Thursday, October 31, 2013

Crowley thinks rules don't apply to her

Here's clip #3 of the Caruana-Crowley debate. This segment includes questions about creating jobs, reconstruction of South Middle Village streets (3:40), improving constituent services (7:45), audience questions: wages (11:30), business interference (13:00), 'no truck' signs on Furmanville Ave (14:50).

(Crowley is most out-of-control in this segment.)

Vallone refuses to appear at NY1 debate

From Saffran 2013:

City Council Candidate Dennis Saffran today learned that his opponent, Paul Vallone, is refusing to appear at the only televised debate between the two candidates, which was scheduled to be taped at 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 3rd, and to appear on NY 1’s “Road to City Hall” the following day. Vallone, who is running against Saffran in one of the few competitive Council Districts in the entire City — a district where Republicans often win — claims that the debate, which would last twenty minutes at most, does not fit in to his busy campaign schedule.

In a statement, Saffran said:
“I’m extremely disappointed by my opponent’s decision not to show up at our only debate, as well as his decision to apparently run on his connections and family legacy, as opposed to the actual issues. This seems to be a trend with my opponent, who failed to appear at a forum held during the primary that focused on preservation and land-use issues, where he knew that his strong ties to Big Developers and the Real Estate Industry would come to the fore. I can’t imagine what my opponent has planned two days before the election that would be more important than our only opportunity to reach all of the voters in the district at one time, and letting them compare the two candidates side-by-side so I urge him to release his public campaign schedule so that the voters of this district at least know why he is insulting their intelligence by refusing to debate.”
Saffran’s public campaign schedule can be found here.

If you don't like the deadline, just move it!

From Crain's:

Eight years after the city and a pair of developers announced plans for an $850 million mixed-use project in Queens called Flushing Commons, the deadline to begin work has been pushed back. Under the new schedule, the developers will close on the $20 million purchase of the property, a city-owned parking lot, by the end of the year. Ground is to be broken shortly afterward. Previously, the developers had faced a deadline of Thursday, Oct. 31, to get a shovel in the ground.

The project will be undertaken by a joint venture of TDC Development International and The Rockefeller Group.

Earlier this month, the developer filed for a construction permit to begin the first phase, which will include an underground parking garage, about 160 residential units, 350,000 square feet of retail or commercial space, a 1.5-acre open space and a 62,000-square-foot YMCA.

Shifting closing dates for projects as large and complex as Flushing Commons is not unusual, the Economic Development Corp. noted.

Council raises smoking age to 21

From the Daily News:

Opening a new front in the city’s war on smoking, the New York City Council voted Wednesday to hike the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21.

Mayor Bloomberg promised to sign the bill, making it certain that New York will become the first major city in America to adopt such a high age requirement.

Bloomberg said the new age requirement will prevent more teenagers from developing a smoking habit, saving lives. Research shows that more than 80% of smokers in New York began lighting up before the age 21.

Most smokers I know began lighting up before the age of 16. Don't think this will do anything except make the mayor feel good.

5 Pointz TRO extended

Photo by Miss Heather
From the Huffington Post:

In a welcomed decision by Federal District Judge Frederic Block, 5Pointz artists were handed another win on October 28, when he made a ruling that extended the existing temporary restraining order (TRO) he issued, as reported here at The Huffington Post. Judge Block scheduled the hearing on November 6, 2013, at which time he will also address the artists' allegations that the property owner, Jerry Wolkoff, violated the existing TRO over this past weekend.

With the good fortune of getting the extension, the artists involved in this case are calling out to the famous English artist Banksy to join their cause to stop the demolition of 5Pointz which is known as the graffiti Mecca of the world. In the Guardian, Jonathan Cohen (also known as Meres1) spoke out and believes Banksy should offer support to 5 Pointz. He said "We're not asking you to give us money, but your words could help," Meres said. "Why don't you put a comment out?" Banksy who is also known as a political activist has created his art on the walls of the buildings of New York City every day for a month and has achieved great notoriety through his commentary. If he used his art to try to save 5Pointz he would be a hero to many.

The use of art as a political weapon is not new. Through history, the role of the artist as a social commentator has been invaluable and engrained in our culture. Art and its creation as a response to social and political issues can become powerfully influential in raising public awareness that results in positive change.

It is hoped that Bansky reaches out in time to support us and help our cause to preserve 5Pointz.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ridgewood site may be Superfund eligible

From the NY Times:

City, state and federal agencies have long known that an industrial site in Ridgewood, Queens, contained radioactive material. The location, currently home to an auto repair shop, a construction firm, a warehouse and a deli, was once used by the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, which sold thorium to the federal government for research on atomic bombs.

Until recently, officials considered the contamination level low enough not to be of concern. But over time, regulations changed, and inspectors began making repeat visits to the site, conducting surveys of radiation levels. The latest comprehensive federal study, released in February 2012, found levels significant enough to conclude that “workers at the auto body shop and pedestrians who frequently use the sidewalks at this location may have an elevated risk of cancer.”

With that, the site will soon be considered for Superfund status, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

The Wolff-Alport Chemical Company was, for three decades, a supplier of rare earth metals, the agency said in its report. The company dumped thorium and some uranium into the sewer system as waste byproducts until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission, the successor of the Manhattan Project, began buying thorium for research, according to government documents.

Stephen I. Schwartz, editor of the The Nonproliferation Review, a journal on nuclear weapons, said the Manhattan Project and ensuing research left contamination sites around the country, but most fall under the Department of Energy’s purview and have been addressed. A sprawling site in Hanford, Wash., is still under remediation.

In Queens, the owners of the auto repair shop and the construction firm said no mention of the possible radioactive contamination was made when they began renting their spaces. The auto repair shop moved in 14 years ago; the construction firm moved in six years ago.

The nondescript building sits along the border with Bushwick, Brooklyn, near Long Island Rail Road tracks. Residential homes line nearby streets, and a day care center and a public school sit two blocks away. An agency representative said these locations did not show high levels of radiation.

More of the exciting CD30 debate

Since yesterday's CD30 debate video clip was so popular, I thought I would post the second part of the debate:

The questions are about Ridgewood Reservoir, the 311 system (4:50), St. Saviour's (8:50), funding for the district (12:10), overcrowding in schools (15:05).

You'll notice that when asked about the St. Saviour's money, Crowley says it is protected, however, Alex Rosa from the Queens Borough President's office has confirmed that it was taken back by OMB during the last budget cycle. In addition, Crowley does not say where she would create much needed park space in Maspeth when asked directly. She also boasts about creating new school seats, but forgets the fact that she actually voted against the Maspeth High School.

Food court to replace Willets Point businesses

From the Daily News:

Fledgling businesses will be able to avail themselves of some incubator space at the massive Willets Point development, officials said Tuesday.

The 18,000-square-foot space — to be split between two different sections of the development — will be operated by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

“You’re giving businesses a chance to learn the ropes while they’re actually conducting business,” said Jack Friedman, the Chamber’s executive director.

The companies will receive a 30% to 40% discount on rent at the space and receive free trainings and other services, he said.

The plan for the incubator was a little-known detail buried in the list of concessions agreed upon by the developers, the Related Co. and Sterling Equities.

The duo will give the Queens Chamber $165,000 to help fund the start-up costs for the entrepreneurial space.

One possibility, he said, would be to utilize the space as a local food court, which would enable area eateries to share one industrial-sized kitchen and save on costs.

The Queens Economic Development Corp. operates a similar food incubator in Long Island City.

If space permits, the incubator could also house smaller storefronts, which would be occupied by merchants who hope to appeal to the area’s ethnic enclaves. For example, an Indian Sari shop from Jackson Heights.

This makes a whole lot of sense, doesn't it? Evict currently operating businesses that provide something useful in order to open a fast food court and recreate 82nd Street. What would we do without innovative ideas like this?

Democratic political consultant busted

From The Politicker:

Melvin Lowe, a political consultant who worked with the State Senate Democrats, was arrested this morning on federal corruption charges.

Mr. Lowe is facing a nine-count criminal complaint in federal court alleging his participation in five separate illegal schemes, according to a statement sent out by the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara earlier this afternoon. In total, the complaint alleges Mr. Lowe filed a litany of false paperwork and failed to report more than $2 million in come in order to enrich himself.

Notably, Mr. Lowe was among nine individuals–mostly sitting state senators–that now-former State Senator Shirley Huntley recorded on wire while she was cooperating with authorities. Ms. Huntley is currently serving a year in prison for her own corruption scheme; the pols she wiretapped have professed their innocence.

Mistaken tax breaks

From the Daily News:

These tax snafus were truly close to home.

Bumbling city Finance Department watchdogs have for years been erroneously giving more than $2,000 in tax breaks to the owners of an office building and three parking lots — including one rented by the department itself.

The state School Tax Relief Program is supposed to give only homeowners up to a $300 tax rebate on their primary residence each year.

But the Finance Department messed up and has been giving the sweeteners to owners of three parking lots in Queens and Brooklyn, and an office building on the East Side of Manhattan, records show.

Incredibly, one of the Queens parking lots — at 144-02 95th Ave. in Jamaica — is being used by the borough’s team of tax assessors.

“This is going on right under our noses,” one assessor fumed.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crowley-Caruana debate a real doozy

"There was a debate last night in Middle Village for the 30th Council District. The incumbent, Elizabeth Crowley, and challenger, Craig Caruana, had a lengthy discussion of the issues. The panelists were Liam Laguerre, reporter for the Queens Courier, Rob Pozarycki, Assistant Editor of the Times Newsweekly, and Paul Graziano, urban planner and civic activist from northeast Queens.

The first segment is here, and includes candidate introductions, questions about the Knockdown Center in Maspeth (5:30), proposed Glendale homeless shelter (11:15) and problems with garbage freight railroads (15:45). According to Crowley, the Knockdown Center will provide jobs, and despite all the stuff that has been revealed to have gone on at the site, it's no match for the campaign contributions that she has received from the investors. She claims the site has the potential to create 1,500 jobs, even though the owner himself has only estimated about 30. The proposed Glendale homeless shelter is not a threat at all, because Crowley says so. (Tell that to the hundreds of people expected to rally this Saturday against it.) And finally, a former Republican council member moved freight rail operations into people's backyards before Crowley took office. Which isn't at all true." - Christina Wilkinson

Ratner a big DeBlasio donor

From the Daily News:

Housing emerged as an issue in the mayoral race Monday when Bill de Blasio came under withering attack for the lack of affordable units in the Atlantic Yards development rising in his Brooklyn backyard.

De Blasio, who has focused his campaign on income inequality, has been uncharacterically quiet on the failure of developer Bruce Ratner to build 2,250 units of affordable housing promised as part of the project, mayoral rival Joe Lhota charged.

“He was silent because he was bought,” said Lhota, standing across the street from the gleaming Barclay’s Center, the anchor of the $5 billion development.

“The people who built the Barclay’s Center and promised to build all of the affordable housing have given contributions to him over and over again.”

As a City Council member from Brooklyn and then as the city’s Public Advocate, de Blasio bucked neighborhood opposition and supported the controversial project.

Ratner has received tax breaks and loans worth more than $760 million to build the project, which is supposed to include the 2,250 units of affordable housing. But nearly eight years after the project was approved, the first 181 affordable housing units won’t break ground until next year. And there is no concrete timetable for the other units.

Ratner and his associates at Forest City Ratner Companies have raised more than $73,000 for de Blasio’s campaign, records show.

Meet the soon-to-be boss, same as the old boss. The rest of the real estate community is also throwing huge wads of cash at BDB.

More Sandy aid on the way

From CBS New York:

Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy made landfall, the city is getting another $1.34 billion in federal grant money for homeowners, businesses and climate change resiliency.

“The main focus the first year was on recovery — just recovering from the storm and letting the city function again. This second year is rebuilding — rebuilding our homes, rebuilding our small businesses, rebuilding our public works,” Sen. Charles Schumer said.

The funds make up the second allocation of Community Block Development Grants from the $60.2 federal aid package passed by Congress in January. Another $1.77 billion in aid, the first installment, was released the next month.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the federal assistance continues to to be critical to the city’s progress.

“We also recognize there’s far more work to do,” the mayor added.

Officials said the first allotment’s roll-out has been necessarily slow.

“We are not wasting the taxpayers’ money,” Bloomberg said. “We’ve tried to account for every single penny.”

Who's against safe jobs?

From the Daily News:

Big real estate developers, affordable housing builders and minority activists are teaming up to fight a Council bill they say will stymie local employment and economic development in the outer boroughs.

The bill, known as the Safe Jobs Act, would require all projects receiving $1 million or more in city subsidies or tax benefits to be built using state-certified apprenticeship programs.

Such programs are operated by the city's powerful construction unions — and the development coalition fears mandated apprenticeships would block minority contractors and local workers without ties to the unions.

“Minority firms are small and would be unable to devote the time and resources necessary to create approved programs," said Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP state conference. "They will be effectively barred from participating in city-sponsored projects."

The apprenticeship programs will ensure safer construction practices on these projects, supporters say.

The bill, introduced by Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn), comes amidst a big push by union workers for a share of outer borough projects.

Landmarking advocates strike back against REBNY

From Crain's:

A coalition of preservation groups from around the city gathered outside the landmarked midtown headquarters of the Real Estate Board of New York Monday to push back against a recent report from the powerful property-industry lobbying group that linked landmarking to a dearth in new affordable housing.

"This is a red herring," Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said of the report. "This is not why New York is faces challenges to affordability."

Speaking outside of the old, art-deco General Electric tower on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 52nd Street, Mr. Berman was referring to REBNY's Sept. 25 study on the impact of landmarking, which lambasted what it termed the overzealous activity of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission in expanding building protections in the city. As a consequence, REBNY said that only five units of affordable housing had been constructed in Manhattan's landmarked districts since 2003, and that none had been built since 2008. Meanwhile, 8,070 units of such lower-priced housing went up elsewhere in the borough over the same five-year period, the report concluded.

But on Monday, the preservationists fired back. They charged that some REBNY members simply wanted to tear down historic buildings that house low- and middle-income individuals and put up luxury towers instead.

"The biggest cause of New York's affordability (problem) is the loss of existing affordable units," Mr. Berman said, going to far as to insist that landmark designations are often the only thing standing in the way of the units' destruction.

As examples he cited landmarked buildings that are entirely composed of affordable units, including West Beth and 505 LaGuardia Place in the West Village and Dunbar Apartments in Harlem as examples of developments that would have been at risk should they not have been landmarked.

Remember that REBNY sponsors the political action committee, Jobs For New York.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Former car lot to soon host 28 units

Coming soon to 63-34 Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood:


But don't worry, there's going to also be "ENCLOSED ACCESSORY BICYCLE STORAGE ROOM FOR 14 BICYCLE SPACES".

The other buildings on that block are 3 stories high, but this one will be 5. Because it just has to be.

One expensive piece of real estate

From the Daily News:

For $30 million, this Mill Basin mansion comes with everything and the kitchen sink. Four of them, actually, plus a dock for a dozen boats.
The most expensive Brooklyn home ever — asking twice as much as anything else on the market — it sprawls some 23,000 feet between a main house and guest house with 257 feet of Jamaica Bay frontage.

The 10-bedroom, 15-bath property is the 17-year passion project of Galina Anissimova, ex-wife of Russia’s 38th richest man, a shadowy minerals baron.

Her broker, James Cornell of The Corcoran Group, said she probably spent more than $30 million transforming the place .

“It’s perfect,” Cornell said. “It’s the highest quality everything I’ve ever seen in 24 years in the business.”

Perfection includes garage space for seven cars, a circular meditation room inscribed with signs of the Zodiac and a 1,000-square-foot outdoor pool — larger than many Brooklyn apartments — beside which sits a gigantic gazebo with room for 50 guests.

The bums are back

From the NY Post:

Cops are giving homeless people and panhandlers in the subways the kid-glove treatment, arresting subterranean scofflaws far less frequently than just two years ago, data show.

The ranks of the homeless, meanwhile, have swelled to 1,841 this year — a 13 percent increase over last year’s tally, the city’s Department of Homeless Services says.

For straphangers, it has created an atmosphere of fear.

“I feel threatened, especially taking the train at night,” explained Brooklynite Lortashia Smith, who said she has been followed off trains several times. “The police can definitely do more.”

The NYPD said panhandler/peddler arrests in the subway have increased over the past year, with 409 pinched so far in 2013 versus 395 in 2012. But those numbers pale in comparison to 2011, when it was reported that in a six-month span that year, a whopping 930 panhandlers and peddlers — the two are not separated in the data — were arrested.

“There’s been a drop-off,” acknowledged one police source.

The NYPD refused to provide full-year data for 2011, when cops were busy cracking down on underground quality-of-life issues as part of a Transit Bureau initiative called Operation Moving Target.

Bill wasn't on top of scammers at HUD

From the NY Post:

Bill de Blasio presided over millions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money when he oversaw the federal government’s public-housing programs in New York and New Jersey, records show.

He served as director of the New York-New Jersey region for the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1997 to 1999. In that time, HUD’s inspector general reported that the region lost about $23 million to scams perpetrated by public-housing officials, mortgage companies and nonprofits that got grants from HUD.

Other accounts put the loss much higher. In a Dec. 14, 2000, article, The New York Times reported that several people defrauded HUD of $70 million in federally insured loans on more than 250 New York properties from 1998 to 1999.

Susan Gaffney, HUD’s inspector general, described extensive illegal activity by nonprofit groups at the time as “unique to New York.”

New York City — by far HUD’s largest grantee — received $1 billion annually from the agency during de Blasio’s tenure.

Big increase for flood insurance

From CBS New York:

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) warned Sunday a dramatic increase that could soon be facing New Yorkers.

The lawmakers joined property and small business owners, co-op residents and other community members Sunday at 200 East End Ave., a co-op building on the Upper East Side that recouped $4 million in damage after Superstorm Sandy, but now reportedly could be hit with astronomical insurance premiums as a result of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.

Maloney said in a news release that the rising flood insurance premiums are not affordable, and could deter people from buying insurance at all. Maloney asked for a delay in the rate increases, which she said could raise New Yorkers’ premiums by $5,000 to $10,000.

Maloney said the National Flood Insurance Program is crucial, but it cannot be built on the backs of hardworking New Yorkers.

A recent City of New York study indicated that New Yorkers could see their rates jump by as much as $10,000, from current levels as low as $430, as a result of the Flood Insurance Reform Act and upcoming Federal Emergency Management Agency Maps, Maloney’s office said.

Her office said New Yorkers from the Upper East Side to Red Hook, Brooklyn and the Rockaways could be affected.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Candidates speak to BFHA about airport noise

Filmed at Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association last week.

There are some really bad jokes at ~5:20.

Voter Guide has Vallone, Jr. running for BP on Conservative line

Take a look at page 13 of the voter guide you received in the mail, and you'll notice that Peter Vallone, Jr. is listed as still running on the Conservative Party line.

Peter Vallone, Jr. did not get the Conservative Party line. As you may recall, he messed up his address on his paperwork, which disqualified him. So what gives?

Cuomo wants to develop Aqueduct

From the Daily News:

From Gov. Cuomo comes the welcome news that Aqueduct’s days as a shabby and underutilized thoroughbred track are likely numbered.

In its heyday, Aqueduct drew tens of thousands of horse racing fans every day during its meet. Now, with racing’s steep decline and the availability of off-track wagering, it’s a hulking shell onto which has been grafted a video slot-machine casino.

The track and parking lots cover almost 200 acres of land in southern Queens that could be put to productive use — for example, as the site of affordable housing. This page has long called for shutting the place and moving its races to Belmont Park, just 8 miles to the east.

“I agree,” Cuomo said at a recent meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board.

“It’s been a waste,” he said. “You could do anything at Aqueduct. I mean, you’re right at the airport. It’s a great piece of property. It’s one of the largest pieces of property, probably, in the city of New York....

Here comes another taxpayer funded development scheme to benefit one of the Governor's friends...

SI Farm Colony to become senior housing

From DNA Info:

A long-abandoned poorhouse and hospital in Willowbrook will be transformed into a residential community for seniors, the city announced on Friday.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation unveiled a deal with a developer to overhaul the dilapidated New York City Farm Colony buildings and create a retirement community called Landmark Colony.

Staten Island-based NFC Associates LLC. will preserve some of the historic buildings on the 43-acre site, at 501 Brielle Ave., and will build others to create a 300-unit community for senior citizens.

Of the 11 buildings from the Farm Colony that are still standing, five will be rehabilitated for occupancy and two will be stabilized and preserved. The rest will be demolished after the developer gets approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Abandoned NYC has a great photo tour of the colony.

Streetlights being converted to LED

From NY1:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday that the city is replacing all 250,000 of its street lights with light-emitting diodes, known as LEDs.

The plan is expected to save at least $14 million per year.

New York's traditional street lights will have a slightly different look when the LEDs are attached.

Historic street lights will stay the same, but the bulbs will be different.

I hope it's not the headache-inducing LEDs!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bank of America cleans up its act

On October 16th I reported on some garbage problems in the downtown section of Jamaica and pointed out the horrible ongoing condition at 165th Street & Jamaica Avenue right near the Bank Of America ATM location, which occupies that spot. For a long time, this corner has been a notorious dumping ground due to the fact that many of our residents and visitors are low-class ghetto trash, who just throw shit down on the ground, but also the fact that there was no city garbage can on the corner, a huge amount of livery cab drivers hang on that corner all day/night drumming up business and throwing their shit on the ground, plus the food and other vendors that are right there, dumping their cartons/boxes and other shit there. Many food vendors will leave much of their garbage on the ground in downtown area. Of course many of our useless leaders, who have been aware of this, have done shit.

Not Bank of America's problem, even if this is on the side of their building.

But when Bank of America speaks, the powers to be will listen. One of my faithful readers, who saw the photos of this disgusting sight, emailed the CEO of Bank of America about the situation, along with the posting and photos. Very soon I was given a number to call Breanna Pennington, Officer/Customer Advocate who was very concerned by what she saw and how that affects the image of Bank of America. She assured me that she would be talking to the appropriate people within the company and take care of the issue.  The next day she called me with the action that was taken and then I received an email from Peter Osborne of Bank of America who wrote me this:
“Joe, I’m with Bank of America. Our property manager met with the Block by Block organization to discuss our mutual concerns with this situation. As a result, a trash can was moved to our corner and Block by Block promised they will pay closer attention to this location. Some food trucks were also asked to move away from the location, which should reduce the trash in the area. We appreciate you bringing this situation to our attention.”
You know damn well the powers to be in Jamaica will make sure this does not repeat anymore, they certainly would not Bank of America pulling out. This very quick response by Bank of America is how all businesses in Jamaica should be handling this garbage problem.  Take action immediately and put things in place to see that it does not continue, unlike some of the shit retail places along Jamaica Avenue and side streets that do not give a shit (but soon their days will be numbered when the major development begins, many are already closing up shop or putting up signs they will be closing). In the meantime, Jamaica leaders need to be on these businesses asses big time for the conditions in front of their properties.

Useless leaders of Jamaica, take note of Bank Of America. They did not make any excuses, they did not pass the buck, they did not ignore the situation, they did not talk about a “magic wand”. They took immediate action and put a plan in action.

Joe Moretti

Vallone lies about CB7 vote; supports non-citizen voting

As promised, here's Paul Vallone lying about the Willets Point vote. All the viewing that's required is the first 3 minutes:
"...we need to stand up and say 'no, don't do this'. That's why when it came before Community Board 7, we voted against it. Especially that whole mall expansion down at CitiField, and the soccer stadium."
CB7 voted yes on the mall and the soccer stadium never went before CB7. Maybe if Vallone showed up to vote more often, he'd know what they voted on.

Later on, at about 8:30, Dennis Saffran mentions that he is opposed to non-citizen voting, unlike Paul Vallone, who said a 6 month waiting period was too soon to allow them to vote, but that he was open to the idea.

Saffran's remarks on preserving parkland can be viewed here.

People buying A Tale of Two Cities

From Crain's:

The rise of Bill de Blasio to the top of city politics has raised the question: Is it his policies or something else that have fueled the public advocate's popularity? A survey by The New York Times and Siena College suggested that a vast majority of New York voters favor Mr. de Blasio to be the next mayor despite disagreeing with his positions on education, public safety and other issues.

But a new poll casts doubt on those findings. The survey of 1,475 New Yorkers at all income levels, conducted between July and August, found strong support for Mr. de Blasio's central message of income inequality, with a majority saying they believe that the wealthy have benefited the most under the Bloomberg years.

"[From] some of the other polling, for example what The New York Times reported, the sense was that the public likes de Blasio but doesn't really agree with his policies," said Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy and research at the Community Service Society, which sponsored the poll. "What we're seeing in our survey is something different. We're seeing a real shift in the public's mood."

Democratic Machine barks an order; good government group complies

From Crain's:

The good-government group Citizens Union canceled its planned endorsement of a Republican challenger in a little-watched City Council race after two Democratic lawmakers complained about his campaign literature, its executive director confirmed.

Citizens Union announced Friday morning that it would not support anyone in the Queens race between incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and a young Republican former television producer, Craig Caruana. The organization had told Mr. Caruana it would endorse him this week. Ms. Crowley, a cousin of powerful Queens Democratic leader Joe Crowley, is heavily favored to win re-election.

In an email to reporters, the good-government group explained that it had backed away from supporting Mr. Caruana upon learning this week of literature mailed to voters by his campaign.

"After the Citizens Union board met yesterday and reviewed the message of the flyer and its consequences, it felt the flyer crossed a line and engaged in inappropriate fear-mongering that unfairly targets immigrants," the group explained.

Not mentioned was that two members of the City Council had called Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey this week to complain about the impending endorsement. Manhattan Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, the co-chair of the council's Progressive Caucus and a candidate for council speaker, brought the matter to Mr. Dadey's attention, he said. Councilman Danny Dromm, a Queens Democrat, also called to register his concern.

First of all, the mailer doesn't target immigrants, it targets people trespassing on American soil. Big difference.

Interesting that 2 council members from outside the district (one from Manhattan) would call Citizens Union about an endorsement and that Citizens Union would listen to them. Citizens Union is not an immigrant rights group, they are supposed to be a good government group. It's never a good thing when the government tells a good government group what to do, and they do it. They have a long history of doing so, however. It's pretty sad.

An actual quote from their director: “Citizens Union has been pleased to work over the past couple of years with reform-minded individuals like Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn.”

Oy vey!

And it's quite interesting that a mailer about a piece of legislation that Citizens Union decided not to take a position on was a dealbreaker for Caruana, yet the many mailers from the real estate PAC, Jobs for New York, on behalf of CD19 candidate Paul Vallone, didn't cause them to bat en eyelash when deciding to endorse Vallone in that race. Outside spending in elections is usually a top 5 concern for good government groups, but for CU, it's of no concern.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure Caruana would have wanted to be on the same endorsement list as Paul Vallone and Melinda Katz, anyway.

Bloomberg calls CitiBike "mass transit"

From the NY Post:

Mayor Bloomberg admitted Thursday that the Citi Bike program isn’t profitable, nearly six months after the bicycle-share program launched around town.

“I don’t think so yet,” Bloomberg said when asked if the Citi Bike program is making money.

The mayor argued that, like most start-up businesses, the Citi Bike operation is going through growing pains in its early stages of development.

“There’s a lot of teething at the beginning,” he said about the initial operating expenses. “You’ve got to get everything out there.”

With Citi Bike customers having taken more than 2 million rides since its launch, Bloomberg is confident that the system can turn a profit in time.

“It is, I think, better than anybody had anticipated in terms of usage,” Bloomberg said during a press conference at the Department of Transportation.

“It’s a way to commute, it’s a mass-transit system that requires no federal, state or city monies whatsoever.”

Mass transit systems involve large vehicles that move a lot of people at a time. Not vend-a-bikes. And I guess Mike thinks we've forgotten that the City put $1.55M in taxpayer money into CitiBike.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Paul Vallone threatens Dennis Saffran with disbarment

It happens at about 11:00 in the above video. Saffran's response is brilliant.

In the second video, Vallone claims to have met with Manhattan members of the city council in a private meeting to nix the rumored high school in Whitestone. He also claims that Bill DeBlasio sought him out to walk next to in a parade, which shows you exactly what is of utmost importance to the Vallones.

Later on in Douglaston, Vallone lied and said CB7 voted against the shopping mall in the park. They voted yes. Video coming soon.

Ask yourself who sounds more like legislative material and who sounds like a lying, raving lunatic making things up as he goes along. I think the answer is clear.

This was taped at the Bayside Historical Society's debate this past week.

BP candidate Tony Arcabascio speaks in Bayside

This is Queens Borough President candidate Tony Arcabascio speaking at the Bayside Historic Society's candidate's night.

Melinda Katz showed up near the end. She did nit attend last night's debate in Middle Village.

BP debate will finally air

From the Daily News:

Queens Public Television has finally decided to air a debate taped two weeks ago between Queens Borough President hopefuls Melinda Katz and Tony Arcabascio.
The station had pulled the sparring match after third-party candidate Everly Brown complained he was not included.

“Mr. Everly Brown was invited to take part in the debate but failed to participate thereby forfeiting his equal access or ‘equal time’ to our channel,” said Clifford Jacobs, programming and access services manager at QPTV. “Once invited, it is incumbent on the candidate to appear.”

Brown’s campaign manager, Elhadj Bah, said the station had never officially notified the candidate.

Here's the NY1 debate.

Queens Chronicle reminds DeBlasio that stadium in FMCP is dead

From the Queens Chronicle:

The plan to steal more Flushing Meadows parkland and give it to the superrich Arabian prince who will be the soccer team’s chief owner is dead. Dead, dead, dead. City Councilman Leroy Comrie, the Queens delegation’s leader and the Council’s deputy majority leader, pronounced it so months ago (not that his colleagues in government did much to stop it; that was left to the people). He was right to do so.

But it seems that our likely next mayor, Bill de Blasio, didn’t get the memo. When asked about the stadium proposal at Tuesday’s mayoral debate, de Blasio made some populist-sounding statement about halting giveaways to big corporations — note that Mayor Bloomberg was ready to hand over 13 acres of our crown jewel park for a dollar! — but then, astonishingly, said that if a stadium would bring in money for upgrades to Flushing Meadows, the idea is worth discussing.

It was astonishing because for one, the plan is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Someone tell Bill.

And it was astonishing because de Blasio himself had gone out of his way to state his opposition to the idea earlier in the campaign. That was point one of a three-point plan he announced to protect the park. “The era of giving away prime land to commercial interests at bargain basement prices must come to an end,” he said at the time.

Of course, that was when he was locked in a race with several fellow Democrats, each trying to be the most progressive, grassroots leader of the people. Now, perhaps, de Blasio wants to move toward the center, not his home territory.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lobbyists love DeBlasio

From the Daily News:

A who's who of top lobbyists served on the host committee of Bill de Blasio’s $1 million fund-raiser with Hillary Clinton, it was revealed Tuesday.

Their participation in Monday night’s bash drew fire from de Blasio’s Republican rival in the mayor’s race, Joe Lhota.

“The level of Bill de Blasio’s hypocrisy is alarming. He takes cash from developers and special interests while telling New Yorkers he supports something different,” Lhota spokeswoman Jessica Proud said.

De Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan declined comment.

The host committee included James Capalino, who has lobbied for Rudin Management, developers of high-end condos near the old St. Vincent’s Hospital, and lobbyist Suri Kasirer, who met with de Blasio on Brooklyn’s contentious Atlantic Yards project.

Others on the host committee included Stan Natapoff and Alexandra Stanton of Empire Global Ventures, Rachel Amar of Waste Management of New York, and Michael Woloz of Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz.

Howard Beach experiences a rash of car break-ins

From CBS New York:

Some residents in Howard Beach, Queens, are concerned about a spike in car break-ins there.

As CBS 2′s Don Champion reported, some car owners believe they are being targeted because of superstorm Sandy — the storm destroyed many cars in the neighborhood last year, and they’ve since been replaced by new, high-end vehicles.

Vehicle break-ins in the 106th precinct have climbed 62 percent within the past month.

One woman who did not want to be identified said her car has been broken into three times. She has since installed a driveway pole and installed security cameras.

Other residents have reported clothing and wallets being taken from vehicles. Not all of the victims, however, have reported the crimes to police, believing they’re too petty.

The NYPD said it’s important for residents to report all break-ins so they can target trends.

School bus route changed after complaints

From DNA Info:

The Department of Education has agreed to change a Queens bus route back to the way it was after parents complained that the length of their kids' commutes suddenly doubled in time in recent weeks.

Children who live in Long Island City and take the bus to Astoria's P.S. 122 were recently told they had to start showing up at their bus stops about a half hour earlier than their usual pickup time, parents said.

They learned the bus — which they say brings about 40 students from Long Island City to P.S. 122 on Ditmars Boulevard — had to make a detour to pick up and drop off students at P.S. 151, located on 31st Avenue in Woodside.

Several parents complained to the DOE's Office of Pupil Transportation, arguing that the altered bus route was in violation of a Chancellor's Regulation that limits bus trips to 5 miles.

However, the parents say they were told by OPT that the "five mile" rule applies to the placement of bus stops en route to each assigned school, not the whole trip collectively.

The DOE, however, ultimately reviewed the parents' complaints and agreed to once again split the bus route between the two schools, returning it to the way it was.

Lhota says protecting parkland important; DeBlasio wants soccer stadium

From the NY Times:

Early on Tuesday night, [Bill DeBlasio] was asked about Major League Soccer’s attempt to place a Spaceship-Enterprise-size soccer stadium in the midst of Flushing Meadows, Queens’s densest and most heavily used park. He cleared his throat with some populist rumbling about city tax giveaways. Then he allowed that, well, perhaps, maybe, a pro soccer stadium might raise the money needed to give that dowdy dowager of a park a face-lift.

It was left to Mr. Lhota to make the point that, perhaps fortunately for Flushing Meadows, appears to have won the day: Our urban parks are a precious patrimony, and in this densest of American cities it is rarely wise to auction off greensward. If Flushing Meadows-Corona Park needs money, and enough three-piece-suit-wearing worthies cannot be found to toss together a conservancy, a mayor should find a way to pay for that park.

“It shouldn’t be in that park,” Mr. Lhota said of the stadium. “We don’t have enough park space in this city as it is.”

DeBlasio will institute illegal alien ID card

From the Capital New York:

Bill de Blasio said if elected mayor, he would seek "right away" to create in "early 2014" a municipal identification card for undocumented immigrants in New York City.

De Blasio — the Democratic mayoral nominee who enjoys a forty-point lead over his Republican opponent — made the comment during a press conference on the steps of City Hall where he was joined by supporters, including members from a number of immigrant rights groups. De Blasio said details about how to create the cards and which agency would issue them still needed to be explored "but we have working models" he said, "from other cities" that "have proven to be effective. So, we'd borrow from them."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lhota not too enthused by the Queens GOP

From Crain's:

Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota has a secret, sources say: He's been endorsed by the Queens Republican organization.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said Lhota consultant Jake Menges informed leadership of the Queens Republican Party of the campaign's decision last weekend not to publicize the endorsement. Mr. Menges not only rejected Queens Republicans' offer to have an endorsement press conference, but asked the party not to issue a press release touting its backing of Mr. Lhota, the sources added.

According to one source privy to the campaign's thinking, Mr. Lhota's camp did not want to highlight dissension in the Queens Republican Party and in other Republican circles by publicizing the endorsement, which would have come six weeks after an ugly Republican mayoral primary and two weeks before the general election. The Queens Republican faction led by Queens Republican Chairman Phil Ragusa backed grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis in the primary, while the faction led by Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich backed Mr. Lhota.

Such an announcement could have also brought attention to infighting in Brooklyn Republican Party, and to the fact that Mr. Catsimatidis has not formally endorsed Mr. Lhota, the Lhota campaign feared.

But you know who wasn't ashamed of possibly snagging the endorsement of the Queens GOP? Paul Vallone. Back in 2009:

A source close to Vallone’s campaign said the candidate was interested in the GOP nomination because he believed in race against Democratic primary winner Kevin Kim, Vallone would “win the one-on-one match up with him easily.” Halloran added that Vallone, who faced attacks from his Democratic rivals during the primary campaign, would be supporting him over the Democratic nominee in the race, Kim. “Paul is really like a kindred spirit,” said Halloran.

And then there was his bid for the Conservative line...

According to Tom Long, chairman of the Queens County Conservative Party, however, Vallone told him this during a candidate screening with the party that he is, in fact, pro-life.

Despite once being considered for the GOP and Conservative lines, Vallone is now the Democratic nominee and he's pro-choice. How the hell did that happen?

Introducing the Ñ train

From the Huffington Post:

A group calling themselves "Z Street Art" has taken credit for the re-christening of the N train in New York City as the Ñ train. The artists say the project was done in honor of the 24 percent of New Yorkers who speak Spanish.

The subway of the future?

From the NY Times:

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are envisioning a subway car of the future that offers New Yorkers an out, ending the era of the captive car population.

This month, in a 142-page document outlining needs for the next 20 years, the authority noted the benefits of articulated trains — similar to accordion-style buses — that have no doors between cars, allowing unrestricted flow throughout the length of the subway.

“This will both maximize carrying capacity,” the authority said, and allow passengers to “move to less-crowded areas of the train, balancing loading and unloading times at all doors.”

The inclusion of articulated train cars in the report, a mild surprise to some transit advocates, does not guarantee that the cars will reach the rails anytime soon, or even at all; it was not clear how the cost of the articulated cars compares with that of nonarticulated cars. But for the first time in the subway system’s modern history, the authority appears poised to seriously consider a model adopted in cities like Berlin, Paris and Toronto.

DOE makes learning more difficult for injured kid

From CBS New York:

High school senior M’Kayah Walker of Woodside, Queens, said she was injured while playing soccer.

“I was playing soccer. Kids fell on top of me,” she said. “And I found out my knees were dislocated.”

That sports injury has Walker struggling to get around on crutches. But she never dreamed it would disrupt her academic future.

She said making it up the steps and in to William Cullen Bryant High School in Woodside is painful.

Her mother requested home instruction for Walker, allowing the teen to graduate with her peers. The answer was no — not once, but twice.

“Just give me the home schooling so I can get my diploma,” she said.

Instead, the school issued her an elevator pass. But getting to it was tough and then she says she had to wait.

“They have taken more than 15 minutes to open the elevator,” she said. “When I use it, I’m late, and the teachers yell at me.”

Next month, Walker gets surgery to repair her knee. Without home instruction, she believes she won’t be able to graduate until next summer.

Lulus may be history come January

From the Daily News:

The City Council convenes in January with a fresh crop of members and a two-thirds majority that has called for eliminating bonus pay for being good little boys and girls.

Seventeen incoming freshman pledged to bar lulus, while 17 incumbents have done so. Total: 34 out of 51 members, well more than necessary to enact a prohibition.

But let us not count our chickens. Thirteen of those incumbents have dodged by accepting lulus they profess to oppose — and reporting that they have given the money to charity. This allows them to say they don’t pocket the stipends while reaping the political benefits of charitable giving.

These 13 are: Rosie Mendez of Manhattan; Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx; Debi Rose of Staten Island; Mathieu Eugene, David Greenfield, Steve Levin and Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn; and Julissa Ferreras, Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Eric Ulrich, Jimmy Van Bramer and Ruben Wills of Queens. Incumbent Danny Dromm, of Queens, says he is against lulus but keeps the money, asserting that he wants them eliminated, but not individually.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will Flushing Commons finally break ground?

From Crain's:

Eight years after floating plans for a huge residential/retail project, and just weeks before a deadline for breaking ground, the developers of the $850 million Flushing Commons project in Queens filed for their first permit to actually begin the work.

The city Department of Buildings is currently reviewing the application filed by TDC Development International and The Rockefeller Group. The duo is seeking approval to spend $3.5 million to modify a portion of Municipal Lot 1, the 5.5-acre parking lot in the bustling neighborhood. That initial job will begin to lay the groundwork for the project's first phase, which includes construction of about 160 residential units and 350,000 square feet of retail or commercial space. It will also include a YMCA and park. Another 450 residential units and 150,000 square feet of retail or commercial space are slated for the second phase of the project, for which no starting date has been set.

Under their agreement with the city, the developers' first priority has to be rearranging the parking spaces in the downtown area to maintain the same parking capacity currently provided by lot, which will be demolished over time to make way for the new buildings. According to sources familiar with the project, the initial work under the permit will allow the developers to move some of the lots entrances and exits to clear the way to excavate for a new garage.

Under the contract signed between the developers and Economic Development Corp., which shepherded the project through the approval process, TDC and Rockefeller were required to break ground by Oct. 31.

Is Bill DeBlasio hiding something?

From Crain's:

Mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio did not inform the city Conflicts of Interest Board of the tens of thousands of dollars in rental income he received in recent years, Crain's has learned.

City law states that elected officials must disclose income from real estate rents, but forms Mr. de Blasio has filed annually dating back to his days as a City Council member show none since at least 2007 for a rental property he and his wife own in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His 2011 tax return shows $47,500 in rental income offset by $62,200 in deductions for the property, where the candidate's late mother once lived.

A campaign spokesman argued that because there was no net income, the rental proceeds did not need to be reported to the conflicts board. But the city administrative code states that lawmakers are required to report "any income of $1,000 or more from each source derived during the preceding calendar year." It also states that "real estate rents shall be reported with the source [tenant] identified by the building address."

The de Blasio campaign later pointed out that the candidate did disclose ownership of the two-family property on his financial disclosure form, although the address is redacted.

In 2004, Mr. de Blasio, his wife, Chirlane McCray, and his mother, Maria Wilhelm, purchased a two-family home at 384 11th St. in Park Slope, down the block from the couple's primary residence. The New York Times has reported that Mr. de Blasio moved his mother to the house. She died in 2007, and the home is now owned by Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray, records show.

Mr. de Blasio's 2011 tax return, which he previously made available to reporters, offers detailed information on Schedule E about the rental property and payments, but the piece of the 2012 return he made public did not include Schedule E and does not list rental income.

Laser interference on the rise

From WPIX:

The FBI is calling this a very serious and dangerous situation. Lasers can temporarily or permanently blind a pilot and crew.

There is a danger in the air, and it’s hurting the crews piloting airplanes at New York-area airports.

According to the FBI, the number of laser incidents targeting airplanes and pilots are increasing in New York City. In fact they’re up 17 percent since last year.

Law enforcement officials said the two most recent incidents happened on October 15, 2013. The first, at 7:35 p.m., involving Shuttle America flight 5973. In that instance, the FBI said, the aircraft cockpit was illuminated by a green laser on the final approach to La Guardia Airport.

The incident occurred approximately six miles from the runway, at 2,000 feet. The crew reported that the laser beam originated about a half mile west of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

The second incident occurred at 10:37 p.m. that same night. A private aircraft reported a green laser two miles southwest of La Guardia Airport while heading eastbound over the Triborough Bridge. The laser originated near the intersection of Broadway and Steinway Street in Queens.

No injuries were reported in either of those recent incidents at LGA, but several commercial pilots earlier this year suffered significant injury including a burnt retina.

Gas pipeline hearing tonight

From Metro:

The first of two Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Public Hearings over a proposed Rockaway gas pipeline will be taking place at the Knights of Columbus Rockaway Council 267 at 333 Beach 90th Street starting at 7 p.m.

The pipeline, to be built by Williams Transco and National Grid, is being hit with much of the same criticism as the Spectra Pipeline planned for lower Manhattan.

Both pipelines would bring shale gas — produced by fracking — to the city. Opponents are complaining that the review period has not been long enough and that environmental and safety concerns are not being adequately considered.

This pipeline would be embedded in the ocean floor, run under the sandy bank of Riis Park Beach, cross below the Rockaway Inlet and continue up Flatbush avenue to a Metering and Regulation facility. The facility would be built in two of the old abandoned airplane hangars at Floyd Bennet Field.

Decrepit traffic island to get some love

From Bayside Patch:

A small traffic island in front of the Long Island Rail Road station is getting upgraded after decades of neglect, state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside said.

The senator said he noticed the dangerous conditions on the island while giving a recent press conference at the site.

The senator said it had always been assumed that the LIRR was responsible for the property, but it turned out to be under the city Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction.

Avella said he contacted the DOT, which immediately improved the walk-through path on the island.

He has also asked the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation to remove three dead trees on the island. The agency has said it would do so within 30 days.

Now, Avella is working with the Bayside Business Improvement District to develop a long-term strategy to enhance the island and repair the long neglected and vandalized “sun dial,” which has been a main feature of the site.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hipster shuttle bus now parked in Greenpoint

The magical blue bus that the notorious Knockdown Center/notorious Roberta's used to shuttle hipsters back and forth to the L train this summer was spotted recently on the street behind a high school in Greenpoint.

I believe the skull is a new addition.

Note the bottle of Smirnoff and the gas can in the center of the mess.

Yet more gas cans.

Amazing use of ratcheting tie-downs.

It all kind of fits in with Roberta's vibe, and Roberta's has been the exclusive caterer at the Knockdown Center thus far. Last year, Roberta's offered a menu that consisted of recipes containing marijuana and somehow kept their liquor license, even after bragging about it publicly. Perhaps they'll bring this avant-garde cuisine to Maspeth. After all, the manager of KDC once said:
“I think the Knockdown Center represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring something really unique and really special to Maspeth certainly, but also the New York community at large.”
I'll say.

This was on the Knockdown Center's website until last week (Click for larger version):

Now it's gone. I wonder why. Perhaps it's because they really don't give a flying crap about Maspeth, or Queens, and it makes their clientele cringe when they pretend they do.

This whole operation stinks to high heaven, and I have just revealed the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned. There's more to be uncovered...

That's quite a walk

Click photo for story.

Man dies in house without smoke alarms after fire

From the Daily News:

A deadly blaze that ripped through a two-story home in Queens Sunday killed one person and injured another, officials said.

The fire started in the cellar of a home on Springfield Blvd. in Queens Village around 2 p.m. and quickly spread up the first-floor staircase, fire officials said.

Fire officials don’t know yet what sparked the blaze but said there were no working smoke detectors in the home.

Cool sign on former First German Sport Club is gone

The First German Sport Club of Brooklyn is next door to yesterday's renovation project.  It's been on the market for a long time.  You can read some of its history here.  It closed when a mafia gambling ring operating out of it got busted.
Yesterday, I noticed that the lettering on the sign was gone, and a "coming soon" sign is now on top of it advertising World Financial Center.  I'm hoping they're moving from Himrod Street, but I'm not holding my breath.  Someone really should fix that siding!