Friday, September 30, 2011

Arrest made in attempted rape

From the Daily News:

Police have arrested a man they say was the pervert who tried to sexually assault a woman alongside a Queens highway before he was scared away by a former Marine.

Kenneth King, 41, was charged with attempted rape, police said Friday afternoon.

Police officials did not immediately say how they tracked down and collared King.

FAA says RKO Keith's needs a scalping

Repurposing stalled sites


Just before the entrance of the Holland Tunnel, a half-acre site slated for construction on Canal Street between Sixth Avenue and Varick Street has become LentSpace, a temporary public art park. On the Lower East Side, a stalled construction site on 145 Ludlow St. has morphed into a rentable ‘backyard’ with grills, sprinklers, wading pools and live bands. In Downtown Brooklyn, a stalled mixed-use development has been transformed into Dekalb Market, home to six urban farms, independent retailers, eateries and work-sell spaces.

These are just some of the many examples cited by “Arrested Development: Breathing New Life Into Stalled Construction Sites” released by the Office of the Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer on Monday, available for download here. The report calls for creative land use solutions and new policies to help transform stalled places into vibrant public spaces that generate revenue and create real estate opportunities.

He's a paragon of fiscal responsibility!

From the NY Times:

The City Council said Monday that it would investigate cost overruns and delays in the Bloomberg administration’s project of modernizing the personnel system for the municipal work force.

The announcement came as council members; municipal union leaders; the city comptroller, John C. Liu; and the public advocate, Bill De Blasio, charged that the administration had failed to disclose the project’s deeply troubled history. They called for legislation that would force the administration to report to other elected officials when such projects run into problems.

The officials were responding to an article in The New York Times on Saturday that reported that the cost of the personnel system had risen to $363 million from $66 million when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg first announced it in 2002.

Forest Hills trench repaired

Mayor Moneybags and his "missing" money

From the NY Post:

There always has been something very strange about the Manhattan trial involving $1.2 million of Mayor Moneybags’ fortune, but it is entirely consistent with his weird third term. If Bloomberg ever wants to spot the day it all started to go downhill, he should revisit Oct. 23, 2008.

That’s the day he invited a black cloud to dog him by getting 29 dimwits on the City Council to change the term-limits law. He was all for a limit of two terms -- until he realized there wasn’t a chance in hell he wasn’t going to be elected president that year. Suddenly, he liked the job he had so much, he decided to keep it.

First, he would have to renege on a promise never to fight the law, then round up enough council quislings so he could seek a third term. It’s amazing what money can buy.

He got what he wanted, but his victory increasingly looks like a curse. Blame the cloud.

Rocked by scandals, snowstorms and a diminished legacy, Bloomberg now faces the indignity of having to explain publicly, and under oath, something he tried to keep secret. He and his campaign team are spinning like tops as they try to make the $1.2 million payment to the Independence Party seem honest.

It wasn’t. It was designed to be hidden from the public and the campaign-disclosure rules.

It also had an unsavory intent. Defense lawyers convincingly argued on the first day of the trial that Bloomberg made the payment secretly because he was embarrassed about its purpose.

Part of the reason he's not ranking so high these days.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rapist scared off in Whitestone

From the Daily News:

Racing to rescue a helpless woman from the clutches of a would-be rapist, Bryan Teichman had just seconds Wednesday to decide whether he should start yelling - or revert to his Marine training and attack the man.

"My gut said to scream first, to avoid the conflict," said the 31-year-old Queens resident. "So I screamed, you know, some profanities, but basically: 'Get off her!'"

That was enough, police said, to send the suspect running - and for Teichman to be hailed as the city's newest hero.

Dunkin Donuts opening becomes a major concern

There are several points to ponder with regard to this attempt at humor I saw over at LIQCity:

Long Island City is a neighborhood full of people who are proud to live here. It’s very different than growing up in Briarwood, a neighborhood of people who are proud to live there until someone offers them an apartment anywhere else. Where, might you ask, is Briarwood? Exactly. Their slogan may as well be “Briarwood – damn, Manhattan is expensive!”

- Making fun of a neighborhood like Briarwood is apparently ok because it's generally a quiet area near public transportation where people of all walks of life coexist and not like LIC, which has just about lost all of its panache.

What’s amazing to me is that this Dunkin’ Donuts is at least partially locally owned, but the decision to string the flags seems to have been made by a bunch of older people in suits who think Long Island City is Long Island.

- Plastic flags outside a new business are somehow considered "Long Island" and not outer borough? And their presence is apparently one of the worst problems LIC has because we never find posts about the ever present Vernon Blvd. garbage, vagrants, etc. on that site, as the commenters there astutely pointed out.

- LIC people see no irony in defending their outrage over these flags by saying they want to protect the character of their community while simultaneously living in towers that already destroyed the character of the community.

The post was written by a comedian, but the reaction to it was what I found to be hilarious. And the flags have been taken down.

What's troubling Rockaway

From the Daily News:

Getting to and from Rockaway is the single biggest issue hampering the quality of life of local residents, according to a new report released yesterday.

The lack of good transportation also is stalling important economic development on the peninsula, say members of the Rockaway Task Force who compiled the report.

"Buses stop in Howard Beach and then come to Rockaway empty to go to a depot," said Dan Mundy, a member of the task force. "Instead of switching buses, why can't people stay on that bus to Rockaway?"

Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, said it often takes residents from Rockaway longer to get into Manhattan than people who commute from parts of Suffolk County.

Recommendations in the report include a pilot program to provide morning and evening express subway service on the A line, more showers and concessions along the boardwalk, and elimination of the Cross Bay Bridge toll.

The group also said it was opposed to construction of housing in Arverne East, saying that area should be set aside for retail development that would create jobs for the community.

Here are the city's funding priorities

From Crains:

In an effort to revive the stalled construction of a public park at Willoughby Square in downtown Brooklyn, local developers and elected officials are raising millions of dollars to make up for a funding cut by the city's Economic Development Corp., which has overseen and largely bankrolled the project.

The one-acre green space is intended to sit atop a 694-space underground garage, and has long been viewed by the city and the surrounding business community as a centerpiece of downtown Brooklyn's revitalization.

In fact, the city has already shelled out $40 million on acquisition, relocation, demolition and design costs for the $70 million project, whose price tag doesn't include the cost of actually constructing the garage, which is being borne by private companies.

From Eyewitness News:

Times Square's pedestrian plazas will be getting a sleek redesign.

The Times Square Alliance says it's intended to simplify and de-clutter - and create a unified identity for the heart of Times Square.

The $27 million plan is heading for final approval and is expected to be completed in 2014.

It'll cost ya more to park in LIC

From the Daily News:

Businesses in Queens are slamming the city for driving up parking rates in a move that critics say will force some motorists to pay nearly a thousand more dollars a year to get to work.

Merchants along Skillman Ave. in Long Island City said they were infuriated last week when they saw individual meters replaced with muni-meters - with rates more than doubled.

"I could not believe it. It's disgraceful," said David Hananel, 62, who first noticed the hike last Tuesday - a jump from $3.75 to $8 maximum for 12 hours.

"They're driving people out of the city," said Hananel, who commutes from Long Beach, L.I., to his job at Printing Resource of NY/NJ on 32nd Place.

Rates are being adjusted throughout the city as part of a larger plan, according to a city Department of Transportation spokeswoman who said the shift to muni-meters began in Queens this summer.

Similar changes are taking place this week in Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Middle Village and Forest Hills.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bloomberg immune from prosecution

From the Daily News:

John Haggerty didn't steal $1 million from Bloomberg, defense lawyer Raymond Castello insisted.

"No money was ever stolen from Michael Bloomberg here," Castello said. "Michael Bloomberg got what he wanted - he won the election. John Haggerty did what was expected of him. He got indicted."

Haggerty's fraud trial got underway with Castello charging that Bloomberg's team broke campaign finance laws by wrongly labeling wire transfers from Hizzoner as donations to the Independence Party.

"There was campaign fraud by Mayor Bloomberg and his staff," Castello said.

The lawyer also charged Bloomberg and staffers got immunity when they testified before the grand jury that indicted Haggerty.

"They got a get-out-of-jail-free card," Castello said as Haggerty's fraud trial opened. "They needed a scapegoat."

No one from Team Bloomberg is charged with anything. Haggerty is accused of pocketing the money he got from the mayor for a poll-watching operation to buy his brother out of their dad's home.

"Mr. Haggerty and his legal team are prepared to say anything to avoid prison," said mayoral spokesman Jason Post.

Bloomberg and his aides did get immunity and the possibility of a waiver was never discussed, Post added.

Treacherous trench in Forest Hills

Battle for control of Queens GOP

From the Daily News:

Former City Councilman Thomas Ognibene said he may challenge Queens County GOP leader Phil Ragusa at the upcoming organizational meeting.

"A lot of people feel the party can move forward. There are new opportunities in 2012," he said. "Real leadership can make a difference."

Queens Republicans are eager to harness the momentum created by newly elected Congressman Bob Turner's victory and grab back state legislative seats they lost in recent years.

"The county [party] adds nothing," said Ognibene. "They do not raise money and they do not provide expertise."

Queens GOP spokesman Robert Hornak said Ognibene's criticism was unfair and unfounded.

"If Tom feels compelled to run for county chairman, he's certainly free to do so," said Hornak. "If he had been more involved in the county organization over the past few years he would know our field operations and fund-raising has increased."

Ragusa was recovering from surgery and was not immediately available for comment.

Hornak said Ragusa has enough votes to be reelected.

Rush hour observations

From City Journal:

Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, continues to argue that the bike lanes are popular, but the claim doesn’t seem to square with observation. To test my suspicion that these lanes are barely used, I stood at two busy locations— 30th Street and First Avenue and the intersection at Houston and Allen Streets. In the second case, I arrived at 5 PM on a weekday, the beginning of rush hour. For the next half-hour, I didn’t see a single bicycle in use, despite bumper-to-bumper traffic on Houston Street. Similarly, at First Avenue, where both sides of the street have bicycle lanes, I stood near the entrance to New York University Medical Center counting bicycles at 9:30 AM, near the end of the morning rush. In one hour, I counted just two bicycles, only one of which used the bike lane.

No doubt the mayor is reluctant to admit that his efforts to control traffic in Manhattan have failed—and have only increased congestion. Given the investment of millions in creating the pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, undoing these reforms is unlikely, at least in the near term. If the mayor could only hear the cursing every weekday morning from drivers at, say, 34th street and First Avenue, he might develop a different view.

Now there's a push to slow down the installation of bike lanes.

Ridgewood gym closed due to Irene?

From Fox 5:

Olympia Gym & Tanning in Ridgewood, Queens, abruptly closed after Tropical Storm Irene hit the city. A sign on the outside said that flooding and mold problems were to blame.

But the closure left its members hanging. They say no one informed them of what was going on. One new member told Fox 5 that he recently paid up front for a 1-year membership.

Fox 5 tried calling the gym's management for comment, but the phone number was disconnected.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cops won't take his report

From the NY Post:

A Queens man who claims his signature was forged on an auto-financing agreement that grossly inflated his agreed-upon monthly payments says the NYPD has repeatedly refused to take a complaint about the alleged crimes.

"Each time I brought it to them, they said, ‘No,’" said Andrew Burrowes, 33, about the four times he has tried to file criminal complaints in connection with his SUV purchase from Auto Palace in Woodside.

“They said that didn’t constitute a police report,” said Burrowes, a school-bus driver. Adding to Burrowes’ frustration is that the auto lender, Ally Financial, has asked him to provide a police report to help resolve the situation -- in which he said a forged document jacked up his loan amount for a 2004 Volvo.

The allegedly false loan papers said he agreed to buy the vehicle for $26,645 -- not the $13,900 to which he said he’d agreed.

Prescription drug abuse out of control

From Metro:

There’s a battlefront in New York City’s war on drugs, and it doesn’t involve crack cocaine or heroin.

Prescription painkiller abuse is now one of the top concerns for law enforcement officials and doctors.

New York City has seen an 80 percent increase from 2007 to 2010 in admissions to crisis drug treatment programs for those addicted to pills like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, according to state health officials.

“It’s a fast-growing problem in northern Manhattan as it is across New York City,” said the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, at a meeting last week with White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske to discuss the burgeoning epidemic.

Painkiller addiction poses a unique challenge because of the medical infrastructure. “These drugs are prescribed by doctors and obtained through legitimate pharmacies,” Brennan said.

Young adults and teens are particularly at risk for pill addiction, warns Dr. Deni Carise, chief clinical officer at the Phoenix House rehab center, because of the availability of drugs in their homes and the existence of “pill parties.” “Everyone grabs pills from medicine cabinets, puts them in a bowl, takes a handful and sees what happens,” said Carise.

City paid dead people's rent

From the Daily News:

A shocking new audit from city Controller John Liu discovered that city bureaucrats paid out $11.8 million in rent subsidies in recent years to nearly 4,000 people too dead to enjoy them.

Instead, their landlords or relatives cashed in.

"There's no excuse for losing this much money - management lapse, willful fraud or otherwise," Liu said in a statement.

His office turned its findings over to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. to determine if any crimes were committed.

City officials say they've already recouped $3.3 million of the posthumous profit - and vowed to collect the rest as soon as possible.

They say they had spotted some of the errors even before Liu flagged the screwups - and began implementing safeguards to make sure the dead are never again on the city dole.

We've heard this before

From CBS:

The influx of illegal apartments has become such a problem that the DOB has gone undercover, looking for and busting illegal apartments. The city agency has agents who set up sting operations—part of an ongoing enforcement action.

It’s start with a DOB agent reading between the lines, trying to find illegal apartments among online advertisements. She says they’re easy to spot.

“If it’s a really, really cheap apartment, they’re telling you it’s in a basement or an attic, anything like that,” the undercover agent says. “All utilities included—we really look for that. That’s a red flag for us.”

Once they find the target, they pose as renters and go out to confirm.

...since the program began investigators have issued violations in 86 percent of the apartments visited. With the number of violations, Limandri says they’re not stopping anytime soon.

But you can have those violations on file for years without paying and DOB won't follow up to make sure you corrected them.

Just a bit of an overreaction?

From the Daily News:

A black ASPCA employee who found a noose in the organization's Queens garage claims officials blew off her complaint and told her the hanging rope was for "operational purposes."

Sanoy Fleming, a part-time clerk in the records department, made the shocking discovery on Sept. 11 and used her phone to snap a photo.

Fleming, who has hired a lawyer, said a black colleague told her the noose had been hanging for several days in the garage of the spay and neuter clinic, which opened last June in Glendale.

"I was very upset, and it made me uncomfortable that no one thought it was inappropriate," Fleming, 40, told the Daily News.

"I explained to my supervisor that nooses were used to hang slaves, and I explained how insulting that is to African-Americans."

Fleming's supervisor apparently reported the incident to ASPCA higher-ups - four days later she was put on a conference call with the human resources department.

A man who identified himself as "George" warned Fleming that her work was not up to par.

"At the end of the conversation, he said, 'I heard you were upset about a rope found in the garage,' and he said that it was used for 'operational purposes' to lift things," the Brooklyn woman recalled.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cell phone thief busted

From Bayside Patch:

The suspected crook recognized by his copper colored sneakers was allegedly caught red handed last week.

The alleged mugger with a fondness for Blackberries and iPhones was observed by watchful cops robbing teens of their phones on a handball court at the corner of 190th Street and Underhill Ave. in Fresh Meadows.

Over the past several months, Eric Colvin allegedly jacked phones from 14 victims from Brooklyn and Queens.

His story was always the same. He would allegedly tell victims that his sister’s phone was missing before making away with the phone by threatening to pull out a gun, which he never brandished.

According to a police source, Colvin was recognized by the tattoos on his neck depicted in a police sketch and his trademark Nike foam sneakers in copper.

Hotel plan for College Point

From the Times Ledger:

The architect behind a plan to redevelop an aging manufacturing building into a massive mixed-use edifice appeared before members of Community Board 7 and area civic leaders last week to present the details of the project, which is currently under construction at the site of the former Gelmart plant.

The architect, Raymond Chan, says the work is being done as-of-right, but Chuck Apelian, vice chairman of CB 7 and president of the board’s College Point Corporate Task Force committee, told Chan at the meeting that he needs to respect the community’s wishes if he wants the support of the board and task force.

“You have a lot of uses that are going to bulk up the parking and the traffic,” Apelian told Chan. “You’re going to need a lot of help on this project, you’re going to need curb-cut help, you’re going to need one-way help .... If you want our help, I want your help now. I want you to keep in mind now, while you’re working on the project, to keep in mind the impacts this project will have on the surrounding community.”

Chan said he would take the concerns expressed by Apelian and other task force members — which include representatives of groups including the College Point Civic/Taxpayers Association and the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Association — to his partners in the $7 million to $8 million plan to redevelop the site at 20-07 127th St. But the groups have no power to force the architect to make any changes.

Chan said the L-shaped, 140,000-square-foot building will also include an organic farmer’s market, supermarket, 200-person conference center, home center, Laundromat, office space, food court and probably a Denny’s restaurant as well as more than a dozen retail shops to include a florist, pizzeria, tea house, clothier, Mexican restaurant, souvenir shop and more.

Too many trees dying in NYC parks

NBC New York has discovered that a number of trees planted in city parks are dying, resulting in a poor landscape and wasted taxpayer dollars.

Bloomie likes the leopard-skin look

From the NY Times:

Throughout his tenure, the mayor has taken pains to protect his private life, refusing to divulge his weekend whereabouts, blocking aviation Web sites from tracking the movements of his private planes and swearing reporters to secrecy before granting access to his homes. Yet examples of the grandeur in which he lives had, until Monday, been in plain sight on the Web site of his longtime decorator, Jamie Drake, who is known for exuberance and has overseen rooms for Madonna as well as restorations at Gracie Mansion and City Hall.

The photographs represent a strikingly public display of his most intimate spaces: one image captures his workout room, another shows a brown commode with a pink orchid nearby.

Weeds finally whacked in Howard Beach

From the Forum:

Residents along 165th Avenue in Howard Beach have something to smile about this week. The overgrown weeds consuming the sidewalks and acting as a harbor for rodents and garbage have finally been cleared.

Two weeks ago, after neighbors contacted The Forum about the conditions along the avenue, the newspaper reached out to the office of Councilmember Eric Ulrich and New York City Sanitation Department Deputy Commissioner for Public Information and Community Affairs Vito Turso.

After a site inspection was performed along the entire length of 165th Avenue from Crossbay Boulevard to 82nd Street, Commissioner Turso acted on his inspector’s and quickly dispatched a lot clean-up crew to the location.

The weeds were completely stripped along the route, the garbage was removed and the area inside the guard rail is now accessible to National Parks Department clean-up crews, along them to begin the cleanup of Gateway property after Tropical Storm Irene several weeks ago.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

College Point becoming spa central

From the Times Ledger:

Alan J. Sigman and H. Irving Sigman, representatives of the project’s developer, S&I Property Management, presented the New York Spa of College Point project before the [College Point Corporate] task force at its Sept. 15 meeting in the corporate park’s trailer on Ulmer Street.

Slated to be built in a 37,000-square-foot building at 131-23 31st Ave., within the special district created for the corporate park, the project would be a major addition to the growing spa industry in College Point and would feature spa pools, exercise programs and classes, therapeutic pools, a nail salon, eateries and more.

The Sigmans came before the board to ask that it make a recommendation to the city Board of Standards and Appeals that it grant the developer a special permit saying it supports the construction of a spa in the corporate park, thus allowing it to move forward.

The criteria for a developer to obtain such a permit under the special district established there requires that any business it plans to open there be “suited to a high-quality corporate park environment” and that it bring in revenues, according to Alan J. Sigman, who said he believes the proposed spa meets both criteria.

The task force sided with the developer, voting 8-1 to recommend that the BSA grant it the special permit application it seeks. Task force President Chuck Apelian cast the lone “nay” vote.

Crowley campaigned on taxpayer time

From the Juniper Park Civic Association:

On the day of the Special Election ‒Tuesday, September 13th, Liz Crowley was seen with two of her aides at the Metropolitan Avenue station in Middle Village along with Comptroller John Liu, David Weprin, Assembly Member Markey and an army of aides, blocking the sidewalk and platform so passengers on the trains had to wait their turn passing them. The passengers were given palm cards by Crowley and others and told who to vote for. Some passengers described it as an assault.

We at the Juniper Park Civic Association suggest that Council Member Elizabeth Crowley concentrate more of her time and efforts on trying to solve the many problems in our neighborhood rather than campaigning for her political cronies like Dave Weprin whom her cousin, Congressman Joe Crowley, handpicked.

The JPCA is calling for an investigation as to how city council aides on the taxpayer payroll, are used regularly for political campaigning by both parties during regular business hours. The days before the election many of Elizabeth Crowley's aides were off campaigning and not at their desks in the office on Dry Harbor Road. That may explain why the JPCA received several calls from residents complaining about a lack of response from Council Member Crowley and her staff on a host of issues.

Ms. Crowley, stop the political campaigning and start to do the job you and your staff are getting paid tax dollars to do.

From the Forum:

Crowley said any suggestion that she or her staff did anything improper during the campaign was wrong.

“City Council staff, like other government employees, are allowed to do what they want on their own time, including working on political campaigns,” said Crowley. “Neither I nor my staff used any New York City Council resources to campaign and any accusation that we did is false.”

Photo from Lost in the Ozone

Little Bay Park needs help

From the Times Ledger:

Community leaders and elected officials are working through a number of avenues to improve Little Bay Park in Bayside, saying the park has been neglected for too long.

Located in the shadow of the Throgs Neck Bridge, the 55-acre beachside greenspace offers sports fields, a bike path and a roller hockey rink, but it has seen little in the way of improvements since 1999, when $1.2 million in city money funded the creation of the path and rink.

On Monday afternoon, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Malba Gardens Civic Association President Al Centola met with representatives of the city Parks Department at the park — bounded by the beach, Cross Island Parkway, Utopia Parkway and Totten Avenue — to discuss ways to fix the soccer fields, which suffer from poor drainage and other woes because of their location near the salty waters of Little Bay.

Centola hopes at least one of the park’s two soccer fields can be fixed in time for next year’s season, but the cost to do the needed work is proving prohibitive. Halloran said it costs $2.3 million per field to outfit them with artificial turf, or $1.5 million for sod. The price tags are so high because of the need to do extensive drainage upgrades before undertaking such work.

Preservationists want to save JFK's Sundrome

From the Daily News:

Preservationists are mounting a last-ditch campaign to rescue an iconic Kennedy Airport terminal even as the Port Authority vows to raze it by next month.

Terminal Six, a window-wall building designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, is being demolished to make way for a new facility or parking lot, officials said.

History buffs contend that demolishing the terminal, originally home to National Airlines in 1970, will take away one of Kennedy's few bright spots.

"The Port Authority will take an airport that is generally regarded as the worst airport anywhere, and they're going to make it worser," said Geoffrey Arend, founder of the trade publication Air Cargo News, using the grammatical flub for effect.

The Port Authority defended the move when it was first announced last year.

"Maintaining obsolete buildings that were built 60 years ago is not a prudent use of our limited resources," Executive Director Chris Ward said then.

City wants grandmother to live with mold until 2019

Friday, September 23, 2011

Return of the squeegee men

From the Daily News:

Squeegee men, the aggressive panhandlers who wash your car windows whether you want them to or not, are back.

Armed with buckets and $5 squeegees, a squad of men waded into stalled Times Square traffic Sunday to lather up windshields, swipe them clean and beckon for tips from drivers - some annoyed by the intrusion.

A rare sight when the country's unemployment rate was a mere 5.7%, the reappearance of the crews is an in-your-windshield reminder of 9%-plus unemployment and the highest rate of poverty in 27 years.

For some, they're a powerful symbol that the busted economy is bringing back the bad old days.

Bloomberg had this to say in response:

"The Police Department has a lot to do, but we're not walking away from squeegee guys when they rear their heads ... with their buckets and sponge," he said.

Why are we paying for this?

Once again, why are taxpayers footing the bill for this instead of the contractor that caused the problem?

Parents lying to Dept of Ed to enroll kids in schools

From the Times Ledger:

Parents are forging documents to get their children into a sought-after but swelling Glendale school, and the practice could edge out longtime residents who actually live in the district, a principal said to a tense meeting last week.

The school is popular due to its dedicated staff and high calibre of education, but it is so popular it also attracts students who do not live in the district, a number of distraught parents said.

“I can pick out 15 faces right now whose children do not belong here,” said Jennifer Bonowitz, who attended last Thursday’s meeting because she hopes to send her young children to the school, at 78-23 87th St.

A set of city Department of Education rules called the Chancellor’s Regulations requires that parents must prove they live in a certain district if their children want to attend a locally zoned school.

But those regulations are far too lax, Pranzo said.

Once Pranzo sent out an attendance officer to check up on a student whose parents he suspected of using a false address. Instead of being commended by the DOE, he was rebuked when the city found out, he said.

The problem could mean families who actually live in the district would have to go somewhere else.

Pols still pushing Rockaway wind farm

From the Daily News:

Clean power could come to New York City in the form of a wind farm off the coast of the Rockaways - if the governor acts fast.

The $2 billion- 4 billion project would generate hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs and up to 700 megawatts of power, utility officials said.

Elected officials are concerned that developers will build wind farms elsewhere if New York doesn't issue a request for proposals by early next year.

"If New York does not go forward at an accelerated pace, then the jobs are going to go to other states," said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), chairman of the Assembly's renewable energy subcommittee.

He sent a letter expressing his concerns - signed by more than 40 fellow Assembly members - to Gov. Cuomo this month.

"There's only a certain number of developers, and they're going to have to decide where they're going to get the best bang for their buck," Hevesi said.

The New York Power Authority, along with Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority, filed an application last Thursday with the federal government to lease ocean space for the plant. It would be located at least 13 miles off- shore.

An official with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said yesterday it's unclear when a decision will be made.

A nice place to represent, but they wouldn't want to live here

From the Daily News:

Deputy Mayor Robert Steel insists he lives in the city - but his wife, his Porsche, his Mercedes-Benz, his Lexus and his four yappy dogs all live in Connecticut.

"Where would you rather live if you were a dog?" Steel asked when the Daily News confronted him in the driveway of his extravagant Greenwich mansion. "I'd rather live here."

City law requires all top city officials to live in the city.

Although most major unions have negotiated the right for members to live in the suburbs, Mayor Bloomberg issued an executive order insisting that top officials - except those granted a waiver - reside in the city.

Just 32 employees have been granted that waiver. Steel never requested one.

That means he had 90 days to move to New York after becoming deputy mayor for economic development in August 2010.

Also from the Daily News:

The city official charged with fixing the problem-plagued $2 billion upgrade of our 911 emergency response system has been doing much of his work from home - in sunny Florida.

Glen (Skip) Funk, the man Mayor Bloomberg appointed in August 2010 to a $200,000-a-year post as director of the Office of Citywide Emergency Communications, still lists an address in St. Augustine, Fla., as his legal residence.

Property records show Funk and his wife are receiving a $50,000 "homesteading" tax exemption Florida grants to residents who claim a property as their primary home.

In addition, Florida voter records show Funk and his wife both cast ballots in that state's election last November - more than two months after he started his new job for New York City.

Bloomberg's take?

"He lives in the city. What is your evidence? What are the allegations? Why do you try to assassinate somebody?" Bloomberg demanded.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Disano hit with violations for scaffold collapse

From DNA Info:

The Department of Buildings is expected to issue several violations against the construction company that was carrying out the demolition of a building that partially collapsed along with its scaffolding on 125th Street, injuring 18 people Tuesday morning.

"We will be issuing violations to the contractor [Disano Demolition]," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, declining to cite specifics.

Six violations will be issued against Queens-based Disano Demolition while the owner of the building will face one violation, said Councilwoman Inez Dickens, whose office has been following up on the accident.

"They found equipment that should not have been on the site and the demolition was not done correctly," said Dickens.

Violations will be issued for illegal mechanical equipment found on the site as well as an improper course of demolition, among other problems, said Dickens. The demolition, being done in stages, should have been completed in a certain order to prevent problems, she claimed.

Backyard becomes a dumping ground

$5-10M missing from Bayside Cemetery fund

Something stinks at Union Turnpike

Bicyclists need babysitters

From the Daily News:

Safety officers installed on three city bridges to keep the peace between cyclists and pedestrians will cost taxpayers about $80,000 a month, officials said Tuesday.

The program, which started Monday and is slated to end Nov.26 - but could return in the spring - has drawn mixed reviews from bridge users and advocates.

The $38-an-hour "pedestrian managers" have been assigned to the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges and told to educate users about the rules of the road. The workers, employed by Sam Schwartz Engineering, can't give out tickets or physically interfere, they said.

At the Manhattan Bridge, they are stationed at on-ramps to make sure cyclists and pedestrians use their designated sides.

On the Brooklyn Bridge, they took up position on the white line separating the two narrow lanes, trying to stop tourists from blindly walking into fast-moving bikes.

From CBS New York:

Two Hunter College professors have produced a study that shows roughly 1,000 pedestrians are struck by bicycle riders each year state-wide. Half of those are in New York City.

The authors of the study only counted pedestrians who were hospitalized after being struck. The authors believe, therefore, more than 1,000 people in New York are hit by bicycles each year.

The study didn’t count the number of bicyclists who were injured.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kids have hard time navigating dangerous streets

Robert Moses gaveth and taketh away

We lost the Flushing Park fountain in the 1940s thanks to Robert Moses. Long Island and NYC Places That Are No More has the entire story.

Gangs selling fake IDs to illegals

From the Times Ledger:

Police arrested 18 people, many who have suspected ties to the international street gang M18, on charges of running a fake identification mill for immigrants in Jackson Heights, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

Those who were taken into custody, 13 of whom are Queens residents, included seven men believed to be M18 members who allegedly gave forged documents to the police when officers asked for their identification papers, three men who were allegedly caught exchanging a fake Social Security card and permanent resident card for cash, two suspected M18 members and document forgers, another man and a woman who allegedly had forged documents and four other alleged M18 members, the DA said.

The arrests were made as part of an investigation beginning in June 2010 by the NYPD’s Manhattan Gang Squad of an alleged M18-run forged document organization centered in Jackson Heights, the DA said.

State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights have become an epicenter of gang recruitment of children and he applauded Brown’s work.

Too many PODS people out there

From the Daily News:

Room-sized storage pods are invading the driveways of eastern Queens homes - and neighbors are raging against the unsightly containers that are overstaying their welcome.

Hollis Hills Civic Association members have complained to the city about the hulking white boxes from a company called Pods, typically used for storage during renovations or a move.

Though it is illegal to have them in the front yards of homes, some have nevertheless become permanent fixtures, locals said.

Homeowners with the pods can be ticketed for violating zoning codes, said city Department of Buildings spokeswoman Ryan Fitzgibbon. But it's rare the agency gets complaints, she said.

That's probably because only about 200 boxes have been rented in Queens, a company official said. About 90% of them are kept in a company storage facility. Pods rent for $100 to $200 a month.

Padlock needed for Douglaston property

From NY1:

Boarded up and filled with construction equipment, a vacant lot is unwelcome to locals on a residential street in Douglaston, Queens.

Neighbors claim the owners of the property are using it as a storage place.

According to the Department of Buildings, such storage of construction equipment is not permitted in the area's zoning.

The DOB's Padlocks Unit is currently investigating if it is a public nuisance.

"It's very, very frustrating, but I've looked at the city, they supposedly followed up. I've looked to Senator [Tony] Avella, he's supposedly followed up, but I don't think they're being given the correct information, which is why I'm with you," says Macaluso.

After NY1's first story on this lot aired, Avella contacted the station and said his office is working to expedite the process.

"The Department of Buildings has to be much more aggressive in addressing these type of situations," Avella says. "We should be able to tell this construction company, 'You know what? We're going to seize those containers.' Now obviously, that’s what the Padlock Unit will do, they'll padlock it so the owners can’t get their equipment out. But it should be done in a much more quicker process."

When NY1 reached out to the DOB again, officials said they were still investigating and will take appropriate action based on their findings.

The owner, H & S Landscaping, has yet to return the station's phone calls.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Harlem scaffold collapses onto bus

From the Daily News:

More than a dozen people were injured Tuesday morning when scaffolding around a West Harlem building collapsed on a passing city bus.

All the injuries were minor, but seven people were taken to St. Lukes Hospital for treatment. The rest were treated at the scene. Two police officers were among the injured.

The scaffolding, around a two-story building at St. Nicholas Ave. and W. 125th St., collapsed about 9:30 a.m., with police and fire units rushing to the scene and searching for victims, in some cases removing debris by hand. The building was under demolition.

All the workers at the site were accounted for, police said.

Worker's lift clipped by bus in Jamaica

From the Daily News:

A construction worker was killed after an MTA bus clipped the lift he was on, sending him plummeting to the pavement Monday night, police said.

Cesar Cepedes, 44, sustained severe head trauma after falling near the intersection of Sutphin Blvd. and Archer Ave. in Jamaica, Queens, about 11:40 p.m.

Cepedes, of Hempstead, L.I., was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The bus was heading north on Sutphin Blvd. through a Long Island Rail Road overpass when the top of the vehicle struck Cepedes' lift, cops said.

The driver stayed on the scene and was not charged.

An MTA spokesman said the incident was under investigation and that the driver was undergoing blood and alcohol testing - a standard procedure after accidents. Results were not expected for at least several days.

Forest Hills arboricide!

Case # C1-1-690202470
A healthy Gingko tree which was planted in spring 2011, is now cut at a sharp angle in the middle of its trunk, and the tree is laying on the sidewalk in front of TD Ameritrade, 72-19 Austin St, Forest Hills. The rope and tree supports are in still place on the remainder of its trunk.

Photos were taken shortly after 12 PM today, Sat, 9/17/11, and are are attached.

When the manager of Bonfire Grill left last night around 2 AM, he said the Gingko tree was already laying on the sidewalk. The owner of the art shop said he noticed it on the sidewalk upon arriving at work early this morning.

On a potentially related note, that act of vandalism may be associated with another Gingko tree a few shops to its west, which went missing as of the late afternoon of September 14th. That tree is now marked by a stump. I don't recall that tree dying.

Hope we can solve this mystery.

Irene took down 2 historic trees

From the NY Post:

Tropical Storm Irene knocked down two giant 200-year-old oaks in Bowne Park in Queens that once towered over the family farmhouse of 19th-century Mayor Walter Bowne.

The trunk diameters of the massive trees near 158th Street were 64 and 72 inches, according to the city Parks Department. They were about 80 feet tall.

“They are invaluable. You can’t replace them,” said Carsten Glaeser, a Queens arborist.

After the storm, the trees were mulched during the cleanup. The Parks Department is looking to honor the fallen behemoths with a plaque or bench after receiving requests from local officials.

Crossing Columbus in Astoria

Click photo for story.

Hillside Avenue market protest

Sorry about the name snafu, Tony.

Anemic response to Willets Point RFP?

From the Times Ledger:

The city Economic Development Corp. said Tuesday it has received developers’ proposals for the overhaul of the first phase covering a dozen acres of the city’s $3 billion planned overhaul of Willets Point.

Although few details were released, the announcement that the city got the proposals Friday serves as a milestone in the six-year saga of one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s long-stalled pet projects.

The city pushed the deadline for submitting proposals back a month to last week after at least one builder asked the city for more time to prepare plans, and three sources said in July that few companies planned to submit proposals because the project was too unwieldy, inflexible and expensive to justify the risk during a down economy.

Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development — one of the premier firms in the Flushing development industry — said his company was one of the ones that submitted a first phase proposal. The company has long been a part of the ongoing process to choose a proposal and developer for the site.

“I’m just going to say at this point, since [the EDC hasn’t] gone public with anything that from the time we submitted our Request for Expression of Interest six years ago, we’ve been consistent throughout,” Meyer said Tuesday. “I am very interested to know how many people submitted.”

From Willets Point United:

Well, well, well, isn't this interesting. TDC has been an integral part of the Claire Shulman LDC crime scheme - you know the one that cloaked the selfish interests of developers like TDC under the umbrella of a phony not for profit; a not for profit we may add that is enjoined from legally engaging in any lobbying whatsoever. This same entity received $500,000 in tax payers money to advance the interests of Mr. Meyer's company. Nice, no?

This is the fraudulent scheme that AG Cuomo was supposed to have been investigating before he got the endorsement of the mayor - can you say, quid pro quo? It is the scheme that the current AG, Eric Schneiderman is - at least according to his staff discussions with us - supposedly still investigating. What's the hold up, Eric? Not interested in taking on the mayor and the Queens Dems - led by Virginia's own Joe Crowley?

The bottom line in all of this is that Mike Bloomberg, Mr. The Rules Don't Apply to Me, concocted a plan to create a phony grass roots support group to advance the Willets Point development - and created an LDC that was simply a stalking horse for TDC and its cohort of developer colleagues. So, in essence the tax payers funded an astroturf effort to deprive the WPU property owners of their Constitutional rights.

And another WPU comment:

TDC has turned to Chinese investors and possibly breaking the project’s construction down into phases in hopes of getting a shovel into the ground soon.

So let's get this straight. The city is actually allowing a company that - as we said yesterday - was part of an illegal lobbying scheme to bid on a project that will displace American land owners, and do so with foreign money? Isn't it enough to violate Constitutionally protected property rights without adding insult to injury by outsourcing the land purchase?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday morning caption opportunity

This was taken by the Times Ledger's Christina Santucci.

Do you think the Weprin party ended with "Good Night, Sweetheart"?

DEP asked to pump water in southeastern Queens

From the Times Ledger:

The recent deluge of rain and subsequent flooding in southeast Queens have prompted state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) to step up his calls on the city to expedite its plans to restart the water pumps that he said would alleviate the problem.

Scarborough toured the streets of St. Albans during the weekend of Sept. 3 and said many homeowners were struggling to deal with the water creeping into their basements and damaging their property. The assemblyman said the only solution is for the city Department of Environmental Protection to accelerate its plans to pump out the groundwater under the homes and lower the water table.

Crime way, way up

From the Daily News:

Violent crime surged and police response times slowed over the past fiscal year, new city data show.

In the 12-month period ending June 30, the city saw a spike in murder (6.5%), forcible rape (32.3%), robbery (3.7%) and felony assault (4.9%) over the same period last year, the mayor's management report out Friday revealed.

Meanwhile, the NYPD's response time rose by nearly a minute.

Hey, this is called "doing more with less". Just think how bad the data really is if this is the fudged report!

Riot threat was not smart

From Huffington Post:

Michael Bloomberg made headlines over the weekend by warning that the weakness of the U.S. economy could lead to riots.

Whoa, Nellie.

"We have a lot of kids graduating college, can't find jobs. That's what happened in Cairo," said the New York mayor during his weekly radio show on WOR. "That's what happened in Madrid. You don't want these kind of riots here."

Cairo? Arab Spring? Did Bloomberg mean to suggest that pro-democracy uprisings are a bad thing? That unemployed young people should have refrained from taking part? Has our mayor now been in office so long that he feels a bond with Hosni Mubarak?

What Bloomberg seemed to really be talking about was the importance of passing President Obama's jobs plan. But mentioning the r-word was a critical error. Mayors of large cities should not say "riot" unless there is one. Period.

Repeat after me: No more third terms. No more third terms.

City fines homeowner, installs uneven sidewalk

Is Meeks next to go?

From the NY Post:

The e-mail was flagged “Importance: High.” A top executive at the Stanford Financial Group wanted an answer.

“Have we an update on Antigua?” demanded Lionel C. Johnson, a senior VP.

“Greg Meeks and Ed Ahmad have both called again this afternoon inquiring about the status of Ahmad’s VIP-box invitations.”

The Feb. 19, 2008, e-mail, obtained by The Post, was addressed to Yolanda Suarez, chief counsel for the company run by now-disgraced billionaire banker Allen Stanford. It and other insistent messages during that period show Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks was determined to get his pal, Edul Ahmad, invited to a Caribbean cricket match so he could meet another Meeks buddy, Stanford.

The urgent pleas were made a year after Ahmad handed Meeks $40,000.

Stanford would also throw cash at the congressman a few months later -- hosting a lavish fund-raiser in St. Croix in July 2008, complete with Cristal champagne and caviar, that raised at least $13,800 for Meeks’ campaign committee.

Now the circle of friends threatens to become a circle of felons.

Stanford, 61, is awaiting trial on charges he engineered a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Ahmad, 43, was indicted this summer in New York, accused of falsifying $50 million in loan applications. And Meeks, 57, is under investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for the $40,000 Ahmad payment and is at the center of a separate federal probe for his role in a Queens nonprofit that allegedly stiffed Hurricane Katrina victims.

Meeks, an eight-term congressman, has a penchant for hobnobbing with shady characters and had few qualms about accepting their cash -- or doing them favors.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Parks needs more sensitive contractors

September 13, 2011

Commissioner Liam Kavanagh
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10065

Dear Commissioner,

Members of the Kissena Park Civic Association, Flushing and the greater community have been asked to be stewards of Kissena Park - and so we alert you of some disturbing behavior by a NYC DPR tree contractor and their DPR management supervision.

On Saturday, September 10 a day after torrential rains that left the grassy landscape wet and soggy Dom's Tree Service and Wood Resource Recovery (Ocala FLA) staged a tree damage clean-up effort upon wet and soggy tree occupied soils. This operation occurred with authorization and supervision by Kissena Park M&O management. The attached photos reveal impacts not just to lawn area but compaction of soils and damage to the wide spreading and unseen root zones by heavy equipment. The trees impacted are several Samuel Parsons heritage trees and other current tree species. We are concerned because established mature trees growing in open landscapes have root systems that extend large distances beyond the tree drip-line and that the compaction of those root occupied soils will have a negative impact to whole tree health. We are reminded here of the 2004 NYC DPR Capital Kissena Park Lake Reconstruction project where DPR engineer(s) allowed a DPR contractor to utilize lawn areas for staging and storage of equipment and materials resulting in needless damages to parkland trees.

Despite hearing that the protection and preservation of public trees is a paramount concern by New York's Greenest, we continue to see a blatant disregard for those very trees (under the jurisdiction by NYC DPR) that we have placed such high value and regard. What is disturbing is the incorrigible behavior by DPR management who show poor judgement when it comes to our public tree assets. A park manager with a sound skill set would have simply directed this operation off of the lawn area.

To address the long-term health concerns of the heritage trees and to mitigate the damages by heavy equipment, remediation of tree root zones is duly needed. With the tree care technology currently available the KPCA wishes to see the root zones of these trees restored by pneumatic air-spade (to reduce the negative health impacts from soil compaction) followed by soil amendment, Rhizofuel, mulch and irrigation. This action should be performed by vetted certified arborists with supervision.

We acknowledge the potential by the Agency to do the right thing here and await a response with an effective plan of action from New York’s Greenest.

Thank you.

Kissena Park Civic Association

DOE forcing kid to wear uniform

From Fox 5:

Over the past few years, public school uniforms and dress codes have become more common than not in public schools. The New York City Department of Education says wearing uniforms promotes better learning, student performance and conduct.

But that same DOE also gives parent a choice to opt out if you don't want to follow the dress code.

In Queens, one grandmother says her grandson wasn't given that choice. And she says instead of going to class with the other kids, he sits in a room by himself for the day.

Jackson Heights says early goodbye to play street

From the Daily News:

A play street that a park-starved Jackson Heights community fought long and hard to open up to the neighborhood this summer has come to a premature end.

The city reopened the stretch of 78th St. between 34th Ave. and Northern Blvd. to traffic unexpectedly last week at the request of a private school that borders the temporary open space.

The move left elected officials and community leaders scrambling to come up with a solution.

The road will revert back to a vehicle-free play street on Friday nights and weekends, a Transportation Department official said.

But that wasn't good enough for local leaders, who have been lobbying for more park space in the neighborhood for years.

"We are working closely with the Garden School and the Department of Transportation to come up with a solution that is acceptable to all," City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said.

This isn't the first time the private school has come under fire on the issue of open space.

Garden has taken heat from community leaders and residents who would like the school to sell its yard to the city for parkland - a process that could take longer and be less lucrative than accepting an offer from a developer.