Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Crappy driving!

Hi Crapper,
Saw this on my way to the Post Office in Flushing today. A real "Crappy" driver drove through the fence while parking on Depot Rd and Northern Blvd. He was trapped behind the fence until a good Samaritan and I pushed the fence to release him. Luckily no one was hurt. - Mike

de Blasio embarking on exclusionary rezoning effort

From DNA Info:

A push by Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow developers to build taller buildings across the city as long as they include affordable housing was met with vehement opposition at a public hearing on Wednesday.

Critics blasted the mayor's Zoning for Quality and Affordability initiative — part of de Blasio's 10-year affordable housing plan designed to change regulations so that building new housing is easier and cheaper — during the Department of City Planning's hearing at their lower Manhattan office.

Their main complaint was the lack of transparency the mayor's office has offered to date. The city has not publicized the plan enough in order to push it through without substantial community input, according to the lineup of speakers — ranging from elected officials to everyday citizens, and even a former member of the City Planning Commission.

“If not for the fact of emails flying from Greenwich Village… to civic groups in Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx," said Ed Jaworski, president of the Marine-Madison-Homecrest Civic Association in Brooklyn, "this might have been held before two people.”

Amending the city's zoning regulations will allow the city to create badly-needed senior housing and "encourage better quality buildings that contribute to the fabric of neighborhoods," according to DCP director Robert Dobruskin, who led the hearing.

But organizers who fought to secure neighborhood-specific construction regulations around the city — in places like Greenwich Village, The Rockaways, and Bay Ridge — fumed at the possibility that the city could undo their work.

Several speakers accused the de Blasio administration of working to make things easier for developers while demanding too little in exchange.

Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy and community outreach at the Historic Districts Council, said the proposal could "incentivize demolition of existing housing in order to replace it with new development" that could be built with bigger height limits.

"Bigger buildings do not equal lower rents," Carroll said. "If that were the case, West 57th Street would be Manhattan’s newest neighborhood for the middle class."

City & State has published the 5 challenges to de Blasio's affordable housing plan:

1. Comprehensive community planning takes a lot of time (shouldn't be rushed)
2. Comprehensive community planning takes resources (which City Planning doesn't have)
3. Comprehensive community planning takes more than zoning (hello, infrastructure)
4. Comprehensive community planning begins in the community (doesn't exclude communities)
5. Community planning hasn't delivered in New York City in the past (because developers rule the Council)

And here's one more from the Times Ledger.

In a statement, Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and a historic preservationist, said the 160-page document proposes changes that are a “giveaway to developers under the guise of promoting increased affordable and senior housing.”

CB 7 member Tyler Cassell, a member of the board’s land use committee, agreed.

“If the city wants affordable housing, they should stop selling off city properties for a dollar to developers and build housing projects like they did in the 40s and 50s,” Cassell said.

Scam artists squatting in woman's home

From WPIX:

Corrine Butt decided to rent her downstairs apartment to tenants who would have some of their rent paid by the federally sponsored Section 8 program. She chose Paula Rivers and her family.

For the first year, Corrine says things were great. Then they stopped paying on time according to Corrine. Now she hasn’t gotten a cent from them in six months. And to top it off, Corrine says everyone in Rivers’ family is employed!

“I served notice in December,” Corrine told me. “And she started to bang on the floors at night when she comes home from work.”

And that’s far from the worst of it. Corrine says Paula slammed a door on her finger. They’re intentionally breaking things and then taking her to court to complain. Police have been called, complaints filed. It’s costing Corrine time and money — and maybe her health.

This one's not so wily

s From LIC Post:

A coyote has taken up residence in Long Island City and has been stuck on the roof of LIC Bar all day.

The tenants who live above LIC Bar discovered the wild animal this morning when they saw it from their back window, according to Brian Porter, the owner of the bar.

Porter said that they think the coyote entered via a broken window from the old Paragon Paint building and couldn’t get back inside the old building.

You might as well bribe

From the Daily News:

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Sunday slammed toothless laws that make it tough for state prosecutors to go after corrupt New York politicians.

They are “out of touch with the reality” compared with other states that make it easier to go after crooked officials, he said on John Catsimatidis’ radio show on AM 970.

“It’s more difficult in New York State to prosecute a politician or the briber for bribery than it is to prosecute a sports promoter for bribery,” he said. “We sort of have a carveout in New York State for political bribery, which makes it, I think, simply out of touch with the reality of statutes around the country.”

I'm sure the lawmakers will get right on correcting this.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring soaking

From the Daily News:

Spring has sprung and it’s time for New York City homeowners to get soaked again on their water rates.

Mayor de Blasio, who was critical of his predecessor Michael Bloomberg for routinely hiking water rates, Friday announced a plan to raise water rates by 3.24%.

Although it’s the lowest rate hike in 10 years, critics say it’s still unfair because homeowners have been hit with so many increases in recent years. The average homeowner will pay $1,058 if the plan goes through, up from $499 a decade ago.

New rates will go into effect on July 1.

Boats sinking in Hawtree Creek

From the Queens Chronicle:

No chance to look off the port bow for two Howard Beach boats, because they’re slowly sinking into Hawtree Creek.

The 50- and 30-foot boats, both belonging to a Bayview Avenue resident, have slowly been listing into the creek after they lost their sea legs about a week ago. Although still tied to the dock, both are just about halfway underwater.

Both were leaking oil and fuel into the creek, which leads into Jamaica Bay, over the weekend until authorities pumped the fluids out of them, according to members of the Howard Beach Motor Boat Club, located a few yards away from the wreckage.

“But that was after a day of leakage that went unmitigated,” said Mike Raffo, a member of the boat club and a lifelong resident of Howard Beach. “Now there’s a whole canal full of gasoline.”

Oil slicks were visible on the water Tuesday afternoon.

Dan Mundy Jr., a member of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, said the fluids in the water present an environmental hazard that should be addressed immediately.

“If you have oil in the boat, you have contaminated water and you need to get the Department of Environmental Conservation out there,” he said.

NYCHA selling off its open space to developers

From the Daily News:

The housing authority is quietly selling off parking lots, green space and playgrounds to developers — a spree that will create more affordable housing and help ease NYCHA’s budget woes.

NYCHA has sold small parcels here and there over the years, but in 2011 began to ratchet up its sales effort, a Daily News review found. Since 2013, they’ve sold off 54 plots with 441,000 square feet of public land to private developers, records show.

Most of these parcels are related to 12 projects where NYCHA has sold vacant or what it deems “underutilized” land to developers to build affordable or senior housing. On some parcels, the housing is now up; on others it’s in the works.

Recently, tenants say, NYCHA officials have visited their developments in search of more potential land to sell, with plans for more “For Sale” signs later this year.

Agency officials wouldn’t discuss details, promising to lay out their plans in May when Chairwoman Shola Olatoye unveils her “Next Generation NYCHA” plan.

Blissville strip club relocates

I noticed this weekend on my way to LIC that the Sugardaddy's strip club that was formerly on Review Avenue near Greenpoint Avenue has moved to the former Infinity/Goldfingers site on 27th Street near Borden Avenue. I can only hope that this will be a positive change for Blissville. There were no DOB plans filed for the building, but I'll keep my eye on what moves in.

Here comes the boom!

From the Queens Courier:

The Department of Buildings authorized about 4,900 units in 448 buildings in Queens last year, a 64 percent jump from 2013 when the department approved 3,161 units, according to a New York Building Congress analysis released Thursday. An average of 11 units per building will be constructed in the approved projects.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What 77 stories in Queens Plaza would look like

From Nick Normal:

The clocktower, resting here since 1927 and historically famed as “the tallest building in Queens” for 63 years until the Citigroup tower (located .4+ miles away) surpassed it in 1990, is only 14 or 15 stories tall, depending on how you measure the ground floor. So when I saw those dirt outlines I thought, “OK, but what would a 77 story building actually look like?”

I’m sure whatever they propose will be full of lots of steel and glass and absolute lack of creativity or character, but I also thought I’d assist the conversation a bit by showing what the clocktower would look like if it were 77 stories tall, in context with the surrounding neighborhood structures:

Now that just seems silly!

Of course, even these satellite images are not current. There’s been so much construction in recent months that the plot about 1″ to the left of the clocktower at this scale is a future hotel being built currently – what you see here that is just foundation is now some 20+ stories tall (seen in background in video below). So the neighborhood is already scaling up, but 77 stories just seems excessive, even gluttonous.

Astoria community garden proposed

From Brownstoner Queens:

A group of Astoria residents are hoping to transform some unused land right next to the Elmjack Little League Field — which is located near the Riker’s Island Bridge — into a community growing space. According to the land use organization 596 Acres, the Elmjack Little League has had a license to use this city-owned space since the 1960s. The group of residents plan to send a letter proposing the community space to the League’s board.

New Keith's plan gets CB7 ok

From the Times Ledger:

The long-delayed plans for RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing have been approved by Community Board 7 after years of the property passing through the hands of multiple developers.

Board members unanimously passed a motion at the monthly board meeting Monday night approving developer JK Equities’ revised plan for the historic theater at 135-35 Northern Blvd. in Flushing. The company’s reworked blueprint increased the building’s height and reduced the number of rental units and parking spaces.

Chuck Apelian, CB 7’s first vice chairman and chairman of the land use committee, said the board has previously asked for a movie theater to be built in downtown Flushing, but to no avail. “We don’t have any development plans in front of us,” Apelian said. “I don’t have anybody standing here with the money to build the theater. The way it’s gone, it went from developer to developer to developer at this point. I can’t change that.”

He was momentarily interrupted by Jerry Rotondi, a member of the Committee to Save the RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing, who insisted that plans were presented to save the theater.

Historic preservationists were staunchly opposed to the plan. In a statement, the Committee to Save the RKO Keith’s criticized former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman for not supporting the theater.

“We could have had a restored showcase theater,” said Cheshire Frager, a member of the committee.

Michael Donnelly, a New York City District Council of Carpenters representative, said the developer has not made a commitment to quality construction jobs.

“These units will now be marketed to wealthier individuals and contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood,” Donnelly said. “The absence of a commitment in the development of high-quality construction jobs for the members of the community further enforces this impression.”

Apelian introduced a separate resolution that would consider converting the planned 16,000-square-foot space from a senior center into community facility space.

Illegal aliens actually taking jobs Americans WILL do

From the Daily News:

Undocumented immigrants in the United States now hold more white-collar jobs and less blue-collar ones, a new study found.

The share of undocumented workers in managerial or professional roles rose to 13% from 10% from 2007 to 2012, while the percentage in construction or production jobs dropped to 29% from 34%, according to new estimates by the Pew Research Center released Thursday.

Still, the majority hold low-skilled service or construction jobs — much more so than workers born in the U.S., the analysis of government data found.

Interesting old house becomes latest teardown victim

"Hi Crappie,I know how everyone likes to moan and groan when a nice old house with a big yard gets knocked down so here it goes.

Yesterday I was driving by Booth Memorial Ave.and 136 street on the corner and there was a house from around 1900 with a round front being torn down.About five years ago it was resided with cedar shingles and looked nice." - Anonymous

Yup, this will be some grade A crap to match the rest of the block.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Large parking lot created on sidewalk

There are a bunch of complaints for this house at 161-04 Sanford Avenue, but let's focus on the driveway permits, since that's been a theme lately. Looks like they were stopped in 2007, but resumed work shortly after:
Take a look at the Google Street View. It's a doozy!

Update on 149th Street bridge project

I found this info which seems to be stating the open contractor bid will start March 24 and due deadline April 23 but states "deck replacement" only. Sounds a bit funny to me. Does that mean the concrete only or the steel which supports the concrete deck?

If it's the concrete only maybe they are willing to take their chance it may not crack a second time. Also, June 12 2014 queens papers stated an engineer has already begun designing a new bridge for a complete rebuilding.

State Senate passes fake ID bill

From Animal New York
From the Times Ledger:

The illicit market for fake identification has made Roosevelt Avenue a destination for decades for underage youths looking for “proof” to enter bars and clubs as well as immigrants looking for a fake green card or Social Security card.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was aware of the problem and was working with law enforcement to prevent false documents from aiding terrorists. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) has spent nearly a decade trying to remedy the dangerous situation.

His bill to crack down on the fake ID market and other forged official documents was passed unanimously by the state Senate last Friday. The bill toughens the penalties against individuals who manufacture or sell fake IDs, especially government identifications, such as driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security cards.

“This illicit industry does us a lot of harm, and it is still a huge problem in Queens,” Peralta said. “This bill and the new municipal ID program is very bad news for the counterfeit mills operators. We have to crack down on the mills and increase the penalties on these mill operators to eradicate this serious problem.”

The bill prohibits the sale of forged instruments. It also amends the penal code to include the sale and manufacture of government issue documents as a class C felony in the first degree that would carry a penalty of 1 to 15 years behind bars. In addition, it creates the presumption that an individual who possesses two or more forged government documents depicting a person other than him or herself intends to sell those fake documents.

Woodhaven fire site had multiple illegal conversions

From the Queens Chronicle:

For more than three years, the city Department of Buildings knew that people were living in illegally converted residences at 91-21 90 St.

The landlord of the home lived in an illegal cellar apartment, according to city records dating back to December 2011.

The tenant on the first floor was Luis Lopez, who when asked to leave the house last Wednesday allegedly set fire to it, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The flames spread to seven other houses on that block.

Another tenant on the second floor was forced to climb out the window to escape the fire, according to eyewitnesses.

And it seems that house was not the only one with illegal apartments.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said one of the homes damaged in the fire was found to have bunk beds in its basement, apparently being rented to several tenants.

Records show that a complaint was made last year about 91-31 90 St. stating that there were “a lot of teneants [sic] going in and out of the house. I believe that the basment [sic] was converted into rooms and there has been past constuction [sic].”

According to Ulrich, six summonses were written for those who had illegal conversions in their homes on that block.

Headed for Demo-ville?

Broadway Flushing...vacant for years...awaiting a tear down? Without municipal historic district status...this is the fate of Broadway in about 4 years. Councilman Paul Vallone seems to show no interest in supporting the majority of Broadway residents desire for landmark status. Once again...Senator Tony Avella will have to be doing Vallone's job.

Signed....Jerry Rotondi...a BFHA member's personal observation. I DO NOT SPEAK FOR THE ASSOCIATION.

Meanwhile there's another Broadway-Flushing house on the market, but this one will stay as is because the owner put a deed restriction on it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lots of unanswered questions remain

From Epoch Times:

An hour before an apparent gas explosion sent flames soaring and debris flying at a Manhattan apartment building, injuring 19 people, utility company inspectors decided the work being done there was faulty.

The powerful blast on Thursday in the East Village caused the collapse of three buildings and fire damage to a fourth, the fire department said. It left four people in critical condition, more than a dozen others injured and one family searching for a loved one.

Firefighters worked through the night to put out pockets of fire, pouring large volumes of water over the rubble, a fire department spokesman said Friday morning as a steady rain fell.

He said when a building collapses it takes much longer — even days — to put out all the fire.

About 200 firefighters and medical staff remained on the scene.

The blast caused three five-story buildings to collapse within a few hours of each other, the spokesman said. A fourth, seven-story building, suffered extensive fire damage.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building that collapsed was to blame. A plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade, and inspectors for utility company Con Edison had been there, company President Craig Ivey said. But the work failed the inspection, partly because a space for the new meters wasn’t big enough, Con Ed said.

I didn't see any permits for any type of gas line work, but I'm not sure what is required when a plumber is involved. The contractor was already in deep doo-doo before this happened.

A look inside a the Woodhaven Volunteer Ambulance Corps building

"Take a look inside the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corp, at 78-15 Jamaica Avenue, nearly two years after the collapse of the building next door (which had many open violations at the time of collapse).

The conditions of 78-19 have caused damage to the Ambulance Corp every day since it collapsed on Friday, April 12th 2013. The city finally acted after the community rallied and said they were going to tear down the rest of the collapsed building - but the building's owner George Kochabe and lawyer Elio Forcina too the city to court and struck gold when they were assigned Justice Diccia Pineda-Kirwan, who has granted the owner extension after extension.

Most people don't realize the ongoing catastrophic damage that is being done to the Corp's building - maybe this video will open some eyes and help some people realize that after 2 years, the owner of the collapsed building deserves no more extensions or breaks.

The Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a mainstay in our community for 50 years, lost their only sources of income due to this collapse - yet they are still forced to pay insurance for a building in shambles, and pay taxes to a city that failed completely to protect them.

Many thanks for all that you do,

Ed Wendell

City fell victim to oil scam

From DNA Info:

Five of the city's largest fuel oil companies allegedly swindled the NYPD, the FDNY and some of Manhattan's largest developers in a multimillion-dollar citywide scheme, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The companies are suspected of taking worthless but hazardous waste oil and "blending" it with fuel oil before delivering the diluted product to customers, including NYPD precinct houses, FDNY firehouses, other city agencies, local hospitals and many of the city’s largest residential buildings, as well as smaller homeowners and mom-and-pop businesses across the boroughs, sources said.

In addition to the “blending scheme,” the companies are also suspected of rigging meters on trucks to inflate the number of gallons delivered to customers, thereby charging them for fuel they did not receive, sources said.

Addabbo wants Glendale shelter to be for veterans

From the Queens Courier:

The controversial plan to turn the abandoned warehouse located at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale into a homeless shelter appears to be moving forward, but state Senator Joseph Addabbo wants to make that proposal a little more specific.

If the city is going to make the site into a homeless shelter, Addabbo said, it should extend the facility to the homeless who have fought for this nation’s freedom.

Isn't the site suspected to be highly contaminated?

Be careful who you hire to build a house

From NJ, but relevant:

From Eyewitness News:

A dream home became a nightmare in Florham Park, New Jersey.

When the homeowner was handed over the keys he suddenly learned his new home was sinking, cracking, and crumbling.

"I spent all the money I had and I was cleaned out. I have nothing now," said Humayun Akhtar. He thought he was building his wife the home of her dreams, a gleaming palace where they'd live together.

But nearly a decade later, they've never spent a night here.

"Look at this, won't even close," he said at the bathroom door.

Weeks after closing, the cracks started to form, and he soon found he'd sunk his life savings into a house that was sinking into the ground.

Lots of people jumping ship

From AM-NY:

The New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania metro area added 90,797 people between July 2013 and 2014, the third biggest gain in the U.S. But the New York metro area was unable to make the top 20 list of fastest-growing urban areas.

People nonetheless are still flocking to the city, but mainly from outside the U.S. International migration accounted for 85,438 new residents in a 12-month period ending June 2014, compared with 82,022 from July 2010 and 2011. Queens, long known as the most diverse borough, attracted the most people from other countries last year, with 27,072 people.

Domestically, however, more people moved out of the city than moved here over the past three years. Including people who moved to another borough, between 2013 and 2014:

Brooklyn lost 32,731 people, compared with 14,908 people between 2010 and 2011
Manhattan lost 21,582 people, compared with 3,620 in the 12-month period ending June 2011.
Queens lost 25,836 people, compared with 17,093 in 2011.
Bronx lost 17,199 people, compared with 18,237 in 2011.
Staten Island lost 2,044 people, compared with 2,099 in 2011.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

MTA sells air rights to clock tower developers

From DNA Info:

The MTA board voted to sell unused development rights from one of its Queens properties for nearly $56 million to a developer planning to build the borough's tallest building.

Through the deal made on Wednesday, the developer of a proposed 70-story apartment tower will be able to build up to 77 stories instead of the 38 the current zoning at the site allows, and up to 490 additional apartments, according to the MTA board documents.

Once the sale is finalized, the MTA will transfer 478,000 square feet from an MTA-owned lot at Northern Boulevard and 40th Road to the development group Queens Plaza Park Development LLC, which includes Property Markets Group and The Hakim Organization.

The sale is expected to go through in the next month or two, an MTA spokesman said.

Because every piece of available land must be developed

From the Queens Tribune:

Several years ago, a handful of Elmhurst neighbors and volunteers transformed a vacant lot into a community garden. In the coming months, it is slated to transform again, but this time into new apartments.

Winnie Mok, a secretary at Tan Architect P.C., which is designing the planned development, said five two-family buildings are slated for the lot. Owners expect to file construction permits within weeks, Mok said; preliminary work installing a temporary perimeter fence has already begun.

The lot in question sits at the end of Manilla Street at Kneeland Avenue, up against the LIRR tracks. The youth volunteering program Young Governors spearheaded the reclamation of the lot, starting in 2011, with the help of the New Life Development Corporation and other community members.

According to lead garden organizer Jennifer Chu, the group received a “verbal OK” from the lot’s then-owner, a retired attorney now located in Florida, to use the site.

“We figured, he’s not using it, we can just work on it make to it look nice.” Chu said. “He said he intended to sell it and so we said, ‘sure, whenever you need to sell it, we’ll vacate.”

Nevertheless, the lot was sold in early February, according to the City Department of Finance. Chu said she received no notification of the sale.

“I’m just surprised that he didn’t give us any notice,” she said, adding that the Young Governors had made an effort to keep the owner up-to-date on activity at the garden, sending pictures and sometimes harvested produce.

The site’s previous owner could not immediately be reached for comment.

Big long bus route proposed

From the Daily News:

The city’s most ambitious plan to speed bus travel to date — an approximately $200 million, 14-mile super route through the heart of Queens — was unveiled by the de Blasio administration Tuesday.

The design features bus-only lanes, curbside fare payment and wireless technology that activates green lights for approaching buses between Woodside in the north all the way down to the Rockaways on the southern coast.

A six-mile segment in the center of the route along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Blvds. will be the most dramatically altered, with separate lanes for local and through traffic, turning restrictions and wide, landscaped pedestrian islands for riders getting on and off buses, officials said.

Construction is expected to start in 2017 and take about one year, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. The entire project is estimated to cost $200 million, officials said.

When finished, the seven Select Bus Routes created by the city since 2008 will pale in comparison, Trottenberg said.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Racist graffiti-bombs Astoria subway station

"Another one for American Eagle Outfitters, had "Slut" written on the model. The Abraham Lincoln exhibition advert had the N-bomb scrawled on it. It was smudged, but there." - Anonymous

Parks destroys 100 year old Astoria tree

From CBS 2:

People in the neighborhood said the Parks Department told them the old tree was rotted and hollow inside. But when they cut it down, it was not hollow at all.

“You didn’t have to be an expert to see, it’s a healthy; a very healthy tree,” said Anna Jutis.
Jutis has admired the tree for the 45 years she has lived in the area. Now, she and others are mourning its loss.

Patterson said she was assured multiple times by city officials that the tree would be safe.
“Their exact words were, ‘It will never be cut down, because it’s a landmark,’” she said.
But now, they are left with a stump, and pieces of the tree as souvenirs.

Big Glendale property sold

From the Observer:

A 94,000-square-foot property in the Glendale section of Queens has sold for $9.18 million to two different buyers, according to Avison Young, the brokerage firm that represented the seller and one of the buyers.

The property at 79-40 Cooper Avenue includes eight lots, a 50,000-square-foot industrial building, two attached residential buildings, two parking lots and vacant land spread over two acres.

The seller of the property was Hansel ‘n Gretel Brand, a deli processor that had been in business for 140 years that has since closed. Hansel ‘n Gretel Brand occupied the industrial building until last year.

Carye & Sons Acquisitions, a family-owned real estate company, bought the majority of the property, including all of the holdings along Cooper Avenue, for around $7 million. This included four lots, a vacant piece of land and the industrial building. Carye & Sons plans to redevelop the industrial property on the site into an 80,000-square-foot self-storage and retail building.

The remaining piece of the property, including a parking lot and two residential dwellings, was sold to an adjacent landowner for $2.2 million. Right Time Realty’s Joe Ibrahim represented the buyer on this transaction. Mr. Ibrahim could not immediately be reached for comment.

Forest Hills mansion tops $3M

From Curbed:

This 5,000-square-foot mansion in Forest Hills, Queens was built in 2006, after the owners' previous home was destroyed in a fire. As traumatic as that experience must have been, it did afford them the opportunity to design their dream home from the ground up, and the property now sports five fireplaces, radiant marble heated floors, built in speakers, occasional soaring vaulted ceilings, and various outdoor spaces including a balcony, terrace, garden, and patio. Relisted a week ago, it's now asking $3.289 million.

Contract awarded for tunnel repairs

From the Queens Courier:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the MTA is expected to award a four-year, $236.5 million contract to rebuild the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which since the 2012 hurricane has been operating with temporary repairs. Around 40 percent of the length of tunnel was submerged in 12 million gallons of salt water during the storm.

The contract, which will be completed with Judlau Contracting Inc., was approved by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on Monday and is expected to be approved by the full MTA board on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LIC Clock Tower to be calendared

From Brownstoner:

Awesome news for preservationists in Queens! This Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission will calendar the LIC Clock Tower — officially known as The Bank of the Manhattan Company Long Island City Branch Building — to be considered for landmark status. Located at 29-27 Queens Plaza North, preservationists have rallied around this neo-Gothic structure, built in 1927, which is not protected from demolition. And recently, news came out that the owners of the clock tower, Property Markets Group, planned to develop 830,000 square feet on the surrounding land.

Sounds like someone wants those air rights for the adjacent property.

It's time to clean up the brownfields program

From Capital New York:

Taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on a statewide brownfield cleanup program that is woefully insufficient, according to a report issued by a leading environmental advocacy group in New York.

"The current program is out of control," Peter Iwanowicz, head of Environmental Advocates of New York, said in statement accompanying the report. "Taxpayers are footing the bill for an extraordinarily costly and broken system that is in desperate need of reform.”

The report, entitled "Ripe for Reform," says that since 2009, close to $800 million in tax breaks have gone to redevelopment at brownfield sites and not for cleanup, leaving thousands of sites in need of remediation. In releasing the report last week, the group joined Citizens Budget Commission in urging Albany to enact reforms proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Brownfields are sites of concentrated contamination that are the environmental legacy of New York's 20th century manufacturing industry. Former gas and oil refineries, chemical plants and foundries are the chief sites in need of remediation.

According to the EANY report, whole regions of the state have been ignored by New York's Brownfield Cleanup Program, while the "cleanup" aspect of the program has given way to lucrative redevelopment tax credits. The group reports that 86 percent of all payouts since 2009 have been redevelopment credits as opposed to remediation costs.

How we'll be screwed, in a nutshell

Draft Scope DCP of Proposed Zoning Changes - Review

QCC Members

Attached, with great thanks and appreciation to Paul Graziano, is Paul's analysis of the subject plan. This five page document boils down the mayor's proposed changes to NYC zoning that will be heard at Wednesday's scoping meeting.


After you read Paul's synopsis, or the whole 166 pages, we hope you will understand the urgency and come out Wednesday. As civics we have all fought for dozens of years to protect and systain our communities - of whatever nature - from over development. The mayor's (or should we say, developers) plan will dramatically affect the shape and size of our neighborhoods forever.

We hope to see a huge, city-wide turnout on Wednesday. The scoping meeting will follow at 4pm at 22 Reade Street, only a few blocks away.

Once again, our thanks to Paul for this monumental effort.

Richard Hellenbrecht, V.P.

Trains late a lot

From DNA Info:

You're not imagining it — your commute has been off the rails recently.

Delays increased on most subway lines in 2014, with about 20 percent of all trains on the tracks arriving late to their stations and medium and major delays increasing sharply, according to MTA records.

The problem was the worst on the 5 train, which saw 32 percent of its trains delayed.

The news coincides with a fare increase this past weekend, taking the basic fare on the system to $2.75.

Experts are divided on what's been bringing your ride to a screeching halt, with MTA officials pointing to a surge in ridership and commuter advocates blaming a lack of funding for needed infrastructure repairs.

Hmmm...surge in ridership? So we shouldn't have been upzoning all those areas near a subway?

Same old story in Bayside

Another nasty parking situation in Bayside.
This property has had multiple complaints about a variety of issues.
They got banged for the curb cut back in 2009, but nothing was done about it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dromm to introduce immigrant voting rights bill

From Newsday:

The City Council is drafting legislation to let noncitizens vote in New York City's municipal elections, a move that could bolster the clout of recent immigrants in races across the five boroughs.

The policy, if enacted, would make the city one of just eight jurisdictions in the nation, and by far the largest, where U.S. citizenship isn't required to cast a ballot, according to iVote NYC, a coalition of immigrant advocates and allied groups that supports the change.

Dromm said a bill is being readied and conversations with the mayor's office would begin soon. The change would cover only New York City residents with legal immigration status.

I gotta get outta here

Here we go with the Archie Bunker and Queen Catherine references again...

The Revolutionary part of the twisted history lesson was pretty much lifted word for word from Forgotten NY.

The rest of the mess is here.

My favorite is the headline that promised "authentic ethnic eats" where she proceeded to chow down on hamburgers.

DOB says problem is resolved...but it's not

"Spotted this piece of Queens Crap today while driving in Bayside. Maybe the DOB will shift some building inspectors back to Queens if more people make 311 complaints about all the illegal parking going on in Northern Queens." - anonymous

The owner got banged for this in 2006. And got it "resolved" in 2011.

So much for that.

de Blasio is no progressive

From the Daily News:

The Campaign for One New York buys television advertisements; coordinates grassroots organizing campaigns; and employs and coordinates with allies of the mayor, including former staffers.

In short, it works as a campaign apparatus in years when there’s no election.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling blew the doors off all previous attempts to limit outside money in government — and made hefty political spending by outside groups inevitable.

But it’s no small irony that the man putting the nail in the coffin of the city’s campaign finance caps is Big Bill, progressive friend of the little man.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hipster feedback sought at Fort Tilden

From DNA Info:

The government has been looking for input on rehabbing popular hipster summer hangout Fort Tilden, but hearing from locals isn't enough, so it wants feedback from summer visitors as well.

The National Parks Service is only in the initial stages of the process of changing access points and replenishing the beach inside the Gateway National Recreation Area, which was badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy, officials said.

The NPS sought public input before construction begins, but have only heard from area residents and local fishermen, according to a Parks spokeswoman, Daphne Yun.

Yun said she hopes to get the input of other groups that use the beach like day visitors from around the city who tend to flock during the summer months.

What happened to the parking lot plan?

From Curbed:

Something big is going up on the site of the shuttered Flushing Mall. Rumors of the mall's demise have been swirling since way back in 2011, but the foodie haven finally closed its doors this year and, it seems, will be razed to make room for a new development. YIMBY spotted plans for a 13-story, 192-apartment building with cellar-floor retail space near the site, and believes they're connected to the Two Fulton Square development. The new plans were filed by One Fulton Square developer F & T Group for the site bounded by College Point Boulevard, 37th Avenue, Prince Street, and 39th Avenue.

I seem to recall that the plan for this site was for it to be replacement parking for Municipal Lot 1 while construction was taking place, which will take years. So why are we seeing building plans for this site now?

An end to hotels in IBZs?

From Crains:

As the city's manufacturing sector awaits Mayor Bill de Blasio's long-promised industrial policy, one private-sector insider predicts with professed certainty that it will call for an end to as-of-right hotel construction in light-manufacturing zones.

In other words, hotel developers would need some sort of political approval, either a special permit or a zoning exception from the Board of Standards and Appeals, or new zoning from the City Council and mayor. "I'm sure that's what it will be," the source said.

Moreover, the insider said there might be an outright ban on new hotels in industrial business zones, or IBZs, which are manufacturing districts singled out by the Bloomberg administration for extra protection from nonindustrial uses.

More than a few manufacturers would welcome such reforms. They say an influx of hotels in their districts has put upward pressure on land prices and rents, threatening the viability of longtime businesses that have expiring leases, and tempting those who own their buildings to sell to developers who want to construct hotels or apartments.

An important message from HDC

Dear Friend in Preservation,

We need your help. The de Blasio administration is made it obvious that the preservation of New York City’s character is not being considering in their plans for the future. As citizens and organizations who are working to preserve and uplift New York, we need to make the Mayor hear our voices and address our concerns. HDC and our colleagues are planning a press conference next Wednesday at 3pm on the steps of City Hall to express our concerns about the Mayor’s citywide rezoning proposal ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ – an anti-neighborhood proposal which would slash neighborhood zoning protections and lift height limits in both contextual and non-contextual zones. The press conference will be at 3pm and the public hearing on the scoping begins at 4pm at a few blocks away at City Planning, 22 Reade Street.

I’m asking for you help with three things.

1. Please lend your name and support to the attached open letter to the Mayor. Let me know if I can add your organization to the list of supporters. I’m also collecting individual supporters (if so, please tell me which neighborhood you should be identified from). This letter will be going out next week to the Mayor and the press.

2. Please come and participate at the rally on Wednesday 3/25 at 3pm on City Hall steps. We need a good showing to voice our concerns.

3. Testify at the City Planning scoping hearing which starts at 4pm. I have cut and pasted below a template for testimony and/or a letter you can send in (they are accepting comments until April 6). Please let me know if you can testify and/or send in a letter.

It’s vital that we get the message out now that neighborhoods across the City are very concerned about the proposal and the impact it would have, esp. in terms of the lifting of height limits and the way in which this proposal is being rushed through. I hope you can join us.


Simeon Bankoff
Executive Director
Historic Districts Council


fax 212-720-3495

Robert Dobruskin, AICP, Director
Environmental Assessment and Review Division
New York City Department of City Planning
22 Reade Street
New York, NY 10007

Re: ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability,’ CEQR No. 15DCP104Y

Dear Director Dobruskin:

I have several very strong concerns regarding the proposed scope of the environmental review for this application, and urge that the scope be expanded.

First, it is imperative that the scope of the review allow for the possibility of the existing height limits for contextual zones and for the Quality Housing program to remain in place. It is one thing to suppose that the City could benefit from having contextual districts with different height limits than those which currently exist, and to examine where such changes might be appropriate; it is another to retroactively change the existing limits everywhere they currently exist, and eliminate the current limits across the board.

It is also imperative that the scope look at the impact which allowing taller development with greater volumes, as proposed, would have on historic resources, neighborhood character, and shadows, especially in and around parks and other light-sensitive resources. While the Landmarks Preservation Commission would continue to regulate the allowable size of new developments and additions in historic districts, important historic resources also exist outside of designated historic districts. Under this plan, the incentive for demolition of such resources would increase, as would the likelihood of vertical extensions being added. Larger and taller construction in neighborhoods, and especially in areas of historic resources, would in many cases have a negative impact which should be measured. Similarly, the larger, taller buildings allowed under this plan would cast larger shadows, impacting parks, playgrounds, and other light-sensitive sites.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

No eminent domain plans for affordable housing (right now)

From CBS New York:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious redevelopment plans won’t involve the use of eminent domain to acquire property, Planning Director Carl Weisbrod said Tuesday.

The mayor’s planning priorities include building more affordable housing and rezoning a five-block stretch of midtown Manhattan adjacent to Grand Central Terminal.

“I don’t see us using eminent domain in a broad way,” Weisbrod told a real estate conference hosted by Crain’s New York Business. “I don’t believe that it’s going to be in our toolbox.”