Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quinn to hold meeting that no one can attend

(click photo for larger view)

"Go to the Council calendar linked below, and chose "This Week" from the drop-down menu. You will see that every single Council meeting and Committee hearing has been canceled -- EXCEPT for the Economic Development Committee's oversight hearing on the EDC merger, which is still on for Thursday.

Is this for real???

How will they hold the hearing, with no electricity and no elevators in
250 Broadway? Are they pulling our chain?" - anonymous

Of course it's for real. How else can Bloomberg and Quinn protect their favorite tweeding vehicle? How else can the agency's relationship with Claire Shulman escape scrutiny? What fellow tweeder on this board will speak up about any of this? None of them.

Bloomberg's dirty little secret: City hospital has no power

From Roosevelt Islander:

...received this tip from a reliable source:
Mike G question about ambulances and ambulettes headed north to Coler might be to transport some patients to Goldwater.

Coler having power probs
Goldwater has power and the room.
National guard moving 90+ patients.

16 ambulances making several trips for about 90 patients.

No mention of the problems at Roosevelt Island's Coler Hospital from Mayor Bloomberg.

A very expensive non-transfer

From the Daily News:

For years, Metropolitan Transportation Authority construction and planning schedules have pegged November 2012 as the time for the opening of a new underground connection between the Fulton Center subway complex at Broadway in lower Manhattan and the Cortlandt St. station on the eastern edge of the World Trade Center site.

Workers are now putting the finishing touches on the passageway, which cost more than $200 million to build.

Known as the Dey St. Concourse, the subterranean walkway will feature a wall of giant video screens, some providing travel information, some displaying advertising.

The turnstile banks are in place. The bright lights are installed and shining. A ribbon-cutting should not be far away.

Yet transit officials now say they plan to keep the Dey St. Concourse padlocked — for several years.

The official reason: Few riders will make use of the free transfer.

The demand, officials say, will come when the new office towers being built at Ground Zero are completed and occupied, and the Port Authority finishes its permanent — and extravagant — PATH hub. That’s will be in 2015. Maybe.

“The small number of people we believe would use the transfer...does not justify the expense of opening, maintaining and policing the passage,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg explained.

Failure to heed the warnings

"NYC was warned by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1995 of just such a storm. They were also told how to prevent the damage. Did they follow the Army Corp of Engineers recommendations? If not why?

NYC cant say it wasn't warned.

Article in Popular Mechanics detailing Army Corp of Engineers reports is here...." - anonymous

Oh and then there's this from earlier this year from The Capital:

But let's say, in a worst-case scenario, that parts of the city or one or some of its systems flood completely in an event like what planners call a "100-year storm" (a storm so severe its likelihood is estimated at one percent in any given year).

Many of them will not rate under the economic definition of "risk," because the value is too low. And this is where the standard risk-assessment falls apart: It is scientific and political; it does not factor in entire low-lying neighborhoods with low-rise housing under water.

Then there are infrastructure systems, which, compromised in one place, can spread mayhem far and wide. Water supply, sewage treatment, and energy supply, all built largely underground, mostly many years ago, are potentially vulnerable.

Bragdon said the administration is really beginning in earnest this year to assess risks to those three key areas. Any institution that has assets that could be affected by climate change is in his purview, which means not only the city's own, but those of private providers, like Con-Ed, which be a part of the process.

Imagine a scenario in which a 100-year-storm flooded all of the parts of the subway system that are most susceptible — the tunnels that carry trains under the East River to and from Manhattan, and the major connection points in Lower Manhattan. Then Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island would essentially be cut off from the mainland for the millions of commuters who pass through those links every day. And not for a short time.

The NY Times has a summary of the warnings.

DOT continues to put bike lanes in stupid places

From the NY Post:

The bike lanes on a narrow, busy Brooklyn thoroughfare have led to more slammed brakes and near-accidents than double-parked cars, according to angry bus drivers — and the city still wants to extend them.

The lanes for cyclists on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope — which opened several years ago and have become increasingly popular in the crunchy enclave — routinely cause problems along the B63 bus route, say drivers.

The skinny thoroughfare — lined with restaurants, shops, bakeries and bars — can’t handle the added bike traffic, critics claim.

“I have close calls every day,” said B63 bus operator Darren Davis. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

The bike lanes — between 23rd and Dean streets — leave little room to avoid opened car doors or bikes that come whizzing out of nowhere, Davis said.

“Nine times out of 10, you can swerve around, but here, there’s nowhere to go,” he said.

Some of the lanes are protected — meaning they are sectioned off from regular traffic — while others are what are known as “shared paths.”

Who cares about mass transit riders? People on two wheels need to get somewhere. In all seriousness, though, bus and bike collisions are on the rise.

More hurricane ugliness

A man in Flushing was killed when a tree fell on his house.

A woman was electrocuted in Richmond Hill.

DOE peddles its B.S. in LIC

From the Times Ledger:

Education and elected officials announced at MoMA PS 1 last week that two new schools are set to open in Hunters Point, adding much-needed seats to the growing neighborhood, but some parents were still worried their children would not have a spot.

“Two new schools is great,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “It’s a great victory for our community, but I believe we need even more schools.”

About 200 parents filled the performance dome of the art museum, once a school, at 46-01 21st St. in Long Island City, for the town hall Oct. 17. The officials answered questions about the new schools scheduled to open in the neighborhood in September 2013: PS/IS 312, at 46-08 5th St., and IS/HS 404, at 150 51st St. PS/IS 312 will have 542 seats and IS/HS 404 will have 1,072 seats.

IS/HS 404 said the current plan is to make the middle school zoned but the high school open to students from across the city, Rawlins said. While the middle school will take in students when it opens in 2013, its zone will not be implemented until 2014.

“We will work with [Community District Education Council 30] to zone the school,” Rawlins said.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said given the school’s proximity to the waterfront, he hoped IS/HS 404 would have an emphasis on the environment and sustainability.

But a fair number of parents said that while the current administration has opened high schools based around a theme rather than a geographic location, they would like Long Island City students to get priority rather than have it be a themed school.

“That’s definitely still an option on the table,” Rawlins said.

I hope you folks in LIC don't buy this. They dumped a high school in Maspeth and the kids who live 3 blocks away can't go there. It won't be any different in LIC. Furthermore, most new schools are sited on contaminated land (since developers already snatched up the good land that was left), including the Maspeth High School, as well as one in the Bronx, where the City was just slapped by a court for failing to inform parents of their remediation plan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A summary of the local devastation

From NBC:

At least 50 homes have been destroyed in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, where firefighters battled a six-alarm fire early Tuesday.

Fire officials say the fire was reported at about 11 p.m. Monday and is located in a flooded Zone A area. City officials say it appears most of the area was evacuated prior to the fire and no serious injuries have been reported.

A fire department spokesman says nearly 200 firefighters were at the scene before 5 a.m. Tuesday.

From NBC:

The FDNY is responding to a partial building collapse of a residential building near 14th Street.

A four-story multiple-unit residence at 92 8th Avenue between 14th and 15th streets collapsed this evening and firefighters are on the scene, according to the FDNY and witnesses.

41-09 29th Street, near Queens Plaza North

These photos were originally featured on the Sunnyside Post:

The following are some Queens photos I collected from news organizations' Facebook pages.

(The individual photos in the set are labeled with the photographer's name and location.)

Bloomberg and Quinn think waterfront development a great idea

From the NY Observer:

We know many people are not leaving the evacuation zone, and that many of them got there in the first place thanks to developments fostered by the Bloomberg administration. At his morning's briefing, The Observer asked the mayor if it was wise to continue encouraging development in these low-lying areas, like the Williamsburg and Queens waterfront, even along the fetid Gowanus Canal, which the mayor pushed to rezone. The mayor saw no reason to change course.

"People like to live in low-lying areas on the beach, it's attractive," Mayor Bloomberg said. "People pay more, generally, to be closer to the water even though you could argue they should pay less because it's more dangerous. But people are willing to run the risk."

Even as his administration encourages development in these areas, he did not believe it was necessary to undertake major infrastructure investments that could mitigate these storm surges.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn stepped in to argue that the city has already done a considerable amount to strengthen its built environment in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.

Bloomberg doesn't see flooded Gowanus as a problem

From The Politicker:

With Hurricane Sandy hitting New York, flooding has already occurred along the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal. Though the worst floods are expected to occur this evening when high tide combines with the strongest part of the storm surge, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his deputies don’t expect the toxic waters to do serious damage. Politicker asked the mayor whether he expected heavy flooding on the Gowanus tonight and what environmental or health risks the waters might pose for residents at his press conference at the Office of Emergency Management in Downtown Brooklyn early this evening.

“Tomorrow morning, it will be all over,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “It will be all over late tonight. Actually, the Gowanus Canal flooding should be going down in a couple hours.”

Mayor Bloomberg also invited Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway to weigh in on the situation with the canal. Mr. Holloway said he didn’t think the waters would put people in danger and he’s confident the city can clean up and flooding along the waterway, which is one of the most polluted in the country.

Vito may be the king of all tweeders

From the Daily News:

As surely as the sun rises in the east, Vito Lopez has been boasting that he will cruise to a landslide reelection in November — despite being revealed as a serial perpetrator of sexual harassment.

And just as surely as the sun sets in the west, Lopez will be proven right as the residents of his Brooklyn state Assembly district cast ballots for him, as they have for decades.

Lopez is impervious to scandal, just the way former state Sen. Pedro Espada managed to keep his political career alive despite a litany of ethical breaches. Espada’s game ended when he was convicted of federal criminal charges. Nothing of that order has hit Lopez. In his case, the problem is not what is illegal but rather what is legal.

Like Espada, Lopez is a master at drawing on taxpayer money to bolster his political career, including being Democratic boss of Brooklyn before he quit last month. He remains the power behind the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a social services colossus that provides publicly-funded assistance in many forms to Lopez’s constituents, elderly and otherwise.

Until the sex harassment scandal, Lopez also served as chairman of the Assembly Housing Committee, a post in which he was able to bring residential units to the district — sparking the gratitude of the fortunate who got apartments.

He expected that gratitude to be repaid in votes, having long shown an insistence on loyalty combined with ruthlessness toward those who don’t return favors. Certainly, he is not shy about asking for thank-yous. His campaign account is overflowing with more than $1 million, even though voter registration in his district is 14-to-1 Democrats over Republicans.

CB11 to vote on Huang project

From the Times Ledger:

Community Board 11 will vote during its November meeting on whether or not a controversial developer can finish four homes currently being constructed in Bayside, the board said.

According to CB 11 officials, the board will vote Nov. 5 following a public on whether or not to grant a variance to Tommy Huang, ultimately allowing him to complete properties being built at 39-39 223rd St. and 39-01, 39-15 and 39-19 Mia Drive near the Cross Island Parkway in Bayside.

The properties have been mostly finished and the developer has asked for a variance to complete the work.

The community board’s East Flushing/North Bayside Committee, chaired by Christine Haider, has advised against the variance’s approval, citing violations at the property, according to District Manager Susan Seinfeld.

In past discussions with the developer concerning the Bayside properties, CB 11 officials have spoken out against Huang, citing his history as reasons why he should not be building in the community.

The violations date as far back as 2004 and stem from accusations of unsafe working conditions, according to the DOB.

Addabbo flip-flops over gay marriage

From the Daily News:

When it comes to gay marriage, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo was against it before he was for it — and now he seems to be against it again.

Last year, the Queens Democrat’s position-changing vote helped legalize same-sex marriage.

But now, Addabbo is locked in a tight reelection fight with Republican City Councilman and gay-marriage opponent Eric Ulrich. And the senator recently told the Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance during an endorsement interview that he’d again vote no if given the chance, according to two Jewish publications.

Why? Because his newly redrawn district is suddenly more conservative.

Addabbo, who is Catholic, cast a nay vote that contributed to the death of a gay marriage bill in 2009. After Gov. Cuomo, the Democratic standard-bearer in New York, aggressively pushed the issue after taking office last year, Addabbo changed his position, explaining his shift by saying that he polled the matter in his district and found his constituents supported gay marriage.

Cuomo cited the “courage” Addabbo showed in changing his position when he endorsed the senator earlier this month over Ulrich, a Catholic who once considered entering the priesthood. Addabbo’s pro-gay marriage stance also won him the backing of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s largest gay advocacy group.

But the Legislature redrew Addabbo’s district lines following last year’s gay marriage vote, bringing into his territory more conservative enclaves in Far Rockaway, Kew Gardens and parts of Forest Hills — and leading to his second flip on the issue.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Crane collapses in high winds

From WPIX:

High winds from Hurricane Sandy's approach damaged a large crane atop the 75-story skyscraper One57, leaving it dangling at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan as gusts from the massive storm begin to whip up.

Police are evacuating the area between Fifth and Eighth Avenues around 57th Street in anticipation that the arm could crash to the street. The arm of the crane, usually aimed skyward, has been doubled backward and is hanging limply with broken support beams jutting from all sides.

With wind speeds now approaching 90 mph as Sandy ramps up, it would be dangerous for workers to attempt to secure the crane at the top of the building.

A site in Williamsburg was also felled by the wind.

And so the stupidity begins

From the NY Post:

While Gov. Cuomo was urging New Yorkers to stay home today, Mayor Bloomberg was telling city employees — including those in non-essential jobs — that it’s business as usual.

“City workers are here to help others. I think they all understand that,” he said.

A former city employee expressed outrage.

“So the MTA is shutting down public transportation until Wednesday, but all city employees are supposed to make their way to work?” the employee asked.

“How? By canoe along the rivers?”

Gotta love those absentee landlords

"Here is how tenants park their HUMMERS as well as their commercial trucks on the lawn of a one-family home in Whitestone. 145-80 5th avenue.

Don't we love absentee landlords, who by the way, live across the street from the house and can see the lovely parking? BTW, there is plenty of parking on the street and in their driveway." - anonymous

Some Rockaway residents are staying put

From the Queens Courier:

Despite calls from elected officials in the area, many Rockaway residents say they’re staying, and have hunkered down for the impacts of Hurricane Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced earlier today that NYCHA would begin shutting down elevator service, heating and hot water in the 26 housing developments within Zone A as a means to drive people from the flood zones and into shelters.

John D’Arrigo said he and his wife Ruthanne are staying put in their beachfront apartment — although they evacuated last year for Hurricane Irene.

“Last year we kind of evacuated,” he said on the boardwalk of Rockaway Beach, “but this time we’re going to stay here.”

D’Arrigo, like many others who plan to stay, said he stocked up on necessary items and will wait out the storm.

“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” he said.

Likewise, Oscar Izquierdo said he was not worried about the storm, or flooding in his third floor apartment. His concern right now was potential flooding or water damage to his car.

The city has been working all weekend to build sand barriers around potential flood sites on the southern coast of the peninsula, particularly around Beach 116th Street and Rockaway Beach Park.

Elmhurst site is, indeed, a cemetery

"Re: Past article regarding possible cemetery in Elmhurst.

I have attached a link to the nypl digital archives.

This is a map from the 1900s, but you might already know Elmhurst queens was founded in the mid-1600s.

And here's another indicating it was a Methodist Episcopal church with African cemetery.

There was a cemetery on that whole block of construction as the map reveals."


Well, there doesn't seem to be any stopping of work. So much for dead bodies.

Law-and-order candidate violates Sanitation code

"Here is a prime example of yet another ass-piring politico who wants your vote ladies and gentlemen.

Being around the political scene in northeast queens for some time now. I anticipated "the candidate had no idea, we have no control over our volunteers, we will remove them immediately" response. So I, along with a couple of my neighbors called the campaign office and were given that exact answer. The three of us, on different days no less.

Then we drove around the "St. Greg's" area, aka Bellerose.
Guess what we didn't find?
You guessed it!
Not one sign on any public space!

So why is it that Bayside - and as these photos illustrate - Whitestone, are being dumped on?

The first call went in on Tuesday. We were told they would be removed that day. The signs weren't removed until yesterday. What took so long?

I know, we could have taken the signs down ourselves. Then that would be yet another citizen cleaning up a politician's mess wouldn't it?"

Lifelong resident

Joe Concannon is a former cop. The following have all endorsed Avella: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, the Captain’s Endowment Association, Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association, and Detective’s Endowment Association. - QC

Cats saved from Kew Gardens hoarder

Empty Cages Collective recently learned of a hoarding situation that was about to turn tragic. After years of complaints from neighbors and concerned citizens to the ASPCA and numerous evictions due to non-payment of rent and keeping animals in squalid conditions, a homeless woman in Kew Gardens, Queens began keeping 23 cats illegally in a storage locker until the storage company found out and kicked her out. The woman, with no where to go, found a kind man to let her keep the cats in his car. The woman said she would just need 24 hours to figure somewhere for the cats to go. After nearly a week, the condition of the car and the cats deteriorated. The cats were living smashed several a head into carriers. They only had access to water sparingly. When the woman would let them out of the carrier, they would defecate in the corners of the vehicle, under seats, on blankets making a huge mess. Something had to be done.

The cats were infested with fleas and earmites, and some with wounds from scratching so intensely were stressed by the conditions beyond measure. They needed help yesterday! They had already waited too long.

The man, who had finally had enough, threatened to kick the woman out of his vehicle. The woman planned to keep the cats locked in carriers hidden behind bushes in a park if this happened. She had no concern for the upcoming storm. She would not accept any help from anyone who stepped in offering to care for the cats.

Finally, a friend of the woman and the owner of the car intervened due to the declining health and conditions of the cats. On Saturday, October 27, Empty Cages Collective stepped up! The 19 cats we were told about ended up being 23 cats in need of veterinary care and rescue!

Admitting 23 cats at one time into our rescue program is a very big project. Please help us ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible for both us and the cats!

DONATE! We need donations to cover veterinary care, food, litter, boarding, transport and other expenses. Without you, we will not be able to do this:

Donations can also be sent by mail to
Empty Cages Collective
302 Bedford Avenue, PMB#301
Brooklyn, NY 11211

FOSTER! We desperately need foster homes (at least 1.5 month commitment: although they maybe placed sooner) for these unfortunate cats. Please contact us at 1.800.880.2684 or

RESCUE! Are you another legitimate no kill animal rescue organization willing to take even 1 of these poor victims to place under the auspices of your organization? Please do! We need your help. Contact 1.800.880.2684 or to discuss it.

TRANSPORT! Volunteer to help transport rescues to veterinarians, foster and adoptive homes. This is a big help and helps us get animals to where they need to be quickly! 1.800.880.2684 or

ADOPT! Have you been thinking about adding a new cat family member to your family? This is a great time to save a life and provide a wonderful home for an animal who has been through an immense amount of crisis! Get in touch at 1.800.880.2684 or to become a friend to one of these wonderful felines.

VOLUNTEER! Help us with adoption events and tabling to find cats and kittens (and other animals) wonderful homes. We require a full day (mostly weekends: 8 hour) commitment. Get in touch 1.800.880.2684 or

On behalf of all of our new rescues, thank you for your support.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's time to get packing

From Crains:

New York City announced the closings of its mass transit and school systems, both the nation's largest, and ordered residents to leave some low-lying areas Sunday ahead of the massive storm approaching the eastern third of the U.S.

"You don't want to be overly panicked and overly prepared, but you want to be prudent; you want to do what's necessary," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday in announcing the suspension of the city's subways, buses and commuter trains.

Rainfall is expected to start late Sunday or early Monday in New York. Hurricane Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean to meet both a snowstorm and a cold front, and experts said the rare hybrid storm that results will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. And one expert expressed concern about when the worst of the storm surge would hit: at high tide or at low.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he ordered an evacuation of the low-lying areas along the edges of the city including parts of lower Manhattan, sections of Brooklyn and Staten Island, and the Rockaways in Queens.

But, he said, those who didn't leave wouldn't be arrested.

How badly will he handle this one?

From the NY Post:

Hurricane Sandy will morph into a “Frankenstorm” that will likely dump 5 inches or more of rain — and possibly snow — on the city and cause $1 billion in damage on its path up the coast, forecasters said yesterday.

Chances the Category 2 storm would shear off to the northeast into the Atlantic fell sharply as meteorologists said it was much likelier to turn northwest, into land.

That translates to a 90 percent chance the New Jersey-to-New England coast will get steady gale-force winds, heavy rain and flooding.

The hurricane last night was responsible for at least 22 deaths across the Caribbean.

Worsening the situation is that Sandy is expected to collide with an early winter storm — arctic air from the north — and create a crisis like the “Perfect Storm” of 1991, when Hurricane Grace turned into a nor’easter and killed 13 people from Oct. 26 to Halloween.

Add to that the effect of a full moon Monday and you get even higher high tides to aggravate a storm surge.

Forecasters said they couldn’t recall anything like it.

From the NY Observer:

Mayor Bloomberg and the MTA are preparing for the maelstrom that could descend upon the city should the Frankenstorm indeed become the perfect one and dump unholy mayhem on the New York in the coming days.

At a conference of transportation planners hosted by the mayor’s streets czar Janette Sadik-Khan, Mayor Bloomberg joked that the assembled wonks, who had traveled from across the country and the world to debate bike lanes and traffic signalization, that they had better beat a fast retreat.

“You want to be out of here before this big storm, which everybody is panicking about, hits us,” Mayor Bloomberg said while delivering the closing keynote speech to end the three-day conference. He said it could hit “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday depending on which broadcast you are tuned into, and we’ve got to decide whether to pull all the subway trains out of low-lying areas, pull the buses out. Of course you can’t evacuate people and you can’t have schools open if you can’t have buses. Or if the storm doesn’t hit, god forbid, and you’ve wasted all this money.”

Meteorologist Jim Cantore has the latest from New York City, including a statement from the NYC mayor on Hurricane Sandy's storm surge that may be inconsistent with the message from many weather experts.

Coney Island boardwalk plan a bunch of lawsuits waiting to happen

From the Daily News:

The city’s plan to give the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk a concrete and fake wood makeover could mean big bucks for lawyers, a Brooklyn judge suggested Thursday.
The phony slippery lumber could result in costly slip and fall lawsuits, said Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Martin Solomon.

“Has the city considered the possible eventual cost of the slip and falls?” Solomon asked a lawyer for the Parks Department at a hearing Thursday. “I’m sure there are trial lawyers waiting for the plastic wood.”

Coney Island advocates were in court fighting to stop the city’s $7.4 million plan to rebuild five blocks of the Boardwalk - a plan that could be used as a model to eventually rebuild most of the 42-block stretch, except for a small area in the Coney Island amusement district.

Solomon, a former state Senator from Bensonhurst who was an early backer of Coney Island redevelopment, flung barbs at lawyers on both sides of the case.
He chided attorneys for the neighborhood groups, saying he knew “a little more about this than you do ...” about Coney Island and its problems.

“I believe you, Judge,” said advocates’ attorney Anne Railton.

When Railton argued the Parks Department’s decision to rip wood slats from five blocks of the Boardwalk was part of a broader plan to tear up 1 million square feet of the famed walkway, the judge said, “You’re speculating on a lot of things.”

The Parks Department’s lawyer tried to deflect the judge’s concern about slip and fall lawsuits.

“The Parks Department has really thought through this,” Assistant Corporation Counsel Katie Kendall said.

Failure to file may soon send pols to jail

From the NY Post:

The “Three Strikes and You’re in Jail” bill, sponsored by Assemblymen Jim Tedisco (R-Schenectady), Steve McLaughlin (R-Rensselaer) and Tony Jordan (R-Washington County), would turn a politician’s repeated failure to file into a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

It’s now a civil offense.

The crime would apply to any pol who fails on three occasions to disclose reports of campaign donations and expenses after receiving a 30-day warning that the filing is late.

The lawmakers said the buck should stop with the person whose name is on the ballot, not with a campaign treasurer.

The New York Public Interest Research Group found that more than 2,300 active campaign committees in New York controlling $31 million have failed to file timely reports.

More gambling heading to Aqueduct?

From the NY Post:

Buoyed by a successful first year, officials at the Aqueduct casino said they’re ready to expand from a slots operator into a full-fledged gambling facility that offers “live” table games.

“We’re not done yet,” New York Resorts World president Michael Speller said at the ceremony marking the Queens casino’s first anniversary.

“Table games would create a large number of jobs. Tens of thousands of jobs [statewide],” Speller said.

With Gov. Cuomo’s backing, New Yorkers will likely get the opportunity next fall to vote on whether to legalize up to seven Vegas-style casinos throughout the state. The Legislature must approve the measure before it appears on the ballot.

The big debate will be where these seven casinos will be located. Aqueduct’s Resorts World wants one of the licenses to operate table games, but other operators, such as Las Vegas Sands Co., have talked about opening one in Manhattan.

Rockaway Beach a victim of its own success

From the Daily News:

About 7 million people visited the beaches in Rockaway this year, more than double the number of recent years, according to city figures.

They were lured by the waves, sand and a new batch of groumet foods available at the boardwalk concessions.

But while the crowds are good for businesss, local officials said, they are also stretching the already thin police and parks resources to the breaking point.

“We are finally getting what we want,” said John Lepore, president of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce. “But the maintenance could not keep up. We need to clean up more often and have more security.”

Community Board 14 fired off a letter to Mayor Bloomberg last week, asking him to increase the number of police and parks workers assigned to monitor Rockaway beaches.

They pointed out the boardwalk is still battered from years of use and storms and there are not enough ramps to make the beach accessible to everyone.

“Our beaches are dirty at times due to the shortage of an adequate amount of garbage baskets,” Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska wrote in the letter on behalf of the board. “We are also deeply concerned with the lack of adequate police staffing during the summer season.”

The board does give the Parks Department credit for working “miracles” with limited resources but said the administrative “sleight of hand” no longer works.

“Rockaway is treated like a stepchild,” fumed City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “You would never see this in Central Park.”

From the Daily News:

Some Rockaway residents are worried that long-awaited beach replenishment plans are washing away.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already started dredging the East Rockaway Inlet, a move that will provide sand for eroded beaches along the western sections of the peninsula.

But unlike previous years, the sand will not be piped up to the beaches. Instead it will be dumped around Beach 30th St. and then moved separately by Parks Department contractors.

“I’m concerned that if they stockpile it, it will erode away,” said John Cori of Friends of Rockaway Beach, which launched a “Demand the Sand” campaign.

This summer the city announced it dedicated $3 million for a project to move dredged
sand to fill in the battered shoreline between Beach 85th St. and Beach 105th St., centered around Beach 92nd St.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder said he was concerned that the dredging project moved so quickly that the Army Corps was unable to work in conjunction with the Parks Department.

In previous years the two agencies worked together on a plan to dredge and then pipe the sand to specific beaches.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New face for old synagogue

From the NY Times:

Twenty years ago, it seemed that Congregation Tifereth Israel in Corona, thought to be the oldest synagogue in Queens, was headed for a date with a wrecking ball. Its Ashkenazi Jewish congregation — whose early members included the teenager who would become Estée Lauder — had dwindled to just a few. The wooden building, coated in 1929 with an unfortunate blanket of stucco, was in disrepair.

But in the late 1990s, a charismatic kosher butcher and rabbi from Central Asia moved to the area and slowly transformed the synagogue into the spiritual home of a community of impoverished Bukharan Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Soon, the rabbi’s wife figured out that in America, there was a way to save such a historic building.

Esther Khaimov, the rabbi’s wife, called the New York Landmarks Conservancy for help and combed through city records to find the building’s original 1911 architectural plans, according to Ann-Isabel Friedman, who guided the project for the conservancy. After years of work, the building was given city landmark status in 2008 and then raised enough state, city and private grants to pay for a $1.6 million exterior renovation.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Khaimov and her husband, Rabbi Amnon Khaimov, helped preside over a ribbon cutting for their restored synagogue. At 5 p.m. Rabbi Khaimov nailed the final nail into a mezuza, the ritual prayer scroll Jews affix to entranceways, on the synagogue’s front door frame. There is still no boiler in the building — that might have to wait until next year — but the restored siding glows sky blue, and the decorative ornament at its gabled parapet, at one point lost to time, is back in gleaming gold.

Another former lobbyist to run for Queens BP

From the Queens Tribune:

Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik is stepping down from his position to launch a bid for borough president.

Grodenchik, who is leaving Borough President Helen Marshall’s executive staff to solely be the director of community boards, will now be able to raise money for his borough president campaign because the New York City Charter precludes deputy borough presidents from raising money for political campaigns.

Grodenchik, a former Flushing assemblyman, created a campaign account and recently spoke with Queens Democratic Party Chair U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) about the possibility of receiving the party’s endorsement. A pivotal decision on which candidate the Democratic Party backs is many months away, but insiders believe Grodenchik would not be running unless he knew he would be receiving Crowley’s endorsement.

From Willets Point United:

We could not conceive of a more frightening idea-or an individual less qualified to represent the interests of the citizens of Queens. Grodenchik, after all, is a long time sidekick to Claire Shulman and was the go-to lobbyist for the Parkside Group when the proverbial stuff hit the fan about the illegal lobbying done by Shulman-aided and abetted by Grodenchik's firm. In what was a fascinating coincidence, Grodenchik took a powder from Parkside right when the controversy began in the summer of 2009.

What has never been told publicly is that the Shulman LDC listed the payments to Parkside as "marketing money," and not the lobbying expenditures that the money was used for. So in essence Grodenchik and Parkside were right in the middle of the illegal scheme-co conspiritors, as it were.

What's clear is that Grodenchik is a perfect continuation of the longstanding Queens tradition of anointing hacks to the BP position. Were he ever to win a race, the lobbyists and special interests will be salivating while the citizens of the borough will be left holding the bag.

Doing more with less

From Capitol Confidential:

State tax revenue in the first half of the fiscal year is $213 million short of projections and 0.2 percent lower than last year, according to a state comptroller’s office analysis released Friday.

Collections would have to grow 6.4 percent for the rest of the fiscal year to make up for the lag in expected revenue, the analysis said.

“We are not seeing the level of growth in tax revenues that is needed to meet year-end projections even though targets were lowered,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement. “The economic recovery continues to be weak and financial risks remain. The state must proceed with caution and carefully monitor revenue and spending.”

Tax collections, amounting to $31.6 billion through Sept. 30, were $213 million below projections, which were lowered in June. Collections are $436 million below initial projections.

Collections were 0.2 percent, or $72.1 million, lower than last year for the same period.

The report found that income tax collections were lower than projected for the period, while consumption taxes—the state’s collections on goods and services—showed small growth.

DiNapoli predicts that for the sixth consecutive year, the state is unlikely to reach initial projected tax collections.

A question of fairness

From Bloomberg:

New York devoted about $338 million, less than 0.5 percent of its $68.5 billion operating budget this year, to its 29,000- acre park system, down from $380 million. The city budget supports about 15 percent of Central Park’s $45 million annual operating costs, according to the conservancy website.

By comparison, the Chicago Park District, a semi-autonomous authority funded through dedicated property taxes, revenue from facilities such as Soldier Field and private donations, intends to spend $407 million on its 7,800-acre system, plus more than $80 million in capital improvements, said Jessica Maxey- Faulkner, a spokeswoman. Los Angeles spends $189.5 million of its $7.2 billion budget on parks.

In fiscal 2013, the city has earmarked $28.8 million for parks in Manhattan, almost double the amount in the Bronx, which has more than twice as much park acreage. The city budgeted $25.3 million for parks in Queens, $23.4 million for Brooklyn and $10.2 million for Staten Island. Staffing in city parks has declined 25 percent since 2009, to 5,744 employees.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a 1,255-acre expanse in Queens that was the site of the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964, is marred by barren fields where grass once grew and shuttered recreation facilities “where the city could easily spend $100 million,” [NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey] Croft said.

Ferry Point Park in the Bronx “now functions as a public toilet,” Croft said, after officials reduced staff, abandoned ball fields and closed public restrooms. “Without any security or supervision, men set up roulette tables for open-air gambling,” he said.

[John] Paulson’s gift “is a good thing not just for Central Park but for parks generally because it highlights how important parks are to people,” said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy organization.

“It also puts the onus on the city to make sure there’s enough money in the maintenance budget to properly maintain the 1,700 other parks that can’t draw this level of private funding,” Leicht said.

The best solution to the problem of funding all the parks would be the creation of a citywide conservancy-like institution to attract private and public funding, said Melissa Mark- Viverito, a Democrat who heads the City Council’s Parks and Recreation committee and whose Manhattan district of East Harlem includes a portion of Central Park.

“The challenge is to prevent our parks from becoming a two-tiered system where some have conservancies and some don’t,” said Mark-Viverito.

“We can’t have the city walking away from its obligation and responsibility for upkeep and maintenance,” she said. “That’s not the message we should be sending.”

Hardhats busted for fake safety cards

From the NY Post:

Authorities have busted 30 construction workers at job sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn for allegedly carrying fake scaffold certification cards, the Department of Investigation announced yesterday.

The DOI said the arrests were the result of a two-week sweep with the Buildings Department, whose inspectors also issued full and partial stop-work orders at 14 of the sites.

One construction-company owner, identified as Manuel Rodriguez, was charged with possessing 32 of the bogus cards.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration cards are required to work on scaffolding and at large job sites.

The arrests were carried out at some of the city’s fanciest addresses, including 55, 530 and 502 Park Ave. and 923 Fifth Ave.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tweeding on the Park?

From A Walk in the Park:

The city has finally announced the compensation it will receive from the controversial new Tavern On the Green and not surprisingly it is far less than what it was previously offered, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The fees to be paid to the city begin at just $1,000,000 a year and rise to $3,273,000 for the final year totaling $ 38.7 million over the twenty year agreement.

By comparison, Jennifer Leroy whose family had operated the iconic eatery since 1974 - agreed to pay the city $86 million in fees over a 20-year lease according to financial documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Law. Mayor Bloomberg rejected that proposal two years ago and instead awarded the license to Dean Poll who offered $57.3 million. Mr. Poll, who runs the nearby Boathouse Cafe - was unable to open the restaurant.

In addition to losing tens of million of dollars in lost revenue the City is also spending $ 10 million dollars in capital improvements fixing up the building for the new concessionaire who will then build out the space. The dramatic renovation has completely gutted the property.

The Bloomberg administration awarded the twenty-year Central Park bar and restaurant concession to the Philadelphia-based Emerald Green Group, where Jim Caiola, a brother-in-law of ex-deputy mayor - and current Bloomberg LP. employee Kevin Sheekey - is a partner. Mr. Sheekey is also the older brother of former Parks Department spokeswoman Megan Sheekey who was appointed by Bloomberg as the president of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.

I think an investigation is in order.

Astoria train noise abatement plan

Queens is home to vibrant and diverse cannibal cops

Just when you thought you'd heard everything...

And who knew there were cowboys living next door to cannibals in Forest Hills?

Wi-Fi to be installed in Queens subway stations

From the NY Post:

The next stop for underground subway cellphone and Wi-Fi service will be Queens.

The MTA announced yesterday it will add the perk in 40 stations in Queens sometime in 2013, part of a seven-year plan to outfit the entire system.

The only stops currently wired for cellphone and computer access are in Manhattan at stations along 14th Street and the C/E station at 23rd Street on Eighth Avenue.

Only T-Mobile and AT&T users will have cellphone service, but the wireless service is free.

Transit Wireless also plans to add service to 30 more stations in Manhattan in 2013, including Times Square, Rockefeller Center and 59th Street-Columbus Circle.

Officials did not reveal where in Queens would be next to get service.

An old familiar story

From the Times Ledger:

The construction of a crucial road in the fight against College Point traffic has been delayed yet again, even while the development of the College Point Police Academy has proceeded at a clip.

Community Board 7 has wanted a portion of Linden Place repaired since the late 1980s after the road was closed due to flooding about a decade earlier.

Civic leaders said the city Economic Development Corp. first projected the work would be completed about four years ago, but last Thursday found out the road is not slated for completion until 2014.

The first phase of the College Point Police Academy is set to be operational in December 2013 and will include about 900 parking spaces to accommodate commuters to the training facility just off the Whitestone Expressway.

Apelian, also vice chairman of CB 7, said the reopening of Linden Place is crucial to accommodate the increased traffic the police academy will bring, especially when other developments in the area are taken into consideration.

Several businesses from Willets Point were relocated to the corporate park, which is a special district designed to promote economic growth, and a new waste transfer station is set to open in College Point next year, where garbage trucks will drop off refuse.

“They keep putting projects into the district, but they won’t support the infrastructure,” Apelian said.

Yes, that's been the Bloomberg credo since he was first elected. Is this any surprise? Shiny new projects that include ribbon cuttings and groundbreaking photo ops are cool. Low key infrastructure projects are not.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Islanders moving to Brooklyn

From the NY Times:

The New York Islanders, who have played on Long Island since they began play in 1972, will move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, officials with knowledge of the deal said on Wednesday.

The deal was to be officially announced Wednesday afternoon at a news conference at the new arena in Brooklyn with Charles E. Wang, the owner of the Islanders, and Bruce Ratner, the owner of the Barclays Center.

Under the 25-year agreement, which has to be officially approved by the National Hockey League, the Islanders would move to the Barclays for the 2015-16 season.

The Barclays is already home to the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, which moved from New Jersey, and adding a hockey team would represent a major coup for Mr. Ratner. But unlike the Nets, the Islanders would keep New York in their name.

One less thing to threaten Flushing Meadows.

Baldeo charged with corruption

From the NY Times:

A district leader and former City Council candidate in Queens, Albert J. Baldeo, surrendered to federal authorities Wednesday morning to face corruption charges, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Mr. Baldeo is accused of using phantom donors to funnel illegal campaign contributions to his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for City Council in order to fraudulently increase the amount of matching funds provided by the city, federal prosecutors said. He is being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, attempted mail fraud, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and obstruction of justice, officials said.

Non-Asians need not apply?

From the Queens Courier:

An Asian supermarket chain is under fire from a trio of picketers who say the company is not colorblind in its hiring practices.

Jim MacDonald and his two pals, Craig Kinsey and Vincent Middleton, say H-Mart only employs Korean or Chinese cashiers and Hispanic backroom workers at its northeast Queens and Long Island stores. The threesome has been picketing outside the location on Union Street in Flushing since late August.

“It’s unfair to block out other ethnic backgrounds and only hire specific ones,” Kinsey said. “Flushing is a diverse community. If you want to show diversity, put your money where your mouth is. Have some diversity in employment.”

The activists say they’ve toured three H-Mart locations in Flushing and two in Nassau County, only to find a disparity in store workers’ ethnicities.

“We saw no African Americans or white Americans working there,” said Kinsey, who is African-American and lives in Flushing. “It’s not fair because of the consistency of this type of trend in those stores.”

MacDonald, 63, of Flushing — who is white — said H-Mart is considered a standard supermarket and should be held to fair hiring procedures.

Illegal hotel operator sued by the City

From Wall Street Journal:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration filed a lawsuit on Monday against what is believed to be the largest operator of illegal hotels in New York City, seeking $1 million in damages and the creation of a restitution fund for tourists who have been duped and exposed to dangerous conditions.

The lawsuit in state Supreme Court accuses Smart Apartments LLC and Toshi Inc., a related company that was dissolved last year, of operating illegal short-stay rooms in as many as 50 residential buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The suit also named as a defendant Robert "Toshi" K.Y. Chan, the companies' principal executive, who appeared in an Academy Award-winning film, "The Departed," and is known for throwing lavish parties in New York.

"Illegal hotel operators create hazardous conditions and place the lives of guests in danger," Mr. Bloomberg said in an email. "With this lawsuit, we are sending a clear message to operators of all illegal hotels: Our administration will remain vigilant in its commitment to combating this public safety problem."

Mr. Chan declined a request for an interview. Jonathan Nelson, an attorney representing Smart Apartments, said in a statement that the litigation "apparently is directed toward situations that have allegedly occurred in the past."

Sanitation in NYC is great...or is it?

From the NY Observer:

It seems that trash, as well as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder if two studies of New York’s street cleanliness are anything to go by. Travel + Leisure recently released a much-publicized list that found New York to be the dirtiest city in America. In an effort to try and rebut this filthy scarlet letter, the city's Independent Budget Office dug into the Mayor's Management Report, released the following week, that found 95.5 percent of the New York City's streets here are "acceptably clean."

The IBO collated information from the 2012 fiscal year, which found that the vast majority of streets in New York only have scattered litter here and there. It is a far cry from the results of the magazine’s survey, which apparently sees the place as one giant trash heap. This makes the city’s $81m investment in street cleaning measures seem pretty futile.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Queens native gives $100M to fix up Central Park

From Bloomberg:

Billionaire John Paulson and the Paulson Family Foundation are donating $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy, the largest parks donation ever.

Paulson, 56, is founder of Paulson & Co., a New York-based hedge fund that manages $21 billion across 10 funds. Paulson was worth $11.8 billion yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. His contribution will help renovate and maintain park facilities and pay for recreation programs, said Doug Blonsky, president of the conservancy, which is responsible for its maintenance and operations. Half will bolster the park’s endowment, which now stands at $144 million, Blonsky said.

Paulson was raised in the middle-class Beechhurst section of Bayside, in New York’s Queens borough. As a child, his parents took him through the park in a stroller, he said. He was valedictorian at New York University and attended Harvard Business School.

After working in risk arbitrage at Bear Stearns Cos., Odyssey Partners and Gruss Partners, Paulson founded Paulson & Co. in 1994, with $2 million from friends and family.

Why is it that people from Queens who do well for themselves never give back to Queens? Does Central Park really look like it needs $100M? No.
Does Flushing Meadows look like it needs $100M? Yes.

From A Walk in the Park:

Private organizations help raise money for some of the city’s other parks but their budgets are tiny compared with the Central Park Conservancy.

Some advocates of city parks have complained that other parks are neglected in comparison to Central Park, one of the city’s best-known destinations.

“It’s wonderful for Central Park, but there are thousands of other park properties in New York City that desperately need funding,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “This gift is a reminder of the enormous disparities that exist between the haves and the have-nots.”

Bloomberg taxi plan a total failure

From Capital New York:

“We’re gonna have all of our cabs be hybrid.”

So said Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Matt Lauer on the “Today” show in 2007, as they stood in front of a hybrid yellow cab donated by Yahoo! and emblazoned with its logo.

The mayor gestured toward a thin man in glasses to his left: “And most importantly, this is City Councilman David Yassky, who has been leading the environmental fight here in the city.”

Today, Yassky is Bloomberg’s taxi commissioner. And 2012, the year by which the taxi’s fleet was to go hybrid, has come and nearly gone.

In the meantime, not only has the city’s powerful taxi lobby defeated the mayor’s hybrid-cab plan in federal court, but the city is now taking steps that will actually reduce the number of hybrids on city streets.

FDNY prioritizes safety inspections

From the NY Post:

Buildings at “high risk” of fires will now be targeted as the FDNY revamps the way it assigns safety inspections, The Post has learned.

The new system will take multiple factors into account when determining the order of inspection, including, among other things, the building’s height and age, type of sprinkler system and fire history, said a high-ranking FDNY source.

Priority would be given to buildings with high numbers of occupants.

Under the current system, inspectors examine structures every other year, with little consideration paid to the specific factors that make a building more vulnerable, the source said.

The change, which follows completion of a Bronx pilot program, will likely be announced next month, when the first crew of officers undergoes training, the source said.

A spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg did not reply to repeated requests for comment. The mayor announced in June 2011 a similar inspection program for illegally converted apartments.

Sanders the next one in trouble?

From the NY Post:

Southeast Queens residents traded one politician who’s under indictment for allegedly covering up the theft of state funds for another who is in hot water with the state Board of Elections.

State elections officials said last week that they were preparing to sue James Sanders for failing to file proper expenses in his campaign report due 10 days after his Sept. 13 state Senate primary. After The Post’s inquiry, the Democrat updated his filing over the weekend.

Sanders, a councilman who’s had similar issues in a prior race, last month defeated Sen. Shirley Huntley, who is under indictment for allegedly covering up the theft of $30,000 in state funds from a charity she funded.

The board has also sued Sanders four times over the past three years for ignoring required disclosure reports from 2009 Council race, which he won easily.

“(Campaign) people have called over the years to find out what’s missing and then promised to make the filings and then they haven’t made the filings,” Board spokesman John Conklin said.

Sanders' campaign directed questions to his Council office; a spokesman there acknowledged the error with the recent forms but said he could not speak to the 2009 campaign filings.

Queens native back home

From NBC:

A 26-year-old Queens man who was banned from flying without explanation while trying to return home after visiting family in Montenegro is finally back in New York.

Samir Suljovic arrived at Penn Station Monday night after spending three weeks fighting to get back to the U.S. He went to Montenegro in July, and when he tried to fly back home out of Vienna, Austria on Oct. 1, airline officials told him he couldn't board the flight, citing orders from the Department of Homeland Security.

Suljovic, who was raised in Queens and lives in Oakland Gardens, believes he was banned from flying because he's Muslim.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What it all boils down to

From an Op-Ed in the Daily News:

Bloomberg-preferred developer the Related Companies in partnership with Sterling Equities, the real estate firm controlled by the owner of the Mets, have plans to build a 1.4 million-square-foot mall and parking garage. The majority of the land for the $3 billion Willets Point project would be taken from parkland adjacent to Citi Field currently used for parking. The administration is attempting to get away with not alienating the land as is required under state law in order to use parkland for non-park purposes.

The city is desperately trying to rely on a 1961 bill that never replaced parkland used for Shea Stadium.

If the 40-plus acres being proposed for mall use are no longer needed for parking then it should revert back to its original recreational use. Our elected officials should be pushing for that instead of giving away our public spaces to the highest bidder.

Major League Soccer is pushing to build a 35,000-seat professional soccer stadium on up to 13 acres. The $300 million plan calls for filling in the former Pool of Industry from the 1964 World’s Fair.

Proponents of the project have sought to characterize the site as decrepit and “under-utilized.” One of the more absurd MLS claims is that it’s a water body and that only 1 acre of grass would be used.

According to that philosophy, our water features, which make up fully one-third of all city parkland, are okay to develop. Besides providing pleasant views, the fountain area is used for jogging, as well as for wildlife.

Unlike the Willets Point deal the city is requiring MLS to replace park land. But these replacement park facilities would not provide the same usefulness, location or value.

As part of a $500 million expansion, the U.S. Tennis Association plans to build a 15,000-seat stadium and an 8,000-seat stadium, as well as two parking garages adding 500 spaces.

The city Economic Development Corp. is also irresponsibly attempting to push this massive project through without conducting a full environmental review of all three projects, needed to assess the cumulative impact.

If our officials were truly interested in creating jobs, start by taking care of the park. For decades people have fought for the city to care for this vital resource.
Elected officials should be supporting the hiring of desperately needed permanent workers to maintain, program and secure the park. They have continuously allocated a fraction of the park funds needed and instead have been increasing making deals that commercially exploit them.