Thursday, June 30, 2011

Learning, laughing and reading on hold?

"I heard from a mole that the Queens Library's much ballyhooed Children's Library Discovery Center adjacent to the Central Library in Jamaica, which was scheduled to open to the public yesterday (June 28), did not have a C of O and therefore couldn't open.

Saw a long line of parents and children waiting to get into it this morning - wonder if they'll be disappointed 2 days in a row." - anonymous

Don't know if it was in fact scheduled to open Monday, but the DOB's website indicates that there still are outstanding requirements for this place to open, so a "mid-2011" opening is looking not so likely.

Help Me Howard gets DOB permit revoked

Remember this?

Looks like after the DOB showed up not once, but twice and failed to gain access, the permit for 34-57 107th Street, Corona was revoked by the borough commissioner. Which once again proves that if you want something done by a city agency, embarrass them on TV.

Thank you, Howard!

Who's going to clean up this mess?

According to an update on the news last night, the owner cleaned it all up yesterday afternoon. Turning to the media works.

Council members bribe Lopez with pork

From the Daily News:

The taint of a federal investigation hasn't stopped City Council members from lavishing pork on the social-services empire founded by Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez.

The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which was slapped with corruption probe subpoenas last fall, will be the second largest recipient of Council earmarks next year.

Documents released yesterday show Lopez's group is poised to pick up $607,000 from the Council's Brooklyn delegation - andmembers Erik Martin Dilan, Domenic Recchia, Elizabeth Crowley and Stephen Levin.

Ridgewood Bushwick is the subject of ongoing criminal probes by the FBI and the city's Department of Investigation. It has millions of dollars in city contracts - but may have difficulty collecting new Council money because of delays in filing needed documents with the state attorney general.

2 not guilty in Deutsche Bank deaths

From the Daily News:

A construction supervisor charged with the deaths of two firefighters in the Deutsche Bank building blaze was acquitted of all charges Tuesday.

Salvatore DePaola was cleared of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment on the eighth day of deliberations.

Graffagnino's family had no comment. But his father has said the wrong people were on trial.

"I couldn't care less if they find them guilty or not," said Joseph Graffagnino Sr., who boycotted the proceedings.

"Most%A0of the people that should be on trial are not on trial - the City of New York, the Buildings Department, the Fire Department ... all the people that let this slip through their fingers."

The jury is still deliberating in the case of DePaola's colleague, site safety manager Jeffrey Melofchik.

Supervisor Mitchel Alvo and the John Galt Corp., the site's demolition contractor, opted for a bench trial. DePaola is the least senior of the three men.

From the NY Times:

A site safety supervisor was acquitted of all charges on Wednesday in the fire at the former Deutsche Bank building near ground zero that killed two firefighters four years ago.

The supervisor, Jeffrey Melofchik, was one of three workers who were accused by prosecutors of ignoring the removal of a 42-foot section of the standpipe — preventing firefighters from quickly getting water onto the blaze — as they rushed to finish the abatement work on time. He was the most senior official among those charged in the case.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mayor says it's ok to blame him

From the NY Post:

Mayor Bloomberg admitted yesterday that he didn't devote enough time to scrutinizing CityTime, the $760 million computerized timekeeping project prosecutors claim was "corrupted to its core."

"Nobody paid as much attention to it as they should have from me on down," the mayor said after speaking at a graduation ceremony for the city's civic corps at Gracie Mansion.

"We're going to find out who did what."

Eleven individuals and one corporation have been implicated in what is shaping up as one of the largest corruption scandals in municipal history.

But the mayor said it's not clear how much money taxpayers will end up losing.

Adios, chica, chica!

From the Daily News:

Glossy cards emblazoned with graphic images of scantily clad or nude women may soon become a thing of the past in western Queens.

The state legislature recently took aim at prostitution by making the distribution of "chica" cards a crime punishable by fines and jail time. Gov. Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law as early as this week.

The cards have phone numbers to escort agencies and are mostly handed out to men walking along Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights.

But instead of winding up in their pockets, many of the X-rated cards are tossed onto the street and wind up in the hands of curious children.

Illegal trucks are still a menace

Who needs community input?

From the NY Times:

It has never been easy for a mayor to get things done in New York City, where every government proposal must navigate a thicket of community groups, policy boards, and empowered neighborhood gadflies who can blackball a project in a blink.

So the Bloomberg administration has taken a tack that could be called “do it first, answer questions later.” And the key to the strategy is to start small, and to use the word “pilot.”

Dozens of marquee administration projects, as broad as transforming the city streetscape with pedestrian plazas and bright green bike lanes or using new ways to train principals and encourage school attendance, have started as so-called pilot programs, ostensible experiments that are often exempt from the usual forms of city review.

The pilot has emerged as the mayor’s signature policy weapon. Admirers see an innovative way around red tape. Critics see a blunt tool that undermines democracy by minimizing the public’s role in scrutinizing the ideas of government.

Once a pilot is in place, there generally is no requirement for review in, say, a public hearing or a City Council committee, even if the pilot is expanded. Indeed, some pilots are expanded but never pronounced permanent, suggesting that they are still in the experimental stages.

Why there's no new owner of Scobee

From Little Neck Patch:

Bob Greenberg, a lawyer whose family owns the bulk of the diner's parking lot (which, yes, is owned separately from the building) said that though the property has generated a lot of interest, the prospect of purchasing the former Scobee building - in addition to paying rent on the parking lot - has thus far deterred fruitful negotiations.

Greenberg said that though he understands the desire of potential buyers to want to own the lot adjacent to the building, he and his family remain staunch in their unwillingness to part with it. For one, he said, selling the lot would go against the "philosophy" of property ownership that the Greenberg's embrace. Add the loss of income stream and burden of high taxes, and you have the reason they are uninterested in selling.

Though Greenberg acknowledges that many people are indeed discouraged by his family's refusal to sell the parking lot, he said the bigger issue may be the asking price for the Scobee building itself.

Greenberg said that last he heard, Scobee’s lawyers wanted $3.7 million for the building, a figure that Greenberg said sounds unrealistic in the current economic climate.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

St. Saviour's site hit with 5 stop work orders

From Times Ledger:

Ongoing construction at the old St. Saviour’s Church site was stopped by the city last Thursday, after activists who want a park built on the site complained about outstanding violations.

The city Departments of Buildings and Sanitation both sent inspectors to the site, according to city officials. Sanitation ordered the contractor at the site to remove dumpsters full of waste by the end of the week, but Buildings brought the construction of several warehouses on the 1.5-acre lot to a halt after activist Christina Wilkinson issued a complaint.

Wilkinson and other residents keep a vigilant watch over the site, and in the preceding weeks appealed to elected officials for help in getting the park project going and make sure the current construction is legal.

“We’re running out of time. We’ve staved off development for awhile,” she said. “It is time to do something.”

In looking at the permits (under the many addresses this parcel has) there seems to be another SWO for the fence that was issued Friday.

Here's the interesting thing...

They had allegedly "cured" the fence violation just days before. I guess DOB doesn't bother to check to see if they are telling the truth unless someone complains.

Exploring the Bellerose border

Click photo for story.

Parks makes a mess, Sanitation fines homeowner

From the Daily News:

A Flatbush senior citizen was slapped with a $100 summons from one city agency last week for not cleaning up another city agency's mess.

A Sanitation Department enforcement agent wrote 78-year-old Asher Ohevshalom the costly fine for not removing six 100-pound Norway Maple tree trunks left outside his E. 27th St. home by a Parks Department crew that dismembered the dying hardwood.

Ohevshalom, who immigrated to Brooklyn from Iran 19 years ago, is a retired garment worker who survives on a $550-a-month Social Security check - and said the $100 fine is too steep for him to pony up.

Ohevshalom and neighbors placed at least two 311 complaints this month about the 20-foot-tall tree, which was rotting and dangerously teetering over his driveway, next to a city-owned guardrail on his dead-end block.

Two weeks ago, a Parks Department crew chopped down the tree, collecting all the branches but leaving behind half a dozen massive trunks.

When Ohevshalom and neighbors complained last week, Parks officials said they'd bring a shredder to chop up the wood - but not before a Sanitation agent fined Ohevshalom for a "loose rubbish" violation.

A foolish proposition

From Backyard and Beyond:

The marsh itself was mosquito-free. And tranquil-looking… but don’t let looks deceive you. Salt-marshes are one of the most productive of ecosystems, nursing fish and many invertebrates, filtering water and absorbing storm surges, pumping blessed oxygen into the air, providing food for everything from bacteria to mammals.

Green with two species of spartina, ringed by phragmites, studded with the keystone ribbed mussels, soft and hard shell clams, mud snails, fiddler crabs, and plentiful little fish in the rising tide. Is this Brooklyn? Yes, it is. A Forever Wild remnant of the salt-marshes that once ringed Jamaica Bay and much of the city. (JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB were all built on salt marshes). But “Forever Wild,” a Parks Department designation without much legal pull, doesn’t mean all that much unless we fight for it.

The EDC wants to give part of this land to Bruce Ratner so he can build a strip mall and large parking lot. The attitude is: "Who needs nature? This is NYC, damn it!"

How many things can you find wrong with this photo?

The DOB still hasn't responded to a complaint about this property yet from last year. So let's help them out by identifying all the issues here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strip club liquor license, take 2

From the Daily News:

The owners of a planned Long Island City strip club are making their second bid for a liquor license, just months after their previous application was overwhelmingly rejected by local and state officials.

The firm, 21 Group Inc., plans to open a gentlemen's club called Gypsy Rose at 42-50 21st St. They will outline their plans tonight to members of Community Board 2, which will then vote on whether to support their application to the State Liquor Authority.

Local sentiment on the project, which first emerged several years ago, hasn't changed. Civic leaders and elected officials, including state Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, have overwhelmingly denounced the club, saying they are trying to rid the neighborhood of its former seedy image.

The previous application was filed on behalf of a firm named GLC Entertainment. One of the principals, Konstantine (Gus) Drakopoulos, had once pleaded guilty to a charge of insider trading - a fact emphasized by the State Liquor Authority in its rejection.

The SLA also pointed out that the city is trying to redevelop the area into a "family-oriented" community.

UPDATE: The Daily News says today that a decision on the license has been postponed.

No development at VA site

From the Queens Chronicle:

The years-long fight to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from privately developing part of the St. Albans VA site appears to have come to an end. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens and Nassau) announced today that as a result of Congressional opposition, the agency will abandon its proposal.

Many veterans and their advocates have long opposed the project, in which a private developer would replace the existing facilities with a new nursing home, rehabilitation domiciliary and expanded outpatient facilities in exchange for a long-term lease on part of the site, where it would put up housing and stores open to the general public. Instead they want a full-service hospital there, so servicemen and women in Queens and Nassau counties don’t have to travel to Brooklyn, Manhattan or Suffolk County for care.

On June 13, the House of Representatives passed the Veterans Care Act, by a vote of 411-5, an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would have blocked the project. It was introduced by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Rep. Peter King (R-Nassau).

Who murdered Sunny Sheu?

From Naked Capitalism:

The details are thin but they sure don’t smell right. The short form is that Sunny Sheu had his house stolen from him by fictive buyers who used forged documents. Judge Golia of Queens engaged in what appears to be highly questionable behavior in failing to reverse the sale. Sheu started investigating the judge, was told by policeman who specifically referred to information he had provided about Golia, and that if he didn’t drop it, he’d wind up dead. Sheu disregarded their warning and did wind up dead. The authorities are also refusing to honor requests for information regarding Sheu’s death made under New York’s Freedom of Information Act. This story has been publicized by Foreclosure Fraud and The Daily Bail and I hope it gets more traction.

Here is the background as reported by the Black Star News.

And more from the original article:


Ernesto Macasaet, supervisor of admissions at New York Queens Hospital reports that a policeman “identified” the body of Sunny Sheu only twelve hours after he died, and before any family or friends could identify the body.

There is no precedent for this, unless there is a criminal investigation underway, which there is not. According to hospital staff, the legal department was in a frenzy. They called up the precinct to find out if the police officer was authentic.

Who was this police officer?

Why did he identify Sunny’s body before next of kin were notified?

Why did he request that the body be taken to the Medical examiner?

How did he know what Sunny Sheu looked like?

Why did he not give his name to the Medical Examiner as required by law?

Why did the police give an unsubstantiated and uninvestigated report to the Medical examiner, regarding a witness who has never been identified?

The Queens District Attorney is allegedly investigating Sheu’s death, but given that this involves looking into allegations against a Queens judge and a Queens police office, I don’t have much hope for this inquiry going anywhere absent more media pressure.

Honest graft attempt at Creedmoor

From the NY Post:

Two legislators who backed the 2009 sale of 4.5 acres of Creedmoor land to [The Indian Community and Cultural Center of Floral Park] - Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens) and former Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens) - got thousands of dollars in campaign cash from its members, records show.

It was a great deal for the Cultural Center: The $1.8 million purchase price was a pittance compared to the property's estimated $7.3 million market value in 2010, city records show.

Now the Floral Park group is twisting state legislators' arms to push a deal for another six acres from the site. They plan to build an access road there to two giant nine-story apartment towers.

The Assembly passed a bill pushing the second sale on Wednesday. When Avella refused to sponsor the bill in the Senate, Clark persuaded Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) to back the idea instead. Smith introduced Senate legislation backing the second sale last week. But after getting furious letters about the land grab, Smith put the bill on hold.

Avella said Clark's insistence that he back the deal was borderline "threatening."
Group leaders and their family members delivered at least $2,351 in campaign cash to Clark last year. They've donated $2,850 to Padavan and $2,510 to Mark Weprin for his City Council and Assembly runs.

Weprin has also backed the development.

Goose slaughter on its way

From the NY Times:

Between 700 and 800 Canada geese are expected to be rounded up from parks in and around New York City and killed in the next several weeks, the city Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday afternoon.

The city will not say which parks, however, or when.

The department released the names of several parks where the 2010 goose roundup was so effective that it said there was no need to do another one this year. They include Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where 368 geese were rounded up last year and killed in the name of airline safety; Douglaston Park Golf Course in Queens (109 geese rounded up last year); East River State Park in Manhattan (67 geese); and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx (55 geese).

But officials both of the city environmental protection department, which orders the kills in city parks, and the federal Department of Agriculture, which counts the geese and captures them, refused to say which parks would be the targets of roundups.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Illegal conversion with a twist

From BushwickBK:

The Department of Buildings and Fire Department arrived Wednesday afternoon and kicked out some residents of 401 Onderdonk Avenue after a tenant called the DOB to complain about the two-story apartment building. But according to the husband of the landlord, a Giovanna Torres, it was that very tenant who altered her own apartment into rentable rooms with separate entrances.

“She converted two rooms in her apartment into smaller apartments by installing doors and locks. We didn’t know she was renting the rooms until the Fire Department went inside and we saw what she did,” said the landlord’s husband, who did not want to give his name.

Torres’s husband told BushwickBK that the tenant was being evicted after not paying rent for six months; a judge ruled last month that she must move out by August 2.

“Her rent was only $900 for the last 6 years and we later found out she was charging $500 for each room and pocketing the money herself," said the husband, who also lives on the top floor with the landlord and their three children. He said he did see two men going in and out of the tenant’s apartment over the past few months but since she was being evicted he didn’t bother to question who they were.

"It wasn’t until the firefighter came and kicked everyone out that we found out the two men were actually her tenants."

What's wrong with this sign?

Click here if you didn't catch it.

Wills pleads not guilty

From the Daily News:

City Councilman Ruben Wills turned down a no-jail plea deal on a 14-year-old petty larceny case, preferring to take his chances with a trial that could end with jail time.

Wills was charged in 1996 with damaging the walls and stealing track lights and a fan from a client of the home renovation company he then ran.

He admitted all of this to the police, sources say. Prosecutors originally agreed to drop charges of petty larceny, third-degree criminal trespass and fourth-degree criminal mischief.

In exchange, Wills agreed to pay $3,000 to the victim, but Wills paid only $500, and began repeatedly skipping court dates.

At one point, he was "involuntarily" returned to court by the NYPD, where he promised to settle his case.

He promptly missed several more court dates, and an arrest warrant was issued.

Yesterday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance offered a deal requiring that Wills admit to an unspecified misdemeanor, perform five days of community service and pay the long-overdue $2,500 restitution.

Wills refused to plead guilty to anything; an Aug. 17 trial date was set. If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison.

Service road shoulder is not a rest stop

From the Times Ledger:

Maspeth residents are fed up with truckers who use their backyards as an overnight rest stop.

Instead of passing through the neighborhood or finding a legal place to park, resident Manny Caruana said tractor trailers pull onto the shoulder of the Long Island Expressway service road and spend the night.

“I’m right on the block in back of the service road,” he said. “They leave the trucks idling all night long.”

And the large engines produce noise and pollution that irritate homeowners who live just across the street.

“You have the fumes from the expressway — that’s bad enough — but we have to deal with the pollution from the idling trucks as well,” Caruana said. “It’s a major problem. The people who live there have to suffer.”

And drivers pay a price, too, according to another neighbor, Linda Daquaro.

“One time, there were three trucks resting there and they backed up all the way to the service ramp,” she said.

And when the end of the last truck hangs over into the road, cars have to swerve to get by, according to Daquaro.

The problem has been going on for roughly six months, she said.

“It’s not a rest stop,” she said.

Union strike may grind building to a halt

From Crains:

With a contract deadline a week away, a survey of developers has found that a work stoppage by operating engineers could silence construction on private-sector projects worth nearly $10 billion and temporarily idle more than 11,300 workers.

With the operating engineers' union contracts set to expire June 30, the Real Estate Board of New York survey shows that work could stop on commercial and retail projects spanning more than 13 million square feet and on residential sites totaling more than 6,300 units.

Projects that could be halted include Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which employs 1,000 construction workers; Silverstein Properties' World Trade Center Tower 4, which employs 800; and Extell Development Co.'s International Gem Tower in midtown, which employs 500.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Second-Class Parks?

From City Hall:

On any given day, about 700 acres of New York City parkland—almost all of them in Manhattan—are patrolled by 78 parks enforcement officers, close to half of the parks department’s manpower. The remaining 86 officers are left to cover the other 28,000-plus acres.

The difference in staffing levels comes down to who’s footing the bill: the city or private parks conservancies.

As staffing for the city’s Parks Enforcement Patrol plummets due to an ongoing hiring freeze, a two-tiered system that favors affluent neighborhoods is being thrown into sharp relief. Hudson River Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Washington Square Park and others are always well staffed, because private associations—not taxpayers—hire PEP officers. While Battery Park has some 30 officers, the entire borough of the Bronx has only 15—and officers say that official figure is higher than the reality.

Unlicensed contractor squeezes homeowner

From Eyewitness News:

Helene Escava has had her own home for nearly a year, so why has she been living in a hotel room?

It is all because of Frank Rodriquez of Bonanza Contracting. Helene hired him to turn her newly purchased Queens property into her dream house. In November 2009, she signed a contract to have a gut renovation on all floors. The work estimated to take a year and cost $380,000.

Seven months beyond the completion date and $400,000 later, Helene stands in the middle of what she calls, hell.

College Point sidewalk a hazard

Council attempts to curb placard abuse

From AM-NY:

City Council members Wednesday introduced a bill that would require barcodes on all parking placards in an effort to crackdown on rampant abuse.

Nearly a quarter of permits placed on vehicle dashboards are fake, according to a report released yesterday by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. And more than half of the permits surveyed were either being used illegally or were forged.

Using a barcode on the 118,000 placards issued to authorized city workers would help police quickly identify bogus documents, Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) told colleagues Wednesday during a transportation committee hearing.

Susan Petito, Assistant Commissioner of Intergovernmental Affairs for the NYPD, disagreed.

“A good photocopy will replicate the barcode and so that would come up as a valid permit,” Petito said, without offering an alternative solution to the problem.

The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau unit has written 30,000 summonses for illegal placard parking since 2008, she noted.

Bay Ridge house in sad state

From Yahoo:

According to a complaint registered with the New York City Department of Buildings, it was not until shortly before May 20, 2009, that the windows were removed from the house and teenagers began entering the property. Since May 20, 2009, the Department of Buildings has received multiple calls from people complaining about holes in the fence and children and teenagers trespassing on the property. The Department of Buildings received the most recent complaint almost two months ago on April 27, 2011.

That this 100-year-old house has been allowed to go to ruin and is slated for destruction is truly a shame. Despite its utter dilapidation, passersby often stop and stare, captivated no doubt by the glimpse through a window into Bay Ridge history. Why its current owner would purchase such a beautiful and intriguing piece of history for such a large sum and then apparently abandon it is unfathomable.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Corona synagogue ready for its rehab

From Crains:

Queens' oldest synagogue is about to get a $1.6 million facelift.

Work is scheduled to commence Wednesday at the landmarked, century-old building where Estee Lauder and her parents once worshipped. The wooden building is at 109-18 54th Ave. in Corona, Queens.

Congregation Tifereth Israel is a rare survivor of the earliest vernacular synagogues in the borough and has been revitalized in recent years by Bukharan Jewish immigrants from central Asia. The project will first strip away the building's stucco coating and then restore the original clapboard, as well as its wooden windows and doors. Also to be restored will be the building's Moorish-style metal domes and finials, as well as its paint colors.

The money for the project came from a variety of sources, starting with $1.1 million in New York City capital funding allocated by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. In addition, the project received a $200,000 restoration grant from the New York state Environmental Protection Fund.

Cost of a human life: $116,312

From the Queens Gazette:

Federal regulators recently cited three Queens contractors for multiple safety violations following an investigation into a construction accident that left a 26-year-old worker dead and three others seriously injured in Elmhurst on January 10.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Sing Da Corporation, H-Rock Corporation and Vera Construction, Inc., for serious violations of workplace safety standards, following an investigation into the January 10 accident at a job site at 85-02 Queens Blvd.

OSHA slapped the companies with a total of $116,312 and gave them 15 business days to meet with an OSHA director to contest the findings, authorities said.

City must pay part of Newtown Creek Superfund settlement

Stunning shorts

From an e-mail sent out by City Hall News:

* Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran is said to be mulling a 2013 run against Queens Councilman Dan Halloran. Shafran, a protégé of Democratic operative Hank Sheinkopf, joined the Senate Democrats' press office after they took the majority in 2008, and has deep connections in Queens Democratic circles and beyond. Halloran has been mulling a 2012 run against state Sen. Tony Avella, but his star has dimmed after the Department of Investigation said he exaggerated claims about a purported Sanitation Department slowdown during last winter's blizzard.

* It's not the worst electronic message that a New York politician has accidentally sent, but it was still embarrassing when Queens Councilwoman Liz Crowley mistakenly forwarded an email Tuesday to every City Council member and staffer. It gave a revealing look inside her efforts to land a $200,000 member item for the National Association on Drug Abuse Problems: Writing to a legislative aide who had drafted a pitch for funding, she replied from her iPhone, "Good, but run it by lobbyist" - a reference to Vicky Contino of Wilson Esler.

Unintended consequence of billboard law

QUEENS, NY (PIX11) — If you have driven on the Long Island Expressway lately, you may have noticed a lot of empty billboards.

It's not a reflection of a bad economy, says Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., it's a reflection of a bad choice by the City.

"The City passed a law banning them from the highways to beautify our City. But they couldn't actually ban the sign. So now they are still up and covered with graffiti," complained Vallone.

Up and down major roadways in the City, drivers have noticed the empty space, now covered in ugly graffiti. "Interesting. Why don't they just put up inspiration thoughts or messages like Welcome to Queens," asked Shiela Madison, from Long Island City.

Vallone says a law passed years ago was designed to prevent clutter on highways, and is now creating a new concern. "It's just blank canvasses for graffiti. They are eyesores," said Vallone, hoping to ignite a conversation among City leaders and the community for a change.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Accused Israeli spy was Ackerman intern

From the Times Ledger:

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) said Tuesday he had been in contact with all possible parties concerning his former intern, Ilan Grapel, who was arrested late last week in Egypt on charges of being an Israeli spy.

“I have been assured from the highest levels in Israel... this kid had nothing to do with espionage,” Ackerman said during a conference call with reporters. “It’s an unfortunate mistake we’re trying to straighten out.”

According to the congressman, Grapel was using his own name while wearing his Israeli army uniform and posting pictures of himself to his Facebook account when he was arrested and detained for a period of 15 days. The New York Post said Grapel is 27.

“I guess that’s what you do when you’re in college,” Ackerman said with a slight laugh. “That’s not what a spy does. He may have been too cute by half by exhibiting a liberal sense of humor.” Ackerman did say he had been told by Egyptian officials that Grapel was asking questions and claiming to be a journalist for a foreign country.

Without going into specifics, the congressman said he had “a lot of friends over there” and was working with the Egyptian embassy and with the ambassador personally. “I’ve agreed to make my case in person if that would be helpful,” he said.

College Point pig heads for greener pastures

From the Daily News:

A friendly, 58-pound pig - plucked off a Queens street on Father's Day - is heading to greener pastures.

The stray swine, named Wilbur by the city's Animal Care & Control staff, was found wandering around 31st Ave. and College Point Blvd. in College Point.

Police easily corralled the porky pedestrian into a carrier and brought him to ACC's Manhattan shelter.

"The pig cooperated," said ACC spokesman Richard Gentles. "He was unharmed and uninjured, but he was dirty and smelled like grease and oil."

While uncommon, it's not unheard of for cops and animal control officers to wrangle sheep, cows, goats and other unusual critters off city streets. Some are escapees from livestock markets while others are pets.

Gentles said Wilbur won't find his way on to someone's dinner plate. Instead, he is going to live at a sanctuary outside the city.

Also, the Queens County Farm Museum has stopped selling pork.

Citytime scandal just keeps getting worse

From CBS New York:

Authorities now estimate more than $600 million that New York City paid for the “CityTime“‘ automated payroll project was directly or indirectly tainted.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says it is truly jaw dropping. Prosecutors had previously put the figure at about $85 million.

“Unfortunately, in just a few months since the first announcement of arrests, we have developed evidence that the corruption on CityTime was epic in duration, magnitude and scope,” Bharara said on Monday.

The new estimate came as federal prosecutors and the New York City Department of Investigation announced more charges in the case.

The indictment names a Wayne, N.J.-based subcontractor, TechnoDyne LLC, and its owners. Prosecutors say they believe Padma and Reddy Allen have fled to their native India. Efforts to reach them for comment through online messages were unsuccessful.

Development hell in Corona

NY's 2 Senators against development at St. Albans VA

From the Daily News:

A Queens congressman said a bill he wrote to block private development at the St. Albans veterans facility stands a good chance in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Greg Meeks said his proposal, hailed by community activists and overwhelmingly passed last week in the House of Representatives, has backing from both New York senators.

Veterans and civic groups oppose a government plan to renovate the St. Albans center and lease some space for housing and stores. They rejoiced last week when the House approved Meeks' bill, but they said they still need support from Meeks and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

A Schumer spokesman confirmed Schumer supports the bill.

A Gillibrand spokesman declined comment, but Meeks said Gillibrand is "very supportive."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Parking placard abuse reigns in LIC

From the Daily News:'s hard to find a vehicle without a placard in the area around Newcomers High School at 41st Ave. and 28th St.

Most of the placards, which allow drivers to park in certain restricted areas, are issued to employees of the Department of Transportation and the NYPD School Safety Division.

Some of the vehicles are even left in crosswalks and at meters, causing problems for residents and business owners.

"It's like private parking for the people who work for the city," said Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, who has lobbied for better enforcement of the parking rules.

During a recent visit of the area, the Daily News saw several expired placards or placards that were partially hidden on dashboards. One placard was simply a laminated photo of the Department of Transportation logo with no numbers, signature or identification.

Conley and Stamatiades pointed out that offices for both the Transportation Department and School Safety are in nearby Queens Plaza.

LIRR engages in more arboricide

From Forest Hills Patch:

If a tree falls in your neighborhood, do the residents make a sound? How about if that tree is chopped down by the Long Island Railroad?

Locals in Forest Hills Gardens are making quite a bit of noise this week, after the transit authority quickly — and as quietly as they could — took to the train tracks near Continental Avenue and Austin Street in Forest Hills and chopped down a 100-year-old oak tree with almost no notice.

The resulting work left a hole in Forest Hills Gardens otherwise verdant skyline, and in the hearts of many residents, still reeling from the loss of hundreds of trees in last year’s September tornado and macroburst.

Chu cries racism against Halloran

From the Daily News:

The rogue traffic agent whose run-in with a Queens councilman got him sent to sensitivity training is suing the pol, saying he mocked his Chinese heritage.

In a $6 million suit filed Monday in Queens Supreme Court, traffic agent Daniel Chu says Councilman Daniel Halloran vowed to get him booted from the NYPD when he tried to ticket his Jaguar on June 14, 2010.

"Go ahead and give me a f...... ticket," Chu says the Whitestone Republican told him, according to the suit. "I know the police commissioner and your boss. It will be the last ticket you ever issue. When you lose your job you can go back to your old job delivering Chinese food. What is that? $5 or $4 per hour?"

Nine days before, Chu says he was verbally attacked by Halloran aide Dennis Ring when he ticketed his gray Pontiac for blocking a pedestrian ramp.

"You are lucky to be in this country," Ring told Chu, the suit says. "You are lucky to be wearing a uniform. You should go f...... go back to China."

Ring later paid the $165 traffic fine, the suit adds.

Chu accuses Ring and Halloran of slander for damaging a reputation for honesty and integrity, which was recognized in several service awards from the NYPD.

Cuomo expected to tweed

From the Daily News:

At the moment, four Assembly seats are empty, with a fifth becoming vacant Friday. Cuomo has two choices as to how they will be filled in the coming months: He can call a boss-driven "special election" or he can allow candidates to vie in open primaries.

No one disputes that the law gives the governor the power to go with either option. In the case of filling a vacant congressional seat, however, some argue that Article I of the U.S. Constitution ties Cuomo's hands.

They point to a provision mandating that governors "shall issue Writs of Election to fill" vacancies in the House of Representatives instead of appointing a new member. They then say a) that this requires Cuomo to issue an order; b) that he can only "order" a special election; and c) that the Constitution thus bars full voter participation.

Give us a break.

Cuomo should not so insult Weiner's constituents to the benefit of bosses Joe Crowley of Queens and Vito Lopez of Brooklyn. Nor should he impose "special elections" on residents of the legislative districts where seats are vacant.

The governor should give all the voters the complete say they deserve.

Queens GOP version of Hatfield-McCoy feud

From City Hall:

The Queens Republican Party paid for a mailer suggesting the brother of indicted campaign operative John Haggerty was involved in a scheme to steal $1 million from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bart Haggerty is facing a Republican district leader primary challenge in the 28th Assembly District from Patrick Gallagher, the son of former Council Member Dennis Gallagher, who has the backing of the Queens Republican leadership.

The party paid for the negative mailer – which suggests Bart Haggerty was involved in his brother’s alleged scheme - that recently landed in mailboxes in Forest Hills, Queens.

The Haggerty brothers have long sought to overthrow Ragusa and are actively supporting Ognibene, while Dennis Gallagher is a Ragusa ally. Gallagher himself resigned from office in disgrace in 2008 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor sex abuse charges.

Ognibene said going after Bart Haggerty was completely out of bounds.

“Bart Haggerty has never, ever been accused of anything improper in his life,” Ognibene said.

A spokesman for Ragusa declined to comment, saying the mailer speaks for itself.

Bloomberg’s money has been a centerpiece of the battle for control of the party. Ognibene says he is running against Ragusa in part because the current chair failed to secure enough money from Bloomberg when the mayor was seeking the Republican ballot line in 2009.

“It is not our job to extort money from people,” Ragusa replied.

There's a pathetic bunch of hacks in the GOP. In the Democratic party, too, but the GOP wins the prize. Is this the best they can come up with?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quinn working on Walmart deal

From the Daily News:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn - a leading opponent of Walmart's efforts to open in New York - is working on a deal where the chain would agree to buy Hunts Point market produce for any city stores it opens.

The negotiations, first reported by Crain's New York Business, could smooth the way for the retail giant, which is eying an East New York site for its first city store but hopes to eventually have several spots in the five boroughs.

Quinn said Walmart has offered to buy 5% of its produce from the Hunts Point market, but she's pushing for a bigger chunk.

All along the border

Click photo for story.

Bloomberg and Cuomo can't stand each other

From the NY Post:

After years of relative calm between the Governor's Office and City Hall, sparks are flying once again between the state's two most powerful pols.

Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo don't personally get along, sources told The Post.

And neither do their staffers, who don't hesitate to mock their boss' rival.

Bloomberg and Cuomo disagree on a host of issues and nowhere is it clearer than in lower Manhattan.

In recent weeks, sources told The Post, the mayor's aides have openly tried to cut Cuomo's staff out of planning for the ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

And one of the key reasons for the governor's decision to remove Christopher Ward as executive director of the Port Authority -- which is rebuilding the World Trade Center -- is that he's viewed as "a Bloomberg guy," Cuomo confidants said.

"It's a dance, and the dance didn't start off right," said one political insider.

Interesting, since Bloomberg endorsed Cuomo.

Convention center at Aqueduct?

From the NY Post:

A convention complex could be coming to Queens, right next to the soon-to-open slots casino at Aqueduct Race Track, The Post has learned.

Gaming giant Genting, operator of Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, is considering building a facility after its casino is completed, sources said.

"They want a convention center to rival Javits," said state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens), who's been briefed on the proposal.

Genting spokesman Stefan Friedman said, "Resorts World is absolutely interested in undertaking additional projects on the land surrounding Aqueduct -- if the right opportunity exists."

So the convention center won't be at Willets Point? You mean those promised jobs at Willets Point were all bullshit?

Astoria "ghost house"

From Scouting New York:

An old Victorian adjacent to the N line, 31-01 37th Avenue has been abandoned as long as I’ve been scouting. To me, 31-01 has all the details that make for a perfect ghost house: a looming facade, sharp, menacing angles…A weed-strewn front yard and battered door...rotting wood and lots of broken windows. I wish I knew some history about 31-01 37th Avenue, but there’s little to be found online.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is this how leaders are supposed to lead?

From the NY Times:

Mr. Addabbo said that just two years ago, a vast majority of the constituents who contacted his office opposed same-sex marriage. But this year, he said, of the 6,015 people in his district who had written to him or called his office, 4,839 wanted him to vote for it. “In the end, that is my vote,” Mr. Addabbo said.

Doesn't it sound not only implausible that there would be such a shift in the attitudes of his constituents but also asinine to base his vote on how many yay and nay phone calls he received? You're supposed to base your vote on whether or not you believe it's the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do.

Traffic hell coming to Flushing, Willets Point and environs

From the Queens Tribune:

While the FGEIS [final general environmental impact statement] states half of the Iron Triangle’s auto traffic would use the Van Wyck Expressway, the latest EA [environmental assessment] lowers the figure to one third. An estimated 2,000 cars were not reassigned to local roads in the report, according to [traffic analyst Brian] Ketcham, showing “operating conditions on local roads that are better than reported in the FGEIS despite carrying 26 percent more Willets Point trips. More trips, lower impacts: it is mysterious why EDC thinks anyone will believe this.”

Ketcham claims the EDC’s reports willfully ignore the ongoing development within Downtown Flushing, with the likes of Flushing Commons, the RKO Keith’s, Skyview Parc and other big ticket projects adding to traffic congestion.

“They just don’t complete all the calculations,” he said. “My analysis does. The frustration for someone like me is where is the planning? Where is the upfront analysis? They will build it and nobody will come because they can’t get into or out of it. Or the whole area will be gridlocked.”

It doesn't matter so long as a rich developer gets what he wants.

More Brooklyn lofts forcibly vacated

From BushwickBK:

Residents of a large loft building at 345 Eldert Street, home to artists for many years, have been served with a partial vacate order by the fire department. The tenants in 41 of the 76 units — up to 160 people — have been ordered to leave their apartments by 9pm tonight (June 16).

Resident Beth Hommel told BushwickBK that inspectors came Tuesday to look at units in the building. Wednesday, Carnegie Management, the building’s owners, informed tenants inspectors would return. Inspectors came yet again this morning.

“I let them in at 10am and they didn’t say anything was wrong, but when my roommate left at 2pm there was a vacate notice on our door.”

The Dept. of Buildings lists 345 Eldert, a former manufacturing building, as a legal residence. Violations recorded recently include illegal and poorly built mezzanines, illegal plumbing, blocked sprinklers, and blocked egress.

Unexpected nudity at Flushing food cart

Asking questions about Goldfeder

"Looks like "off the record" whispers about Schumer aide Phil Goldfeder securing the party nod are increasing. Times Ledger appears to hint at this.

I do not like how Goldfeder is handling this. Maneuvering behind the scenes for the support of the party leadership, he refuses to publicly comment on his run. Why is Goldfeder silent? Why does the local press have to settle for anonymous sources to comment on Goldfeder's candidacy? Why the secrecy? Why is Gulluscio silent about his alleged support for Goldfeder? Doesn't the public deserve to know why he is leaning towards Goldfeder?

This is not how a democracy works, where a well-connected young political insider gets the nod, while longtime party activist and community figure Lew Simon is again hung out to dry by the party leadership."


Sunday, June 19, 2011

St. Saviour's saga takes strange turn

A day after the St. Saviour's site was shut down for failing to adhere to a partial stop work order, it was opened up again, but then shut down again for failure to provide excavation plans. So I guess that means the inspector that had showed up Thursday about the retaining wall failed to notice that this activity was also going on. But several neighbors reported that the inspector that was there Friday stayed the entire day, watching the workers, and then at the end of the day slapped the SWO notice on the wall. (You'll note that Friday's SWO was partially rescinded the same day...) Interestingly, the orginal violation said FINES DUE at the end of Thursday, but by Friday that tidbit of information disappeared from the website. Perhaps the fine was paid. Perhaps pigs have learned how to fly... Something told me to screenshot it though:

Now, another reader sent in this photo of the dumpsters on the lot. He informed me that DSNY ordered the dumpsters to be removed from the site this week and that one had already disappeared. But he noted that there appeared to be pipe insulation in one of the dumpsters, which could possibly mean the presence of asbestos. Fun, fun, fun!

During this entire time, the elected officials have been extremely quiet. I thought they said at the rally that the thing to do was pressure the owner? So where are they? Dreaming about the open CD9 position? When the going gets tough, the electeds scram. Way to protect your constituents!

How did he pass a background check?

From the NY Post:

In a colossal failure of 9/11 security measures, an illegal immigrant used the stolen ID of a Bronx man with an arrest record to get hired as an airline flight attendant, and flew several trips as a trainee before he was busted yesterday, authorities said.

Besides getting a job at American Eagle, Jophan Porter, 38, used the stolen ID to obtain a US passport, a US Department of Transportation ID card and at least three Florida driver's licenses, law-enforcement sources told The Post.

Porter was caught after ID-theft victim Anthony Frair of The Bronx was denied food stamps because government records matched him to the airline job.

A law-enforcement source confirmed that Frair, 40, has an arrest record. Public records show a man with his name and age was busted in Florida in 2008 on domestic-assault charges.

It's unclear how long Porter used Frair's identity, sources said. American Eagle hired him in March, and he worked from the airline's Miami base, said company spokesman Tim Smith.

Smith and spokespersons for several federal agencies couldn't explain how Porter cleared the security checks needed to become a flight attendant -- or why the airline didn't realize the ID he had stolen belonged to a criminal suspect.

Yet some electeds continue to support the idea of illegal immigration.

Failure to place kids in schools is costly

From the Daily News:

The Department of Education missed a June 15 deadline to find spots for thousands of kindergartners with disabilities - and now the city could be liable for their tuition in private schools, officials acknowledged.

The holdup is also causing panic for families who are still waiting to hear where their kids are going to kindergarten next year.

Education officials said they were still figuring out precisely how many kids were without seats and therefore unable to provide a firm number of how many children are left without assignments - and how much it will cost the city.

While most public school kids already have seats, education officials were struggling to find assignments for the 15,500 incoming kindergartners with special needs because of changes to the city's special education program.

The kids who don't have seats yet are entitled to a private education paid for by the city under a 1988 legal ruling.

The city already spends about $100 million to educate about 4,000 kids in this situation - and now the cost could skyrocket.

"Gang of Apes" busted

From the NY Post:

Police announced the arrests of 140 individuals in a massive drug sweep throughout the city this week.

The largest takedown took place in Far Rockaway, Queens, where 56 people were busted including 18 violent members of the Gang of Apes, which has ties to the Bloods.

The NYPD and Queens prosecutors began the 14 month investigation that resulted in the seizure of $35,000, 12 handguns, six kilos of cocaine, heroin and marijuana, a kilo press, and a bullet proof vest, authorities said.

“Many of those arrested are gang members who plagued the Far Rockaway neighborhood,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at Police Headquarters. The gangbusters –which began terrorizing the area since investigators broke up the Flocc gang in 2010-- raked in more than $10,000 per week from peddling drugs.

Some of the perpetrators were slapped with attempted murder, robbery, weapons and drugs possession and face up to 25 years in jail, officials said.

History of Terrace on the Park

From the NY Times:

...Terrace on the Park may be best known for the view from the outside, hard to miss from Queens highways: four conjoined, 120-foot, T-shaped towers, which are a dramatic leftover from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

The building’s roof was a Port Authority helipad and turned the structure into the fair’s aerial gateway. In August 1965, during the fair, the Beatles used it as a way station toward their record-setting concert at Shea Stadium. They made the short trip to the stadium in a Wells Fargo armored truck.

Jeffrey Kroessler, a preservationist who is writing a book on the history of Queens, said “many people in Queens are fond of it” because it is a symbol of exuberant mid-1960s optimism about a space-age future, a world where people could hopscotch by helicopter among multiple helipads, like one atop what was then known as the Pan Am Building in Midtown. A 1977 accident atop Pan Am dashed that vision.

When the fair ended, the 1,100-seat Top of the Fair restaurant, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, became an obvious site for a banquet hall. A penthouse ballroom replaced the helipad, and part of the roof became an outdoor terrace for cocktails. During its four and a half decades, practically every New York mayor has broken bread at Terrace on the Park.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Liz Crowley to take Weiner's place?

From Politicker NY:

A new name is making the rounds in political circles as a replacement for the now ex-congressman Anthony Weiner: City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

The 33-year-old lawmaker would be an intriguing choice since she is the cousin of the man who will have more say than anyone over who takes the seat: Congressman and Queens County Democratic Party leader Joe Crowley.

She beat Republican Anthony Como in 2008 after losing to him in a special election earlier in the year in a district that skews relatively conservative and in a race that Congressman Crowley made a major priority of the county party.

The county party will decide who runs on the Democratic line for the seat, which should almost certainly decide who ends up winning.

Here's the rest of the pack:

M. Weprin

And the GOP has Ulrich and Turner

Ethics bill not all it's cracked up to be?

From the NY Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office unveiled legislation to improve ethics enforcement on Tuesday, revealing details that raised questions about whether the reforms would be weaker than expected.

On Tuesday, several new wrinkles became apparent with the release of the legislation. The State Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, and the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, permanently enshrined their caucuses’ powers over ethics enforcement, even if their legislative majorities are ousted.

Commissioners appointed to a 14-member ethics oversight board proposed in the legislation could vote 12 to 2 in favor of an investigation of the executive branch and still lose. An 11-to-3 vote in favor of an investigation of a legislator could also fail.

If you build it, they won't come

From the Daily News:

Dozens of new ballfields in the sprawling park beneath the RFK-Triborough Bridge went unused last summer by the kids who need them most, the city parks boss admits.

And with school almost out for summer, advocates are complaining the $120 million revamp of Randalls Island Park in early 2010 created a playground for the rich and took crucial dollars from neighborhood ballfields.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic earlier this year to justify plans for a private sports camp.

"Fields on Randalls Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue," he wrote City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in January.

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate the camp on Randalls Island after donating $200,000 to the Randalls Island Sports Foundation. But plans for the $895-a-week camp fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem/Bronx) slammed the pricey park rehab, claiming thousands of trees were cut down to make way for the artificial turf fields.

"Why would you build so many fields and then have a problem in terms of utilization?" she asked. "It was shortsighted and now we're paying the price."