Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying goodbye to Bloomberg means saying goodbye to Amanda Burden

From WNYC:

She's one of the longest serving members of his administration, and her time as a member of the commission goes back even farther, to 1990.

Reflecting on her time in office, Burden talked about her greatest accomplishments (the High Line), the planning challenges the city must contend with in the future (the effects of global climate change) and her sometimes prickly relationship with developers.

She also had some advice for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, who has a goal of creating 200,000 units of affordable housing.

"The challenge for the new mayor is to persuade communities to accept additional height and density, so that more affordable housing can be accommodated and that can be a big challenge for him. It certainly was for us," Burden said.

Burden is joining the outgoing mayor at Bloomberg Associates, which will help governments around the world implement projects based on his signature policies in New York.

Voting from beyond the grave

From the NY Post:

Investigators posing as dead voters were allowed to cast ballots for this year’s primary and general elections, thanks to antiquated Board of Election registration records and lax oversight by poll workers, authorities said.

The election board’s susceptibility to voter fraud by people impersonating the departed was uncovered during a massive probe of the agency by the Department of Investigation.

The probe uncovered 63 instances when voters’ names should have been stricken from the rolls, but weren’t — even though some of them had died years before.

So maybe we should have to show ID?

Cuomo not fond of Melissa

From the NY Post:

Gov. Cuomo, in his first major battle with Bill de Blasio, is engaged in a last-ditch effort to block leftist Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito from becoming council speaker, Democratic insiders have told The Post.

Cuomo has been working behind the scenes with city Democratic leaders, including Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the Bronx party chair, and US Rep. Joseph Crowley, the Queens chair, to line up support for Councilman Dan Garodnick, the other candidate in the race, the insiders said.

“It’s clear to many of us that Cuomo and his people are working to stop Melissa because it’s not in his interest to have her in there,” said a prominent Democrat involved in the speakership battle.

“It’s certainly not in Cuomo’s political interest to have another left-wing activist along with de Blasio running the city. The sense is that Cuomo wants to see de Blasio defeated on this one, so that he’ll start off as mayor weaker and not stronger, relative to the governor.”

Added a longtime political observer close to the speakership fight, “The governor, who wants to run for president, doesn’t want to see the city turned into a People’s Republic of New York at the same time he’s trying to make the state at least look like it’s business friendly.”

Mayor-elect de Blasio, whose call for higher taxes on the wealthy already put him on a collision course with Cuomo — who wants tax cuts to boost his re-election — unexpectedly endorsed Mark-Viverito for speaker this month, angering Heastie, Crowley and other party leaders.

Final Bloomberg photo caption opportunity

It's New Year's Eve. The final 24 hours of Bloomberg. Let's send him off by captioning this photo from the Daily News.

The history of One Times Square

From the New Yorker:

The home of the New Year’s Eve ball — One Times Square — started out as the headquarters of the Times; it displayed early illuminated billboards and the famous news ticker. New Yorker staffers have made numerous trips to the building. A 1961 Talk of the Town story reported that “there was a time when a speakeasy was going full blast in one of the basements … and when the F.B.I. — this was during the Second World War — was holding pistol practice in a basement and using a seventh floor office to trap German spies.”

The building, eventually sold to Jamestown Properties, is now mostly unoccupied. The abandoned floors are littered with graffiti and the remnants of old signs. On New Year’s Eve, around a million people are expected to pack Times Square and fix their eyes on the ball. When it comes down, though, it will land above a building that has been empty for years.

Lobbyists love Mark-Viverito

From The Politicker:

A handful of backroom power players in city and state politics turned out for Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito swearing-in ceremony this afternoon–including many of the people who soon will be lobbying the City Council on behalf of clients with interest before the city.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, the front-runner to become the next speaker of the City Council, was sworn in for her third term in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx today, where she was greeted by throngs of supporters at a cramped public housing community room. Beyond the elected officials and dozens of boosters from her East Harlem base, she was joined by a number of notable lobbyists and political consultants.

The appearance of these various political players, insiders said, was no surprise. If a deal brokered by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio holds, Ms. Mark-Viverito will hold the second most powerful post in the city come January 8.

Beyond the behind-the-scenes crowd, Ms. Mark-Viverito’s closest allies in elected office showed up as well. Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jimmy Van Bramer, two of the 30 members publicly supporting her bid against rival Dan Garodnick, heaped praise on her record. And Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Luis Sepuleveda, another earlier de Blasio backer who has his own complicated history with Ms. Mark-Viverito, boosted her too.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tall fences sometimes make bad neighbors

Homeowners continue to flaunt the local laws on fence height as well as paving of landscape within properties.

On the paving matter, an established local law on allowable % open space and landscape was intended to decrease storm water run-off into catch basins during high rain events. If you recall the numerous street flooding of past years in large part contributed to by large-scale conversion of pervious surfaces to impervious surfaces where storm water run-off overburdened catch basins.

Little has changed other than repeat annual increases in our sewer and water fees to fund new costly NYC DEP flood control projects, and little enforcement of these violators.

NYC DOB 311 Complaint Service Request obtained on-line
for 140-20 Poplar Ave. Attached a few photos of the violations, pre and post construction

1. Violation of the paving law. Removal of all lawn area / greenspace by full paving of front, side and possibly rear yard.

Service Request #: C1-1-922270731
Date Submitted: 12/29/13 10:53:00 AM
Request Type:
Details: Residential Space

2. Violation of the 4-ft fence height law.

Service Request #: C1-1-922270621
Date Submitted: 12/29/13 10:42:38 AM
Request Type:
Details: Residential Space

Bloomberg suggests more subways in Queens - at station opening in Manhattan

From WPIX:

The 7 train extension is expected to open in June 2014. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city and MTA officials and developers took a ride and a tour of the site Friday.

“Today’s historic ride is yet another symbol of how New York City has become a place where big projects can get done,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

Bloomberg advocated for the project in 2006 and City Council voted to rezone an area on Manhattan’s far west side. In 2007, the city financed about $2 billion in bonds to pay for the project.

The MTA is managing the project and contractors have been working to build the extension. It runs about a mile from Times Square-42nd Street to the station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue in Manhattan.

Hudson Yards, a giant residential and commercial development, is one of the projects rising in the area.

“When we complete construction on this project next summer, the West Side will be connected to the rest of this vibrant city and will be just a train ride away,” said Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction.

A second station was planned at 41st street and 10th Avenue but it was dropped from the project as costs rose. It could be built at a later date.

Initially, crews set an ambitious project completion date of December 2013. Some construction issues and the building and installation of special escalators ended up adding time to the project.

Check out the response at 1:54...

City programs will miss Bloomberg's $$$

From Capital New York:

Numerous city programs funded by Michael Bloomberg's personal fortune will be left hanging in the balance when he leaves City Hall this week, from an initiative to help young men of color find jobs to a massive tree-planting project.

The billionaire mayor, criticized to great effect by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio for closing his eyes to income inequality, has used his personal charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, to pay for programs throughout city government, furthering his own policy priorities and filling in gaps when taxpayer dollars fell short.

The extent to which Bloomberg will keep supporting such local initiatives is unclear, as he turns his attention to national and international endeavors.

Yep, he spent a lot.

Photo from Bloomberg Watch

Park wherever - it's Jamaica!

From Clean Up Jamaica Queens:

???????????????????????????????It amazes me how you report a violation such as ongoing illegal parking, in this case cars going up over the curb and sidewalk to park in front of or on the side of an apartment building and your complaint is closed several times as “no violation observed”. In the one case at 90-25 170th Street, not only is this a case of illegal parking in which the 103rd should be ticketing this vehicle, but it is a Department of Building violation as well as a NYFD violation since this vehicle is blocking the door of the apartment building.

But as usual in Jamaica, anything goes, people can do whatever the fuck they want and there is no enforcement of laws and a blatant lack of effort on city agencies to enforce quality of life here.

I even received a phone call from the 103rd yesterday afternoon and explained the situation (I guess they were tired of all my complaints), yet still nothing done.

Bloomberg, Markowitz screw over Coney Island one last time

From A Walk in the Park:

Under cover of darkness a beloved community garden in Coney Island was bulldozed beginning at 5am Saturday morning to make way for Marty Markowitz's $ 53 million dollar amphitheater. The developer – iStar – destroyed 16 years of a community gardening effort.

A developer bulldozed a beloved community garden in Coney Island on Saturday to make way for an amphitheater — uprooting 20 chickens on a decades-old plot that survived Hurricane Sandy.

Construction workers entered the Boardwalk Garden under the cover of darkness and chucked tools and wheelbarrows, along with farm fowl and a colony of feral cats, activists say.

The chickens were placed in pet carriers on the sidewalk and the felines were left fending for themselves.

“They destroyed life!” fumed tearful volunteer Elena Voitsenko, 60, a Russian immigrant who told The Post she’ll take in the birds until they find a new home.

“‎I came to America to escape from the communist regime,” she added. “This is more than the communist regime! They came at 4 in the morning.”

Workers razed the sprawling, 70,000-square-foot garden on West 22nd Street about a week after the City Council approved plans to convert the empty Childs Restaurant and its adjacent land into a 5,000-seat venue.

The $53 million project was trumpeted by outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz, who tried previously to build a controversial amphitheater in Asser Levy Park in 2009.

Under the new plan, the city will buy the Childs building from iStar Financial and turn it into a restaurant and concert venue. The adjacent garden is slated to become a seating area.

The community board voted against the project in September, and locals have railed against turning the historic property into a noisy venue.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

DOT: Destroying landscapes one street tree at a time

This is part of a letter sent to DOT from a member of Kissena Park Civic Association
"While it is understood that NYC DOT is required to maintain a functioning infrastructure, it should not occur at the cost of our important street tree assets. Observed was intentional damages to a healthy, veteran curbside pin oak street tree and several other curbside trees during curb restoration by the NYC DOT SIM program (Sidewalk Inspection & Maintenance).
As otherwise would be required by Parks Forestry the magnitude of mechanical damages and harm to trees roots that occurred, saw that BMP arboricultural planning, supervision and oversight was not provided at this location by NYC DOT and its field crew.
As a result numerous important tree roots were needlessly ripped and torn, both harming the street tree and diminishing its importance to the community- when an alternate approach was clearly available. One may call this troubling treatment of our community trees, "business as usual".
And many from our community wonder why we continue to see business as usual tree abuses by City agencies and their leadership, who clearly should know better."

Henry Fabian's latest teardown

Farewell to a house that harkens back to the past.
Goodbye, stately trees.
Henry Fabian has purchased thou and you're on the path to destruction. There are no building plans filed yet, but one thing is certain: whatever replaces this is sure to be an oversized, out-of-character eyesore.

Avella introduces deed restriction registration bill

From the Queens Chronicle:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and homeowner association leaders joined forces in front of his Bell Boulevard office on Friday to promote a new piece of legislation that would help keep the character of Queens’ neighborhoods from diminishing.

Avella is introducing legislation in Albany that would require homeowners whose properties are restricted by covenants to register their homes with the Department of Buildings, which in turn would have to review deed registries prior to issuing building permits.

As some communities in Flushing and Douglaston were being built, city planners and homeowners had a certain idea for how they should look. Covenants are a way of ensuring future developers do not change that vision.

In past years, these restrictions have not been followed and local groups have fought back.

“Why should these homeowner groups be doing the job of the city?” Avella asked. “They’re doing the city’s work.”

Civic leaders praised Avella for his participation, and echoed his concerns.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Machine hacks may have to find real jobs

Charles Meara
From The Politicker:

For a decade, remaining a close ally of the Queens County Democratic Party meant that Charles Meara, the chief of staff to two City Council speakers, could earn an annual salary almost equal to the mayor.

But if Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito is crowned the next speaker of the City Council, Mr. Meara and a host of other county loyalists may be swiftly axed. Cleaning house is standard for incoming speakers–when outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn took over, she immediately fired about a fifth of central staff. But sources say they now expect an even greater exodus if Ms. Mark-Viverito is elected speaker, stretching far beyond what would be doled out if her top rival, Councilman Dan Garodnick, somehow prevails in the end. (Mr. Garodnick is Queens and the Bronx’s counties’ candidate).

That reality, council insiders say, is Ms. Mark-Viverito’s willingness to clean house if she wins, potentially decimating the City Council’s current central staff, which numbers around 300 and is filled with individuals who scooped up choice posts through their ties to the traditional county organizations after the last speaker’s race. Queens in particular could suffer; sources say that county organization was the greatest beneficiary of patronage posts.

Mr. Meara, the chief of staff to Ms. Quinn and Mr. Miller, is likely to be on the chopping block, sources said. Mr. Meara, who did not respond to a request for comment through a council spokesman, is the brother of Queens County Chair Joe Crowley’s personal lobbyist. In 2012, Mr. Meara earned $208,884–more than Ms. Quinn, according to records compiled by the Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY website.

Another Crowley loyalist, Ms. Quinn’s executive legislative coordinator, Ramon Martinez, who made $206,190 in 2012, is also considered vulnerable–though one council insider said Mr. Martinez, who was Mr. Crowley’s one-time brother-in-law, could be “saved.” (It’s not clear if Ms. Mark-Viverito would have any motivation to preserve a high-ranking Queens loyalist.

Behind in the budget

From Capital New York:

New York finished November nearly $590 million behind its projections, according to a monthly cash report issued by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The shortfall is mostly the result of lower-than-expected income tax revenues and expected payments from the federal government that have not materialized. The report also showed New York benefited from an unexpected $203.4 million in payments from Native American tribes who settled with the state to prevent the authorization of new casinos near their existing gambling operations.

Still, the report found that all state funds were $589.8 million behind projections, while the general fund—which by law must be balanced when the the fiscal year ends in late March—was $456.7 million ahead of projections in the state's November update to its financial plan.

Officials at Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget division said the cash reports represent only a snapshot, that has little long-term meaning. Cuomo has been speaking about a suite of tax cuts in next year's budget but it's unclear exactly where the state will find the resources necessary to pay for it.

Competition for customers between street vendors and small businesses

From the Daily News:

Merchants and community board officials in Sunnyside have declared war on Queens Blvd. street vendors.

Their weapon of choice: cops.

The "zero-tolerance" campaign to purge the corridor of street sellers is spurring outrage from licensed peddlers, who say their livelihood is being squeezed.

Moore and other vendors charge they’re being illegally harassed, but business owners on and near Queens Blvd. say the police intervention is needed to rid the corridor of peddlers who, they say, crowd and dirty sidewalks along the bustling commercial strip.

“I’m paying big money every day for taxes, and vendors pay nothing,” said Jorge Calle, a florist on Greenpoint Ave. “I’ve sent letters to the Department of Consumer Affairs, but they don’t do anything.”

Calle said he has been forced to cut back on staff and struggles to cover his $8,000 monthly rent because vendors are taking business from him.

“I used to have six workers, now I only have two because I couldn’t afford to pay them,” he said. “Even though my products are better, vendors are offering the same thing for a cheaper price.”

Vendors like Moore respond that they are within their rights, and say they’re being targeted by storeowners who “don’t like the competition.”

“My license means nothing to them,” he said. “The store will call the precinct, and they’ll come because the owner doesn’t want me there.”

Another Flushing municipal lot to be developed

From the Queens Chronicle:

At what was called a “Community Visioning Meeting” on Dec. 18, officials announced that the long-evolving project to develop Municipal Parking Lot 3 in Flushing to provide affordable housing is moving forward.

Representatives of various agencies and several elected officials were in attendance at the meeting, but the public was noticeably underrepresented, owing, apparently, to the short notice and early meeting at 5 p.m.

The project aims to convert the lot, located at 41st Avenue and abutting the Long Island Rail Road station, into much-needed affordable housing, as well as providing commercial space, while maintaining as many of the 157 existing parking spaces as possible.

A still-fluid timetable, offered by the city Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, indicated that construction could begin within a year, with the actual work taking between 18 and 24 months.

In a presentation on behalf of the HPD, Director of Pipeline Planning Eunice Suh said the project’s feasibility analysis would begin sometime this winter. According to plans, the Request for Proposals would be released by the spring with the RFP submissions due by next summer. The RFP developer selection is expected to be announced by next fall.

One instrumental figure in the project’s development, former borough president Claire Shulman, who heads the Flushing, Willets Point, Corona Local Development Corp., said that the project has been discussed for many years. “Everyone agreed this was a great project. Here we are four or five years later. Better late than never.”

Shulman suggested progress on the project was “held back because of the EIS at Willets Point.” It was a reference to the challenges to the Environmental Impact Statement, a document that describes the positive and negative effects a proposed action could have, in that controversial case. “The city didn’t want another lawsuit,” she said.

“Our preference is affordable housing with the possibility for senior housing,” she said of the 43,200-square-foot-lot, citing requests from the Asian community which, she said, has faced suicides by seniors who found themselves with no viable place to live. “Affordable housing is a very important issue in Flushing, an absolute must.”

Along with the housing developments are planned improvements to the LIRR station. A representative said the LIRR is in the process of updating the “entire station environment,” including two elevators, both accessible from Main Street. In addition, lighting on the platform will be replaced. Also planned are new stairways and a new ticket office.

If the words "affordable housing" and Claire Shulman are involved, you know this is nothing more than a big tweeding project. Expect one of the usual suspect developers to get the contract.

IMPORTANT: This Claire Muni Lot 3 project (which has been gestating for years) is one of the two affordable housing projects that Julissa Ferreras touted on October 9 at the Council vote as concessions towards an approval vote of the Willlets Point / Willets West special permit. From the Council's press release:

"the Administration has agreed to release a Request For Proposals for two lots in Queens to construct additional affordable housing."

CB7 has since referred to one of them as Claire's Muni Lot 3 project.

In other words, they knew all along that the Muni Lot 3 project had been proposed and was in the pipeline (and only delayed, as Claire said, because disclosing it could provide more ammunition for lawsuits challenging the Willets Point EIS) -- and then Ferreras touted it as a concession resulting from her negotiations re: Willets Point / Willets West. More swindle.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New flood zones sink Navy Yard project

From Crains:

Blumenfeld Development Group has been dropped as the builder of the $100 million Admiral's Row project, an expansion to the 300-acre industrial space in Brooklyn that is slated to include a supermarket and shopping center, Crain's has learned.

The move comes more than a year after the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development, the nonprofit that manages the city-owned site, selected Blumenfeld to build a 74,000 square-foot supermarket, 86,000 square feet of retail space and 125,000 square feet of industrial space at the city-owned industrial park. Blumenfeld was one of several companies to respond to a request for proposals to develop the project.
Navy Yard President and Chief Executive David Ehrenberg said in a statement that Blumenfeld failed to meet its end of the contract, declining to elaborate on the reasons for change in plans. Under the agreement, Blumenfeld was supposed to be granted a long-term lease at the site after selecting a supermarket operator. A supermarket has not been picked. Blumenfeld was slated to break ground on the development this year.

"We are still committed to Admiral's Row being anchored by a supermarket that meets the community's needs and an industrial facility that supports our core mission," Mr. Ehrenberg said. "The city-approved site plan remains in place and we are evaluating our options for moving forward."

Blumenfeld said it is no longer involved in the Navy Yard because the project became untenable after changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's preliminary revised flood zones. The change would increase flood insurance premiums and construction costs, the developer noted.

Proposal to light up the Hell Gate Bridge

From DNA Info:

The New York Anti-Crime Agency, a nonprofit that runs safety seminars and neighborhood graffiti cleanups, is pushing to get lights added to the Hell Gate Bridge, saying the unlit structure has gone for years without the recognition it deserves.

The bridge, operated by Amtrak, connects Queens to the Bronx by way of Randall's Island and is a looming sight along the Astoria waterfront, hulking over Astoria Park.

Designed by noted civil engineer Gustav Lindenthal, the Hell Gate opened in 1916 and was reportedly the inspiration behind the similarly-designed Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

[Civic leader Tony] Meloni is hoping his appeal will interest current federal representatives who can take on the project, and suggests opening it up to the community to see what kind of lights people think would look best along the Hell Gate.

Huang fined for Klein Farm tree massacre

From the Queens Chronicle:

Summonses have been issued to Audrey Realty Corp., owners of Klein farm at 194-15 73 Ave., for two separate violations following the illegal removal of trees.

According to the Department of Buildings, the first hearing, which will be held at the Queens Business Center at 144-06 94 Ave. in Jamaica, is set for Jan. 28 and addresses a violation for working without a permit, citing the illegal tree removal and extension of a driveway. The standard fine is for $800 with a default of $4,000.

The second hearing, which is for a zoning violation for modification of the landscape, is scheduled for Feb. 4. An $800 fine is also set with a default of $4,000. Both hearings can be avoided if the owners admit to the violations and pay the fines by Jan. 21 and Jan. 27, respectively.

Flushing Commons runs into parking problem

From the Queens Chronicle:

Parking at the proposed Flushing Commons mixed-use development project seemed to be on the minds of officials Thursday at a meeting of the Community Board 7 District Cabinet meeting.

Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development — which is working with the Rockefeller Group to develop the five-acre project on the site of Municipal Parking Lot 1 — outlined plans at the cabinet’s monthly meeting held at the Queens Botanical Garden.

But those in attendance were more concerned about long-term parking than when the first shovel will go into the ground. Although the entire project is not expected to be completed before 2021, 1,144 parking spaces will be retained during construction.

Meyer explained that the project has been broken up into two phases so as not to disrupt parking during the conversion. The site is bounded by Union and 138th streets and 37th and 39th avenues.

He said the plan will reduce congestion and benefit merchants. But CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty was less sanguine about the plan, which calls for extended long-term parking on the second level of the existing lot.

“We want to divert commuter parking to Citi Field to open up more parking downtown,” Kelty said. “Instead, commuters will only have to pay $16 for the maximum time.”

The chairman said the announced plan “was not what we were told” and “that’s a big problem.”

He was supported by District Manager Marilyn Bitterman and representatives of the business community.

“If it becomes a problem with commuters hogging spaces, we can control it through pricing,” Meyer said.

The developer explained that rates will be different than the city’s, but that they will be locked in by the city until a year after the project’s completion.

What was promised

From the Queens Tribune:

Sources say the Progressive Caucus was originally split, 12-9, between Mark-Viverito and Dan Garodnick, with Garodnick getting the support of County Leadership.

That’s when the calls started, with the Progressive Caucus telling Council members that they had the votes, and that if a Council member pushed back, those committees would be gone.

“If you’re not with them, you’re not getting a committee,” QConf was told.

Among the promises made to the Queens delegation, Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) would be named Majority Leader. Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside) would head up the Finance Committee and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) would get the Education Committee.

Daneek Miller and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) were also reportedly promised committee slots, although specifics were unknown as of press time. melissa mark-viverito

“The other three we know, because they were openly talking about it,” a source said.

Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) was also reportedly promised a committee chairmanship in exchange for his support of Mark-Viverito.

Sources within the real estate industry, who supported Ulrich in his most recent election battle, have expressed disappointment with Ulrich. The sources say that they feel betrayed, since Ulrich promised he would stand against the Progressive Caucus, but instead went back on his word for a promised chairmanship.

QConf was also told that David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) was offered the Land Use Committee as a means of swaying Brooklyn.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Newer buildings casting longer shadows

From the Daily News:

A new generation of mega-tall skyscrapers being built along 57th St. for foreign billionaires will cast a long shadow over New York’s premier greenspace, a new report shows.

"It’s troubling that the sky's the limit when it comes to one of our most precious public spaces," said Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, which conducted the report to highlight the need for oversight of development around parks.

"We need to protect these spaces," Cipolla added.

The shadow report reveals the worst-case scenario — every Dec. 21, the winter solstice, the sunless zone will extend 20 blocks into Central Park and reach the Lake and Ramble.

Every Sept. 21 at 4 p.m., shadows would stretch a dozen blocks — as far as Sheep Meadow and the Naumburg Band Shell near the 72nd St. transverse.

The skyscrapers in question are rising “as of right,” meaning the public has no say over their size. Developers are able to build so high because they bought air rights from neighboring buildings — and technological advances now allow for the construction of super thin mega-towers on small footprints traditionally suited for 40 story buildings.

Bill attempts crack down on biker free-for-alls

Form the NY Post:

New legislation targeting rogue motorcyclists in the wake of the vicious beatdown of a Manhattan man in front of his wife and baby daughter will be introduced in the state Senate on Monday.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat, whose district includes Washington Heights, where the violence took place, and Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, will propose four bills giving cops and prosecutors new tools to go after reckless bikers.

The bill will apply in the city only, not the rest of the state.

“While the brutal assault caught on video captured the world’s attention, aggressive and reckless motorcyclist behavior in upper Manhattan has been a persistent quality-of-life hazard in our community for years,” Espaillat said.

Rule-breaking bikers have been a particular nuisance in his district because it includes parts of the West Side Highway, FDR Drive, and other major routes.

The first measure would stiffen penalties for a group attack by bikers.

The second would make it illegal for bikers to do stunts like wheelies in traffic.

“Anyone who thinks performing risky maneuvers in the middle of traffic is a good idea should have their license suspended so they understand their actions put lives in danger,” Espaillat said.

A third bill would require groups of 50 or more motorcyclists to get a permit approved by the NYPD.

And the last part of the legislation would shift the power from the state to the city to install cameras on roads. Currently, the state has the power to approve traffic cameras.

A bill was also introduced to increase penalties for those caught driving with suspended licenses.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Queens Crap!

We wish you a wonderful Christmas. May your days be merry and bright.

Snow globes herald the end of the Bloomberg Administration

Miss Heather has a photoseries of an art project she completed featuring snow globes depicting different Bloomberg Administration highlights (or lowlights).

Stop and Frisk


Urban Renewal

Quite frankly, they're brilliant!

State intervenes to aid ailing hospital

From CBS New York:

Days after an announcement that Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn would be closing, New York State gave the hospital a reprieve by committing to funding until March of next year.

As WCBS 880′s Monica Miller reported Monday night, the state agreed to fund the hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant through March 7, according to a news release. In the meantime, state and local officials, community groups and unions have been working to secure permanent federal funding to keep the hospital open.

The hospital is now in bankruptcy proceedings.

On Friday, a hospital representative said in multiple published reports that a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge was expected to issue an order Monday announcing that the hospital was closing.

Mediation between hospital officials and creditors, unions and other parties began in November in an attempt to prevent the hospital from closing, according to published reports. But the mediation ended on Friday without any resolution, published reports said.

Kevin Finnegan, director for the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 Healthcare Workers East, expressed gratitude that the state stepped in.

Cops play Santa for abused kids

From The Forum:

Officers from the 104th Precinct took it upon themselves to turn one Ridgewood family’s Christmas into a merry one.

After learning of how an abusive father’s rage was ruining the lives of his wife and four children, a handful of Queens cops came together to collect more than $1,200 in cash to keep the kids’ Christmas spirit alive.

Capt. Christopher Manson told the story of Sgt. Martha Lequerica and Officer Nicholas Cadavid, who spearheaded the efforts to give new meaning to the holidays for the family, including the 5-year-old son left bruised and stitched from a beating. He said officers responded to the family’s calls of abuse and poor living conditions, which were later validated when they found children forced to sleep on the floor.

“They had nothing,” Manson said. “The crammed conditions there were immeasurable.”

Without skipping a beat, Manson said his officers started raising money throughout the precinct with hopes to better the lives of the beaten 5-year-old and his three siblings from 2-months-old to 11-years-old. Within hours, the precinct was able to raise over $1,200 and counting with help from the Det. Thomas Bell of community affairs as well as the domestic violence desks.

“He was an abuser,” Bell said. “He abused his children and his wife.”

Just the precinct’s crossing guards alone were able to raise more than $300 to help make the family’s holiday season a bit brighter, Manson said.

The captain said officers made deliveries over the weekend, bringing the children an assortment of items purchased with the money including a car load of Christmas toys, bunk beds, blankets, pillows, winter clothes, snow boots, chocolates and more.

“We’re just trying to improve the life of one family right now,” he said. “I think it’s going to make a significant improvement. Cops do a lot of good things”

DOT to close dangerous bridge ramp at night

From the NY Times:

Cars have slammed into a beauty salon and shattered the windows of a Caribbean restaurant over the years, each after failing to navigate a turn at the base of the Queensboro Bridge where it unspools into Long Island City, Queens.

Now, not just the ramp — with a dangerous curve that city officials say has claimed three lives in recent years — but the entire outermost Queens-bound lane of the bridge will be shut down at night, when the emptied-out bridge may tempt drivers to speed.

The southernmost lane of the bridge, formally the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, has a breathtaking view for those traveling on that side of the bridge; the New York City skyline is visible from the passenger side window. It will be closed beginning on Monday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, according to a statement released Tuesday jointly by the Department of Transportation and the New York City Police Department.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Citywide Graffiti Task Force ain't what it used to be

"Saw this on Metropolitan Ave in Middle Village. I also see a lot more graffiti all over Queens. Apparently the city no longer cares, as they have let the Citywide Graffiti Task Force dwindle to 11 cops. That's 15% of what they had 10 years ago." - anonymous

Double-dipping still rampant

From the NY Post:

According to a just-released audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New Yorkers, too, are getting hosed by some public employees.

The audit reviewed 345 workers at six state agencies and public authorities. It discovered that 75 held two public-sector jobs, lied about it on their timesheets and reaped double the pay.

“Dozens of public employees working for more than one public employer have managed to take advantage of lax oversight and take credit for hours they didn’t work,” DiNapoli said. “Our audits found supervisors were lax and often complicit in allowing employees to game the system.”

Like the nurse who claimed to work for both the state mental-health agency and a Bronx public school. Or the MTA track-equipment worker whose work schedule overlapped with his other job at the city Department of Environmental Protection.

What’s legal may be even worse. As The Post reported last week, a lawyer leaving the office of departing Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes will collect more than $280,000 in unused vacation pay.

A tiny apartment could drive you nuts

From The Atlantic Cities:

...as New York City’s “micro-apartment” project inches closer to reality, experts warn that micro-living may not be the urban panacea we’ve been waiting for. For some residents, the potential health risks and crowding challenges might outweigh the benefits of affordable housing. And while the Bloomberg administration hails the tiny spaces as a “milestone for new housing models,” critics question whether relaxing zoning rules and experimenting with micro-design on public land will effectively address New York’s apartment supply problem in the long run.

“Sure, these micro-apartments may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20's,” says Dak Kopec, director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College and author of Environmental Psychology for Design. “But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people, say in their 30’s and 40’s, who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem.”

Home is supposed to be a safe haven, and a resident with a demanding job may feel trapped in a claustrophobic apartment at night—forced to choose between the physical crowding of furniture and belongings in his unit, and social crowding, caused by other residents, in the building’s common spaces. Research, Kopec says, has shown that crowding-related stress can increase rates of domestic violence and substance abuse.

For all of us, daily life is a sequence of events, he explains. But most people don’t like adding extra steps to everyday tasks. Because micro-apartments are too small to hold basic furniture like a bed, table, and couch at the same time, residents must reconfigure their quarters throughout the day: folding down a Murphy bed, or hanging up a dining table on the wall. What might seem novel at the beginning ends up including a lot of little inconveniences, just to go to sleep or make breakfast before work. In this case, residents might eventually stop folding up their furniture every day and the space will start feeling even more constrained.

Still slow going on Q58

From the Forum:

Have any Q58 riders had a hard time getting to work lately? Or wherever they need to go?

Chances are, according to a report released last week, they have.

The bus that runs from Ridgewood to Flushing was named the slowest bus in Queens by the New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives last week.

Arbitrator raised money for DeBlasio

From Capital New York:

An arbitrator who could set a precedent for Bill de Blasio's upcoming, high-stakes negotiations with the city's municipal unions is also a fund-raiser for the new mayor.

The arbitrator, Martin Scheinman, is currently overseeing separate negotiations between the city and two unions, the New York State Nurses Association and the United Federation of Teachers.

The result of the arbitration, whatever it may be, is likely to have an outsize impact on de Blasio's first year in office. The mayor-elect, a close ally of organized labor who has received crucial help from unions at various points in his career, will have to find room in a tight budget to award the raises the municipal unions are now seeking.

His personal and political relationship, including a fund-raiser he hosted at his home for de Blasio in October, will have no bearing on his rulings, Scheineman says.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Visit 20 Queens neighborhoods in 5 minutes

"Hi, I've been following your website for sometime now, I live in Queens and made a video, I tried to include every single major neighborhood in it, please let me know what you guys think?"

- Saddiq

Queens Machine loses if Mark-Viverito wins

From the Daily News:

The election to choose a City Council speaker is three weeks away, but that hasn’t stopped allies of Democratic front-runner Melissa Mark-Viverito from celebrating.

In a move likely to rankle her detractors, Mark-Viverto’s political club has already begun organizing her “victory” party, the Daily News has learned.

Club leaders say the ascension of the East Harlem pol would be so historic — Mark-Viverito is vying to become the first Hispanic speaker — that a big bash is warranted.

A club official said Mark-Viverito is “in no way, shape or form involved in planning” for the party.

But Mark-Viverito has acted like the race for speaker is a done deal, even though the position will not be filled until all 51 Council members vote Jan. 8.

If this holds up, Joe Crowley's power will be seriously curbed. While I am not a fan of Mark-Viverito for her positions and the fact that we really don't need another Speaker who is a clone of the mayor, seeing the Queens Machine get castrated would give me much pleasure. Big losers would be: Costa Constantinides, Mark Weprin, Elizabeth Crowley, Paul Vallone, Karen Koslowitz and Rory Lancman.

Paging Joe Moretti...

This delightful tableau was spotted this evening at the corner of Prince St. And 37th Avenue in downtown Flooshing. The surrounding neighborhood is filthy and has an extremly creepy vibe!


Flooshing Rezident

Illegal hotels are even at housing projects

From the NY Post:

Public-housing residents are renting rooms to strangers — making extra dough over the holidays while taxpayers fund their apartments, The Post has learned.

Several ads for nightly or monthly sublets were posted on Craigslist last week, including a $650 room in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay Houses — which was swooped up in a few days.

“Huge room available immediately in a 3-bedroom apartment for rent,” the ad says. “Females only . . . no drugs, no smoking, no drama.”

The tenant, who listed a cellphone number and a New York City Housing Authority address, declared that two people could also share the room for $350 each.

That’s an extra $7,800 a year in the pocket of someone who is living on the public dime.

Meanwhile, other NYCHA residents are turning their government-funded homes into cheap hotels.

Mike Velasquez, 38, who lives in the Alfred E. Smith Houses, has turned his two-bedroom apartment into a hotel — offering a private room or sofa for $50 to $100 per night.

“I don’t care,” he told The Post when confronted about the legality of his rental. “There’s plenty of people who rent rooms — everyone does it.

“I pay my rent. I can do what I want.”

Velasquez’s 13th-floor apartment overlooks the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and is blocks from the South Street Seaport. Web sites show that he has been a secret innkeeper since at least 2011.

If he rents out the apartment three days a week, that’s up to $1,200 in extra spending cash a month.

Tall fences make good neighbors

George the Atheist reports that a wooden fence has been erected (heh) around "Bear Eats Man" at Socrates Sculpture Park.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Conflicting info about safer or more dangerous streets

I'm going to throw a bunch of links up and allow you to make heads or tails of the data.

Mayor Bloomberg's aggressive traffic policies have caused massive drop in traffic deaths - Daily News. Subheadline: "Widened sidewalks, redesigned intersections and speed zones have brought traffic deaths down by more than 30% since Hizzoner took office."

Could it be that fewer people are dying in car accidents because cars have been made safer for drivers and passengers and not because of Bloomberg or Sadik-Khan? Unless they are talking about pedestrians, which would make the following headline from the same paper more curious:

Elmhurst Hospital doctors say pedestrian injuries are continuing to rise in Queens" - Daily News. Quote: The hospital recorded 296 pedestrian injury cases in 2012, up from 275 the previous year and the highest number in a decade. Figures are not yet available for 2013. The hot spots for accidents in the area — Queens Blvd., Roosevelt Ave. and Northern Blvd. — would come as a surprise to nobody.

Bayside Patch reports that as a whole and compared to other states, NY state drivers are average.

Yet the NY Post reports that DWI deaths in NYC have - get this - doubled since last year. What's the deal with that? We've had DWI education programs in place since the 1980s...

Drunk driving aside, the observant among us have seen pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists all do stupid things and take unnecessary risks, mainly because everyone in this city is in such a damn hurry for some reason.

And then think about the series of really bad choices by various people that led up to this past Friday's tragedy and yesterday's deadly accident in Woodside.

Police have been cracking down on bad motorists lately, but it never seems to be enough.

This is complicated stuff, and no matter how "improved" things appear to be, there is still a lot of bad stuff happening, with plenty of blame to go around.

He just doesn't know when to quit

From NY1:

Charles Rangel was first elected to Congress the year the Beatles broke up. John Lindsay was mayor, and the nation's Environmental Protection Agency was born.

Now, Rangel said Thursday that he is seeking a 23rd term to help implement President Barack Obama's agenda.

"There's a lot of work that the president has started that we haven't had an opportunity to complete," he said.

If Rangel and the president see eye-to-eye on policy, they haven't always had the smoothest personal relationship. Obama once stated publicly that the dean of New York's congressional delegation should "end his career with dignity" when facing an ethics scandal. Privately, Obama has reportedly said much worse things.

"I don't have any problems with this president," Rangel said. "I have a problem with our economy. I've got a problem with the homeless, the jobless and the hopeless."

Two years ago, Rangel faced a primary challenge from state Senator Adriano Espaillat. The district became more Latino when it was redrawn in 2012. While Rangel won that race, it was close, with Espaillat not conceding for two weeks.

Espaillat is stopping just short of publicly saying he's running again.