Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cuomo involved in the patronage he vowed to stop; Ghost of Donald Manes haunts CD19 race

From the NY Times:

New York State’s economic development agency created a new position last June, and then found a candidate to fill it: a young man named Willard Younger, who had just graduated from Colgate University with a degree in classics and religion. He became a special projects associate, at a salary of $45,000 a year, according to state personnel records.

His father, Stephen P. Younger, is a lawyer and power broker in legal circles who was a member of one of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s transition teams. He has also donated $26,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaigns over the years, disclosure records show.

The next month, the agency hired 23-year-old Andrew Moelis, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, for another new position, strategic planning associate, at a salary of $75,000 a year.

Shortly before Mr. Moelis’s first day of work, his father, Ron Moelis, a prominent real estate developer, gave $25,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign, according to the records.

Since taking office in 2011, Mr. Cuomo has repeatedly pledged to bring a new approach to Albany, where politicians of both major parties have long rewarded supporters with jobs that are not open to the general public.

But an investigation by The New York Times into hiring by the agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, shows how Mr. Cuomo’s administration has engaged in some of the same patronage practices that have often prevailed here.

The investigation was based on personnel records obtained through a Freedom of Information request, as well as campaign finance and other state records. Numerous interviews were conducted with state officials, employees and outside experts.

Well, now we know how Austin Shafran got his job there. The Shafrans have been hooked up since the days of Donald Manes. In fact, Austin's campaign contribution list reads like Donald Manes' rolodex.  Here are some of the contributors:
  • Lester Shafran (and wife Beth) - Uncle, ex-head of the PVB, found guilty in the scandal.
  • Sid Davidoff & Stephen Malito - Davidoff was Manes' best friend and lawyer, pushed for the Grand Prix raceway and represented the USTA for their expansion in 1993. Davidoff and Malito are political fixers, bar none.
  • Then we have Sean Crowley working for Davidoff.  Another lobbyist involved in some not-too-civic friendly projects from another family that thrives only on nepotism.
  • Michael Nussbaum - Manes' bagman in a bribery scandal - $250,000 to get a cable television franchise - who had his conviction reversed and now is in sole control of the Queens Tribune.
Here's a summary of where some of Shafran's current contributions come from (total = $58,802):
Political / Elected Officials /Candidates /Government $9,890
Donald Manes Associates and Intermediaries $4,200
Lobbyists (they show up on the NYC Lobbyist search) $1,500
Unions $8,450
Real Estate / Developers / Construction $4,275
Lawyers $1,675
Employees of:
Epoch Times $1,850
Union Plaza Nursing Home $1,350
Parker Jewish Institute $800

This constitutes 58% of Shafran's contributions.

Do you folks in eastern Queens want to return to the days of Donald Manes?

Oh, Danny Boy!

From CBS New York:

He’s already facing trial on corruption charges — and now there are new troubles for City Councilman Dan Halloran.

The latest allegations involve sexual misconduct, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Monday.

What really went on inside Councilman Halloran’s office? If he turned it into match.com, and dated two of his staffers, it could turn into Ilostmyjob.com.

“Let me be clear: if these new allegations against Council member Halloran are true we will throw the book at him,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

Quinn was furious about reports that Halloran is dating a 23-year-old intern and previously dated a $30,000-a-year aide, vowing to kick him out of the council if the reports are true. She said dating a staffer could create a hostile work place.

“We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and that type of behavior in the council. Zero tolerance,” Quinn said.

Quinn said she ordered her counsel and the Ethics Committee to investigate. In fact, the council speaker didn’t waste any time. She ordered the Ethics Committee to take up the Halloran matter this week.

From the NY Post:

He threw away his marriage for a co-ed staffer half his age, and now Dan Halloran, the city councilman already under indictment in an alleged plot to rig the mayoral race, could lose his seat after another seamy office romp.

Halloran, 41, a cocky Queens Republican and a practicing pagan, has been carrying on with 23-year-old Denise Batista since she was an intern in his council office, sources told The Post.

The brunette beauty was seen covering her face at Halloran’s Flushing home when FBI agents led him out in handcuffs during his predawn arrest April 2, when he was charged in Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s alleged plot to bribe his way onto the GOP mayoral ticket.

Halloran could be hit with disorderly-conduct sanctions — including dismissal — if found to have violated the council’s ethics policy with Batista or a previous deputy chief of staff with whom he had a relationship.

Batista, a student and tennis player at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, first hooked up with Halloran while she was working for him, an “absolute no-no” under city and council rules, a council source said. Batista has since quit her intern gig.

It became clear to other staffers last fall that Batista, who filed and answered phones, was dating her boss.

“There was this ‘here we go again’ ” feeling among staff, said a source close to Halloran.

Sunday walk in Jamaica

A Jamaica Sunday morning walk just a few blocks to they new and very clean Blink gym revealed another "Jamaica Revealed", the other side. Of course the "Jamaica Revealed" refers to the event that was held on April 19th which was about the development going on in Jamaica and a way to attract business owners to our community. Well these photos reveal the other Jamaica, the reality Jamaica that needs to be addressed, otherwise we will have problems attracting quality people and businesses to our area. Jamaica is definitely a "Tale of Two Cities", what the quality and visionary people here want and then the actual reality caused by many of our low class residents and poor leadership. Here are a few highlights of this dark side trip that was only a few blocks.

1.Empty Lot at 169-23 90th Ave. Problematic vacant lot, which is more problematic on the outside than the inside. Besides people dumping litter, the weeds are growing high on the sidewalks making it more attractive for people to dump because you cannot always see underneath, dog shit here all the time and the broken uneven sidewalk that I have reported three times to the Department of Buildings beginning before Hurricane Sandy. This is next to my co-op and I am always cleaning this up, but decided not to clean up for at least 2 weeks to show what happens when you do nothing. Just get the damn asshole low class scumbag owner out here.

2. Low class problematic apartment building at 89-19 and 89-17 170th St across from me. I have been calling in this place to sanitation on a weekly basis, but the owners still do not properly store their garbage. Again get this scumbag slumlord owner out here.

3. Executive Arms: Nice name for a low class apartment building at 88-15 168th Pl. On the back/side of building at the corner of 168th Pl & 89th Avenue where the garbage is stored, the photos show so many violations from broken bags to various garbage all over which are a health risk and attracts all kinds of rodents...................and low class people who feel right at home with this kind of shit. It is one thing if you could not see this mess, but this can be viewed from the sidewalk.

4. Moving right along on 89th Ave Skid Row tour. Apartment building at 168-07 89th Ave has cleaned up their garbage containers in the front, but the side of the building is a rodent's dream.

5. House at 168-17 89th Ave. Improper storage of garbage which attracts rodents. Funny, this was the same individual who complained to NY1 about his next door neighbor's garbage mess in the backyard which he said caused rats to come into his house. Ah, maybe the rats are coming from your improper storage of garbage in your own place. People who live in glass houses shouldn't thrown stones.......... or should I say garbage.

6. Front of vacant lot at 170-19 89th Ave which I have complained to Sanitation so many times, yet it is still a dumping ground.

7. 165th Street shopping area off of Jamaica Avenue plus Jamaica Avenue itself. This was an eyesore Sunday morning at 9am. Now this is no reflection whatsoever on the 165th St Mall Improvement, Jamaica BID or Sutphin BID, because they are doing an amazing job. And after the gym I walked through here and the 165th Mall Improvement people were already on this situation and cleaning it up as the one photo shows. This is a reflection on the low class scumbag residents that we have and our elected officials who are not coming up with a solid action plan to combat this problem.

I just do not get this. 125th Street in Harlem does not look anything like this, it is not perfect, but nowhere in this condition. I have walked there on an early Sunday morning and have never seen what I see here in Jamaica and 125th Street has way more foot traffic than Jamaica Avenue, so why such a difference. Could it be that the people of Harlem actually have some pride in their community, something that is sorely lacking with the bunch here in Jamaica.

And talk about potential, the cobblestone street of 165th could be an unbelievable destination place with nice retail, nice outdoor cafes and restaurants instead of the many low class shit hole businesses that litter that area. I guess this shit just reflects our community. I mean you can still keep the urban flair but add cafes and nice retail into that mix. This could really be an anchor in Jamaica that would not only be a place for the quality middle class here in Jamaica but also a destination stop for people outside the area. Instead right now it is just a mess of mostly low class stores that just attract low class people and all their garbage that they bring with them.

These photos do not say "Invest in Jamaica", they say "Danger ahead, turn around and get the f*ck out of here as fast as you can." I mean if this sh*t is not low class ghetto behavior, I certainly do not know what is.

Now would the true leaders and visionaries of Jamaica please stand-up and raiser your hands. Okay, I did not think so. We will try again later. Class dismissed.

Joe Moretti
Jamaica, NY 11432

Advertising your illegal rental could get you burned

From the Daily News:

A couple who crowed online about raking in big bucks by renting out their Central Park West condo to tourists is getting sued for renting out their Central Park West condo to tourists.

“Last year we spent 110 days away from home,” Jodi Samuels wrote in a blog post last year.

“Best of all, we rent our apartment out while we travel and, New York being New York, we make good money.”

The board at the Olmsted at 97th and Central Park West, however, wasn’t impressed by Jodi and Gavin Samuels’ entrepreneurship when it finally got wind of it this year.

The board members say the Samuels’ bed-and-breakfast business violates the building’s bylaws — and they want the couple to pay $500 for each documented rental.

That could add up. The building says it found almost a dozen instances where the couple rented out one or both of their fourth-floor apartments for at least $250 a night, and Jodi’s blog indicates the total number might be much larger.

“As usual, we rented out our New York apartment at a premium, drove 12 hours and it actually pays for us to go away,” says one entry on the couple’s MetroImma website for Jewish mothers.

“Some nights we may as well hang up a sign that says, ‘Camp Samuels,’ ” said another.

She wrote that she has visited almost 70 countries, and that her young son has been to 32 states.

The suit says the couple advertised their apartments on numerous websites and Jodi’s own Facebook page. Their listing on homeaway.com describes one of the apartments as a 900-square-foot one-bedroom, complete with Wi-Fi, a DVD player, a renovated bathroom and kitchen, and “a great balcony facing the gardens.”

“The building has a 24-hour doorman, gym, playroom (and) playground,” it says.

Keeping stuff out of the country

From NBC:

Federal officers in Queens inspect packages, making sure the environment stays free of invasive plant and animal species that could harm our local ecosystems. Marc Santia reports.

No resolution to Astoria BSA nightmare

From the Queens Chronicle:

For the third straight hearing and the third straight month, the Board of Standards and Appeals declined to vote on whether to grant a zoning variance for a medical building on 31st Street in Astoria, instead postponing the decision again until next month.

The project’s developers and the neighbors who live behind the building have been fighting for years over substantial damage to the neighbors’ homes that they say was caused by the facility’s construction. The neighbors are also worried about noise, light and air pollution they say the structure and the 135-car parking garage may cause.

There is currently a stop-work order on the building after the Department of Buildings found last year that the building was built 10 feet too deep into the rear yard, in violation of zoning regulations. Pali Realty, the developer, can’t start work again until it obtains the zoning variance from the BSA, which has given the neighbors the opportunity to voice their concerns.

The case is a bit unorthodox because if [neighbor Robert] Draghi had not used a little-known maneuver through the city’s bureaucracy, he may never have been in the position to negotiate with Pali Realty at all.

The developers had been ignoring Draghi for years, he said, and last summer, Draghi and his wife decided they’d had enough of empty promises from contractors and inaction from the Department of Buildings and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria).

So they used what Draghi called their “last resort”: they went to the DOB to demand an audit of the near-completed medical facility in person. Draghi said they had to do “tons and tons of research” before finding that the audit was an option.

Vallone said he was unaware of the audit process but is glad Draghi used it. Though he never got personally involved, his staff had been working with Draghi and the other neighbors. Vallone said he is “extremely upset” about the situation.

Peter Vallone been a city council member for almost 12 years and didn't know that the DOB audits projects? Every civic person in Queens is aware of this. And he admits that he never got personally involved? Why the hell not? Maybe he wants to be our borough president so he can personally walk across the hall and tell the Queens DOB to lay off his friends' projects.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bloomberg planning to cede public parkland to foreign billionaire

Hey, folks! Guess what our billionaire mayor is doing now? Apparently, handing over our parkland to American billionaire developers isn't enough, so now he's giving it away to foreign billionaire developers. Check this out from the NY Times:

Now a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi is poised to become the latest foreign owner of a New York-area professional sports franchise.

Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, whose private investment group owns Manchester City in England’s Premier League, has entered final negotiations to purchase a franchise of Major League Soccer to be situated in Queens, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations.

After months of public hearings, applications and discussions, a deal for a privately financed $340 million stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which would hold 25,000 spectators and could be expanded to 35,000, could be completed in several weeks, according to several people with knowledge of the deal.

Neither Don Garber, the commissioner of M.L.S., nor Sheik Mansour could be reached for comment Sunday. Last week, Garber told reporters he hoped to make an announcement about the expansion team in New York in four to six weeks. In addition, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters last week, “Hopefully, we’re getting close to announcing a new soccer stadium here in Flushing Meadow
[sic] Park.”

Buying a soccer club allows the establishment of business and political connections and provides good public relations in enhancing Abu Dhabi’s global business empire, said Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the book “Soccernomics.”

Several experts said they would not expect much political blowback from an Abu Dhabi ownership in New York.

“These people h
ave a huge interest in political stability,” Szymanski said. “Jihad would be the furthest thing from these people’s minds.”

Well thank goodness for small favors!  Since the guy is so rich that the league has to cap his team spending, why doesn't he buy up private land somewhere to build a stadium for his team? Why is priceless public parkland even being considered?  Why will every Queens elected official, save for one, welcome this as a good investment instead of denounce it as unnecessary corporate welfare?

Avella wants to end self-certification

From Bayside Patch:

State Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, joined northeast Queens civic leaders in Bayside Friday to announce legislation that would discontinue the process of self-certification for developers.

The senator said the process, in which developers certify their own properties rather have them inspected by the city’s Department of Buildings, has long plagued communities in his district.

“I have been a long standing proponent of abolishing the self certification procedure, which creates huge loopholes for shady developers,” Avella said. “A great majority of the illegal construction that goes on in my district and beyond is due to the fact that the building plans were self-certified.”

The senator and civic leaders said the city’s Department of Buildings did not have the resources to inspect complaints for all of the problem sites throughout the five boroughs.

Therefore, the DOB should hire more plan examiners to inspect plans during the review phase, rather than allow self certification, they said.

Disaster relief reality show proposed to help Sandy victims

The Real Volunteers 04-26-13

"The last thing the world needs is another reality TV show, but this one is actually different. Attached is a 12 page proposal for a new reality show or series of shows related to the inside life of volunteerism and disaster relief:

The Real Volunteers of the Jersey Shore
The Real Volunteers of NY
The Real Volunteers - International Edition
and Volunteer Wars

If this show gets picked up and becomes widely viewed, it will certainly help to generate tens of millions of dollars in additional donations to victims of hurricane Sandy. Therefore anything each of us does to help get this show get to air will be an act of compassion for the suffering that is an everyday reality. This is not just great entertainment!" - Steve Major (the Arverne sinkhole guy)

Not a bad idea, especially since most people have chosen to stay and rebuild. And isn't it nice to know that months after the rescuers left, they're still thinking about us?

Then there's the guy who won't leave for a few months that has already forgotten about. From The Forum:

Reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people throughout South Queens dug into their pockets – into retirement funds, into savings for children’s college tuition, into all sorts of accounts that were never meant to be used for what they were: to replace roofs and heating systems, to rebuild basements once submerged in water, to begin to piece together unrecognizable houses and make them places that could, once again, be called home.

Then, months later, there came word that, for those who dipped into accounts that now seemed dangerously close to empty, federal funding could be making its way, slowly, to them. That the tens of thousands of dollars – or more – many spent on work not covered by insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not be lost, that perhaps relief would finally be heading their way.

For many in New York state, as well as New Jersey, this seems to be coming true. But, in Queens, and the other four boroughs, Mayor Bloomberg said earlier this month that he does not plan to use any of the $1.77 billion in federal hurricane aid to reimburse homeowners who already spent money on rebuilding their homes, arguing that it would open too many possibilities for fraud and that the money should go to those who have not been able to afford repairs yet.

While the mayor is insistent that reimbursements not occur, a number of area legislators are pushing the federal government to squelch Bloomberg’s plan – which they are authorized to do – and ensure homeowners see at least some money come their way.

“The mayor should not punish responsible homeowners who utilized their savings to make repairs in an effort to get back into their storm-damaged homes,” Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) said. “Nearly 85 percent of my district, including my own home, was destroyed during Sandy and if homeowners and small businesses had waited more than six months for the city program to kick in, we would not have made any progress in recovery and there would be massive devastation throughout southern Queens and Rockaway.”

Goldfeder joined Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) for a press conference on Sunday in Far Rockaway to urge Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to use some of the $1.77 billion for reimbursement – a decision Goldfeder said the federal government could ostensibly make before it starts issuing payments around the end of May. HUD is administering the funding, though it is being allocated through the mayor’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program. Additionally, the two legislators have sent a letter to Donovan on the matter, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has also reached out to the HUD secretary in an effort to secure funding for reimbursements.

In other Sandy news...

From NY1:

New York state's plan clears the way for the allocation of federal housing funds for a total of $1.7 billion, which breaks down to about $838 million in housing money and $415 million in economic development funds.

That will include buyouts for some homeowners and reimbursements for repairs that have not already been paid for by FEMA.

"We're not just going to build back, we're going to build back better than before," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "With the funding we have in the supplemental, with the response that we've had from all levels of government, I think we're poised to do that."

The money is also expected to be used for small business grants to get stores and restaurants open in time for the upcoming summer tourism season.

This initial approval is only a small portion of the $60 billion in supplemental appropriation approved by the federal government earlier this year. New York state's share of that is $35 billion.

Much of that remaining money will go towards long term projects like hardening critical infrastructure and reimbursing local governments for overtime incurred during the storm.

Joe Crowley's brother lobbying for secret developer's Astoria megaproject

From the NY Observer:

The Halletts Point redevelopment proposal to bring 2,644 apartments to a forlorn peninsula of the Queens waterfront has been in the works for three years, but now a different developer is throwing its hat into the ring.

The vaguely-named 2030 Astoria Developers LLC submitted an early application to the Department of City Planning today to rezone another smaller chunk of Halletts Point. They’re calling the project Astoria Cove and they want to build another 1,535 housing units—a combination of townhouses and apartments—on a site overlooking Pot Cove in Astoria, with a pristine view of the Queens leg of the Triborough (RFK) Bridge. Twenty percent of the project, or about 340 units, would be set aside for affordable housing.

When asked about the identify of those behind the LLC, Sean Crowley, the lobbyist who’s representing the developers and is the brother of Congressman Joe Crowley, told The Observer, “I’d rather not speak for them at the moment.”

“The buildings located along the waterfront,” reads the environmental assessment statement, “would have base heights between 80 to 100 feet that would be topped with towers ranging in height from 120 to 300 feet,” with the buildings further inland topping out at around 80 feet.

In addition to opening up the waterfront—with about twice the 20 feet of space required by the Department of City Planning, according the developer’s lobbyist—the builder is also planning to leave room for a 456-seat public elementary school, and “is exploring providing shuttle service for residents during the weekday a.m. and p.m. peak hours to and from the 30th Avenue station serving the N and Q lines.” (The proposed development is about three-quarters of a mile from the nearest train station.)

Contacted by The Observer this afternoon, Councilman Peter Vallone, who represents Astoria, said that he hasn’t yet thrown his support behind even the first project. The project, he said, “came in at almost twice the size they are now, so for years we’ve been working to whittle it down to something that’s economically feasible for them.”

Is it your job to ensure developer profits? Or are you supposed to be protecting your community from overdevelopment? Remember the blackout, Pete?

And what's the deal with Crowley hiding the identities of the developers?

Why the hell is every development project in Queens connected to multiple politicians and so damn shady?

Queens GOP dumps Halloran, backs Saffran; 2 other candidates enter race

From Crains:

The longtime former chief-of-staff for Republican Councilman Daniel Halloran is looking to run for her old boss' seat—as a Democrat. The councilman was recently hit with bribery allegations, setting off a free-for-all for his post.

Chrissy Voskerichian, who had a reputation as extremely loyal to Mr. Halloran but quit soon after the scandal hit, registered a campaign committee Friday to raise money for a possible run. In an interesting twist, a knowledgeable Queens source said, unlike Mr. Halloran, Ms. Voskerichian is registered as a Democrat and was expected to enter a crowded Democratic primary. Her voter registration status as a Democrat was noted in a 2011 Queens Chronicle profile.

"You could say she's more of a conservative Democrat. She's probably got a good shot, since she's well respected and knows everyone in the community," said the Queens source, who is not affiliated with any Democratic campaign.

Also from Crains:

The Queens Republican Party is officially dumping embattled Republican Councilman Daniel Halloran.

A Queens GOP screening committee voted unanimously Thursday evening to instead back the candidacy of Dennis Saffran, an attorney who lost a 2001 race for the same seat by a mere 400 votes, for the northeast Queens seat held by Mr. Halloran, according to party chairman Phil Ragusa. The Queens GOP's executive committee is all but certain to follow suit next Tuesday.

"[Halloran] is a Republican, and he can decide whether or not he wants to run. I can't say whether he's innocent or guilty," said Mr. Ragusa. "But he's got a cloud hanging over his head. He's got to make up his own mind, but I don't think it would be a good idea."

The bribery scandal also ensnared former Queens GOP executive vice-chairman Vincent Tabone, who has since been replaced by former Councilman Anthony Como. Mr. Tabone is accused of accepting a cash bribe. It's unclear whether Mr. Halloran will try to run for re-election. He did not return a request for comment.

From the Queens Chronicle:

A City Council candidate’s long-rumored run was made official this week, as John Duane formally kicked off his campaign after months of fundraising and behind-the-scenes legwork.

The Little Neck resident spent one term in the state Assembly nearly three decades ago and is making a second push for public office since that initial stint in Albany. (Duane lost to Ed Braunstein for the 26th Assembly District seat in 2010.)

Duane said his drive to represent the people of Northeast Queens has not diminished since his long-ago stint in Albany, and in fact has only grown.

“I certainly know the struggles my neighbors have had, and I’ve had them as well,” the Democrat said. “I’ve spent my whole life serving my community.”

The 59-year-old often portrays his candidacy and potential stint in the City Council as a time of bridge-building and nuts-and-bolts legislating. Transportation, education and public safety top his priorities list, as well as veterans issues. The latter concern distinguishes him from his potential opponents.

Craig Caruana to challenge Crowley for Council

From the Queens Chronicle:

Middle Village native Craig Caruana wants the Republican Party to take back the 30th District City Council seat and said he’s the man for the job when he announced his candidacy in front of the Little League clubhouse in Glendale on Monday.

“We are lacking leadership in this district,” Caruana said in front of family, friends and supporters. “What we need is someone who will take responsibility for what happens in Queens.”

Caruana also addressed what he called missteps current Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) made throughout her term.

“Property taxes have gone up 11 times over the past 10 years,” Caruana said. “And when you ask Councilwoman Crowley about it, she says it’s complicated. Water rates have also increased, and yet it was met by a stunning silence of indifference from the councilwoman.”

Caruana went on to criticize the councilwoman for bringing in the least amount of discretionary funding in the entire borough.

“What does the councilwoman say about the lack of money coming into this district?” Caruana asked. “She complains that the 30th District doesn’t receive funds because the speaker is mean and doesn’t like her. These are all excuses. We need someone who doesn’t complain about colleagues but who works with them.”

Sunday, April 28, 2013

You really don't want to mess with Sunny Hahn

From the NY Post:

Just two weeks after state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s bribery bust, a Queens GOP boss offered a City Council hopeful the party’s endorsement in exchange for consulting jobs for him or some pals, The Post has learned.

First Vice Chairman Stephen Graves — a regular in poker games with Smith’s co-defendants, City Councilman Dan Halloran and ex-Republican power broker Vincent Tabone — made the pitch to Sunny Hahn on April 16, sources said.

He promised her the party’s endorsement as she looks to challenge Councilman Peter Koo for his Flushing seat. Koo was elected in 2009 on the GOP ticket, but later became a Democrat.

“If you . . . consider hiring me or [Republican] party people like me, it would help to get an endorsement,” Graves told Hahn, according to multiple sources.

“I called him back the next day and said, ‘I cannot accept an endorsement with conditions,’ ” Hahn told The Post.

Graves got nervous when she refused, and said, “No, didn’t mean that. I didn’t’ mean conditions,” Hahn claimed.

The FBI was immediately told about the alleged shakedown attempt, sources said.

Graves denied offering an endorsement to Hahn in exchange for a consulting gig.

“That is completely, completely, completely and totally, totally a mischaracterization,” he told The Post.

“Even if I were so stupid to be that way in the first place — which I would not — in the current environment, that would be ridiculously dumb.”

Graves claims he stressed to Hahn that only the Queens GOP chairman, Phil Ragusa, could endorse a candidate.

But Ragusa distanced the party from Graves.

“If he went out and did it on his own, that’s not my problem,” he said.

“If what you’re saying is true, clearly, we are very upset because he never had the authority to do such a thing.”

Look folks, local politics is ALL about consulting contracts. You want to run, you have to hire the right firm, or you don't get the backing of the county organization. That goes for Democrats as well as Republicans. It's not about philosophy. It's about tweeding. The consultants get to feed off the 6-to-1 matching funds that we taxpayers hand over to the candidates. This may be one of the few times that a little sunlight has fallen upon the practice.

Something may finally become of Rockaway courthouse

From the Daily News:

The city has finally agreed on a plan to transform the long-abandoned Rockaway Courthouse into a medical center.

Developer Uri Kaufman, whose Harmony Group has converted other historic structures into modern facilities, will purchase and renovate the 24,000-square-foot building into doctor’s offices and outpatient surgery suites, according to the city Economic Development Corp.

The deteriorating courthouse, built in 1932, sits on Beach Channel Drive near the foot of the Cross Bay Bridge. Despite its majestic exterior, residents have tagged it a decaying eyesore.

In return for pumping $10 million into the project, city officials said Kaufman’s company will be able to purchase it for $50,000.

Bike Share program has gotten a little nuts

From CBS New York:

Some street vendors say the city’s new bike sharing program has given their livelihoods the boot.

Nearly a dozen lower Broadway street vendors say they showed up to work on Monday only to find their corner at Liberty Street taken up by dozens of bike share racks.

They showed up to protest on Thursday.

From the West Village to Battery Park City to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Bike share stations are appearing, and some find them appalling.

“I’m very unhappy about this!” one woman told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.

“This was just a really anxiety-producing moment, to realize you won’t have your space to vend that you’ve been working in for many years,” Stephanie Barretta of the Street Vendor Project told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond.

They said they don’t mind the Citi Bike program. They just don’t want it on the busy street corner where they make a living.

From the NY Post:

Taxpayers are forking over cash so a small army of city DOT employees can baby-sit rogue cyclists, reminding them of the basic rules of the road so they don’t pedal into pedestrians.

Nearly a dozen Department of Transportation workers — some who usually maintain traffic signs — were deployed to sparsely occupied bike lanes on First and Second avenues in the East Village yesterday to hold up red stop signs to control speeding cyclists.

The other side of the signs display the warning “wrong way.”

The sign holders said they loved their new, easy gig.

“This is great! Usually, I’m changing signs,” said DOT worker Danny Gonzalez, 40, of Bayside, Queens, a traffic-device maintainer who earns more than $50,000 a year. “This is so much less stress on my body. I don’t have to lug around a ladder to do this!”

The DOT calls the workers “street safety managers.”

They were specially trained by contractor Sam Schwartz Engineering.

The team will rotate to different bike-lane areas each day, and they’ll be out until October.

They’ll also hit the bridges and ask cyclists and pedestrians to not veer into each other’s lanes, the DOT said in a statement yesterday.

“It’s a waste of money, and it’s a waste of peoples’ rights. People know safety better than the government,” said Eric Alberti, 39, an East Village resident.

The DOT explained the workers are needed in advance of next month’s rollout of the city bike-sharing program, which is under fire from residents who say the racks block precious sidewalk and parking space.

The DOT won’t say how much all the new sign holders cost, but officials insisted that using city workers saves “costs associated with contracting out similar services from a private vendor.”

Residents argue the program isn’t necessary at all.

From the Daily News:

City Council Thursday cracked down on one of New York’s newest menaces — motorized bicycles that zoom down sidewalks or speed the wrong way in traffic to deliver food at breakneck speeds.

The so-called “e-bikes” have long been outlawed on city streets but cops couldn’t issue a citation unless they could prove the rider was exceeding 15 mph.

A bill the Council passed Thursday will prohibit the bikes regardless of their speed. If signed by Mayor Bloomberg as expected, the bill would slap business owners with $100-$250 fines for having an e-bike on their premises or if their employees are caught riding them on the street.

You know things are bad when the City Council looks like the voice of reason.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is literally a dump

From WPIX:

The lake is a busy area at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. A family was sick of seeing the trash piling up in the water. They contacted PIX11 Reporter Greg Mocker who put on waders to remove some trash.

Hey, if we adequately staffed the park with workers, we wouldn't need reporters to clean it up. But that would mean the City Council would have to allocate adequate funding for it, and it's much more fun to make deals with developers to sell off pieces of the park in return for a "park fund" that will no doubt get looted (again).

Private eye catches rent scammer

From the NY Observer:

Like something out of a spy movie, residential building owners are now using private investigators and hidden surveillance to track down absentee tenants in rent stabilized buildings.

In a recent case, law firm Rosenberg & Estis represented Blair Hall Inc., the owner of a 200-unit rent stabilized building in Queens. Using surveillance techniques, the firm was able to ascertain that tenant Janina Vilcek’s primary residence was in the state of Florida.

In a decision dated February 13, Judge Gilbert Badillo of the Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York in Queens, awarded possession of the apartment to Blair Hall, Inc.

Via video surveillance using hidden cameras in Exit signs and smoke detectors, it was learned that Ms. Vilcek, who was also under investigation by the Secret Service on suspicion of partaking in multiple marriages to convey citizenship, was subletting her apartment to another building tenant while living in Florida.

Ms. Vilcek’s defense was hardly convincing, according to Judge Badillo.“To this Court’s observation, whenever [Ms. Vilcek] was confronted with the contradictions, she would no longer remember or understand the question or information,” he wrote in his decision.

The law firm also subpoenaed Ms. Vilcek’s phone records to ascertain her location and used internet databases to learn the Polish-born woman was registered to vote in Florida and had cars registered in multiple states.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New recycling rules for plastic

From NYC.gov:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway and Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty [Wednesday] announced the expansion of the City’s recycling program to include for the first time the recycling of all rigid plastics, including toys, hangers, shampoo bottles, coffee cups and food containers. The expansion of plastics recycling – which begins today – is part of the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan and is made possible, in part, through a partnership with SIMS Municipal Recycling whose recycling facilities are equipped to handle the broad range of plastic recycling. The recycling expansion will result in more than 50,000 additional tons of waste a year no longer ending up in landfills at a savings to City taxpayers of almost $600,000 each year in export costs, and for rigid plastics, it is recommended that New Yorkers should rinse and recycle it.

“Starting today, if it’s a rigid plastic – any rigid plastic – recycle it,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “There is no more worrying about confusing numbers on the bottom of the container. This means that 50,000 tons of plastics that we were sending to landfills every year will now be recycled and it will save taxpayers almost $600,000 in export costs each year.”

Putting the "barrier beach" back into Rockaway

From Capital New York:

Walter Meyer, a surfer, sometime-Rockaway resident, and urban designer, has an idea on how to protect the Rockaways from some of the devastating impacts of the next Hurricane Sandy, and he says the city is listening.

Before Hurricane Sandy lifted the boardwalk from its moorings and sent it surging blocks inland, tearing at everything in its way, swimmers and sunbathers had to cross the broad, Robert Moses-designed four-lane Shore Front Parkway, complete with a median, to reach the boardwalk to get to the beach.

Moses intended Shore Front Parkway to link Brooklyn to the Hamptons, but his plans never quite panned out. Today, the parkway is lightly used, and some of its lanes have been converted to parking.

Meyer wants to halve the width of that parkway and turn it into a regular two-way, two-lane road, so that the city can build a dune forest on its southern half.

That dune system would host a forest of pitch pine, that, like the coconut palm tree of warmer climates, develops roots that lock together, holding the beach in place and creating a formidable bulwark against future floods. A typical dune forest would take two to three summers to become operational.

“But once it gets locked in, it’s amazing how strong and resilient it is,” said Meyer.

Closer to the edge of the water he's recommending the city create another, lower wall of dunes, these planted with a collection of fast-growing sand grasses that are naturally resistant to high wind and heavy salt water. The grasses, if planted soon, could be well-established by next summer.

“The primary dune is protecting the secondary from wind, and the secondary dune is protecting the primary dune from disappearing into the sea,” said Meyer.

In between the two sets of dunes, Meyer thinks the city should build a “beachwalk,” using a sort of glue pioneered in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to harden the sand into a crust and thereby prevent tanks from getting stuck.

The beachwalk would be wide enough to accommodate ambulances and bikes and pedestrians.

New Christine Quinn attack ad

"The closing of St. Vincent's hospital leaves a community out in the cold," Arthur Cheliotes, President of Local 1180 said. "Today's new ad calls attention to a community where residents have nowhere to go in the event of an emergency or health crisis. Christine Quinn played an integral role in letting St. Vincent's disappear and we cannot support a mayor who would let her donors dictate development at the sacrifice of our communities."

From the Politicker:

Update (12:40 p.m.): It turns out that there was an error in the ad. About 10 seconds in, writing on the screen claims that Quinn received $59,400 in campaign contributions from Rudin Management. But according to a spokesman for the New York City Campaign Finance Board, that's not the case.

Thanks to a quirk in the board's electronic database, some contributions given before term limits were extended happen to show up twice.

“Those contributions shouldn’t be counted twice," explained spokesman Matt Sollars. In fact, employees of the company have contributed $29,700 to Ms. Quinn's 2013 campaign, he said.

Like $29,700 is something to sneeze at.

Cooper Ave underpass reconstruction is long overdue

From the Daily News:

A stretch of road in Glendale prone to chronic flooding is set to get a multi-million dollar facelift within months, officials said Tuesday.

Cooper Ave. between 74th and 79th streets will get a new retainer wall, catch basins and sidewalks installed by the city Department of Design and Construction for this summer, an agency official said.

“We are installing new structural concrete, new concrete parapet and underpass walls and catch basins,” said DDC spokesman Craig Chin. “It should be complete by this summer.”
Community leaders hailed the news of the $6 million dollar project.

Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi said the avenue has been plagued by issues for quite some time.

“It needed to be repaired,” she said. “It’s an expensive fix-up and they could use every penny. It’s had a lot of problems for a long time, including the flooding.”

Interesting revelations during Liu fundraiser trial

From the NY Post:

Thomas Wang, 26, testified yesterday in Manhattan federal court that he agreed to donate $500 to the Democratic city comptroller at the request of Liu’s then-campaign manager, Jia “Jenny” Hou, whom Wang had dated at the Bronx HS of Science.

Wang said he was hoping to get back together with Hou when she asked him to help meet a $1 million fund-raising goal for Liu’s nascent mayoral campaign in July 2011, and promised to personally reimburse Wang for his contribution.

Wang e-mailed Hou his credit card info, although online-chat records introduced into evidence in Manhattan federal court showed that Hou never used the card because the campaign had met its mark.

Also testifying yesterday was construction-company owner Jian Kang Chen, who posed next to Liu for a group photo at May 2011 fund-raising event where Liu was allegedly showered with illegal contributions.Chen, who also testified under a non-prosecution agreement, said he arranged for six of his employees to donate $800 each and later get reimbursed with his money.

Chen, who said he didn’t make a donation himself because he doesn’t have a green card, said he engaged in the scam to curry favor with Liu supporter and Chinese-grocery magnate Jeffrey Wu, who hosted the event and hired Chen to renovate apartments in a Flushing, Queens, high-rise he owns.

From the NY Times:

Mr. Liu has not been charged, but his name has been invoked frequently in court. On Thursday, Samantha Bell, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was testifying about an interview with Ms. Hou that was conducted before her arrest.

Ms. Hou’s lawyer, Gerald B. Lefcourt, asked whether Agent Bell had asked Ms. Hou if there was a “personal relationship” between Mr. Liu and a longtime aide, Crystal Feng.

“Yes,” Agent Bell said.

Mr. Lefcourt also asked whether the agent suggested to Ms. Hou that because Mr. Liu had long-term relationships with Ms. Feng and another aide, Mei-Hua Ru, “that he would be close to them and they would throw her under the bus, or words to that effect.” Agent Bell denied that.

Is this saying what I think it's saying?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Paul Vallone will take a judgeship OR a council seat...

From the Times Ledger:

Paul Vallone, a Flushing attorney, was also deemed qualified for judicial positions months before he announced a run for the northeast Queens City Council seat, records showed.

Each year the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commissions releases a list of candidates for various judgeships, detailing their qualifications for different positions before the November elections.

In the most recent results made public last summer, Vallone was listed as a qualified candidate for Supreme Court justice and highly qualified for judge of the Civil Court. Both ratings will stand for three years, the commissions said.

Just months later, Vallone announced his Democratic candidacy for the seat held by Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) with a kick-off Jan. 8 in Whitestone. Campaign finance records also showed Vallone had been collecting funds for the Council run as early as October 2012 — less than five months after his judgeship qualifications were released.

Vallone said he was proud of the recognition from the election commission, but it in no way interfered with his Council campaign.

“We are 100 percent committed,” Vallone said. “The year 2013 is my commitment for Council. Last year it was another process.”

Pick a job, any job. So long as it lands his ass on the public dole, he'll take it.

149th Street LIRR bridge still closed with no answers

From Eyewitness News:

The bridge that crosses the railroad tracks in Flushing, Queens on 149th Street between Roosevelt and 41st Avenues is still not open to the public.

It's a brand new bridge rebuilt for $4 million.

It was set to re-open in May 2012, nearly a year later, but 11 months later, not a single car has driven over it.

Back in February Eyewitness News reached out to the City Department of Transportation asking whether any "defects were found during the (bridge's) inspection."

Stone-walled by DOT, Eyewitness News filed a Freedom of Information request and still there are no answers.

"It's almost like a cover-up is going on," State Sen. Tony Avella said.

Queens State Senator Tony Avella ran into the same wall of silence.

"This contract was done by a city agency with public dollars, we should know what's happening," Avella said.

Documents Eyewitness News obtained reveal that the builder is "Unicorn Construction Enterprises" which has been contracted to refurbish many bridges throughout the city.

Discovering how many contracts Unicorn has had with the city, more than 20 since 2008, Eyewitness News decided to go right to the top with our questions.

"There were issues with the concrete and we're not going to open a bridge until its safe," said Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC DOT Commissioner.

Sure enough, a closer look at the bridge shows cracks running the entire length of its new concrete span and the DOT installed sensors to monitor the cracks.

Eyewitness News asked the Commissioner why her DOT inspectors failed to discover the defective concrete sooner.

But it didn't open until after the refurbishment project was done and the money was spent.

"I can't really say anything else because we're looking at legal action right now. The bridge will remain closed until it is safe to the travelling public," Sadik-Khan said.

"We've been trying for weeks to get the inspection reports on the bridge. It is a public document. Will you release that to Channel 7?" Hoffer asked.

"I'll have to get back to you, I don't know what the status of that is," Sadik-Khan said.

Julissa Ferreras & "New Yorkers for Parks" pushing for privatization of FMCP

From the Daily News:

A Queens lawmaker is in talks with the city to create a public-private alliance to fund the upkeep of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said such an alliance could solicit donations from Queens residents and businesses for the borough’s 1,255-acre, flagship park.

It could also eventually seek a cut of the rent paid to the city by Citi Field and the U.S. Tennis Association, which are located in the park, she said.

“Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has not received the attention and resources it deserves,” Ferreras told the Daily News on Wednesday. “We get such a small percentage of the dollars that are generated by our park reinvested into our park.”

Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, said she supports the idea of an alliance.

“It is the most heavily used park in Queens,” she said of Flushing Meadows, which is bordered by low-income, immigrant communities. “It really does need that public-private partnership to have that level of care it deserves.”

Well if it is bordered by low-income, immigrant communities, then where does this dingbat think private donations like the ones that fund the Central Park Conservancy and the Prospect Park Alliance will come from?  And if conservancies work so well, then why did the one for Flushing Meadows not raise any money?   Why do we need another one?  The Queens Chronicle asked the same question in an editorial this week.

Why aren't these people demanding adequate funding in the city budget, as the city is supposed to provide?

What kind of park advocates push for the privatization of public parkland?

Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, said if an alliance profits from the stadiums located within its perimeters, this could create an incentive to rent out more parkland to other private companies.

“It is the elected officials’ job to adequately fund public parks — not private businesses,” he said.

A city Parks Department spokesman said the idea is under serious consideration.

Of course it is! It lets them off the hook for proper funding and that's more money that can be funneled into tweeding programs and developers' pockets.  Why do these pols think they are entitled to treat public parkland like it's personal real estate to make a deal with?  And this comes just in time for the third project to be revealed.

Beach replenishment starting in June

From the Daily News:

The first extra dose of sand is coming this June to storm-worn sections of Rockaway’s beaches.

The most eroded sections between Beach 89th and Beach 149th Sts. will get 1 million cubic yards of sand dredged from the East Rockaway Inlet, officials said Tuesday.

“We know the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working hard to bring sand to Rockaway,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “We look forward to its arrival and will do everything we can to help get it in place as quickly and safely as possible.”

Portions of the beach will close while the sand is added.

Meanwhile, another 2.5 million cubic yards of sand is slated to beef up the entire beachfront from Beach 19th to Beach 149th streets. That project is not expected to start until August and could take between six and nine months to complete.

Rozic calls for better Queens transit service

From Bayside Patch:

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, D-Fresh Meadows, is calling on the Metropolitan Transit Authority to invest its $40 million surplus in restoring Queens subway and bus service.

Last month, it was announced that a deal between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators could increase the MTA’s funding to $358 million. The increase would give the agency $40 million more than expected to put back into its budget. In 2010, the MTA cut $93 million in subway and bus service.

Rozic and members of the advocacy group Riders Alliance are calling on the agency to use the surplus to restore service in Queens.

“Public transportation is vital to the communities of eastern Queens, where most live in a transit desert, having limited access to trains and relying heavily on buses to get to work, school or important appointments,” Rozic said.

Finally, someone who realizes the needs of Queens commuters.  There's also a lot of people farebeating out there.

Shark fin soup may soon be a thing of the past

From the Daily News:

The New York state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to outlaw the shark fin trade.

The bill now heads to the Assembly, which passed the same measure last year, only to have it die in the Senate without a vote.

If the bill is again approved by the Assembly, where it enjoys sponsorship from 43 of the body’s 150 members, it will head to Gov. Cuomo’s desk.

Environmental groups estimate that 73 million sharks are stripped of their fins and dumped back into the ocean, where they sink to the bottom and drown. The fins are then used as the main ingredient in the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup.

Since California and four other states banned the sale, purchase and distribution of shark fins, New York has become the leading hub of trade for the coveted product in the United States.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Jamaica Cleanup Revolution Has Begun!

This is my latest Jamaica garbage music video: "WALL OF SHAME" a look back over the past year with the garbage problem and some of our elected officials who were too busy with "other things" to even address the problem, let alone come up with an action plan.


Also doing a little garbage experiment. There is a vacant lot next to my apartment at the corner of 170th St/90th Ave (169-23 90th Ave) which daily has some type of litter or garbage dumped onto the sidewalks surrounding it, people throwing cans/bottles inside the lot and now that is it Spring, weeds started to grow high on the outside and inside. This property is owned by slumlord scum, Jotirmoy Inc (Gouranga Kundu), no surprise here with the pattern in my hood. He lives in Woodside and has only been out 3 times in two years to take care of the property. In the meantime, every day I walk by I pick up the assorted garbage/litter, otherwise it would pile up like it was when I first moved here. Well for a few weeks, I am going to do nothing, which will be tough, to see what it will look like in a few weeks. Hopefully I will be wrong. I have attached a photo of DAY 1, April 23rd.

Also around the corner from me is a house located at 170-12 89th Ave that has had a mattress lying in the front yard for over a month, along with other assorted litter/garbage and nothing has been done about this. I even told a Sanitation officer about it last week when I saw him on that same block inspecting another nuisance vacant lot (89-19 89th Ave) owned by Zoria Construction in Richmond Hill, would you like to take a guess at the owner of that company. The Sleepy's Mattress house is owned by Monirol Ahmen, again no big surprise there. Back in 2006-2007 when the property was owned by, drum roll please, GOPE MONAJ, Department of Buildings attempted to gain access because of supposedly an illegal conversion in the basement, but failed on both attempts because they were not allowed access by the individuals there. This law is bullshit especially with our "diverse" population that likes to cram as many people as humanly possible into a space. Hey we are not in the motherland anymore!

Anyway enjoy the video which has commanded its own page on my blog:

Joe Moretti
Jamaica, NY 11432

"The Jamaica CleanUp Revolution Is Here"

Taxpayers now footing the bill for Willets Point remediation

From Willets Point United:

A contentious point about the proposed Willets Point development has been the alleged need for remediation of the property. Willets Point United Inc. believes that during 2008, the City greatly exaggerated the alleged need for remediation in order to horrify the City Council and provide some basis to approve the land grab involving our property. That the City is now awkwardly backing away from its 2008 claim proves our point.

During a 2008 City Council public hearing, the cost to remediate the entire 62 acres of Willets Point, according to the City, was said to be between $470 million and $570 million – "half a billion dollars", as then-Councilman Hiram Monserrate put it – a large sum that implied a large amount of remediation was required. That a developer would foot such a bill was touted as a benefit of proceeding with the entire proposed project.

Now, five years later, the City's contract with chosen developers Sterling/Related anticipates the cost of remediating one-third of Willets Point (the "Phase One" area) to be just $40 million, or less.
Extrapolated to the full 62 acres of Willets Point, the cost would be $120 million – which is dwarfed by the original $570 million quoted to the City Council during 2008. Moreover, Sterling/Related now won't even pay the $40 million cost – the taxpayers will, by virtue of a grant of taxpayer funds to the developers to cover the remediation. The previously-claimed benefit to the taxpayers – that a developer would pay for and do extensive remediation – has been stood on its head.

A lingering question for the City is: What happened to the $570 million remediation program that was said to be necessary during 2008? What explanation is there, for drastically reducing the cost of remediation from $570 million, to $120 million (or less, per the contract)?

Incredibly, when the issue came up during a committee meeting of Queens Community Board 7 on April 11, 2013, NYCEDC's Tom McKnight tried to create the impression that people are mis-remembering the $570 million figure, and that $570 million somehow was never said. Strange that McKnight would do this now, as he was seated just feet behind then-Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber and NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky at the City Council during 2008 when the discussion of the "half a billion dollars" occurred.

For anyone who doubts this, here is a video clip that shows a portion of the City Council Q&A. At no time does anyone dispute the $570 million remediation cost that is discussed – only how it might be paid.

We emphasize that today, this cost is down to just $40 million for one-third of the site, with the taxpayers – not the developers – paying the bill. The need for remediation is nowhere near what the City Council was told during 2008; and in any case, the cost of paying for it has been shifted from the developers to the taxpayers, and is now a taxpayer liability instead of the benefit we were promised.

See Willets Point United Inc.'s Gerald Antonacci's explanation of this, in our YouTube video ("Willets Point Factual Update") beginning at 9:39 (9 minutes, 39 seconds).

Port Authority & Parks Dept may cut down 700 trees at Idlewild Park

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

There will be a press conference about the Port Authority's tree removal plan in Idlewild Park Preserve on Friday, April 26, 2013, at 6:00 PM by the Idlewild Cricket Field in located at 223rd Street and 149th Avenue. Please join us!

As we previously informed you, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey (PANYNJ) has flagged 400+ trees in Idlewild for removal. In fact, they have been in negotiation with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYCDPR) to remove the trees. Half of the trees they claim are current hazards to aviation. The other half they claim will need to be removed if the runway is extended. We ask: Is this to be believed?

Why now? Why are over half of the trees in question suddenly considered a hazard? In the over ten years that we have been working to restore and preserve Idlewild, no one has ever said the tree height has been a problem. We have planted trees, shrubs, blazed trails, conducted workshops and tours for children and adults. Tree height has never been mentioned. PANYNJ has never in the past approached the community or EQA's Idlewild Park Preservation Committee about tree height, or the need to remove or top trees? So we ask: Why now? What FAA criteria, rules, or guidelines dictate that suddenly 395 trees are now too tall, or is it really the proposed runway extension driving the PANYNJ's call for tree removal? In fact, if so many trees are in the way of aircraft as they now take off or land at JFK airport, this points up how low airplanes are actually flying over our community and the park. How low can aircraft fly over our community without negatively impacting us? How low is too low? Is Idlewild considered just an extension of the JFK runways rather than the valuable ecological preserve that it is? We need answers! We need the PANYNJ to provide documented proof of their claims!

It is important that you attend this press conference. The issues will be presented, updates will be given, but more importantly, you, a member of the community, will be given a chance to voice your concerns, to let everyone know where you stand!

Barbara Brown, Chairperson
Eastern Queens Alliance Inc.

It's good to be Borough President!

From the New York World:

They have grandiose titles, but the city’s five borough presidents are actually invested with little power by the city charter. Blame the U.S. Supreme Court, which 24 years ago said it was undemocratic for tiny Staten Island and massive Queens have equal voting power, and forced the end of the once powerful Board of Estimate.

Candidates are nonetheless swirling to replace the four beeps who are being term limited out of office this year, in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. So far they’ve convinced donors to throw more than $5.3 million their way, and are poised to qualify for nearly $1 million in public matching funds.

Why would anyone want a job whose power appears so slim? Maybe it’s because borough presidents have grown highly creative in finding ways to wield what relatively little they’ve got. Sometimes, they’ve accomplished great things for their communities. And sometimes for themselves.

The new crew can learn from the moves of veteran masters:

1. Make nice with developers
2. Clean up Sin City
3. Bank on the capital budget
4. Be king or queen of your own nonprofit
5. Nerd out
6. Why show up at all? Just take a vacation!

Each motive is explained in the article.

Our tax dollars used to bail out huge developer

From the Wall Street Journal:

When the city agreed to pick up the tab for the extension of the No. 7 subway line to ease the creation of a new office and residential district on the far West Side, it expected the project could begin paying for itself as early as 2008.

Instead, a single 1.7 million square-foot office tower in the Hudson Yards area has broken ground, while the project envisions 25 million square feet of new office space. And the district generated 40% less revenue from taxes and other development fees than projected between 2006 and 2012, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Hudson Yards was expected to produce $283 million in revenue through 2012, but it actually created $170 million, according to the report by IBO, an independent city agency that studies the local economy.

"The commercial development has been much slower than they thought," said Ana Champeny, a supervising analyst at IBO.

The city issued $3 billion in bonds to pay for subway construction and other infrastructure upgrades guaranteed by tax revenues in the area. If those revenues weren't enough to meet interest payments on the bonds, the Bloomberg administration agreed to pay those with additional money drawn from the city budget.

Real estate experts and budget-watchers have said the city was taking on too much risk by agreeing to make interest payments on the bonds out of the budget.

Nice, eh? Bloomberg is always there to bail his buddies out with our tax money. By the way, his buddy in this case is Related Company, the one he is giving a chunk of city parkland over to at Flushing Meadows so they can build a mall with the Wilpons.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pols plead not guilty

The things you learn from TV. Malcolm Smith's office is in back of a Popeye's restaurant. Only in Jamaica!

Mayoral candidates won't say whether they are for or against soccer stadium

From Capital New York:

On Monday, Earth Day, the mayoral candidates appeared at a forum hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters and held at the Great Hall at the Cooper Union, where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the "right makes might" address that helped propel him to the White House.

At one point well into what was a largely uneventful mayoral forum, moderator Brian Lehrer, of WNYC, asked the candidates to raise their hands if they were "solidly for the stadium."

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, former comptroller Bill Thompson, former M.T.A. chairman Joe Lhota, former Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrion, oil and supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, former councilman Sal Albanese, and Doe Fund founder George McDonald all kept their hands in their laps.

"Is anybody solidly against the stadium?"

No one raised their hands.

Purves Street lot for sale (hooray?)

From The Real Deal:

A development site in the Court Square area of Long Island City is slated to hit the foreclosure auction block May 17 with an outstanding lien of $38.54 million.

The residential development site, at 44-30 Purves Street, was formerly controlled by developer and landlord Baruch Singer and investor David Weiss, who financed a residential project at the site in 2006 with a $13 million mortgage-backed loan from G3-Purves Street LLC, an entity which appears to be linked to Goldman Sachs.

The lender filed to foreclose on the property last year after Singer and Weiss reportedly broke the terms of their non-recourse loan agreement with G3 by failing to pay $90,000 they owed in real estate taxes and several other liens against the property.

Baruch and Weiss acquired the property for $9 million in 2006, public records show. The duo also appears to have purchased an adjacent site for $5 million; that site is subject to the same foreclosure action. They listed the property for sale in 2007 with a broker team from Pinnacle Realty but failed to find a buyer before losing control of the site.

You may recall Purves Street from previous posts with assistance from Miss Heather.

Hank Morris on his way out of prison

From the NY Post:

Hank Morris -- a top political adviser to disgraced ex-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi imprisoned in a pay-to-play pension fund scam – was granted parole in his fourth bid for freedom, state officials said today.

Morris had served 26 months behind bars after pleading guilty to securities fraud, admitting he used his connections to Hevesi to get millions of dollars for himself form firms seeking state pension fund business.

The state Parole Board approved Morris’ release in a decision on Monday after a state judge ordered a new hearing after claiming the board had unfairly held up the convict’s release by “inexplicably” failing to consider evidence in Morris’ favor.

Morris, 59, could be released June 3 or sooner.

More arrests of pols expected by voters

From the Daily News:

New Yorkers think their local pols are rotten to the core.

A new poll following the high-profile arrests of a raft of elected officials finds that that 81% of New York voters think more corruption busts are on the way — and a third think their own Senate or Assembly rep could get snagged.

“More than half of voters describe themselves as ‘distrustful’ and ‘cynical’ of New York politics and 91% say legislative corruption is a serious problem,” said Steven Greenberg of Siena College, which found Empire Staters split on whether law enforcement action or election reform might best clean up the mess.