Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who builds a house like this?

Now here's a real architectural abortion: 32-15 60th Street, Woodside. Permits were filed in 2006 to build a 2-family house, but things went awry and those permits were revoked in 2007. The house has sat basically abandoned with a stop work order since 2010 and had a complaint filed in 2011 that it was open and unguarded with people (squatters?) entering and exiting. Lord knows if they ever resolved the little electrical problem they had. And what's with that open foundation? The house looks like it's on stilts.

This was previously a driveway/side yard.

The same owner apparently owns the house next door which currently has a yet-to-be-answered complaint of illegal conversion. The previous owner was tagged in 2006 for the same violation.

An unacceptable situation

From Clean Up Jamaica Queens:

While riding my bike Sunday morning, I encountered several garbage strewn places (many illegal dumping and most of the spots have been reported numerous times).

Take a good look at our community:

1. Our Post Office (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) at the corner of 164th St & 89th Ave.

2. Post Office Parking Lot at 164th St & 89th Ave. This has been piling up since last week and I wondered how long it would stay like that.

3. Lot next to 170-18 Liberty St, or as I like to call that block, “Ghetto Row”.

4. What appears to be an empty house at 103-24 171st St.

5. The next two photos are a house at 104-11 171st St that I have reported several times.

6. The next three photos are an empty half built building next to Mike’s Towing at 115-45 Merrick Blvd right across the street from the Northeastern Conference of Seventh Day Adventists Administration Building and a few blocks from the beautiful Roy Wilkins Park. It is obvious this has been an illegal dumping ground for a long time and obvious nothing has been done about this.

7. And here again is the notorious empty James Fobb house at 107-58 108th Ave, which has been reported for two years now.

8. The bus stop at Merrick Blvd & 108th Ave, a major spot for dropping off household garbage.

9. Over flowing garbage cans at SE corner of Jamaica Ave & 170th St. A constant problem.

10. The SW corner of Jamaica Ave & 170th St.

Now does anyone reading this think that this is totally acceptable? Would any of this be acceptable in a majority white area? So why is this acceptable in a community of people of color? Is it that people of color do not deserve to live in a nice area, is that it, but white people are.

Again this is a combination of some of the majorly low class ghetto people we have in our community, a major lack of enforcement by DOS, poor leadership from our top officials down to our community boards and upstanding citizens of our community either ignoring this, thinking this is the norm or not doing something as small as reporting these places to 311 and calling your local officials.

Yesterday, I was at a screening of the film: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes put together by Art, Food & Soul and presented at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning. Afterwards I talked to several of the people in attendance, many young and open-minded artists in our community who want a better Jamaica and they talked about the conditions of our community and what it looks like and they were not happy about it at all.

And this is why the perception of Jamaica is the way it is. The perception is REALITY!

So why is NOTHING being done about this? Why I am constantly reporting on these conditions, many that are the same areas over and over again?

Joe Moretti
Jamaica, NY 11432

Still wary of Walmart

From the Queens Courier:

Local leaders pledged to stonewall Walmart amid rumors the retail giant is eyeing Ridgewood for its first New York City location.

The company has tried to open a location in the city for years, but resistance from public officials and civic leaders has forced it to reconsider. Recent reports have hinted that the company is looking at vacant lots and sites in Ridgewood, and public officials and community leaders are not happy.

“Walmart has a long, documented history of mistreating its workers and driving out local small businesses,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, whose district includes Ridgewood. “Bringing in this store would negatively impact both the commercial and residential areas in Ridgewood.”

Walmart’s opponents say the retail giant provides low-income, part-time jobs and forces small businesses to close because they cannot compete with the chain’s low prices.

Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for minority communities, said her group is gearing up for a war against Walmart to prevent a store from opening anywhere in the city. The group is planning to rally and boycott as well as ask public officials to step up pressure against the mega store.

Nevertheless, a 2011 NY1-Marist poll showed that 64 percent of Queens residents would like a Walmart in their neighborhood, with 76 percent of those supporters saying they would be likely to shop there.

It's not just happening in NYC

From CBS New York:

A Long Island town is cracking down on illegal room rentals near the Stony Brook University campus.

The Town of Brookhaven has taken 68 landlords to court this year for allegedly illegally renting rooms to students in their single-family homes, WCBS 880′s Mike Xirinachs reported.

One homeowner reportedly rented rooms in his single-family home to 14 students, Xirinachs reported.

At least 30 other homes are under investigation.

Nearby residents have complained about loud parties and parking problems and said the issue is lowering property values.

“It hurts the resale value,” one resident said. “You see these poor people they had to sell the house, they’re losing money.”

Phony park group stands on phony platform

Parks Platform 2013 - White Paper

Note #7:

"Parkland alienation should not occur unless no other land is available to serve an essential public need."

Of course! That's why this partner of the NYC Parks Dept and self-proclaimed "park advocacy" group, New Yorkers for Parks, not only gave their blessing to parkland alienation for a non-essential private need: a walkway at the USTA National Tennis Center, but they also brokered the deal that allows the USTA to dictate where their paltry annual donations to the park will be spent, and also will be looking the other way while cars are parked on grassy parkland that the USTA doesn't lease during their annual tournament, which amounts to a secondary alienation.

And #8:

"State and local laws regulating parkland alienation should be strengthened to require earlier and broader notification of alienation actions, and to mandate acre-for-acre replacement of lost parkland."

Another no brainer! Which is why Holly Leicht, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, squealed with delight to the newspapers when the USTA pulled some phony baloney and "swapped" tennis courts it was leasing for land that it wants (and will still get to use the land it "gave up").

It's so easy to see through this group's hypocritical bullshit, yet the media takes them seriously. Well their free ride ends here.

These people are not park advocates and do not speak for us. They are nothing more than shills for the City of New York.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

City plans to spray pesticides on concertgoers

So the NYC Parks Dept is co-sponsoring a concert series in Juniper Valley Park. Tonight is "Classic Rock night" and starts at 7pm.

And the NYCDOH apparently doesn't care. They blindsided everyone involved by announcing that they would be spraying the area tonight beginning at 8pm and that everyone should stay indoors.

Great communication work!

Paul Vallone plans to use Independence line as a bartering tool

Remember the revelation that Paul Vallone's name is on a list of potential judges even though he alleges that he's been focused since 2009 on running for City Council? Well, as expected, the judgeship is plan B. As per Crains:

If Mr. Vallone wins a hotly contested Democratic primary in September, the Independence Party ballot line would be a major leg up in a battle against Mr. Saffran, as Republicans often rely on votes from the Independence line in Democrat-heavy New York City. But if Mr. Vallone does not win the Democratic primary, his presence on the Independence line in November could split Democratic votes between his supporters and those of the Democratic nominee. Mr. Vallone's main opponent in the race appears to be former Empire State Development spokesman Austin Shafran, who has lined up the bulk of the labor support in the race, as well as the Working Families Party endorsement.

As an attorney who has been a member of the New York bar association since 1992, if Mr. Vallone lost the Democratic primary, he could be nominated for a judgeship and cede the ballot line in the council race to the Democratic nominee. Asked if Mr. Vallone would definitely run on the Independence line in November, a campaign spokesman answered obliquely.

"When Paul Vallone wins the Democratic Primary in September, he will occupy both the Democratic and Independence Party lines in November," the spokesman said.

The Independence Line almost always goes to the Republican in the race. Last time Dennis Saffran ran, he got their endorsement, so it doesn't make sense that they wouldn't give it to him this time. Therefore, Joe Crowley must have made a deal with the Party. As he made a deal with the Vallones. Let's not forget that the GOP was once considering giving Paul Vallone their line and he was once considering accepting it.

Best quote ever: “Paul is really like a kindred spirit,” said Halloran.

What else? Garbage!

From Clean Up Jamaica Queens:

Jamaica certainly has an endless supply of “garbage photos” thanks to the low class slobs in the community, our ineffective leaders, Mayor Bloomberg’s huge budget cuts, especially for Queens (including major cuts to sanitation) and a lack of enforcement of sanitation and litter laws already on the books.

Here are my garbage photos of the week, courtesy of low class ghetto slobs, slumlords and low class property owners.

This damn mess at 166-11 91st St, which is a constant on-going problem, is right in the downtown area (a half block from Jamaica Ave on Merrick Blvd), right next to a parking lot entrance (the site of the whenever $50 million retail project), near the police station, right across the street from the beautiful former Valenica Lowe’s Wonder Theatre (Tabernacle of Pray Church) and right next to their Tabernacle Bible Institute & Book Store at 90-07 Merrick Blvd. A number of complaints obviously has resulted in NOTHING.

I love this shot here of the same house. No matter how much of a low class slob you are, you certainly make sure you have your DISH TV. From the looks of it, there are at least 5 families tossed into this house, which I am sure there are illegal apartments to boot and a few other families thrown in. You know what this shit smells like during the hot and humid weather……………………………….and wait till you get a whiff of the garbage too.

Another chronic problem at the apartment building at 90-21, 90-23, 90-25 170th St. Again this has been reported numerous times. You see what good that is doing. This lot at one time had a nice one family house, now it is a four story and at least 16 family third world shit pile, thanks to zoning.

So, is this the “Jamaica Revealed” and the “Vibrant and Diverse” Jamaica I keep hearing about. Is this what you call revitalizing Jamaica, because my version is a little bit different.

In all the articles about Councilman Leroy Comrie (Jamaica District 27) dropping out of the Queens Borough President race, he stated and I quote, “I am looking forward to serving the people of Queens—in one capacity or another—for a long time to come.”

Well, Mr. Comrie, here is one capacity that you can begin with. You can start serving by putting on some gloves and getting your ass over to these chronic garbage sites and bring your little buddy Ruben Wills with you. Yes, Mr. Wills, you are so right when you said “it is the people” (which these photos prove without a doubt), but a total lack of enforcement of the sanitation and litters laws is also a huge problem.

What the fuck, I don’t get this shit, it is not brain surgery or curing cancer.

I am now in favor of total gentrification of Jamaica! You all have had your chance, but you all have failed miserably.

Joe Moretti
Jamaica, NY 11432

Let's play a guessing game

"Egyptian slum, or Steinway Street?" - Nick

Terrace on the Park contract up for bid

From the Queens Courier:

Terrace on the Park operators want to upgrade the facility and are looking to get a new lease on the popular and historic Flushing Meadows-Corona Park catering hall to do so.

Their contract with the city’s Parks Department expires next March, officials said.

The department has issued a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for the 52-11 111th Street site.

“While the current concessionaire has invested more than $8 million in capital improvements, exceeding the requirements of their license agreement, it is clear that additional infrastructure investments are needed,” a Parks spokesperson said.

George Makkos, co-owner of Terrace on the Park, said they have invested $12 million so far to better the catering hall.

But the 100,000-square-foot building needs “millions” of dollars more in capital improvements which cannot be done under the looming lease expiration date, Makkos said.

“Given the size and complexity of the building, the money that we will need to spend will never be recovered in the time, in the lease that we have left,” he said.

Makkos said he and co-owner Jimmy Kaloidis want to retain and upgrade the catering hall.

Here's more on the current owner:

Ugly arboricide

"Why is it that every time an Asian moves into the neighborhood (North Flushing) the first thing they do is KILL ALL OF THE TREES?????? Today’s unnecessary butcher job is taking place on 163rd St between 29th Ave and Bayside Lane – right across the street from Marino’s.

Why move to a once-lovely tree-lined neighborhood and DESTROY IT?????"


Flooshing Rezident

This raises an important question. Why does it seem that immigrants of all stripes move into new homes and immediately cut down all the trees? I thought that living with nature was considered ideal and admired and respected worldwide.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Worldport gone from this world

From The Retrologist:

Pan Am — few names better connote the optimism of the jet age than this fabled brand.

Behold the demolition of its iconic home at JFK. Pan Am may be a hip fashion accessory that even spawned a TV show, but its historic home was not immune to the all-too-common fate of other midcentury modern buildings.

Delta is tearing it down despite its placement on a prominent endangered buildings list.

1930s Jamaica nightclub for sale

From Massey Knakal:

The building was formally the La Casina nightclub which opened in 1933 at the end of the Prohibition Era. The building, with its distinctive Streamlined Moderne style, was restored in 1994/1995 and became landmarked in early 1996. This property is one of only 68 individual landmarks in the entire borough of Queens, making it a truly unique prospect.

If landmarking is so bad, why do realtors use it as a selling point? And why would an organization like Greater Jamaica Development Corporation have pushed for the designation if landmarking actually hinders development as opponents always argue?

Billboard owners want to be grandfathered

From the Daily News:

Two Astoria landlords are boldly advertising their displeasure with the city.

Paul Halvatzis and Steve Kesoglides are feuding with the city over billboards on their residential buildings, both located on the north side of Astoria Blvd. near the Grand Central Parkway.

In 2011, the city presented each man with a sky-high fine and informed them that the billboards — both of which dated to the World War II era — were out of compliance with the law.

The city won a ruling in 2010 that allowed the Buildings Department to crack down on longstanding signs near highways — if they didn’t have permits.

The owners are now fighting the city in Queens Supreme Court, demanding that the billboards be grandfathered for permanent compliance.

A decision is expected within the next few months, a lawyer for the owners said.

The Buildings Department went after Kesoglides — despite his permit — because billboards cannot be grandfathered into residential zones, said DOB spokesman Tony Sclafani.

The agency was empowered to issue fines after it won the 2010 billboard suit.

“That was created more than 40 years ago,” he said of the zoning. “By law, advertising signs are only allowed 10 years after a residential zone is designated.”

LIC: A true "bedroom" community

From Crains:

Nearby on Vernon Boulevard, the neighborhood's longtime main drag, business is good, although well below levels many predicted all the new development would bring. Some fault the East Coast folks for keeping to themselves too much and exploring their new neighborhood too little.

"They're too transient," said Donna Drimmer, owner of Matted, a gallery and framing shop. "Most of them come from Manhattan, and they still spend their time there, before they eventually move to the suburbs."

That's funny. All we've been hearing about these past 10 years or so is that the Great American City has been reborn and that no one is moving out to the suburbs anymore. So much for that. I guess people still want trees and backyards in the long run and not soulless self-contained micro-communities that sell to buyers hooked on the idea that they'll never have to leave the confines of their overpriced condos and mingle with the unwashed masses except to commute one stop to Manhattan. This is why we keep hearing, "It's still up-and-coming, but just wait until the next development opens!" The charm that drew people to LIC was destroyed by greed and has been reduced to a temporary stop on the way to greener pastures. Great job, city planners!

That's some interesting logic

From the Daily News:

One of the worst frauds in New York history actually saved the “lucky” city money, Mayor Bloomberg boasted Friday.

Federal prosecutors have indicted 11 contractors and consultants in a $500 million rip-off involving the computerized CityTime payroll system.

But, since the U.S. attorney forced the main contractor, SAIC, to reimburse the city’s losses, taxpayers came out ahead, Bloomberg said.

“There was fraud,” Hizzoner conceded Friday on his weekly radio show,” but added, “We recovered most of the money ... that whole system cost us something like $100 million dollars and it should’ve been many times that.”

“We were lucky,” the mayor continued. “Because of the fraud, in the end, it turned out, that because of the recovery that we saved a lot of money.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Existing parks are Bloomberg's stepchildren

From Crains:

Google billionaire Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, donated $15 million to officially kick-start the capital campaign to raise private funds to build a new public park on Governors Island that's slated to open in 2015.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially broke ground on The Hills on Thursday and said a total of $36 million had been raised to build the park that will be made from recycled construction and fill materials.

The Trust for Governors Island, the nonprofit that runs the former military base now owned by the city, will need to raise a total of $70 million for The Hills. The park will rise from 25 feet to 80 feet above sea level and at its highest point will provide visitors with a 360-degree panorama of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and lower Manhattan's skyline.

In addition to the Schmidts' gift, donations have been pledged by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Carson Family Charitable Trust, Charina Endowment Fund, the Lauder Foundation, Joan H. Tisch and family and the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.

In a statement, Mr. Bloomberg called Governors Island "at the center of our administration's efforts to revitalize our waterfront and create new and innovative green spaces along the water's edge." He predicted that construction of The Hills "will create a landmark in New York Harbor that will be enjoyed for generations to come."

New parks: Worthy of Bloomberg philanthropy.
Existing parks: Worthy of private development.

Problems once again at public pools

From A Walk in the Park:

Police and Park Enforcement Patrol officers working in and around the city pools not only had to battle stiffing temperatures during the heat wave last week but also unruly patrons.

The NYPD arrested at least 13 people in Parks Department pool related incidents NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The charges ranged from Inciting A Riot, Resisting Arrest, Gang Assault, Robbery, Assault, Criminal Possession of A Weapon.

Several pools were temporarily closed to quell the violence and more than a dozen lockers were robbed.

Nice Astoria Pool report here. But my favorite is this one:

Police arrested a Washington Heights woman who created quite a disturbance when she refused to go quietly after putting on a show for pool patrons. According to law enforcement sources, Raiz Nunez, 21, was wearing a pink thong bathing suit with white sandals and dancing, shaking her behind while holding on to a railing in the deep end treating it like a stripper pole. The audience chanted as she gyrated and encouraged adults, and then children to smack her behind which some obliged.

The incident prompted some patrons with children to leave and caused a larger crowd to gather.

"She thought she was on the pole, and this would get her some attention and it did," said an officer at the scene.

She was asked to leave. Things escalated while she was being escorted out by police and PEP officers attempting to remove her from the premises.

"She was saying that she looks good and 'you are all just jealous that's why you're doing this.' She looked liked SpongeBob SquarePants," said an officer referring to the woman's apparent non hour-glass figure.

So for all those people who you hear saying, "I wish there was a free public pool in my neighborhood!"

Trust me, you really don't want one. actually does exist!

Do you think Jean Silva is now kicking herself for testifying in support of the USTA deal since her group is effectively being replaced with a new conservancy run by the USTA? If only Pat were still alive...

Foundations not actually stronger than the storm

From the Brooklyn Paper:

Retreating floodwaters from the superstorm created underground air pockets just waiting to become sinkholes beneath streets, buildings and backyards across Southern Brooklyn, and most people aren’t aware of the danger under their feet, say local architects and companies specializing in subterranean scans.

“From Seagate to Manhattan Beach, a lot of these building’s foundations have been scoured,” said architect Walter Maffei, “and no one knows about it.”

According to Maffei, any structure that suffered severe flooding as a result of October’s hurricane is liable to have lost some of the sediment beneath its foundation as the water rapidly withdrew into the ocean, taking tons of soil with it.

“When you build a sand castle, everybody knows the water comes in relatively slowly, but when it goes out, it moves quickly and takes everything with it,” the architect explained. “A lot of scouring occurs at the foundation level, or below.”

Underground voids, or air pockets, can undermine the foundations of buildings and city infrastructure such as roadways. This means sink holes and structural stability is a big concern and potential hazard for people living in Red Hook and southern Brooklyn, according to Lou Neos, a technician at Ameriscan, which specializes in ground penetrating radar.

“It’s all over, wherever there was severe damage from Sandy,” said Neos, who has found voids underneath buildings in Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach. “If there’s another storm, people might lose their whole house because of a void.”

Yes, let's recall the previous Rockaway sinkhole debacle.

A film that may interest you

A story about greed, politics and the land grab of the century, ZIPPER chronicles the battle over an American cultural icon. Small-time ride operator, Eddie Miranda, proudly operates a 38-year-old carnival contraption called the Zipper in the heart of Coney Island’s gritty amusement district. When his rented lot is snatched up by an opportunistic real estate mogul, Eddie and his ride become casualties of a power struggle between the developer and the City of New York over the future of the world-famous destination. Be it an affront to history or simply the path of progress, the spirit of Coney Island is at stake. In an increasingly corporate landscape, where authenticity is often sacrificed in the interest of economic growth, the Zipper may be just the beginning of what is lost.

Zipper website

It opens Friday, August 9th at IFC in Manhattan.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Turtles dying at Bowne Park

This is a large, bloated, dead turtle with its mouth open in agony in the pond at Bowne Park. One of its legs is probably entangled in a discarded length of fishing line. This has happened before. It’s disgusting and extremely upsetting. The turtle most likely drowned and then bobbed to the surface as it started to decompose and filled with gas. Last summer an enormous turtle died in a similar manner.

When is the Dept. of Parks going to wise up and BAN FISHING AT CITY PARKS???? I don’t think the dead wildlife find it all that sporting!!!

Something is extremely wrong with people that feel the need to torture animals with their children for fun. Their justification of fish not being able to feel pain is just painfully stupid! Haven’t they ever seen a fish out of water? Does it look like it’s not suffering?


Flooshing Rezident

As always, thanks again Crappy!

What's a Tropical Carrot?

"Corner of Grandview Avenue and Himrod Street, outside Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood. Not sure who put this here, but it's certainly illegal." - Anonymous

What IS a tropical carrot, anyway?

He's certainly no Helen Marshall

From the Bronx Times:

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. may want a soccer stadium for the Bronx, but forget about sacrificing any parkland for it.

“I do not think that using public parkland is such a good idea,” said Diaz, who would still love to see an arena built in the borough for the NYC Football Club, a Major League Soccer franchise still vying for a home in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Wow. Why is it that on this side of the water elected officials think that building stadiums on parkland is a great idea?

An unusual crime

From Fox 5:

Police in Queens were investigating an unusual bank robbery on Friday morning.

Someone used a backhoe to break into a Chase bank on 48th Street in the Maspeth section of the borough.

It apparently took place at about 3 a.m. while the bank was closed.

Video from SkyFoxHD showed a wall and door smashed in the front of the building. The backhoe was still sitting in front of the building.

Police say the thief broke in through the ATM vestibule. The ATM was laying in front of the building after the break-in.

Police were still on the scene in the 8 a.m. hour. It was unclear if any money was stolen in the break-in.

Whitestoners still concerned about traffic near park

From the Queens Courier:

Getting to and from a Whitestone playground is no walk in the park, some residents say.

The lack of a crosswalk or traffic controls at the 3rd Avenue and 147th Street entrance to Francis Lewis Park is dangerous to pedestrians, said Malba Civic Association president Alfredo Centola.

“It’s a beautiful park,” Centola said. “These poor kids, with their parents, whenever they come to the park to play, they have to take their lives in their hands.”

Most residents must cross three-way traffic to enter and leave the park, located at the edge of the East River, since the majority of homes in the area lie across 147th Street.

Irene Rama of Whitestone said sometimes she and her kids are forced to stop in the middle of the street to avoid an oncoming car even after stopping to look in every direction beforehand.

Residents say a piece of property, bordered by jutting construction boards, that is being developed directly next to the park impairs the vision of pedestrians trying to cross.

Centola said he has sent the DOT a letter of complaint every 18 months since 2005.

Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy mailed the civic leader a response in 2011 saying the department completed an analysis and determined “Multi-Way Stop controls are not recommended at this time.”

“Factors such as vehicular and pedestrian volumes, vehicular speeds, visibility and signal spacing were all taken into consideration in making our determination,” the correspondence reads.

Shortly after the letter, the city installed one pedestrian crossing sign in front of the park, but it only faces one direction of traffic. Centola said the sign is also too high for drivers to see.

“At this point, I’m speechless and dumbfounded,” he said. “The DOT is once again being negligent and refusing to take care of the issues.”

Friday, July 26, 2013

NYC Council Watch is watching Paul Vallone

From NYC Council Watch:

Paul Vallone’s bio on the Sacco & Fillas website notes that Vallone & Vallone “can get you through the door from staff to principal,” and indicates the real value of the Vallone name: influence. Indeed, the actual family business since Peter Vallone the Elder left politics has been lobbying city government on behalf of a variety of clients through the firm Constantinople & Vallone.

Paul Vallone doesn’t say it anywhere in his campaign information, but he is officially registered as a Constantinople & Vallone lobbyist, along with his father and his brother Perry. A number of Paul Vallone’s major campaign contributors are among his lobbying clients. For instance, Deborah Gaslow of Boca Raton contributed the maximum $2,750 to the campaign. Ms. Gaslow is the wife of Peter Gaslow, owner of furniture maker Empire Office, which has paid Constantinople & Vallone $40,000 over the last 18 months.

The owner and senior employees of Mega Contracting have donated more than $3,000 to the campaigns of both Paul and Peter Vallone, Jr., while Mega Contracting has paid Constantinople & Vallone $240,000 in fees since 2010. Mega Contracting, incidentally, has been awarded contracts for the construction and rehabbing of a number of municipal projects, including NYCHA houses, MTA station upgrades, and work on schools, police precincts and city hospitals.

So Paul Vallone has represented these folks as a lobbyist, and hopes to continue to represent his former clients when he takes office. Seems like putting the cart before the horse, doesn’t it? The usual trajectory of a political career is first to be a public servant and eat bread from the sweat of one’s brow, and then after a time to leave office and cash in as a lobbyist. Paul Vallone is reversing the typical course of a political career, starting out as a lobbyist, and then seeking elected office! It looks as though the revolving door revolves both ways.

Well this contradicts Paul Vallone's assertion that he was never a lobbyist, doesn't it?

Let's recall the last time he ran for office:

If this sounds like the same evasive answer he made back in June of this year, you're right. Except the second time he didn't accuse audience members of being related to Jerry Iannece.

Developer caught violating stop work order, fined


Several weeks ago, a construction fence went up around 156-10 32nd Avenue, a quiet block in Broadway-Flushing across the street from Bowne Park.  The house's new owner, Jian Wen Zhu, had recently applied for an alteration permit known as an "ALT 1" which specifically states that over 50% of the building must be retained, including the basement or cellar. In other words, an alteration permit means just that: an alteration to an existing building, not a new building.

Two days later, the building was more than 50% demolished; within another two days, almost the entire building had been removed, except for two exterior wall stubs.

Paul Graziano, candidate for the 19th Council District, had contacted the local homeowner association as well as State Senator Tony Avella, and wrote a "Zoning Challenge" to the Department of Buildings, as it was clear that the architect on record, Ling Li, had self-certified a project that violated the R1-2A zoning - New York City's most restrictive - which covers much of Broadway-Flushing.

After a series of 311 calls were made and official complaints were lodged by residents of the area, the Buildings Department sent an inspector, who stated that 'No violation warranted for complaint at time of inspection; site is fenced, gated and secure with permits posted and current for ALT 1 - no workers on site.' 

"This was an outrage," Graziano stated, "as the complaint that was filed with 311 called for a Stop Work Order, as the demolition for the house far exceeded what an ALT 1 permit allows and the permit itself should not have been granted as the floor area was over what is allowed under the R1-2A zone. The 311 operator had listed that the complaint was concerned with safety, and the Buildings inspector responded to that instead of what they were supposed to."

One week later, the Department of Buildings finally responded to the correct complaint, after much pressure from Senator Avella, Graziano and local residents. On Thursday, July 18th, a Full Stop Work Order was served to the owner for demolition contrary to approved plans. However, the contractors at the site continued to work on Friday, July 19th and Monday, July 22nd.

On Monday morning, Graziano and a resident involved with the homeowners association confronted the foreman of the construction crew - which numbered at least a dozen - and engaged him in a heated exchange which lasted for more than 10 minutes. The foreman stated that he was allowed to work and "do maintenance" to the property, and that they hadn't done anything wrong. When pressed as to why there was a Stop Work Order and they were still working, he stated that "the house had some extra rot in it so we had to take down more of it than we thought." He followed this statement with a discussion about how this was America and it was the owner's right to build what he wanted.

That afternoon, again pressed by Senator Avella, Graziano and the homeowners association, the property was inspected by the Buildings Department a third time. A violation of the Stop Work Order was issued for "failure to obey stop work order" and a $5,000 civil fine was levied.

Now, the owner must apply for full demolition and new building permits as well as file new plans, which must be approved by the Department of Buildings.

"I'm glad the Department of Buildings finally did what they were supposed to do," said Graziano, "but it shouldn't have taken so long. More importantly, this house, along with all of the other teardowns that have occurred in the last decade, would have never happened if Broadway-Flushing had become a New York City landmark historic district as more than 85% of the residents have supported. The homeowners association and residents of this area have spent significant time, money and effort to protect their century-old neighborhood from speculative developers."

All of Broadway-Flushing was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and was downzoned in 2009 with the most restrictive "anti-McMansion" zoning in New York City (R1-2A and R2A), both of which were authored and designed by Graziano.

"Last week's victory against the developer who tried to break the restrictive covenants and split a corner property is wonderful and the Stop Work Order is welcome," Graziano stated, "but if Broadway-Flushing had been landmarked almost a decade ago as it deserves, neither of these - nor other - bad development situations would have happened. The house at 156-10 32nd Avenue was a beautiful house and there was absolutely no reason to tear it down in the first place. Should I be lucky enough to be elected by the people of the 19th Council District in November, landmarking Broadway-Flushing and our other historic neighborhoods in the 19th Council District will be one of my absolute top priorities to make sure this doesn't ever happen again."

Stop Work Order / Civil Penalty for 156-10 32nd Avenue can be viewed here:

Trylon Theater & Tower Diner block advertised as hi-rise development site

Trylon Portfolio

A special thank you to former City Council Member and current Queens Machine-backed Queens Borough Presidential candidate Melinda Katz for making sure the LPC rejected the landmarking application.

Quote: In an interview with the Daily News, Katz explained that she was not disappointed in Tierney's decision, and thanked him for taking a "very careful look" at the Trylon issue. She added that the Trylon had been modified too much from its original look, with the theater's interior and marquee having been redone in 1984 and 1994, respectively. "I never thought that this was a building suitable for landmarking," Katz said. "I guess I'm just happy that he [Tierney] made a decision, and now we move on.

Actually, the facade of the building was what activists sought for landmarking, and that's the only part of a building the LPC can designate, unless it's open to the public, which this wasn't. As for the marquee, it's very unlikely that it would not be replaced over time. It hasn't stopped countless other landmark designations of theaters. The facade was 100% intact. Melinda knows this. She'd rather have development on Queens Blvd than preservation. Enjoy much more of this type of behavior should she enter Borough Hall and make the entire borough the Katz litter box.

City paid to repair and remove Civic Virtue

From the Times Ledger:

Taxpayers shelled out $100,000 to clean the exiled Triumph of Civic Virtue statue and help move it from its perch outside Borough Hall to a private cemetery in Brooklyn late last year, city contracts show.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services banished the neglected statue to Green-Wood Cemetery in Kings County in December, justifying the move by saying private dollars would be used for upkeep.

But before the relocation, the city inked a $50,000 contract with Pennslyvania-based Kreilick Conservation to provide conservation and preservation treatment to the controversial sculpture, which included cleaning the entire piece and patching cracks with faux stone material.

The department paid another roughly $50,000 to Washington, D.C.-based Surroundart to build a custom steel cage that lifted the 17-ton artwork off its base in December, according to documents provided to TimesLedger Newspapers.

The contracts were given to TimesLedger by Queens activist and filmmaker Robert LoScalzo, who is currently suing to try and obtain communications between the city and the cemetery.

“This asset — that is no longer an asset to Queens — has been essentially privatized in Brooklyn with little to no explanation to the public and against the wishes and protests of everyone,” he said.

An indefinite loan agreement between the city and Green-Wood estimated the cemetery would pay $165,000 for transportation and $27,500 to put a protective coat on the statue. The cemetery will also build a new base for Civic Virtue, since its Borough Hall perch, including the fountain and underground plumbing, was also in need of repair, the city said. Green-Wood could not provide TimesLedger with the actual cost nor how much it would spend on long-term preservation.

LoScalzo has a hunch the taxpayers’ money could have been better spent refurbishing the statue at its former Borough Hall home, and hopes a judge will force the city’s hand to release communications between the department and Green-Wood Cemetery to find out more.

“It’s not lost on me the symbolic significance that a statue representing the triumph of civic virtue over vice and corruption is not welcome in our borough,” he said.

Nabe lacks sewers and is buried in horse crap

From the Queens Chronicle:

Caught in limbo on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, members of the Jewel Streets Block Association are frustrated that their community is forgotten by the city and used as a dumping ground by everyone else.

Elizabeth Watt, president of the group, gave a walking tour of her neighborhood to city and state representatives last Thursday, hoping that a message will get out that she wants action.

The Jewel Streets community, which residents have nicknamed “The Hole” because it lies many feet below the grade of Linden Boulevard, includes Sapphire, Amber, Emerald and Ruby Streets between South Conduit Avenue and the Lindenwood development of Howard Beach.

Comprised of fewer than 20 blocks, the Jewel Streets area, zoned R-4 residential, is home to a scattering of residents who are surrounded by vacant lots, abandoned cars, make-shift stables made of truck trailers, and piles of dumped garbage, construction debris and tires.

The community is one of only two small, isolated areas of Queens that are still not hooked up to the city sewer system.

Homeowners and city officials agree that, once sewers are installed, the vacant lots will be snapped up by developers and the neighborhood will get cleaned up.

But Watt hasn’t heard from the Department of Design and Construction or the Department of Environmental Protection since representatives came to her civic group’s meeting in June.

What makes the community unique, aside from the fact that residents are still waiting for sewer construction, is the proliferation of horse stables constructed from old trailers, vans and odd scraps of wood and metal.

The stables, some of which house other animals such as poultry, sit side by side and occupy roughly two or three blocks. Several homes, including Watt’s, are on the lots surrounded by stables.

“If I could afford to move, do you think I’d stay here?” said Watt, who, with several other residents of the area, has had an ongoing conflict with the stable owners.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Deal done: USTA's pocket change buys parkland

From Capital New York:

The United States Tennis Association, eager to win City Council approval for its National Tennis Center expansion plans, has agreed to provide ongoing funding for Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The USTA had no immediate comment, but according to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras and New Yorkers for Parks, who have been working to secure a funding agreement, the U.S. Open organizer has promised $10.05 million for the park.

The agreement starts in 2014 and means $5 million for capital projects; $350,000 a year for three years for maintenance and programming, and then $200,000 a year for the ensuing 20 years.

That's on top of the $500,000 the USTA pays in rent each year to the city's general fund.

That funding will help underwrite the creation of a public-private partnership to help maintain the park, similar in function (if not in scale) to the Central Park Conservancy and Prospect Park Alliance. The USTA will sit on its board.

So, an average of less than $500,000 per year? That's it?

Comment from Mayoral Candidate Bill DeBlasio:

“In a city where outer-borough parks have been consistently shortchanged, today’s announcement represents a major step forward. I congratulate Council Member Julissa Ferreras for securing an ongoing and increased commitment from the United States Tennis Association to help fund park maintenance and upgrades at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and for laying the foundation for a new conservancy that will help improve Queens’ crown jewel park for years to come. We must ensure that whenever private interests lease or use city parkland, those parks receive sustained and substantial funding in return.”
Sustained? Substantial? Why do we need a new conservancy, when we already have the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy? Especially since part of the park was recently named after its late former president, Pat Dolan? So the USTA can dictate that the money be used on the tennis courts they're not really giving up and flowers outside their new stadiums?

From the Daily News:

“This will be a win-win partnership,” said park advocate Will Sweeney, who bitterly opposed the expansion until the USTA made the $10 million contribution. “The investment can lead to Flushing Meadows-Corona finally reaching its potential as a world class park.”

A win for the phony park advocates!

But not everyone was a fan of the revised deal.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, who added local elected officials should be the ones to pay for the park maintenance. “They’re taking up more park land.”

Look folks, this is how it's going to work: The USTA money is not going to supplement Parks funding, it's going to replace it.

And what happens after 23 years? They sell off more of the park to another billion dollar corporation?

The final City Council vote was 47-1. The only person to not vote in favor was - Dan Halloran!

Site helps people turn homes into illegal restaurants

From DNA Info:

EatWith, the popular website that allows amateur and professional chefs to invite strangers into their homes for dinner parties and cooking lessons, is set to arrive in New York at the beginning of August.

Launched last year in Israel and popular among travelers in Europe, EatWith is sort of an Airbnb for dinner parties. Foodies can post a meal, date, time and price on the site, and interested guests can sign up, pay the fee and chow down. Along with meals, the site also lets hosts offer classes on how to make — and eat — specialty food like challah.

But the site's business model may not be legal within the five boroughs, according to the Department of Health. A spokeswoman with the Health Department said people who offer meals to the public for money are considered food-service establishments — and need all the proper permits and inspections.

"The city does not allow meals to be served to members of the public in someone’s home," the agency said in a statement.

"However, caterers with valid Health Department permits are allowed to bring meals to someone’s home from their permitted establishments."

Hoidy toidy fountain keeps breaking

From LIC Post:

Many Long Island City parents were excited last week when the sprinkler system at Gantry Plaza State Park was finally repaired and their children could finally run under the water keep cool.

But that initial joy that the “Rainbow Park” sprinkler provided was short lived. The sprinkler broke after 2 ½ days of operation.

“The sprinkler was damaged after Superstorm Sandy and it required a big stink for it to even come on last week,” said Kris Schrey, the head of the Long Island City Parents Group. “Now we are battling for it to be repaired yet again.”

The system’s design is the source of the problem. The designers, in a quest to be environmentally conscious, shied away from a regular system where the water would have run off into East River.

Instead they adopted a system that recycles the existing water through a filter (with chlorine), much like a swimming pool. “Unfortunately, this is an expensive, fragile and error prone system,” Schrey said.

The system also requires two employees to operate it. One employee has to monitor the chlorine levels every hour, while the other handles health & safety issues.

Translation: It takes 2 park employees to hose down yuppie spawn in LIC.

You can enter 311 DOB complaints online once again

Back in the 1990s, one was able to enter DOB complaints online. When Bloomberg took over, that capability disappeared, although you could still enter complaints for many other agencies online. When you would have a DOB inquiry, the website would direct you to call 311.

Now that Bloomberg is on his way out the door, the ability to enter DOB complaints online has been restored.