nicole Dhillon, 28, of Brooklyn.

The wild turkey has been roosting in Battery Park for at least six years - but she still caused a stir Sunday when she showed her spectacular fan of yellow, dark blue and brown feathers.

The wild turkey was named after Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, because the woman also was found wandering in the park after a nervous breakdown.

Zelda now may be the nation's only wild turkey with a Wikipedia page.

In 2004, she went astray, leaving the safety of Battery Park for an Easter strut in Tribeca. She briefly disrupted traffic along the West Side Highway before she was returned home.

Turns out she's one of about 7 million wild turkeys living in the U.S.

Baisley Pond basketball

"There was actually another basketball deeper in the (not Willis) reeds... no wonder St. John's has been so lousy since the '80s; Queens kids gave up!" - WWIB

Well that was a little strange, but today let's be thankful that not all of our natural places have been paved over.

From the Parks Dept:

Baisley Pond was created in the 18th century when local farmers dammed three streams in order to power their grain mill. The 30-acre pond and the park are named for David Baisley, a local farmer who owned this land in the early 19th century and operated the mill that was located on the pond.

The City of Brooklyn used its local wells and cisterns for water until 1859. Due to the drastic need for clean water in Manhattan, and sensing that it too would need alternate water sources, the Brooklyn Water Works acquired Baisley Pond for its water supply in 1852. In 1898, the City of Brooklyn voted to become a part of New York City during the consolidation of the five boroughs. This decision was made at least in part to alleviate water supply problems.

While dredging Baisley Pond shortly after its acquisition, Brooklyn city workers made a startling discovery. Buried in the sediment, the remains of an American Mastodon (Mammut americanum), including five molars and a bone fragment, were found. The Mastodon likely lived in the area almost 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age. Today, a sculpture of a Mastodon in Sutphin Playground commemorates the discovery and makes for a unique playmate.

In 1914, the City transferred the northern half of the property to Parks and the site opened to the public in 1919. At the time, Queens was still a predominantly rural area, and the park remained a rustic preserve. In the 1920s, the area was urbanized as developers built hundreds of single-family homes in the neighborhood. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) and the Works Progress Administration constructed recreational facilities in the park, including a boat landing, several playgrounds, tennis and handball courts, baseball diamonds, and a football field.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bloomberg can't stop lying & the press won't question him

From the Queens Courier:

The city has placed 20,620 New Yorkers in jobs since the beginning of this year – already surpassing the 20,000 goal Mayor Michael Bloomberg set for this year.

During his State of the City speech this year, Bloomberg set the 20,000-job placement goal, which was an increase from the record high 17,000 placements the city had in 2008. Currently, the city is on pace to place 23,000 people in jobs this year.

“City government can’t end the national recession, but these job placements show we can make a real difference for individuals and families,” Bloomberg said at 1010 WINS 5-Borough Business Breakfast in Brooklyn on Thursday, November 19. “They are the latest indication that there are businesses in all five boroughs that are growing and hiring, and we’re doing everything we can to support them.”

Earth to Bloomberg (and the Queens Courier): You promised to create 400,000 jobs over 6 years. Then you went on a firing spree. And city unemployment is at 10.3%. Stop lying, asshole. The campaign is over.

3 Queens public high schools may close

From the Daily News:

Several Queens schools may be in hot water after failing to make the grade on the city's annual progress reports.

The city is considering closing Beach Channel High School in Rockaway Park; the Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship High School in Cambria Heights and Jamaica High School, after they received D's on the reports released last week. Other schools may also be under consideration.

"We review all low-performing schools for closure," said Education Department spokesman William Havemann. "But the progress report is not the only factor to be considered."

When schools are closed, classes are phased out one year at a time. Then a new school moves into the building, Havemann said.

David Pecoraro, a math teacher and union leader at Beach Channel, said his school's low marks aren't necessarily its fault.

Two nearby schools that opened recently only accept students with high test scores, he said, siphoning off the area's best students and leaving Beach Channel with the lower-performing kids.

"You've academically, socioeconomically and racially segregated these students by the creation of these schools," Pecoraro said. "We used to get the broad range of students. We don't get that broad range anymore."

Sadik-Khan strikes again

From the Courier-Life:

If it ain’t broke, the city’s Department of Transportation might just fix it.

Local residents and elected officials are scratching their heads following the DOT’s recent traffic calming measures instituted along Gerritsen Avenue between Nostrand Avenue and Avenue W.

In particular, residents are perplexed by the DOT’s recent placement of a pedestrian refuge island and a left turn lane at the Avenue U/ Gerritsen Avenue intersection and the narrowing of lanes along Gerritsen Avenue.

[State Senator Martin] Golden’s office has sent a letter to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri detailing the community’s problems with the traffic changes.

“A Lieutenant from Engine Company 321 at 2165 Gerritsen Avenue has expressed concern about their need to leave the fire house and travel southbound on Gerritsen Avenue,” the letter states. “Their need to leave the house as well as to turn eastbound onto Avenue U feels compromised by these new traffic calming plans, as they believe that there will no longer be space for the cars to move out of the way in an emergency.”

“We have been contacted by the manager at Key Food, 2245 Gerritsen Avenue,” the letter continues. “Cars travelling southbound on Gerritsen will no longer be able to turn into the Key food parking lot. In these hard economic times, they have asked that the Department of Transportation consider making a turning lane into the parking lot for the southbound cars. The Key Food as well as the other small businesses in the shopping center would then not be negatively affected by the new traffic pattern.”

From City Hall:

The grumbling from Council members and community advocates, Bloomberg’s aides say, has had no effect on the mayor’s confidence in Sadik-Khan.

“If anything, that would get you promoted around here,” one administration official quipped.

EDC hiding impact of traffic ramps

From the Neighborhood Retail Alliance:

Central to this unethical-and perhaps illegal-end run, is the withholding of the Access Modification Report (AMR); and all of the data that has been generated to come up with the report that is the key to getting both state and federal approval for the ramps. While the report itself may still be considered, "work product," the traffic information that has been utilized to make it up, certainly isn't.

What exactly is the city trying to hide? Huge costs and unmitigatible local and highway traffic. As Brian Ketcham, WPU's traffic expert points out: "...the project will generate 80,000 vehicle trips on an average weekday (of which 2,500 are truck trips) and about the same number of trips for weekend days, with peak hour impacts of between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicle trips."

And nowhere in the original environmental review is the impact of the ramps ever actually analyzed.

This is a massive cover up. Although NYCEDC may be entitled to withhold records that are inter-agency/intra-agency communications, the portions of those records that consist purely of statistical or factual tabulations or data (such as traffic statistics) must be disclosed. FOIL explicitly says so. Therefore, NYCEDC has erroneously applied a claimed blanket exemption from disclosure to every element of the AMR, when no such blanket exemption is available. NYCEDC's denial is discretionary, not mandatory, and NYCEDC should not choose to deny access under the present circumstances.

Of course, the less the public knows about what kind of traffic the Willets Point development will generate, the less the hue and cry from local civic groups and elected officials. In addition, the greater the traffic mess, the greater the concomitant need to create extensive road infrastructure to mitigate-something that will be inordinately expensive for the city's strapped tax payers.

It's past time for this conspiracy of silence to be put to an end. This project's potential to damage local community quality of life is simply too great to allow a review process to be, not only advanced in the dark, but under conditions that suggest that the fix is in. Open the books up EDC-what are you afraid the public will find out?

Weprin brothers switcheroo

From the Queens Courier:

It looks like a Weprin switcheroo in Queens.

The 24th Assembly District in northeast Queens may be trading one Weprin for another as outgoing City Councilmember David Weprin announced that he will run for his brother Mark’s vacant Assembly seat.

David, who decided not to seek re-election to the City Council and ran a failed bid for City Comptroller earlier this year, said he will run in a yet-to-be-called Special Election for the Assembly seat that will likely take place in February or March. The Assembly seat is open because Mark was elected to the City Council in November, and he will take over the seat David held for the past eight years.

This has so much comic potential...

From Pardon Me for Asking:

Our district has been chosen as a test area for the city's new orange street repair stickers. On Monday, November 23rd, the new marking will be used to identify road conditions called in by residents through the 311 system.

Supposedly, this will give residents a way of tracking the city's coordinated response to the problem. The bright orange sticker's "NYC: We Are Looking Into It" slogan may, however, quickly turn into a joke if the city takes too long to execute repairs.

When it rains, it pours crap

From the NY Times:

One goal of the Clean Water Act of 1972 was to upgrade the nation’s sewer systems, many of them built more than a century ago, to handle growing populations and increasing runoff of rainwater and waste. During the 1970s and 1980s, Congress distributed more than $60 billion to cities to make sure that what goes into toilets, industrial drains and street grates would not endanger human health.

But despite those upgrades, many sewer systems are still frequently overwhelmed, according to a New York Times analysis of environmental data. As a result, sewage is spilling into waterways.

In the last three years alone, more than 9,400 of the nation’s 25,000 sewage systems — including those in major cities — have reported violating the law by dumping untreated or partly treated human waste, chemicals and other hazardous materials into rivers and lakes and elsewhere, according to data from state environmental agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But fewer than one in five sewage systems that broke the law were ever fined or otherwise sanctioned by state or federal regulators, the Times analysis shows.

It is not clear whether the sewage systems that have not reported such dumping are doing any better, because data on overflows and spillage are often incomplete.

As cities have grown rapidly across the nation, many have neglected infrastructure projects and paved over green spaces that once absorbed rainwater. That has contributed to sewage backups into more than 400,000 basements and spills into thousands of streets, according to data collected by state and federal officials. Sometimes, waste has overflowed just upstream from drinking water intake points or near public beaches.

There is no national record-keeping of how many illnesses are caused by sewage spills. But academic research suggests that as many as 20 million people each year become ill from drinking water containing bacteria and other pathogens that are often spread by untreated waste.

A 2007 study published in the journal Pediatrics, focusing on one Milwaukee hospital, indicated that the number of children suffering from serious diarrhea rose whenever local sewers overflowed. Another study, published in 2008 in the Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, estimated that as many as four million people become sick each year in California from swimming in waters containing the kind of pollution often linked to untreated sewage.

Around New York City, samples collected at dozens of beaches or piers have detected the types of bacteria and other pollutants tied to sewage overflows. Though the city’s drinking water comes from upstate reservoirs, environmentalists say untreated excrement and other waste in the city’s waterways pose serious health risks.

Shady dealings at Long Island College Hospital

From the Daily News:

Since 1988, the vital, century-old LICH has been driven into the ground by a monolithic health system called Continuum, ruled by a former Ed Koch crony named Stanley Brezenoff, who is the Darth Vader of what Jack Newfield called the Permanent Government of New York.

In 1999, a $140 million bequest to LICH by Donald and Mildred Othmer of Brooklyn Heights apparently vanished into the Continuum ether. You can't find a bedpan in LICH paid for from that dough. Continuum, according to [medical director Dr. John] Romanelli, also sold off $50 million in LICH real estate "for which there is crazy Hollywood accounting."

"Now Continuum is asking state taxpayers to assume all the debts that they amassed," says Jeff Ruggiero, attorney for the LICH medical staff.

"And Continuum continues to act as an active parent, with Brezenoff negotiating the merger with Downstate behind closed doors, like a Tammany Hall deal," says Romanelli.

"We originally filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Health and the state attorney general in January 2008 alleging that Continuum was running an illegal operation by seizing complete control over LICH without the necessary approvals," says Ruggiero. "We had witnesses, a half-dozen doctors, some members of the LICH board, who traveled to Albany, ready to testify that Continuum was behaving as an 'active' parent rather than a 'passive' parent of LICH. Which is illegal. DOH never called a single witness."

Instead DOH gave Continuum a pass.

This is because nobody works the bureaucracy better than Brezenoff, the quintessential political "fixer."

Another member of the Permanent Government, state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio of Queens recently pleaded guilty in federal court to receiving $500,000 in bribes via the MediSys Health Network - that had a murky relationship with Jamaica Hospital, not unlike Continuum's with LICH - to influence DOH officials to approve Jamaica Hospital's takeover of Mary Immaculate Hospital.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District's sentencing memo, and the FBI wiretap transcripts of Seminerio, offer a disturbing MRI of how deeply political corruption is encoded in the DNA of the Permanent Government and the health care system of New York. On these tapes, Seminerio talks to or mentions various DOH officials, pols and players like Joe Bruno, Shelly Silver, convicted ex-Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin and, of course, Stanley Brezenoff.

DOB signs off on illegal Huang project

"An expediter comes around the Huang property on Mazeau Street frequently. One day I asked her why there is a curb cut in front of the window, because I thought parking on the front lawn was illegal. She replied, 'Well, the DOB inspector was just here and signed off on it.'" - anonymous

Hmm. Well, I knew that this house is in an R4-1 contextual zone. And I also knew about the ban on lawn paving. But I wanted to ask an urban planner if he thought this was kosher. Here's the response:

"Total BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At LEAST 20% of the property has to be landscaped green space.

No way that's legal.

That's in the R4-1, right? Two 2-families only.

The parking's fucked as well."

And there you have it. They also need to replace the street tree they destroyed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Court upholds eminent domain abuse by state

From Atlantic Yards Report:

In a decision (PDF) that gives the crucial--but perhaps not final--boost to the Atlantic Yards project, the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, approved the use of eminent domain by a 6-1 margin, saying that it's not the role of the courts to intervene in agency decisions, given the wide latitude in state law.

The case, which involves nine petitioners (homeowners, commercial property owners, and residential and commercial renters) is known as Goldstein, et al. vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a/ Empire State Development Corporation (or ESDC).

Project backers had long expressed confidence about the result, given the state court's general deference to agency decisionmaking, but the court's willingness to accept the case in the first place--the Appellate Division had unanimously upheld the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in the first round--had left some room for ambiguity.

Moreover, two of the seven judges seemed quite skeptical of the ESDC, though the attorney for the nine petitioners faced similar skepticism. One of those judges, Robert Smith, filed a blistering dissent that stated:

[T]he majority is much too deferential to the self-serving determination by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that petitioners live in a "blighted" area, and are accordingly subject to having their homes seized and turned over to a private developer.

...It is clear to me from the record that the elimination of blight, in the sense of substandard and unsanitary conditions that present a danger to public safety, was never the bona fide purpose of the development at issue in this case.