Thursday, June 30, 2016

Avella protests sex offenders at shelters; Dromm protests booze ads

While Elmhurst residents were rallying against the presence of sex offenders at the Pan Am family shelter...

their council member, Danny Dromm, was protesting subway Budweiser ads with a bunch of bible thumpers.

Wildlife refuge proposed for LIC tracks

From Curbed:

A proposal has been released to open up the Montauk Cutoff, a short abandoned rail line of Long Island City, to the public as a haven of urban wilderness. Brooklyn Grange and Bang Studio released the plan, dubbed the Wild Line, with an intent to "transform the Long Island City community by injecting a new sense of life: creating new kinds of habitat for animals, humans, birds, insects, and microorganisms."

The plan revolves around three guiding principals. The first is to "create a gradient of wilderness" in which the Wild Line becomes more wild as it moves from north to south. The second is to leave the Smiling Hogshead Ranch, a community garden that’s located by the north end of the tracks, in tact so as to co-exist as a neighbor to the Wild Line. Finally, they envision controlled public access from three different access points. The southern end will hold a wildlife preserve totally off limits to the public.

Sounds fun. How many millions of taxpayer dollars will end up being funneled into this?

Effort underway to preserve another Childs Restaurant

From DNA Info:

A push is underway to landmark a local building that's thought to have once housed a Childs restaurant — the second Queens building associated with the early dining chain to catch the attention of preservationists this month.

Filmmaker Lisa Hurwitz submitted a request Saturday to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to evaluate 59-37 Queens Blvd. for potential landmarking. The history of the property and its decorative terra cotta facade deserve to be preserved, she says in her petition.

Her request comes alongside another submitted this week by the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which asked LPC to landmark a similar-looking building in Astoria that's also believed to be a former Childs eatery.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Developer decides against Ridgewood beer beach

From the Queens Chronicle:

La Playa NYC has been shut down before it could even open.

According to the developer of 176 Woodward Ave. in Ridgewood, there will be no popup beach and beer garden operated by the Rockaway Brewing Co. at the site as planned.

"We pulled the plug on the plan," said David Schwartz, a principal at Slate Property Group, in a Tuesday phone interview. "It just became too much."

Schwartz said the hope was to have the venue open by early June, but securing a certificate of occupancy and a liquor license — all while a number of area residents voiced their opposition to the plan — meant La Playa NYC could not open until August at the latest.

"I don't think we had the time to address the people's concerns, there wasn't enough time to handle anything," he said. "It wasn't enough time to make it worthwhile. You can't just be open for August."

Have you all heard of Slate Property Group before? Let's just say that right now they have bigger things to worry about than running a hipster beach.

Hotline for reporting zombie homes

From Crains:

New York state has created a new consumer hotline to help identify vacant properties.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the number—800-342-3736—on Tuesday. It's part of a larger effort by the state aimed at addressing the large number of vacant and abandoned properties known as zombie homes.

The hotline will allow local residents and officials to report vacant properties. The state is now compiling a list of all such homes and will require banks and lenders to ensure the property is maintained before foreclosure.

Apartment seekers crowded out by AirBnB

From AM-NY:

A report released Monday found that thousands of Airbnb units are illegally hogging the city’s supply of vacant apartments.

The study issued by Share Better, a staunch opponent to the online short-term listing site, said that more than 28,000 Airbnb listings, about 55% of all New York City offerings, constitute entire apartments, which violates housing regulations.

In addition, there were 8,058 illegal Airbnb pads that were identified as “impact listings,” meaning they were offered for rental by hosts who have more than one unit for multiple short-term users over the course of at least three months per year, or a single unit for at least six months per year.

The New York State Multiple Dwelling Law prohibits the renting out of apartments within buildings with three or more units for less than 30 days, unless the owner or a family member is present. Last week, the State Legislature passed a bill that would fine Airbnb users who post such listings up to $7,500 and it is awaiting a final signature from the governor.

Donor admits bundling for a quid pro quo

From the NY Post:

A high-profile cabby advocate whose wife needs the city’s OK for a women-only livery service admitted to The Post on Monday that he raised campaign cash for Mayor Bill de Blasio and funneled it through an unemployed Brooklyn woman.

Fernando Mateo, founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, came clean about the blatant violation of election law after The Post learned he had personally solicited a donation for Hizzoner and then had Ahlam Jaoui take credit for it.

The 31-year-old Bay Ridge woman, who has no political or fundraising experience, claims in campaign finance records to have collected 15 donations totaling $18,800 that were given to the de Blasio campaign in January.

Mateo, a well-known Republican supporter, told The Post that he “called my people” to give money to Democrat de Blasio’s campaign and had Jaoui take credit for the donations. Mateo’s name does not appear on Jaoui’s January campaign finance report.

He claims that his motive was to help Jaoui land a city job.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Eyebrow-raising apartment listing in LIC

"Hello QC,

I walked into an open house for several apartments at 36-10 11th St in Queens this weekend and I noticed a telltale sign that the building might have been illegally subdivided. The apartment buzzer on the front only listed three apartments, even thought there are 4 newly remodeled units in the building. There are 3 of the apartments currently listed on the Corcoran website, the link below is for the rear half of the illegally subdivided first floor unit. According to old blueprints for the building which are available on StreetEasy, the first floor used to be a single apartment. There have been no permits issued by DOB for any work recent work in the building, and the building does have a history of illegal dwelling units. Several years ago it received a violation for an illegal unit in the cellar.

After I noticed the illegal subdivided units I decided I was not interested in any of the apartments in the building because I don't want a landlord who cuts corners and who is willing to break the law to earn a few extra dollars.

Can you please provide any advice on how to handle this and similar situations I may find as I continue my apartment hunting in Queens? I opened a complaint with the DOB. Should I also complain to Corcoran that I am concerned about their reputation as a quality realtor when they show and list illegal units on their website?"

~ApartmentHunter in Queens

Well, this is an interesting case. The "corrective action" recommended for the illegal cellar apartment was to obtain a permit. However, cellars can't be legalized. Then the violation was dismissed without penalty. I wonder what the details were on that.

I certainly would notify the realtor about this. They likely won't care, but if they get caught showing illegal units, they could lose their license.

Always, always, ALWAYS check a building's C of O and history of violations before signing a lease and moving in.

Legislation will help mom & pop shops

From DNA Info:

From Meatpacking’s Hogs & Heifers to the East Village’s Other Music and Prospect Height’s Empire Mayo, the list of beloved small businesses being forced out due to rising rents keeps growing — and so have the calls for greater protections for mom-and-pop shops.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign legislation Tuesday establishing safeguards to prevent harassment of commercial tenants, just as there are policies protecting residential tenants.

The legislation aims to make it easier for small businesses to stay in the city, many advocates said.

It would allow small business owners, who felt they were harassed in some way and wrongfully pushed to vacate their space, to recover possession of property, attorney fees and damages amounting to one month’s rent or $1,000 from the landlord — whichever is greater — among other costs.

Harassment includes threats, unnecessary construction or repairs on the property that interfered with business, interruptions to essential services like heat or hot water, and the use of “frivolous” court proceedings against a tenant.

Part of Vision Zero deemed unconstitutional

From NY1:

A Queens judge has ruled that a key portion of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero plan is unconstitutional, a ruling that threatens to upend the mayor's pedestrian safety program. NY1's Grace Rauh reports.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Another World's Fair a-comin'?

We're a startup working to organize the first U.S. Worlds Fair since 1984. Here's our website:

We're currently organizing a mini two-day Worlds Fair in August in NYC. It's not in Queens (the venue is in Chelsea), but I thought it might an interesting story for your readers to learn about given the Worlds Fair history in Queens. The event's website is here:

Should you care to talk I'd love to have it included as we're working to raise awareness for it. You can also check it out on facebook by typing in "Worlds Fair Nano." I doubt there's anything with a similar name on FB to confuse it!

Michael Weiss
Worlds Fair USA

"Leading an effort to organizing the
first U.S. Worlds Fair since 1984"
Check us out in Bloomberg Businessweek
Follow us on Facebook

Garden City: It's not Queens

From CBS 2:

The Victorian gem in Garden City is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but that designation does not protect it from the wrecking ball.

“To lose this type of history to Garden City would be a shame,” said Michael Raab of the Nassau County Office of Housing and Community Development. “It is one of the Stewart homes.”

For months, there were no takers for the 133-year-old home. The Garden City Historical Society was devastated at the thought of losing it, and caught the attention of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.

Mangano asked Raab to begin pulling together volunteers, and dozens came aboard to offer to donate their time and services.

“It is a heartwarming project to be able to help a potential veteran in need of housing,” said Michael Pfeiffer of the Nassau County Habitat for Humanity.

If the plan works, expert volunteers will actually lift the house, put it on hydraulic flatbeds, and slowly roll it to Mitchell Field.

NYCID: not all it's cracked up to be

From AM-NY:

When I received a letter two weeks later containing the card I was surprised: Despite my visa expiring in a year, the card said I was a New Yorker until 2021. My face was over-imposed on the map of the five boroughs for five years!

Two months later, as I tried to get into a well-known Hell’s Kitchen bar, the bouncer asked for proof of age. An occasion to unsheathe my card!

I was baffled when he shook his head and said: “We don’t accept this, this is not valid. You need a state ID.”

“This is from the city of New York,” I said. “Yeah, we don’t accept this.”

My Italian driving license opened the gate. I downgraded the episode, labeling it a misunderstanding.

But after a while, it happened again. This time I couldn’t even get in to a Williamsburg bar, despite my friends’ assurances about my age. And I wasn’t carrying my Italian driving license anymore.

“Why do I need this,” I thought of the license, “if I have the IDNYC.”

My wife laughed at me that night. She didn’t want to get the card after I showed her mine. “You wasted your time,” she said.

I was convinced there must’ve been a mistake, even though I remembered the bank had refused a check without an identification other than my IDNYC.

Finally, the coup de grace came in May. I went for a jog in Prospect Park, and I was returning home when I thought to stop by the zoo. As an IDNYC holder, I was entitled to free entry: finally some privilege!

I approached the gate and showed the card. I was told that I first needed to go to the Bronx Zoo (physically) to register before I could gain free entry.

Rome is well-known for its byzantine bureaucracy. I have lived in New York for about a year, and I don’t carry my IDNYC card anymore. I now feel at home.:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Effort underway to protect Childs Restaurant facade

From DNA Info:

A 1920s-era building on Broadway that was once home to one of the nation's earliest restaurant chains is under renovation, sparking concern from a local historical group that wants to make sure its exterior is preserved.

The former Childs Restaurant building at 36-01 Broadway is recognizable for its ornate facade of nautical-themed terra cotta figures.

But those details are currently concealed behind scaffolding as crews renovate the property to combine it with a shop next door — prompting worries about the future of the unique architecture.

"It's just a beautiful gem of a building," said Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. "When people walk up and down that street they look at that, they instinctively look at that building."

The owners of the property — that was most recently occupied by a Rite Aid — are combining the now vacant space with the DII discount shop next door to it, according to Morris Dweck, who works for the variety store chain.

The company was just made aware of the community's interest in preserving the facade after receiving an email about it on Thursday, Dweck said, and it's still determining what to do to address residents' concerns.

City falsified lead testing records

From the Daily News:

City workers falsified records to claim day care centers had tested for lead in drinking water when no tests were actually performed, a city controller audit released Friday found.

Starting in 2008, the city was supposed to make sure all day care centers tested drinking water for lead. But Controller Scott Stringer's auditors found that by 2011, the city Department of Health & Mental Hygiene had dropped the ball.

DOHMH — the agency that's required to inspect all 11,000 child care centers in New York City annually — had more or less given up on the task.

"We have supervisors who told employees to falsify these tests and they never bothered for four years to go back and do the testing," Stringer said. "This is outrageous. Neglecting this lead test is a gamble on the health and safety of our kids."

At first, Stringer found, the city tried to enforce the lead test requirement. But by 2011, inspectors were finding the providers weren't keeping up with the testing requirement.

Soon DOHMH supervisors were instructing underlings to simply mark "tested" at sites that had not be tested. This allowed the city to renew or approve a new license for day care providers without actually testing for lead in drinking water at their sites.

Under pressure to keep child care centers open, the agency's bureau of child care management directed staff to claim that the agency had received lead water test results, regardless of whether such tests had been received.

Huge LGA parking garage concerns East Elmhurst

From the Queens Chronicle:

A number of East Elmhurst residents turned out at Community Board 3’s meeting last week to voice their displeasure with a plan to build an eight-story parking garage near LaGuardia Airport.

The Parking Spot wants to demolish the existing parking facilities next to the LaGuardia Marriott hotel at 102-05 Ditmars Boulevard and replace them with a garage that would have more than 1,700 parking spaces.

The plan has gotten some backlash from area residents who fear the project will increase traffic congestion and be a drain on the neighborhood.

“This is a residential community,” said Arthur Bryant. “They have to take it somewhere else. As far as I’m concerned, I hope the board turns it down. I hope the community turns it down.”

Representatives from The Parking Spot came in front of the board in hopes of securing various special permits to help facilitate the project.

The board voted against the approval of the permits.

Before the vote, John Lyons, the senior vice president of development at The Parking Spot, tried to alleviate concerns about traffic congestion, saying the garage would have a relatively modest impact.

He emphasized it would focus largely on long-term parking for travelers flying out of LaGuardia.

I thought we didn't need parking lots anymore because we were all supposed to ride bikes.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Police ignore dumped trailer under LIRR

From Cleanup Jamaica Queens:

At around 11:00am I saw a large tractor trailer waste trucks parked in the 170 LIRR Tunnel. I reported it to 311 and eventually go this response:

Service Request #: C1-1-1269576281
Date Submitted: 06/24/16 4:37:11 PM
Request Type: Derelict Vehicle
Details: With License Plate

Your Service Request was closed. The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary.

Which is funny because around 4pm, when I went by, the same truck was there without the cab, so there was just an abandoned container and another tractor trailer waste truck parked right behind it. This blatant illegal activity is going on with all of the LIRR Tunnels in the downtown Jamaica area. I guess if terrorist wanted to blow up the LIRR some day, just come out to Jamaica, put a truck in one of these tunnels with explosives and have a field day, because no one is going to stop you from parking a large truck there.

Dirtbag gets jail for house theft

From the Daily News:

A Queens ex-con pleaded guilty on Friday to stealing an elderly woman's house out from under her.

Darrell Beatty, 51, pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a forged instrument for using a phony deed to swipe Jennifer Merin's Laurelton house out from under her.

As a result of the plea deal, he'll get even more free housing — it calls for him to get a year in jail.

Merin, 72, said that's not enough time.

"I'm glad he's going to jail. He deserves to go to jail but I think that the sentence was too brief," she told the Daily News after Beatty's plea. "He lived in my house for longer than he will be in jail and he'll be out on the streets again."

2 Queens pols jockeying for speakership

From NY1:

Just two and a half years ago, half a dozen candidates slugged it out to become the next speaker of the city council.

It was a hard-fought race that captivated City Hall in late 2013, but Melissa Mark Viverito emerged as the victor.

Now, a year and a half before the 51 members vote on her successor, the race to replace her is underway behind the scenes.

"Anybody who tells you that they aren't interested in speaker in this very aggressive, passionate council is being disingenuous," Brooklyn City Councilor Robert Cornegy said outside City Hall.

At least eight council members have emerged as possible speaker candidates: Jimmy Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, both Queens city councilors; Manhattan Councilors Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Levine, and Corey Johnson; Vanessa Gibson of The Bronx; and Brooklyn Councilors Cornegy and Jumaane Williams.

But none of them has declared that he or she is officially seeking the spot.

Questions raised about use of Bayside house

From the Queens Chronicle:

Chadney Spencer, the president of the Northwest Bayside Civic Assocation, is very concerned about one of the houses in the area his group represents. At 202-12 32 Ave., he said, as many as 25 children may be living there.

“Every morning at 7:42 a.m., around 18 or 20 children are walking in front of my house in a double-file line,” said Spencer, who lives nearby. When the Chronicle pressed the doorbell of the house in an attempt to speak with someone who lives at the property, dozens of small pairs of shoes could be seen inside the house.

Recently, the civic leader approached the group when they were walking into the house after school to find out more about them and why they were living there.

“Eventually, a lady came up and the lady comes out and says, ‘Yes, can I help you?’” Spencer said.

After 30 to 45 minutes of conversation, during which Spencer said the woman had a defensive tone and did not answer Spencer’s question about how many children are living at the property, even though he asked it six times, she finally answered his question.

“She said, ‘Oh, their parents are traveling in Europe,’” Spencer said.

The three-story house, according to a Department of Buildings certificate of occupancy from 2005 — the most recent one — has two dwelling units. And according to city records, the property is owned by Shu Jing Cao and Cruz Figueroa Jr.

Neither of them could be reached for comment.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Con Ed scam calls proliferating

From CBS 2:

Con Edison issued a warning Wednesday about con artists who claim to represent the public utility, and CBS2 has discovered several small business owners that have already become victims.

As CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported, Con Ed said it gets 15 to 20 calls about such scams every day. In one recent occasion, the crooks snagged $1,000, and when CBS2’s Doris called to confront the scammers, they weren’t too happy.

QB bridge toll lowered in latest Move NY bill

From Sunnyside Post:

A version of the controversial “Move NY” transportation plan, which would redistribute tolls among the City’s bridges and crossings, was introduced in the State Senate earlier this month with a slightly lower Queensboro Bridge fare than has been previously proposed.

“Move NY” has been a subject of debate since it was formally proposed by a coalition of transportation advocates in February 2015; it was introduced as a bill in the State Assembly by Member Robert Rodriguez of Manhattan this past March.

Rodriguez’s bill would add a toll to East River bridges, including the Queensboro, of $5.54 with E-ZPass or $8 without. These numbers are matched with the tolls at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Hugh L. Carey (Brooklyn-Battery) Tunnel. In contrast the Senate legislation, introduced by State Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, proposes a $5 Queensboro toll with E-ZPass.

The plan also involves discounting other major bridges that are currently tolled, including the Triborough/RFK, by up to 48 percent.

Advocates of the Move NY plan believe that this “toll swap” would be more fair for drivers on the Triborough/RFK and other tolled bridges, who have fewer transportation alternatives. Meanwhile, they charge that it would de-incentivize the Queensboro Bridge, therefore reducing congestion and pollution around Queens Plaza.

The primary promised benefit of the overall plan is that millions of new dollars in revenue would be created, which would then go towards improving New York City’s public transit and transportation infrastructure.

Too much activity in the park?

From the Daily News:

One Queens lawmaker said Wednesday the promoters of the recently announced Kanye West headlining concert at Citi Field need to examine the traffic, safety and economic impact of the show if they want support from the surrounding community.

Founders Entertainment, the organizers of the Governor's Ball, on Tuesday said the first-ever Meadows Music and Arts Festival will take place in the Citi Field parking lot on Oct. 1 and 2.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, whose district includes Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said Wednesday she is worried about conflicts with the busy Makers Faire taking place the same weekend at the New York Hall of Science across the park.

But Ferreras stopped short of calling for Meadows to be canceled or rescheduled.

“I believe in bringing cultural events that can spur economic growth to benefit our community,” said Ferreras, the chair of the Council’s Finance Committee. “There are serious concerns about the impact of a music festival on our community, including how this would impact Makers Faire, an existing and popular event in the same park on the same day.”

Founders officials, who have met with Ferreras, said they are not making any parking available to attendees of the Meadows in order to accommodate other events.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Illegal conversion bill introduced by Brooklyn City Council member

From Brooklyn Daily:

Brooklyn lawmakers introduced a long-awaited bill on June 21 to combat illegal home construction that activists say is tearing apart Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, but critics say it could put immigrant families in a bind. A legal snag significantly delayed the legislation, so lawmakers dropped a sticky provision that created a relief fund for residents of diced-up homes who are displaced by city-issued vacate orders. But cracking down on illegal housing without a safety net will drive tenants — many of whom are immigrants — onto the streets or into overcrowded housing conditions, critics say.

“Given that the city has very little affordable housing options, where are they going to go?” said Aniqa Nawabi a spokeswoman for Chhaya Community Development Corporation, which advocates for Asian immigrants. “There can be overcrowding in other apartments, because people will go to live with family, 10 to an apartment.”

But legislators had to cut the provision, because it was holding up the works, according to the bill’s primary sponsor, who argued the plan would lead to few evictions, because the city only issues vacate orders on “immediately hazardous” buildings.

“It gives the commi ssioner the option if they find a fire is about to erupt or there’s smoke conditions or gas,” Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) said. “So not everyone will be displaced — the owner will get fined, the fine will go through, and they’ll financially suffer, but that doesn’t mean there will be a vacate order.”

The legislation, announced to great fanfare in March last year, would create a building violation called “aggravated illegal conversion” — denoting a flippant attempt to subdivide a house against code — that comes with a $15,000-per-unit fine for smaller homes with three or more illegal units. It would also let the Department of Buildings obtain warrants for suspected conversions and put liens on buildings whose owners do not pay up.

It does not affect buildings with fewer than three illegal units to protect otherwise compliant property owners who create basement apartments. Nawabi and Chhaya say the city should go a step further on that front and legalize basement apartments so it can better regulate them.

Build-It-Back project topples over in Brooklyn

From NBC:

A Sandy-damaged home in Brooklyn that was undergoing construction under the city's Build It Back program collapsed Wednesday, just as a family was getting ready to move back in, neighbors say.

The home at 70 Beacon Court in Gerritsen Beach was badly damaged during the 2012 storm, and was finally being repaired, according to neighbors.

It toppled over Wednesday, leaving beams sticking in the air and separating the floor from its foundation.

This doesn't look out of place at all

QNS/photo by Anthony Giudice

A huge two-story expansion has been added on top of a home on Cornelia Street near the Bushwick/Ridgewood border, and some residents are concerned that more of the same could be coming across to the Queens side.

According to documents filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB), the owners of 396 Cornelia St. filed for — and were approved for — expanding the existing two-story, two-family building into a four-story, six-family edifice. The application was approved in June 2015, and a permit was issued for the entire job on May 11, 2016.

This expansion will add a new second floor mezzanine level, a new third floor, a new fourth floor and a bulkhead on top of the building, effectively doubling the square footage of the building, from 2,254 square feet to 4,340 square feet.

The documents show that the building’s new additions are all in compliance with the area’s R6 zoning regulations, including the total height of the building, the required length and width, floor area ratio (FAR) and yard sizes. The plans even propose adding a tree to the site.

With the passing of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s zoning text amendments earlier this year, many residents feel developments like this could make their way into Ridgewood and neighboring areas.

Ridgewood beach gets benched

This must be the all time record for a rejection at the SLA. Go to this page, scroll down about 15 entries and look for #113 Rockaway Beach Brewing Company.

No C of O = No permit. NEXT!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fire started at ex-squatter house

From PIX11:

We’ve told you all about 83-year-old Aida’s fight, finally evicting the squatters in February.

But in April, another concern: a suspicious fire started in some construction debris near the garage of Aida’s house.

When Byrne’s nephew Patrick came over, he couldn’t believe it.

“When I came in the morning the fence was completely down. He had a lot of lumber here, and it was burnt right here,” Patrick said.

The fire department hasn’t supplied an official report yet. Patrick doesn’t know who may have set the fire, nor do we. But it’s more than Aida should have to bear.

Goodwill will stop the beeping noise

From PIX11:

Residents in Astoria say they haven’t been able to sleep because of noisy trucks rattling through their neighborhood and loudly beeping as they back up, as early as 4:30 a.m.

A viewer contacted PIX11 News for help. Berty Samovici recorded video of the disruptive daily noise. He said trucks owned by Goodwill are constantly backing up, evening on the weekends and early in the morning.

PIX11 News reached out to the CEO of Goodwill, who promised to fix the problem.

“We are going to stop the noise,” she said.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Nightlife brings on gentrification

From RA:

"The gentrification of the East Village explicitly hinged on the aesthetics and ambience that the neighborhood's counter-cultural and bohemian artists had created [during] the 1960s and 1970s," she wrote. "The media's attention to this [movement] gradually changed the popular picture of the neighborhood from low and marginal to central and interesting."

Clubs often perform the same function, she said: "Thriving nightlife has ushered in and even constituted an essential part of the revitalization of neighborhoods." Her research showed that nightlife can "revalorize depressed property and trigger gentrification, enabling landlords and real-estate investors to reap 'monopoly rent.'"

Developers often benefit from the buzz that hip nightclubs generate for down-and-out neighborhoods. But Hae argues that when new, upmarket tenants move in and start complaining, they side against nightlife. This tends to be their outlook on the arts as well. "Municipalities [sponsored] workshops and housing subsidies as an anchor for future real estate capital investment in dilapidated neighborhoods," she explained. "Later [they] removed the subsidies to relocate artists elsewhere once gentrification kicks in."

It's tough to draw a causal relationship between vibrant nightlife and displaced communities. But plenty of real estate players in the last 40 years have tried to harness music scenes as part of their development plans. And plenty of cultural creators are concerned with the role they play in helping gentrification along.

Audit finds lots of misclassified buildings

From the Forum:

Nearly 100 mixed-use borough buildings have been improperly assessed by the Department of Finance and therefore taxed at an incorrect, lower rate, according to an audit released this week by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Prompted by the report’s findings, Finance has already begun to correct the tax status of the 97 buildings in Queens that auditors determined were misclassified.

According to Stringer, properties in New York City are given one of four tax classes: Class 1 are one- to three-unit buildings, primarily used for residential purposes; Class 2 are all other residential properties; Class 3 are properties owned by utilities and special franchises; and Class 4 are all other properties not in Class 1, 2, or 3. The audit examined whether Class 1 mixed-use buildings in Queens were properly assessed and taxed by the Department of Finance as of May 2015.

Auditors identified 97 buildings that were misclassified as Tax Class 1 mixed-use buildings, and taxed at a lower rate than they should have been. DOF agreed that 78 properties should be taxed at 45 percent of market value, instead of the residential rate of six percent at which they had been taxed, and that 19 properties required additional interior inspection, Stringer noted.

In total, Stringer’s office estimated that, after the changes are made, the City will bring in an additional $1.28 million in taxes over the next five years.

Auditors also found that 33 of the misclassified buildings in Queens had been inspected by DOF assessors within the last three years – raising questions about the agency’s training and inspection process.

He's baaaack

From DNA Info:

A disgraced former pol is trying to get back into politics in the neighborhood's district leader race, touting his accomplishments without mentioning his 2009 conviction for assault.

Hiram Monserrate — who was booted from the state Senate in 2009 after he was convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend — has posted fliers around Corona and East Elmhurst listing his accomplishments ahead of the September primary.

"A lifetime of service and delivering for our community," the flier says, noting his time in the City Council, state Senate, NYPD and Marine Corps.

"Leadership with results. Our struggle continues," the bottom of the flier says.

Monserrate is barred from running for most elected offices since he was convicted of a felony. But he can run for the role of district leader — an unpaid, volunteer job that doesn't have much power, officials said.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Loud music party stopped at Willets Point

Steinway Mansion update (get up and bar the door!)

Hello Crapman:

Here are the latest pix from the Mansion. 13 months of "construction" and my photo coverage.

According to the "Steinway Park" site, 4 warehouses are "in contract":

One of them is on the 41st Street side where no work has been done for almost 2 months. This is 18-27 41st Street - right at the foot of the Mansion. Strange that someone would enter into a real estate deal with nothing built there yet? (See the middle photo of my post.) And why is there no work being done there - 41st Street - at all?

PLUS, why don't Loria/Lucchese go up to the tower and close the damn door?

At the front,

Contractor hogging up the parking

"This Astoria home at 32-57 38th Street is being demolished to make room for "a new 4 story building." The builders put up a No Parking sign and placed an orange cone in the parking space in front of the house, but someone moved it to park there. No work has gone on there for several days, yet they are trying to reserve the parking space for their convenience. This is a residential neighborhood, and parking is already tight." - Jimmy

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Overcrowded subways causing delays

From NY1:

If you thought that maybe this year, MTA trains were letting you down more than usual, well, you're not alone — even the MTA agrees that delays increased this year.

In April 2015, there were nearly 49,000 delays. In April of this year, they had slightly more than 50,000 delays.

The transit agency says overcrowding has gotten worse, accounting for 38% of delays in April.

People took nearly 1.8 billion rides on subways last year, setting a new record.

Wow, I wonder what's causing the overcrowding??

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Francis Lewis tree massacre

"Why are old growth city owned curb trees being cut down near Francis Lewis & Crocheron?
Those trees are big...must have been there since the 1950s!
Couldn't they have just trimmed them?" - The Flushing Phantom

421-a not renewed by Albany

From DNA Info:

Albany wrapped up its last official session of 2016 on Thursday, without renewing or replacing the state's controversial 421-a program — a tax break for certain newly-built residential developments that expired in January.

Lawmakers were slated to reconvene in both the Senate and Assembly early Friday, but it was still unclear Friday morning whether they'd resolve the issue before adjourning for the year.

Without a tax break program, developers warned that rental housing development is likely to shrink and put a major dent in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to build 80,000 new units of affordable housing over the next decade.

State lawmakers this week proposed a replacement bill that sets new wage floors for construction workers on projects receiving the tax breaks. And while the real estate community seems placated, construction workers and housing advocates say the new plan doesn't do enough.

Both sides agree though that 421-a had been a large drive of rental development in the city, and without it, some sort of subsidy would be needed to replace it.

On Wednesday, the mayor criticized the existing program for wasting taxpayer dollars to subsidize luxury housing.

Experts say the loss of 421-a could also greatly hinder the mayor's recently-approved Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, which largely relied on the tax breaks to make it easier for developers to build housing that includes affordable units.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Yankee Stadium parking garage debacle worsens

Photo from Daily News
From Crains:

The last-place New York Yankees aren’t the only struggling enterprise in the Bronx. Documents show the net loss on the municipal-bond financed parking garages outside Yankee Stadium widened last year to $31.2 million.

Bronx Parking Development Co. issued $237.6 million of municipal bonds in 2007 through New York City’s Industrial Development Agency to build three garages and renovate two others.

The garages and five parking lots, which have about 8,700 public spaces, have suffered as more fans take public transportation to the Major League Baseball games and drivers balk at paying $25 to $35 to park. In June 2015 fewer than 10% of fans attending Yankees games parked in the garages, according to bond filings.

BP pushing for "more retail"

From the Times Ledger:

Developers and experts in Flushing and downtown Jamaica weighed in on how recent development projects have affected the two neighborhoods at a panel last week in Long Island City hosted by ULI New York, a nonprofit that provides leadership in land use policy.

The panel, moderated by Melva Miller, Queens deputy borough president, was held June 9 at SPACES at the Falchi Building, located at 31-00 47th Ave.

The panelists were David Brickman, vice president of Onex Real Estate Partners; Hope Knight, president and CEO of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation; and Michael Meyer, president of F&T Group.

“Queens is severely under-retailed and if you speak to your colleagues about development in Queens, as we develop housing we need to make sure that we have the infrastructure and the amenities, the commercial, to go along with that residential development,” Miller said.

Brickman, whose company is the developer for Sky View Parc, said that although it was challenging to complete a development on such a large, complex site in one economic cycle, big box retailers were scouring New York City because of the density and lack of retail and people were looking to move back into the city from the suburbs. Parking has also become a big concern.

Yes, bring us the big box stores. That's exactly what we need.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

AirBnB listers face heavy fines if new bill is passed

From Crains:

With only two full days left in their 2016 legislative session, state lawmakers are poised to deal a blow to Airbnb.

A bipartisan bill to ban Airbnb-style posts for short-term sublets is moving swiftly through legislative committees and could get floor votes in Albany Wednesday or Thursday. Senate leaders informed the Real Estate Board of New York, which supports the bill, that the bill will move before the session ends, according to a source.

Short-term apartment sublets—those for less than 30 days—were banned in New York City in 2010. But under the law, only building owners, not the renters who arrange the sublet, face penalties.

The new legislation would make advertising such a sublet, or any use other than permanent residence, illegal. The change would put absent Airbnb hosts on the hook instead of their landlords. The proposed penalties range from up to $1,000 for a first offense to $7,500 for third and subsequent violations.

DeBlasio working on $325 million ferry debacle

From the NY Times:

With New York City’s subway trains jammed to capacity and more people than ever pouring into neighborhoods outside Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio is embarking on an ambitious and expensive plan to create a fleet of city-owned ferryboats that would crisscross the surrounding waterways and connect all five boroughs.

At a cost of more than $325 million, Mr. de Blasio’s expansion of ferry service would be one of the biggest bets any city in the world has made on boats as vehicles for mass transit. The mayor predicts that the ferries would carry 4.5 million passengers a year, about twice as many riders as San Francisco’s ferry system handles.

Mr. de Blasio has promised New Yorkers that ferries will start running on three new routes, serving South Brooklyn, and Astoria and the Rockaways in Queens, by the end of June 2017, four months before he would stand for re-election. Additional routes to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and to Soundview in the Bronx will be added in 2018.

“Our aim is to make this thing as big as possible,” said Alicia Glen, the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development. “No guts, no glory.”

“We’re still living with the footprint of an early-19th-century transit map that didn’t contemplate the kind of job growth we’re seeing along the waterfront,” Ms. Glen said. The administration, she said, is trying to create a transportation network for “the new New York.”

Job growth along the waterfront? All I see there are giant residential towers filled with yuppies. That's who this is really for. Everyone else will have to do train-ferry-bus or some combination like that, which is impractical.

Garaufis house destroyers forced to get new building permit

From the Times Ledger:

The former home of U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis has made headlines in recent months because of backlash over renovations deemed more than excessive by neighborhood residents.

Now, the city Department of Buildings has ordered the owners to file for a new building permit before construction can continue at 218-15 40th Ave.

The original building plans showed that only the front of the house was to be renovated with additional construction.. But neighbors watched in despair back in April as the roof was torn off and the inside gutted, according to Bonnie Skala Kiladitis, who grew up across the street. Eventually the house was reduced to ground level.

Garaufis’ stately house is believed to have been built circa 1890 and was the one of the personal residences of the Lawrence family, influential members of the early Bayside community. A study conducted by historic preservation consultant Paul Graziano found the Lawrence Estate is eligible for the National and State Register of Historic Places, a recognition that carries no protection from demolition or alteration.

A notice to revoke on the building permit was issued to the owners at the end of April, which would force them to answer objections with the DOB for renovating beyond the limits of the alt-1 permit.

A DOB spokesman has since said the owners will be required to file for a new building permit before moving forward with their building plans, and not an alteration permit.

It is not immediately clear whether any fines will be levied against the owner, a recent New Jersey transplant who identified herself by the name Lisa, but a spokesman from Vallone’s office said the councilman is drafting legislation to prevent work on sites that have a “notice to revoke” on building permits to continue while waiting for an answer to objections.

“We are currently drafting a piece of legislation that would make it so a developer/homeowner would not be allowed to continue work during the period between receiving a notice to revoke and answering the objections that warranted that notice. The bill will be introduced in the fall. We felt that receiving a notice to revoke is significant enough to warrant a stop of work. If you are allowed to continue work while awaiting to answer the objections, the notice to revoke is really more like a ‘notice to finish your work as fast as possible.’ Our goal is to give the DOB as many tools as we can to address issues like these when they come up,” the spokesman said.

You generally aren't getting a notice to revoke without first getting a stop work order, so I'm not sure what this proposed legislation would accomplish. The problem is enforcement.

Junked cars litter Jamaica street

From PIX11:

Crashed cars with no license plates are taking over the streets and sidewalks of a Queens community where residents reached out to PIX11 News for help cleaning up their neighborhood.

It’s hard enough for residents to find parking spots along 147th Place in Jamaica, Queens, and now they’re battling for space with busted cars making the streets and sidewalks look like a junkyard.

When PIX11 News arrived at the scene Wednesday, we spotted 11 plate-less cars parked on the city street and sidewalk. Many were dented; one was missing a front fender.

We were tipped off by Joe Moretti, a community watchdog who chronicles his neighborhood in the blog Cleanup Jamaica Queens Now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sunnyside getting a park

From Sunnyside Post:

The site of the former Phipps Playground, a privately-owned lot located on the corner of 39th Avenue and 50th Street, is likely to become a city park.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has allocated $3 million for the purchase and renovation of the former playground, which is currently owned by DBH Associates, a development company.

DBH bought the site from Phipps Houses in July 2007 for $1.4 million. The former playground is located within the confines of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

The old lot, where several generations of Sunnyside and Woodside children played, is one of the few depression-era playgrounds still in existence in the City. Its old shed, sandbox pavilion and swings and slides still remain intact.

See that? Certain neighborhoods get parks! What promises were made for this?

City says mosquitoes won't breed at Astoria Pool

From NBC:

Scan Astoria Park with your eyes and it is hard to miss the high dive pool. The towering diving platforms have been closed to the public for years, but the pool beneath never stopped capturing rainwater.

On a recent Thursday, you could seeas a faded basketball floating in the cloudy water, and knee-high weeds growing out of the pool.

"It’s definitely a mosquito breeding ground,” said neighbor Ian Eastwick, as he walked by the abandoned pool. "That’s where they hang out. That’s where they come from."

"I think they need to clean it up, man," added Les Fernandez, as he finished his workout in the park. "This is a popular park."

In April, Mayor de Blasio announced a $21 million campaign to fight Zika. The strategy includes public service announcements, travel advisories and warnings to get rid of stagnant water that might be collecting in old tires, birdbaths and pools.

Despite those warnings, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation suggested the Astoria Park high dive pool does not represent a mosquito risk.

"The diving pool is maintained regularly by NYC Parks staff, including weeding, removing debris, and spraying for insects," Meghan Lalor, a Parks spokeswoman, wrote in an email to the I-Team.

"However, due to the nature of the deep pool, this work is difficult and requires specialized equipment."

Child rapist living at Pan Am shelter

From the Queens Chronicle:

A Level 3 sex offender may be living at the Boulevard Family Residence — an Elmhurst homeless shelter for families — according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

State records list Dwayne Clark's primary residence as 79-00 Queens Blvd. A footnote says "the United States Postal Service has indicated this may not be a valid mailing address," but exactly what that means is unclear.

The Department of Homeless Services could not immediately confirm or deny whether Clark is a resident at the shelter, and a representative said the matter is being investigated.

According to state records, the 47-year-old Clark was convicted in 1995 of first-degree sexual abuse for assaulting a pair of 13-year-old girls and a 10-year-old girl.

Records say he had sexual intercourse with the victims after he "immediately and physically overpowered" them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

City planning to knock down school it landmarked

From Brooklyn Daily:

The city will knock over Sunset Park’s castle-like former police precinct to make way for 300 classroom seats, officials announced on June 13. School Construction Authority reps made the pitch to Community Board Seven, claiming the crumbling landmark at Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street would “probably have to come down” while also showing photos of schools the agency previously built atop demolished historic structures.

School Construction Authority reps refused to say the agency would definitely demolish the building, which would require a virtually unheard-of un-landmarking or for the city to condemn the derelict structure as a hazard. However, they did show locals photos of schools the agency build with an aesthetic nod to the historic buildings that they replaced, such as PS 133 in Park Slope, which rose from an older schoolhouse, and PS 30 in Bay Ridge, which succeeded the Green Church.

Wifi kiosks attract homeless

From CBS 2:

Superfast, free wi-fi is rolling out across New York City.

Payphones are being replaced with high-tech kiosks that offer internet access and smartphone charging, but some fear they’re becoming hotspots for the homeless.

It’s part of an effort to help the one in four New Yorkers who don’t have high-speed internet access at home.

But people making themselves comfortable at the kiosks – many of them homeless – is already an issue for some New Yorkers who have taken to documenting the problem on social media.

Stop Work Order issued at Jamaica hotel

From PIX11:

Dorothy Singh lives in a two-family home she owns on Waltham Street and 97th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens.

It’s always been a residential neighborhood, but recently, construction of a hotel began on the corner lot.

The residents checked with their local community board, Community Board 12, and learned zoning regulations do permit the construction of the hotel.

Dorothy’s home is the closest to the construction site and she contacted PIX11 to complain about the damage caused by the construction.

She showed us the large holes in the ceiling and some walls; the cracks in the glass cabinetry and the floors and the bricks that have fallen from the roof.

Dorothy says she has complained to the workers, but says they claim not to speak English.

However, she has not called the complaint numbers posted on the construction fence by the contractor, Triboro Construction Services, and the hotel owner, Waltham Hotel.

So PIX11 contacted them and they denied being responsible for any damage to Dorothy’s home.

We then contacted the NYC Department of Buildings. The DOB sent out an inspection team and as a result of their findings, they issued a partial Stop Work Order.

Monday, June 13, 2016

No, it's not that people hate you

From Yahoo/AP:

After months of searching to find a home for their mosque, a Muslim group settled on a century-old, three-story Tudor in a leafy neighborhood of a New York suburb, a fixer-upper they say would be perfect with the right renovations.

But not long after the sale went through last year, neighbors thought it was perfect just the way it was. A neighborhood group filed an application to have the building designated a city landmark and won final approval last month, meaning any exterior renovations will now have to go through a time-consuming permission process.

While city officials insisted the landmark status wouldn't prevent the home being used as a mosque, the Muslim organization saw something more sinister.

"We feel that we are being targeted," said Arshad Shariff, chairman of the Islamic Community Center of Mid-Westchester. "And unnecessary obstacles and hindrances are being placed because we are Muslim."

No, it's because you were planning to fuck up an historic house that people in the neighborhood are attached to and admire. Get it?

DeBlasio trying hard to pass real estate friendly legislation in Albany

From New York Magazine:

Not since the skyscraper boom of the Jazz Age has New York's skyline undergone a transformation as it is now. More than two dozen supertall towers — and counting — are in some stage of planning or construction, and not just for Billionaire's Row. These slender 800-plus-foot cloudbusters are springing up in the Flatiron, the Financial District, the Far West Side, and even Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. How long before they start sprouting in Riverdale or Tottenville?

How about next week?

That is the fear that erupted after a legislative package came to light in Albany this week that would remove restrictions on the size of residential buildings in the five boroughs. The bills, quietly introduced by Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder and Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright, would remove a 1961 density cap placed on residential buildings. Under the new rules — which could be passed before the session ends next Friday — residential buildings in most of the city could be far bigger than they are now. And the biggest backer, besides Big Real Estate, is Mayor Bill de Blasio himself.

The rule change is subtle, affecting the formula called floor-area ratio, or F.A.R., that is used to compute the bulk and size of any building. Right now, residential buildings can have an F.A.R. of up to 12: A 5,000-square-foot lot, say, can be occupied by a 60,000-square-foot building, which usually works out (because of space set aside for setbacks, plazas, and so forth) to 20 to 25 stories. Residential buildings’ F.A.R. is capped by state rather than city law, and has been since 1961, when it was not only written into the zoning code but also enacted in Albany to ensure that it would stick.

The bill as introduced in the Assembly and Senate would eliminate that limit, although developers would have to get anything above 12 approved by the Department of City Planning (as well as the City Council, where public outcry might try to limit things again). That could mean a 40- or 50-story building, or even more, on that same 5,000-square-foot lot. (Yes, we already have residential buildings that are far taller, but building those has required special horse-trading moves, like acquiring the rights from several structures and bundling them.) Many neighborhoods have absolute height restrictions set by the city, but some, like Midtown and Downtown Brooklyn, do not. The de Blasio administration argues that by lifting the cap, developers will be willing to introduce public benefits in their projects, like affordable housing, open space, or infrastructure investment.

Some...New Yorkers in Albany do not share that faith. A group of lawmakers, mostly from the city, have risen up in opposition to the legislation in recent days. While the administration remains supportive of the proposal, it now looks like it will have to wait for the F.A.R. caps to be lifted until another legislative session. “Like everything that happens in Albany, this was being done at the last minute, out of nowhere, with no discussion,” State Senator Liz Krueger said. “And big real estate gets exactly what it wants, and the community loses.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A new low, even for Queens

Taken at an unknown subway station somewhere in the borough.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Questioning Markey's motives

Assemblywoman Marge Markey has claimed that the Bishop of Brooklyn tried to bribe her back in 2010 for $5,000 at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn. Then she admitted that she was wrong, it was at the Bishop's Chancery and it was in 2007.

Why isn't the press asking why a public official didn't report the bribery to authorities, who then would have set up a sting to ensnare the bishop? Then there would be no doubt that her story was the truth.

This seems to be a convenient lie concocted by an irrelevant, desperate politician.

Bayside's Anchor Inn sold for $16M

From the NY Real Estate Journal:

Charles Chang, a senior director at Highcap Group, has arranged the sale of the Anchor Inn located at 215-34 Northern Blvd., between 215th Pl. and 216th St., in the Bayside neighborhood. The two-story 27,000 s/f, 66-key hotel was under long-term ownership for close to 50 years and comes with an additional 13,000 s/f of air rights.

Chang said, “The flexible C2-2/R6B zoning allows for multiple uses. Potential plans include the addition of one floor plus another 44 keys which would bring the total to 110 with a maximum usable floor area of 40,000 s/f.” The property is situated west of the Cross Island Pwy., and within walking distance to the Long Island RR Bayside Station. It has 200 ft. of frontage on Northern Blvd., a busy thoroughfare near the main shopping district on Bell Blvd.

The property sold for $15.9 million, which is $241,000 per key.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Some great Alley Creek photography

There's a great photo essay about Alley Creek over at Curbed today.

New pre-K costs $6.5M

From CBS 2:

New York City is defending the big cost of renovating a Brooklyn storefront school for 20 pre-kindergarten kids.

CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported the city is shelling out $6.5 million for the Bay Ridge facility that’s a former retail space.

Mike Reilly, a public school parent who serves on his local community education council, applauds Mayor Bill de Blasio for enacting universal pre-k. However, he fears money was wasted in the rush to implement it, while schools such as PS-37 – which serves special needs students – wait years for needed improvements.

“This is something that he’s going to hang his hat on. That’s what it’s about. He wants to make sure that this is done, but by the same token he shouldn’t be putting things to the wayside,” Reilly said.

The Department of Education, though, isn’t blinking an eye over the price tag.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

1,000 miles of roadway to be repaved

From CBS 2:

A new project announcement will affect anyone who drives in New York City. The Department of Transportation unveiled a plan Tuesday to repave 1,000 miles of roadway throughout the boroughs, but it could come with a lot of frustration for commuters.

The more than $1 billion commitment over the next 10 years is aiming to get city streets in better shape, CBS2’s Emily Smith reported. The repaving will happen from the Bronx all the way to Staten Island.

While its welcome news for millions of drivers hitting deep potholes everyday, there will be milling on the streets for up to 20 days at a time. The conditions can make for an uncomfortable, bumpy drive or even road closures.

Queens Boulevard from:
Union Turnpike to Hoover Avenue

Hillside Avenue from:
184th Street to 188th Street
Clearview Expressway to Braddock Avenue

Utopia Parkway between:
Horace Harding Expressway & Jewel Avenue

Lefferts Boulevard from:
Kew Gardens Road to Metropolitan Avenue

Kew Gardens Road from:
Lefferts Boulevard to Van Wyck Expressway

E/B S/R Horance Harding Exressway from:
Kissena Boulevard to 164th Street