Sunday, September 30, 2012

High over College Point

A radio-controlled airplane fitted with a camera takes off from Powell's Cove Park and films some nice aerial views of College Point, but the battery falls out mid-flight and it crashes into a tree and is then recovered by the FDNY.

New parking plan for Jackson Heights

From DNA Info:

Now the city thinks they've come up with a solution to problems like Arman's. The Department of Transportation has proposed a new PARK Smart parking plan designed to address parking problems throughout the community.

The plan, which is waiting for approval from the local community board, would alter pricing, time limits and hours of operation for Jackson Heights meters, ultimately addressing the unique difficulties Jackson Heights drivers face, DOT Queens Borough Commisioner Maura McCarthy said.

"Of any area, I think this is an area in which it would be helpful," McCarthy said of the plan.

According to the DOT, the plan would increase the time limits on parking meters from one hour to two hours on 74th Street between 37th Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue, and on Roosevelt Avenue from 74th Street to 82nd Street.

But whereas now a 60-minute stop will cost you $1, under a new, "progressive rate" plan, some meters would be bumped up to $1.50. A two-hour stay would cost $4.00. In addition, meters on that stretch of 74th Street, as well as meters on 37th Road, would shut off at 10 p.m. instead of the current 7 p.m.

Arboricide in Middle Village


On Tuesday, September 4th a Juniper Park Civic Association member called in a report to 311 and the JPCA hotline that a man was in the process of cutting down a NYC Street Tree on 69th Street. A report went into the Queens Department of Parks. John Mueller of the Parks Forestry Division and the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) visited the location, 69-01 Juniper Boulevard South and found two street trees cut. One tree was cut at its base while the other a larger red leaf maple, had all of its branches sawed off. The homeowner, Jan Tibor Bogdan, told PEP officers and Mr. Mueller that he cut the trees. Tibor Bogdan dumped the branches he cut into his backyard. The homeowner told Parks officials that one tree was damaged in a storm and the other was diseased. However Parks' John Mueller could find no evidence of disease and was quoted as saying the trees were healthy.

The Queens High Line vs. the Queens Express

190-unit facility...on City Island?

From the Bronx Times:

Community leaders on City Island are weighing legal action against a developer who plans a 190-unit assisted living and senior housing facility in the quiet, island community.

They charge the four-story, 190-unit violates local zoning law.

The project has been turned down by Community Board 10 and the Department of City Planning, but the developer plans to push an appeal with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

The proposed facility would rise on a vacant lot at Schofield Street and City Island Avenue, and is being pushed by the Yonkers-based Italian Hospital Society.

A BSA hearing date has not been set, but a lawyer for the developer is scheduled to address CB 10’s November housing and zoning committee meeting, said Barbara Dolensek, vice-president of the City Island Civic Association.

“The structure being proposed is way too big and out of the tenor and the tone of City Island,” said City Island Civic Association president Bill Stanton.

He said he believes having such a large building standing could turn into a problem if the state health department ultimately rejects a license for the assisted living and housing facility for people over age 55.

190 units of anything on City Island just sounds bizarre. Add into the mix elderly people who need medical care, one main street that is a parking lot more often than not, lack of public transportation, etc., and you have to wonder what the developer is really trying to put there.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Protect FMCP from developers

Too many hookahs spoil the air

From DNA Info:

The recent proliferation of hookah shops in Little Egypt might be harmful to children’s health, even if they are just passing by on the sidewalk, parents say. 

While some restaurants in “Hookah Central,” on Steinway Street between 25th and 28th avenues, require customers to smoke indoors, other venues have set up chairs in front of entrances, where people enjoy smoking while sipping coffee. And while the smell of apple and mango flavored smoke gives the area its unique character, some parents say the air has become unhealthy. 

“It’s not good for the baby,” said Selna Ael, who on Tuesday afternoon was walking outside the hookah shops with her 6-month-old son, Ali. An Iraqi immigrant, Ael said even though hookah smoking is popular in her homeland, she often avoids Steinway Street to protect her newborn from too much smoke. 

Mustakin Khondkir, 34, a father of two children, ages 4 and 6, agreed about the potential danger. “I quit smoking for my kids, but now they have to inhale all this hookah smoke,” added Khondkir, a cab driver, who has lived in the area for 17 years. “In the last two years the situation has been out of control.” 

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said hookah lounges are not subject to smoke regulations as long as the hookahs are tobacco free. A police source confirmed the 114th Precinct receives numerous complaints about smoke from a growing number of hookah venues on Steinway Street, especially during summer. The source added that it is illegal to place chairs outside without a permit.

Taking a ride on the Forest Park carousel

PIX11's Lisa Mateo visits the Forest Park carousel in Woodhaven, Queens. Restoring the century-old landmark took some years, but its now open to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. It features the work of master woodcarver Daniel Muller.

City Council passes very important legislation

From the Daily News:

A bill passed by the City Council Monday will require restaurants and other businesses regulated by the Health Department to post a “quick response” code by next year that can be scanned with a smartphone to pull up instant information about the business.

But the bar codes won’t be on the letter grades posted in restaurant windows. They’ll be inside, on permits that are often posted behind the bar.

Putting them on letter grades would cost more since it would mean printing the grades individually for each restaurant, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she’d like to eventually put codes in the window.

What would have become of society if they hadn't passed this? What if you don't have a smartphone? And if they're posted behind the bar, how would you get to them to scan them?

Homelessness, lack of police, problems in parks? Who cares? We simply must know if there's soap in the employee bathroom!

Just give the chairmanship to Turner already

From the NY Post:

Rep. Bob Turner said yesterday he’s up for a new challenge — becoming the next leader of the divided Queens Republican Party.

GOP insiders are touting Turner, who won Anthony Weiner’s old congressional seat on Democratic turf last year, as the man with the credibility and integrity to fuse the party’s warring factions. Phil Ragusa is the current GOP chairman.

Turner, the retired Cable TV executive, confirmed that he would be interested in the job if there is a vacancy.

“I’d hope to see what I can do. If I can bring peace to the valley, I’d be happy to do this. This is a difficult, thankless job,” Turner said.

Turner’s Queens-Brooklyn congressional seat was carved up through redistricting and his term expires at year’s end.

Republican operatives said Ragusa is on thin ice after Councilman Eric Ulrich trounced Ragusa’s hand-picked candidate, Juan Reyes, by a 2-to-1 margin in an ugly GOP primary for state Senate.

You mean Ragusa cutting off the GOP's nose to spite its face was not a popular decision amongst the rank-and-file?

"Since we have the maturity level of 12-year olds, we'd rather risk letting the Dems have the majority than endorse the guy who has the best chance of winning."

Friday, September 28, 2012

DOB vacates basement full of Jews

From NY1:

Dozens of Hasidic Jews visiting from Israel were forced to vacate what officials say is an illegal transient hotel in the basement of a Brooklyn apartment building Thursday.

The visitors say they were here for the Jewish high holidays when they got word to leave Thursday afternoon.

They were allowed back in for a short time to get some belongings.

They say they're not sure where to go but are confident the Hasidic community will take care of them.

A building worker said it goes on every year but the Department of Buildings said it was unsafe because there is only one way out of the basement.

They issued two violations to the building's owner, who NY1 was unable to reach for comment.

College Point condo project waits for approval

From the Times Ledger:

Developers seeking to turn a dilapidated College Point factory into a 134-unit condo complex nearly have enough money to begin, according to their lawyer.

A developer called Waterfront Resorts Inc. is seeking to transform the Chilton Paint Factory on the corner of 110th Street and 15th Avenue into waterfront housing, complete with a public park along the coast, but they need a key city approval to do so.

The company, headed by a man named Henry Lam, was granted a variance in 2009, which allowed them to circumvent the zoning code and build a residential building in a manufacturing area, but the project was never started and that variance expired in July, according to the city Board of Standards and Appeals, a commission that grants variances on a case-by-case basis.

The company is now seeking to extend its waiver for four more years, according to attorney Eric Palatnik.

“We think we will be constructed well before that, but that will give us time to get our finances together,” he said.

The 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession meant that capital for the project was hard to drum up and even now remains a challenge, although Palatnik said the developers are nearly done raising money.

He will ask the BSA to extend the length of time the variance applies to the parcel of land because of the economic circumstances beyond the control of the developer.

An air accident waiting to happen?

From the Queens Courier:

A panel of aviation experts trashed the city at a recent town hall meeting for not dumping a nearly completed waste transfer station project they say would be detrimental to the safety of fliers and quality of life for Queens residents.

“It’s just an accident waiting to happen,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, at the September 20 meeting held at the Flushing Library. “It would be a tremendous, tremendous mistake to keep on going. Just because we started doesn’t mean we can’t stop it.”

The North Shore Marine Transfer station, currently under construction in College Point, is close to three-quarters done, with expected completion in 2013, officials said. But nearing the eleventh hour, critics say the project — located approximately 2,206 feet away from one of two major runways at LaGuardia Airport — still should never have been approved.

“The North Shore Marine Transfer Station will endanger all who fly here and all who live here,” said James Hall, a former head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “Why has the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed this to happen? We don’t know and they won’t say.”

Hall joined a nine-member panel of experts who called for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to pull the plug on the project.

Should Albany have term limits?

From the Daily News:

Assembly approval of a taxpayer-funded settlement in the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal has spurred a renewed push to limit how long a lawmaker can serve as a legislative leader or a committee chair. 

Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-Utica) and Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Westchester) want to revisit an earlier bill that would cap at 12 years the time one could serve as Assembly speaker, Senate majority leader or a minority leader. Committee chairmanships would be restricted to eight-year stints. 

“It’s a good time to look it,” Galef said, noting that the allegations against Assemblyman Lopez have brought the issue to the public’s attention. “It could be that people look at it differently now.” 

The bill was previously bottled up in committee. 

The Senate already has a rule that limits a majority leader to eight years, which is four terms. The Assembly has no limits on leadership tenure.

LIC restaurant to serve horse meat

From NBC New York:

Horse meat is not something New Yorkers are accustomed to eating, but it will soon be added to the menu at the M. Wells Diner in Queens. 

The owner of M. Wells said horse meat won't be on the menu on opening day, but he plans to add it soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Overdevelopment crowding people out

"Crapper.... Another house going down in Bayside. In its place..... Crappy fedders architecture with 10 "families". This is why I'll be leaving Bayside." - Bill

Parks sure knows how to lose money

From the NY Post:

In a remarkable feat of fiscal stupidity, the city Parks Department lost $200,000 last year after it doubled fees at 32 neighborhood recreation centers. 

Records show that more than 50,000 people shed their memberships during the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2011, when the annual admission charge for adults soared from $50 to $100, and from $75 to $150 for facilities with pools. 

That’s cheap by private health-club standards, but it had a devastating impact on the lower-wage population that gravitates to the city’s more affordable workout centers. 

Half of the 36,153 senior-citizen members bailed out when their entry fee jumped from $10 to $25. 

The membership roll of 79,357 other adults shrunk to 44,877 in the same period. 

To top off the fiasco, revenues fell from $4,548,552 in fiscal 2011 to $4,335,973 in fiscal 2012 — $212,579 less than before the increase.

$2M crapper is finally open!

From the Daily News:

The long-awaited comfort station at Elmhurst Park, with its edgy design and spacious bathrooms, has finally opened its doors. And local civic leaders say its better suited for a museum than a busy Queens park. 

"This breaks all the rules of form follows function,” said Robert Holden of the Juniper Park Civic Association as he stood outside the building on Tuesday. “There’s an obscene amount of wasted space here. Shouldn’t this money go to pay for more cops or for more parks maintenance?" 

Inside the cavernous men’s side, just two urinals and two sinks take up the outer area. There is a single toilet in a handicapped-accessible stall. Lime green and white tiles line the walls in a funky, geometric pattern. 

The women’s room features three stalls including one that is handicapped-accessible and two sinks. Its walls have a similar pattern in orange and white tiles. Each room has a diaper changing table built into the wall. 

Back when it was initially approved in 2010, the price tag for the comfort station was $1.9 million. It has since ballooned to about $2.3 million.

Boarded-up Woodhaven house broken into

From the Times Ledger:

  A long-abandoned Woodhaven house with a brutal murder in its history was finally sealed by the city — almost. 

 Officials from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development boarded up the doors and windows last week after neighbors complained of shady characters going in and out of the house, at 87-19 90th St. But hours after officials secured the residence and left the property, neighbors said the squatters returned and kicked down a freshly installed cinder block wall at a back entrance before the cement dried.

 “Neighbors heard the young men come back shouting, cursing and bemoaning that it had been sealed,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Block Association. “The next thing they heard was a giant crash. Cinder blocks are good, but not when the cement is still wet.”

Rest in peace, baby deer

From Bayside Patch:

A baby deer died Wednesday morning as it attempted to escape from a playground at Bayside High School in which it became trapped, police said.

The buck had found its way onto the fenced-in area after a gate had been left open, police at the scene said. It died as it attempted to escape.

"It was banging itself against the fence repeatedly," an officer at the scene said.

Joan Tennenbaum, who lives near the school off 208th Street, said her daughter, a schoolteacher, first spotted the deer around 9 a.m.

"She said it was jumping around in the air and hurting himself," she said. "There was blood all over the ground."

Tennenbaum said she believed the animal did not likely live nearby.

"Someone probably caught him and brought him down from upstate," she said.

Animal Care and Control officers removed the deer's body from the scene around 10:15 a.m.

A reader pointed out to me that the "reporters" at Gothamist (who have banned the Crapper from commenting even though I passed along countless story tips because I had the audacity to criticize their coverage of bike lanes) thought what happened to this animal was hilarious. Which makes me even prouder to have been banned by them...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Avella leaves Muslim parade in disgust

"On a beautiful September Sunday afternoon, not far from the scene of the infamous Islamic jihad attack in lower Manhattan, Democrat New York State Senator Tony Avella came face-to-face with Muslim hatred for America and he did something that few people have the courage to do. He got up from his seat as a VIP Marshall of the 27th annual New York Muslim Parade and stormed off the stage in disgust! Over one thousand Muslims in the audience and the large group of Muslim community leaders were shocked that the Senator would walk off the stage, even before it was his turn to speak. But, Tony Avella had enough of the blatant tirade of hate against America by "moderate" Muslim dignitaries and his love for America was more important than embarrassing a group of Muslim "wolves in sheep's clothing." Sure, the Muslim cultural jihadi's had the first amendment right to condemn America (which they could never do in their home countries) but Senator Avella had the right to exit, stage left!! Our hats are off to Senator Avella for taking a very public stand on a critically important issue."

Bottom line: It's the City Council's fault

From Metro:

At a time when four women have been raped in the past month in popular New York City parks, some are calling attention to the dramatically depleted ranks of Parks Enforcement Patrol.

In the 1990s, the city kept on staff 450 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, according to Joseph Puleo, the vice president of DC 37 Local 983, the union that represents Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers.

By 2002, that number had been slashed to just 156. And today, there are only 91 city-funded officers who are available to patrol any and all parks.

...there was one PEP officer manning all of the parks in Queens this summer, while a majority of PEP officers were allocated to beaches and pools.

From the Daily News:

In the days since the attack, elected officials have called upon Mayor Bloomberg to halt any budget cuts to the NYPD or the Parks Department, which employs rangers.

But Bloomberg said Monday that New Yorkers need to accept that “we’re not going to put a cop on every corner.”

“We just can’t afford to do that,” he said. “But crimes continue to come down in the city.”

He said the police budget has not been cut “in a long time” and “the bottom line is we only have so much money.”

From CBS New York:

Elected officials led by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined together at Hudson River Park in Lower Manhattan in a show of solidarity and outrage.

“We’re not going to yield one blade of grass to sexual perpetrators. We’re not going to yield one street corner,” Quinn told reporters including WCBS 880′s Jim Smith.

Members of the city council have written a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an effort to prevent $100 million in mid-year NYPD budget cuts that could take some officers out of city parks.

From the NY Post:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn needs a quick catch-up course on the City Charter.

Quinn called a Sunday press conference in the wake of a weekend rape in Hudson River Park to request that Mayor Bloomberg let the NYPD and the Parks Department off the hook when it comes to pending budget cuts.

Bloomberg, looking at substantial revenue shortfalls and related issues, last week told all his commissioners to begin planning for smaller budgets next year.

Said Quinn:

“We simply cannot take away resources from our NYPD at this time with these types of incidents occurring. We also cannot cut back on resources for parks enforcement. They have already been cut to [the] bone.”

On the merits, these are arguable points.

As expressed, though, they pretty much miss the point — which is that Speaker Quinn doesn’t have to ask Mayor Bloomberg for budgetary relief of any sort.

She writes the budget.

Or, at least, she has so much control over the budget-making process that if she wants the NYPD and Parks Department to be held harmless from the coming cuts, she can see to it that they are.

It’s all right there in the City Charter: The mayor proposes, and the council disposes.

Thank you, I couldn't have expressed this better myself. Beware the politicians that do dastardly deeds and then act surprised when there are bad results. The fact is that the mayor has presented budgets this past decade that have decimated the ranks of law enforcement and the Council Members bobbleheaded their way through the rubberstamp process each year with barely a whimper. After each budget was passed, there was Quinn - front and center - taking credit and bragging about how great the agreements were that she worked out. But now that the chickens are coming home to roost, she and others are "shocked and outraged" over how few officers are patrolling parks and that further cuts are proposed? Please give us all a break.

It's YOUR fault we have no cops, and we ain't letting you off the hook that easily.

In the past, there were knock-down, drag-out battles between the City Council and the mayor at budget time. Today's council members are more concerned with photo ops and hosted parties at the mayor's mansion, so they bend over for anything he wants. As you are aware, I am no fan of Bloomberg, but I don't blame him, I blame them. And you should, too. They are supposed to lead and represent the people and they do nothing but kowtow and represent themselves.

Media clueless about illegal advertising

From SI Live:

These days, businesses on Staten Island are getting into the act. And nowhere is this more obvious than in Stapleton on a stretch of Bay Street that extends roughly from Wave Street to Canal Street. In fact, Wave Street itself is all a-flutter -- from the billiards parlor at the intersection of Front Street and Wave, to the car wash at the corner of Bay and Wave streets.

Merchants say the street-side banners, which are placed outside when businesses open and taken down when they close for the night, are a way to distinguish themselves and grab a passerby's attention.

Sam Bari, owner of Bari Pizza, at 596 Bay St., agrees. In fact, he claims he was the first in the area to post banners outside his shop.

"People see it when they're driving; they see the flag," he said, noting that without that extra cue, the awning that bears the pizzeria's name might not be enough in today's competitive environment.

Other stores that have bought into the trend in this neck of the Staten Island include Canal Alarm & Security on Canal Street, which specializes in wireless electronics and mobile equipment and Elite Wireless Electronics at 540 Bay St.

I suppose that SI Live doesn't realize that using public property for advertising is illegal. Businesses drill holes into public sidewalks in order to post these flags or have the portable variety which block sidewalks. Businesses throughout the City have gotten sanitation tickets for this. Of course, there's no mention of any of that in the article.

Project space to be sold to developers

From the Daily News:

THE CASH-STARVED Housing Authority plans to raise millions by leasing out some of its underused land to luxury condo developers — and the real estate rush will start in the hottest market in the city, Manhattan. 

NYCHA Chairman John Rhea said Monday he wants to rent out vacant land and parking lots to developers to construct market-rate housing with some affordable units, though he declined to say where the properties are. A source later said the plan would start at 25 projects in Manhattan. 

“This is a landmark in the evolution of NYCHA,” Rhea told a crowd of the city’s power elite at a breakfast hosted by the Association for Better New York. “A decade ago, this wouldn’t have been possible because developers would have considered our properties off-limits.” 

The plan — which has been talked about for years by both Rhea’s debt-hobbled agency and public officials — would hand developers tax breaks to build both luxury and cheaper units on leased NYCHA land. Rhea insisted no public housing would be sold off and not a single unit in the agency’s 334 developments would be lost. Instead, NYCHA would rent out vacant plots, parking lots or administrative buildings that currently have no housing.

Developers and big business will miss Mike

From the Wall Street Journal:

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves office next year, the city's financial and real-estate leaders stand to lose an important advocate, and they worry they won't find a City Hall candidate whose world view matches the outgoing mayor's.

In Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire in his third and final term, the city's business community could count on reliably pro-development policies that produced projects such as a new Brooklyn arena. The mayor has opposed City Council legislation seen as anti-business, such as a so-called living wage bill. And he has struck a tone as a defender of Wall Street culture, speaking up for Goldman Sachs, for instance, when it came under fire for an ethic of greed.

"There is no question people are concerned they are losing Mike Bloomberg. They understand who he is. They have tremendous respect for him," said Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. "We are going to have somebody new on Jan. 1, 2014, and, so, that troubles them."

As the 2013 mayoral race begins to take shape, some in the city are looking for "Bloomberg 2.0," said state Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox. But no candidate has emerged who possesses the mayor's mixture of money, respect and political skill.

Greenpoint bursting at the seams

From The Brooklyn Paper:

A Greenpoint businessman wants to turn his pool hall into an eight-story apartment building — but neighbors say the still-sleepy area can’t accommodate the hundreds of new residents a development that size will attract. 

Building owner Paul Pullo is trying to convince the city to change zoning rules so he can build a 140-unit complex with a 90-car parking lot and retail space at McGuinness Boulevard and Calyer Street.

The proposed apartments will cater to couples and young families — and bring much-needed below-market-rate housing to the gas station-and-warehouse-dotted area, he said. But neighbors fear the planned building will crowd nearby streets, subway stations and schools. 

Neighbor Joanna Nowakowski said PS 34 and the Greenpoint Avenue subway station might not be able to handle all those new residents. 

The G train is already only four cars long — and it’s normally full,” she said. “[The project] affects a lot of things.” 

She added construction could crack century-old buildings behind the building and bring too much car traffic to surrounding streets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Council aide owes DOB $38,000

No one doing anything about Jamaica issues

Here is my latest Jamaica Garbage & Other Tidbits Music Video Part 3.


Joe Moretti

Driving is faster than mass transit

From the NY Times:

Most New York City residents do not lack for access to some form of public transit. And advocates are always extolling the virtues of subway, bus, rail or ferry over sitting — and stewing — in gridlock inside a car.

But while public transit might be preferable when it comes to controlling stress, driving is still the fastest way to get to and from work. At least that’s what a recent Census Bureau survey found.

The mean travel time for public transportation riders was more than 47 minutes, compared with under 32 minutes for people who drove themselves and 37 minutes for people who car-pooled. One-third of mass transit riders spent an hour or more commuting, according to the 2011 American Community Survey released by the census this month.

Driving has been a quicker way to get to work for New Yorkers than public transit for several years.

New vet station for JFK

From CBS New York:

A new $32 million facility that will provide kenneling, grooming and other services for about 70,000 domestic and wild animals a year is going to be built at [JFK] airport.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, approved the plans on Thursday.

ARK Development LLC will use Building 78 at the airport, which is currently empty, as well as 14.4 acres of the grounds for the project.

It will have kenneling and grooming services for dogs and cats, as well as a quarantine area for horses, an aviary, lawn space, a veterinary hospital and rehabilitation center.

Port Authority officials say it will create 190 jobs.

Bloomberg thinks he's helped the poor

From the Daily News:

Times are tough — but hang in there. 

That was Mayor Bloomberg’s message Friday as he railed at the “bums” in Washington who don’t know how to fix the economy, and faced off criticism that his administration hasn’t done enough to help the poor.

 “You should not be that depressed, we grow out of these things, we have been through these cycles many, many times before,” Bloomberg said. On his weekly radio show, Hizzoner noted that not only the economy — but also the politics will renew. 

“People will get frustrated and they will say this new wave of people who came in, they’re wrong, and you’ll throw the bums out and bring in a new group who are great and wonderful until they become the bums, and they get thrown out.” 

Despite painting a gloomy picture of the nation’s elected officials who “don’t know how business works,” the mayor then sought to reassure New Yorkers it was not all bad. When it came to evaluating his own success at tackling the city’s economy and poverty levels, Bloomberg’s outlook was rather more optimistic despite new figures showing the number of city residents living below the federal poverty line rose to 4.5%, or nearly 1.7 million people, in 2011. 

“The nice thing about New York is we don’t walk away from the poor,” he said.

Monday, September 24, 2012

DOB illegal conversion enforcement hasn't improved

From the Daily News:

The Bloomberg administration’s pledge to crack down on deadly firetraps throughout New York has faltered, a new report reveals.

The crackdown began after two fires in April and May of 2011 killed a total of five people living in illegal apartments.

The Daily News detailed shortfalls in the way the city deals with the more than 20,000 illegal conversion complaints that roll in each year, including a decreasing ability for inspectors to even get into suspected illegal dwellings.

At the time, Mayor Bloomberg acknowledged that “not enough” was being done to tackle the problem and outlined plans to fix that, saying more apartments would be inspected more aggressively. But when the city released its annual report card on city services last week, statistics released by the Buildings Department showed that very little has changed.

Inspectors gained access to suspected illegal conversions less than half the time — a rate similar to that of previous years.

But they made more money.

Anything goes in Forest Hills

"Immigrant newspaper vendors at 71 Av and Queens Blvd in Forest Hills think nothing of chaining their carts to postal boxes. Not only is this illegal on both city and Federal levels, these carts were obviously stolen from supermarkets. So why aren't they fined?

Oh it's ok. Some smart ass lawyer will say they are protected under the freedom of speech amendment."

- Anonymous

Donald Trump's golf course belching gas

From the Daily News:

High levels of explosive methane gas have been discovered next to Bronx homes that abut a dump the city is turning into a golf course for Donald Trump, a Daily News investigation has found.

As construction of the $97 million links has accelerated this year, methane in quantities the state considers potentially volatile has been repeatedly detected in test wells just yards away from homes.

Residents of this working-class neighborhood had no idea — and weren’t too pleased.

“That concerns me. What are we breathing?” asked Stephanie Machuca, whose Balcolm Ave. condo sits about 25 feet from a green-capped well that registered excessive amounts of methane in May.

The Trump golf course is now under construction on top of a dump that was closed in 1963. The decomposing garbage that’s still underground creates methane, a highly volatile gas that’s been percolating under Ferry Point for years.

Occasionally the test results showed higher levels of methane. But in recent months, the tests have regularly detected concentrations at the project’s edge far in excess of the LEL, records show.

The state is aware of this rash of high methane levels. In response, it has decided not to shut down construction but to increase the frequency of monitoring. “We’re concerned about movement of landfill gas.

Okay, why the hell are we building a golf course for Donald Trump? And using shady contractors, to boot?

Willets Point owners will be heard in court

From the Queens Tribune:

Willets Point United will be heard in court, after all.

The City Economic Development Corp. attempted to keep the collective of Willets Point property owners out of a State Supreme Court hearing on NYCEDC’s restructuring, but the court this week announced a hearing and is permitting WPU to attend.

“We are gratified that the court has recognized the obligation under the law that the EDC [sic] re-organization must be subject to a public hearing,” WPU said in a statement. “At the same time, we are saddened by the way in which a quasi-public agency has tried to stifle this mandated hearing and, even worse, try to prevent Willets Point property owners from participating. Clearly, EDC [sic] has a lot to hide and its behavior leaves a lot to be desired.”

Selling the heroin Americans won't sell

From the NY Post:

Federal drug agents raided a heroin distribution den -- in a ground floor studio apartment in Richmond Hill, Queens -- and seized a stash worth $20 million, authorities said today.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Organized Crime Drug enforcement Strike Force had been watching the 122nd Street apartment for weeks.

On Tuesday night they saw a person wearing latex drugs, like those used by heroin mill workers, at the site.

After midnight Jose Santiago Diaz, 44, left the apartment, with keys to it, and had a smell on heroin on him when agents questioned him, authorities said.

Diaz, of The Bronx, was identified as an illegal alien who was previously deported to the Dominican Republic. He was charged with criminal drug possession and other charges.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The waiting is the hardest part...

From Metro:
If you need the police, it may take them nine minutes to get to you, the longest the wait time has been since 2003.

That’s the new average response time in the Mayor’s Management Report, which was released Wednesday.

The average response time of 2012 was 9.1 minutes, according to the report.

Not only is that the longest the wait time has been since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, it's also an increase from the 8.4 minutes it took officers to get to people calling for help in 2011.

The wait time has steadily been increasing every year: In 2007, it took officers 6.9 minutes on average.

Some officials are concerned that the slower response times are a sign that the police force is overwhelmed.

Beware of the sinking houses

From the Queens Chronicle:  

The Lin family vacated their home more than a month ago when construction on a neighboring house rendered theirs unsafe. According to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who is trying to help them, the family spent a few nights at a hotel, but because of costs, is now living with friends and family with no move-back date in sight. 

The house next door at 50-30 64 St. in Wynwood Gardens, a residential area off of 65th Place where Woodside meets Maspeth, was abandoned several years ago when the owners went into foreclosure. 

At some point Bank of America and New York Mellon Corp. acquired the property and attempted to reconstruct the ailing structure. Wynwood Gardens has faced adversity since its creation. 

The neighborhood is built on top of a creek — which may or may not be still running... — that was covered with dirt from the construction of Rockefeller Center in the 1930s. 

Many of the homes’ foundations were reinforced by the government a few years back, 64th Street resident John Coles said, but not at the problem house. “It sunk 10 feet about three months ago [during construction],” Coles added. That’s when the Department of Buildings issued a partial stop-work order on June 20, followed by a full stop order on Aug. 21. 

The Lins, who live in the brick house adjacent to 50-30 64 St., were mandated by the DOB to vacate their home on Aug. 17. The order states that the adjacent home was “creating a hazardous condition to occupants.”

From NY1:

Homeowners Claudette and Alban Yarde of Brownsville, Brooklyn worry that the house next door is slowly sinking and taking theirs with it. The house has a clear two-inch gap, where the brick is literally lifting off of the foundation. The cracks in the concrete of the Yardes' backyard are unsettling as well. 

The couple says the owner of the house next door died four years ago and it's been abandoned ever since. After the Yardes contacted NY1, the station located the deceased owner's son, Wade Jenkins. Jenkins told NY1 he knows the foundation of the house is cracked and says he has received estimates of $100,000 to fix the foundation but claims he doesn’t have the money.

Vacate orders don't apply to animals

From Eyewitness News:

It was once was a thriving business where kids rode horses and named this fella "Rusty". But, the stables have fallen into disrepair. Rusty's owner, Buster Marengo, has fallen behind on property tax payments and neighbors say rarely comes here to feed the animals. The Department of Buildings tells Eyewitness News it issued Marengo an order to vacate last November. "A person couldn't live in here, but a majestic animal like a horse can, that is not acceptable," said Brian Shapiro, Humane Society. It's why this group created the "Save the Rusty Campaign" with Senator Jeff Klein taking the reins. Two weeks ago, animal control officers dropped by and though they felt Rusty was thin, didn't feel he was being mistreated Klein says the way the law stands now, one he wants changed, the only way to get Rusty out of here, is if officers determined the horse was in immediate danger.

Trapped in their own home

From CBS 2:  

An elderly couple in Bushwick, Brooklyn claims they are trapped in their own home thanks to a construction project on the stairway out of their multi-family home. 

Robert Foster, 91, is a World War II veteran and said he and his 87-year-old wife both use walkers but have a hard time navigating the 22-inch wide staircase from their Putnam Avenue home to the sidewalk. 

Their neighbor’s improvement project included putting up a fence, which split the original stairwell in two. The neighbor extended her own staircase but the couple’s staircase was left less than two feet wide, which violates code. 

By law, staircases must be at least 36 inches wide. The couple’s daughter said she is concerned the current staircase is a safety hazard.

Garbage trucks vomit all over Flushing

Should sanitation give itself a fine for spewing this Vomit out the truck every week !! Bowne st. between Cherry and 45th ave. This started about a year ago and for some Odd reason they love to spew it in front of my home and I'm sick of it!!!!" - Anonymous

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Huge Whitestone lot to be remediated & developed

From the Times Ledger:

A group of investors is well on its way to taking ownership of one of the largest vacant waterfront properties in Queens, which could soon be home to 52 single-family Whitestone homes, but state inspectors were back at the site last Thursday to check for evidence of any contaminated soil dumped there.

A group of investors involved with Barone Management, a firm that has both construction and development arms and is based in Whitestone, have paid a deposit on the 13-acre property, at 151-45 6th Road, and will likely take full possession of the property within 60 days, according to Scott Barone, whose family owns the firm.

“In a perfect world, development will begin in the middle of next year,” he said.

The property also includes 8 acres of water rights and will feature a publicly accessible waterfront park, as is required by city regulations.

It was originally zoned for manufacturing until about 2005, when a development firm called Bayrock Group bought the site and sought to rezone it for residential use.

The city modified the zoning to specifically allow for the development of 52 single-family homes, according to area lawmakers, but Bayrock went bust and the property descended into foreclosure.

Barone said the development will be a boon for the area, setting a precedent on converting old manufacturing sites into residential tracts in character with the rest of the sleepy neighborhood.

Suffolk land deal to affect Queens

From the Times Ledger:

A land deal approved by the Suffolk County Legislature expanding a railyard on Long Island will bring terrible repercussions for the people of Queens, elected officials, civic groups and residents of the borough said.

More than 230 acres of public land in Yaphank, L.I., was sold to the operators of the Brookhaven Rail Terminal last Thursday immediately after Glendale and Middle Village residents pleaded their case to Suffolk officials.

Residents and elected officials said the expansion of the terminal would greatly increase the number of garbage trains passing through the Fresh Pond Rail Terminal in Glendale, increasing train traffic and hurting clean air quality.

“The expansion of this rail terminal will prove chaotic and will be a health hazard to the residents of Glendale,” said Anthony Pedalino, who lives near the rail lines in Glendale and deals with the noise and odor on a nightly basis. “The people deserve a little protection. Trains sit there spewing out fumes an hour at a time. This is so inhumane, it’s revolting.”

The $20 million deal gives the land to Brookhaven Terminal Operations, which said in a statement it has worked with the community before and will participate in an advisory board.

But that is not good enough for the people of Queens, who believe Suffolk County has not taken the borough’s well-being into consideration.

Long Island is surrounded by water, so why not barge their trash out?

Conversion of Rockaway firehouse in limbo

From the Daily News:

Grand plans to transform a shuttered Rockaway firehouse into a cultural and environmental center have been stymied by bureaucratic red tape, according to the group selected by the city to purchase the site.

The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance beat out other groups in 2009 for the right to purchase the decommissioned Engine Co. 265 Ladder 121 firehouse at Beach 59th St.

It seemed like a sweet deal. The purchase price for the 7,200-square-foot building was $1.
But the nonprofit group said they never expected the approvals and paperwork needed to seal the deal would move at such a glacial pace.

“We thought we would go through ULURP and be on our way,” said Jeanne DuPont, executive director of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, referring to the Uniform Land Use Review Process.

DuPont said the group laid out about $200,000 for architectural drawings, site surveys, construction documents and environmental reviews.

They are hoping to be reimbursed with promised grants.

“The grants won’t be released until we own the building,” she said. “We’re building debt and going into dangerous waters.”

Avella calls for Silver's resignation

From Capital Tonight:

As a member of the Senate, Tony Avella does not get a say in who leads the Assembly. But he does have an opinion on who should not lead the chamber. He’s calling for Sheldon Silver to step down from his post as Speaker of the Assembly in the wake of the Assemblyman Vito Lopez scandal.

A flooding fix for Broad Channel?

From the Daily News:

Broad Channel residents, facing the annual barrage of autumn storms and floods, say the city is dragging its feet on a plan to repair vulnerable streets.

Residents of W. 12th Rd., where floodwaters have totaled cars and turned streets into canals, said they are still waiting the start of a $24 million project to elevate the roadway.

... it’s been two years since Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and others pledged funds to pay for the project, which will elevate the level of W. 11th, 12th and 13th roads by several inches.

Queens Transportation Commissioner Maura McCarthy is scheduled to attend a Broad Channel Civic Association meeting on Sept. 27 and unveil finalized plans for the project.

Under the so-called shared-streets concept, sidewalks and roads will be level. But homeowners will have to allow construction on their property.

Broad Channel is surrounded by Jamaica Bay, giving many residents breathtaking waterfront views. But the water has also proven a formidable enemy for property owners, who have seen streets sink several inches over the years. The end of W. 12th Rd. has essentially collapsed into the bay.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Idling MTA vehicles costing us plenty

From AM-NY:

MTA employees waste about $800,000 each year by illegally leaving their work vehicles idling while on the job, according to a report released Wednesday.

Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North workers driving highway vehicles kept them running while they were parked for a combined total of more than 20,000 hours each month, the MTA's Inspector General found.

In one incident, investigators found that two trucks in Forest Hills had idled for a combined 25 hours over one weekend.

New York drivers are prohibited from leaving their cars unnecessarily running for more than five minutes.

Defective artificial turf not replaced for 6 years

How many people have gotten hurt? How many settlements has the City paid out?

City rewarding bad behavior?

From the Daily News:

Advocates are pushing the city to sever ties with a developer whose top executive was busted for bribing city officials — and are demanding new rules for how the city does business with companies under investigation.

Great American Construction has already agreed to withdraw from one affordable housing project, Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn, after executive William Clarke was indicted in June, city officials told the Daily News. But the firm has four other active projects with the city in Brooklyn and the Bronx — three already under construction, one on the drawing board. 

Communities for Responsible and Equitable Housing, a coalition of housing groups, is calling for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to blacklist the developer, removing it from current projects. And they want a new policy to be enacted so that firms facing criminal charges can’t do business with the city.

Day care fraud charged

From NY1:

The owners of several day care centers in Queens are accused of defrauding the Department of Education out of more than $35,000.

A report released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation found that the owners registered at least 12 children who did not attend their programs and submitted false attendance forms and invoices to receive payment.

Commissioner Richard Condon is recommending that the DOE stop doing business with Nareesa and Saied Mohammed.

They own Nareesa's Day Care and The Beanstalk Day Care in Richmond Hill.

The findings were referred to the Queens District Attorney.

Stop work order as revenge?

From Brownstoner's Astoria Renovation blog:

We had been warned by the seller, the former tenants and the other neighbors that the owner of the one house we share a party wall with was… difficult.

We tried to start things on the right foot with with all the neighbors, giving them an apologetic letter outlining the scope and schedule of the work and giving our and the contractor’s phone numbers for any problems. A few weeks into the work, we approached the afore-mentioned neighbor because we needed to dig a foot into her property to waterproof the walls of the extension, at a point where there was only an old cement patio.

She refused us access (even though legally we could have forced the issue). Well, we explained, we would need to come onto her property to apply the brick facing to the extension later in the project. She still refused.

Our neighbor would rather stare at an unfinished cement block wall than allow us onto her property to give a nice brick facing.

Then she suggested that if our contractor gave her a good price on some work she wanted done, she would let him have access. Well, the price — current Queens above-board building prices — was not what she — old Astorian mindset — was prepared to pay.

Then suddenly we got a visit from a DOB inspector because of a complaint. Our work was causing “cracks in a party wall.” Complaints are anonymous, but there is only one party wall — on the side with this neighbor. Most people, if they had cracking, would contact the owners or the builders, show them the problem, and demand to know how they were going to make it right. We have never heard anything from the neighbor directly, and no one has seen the claimed cracks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Albany pols have all their bases covered

From the Daily News:

New York’s ethics watchdog is struggling for credibility after closed-door missteps gave the impression that the panel shied from investigating Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s role in the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.

While the panel insists it got a bum rap, two points are indisputable:

First, there’s no way for New Yorkers to judge the actions of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics because the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo cloaked its operations in excessive secrecy.

Second, lawmakers placed overly strict limits on how the commission does business — down to regulating the number of days the panel has to react after receiving a formal complaint.

The Legislature demanded these handcuffs — which protect accused lawmakers while weakening the panel — as the price of finally submitting to outside scrutiny.

From the Daily News:

Using taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct cases against state lawmakers — like in the case of Assemblyman Vito Lopez — is controversial, but perfectly legal.

The practice was upheld judicially in 2008 after a taxpayer filed suit in State Supreme Court to challenge a $500,000 settlement. The state had dished out taxpayer funds to a legislative staffer who in 2004 accused Michael Boxley, then counsel to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, of rape.

In dismissing the case, which sought to have Silver and Boxley reimburse the state, the court found there was “no allegation that Silver … caused the wrongful expenditure, misappropriation, misapplication or any other illegal or unconstitutional disbursement of state funds.” The Appellate Division upheld the State Supreme Court’s dismissal.

The settlement in the Boxley case was actually hammered out as part of a legal proceeding by former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The court found that even if Spitzer had erred in judgment by agreeing to the $500,000 payout, that was an issue for voters to decide, not the courts.

Next in line?

From the Daily News:

The protege is ready for the torch to be passed to him.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr.’s primary victory last week over scandal-torn state Sen. Shirley Huntley unofficially kicked off the race for his Council seat several months earlier than expected.

Sanders (D-Laurelton) will have to vacate his Council post before he can be sworn in to the state Senate, triggering in a special election in early 2013.

Donovan Richards, Sanders’ chief of staff, has been gearing up for the race even before Sanders bested the incumbent of Senate District 10.

Liu's supporters dwindling and acting strange

From the NY Post:

John Liu’s support appears to be wearing thin.

A paltry gathering of six supporters held a press conference yesterday to denounce a federal investigation against the city comptroller and possible mayoral contender as an anti-Asian attack.

They promptly compared the Feds' investigation of Liu to the Holocaust and Watergate.

Editorial posted on DOB's wall

Did a disgruntled homeowner or architect post this comment at DOB HQ? Only The Shadow knows...

White lines painted on Northern Blvd

Hi Crappy,

I saw white lane lines on Northern Blvd today!! I think they might have been there yesterday but a Verizon “project” at Douglaston Pkway. and Northern backed up eastbound traffic rather badly yesterday. So the DOT actually did what they said they were going to do. Just hope they don’t decide it’s a good place to paint a bike lane……..thanks for highlighting this issue!

- Ms. Tsouris

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nice shot!

From the NY Post:

A humpback whale made a splash at Rockaway Beach Sunday, swimming close to the shore while chasing a school of fish.

Photographer Phil Ng took this shot of the whale diving as he passed by on a tour boat.

Dealers using streets as private parking lot

Everyone except Bloomberg thinks streets are filthy

From the Daily News:

New York has been named the dirtiest out of 35 American metropolitan areas by the out-of-towners who read Travel + Leisure magazine.

Tourists cited New York’s garbage-piled sidewalks and funky odors to shove Gotham to the top of the trash heap in the poll, which is part of the magazine’s annual America’s Favorite Cities survey.

The magazine polled 50,000 people online, but the tourists were the harshest.

You’d think New Yorkers would be quick to defend the capital of the world — but the nose knows; city residents ranked our rankness as the second-worst in the nation, behind, obviously, Baltimore.

Of course, Mayor Bloomberg covered the stench of defeat in a floral spray of spin.

“Sounds like the people in this survey haven't been here in a long while,” said mayoral spokeswoman Julie Wood.

The city’s 50 million tourists last year, she added, “saw for themselves that the city is cleaner than ever.”

MTA budgets just like Bloomberg & Council

From the NY Post:

Straphangers could face even larger subway fare hikes than already planned because of a potential $100 million hole in the MTA’s budget.

The looming crisis is the result of 64 of the agency’s 65 employee unions operating without a contract, a rare occurrence that could blow the agency’s already fragile budget apart and force even bigger fare hikes than the ones set for March.

The unions, which represent more than 57,000 full- and part-time employees, are in various phases of negotiations regarding pay and benefits with the agency — and insiders are wondering if the next round of fare hikes will be enough to cover the eventual contracts.

The MTA’s 2013 budget assumes that its workers receive zero pay raises — an assumption that its union leaders have already rejected.

That budget also relies on fare and toll hikes to rake in $450 million for the upcoming year — a gap that would be significantly widened if the MTA had to pay out significant raises.

Soccer stadium & CitiField mall not popular w/residents

From NBC:

Hundreds of neighbors turned out for a town hall meeting in Corona Monday to voice concerns over redevelopment plans for Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Neighbors are worried that the potential plan to build a soccer stadium in the park -- as well as another plan to replace and expand the facility for the United States Tennis Association -- would take away public park land.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crap on the basement floor...

From DNA Info:

When Simon Gouldstone moved into his new house on 68th Avenue and Juno Street in July, he had big plans for his basement, where he was going to build a music studio.

One month after he and his wife, Ashlee, moved into their new home, a rainstorm changed everything. The storm, which caused massive flooding in Forest Hills and shut down area highways, caused the Gouldstone's sewer system to overflow, sending sewage up through their basement toilet, sink and shower and flooding the basement in 10 inches of flith.

"It's not what you expect during your first month of homeownership," said Gouldstone, who lost his wedding albums in the flood and will have to spend over $5,000 on repairs.

Gouldstone's house was not the only one to suffer sewage backup. Several homes along 68th Avenue flooded during two powerful storms in July, and as a result the residents, who fear flooding will only continue as the area's rainstorms intensify, are demanding the city take action to prevent further damage.

"For this to happen repeatedly, it's a health hazard," said Rochelle Goren, 72, who lives down the street from Gouldstone. Goren said that the city promised action after the area flooded during strong storms five years ago, but nothing has been done.

The DEP has taken steps to alleviate flooding in Forest Hills, installing new sewer systems in several parts of the neighborhood.

However, 68th Avenue was not included in the renovations, and Goren wants the city to make fixing their sewers a priority.

It's happening in Glendale, too.

But it can't be all the overdevelopment...

BOE still in the dark ages

From the Daily News:

There was an experiment Thursday night to determine whether the Board of Elections was ready to join the 21st century computer age. Of course it wasn’t.

When the polls closed that evening, the board counted the votes from the primary election two ways: by its much-ridiculed system of tallying by hand, and by uploading returns from memory sticks inside the electronic vote-scanning machines.

Unbelievably, poll workers got the job done faster by printing out the results on long strips of paper, cutting the strips by election district, writing down totals by district, adding up all the totals and delivering them to a police station for manual entry into a computer.

Virtually everyone had assumed that the board would electronically zap accurate vote counts out to the world quickly. Uh-uh. Like everything else the board does, its digital processing was a cumbersome, convoluted mess.