Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Queens Muslim melee at Playland

Bloomberg wants Quinn to succeed him

From the NY Times:

It is the worst-kept secret in City Hall. Michael R. Bloomberg has told almost everyone who asks — but only privately, so far — that he hopes the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, will succeed him as mayor in 2013.

While Mr. Bloomberg brings unprecedented personal resources to his political agenda, few other New York City mayors have succeeded in anointing a successor.

Mr. Bloomberg, in fact, was the only mayoral candidate in recent memory for whom an endorsement by the incumbent proved instrumental, even if it was a begrudging, last-minute nudge from Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Mr. Bloomberg, an independent, has refrained from specifying an heir publicly, since he seems to prefer to keep Ms. Quinn, a Democrat, and other prospective candidates as compliant as possible in the two years remaining before the next mayoral election.

Why Parsons-Archer is full of rats

From the Daily News:

Transit workers speculate the musky smell of death is from the few rodents an authority contractor actually managed to kill with poison. The odor emanates from the bottom of an elevator shaft, where some of the vermin took their last breath, the workers said.

For the most part, however, the rats at the Parsons/Archer hub are alive and kicking. And if the MTA is waging a war against these whiskered pests, it's losing - and losing badly.

A short distance from the busy hub's platform is a square concrete room where the MTA temporarily stores the garbage until station cleaners pick it up. There were about 75 bags in the room; some piled on the floor, others stuffed into metal bins.

The garbage train that hauls the trash to a transfer facility hadn't made a stop at the station in three or four days, a cleaner said.

Rare Rockaway gull has underwear fetish

From The City Birder:

Robin had worn her bathing suit under her cycling gear. Lying in the sun, she had placed her cycling gear, which included a sports bra, in a neat pile on the wall. I was eating a plum when I noticed that the tern was slowly waddling over towards her clothes. I watched in disbelief as he grabbed the corner of her bra (must have been a "he") and prepared to make off with it. Robin yelled, "HEY", and grabbed the opposite end of the bra. There was a brief tug-o-war. One might think that Robin's ire would have chased him off, but it didn't. He hung around a few feet from us for about 20 minutes. Eventually he took off and joined some other royals down the beach.

It's fairly unusual to see Royal Terns in NYC, but to see the rare subspecies Sterna maxima fetishi is really special. Unless of course it makes off with your underwear.

El Bloombito

Weak trees come down as expected

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Which looks more ghetto?

Which is worse...

The fact that CVS at 80th and Metro sees nothing wrong with displaying a sign in this condition, or the graffiti on the building behind it, which was obviously broken into by vandals?

(Photo was taken pre-Irene.)

Fuzzy math at Willets Point

From Willets Point United:

...EDC is stymieing our attempt to get information about its purchase of properties belonging to House of Spice and Fodera Foods...

...there's the matter of the $400 million that the city has allocated for the land purchases.What we know is that NYCEDC's written responses to questions posed by prospective Phase 1 developers includes the statement that no City capital funds are available to acquire Willets Point property beyond Phase 1 (other than the properties already acquired).

We don't know whether that means that the full $410 million will be consumed by Phase 1 acquisitions, or whether a decision was made to scale back the $410 million to a lower number sufficient only for Phase 1 (and if a decision was made, by whom). Inquiring minds want to know.

So we understand why EDC will not reveal this information but why should the tax payer be allowed to foot the bill for behind closed doors sweetheart deals that give privileged property owners great financial leverage to hold up future development? When all is said and done on Willets Point it will go down in the city's history as a scandalous shame and perversion of basic democratic principles.

And with all that said, the ramps still don't work!

Missing a demolished mansion

From the Daily News:

[Susan Smolin and Peter Mariotti] were talking yesterday as if at the wake for a mansion at 74th St. and 34th Ave., recently demolished to make way for a junior high school.

The lunch seemed cathartic for Smolin, whose relatives lived in the home during her childhood, and Mariotti, who long dreamed of making the house his own.

Mariotti, 68, agreed to purchase the home for about $1.8 million in 2007, hoping to preserve it. But a confusing series of events put it in city hands instead.

Smolin's family, meanwhile, didn't know the home was endangered until reading a Daily News article in June.

The neo-Tudor home was erected in 1941 and 1942 for Smolin's great-uncle, Dr. Tobias Watson, and his wife, Lillian, who wrote a fairly successful etiquette book.

[Mariotti] had placed only one condition on their meeting. He did not want to go by the vacant lot where the mansion had stood, fearing an onset of emotional pain.

"I'm angry at how beautiful things are treated," he said.

Queens lost 2 houses to Irene

Irene did not leave all Queens homes alone. She took two of them out to sea! See video here.

Is it time for 5 Pointz to go?

From the NY Times:

“There is an evolution going on in that part of Long Island City; the building is old, it doesn’t warrant repairs, and no matter what, it has to come down,” Mr. Wolkoff, 74, said in a telephone interview from Long Island, where he and his son own two business parks and are attempting to develop the decaying Pilgrim State psychiatric center site in Brentwood.

“It’s time for me to put something else there,” he said of 5Pointz. “It’s a great location for young people and empty nesters who can’t afford Manhattan.” Mr. Wolkoff does not think the clatter of the No. 7 train will deter renters: “I can get you to 53rd and Fifth in 12 minutes!”

Supporters of this unlikely art temple are rallying to preserve it. An online petition called “Show Ur Love to 5Pointz” has accumulated more than 11,000 signatures and comments. The prevailing emotions: disbelief that the building will disappear and force graffiti artists back underground, and outrage that street art is again being censored.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weprin wimps out of debate

From the Gotham Gazette:

Democratic congressional candidate and State Assemblymember David Weprin has withdrawn from tonight’s scheduled debate with his GOP rival, Bob Turner. The two men are locked in a tough contest to succeed Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens.

Robert Holden president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, cosponsor of the debate, said he checked in with Weprin’s campaign earlier today and was told “logistics” would make it impossible for Weprin to appear in Middle Village tonight.

“The hurricane caused major logistical and scheduling problems for the campaign and thus David is not able to make the debate this evening,” Weprin campaign spokesperson, Liz Kerr said in an emailed statement.

Holden, though, was not accepting the hurricane as a reason for Weprin’s change in plans. “This stinks to high heaven,” Holden said.

He said the candidate’s people had been voicing concern about the debate for the past week, expressing fear it could get disorderly and pressing for a forum instead of an actual debate. Holden said he had promised that the debate would be well run – no placards allowed and some police on hand – but he added, “I can’t guarantee you’re not going to get tough questions.”

The cancellation “is going to backfire for Weprin big time, “Holden said. “Anybody who would do this would not be a straight shooter in Congress.”

From the NY Post:

Maureen Walthers, publisher of the Queens weekly, called Weprin a “coward” and a “worm” for being a no-show.

“What is he afraid of?” she asked. “Stand up and answer the questions!”

“I hope Weprin doesn’t win,” she said. “Shame on him. He’s making Weiner look good.”

Bloomberg's folly

From Pardon Me for Asking:

After Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Irene, some serious basement pumping is going on over at Third And Bond, Hudson Companies' Inc new condo building. It was built right in a flood zone, one block away from the Gowanus Canal.

One has to feel bad for those new owners. This will be an ongoing problem for them. Hudson Companies probably don't advertise that little fact in their shiny brochure.

After Irene, one can only hope that Mayor Bloomberg has a better understanding of why it's folly to build more housing in flood zones.

Fed up with Jackson Heights slobs

From the Queens Chronicle:

After years of watching their block’s quality of life deteriorate, in an area one resident called “one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Jackson Heights,” shareholders at Sheila Terrace, a co-op at 37-30 73 St., have had enough.

Beginning in the 1980s, Joe Galindo, who has lived at the address since 1967, started seeing tell-tale signs of change. Over the past four years, he has lodged multiple complaints with various city agencies and elected officials to try to correct the many issues plaguing the block.

Last Friday night, the residents, who, according to Galindo, paid up to $330,000 for their apartments, met in the building’s lobby to take a united stance in combating the situation and to plan a course of action.

Surrounded by grocery stores, restaurants, travel agencies, a discount household center and street peddlers, the building has become something of a mecca for the homeless, who, according to Debbie Singh, vice president of the building’s board of directors, sleep in front of the property.

“The street has gotten disgusting,” Singh said. “Because of the street vendors, people throw food and garbage on the ground. They hang out 24/7. There are squabbles. The noise is unbearable.”

She indicated that the building is getting infested with mice, a problem she called “overwhelming,” and also complained of the constant parade of cars that are double- parked in front.

“There is no peace anymore,” Singh said. “The value of the property is going down. We would like the elected officials to do something.”

Sorry, you've been there too long. They want you replaced with more vibrant, diverse residents.

Surprise pollution increase in Astoria

From the Daily News:

An Astoria power plant is attempting to clean up its act by swapping out one of its aging generators for two new, more environmentally friendly ones.

The only catch is that Astoria Generating Company's roughly $750 million Luyster Creek Energy Project may actually be permitted to increase pollution in the area.

That fact wasn't made clear at a public hearing Wednesday in Astoria on the proposed 410-megawatt facility. And that's worrying local elected officials.

Community members can submit written comments about the proposal - which needs state approval - to the Department of Environmental Conservation through Sept. 9.

The company hopes to receive the necessary permits by the end of the year and start construction by the spring of 2013, a company official said.

The two new generators would go live in 2015 and allow the plant to produce about 16% more electricity, the official said.

"The overall plan is expected to reduce emissions," said project manager David Perri, who works for US Power Generating Company, which oversees Astoria Generating Company.

The Luyster Creek plan would swap out one old generator for two cleaner-burning ones, and lower emissions of two other generators that are about 50 years old, Perri said.

But regulatory permits could actually allow the company to produce more pollution overall in Astoria.

For example, the plant would be allowed to increase its overall carbon monoxide output by almost 89 tons a year, Perri said. Nitrogen oxide could go up by almost 25 tons annually.

LIC's Pathmark in jeopardy?

From the Queens Chronicle:

Jackie Kozody has worked at the Long Island City Pathmark for 14 years.

She would like to continue to do so, but said she and her coworkers have been on edge since December when A&P, or the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., filed for bankruptcy.

A&P owns 15 supermarkets in Queens under the Pathmark and Waldbaum’s brands, and a total of 58 in New York City under various names including 16 Food Emporium stores in Manhattan.

Kozody manages customer service, cashiers, bookkeepers and customer complaints in a store with more than 100 employees.

“The fear is not having a job, that at any moment the store could close,” she said, “that at any moment the store is going under or being sold to someone we don’t know. There’s a lot of tension, worrying about how we would make ends meet or standing in the unemployment line.”

Chapter 11 bankruptcy rules allow A&P, the 151-year-old grocery chain, to be protected from its creditors while it reorganizes under a new management team.

More jobs take a walk

From the Huffington Post:

A scrum of protesters and factory workers set to lose their jobs descended on a Brooklyn factory Wednesday, urging Maramont Corporation, which has supplied meals to New York City public schools for years, to reconsider its decision to move production to Pennsylvania.

Maramont's announcement that it would be laying off more than 140 workers has angered residents of Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood and city officials, given that the company has benefited from a slew of city contracts going back at least to the 1990s. The company has said it will relocate its production to Moosic, Pa., just outside Scranton, presumably a much cheaper labor market than New York City.

A database of New York City vendor contracts shows that Maramont has received $175 million worth of city contracts during the last decade. The most recent was a $5 million contract inked with the city's education department in 2008; no start or end date is listed for that contract.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mass transit should be up and running tomorrow morning

From WPIX:

Service Plan for Monday Morning

Subways: With limited exceptions, service will resume across the subway system at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. Service will be less frequent than normal, and customers should expect longer waits and more crowded trains. Frequency of service will improve over the course of the day.

3 trains will operate between 137th Street/City College and New Lots Avenue; Substitute bus service will be provided between Harlem 148th Street and 135th Street connecting with the 2 train.
C trains suspended; A trains will make all local stops from 207th St. to Lefferts Blvd.
No service in the Rockaways. (Rockaway Blvd. to Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park)
6 trains runs local in the Bronx
7 trains run local
S Franklin Avenue Shuttle (FAS) Suspended
N trains terminate at Kings Highway. Shuttle bus service between Kings Highway and Stillwell Terminal.
The Staten Island Railway will resume normal service at midnight tonight.

Buses: Limited bus service was restored in all five boroughs of New York City earlier this evening. Service levels will continue to increase but may not reach normal levels tomorrow.

Bridges and Tunnels: All MTA Bridges and Tunnels are open as of 7:00 p.m.

Better start walking...

From NBC:

The subways, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North won't be up and running until the completion of a "lengthy process," according to the MTA.

Since the beginning of the Irene shutdown, the MTA has said to expect diminished capacity for the Monday morning commute. That hasn't changed, according the latest word from the MTA .

"There are already reports of flooding and down trees across the region, and the storm surge and heavy rains may cause additional widespread flooding, mudslides, washouts, fallen trees and downed power lines that wreak havoc on the MTA's signals, tracks, stations, under-river tunnels, catenary wires and other infrastructure," the MTA said in a statement. "Restoration of service expected to be a lengthy process that will begin with damage assessment and could include significant repairs."

He'll go down with the ship, if necessary

From the NY Times:

On Sunday morning, as New York City was feeling the brunt of what had become Tropical Storm Irene, Billy Drankwater, 57, was leisurely buttering a piece of white bread, in the cozy, dry cabin of his 33-foot wooden boat, docked off the north shore of Queens, in Flushing Bay.

“Some hurricane,” he said. “Not a drop in here.”

Mr. Drankwater lives on this old fishing boat year-round, with barely the cabin space to extend his long, taut arms, or stand erect at his natural 6-foot-2 inch height.

As hurricane warnings grew, over the past few days, Mr. Drankwater ignored friends who urged him to batten down and move out.

“I said, ‘No, I’ll go down with the ship if I have to,’ ” he said.

Well, it looks like we dodged a bullet this time.

Although there were quite a few trees that didn't make it, and if you believe the news reports, there are 32,000+ people in Queens without power.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Girl saved from her own stupidity

They decided to stay

Gribbles, shipworms and mollusks, oh my!

From the NY Times:

The significantly cleaner harbor, despite recent sewage problems, has created a problem for parks officials by allowing two marine pests — shipworms and gribbles — to flourish. Together, they attack wood pilings; the gribbles, which are tiny crustaceans, chew from the outside, while shipworms, larger mollusks, bore tunnels within.

“We literally have a clean harbor, but it’s causing incredible devastation to the physical infrastructure of the waterfront, and it’s costly to repair and replace,” said Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the city’s park’s department.

The city has tried to save disintegrating timber pilings in the past, with things like chemical treatments and plastic wrap, but to no avail. Engineers say that reinforced concrete is the best material to withstand the wood-ravaging invertebrates below and support the throngs of parkgoers above. As the public hungers for greater access to the long-elusive waterfront, parks officials first have to shore up a hidden support network across the city’s more than 500 miles of coastline.

Pouring concrete underwater is expensive, however. According to city estimates, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent in recent years on pier construction, and work to be done in just the next five years is expected to cost an additional $300 million.

Wind farm on the back burner

From NY1:

Fifteen miles off the coast in the Rockaways in Queens, state and city officials once planned to dot the skyline with wind turbines.

First announced in 2008 and endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the massive offshore wind farm was set to start spinning by 2015. Currently, it is sputtering.

Jonathan Foster, the vice chairman of the New York Power Authority, whose chief executive officer just resigned, said the project is not at the top of the agency's priority list.

"At this point, with our leadership somewhat in flux and having also announced two other major projects, the Hudson Transmission Project and also Recharge New York, we've got a full plate," said Foster.

It has been more than a year since the Power Authority got approval to apply for a federal lease on the ocean floor, but they have yet to apply.

The authority also just withdrew a key application with the state's independent power operator.

Khapra beetle is no joke

From the Daily News:

[The Khapra beetle] might not look like much, but the pest could wreak agricultural and economic havoc if allowed to infiltrate the U.S.

Native to India, it's considered one of the 100 worst invasive species worldwide and can destroy grains, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In just the first four months of this year, agents intercepted the beetle 44 times at U.S. ports - more than in all of last year.

The importer is given the choice of having the cargo returned or destroyed.

The beetle was first discovered on our shores in 1953 and the government spent $15 million to eradicate it, according to experts at the University of Florida.

Pre-emptive tree chopping in Flushing

Library foot fetishist on the loose

From CBS 2:

Some things about this story are kinda weird...

Why would you leave your 7-year old alone in a library?

What 7-year old says, “I want him to suffer, that’s all. I want him to suffer until he dies.”???

The library does not have surveillance cameras. In response to the attack, Councilman Vallone has secured funding to have cameras installed.

How did he manage that when requests for funding were due before the budget passed back in June? Slush fund?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mandatory evacuation ordered for low-lying coastal areas; subway to shut down

From NBC:

Areas under a mandatory evacuation include Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway, Broad Channel, South Beach, Midland Beach, Battery Park City, as well as the entire Rockaway peninsula.

He's not going anywhere this time

Mayor Bloomberg on Thursday kicked off an intense, multiday "not in Bermuda" hurricane campaign.

The mayor and his top aides were pummeled last winter for being out of town - and woefully ill prepared - as the devastating post-Christmas blizzard brought the city to its knees.

Hizzoner was ridiculed for being in Bermuda until just before that storm. Eight months later, the preparations for Hurricane Irene have been the polar opposite - and extensively publicized.

He and his aides have rolled out regular public briefings and laid out extensive plans for police boats, hospital readiness, fallen tree-removal crews and even warning of evacuations from coastal areas - at least three days before the 'cane's arrival.

This time, Bloomberg and his team will be hunkering down for a working weekend as Irene barrels through - "it's fair to say I'll be around," he quipped.

Find your zone:

NYC Hurricane Irene Evacuation Map

Jennings at it again

From City Hall:

Former Queens Councilman Allan Jennings is still on the hook to New York City taxpayers to the tune of $45,000 for committing an array of campaign finance violations.

But that has not stopped the veteran pol from racking up a number of questionable new expenses in his campaign to unseat Councilman Ruben Wills, even as he racks up support for his uphill campaign.

On May 9, for instance, Jennings tipped a waiter named Pasquale Gattuso $100. Jennings’ filings show no expense for any meals that day, though did pay $350 for “fundraising,” potentially for a catered event.

He also spent $29 that day for a “meeting” at Shipwreck, a South Ozone Park business listed as a tire dealer and auto repair shop, one of five such “meetings” at the dealership.

Jennings has also frequently held “meetings” at gas stations from Queens to New Jersey, racking up charges as high as $75 for a single one.

Not that Jennings is going hungry, charging frequent low-dollar “meetings” to his debit card at various fast food establishments in Queens, from KFC to Cold Stone Creamery to McDonald’s.

Jennings, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, is barred from receiving taxpayer matching funds in the four-way southeast Queens Council race because he has not repaid his $45,000 debt. Still, city rules would not allow Jennings to use even privately raised campaign funds for personal expenses, said New York City Campaign Finance Board spokesman Eric Friedman.

On top of the $45,000 owed to the CFB, Jennings also owes $5,000 from an unpaid fine levied by the City Council over Jennings’ sexual harassment of female City Council employees.

City Council races always attract the best and brightest.

She doesn't care what you think

From the NY Times:

Ms. Quinn is no naïf. She used a masterstroke to ascend to speaker. While her rival wooed individual members, she charmed the Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn Democratic bosses, and a bushel of votes fell her way. At her swearing-in, the former Village Voice columnist Tom Robbins noted, bosses sat in the front row. Vito J. Lopez of Brooklyn wore a red sweater vest, lest anyone overlook him.

The fates have smiled on Mr. Lopez’s social-service empire, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council; this year the Council sent more than $4 million its way.

Ms. Quinn’s predecessor, Gifford Miller, dueled often with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. That didn’t work out too well; Mr. Miller is now in real estate.

Ms. Quinn drew a lesson: Tread carefully around mogul mayors. When Mr. Bloomberg wanted term limits lifted, she tossed aside previous promises and rammed the measure through without a referendum. When he wanted state approval of an unqualified candidate for schools chief, she raised no peep.

Last year, a Council majority favored mandatory sick days for New Yorkers with less than a week of vacation. The mayor opposed it. Ms. Quinn killed it.

Some suggest that she has gotten lost in the game, that she can no longer recall the questions she once asked as an advocate. That sounds too definitive. Her arc is not done.

She affects nonchalance when described as a mayoral puppet: “You can call me Mini-Me. I don’t really care.”

The rub is that voters might care a lot.

Bridge biking still a menace

From the Daily News:

Nine days ago, we published an open letter to Sadik-Khan pointing out what was going on. That provoked uproar among cycling activists who contended that we had labored under a misimpression and invited us to visit again.

We did so and discovered that Sadik-Khan had sent staff to the bridge to prevent cyclists from entering the walkway. Her office said that such vigilance is common. Hmmm, we thought, and returned unannounced.

During the evening rush of 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, at least 74 bikers zipped along the pedestrian side of the bridge, which, due to the presence of construction sheds, is narrowed to less than 50 inches in places.

At the peak of the evening commute, at 5:45, about 40 bikers invaded the pedestrian lane, overwhelming the dozen or so walkers.

The transgressors were young and old, tourists from Asia and hipsters from Bushwick. They were united in breaking the rules and nearly doubled the number of pedestrians who used their own lane during the entire 90-minute period.

We asked a biker why he violated posted signs. He answered, "It's easier," than using the DOT-mandated route that will be in place until construction is complete, probably in January.

Oh, and it turns out those polls that showed NYers are overwhelmingly in favor of bike lanes were bogus.

Guy just won't leave

From the NY Post:

A waiter who collects generous tips at a swanky Manhattan steakhouse has been stiffing his Queens landlord for months, settling in as a squatter and refusing to pay any rent, court documents charge.

“He’s not your typical squatter,” livid landlord Tibor Karakas said of alleged freeloader Brian Wiley, 33.

“I think he goes from apartment to apartment doing this. He knows the law. He knows what he’s doing. He knows it will take me six months to get him out.”

Wiley, 33, weaseled his way into the $1,600-a-month, two-bedroom apartment in Woodside earlier this year after the pad’s female tenant took him on as a roommate.

“He was fine until he stopped paying the rent,” griped then-roommate Shannon Rogers, who claimed that Wiley also stiffed her on his half of the utility bills.

Even when a fed-up Karakas changed the lock to the front entrance of the tidy, three-family brick house on 58th Street in the spring, it was Wiley who called the cops, Karakas said.

The officers allegedly told a shocked Karakas to hand Wiley a set of new keys -- and try to evict him in housing court if he wanted.

Tunnels over budget and behind schedule

From AM-NY:

Two of the cash-strapped MTA’s mega-projects are way behind schedule and over budget, according to a federal government review.

The East Side Access project, which will extend LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal, is running 18 months behind and $800 million over budget, while the Second Avenue subway line may open more than a year late.

The Federal Transit Administration said the MTA needs to start “dealing realistically with … cost and schedule setbacks,” make management changes, and get back to the FTA with “an achievable budget and schedule plan” to finish the East Side Access project, which receives federal stimulus money, according to a report obtained by amNewYork.

Although the MTA maintains that East Side Access and the Second Avenue subway will be done by September 2016 and December 2016, respectively, the FTA puts their opening dates at April 2018 and February 2018. It would be “quite difficult” for the East Side Access project to finish on time, the feds said, adding that costs could balloon from $7.3 billion to $8.1 billion. While the MTA projects the Second Ave. subway will cost $4.4 billion, the FTA puts the price tag at $4.8 billion.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sadik-Khan admits big mistake

From CBS:

It was a rare mea culpa from the New York City Department of Transportation.

On Tuesday it began jack-hammering traffic islands in Borough Park that, as CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer first reported some 10 months ago, blocked ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.

Not that New Yorkers should gloat, but they won.

In a first for the city, construction trucks were actually digging out and getting rid of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s cherished traffic island projects — a dangerous project Kramer reported on last November.

Peninsula not shutting down...yet

From NBC:

The hospital is on the verge of bankruptcy and had been searching for potential investors. A spokeswoman announced Monday the emergency room would stop taking walk-ins at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

But on the day of its scheduled suspension, spokeswoman Liz Sulik said the closing was lifted and the emergency room would stay open. It will continue to accept walk-ins, and no current patients will be transferred out.

All signs signifying the closure have been taken down.

The emergency room is still not accepting ambulances.

Shady contractor busted

From Douglaston Patch:

A 59-year-old Long Island man has been accused of bilking six Queens residents, who paid the defendant more than $500,000 to make repairs to their homes, the Queens district attorney said.

Wayne T. Drinkwine, 59, of St. James, L.I., was arraigned Aug. 19 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gene Lopez on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and criminal mischief, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

He had been indicted on similar charges the day before by a Queens Supreme Court grand jury, but more counts were then added. The case will be tried in the Supreme Court, a DA spokesman said.

The defendant, who also goes by the name Duke Russo, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, the DA said.

“The victims in this case, it is alleged, hired the defendant in some instances more than three years ago and paid him considerable amounts of money to remodel their residences,” Brown said. “Instead, it is alleged that he began demolition work on their properties and then took the money and ran.”

Something smells rotten in Astoria

From the Queens Courier:

A putrid smell fills the air, as sewage streams along 43rd street in Astoria.

Berry Fresh Farm Inc., a supermarket located at 43-26 Ditmars Boulevard in the LaGuardia Shopping Center, has been perturbing people in the community with the street conditions in back of their store.

According to multiple residents, garbage is often spewed on the road and sidewalk on 43rd street, which is directly behind the supermarket. The waste, which repeatedly contains rotten foods and liquids, releases a rancid odor which suffocates the community.

Lucille Hartmann, the district manager of Community Board 1, assures that the residential complaints have been forwarded to the Department of Sanitation.

Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., who represents Astoria, has contacted the management company of LaGuardia Shopping Center and Berry Fresh in hopes of resolving the situation. If no solution can be found, Vallone Jr. says he will involve city agencies.

Scaled down Jamaica transformation?

From the Queens Tribune:

A development project intended to stimulate the economy of downtown Jamaica – as well as bring aesthetic appeal – may be facing budget cuts that would preserve the function but abandon its artistic form.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corp., which has been acting for more than 40 years as the key architect of growth, zoning changes and remediation of Downtown Jamaica, was hoping to receive $15.9 million of City funding for the Atlantic Avenue extension project – a key part of a massive urban renewal project around the new AirTrain station.

Under the plan, the community surrounding Atlantic Avenue would be transformed into a mixed-use business district around the Jamaica Station and AirTrain complex, bringing commercial space, several parks, residential units, and retail to the area. The complete project design also includes several parks and visual improvements to the one-way pair of 94th and 95th Avenues.

When the possibility of a $10 million funding cut came to the attention of GJDC earlier this year, the organization reached out to then-Economic Development Corp. Executive Vice President Madelyn Wils, asking for the funds to remain. Wils responded to GJDC President Carlisle Towery that the City was unable to return the project to its $15.9 million plan due to the economy, though the EDC agreed to work with GJDC to change the scope of the project to fit a potential change in budget.

Mice thrive at LaGuardia Airport

From Fox 5:

Jeffrey Stewart had just flown to New York from Atlanta last Wednesday night at about 9 p.m. He had to wait for a friend to come pick him up so he decided to go down to the airport's food court below the central terminal.

He says he purchased some food and had just sat down to eat when something caught his eye. It was several mice scurrying around the seating area.

Stewart says he noticed at least six to 10 mice running rampant through the tables. He says they were not afraid of the people in the area as they went about their search for food.

Stewart says the mice were pouring in and out of the radiators in nearly 50 year old building.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grinch kills Woodside's Christmas tree

From Sunnyside Post:

An iconic Woodside tree was butchered by vandals recently.

The tree, a green spruce tree that was planted in the fall of 2010 at Sohncke Square, was significant since its role was to be the neighborhood Christmas tree.

The Green Spruce tree was discovered on July 28 or 29th with its branches hacked off. “It looked like it had been cut to the bone,” one local resident said. “Shortly afterward it dried up and died.”

At the beginning of August, the Parks Department planted a tiny replacement, which is a temporary solution. In the fall, a more significant tree is expected to be planted at the square.

Hospital run into ground on purpose?

From NY1:

Manhattan prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether top executives at St. Vincent's Hospital purposely let it go broke so private developers could buy the property.

The New York Post says fraud investigators with the Manhattan district attorney's office are looking at millions of dollars in payments made to St. Vincent's executives and consultants before the hospital declared bankruptcy.

Sources tell the paper that bankruptcy allowed the hospital to get approval from the state to sell to the Rudin family, which plans to build luxury housing on the site.

A spokeswoman for the hospital tells the Post that it had not been contacted by the district attorney's office and is not aware of any investigation.

St. Vincent's Hospital closed in April 2010.

Fined, but not her fault

From the NY Post:

After notifying a Queens homeowner that his sidewalk had cracks requiring repair within 45 days, the city finally got around to completing the job -- 14 years later, in 2010!

But in the interim, the house was sold -- and the new owner is up in arms over the $1,122.48 charge for the fix-up.

Now she's fighting the unexpected bill.

"They came, and they marked it off and then repaired it," recalled Linda Ferrone, who moved into 219-36 Stewart Ave., in Hollis Hills, with her husband and three kids three years ago.

She claimed she was unaware the sidewalk had been deemed dangerous, saying, "They never mentioned any bill for it."

Alas, the bill was in the mail, added to her property taxes.

She said she paid the entire tab to avoid interest charges and is now seeking a refund.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens), who has taken up Ferrone's cause, called on the city to cough up the money.

"It is simply ridiculous to ask the city to perform unannounced and unexpected work and charge the homeowner . . . for it," he declared. "If you get a violation, the city is supposed to give you 45 days notice. But she never got a notice."

Koo asks Thompson to secure RKO Keith's

From the Times Ledger:

Jerry Rotondi, president of the Committee to Save the RKO Keith’s Theatre, a group that advocates for preservation of the beloved theater, has raised concerns that the building at 137-25 Northern Blvd. is not fully secured.

Rotondi said two acquaintances told him they saw youths throwing bottles from the theater’s roof at about 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6 and he worries that such intruders could start a fire at the aging building or damage its crumbling landmarked lobby.

“I went to the theater after the kids were seen throwing bottles from the roof, and if you go around to the back of the building, there’s an opening you could get into. So we’re requesting an immediate inspection of the property by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure the building is properly secured,” Rotondi said Monday. “The building should be sealed.”

Rotondi sent a letter Aug. 7 to Mark Silberman, an attorney for the city Landmarks Commission, requesting such an inspection and forwarded it to local leaders.

An inspection has yet to take place, according to Rotondi, and Thompson contends that there is no need for one to be undertaken.

“The building is totally secured,” Thompson said Tuesday morning. “There’s no story here.”

But a quick walk around the theater Monday night indicated otherwise as a door frame sat open and unhindered behind a fence atop a structure attached to the back of the main building. Two below-ground-level openings were visible from a parking lot behind the theater, suggesting that a crafty person could gain entrance to the structure.

Koo and his chief of staff, James McClelland, took a walk around the building Tuesday morning and saw the openings, prompting Koo to contact Thompson.

“The councilman and I visited the site today, and upon seeing three access points demanded that the developer immediately secure the area,” McClelland said.

The truth about Roosevelt Avenue

From WNYC:

For decades, prostitution has plagued the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Corona in western Queens – with some authorities dubbing the area the new Times Square.

The borough ranks No. 1 in prostitution arrests in the city. Of the 3,229 prostitution-related arrests citywide last year, 1,474 were made in Queens, according to arrest statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

The 115th precinct — which covers Jackson Heights, Corona and East Elmhurst — accounts for the largest portion of those arrests...

The former prostitute said she went on to work in squalid brothels all over the city -- including in Jackson Heights where up to 25 women would work in houses with five rooms.

“Sometimes there weren’t even beds,” she said. “It was a mattress thrown on the floor or a board with something thrown over it and that’s where you’d have to work.”

Trevino says said she finally left the brothel but married a man who would beat her and forced her back into sex work.

A tearful Trevino said she saw girls as young as 12 working at brothels across the city.

Good thing it has that vibrant! diverse! thing going for it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is this a joke?

From the Daily News:

For years it has been called "the dash controversy" - a hyphen in Queens addresses that confuses some and pleases others.

For some borough residents it is only a matter of getting used to a dash in an address number and sometimes they find it more useful. But for others, especially those new to Queens, the dash makes addresses much longer and complicated.

"It's confusing, especially for transplants," said Nancy Arjara-Spence, 38, who grew up in the Bronx and moved four years ago to Queens. "If you were not born and raised here, you still have trouble understanding the address."

I think the Bronx should keep its mentally deficient residents from crossing over the bridge...

Problems at MacDonald Park

Macdonald Park Maintenance Problems

We're all paying for city lawsuits

From the NY Post:

It's a city where every measly pothole and shaky monkey bar can mean a megabucks legal payout -- with taxpayers footing the multibillion-dollar bill.

The city was socked with an astronomical $6 billion in judgments and settlements paid to plaintiffs between fiscal years 2000 and 2010 -- including a slew based on outrageous, costly claims, according to a Post analysis of city comptroller records.

The mind-boggling payout figure is a product of state tort laws that are some of the most lax in the country, along with the larger societal instinct to sue at the drop of a hat, according to critics.

Last year alone, the city shelled out $520.6 million in claims -- the bulk forked over in cases against the NYPD, the Health and Hospitals Corp. and the Department of Transportation, according to a biannual report released by City Comptroller John Liu in June.

Personal-injury claims accounted for 99 percent of the payouts for tort cases -- an umbrella term for civil disputes involving personal or property negligence.

Hiram still haunting us

From the NY Post:

An amusement company has been charged with participating in a pay-to-play game by bribing disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate for help in getting permits to run carnivals, sources told The Post.

Brooklyn federal prosecutors believe Lawrence Carr's payoffs consisted of checks to a nonprofit organization connected to the woman-abusing pol, the sources said.

Monserrate is already under indictment for allegedly using a nonprofit organization, the Latino Initiative for Better Resources & Empowerment, to funnel taxpayer money for campaign use when he was a city councilman.

The new charges are in an indictment charging Carr with bribery.

The Florida man, 70, who operates Lawrence Carr Amusements, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $200,000 bail.

Politicians are sometimes paid off to persuade community organizations to apply for permits necessary to run carnivals, the sources said.

Carr's lawyer, Susan Kellman, claims her client was shaken down.

"If you get extorted by organized crime, you're called a victim. But if you're extorted by a public official, you're called a defendant," she said.

450 illegals smuggled into Flushing

From the Daily News:

A Manhattan immigration lawyer was arrested Tuesday on charges of helping smuggle more than 450 illegal immigrants into the country.

Hak Tung Lam, 44, of Flushing, Queens, was charged with recommending where to bring the illegal immigrants - who were Chinese - to avoid detection, and filing false documents, according to documents filed in Manhattan Federal Court.

"Zealous representation of his clients - a group of international alien smugglers - allegedly meant assisting them in breaking the law," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

A spreadsheet immigration officials obtained last month showed that Hak, who allegedly received $2,000 per immigrant, had helped 468 illegal immigrants.

Also arrested were his brother, Wen Wo Lam, 43, of Staten Island, and Ying Yang, 30, of Flushing, a receptionist at Hak's Bowery office.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Major clusterfuck coming soon!

From the Queens Chronicle:

In February, the second phase of the Kew Gardens Interchange project will get underway. It is a massive reconstruction and renovation plan affecting a complex web of thoroughfares — the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike — which are used by half a million vehicles each day.

The first phase of the four-part project, which aims to correct structural problems and operational deficiencies, is already in progress.

The engineers overseeing the project from the Manhattan-based firm of Hardesty and Hanover gave a presentation about the status of the project at a Community Board 8 meeting last Thursday.

It will include the ramp to the northbound Van Wyck, originating from the eastbound Union Turnpike and eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway; replacing the northbound Van Wyck viaduct, and construction on the eastbound Union Turnpike over the connection between the Grand Central, Van Wyck and merge bridge.

Queens Plaza is pretty damn loud

From the Wall Street Journal:

Head to Queens Plaza South and 23rd Street in Long Island City for a symphony of sounds: cars whizzing off the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and three above-ground subway lines converging, the No. 7 train squealing above all as it makes its way around a bend. Metal tires grinding on a metal track: It's like nails on a chalkboard times 10.

Benjamin Sachwald, a sound expert, grimaces. He is director of acoustics, noise and vibration for AKRF Inc., a consulting group that helped revise the city's noise code when it was last updated. (He is also a former heavy metal rocker who plays the drums with no shoes on. He's looking for a new band.)

Mr. Sachwald meets me at Queens Plaza South and 23rd Street with his trusty sound-level meter, a handheld digital instrument he has used in hundreds of locations across the city over the past seven years to determine the magnitude of noise levels for myriad projects—luxury high-rises, office buildings and even schools.

He holds his instrument up for a reading. At the peak, when the train is lurching around the corner, the reading is 93 to 95 dB(A). (In sound engineer speak, that is A-weighted decibels, but let's just call it decibels from here on out.)

"That's very loud," he says. "Very loud," he repeats.

"It's painful," he says, above the din.

To give you an idea of how loud that is, a rock concert comes in at 120 decibels. The threshold for pain is about 140 decibels.

That's funny, I thought we were spending ~$40 million dollars to transform Queens Plaza into a park where people would take leisurely strolls and quiet lunch breaks. A place where cosmopolitan-type folks will come from far and wide to shop at stores and gaze at millstones.

You mean that was all a crock of shit?

Electeds want to stop Kissena Park poachers

From the Village Voice:

Earlier today in Flushing, Assembly members Grace Meng and Rory Lancman, and park advocate Beverly McDermott, said the theft of flora and fauna remains especially egregious in Kissena Park.

McDermott, the president of the Kissena Park Civic Association and unofficial mayor of the park, has witnessed people leaving with coolers full of turtles and fish from the park's pond, and come upon hidden snares. And, she said, thieves are not just looking for food. It appears some are looking for beauty too, and are "luxury" poaching. Hundreds of daffodil bulbs planted one day have disappeared by the next day. (Note to the thief, before he/she gets any ideas: Daffodils are poisonous to humans.)

Lancman announced that in the next two weeks "Please do not harm or remove wildife" signs in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean will be posted around the park. The Parks Department has not wanted to post similar warnings in Central Park in the past, to avoid giving markers of where all the best treats can be scavenged.

Lancman also called for the Parks Department to step up the loosely enforced $250 fines against illegal foraging.

And to perpetrators: "Stop treating the park like their personal salad bar," Lancman admonished. After detailing the array of adorable -- and possibly mouthwatering -- bounty that calls Kissena Park home: fish, turtles, rabbit, pheasants, he warned: "That's not your personal buffet table."

DOE continues to poison children

From the Gotham Gazette:

The heat is on the Department of Education this summer, after environmental tests at a Bronx elementary school revealed yet another case of contamination.

Just five weeks before the start of the new school year, parents at PS 51X, known as the Bronx New School, received surprising news from the Department of Education. In a letter dated Aug. 5, the department announced that it was closing the current building and moving the school to an undisclosed location. Air quality tests had revealed unsafe levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent. Although the New York state Department of Health stated that there were "no immediate medical concerns for students and staff," the city determined that adequate remediation could not be completed before the school starts in September.

The city leased the Bedford Park property, a former industrial site, in 1991. For two decades, it has operated as a school; but some parents now say that their children have complained of chronic headaches.

PS51X now joins a growing list of schools across the city that may be toxic. Under current law, the city can lease property and open a school on it without notifying community members, or making public any concerns about environmental hazards in the area. With approximately 96 schools throughout the city on leased properties and more in the pipeline, this could affect tens of thousands of children.

Cost of living about to go way up

From the NY Post:

Big rigs that carry everything from food to medicine into the city will get slammed with monster-sized toll hikes on Port Authority bridges and tunnels -- and the massive increases will certainly get passed on to consumers.

New York’s crossings are already the costliest in the country, but a new series of toll hikes the Port Authority approved yesterday will see them balloon over the next four years, beginning next month.

Everyone who uses the PA’s facilities was hit with an increase, but truckers were hit the hardest.

Cash tolls on a 5-axle tractor trailer -- the type of truck commonly used to make deliveries -- will increase from $40 to $65 starting next month, eventually climbing to a whopping $105 per trip in 2015.

90 percent of goods sold in the Big Apple are brought in by truck...

Big Apple businesses -- already paying exorbitant fees to have their goods trucked in -- are preparing for the worst.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Table games coming soon?

From the Queens Chronicle:

When the racino at Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park opens this fall, it will have video lottery terminals for its patrons to play — but table games could eventually be available as well.

Gov. Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany last week he is considering legalizing commercial, non-Indian casinos in New York. Aqueduct’s Resorts World New York City racino is already legal because it has electronic slot machines but not the more lucrative table games.

Cuomo noted that New Yorkers also will gamble in other states, such as New Jersey.

“It’s happening,” he said of gaming coming here.

Cuomo’s support will almost certainly bolster lobbying efforts by Genting — the group that will run the Aqueduct casino — to get state legislators to permit table games at its facility, scheduled to open in October. According to media reports, Genting is spending $1 million a year with lobbyists in Albany on this effort.

The State Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee is considering a proposal for a constitutional amendment to permit table games and has scheduled hearings on the subject for this fall.

Current law only authorizes the Aqueduct casino to have VLTs, and a constitutional amendment would be required for table games.

Goodbye, Q45; hello Q47

From the Times Newsweekly:

Currently linking commuters between Glendale and Jackson Heights, the Q45 bus line may soon be merged with another route and extended northbound to terminate at LaGuardia Airport, according to MTA Bus Company plans provided to the Times Newsweekly.

In an Aug. 4 letter sent to Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano, MTA Bus Company president Darryl C. Irick stated that the agency will combine the Q45 and Q47 bus routes into one line operating between LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal and The Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale as soon as this September.

Both the Q45 and Q47 lines terminate at the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue subway station, connecting riders to the E, F, M, R and 7 trains. The Q47 line runs northbound through local streets in Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst to the Marine Air Terminal, while the Q45 rolls through Woodside, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Middle Village en route to Atlas Park.

The MTA Bus Company plan would combine both lines and routes under the Q47 label (the Q45 name will be retired), with some changes around Jackson Heights and the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue station. According to Irick, the plan would reduce bus layovers and provide “improved north-south transit access through the western portion of Queens, currently underserved by direct north-south transit service.”

Rain a headache in Springfield Gardens

From NY1:

Every time there’s heavy rainfall, homeowners on one block in Jamaica, Queens struggle with massive flooding.

“I've replaced my refrigerator four times. I've replaced my dryer four times. I've replaced my freezer four times,” says resident Allison Monroe.

The problems aren’t purely to do with appliances, however.

“We're talking about not just water, we're talking about feces backing up, we're talking about garbage. We're talking about water coming through our tubs, water coming through our toilets,” says resident Kim Lawton.

Residents say the furious flooding that fills their basements with water is the result of poor drainage and runoff from a federal aviation building next door.

The residents, who claim insurance won't cover them, say the city needs to put more drains in the street.

NY1 called the Department of Environmental Protection and a spokesman said this area is prone to flooding because of the low-lying topography.

The spokesman went on to say DEP has already done extensive sewer upgrades in Springfield Gardens and that the agency is planning to study the feasibility of resolving the persistent flooding issues in this area.

When we asked for a timeframe, however, the spokesman said they have none.

Elevator expert offers to restore SkyStreak

From the Daily News:

Critics point to the elevators' deterioration as another disappointing turn in the saga of the city-owned pavilion, a formerly grand - and now decaying - symbol of Queens.

But [Pat] Carrajat, who recently founded the nation's first elevator museum in Long Island City, has a unique idea to save the SkyStreaks, as they were dubbed during the fair.

He hopes the city will donate at least one elevator to him so he can restore it and put it on display at his nascent 44th Ave. institution.

The city Parks Department said in a statement that it "would be happy to consider a proposal about showcasing the elevators."

Carrajat figures he can get the restoration done for free. But he said he would not invest the time - or thousands of dollars in transporting the elevators - unless the city would part with one for his permanent display.

Still, he hopes to reach a deal. He said the elevators, which used revolutionary technology that did not require traveling cables, are too important to let rot.

"That was all cutting edge," Carrajat said. "It was literally 'Star Trek.'"

Halloran introduces BSA appeal procedure

From Little Neck Patch:

Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, introduced two bills this week that would enable community boards and the borough president to fight decisions made by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

Halloran accused the city agency of consistently ignoring community input before granting variances to developers.

“Zoning variances are a powerful tool, which some developers have used to fundamentally change our neighborhoods,” the councilman said. “Our current laws let developers run wild with variances and doesn’t provide us with a way to keep them in line and preserve the character of our communities.”

The Board of Standards and Appeals could not be reached for comment.

Halloran’s first bill would give local community boards and Borough President Helen Marshall the ability to appeal decisions made by the BSA. The appeal would then be heard by the City Council, which would vote on whether to grant the variance.

Currently, the BSA has the final say on whether to approve a variance.

The second bill is meant to ensure that developers abide by variances granted to their properties. Under the legislation, the BSA would be required to notify a property owner that they must apply for a new variance six months before their current one expires.

If a property owner operated for six months without an updated variance, they could be fined by the city.

Currently, there are no penalties for developers operating at properties with expired variances.