Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hoverboard seekers robbed at hooker haven

From the Daily News:

Two Long Island men made a late-night trip to Queens, hoping to buy a “Kool Wheels” hoverboard, only to find themselves ambushed, robbed and bound, the victims told the Daily News.

Brian Taylor, 40, and Walter Roth, 34, went to a home on 103rd St. and 33rd Ave. in Jackson Heights, a known brothel according to cops, on Sunday, answering an ad selling hoverboards for $100 to $200, the victims said.

As they entered, three men grabbed them from behind, one of them brandishing a black handgun, police sources and the victims said.

Landmarks commission approves destruction of landmarked clock

Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
From NY1:

For 35 years, Marvin Schneider came here like clockwork to wind the rare mechanical clock atop this 19th century Tribeca office building.

"I would wind them and it would be good for a week," Schneider said.

But that stopped in March after the developers, who bought the landmarked building from the city, blocked Schneider and the public from coming in. The clock, now covered in scaffolding, has been stuck in time ever since.

"It stopped working at 10:25 or so," he said.

The El Ad Group and the Peebles Corporation plan to rip out the mechanical clock in order to convert the tower and the rest of the building into luxury condos. The developers declined comment.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the overhaul last year.

Group seeks landmarking for historic co-ops

From DNA Info:

A historical society working to landmark the homes of Dizzy Gillespie and scientist Marie Maynard Daly say they plan also to push to landmark the city’s first integrated cooperative apartments.

The Corona-East Elmhurst Historical Preservation Society say they’re compiling information to request an evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Society for the Dorie Miller co-ops, on 114th Street between Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue.

The buildings opened in 1953 and were named for Navy hero Dorie Miller, the first African-American awarded the Navy Cross, by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

The $2.7 million private development was the city’s first integrated co-ops, according to reports at the time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How many city workers does it take to fix a hole?

From NY1:

Department of Transportation workers were back at it again Monday pouring asphalt into a sink hole on Stockholm Street for the third time in five days and the fourth time this month. Many residents on this landmarked brick paved street have had enough.

"I don't know who's supervising it but this is not the way to fix a deep hole and it keeps sinking in you know," said one resident.

The city filled the hole on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. But by Monday the asphalt was cracked and sinking.

"The garbage truck came in again and then it, there's a hole again!" said a neighbor.

The problem started in June when a small crack appeared next to the manhole cover where the street meets Woodward Avenue. There is also cracking on the road near the hole.

"It's a dangerous hazard here," said another resident.

Last year a bicyclist was seriously injured when he hit a pothole just steps away from the sinkhole and fell on a fence which went through his neck. After several complaints to 311 many here say it's time for a permanent fix.

Knicks player shot outside Maspeth strip club


At about 7:30 am I received a call from Captain Travaglia, 108th Precinct, who wanted to alert us about a shooting that occurred at approximately 4:18 am this morning in Cometland.

NY Knicks player Cleanthony Early left City Scapes Nightclub, 55-61 58th Street and was heading northbound on Maurice Avenue. Just before reaching Tyler Avenue his Uber car was stopped by 4-6 males in three separate vehicles who then proceeded to rob him of his jewelry, cell phone and US currency. He was shot one time above his right knee. The perpetrators fled in an unknown direction.

The Uber driver ran to DSNY to call 911 and Early ran down 64th Street with his girlfriend and was able to reach a house and call 911. Cleanthony Early was taken to the hospital and is not likely to die.

Water's Edge closed again

From DNA Info:

Riverside restaurant and wedding venue Water's Edge is once again shuttered — closed for renovations for the second time since its owner was indicted on federal charges this fall.

The waterfront eatery, located at the end of 44th Drive in Long Island City, is closed for construction "under new owners and new management," according to a sign posted on the front door, which promises the venue will "re-open very soon."

The future of the restaurant has been under scrutiny since owner Harendra Singh was indicted on bribery and fraud charges in September, including an allegation that he lied about damages the Water's Edge suffered during Hurricane Sandy to score federal relief funds, prosecutors said.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No limit to microunits?

From the Daily News:

Manhattan's newest mini apartments have generated maximum interest.

More than 60,000 people applied to live in 14 below-market-rate apartments ranging from 265 to 360 square feet, slightly bigger than the size of an average one-car garage.

In response, the de Blasio administration is proposing to end a limit on how small apartments can be, opening the door to more "micro-apartments" that advocates see as affordable spaces to help the growing population.

Where are Brown's challengers?

From the NY Times:

The challenger, a former state legislator threatening the party favorite, was kicked off the primary ballot in a district attorney race in Queens after a judge ruled that the signatures he had gathered were not valid. The man, seeking to beat Richard A. Brown, lost an appeal, paving the way for Mr. Brown to easily defeat a Republican in the heavily Democratic borough.

That was in 1991, and it was the last time Mr. Brown faced an opponent for the office.

Now 83, Mr. Brown has been re-elected six times, most recently in November, a victory so routine there was no public celebration. Concerns about his health — Mr. Brown has been open about his struggles with Parkinson’s disease — and rumors that his office is increasingly managed by his top associates have done little to churn up opposition.

However, in an era when criminal justice reform is an increasing part of the conversation in New York City, and district attorney seats in Brooklyn and Manhattan have turned over in recent years — or, in the case of Staten Island and the Bronx, will on Jan. 1 — some people have begun asking where Mr. Brown’s challengers are.

“He’s run a good office,” said Arnold N. Kriss, a defense lawyer and political adviser to Mr. Brown. “It’s very hard to be a candidate against a sitting district attorney when there’s nothing to run against.”

Others said his long tenure was a reminder that the city’s antiquated political machines were still a force in Queens.

“It undermines democracy when there is no real challenger to step up to run against incumbents,” said Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, a government watchdog.

Close call prompts petition

From DNA Info:

When Alexa Weitzman lost sight of her 20-month-old son on Sunday for several seconds while playing at a popular neighborhood playground, her heart sank, she said.

As she looked around Katzman Playground, at Yellowstone Park, she saw that its three gates, adjacent to busy streets, including Yellowstone Boulevard, were wide open.

The toddler was quickly located, but the Forest Hills mom said the experience prompted her to start an online petition on on that same day, in which she asked the Parks Department to install a locking mechanism on the gates.

We have a suspect

From the Daily News:

A Brooklyn man was charged Monday with the stabbing death of a 28-year-old woman whose mutilated remains were found in a Queens park.

Cops arrested Christopher Sobers, 25, charging him with murder in the gruesome October crime. Sobers and his victim, Qing Qing Kiemde, were “acquaintances,” an NYPD spokesman said, though it’s not yet clear how they knew each other. Police have also charged Sobers with robbery.

Sobers, who lives in Flatbush, has 14 past arrests on charges including rape, burglary and weapons possession. Most of the cases have been sealed, police sources said.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Developer admits that bike lanes are gentrification tools

From The Awl:

A few weeks ago, on one of the few truly cold days this fall or winter, members of New York City’s real estate industry gathered at the Brooklyn Library for the sixth annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit. The networking breakfast was hosted by a company called “Aggressive Energy.” At the morning keynote, Richard Mack, the founder and chief executive officer of Mack Real Estate Group, was interviewed by Stephen Kliegerman, the president of Halstead Property Development Marketing. “Brooklyn is a great place to live,” Mack observed.

Then he began to make a larger point, about bicycles. “Don’t underestimate the change in commutational patterns as cycling becomes more important.” When looking to identify neighborhoods for residential investment and development, Mack said, “we’re looking for places where there are bike lanes, but more importantly where people are riding fixed gear bikes. I know that sounds funny.” The crowd laughed. “But go to Portland, Oregon. Go to downtown Seattle, downtown Los Angeles. Go to the greater neighborhoods of San Francisco. You’re gonna see a disproportionate amount of fixed gear bikes. You may laugh, but commutation patterns by bicycle are changing the way that cities are developed.”

Mack answered further questions about the role of fixed-gear bicycles in Mack Real Estate Group’s development choices over email. “We think it’s clear that there’s an impulse, among ‘Millennials’ particularly, to reduce the city’s reliance on cars,” he told me through a spokesperson. “That is something we support and respond to. Brooklyn’s cycling culture is expanding, and many of the people who live in our buildings are part of that, they’re riders. When we build we want to be responsive to the culture, in terms of where people want to live and how they want to live.”

“Developing in Brooklyn, bicycle friendliness and appreciation—including for those very cool fixed gears that many people are passionate about—have clearly become an ingredient in a neighborhood’s appeal. Sometimes the fixed gear is a bellwether of sorts for us, but it’s part of a bigger picture.”

So there you have it folks. What we've been saying for years has been verified: Bike lanes are not created to save the planet and to make the city safer. They are built to spur development. Nothing that is done in this city is done because of why the government says it is done. It is done to line some asshole's pocket.

Subdivided units listed as rentals

From DNA Info:

The landlord of a 1920s-era Eastern Parkway building has been illegally subdividing a number of units, then turning around and listing them as rental properties, tenants say, prompting the city to slap the building with a series of stop work orders.

The Department of Buildings ordered construction to cease at 85 Eastern Parkway last month, after tenants — many of them rent-stabilized — complained that work had been underway for more than a year to split some of the building’s larger apartments into a pair of smaller units.

A spokesman for the Department of Buildings would not discuss the status of the investigation but confirmed the department had visited the site multiple times this year.

Marge Markey sends out anti-corruption mailer

I'm not really sure why the Times Ledger felt that an article about Marge Markey's re-election fundraiser was newsworthy without at least mentioning that she has a Democratic opponent in the primary. But she would like her constituents to know that she is not corrupt, as evidenced by this mailer, the fact that she voted with Sheldon Silver something like 99% of the time and has been a Crowley clubhouse girl since 1999.
(She also doesn't represent Glendale, but don't tell the Times Ledger that.)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holliswood Hospital plans revealed

From the Queens Tribune:

Plans for a residential development at the former Holliswood Hospital at 87-37 Palermo Street have been met with tepid reviews by the Holliswood Civic Association.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) broke the details of developer Steve Cheung’s plans to the Holliswood Civic board on Dec. 16, at a joint meeting with Cheung and the site’s architect, after two years of suspense over the site’s future.

The plans involve construction of 20 residential homes as well as a larger apartment complex with 31 units on the property. Cheung could develop all of the lots, or some of them could be sold to private owners.

The individual homes will not have garages and will be in accordance with the local zoning, whereas the apartment complex would require a variance.

The Holliswood Civic Association identified a couple of concerns pertaining to the new development, according to an email from the Civic Association forwarded to the Queens Tribune.
“Overall, the proposal for the site would contribute to more congestion, noise and pollution,” wrote the email’s author.

The 20, presumably identical, residential homes would also create a “cookie-cutter” image, the email said.
It also stated that Cheung expected the homes to sell for $2.7 million, which the civic board thought was an unrealistically high asking price.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

No homeless at Creedmoor

From the Queens Tribune:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) put cold water on rumors that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was eyeing the vacant Creedmoor Psychiatric Center tower in Bellerose to house homeless persons.

Several news outlets reported over the weekend that Cuomo was looking into using the vacant tower on Winchester Boulevard and Union Turnpike as part of a plan to put homeless persons into a shelter. He was allegedly also eyeing several other vacant psychiatric centers across the state.

But Avella released a statement on Tuesday stating that the governor had dropped any consideration of using the center.

“When I originally came across the rumor that the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center was being considered for housing the homeless, I reasoned that there was no way such an awful proposal could be taken seriously, but experience told me that worse ideas have been considered,” he said in a statement. “After several calls, I can confirm that the Governor’s office has no intention in using this facility to house the homeless population.”

Avella added that he feared the city would be receptive to the idea, which according to the Daily News was receptive to the idea, but later confirmed that they, too, would be dropping the idea.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas surprise in Ozone Park

From PIX11:

Welcoming home a loved one for Christmas never gets old.

When it's a soldier serving the country that you haven't seen for years, there's almost no way to describe the feeling.

One Queens family got to experience that feeling first hand when Santa helped make a Christmas wish come true.

It happened at P.S. 121 in Ozone Park. PIX11 was there as Army Spc. Paul Hernandez was reunited with some of his siblings for the first time in years.

Grand Central cat rescue

NYPD Highway Officer Saves Cat

A Worthwhile Traffic Jam An NYPD Highway Unit officer stopped traffic last Friday to help save a cat that accidentally wandered on to the Grand Central Parkway in rush hour traffic -- #ItsWhatWeDo. Cat and cop are now new friends and doing well!

Posted by NYPD on Wednesday, December 23, 2015
From NYPD:

An NYPD Highway Unit officer stopped traffic last Friday to help save a cat that accidentally wandered on to the Grand Central Parkway in rush hour traffic -- ‪#‎ItsWhatWeDo‬. Cat and cop are now new friends and doing well!

The history of Steinway pianos

From CBS:

Each instrument is hand-carved and hand-strung, much as they were when Steinway & Sons first opened its doors.

A carpenter by trade and self-taught piano-maker, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg moved his family from Germany to New York City in 1850.

Changing the family name to the more English-sounding "Steinway," he and his three sons started producing hundreds of pianos. The company hit a high note in 1866 when it opened a European-style concert hall in Manhattan, which quickly became a cultural center (and a place to showcase Steinway pianos).

After winning accolades all over the world for their craftsmanship and engineering, everyone, it seemed, wanted to get their hands on a Steinway.

Christmas in Hollis

From PIX11:

Darryl McDaniels, part of Run-D.M.C., returned to Hollis, Queens during Christmas time with a gift for kids — and he said it was better than toys.

McDaniels said he's trying to push them to explore the creative side of their minds.

"Not everyone has to be a baller it's okay to play piano or study ballet," McDaniels said.

"That was my house over there. I use to hop the fence and come over hear to rap on the corner," McDainels said while he walked through the streets of Hollis, where the creativity all began for him.

The town now has a mural on a wall at 198th Street and Hollis Avenue dedicated to his musical achievements.

McDaniels, who's now a comic book creator, is making it his mission to mentor kids. He spent Tuesday at Queens Central Library with community kids and families. He had one important lesson for them — to read as much as you can and expand their skills to be competitive adults.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Take over our parkland, please!

From the Daily News:

Several Queens lawmakers are throwing their support behind a controversial plan to rent out Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a Coachella-like music festival next summer, the Daily News has learned.

“The Panorama Music Festival will provide a fantastic opportunity for Queens to take its rightful place as a New York City showcase,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) said in a statement.

Several promoters, including concert giant AEG, have asked the city for permits to hold music festivals in the sprawling park that hosted both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. The Parks Department said it is reviewing all of the applications and has not made a final decision on any of them.

But AEG’s Goldenvoice division won over Crowley, along with City Council members Julissa Ferreras Copeland, Karen Koslowitz and Peter Koo, after promising to donate a portion of ticket sales to the newly formed Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance.

Did you notice that 2 of these are the same pols who sponsored the council legislation for the amicus brief in favor of taking away parkland for a mall? Why do Koslowitz and Koo want money toward the Alliance that they have been frozen out of?

Does anything these people do make sense?

Trib visits NYPD Mounted Unit

From the Queens Tribune:

The NYPD Mounted Unit, or police officers who ride on horses, could be called the NYPD’s secret weapon. As is the case with the canine unit, the animals enhance the officer’s ability to do their job. They help them see further down the block. (The officers call themselves “the ten-foot-cops.”) They prevent them from getting snuck up on. They allow them to get a job done faster.

But ‘weapon’ wouldn’t really be the right word. Because the peaceful giants that the officers ride inspire the opposite reaction from a “weapon.” Mostly, the faces of children and adults alike light up with wonder and excitement when they see the mounted unit clomping down their street. And that ability is more potent and beneficial than the horses’ keen senses and size could ever be. So call them the department’s secret “strategy.”

Citywide, there are about 50 officers that are part of the mounted unit. Eight of those officers belong to Troop F, based in Cunningham Park. Depending on where they’re needed, these officers will patrol Forest Park, Steinway Street in Astoria and Citifield, as well as in the Bronx, Manhattan and Coney Island.

Woman sues city for allowing house to be stolen

From the Daily News:

A woman whose Queens home was stolen out from under her is suing the city for allowing the theft to happen.

Jennifer Merin charges in documents filed in Queens Supreme Court that the city allowed Darrell Beatty to claim her house as his own, live there for eight months, then plunder and trash the Laurelton property.

“They know this has been a problem and have not corrected it. I was victim of the same negligence. It turned my life upside down, completely,” Merin, 72, told the Daily News.

Her suit charges that the deed Beatty submitted to the City Register in March 2014 was so sketchy it would have raised many red flags if officials had paid attention.

The deed listed an Edith Moore, who does not exist, as the transferor, papers claim. The deed also reported the sale price as $0.00.

“There was no due diligence,” Merin said.

A Law Department spokesman said recent reforms have taken place at the city’s Department of Finance.

A tale of two solstices

From George the Atheist

Banks won't accept NYC ID

From DNA Info:

There are no banks that accept the ID as primary identification in Flushing, a heavily Asian-immigrant neighborhood. In Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst, one of the most diverse sections of Queens, there are only three banks that take the card as a primary identification document. Banks categorize some identification documents as "primary"—usually driver's licenses, state IDs, passports, and foreign-issued IDs—and others, such as credit cards and leases, as "secondary."

And you can't buy a beer with one, either.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Make legal corruption illegal

From the NY Post:

Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos broke the law, but when it comes to politicians, New York’s got a far bigger problem: corruption that’s perfectly legal.

“I seen my opportunities, and I took ’em.” Tammany boss George Washington Plunkitt used that famous, comically frank excuse to explain the “honest graft” that made him rich. Indeed, he took pride in his corruption, because he distinguished it from “dishonest graft.”

In 1870, Plunkitt held four offices — assemblyman, alderman, police magistrate and county supervisor — and pulled down three salaries. His “honest graft,” was based on his ability to “see an opportunity” — say, buying up land where, unknown to the public, a park would later be built, then selling it at a handsome profit.

Silver and Skelos committed flat-out crimes. But what about the “honest graft,” the kind of corruption that takes a toll on millions who don’t even realize it — all while breaking no laws? It’s as fetid as the “dishonest” kind. New York’s pols trade legislative favors, steer contracts, set wages and grant tax breaks.

But democracy itself encourages quid pro quo deals — many that are perfectly legal, and others that may not be, but that are hard to prove otherwise. Prosecutors are lucky indeed to find evidence as clear-cut as in the Skelos and Silver cases.

A candidate, for instance, might promise pay hikes for public workers or tax breaks for select groups, knowing he’ll get their political support. That’s totally legal. A businessman might buy ads hawking a candidate who vows to build roads. That’s OK, too, even if the roads provide a particular benefit to the man’s trucking business.

It boils down to this: Power corrupts, as the saying goes. So limit an official’s power, and you can probably limit a good deal of corruption.

There’s more: Steps to end the lifetime tenures of incumbents would help. And, of course, an engaged electorate is crucial.

Gangs going high tech

From the Epoch Times:

The Van Dyke Money Gang in New York made off with more than $1.5 million this year—but it wasn’t in gunpoint robberies or drug running, it was a Western Union money order scheme. In New Jersey, 111 Neighborhood Crips used a machine to make dozens of fake gift cards for supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores. In South Florida, gangs steal identities to file false tax returns.

These aren’t members of an organized Mafia or band of hackers. They’re street crews and gangs netting millions in white-collar schemes like identity theft and credit card fraud—in some instances, giving up the old ways of making an illicit income in exchange for easier crimes with shorter sentences.

“Why would you spend time on the street slinging crack when you can get 10 years under federal minimums when in reality you can just bone up on how to make six figures and when you get caught you’re doing six months?” said Al Pasqual, director of fraud security at the consulting firm Javelin Strategy and Research.

Law enforcement officials say they see increasingly more gangs relying on such crimes. This year, more than three dozen suspected crew members have been indicted in separate cases around the country. Grand larcenies in New York City account for 40 percent of all crime last year—compared with 28 percent in 2001. About 5 percent of Americans nationwide have experienced some kind of identity theft, with Florida leading the country in complaints.

Graffiti on the rise

From CBS:

Graffiti was an infamous symbol of the decline and decay of New York City in the 1970s and ’80s, and some now say it appears to be making a comeback.

As CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported Monday, residents have noticed and they want it gone.

According to the NYPD, the number of graffiti complaints citywide in 2015 is up 15 percent from last year. Meanwhile, arrests for graffiti are down 10 percent compared with last year.

And while a far cry from the out-of-control graffiti craze some 40 years ago, the current graffiti is getting noticed.

Rego Park's Rumba raided


Last weekend, a multi-agency operation that included the NYPD, FDNY, Department of Health and the State Liquor Authority (SLA) paid a visit to Rumba Night Club in Rego Park and cited the club for 40 violations.

Those violations include unauthorized alterations to the bar, safety violations including a failure to maintain fire extinguishers, an obstructed exit, exposed electrical wiring; a number of health code violations including no food protection certificate holder and mildew in the ice machine.

The FDNY found that the club has no public assembly permit and no explosives permit even though four cases of fireworks were found. Other violations include the use of unapproved trade names, failing to conform to application ― the club falsely indicated that its legal occupancy is 202 when the actual number is 74 ― and a slew of other violations.

Peace on Earth, can it be?

From AM-NY:

For all of 2014, New York City reported 333 homicides — the lowest number since the modern era of police record keeping began in the early 1960s. Criminal justice experts are predicting the city will record about 350 homicides by year’s end, an increase of just over five percent.

Overall, serious crime was down 2.1 percent through Sunday. Rapes continue to show an increase. But the nearly six percent spike is being driven by a large number of old allegations only now being reported by victims, police said.

Yet South Jamaica has gone 365 days without a shooting!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Someone is really in love with himself

Why does Vanity Smurf come to mind?

But seriously, folks, why is the Chocolate Factory, a 501c3 not-for-profit arts organization that gets funding from Van Bramer, making a promotional video for a politician?

Guess who's getting a raise

From the Daily News:

A city commission recommended pay raises for all the city’s elected officials in a report issued Monday.

The commission said the mayor, City Council, public advocate, controller, borough presidents and district attorneys should all get pay boosts of at least 12%, with some getting more generous boosts.

The City Council would get the biggest raise — to $138,315, a 23% boost to their current $112,500 pay, but only if they agree to give up extra payments known as “lulus” and outside income.

The mayor’s salary should be boosted to $258,750, from $225,000 now, the commission said — a 15% hike.

Mayor de Blasio has said he won’t accept a raise during his current term, but might if he’s reelected.

Word your DOB complaints carefully

From Brooklyn Daily:

Vigilant Ridgites must watch what they say when reporting illegal home conversions.

Watchdogs blew the whistle on contractors gutting the inside of a home between Third and Fourth avenues without a permit on Dec. 11, but the city didn’t get around to issuing a stop-work order for a week, because complainants told 311 the work was “illegal construction” rather than “illegal demolition.” The difference in one word increases the city’s target response time from 1.5 days to 45 days, and whistle-blowers need to know how to parlay the city’s lingo in order to protect their own neighborhoods, a local leader said.

“We try to get people to understand the language and use certain language to get the complaint [a higher priority],” said Bob Cassara, founder of the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance.

Contractors hauled enough debris from the building to fill a dumpster, photos taken on Dec. 11 show. But whistle-blowers told 311 on Dec. 11 and Dec. 14 that the dicey demolition men were doing construction rather than destruction, and the city considered it a lesser threat, according to city records.

The Department of Buildings prioritizes complaints by rating them “A” through “D,” with “A” priority being the most immediate, according to agency materials. “Illegal demolition” gets the highest priority, but “illegal construction” gets a “B” designation.

On average, it takes the Department of Buildings 38 days to close out a “B”-level complaint, but inspectors are working as fast as they can, an agency spokesman said.

Inspectors must witness illegal work themselves, and the property owner must be present for the city to issue papers if the work is already complete, he said. Gaining admittance to inspect work sites is also a hurdle, he said.

When will Jamaica cease being a ghetto?

From Cleanup Jamaica Queens:

The brand new Norman Towers apartments are located at 90-11 160th Street, which was finished last year and people started to move into this nice building. On the bottom floor, the very good Don Nico’s restaurant just opened not that long ago. A nice salon, Salon 161 sits on the bottom of an apartment building at 90-20 161st Street. PP Boy Japan Teriyaki & Sushi is at 90-22 161st Street. And sitting at 90-28 161st Street is Community Board 12 Administrative office. Yet in front of the apartment building at 90-20 161st Street, major garbage is being dumped in the flower bed area and I mean major garbage. More than likely it is coming from the apartment building at 90-20 and probably as people go by are dumping more. But then, maybe the salon is dumping there. No matter what this continuous problem that I have brought up to the powers that be, including Community Board 12 whose office is right down from here, is not being addressed. This garbage, which has gotten bigger, was first seen on Friday (12.18.15) and here it is today (12.20.15) getting bigger.

Jamaica the next hot neighborhood, hell no, if it is going to continue to looks like some third world ghetto shit hole. I mean if something like this can exist in the Downtown area right near Community Board 12 says much about what is wrong with this community.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Walk Through the Meadows, 2015 edition

Aerial view of Meadow Lake parking lot near boathouse
Aerial view of traffic circle

The following photos were taken yesterday of this same area. You can see that Rory Lancman had a point when he called the newly created Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance a sham that will only spend money on the northern sections of the park, which comparatively are in great condition. It's a joke to have community listening sessions to get input for future projects, like "better signage" when an outstanding issue like this one is so blatant.
Come visit Queens - the World's Borough!

A soccer stadium for Sunnyside?

From LIC Talk:

A new article written in a soccer publication, makes a well-thought-out case that Sunnyside Yards could be the optimal location to build a stadium for the NYCFC. That would be the NYC Football Club for the bulk of us not familiar with the acronym, but don’t let this new professional soccer team’s relative obscurity make you relegate the stadium idea as a lark.

That is because, as the author points out, the team is majority-owned by Manchester City, a well-known (and as you’ll see, well-funded) and newly successful team in the English Premier League, and Manchester City is wholly owned by one Sheikh Mansour. Now as it turns out, the Sheikh is also on the board of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which a quick google shows has about three-quarters of a trillion $ in its coffers!$!

Not that there’s any shortage of capital looking to be put to work within spitting distance of midtown, but with that kind of heft, the ADIA may be willing to provide some very generous financing to make this struggling project more palatable. Plus the new stadium angle allows the Mayor to do a major rewrite on what’s turning out to be a very difficult sell. Add the fact that the NY Yankees are the minority owner of the team, and you have another powerful and connected gorilla in the room helping to push it through.

Now the above is just my handicapping the possibility of the stadium happening. I am still very much against the Sunnyside Yards project, and will continue to refer to it as the NYCBD, aka the NYC Big Dig. It will be good for the 5-10 thousand residents who score an affordable apartment, it will be great for the developers, and it will be bad for the 2.3 million other residents of Queens mainly due to the drastic effect of overcrowding at the margins.

Bayside Burger King bites the dust

Dear QC,

In case you're interested, looks like a large retail development is going to replace the Burger King location near the Cross Island entrance on Northern Blvd. Safe to say this will generate more traffic here, but I am a little relieved it is not going to be residential.

Mike in Bayside

Another AirBnB disaster

From the Daily News:

A Midtown landlord is suing a tenant for $300,000 for repeatedly renting out her apartment on Airbnb for $200 a night.

In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, 357 West 54th St. LLC says Madalina Iacob's bid to make some quick bucks on Airbnb and other short-term apartment rental sites has already cost the building over $60,000 in fines — and could wind up costing it four times as much.

"Under the law, the landlord is strictly liable even though it's the tenant causing the violation — and even though we're not participating in this with this lady," said the building's lawyer, Lawrence Silberman.

Iacob's lease on the small $2095-a-month one-bedroom says that "tenant understands that they may NOT sublet the apartment" — but that's what the yoga instructor and self-described life coach and emotional intelligence coach was caught doing by the city in May, court papers say.

As a result, the building was slammed with four violations by the city, including operating as an illegal hotel, not having the required amount of exits for a hotel and not having adequate fire alarm system for a hotel.

City employees rollin' in dough

From the Daily News:

Overtime pay gave nearly two hundred city employees a salary bonanza in the last fiscal year.

Most of these workers — spanning a range of city agencies — were able to double their earnings with the extra hours, according to the latest data.

All told, the city shelled out $1.7 billion just in overtime pay to 167,851 workers — and 195 actually doubled their salary, according to the numbers compiled by the Empire Center.

Most of those — 90 — were in the Department of Transportation, 35 at the Department of Correction and 26 in the FDNY.

Of the top five overtime earners — including many who have have been pulling down big bucks for years — four work for DOT and one for the FDNY.

DOT employee David Russell, a highway repair supervisor, scored the most overtime — $177,630. That raised his total pay to $274,352 for fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30.

Right behind him was FDNY marine engineer Frederick Domini, who earned $153,787 in OT and $262,926 in total pay.

DOT bricklayer Edward Alfano laid down $146,118 in OT, for $239,462 total pay,

Sunday, December 20, 2015

LIC construction site goes up in flames

Wow.. Work hazard..

A video posted by Angel (@cruzin511) on

From PIX11:

A drilling rig hit a gas line at a construction site, causing the development to burst into flames.

According to FDNY, the fire is being fed by the gas, and crews are trying to protect neighboring buildings.

Four people have been safely rescued from the site.

DeBlasio, Cuomo & Comrie want homeless at Creedmoor

From the Daily News:

The de Blasio administration said Saturday it is open to the idea of converting a near empty psychiatric center to house the homeless.

Sources say Gov. Cuomo is considering a proposal to use the Creedmore Psychiatric Center in Queens to help deal with the city’s homeless crisis.

City officials have not been briefed about the possibility of using the site’s empty buildings by the Cuomo administration, but on Saturday seemed receptive.

“Given the dimensions of the problem that has built up over many years, any additional state resources are welcome and we look forward to hearing more about the plan,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton.

From the NY Post:

Queens state Sen. Leroy Comrie, whose district includes Creedmoor, said providing homeless people with housing there is not such a crazy idea.

“The homeless individuals would have an excellent chance of being successful with a complement of services,” Comrie said. “I will be talking to the governor about it.”

Mass transit commuters to save more $

From Crains:

Tucked into the massive federal spending and tax-cut agreement reached by congressional leaders this week is a measure that will save New York mass-transit commuters hundreds of dollars apiece each year. Employers will save as well.

The provision nearly doubles the maximum amount of pre-tax income they can use to pay transit fares. Currently $130 a month, the limit will be raised to match the amount that people who drive to work can spend in untaxed earnings on parking fees—$255 per month in 2016.

Moreover, just like the parking benefit, the transit break will be permanent and will rise annually with the cost of living if Congress passes the mammoth bill as expected.

The biggest beneficiaries will be high earners who regularly take the Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North and spend at least $255 a month on fares. By participating in a commuter-benefit program such as TransitChek offered by their employers, they will be able to spend $3,060 annually in untaxed income on fares, up from $1,560—yielding a tax savings of about $1,200 instead of $625 for someone in the highest income-tax bracket.

The reduction in taxable income lessens employers’ payroll taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare. It adds up to 7.65% of what their workers spend in pre-tax money. It is nearly always greater than the $5 to $7.50 per employee per month that businesses pay a third party, such as WageWorks, to administer the program. But businesses with low participation rates among employees could end up paying more than they save.

Forest Hills trucks towed

From DNA Info:

Forest Hills police towed away several illegally parked tractor-trailers after their drivers recently turned the Grand Central Parkway service road into their rest area.

For several months, local residents have voiced concerns about tractor-trailers parked on the service road as well as in a nearby parking lot behind Forest Hills High School between 66th and 67th roads.

“Some of them leave the trucks there, some of them are sleeping there, they are also lined up on the service road,” said one concerned resident who did not want to give her name. “We don’t know what’s going on there at night.”

Other residents also complained that the parked vehicles block their view making it dangerous to drive in the area.

No high school for Linden Place

From the Times Ledger:

City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has decided the city Department of Education will no longer be placing a high school inside its building at 30-48 Linden Place after significant community opposition to the proposal, elected officials and community leaders said Friday.

After receiving confirmation in July from DOE staff that the site would be used for a high school for more than 450 students, City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) met with Farina to express his opposition to the proposal due to student safety and traffic congestion concerns.

Koo made the announcement at a news conference in front of the building Friday afternoon, along with state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing); Arlene Fleishman, president of the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association; and Chuck Apelian, first vice chairman of Community Board 7.

“Maybe the chancellor realized this is not a good place to put a high school,” Koo said.

At the meeting, Fariña told Koo the plans to build a high school would no longer go forward. Koo’s office received written confirmation from DOE staff.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Former SI beep lobbied against preservation cause

From DNA Info:

The lobbying firm where former Borough President James Molinaro works was paid $65,000 over the past two years to lobby the city on behalf of the controversial Mount Manresa project, records show.

The Savo Brothers — under the name Mount Builders LLC — hired Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin LLC, of which Molinaro is a senior managing director, in 2014 to lobby the Department of Buildings, according to the Office of the City Clerk.

Molinaro, who was borough president when the 103-year-old Jesuit retreat house was sold for $15 million to be turned into townhouses despite huge protest, said he doesn't directly lobby for the Savo Brothers and didn't think there was anything wrong with his group working for them.

"I was the borough president. It was a piece of land for sale. It was legit. What should I be ashamed of?" Molinaro said.

"People are mad at me for a lot reasons. You can't be loved from everyone, you can't be hated from everywhere."

Conflicts of Interest Board rules require elected officials not to give up confidential information and not to communicate with the executive branch of government for one year after leaving office.

Officials are also not allowed to directly work on any matter that was dealt with while they were in office — but that does not stop their firms from being involved.

Molinaro is not mentioned by name as a principal or additional lobbyist in city records for Mount Builders LLC.

He served as borough president from 2002 until 2013, during the time the controversial plans to redevelop Mount Manresa were approved.

While other elected officials spoke out against the project at the time, Molinaro said that the deal was completely legitimate and nothing improper was done, to his knowledge.

He left office in December 2013 and a month later took a job at the high-powered Pitta Bishop Del Giorno and Giblin LLC, which has been one of the city's top 10 lobby firms for the past several years.

City misjudged homeless population

From Crains:

The de Blasio administration and the City Council failed to set aside enough funds for the homeless shelter capacity they would need this year and are now paying for their optimism, officials revealed this week.

Early this year, the administration believed that its systemic, long-term approach to homelessness would reduce the shelter population by winter.

They were wrong. The census just again topped 12,000 families, where it was at the same time last year.

The City Council voted Wednesday to tack $137.5 million on to the Department of Homeless Services budget for shelters, $88 million of which will come from city taxpayers. That represents an almost 17% increase in the shelter budget for this year.

“These are predominantly for adult shelter and family shelter re-estimates," outgoing Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said at a City Council hearing last week.

The gap resulted from an incorrect assumption by the administration and the council that the shelter population would trend downward by the end of the year thanks to new subsidy and homelessness-prevention programs, according to council staff. While mid-year budget adjustments are normal, this year’s is remarkable, one aide said.

A mayoral spokeswoman said the funding adjustment was meant to cover population and cost increases since fiscal year 2014, upon which this fiscal year’s estimates were based.

Mad slasher has Whitestone on alert

From NBC:

The apparently random slashing of a 16-year-old girl walking to school in Queens Wednesday morning has shaken neighbors as a local politician says the suspect may have struck before.

The victim, an exchange student from China, was walking near 13th Avenue and 146th Street when a man wearing a surgical mask and gloves grabbed her and slashed her neck and cheek with a utility knife before running off, police said.

The stalker was captured on surveillance video following his victim.

The attack has left families in the quiet residential neighborhood frightened.

State assemblyman Ron Kim said Thursday the suspect may have struck before.

"We've been receiving some calls since yesterday that a similar-looking individual has been harassing females in the neighborhood," he said.

Kim said he has visited the girl, and doctors have told him the attacker missed major arteries but there are still concerns about possible nerve damage and disfiguring scars.

We've heard it all before

From the Queens Courier:

New York City is stepping up its efforts to alert residents to the dangers of illegal housing.

The Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced on Thursday that they would be running a “Living Safely” campaign throughout the city to raise awareness of and warn New Yorkers about illegally-converted apartments.

The three agencies aim to distribute 10,000 flyers containing tips on recognizing and avoiding illegal apartments, as well as their dangers and consequences. The flyers will be available at elected officials’ offices, community boards, and various transportation hubs, including the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue subway station in Jackson Heights.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Foundry has interesting history and works out of history, too

I pass the Modern Art Foundry every day when I cover the Mansion. The MAF is headquartered in the Steinway Mansion stables (old photo below). The MAF's more modern building next door has now been gutted and is being renovated. Here are some photos I took of this ongoing renovation.

All the best,

I don't think we're in Queens anymore, Toto

From the Juniper Berry:

Have you felt lately like you were conked on the head and awakened inside a nightmare? Or maybe that your house had been picked up by a cyclone and touched down in the Land of Odd? That's kind of what Queens feels like these days. All the characters are here – the witch, the coward, the heartless, the one without a brain. You name the freak, we have it representing us.

Unfortunately, we voters can't click our heels together three times and be brought back to a better time. The Land of Odd is now our reality and our first chance at getting back over the rainbow won't come until Election Day, 2017. Until then, we'll continue our long slog down the yellow brick road with this unsavory cast of characters.

Having said all that, does anyone have a bucket of water?

Forest Hills LIRR scheduled for facelift

From DNA Info:

The Long Island Rail Road promised to remove graffiti from the walls of its historic Forest Hills station after residents’ pleas, officials said.

Locals said numerous markings have covered the sidewalk walls under the 71st Avenue overpass since last spring, defacing the Station Square area which was designed more than a century ago by renowned architects Grosvenor Atterbury and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

There is also graffiti spray-painted under the Ascan Avenue overpass, locals said.

Addabbo wants old Rockaway line made safer

From the Queens Tribune:

In light of all the attention it has been getting lately, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) has called attention to the structural stability of the overpasses holding up the retired LIRR Rockaway Beach line that runs from the south shore to Queens Boulevard.

Local politicians and civic associations have been seeking further advocacy and turning the stretch of land in to either a paved over busway, a reactivated railway, or possibility a park stretching across the borough. Addabbo stated, “However, proposals fail to detail the vulnerable and unsafe conditions the line is currently in.”

Initially Addabbo called the MTA, but, he said, “The MTA was quick to point out” that they no longer own it. An MTA spokesperson said it was sold to the city in 1953. Addabbo said he plans to take up this issue with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and Borough President Melinda Katz.

Report says Jamaica to be the next hot nabe

From AM-NY:

As New Yorkers continue the eternal struggle with high rents in Manhattan and Brooklyn, they’re increasingly setting their sights on Queens, according to a report.

Demand in the borough is set to rise in 2016, according to real estate site StreetEasy, with Jamaica shaping up to be the top neighborhood to watch, according to Alan Lightfeldt, a senior analyst for the company.

Five of the ten neighborhoods predicted to be the most in demand for renters next year are in the borough, according to StreetEasy. Jamaica’s cheaper rents (a median monthly rent of $1,750 in 2015), proximity to public transportation and major highways, as well as recent redevelopment efforts, launched it to the top of StreetEasy’s list.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who set up a “Jamaica Now Action Plan” this year to create a blueprint for its future, was thrilled by the presence of Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Woodside, Elmhurst and Kew Gardens Hills on StreetEasy’s report. She emphasized the importance of keeping the borough affordable amid the predicted influx of new renters.

“While the growth is necessary and encouraged, the challenge for government will be to aggressively expand affordable housing stock to meet the ever-growing demand,” she said in a statement.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

City planning holds sham hearing; freezes out the public

From Historic Districts Council:

"Were you left outside, too? The Historic Districts Council, NY Landmarks Conservancy, MAS, Friends of the Upper East Side, Landmark West!, and the Society for the Architecture of the City were unable to testify at the City Planning Commission’s public hearing for ZQA/MIH this morning because the room was at capacity by 9:15 am--the hearing commenced at 9:00 am. By 10:30 am, representatives of City Planning explained that attendees who wished to speak could choose to wait outside with no guarantee of entry. Even worse, the City Planning Commission has not given any indication that they will hold additional hearings to ensure the whole of the public will be heard.

This is a public hearing, not a line on Black Friday. ALL of the public should be able to speak, not just those who got in line several strategic hours earlier than everyone else. There must be allowances made so that all the people of New York can have a voice. Please send a letter to Carl Weisbrod, Chair of NYC City Planning Commission and tell him that this morning’s situation was untenable and that our voices deserve to be in the record on this unprecedented rezoning proposal. Everyone deserves a chance to be heard and not be left out in the cold."


I submitted a protest letter and received the following reply at 8pm:

"Thank you for your message regarding the ongoing public hearing on the MIH/ZQA text amendment proposals.

We are sorry that you encountered long lines in the morning. We appreciate your interest in appearing before the Commission to testify on these important initiatives. Please note that the the City Planning Commission hearing on these items is ongoing, and the Commission will continue to hear every speaker who signs up and is present to speak.

There are no lines at this point, and we encourage you to come back and sign up to speak. We are continuing to post the Speaker # on our Twitter account and on our website.

If you would like to submit written testimony at any time prior to the vote, written comments on the DEIS will be considered until Monday, December 28 and written comments on the application may be sent up to the date of the Commission vote. You can mail written comments to:

Calendar Information Office - 31st Floor
120 Broadway, New York NY 10271"

Familiar government story:

  • Call a public hearing
  • Call your cronies to reserve prime speaking slots
  • Schedule hearing for a room that's too small to accommodate crowd
  • Sit and laugh as opponents get frustrated and leave
  • Claim that you were available to listen to all the testimony and there was minimal opposition
  • Enjoy the lazy media's reporting that suggests that suddenly everyone loves what you proposed
  • Use this as justification to proceed as planned