Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A vacate 6 years in the making

From DNA Info:

The city removed more than two-dozen people from apartments inside a home that's been cited for illegal subdivisions dating back to 2000 — an address authorities ordered to be shuttered six years ago by the Department of Buildings, officials said.

There were 27 residents from eight families — including 13 children — living inside the two-story stucco home at 33-34 103rd St. when the building was evacuated on Sept. 26 by officials from the FDNY, the DOB and the Department of Education, according to officials.

The Red Cross provided temporary shelter for the families, and P.S. 92 was also opened as a temporary shelter site, according to Red Cross and DOE officials.

A spokesman for the Department of Buildings said it was illegal for anyone to be living in the building after Feb. 25, 2009, when inspectors ordered it vacated upon finding evidence of "illegal conversion" — which can mean adding additional walls, bathrooms or other subdivisions that violate the legal occupancy rates.

The apartments were ordered vacated as they lacked a second exit and sprinklers, DOB records show.

The house has been cited 11 times since 2000 for illegal subdivisions, including turning the basement from a storage area to an apartment, adding an additional bathroom to create a third apartment on the first floor and for carving out more than four additional apartments at the house, records show.

Owners Lizz Mendoza and Ana Mena have paid a total of $35,000 in fines, according to DOB records. However, they yet were able to continue renting the place out, and in fact still had an "For Rent" sign on the building on Monday.

Ongoing protests against Hollis shelters

Every Saturday residents protest to stop more shelters from opening in the black neighbourhood. Last Saturday Sep. 26th., was no different. Residents have information that shelters are slated to be built at Hollis and 203rd. street area. There are about 300 units of vacant apartments.

Residents took turns in giving testimonies of the destruction associated with shelters.
Residents shouted and demanded the presence of councilman Miller.

Al, a representative for Miller arrived. He informed residents that councilman Miller was unable to attend due to another engagement. However, demands for Miller got louder and louder.

Surprise, surprise, Councilman Miller appeared. He gave a speech, saying that he met with other leaders; and there are no concrete plans to build shelters.
In essence, residents said that Queens has the highest portion of shelters. They said that the people who live in shelters; roam the streets, sit around, and exhibit negative activities that tear down the neigbourhood.

Their fears are a reality. Below are photos of early morning activities from a shelter. Location,164 th. place & 108th. avenue. These women are early risers. They smoke, drink, and sit around all day long.

Monday morning, bright & early, Sep. 28 th., time 7: 43 a.m. This is their norm.

This is a perfect example of why Hollis residents want to keep shelters out of their area.

Hollis residents said; that they fear for children who have to walk to and from school. Shelters, harbour derelicts that prowl by day; because during the daytime shelters have to be closed.
A parent is taking her child to school.

Senator Comrie and congressman Meeks are aware of the Saturdays' protests; they remain NO SHOW.

The protests will continue and continue and continue........We will Not be ignored.

P. Hazel: Social Media Journalist for Justice.

DeBlasio rejects bill to aid vets

From the Observer:

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale is accusing Mayor Bill de Blasio of not "understanding the military," after the mayor declined to support a bill that would allow servicemembers to purchase credit toward the public retirement system based on their years of service.

The bill, which was introduced in June by Paulin and state Sen. Bill Larkin, allows members of a public retirement system to obtain three years of service credit for up to three years of military duty if they were honorably discharged. The legislation also broadens the eligible servicemembers to include those who served in peacetime and adds military conflicts—like Bosnia and Afghanistan.

De Blasio supports a more narrow bill that would restrict the process to those who served in Afghanistan.

Councilman Eric Ulrich, chair of the council’s committee on veterans, chided the administration for not allowing veterans to collect the benefit.

“All veterans deserve the opportunity to buy back their military time so that it can be counted towards their pension,” Ulrich told POLITICO New York. “We should not discriminate any veteran especially those who served post 9/11 or in non-combat role. We are not giving them something for free. First of all, they earned it, and second of all, they have to pay for it.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed similar legislation last year, saying it was an unfunded mandate and should instead be dealt with in the state budget. Paulin said she had worked with the governor’s office since then to amend the bill.

Grover Cleveland HS still struggling

From the Queens Courier:

Although Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood has seen improving graduation rates and student performance over the last few years, it remains vulnerable to a possible state takeover, educators said during a public hearing at the school Saturday.

Parents, students and teachers filled the Grover Cleveland auditorium on Saturday morning to talk about the performance of the struggling school and the possibility of the school’s receivership, while providing recommendations on how to improve the high school.

Earlier this year Grover Cleveland High School, along with 61 other New York City schools, was identified as struggling or persistently struggling by the New York State Education Department (DOE). If the school does not improve student performance and graduation rates, Grover Cleveland may fall into receivership, meaning that the school will be taken over by an outside entity and divided into several smaller schools.

At the public hearing, Grover Cleveland High School’s principal, Denise Vittor, acknowledged the school’s troubles, but pointed to recent improvements in graduation rates and attendance as signs of hope.

The four-year graduation rate for Grover Cleveland High School for June graduation was at 53 percent in the 2012-13 school year, and 51 percent in the 2013-14 school year. By the August graduation for those students who did not graduate in June, those numbers increased to 60.2 percent in 2012-13 and 58 percent in 2013-14.

Stop posting illegal signs!

We were walking around Juniper Park in Middle Village yesterday (9/27/15) and noticed multiple postings of flyers on the lamp posts and utility poles. There were ones for puppy sales, free chinchillas, yard sales and OctoberFest.

They are littering (illegally by the way) with these postings. The attached was for an Octoberfest at a nearby Church. There were literally over 20 of these flyers posted around the park. We noticed a few concerned people taking some down, but shouldn’t the Parks Department be on top of this?

I understand the need to promote these type of events, but there are neighborhood community bulletin boards (Silverbarn, Artis Pharmacy, Met Foods). Why litter our neighborhoods, especially an event that’s 2 weeks away!

If people continue to post these flyers, our street lamp posts will look like the attached image!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

F*cked up in Flushing

This house at 30-35 150th Street in Flushing is kind of cute, eh? Well don't get too attached to it.
This is what the homeowner/architect applied to do to it.
This is what they actually did to it.
So tell me, how is a project that was audited and found to be non-compliant, with a "notice to revoke letter" sent out in June, allowed to continue into September - a partial demolition - with no construction fence and without the proper permits?

Monday, September 28, 2015

De Blasio plans to condemn Coney Island properties

From the NY Post:

Frustrated by stubborn Coney Island landowners, the de Blasio administration plans to seize property under the city’s rarely used power of eminent domain in order to spur long-stalled economic development in the People’s Playground, The Post has learned.

The Parks Department plans to create new amusements and other amenities by grabbing up three vacant beachfront sites through condemnation proceedings — including a 60,000-square-foot tract that once housed the original Thunderbolt roller coaster immortalized in Woody Allen’s 1977 film “Annie Hall,” officials said.

It’s unclear what type of attractions the city wants to bring to these sites, which together total 75,000 square feet and also include smaller tracts off the Boardwalk on West 12th Street and on West 23rd Street.

City officials said they’re turning to eminent domain because they’ve been unable to cut “fair-market” deals with the property owners after exhaustive efforts.

But area business owners said they were stunned by the scheme, which includes using seized land to build new streets and parks that were outlined in a rezoning plan approved in 2009, under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Forest Hills asphalt dump

I wonder if this parking hog fed the munimeter.

But seriously, folks, who left this mess behind?

Bayside LIRR plaza not being maintained

From the Times Ledger:

The small traffic island in front of the Bayside Long Island Rail Road station on 41st Avenue has a history of neglect.

This summer the shrubs planted around the half-circle plaza became overgrown with weeds. What used to be grass alongside the paved pathway is now only a few patches of dirt littered with trash, cigarette butts and empty beer bottles.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that oversees LIRR, said the plaza is under the jurisdiction of the city Department of Transportation.

The half circle is on MTA property, but at least part of the plaza is zoned as city property, lined with streets and sidewalks, according to the city Open Accessible Space Information System.

The DOT said it does not have the equipment to take care of green space and is only responsible for paving in park space and plazas.

This was also discovered by Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who expressed concerns about safety at the site, calling upon the DOT to repave the cement paths on the traffic island.

In response to the lack of responsibility taken for the small plaza at the Bayside train station, Avella said he is in the process of finalizing a $50,000 grant to be awarded to the Bayside Village BID to take on maintenance at the site.

Asia will soon send more immigrants here than the Americas

From AP:

In a major shift in immigration patterns over the next 50 years, Asians will have surged past Hispanics to become the largest group of immigrants heading to the United States, according to estimates in a new immigration study.

The study looks in detail at what will happen by 2065, but the actual tipping point comes in 2055.

An increase in Asian and Hispanic immigration also will drive U.S. population growth, with foreign-born residents expected to make up 18 percent of the country's projected 441 million people in 50 years, the Pew Research Center said in a report being released Monday. This will be a record, higher than the nearly 15 percent during the late 19th century and early 20th century wave of immigration from Europe.

Today, immigrants make up 14 percent of the population, an increase from 5 percent in 1965.

The actual change is expected to come in 2055, when Asians will become the largest immigrant group at 36 percent, compared with Hispanics at 34 percent. White immigrants to America, 80 percent back in 1965, will hover somewhere between 18 and 20 percent with black immigrants in the 8 percent to 9 percent range, the study said.

Currently, 47 percent of immigrants living in the United States are Hispanic, but by 2065 that number will have dropped to 31 percent. Asians currently make up 26 percent of the immigrant population but in 50 years that percentage is expected to increase to 38 percent.

De Blasio scrambles to get lawmakers raises while city workers starving

Angelo Torres lives in his car.  Photo by Geoffrey Croft
From the NY Post:

But even if you wonder how someone can hit rock bottom while raking in a salary, however small, plus enviable fringe benefits, paid vacations, sick pay, the chance to earn overtime pay and a retirement pension, consider this: De Blasio, man of the people, is moving heaven and earth to boost the bottom lines of himself and his closest political allies.

In keeping with his penchant for creating new layers of government bureaucracy to find solutions for questionable problems, de Blasio announced this month that he has formed a three-member advisory commission to determine whether all city officials who are elected deserve to get the potentially fat pay raises they’ve been denied for the last eight years.

I’m not crying for city brass. The 51 members of the useless City Council each earns $112,500 annually, plus “lulus” — most get stipends between $5,000 and $20,000 annually for heading committees and subcommittees. Public Advocate Letitia James rakes in $165,000 a year, essentially for finding ways to make cops miserable. And does anyone know what the five borough presidents do to justify their $160,000-apiece annual pay?

And then there’s the mayor.

He gets paid $225,000 a year and lives rent-free with his family in Gracie Mansion, where a 12-person staff cooks, cleans and tends the yard, plus cops are on call to drive him around. (De Blasio’s spokesman said he’d decline a pay hike now, but the mayor opened the door to sharing in the wealth if he’s re-elected in 2017.)

But where is the committee to determine whether peons like [park worker Angelo] Torres deserve monstrous pay hikes?

DC 37 locals represent a total of 121,000 workers, and some full-timers earn as little as $24,000 a year.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Avella calls out companies for illegal street storage

From the Times Ledger:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), along with civic leaders and residents, rallied in College Point to protest the illegal storage of industrial materials and debris on public spaces.

Last year, Avella was able to get the city Department of Sanitation’s help in eliminating the problem, which he said has occurred at the intersection of 124th Street and 28th Avenue. At the time, several businesses misused public space to store heavy steel beams, bricks, pallets and waste, according to Avella.

But when he drove by the area a couple of weeks ago, he discovered that the illegal activity was taking place again. He contacted the Sanitation Department and the city Department of Transportation to alert them to the problem.

He commended Sanitation for taking action before but said the agency needs to take a more aggressive approach.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Flushing couple charged with Long Island sex trafficking

From WPIX:

A Queens couple has been charged with sex trafficking after forcing two of their employees into performing sexual acts on customers in massage parlors they owned in Nassau County, a county prosecutor announced Thursday.

Zhaowei Yin, 49, and his wife, Shuwen Ai, 46, of Flushing were arrested by authorities following a months-long investigation by Nassau County police and District Attorney investigators.

Return to Ciafone's Broadway outpost

It looks as thought the illegal signs sporting his mug have been removed.
The psychic, however, still holds court on the first floor.
Nice weeds & graffiti.
The clunkers remain.
Anyone want a used car with a smashed roof?

Jackson Heights residents concerned about gentrification

From Progress Queens:

The members of the Land Use Committee of Queens Community Board 3 have not responded to a letter submitted on behalf of the Jackson Heights community of residents, seeking comment about recent, major changes in commercial businesses.

The September 13 letter was sent by e-mail to the general e-mail account of Queens Community Board 3. The letter was signed by long-time Jackson Heights resident Susan Lippman and Louis Flores, the latter, who is the author of this article and the publisher of Progress Queens. In the past, Ms. Lippman has been a contributor to Progress Queens.

The letter sought to express concerns that have been growing in the community about changes in retail stores on 82nd Street, changes that community residents say may reflect upward pressure on commercial rents and a harbinger of gentrification.

A popular clothing store on 82nd Street closed and relocated to Junction Blvd., and plans were immediately made for the clothing store's former 82nd Street location to be replaced by a Banana Republic, raising concerns that the commercial landlord may be raising rents in order to attract expensive, chain store retailers.

Word is also spreading in the community that a 10-story hotel may be set to rise at 37-23 72nd Street near Broadway.

The e-mail transmitting the letter to Community Board 3 was copied to the office of Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who also did not provide any response to the e-mail.

DeBlasio happy to return the favor

From the Observer:

City Hall is open for business.

After the 12-year mayoralty of billionaire Mike Bloomberg, whose wealth afforded him level of insulation from campaign donors, a more transactional style of politics has taken hold through an organization Mayor Bill de Blasio set up to promote his policy agenda.

Since its inception on Dec. 12, 2013, the operation known as Campaign for One New York has accepted $3.87 million from dozens of real estate developers, unions and others who do business with City Hall. The setup allows the mayor to raise money outside the regulations of the city Campaign Finance Board.

The contributors to his group include individuals and firms seeking approvals for their projects, and they often donate through limited liability companies that obscure their identities.

In some cases, donors gave money right before or after getting a city-granted benefit, according to a POLITICO New York review of $1.71 million in individual contributions that poured in during the first six months of 2015.

At least 46 of 74 donors listed in the latest six-month filing — 62 percent of them — either had business or labor contracts with City Hall or were trying to secure approval for a project when they contributed, public records show.

Crumb rubber fields still haven't been replaced

From the Times Ledger:

The city installed more than 200 synthetic turf athletic fields that contain a substance known as crumb rubber, linked by some to certain types of cancer, in the past couple decades. But since putting a halt to the installation of these fields in 2008, the city said it has no intention of removing them until they need to be replaced from wear.

Made from ground-up car tires, crumb rubber can contain up to seven carcinogenic chemical compounds, according to the nonprofit health organization Environmental and Human Health Inc.

New York City Parks Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said there have been growing concerns around the country that excessive play on crumb rubber fields is linked to cancer.

While some are tracking cancer clusters in cities across the country trying to find a link, there has been much industry-sponsored counter-research suggesting data on exposure to the chemicals in the turf were insufficient to link attribution to cancer.

Queens has 35 crumb rubber fields.

The city Department of Parks and Recreation said it continues to monitor conditions at all of its fields regularly. If conditions of any particular field merit replacement, the department said it would go about its standard capital process to do so.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Does Karl McNamara actually exist?

Karl McNamara Facebook photo
From the Times Ledger:

Karl McNamara failed to attend a public meeting he requested at the Greater Astoria Historical Society Monday. McNamara wanted to discuss his plans for the Steinway Conservatory, a music school for disadvantaged youth he planned to establish at the historic Steinway Mansion, which he claimed he had purchased.

At the lightly attended meeting, the executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Bob Singleton, read from a prepared statement.

“Part of our program this evening was to include a presentation from Karl McNamara, who contacted us stating that he had purchased the Steinway Mansion and was going to start the Steinway Conservato­ry,” Singleton said. “He asked if he could have part of our evening to share his plans with the community and to speak for a few minutes at the end of the program. As you may have read in the newspapers, the current owner claims he has not sold the mansion. We reached out to Mr. McNamara but have not heard back from him. I do not have any more information on this. Our only concern is for the Steinway Mansion.”

“Lies are always short-lived and I am elated to hear that the truth has quickly surfaced,” [Owner Philip] Loria said. “Councilman Constantinides, Senator Gianaris, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz have and continue to work tirelessly in an effort to find a suitable venue for the Steinway Mansion.”

Hmmm...Well I don't know what the deal is with McNamara, but it looks like Costa, Mike and Melinda are in cahoots with the owner.

Weed problem is out of control

Eugénie Bisulco/The Forum
From the Forum:

The sidewalks on the Woodhaven Boulevard service road between 101st and 103rd avenues are being used as open-air dumping grounds for inconsiderate individuals who leave everything from food scraps and broken umbrellas to an old pair of jeans, the reader noted. And weeds in the area have become overgrown, contributing to the eyesore.OzoneTrash2

In an attempt to alleviate the issue, The Forum contacted the city Sanitation Department.

“We reviewed the situation and the litter/weeds are the responsibility of the homeowner/property owner,” said DSNY spokesman Vito Turso. “Our Enforcement Unit will continue to monitor the location and will write Notices of Violation if the litter condition is not remedied.”

Hefty price tag for old factory

From the Queens Courier:

A development site across the street from what was once home to the graffiti mecca known as 5Pointz in Long Island City is up for sale.

The property, located at 45-57 Davis St., is going for $34 million and is located within M1-5, R7-3, and Long Island City zoning districts, according to Cushman & Wakefield who are in charge of selling the site.

The location holds approximately 108,000 square feet of buildable space on a 216 foot by 100 foot lot.

NYCHA's NYPD unit will stay after all

From the Daily News:

The NYPD has backed off from its plan to push four huge Queens public housing developments out of a police unit devoted to protecting public housing.

Tenants and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens) raised hell about the proposal, demanding answers as to why NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton would make a move they say would have contradicted his “community policing” mantra.

On Wednesday, the department switched course, deciding instead to create a unit that will exclusively cover the developments — including Queensbridge Houses, the biggest housing project in America.

“We won,” said Queensbridge Tenant Association President April Simpson-Taylor. “They’re going to compromise. I’m really excited about this.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Former mayoral hack's project has safety issues

As previously reported, a new hotel is being constructed in Fresh Meadows on 186th Street, much to the chagrin of the neighborhood. It seems they had a little accident at the site recently:
(Here are the rest of the complaints.)
Quite a few violations at this construction site. Not surprising considering that former Mayoral Community Affairs Unit representative George Frangoulis, pictured above, chatting with cops, is managing the project. He also represented Tommy Huang at one point.

Removing garbage cans doesn't reduce garbage in subway

From Crains:

A state comptroller's audit is critical of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority pilot program that removed trash cans from 39 subway stations to reduce garbage and rats.

The report is critical of how the MTA measured the program's success and says there's no clear sign the four-year experiment is working.

The MTA says it disagrees. It says the trash can removal produced less trash, thus leading to a reduction in the rat population at those stations.

It says it will continue the program but has no plans to expand it.

Gianaris wants everyone registered

From the Observer:

Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris and Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh today joined the New York City Campaign Finance Board to push an initiative that would automatically put all eligible New Yorkers on the voter rolls.

Lamenting low turnout and registration rates in last year’s elections, the Democrats appeared on the steps of City Hall with various advocacy groups to push their “Voter Empowerment Act.” The measure would coordinate the state Board of Elections with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Education, Department of Labor, Department of Military and Naval Affairs and the public university systems to identify New York residents qualified to cast ballots and then place them in the voting books.

“This would just involve government agencies themselves communicating amongst themselves information that they already have, to make sure that people who are eligible to vote can show up on election day and vote without having to worry about deadlines or any other arbitrary rules and to be part of the process,” Mr. Gianaris said, noting that in 1974 5.5 million people voted, in contrast with 3.7 million in 2014—a decline he blamed on the onerous paperwork involved in registering to vote.

Onerous paperwork? It takes 5 minutes to fill out.

EDC tried to cover up contamination at Flushing Airport

YESTERDAY, State Senator Tony Avella held an emergency press conference regarding the Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) attempted cover-up of fuel contaminated soil. Community Board 7 began to receive reports from residents earlier today regarding a noticeable smell of petroleum throughout College Point, later to be traced to ongoing projects in the College Point Corporate Park.

As part of the ongoing wetlands mitigation project, contractors began to strip the runway previously used by the former Flushing Airport. Visible pools of fuel were then discovered underneath, which went unreported as EDC apparently advised the contractor to continue operations. Furthermore, additional liquid petroleum was found at the excavation site of the nearby 132nd Street/Linden Place extension project.

According to an anonymous whistleblower, rather than reporting the issue within the appropriate 24-hour timeframe, workers were instructed to follow protocol as though the soil was mildly contaminated by metals and use it as berm material to be used throughout the City. By failing to disclose the presence of liquid petroleum and hiding it in soil used for park space, EDC officials are potentially breaking the law, and thus willing to expose countless people to the health hazard of oil contaminated soil.

Senator Avella was able to access the site being excavated along 20th Avenue, where a construction crew was apparently mixing the petroleum with mulch and tree leaves so as to cover the smell. Despite the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sending a spill team to inspect the issue early Monday morning, Senator Avella found that construction work was still ongoing in the mid-afternoon.

“To knowingly conceal petroleum contaminated soil and repurpose it use throughout the City is utterly disgraceful and borders criminality. EDC has shown that it is willing to expose people to a substantial health hazard, if it means preventing a delay on their project in College Point Corporate Park. Despite the efforts to conceal the truth, all of College Point could smell the foul play and reported the district wide scent of petroleum to Community Board 7. Our safety should not depend upon the diligence of the community and the conscience of a lone whistle-blower; I demand EDC to halt their project pending an investigation and answer to these allegations,” declared State Senator Tony Avella.

Senator Avella spoke with DEC following his press conference at the site and was informed that the agency was in the process of reviewing the allegation with the investigator sent to the site.

The Queens Courier has more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ciafones dabbling in dead storage

44-19 Broadway, Astoria. You may recall this property from a previous post that noted that Gina Argento owes $30K in fines on it.

It also still has a stop work order on it.

But there's something I forgot to mention last time.

The used car parking lot/dead storage in the yard next to it, also owned by Gina.

Step right up, folks. Johnny Ciafone will give you a great deal!