Friday, April 30, 2010

Bloomberg makes term limits joke

Michael Bloomberg's new deputy mayor, Steve Goldsmith, who is a former mayor himself, said he won't seek office again.

"I said that too," Bloomberg said, to much laughter.

Video from NY Observer.

EDC caught lying about millstones; pols still MIA

From the LIC Millstones Blog:

In a Queens Chronicle article of April 15th, 2010- EDC spokeswoman Libby Langsdorf stated that the Millstones are actually too fragile to be moved. Which is apparently not true, as the photos above show. Compare with those of the millstones in other posts, and you can clearly see that SOMEONE was embarrassed enough by the photos of them published at this blog to actually move them. Who was the “archeological resources consultant” that supervised this?

quoting from the Queens Chronicle article -

Project managers said they intend to consider the stones during construction work. “The city and EDC are fully aware of the historical significance of the Colonial-era millstones at Queens Plaza,” said Libby Langsdorf, spokeswoman at EDC. “They are secured at the site, where there is little activity at this time.”

At this time, the EDC believes that due to the excessive weight of and fragility of the stones, it might be safer to avoid moving them.

“We are in the process of engaging an archeological resources consultant to help us develop a longer term plan to ensure their safety,” Langsdorf said. “Eventually, the millstones are to be incorporated into the new public plaza to be constructed in the area.”

One of the Millstones is now inside of this little arrangement of scrap lumber and orange safety netting, and has been moved around 10-15 yards from the spot it enjoyed under the tree in other times. Bravo.

Best case scenario- the local politicos who read or heard that someone was making a stink about the Millstones decided to do “the least” that they could. Worst case scenario, and the likely one, is that a construction crew needed to make room for the delivery of construction materials and moved the Millstone for their own convenience.

The latter is exactly the sort of thing that the antiquarian community is concerned about.

Queens Crapper for borough historian!

Special to amNewYork

Wanted: person with encyclopedic history knowledge, a penchant for esoterica and a little bit of showmanship.

Also must live in Queens and work for free.

It’s not a typical job description, but it’s not your typical job: The borough of Queens seeks a new historian.

The official requirements for the job are more formal: New York state law requires appointed historians to promote and preserve their respective borough’s legacy.

But it doesn’t hurt to have a mental attic packed with historical miscellany and a camera-ready character.

Media appearances, ranging from local TV and national broadcasts to documentaries, are part of the gig. Each historian serves at the pleasure of the borough president and communicates a borough’s unique histories however they see fit — through walking tours and lectures, or in publications.

Queens’ most recent historian, the retired Stanley Cogan, acknowledged sites of architectural significance through the Queensmark program and coordinated public symposia.

“We expect [the new appointee] to continue that legacy and will look for someone who can outreach to all of the community and bring people together,” said Borough President Helen M. Marshall.

amNY’s dream picks
• Kevin Walsh, author and webmaster of Forgotten New York
• Barry Lewis, architectural historian, author and media figure
• Queens Crap blogger, identity unknown, but active and outspoken community evangelist

● Application deadline: May 5
● Send cover letter and resume to
● A committee will tabulate scores, interview candidates and recommend them to the borough president.

Could you imagine what fun I could have with that? I'd drive borough hall crazy and not last more than a week. Especially after my first exhibit showing all the history the tweeders destroyed.

I'm flattered. But I'd rather work at the pleasure of myself and my readers.

Bloomberg letting shady guy organize his foundation

From the NY Times:

Steven L. Rattner, the financier under increasing scrutiny in a state and federal kickbacks investigation, is playing a key role in creating a new investment firm that will manage Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s fortune and finance his philanthropic foundation, according to three people told of the arrangement.

At Mr. Bloomberg’s urging, Mr. Rattner has taken a hands-on approach in helping to build the new company, despite his legal problems, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of angering the mayor and Mr. Rattner.

The move comes at a time when others, including the investment firm he founded, are taking pains to distance themselves from Mr. Rattner.

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo has accused Mr. Rattner of paying kickbacks to an aide to former State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi in exchange for the aide’s help in landing a state investment contract for Quadrangle, the private equity firm that Mr. Rattner founded and ran for years.

Mr. Rattner has since left Quadrangle, but last week, the firm paid $12 million to settle allegations in the kickback case and, in unusually harsh language, it rebuked Mr. Rattner for his role, calling it “inappropriate, wrong and unethical.” Mr. Rattner’s lawyers vigorously denied those claims.

Shockingly, Rattner is also President Obama's pick for his auto task force.

Contaminated Brooklyn lot becomes garbage dump

From Courier-Life:

Talk about a dumping ground.

A Carroll Gardens lot has become a toilet bowl, thanks to a perfect storm of conflicting bureaucracies, confused ownership and insufficient policing that has allowed the eastern end of Huntington Street to become filled with human waste, empty bottles of methadone, used syringes, trash and condoms.

[A] warehouse was razed last year so that the energy giant National Grid’s could clean the property of toxins that date back to the Industrial Revolution.

But National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young said that maintenance of the property are the responsibility of the owner, Henry Abadi.

Abadi disagreed, saying that he has practically surrendered control of the property to National Grid for the duration of clean-up.

“They are the ones in control of the land,” he said.

No wonder no one wants to own up to ownership of this particular patch of fouled earth. When we visited the site, trash, graffiti and feces were piled so thick that it’s no wonder people continue to add their own garbage to the mound.

Rockaway ferry riders holding out hope

From the Daily News:

Rockaway ferry riders were forced to face the bleak reality about the money-losing service during a town hall meeting with city officials Tuesday.

But the numbers did not diminish hopes for the ferry's continued survival past its slated July 1 termination date.

"Is the ferry perfect? No, but we're all working together to make sure we don't lose it," said Ellen McCarthy, 47, an attorney and local advocate for the ferry.

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson explained to the packed room of riders at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club how the city was subsidizing nearly $20 per passenger trip on the ferry. Wolfson noted this was a far cry from the 56 cents per subway ride the city provides in subsidies for each straphanger.

"The clear metrics that were established to determine whether or not this would be a success have not been met," Wolfson said.

Another ferry rider suggested the service is eligible for $1 million in federal aid known as the Urbanized Area Formula Program, or "5307 funding" - an idea Wolfson was receptive to.

"The city is entitled to that money," he said later. "But the money goes from the federal government to Albany, where it sits."

An official from the Federal Transit Administration - an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that oversees the 5307 funding - said the grant money may go only to repairing the docks used by the ferry, and not the ferry itself, as it is privately owned by New York Water Taxi.

Candidates say no to gerrymandering

From the Daily News:

New York has become a State of Shame largely because lawmakers have rigged the system to solidify their hold on office.

They make it extraordinarily difficult for challengers to get on the ballot. They take advantage of lax campaign finance rules to amass huge war chests. They use public moneys to make grants that buy local support.

And, when the census is completed every 10 years, they ruthlessly exploit the redrawing of lines for Senate, Assembly and congressional districts for partisan and personal advantage.

The commitments won by Koch from expected Democratic contender Andrew Cuomo and Republicans Rick Lazio, Steve Levy and Carl Paladino are aimed at preventing legislators from engaging in this abuse.

The lawmakers elected this November must know that business as usual is not an option when they next draw the lines in 2012. They must hear that the days of overstuffing some districts with voters and understuffing others are over. That drawing bizarre boundaries to protect buddies and maximize party power will not be tolerated.

Buy now, pay later

From the The Real Deal:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved its $1 billion deal with the Related Companies to redevelop the 26-acre former Long Island Rail Road site along the Hudson River, the Associated Press reported. Related must pay $20 million when the contract is signed and an additional $21.7 million over the next year, according to the agreement. But the developer is also allowed to delay closing until the city’s office vacancy rate drops to 11 percent and apartment prices reach $1,200 per square foot.

That's nice. The MTA needs money now, however. They always make such stupid deals.

DeBlasio wants Quinn to open up

From the NY Post:

Doesn’t everybody agree that sunshine on the City Council’s pork-distribution process would be a good thing?

Actually, no.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced two months ago the creation of an Internet database that councilors could use to list not-for-profit supplicants with an eye on a slice of city pork — that is, a so-called “member item.”

It’s a notion with considerable merit, given the insults various politicians have dealt to the public trust in recent years. Scarcely a week goes by without news of a public official turning the invariably secretive member-item allocation process to personal or political advantage.

De Blasio’s plan is simple enough: He wants everything online weeks before the City Council actually votes on patronage disposition.

Yet only five of 51 councilmembers provided de Blasio with the information.

Why didn’t more respond?

Who cares?

A good idea is a good idea — and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn needs to endorse this particular good idea, or something very much like it.

That is to say, to use her considerable influence to persuade her colleagues to make public every dirty detail of their member-item dealings.

De Blasio wants Quinn to post member-item information by April 30.

Sounds good to us.

And from the Daily News:

The time has come to cough up the information, Madame Speaker.

This data should have been open to sunlight long ago. Allowing the taxpayers to review what their representatives are doing with public money is as basic as it gets in good government. The Council's disregard for this simple principle explains why one councilman is in prison for theft, another stands indicted on theft charges and two staff members have been convicted of theft.

Did we mention that the Council got caught running a phantom slush fund budget?

The five members who disclosed to de Blasio their so-called member item requests are Jessica Lappin and Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan, Jumaane Williams and Erik Martin Dilan of Brooklyn and Dan Halloran of Queens. Constituents can visit to judge the proposed spending.

When they won't install your water meter

Dear Queens Crapper,

I recently received a letter from NYC DEP claiming I did not correspond with Constructamax to have the new water meter installed. NYC DEP claims that I will be fined if I do not comply. I called Constructamax and set a appointment twice! First time they said they could not get to the meter. I explained to them the exact location of the meter outside, Constructamax said they would come again.

They still have not showed up. I contacted them a third time to schedule an appointment. They agreed to show. I waited for them and they NEVER showed. I called today and they LIED THROUGH their teeth claiming they came and the meter is installed. I know they did not.

When I call the city they are of no help. Only telling me I will be fined if the meter is not installed. This is really frustrating.

I believe others all over the city is experiencing this. Because when I called Constructamax they said people have been calling them all day about the letter the CITY sent about the fines.

If you could shine any light on this issue it would be great. Thank you.

- Frustrated Resident in Whitestone

Unfortunately, all I can offer is try making the appt online and calling Council Member Halloran. Anyone else experience this problem?

Resistance to Manhattan landmarking?

While preservationists have been making a big deal about the Landmarks Law turning 45, some columnists are worried that the LPC has gone overboard:

From City Journal:

It is wise and good to protect the most cherished parts of a city’s architectural history. But New York’s vast historic districts, which include thousands of utterly undistinguished structures, don’t accomplish that goal. Worse, they impede new construction, keeping real estate in New York City enormously expensive (despite a housing crash), especially in its most desirable, historically protected areas. It’s time to ask whether New York’s big historic districts make sense.

From the NY Post:

Is too much of the city going to end up landmarked?

This year alone, the commission is considering seven new historic districts or extensions, and 52 individual buildings. Dozens more are being studied. The Bloomberg administration has landmarked more property than any other mayor — 3,515 structures plus hundreds of buildings in 21 historic districts and four historic district extensions.

For the most part, these actions are immensely popular with New Yorkers. Yet as more and more of the city falls under landmark protection, growth and development may suffer.

Clearly both were written from a myopic, Manhattan-centric point of view.

Photography exhibit focuses on Flushing River

From Urban Omnibus:

Spanish-born, Rotterdam-based artist Lara Almarcegui’s Guide to the Wastelands of Flushing River — at Ludlow38 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side — carves an interdisciplinary niche at the intersection of photography, urban studies, and performance — a terrain every bit as ambiguous and enticing as the urban spaces documented in her work.

Guide to the Wastelands is the main attraction here, but taken in context with the other works on display...the selection reveals a broader interest in the physical stuff that composes the built environment, and the voids that remain when it is removed. Mostly, this interest is communicated through photographic documentation. But the inclusion of a portable brochure reveals a hint of the political in Almarcegui’s didactic intent, as if to say “take a guide, get out of your apartment and go see the site for yourself — before developers drop cheap condos on it.”

This gesture places places the work in a lineage of conceptual artists who engage audiences by prompting behavior; Almarcegui’s approach is simply re-tooled for the soft-power, facebook era. The more we know about the Flushing River (or the Gowanus Canal or Pennsylvania Avenue Landfill), the more likely we are to advocate for its sensitive reweaving into the urban fabric of New York. Compared to the work of other international artists, Almarcegui’s work is not glamorous. But by exposing the forgotten spaces in our midst, it’s just might be more important.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tree branch causes church fire in Richmond Hill

RICHMOND HILL (WABC) -- A fast-moving fire damaged a church and two homes in Queens on Thursday afternoon.

The three alarm fire happened at 91-44 111th Street in the Richmond Hills section.

Officials said the fire started at the Deeper Life Christian Fellowship Church around 2:24 p.m.and spread to two neighboring homes.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries trying to bring the fire under control, officials said.

Neighbors said a tree came down and took down power lines with it, and that sparked the fire.

Investigators have not confirmed that information.

The Daily News says the cause of the fire was a tree branch!

Willie Rivera, whose house was damaged by the fire, said residents became concerned about the tree years ago.

"It's a dead tree," said Rivera, 49. "And we've been calling the city to take it down."

A spokesman for the agency that logs 311 calls said it received two reports about a damaged tree on the street March 14. The complaints were recorded as "closed" March 26.

Queens women nabbed for ATM theft in CT

From the Greenwich Post:

Police arrested three New York women for “skimming” ATM machines at local banks, stealing bank card numbers and robbing from individual accounts, including at banks in Greenwich and Darien.

Sabrina Matche, 22, and Nadia Paisci, 48, of Middle Village, N.Y., and Laura Stiuca, 31, of Maspeth, N.Y., were arrested by Greenwich police April 22 as part of an operation for the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force. The task force, which is under the direction of the United States Secret Service, consists of several municipal police departments, including Greenwich, the state police and U.S. postal inspectors. The arrests were made in Darien after a long-term investigation. Police believe these three have used this scam at least 12 times.

According to a police press release, the women engaged in skimming at area banks, including a People’s United branch in Greenwich, placing an electronic device near a bank’s ATM machine that captures credit card information and PIN numbers from customers using the machines. The information, which has been “skimmed” off the cards, is then used to access bank accounts and make unauthorized purchases.

The women were all arrested on a slew of charges including larceny, identity theft, forgery and fraud.

The investigation is ongoing and police had no further comment about the arrests. Ms. Matche, Ms. Paisci and Ms. Stiuca are all being held in lieu of $250,000 bonds and are due to appear in court April 29. Additionally the police report states that Ms. Paisci is considered a fugitive by the New York State Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and that Ms. Stiuca is in the middle of deportation hearings. Ms. Matche is a legal U.S. citizen who was born in Romania.

St. Vincent's closing tomorrow

From the NY Post:

As the hospital prepares to close down its emergency room tomorrow, Paterson is proposing that Lenox Hill Hospital temporarily operate a 24/7 "urgent-care facility" at St. Vincent's until a permanent location can be found.

But doctors at St. Vincent's say the idea is an ill-planned sop to local pols who demand that St. Vincent's be saved.

Despite its name, an "urgent-care facility" handles only low-threshold injuries and illnesses; more serious problems would have to be transported by ambulance to other hospitals.

Which raises another serious health issue: Many more seriously ill patients, like those suffering heart attacks, may lose critically important treatment time by going to the urgent-care facility rather than a genuine emergency room.

Said Dr. Charles Carpati, chief of intensive care at St. Vincent's: "It seems like they were trying to have a speedy political resolution that sounded good but was not the result of any study or the voice of the community or physicians."

Then there's the financial issue: Use of St. Vincent's property would have to be approved by the bankruptcy court -- not at all a sure thing.

Not to mention that the state grant covers only two years of a five-year contract -- and, like St. Vincent's, Lenox Hill also has been struggling for cash.

Which gets us to the fundamental point: There are too many hospitals in New York City -- and the competition is sapping the financial integrity of all of them.

- Ok, so Governor Paterson scrambled to do something to put a band-aid on the loss of St. Vincent's. When two hospitals in Queens closed on the same day, he did absolutely nothing.
- Screaming by Manhattan pols got a small bone thrown to them, screaming by Queens pols accomplished absolutely nothing.
- The Post looks at NYC as a whole and determines there are too many hospitals operating instead of looking at individual neighborhoods and how they are impacted by the closures. Clusters of open hospitals in Manhattan don't help people in southeastern Queens.
- Closing hospitals anywhere in the city while pushing to add a million more people to the city is not exactly the smartest move. But Bloomberg gives less than a shit about any of this. After all, he has a McMansion in Bermuda to retire to each weekend.

Liu not riding to Flushing businesses' rescue

From the Times Ledger:

Liu made some of his strongest remarks so far about recent developments in the saga of the $800 million Flushing Commons mixed-use project that Community Board 7 recently approved for the site on Municipal Lot 1 in downtown Flushing.

He was the councilman for the neighborhood and supported the project when initial plans were drawn up between the city and the project’s developer in 2005. The plans called for the project to include at least 2,000 parking spaces, a youth center and capped parking rates.

Less than a year later, the plans had been amended to eliminate such provisions and Liu withdrew his support.

“An agreement with the community is an agreement with the community, and if you’re not going to accommodate that, you have to go back to the drawing board,” he said.

When Liu left Flushing for citywide office, Peter Koo (R-Flushing) took over as councilman and gave his endorsement to the project, which is now before Borough President Helen Marshall. Liu noted Koo has the right to make his own choices now that he is councilman.

From the Times Ledger:

Borough President Helen Marshall held a public hearing Tuesday morning on two large-scale, mixed-use development projects proposed for construction in the heart of downtown Flushing.

Marshall did not rule on whether she supports the projects and comments ran largely along the lines of those heard at last month’s marathon public hearing before Community Board 7 on the Flushing Commons and Macedonia Plaza projects, but the issue of compensation for local business owners remained the key point of contention for most opponents.

Yesterday, Marshall voted in favor of the plan.

Marty's $64M potato chip gets CB committee approval

From The Brooklyn Paper:

A Community Board 13 panel this week finally voted to back Borough President Markowitz’s controversial bid for a glitzy $64-million amphitheater inside Asser Levy Seaside Park — ending a year of silence on the issue that brought out accusations that the members are just shills for the Beep.

Until Thursday night, Community Board 13 had declined to weigh in on the major project, claiming that it has no role in the approval process for the concert venue. But after a long-overdue meeting of the board’s Parks and Recreation Committee, several panel members pushed a last-minute resolution asking the board to oppose the amphitheater.

That resolution was deadlocked 5-5 — but two abstentions were counted as “no” votes, and the resolution was defeated.

“I feel sick,” said committee member Lollie Reich.

And here's the scoop on what happened from someone who was there:

"Joe Maniscalo, the author of this article, has left out a few facts about the Wednesday night CB13 Parks & Recreation meeting.

# 1 There were almost 200 Community residents present. NOT ONE person who resides in the neighborhood, spoke in favor of this project, They were 100% NO !

# 2 Less than 20% of the members of the Parks Committee were in attendance to vote one way or the other on the Amphitheater. The rest were too scared to show up. Heaven forbid they should cast a vote opposing their godfather, Markowitz.


As Joe Maniscalo has written there was a 5-5 vote with 2 votes abstaining which just shows that the Committee is really split down the middle on this project.

Joe Maniscalo also forgot to mention that a few of those members who voted YES have City jobs & they are afraid of going against Marty Markowitz who has instilled in them the fear of God.

Over 13,000 residents have signed petitions opposing this project, showing that a yes vote by the Committee means very little, except to show that Marty's soldiers are all lined up like ducks, with no backbone or spine. They are the ones who are voting against the will of the people.

We will have to wait for the Court battle to determine who is righteous on this issue.."

And the Courier-Life has this to say in an editorial:

Face it: There is no question that Markowitz is dumping this amphitheater in Asser Levy Park without a full vetting. The project is not undergoing the city’s normal public review process, and the Parks Department will select an operator without public discussion.

Much of the project’s $64-million budget comes from a pool of capital construction money that Markowitz controls by fiat.

This lack of public oversight convinces us that Markowitz is treating Asser Levy Park as his personal playground, something he feels entitled to do because he stages a summertime concert series in the park’s current bandshell.

Markowitz says his amphitheater would be a vital piece of the city’s plans for a revived amusement area in Coney Island. But that’s not his call to make. A project of this magnitude and ramifications needs a proper review by the very agencies set up to oversee big land-use changes.

This is not a project that should merely come out of Marty Markowitz’s fertile, Barnum-esque imagination and be dumped on a community.

Celebration over demise of strip club

From the Daily News:

A Queens strip club whose titillating billboard has been a thorn in the side of locals for more than a year is facing a shutdown for owing more than $150,000 in rent, officials said.

The Platinum Club in Rosedale closed its doors after it failed to get its liquor license renewed.

"We have been fighting these guys for a long time," said City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Far Rockaway). "We got them good on this one."

The property owner delivered the eviction notice this month and the club, by law, had 60 days to respond in court.

But with just a month to go, the club still hasn't offered to pay the debt to keep its lease.

"Now, if we can just get them to take the sign with them," Sanders said.

Cleaner air for northwestern Queens?

From the Daily News:

Northwestern Queens may soon breathe a bit easier.

The fact that the region bears the burden of five power plants remains a sore point for locals, but many of the 1960s-built plants may be getting makeovers in the form of more modern, greener technology.

One such plant is a 600-megawatt site on the East River in Astoria owned by NRG Energy. Company officials have received most of the permits needed to begin a $1.5 billion repowering project.

Repowering entails replacing vintage steam turbines with newer, more efficient "combined-cycle" turbines, which recycle the waste heat that older units release into the atmosphere.

"The problem is our turbines are 40 years old," said Lee Davis, vice president of NRG. "We bought these older plants with the intent of repowering."

If NRG secures the necessary funding, it will replace 31 old turbines with four combined-cycle units. The new turbines will reduce emissions by more than 75% annually, Davis said. It will also increase generating capacity by more than 400 megawatts.

Of the five plants in the region, three are still using vintage turbines. In January, New York Power Authority closed the Charles Poletti Power Project - a move that locals hailed as a major victory.

Rebuilding Jamaica Bay

From the NY Times:

For more than a decade, workers using giant digging machines have scooped up enormous mounds of rock, clay, sand and silt from the waters around New York to deepen the shipping channels to accommodate giant cargo vessels that will navigate the widened Panama Canal starting in the middle of the decade.

The dredging has produced millions of cubic yards of muck.

“What do you do with all that stuff?” said Col. John R. BoulĂ© II, commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging. “Some of it we’re using to restore the islands in Jamaica Bay.” Recalling the lush “Mannahatta” that Henry Hudson encountered when he sailed into New York Harbor 400 years ago, Colonel BoulĂ© added: “We want to put a little more of 1609 back into 2010.”

The Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service are the primary partners in a collaboration of city, state and federal environmental, parks and port agencies and private partners to revitalize what is known as the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, focusing primarily on Upper and Lower New York Bay. Eventually, oyster beds will be restored to serve as living water filters, and shellfish may someday be harvested commercially again.

Jamaica Bay is part of the park service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, which spans the harbor and will be expanded by hundreds of acres when the city’s former Fountain and Pennsylvania Avenue landfills in Brooklyn, recently forested with 35,000 trees, are incorporated as parkland in a few years.

Ravens nesting in Queens

From 10000 Birds:

It has been well over a month since I reported the ravens’ nest in Queens on 10,000 Birds, the first ravens nest reported in the history of New York City. It is about time for an update, and it is a heck of an update! The ravens have been spotted feeding nestlings by several observers, including yours truly! Assuming all goes well it is only a matter of time before the nestlings become fledglings.

Tour of Corona finds some crap!

"The home with the stairway to heaven and steep driveways is on Alstyne Avenue and 104th street.

The brick home under construction is on 108th Street at Waldron Street. What I find pretentious is how architect Gerald Caliendo puts the AIA logo on the construction sign, as if the AIA would approve of this brick monstrosity. No way would this brick box ever make the AIA Guide, but Caliendo must be proud to show off his AIA membership.

In contrast, some local developers do care about history, as the charming empanada store at 108th Street and Van Doren Street shows." - anonymous

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nutty senator goes off the deep end again

From the Daily News:

In his latest off-the-wall behavior, hothead Sen. Kevin Parker Wednesday morning accused Senate Republicans - and even some Democrats - of being white supremacists.

Parker updated his Facebook status, saying he was "in Albany fighting the evil of White Supremacy!"

And Parker, who exploded in a fury during a public committee meeting Tuesday, defended his outburst during a radio interview as "par for the course of what we have to do up in Albany fighting the forces of evil."

Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) initially set Parker off on Tuesday with his formal questioning of Mark O'Luck, the first black nominee to the New York Power Authority.

In discussing an affirmative action program, DeFrancisco told O'Luck someone doesn't have to be black to walk in someone's shoes.

Parker called the line of questioning racist, even though three of his Democratic colleagues - Ruben Diaz, committee chairman Carl Kruger, and David Valesky - said they didn't believe DeFrancisco was out of line.

Giant project hinges on a couple of highway ramps

From the NY Times:

It is one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature projects — the sweeping transformation of Willets Point, a slice of Queens that has long been among the city’s most neglected pieces of real estate. And a little over a year ago, it seemed like a done deal.

The City Council approved the proposal, which would sweep aside the car-repair shops, junkyards and small factories in the shadow of Citi Field to make room for 5,500 apartments, parks, office buildings, stores, restaurants and a hotel.

Many of the largest property owners agreed to sell to the city, and the city could use eminent domain to force out those who refused.

But a convergence of a Park Avenue lawyer known for toppling big projects, a sawdust maker bent on keeping the family business where it has been for decades, and a pair of highway ramps that exist only on paper threatens to doom Mr. Bloomberg’s grand vision.

The ramps, which would connect Willets Point to the Van Wyck Expressway, seemed like a minor detail at first and never came up during the noisy public hearings before the Council’s vote.

But, as it turns out, they are critical to the project’s survival.

And Claire's survival!

And Wellington's survival!

And Wilpon's survival!

But if I were a bettor, I would put my money on these guys.

Now the cat's out of the bag on the money spent to acquire a handful of properties thus far...

Bloomberg on immigration

From the Daily News, quoting Bloomberg:

"This country is committing national suicide. We just passed a health care bill to give coverage to millions of people, tens of millions of people and we don’t have doctors and we’re not allowing people who want to come here and be doctors to come here. This is just craziness. People are developing new drugs in India, rather than here. They’re going to win the next Nobel prize in China or in Europe, not here. If we want to have a future, we need to have more immigrants here and we should get control of our borders and we should decide who we want, what languages, what skills we need; people who work with their hands and people who work with their minds and we have to get real about the 12 million undocumented here. We’re not going to deport them. Give them permanent status. Don’t make them citizens unless they can qualify, but give them permanent status and let’s get on with this.”


NEW YORK, NY – The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) failed to remit $125 million to the City, according to an audit initiated in 2008 and just completed by Comptroller John C. Liu. The EDC collected payments on behalf of the City from the 42nd Street Project, a dormant Public Purpose Fund and the sale of City assets, and then inappropriately retained the funds for its own purposes, circumventing the City's normal budgeting and appropriations process.

Comptroller Liu: “First and foremost, our audit exposed $125 million owed to the City by the EDC. The EDC was charged with collecting this money for the City; they are not entitled to keep it. Anything short of the EDC repaying the amount in full to the City is unacceptable and indefensible, especially as subways, firehouses and hospitals are threatened with closures due to deep budget deficits. The EDC has accumulated enormous control over City assets and funds in recent years. There are plenty of questions and even concern about what exactly the EDC does, as it deals with substantial amounts of City funds and publicly subsidized economic development. This episode only accentuates the need to reign in the EDC."

Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audit H. Tina Kim and her team in the Bureau of Audit for presenting the findings and recommendations. The full audit report is available at

Chief among the findings during the period of the audit:

• FAILURE TO REMIT FUNDS BACK TO CITY - EDC failed to remit $125,513,793 it had collected on behalf of the City, from the 42nd Street Project, a dormant Public Purpose Fund and the sale of City assets to non-City entities.

• INCONSISTENT PROCESS WITH SALE OF CITY ASSETS - EDC had inadequate controls, did not always follow a consistent process and thus problematic practices were created over the disposition of City properties, resulting in potential revenue loss.

• INCOMPLETE OR MINIMUM REVENUE COLLECTION ON BEHALF OF CITY - EDC did not collect the full revenues owed to the City in accordance with its agreements on behalf of the City, including rent and license fees per lease agreements to Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payments. Since 2000, EDC has been collecting the minimum amount of PILOT payments without verifying that the calculation was in accordance with the terms of the agreement with the developer.

• IMPROPER REPORTING OF LOAN DISBURSEMENTS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES - EDC improperly recorded loan amounts it disbursed under the Economic Development Administration Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) as expenses. Under the terms of the RLF, EDC is required to make loans to organizations that then provide various loans to small businesses in economically depressed areas of the City. As the City's exclusive agent for the management of RLF, this improper recording resulted in an overstatement of its program costs and understatement of its loan capital base.

• FAILURE TO ENFORCE EMPLOYMENT AND CONSTRUCTION COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS - EDC did not take the necessary steps to verify that the data submitted by its clients -- in relation to the number of jobs created or retained, as required and stated in agreements -- is accurate.

• PROBLEMS WITH ADMINISTERING CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS - EDC lacks appropriate procedures for approving capital expenditures submitted by contractors, which are channeled by the City's Department of Small Business Services and funded under the City's capital budget (for Fiscal Year 2008, EDC administered over $546 million in capital projects for the City).

• ENERGY DISCOUNTS IMPROPERLY CALCULATED - EDC did not correctly calculate the energy discount it provides to eligible businesses under the Energy Cost Savings Program (ECSP). Review of accounts eligible for the ECSP discount reveals that the EDC did not use the correct rate when applying the discount and also overcredited some accounts while undercrediting others, resulting in EDC giving $338,928 in excess credit to customers and not recouping $75,966 from Con Edison.

"In light of these findings, it is clear that the EDC needs to alter and reform some of their practices as they relate to the economic development projects and programs they are responsible for administering," said City Council Economic Development Committee Chairperson THOMAS WHITE, JR.

Comptroller Liu recommended the EDC remit the inappropriately retained funds -- totaling $125,513,793 -- to the City's General Fund ($98,297,350 in payments collected from the 42nd Street Project, $10,682,600 in a dormant Public Purpose Fund, $16,533,843 in net proceeds from the special sales of City assets).

Other recommendations made by Comptroller Liu to the EDC include:

• Return the proceeds of the sales of City assets to the City.

• Provide for proper classification and enhance the transparency of its revenue amounts due the City.

• Recoup the $97,079 in rents and license fees due; the excessive ECSP discounts credited; contractor workers' compensation for duplicate payments and unrelated capital project costs.

• Properly record the RLF program administered by lenders as loan receivables to ensure accurate tracking of the amount receivable.

• Implement policy and guidelines to ensure that all contractor submissions are properly reviewed and approved.

• Ensure its project developers and other entities comply with the employment and construction requirements stipulated in their agreements with EDC.

Seth Pinsky photo from Daily News.

Another Flushing-bred terrorist pleads guilty

From the Daily News:

On the eve of his terrorism trial, an American student who studied in London admitted Tuesday that he helped a friend deliver some protective clothing to an al-Qaida military commander fighting Americans in Afghanistan.

The plea by Syed Hashmi to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida was entered in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, averting a trial that was supposed to begin Wednesday.

As part of a plea deal that will require prosecutors to drop three other terrorism charges at his June 7 sentencing, Hashmi agreed to serve 15 years in prison. He has already served four years, at least three of them in solitary confinement at a federal lockup in lower Manhattan.

The 30-year-old Hashmi had faced up to 70 years in prison if convicted of four criminal counts.

"He'll be out of prison before he's 40 and have his whole life in front of him," defense attorney David Ruhnke said outside court.

Hashmi, born in Karachi, Pakistan, was raised in Flushing, Queens. He obtained his bachelor's degree in political science from Brooklyn College before moving to London in 2003 to study at London Metropolitan University, where he got a master's degree in international relations in 2006.

The government's handling of Hashmi has been accompanied by an unusual outpouring of support for Hashmi from family, friends and civil rights groups that insisted he was being prosecuted because he had been outspoken against U.S. policies in the Middle East.

Prosecutors had planned at his trial to show jurors an excerpt of a five-minute videotape that they say shows Hashmi leading a June 2002 protest in Manhattan by an Islamic fundamentalist organization whose members support al-Qaida and seek the overthrow of Western society. The government said Hashmi, among other things, said "Bin Laden is not a terrorist."

Another photographer detained illegally

From the Daily News:

An amateur photographer is suing the Department of Homeland Security, saying his arrest for filming a political protest outside a Manhattan courthouse was illegal.

Antonio Musumeci, a 29-year-old software programmer, videotaped the arrest of a Libertarian activist outside Manhattan Federal Court last year.

His lawsuit says that even though he was standing in a public plaza next to the courthouse, an inspector with the Federal Protective Service told him he was under arrest.

Musumeci was forced to sit on the sidewalk for 20 minutes, he says. His camera memory card was confiscated and he got a ticket for filming on federal property, a violation.

The ticket was later dismissed in Manhattan Federal Court, court papers say. His memory card was never returned.

Musumeci, himself a member of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, later returned to the courthouse to videotape other political protests organized by the group and made sure to stand on the public sidewalk.

Even so, he was again threatened with arrest, according to the lawsuit the New York Civil Liberties Union filed Thursday on his behalf.

"In our society, people have a clear right to use cameras in public places without being hassled and arrested by federal agents or police," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

"We understand the need for heightened security around federal buildings, but the government cannot arrest people for taking pictures in a public plaza."

Calls to the Federal Protective Service and the Department of Homeland Security were not immediately returned.

Assemblywoman wants developers to project number of children

From DNAinfo:

Developers would have disclose how many extra children would enroll in local schools if their building went ahead under a new bill proposed by a state assemblywoman.

New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, said she introduced the bill because she believes new residential developments that have attracted thousands of families with children have pushed the city's education system to its limits.

The bill would affect all new residences, no matter what the size, she said.

"We are now facing such a huge crisis in overcrowding in the public schools, on the West Side, the East Side, in other boroughs," Rosenthal told DNAinfo. "The problem is only going to get bigger."

The new bill would require developers to include projected figures of families and children early in the development process.

These early figures would assist the Department of Education when it comes to long term planning for schools, Rosenthal said.

"It would add another dimension to the tools they (the DOE) use, which are obviously a little faulty now," Rosenthal said.

Flushing restaurant workers protest conditions

From the Times Ledger:

An alliance of workers banded together last week in Flushing to protest what they contended were unfair and illegal working practices at some city businesses.

Gathering in front of Gwang Zhou restaurant at 136-59 37th Ave., where employees last week lodged a class-action lawsuit against the owners, dozens of Asian-American workers from across the city and Long Island held up signs blasting companies they said slighted them and chanted slogans including, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

The protest marked the expansion of a campaign begun in earnest last month with a rally solely against Gwang Zhou.

That event garnered enough attention to increase energy and draw a larger crowd April 14, according to attendees like Song Deping, who said through a translator that he was underpaid and forced to work long hours at a nail salon in Carle Place, L.I.

A man who answered the phone at Gwang Zhou said its owners declined to comment on the suit or the protest.

New train technology coming to Queens lines

From the NY Times:

Cutting-edge train technology is coming to the No. 7 train, the purple-hued line that runs between 42nd Street in Manhattan and Flushing, Queens.

A computerized signal system, which basically allows trains to drive themselves (although this has not yet happened in the New York subway) will be rolled out on the No. 7 line by the end of 2012. Only the L line currently uses the system, which uses radio waves to track train movement.

In theory, the signals obviate the need for a conductor or train operator, although the transit union has bitterly opposed the elimination of on-board personnel. The system, known as Communications Based Train Control, also allows trains to run more frequently, increasing capacity during rush hours.

New York City Transit is looking to spend $87 million on cars for the No. 7 line conversion. Next up will be the Queens Boulevard tracks, which would serve the E, F, M, and R lines, followed by the Culver line in Brooklyn to Coney Island, which serves F and G trains. About $577 million is earmarked for the technology over the next five years.

Graphic from the NY Post

LPC sues Brooklyn landmark owner

From the Daily News:

City officials have sued a Cobble Hill homeowner because his crumbling historic brownstone and neighboring carriage house are dangerous and could collapse.

But Henry St. homeowner John Quadrozzi claimed the unwieldy city bureaucracy has delayed his renovation efforts for years.

The walls of the 1852 brownstone are badly cracked and there are holes in the adjacent stable's roof; city officials have warned Quadrozzi to quickly fix the hazards.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission took the unusual step of filing a lawsuit against Quadrozzi this month because the vacant buildings are in the Cobble Hill Historic District and must be kept in top condition by law.

The suit charged Quadrozzi has "failed to maintain these historically significant buildings in a state of good repair despite repeated requests," over four years.

The commission is seeking immediate repairs and fines of $5,000 a day dating back to March 2009.

A lawsuit is a weapon rarely used by the commission, but it was seen as a last resort to save the rundown relics, a commission spokeswoman said.

Quadrozzi landed on the Landmarks Preservation Commission's radar in 2001 when he began a pattern of submitting incomplete paperwork for work permits.

The concrete mogul denied he has neglected the properties, insisting he's made repairs to shore them up and surrounded the three-story house with protective netting and scaffolding.

But he's also racked up $25,900 in unpaid Buildings Department fines for the unsafe conditions and for working without a permit.

It's about time!

From the Daily News:

Motorists with out-of-state license plates are finally paying parking fines after years of avoiding the fees - pumping millions of dollars into city coffers, the Daily News has learned.

A recent crackdown on scofflaws with non-New York tags has netted $18 million from Connecticut and Pennsylvania in the last 6-1/2 months alone, the Finance Department reported.

The end of the gravy train follows years during which the city did not pay other states for access to driver databases - and thus could not tow or collect from parking offenders from those areas.

Owen Stone, a Finance Department spokesman, said the obstacles to finding the offenders have been eliminated thanks to Law Enforcement Systems, the company providing the records to the city.

A source within the city marshals, which tow the worst scofflaws, said there were six states whose vehicles marshals rarely towed.

But Stone said the city is now towing from four of those six. The number of cars towed in the past 6-1/2 months were 21 from West Virginia, 65 from Vermont, 166 from Rhode Island and 243 from Ohio.

He admitted that the city did not tow a vehicle from Delaware or New Hampshire in that period - exposing one flaw in the crackdown.

Pio Pio owner slapped with Dept of Labor lawsuit

From Crain's:

A Peruvian restaurant chain, Pio Pio, is being sued by nine former workers for alleged labor law violations—less than two years after it paid out $287,713 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor, in which it was charged with failure to pay minimum wage, overtime and abide by record keeping laws.

There are eight Pio Pio restaurants in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx and the latest lawsuit claims that six of the eateries ran afoul of a number of labor laws, including not paying workers their full tip earnings, paying non-tipped workers from a tip pool and docking workers' pay when mistakes occur such as breakage of plates and glasses. The complaint also alleges minimum wage and overtime violations.

Coney Island history in grave danger

From Scouting NY:

Naturally, Thor Equities and its CEO, Joseph Sitt, do not like the idea of an historic district or landmarking, as it means they would no longer be allowed to gut the soul of Coney Island at whim. Last year, they succeeded in pushing a rezoning of both the bank lot and the Henderson building lot for the construction of hotels of up to 27 floors.

However, if landmarking were to go through, they’d find themselves with a harder sell on their hands. Thus, according to rumors reported on, they’ve approached a demolition company, who was asked for a quote to take down the bank building immediately, with others scheduled to be razed by October.

And the Daily News reports there currently is no plan for amusements.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quinn to beg Biden for stimulus money to help developers

From the Wall Street Journal:

Top New York real-estate executives and the City Council speaker will make an 11th-hour push Wednesday to persuade the White House to back federal funding for a second subway station as part of the extension of the No. 7 line in Manhattan.

Officials from the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will meet in Washington with Vice President Joe Biden's staff in hopes of securing hundreds of millions of dollars to build a station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.

Ms. Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat who is seen as a potential 2013 candidate for mayor, is leading the delegation to Washington. "We're working to rebuild an entire neighborhood, and an important key to that is having a strong transportation system," she said.

Who's paying for this trip?

Bloomberg seeking poets

From the NY Times:

the mayor’s office is soliciting wordsmiths via its Twitter account to send in 140 character poems in honor of Thursday’s city poetry day, some of which will be published in Metro New York that day. In case inspiration doesn’t immediately strike, the mayor’s office provides a few sample “poetweets”:

“I’m sorry this poem is a terrible mess/But what can you do in 140 characters or less…”

“If Tolstoy used Twitter to write ‘War & Peace’/The hours to read it would surely decrease…”

Tweet to @NYCMayorsOffice, or post your best efforts below.

You can't make this stuff up...

From Ebay:

This Is an Absolutely Beautiful Authentic Autographed Joe's O's Cereal Box Signed by None Other than Trader Joe's Crew Member Out of Queens, NY...Joe O. Yes, *Joe O. Himself*, the Man Behind the Demo Station Out in Flushing. That's Right—TJ's employee Joe O. Signed and Certified a Box of Trader Joe's Brand Toasted Whole Grain Oats That Shares His Namesake. Look Closely at That Authentic Name Tag! What a Great Collectible!!!

This Is a Gorgeous Piece of Memorabilia That Would Look Truly Spectacular in Your Home, Business, or Office. Impress Your Friends, Family and Business Associates with This Stunning Piece of Memorabilia Added to Your Collection.

Box is Unopened in Mint Condition with Entire 15 oz. of Cereal Still Inside. Expiration Date 03/24/11

End of the line in LIC

From the Daily News:

The wait is over.

After days of camping out in the rain, Queens dad Jeremy Fernandez was the first desperate job seeker to get a coveted application Monday for an elevator repair apprentice program.

"It was definitely worth the wait," said the 24-year-old Fernandez once he had his application in hand. "I'm here for a career, and I hope I get employed. It can change everything around."

Fernandez was at the head of the line in Astoria when the Local 3 Elevator Mechanics Union opened its doors about 9:30 a.m. It was his big payoff for camping out since 4 a.m. Friday, sleeping in a tent and whiling away the hours playing cards and dominoes.

He was one of hundreds of New Yorkers who waited in line for an application that could lead to a job for as many as 100 people.

"I'm here so I can put food on the table for my family," said Fernandez, a Woodhaven, Queens, resident with a toddler named Jeremiah.

He worked construction until he was laid off six months ago.

"It's hard out there," Fernandez said. "All I've been doing is looking for a job. Without the effort, you get nothing."

Not everyone on line was so lucky.

We're the poorest big city in America

From the Daily News:

I hate to break it to you, New Yorkers, but you're not as rich as you think.

Your median family income of $56,000 looks decent on paper - ranking 19th in the country. But you're burning through those paychecks to cover some of the highest taxes, housing costs, energy bills, health premiums and grocery prices in the country.

Factor in that sky-high cost of living, and New York's real income drops below $41,000. That's the lowest in the country, behind Mississippi at $45,000.

And real income in the five boroughs ranks lower than Detroit's.

That's right, New Yorkers. You're living in the poorest big city in America.

Good thing she has that socialite thing to fall back on

From Vanity Fair:

“It’s about how high and wide the buildings should be, what uses they can have, the correct width of the sidewalk, the shops along it, the trees planted, whether it really feels like a neighborhood you want to walk in and bike in, maybe want to live in and invest in.”

And here's why Amanda is a shitty urban planner. The goal should be to plan neighborhoods people definitely want to live in and invest in, not like to pass through and "maybe want" to live in and invest in. The bike nonsense should be secondary.

She's also a pretty shitty birder...

I can’t wait for the warbler season to begin in spring. I know a lot of the warblers by ear.”

“Do a warble for me. Go on.”

She hesitated, but she’s a good sport. “Witchety-witchety-witchety!” she warbled somewhat shrilly as a couple at a neighboring table looked on, startled. “It’s a common yellowthroat.”

“But anyone can do a yellowthroat,” she added self-effacingly. “The towhee is harder. The melodic towhee goes, ‘Tow-weeee!’ Isn’t that fun? You must think I’m crazy.”

Even beginning birders know that the Eastern Towhee is a sparrow and not a warbler and its Spring song is "Drink your Teeeeeea!"

This was the reaction from a Central Park visitor when I told him about Ms. Burden's double faux pas:

Illegal Harlem hostel shut down

From NY1:

A Harlem building was shut down by the city Thursday night, leaving more than a hundred tourists from all over the world with no place to stay.

The Department of Buildings issued a vacate order at the L-Hostel on 117th Street and 7th Avenue, citing the six-story residential building was illegally converted into a hostel.

The owner says he has owned the building for five years, and insists it's legal.

Tourists forced out into the street say they have no idea where they are going to go.

"They came in this afternoon and told everyone to leave. People come and they make reservations, and all day long they are coming off the planes and getting here and they have no place to stay, and all the other hostels are kind of full because no one has been flying these last five days so it's hard already to find a place," said one displaced tourist.

"I have the approved plan, and I was shocked by the fact that they are forcing us to kick people to the street with no reason," said the building's owner, Gal Sela.

Sela says he has not been able to get in touch with the DOB.

Many of the tourists have been staying there for the last week or so because they have not been able to fly back to Europe, thanks to the volcano ash cloud.

More pedestrian plazas for Manhattan

From Crain's:

Businesses in the Garment District and nearby retailers are reeling from news of a city plan that would ban automobiles along the West 34th Street block between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

The plan, which would cost about $30 million and be ready by 2012, would change that part of the street into a pedestrian plaza, similar to a recent park in Times Square. Buses would still run both east and west in the center. Traffic would be re-routed, leaving apparel factories and design showrooms in the Garment Center with potentially delayed deliveries and altered schedules.

The West 34th Street changes would be yet another blow for the garment district, which is currently figuring out how to deal with the relocation of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week from nearby Bryant Park uptown to Lincoln Center.

Not to mention that 34th Street is part of I-495, has tunnels on both ends and a major bus line running along it. What the hell are they thinking?

(Broadway at Union Square is scheduled for the same treatment.)

Neighborhood Retail Alliance
sums it up:

Oh well, soon Queens Boulevard will be turned into a pedestrian mall and we won't have to hear any more sob stories about old ladies being run over attempting to cross the dangerous thoroughfare. Pedestrian malls and bike lanes, the end product of electing a dilettante environmental poseur as mayor.

DEC limits hydrofracking

From the Daily News:

New York's water supply got new protection from natural-gas companies Friday after environmental regulators put up a roadblock on drilling near city reservoirs.

Any gas well in the 2,000-square-mile upstate watershed will require a costly and complex environmental review, the Department of Environmental Conservation said.

Gas companies wanted to use a new technique called "hydrofracking" to pump a chemical stew underground and force out gas from an underground formation called the Marcellus Shale.

The DEC hopes to complete a statewide policy for Marcellus hydrofracking later this year, but Friday's decision means the unfiltered reservoirs that feed New York City will be exempted from the statewide rules, as will Syracuse's reservoir.

Rally against Albany corruption

From Fox 5:

The rallying cry at a protest in Lower Manhattan essentially was that New York politicians are out of control and it's time for a change. It seems like New York's most famous gallery of recent criminals and alleged rogues were or are elected politicians:

* Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace as governor in a prostitution scandal.
* His replacement, Gov. David Paterson is also under investigation.
* Former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was convicted of corruption.
* Current Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada is under investigation.
* Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi was convicted of and resigned for misusing of state funds for a driver for his wife.
* State Sen. Hiram Monserrate was convicted of misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend.

So Friday, on the steps of City Hall, reformers, students, and some politicians rallied to clean up the state house in Albany.

Their goal is to get politicians to sign a pledge to be honest. A pledge that objects to lawmakers drawing their own district lines as a way of choosing constituents and voters, calls for closing obsolete public authorities, establishes independent watchdogs, and embraces public disclosure.

So far, 24 of New York's 212 state legislators have signed the bipartisan pledge for change. Reformers hope voters will express their anger at the ballot box.

Though their efforts are not connected to any pending legislation, these civic reformers hope this pledge will spark some change before the Legislature ends this year's session on June 21.

Crime clearance rate plummets

From the NY Post:

The NYPD solved 59 percent of homicides last year -- down 8 percentage points from the year before, and about 5 points less than the national average in 2008, according to data obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

The "clearance rate" -- cases where arrests are made -- plummeted despite detectives having to investigate a near-record low 471 slayings, police records show.

"All the cases on TV are solved with evidence," said Vernon Geberth, a famed detective and former commander of the Bronx homicide task force. "People start to think we can solve all these crimes."

The data came out during an alarming uptick in murders. There were 139 homicides so far this year as of April 18, a 27 percent jump over the 109 killings in the same period last year.

In 2009, cops solved 75 percent of rapes, 42 percent of robberies, 18 percent of burglaries and 25 percent of grand larcenies -- all higher than the national average the year before. About 54 percent of felony assaults were cleared; the national average in 2008 was 55 percent.

The easiest crime to get away with was car theft -- just 9 percent were solved in the city and only 12 percent nationally. And auto thieves are not slowing down. They swiped 2,869 vehicles in the Big Apple this year, up from 2,852 over the same period in 2009.

The NYPD closely guards its performance figures, unlike crime stats, which cops are required to turn over to the FBI.

Mike's McMansion

From the NY Times:

Mr. Bloomberg, who owns a waterfront estate here, has walled off his life in Bermuda from voters in New York, arguing it is none of their business. He steadfastly refuses to say when he is on the island, and to blindfold prying eyes, he has blocked aviation Web sites from making public the movements of his private planes.

Mr. Bloomberg bought an estate in Bermuda, called Stokes Bay, by 1998. He demolished the 2,620-square-foot house and commissioned a local architect to replace it with a $10 million home nearly three times its size in Tucker’s Town.

Even by Bermudan standards, it was flashy: five balconies, four bedrooms, seven bathrooms, an in-ground pool and space for four cars, all hidden by a gated driveway, according to documents on file with the Bermuda Department of Planning.

The plans showed a sprawling property dotted by “imported” palm trees, long pergolas and a ridged roof that collects rainwater for drinking.

Mr. Bloomberg’s new neighbors did not approve. In a tart letter, the planning committee at the Mid Ocean club, which acts as a zoning board for nearby land, complained that the proposed house was “too large” for the site and would result in the “obliteration” of views for nearby residents. It deemed the project “unacceptable.” The Bermudan government found its own problems with the plans. Its marine experts objected to the mayor’s proposal to build a large dock in front of the house, arguing it would disrupt the sea grass beds in the area, records show.

Mr. Bloomberg’s architect agreed to shave three feet off the height of the house and abandon plans for the dock.

The mayor also takes along a police detail when he travels, flying two officers on his private plane and paying as much as $400 a night to put them up at a hotel near his house; the city pays their wages while they are there, as it does whether Mr. Bloomberg is New York or not. Guns are largely forbidden in Bermuda — even most police officers do not use them — but the mayor’s guards have special permission to carry weapons. A spokesman for the Police Department declined to comment.

At times, though, his attempts at privacy border on the extreme. Shortly after Mr. Bloomberg was elected mayor, he requested that the Bermudan government seal all of his housing records, according to a letter from his architect. The government refused. Since then, the mayor’s gardeners have stopped trimming the vegetation around his house. It has grown several feet taller and now largely blocks the viewfrom the water. (The downside: it obstructs the mayor’s view.)

City Room focuses more closely on this hypocrisy. (Of course, not until after the 3rd term election...)