Saturday, December 31, 2011

Homeowners getting hosed by DEP

DOT gives some street parking back to LIC

Underground clubs still a problem

From the Village Voice:

It's surely a hackneyed complaint that the city's last two mayors have done their best to force out New York's bohemian culture in hopes of creating a future perfect Gotham. But it's also demonstrably true. Not long after the new Quality of Life Task Force began to crack down on long-unenforced cabaret laws during the Giuliani administration, the Social Club Task Force—established after the 1990 Happy Land fire—evolved into the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots (MARCH), overseen by the New York Police Department. "Unauthorized dancing" was now only one of many potential infractions.

When Michael Bloomberg succeeded Giuliani in 2002, MARCH activities rose immediately by 35 percent and kept growing. (MARCH shut down Silent Barn.) "If you listen to stories about what led to this homicide or what led to this assault, you would be surprised how many stem from nightclubs," Robert F. Messner, a police commissioner who oversaw club shutdowns, told the Times. "We don't want those places in New York. We make it very clear." In 2003, the smoking ban went into effect, outlawing one of the city's longest-running cultural institutions: the smoky jazz club. Regulations have kept creeping into other bastions of the old, free New York. The Algonquin Hotel has had to confine its lobby cat to a space behind the check-in counter, and don't even think about trying to have a bar dog.

I agree that cracking down on hotel cats and bar dogs is ridiculous. But preventing another HappyLand disaster is something the City should definitely be involved with. Most of these places are a tossed cigarette away from just that.

Tenants decry unfair rent hike

From the Daily News:

More than 40 longtime Jamaica tenants are suing their landlord for charging them large lump sums for building improvements they claim were never adequately made, in an effort to force them out of their homes.

Residents of 90-36 149th St., which is owned by Zara Realty Holding Corp., said their rent shot up thousands of dollars this year after the state approved a hike for rent-stabilized tenants.

It was granted because Zara claimed to have installed a new roof and repaired the building’s brick exterior. But landlords are only allowed to raise rents 6% annually for rent-stabilized tenants, according to the tenants’ lawyers — not ask for one bulk payment.

Repeated attempts to confirm the law with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal were rebuffed.

Ending the year with a bang...

From the NY Post:

Anthony Weiner proposed a threesome with texting pal Traci Nobles and a man, according to a new report.

The Queens Democrat made the suggestion in the midst of his texting and tweeting adventures that eventually forced him to resign his congressional seat in June, reported today.

The revelation came from conversation excerpts that Radar obtained from Nobles' proposal for a tell-all book.

After proposing a threesome, Weiner told Nobles, "I'm not really talking about other chicks... How about with another guy?"

"Hmmmm, haven't done it before," Nobles said.

"It can be hot," Weiner replies.

"Are you turned on by other guys?" Nobles asked.

"Well it depends on the guy, but generally yes," Weiner said.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Someone is killing birds in Central Park

"I was birding just east of the Ross Pinetum in Central Park at approximately 83rd Street [yesterday] morning at 11:30 when a Red-Bellied Woodpecker fell out of a deciduous tree about 30 feet away from me. There were no predators in the area. Baffled as to what happened, I walked over to the bird and saw that it had a dart in its head close to its eye. It had been shot dead. The red head makes for an easy target.

I reported the incident at the CP Precinct and was able to show them a couple of poor cell phone photos. It is the only report of this type they’ve received. They will notify the Conservancy...If anyone comes across another bird that has been killed in this manner, please report it to the police. The precinct is located on the 86th St. Transverse; the direct phone number is: (212) 570-4820."


Johnny's last campaign being audited

From NY1:

City Comptroller John Liu may be limiting campaign contributions to $800 for his 2013 campaign, but that definitely is not the case for his 2009 campaign account.

Since taking office almost two years ago, Liu has raised more than $250,000 to pay off debt from his run for comptroller.

As a result, he has accepted thousands of dollars in contributions that are over the legal limit set by the city's Campaign Finance Board.

The firefighters' union gave nearly $10,000, twice the limit, as did the plumbers' union and a state construction union.

The general manager at SMC Stone, a Brooklyn contractor, gave Liu nearly $7,400, more than $2,000 over the limit. The president of the company did the same thing.

Candidates often keep old campaign accounts open, as the finance board audits them. It sometimes takes years to retire a debt; Liu's 2009 account is nearly $8,000 in the hole.

Using his old account, Liu bought an airline ticket to a speaking event in Texas last year. He has paid his campaign consultant Chung Seto, spent thousands on a volunteer dinner, and bought print ads.

Some government watchdogs say the spending is questionable.

Hey, no problem! Now that he's been caught, Johnny says he'll give back the shady donations.

And he's lifted the $800 limit on his campaign contributions, no doubt so he can go after big developer money.

Queens doesn't have enough snowplows

From the Daily News:

A year ago, a huge winter storm rocked the five boroughs. Then came the storm after the storm: complaints that the Sanitation Department did a terrible job of snow removal.

But nothing startling came out of high-profile City Council hearings. The errors were, it turned out, mostly procedural; the city subsequently announced a solid, 15-point policy to be sure it doesn’t happen again.

One complaint, however, persists. Many people insisted that Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island were shortchanged. I for one can tell you that the department’s performance in Manhattan in cleaning up after the big storm also left plenty to be desired — but that, of course, is no consolation to all the people in the “outer boroughs,” who were buried under a couple of feet of snow for days.

Well, is it true that the borough where the most business is done and the tourists visit gets special treatment? I’ve tried, along with some of my Columbia students, to run the numbers. Here is what I found.

For example, Queens has 38% of the city’s street mileage while Manhattan has but 8%. Yet despite having five times more mileage than Manhattan, it has only twice as many sanitation trucks. Queens may have the right number of trucks for picking up refuse, but when it comes to fighting a snowstorm, it may be a few candy canes short of a holiday party.

East Side Access project is very loud

Marshall says no to College Point spa

From the Times Ledger:

Borough President Helen Marshall gave two thumbs down to plans for another spa in College Point last week.

The borough president decided not to approve plans to build the New York Spa of College Point, a two-story relaxation hub envisioned by property owner Kwang Nam Park that would go up in the neighborhood’s corporate park.

The spa would be located in the two-story building currently home to warehouses and offices, at 131-23 31st Ave., which Park already owns.

After mulling over the plans for several weeks, Marshall ultimately denied the plans for the spa, which would include a rooftop pool and restaurant, on the grounds of inadequate parking.

In a Dec. 20 decision, she said first the spa would create more vehicle trips to and from the location than warehouses and offices. And because street parking is not allowed in that location, the spa’s parking plan would not be able to handle that increased traffic, Marshall said.

Second, the valet parking setup proposed in the plans would cause a backup of cars going in and out of the lot, according to the borough president’s decision.

Quinn dishes pork out to thieves

From the NY Post:

City Council Speaker Chris Quinn, who presumes to the mayoralty, has just laid $350,000 in council pork on colleague Larry Seabrook — the Bronx Democrat under federal indictment for gross misuse of previous pork disbursements.

That is to say, for funneling $1.2 million in city funds from 2002 to 2009 to multiple fake non-profits he secretly controlled, while directing the bulk of the cash to salaries for his girlfriend and relatives.

He’s also the dude who billed city taxpayers $177 for a bagel and a Snapple.
He has no shame.

Which brings us back to Speaker Quinn — a serial aider-and-abetter of council chiselers and cheats.

Quinn’s $350,000 cash transfusion to Seabrook is — at best — a campaign contribution. If he chooses to spend it on $177 bagels and his girlfriend — well, he’s already done that, hasn’t he?

Then Quinn refilled his cash drawer.

Seabrook’s the miscreant, for sure.

But Quinn’s his enabler.

Should such obvious moral myopia be rewarded with the mayoralty?

Is Christine Quinn fit for the job?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Padlock Unit may visit dilapidated house

From the Daily News:

A Middle Village homeowner has drawn the ire of residents and the attention of city officials for collecting numerous violations and creating a blight in the area.

The owner of a ramshackle two-story house at 58-22 84th St. has nine unresolved building code violations in the past decade and $25,500 in unpaid fines, according to building records.

The property owner, Ganesh Arora, has been “repeatedly ignoring requests to bring the property into compliance,” said Ryan Fitzgibbon, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Buildings.

“The property has been referred to our Padlock unit which is investigating whether the property is a public nuisance,” Fitzgibbon said.

During previous visits by the agency, inspectors have found illegally cut sidewalks, junked commercial vehicles and a gutter drain that spills directly onto the street, records show.

The Padlock Unit will make several visits to the sites at different times and days of the week to determine whether the home will be forcibly shuttered, officials said.

“Based on what the unit finds it will take the appropriate action,” Fitzgibbon said.

He doesn't speak for all Guyanese

Dear Editor,

Residents of Richmond Hill are opposing a move by New York City zoning officials to downzone the area making it difficult to expand one’s home or build large homes. This will prevent families from expanding their living space or having adequate space for worshipping in mandirs, masjids and churches.

A public hearing was held on Wednesday evening in Richmond Hill on the proposed rezoning of the Richmond Hill area. The Queens Zoning Board plans to downgrade the area making it virtually impossible to construct multi-dwelling units on certain blocks. The rezoning emphasizes keeping the one and two-family houses ending other multiple dwelling units that had existed prior to Guyanese settling in the area.

At the public forum, Guyanese spokespersons complained about the lack of interest shown in the proposals advanced by area residents for balanced development. Their proposals were not given consideration. This was the sixth in a series of meetings at which the Guyanese community expressed their dissent for the proposed changes. However, as community leaders complained on Wednesday evening, the zoning board has ignored their opposition to the downzoning of the area and has not included their suggestions on how to deal with the shortage of housing in the area among the growing immigrant population. It is felt that the area is downzoned primarily because of the changing faces in the community with the area losing its Italian and Irish dominance.

The public forum was organized by the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation led by activist Vishnu Mahadeo. This gentleman should be applauded for his work for he is one of the few who is taking on the battle to have fair zoning in the community and who is also an advocate for other rights for the community.

The community leaders at the forum expressed concerns that the proposed downzoning for the majority of properties in the area of focus will not allow exemptions for religious institutions. There are a dozen temples and a few masjids and churches serving the Guyanese community in the area. Vishnu Mahadeo told the planning representatives that the Guyanese community “is now evolving from the basement and house temples to the more established looking mandirs, mosques and gurdwaras.“

Other community advocates also spoke on the impact of the downzoning on the social and economic structure of Richmond Hill. Attorney Albert Baldeo lashed out at the zoning commissioners and leaders of District 9 for not respecting the views of Richmond Hill community leaders. Darmin Bachu, a lawyer and chairman of the RHEDC, said: “Immigrants want to move in here, and they want as much housing as they can get. They want to celebrate this place in large numbers, and the business community wants the highest zoning it can get.”

It is felt that the area should be upzoned to allow for high rise buildings to accommodate the growing population. The city stands to benefit with higher property tax if the area is rezoned and development is allowed. Speakers told the Board that rezoning should provide for much needed housing opportunities. It is noted that the downgrading will impact on investment and affect the surroundings of the area, taking away much needed jobs and space for community get-togethers.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

(FYI: The downzoning refers to the area south of Jamaica Avenue.)

Letter to editor from Staybroek News.

Now click the link above and read the responses from the Guyanese readership, who are almost unanimous in their support of the downzoning, citing reasons familiar to readers of this blog.

A sample:

"Most residents of Richmond Hill, including the many Indo-Caribbean home owners, are pleased with the proposed zoning. People are tired of the real estate agents building outsized, ugly homes all over the neighborhood and selling them for twice their value. The people who are raising objections are business owners (many of whom live in Jamaica Estates and Long Island), slumlords who own property in the area but don't live there and the uninformed --like Mr. Bisram."

Interesting, no?

Lots of bad landlords in the city

From NY1:

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio released on Tuesday his latest list of what he says are the worst landlords and buildings in the city.

Some 358 buildings are on the list, owned by 317 landlords.

At the top of the list of worst landlords is 1071 Home Corp, with 753 hazardous violations and five buildings on de Blasio's watchlist.

Three of the top five landlords have buildings in the Bronx, and two have buildings in Brooklyn.

Violations include lack of heat or hot water, lead paint, toxic mold or broken plumbing.

De Blasio launched the watchlist last year to publicly shame repeat offenders whose buildings don't meet city regulations.

Outing these owners, according to de Blasio, adds public pressure to have them make much-needed changes.

This year's worst building, 245 Sullivan Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has 654 code violations.

Residents say the problems have gone on for years, from black mold to leaking ceilings and infestations of rats, mice and cockroaches.

Easier said than done

From the NY Post:

The city’s hospital system has promised to empty Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island within two years to make way for the new graduate engineering campus envisioned by Mayor Bloomberg — and now it’s scrambling to find places for more than 500 long-term patients.

The race against the clock began when Cornell University and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology were selected last week as the winners of a worldwide competition to build a $2 billion applied-sciences school on Roosevelt Island, heralded by the mayor as a “game changer” intended to make New York a worthy competitor to Silicon Valley.

Cornell immediately announced that it intends to open the first phase of its 11-acre facility, encompassing 300,000 square feet, in 2017.

But that schedule is dependent on Goldwater being emptied by the end of 2013, an aggressive plan that would also allow the mayor to stage a ceremony heralding its demolition before he leaves office. Cornell hopes to start construction in 2015.

Officials of the Health and Hospitals Corp. insist they’ll meet the tight deadline.

One person involved in the process said that would require a herculean effort.

“It seems unlikely,” said the source. “At the least, this is a really ambitious target date given how far they’ve gotten so far.”

Francis Lewis eyesore continues

From the Queens Gazette:

State Senator Tony Avella was joined by the North East Flushing Civic Association at a press conference in front of an unsightly abandoned corner property, located at 24-19 Francis Lewis Blvd., to address the complete lack of maintenance of the site by the city.

The property has been an eyesore for at least ten years. In 2009, the property owner stopped paying property taxes and the site has now become a storage unit for trucks, dumpsters and scattered garbage. Although the city Department of Buildings issued a full stop work order earlier this year, residents and businesses are still forced to live by an unsightly lot that has become a blight on their neighborhood.

“This lot has been a thorn in the side of the community for over a decade,” stated Avella. “The owner has not made any attempt to clear out or maintain the lot and it has become a constant target of graffiti vandals and litter. Usually I say, ‘there’s everything in there except the kitchen sink.’ However, in this case, there actually is a kitchen sink. A haggard looking lot like this creates a financial disaster for neighbors, who gradually see their property values decrease.”

Avella was informed by the Department of Finance that a tax lien was placed on the property because of $15,809.86 in unpaid property taxes and sanitation violations since 2009. That lien was supposedly sent to the city Tax Lien Trust earlier this year. However, it now appears that the city has yet to follow through on enforcing its lien.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Loophole in new law allows convicted tweeders to keep pensions

From NBC New York:

Convicted of crimes and thrown out of office, several New York lawmakers may be disgraced but they are still taking taxpayer money, according to the comptroller's office. Katy Tur reports.

Is NYC about to hit the jackpot?

From Fox 5:

Will New York City hit the jackpot and be allowed to have casinos with table games to be built?

Electronic gaming in New York State has already been approved and when the Resorts World Casino opened in Jamaica, Queens in October, it was a huge hit.

The word now is Governor Cuomo is reportedly looking to take it a step further by having a traditional casino built in the city.

A legalization of casino gambling in New York would mean black jack tables instead of electronic games.

The state legislature would have to pass two votes for a state constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling.

Schumer's brother-in-law named judge

From Fox 5:

Sen. Charles Schumer's brother-in-law was quietly nominated this month to a federal judgeship in New Jersey -- a move that has some in the Garden State crying political foul.

Kevin McNulty, who is married to Schumer's sister, Fran, was named to the US District Court by the White House late last week.

According to a boilerplate quote, President Barack Obama said McNulty is a "distinguished individual" who "will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice."

New Jersey's two Democratic senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, followed that up with their own news release heaping praise on the nominee.

What no one mentioned is that McNulty, 57, was the last-minute choice of Lautenberg, who had been leaning toward other candidates until surprisingly submitting McNulty's name to the White House.

Crime way up in "good" parts of Rockaway

From the NY Post:

The Rockaways are getting rocked by crime!

Felonies in the 100th Precinct in Queens, which blankets Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel and other western areas of the peninsula, have gone through the roof, according to the latest police statistics.

Burglaries have jumped 144 percent, from 54 last year to 132 this year. Felony assaults have soared 66 percent, from 78 to 130. Robberies have gone up 31 percent, from 63 to 83. Grand larcenies are up 26 percent over last year. The crime wave is so pervasive that a local deli is even offering pamphlets that warn customers, “Do You Feel Safe and Secure? We Hope You Do ... But Maybe You Shouldn’t!”

Meanwhile, crime in Manhattan’s 20th Precinct, which covers the Upper West Side, showed the most significant drop, plunging 12.8 percent this year, police statistics through Dec. 18 reveal.

What's up with this house?

From Forgotten-NY:

I wonder what the story is with this seemingly abandoned Tudor at 115-8 Park Lane South in Kew Gardens. At least I think it’s abandoned. The grass had been unmowed for months, and the gate was wide open and I walked right onto the lawn.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Liu not concerned by investigation

From the NY Times:

In recent weeks, as the investigation has expanded, Mr. Liu, the New York City comptroller, has struck a defiant tone, apparently determined to demonstrate that he has not lost his political balance.

Indeed, as Mr. Liu gathered with a small group of associates at a memorial service in Queens recently, he remarked that he was unconcerned about the investigation, and believed that the authorities would come up short if they were trying to implicate him, according to three people in attendance, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be seen as betraying him.

Mr. Liu’s mettle was seen again the other night when, amid platters of sweet and sour chicken, shrimp in lobster sauce and Yangzhou fried rice, he burst into a crowded Chinatown restaurant and rallied scores of supporters as they chanted his name.

“We don’t back down from any challenges,” said Mr. Liu, who was introduced as a “hero” and a “man of the people” by the master of ceremonies, Virginia M. Kee, a longtime Democratic power broker. “Sometimes things are more difficult than we can anticipate, but we don’t back down!”

Over the last month and a half, Mr. Liu has packed his schedule with some 200 appearances, from ribbon cuttings to holiday parties, clearly seeking to convey the sense that he has not been knocked off kilter by the investigation.

At some of these events, Mr. Liu has made ethnic appeals to his supporters, many of whom are Chinese, and has continued to suggest that he will run for mayor in 2013, though his popularity has been eroding, according to a recent poll.

“I’m not making an announcement tonight, but I know that in a couple of years, we’ve got a tremendous opportunity,” he told a group of Taiwanese merchants at a recent gala in Flushing, his political home turf. “I’m certainly ready for that opportunity.”

Later that night, he seemed to allude to the investigation, describing it as a “challenge” before concluding: “We will overcome. Oftentimes as a community, and as immigrants, we work twice as hard. Don’t complain, just do the work, and we will get there.”

And check out the Daily News' take on the same event.

NYPD doesn't enforce idling law

From CBS New York:

Engine exhaust from cars, trucks and buses has been linked to cancer, strokes and New York City’s high rate of childhood asthma.

The city has tough laws to prevent drivers who sit with their vehicles running, but, as CBS2′s Don Dahler has seen, some say it’s no more than an idle threat, because it’s rarely enforced.

When school lets out, scenes of drivers, parked and idling as they wait to take kids home, are playing out all over the city.

Council still willing to dish pork out to shady charities

From the Daily News:

The City Council tried to shell out nearly $100,000 in pork-barrel items this year to shady groups that city investigators had flagged or the IRS had slapped down, documents show.

Six new groups that have lost their earmark funding — including the Mount Hope Housing Co., a Bronx advocacy organization — are the latest losers since the budget was passed this summer. Nearly $1 million in earmarks to small community organizations and charities has been eliminated.

Critics say the funding pullbacks show that safeguards enacted following the Council’s slush-fund scandal in 2008 have not stopped lawmakers from trying to funnel money to questionable neighborhood-based groups.

Mount Hope, for example, has been under review by the city’s Department of Investigation since April 2009, records show.

A note attached to the charity’s city file states: “Investigation is ongoing and have no summary of funding to date.”

Despite that warning, the Council still sent $70,000 in pork to the charity in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.

We're still paying the price for last December's snow

From Fox 5:

New York City's sluggish response to the after-Christmas blizzard of 2010 is still costing it a year later, with more than $1.8 million paid out in claims so far, and more claims still pending, the city Comptroller's Office says.

Last year's Dec. 26-27 storm packed a wallop in the Northeast, dropping more than 2 feet of snow in some parts of the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration was criticized for its handling of the foul weather and its aftermath. Streets went unplowed for days, and cars, buses and other vehicles were stranded.

The Comptroller's Office said 1,196 claims were filed with the city in connection with the storm and its aftermath. They included claims from individuals who said they were injured on snowy and icy roads and walkways, and claims for damage to cars and other property from the city's snow removal efforts.

As of Dec. 23, 620 of the claims had been settled for a total payout of $1,855,152.53, the office said. The remaining several hundred claims were being investigated or have been dismissed.

White House plans not what was promised

From the Times Ledger:

After part of a block was rezoned over the summer to accommodate the expansion of the White House restaurant in Whitestone, plans submitted to the city for the new eatery showed the maximum occupancy would be twice as large as the developer had told the community.

One of those documents showed the maximum capacity would increase from 562 to 705.

But during a hearing by the Council Committee on Zoning and Franchises, Jessica Loeser, a lawyer representing Franco, said the new certificate of occupancy would not “come anywhere close” to exceeding the 562 in the previous certificate, according to transcripts from the hearing.

In addition, a lawyer for Franco had said the occupancy of the new restaurant would be around 300 people when he presented the plans to Community Board 7, according to minutes from the meeting. Franco’s representatives told the City Planning Department the capacity would remain unchanged at about 300 people, according to a report.

The inconsistencies do not represent any illegality, Nevertheless, Brian Garry, who lives next door, said it shows how Franco pulled a fast one on the neighborhood.

In another inconsistency, Garry did not want his home and property to be commercially zoned along with the restaurant.

But in-between the final public hearing and the final vote, the commercial overlay was extended to include a 5-foot strip of Garry’s property along the border of the White House without an explanation.

Garry said it was zoned that way to circumvent a requirement of an 8-foot buffer between a residential property and a commercial property. This was confirmed by a spokesman for Halloran.

So a mobster and a council member can gang up on a homeowner and force a rezoning on him in order to take advantage of a loophole that benefits the mobster? How un-libertarian.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Who would do this?

"The damage was so specific that I wondered if it was done by the property owner or to punish the property owner at 35-48 73rd Street in Jackson Heights. Seemed to be pretty recent. This will be a hazard when snowstorms hit. Regardless of weather, it's a stupid heartbreak." - anonymous

Please contact Parks if you have any information about who did this.

Federal court upholds NYC campaign finance law

From the NY Times:

A New York City law that limits campaign contributions from individuals and entities that have business dealings with the city survived another legal challenge on Wednesday, when a federal appeals panel ruled that the law did not violate the free-speech and equal-protection provisions of the United States Constitution.

Several plaintiffs had challenged the city’s “pay to play” regulations in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan in 2008. A district court judge upheld the constitutionality of the law in February 2009.

The plaintiffs, including former Councilman Tom Ognibene and the State Conservative Party, appealed that ruling, but their legal challenge has now been rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Group hopes for re-examination of transfer station

Transfer station under construction, December 2011

From the Times Ledger:

A Queens advocacy group hopes that developments surrounding the aviation industry and LaGuardia Airport will draw renewed attention to what it said are the dangers of a planned garbage facility in College Point.

The aviation advocacy group Friends of LaGuardia Airport said the new blood at the top of the Federal Aviation Administration could mean a fresh look at the proposed North Shore Marine Transfer Station in College Point and its effects on the airport.

Earlier this month, Randy Babbit, head of the FAA, resigned after he was arrested and charged with drunk driving. His second-in-command, Michael Huerta, took the helm, which the group said could bode well for their cause.

“What I hope will happen is that the FAA will look at this with a new set of eyes,” said Ken Paskar, president of Friends of LaGuardia Airport.

Paskar maintains that the station — where trash from the borough will be collected and then floated out on a barge before being transferred again to a train — is a hazard and money-draining measure for LaGuardia Airport. The station lies directly in the flight path of one of the runways at the airport and sits less than a half mile away.

If the station is built, Paskar is worried that birds will be attracted to the garbage and present a risk for planes departing and landing.

More taxes raised from NYC than spent here

From the NY Post:

New York City taxpayers are sending up to $6 billion more to Albany than they are getting back, according to a study released yesterday.

Acting on a request from the Citizens Budget Commission, the Rockefeller Institute at SUNY Albany ran the numbers from the state’s 2009-10 fiscal year and found that the city accounted for 45.1 percent of state income taxes, but received only 40 percent of state expenditures.

The results were even more lopsided when tax collections were allocated by place of work, meaning that suburbanites who commute to jobs here were counted as city taxpayers.

Under that scenario, the city coughed up 48.7 percent of state income taxes.
The city’s shortfall in the exchange was estimated at a maximum of $6.1 billion and a minimum of $4.1 billion.

Resorts World contractors fined by OSHA

From the Daily News:

Construction workers toiled virtually around the clock to get Queens’ glitzy gaming hub operational, but federal officials are now charging that contractors cut corners when it came to safety.

Five companies skirted regulations during construction of the Aqueduct racino this summer and exposed employees to hazardous conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday.

The agency slapped fines totaling more than $127,000 on five contractors for serious violations, including contact with high levels of lead.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

FBI probing Liu directly

From the NY Post:

A federal probe into the campaign fund-raising operations for city Comptroller John Liu is now focused on the candidate himself, The Post has learned.

Federal officials, for their part, wouldn’t betray what they were specifically looking for after arresting Pan.

But now, more than a month later, it’s clear that G-men and federal prosecutors are going straight for the city’s chief fiscal officer.

Although his attorney declined to comment yesterday, Liu himself sounded more fatalistic than ever during a Chinatown appearance.

“Every additional day for me in office is another cherry on top,” Liu said during a hastily called news conference in which community leaders criticized the press and the feds for going after a man who has made Asian New Yorkers proud.

“It could all go away tomorrow, it could go on for many years, but I’m far past anything that I ever imagined growing up here in New York City,” Liu told supporters.

Peter Koo responds to Mel Siegel

Peter Koo's response to Mel Siegel

End of Astoria's only bookstore

From the Queens Gazette:

Astoria’s only independent bookstore is about to write its final chapter.

Seaburn Books will close its doors for the last time at the end of December, the victim of a rent hike, slumping sales and competition from online book merchants, owner Sam Chekwas said.

Chekwas said Seaburn Books opened on Broadway in Astoria 16 years ago and has been losing money for years. The store is located in a high rent area where a high sales volume is needed to make ends meet.

Many customers come to the store asking for digital books for their NOOKs and Kindles, and Seaburn just couldn’t compete.

Queens version of Bonnie and Clyde?

From the Daily News:

The hunt is on for two petty crooks suspected for a string of robberies in the past month — many in broad daylight.

Police are seeking Eldin Ahmetovic, 33, and Yulia Bushuyeva, 32, in connection with at least a dozen burglaries in Astoria.

The Bonnie and Clyde-esque duo have targeted numerous dwellings, all within a few blocks of each other, cops said.

Ahmetovic and Bushuyeva have committed six heists in past week, entering through windows and doors, police said.

Eagle-eyed detectives identified the pair from surveillance footage at the scene of the crimes, cops said.

This isn’t the pair’s first brush with the law.

Queens gets cleaner trains

From the Forum:

Two of the diesel engines that run on tracks cutting through Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale will get a state-of-the-art,low-emissions upgrade by 2013.

Thanks to a grant from Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, New York will get $2 million to upgrade the engines operating out of the Fresh Pond Terminal railyard in Glendale.

The EPA, New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Department of Sanitation, and New YorkCity Department of Small Business Services made the announcement on Dec. 13.

These locomotives will remain in the freightrail network and will be transformed in partnership with CSX Transportation and the joint work of the New York & Atlantic Railwayand Waste Management of New York.

The upgrade replaces each conventional diesel engine with several smaller generators that can be activated when the locomotive is working at full power and deactivated when their power is not needed.

EPA officials say these two conversionswill save an estimated 31,000 gallons of fuel each year and remove an expected 32 tons ofnitrogen oxides and 0.64 tons of particulate matter from the air annually. Removing 32 tons of nitrogen oxides from the air is the equivalent of taking more than 4,300 personal automobiles off of the road each year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vallone, Sr. vs Vallone, Jr.?

From the Daily News:

An isolated swath of Astoria that has largely been ignored by developers and businesses could soon undergo a major facelift under a proposal to erect seven waterfront residential towers and a supermarket.

The Lincoln Equities Group wants to create a project dubbed Hallets Point, with roughly 2,300 units of housing and a waterfront park along the East River near the Astoria Houses.

The public review process is expected to begin next year, city officials said.

“If done properly, it could provide new affordable residences to meet the growing demand of the neighborhood,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). It could also provide “services that that part of the neighborhood desperately needs.”

About 1,900 units would be market rate, city officials said. Another 400 will be reserved for affordable housing.

But not everyone expressed such enthusiasm for the project.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), whose father, the former Council Speaker, is a consultant for the developer, said he is on the fence about it.

Vallone said he would like to see more businesses and amenities move into the community. But “something that big is going to put a drain on the resources of that neighborhood,” he said.

Wow, has that boy found religion? He's suddenly against 40-story towers along the shore? Does anyone really think he's going to battle his pop?

I'll leave the last word to Curbed:

I can't imagine who the *hell* would want to live in that miserable desolate neighborhood. There's a lot more crap there than they're planning to build over. The projects are, well, the projects, and some 5-year-old was shot there a week or so ago. And if that water taxi doesn't pan out, it's a long, miserable, infrequent ride on the Q102 bus to get back to civilization.

Welcoming the Weiner child

From the NY Post:

After a year filled with ridicule and scandal, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner finally has something he can feel proud about — a new baby boy.

Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, gave birth to the wee Democrat yesterday, 10 days before the New Year’s Eve due date, The Post has learned. Jordan Zain Weiner checked in at 7 lbs. 5.8 oz, a source said.

Weiner emailed friends yesterday announcing the arrival of their "sparkling wonder."

Now he'll have another little Weiner to play with!

Van Bramer introduces BSA reforms

From the Queens Campaigner:

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) announced last week he was introducing four pieces of legislation dedicated to reforming the city Board of Standards and Appeals.

The councilman said the BSA, which he calls a “bogus agency,” regularly ignores community protests against out-of-character developments and dismisses community board recommendations to satisfy the wants of developers. Van Bramer said that of the 2,855 appeals to the BSA by developers between 2001 and 2005, only 2.7 percent were rejected.

“These folks to go the BSA, claim a hardship and boom, they’re able to be approved,” Van Bramer said.

The BSA said they had no comment on the legislation.

Van Bramer’s first piece of legislation, called Intro 678, would create a standard procedure for the BSA that would incorporate City Planning?, community boards, borough boards, leasees and tenants into the BSA’s decision on whether to grant a variance to a developer. These groups can currently comment on a variance, but their concerns often do not factor into the decision, Van Bramer said.

Intro 679 to 681 would expand the BSA to include appointees from the city public advocate, each borough president and each community board; create a formal complaint procedure for community members; and require the mayor’s appointees to be approved by the Council.

Palace Diner closing

From the Times Ledger:

The Palace Diner, one of the last bastions of greasy-spoon fare in Queensboro Hill, will be closing Dec. 30 after nearly four decades of serving the community.

The Main Street institution, located off the Long Island Expressway, will soon become an upscale Chinese restaurant and will leave longtime patrons, politicians and civic associations without a hangout.

“It is a catastrophe for the community,” said Myra Baird Herce, past president of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce and a well-known leader in the community. “I never ever saw such a reaction from people.”

The diner at 60-15 Main St. served as an accessible, after-church brunch spot and ladies’ night out for the ageing population of Queensboro Hill, who stopped driving years ago, according to Baird Herce.

It also served as a meeting place for political clubs, she said, and undoubtedly was a meeting place for countless, more surreptitious political discussions.

Cars on sidewalk endangering kids

From Fox 5:

It's a curb-jumping controversy that has parents in an uproar in Queens. After a third grader was nearly hit by a car driving on a sidewalk, parents want it to stop before it's too late.

On 113th Street and 71st Road in Forest Hills, parents say they have an extra worry every time they take their kids to school at P.S. 196: they are concerned about getting hit by cars driving up onto a sidewalk that is a main route for most of the children and that's also used as a driveway and parking lot by cars from the Touro College Graduate School of Education and the Bnos Malka Academy.

We tried to talk with the academy to see what they had to say, but they refused to speak with us. I did speak with the property manager from Touro College, who insisted the sidewalk parking and driving were in compliance with city codes.

We did some checking around with the city. The Department of Transportation referred us to the NYPD.

The NYPD said it is now aware of the situation and will speak with school authorities to rectify the problem.

This is mainly DOB's responsibility. And dollars to donuts, they won't do a thing about it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crime up under ground

From the Daily News:

The number of cops patrolling the subways has dropped while crime underground has risen sharply, officials revealed Monday.

The NYPD Transit Bureau head count is down nearly 10% this year compared with 2010. At the same time, subway crime — fueled by thieves targeting iPhones and other electronics — has surged nearly 18%, according to police stats released at an MTA committee hearing.

Woman parks legally, gets ticket

From NY1:

It's a totally bogus parking ticket, and driver Helen Dellaporte says the city doesn't care.

“$95 for a parking ticket for blocking a driveway that's not even there,” says Dellaporte.

That's what Dellaporte was slapped with when she parked her car in a legal spot right in front of an illegal driveway.

“My parents own this house since 1965, there's never been a driveway there. Because the curb looks low, they assumed that it was a driveway and they built an overhead door,” says Dellaporte.

The owner called the police to report their driveway was blocked and Dellaporte was ticketed.

“When I go to fight the ticket online, they say I don't have sufficient evidence. I go to my community board, they researched it with the Department of Buildings, gave me a letter to send to the appeal unit for the parking ticket,” says Dellaporte.

She still lost her appeal.

“There's no legal driveway, but I'm still stuck paying a $95 parking ticket,” says Dellaporte.

NY1 called DOB and confirmed the space is an illegal driveway.

DOB can't handle 2 roles

From the Huffington Post:

Today, the DOB is responsible for both approving and policing building construction and maintenance. These conflicting roles under one roof do not serve the public's safety. An independent office of inspections would address the consistent need for stronger enforcement and bolster the city's capacity to inspect buildings, cranes and, yes, elevators -- all pieces of our urban super-structure that have failed in recent years, with tragic results. As it is, there is an enormous backlog of violations that remain unfixed, many of them serious.

The needless death last week of ad executive Suzanne Hart in a Madison Avenue office is just one example of how flawed our current system is. Since 1995, the city DOB has allowed privately hired companies to inspect a range of routine building components -- from roofs and boilers to sidewalk sheds and elevators. These private inspectors then "self-certify" their findings, meaning that the city takes their word that the inspection results are faithful and accurate.

That is the regulatory equivalent of the fox guarding the hen-house, and it needs to end. The FDNY's own data offers more proof that something is wrong: In FY 11, more than 36,000 people have been rescued from New York City elevators, a number that has more than doubled over the last two years. Clearly, something is not right.

MTA to employ welfare recipients

From the Daily News:

Up to 1,000 welfare recipients will scrub subway stations for their benefits under a cost-cutting measure in the MTA’s 2012 budget, approved Monday by the agency’s Finance Committee.

The welfare workers are the equivalent of 225 full-time cleaners on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll.

The Work Experience Program helped hundreds of participants obtain full-time union jobs cleaning the subway before it was canceled in 2008. It’s being revived as the MTA struggles to close budget gaps year after year in the recession.

The new fiscal plan, however, did not restore last year’s service cuts.

LIRR sans trees is too noisy

From the Daily News:

Residents who live near Long Island Rail Road tracks in Forest Hills Gardens complain the trains’ door chimes and speakers blare so loudly they break up the tranquility of the leafy enclave.

Apartment dwellers say the volume around the Burns St. station forces them to pause conversations and keep their windows closed in warm weather.

“It’s constant. It’s like Chinese water torture,” said Martin Levinson, 65. “Every time the train pulls in, you know you’re going to get that blast.”

Russ Gundlach, 45, who runs a photo re-touching business out of his apartment near the tracks, said he often has to apologize on the phone to clients who hear the train noise in the background.

“When it intrudes into the daily operation of my life and my business, it’s very frustrating,” he said.

LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto said the volume of most chimes and speakers has been lowered by seven to 10 decibels under a program launched in October.

He said the remaining chimes and speakers are expected to be lowered by the end of December.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DOT still tweaking Maspeth Bypass plan

Can anyone explain these maps?

More honest graft linked to comptroller's office

From the NY Post:

Bronx state Sen. Jeff Klein couldn’t lose.

The Democrat enjoyed a profitable “of counsel” position with a personal-injury firm that specializes in suing city agencies — while his own firm collected millions from the Comptroller’s Office to evaluate some of those very same lawsuits.

Since 2006, the firm of Klein Calderoni & Santucci has received three contracts worth $2.25 million from the Comptroller’s Office to conduct so-called “50-h” hearings — preliminary reviews of suits that help the city decide if it should settle or fight.

Klein said his partner Fred Santucci Jr. does all the 50-h hearings and he is not involved. But Klein, as a partner, likely benefitted from the city contracts.

Until a few months ago, Klein was also “of counsel” with the law office of William Gallina, a small firm located in the same Bronx building as his Senate district office.

Since 2007, Gallina and his associates filed at least 114 lawsuits against various city agencies, according to court records.

Asked about the apparently cozy arrangement, Gallina said only, “At the direction of the city of New York, we have had clients examined by Fred Santucci at 50-h hearings.”

Gallina’s firm has enjoyed big paydays from suing the city.

From the NY Post:

City Comptroller John Liu’s office is taking a second look at the millions of dollars’ worth of legal work it doled out to state Sen. Jeff Klein’s firm to help the city fight lawsuits.

The move follows a report in yesterday’s Post that Klein, a Bronx Democrat, also had a financial interest in another law firm that specialized in suing the city.

“The Comptroller’s Office is currently conducting a review of the contracts,” said Michael Loughran, a spokesman for Liu.

Civic leaders want Elmhurst library preserved

From the Daily News:

A trio of civic leaders is questioning the Queens Library’s decision to tear down its historic Elmhurst branch and replace it with a larger, modern facility.

Members of the Newtown Civic Association are also concerned about traffic during and after construction in the congested neighborhood.

“It’s a design disaster,” said Robert Valdes Clausell, treasurer of the group and property manager of the Continental, a co-op tower located next to the library.

“How can you take a Carnegie library that is over 100 years old — one of only a few left in Queens — and not save at least part of it?” he asked, referring to the libraries built with funding from industrialist-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Clausell, Nicholas Dovas and Thomas McKenzie, the organization’s president, met with library officials last week to review their concerns.

But with demolition slated to start early next year, it’s unclear whether the plans will change.

Kruger resigns and pleads guilty

From NY1:

Brooklyn state senator Carl Kruger resigned from his post Tuesday moments before pleading guilty to charges he participated in a bribery scheme.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Kruger, 62, and co-defendant Michael Turano, 50, accepted nearly half a million dollars in exchange for green-lighting several projects for lobbyists and business people.

Turano, a Manhattan-based gynecologist, also pled guilty.

Before entering court, Kruger's letter of resignation was delivered to the Secretary of State Senate.

It takes effect immediately.

Kruger faces the possibility of up to 50 years in prison; Turano faces 20.

Both are scheduled to be sentenced on April 26.

City underestimated cost of park land condemnation

From NY World via Brownstoner:

The East River waterfront where Williamsburg meets Greenpoint is a jewel in the city’s plan to open the shore of North Brooklyn to the public – and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation is paying dearly for it. The Bloomberg administration is now obligated to pay more than $122 million to acquire waterfront land from two private property owners. Yet two years ago, city lawyers had claimed the property was worth only $20 million.

So far, the city has spent or committed a total of $200 million to acquiring real estate for Bushwick Inlet Park. More than one-third of the park site remains in private hands, and the city has informed property holders that it has no more funds to spend. The future of the project, known as Bushwick Inlet Park, is now uncertain.

The rezoning plan called on the City of New York to condemn and acquire 28 acres of privately owned real estate to create the park. So far it has been able to obtain only about 16 acres, at a cost many times greater than the Bloomberg administration’s projections.

Last year, the city’s Law Department reached a settlement with two waterfront property owners in a condemnation case: It agreed to pay $28.7 million for a parcel at 50 Kent Avenue and $93.4 million for 86 Kent Avenue. Documents submitted in 2009 by the city’s Law Department show that the city had earlier claimed the two sites were worth just $6.4 million and $13.6 million respectively.

The Parks Department has also so far paid $18 million to the owners of a former fuel oil tank depot directly to their north, who had failed in their application to build a new power plant at the site. The city has budgeted to pay another $60 million toward acquisition of that land over the next four years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Judge orders Indian group to turn over Creedmoor docs

From the NY Post:

A Manhattan judge has backed state investigators who are trying to get to the bottom of a controversial deal to sell state land to an Indian community group in Queens.

The organization that got the sweetheart deal, the Indian Cultural and Community Center, has stopped cooperating with detectives dispatched by state Inspector General Ellen Biben, court records show.

But Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez said in a ruling last week that there is “a legitimate and reasonable basis for [the IG’s] inquiry,” and he ordered the Indian Cultural and Community Center to turn over the records requested.

Watch when you put out your garbage

Developers & tweeders gerrymander for visas

From the NY Times:

Affluent foreigners are rushing to take advantage of a federal immigration program that offers them the chance to obtain a green card in return for investing in construction projects in the United States. With credit tight, the program has unexpectedly turned into a mainstay for the financing of these projects in New York, California, Texas and other states.

The number of foreign applicants, each of whom must invest at least $500,000 in a project, has nearly quadrupled in the last two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year, officials said. Demand has grown so fast that the Obama administration, which is championing the program, is seeking to streamline the application process.

Still, some critics of the program have described it as an improper use of the immigration system to spur economic development — a cash-for-visas scheme. And an examination of the program by The New York Times suggests that in New York, developers and state officials are stretching the rules to qualify projects for this foreign financing.

These developers are often relying on gerrymandering techniques to create development zones that are supposedly in areas of high unemployment — and thus eligible for special concessions — but actually are in prosperous ones, according to federal and state records.

Haggerty gets prison, Bloomberg still "a victim"

From the Daily News:

The Queens political operative who stole $750,000 from Mayor Bloomberg is headed for the slammer.

A judge dismissed pleas for leniency and sentenced John Haggerty to one and a third to four years in state prison.

Probation was not enough, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel said. Also, Haggerty will have to return the money, the judge said.

That means he will likely have to sell the $1.6 million Forest Hills house he grew up in — and which he ripped off the mayor to buy out his brother’s share.

Haggerty's defenders insisted Bloomberg was the real villain and that he lied under oath about never having a substantive conversation with Haggerty.

They said the money Bloomberg funneled to the Independence Party in 2009 was part of a "win-at-all-costs campaign" waged by the mayor.

The NY Times has an interesting analysis.

Cornell wins campus prize

From AM-NY:

Roosevelt Island, known for its iconic tram and sweeping view of Manhattan's East Side, will get a major makeover courtesy of Cornell University.

The Ivy League school is joining forces with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a 2 million-square-foot science and engineering campus for grad students, city officials announced Monday. The initiative is part of the Bloomberg administration's goal to turn New York into a tech hot spot to rival Silicon Valley.

"By adding a new state-of-the-art institution to our landscape, we will educate tomorrow's entrepreneurs and create the jobs of the future," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference at Weill Cornell Medical College on the Upper East Side.

Cornell-Technion was chosen among seven candidates that made proposals. The campus, which will include student housing, will be built in stages and won't be finished for another 30 years.