Saturday, June 30, 2012

More trash in Jamaica

Dear Councilman Leroy Comrie, Councilman James Gennaro, Councilman Ruben Wills, Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Vivian Cook, Iggy Terranova, Community Board #12 Members and Other Concerned Individuals:

Finally after so long of complaining about the empty lot at the NW corner of 170th St & 90th Avenue (and surrounding sidewalks), the owner came out and cleaned everything, the surrounding sidewalks and the lot itself. But how long is this going to stay this way and what are you going to do about this irresponsible and negligent owner of this property? So far, he has come out twice, June of 2011 and June of 2012. What are you going to do to see that the owner of this property (who does not even live in Jamaica) comes out on a regular basis to clean this area? I know all about the red tape, bureaucratic BS involved, but this type of negligent owner needs to be held accountable and if that means changing the system, then change it - you are the leaders in the community, so do something about this, because this is a major problem in Jamaica.

For example, attached are photos of another property, an abandoned house surrounded by a not too steady wooden fence, which has a ton of garbage all over the surrounding sidewalk. The property is located at the 170-05 Cedarcroft Rd (corner of Cedarcroft Rd & Homelawn St). I have brought this to the attention of DOS. This property has been like this for over a year if not more. Not only is it an eyesore, but the building itself does not look too safe, not to mention that part of the fence can be opened and anyone can go inside the lot, which I looked and can tell people have done that. This property is in a very visible area and residential/business area. Again another irresponsible and negligent property owner, one of hundreds who are destroying Jamaica by tearing down nice 1 family homes and leaving the property abandoned to look like an eyesore or building a cheap, 3-4 story eyesore of an apartment building that destroys the quality of the neighborhood and attracts questionable individuals to these type of properties who in turn bring Jamaica down several notches.

The abandoned playground (not city owned, but privately property) at 109th Avenue and 171st St is a major eyesore, which has garbage in the inside and all on the outside of the property. Why is this allowed to be like this for so many years in a residential area? Why is the empty lot at Merrick Blvd and Foch Blvd right across from beautiful Roy Wilkins Park allowed to be a dumping ground for all kinds of garbage for so many years? Why is the 170th Street LIRR Tunnel continually allowed to be a notorious dumping ground? Can any of you answer this? Do any of you want to actually address these problems, find solutions and solve this? This is totally unacceptable for these situations to be allowed to stay this way for such a long period of time. Again I say that this would not be allowed to happen in Long Island City (and before it was developed), Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Astoria and Rego Park. So why Jamaica? It seems to be a combination of the kinds of people who live here, the absentee property owners and a true lack of leadership concerning this issue. It is like Jamaica is the Wild Wild West where people and property owners can pretty much do whatever they want without little retribution.

I do know that many of you are attempting to do something about this garbage/litter/dumping problem but you really need to come down with the hammer of Thor on this issue. You will never attract the kinds of businesses and people of quality with the current situation here in Jamaica. Right now Jamaica just seems to be attracting more and more of lesser quality people and businesses that do very little for Jamaica except to make it a place where you do not want to live and that is a shame considering the rich history of Jamaica and the possibilities that Jamaica has.


Joe Moretti

Avella's bills to protect environment

Avella fracking bill
Avella global warming bill

Call boxes made beautiful in Woodside

Hi QC,

Someone has painted a couple of the fire alarm boxes in Woodside. This one is on 32nd Avenue. I wonder who is painting them? I doubt the FDNY, but I guess I could be wrong. Anyway, they look great.

- Anonymous

Bridge to be named after Dinkins?

From the Daily News:

Ed Koch has a bridge named after him, so why not David Dinkins?

That’s the question City Councilman Fernando Cabrera will ask Thursday when he introduces a bill to rename the Willis Avenue Bridge after New York’s first and only African-American mayor.

“David Dinkins was a political pioneer,” said Cabrera (D-Bronx). “Nobody knows who Willis was. But Dinkins was the mayor who turned the city around.”

Mr. Cabrera believes in revisionist history, apparently.

Fire escape victims back in their Bronx apartments

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bloomberg looks like really big asshole

From Gotham Schools:

An arbitrator has ruled that the city’s plans to reform 24 struggling schools by shaking up their staffs violated its collective bargaining agreements with the teachers and principals unions.

The arbitrator’s decision adds a new and abrupt twist to months of uncertainty at the schools. It also guarantees that the city cannot claim more than $40 million in federal funds that the overhaul process, known as “turnaround,” was aimed at securing.

The turnaround rules require the schools to replace half of their teachers, and the city was trying to use a clause in its contract with the teachers union, known as 18-D, to make that happen. In recent weeks, “18-D committees” told hundreds and possibly thousands of teachers and staff members at the schools they could not return next year.

Under the arbitrator’s ruling, all of those staff members are now free to take their jobs back.

The decision is a shocking blow to the Bloomberg administration, which turned to turnaround in January in a bid to win the federal funds without negotiating a new evaluation system with the United Federation of Teachers.

Quinn should return campaign money

From the Daily News:

Legislation passed in 2007, Local Law 34, lowered the maximum political contributions from those doing business with the city to $400. But due to a loophole, officeholders like Quinn could hold on to the maximum $4,950 donations from those doing business with the city received under earlier rules.

In the spirit of making local citywide elections more transparent, Local Law 34 also established a database intended to prevent even the appearance of a link between governmental decisions and large campaign contributions. This new law was designed to hinder, if not end, the age-old, transactional “pay-to-play” politics that had favored the few for so long at the expense of the many.

But the Council, led by Quinn, ended up subverting the intention of this law — by not making it retroactive.

Why would the Council allow incumbents to keep money received under limits it judged to be more than 10 times too high, potentially undermining this good- government reform?

I smell a rat here. The speaker gave herself and anyone else lucky enough to have raised lots of money under those old rules a huge head start in the 2013 mayoral race.

I used the database set up by the law — and Quinn’s public disclosures — to find at least $250,000 in campaign funds she has raised for this election cycle under the old rules.

Douglas Manor beach tops in pollution

From Douglaston Patch:

The beach at Douglas Manor was ranked first among swimming sites in the five boroughs for health standard violations in a new report by the National Resources Defense Council.

The council's study analyzed data from water tests conducted at more than 3,000 beaches across the nation. In the report, the group rates the beaches based on water quality and public notification.

Douglas Manor's beach had the highest number of violations based on unsafe swimming conditions, according to the report.

Sand replenishment a short-term solution

From CBS 2:

Huge mounds of sand are at the center of a debate on Rockaway Beach. The mounds have been offering protection to a building there for the past six months, but a new plan to use the sand to shore up an eroded section of beach 30 blocks to the south has residents in an uproar.

The beach was decimated when Hurricane Irene came through last year and some say that the sand does need to be used to replace what was lost.

The city Parks Department told CBS 2 that it is pursuing funding to bring in more sand, but residents said that similar efforts in the past have failed.

Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder said the real solution to protecting beach front property is long-term rock jetties.

Actually, the real solution is to stop building along the beach. But God forbid we use common sense.

Woodside intersection made safer

From NY1:

A couple of weeks ago, NY1 told you about a dangerous situation residents say was created after work was done on the 69th Street light, throwing off the timing. Drivers told us they couldn't see when the light was red because it was sandwiched between two green lights and blocked by tree branches.

"The day before yesterday, we had two accidents and one car flipped over," Nuruddin says.

After NY1 called the city, the Parks Department came out and trimmed the trees and the Department of Transportation synced the lights, a relief to residents who are happy to now see drivers come to a complete stop.

Rules don't apply to them

From the NY Post:

This city politician has plenty of drive — he just has trouble parking.

Brooklyn Councilman Steve Levin, whose coveted official parking placard was pulled by the Bloomberg administration in April after he racked up $630 in unpaid summonses, is in a fine mess again.

Levin, a protégé of embattled Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, has piled up 10 new tickets totaling $595 in fines and late fees since his placard was briefly taken away, according to the city’s records.

The placard, among the prized perks of city officials, was returned to Levin the same month — after he paid off eight delinquent parking tickets.

“When you settle all of your tickets, they allow you to renew your placard,” he told The Post. The pass entitles drivers to park almost anywhere, except at hydrants and bus stops.

Yet that still wasn’t good enough for Levin.

Of his 10 new tickets — all racked up since his parking placard was renewed — two were for being caught running red-light cameras. The rest were for illegal parking, with four during street-cleaning hours; three meter infractions; and one in a no-standing zone.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Needles found on Rockaway Beach

From NBC 4:

The city Parks Department cleaned up a stretch of Rockaway Beach in Queens Monday after NBC 4 New York contacted the agency about medical waste, including syringes, littering the shore.

There were multiple syringes, including one with an exposed needle, lying across the sand near Beach 116th Street Monday night. NBC 4 New York found three, and another beach stroller found one more.

It's not clear if the needles were washing up on shore as medical waste or if they were left behind by beachgoers who used them.

Soccer stadium floated for FMCP

From the Wall Street Journal:

After a wide search, Major League Soccer officials have zeroed in on a run-down section of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens as their preferred site for the league's first New York stadium, according to multiple officials briefed on the matter.

In recent weeks, top MLS officials have presented a detailed proposal to local politicians, outlining a plan for a 20,000- to 25,000-seat stadium on roughly eight acres near the northern end of the park.

The plan, still in its nascent stages, would create a home for a brand-new league team, as yet unnamed. The league believes construction could be completed one to two years after the project receives the necessary approvals, according to officials briefed on the plans.

The move is perhaps surprising given that MLS opened the $220 million Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., in 2010.

But landing a stadium in New York City—a media capital and an ethnically diverse urban center—would be a significant boost to the league's international stature. Founded in 1993, the professional league comprises 19 teams, 16 in the U.S. and three in Canada.

As part of the proposal, MLS would also refurbish public soccer fields on the site and create a cricket field and volleyball courts, according to people familiar with the plans.

City missed a lot of cell antennae

From the Village Voice:

The City Department of Finance didn't collect an estimated $24 million in cell phone antenna-related taxes because it didn't ID all the people collecting cash from antennas, Comptroller John Liu announced today.

Yes, you read that correctly: because the Department of Finance didn't look at Department of Buildings data indicating structures with antennas -- which, under law, must be taxed -- Finance overlooked 2000 taxable property owners.

Under City law, people who own commercial property or big apartment buildings have to tell the DOF whether they're making money from antennas. That's because any such profits make these properties more valuable, affecting how much they should be taxed.

The audit, which was a collaboration between Liu and State Comptroller Thomas P. Di Napoli, claims that at least 2,108 properties failed to claim income from 2008 to 2009.

Finance, on the other hand, only identified 90 offending properties.

Shoddy construction kills

From CBS 2:

It takes just a few minutes — and everything and everyone you love could be gone.

CBS 2’s Lou Young has obtained a dramatic new video demonstrating the dangers of a popular new type of house construction.

One spark becomes a firestorm, but there is a solution.

Engineers vouch for the stuff. It is light and strong, able to bear weight, able to stand up to stress. Superior, many people say, in every way to standard stick construction.

That is, except when on fire.

Live fire tests tell the tale, with light-weight roof sections and floors failing four times faster than traditional construction, and usually gone in minutes... The man who conducted these tests told CBS 2’s Young firefighters are less likely to attempt interior rescues when light construction is present.

Member item pork is once again shady

From the NY Post:

The City Council dished out nearly $147 million for pet projects throughout members’ districts, including a grant to a dysfunctional medical center in Queens that even Mayor Bloomberg’s agencies doubt should get taxpayer money.

Included in the massive list of “member items” — funds individual council members dole out to non-profits — is a $5,000 allocation to Angeldocs, whose city funds are under examination by the city Health Department.

Last year’s taxpayer-funded council grants to Angeldocs were reviewed in April by the Department after The Post reported it was delinquent on property taxes and its only staffer, Dr. Dorothy Ogundu, refused to reveal details about her practice.

Despite that, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) appropriated another $5,000 for the clinic, which Council Speaker Christine Quinn has yet to approve.

Comrie couldn’t be reached for comment last night.

Quinn’s spokeswoman, Maria Alvarado, pointed out that many member items have not been approved and allocated yet for Fiscal Year 2013, which begins Sunday.

The council also gave $573,589 to the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, the massive charity run by Brooklyn’s Democratic Party chairman, Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here are the winners of yesterday's primary

From NY1:

In Queens, Assemblywoman Grace Meng was declared the winner in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District seat.

According to AP numbers as of 12:30 a.m., Meng had 51 percent of the vote with 89 percent of precincts reporting. Assemblyman Rory Lancman had 28 percent, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley had 16 percent and Dr. Robert Mittman had 5 percent.

"This is an important win for our shared priorities and our shared understanding that what's different about all of us here in Queens is nothing compared to what we all have in common," Meng said.

Queens Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries was declared the winner over City Councilman Charles Barron for the nomination in the 8th Congressional District.

As of 12:30 a.m., with 98 percent of precincts reporting, AP numbers say that Jeffries leads with 72 percent of the vote to Barron's 28 percent.

Looks like the Machine strategy of vote splitting worked!

Atlas Park lot used for towed cabs

From the NY Times:

In sleek black sedans and unmarked blue vans, stretch limousines and family-friendly S.U.V.’s, the city’s unlicensed taxi drivers have long thrived on a simple fact: Officials often could not seize their cars because there was no place to put them.

But about three months ago, David S. Yassky, the chairman of New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, received an e-mail from an old acquaintance. The man had heard about the space issue, he said. Would the city like to use his lot in Queens?

The man was Damon Hemmerdinger, a co-president at his family’s real estate company, ATCO Properties and Management, and the son of Dale Hemmerdinger, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

After reading an article in The New York Times about the dearth of available tow pound space for unlicensed taxis, Mr. Hemmerdinger agreed to allow the city to use his company’s roughly two-acre lot in Glendale. The city needed to pay only for electricity, lot security, and an occasional cleaning.

By the beginning of June, the lot could hold more than 100 unlicensed taxis at a time. Turnover is typically rapid, as drivers retrieve their vehicles after paying fines and fees that often rise to over $500. Over the last year, the commission added about 60 enforcement agents, bringing its total to over 150. In 2011, 1,737 cars were seized, according to the commission. This year, more than 2,400 cars have been rounded up already.

More people ask for review of property tax bills

From the NY Post:

New Yorkers are hitting the roof because of ballooning property-tax bills.

A near-record 52,123 city taxpayers are appealing their home assessments this year — close to a 4 percent jump from the 50,249 who questioned their bills last year, The Post has learned. Of that total, 8,249 received reductions.

The highest number of appeals the city Tax Commission has ever seen was 52,130 in 1998.

Tax officials attribute the jump to the frustrating combination of growing bills and plummeting profits in home sales.

Another reason is the difficulty in selling homes.

Because the city values condos and co-ops as rentals, not single-family homes, annual assessments are often higher than what homeowners think they should be. Assessments directly determine how much homeowners pay in taxes.

Another complication is that the city staggers tax-bill increases over a period of years, so a levy can go up while a home value decreases.

The commission is currently reviewing the appeals.

Used car seller in hot water

From the NY Post:

A Queens used-car dealer will be driving off into the sunset — unless a judge overturns sanctions from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Auto Palace of Woodside was hit with two rulings: One would suspend its business certificate for 90 days; the other would revoke it permanently.

The dealership is going to Queens Supreme Court to fight the rulings, which were based on violations including charging customers for DMV and other documents that Auto Palace never filed. The dealership denies the accusations.

On another front, Auto Palace, which received an F grade from the Better Business Bureau, also faces a possible revocation of its business license by city regulators, sources told The Post.

Photo from Sunnyside Post.

Ground broken on huge Fedex facility

From DNA Info:

FedEx has just broken ground on its new $56 million distribution center on Borden Avenue in Long Island City, which it hopes will bring 80 new jobs to the neighborhood and pave the way for other large industrial businesses to move there, company officials said.

The new 140,000 square-foot automated distribution center will replace the company's smaller and older facility in Maspeth and is scheduled to open in August 2013.

The Queens small-package ground delivery unit will now be conveniently located close to the Long Island Expressway and the Midtown Tunnel.

There will be 80 new hires while 120 employees will be moving from the current FedEx facility.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Elizabeth Crowley is uniquely qualified for congress

"Mama didn't believe in birth control. Vote for me!"

The plan for 5 Pointz

From Sunnyside Post:

The 5 Pointz graffiti warehouse is likely to be demolished by September 2013 and replaced by two apartment buildings if the property owner’s plans are approved.

Last Wednesday, David Wolkoff, whose family owns the Long Island City property, attended a land use committee meeting at Community Board 2 in Woodside to provide an “information presentation” on the proposed development.

He told the committee that he planned to erect two residential towers that would contain 1,000 rental units. One tower would be 47 stories high, while the other 41 stories. As part of the development, there would be between 25,000 and 30,000 sqf. of retail space.

Wolkoff said that 55% to 60% of the rental units would be 1 bedroom apartments; 20% studios; and the balance, 2 bedroom or loft-style apartments. At this point, the apartments will be rented at market rate, which is at about $30 per sqf., Wolkoff said.

The development will include walls that graffiti artists can use to display their art and there will be a small number of artist studios.

Fat Boy getting a makeover?

From the Daily News:

A crumbling, controversial monument on the grounds of Queens Borough Hall may finally get a long-delayed facelift.

The Triumph of Civic Virtue, which has courted legions of supporters and detractors for almost 100 years, has been fenced off.

The Queens Borough President’s office has been told the statue will be removed from its fountain base and restored at another location.

“The temporary fencing was installed to prevent people from taking shelter in the statue base,” said Lauren Passalacqua, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg. “(The Department of Citywide Administrative Services) is continuing its assessment of the statue.”

It’s unclear what the restoration will entail and whether it will include the fountain and the badly deteriorated steps leading to it.

Counterfeit Angry Birds toys seized

From DNA Info:

An alleged counterfeit-toy ring that supplied fake Angry Birds and Disney merchandise to stores around the city was broken up last week, according to the Queens District Attorney's office.

Ying Jiang, 38, Deqiang Luo, 49, and Haiwei Chen, 54, were charged with first-degree trademark counterfeiting, a crime that could net the trio up to 15 years in prison, the DA's office said.

According to the complaint, Epstein Drangel LLP, the intellectual property firm representing Angry Birds' creator Rovio Entertainment and Disney Enterprise, hired private investigator Richard Taute to go undercover at the warehouse of J & L Trading at 15-17 132 St., near 15th Avenue.

Taute met with the alleged counterfeiters on April 6 and said he wanted to make a purchase, according to the court documents.
He then allegedly bought knapsacks, watches, umbrellas, pencil cases, caps, toy cars and action figures emblazoned with Angry Birds, Disney and other logos and characters.

According to the law firm, the retail value of the products is estimated to be as much as $500,000.

Luo, of Whitestone and Chen, of Flushing, were released immediately, while Jiang, who is also from Whitestone, was held on $5,000 bail.

DOJ to monitor Queens elections

From the NY Times:

The Justice Department will send federal officials to observe Congressional primary elections on Tuesday in Queens and the Hudson Valley, the department announced on Monday.

The department did not give a reason for why it would monitor polling places in Queens, but the Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the voting process on the basis of race, color or language. In the borough’s highest-profile race, four Democrats are vying to run for an open seat in the Sixth Congressional District, whose population is about 40 percent Asian and 20 percent Hispanic.

Cops that report corruption become targets

From the NY Times:

The phone numbers could not be easier to remember.

One is 1-800-Pride-PD; 212-CORRUPT is another.

Yet dialing these numbers can be the most difficult call a police officer ever makes.

“I’m reporting a guy on my team. What do I do? What do I do?” said Jeffrey McAvoy, a former narcotics detective who called in 2008 to report a lieutenant whom he suspected of stealing $5,000 hidden in a drug dealer’s sneakers.

“I went to the bathroom about a dozen times and threw up, actually physically threw up, before I made the call,” Mr. McAvoy recalled.

The Patrol Guide, a hefty set of regulations governing conduct in the New York Police Department, states that all officers “have an absolute duty to report any corruption or serious misconduct.” But within the department, that regulation contends with an older taboo against informing on other police officers.

...the department’s official stance, according to lawsuits filed by three former detectives and one current one, runs counter to what police officers have experienced.

Those lawsuits, and interviews with several officers who have called Internal Affairs to report their colleagues, seem to provide ample evidence that the anti-snitching culture in the Police Department remains virulent.

The department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, declined to comment.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Even allies think the EDC is full of crap

From the Queens Chronicle:

Although plans for Willets Point, also known as the Iron Triangle, were leaked last month, Bloomberg outlined a timeline at the Laguardia Marriott Hotel in East Elmhurst for development initially along 126th Street and eventually in the Citi Field parking lot. The first phase of the Willets Point development is expected to take up to 15 years.

Following completion, the developers will erect “Willets West” on the existing Citi Field parking lot and turn it into a million- square-foot retail and entertainment center with more than 200 stores, movie theaters, restaurants, a parking structure and surface spaces for 2,500 cars.

This is the part of the project that has some in the community scratching their heads. Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, who attended the breakfast, said he isn’t sure of the plan’s legality. Citi Field and its parking lot sit on public parkland, and Kelty doesn’t think putting up a commercial shopping center is the proper usage.

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, who organized the breakfast at the mayor’s urging, thinks such a use of the parking lot could be alienation of parkland.

But Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., said following the mayor’s speech that a 1961 agreement with the Mets allows for development.

Really? Well then why hasn't it already been done? They waited this whole time to build a mall on the parking lot when they got approval for it more than 50 years ago? As usual, what's coming out of city officials' mouths smells like crap.

Bike Share program a liability

From the NY Times:

The New York City comptroller, John C. Liu, is warning that the city’s ambitious bike-share program, which is to begin next month, could face lawsuits from accidents involving those bikes.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Liu said that he was concerned that the Transportation Department had not adequately prepared for litigation that could result from the program, which is expected to put 10,000 bicycles on the streets by next summer. “I support bicycling in the city, but I also think we need to be realistic about the potential exposure the city faces,” he said.

Mr. Liu, a possible candidate for mayor next year, is set to outline his concerns in a report next week that he said would focus on improving the safety of riders and pedestrians and, as a result, better insulate the city from liability.

But accidents will happen, as will lawsuits, and the $10 million insurance policy the city required Alta Bicycle Share, which is operating the program, to obtain may not be large enough, he said.

“It’s unclear; it’s untested,” he said. “What we do know is that claims against the city to date have exceeded $10 million a year, and that’s without these 10,000 rental bikes.”

Rich folk leaving USA in droves

From the NY Post:

Startling new data from Uncle Sam show that defections by Americans are expected to double this year, largely to avoid any stiff tax bills resulting from the proposed 55 percent hike on the rich — as well as the likely expiration on Dec. 31 of the Bush era tax cuts.

As many as 8,000 US citizens are projected by immigration officials to renounce in 2012, or about 154 a week, versus 3,805 in 2011, or about 73 per week.

“High-net-worth individuals are making decisions that having a US passport just isn’t worth the cost anymore,” said Jim Duggan, a lawyer at Duggan Bertsch, which specializes in protecting assets of the wealthy.

“They’re able to do what they do from any place in the world, and they’re choosing to do it from places with much lower tax rates,” he said.

“Some are philosophically disgusted at the course our country is taking in all kinds of ways. They’re making a strong protest of, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Duggan. “But largely it’s an economic decision.”

Delays for Bloomberg legacy projects

From the NY Post:

Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy parks are coming — but they’re mired in hefty price tags and design problems.

The city has over-promised and under-delivered on $291 million in park projects that are being rushed to seal the mayor’s place in history, critics say.

The eight regional parks were announced with great fanfare in April 2007 as part of Hizzoner’s ambitious PlaNYC program.

Five years later, the push to get them completed — or at least under way — before the end of the mayor’s term in 2013 has led to downsized plans, engineering issues and delays.

“There was no planning, no realistic cost estimates. It was fantasy mixed with p.r.,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks Advocates.

Troubles emerged soon after the mayor’s goals were passed to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and his strapped Parks Department. Benepe announced his resignation last week.

In its rush to build, the city skipped crucial steps like site reviews, park activists say.

At Highland Park, for example, the environmental assessment began months too late. And the city seemed unaware the soil under Calvert Vaux Park is a stew of Fort Lafayette munitions and dredge mud from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge’s construction.

Thar she blows in Astoria!

From Astoria Ugly:

Astoria’s blue whale! Or perhaps a small cruise ship—the balcony looks like the lifeboat hanging off the side.

Kind of reminds me of the Good Ship Lolly Crap.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Has problem bodega reformed?

From the Queens Courier:

A city investigation pinned a previously problematic deli grocery store in Briarwood with only one violation after multiple residents complained the store was selling “loosie” cigarettes and packs of smokes to minors.

Community Board 8 filed a complaint against the 84th Deli Grocery to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) this April, according to District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide. The store, located at 84th Drive and Manton Street, was formerly Stop & Go before new owners took over in late 2008.

According to a spokesperson for the DCA, the city agency issued one violation for selling loosie cigarettes to an adult during inspections this May, but the store was not found to be selling tobacco to minors.

However, numerous violations for selling alcohol to minors — accumulated since 2006 under previous owners — did cause the New York State Liquor Authority to revoke the deli’s liquor license in November 2009, records showed.

The store — which no longer sells alcohol — has stayed out of trouble for the most part since then, said manager Mohammed Ahmed.

Ahmed, who worked for a couple of months under the former owners, said he makes sure his employees always ask for proper identification to avoid repeating problems of the past.

Avella sex offender legislation passes Senate

From Little Neck Patch:

The state Senate has passed a bill proposed by Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, that would speed up the risk level determination timetable for convicted sex offenders.

The legislation would ensure that offenders are officially categorized under the state's Sex Offender Registration Act prior to their sentencing or release from incarceration.

The state Senate unanimously voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday, but the state Assembly has yet to act on the legislation.

Gang takedown

From the Daily News:

Gang banging isn’t the same as in years past – there’s no more flagging, boasting colors to rep your set or even carrying your own handgun, police said Thursday.

The youngest gang member – a 16-year-old boy – arrested in a takedown of more than 50 people in one Queens neighborhood since October - was known to move guns between stash spots, police said.

Out of the 56 collared, 30 of them are known gangsters - about half Bloods and the other half Crips, cops said.

The investigation was part of the NYPD’s Strategic Prosecution Planning, where cops would pinpoint specific problems within an area - in this case, gangs and drugs mostly centered around the Ocean Bay Houses, Cruzado said.

Asians are largest immigrant group

From NY Magazine:

The big demographic discussion of the 2012 elections might be about how the parties can court America's growing Hispanic population, but in future presidential races, the conversation might center around the Asian vote. According to new research from the Pew Research Center, people from Asian countries now make up the largest group of immigrants to the Unites States, surpassing what had previously been the group with the biggest influx, Hispanics. In 2010, there were 430,000 Asian immigrants, versus 370,000 (or 36 percent of all immigrants versus 31).

Open door policy trumps law

From the NY Times:

To those who ask what right the government has to dictate to shop owners on a matter of this sort, the Council’s response was simple. Public policy, it said in 2008, is to “conserve energy, reduce peak power demands during hot weather periods and limit environmental pollution and local contributions to global warming.”

Yet enforcement of the law, signed by the mayor with little enthusiasm, has not been conspicuously vigorous. The Consumer Affairs Department, which has responsibility, says that last summer it conducted more than 500 inspections and issued warnings or violation citations to 199 stores.

A first offense brings a warning. A second offense carries a $200 fine, and subsequent violations within an 18-month period can bring $400 fines. For many stores, the penalties are no doubt shrugged off as the cost of doing business.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ackerman thinks his constituents are stupid

From the Daily News:

BBW: Congressman Ackerman, you’ve been here 30 years. Can you define comity as it existed when you arrived versus how it exists now?

ACKERMAN: Your premise is that comity exists now. It may not be entirely accurate. It used to be you had real friends on the other side of the aisle. It’s not like that anymore.

Society has changed. The public is to blame as well. I think the people have gotten dumber. I don’t know that I would’ve said that out loud pre-my announcement that I was going to be leaving. [Laughter] But I think that’s true. I mean everything has changed.

SLA goofs on liquor license

From DNA Info:

The State Liquor Authority iced a liquor store’s plan to set up shop between two churches in Corona — in violation of state law — after congregants, church officials and local pols raised a furor.

Under the law, liquor stores and bars must be at least 200 feet from churches and schools, but Bao Liquors was looking to open up on 97th Street and Northern Boulevard, a block that is home to four houses of worship.

The application for the store, which moved from its former location at 98th Street, has now been put on hold as the SLA conducts an investigation.

The store sits directly between two churches — the Iglesia Biblica Cristiana and the Levantado Hombres de Valor, which have been open for years — and is on the same block as the Iglesia Adventista Hispana and the Pentecostal Church of Christ.

The store, a former bodega that has not yet opened, immediately drew fire from regular churchgoers when a sign went up last week indicating the shop was becoming a liquor store.

Horse riding school subject of complaints

From CBS 2:

In the midst of oppressive heat, a Queens neighborhood with a quaint view of horses has become overwhelmed by the smell of them.

Lynne’s Riding School in Forest Hills is a little stable tucked into a corner of the big city. They have been offering lessons for 65 years, but, lately, the old stable has been the subject of complaints from newer neighbors.

Vallone ordered to cough up correspondence

From Courthouse News Service:

On Aug. 10, 2010, Schoolcraft sued New York City, Marino, and several officers and doctors for nearly 20 claims, including false arrest, abuse of process, medical malpractice and negligence.

He sought $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

When discovery began in May 2011, Schoolcraft sought leave to add a free-speech violation to his complaint and to access correspondence between New York City Councilman Peter Vallone, D-Queens, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Vallone, known for his vocal support of the NYPD, is not a party to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet turned down the new charge on June 13, but ordered Vallone to cough up the correspondence.

In the second half of the order, Sweet said Vallone could not quash the subpoena because he represented a different precinct than the one that Schoolcraft patrolled.

"With respect to Councilman Vallone's contention that the discovery requests are irrelevant because Councilman Vallone represents an area within the confines of the 114th Precinct rather than the 81st Precinct where plaintiff was stationed, it must be noted that the allegations in the complaint are not limited to the 81st Precinct," the order states. "Instead, plaintiff alleges that the policy about which he complained affected the entire NYPD, and Councilman Vallone's statements to the press concerning this policy suggest Councilman Vallone to be possession of information related to that citywide policy."

Documentary about Prospect Cemetery

From Curbed:

350-year-old Prospect Cemetery in Queens is the subject of a documentary that is getting the Kickstarter treatment this month, and the fund-raising campaign has been successful thus far. The documentary's director is Peter Riegert, who is an actor (Animal House, Local Hero) and Oscar-nominated director (By Courier). Riegert is making a documentary titled Prospect about the savior of the Prospect Cemetery from the encroachment of nature, neglect, and vandalism. As he says in his Kickstarter appeal, "we resist our mortality, but nature insists upon it." More than just a tale of urban reclamation, however, the documentary is a history of a small slice of Queens and NYC.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bye, bye, Dutch Kills farmhouse

From the Daily News:

This is no joke. What's it take to get a Buddhist monk, Catholic nun, three real estate moguls, a home-schooled pre-teen, two infants, a corporate lawyer and a drenched Pomeranian on a farmhouse porch on a rainy day in a neighborhood half of New York City has never heard of?

A house. A house built in the 1860s that some say was the original farm in one of New York's oldest neighborhood.s More specifically, a house that could be torn down to make way for a multi-family apartment building or a small hotel.

Purchased in an estate sale for just over $1 million two years ago, 38-20 28th St. in the Long Island City neighborhood of Dutch Kills is slated for demolition sometime in the next 45 days. The plumber was there last week to turn off the water and gas. Owned by a family or entity in Brooklyn who just want to make a slight profit, the Dutch Kills farmhouse can be saved by someone who will pay a price.

"They will sell the house to anyone who can offer $1.5 to $1.7 million," says the owners' representative who wished not to be identified. "They paid over $1 million, put about $200,000 in the house, and would like to walk away with a little money."

According to the rep, they have a deal on the table for an alleged partnership that plans to share profits in a new 33-feet high structure containing several apartments or a 30-plus room hotel. The building plans are in accordance with the current zoning.

They are not in accordance with the desire of the current neighborhood residents. They point to the double-size lot, five-car garage that could be converted into an artist studio, large lawn that could become an urban garden or orchard, swimming pool or tennis court. They hope a buyer sees the value of owning a historic home just seven minutes to the 59th St. Bridge and Midtown Manhattan.

Upzoning. UPzoning! UPZONING!

Lancman calls for eminent domain at St. Saviour's

From The Forum:

Assemblyman Rory Lancman stepped into the City Council district of one of his rivals Thursday to advocate the use of eminent domain to buy the former St. Saviour’s Church property in Maspeth.

For more than five years, neighbors and parkland advocates have lobbied the city to turn the boarded-up property into parkland. It’s currently a dirt lot with a warehouse tucked in a corner.

Last week, Lancman and a few backers took the chance to criticize Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the Department of Parks and Recreation saying they have failed to serve the neighborhood’s needs.

“What we’re looking at behind us is not just an eyesore and a terrible waste of resources, but a physical representation of a monumental failure on the part of government to take care of the needs of this community,” Lancman said, standing in front of plywood fencing surrounding the 1.5-acre lot.

Lancman is competing in a Democratic primary for the 6th District congressional seat against Crowley and Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
For the past few years, the owner of the property was unwilling tosell the land despite the $3.5 million dedicated to the prospect from Crowley and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

When Crowley pulled her portion of that funding and the Parks Department dropped its bid for the plan in November, some activists were furious.

Lancman cashed in on that sore spot by calling the press conference Thursday.

“The long and short of it is there was a window of opportunity when the city could have purchased this property and turned it into a park,” Lancman said. “And through a series of mistakes and omissions and just bad judgment the city failed to do so.”

Mirroring the call of about eight parks advocates and neighbors behind him, Lancman said acquiring this parkland would be a textbook case in which to use eminent domain despite its abuses elsewhere.

He pledged he would use the political leverage available to him to influence the city’s hand if he’s elected to Congress.

He also said he wouldn’t rule out using eminent domain on a federal level to claim the area as United States parkland.

From the Queens Chronicle:

Crowley’s campaign declined to comment, but wearing her City Council hat she has said numerous times that eminent domain could be troublesome for a number of reasons, including the fact that the city is authorized to pay no more than the appraised $5 million for the parcel.

She has warned that legal fees, the cost of also acquiring and knocking down the existing warehouse on the site and other things could push the cost millions higher.

Critics at the press conference expressed certainty that Maspeth Development Corp., which has been asking a reported $7 million for the site, intentionally threw up the warehouse in a deliberate effort to jack up the price.

Squatters make life hell in Ridgewood

From the Forum:

René Zupancic lives in fear of her neighbors.

“They throw everything out on the roof or out those windows. They throw used sanitary napkins along the road over here. They scream; they yell. They beat a dog up really really bad one time. They’re heroin users,” she said. “It’s terrible.”

On Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood, Zupancic and her brother live next door to an abandoned three-story building that a group of eight to 12 young squatters have claimed as their own.

For more than a year, she’s been forced to tolerate illegal neighbors who fight, drink, smell, shoot up and generally terrorize the neighborhood, she said.

Recently it’s gotten worse, she said, with the squatters getting more violent and rowdy, doing things like throwing a car mirror into oncoming traffic or abusing animals.

In desperation, Zupancic is reaching out to the local community board and anyone else who will listen.

“These people are roamers, and it’s bad enough that they’re squatting there,” said Gary Giordano, Community Board 5’s district manager. “It’s getting pretty crazy.”

Giordano said PSCH has abandoned the building and is in the process of getting it demolished but is held up in housing court.

Noise from sidewalk cafes a concern in Astoria

From DNA Info:

Astoria is becoming clogged with noisy sidewalk cafes that draw crowds of diners and bargoers to the neighborhood and make life miserable for locals, especially at night, some residents say.

The problem has become so bad in some spots that Community Board 1 rejected bids by two businesses at a meeting last Tuesday night to get outdoor seating, despite approving several other applicants for either renewed or new sidewalk cafes.

Dozens of sidewalk cafes on 30th Avenue, some of which stay open late in the evenings, have been attracting young and sometimes noisy crowds, turning longtime residents' lives into sleep deprived nightmares, according to residents.

"It is impossible to sleep at night," Karen Afrides, 54, who has lived on 36th Street off 30th Avenue for 20 years, said at a heated public hearing last Tuesday.

"Why is our quality of life diminished because some people want to have a good time? It’s not our good time."

Afrides, one of several residents who expressed their dissatisfaction with numerous sidewalk cafes and booming nightlife in the area. "We have to have our sidewalks back," she said.

City designs system to save developers money

From Crains:

In a move designed to streamline the hugely cumbersome process by which developers apply to get their projects approved, the Department of City Planning rolled out a new system that will make things easier, faster and more predictable.

"This is a total transformation of how we review all land-use applications," said City Planning Director Amanda Burden. "We think it will foster growth in the city and get projects in the ground faster."

Dubbed BluePRint, which stands for Business Process Reform, the new system will be used in what is known as projects' pre-certification review period, during which they undergo complex environmental and land-use analyses. That process can drag on for several years — if not longer. Following that, projects enter the formal city public review known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which typically takes another six months or so.

Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, who played a key role in the creation of BluePRint, announced its launch Thursday morning at a forum sponsored by the Association for a Better New York. The system will go live July 2, and by the time it is fully implemented in about two years, it is expected to allow City Planning to review two-thirds of all applications 25% to 50% faster than it does today. What's more, the streamlining is expected to save developers up to $100 million annually in various costs.

"Streamlining the review of development applications is exactly what New York City needs to build upon the economic progress we've made and help us prepare for the future," Mr. Steel said, in a statement. "More development means more jobs for New Yorkers, and BluePRint simplifies the way applications are reviewed so those jobs can be created as soon as possible."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Here are the NY-6 candidates in their own words

From WNYC:

The Democratic candidates running for Congress in the new 6th District in Queens took to the airwaves on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday. Their appearances occurred on the same day the New York Times published a piece that declared the race wide open. With less than a week to go before the election, the candidates reinforced their core messages, while trying to distinguish themselves from their opponents.

NYC gets money from congress for transportation projects

From NY1:

The city is getting more than $338 million from the federal government for its two main infrastructure projects.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney said Tuesday that the Appropriations Committee's budget for the 2013 fiscal year includes more than $123 million for the Second Avenue subway.

The amount represents the final funding of the government's overall $1.3 billion support for the project, promised in an agreement signed in 2007.

Meanwhile, the East Side Access project connecting the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal will receive $215 million.

MTA loses millions due to bus farebeating

From the Daily News:

THE MTA LOSES about $50 million in revenue each year to bus farebeaters — more than triple what it previously estimated, the Daily News has learned.

The staggering figure is partly the result of a new way the authority calculates fare-dodging, but also indicates that the longstanding problem has worsened because of lax enforcement, sources said.

The authority previously had estimated that bus farebeaters were stealing $14 million worth of free rides annually.

Gauging bus freeloading levels has been an inexact science. Drivers are supposed to keep tallies by pushing a button every time someone boards without paying. The authority also has used video to estimate the frequency of bus farebeating.

Alley Pond playground reopens after fire

From Bayside Patch:

The Alley Pond Park playground reopened late last week after having been shuttered in September due to an apparent act of arson.

Councilman Mark Weprin, D-Oakland Gardens, who obtained funds to repair the playground, joined Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and local leaders Friday to reopen the site.

A total $175,000 was spent to replace the playground equipment, which was damaged during an overnight fire on Sept. 28.

City Department of Parks and Recreation officials believe that the fire was an act of arson, but no arrests have been made in the incident.

DOB catches a mad paver!



Result: 57-36 75 STREET

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Woodhaven Blvd gypsy beggar

I suggest anyone who sees this woman, call 911. She is neglecting these kids. The one on the left is old enough for school yet apparently not attending one. I pulled this photo off the wall of the Glendale Civic Assn on Facebook.