Thursday, July 31, 2014

FOIL request simply ignored by Cuomo

From the NY Post:

The Cuomo administration claimed last year there were no records of its contacts with an anti-corruption panel involving the Real Estate Board of New York — just three months after a top gubernatorial aide ordered the panel not to issue subpoenas to the influential real-estate group.

The administration’s misleading account was made in writing to America Rising, a conservative PAC that had filed a Freedom of Information Law request in October for “any and all” communications between Cuomo staffers and the Moreland Commission panel about REBNY.

Just two months later, the answer came back that America Rising was wasting its time.

“Please be advised that the New York State Executive Chamber has conducted a diligent search but does not possess records responsive to your request,” Cuomo’s records officer, George Stiefel III, wrote in a response dated Nov. 19.

Actually, there were extensive contacts between the commission and Cuomo aide Larry Schwartz in August, according to an article in The New York Times last week.

Members of REBNY, who have donated $4 million to Gov. Cuomo since 2010, eventually turned over documents sought by the panel voluntarily.

Tim Miller, executive director of America Rising, said he was duped.

“This official correspondence from the governor’s office was a lie, either explicitly or by means of trying to find a clever way out of having to reveal damaging documents,” he told The Post.

Pedestrian plaza has become total crap

From the Queens Courier:

It started out as a beautification and community development project, but a pedestrian plaza on the Brooklyn-Queens border is an eyesore that is detrimental to business, locals say.

Five parking spots were permanently removed last November when the Department of Transportation (DOT) built the plaza at Drew Street and 101st at City Line.

“This plaza has totally crippled my business,” said Ahmad Ubayda, owner of the 99 Cent Ozone Park Discount Hardware store on the corner of the block. “This has been my worst year of business because they took away parking spaces for my customers but aren’t even using them.”

The site has deteriorated since its opening, locals charged.

Four tables and 12 chairs set up in a small section of the plaza while most of the space isn’t used.

Initial plans called for ample seating space, permanent bench seating and bike parking. When the plaza was first built there were plenty of chairs and tables, some even with umbrellas.

But a few weeks after its grand opening much of the furniture, which was chained up to a nearby light pole, was stolen and it hasn’t been fully replaced since, according to residents.

Now the plaza has just four tables, 12 chairs, two permanent benches and no bike parking space.

Moreover, the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation (BACDYS), a local nonprofit organization, is responsible for the plaza’s upkeep, according to the DOT. Yet garbage overflowed from several cans and littered the floors on Monday.

Con Edison sprays anti-theft ID on copper wire

Program Will Protect Equipment & Service Reliability

Con Edison has begun a program to prevent copper thefts by spraying identifying markings on the equipment.

The utility is working with DataDot Technology to use a spray system that leaves dot markings on the copper or equipment. Each set of dots has a unique identifier, logo or numbered ID, that is invisible to the naked eye but can be viewed with a UV light.

“We are starting this program to protect our equipment, but more importantly the service we provide to our customers,” said Arturo Claudio, Area Manager with Con Edison Corporate Security. “Thieves who steal our copper that is in use in our electrical delivery system can get hurt or killed, endanger public safety and cause outages.”

Con Edison will work with the police to review records and products at metal and scrapyards. Police can use the dots and records to determine who sold a piece of copper to a scrap yard and where the copper was last stored by Con Edison.

In 2013, Con Edison reported 155 thefts of copper cable from manholes, trucks or other company facilities. Thieves often sell the highly valued copper to scrapyards.

Trash can overflow at Little Bay Dog Run

"This is the garbage pail next to the Little Bay Dog Run – it’s looked like this for several days now! And the hose DISAPPEARED the very day the DPR put down some new, terribly sharp, gravelly sand - really nice move considering that there’s NO SHADE in the entire run.

It’s a pity that so much thought and consideration (not to mention money!) goes into the design and maintenance of the bocce courts and so little into the extremely few, shitty, under-sized and overcrowded dog runs in Queens!

Dogs may not vote but their owners do!" - Flooshing Rezident

Pandas a priority for Carolyn Maloney

From the Daily News:

A New York congresswoman is hoping a pair of giant pandas will become the city’s next great attraction.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) will travel to a nature preserve in China next month to explore the possibility of bringing two giant pandas to Gotham. “The greatest city in the world deserves two pandas,” she told the Daily News. “They’re a symbol of good luck.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mega mall on parkland being defended by former top judge

From Willets Point United:

The court case, Sen. Tony Avella v. City of New York, is pending before Justice Manuel Mendez in New York State Supreme Court. Oral argument will take place on July 30, 2014 at 2:15PM at 71 Thomas Street, Room 210.

QDG must be so nervous about the prospect of an adverse court decision, that it has resorted to bringing in the ultimate New York judicial juggernaut – former Chief Judge Judith Kaye – to attempt to persuade the court to see things QDG’s way. Frankly, we think this is also a not-so-subtle attempt to intimidate Justice Mendez into siding with QDG, and to make it uncomfortable for him to do otherwise. After all, the legal issues raised by this case are clear-cut, and could be very well presented by any competent attorney who doesn’t happen to be a former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. What, then, does QDG gain by retaining former Chief Judge Judith Kaye for this case?

Well, for Justice Mendez to rule in favor of Plaintiffs/Petitioners (against QDG and Willets West), he would have to disagree with not just any QDG lawyer, but with Judith Kaye, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. It is as if the former Chief Judge is telling Justice Mendez on behalf of QDG: “I find that this mega-mall is legal and may proceed. Who are you to disagree with me, the former Chief Judge at this state’s highest court, two levels above yours?”

With all due respect, it should be noted that Justice Mendez is at the Supreme Court – the lowest level of trial court in New York State. Above that is the Appellate Division. And above that is the Court of Appeals, where Judith Kaye was an Associate Judge from 1983 through 1993, and then Chief Judge for 15 years from 1993 through 2008, when she retired because of age restrictions. She is now of counsel, and apparently for hire, at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP.

We also note that Judith Kaye was first appointed to the Court of Appeals, and later designated its Chief Judge, by then-Governor Mario Cuomo – the same Mario Cuomo who, in 2012, brokered settlement talks on behalf of Mets owners including Fred Wilpon who were involved in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard had sued the Wilpons to recover $386 million in swindle profits. Cuomo not only reduced the amount the Wilpons owe to $162 million, but also got Picard to drop his claim that the Wilpons were willfully blind to Madoff’s fraud. Now, Cuomo friend Judith Kaye is assisting the Wilpons’ Sterling Equities to lay claim to 40+ acres of Queens park land, to supplant it with a mega-mall.

We pray that Justice Manuel Mendez sees right through QDG’s attempt to strong-arm his decision in the Willets West matter by inserting former Chief Judge Judith Kaye into the case – and that Justice Mendez will have the fortitude to disregard undue pressure and render a decision that is based, as it should be, on the relevant facts and law.

Another Republican running against Addabbo

From the Times Ledger:

Queens Republicans announced a Rego Park real estate lawyer will assume the candidacy left vacant when former City Councilman Thomas Ognibene opted not to run for state Senate.

Michael Conigliaro filed substitution paperwork to run on the GOP and Conservative lines against state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the city Board of Elections.

Conigliaro could not be reached for comment, but his campaign released a statement saying Conigliaro was compelled to step off the sidelines and stop complaining about the status quo.

“My campaign will focus on the issues that are important to the forgotten middle class: creating jobs, cutting taxes and making sure that the next generation has an even better shot at life,” Conigliaro said in a press release. “I’m running for state Senate because I want to change things for the better.”

His campaign did not respond to inquiries about which real estate law firm he managed, whether he was involved with any political clubs or who he planned to tap for campaign contributions.

There does not appear to be a campaign committee registered in his name, according to the state Board of Elections website.

Addabbo has $52,719.22 in his campaign coffers, according to BOE filings.

Cuomo rolling in brownfield developer dough

From Crains:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has collected at least $650,000 in campaign contributions from recipients of tax credits to redevelop industrial sites during the past four years, a review of state data show.

Related Cos., its executives and entities controlled by the New York-based developer of Time Warner Center were the biggest donor, giving at least $262,700 to Cuomo, who is running for a second term. Syracuse shopping-mall magnate Robert Congel, members of his family and executives at his Pyramid Cos. contributed $143,250.

Critics of the incentives, which have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion since 2006, say they benefit wealthy developers and have done little to clean up contaminated industrial sites. Unlike other states, New York doesn't limit the program to cleanup costs, and a study found that 94% of its brownfields tax credits have been used for redeveloping properties instead of remediating blighted land.

"It's all too common in Albany for recipients of aid from the state government to be among the biggest campaign contributors," said Bill Mahoney, who studies campaign-finance data for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a government watchdog. "Even if decisions aren't being directly influenced by checks, there's definitely an idea in Albany that interest groups will be less successful if they don't find a way to funnel money to elected officials."

Skeeter spraying tonight in northeastern Queens

From the Queens Courier:

On Wednesday, July 30, there will be West Nile spraying in parts of Queens to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease.

The spraying will take place between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Thursday, July 31 during the same hours.

The following neighborhoods are being treated due to rising West Nile virus activity with high mosquito populations, according to the city’s Health Department:

Parts of College Point, Flushing, Linden Hill, Malba and Whitestone (Bordered by the East River, Powell’s Cove, 138th Street and 11th Avenue to the north; Flushing Bay and Flushing River to the west; Northern Boulevard to the south; and 149th Street, 20th Avenue and Whitestone Expressway to the east)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Halloran convicted; faces 20 years in the clink

From Crains:

A jury took only about 90 minutes Tuesday to convict former New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran of bribery charges in a scheme to buy a spot on the mayoral ballot for state Sen. Malcolm Smith.

Mr. Halloran was also found guilty of taking payoffs from what he thought were developers who wanted him to funnel city money their way. The men were actually an FBI agent and an FBI informant.

The 42-year-old Mr. Halloran spent five days on the witness stand in federal court in White Plains, N.Y. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced Dec. 12.

Household garbage being dumped on commercial strip

From the Queens Ledger:

So what happens if public trashcans regularly overflow with trash? 
Well, according to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) the wasted baskets will be removed, especially if the department believes they are being used by residents to illegally dispose of household garbage.

“DSNY will remove baskets if they are being misused, or if the location no longer meets the requirements for litter basket placement,” explained a representative of the DSNY.

On Grand Avenue, several residents and business owners have watched the large metal baskets appear and disappear on dozens of corners throughout the business district.

After one can was recently removed because nearby homeowners were regularly dumping large quantities of trash, the location became a dumping ground for trash bags and litter.

The shop owner explained that the same residents are dumping trash where the bin once stood, leaving them and other business owners responsible for the cleanup.

Liu's post-it note ruse

Apparently, Johnny's volunteers have been going door-to-door, and when no one answers, they place these post-it notes to make them think that the candidate himself stopped by, when he actually didn't.

Council legislation introduced to get rid of those bins

From Brooklyn Magazine:

On July 24, Councilman Gentile, who represents Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, brought Bill Int 0409-2014 before the City Council for consideration, reports the Bay Ridge Journal. The bill calls for not only the immediate removal of the bins from city property, but also adds a $250 fine for first-time offenders of the would-be law and a $500 fine for repeat offenders.

As it stands, the Department of Sanitation can’t take immediate action. First, the DOS must paste a label on the bins warning the owners to remove them and then 30 days after that the DOS can physically remove the bin. Bill Int 0409-2014 would do away with that 30-day waiting period if the bin’s owner fails to include their contact information on the pink monstrosities.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Another Ridgewood tree tragedy

This one was likely the victim of a truck pulling out of the under-construction school on DeKalb Ave near Seneca.

College Point truck lot problem persists

Dear Editors of the “Queens Crap”,

We would like to update you on the situation regarding the illegal parking lot that was mentioned on your website on May 22nd at 14-29 130th Street College Point. The Company in question which was originally named the TNP Trucking Corp has closed while a new trucking company was opened and is operating in the same lots. The only difference between the old company and the new company, Dana Construction, is the company name and vehicle logos. The same crap continues to plague the local area since the trucks have proceeded to parking in the illegal lot like they used to and operating late at night and disturbing neighbors. The building department court was going to have a hearing to evict the company from the premises but the hearing was postponed constantly and is still being postponed as I write this letter. The most recent hearing that was supposed to occur was July. What still puzzles me is the fact that if a company is violating city and state laws, how are they still receiving city and state contracts from the DOT? The company’s main revenue comes from the city and state contracts so if they were cut off from these contracts, they would have gone under by now.

Also, how is the New York City Comptroller not taking notice to the fact that this company was violating city and state laws and still getting paid? I would also like to mention the fact that the residential lot that the company has been occupying for the past 13 years is heavily contaminated due to the fact that they also used the lot as a maintenance yard and many of the trucks are leaking fluids. When heavy rain occurs, all the contamination from the lot is moved from the lot down to the street and spread around the area.

There have been multiple investigations by the DEP but every single investigation could find nothing while everyone in the area knows the lot is contaminated and being used illegally. I hope the city and state start enforcing the rules and regulations without giving priority to any individual companies since Dana Construction is clearly being assisted and covered by the city. Thank you for your time in helping us clean Queens crap. - Anonymous

Conversion of Cooper Ave site pending; Pan Am expanding?

Permits have been filed to turn 78-16 Cooper Avenue from a warehouse into a homeless shelter.

Meanwhile, in Elmhurst, three properties next to the Pan Am have been purchased by an entity with the same address and attorney as the owner of the hotel, indicating possible expansion plans.

Pan Am 2nd purchase

Setting up shop at Leavitt Park

Hey Crapper,

I am hoping you can help with this situation in Flushing at Leavitt’s Park on the corner of 32nd Ave and Leavitt Street. For the past two weeks or so I have seen a U-Haul truck drive into the park, open the back door and set up shop. The people take out tables, clothing racks, boxes and sell the merchandise to people in the park. I have seen them there for the past two weeks from 11am to 6pm. I called the police last week but little has changed, today I called 311 and they said it is a minimum of 14 days for the parks department to do an investigation of my complaint.

Any suggestion who I should reach out to? It infuriates me that someone would drive a truck into a public park and open a store on public land.

- Anonymous Flushing Resident

Sad sight in Maspeth

An old German lady dies, her heirs sell her meticulously maintained house and grounds. I think you know what's coming...
Yep, the whole yard was destroyed.
This one naturally comes with a Hummer and...
lots of stucco.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

CityTime continues to haunt us

From Crains:

Investigators say poor oversight allowed a New York City payroll-technology project to spiral into a $700 million tangle of contractor fraud, budget overruns and delays.

A Department of Investigation report released Friday says the city lacked proper management safeguards to detect and prevent the problems with the CityTime project.

Its costs ballooned from about $70 million to $700 million. Authorities later concluded a key contractor hired and overpaid consultants through companies his associates owned.

Eight people have been convicted or pleaded guilty. The prime company on the project repaid the city more than $500 million.

An end to poor doors?

From the NY Observer:

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants to put an end to “poor doors” and she wants to do it now.

“We are here to discuss a very troubling trend in the construction of new condominium buildings,” Ms. Brewer said this morning in City Hall. “It has come to my attention that developers are abusing an option left over in the inclusionary housing zoning text to create segregated buildings, often known as two-door buildings.”

Ms. Brewer, a former Upper West Side lawmaker, is frustrated about what is occurring at a development on the Upper West Side, where affordable units will be segregated into one section of a new building, 40 Riverside Boulevard, and market-rate condos in the other. Construction on the building began during the Bloomberg administration.

“In 2007 the state of New York modified the 4218 program so developers could only access the program’s tax benefits if they provided the affordable housing on site. But the city didn’t amend the local inclusionary housing program to fully effectuate that change” Ms. Brewer explained. “It was a mistake, but as a city we can rectify it. Changes can and must me made to the city’s inclusionary housing program to stop developers for segregating and segmenting buildings.”

Ms. Brewer said the “poor door system” was an affront to Manhattan’s values. She said she was working with City Council on legislation that would eliminate the loopholes in the inclusionary housing regulation and put an end to the “poor door” system.

“The two-door system, or creating a poor-door system as some media have coined it, is an affront to New Yorker’s belief in fairness and diversity” she said. “Creating a two-tier system in a development that is receiving tax benefits is offensive.”

Geraldine Ferraro School design is an improvement

The new school on Metropolitan Avenue and Tonsor Street in Ridgewood is coming along and I have to say the design is a step up from the recent school designs built.
The curve is cool.
And there's even a port-a-jane amidst the port-a-johns!

3rd termers are raking it in

From the Times Ledger:

Although the next round of city elections is more than three years away, the delay has not stopped those with special interests from contributing to the tens of thousands of dollars amassed in Queens elected officials’ campaign coffers.

An executive behind the massive Astoria Cove housing bid in Hallets Point donated $1,000 to Borough President Melinda Katz’s campaign. And telecommunications companies concerned about the city’s Wi-Fi contract strategy have kicked $1,250 into the campaign account of Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), chairman of the Zoning and Franchises Committee, who also sits on the Technology Committee.

Once campaign spending is factored in, Katz has $78,109 on hand for a re-election bid, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) $51,541, Weprin $38,019, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) $16,132, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) $12,906 and Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) $14,000.

Van Bramer’s and Crowley’s campaign committees have not yet declared that the politicians are running for re-election, but those close to their campaigns confirmed both are seeking a third term in City Hall.

Katz’s re-election campaign account has profited from employees at the lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, where she previously worked, and a political action committee it finances that have collectively contributed $3,810.

Others who donated generously to the borough president’s bid include Eugen Gluck, chairman of the E. Gluck watch company moving to Little Neck, who gave $2,000; leaders of the F&T Group behind the Flushing Commons development, who collectively gave $1,320; executives of the TF Cornerstone firm selected to construct the middle-income Hunter’s Point South housing complex, who collectively gave $1,000; and an Alma Realty developer managing the Astoria Cove residences proposed in Hallets Point, who gave $1,000.

As borough president, Katz is charged with issuing recommendations on proposed zoning and land use changes.

Katz spokesman Nathan Smith said her fund-raising adhered to all regulations.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Scam artist arrested

From WPIX:

July 23rd, 2014 was a day quite a few people have been looking forward to for a long time. The NYPD finally slapped the handcuffs on Derrick Burrell.

I first told you about Burrell more than two years ago in Steve Bernier’s case. Bernier says Burrell took more than $100,000 to renovate his Queens Village home. Burrell gutted the place and didn’t come back. Bernier and his family were left homeless and still had to pay the mortgage on a house they couldn’t live in.

Bernier wasn’t the only one who says Derrick Burrell ruined his life. Police say they know of at least 7 victims. Wilmer Barreto gave Burrell $95,000.

Burrell didn’t have much of substance to say in his own behalf when I finally came face to face with him as police led him away to face charges involving grand larceny, fraud and more.

Pavilion vandalized

From the Daily News:

Vandals broke into the historic New York State Pavilion last weekend, setting a stolen van on fire and damaging a piece of its deteriorating terrazzo map, park watchdogs said.

The shocking mayhem in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was heartbreaking for volunteers who have been working for years to spruce up the aging 1964 World’s Fair relic.

The tarp that covers the map was set ablaze, Piro said. The punks also used a cinderblock to smash the side of the aged map.

The incident ironically comes as support for the renovation of the rusting pavilion is at an all-time high.

Lawmakers want more transparency from film industry

From Capital NY:

A bill before the New York City Council this afternoon would require the timely posting of film and television production locations and times, in a searchable format, to the city's website.

The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment currently requires productions to distribute letters notifying local residents and merchants at least 48 hours in advance of a shoot, an agency spokesperson said in an email. Productions are also obliged to post "No Parking" signs with a contact number 48 hours before a shoot begins, and residents are encouraged to contact the Mayor's Office with their concerns immediately via 311.

But bill sponsors Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer and Council member Ben Kallos think these measures aren't giving residents enough warning. The proposed legislation is one part of Kallos and Brewer's larger effort to make more public data freely available online and the city government more transparent.

“I think most often people know there’s a production because they see a sign saying 'No Parking,’ or when they go to find their car, it’s no longer there because it’s been moved for a film production," Kallos said. (According to the city's website, production companies pay to tow cars the night before or morning of a shoot, and they are expected to keep a list of the spots where relocated vehicles are parked.)

Brewer told Capital she has fielded hundreds of complaints and inquiries by telephone, citing the after-hours posting of signs as a particular concern.

"It’s 6 o’clock in the evening, and there’s nobody to call in the city of New York, so if it was up on the web, that would be a perfect example of how to use the information," she said.

Trees felled at Keil Brothers site

From the Queens Courier:

The former site of the Keil Brothers gardening center in Bayside Hills isn’t a place for timber anymore.

Five city-owned trees and about 40 shrubs saw the buzzer last week, resulting in complaints from residents and fines from the Parks Department.

The trees were cut by the current owner, 48 Garden Realty LLC, according to Community Board 11 leaders who told The Courier that the Parks Department informed the board it has issued fines to the firm. The owner has begun a process to turn the lot into residential homes, according to the board.

“He probably took down the trees thinking he is going to make driveways,” Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld said.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why was he on the streets in the first place?

From DNA Info:

A convicted killer who escaped from a psychiatric hospital in January by swapping clothes with a friend was busted again carrying a gun near a rival gang's turf, according to a source and the district attorney's office.

Raymond Morillo, 33, was sitting in a car with overly-tinted windows and a license plate cover, on Junction Boulevard and 57th Avenue on July 20 at around 3:15 a.m., according to the district attorney's office.

Officers spotted a .44-caliber revolver, loaded with five rounds of ammunition, on the floor of the passenger side of the car and arrested him, police said.

Morillo had previously been charged with criminal impersonation for fleeing the hospital, but he was released without bail. The case was also set to be dismissed in November.

The area where he was arrested is popular with the Trinitario gang, according to a source.

Morillo — who was convicted in 1999 for manslaughter and assault in another gang attack — is affiliated with La Familia, a rival gang in Corona, the source said.

Parking wars getting nasty in Glendale

From CBS 2:

A note on a windshield is one thing, but neighbors said a spray-painted message reading, “Learn how to park S-bag,” is another.

The owner of the silver car did not want to be identified. She parked at 68th Street and Myrtle Avenue Tuesday night and woke up to the angry message.

“I know how hard it is to find spots in this neighborhood. So I would try to leave space if there was space,” the woman said. “So it’s like, very upsetting.”

Another note in black spray paint on another car read, “Hey scumbag park right.” Police said the second car was tagged overnight just two blocks away from the other.

Neighbor Doreen Pratt said the car was parked perfectly fine.

“There was no way another car would have fit there,” Pratt said. “A smart car was even too big for it.”

A surveillance camera at a nearby school captured an image that may have been the parking vigilante, walking by with spray paint.

Residents in Glendale said parking is a real issue, but to punish drivers by vandalizing their vehicles is excessive.

Schumer is a frequent flyer

From the NY Post:

All of those Sunday press conferences don’t come cheap, but at least Sen. Charles Schumer makes it home to New York frequently — unlike some colleagues.

Schumer, known for popping up on Sunday talk shows and staging press events for issues big and small, jets home more often than almost any other senator, an analysis of campaign travel reveals.

He also spent dramatically more than anyone else, racking up nearly $1 million in travel costs over the last three years, according to an analysis of office disbursements conducted by the Washington Examiner.

Schumer flew home more than any other Democrat except one, and was third overall among all 100 senators.

A March trip to upstate Binghamton and Rome cost $6,000, typical of his trips, which averaged nearly $8,000.

By comparison, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made it home to Nevada only 11 times over three years, the paper reported.

Beware of Chikungunya fever!

From WPIX:

The same insect that brought us the West Nile Virus is infecting people with a relatively new and painful illness.

It’s called Chikungunya fever, and it’s carried by recent travelers to the Caribbean where the virus is spreading at an alarming rate.

The mosquito-borne infection has surfaced in states across the country, including New York, which according to Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, has 30 confirmed cases. Three patients in the past six weeks were treated by Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious diseases specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island.

“We have confirmed one case from the CDC. The other cases are presumed, but not yet proven because testing isn’t back yet,” said Dr. Hirschwerk, who noted the unrelated patients all traveled to the Caribbean.

Senator Schumer is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue an immediate health alert for medical professionals in New York and around the country.

Border crossing kids have arrived in NY

From CBS 2:

New York is among the states receiving the most unaccompanied children caught at the U.S. border, new federal data show.

The data published Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families show New York, Texas, Florida and California account for 46 percent of the more than 30,000 children who have been released to sponsors this year through July 7.

The U.S. has been grappling with a surge in the number of unaccompanied children who have been fleeing violence in Central America and crossing into the U.S. because they believe they will be allowed to stay.

The New York Immigration Coalition says close to 3,300 unaccompanied immigrant children have arrived in New York since January, with almost 7,000 more expected to reach the state in coming months.

From Epoch Times:

Immigration service providers and the city are working closely to streamline resources for the 3,200 child migrants who have reunited with family in New York. But for the additional 10,000 who are expected to arrive in New York by the end of the year, it is unclear how such services will be funded for them. And for many, mental health care is a top priority.

“We need more resources to fund this,” said Steven Choi, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition. “Right now the government is taking money from existing refugee services—that are not well funded to begin with—to pay for this.”

The most important services the migrant children will need are attorneys and mental health care, and both are costly.

According to a United Nations report, 60 percent of child migrants are eligible for relief. The children, however, are not likely to receive relief if they do not have an attorney.

Most of the newly arrived child migrants have yet to go to court. But unaccompanied child migrants have been coming to New York for years, according to immigration attorney Marika Dias. As for those child migrants who came prior to the recent influx, 48 percent of them appeared in court without attorneys.

According to research from Syracuse University, 9 out of 10 children were deported if they did not have an attorney. As for the 52 percent who were represented by an attorney, five out of ten were allowed to stay in the U.S.

From the Observer:

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called on New York City to follow Syracuse’s footsteps and offer shelter to some of the unaccompanied, undocumented immigrant children flooding into the country as they flee violence in Central America.

“These children are facing a horrific situation at home, which has led them and their families to make some really difficult decisions,” Ms. Mark-Viverito told the Observer at an unrelated press conference. “I think that we have a responsibility to respond to a humanitarian crisis that we have before us.”

As the federal government seeks a place to shelter children detained at the border as they await appearances in immigration court, some have been brought to New York to be placed in the care of relatives or sponsors here, according to The New York Times. Other cities, including Syracuse, have offered locations to shelter those who cannot be placed with family or sponsors, as reported the Times—and Ms. Mark-Viverito said Thursday she thought New York City should do the same.

“It’s good to hear that mayors like the mayor of Syracuse have said that Syracuse would have an open door and be helpful in the name of housing some of these children, and I think that we should do the same thing, and I think that we should be humane about the way that we deal with situations like this,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

She would be “more than open” to conversations figuring out how New York City could support the children, she said.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homeless shelter imperils 125-year old business

From the Queens Courier:

For more than a century, one East Elmhurst family has been helping their neighborhood bloom.

Donhauser Florist, located at 71-01 Astoria Blvd., was established in 1889 by Hans Donhauser, a German florist who immigrated to the United States. While working at a Brooklyn cemetery he heard that St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens was in need of a florist.

He then moved to East Elmhurst and built a greenhouse on 71st Street and Astoria Boulevard. After a few years, 12 more greenhouses were added and a flower shop was built on 49th Street and Astoria Boulevard.

Donhauser’s family worked at the shop, including his sons, daughters and even his great granddaughter Gladys.

“When your parents are in the business, you’re in the business,” said Gladys about working at the shop since she was 12 years old. “It’s all I’ve known.”

Donhauser Florist moved to 71-01 Astoria Blvd. and replaced one existing greenhouse, while the other 12 were later sold to become the Westway Motor Inn.

Gladys, who grew up at the house currently still standing next to the shop, has owned the store since 1977 together with her husband William Gray, who initially started working at the 49th Street shop.

However, the Grays, who have been married for 60 years, say business has been up and down ever since the city’s Department of Homeless Services decided to first use the Westway Motor Inn, located right next door, as a temporary homeless shelter.

“It was once an exquisite hotel with beautiful rooms and a pool,” Gladys said. “Since about a decade ago we started to have problems with it. People were afraid to come around the shop.”

Two weeks ago, the city approved converting the motel into a permanent homeless shelter housing more than 120 families.

NY Times exposes how ethically challenged Cuomo is

From the NY Times:

With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.

While the governor now maintains he had every right to monitor and direct the work of a commission he had created, many commissioners and investigators saw the demands as politically motivated interference that hamstrung an undertaking that the governor had publicly vowed would be independent.

The commission developed a list of promising targets, including a lawmaker suspected of using campaign funds to support a girlfriend in another state and pay tanning-salon bills. The panel also highlighted activities that it saw as politically odious but perfectly legal, like exploiting a loophole to bundle enormous campaign contributions.

But a three-month examination by The New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.

Ultimately, Mr. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life. And now, as the Democratic governor seeks a second term in November, federal prosecutors are investigating the roles of Mr. Cuomo and his aides in the panel’s shutdown and are pursuing its unfinished business.

Before its demise, Mr. Cuomo’s aides repeatedly pressured the commission, many of whose members and staff thought they had been given a once-in-a-career chance at cleaning up Albany. As a result, the panel’s brief existence — and the writing and editing of its sole creation, a report of its preliminary findings — was marred by infighting, arguments and accusations. Things got so bad that investigators believed a Cuomo appointee was monitoring their communications without their knowledge. Resignations further crippled the commission. In the end, the governor got the Legislature to agree to a package of ethics reforms far less ambitious than those the commission had recommended — a result Mr. Cuomo hailed as proof of the panel’s success.

While some reports of tension between the governor’s office and the commission surfaced in the news media at the time, the examination by The Times provides the first full accounting of how extensively the governor’s aides involved themselves in the commission’s work and the level of disruption that this caused.

Read the whole thing. You'll fall off your chair.

Mayor and BP ax library board members

From the Queens Courier:

Eight trustees of the Queens Library were banished from the board in a sudden email blitz Wednesday.

Six members were dismissed by Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio cut loose two board members.

The eight members cut loose were Joseph R. Ficalora, Jacqueline E. Arrington, Patricia Flynn, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri C. Mangino, George Stamatiades and Stephen Van Anden.

Van Anden and Flynn were the mayoral appointees.

One of the trustees fired by Katz, who wished to remain anonymous, called the move “politics at its worst.”

“I got a letter emailed to me today,” the former trustee said. “I’m not surprised. I’m okay. I’m not shocked; I was waiting for it.”

The firings came after a protracted battle over the tenure of library director Tom Galante, who drew fire after a smoking deck was built outside his office in the Central Library in Jamaica as well as revelations that he augmented his $400,000 salary with more than $200,000 in part-time pay from the Elmont, L.I., school district.

Lawmakers reacted strongly and recently enacted legislation gave politicians the power to summarily remove board members.

Wilding incident at Highland Park

From A Walk in the Park:

In what police describe as a "wilding" spree, authorities are asking for the public's help in tracking down a gang responsible for a series of vicious attacks which left two park patrons with gun-shot injuries and a third with a stab wound that required 40 stitches.

The bloody rampage happened in broad daylight on May 18, 5:45 p.m. when a group of men, believed to be in their late teens to early 20's roamed through Highland Park in East New York armed with sticks, canes, knives and at least one gun, police said.

Media reports initially said it was an altercation stemming from a basketball game. Investigators however believe the attacks were random and three separate incidents as the victims did not know each other.

A 18-year-old man reported being attacked by the gang and slashed four times in the left arm which required 40 stitches to close the wound. He told the police he didn't know why he was targeted.

A 17-year-old male was playing basketball when he was approached by a Hispanic man who asked, "are you Trinitarios?" (a violent New York-based street gang composed of Hispanics) The assailant then shot the teen one time in the left hip. The victim was treated at Jamaica hospital.

A 20-year-old man says he was walking in the park when he heard shots. He ran and he was struck one time in the right side of the chest by a bullet.

He was taken to Brookdale Hospital where he is expected to survive.

He told cops he never saw the shooter and doesn't know why he was targeted.

There are no cameras in the park.

And the NYPD is unaware of the correct spelling of Highland Park?

Parks messes up bocce courts

From the Queens Courier:

Juniper Valley Park’s three new bocce courts opened on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and talk of meatballs and spaghetti. But for the players, most of whom are older Italians, the new courts don’t meet their standards.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that the new courts, which replaced two older ones, were “Grade-A.” But many of the players present during the ceremony weren’t such generous graders.

“It looks nice. They spent a lot of money on this,” John Pistone, 62, said. “So I give them an A for effort but for efficiency, I give them an F.”

Pistone and his fellow bocce players complained that the new $850,000 courts weren’t leveled correctly and that the design of the overhead shades didn’t prevent rain from soaking the courts. The bulk of the money came from Katz’s office and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley allocated another $50,000.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elmhurst protests Pan Am; DHS takes kids to dinner & a movie

From COMET Civic:

Photos of Pan Am homeless shelter protest:

Videos of Pan Am homeless shelter protest:

In the meantime, the DHS took the kids to a movie and then to a restaurant that had been shut down by DOH a couple of times in the past few years. Your tax dollars at work!

This field trip was supposedly to protect them from "hatred". If you can find the hatred in the above photos/videos, then please let me know. I think the only people hated here are the owners of the Pan Am and leaders of DHS who lied to the community about their intentions.

I'm sure it's also a coincidence that the spot they were taken to is not only Asian, but a hop, skip and jump from the proposed Glendale shelter?

Margery Perlmutter headed to BSA

From the NY Observer:

Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped Margery Perlmutter, a land use attorney and architect, to be commissioner of the Board of Standards and Appeals — as well as swapping out a previous nominee for the Landmarks Preservation Commission due to potentials for her to recuse herself from votes.

Ms. Perlmutter’s name was submitted for approval to the City Council Monday night, the mayor’s office told the Observer, along with two picks for the LPC.

Ms. Perlmutter is a partner in the land use practice group at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP, where she helps shepherd clients through the city’s zoning and land uses processes, including the types of appeals she’ll soon oversee. She previously worked as an architect for two decades, and sits on the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. She did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

While it’s not the highest profile appointment, the BSA wields significant power — it can grant zoning variances, special permits, and reviews appeals to the determinations of the Department of Buildings.

The mayor’s office will also announce Tuesday two new nominations to the Landmarks Preservation Commission — and the rescinding of one prior nomination, Marcie Kesner. The firm where Ms. Kesner works, Kramer Levin, had enough clients with business before the city that there was concern she’d have to recuse herself from LPC votes often.

In the meantime, Mr. de Blasio has nominated Adi Shamir Baron and John Gustafsson for spots on the LPC.

Sand unswept in Far Rockaway

"Today, went to Beach 20th Street in Far Rockaway. Was oddly amused with the amount of sand on the boardwalk. As a lifelong resident of the Rockaways, I am acutely aware that at this point in time we have nothing else going for us except the beach. As you know, the city keeps dumping everything thay can imagine in the Rockaways. This particluar mound, which is one of four, is the largest and has been growing for the past two months. It's located nearby to senior buldings. The old folks have to navigate around the mounds along with the cyclists, joggers and beachgoers. I guess the parks department is too busy harassing beachgoers walking dogs and enjoying themselves than to sweep up the mess." - anonymous

Weekend park slobs leave a lot of mess

From PIX11:

Caring for NYC Parks is big and dirty job. After a weekend of summer fun, NYC Parks Department crews pick up an estimated 120 tons of litter and garbage.

After a recent number of improvement projects in parks across the borough, the city and neighbors want to keep things looking nice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sometimes the photos already have the perfect caption

And here I thought Jerkfest was that fundraiser they have where the pols sing and dance and make bad jokes.

Astoria Cove developers offer more affordable units

From DNA Info:

The developers behind a plan to build thousands of new apartments on Astoria's waterfront said this week that the project will include 345 affordable units, up slightly from their last proposal but still short of what local leaders want for the development.

2030 Astoria Developers said last month they were working to increase the number of affordable housing units in their Astoria Cove proposal — five mixed-use buildings with nearly 1,700 apartments on a portion of the Hallets Point peninsula.

The developers — a group of investors which includes Alma Realty — had last proposed 295 affordable units, which attorney Howard Weiss said accounted for 20 percent of the residential floor area of the development’s waterfront parcel (three buildings) but only 17 percent of the entire project.

He says they’re now applying the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program to the entire site, including two other buildings, which will result in 345 affordable units, or 20 percent of the entire project.

That still falls short of the 35 percent Community Board 1 requested of the project last month, when the board presented a list of stipulations to the developer following a lengthy public hearing the week before, where a number of speakers said they were worried about affordability.

Rally in the works to bring Civic Virtue back to borough hall

From the Forum:

Time has not put a damper on the fight to bring Civic Virtue back to Kew Gardens and advocates said they were planning a major rally for the cause.

Richard Iritano, leader of the Civic Virtue Task Force, said he and his team were making hundreds of phone calls and emails to organize one a massive effort against the removal of the historic statue and call for its immediate return to the front of Borough Hall. After months of waiting for letters of support and other commitments from Queens elected officials, Iritano said he was ready to press forward alone if he needed to.

“We want this to be a democratic process and so far, we’re not getting any cooperation,” Iritano said. “Where are the letters of support? We will move ahead with this rally with or without them.”

Now, the activist said he hoped to see those same elected officials come back to supporting the cause as he and his task force assemble another massive rally for next month.

“The consensus has long been established. We want it back,” Iritano said. “There still seems to be all these delays and stall tactics coming from those in office.”

Robert LoScalzo, a documentary filmmaker and member of the task force, learned through a Freedom of Information Law Request that $49,464 city dollars went towards the restoration work of the statue and another $49,801 paid for its transportation.

Queens BP & Council Member "forgot" to fund Brinckerhoff Cemetery acquisition

A lot of money went to crap. None of it was allocated for the purchase of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery, which has a paltry asking price of $150,000. And now the owner is threatening to ask for a hardship in order to get the Landmarks Commission's decision overturned.

Way to go, Melinda Katz & Rory Lancman!

Monday, July 21, 2014

College Point finally seawall set for repairs

From the Queens Chronicle:

The long-neglected crumbling seawall at MacNeil Park in College Point is slated for restoration beginning next summer.

That’s the word from the Parks Department on the $2.5 million project that will involve reconstructing the most damaged portions of the esplanade and seawall, to include a step-down at the jetty, a fishing overlook and beach-kayak access.

The projects design is complete and the city agency is getting ready to submit the plans to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for approval, according to Parks spokesman Philip Abramson.

“It’s a long time coming,” said Community Board 7 Parks Committee Chairwoman Kim Ohanian. “It’s great, but it’s a project that needs to get done.”

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of CB 7, said that the project has been on their budget request list since 1993. “They are constantly doing maintenance work on the seawall, but it’s only a stop gap measure.”

Additional fencing has been erected by the city and warning signs put up to protect the public. Sinkholes that have appeared on the path around the park have been patched with asphalt, but the surface is uneven.

CVS = Crappy Vile Store

I've written about conditions at CVS stores before. Now, every parking lot strip at their Fresh Pond Road store has disintegrated, making it look pretty bad. CVS certainly has the money to keep their properties in tip top condition, so there's no excuse for this.

Things not looking good for Mount Manresa

From NY1:

Despite protests and pleas to save it, demolition will soon begin at an historic Jesuit retreat center on Staten Island.

The Committee to Save Mount Manresa says homeowners in the area have received letters stating that work is set to begin, tearing down buildings on the 15-acre site.

The letter says Expedite Demo Inc. has been issued permits, and the demolition should take about two or four weeks.

The property houses an old water tower, a gate from the 1860s and a 1920s-era chapel and grotto.

A restraining order against the developers was rescinded back in April.

Don't worry, I'm sure those Staten Island pols, who are just about as useful as Queens pols, will step in any day now...

Tell us something we don't know

From The Forum:

As many political experts have pointed out, the questions surrounding the long-standing dominance and subsequent effects of party politics have never been easy to answer – perhaps because they are as varied and complex as Queens itself.

Some in the borough contended that dominant parties make it more difficult for political neophytes to enter the fray while others said that the traditional political machines have made strides to better represent Queens’ diverse and ever-growing population.

“Newcomers to politics often find it challenging to mount competitive campaigns for state elections due to the difficulty of raising funds without institutional support,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy for Citizens Union (CU). “The backing of the party continues to play a large role in elections, often making or breaking campaigns for office. And absent reforms to the state’s campaign finance system, voters will continue to have few choices at the polls.”

In 2011, a 22-year-old Queens student’s quest to run as an independent for retiring Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn’s seat was dashed when the city’s board of elections ruled that a technicality invalidated more than 1,500 signatures the student had collected. The party nomination was ultimately given to Michael Simanowitz, a former aide to Mayersohn.

In fact, statistics from CU underscored that when comparing state elections with city elections, voters have fewer choices, due to the strength of the city’s public matching system.

Some of the troubling stats showed that 21 percent of all state legislative contests in New York City went uncontested in both the primary and general elections in four cycles between 2006 and 2012 while only 8 percent of races were uncontested for the City Council during the three cycles between 2005 and 2013.

And, in primaries with incumbents, fewer than 20 percent of state legislative primaries in the city had three or more candidates from 2006 to 2012, while 59 percent of city council primaries had three or more candidates from 2005 to 2013.

Another parking pad turned garden!

From Cleanup Jamaica Queens:

Here is a somewhat bright spot in Jamaica. The apartment building at 88-23 170th which for years was using the sidewalk and side of the building for illegal parking spaces while no one did anything about it (till Sgt Cedillo and The Untouchables from the 103rd precinct stepped in) has made a complete turnaround.

Instead of a shitty-looking illegal parking space which destroyed all of the grass and just made a mess of this area, it has instead been transformed into a garden with a variety of vegetables and complete with a white picket fence. Nice, something that rarely is seen in these neck of the woods because the powers to be allow people here to do whatever the hell they want without consequences.

Kudos to Sgt. Cedillo and The Untouchable for enforcing the law, a round of applause for the owner of the building (shitty that is is) for putting something desirable in this spot and a big fuck you to the elected leaders and community board #12 for constantly doing so little with these types of issues that go on all over Jamaica.