Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Steinway Mansion back on the market

From Curbed:

...it was first on the market in mid '09 for $5 million, then dropped to $2.5 million, then back up to $4.9 million until March. After a few months off, it's now back on the market, asking $4.5 million.

More satisfied LIC condo customers

From Crains:

More than half of the owners at a Long Island City condo conversion known as Arris Lofts are suing developer Andalex Group and other associated parties. They are seeking $20 million in damages for alleged negligence, and professional malpractice, which includes misappropriated funds, breaches of warranty and other things.

Arris Lofts, the former Eagle Electric Building, is located in what used to be a gritty industrial Queens neighborhood. The attorney representing the 120 apartment owners involved in the lawsuit, Steven Sladkus of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, said he is finalizing a formal complaint outlining all the allegations and the defendants will be served in the coming weeks.

Calls to Andalex Group and their attorney, James Hausman of Meister Seelig & Fein, were not returned.

Homelessness up 50%

From Fox 5:

If you think you’ve been seeing more people sleep on city streets, statistics back up the perception. The homeless population living on New York City streets has gone up 50-percent in the past year, according to city statistics.

The New York City Department of Homeless Services conducts a yearly survey of the streets of the city to count the number of homeless who are not in shelters.

The number of homeless in the borough of Manhattan is up 47-percent in the past year, according to the count. The 2010 count had 1,145 people living in the streets. That is up 368 from 2009.

The bourough of Brooklyn had the biggest increase of any borough. It saw a homeless increase of more than 100-percent in 2010.

And, as subway workers are laid off from the system, homeless people are taking their place underground. More than 1,000 people now live in New York City’s subway system. That’s up 11 percent in the past year.

Hey, remember this from 2006?

The mayor is promising to reduce by two-thirds the number of homeless people in New York City by the time he leaves office.

So that's why he needed to give himself another term...

State officials have concerns over Genting

From the Daily News:

The latest plan for the Aqueduct racino is no sure bet, the Daily News has learned.

State Controller Thomas DiNapoli has worries about the latest deal - and he must sign off on it before it becomes official.

"We have not received the contract yet, but we have had preliminary discussions with the lottery about some of our concerns," said DiNapoli spokesman Dennis Tompkins.

Sources said the controller's office is worried that the company picked to run the lucrative video-slots parlor, Genting New York, was the sole qualified bidder to emerge.

DiNapoli's office also raised concerns about Genting's 3% stake in MGM Grand, which works with Pansy Ho - whose father is a Chinese casino magnate with reported mob ties - at its Macao casino.

The State of New Jersey was so uncomfortable with MGM's relationship with Ho that regulators forced the company to sell its share of the Borgata in Atlantic City.

One source said the controller's objections are unlikely to torpedo the project. Tompkins wouldn't comment on the severity of DiNapoli's concerns.

DiNapoli and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo both must okay the pact that Genting reached with Gov. Paterson and legislative leaders.

Cuomo's office, which is checking to make sure the contract passes legal muster, also has had some questions, sources said.

In recommending Genting, lottery officials hailed the proposal as the best they'd seen in the nine-year slog to launch a racino at the Queens track.

Sanders declares victory vs. billboard

Press release from Council Member James Sanders:

For months, a large billboard advertisement depicting a scantily clad woman hovered over Rockaway Boulevard in front of the Platinum Club, a Queens strip club that faces the street on the western side of the busy roadway. Foot and vehicle traffic passed underneath it every day, exposing everyone who passed, including young children, to its lewd imagery.

Today, New York City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (D-Far Rockaway) has announced that the billboard, which had been covered up for weeks after the club was served with an eviction notice for failure to pay more than $150,000 in back rent, has now been completely removed. The Councilman had joined with community leaders to fight for the removal of the advertisement which he felt strongly was inappropriate and indecent given its location and depiction.

“We welcome all businesses and store fronts to our community, provided they intend to be a good neighbor,” said Councilman Sanders. “But we will not allow crude, offensive depictions to pollute our community. Our goal is to have the very best for ourselves and the children of our neighborhoods. When we allow crudeness and mediocrity to become the order of the day, we grow accustomed to losing. This time, we took a stand for common decency, and common decency won.”

Bill introduced to trap raccoons

From the Daily News:

New Yorkers fed up with the antics of the city's furry masked bandits could get some relief under a bill that makes it easier to capture and release raccoons.

The bill, being unveiled today by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, requires the city to trap raccoons anywhere in the five boroughs simply at the request of the public.

And in a conciliatory nod to the raccoons, the city Health Department would be encouraged to humanely release the critters. Under current guidelines, most trapped raccoons are euthanized because they can carry rabies.

Wildlife experts encouraged New Yorkers to seal up their trash and leave healthy raccoons alone.

"You can't pick up and relocate every animal you see," said Bobby Horvath, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. "They are in the city, and you have to learn to live with them. They will have less contact with us if we don't invite them."

And where would they "humanely release" them? This is a city that sends more cops after a coyote than after a crook, gasses geese and traps raccoons, but lets winos crap on the sidewalk...

Animals have been living here long before we have - why do we act like this is some kind of an invasion? They adapted to us. Let's adapt to them and peacefully coexist. If you don't leave food out where they can get to it, they won't bother you.

Time to clean up your mess

When we last checked in at the crap site at 3-37 Grandview Avenue in Ridgewood, it was relatively clean and for sale, but without a C of O.
Fast forward 2 months and there still is no C of O and things are now looking kinda dumpy.
And apparently the Department of Sanitation noticed, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Special election on Election Day

From Capital Tonight:

Mayor Bloomberg just called a special election on Nov. 2 (to run concurrent with the November general) in the 28th NYC Council District in Queens to fill the vacancy left by the death late last week of Tom White, who lost a battle with cancer at the age of 71.

The newly elected Council Member will serve until December 31, 2011. A second election to fill the remainder of the term will be held on Election Day in November 2011.

Landlords can't hide anymore

From WNYC:

The City Council unanimously passed legislation Wednesday that's supposed to make it easier for tenants to identify who owns their buildings. Right now, landlords are required to register with the city but often they do so using P.O. boxes and limited liability companies.

City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito sponsored the legislation and says it requires anyone with at least 25 percent ownership in a building to list their name, address and phone number. "It doesn't allow the landlords to hide behind their companies," she says. "It allows the residents, on their end, to be empowered to be able to hold someone accountable and to contact someone directly when it comes to problems that they may be having."

Housing advocates consider the new law a victory. David Hanzel from the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development says right now landlords often hide behind limited liability corporations and P.O. boxes:

"I think anybody who owns a property and is renting to tenants should make themselves known and should provide contact information where they could be reached or an accountable party could be reached," he says.

The Rent Stabilization Association calls the new law unnecessary and says the city already requires the names of corporate officers and an emergency contact.

Synthetic turf being re-examined

From City Limits:

As a result of these myriad issues, it has become readily apparent that we must take a cautious approach with the issue of synthetic turf, one that ensures that in cases where synthetic turf is to be used, that the scientific and health communities are looking at these materials and evaluating their safety and effectiveness.

Along these lines, I have been proud to have been the lead sponsor of Int. 123-A (now Local Law 19 of 2010), which was passed unanimously by the City Council and signed into law by the mayor. This law will require two things: first, it will require that the Department of Health be consulted on decisions related to the installation of synthetic turf fields and all new surface materials that have not been previously used in New York City parks. Second, it requires the formation of an advisory committee that will meet over the next three years, and give input and recommend new technologies for synthetic turf fields and other surface materials. This advisory committee will be made up of individuals from a number of areas of expertise, from health professionals to users of the athletic fields. Up until now, there has been little formal consultation between the Parks Department and stakeholders prior to the installation of synthetic turf fields. This law will ensure that there will be a deliberate and careful approach prior to the installation of synthetic turf fields.

Are taxpayers getting hosed on car washes?

From the Daily News:

New York is on track to spend more than $400,000 this year just to wash its cars.

That includes paying as much as $110 to clean a little Toyota Prius - and $263.25 to clean a GMC Sierra pickup truck.

Is that too much? Nobody seems to know.

Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor trying to save $500 million a year by streamlining how the city runs, is trying to find out.

"I think it's an interesting issue," he said. "What should the car wash policy be?"

The Daily News tracked down more than $280,000 in city spending this year for car washes, using data from Controller John Liu's office.

Two-thirds of that, or $177,000, was for the NYPD's 3,000-vehicle fleet. The next-highest agency, the Department of Transportation, spent around $20,000.

"There are important reasons why having police cars look good is really important. They're a symbol of the city," Goldsmith said.

"I would hope that the police fleet would be cleaner than the rest of the fleet. Now, I have no idea whether that's too much or too few."

There's no standard policy for how often to wash the city's 26,000 vehicles, the largest municipal fleet in the nation. There's no standard rate for how much the city pays, either.

The city's entire $283 million vehicle maintenance budget seems to run the same way, with no standard policy at all.

Nine city agencies operate 125 garages with employees. Other agencies send their vehicles out to private garages for repairs, with no mechanism to keep those costs under control.

At the Brooklyn Truck Wash in East Williamsburg, the DOT regularly pays $236.25 to wash its trucks - even though the price list on the wall says trucks cost $65 and up. No manager was there to answer questions about it.

At Sparkles Car Wash in Flushing, Queens, records show the DOT has paid $110 each to wash cars like Toyota Priuses, Ford Escapes and Ford Tauruses.

General manager Roberto Ebarilli said those must have been heavy detailing jobs, which usually cost $160 and up - but the city gets a break.

Marty's in-compliance concert sucked

From the Brooklyn Paper:

Angry patrons of Borough President Markowitz’s Seaside Concert series in Coney Island were fuming over the city’s noise crackdown at the controversial venue, where a new law kept performer’s voices — and their jams — at a whisper Thursday night.

“It’s like music on mute!” said Louis Perez of Sunset Park, who didn’t have to raise his voice while standing in the middle of Asser Levy Seaside Park. “The performers should start doing sign language!”

For the second week in a row, the volume was turned down because the concerts — which have been held at the venue since 1991 — now must conform to a law that demands the music not exceed 10-decibels above the normal street sound level near two synagogues facing the park.

“This is terrible!” said Lillian Rowlett, who was “listening” with family and friends. “We can’t hear anything, we don’t know what’s going on.”

At times, it seemed that even the performers were having trouble hearing, as they were often wildly off-key.

And several times during the show, when performers asked the audience, “How do you feel Brooklyn?” the crowd replied with resounding boos. At another point, a performer asked, “Can you hear me?” The crowd unanimously replied, “No!”

Markowitz did not hide his irritation with the new rules when addressing the audience.

“We’re under terrible constraint,” Markowitz said. “We didn’t ask for this, it’s being imposed on us. Next year, we’ll get this straightened out one way or another, we’re so sorry.”

The “10-decibel law” was a last-minute measure pushed through the City Council by Mayor Bloomberg in June as a way to keep the concerts going this summer after it was discovered that the shows had, for years, been in violation of a law that prohibited amplified music within 500 feet of a house of worship.

As it turned out, the concerts could not even adhere to the new law.

"One of the points that was left out by this reporter was that this was the FIRST time in the history of Marty giving his summer concerts that he actually LEFT the concert before it was over. He was so pissed off. Other have said he was actually crying about the situation. He doesn't realize that he was at fault & his promoter. It was his buddies (Councilman Recchia & others) that passed the new law & Mayor Bloomberg signed it into law. Marty is a serial violator of the law - violating the old 500 foot rule (for over 19 years) & the new rules. Markowitz still doesn't get it: An 8000 seat amphitheater in a bedroom community just won't work out well." - anonymous

City negligent in removing dangerous trees

From the NY Post:

Trees labeled by the Central Park Conservancy as dangerous often go untended for months, sometimes with deadly results, records obtained by The Post show.

In one case, a pest-infected tree on the verge of dropping heavy branches onto a pedestrian walkway was slated for removal -- twice -- but nothing was done. In February, seven months after the initial warnings, a limb from the tree struck and killed an Albanian immigrant, Elmaz Qyra.

The unheeded warnings are documented in a voluminous database -- provided only grudgingly after weeks of questioning by The Post -- of 13,867 Central Park trees. The conservancy, a private organization tasked by the city with maintaining Central Park, "didn't even have to give you this report," a Parks Department spokeswoman said. Yet taxpayers will shoulder the cost of the multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed in the two deaths and two serious injuries that have occurred in the park because of falling tree limbs in the past 13 months.

Photo from the NY Times

Ambling down Fresh Meadow Lane

This week Forgotten NY took a walk down Fresh Meadow Lane, a road which has not yet succumbed to total crappyness (although Darth Vader's hood does make an appearance!). Click photo for website.

How not to publish a newspaper - labeling edition

The Times Ledger provides space for a label on the front page of their papers, but their labels don't exactly fit in it. The Times Newsweekly says they aren't going to put a space for a label because it would be "discriminatory" to their newsstand customers. Meanwhile, their paid subscribers can't read their front page stories...

You gotta love journalism in this town.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good luck, Gene...

From the Queens Chronicle:

When Community Board 7 OK’d the massive $850 million Flushing Commons mixed-use development project in April, it was with several recommendations. Now with the plan fully approved, the board is trying to hold the city’s and the developer’s feet to the fire.

“We wanted concessions and now is the time to work them out,” said CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty, “but we don’t want to be rushed into it.”

Kelty was referring to a Queens Borough Board meeting set for Sept. 20, which has on its agenda a vote on the Flushing Commons business arrangements. The board consists of all 14 Queens City Council members, community board chairpersons and the borough president.

Although the project was approved by the City Council last month, the specifics have to be approved by the Borough Board. “It’s not part of the land use public review process,” Kelty said. “It’s a technicality with no public comment and only the affected community board chairman votes on it.”

He wants the meeting moved to October, giving his community board time to discuss the issues.

Topics to be covered include the time frame of the project, interim parking during construction, the funding stream and stipulations if the developer fails to get full finances.

“These are just some of the subjects that have to be addressed,” Kelty said. “We want to see the plans in writing.”

Other issues include where 109th Precinct officers will park patrol cars during construction, bus changes and traffic rerouting.

“We also want to negotiate concessions,” Kelty added. “We asked that the old YMCA building become a public school and want the developer to put in a small movie theater in the project.”

Injured osprey rescued at Willets Point

From Gothamist:

...the Origin of Species reports in a blog post titled "Take These Broken Wings" — an adult male Osprey was found injured in Queens. The bird was in a parking lot near Willets Point, where he was suffering a fracture to his right wing. He was on a way to a vet soon after to get x-rays on the wing, which may not be repairable, and there will be more updates to come.

Parks still building Elmhurst Park

From the Times Newsweekly:

More than a decade ago, while the Elmhurst gas tanks still towered over the neighborhood, it was hard for most people to imagine that the structures would one day be replaced by a park filled with rolling hills and winding paths.

But today, what was once inconceivable to many residents is inching closer toward becoming a reality, as the Parks Department continues its development of the six-acre site located off the corner of Grand Avenue and 79th Street into a passive park long sought by the community.

Currently in the second of three phases, the project is still several months away from completion, as contractors continue to create a playground and install various amenities including sprinkler equipment, lampposts and asphalt pathways.

Though it currently looks more like a construction site than a park, the Parks Department’s Queens commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski, indicated that a large portion of the $20 million park will be ready and open to the public sometime next year, on budget and near schedule.

Hospital stats may reveal more cooked books

From the NY Times:

Felony assaults, along with all other major crimes in the city, have sharply decreased over the last decade, according to the New York Police Department.

But during much of that period, the number of assault victims taken to emergency rooms nearly doubled, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Comparing the figures is difficult. It is unknown, for example, how many of the hospital assault reports were felonies and how many were misdemeanors, which the Police Department does not regularly report to the public.

But two criminologists say the difference provides more evidence of a Police Department culture that puts so much emphasis on annual crime reductions that some police supervisors and precinct commanders may be manipulating crime statistics.

“Emergency room visits are not going to happen just because somebody needs a Band-Aid,” said John A. Eterno, one of the researchers and a retired police captain. “Somebody is going to go there because they’ve been seriously assaulted.”

Mr. Eterno and his fellow researcher, Eli B. Silverman, presented their latest findings on Friday at a crime data conference at John Jay College.

The news media were not allowed to attend the conference, but the researchers provided reporters with a copy of the presentation.

Much of the presentation focused on a survey of retired captains and higher-ranking officers that The New York Times reported on in February. In the survey, many retired officers said pressure to reduce crime led some managers to alter crime data to show annual decreases in the seven major felony categories measured in the department’s CompStat program.

Police officials questioned the methodology of the survey at the time and pointed to other reviews of CompStat that supported its accuracy.

Police officials said Friday they could not comment specifically on the assault data until they examined the numbers.

Hospitals reported 47,779 assault victims in 2006, the latest figures available, a 90 percent increase from 1999. By comparison, the Police Department reported 19,173 felony assaults in 2006, a 33 percent decrease from 1998. (Numbers from 1999 were not immediately available.) The hospital numbers also show that assaults in which a firearm or cutting instrument was used, almost always constituting a felony offense, also grew, to 5,502 from 3,468, Mr. Eterno said.

Health officials said the disparity was not new and should be interpreted with caution. Part of the rise in hospital assault reports may stem from improved reporting and outreach, they said.

Sadik-Khan simply a screwup

From CBS 2:

When she lost her husband, Nancy Gruskin gained a mission.

“I’m not here to say, ‘take the bikes of the road,’ not here to say biking isn’t great,” Gruskin said.

Her mission is a foundation dedicated to safe streets in the city. Last year, Gruskin’s husband, Stuart, suffered a fatal head injury when a bicycle rider plowed into him.

Two days after CBS 2 featured Gruskin in the “Bike Bedlam” reports, the city Department of Transportation releases statistics claiming pedestrian injuries in crashes with cyclists plummeted 62 percent since 2001.

Now, though, the DOT is backpedaling, admitting the numbers it released were wrong.

It turns out those numbers have nothing to do with bike vs. pedestrian accidents – they’re from motor vehicle accidents in which bikers and pedestrians were also injured.

When bikes hit pedestrians, no agency collects the incident reports or analyzes them.

Gruskin said she knew that, but the DOT apparently did not.

“It’s an outrage, because it’s all about pedestrian safety, and how can you ensure pedestrian safety if you can’t ensure accurate numbers?” Gruskin said.

On Friday, the DOT told CBS 2 they “regret this error and any confusion it may have caused.”

When Gruskin wrote the mayor last year to ask for help with bicycle safety, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan replied with a form letter – it was addressed to Gruskin’s dead husband, Stuart.

“How much more could you be kicked in the stomach?” Gruskin said. “That’s exactly how I felt when I opened the letter from the Department of Transportation.”

Gruskin wrote again this week, and hopes her letter is treated with more respect this time.

Paper offers 3 choices for enforcing 14th amendment

From the Times Newsweekly:

There is nothing wrong with the 14th Amendment, but its interpretation has been completely distorted of late—a fact that should outrage American citizens of every walk of life.

“Anchor babies” have been an immigration phenomenon in the U.S. since the 1980s. By latching onto rights granted under the 14th Amendment, illegal alien mothers give birth to their children in the U.S., making the babies eligible to receive welfare and social benefits. The parents of these children are virtually left alone, regardless of their status, since separating families is not exactly a popular idea.

The original intent of the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law and obtaining citizenship for their offspring, nor obtaining benefits at taxpayer expense.

Even if the law is interpreted in its most basic sense, the fact that a newborn anchor baby is a U.S. citizen does not automatically allow their extended family to remain in the country illegally. The infant’s birthright citizenship is not transferable to any other member of the family.

Amending the Constitution—a task so difficult that it’s only been done 27 times in two centuries—isn’t going to solve the immigration problem; changing the federal immigration laws already on the books will. By not correcting this misapplication of the 14th Amendment, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.

We offer three alternative options: 1) The mother can leave the newborn with someone in the country who is a citizen, then return to their native country. 2) The parents can take the child back to their native country and let them return when they are of legal age to live as citizens of the U.S. 3) The parents of the child can apply for citizenship before the child is born so they can remain in the country legally and enjoy the rights and privileges entitled to American citizens.

The 14th Amendment doesn’t need to be repealed and replaced; it only needs to be enforced as originally intended.

Bayside Diner closed?

Okay, so what's the deal with the Bayside Diner? Drove past yesterday and it was very much not in operation. On vacation? Under renovation? Closed? Didn't see a sign in the window explaining anything.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taxpayer funded promotional mailers under fire

From the Times Ledger:

One of the advantages incumbents in the state Assembly have over their challengers is a printing budget that enables them to mail out quarterly newsletters to their constituents, which at least one good government group says is in need of reform.

“This is a persistent problem that the incumbent newsletters that go out ... are all about promoting the individual [and] much less about constituent service,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY.

While rules prohibit the newsletters, which update constituents about bills their legislators have passed and feature photos of the lawmakers at community events or important bill signings, from being distributed less than 30 days before an election, Lerner said the literature is more about self-aggrandizement and evoking “warm and fuzzy feelings” than providing constituent service.

“It’s bad to begin with. It gets worse closer to the election,” she said. “The better letters are heavy on constituent information.”

Lerner called for “clear guidelines and a culture that draws the line” on what is appropriate for the newsletters, although she said it is difficult to come up with a standard.

Ozone concentrations in the city

From the Times Ledger:

It has long been established that thousands of cars and trucks create major pollution along New York City’s boulevards and highways, but it turns out that even quieter places like parts of Queens endure a dangerous, smog-like ozone.

The city Department of Health completed a study of summer air conditions throughout the city and the agency found that ozone concentrations were highest in downwind outerborough locations, such as the Rockaways and lower Staten Island.

Ozone results from chemical reactions among other pollutants such as nitrogen oxide in the presence of sunlight.

But in a curious finding, the report said the same pollutants that cause ozone can also remove it from the air, which means high traffic centers such as midtown Manhattan with heavy emissions often have less ozone than downwind areas.

Ozone pollution, which the department said can aggravate asthma, was also detected in Howard Beach, Broad Channel, parts of Jamaica and St. Albans, College Point and Douglaston.

The report, conducted last summer, said any city neighborhood adjacent to busy highways was a major air pollution area.

The report said another solution to reducing harmful emissions is to expand mass transit options to help achieve the clean air goals set out in PlaNYC in 2007 to improve the city’s air quality. The results of the city Community Air Survey are part of PlaNYC and involve sampling the air at 150 street-level locations in every season.

Murder caught on tape

From Eyewitness News:

Cameras caught the gunfire as it erupted on 135th street and Liberty Avenue last month in the Richmond Hill section.

A 35-year-old man was killed.

One suspect tried to rob the victim in a Ford SUV.

A good samararitan witnessed the robbery, and tried to help.

The second suspect then runs over, and both men started to fire at the good samaritan.

The first gunman then shot and killed the driver in the SUV.

Both men are believed to be about 25 years old.

Bob Turner answers lame Weiner Op-Ed

From the Brooklyn Downtown Star:

Dear Mr. Weiner, I read your op-ed titled "why we should all be angry" defending your recent tirade on the House floor.

As the Republican challenger for the seat you have held for a decade, I want to offer a perspective shared by many of your constituents.

Mr. Weiner, we are angry because our Congressman represents everything that is wrong with Washington right now.

Your tirade on the house floor was a disgraceful display of theatrics and nothing more. As the Democratic Whip, you were well aware of what the outcome would be when you required a two-thirds vote to pass the 9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill. You knew full well, Mr. Weiner, that you would not get the votes needed to pass the bill due to the provision for illegal aliens.

Your Democratic colleague Robert Zimmerman put it best as he criticized your tired routine by saying “Our legislators are defining their credibility and effectiveness by the number of YouTube hits and sound bites that are generated.” And you tell us why we should all be angry?

Your political spin machine is always hard at work. You send out promotional mailers that misrepresent you as a fighter for the middle class and small businesses. And this false advertising is paid for by the taxpayers.

Your federal earmarks speak volumes of your mayoral aspirations. Right here in Queens we need federal funding for Riis Park reparations. You ignore our needs, but you are able to secure millions in federal funding for the gay, lesbian and trans-gender community in lower Manhattan. As our elected representative, your time and energy should be spent on programs within the 9th District. And you tell us why we should all be angry?

Mr. Weiner, we are angry because our Congressman is a career politician, a self-promoting showman who lacks real world experience, has zero business sensibility and whose only motivation is to further his political career at the expense of those who he is paid to represent.

As a non-politician challenger to your seat, I cannot match your name recognition, political muscle or funding. But what I do have on my side is the will of the majority in the 9th CD. I am the voice of the people that you are supposed to represent and it is time for you to go.

Johnny finds lax oversight in Parks Dept

From the Daily News:

A host of companies that run city parks facilities have stiffed taxpayers out of promised improvements - and the Parks Department let it happen, the city controller says.

A new audit by John Liu slammed the Central Park Tennis Center, the 79th St. Boat Basin, Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster and three dozen other companies that collectively owe the city $9.6 million worth of infrastructure improvements.

"It's bad enough that New Yorkers have to tiptoe through cracked concrete and precarious wooden planks they call 'ramps' in city parks," said Liu spokesman Scott Sieber. "But it adds insult to injury knowing that your tax dollars paid for this [to be fixed]."

The Parks Department "strongly" disagreed with the audit's claim that it was lax in oversight.

New truck legislation increases fines

From CBS 2:

The New York City Council is cracking down on truck drivers.

The Council’s Transportation Committee has proposed new legislation that would ban tractor trailors from parking on residential streets.

The bill would increase fines to $250 for the first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense in a six-month period.

A) Trucks are already banned from residential streets.
B) You can write all the regulations you want, it doesn't help if you lack the manpower to enforce the law.

Busting out the blowers

"Ah...autumn. Can you feel it in the air? No? Neither can I, but it must be just around the corner because starting a week and a half ago it was the beginning of leaf-blow and vacuum season at the Maurice Fitzgerald Playground (106 Street & Atlantic Avenue).

This is at least the third (and probably the fourth or fifth) consecutive year that they've dragged out these giant noisemakers this ridiculously early in the season. Why? That's what I'd like to know! I have complained in the past to 311 about this (especially when they start using these things before 7 AM) and I've gotten this response:

"We are aware of some of the drawbacks of leaf blowers, but, like other mechanized equipment, they enable us to maintain parks and playgrounds more efficiently. Leaf blowers help us keep thousands of acres of parkland free from litter and debris that would otherwise limit public use and enjoyment of open space."

Standard reply stuff, but it doesn't explain why rakes and brooms are good for the rest of the year, but somehow insufficient for use from August to November - and - equally important - why they have to be used at the crack of dawn?

Don't get me wrong, when Autumn really kicks in and the leaves fall by the buckets, I don't begrudge the park workers using the means at their disposal to collect them, but we've just had three days of rain and there's no pile of leaves or debris to pick up in the park. It's long about time that someone in charge at the Parks Dept. demonstrated some common sense (and courtesy) to us long-suffering residents who live around this playground.

Thanks for letting me vent.



PS Are those park workers covered for damage to their own ears or working with mechanized equipment?"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rest in peace, Councilman White

City Councilman Thomas White Jr. of Queens died this morning at North Shore LIJ after a long illness, a well-informed source tells the Daily News.

NYPD crime books cooked

From the Daily News:

Two academics at an FBI-sponsored conference Friday will accuse the NYPD of cooking the books to make the city appear safer.

The claims are contained in a survey of more than 309 police officers - most of whom have served as precinct commanders since the department started using the CompStat program in the mid-'90s.

More than half of the respondents admitted to fudging numbers, according to the study by John Eterno of Molloy College and Eli Silverman of John Jay College.

The pair of criminologists will also release recordings they obtained from several roll calls that they say capture supervisors telling officers not to take reports of robberies unless the victim is willing to go to the stationhouse.

The recordings also capture officers being told not to take reports if they think the district attorney will not prosecute.

The FBI is looking into it.

The next cog in the Queens Machine!

From the Daily News:

The crowded field of candidates running for Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza's soon-to-be-vacant 26th District seat are furious about a flyer being mailed out by Ed Braunstein.

"Albany is an embarrassment. We deserve better," reads the colorful piece of literature, which appeared in mailboxes in northeast Queens last week. "Career politicians are completely out of touch with our values."

Braunstein, a newcomer to the local political scene, has the backing of the powerful Queens Democratic Party. He also works for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, which makes his claims questionable, according to primary opponents.

"All the candidates are running on our records," said Democratic hopeful Steve Behar. "We have a history in the district of activism. It's indefensible to call himself a reformer."

Behar pointed out that Braunstein's uncle is high-caliber lobbyist Brian Meara.

"We're outraged," said Elio Forcina, a Whitestone Democrat vying for the seat. "He is tied in with lobbyists and lobbyists are running his campaign and he works for Sheldon Silver, and he tells the public he is a reform candidate?"

Former Assemblyman John Duane, another Democratic candidate, said there is a "disconnect" between Braunstein's claim to be an agent of change and his deep connections to the Queens Democratic Party and top elected officials.

"He's running a campaign on status-quo party organization," he said, "These people haven't done anything to change Albany."

In another "Odd Couple"-like twist, Braunstein's camp sent out a press release touting endorsements by Democrats Jerry Iannece and Paul Vallone.

Vallone and Iannece faced off in a bitter Council primary battle last year. They both ended up losing to newcomer Kevin Kim, who was then defeated by Republican Dan Halloran in an even uglier general election.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse...

From the Times Ledger:

Evan Stavisky, a spokesman for Braunstein’s campaign, pointed out that Cuomo, who is running on a campaign of reforming Albany, had thrown his weight behind Braunstein.

Fake grass not all it's cracked up to be

From City Limits:

Over the past 12 years New York City has borrowed an estimated $300 million to put 204 artificial-turf fields at parks, schools and playgrounds. An additional 52 fields are on the drawing board.

The reasons behind this buying binge have been many, ranging from the battle against obesity to an alleged cost savings on field maintenance. Artificial turf is part of PlaNYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's blueprint for an environmentally friendly future. Yet a City Limits investigation has found that overuse and chronic neglect has run turf ragged years ahead of schedule; price comparisons generally favor natural grass, even in the long term; and the health risks of turf—largely dismissed by the city after the destruction of one artificial field for high lead levels in late 2008—are much broader and deeper than previously reported.

After years of rejecting health concerns, the city recently agreed to switch materials and to set up new protocols for testing artificial turf, but the backroom negotiations that brought these concessions actually kept more threatening information from seeing the light of day. It’s not clear that the new testing regime will eliminate the health risks, and the issues of cost and durability have not been addressed.

Documents we've obtained indicate that the city's regimen for testing the fields to make sure they don't contain dangerous levels of chemicals is not as rigorous as the public has been told. If new federal standards for lead were applied to turf fields in city parks, several would be forced to shut down.

Relentlessly pitched as a financial boon, plastic grass has turned into a pricey time bomb. As more fields hit the end of their useful lives, the city faces the prospect—and increased expense—of reconstructing them.

The price of new turf fields to replace the current, damaged ones is rising. And installing a new turf field requires the expensive task of disposing off the old one—meaning the shift to turf may have been a costly gamble.

In a random survey of 56 artificial fields this summer, City Limits discovered 25, or 46 percent, in serious state of disrepair, with gaps, tears and holes forming obvious trip hazards. At least 14 fields had minor damage, but without fixes, their defects are sure to grow worse.

How did an administration that prides itself on financial acumen dive headlong into a heavy investment in an untested material? And why has it remained steadfastly committed to buying more artificial turf?

Ack attack fails to stop challenger

From the Queens Courier:

Queens Congressmember Gary Ackerman will have a Democratic primary on September 14 after all.

The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ackerman’s Democratic opponent in the 5th Congressional District, Patricia Maher, would be on the primary ballot, reversing a decision rendered by a Nassau County Supreme Court judge.

“What he did was really despicable,” said Maher, the director of development and community education for a not-for-profit health care foundation, referring to Ackerman’s attempts to get her removed from the ballot. “Maybe he thought I wouldn’t have the guts, the nerve or the money to bring it to the Appellate Division, but I did.”

Ackerman said that after the Appellate Division ruled in favor of Maher, he wasn’t going to appeal.

“Let her get on the ballot. What do I care, I don’t even know her,” Ackerman said.

Sounds like he was pissed off...

From Eyewitness News:

An apparently drunk man was arrested for shouting anti-Muslim slurs as he urinated outside a mosque in the Astoria section of Queens.

Omar Rivera was charged with criminal trespass after worshippers at the Al-Iman Mosque on Steinway Street subdued him Wednesday night.

Holding a beer bottle, Rivera burst in during evening prayers. He allegedly shouted anti-Muslim slurs, calling the worshipers "terrorists," then flashed his middle finger and urniated outside the mosque.

Two worshipers subdued him and called 911.

Rivera was charged and taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

The mosque said earlier news reports that the suspect urinated on prayer rugs was not inaccurate.

UPDATE: So apparently this may never have happened...

ASTORIA, N.Y. (WPIX) - An intoxicated man is accused of urinating outside a Queens mosque Wednesday night during a prayer session, according to New York City police.

The disturbing incident unraveled at the Iman Mosque on Steinway Street in Astoria when witnesses say Omar Rivera "came in with a beer bottle in his hands" and was "clearly very intoxicated."

The mosque released a statement Thursday refuting claims Rivera shouted anti-Muslim slurs.

They said they believe the incident was an unintentional act of intoxication and wasn't directed against the mosque or Muslim community. In addition, they claimed Rivera was not charged with criminal trespass and was instead charged with pubic urination.

Two men in the prayer group were able to subdue the man and brought him into a back room before calling authorities.

Police took Rivera to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Officials at the mosque said they are offering Rivera any help he may need.

Campaign contributors' loophole

From WNYC:

An article published in the Albany Government Law Review in 2008, describes how the use of LLCs rendered New York State's campaign finance meaningless: "If one were rich enough, one could establish a string of LLCs and each could give a maximum ($150,000) contribution. The LLC contribution loophole is another boon for the rich who can circumvent contribution limits by making multiple contributions through LLCs."

Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York, concedes it is legal for candidates running for attorney general to take the real estate industry-linked LLC cash. But, she notes that the public should take note because the attorney general in New York is the major regulator and watchdog over the real estate industry.

Cat lady caught!

From the NY Post:

Sources said last night that cops had caged the "Cat Lady," the serial stick-up artist who dons clever disguises -- including a cat mask -- to rob high-end boutiques around the city.

The suspect was identified as Shanna Spalding, 28, of Queens, who sings with a death-metal band called Divine Infamy under her stage name, Purgatory.

The burqa-clad suspect was picked up in SoHo after bursting into a Greene Street boutique with a gun and demanding cash, sources said.

She allegedly threatened to shoot up the place if she didn't get her paws on the dough.

Cops said they had noticed her prior to the heist, and followed her to the store, suspecting she was the mysterious robber, who had been known before to disguise herself in a burqa.

The feline filcher was wanted for robberies in Queens and Manhattan.

Woodside trees to be replanted

From the Queens Chronicle:

After tearing down trees along tracks in Woodside this spring, Amtrak announced last Thursday, a $460,000 plan to plant new trees and shrubs and install fencing in the area.

Amtrak has hired a landscape horticulturist to assist in the selection and planting of approximately 600 new trees and shrubs, which the railroad will guarantee and maintain for one year.According to the company, the trees selected will be shorter than the ones removed to prevent damage to the tracks.

In addition to planting trees, Amtrak will reportedly install 1,250 feet of standard fencing and 100 feet of ornamental fencing to prevent access to the tracks. The agency reported it would also remove debris along the tracks. According to Amtrak, some of this work is already underway and the entire project is expected to be completed in October.

Of the company, Assemblyman Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) said “it sounds like they are at least doing the right thing finally, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“They spent money to take the trees down and now they are spending money to put the trees up. That tells you a lot about Amtrak’s efficiency,” Gianaris said.

Amtrak had previously performed maintenance work in the area by removing trees and other vegetation to eliminate the possibility of branches falling into its overhead wire and signal system or onto the adjoining tracks. If a tree or branch were to fall, the agency said it could disrupt train service for thousands of daily passengers.

“This action proves the importance of community involvement, said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Astoria) in a statement. “Our citizens stood up after trees were chopped down in their neighborhood and Amtrak listened. I will continue to work with Amtrak and the residents of Woodside for the duration of the landscaping revitalization plan and any other issues.”

Still, questions remain as to whether Amtrak, which used stimulus funding to pay for the tree removal, may have acted erroneously and wasted taxpayer money.

I'm so happy I got to use that photo one more time!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

City can't abide by its own noise code

From the Daily News:

Tests showed Borough President Marty Markowitz's summer concerts again broke the city's new amplified sound law, but Thursday night's Latino Music by the Sea Concert - the last show of the season - will be allowed to go on.

Opponents went to court to block the concert after their sound expert found last week's B-52s concert got as loud as 23.6 decibels louder than normal sound levels - while the law only allows it to get 10 decibels higher.

Organizers turned the music down so low some audience members complained they could barely hear it. Still, the lowered volume wasn't within legal limits.

The city had vowed to crack down on the concerts after previous tests showed violations at shows by George Thorogood and the Destroyers and John Legend.

But after hours of negotiations Wednesday, opponents settled for an agreement that will allow tonight's show to go on while slapping more restrictions on the city.

"We would have preferred that the concerts be stopped, but we're not vindictive people," said Ida Sanoff, calling the agreement "fair."

If the sound levels exceed permitted levels tonight and isn't quickly lowered, officials are supposed to cut off the amplified sound system or end the concert altogether.

The city also will fork over $2,750 to pay for the plaintiffs' sound expert, and could get hit with all their legal fees if two or more violations are recorded.

Kitties trapped at housing project without food or water

From the NY Post:

A group of cats trapped in the bowels of a Queens housing complex might be down to their last lives.

Contractors hired by the New York City Housing Authority to seal up crawl spaces and keep out hundreds of stray kitties at the 2,100-unit Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City closed the cubicles before all of the cats could get out, residents and animal activists said yesterday.

By one count, as many as 12 cats are stuck in the small, hot crawl spaces of several buildings and worried feline lovers want the city to bust back in and break them out.

Debi Romano, president of SaveKitty Foundation, a local animal-rescue group, said workers hurried through the Ravenswood project before making sure all the cats were safely out.

"They rushed through the job in four days," Romano said. "This job should have taken at least two weeks. Either they're lying or they're not looking hard enough."

A Housing Authority spokeswoman, Sheila Stainback, said that no cats were stuck in the crawl spaces when the areas were sealed. But she said traps with food and water have been left in the basement areas in case any cats get back in.

Romano is urging city officials to take a closer look, insisting the cats are still there, and that most of them are too smart to be lured into the traps.

Delay in siting women's group at historic building

From the Queens Chronicle:

In December 2007, after four years of heated negotiations, the Parks Department agreed to allow the CWNY to use the former bachelor officers’ residence, which is in a landmarked historic district at Fort Totten. The brick structure was built in 1905 and is located next to the Bayside Historical Society headquarters.

The interior contains 10 apartment-style units. The entire building is in serious need of repair. The front porch is collapsing and the interior is without electricity, running water or heat.

Jawin’s group has raised $1.7 million, with the first stage of rehabilitation expected to cost $1.5 million. “Once we clean up the building, do the basics, remove the asbestos, put in new windows and a roof, we can occupy the first floor and then do more fundraising to finish the job,” she said.

The city estimates it will cost $5 million for Jawin’s group to pay for the entire project and she fears that the longer the process is dragged out, the more expensive it will become. She’s also concerned about the structural integrity of the building if the procedure continues to be so slow.

“We are frustrated because we can’t have the building cleaned and it doesn’t make sense for the city to allow it to continue to decay,” she said. “It’s unproductive.”

According to the DDC, CWNY has failed to comply with the programing terms of the license agreement, but would not specify what those terms are. Nevertheless, the city is working with the group to allow it to go forward.

The restoration is subject to Parks’ approval, as well as the city Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Funding has been promised by the Borough President’s Office, Queens City Council members and the state, through Bayside Assemblywoman Ann Carrozza’s office. The money, however, cannot be released without the official approvals in place.

Jawin was told at the meeting that the DDC has to finish its report, then it goes to the various agencies for approval.

Despite the delays, Jawin said she believes the atmosphere between her group and the city has improved somewhat. She will next meet with the DDC on Nov. 16.

Plans for the CWNY headquarters call for it to be used as a conference, resource and learning center. There will be an area devoted to women’s history, workshops on welfare, job training and support groups. Other programs will be held on health, nutrition and park-related themes.

Photo from Scouting New York

Gangs of Glendale

From the Daily News:

A youth football league that was booted to a Maspeth Glendale-Ridgewood field last year after playing in Juniper Valley Park for more than two decades said its new turf is plagued by gangs.

The longtime coach of the Queens Falcons - who now play ball in Mafera Park after the city took the team's cleats off the grassy Middle Village field - said the dark lot is a magnet for quality-of-life crimes and makes the area unsafe for the young athletes.

"It's just a matter of time before something bad happens," said Tim Cavanaugh, 46, who has coached the team for almost 20 years. "At the end of the day, we just want our kids safe."

Since it began playing on Mafera's artificial turf last year, the team has witnessed trouble just past its sidelines, including fights, kids "throwing" gang hand signs and graffiti that seems to mark gang turf.

The Parks Department recently painted over the letters "TGWK" - which sources said stand for Together We Kill, one gang in the area - that were spray-painted on the team's storage unit on the field, Cavanaugh said.

Cuts in police staffing have made it harder to patrol the field area regularly, but officers from the 104th Precinct are always quick to respond if a call is made, Cavanaugh said.

Well they should be considering the precinct is only 3 blocks away...

"Pictures for Posterity"

From the Wall Street Journal:

In fast-changing Long Island City, Frank Carrado is trying to hang on.

Known as the honorary "mayor" of the Queens neighborhood, Mr. Carrado can be found, week after week, holding court in the Dorian Cafe, a quaint restaurant a couple of blocks from the East River. He holds no official title and has no official constituents.

But the 80-year-old Korean War veteran and life-long resident of Long Island City has become a bit of a local celebrity for his efforts to capture the area's semi-industrial townscape before it completely succumbs to gentrification.

His tool is a camera.

In 2005, Mr. Carrado, then 75, began a quest to record in pictures a city on the cusp of architectural reinvention. Armed with a digital camera given to him by his daughter (he's "not like these guys with a $500 camera," he'll have you know), he began roaming the streets of Long Island City to snap photos of the buildings next in line for the developer's scythe.

Speaking on recent weekend afternoon in his "office" at the Dorian, Mr. Carrado said he had a simple motive in mind with his pictures: He wants to leave the next generation with some sort of record of how his neighborhood used to be.

"It was for the children, so that when they grow up, they can look back at all this and see what the neighborhood was like," said Mr. Carrado, whose pictures were on display at the Greater Astoria Historical Society for several years until 2009.

Female bandit caught

From Eyewitness News:

Police in Queens say they have caught the woman who pulled off five robberies since last Friday.

Authorities say 48-year-old Jodi Mendelowitz now faces robbery and weapons charges.

Mendelowitz allegedly used a silver hand-gun as she targeted three liquor stores, a Chinese restaurant and a bank in the Flushing area.

There were no injuries in any of the holdups.

When Queens was king of golf

From the NY Post:

There's a tree that stands in front of 50-11 228th Street in Bayside, Queens, which very few people stop to look at anymore. It’s tall and spreads its shade from sidewalk to sidewalk, people stopping underneath in their cars and hustling into their homes, all in the name of haste.

“I don’t know nothing about no golf course,” one resident said recently as he came out onto his screen-enclosed porch shirtless, holding back his barking dog and refusing to give his name.

Not many know about the course that used to be here, and, as old as the tree is, it might only have the faintest memory.

That’s because Oakland Golf Club not only has disappeared physically, it has disappeared from the consciousness of a golf-crazed region. Right there in northern Queens was a cog in the early-American golfing landscape, a course that was home to the famed amateur Walter Travis, that hosted the legendary Harry Vardon on his American tour of 1900, and that was redesigned by the master Golden Age architect Seth Raynor in 1921.

Yet, in the post-WWII suburban expansion of New York City, ground was sacrificed in the name of progress. The death knell for Oakland came with the construction of the Long Island Expressway in 1952, the final nail in its coffin driven in by the Clearview Expressway in 1960.

To round off the list of great city courses gone missing, look upon another tree that currently sits in front of 230-41 28th Avenue, just north of Bayside High School. If the tree goes back about 60 years, it would have stood next to the wonderful green complex of the 16th hole at Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s Bayside Links.

MacKenzie designed Bayside just before going to help out Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts with Augusta National, and he built it as a playable track with the same spirit as his beloved municipal courses in his homeland of Scotland.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bayside Wendy's robber sought

From the Queens Chronicle:

Police are on the lookout for a brazen robber who held up a Wendy’s restaurant in Bayside on Aug. 8.

The suspect entered the fast-food eatery at 220-06 Northern Blvd. at 9:40 p.m. and displayed a black revolver. He then jumped over the counter and demanded the cash registers be opened.

The robber took an unspecified amount of cash and fled the scene on foot. A security camera at Wendy’s, aimed at the registers, shows the criminal taking money behind the counter.

The suspect is described as a male black, approximately 25 years old, 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds. He was wearing a maroon windbreaker, red polo shirt, blue shorts, white leggings, white sneakers and a dark colored hat and was carrying a dark backpack.

Carroll Gardens curb cut crackdown

From the Brooklyn Paper:

Homeowners have turned their Carroll Gardens block into a “trailer park” by illegally using their front yards as parking spaces — and the city says it will finally crackdown on the brazen practice.

Fourth Place between Smith and Court streets has become the wild west of inappropriate use of the very front gardens that give the neighborhood its name.

“Parking is not permitted [in front yards] and none of the curb cuts are allowed,” declared Carly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings.

A quirk in city zoning states that the front yards along First, Second, Third and Fourth places are to be used “for courtyards only.” The rule stems from a decades-old decision to designate the front yards of homes on those blocks as actually part of the street, not the homeowner’s lot, giving the city control over what is built there.

None of the homes with curb cuts ever applied for a permit to do so, Sullivan noted, and the cuts would only be legal if they lead to a back garage or off-courtyard use.

She said inspectors would be dispatched to the block and would dispense violations if they confirm this newspaper’s indisputable findings.

Great. Now how about everywhere else in the city where illegal curb cuts exist?

Will the pigs return to the park?

From the Times Ledger:

Last year a family day at Brookville Park turned into an out-of-control bash where liquor was sold and litter was spread all over the southeast Queens greenspace.

An advocate for the park is calling on the city to not let that happen again this year.

Fred Kress, president of the Queens Coalition for Parks, sent a letter to the city Parks Department asking it not to allow party promoter June Balloon to hold his fourth-annual family day at the park this Saturday. Last year’s celebration, which was co-hosted by state Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway) and Jacques Leandre, who was running for City Council last year, left the park in a state of disarray with crews picking up trash for hours the day afterward.

“I expect Parks to protect our parks from animals — both two- and four-legged,” Kress wrote in his letter.

This year’s celebration, which is not sponsored by Titus and Leandre, was advertised on the social networking website Facebook and had dozens of people invited. The flier included on the Facebook page said there would be musical performances, food, games and face painting for children.

This was not the fun that took place during last year’s picnic Aug. 22.

Someone set up a table that advertised “open bar, ladies only” and sold alcohol to parkgoers. The party went on long after its 7 p.m. closing time, and when the parks manager went to the greenspace the next morning, it was filled with empty bottles, discarded food and sexually explicit pamphlets.

Kress and other advocates arrived at the park to see the damage firsthand and saw Balloon and Titus’ husband, Eric DeBerry, arguing with the parks manager, saying they did nothing wrong.

Leandre said he is not involved with this year’s picnic and will not be attending it because he will be out of town with his youth football group, the Rosedale Jets. Titus’ office did not return phone calls for comment and June Balloon could not be reached for comment.

Although the Parks Department refused to grant a permit for the party as of press time Tuesday, fliers were still going up in the neighborhood, according to Kress.

Como flub justifies elections board snub

From City Hall:

Apparently, even a former commissioner of the Board of Elections and one-time hopeful for the executive director job can make mistakes on his elections paperwork.

That is what Anthony Como, the Republican running against State Sen. Joe Addabbo discovered some time late Tuesday, hours after submitting 4,900 petition signatures to create a third party line for his candidacy.

The problem was that Como filed the petitions for the wrong election.

At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Como submitted petitions for the “Tax Cuts Now” line that were designated for the Sept. 14 primary, not the Nov. 2 general election, when he will face Addabbo. As a result, the Board has taken initial actions to invalidate Como’s signatures, according to Steve Richman, its general counsel. The 10-member Board as a whole will now get the case.

Como already lost out on the Independence Party line after a dispute over his campaign’s use of signature gatherers from the party’s rival New York City faction. The “Tax Cuts Now” line was conceived of as a replacement.

Instead, it seems it will be the party line itself which may be cut now.

From the Queens Courier:

Addabbo questioned whether all of the petition signers were legit saying he has heard stories of confusion.

“A number of people I spoke to said they were approached to sign petitions for Como and some of them thought it was for Andrew Cuomo, and they didn’t know what they were signing,” Addabbo said.

[Where did I hear this before? Oh yeah...]

Meanwhile, Addabbo is still dealing with his own ballot issue, whether or not to appeal the court’s decision to boot him from the Working Families Party Line.

“I normally like to exhaust all legal remedies before closing a case or a matter,” Addabbo said.

Council member gambles on lawsuits

From the NY Post:

City Councilman Lewis Fidler gets a $60,000-plus salary from a company that helped finance the lawsuit by police gunshot victim Sean Bell and other major cases against the NYPD.

The Brooklyn Democrat moonlights as the chief lawyer for LawCash, a company that gambles on the outcome of court cases -- including headline-grabbing police-brutality suits -- by giving money to cash-strapped plaintiffs who could hit legal pay dirt.

The company quietly gave money to Joseph Guzman -- who was shot 16 times in the 50-bullet barrage that killed Sean Bell, a source said. It was a savvy business investment: Guzman won a $3 million settlement from the city last month.

LawCash is "involved in many police-brutality cases filed against the city," said Bell family lawyer Sandy Rubenstein, who represents victims in the 2006 shooting case, as well as the woman Bell was to marry the day he died, Nicole Paultré-Bell.

Another LawCash client was NYPD torture victim Abner Louima, who won an $8.7 million settlement in 2001 against the city.

Fidler said he makes somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000 as LawCash's general counsel -- on top of the $127,500 he makes as a council member.

The firm generally advances a few thousand dollars to plaintiffs at interest rates of 2 to 4 percent a month. If the case loses, they get nothing back. If the case wins, they get principal plus interest, which can exceed 25 percent.

Fidler says there is no conflict of interest in his firm's going against the city in court.

"There is no contact with the city of New York," Fidler said of his part-time job. "What possible conflict would there be, as I do no business with the city?"

But the City Council sometimes sits in judgment of the same cases that LawCash invests in.

Good question!

From NBC:

The Commission has labored long and brought forth a mouse. If the voters say they don’t want the change, then three terms presumably will be enshrined for the future. If they vote for this wishy-washy version of term limits, it won’t happen until years from now. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

It’s a compromise, they say, but at whose expense? They want to be fair, the commission members say, to the incumbents. But what about being fair to the people of New York? Somehow, that has escaped them.

From NY Civic:

The bottom line here is that some people wanted to take care of some other people they know. And they were able to convince enough naive colleagues so that they could do it.

The remedy here is relatively simple: another referendum, with an effective date written into it so no Commission can substitute its wishes for the voters' decision by fiddling with implementation and postponing a simple reform for over a decade.

The unanswered question is Rule 17-C. Who will bell the cat? Who will step forward and take the initiative to see that the will of the people is implemented, whatever it may be. Now is the time to begin consideration of that question. It has been attributed to Edmund Burke in 1795. No one, however, really knows who said it first: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing."

To those of you who think, what difference does this make, two terms or three, you have a point. The issue, however, is not two or three terms. The issue is fairness; first the Mayor and Council circumventing the Charter in 2008 for their own benefit, and now the Commission trying to circumvent the referendum of 2010, whether they know it or not.

Americans, and New Yorkers are Americans, like to play fair, and don't like to be disregarded or manipulated. That is what underlies this controversy. It is the same nagging issue that sharply reduced the majority the competent mayor should have received after two successful terms. Our recommendation: respect the will of the people.

From Room Eight:

The need for a referendum to change the charter, or at least portions of the charter for which the politicians have a conflict of interest, is one thing I thought any decent group of people would propose. But they haven't, and there is no explanation as to why, although the report does mention that having he Council overturn a referendum without another one is something many objected to. Not only could the City Council eliminate term limits, but it could also eliminate initiative and referendum. This stunning omission has gone without comment. BTW, to change the NY state constitution requires the assent of two consecutive state legislative terms AND a referendum. If the City Council can just change the charter, why does it exist, since it is no more difficult to change than any ordinance?