Sunday, December 31, 2017

Short sale specialists

From Buzzfeed:

On a bustling block in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, above a pharmacy and a bagel shop, sits the unmarked office of My Ideal Property. The long blocks outside are punctuated with Russian Cyrillic signs. Rego Park and nearby Forest Hills are home to a tight-knit community of Bukharians, first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants from Central Asia who migrated to the area after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The men, who called Serhant in 2015 with a deal, grew up in this diaspora. One of them, Isaac Aronov, graduated from Forest Hills High school in 2004. Public records show he landed a job as a mortgage broker at an office in Rego Park. It was the heyday of the boom. Housing prices were higher than they’d ever been. But the frothy market he entered was already heading toward disaster.

After the crash, Aronov, like Wall Street, was nimble enough to recognize that there was opportunity in distress. In 2008, he started My Ideal Property with some friends from the neighborhood. They were young, ambitious, and willing to work hard. With what one former partner described on his website as “zero experience or financial support,” they began buying homes in some stage of foreclosure.

They gravitated toward the majority black and Latino neighborhoods that were hubs of subprime lending before the crash, and later accounted for over three-quarters of New York City’s foreclosure filings. Taking out short-term, high-interest private loans from wealthy backers in Manhattan and Long Island, they bought fast.

It was a lucrative time to be buying, and investors across the city were busy. A recent analysis by the nonprofit Center for NYC Neighborhoods found that, between 2014 and 2016, more than 5,800 homes were “flipped,” or bought and sold within a year. Half of them were in some stage of foreclosure. Within this rush, the men behind My Ideal Property carved out a significant niche. By 2016, the company had done more than $250 million in deals and employed over 100 people, according one founder's website.

But that aggressive move into troubled neighborhoods has come at a cost for their inhabitants.

Defining the border

"The border between Queens, NYC & Nassau County, Long Island isn't so clear in places. There really isn't a defining body of land or water which determines the border, so maps are required to be referenced. Features such as street sign and fire hydrant styles give some clues on which side of the border you're on."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Why we can't get any major MTA projects done

Great expose in the NY Times:

An accountant discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the budget for new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

The budget showed that 900 workers were being paid to dig caverns for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting the historic station to the Long Island Rail Road. But the accountant could only identify about 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. Officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.

“Nobody knew what those people were doing, if they were doing anything,” said Michael Horodniceanu, who was then the head of construction at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs transit in New York. The workers were laid off, Mr. Horodniceanu said, but no one figured out how long they had been employed. “All we knew is they were each being paid about $1,000 every day.”

The discovery, which occurred in 2010 and was not disclosed to the public, illustrates one of the main issues that has helped lead to the increasing delays now tormenting millions of subway riders every day: The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing subway tunnels, tracks, trains and signals.

Friday, December 29, 2017

12 die in Bronx building with history of bad smoke detectors

From the Daily News:

A raging fire quickly swept through the five story building on Prospect Ave. at E. 187th St. — taking with it 12 lives — including a one-year-old child.

More than 160 firefighters responded to the five-alarm blaze near the Bronx Zoo. The inferno broke out at 6:51 p.m. on the first floor and quickly spread upward. Firefighters responded in three minutes, after receiving more than a dozen 911 calls.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. Sources said the blaze may have been sparked by a space heater, but de Blasio said was too early in the investigation to tell.

A database in the New York City Housing Preservation and Development revealed one of the apartments on the first floor — where the fire started — had open violations for bad carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Attempts to reach the building owners were unsuccessful.

City about to transfer 23 acres of land to developer without approved plan

From Willets Point United:

Through the Willets Point grapevine, we hear that the City is about to transfer ownership of 23 acres comprising the “Phase One” area of Willets Point, to Queens Development Group (“QDG”) – the joint venture of Sterling Equities (whose owners also own the New York Mets) and The Related Companies that the Bloomberg administration designated as the developer. This is the infamous give-away of 23 acres of valuable taxpayer property, which cost hundreds of millions of public dollars to acquire, to developers for the unjustified price of $1 (one dollar).

For the de Blasio administration to proceed with this sale at this time is outrageous and potentially illegal, for reasons summarized below.

First, Bill de Blasio is squandering a golden opportunity to cancel the Bloomberg administration’s planned, unjustified give-away of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer property to QDG for the price of $1 (one dollar), and instead to establish a legitimate price that is truly in the taxpayers’ interest.

Second, recall that the key reason that QDG was chosen to develop the Willets Point Phase One site, to the exclusion of several other developers that had submitted proposals, was that only QDG claimed to be able to expand the project by constructing its proposed “Willets West” mega-mall on public parkland located west of Citi Field stadium. If QDG is now unable to deliver that mega-mall on parkland, then the basis for choosing QDG as the developer in the first place no longer applies. Allowing QDG to develop the Willets Point Phase One property despite QDG being unable to deliver the Willets West mega-mall is to allow a “bait-and-switch” on the grandest of scales.

Third, it appears that the de Blasio administration is on the verge of transferring ownership of all lots that comprise the 23-acre Willets Point Phase One site to QDG for $1 (one dollar), on the basis of authorizations granted by then-Mayor Bloomberg and the Queens Borough Board during December 2013, pursuant to City Charter § 384(b)(4).

Since the City acquired additional lots within the Willets Point Phase One area after December 2013, whose sale could not have been authorized pursuant to City Charter § 384(b)(4) during December 2013, new authorizations of Mayor de Blasio and the Queens Borough Board are necessary before all of the lots within the Phase One area may legally be transferred to QDG.

Fourth, Francisco Moya, who has been elected the new City Council representative of Willets Point and nearby neighborhoods, previously announced his own plan concerning Willets Point development. Among other aspects, Moya intends to form an advisory council of neighborhood stakeholders, to evaluate and help to guide development decisions.

No irreversible action, including property sale, should take place at Willets Point before Councilman-elect Moya’s advisory council is in full operation and has had ample opportunity to significantly participate in decision-making.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

BQX would hinder BQE reconstruction

From the Times Ledger:

Transit honchos in charge of fixing the dilapidated Brooklyn–Queens Expressway want the mayor to hit the breaks on his controversial $2.5-billion streetcar plan because the two massive infrastructure projects will butt heads.

The Department of Transportation must repair the 1.5-mile stretch of the decrepit roadway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street in Brooklyn Heights before the triple cantilever — which runs beneath the neighborhood’s promenade and above Furman Street — crumbles beneath the weight of the thousands of big-rigs that rumble across it daily.

But Hizzoner’s plan to lay 14 miles of light-rail tracks from Sunset Park to the outer borough of Queens that would run along streets in Red Hook, Fort Greene, Dumbo, and Brooklyn Heights, including on Atlantic Avenue, will impact the city’s work on the expressway and cause even more chaos on the local thoroughfares, according to the city’s Deputy Commissioner of Bridges.

“I had a conversation with somebody who was working on the BQX. They are thinking about it going down Atlantic Avenue and across Columbia [Street], and I said ‘Look we’re going to be there, I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ ” Bob Collyer said during a public meeting about repairs to the expressway’s triple cantilever on Dec. 11. “That’s as far as we got.”

Contractor defaults on Fresh Pond bridge replacement project

From QNS:

For residents of Ridgewood and Middle Village, the reconstruction of a railroad bridge in a high-traffic area has caused headaches for commuters after repeated delays to the project, and things just got worse.

On Friday, a Department of Transportation spokesperson confirmed to QNS that its contract with Mugrose Construction to rebuild the Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road bridge over the Montauk line of the Long Island Rail Road has defaulted. The project that was once projected to have its first phase completed by January 2018 has now been completely stalled.

The DOT cited delays that were beyond its control, and is now working closely with the bonding company to get the project completed as quickly as possible, the spokesperson said.

Construction contracts typically involve a contract surety bond to protect the owner of the property (DOT, in this case) from the risks associated with construction projects. The bonding company assumes that burden, and in the event of a defaulted contract their options are to re-bid the job for completion, bring in a replacement contractor, provide financial or technical assistance to the existing contractor or pay the penal sum of the bond.

Therefore, a defaulted contract doesn’t necessarily mean the contractor has been ousted, but the DOT offered no further details.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The dirt bike dirtbags of Wayanda Park

"These ghetto punks ride their dirt bikes and quads down Hollis Ave doing wheelies on a daily basis. Sometimes, they speed down the sidewalk all the way down to Springfield Blvd, putting pedestrians at risk. The streets of South Queens Village has been taken over by these thugs. Now, they are destroying the beautiful lawn at Wayanda Park on Hollis Ave. As you can see, the douche bag on the quad covered his face while I snapped a picture of him on 217st. I'm going to contact my Community Affairs officer to see if they can step up patrols in the area. The ghetto nonsense never ends in Southeast Qns." - anonymous

Huge hotel coming to Court Square...some day

From LIC Talk:

AND so Christmas is over, let’s get down to business. Which in Long Island City almost inevitably revolves around real estate. Though this time of year is normally slow on the local news front, we here at LICtalk are extremely adept at finding seemingly innocuous updates, rehashes, or snippets, and performing alchemy. In other words, making a mountain out of a molehill. Today’s version, comes to us via a new-spin-on-an-old-story in The Real Deal, which is kind of interesting.

Basically they declare that the largest hotel in the outer-boroughs is coming to LIC. The 50-story Toyoko Inn is slated to have 1,260 rooms. While the announcement of the hotel’s development is not new news, having been previously announced in TRD back in September 2016, it’s ranking as #1 ex-Manhattan and #9 in the city overall had previously escaped notice.

Most interestingly for locals from my perspective, is the location: 24-09 Jackson Avenue. More specifically, this is the empty lot adjacent to the Court Square 7-train station entrance. In other words it’s perfectly located for quickly getting into the heart of Manhattan via subway – a tremendous boon for budget travelers, which is this hotel chain’s focus. Of course another aspect of budget travel is tiny hotel rooms, which given the small lot size is almost a given despite soaring to 50-stories.

"Fallout shelter" signs to be removed

From Huffington Post:

New York City has quietly begun removing some of the corroding yellow nuclear fallout shelter signs that were appended to thousands of buildings in the 1960s, saying many are misleading Cold War relics that no longer denote functional shelters.

The small metal signs are a remnant of the anxieties over the nuclear arms race between the United States and the former Soviet Union, which prompted U.S. President John F. Kennedy to create the shelter program in 1961 in cities across the nation. The signs, with their simple design of three joined triangles inside a circle, became an emblem of the era.

The removal of some of the signs from public school buildings, which has not previously been reported, is intended to partly reduce this potential confusion, according to the city’s Department of Education.

Michael Aciman, a department spokesman, confirmed that any designated fallout shelters created in the city’s schools are no longer active and said that the department is aiming to finish unscrewing the signs from school walls by roughly Jan. 1.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cuomo signs family leave bill

From CBS 2:

On Jan. 1, New York will join California, New Jersey and Rhode Island in requiring employers to give workers paid leave to bond with a baby, care for a close relative with a serious illness or help loved ones during a family member’s military deployment.

The new benefits, which apply to 6.4 million private-sector workers, will phase in over four years.

In 2018, employees can take up to eight weeks of paid leave and receive 50 percent of their average wage, up to a cap weekly cap of $652. When the phase-in is complete in 2021, they’ll be able to take up to 12 weeks at two-thirds of their average weekly wage.

Kim says RKO plan is a no-go

From the Queens Chronicle:

According to Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), the latest plan to develop the derelict RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing is extremely dangerous.

The lawmaker sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this week, saying the height of the tower planned by Xinyuan Real Estate would be a hazard, given the location’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport. The proposed building would be 210 feet above mean sea level, according to Kim.

“The FAA has concluded on several prior occasions ... that any height at this location exceeding 195 feet above mean sea level would result in a substantial adverse effect, and warrant a Determination of Hazard to Air Navigation,” the lawmaker said.

In the eight aeronautical obstruction evaluations made by the FAA for Xinyuan’s plan, the agency found that none were hazardous, Kim pointed out in the letter. He said that they “were still approved despite being for points that are 204 or 210 feet above mean sea level.”

Xinyuan did not return a request for comment about Kim’s letter prior to the Chronicle’s deadline. The FAA declined to comment.

“The proposed building in question will be directly in line with incoming flight paths. In December of 2004, a Boeing 757 mistook the hazard light on top of a building in the same neighborhood for the start of a runway,” Kim said. “If a 210 foot building is actually built at this location as a result of these eight obstruction evaluations, the lives of countless constituents in my district would be put at risk.”

At the end of the letter, the assemblyman urged the FAA to “re-evaluate” the obstruction evaluation studies conducted for the planned tower.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Jamaica Estates house is lit this holiday

"The Gurino Family house Christmas Lights display in Jamaica Estates, Queens, NYC is a must see! Located at the intersection of 80th Drive and Chevy Chase Street."

Merry Christmas 2017 from Queens Crap!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Waterpointe is being watched

From the Times Ledger:

DEC released a letter in September entitled “Explanation of Significant Differences” explaining why changes to the soil fill had been allowed in the remediation plan. Cervino said the switch from Track 2 residential soil to Track 4 commercial soil will negatively affect future owners in this development. He pointed out that in order to build a house a chemical citeria must be met that guarantees a safe toxicity level for children to play in the yard and for plants to grow there.

According to Cervino, when the board asked for data about the soil, it was estimated that at least 40,000 tons of soil was recontaminated after the site was cleaned up around 2010. Cervino is asking for proof that the 40,000 tons of soil was cleaned up since then because the board was never given data to prove that it was.

“Now we hear that there was this agreement that this property was recontaminated and now they’re going with commercial standard,” he said. “It is now eligible for Track 4, which means the Brownfield cleanup and consent order was not adhered to. I want to know why they were given lax restriction to original agreement.”

Cervino speculated that most of it was left on site. He thinks DEC only cleaned some of the soil out.

CB7 Chairman Gene Kelty said it is out of the board’s hands and can only be handled at the state level. DEC will be voting in two weeks for a certificate of completion. CB 7 said it wants to stall development from moving forward until the board gets clear answers on why the track was changed and the levels of contamination of the soil. CB7 agreed to write a letter to DEC asking state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman David Rosenthal (D-Flushing) to hold a hearing.

DOT's bright ideas are costly to local businesses

From the Queens Chronicle:

The bus lanes on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards are affecting just about every stage of life.

According to several sources, parents dropping their toddlers and children at VIP II Daycare Center on Cross Bay Boulevard have had to park in the curbside lane and run into the building to drop off their children.

“When I called the [Department of Transportation] and told them about it, they said, ‘We know about VIP Daycare,’” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).

And just a few steps away, according to several people, the hearse for James Romanelli-Stephen Funeral Home on Cross Bay has had to park on the sidewalk. Arlene Brown, from the office of Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), said late last month she witnessed one such occasion.

The DOT in October implemented the curbside bus lanes on Cross Bay from Rockaway Boulevard to the Belt Parkway, which restrict parking during morning and evening rush hours Monday to Saturday. Other businesses on the corridor have complained of financial impacts from the move.

From the Queens Chronicle:

Life in the slow lane continues for nearly a dozen frustrated Queens Boulevard business owners who say the bike lanes installed along the thoroughfare by the Department of Transportation this summer are to blame.

After months of fuming to themselves about the lanes — specifically the removal of parking spaces to accommodate them — the entrepreneurs gathered at Tropix Bar & Lounge on Monday to share their personal horror stories and brainstorm ideas on how to fight back.

“Every time a customer calls me, says he’s circling the block for one hour looking for parking, then says he will return next time,” said Edward Nisimov, the owner of both Falcoln Imports at 95-42 Queens Blvd. and Mother Imports next door. “But in the furniture business, there is usually no next time.”

After months of public outreach, the DOT removed 198 spaces along a 1.3-mile stretch of the boulevard’s service roads between Eliot Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard to make way for the bike lanes.

Simultaneously, the agency added a number of curbside delivery-only zones which ban parking from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Sunday.

Before the lanes were installed, Nisimov said, there were approximately 24 parking spots in the direct vicinity of his businesses.

Now, he said there are just four.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Jamaica woman is fed up with homeless harassers

From the Queens Chronicle:

Jamaica Hills resident Donna Thompson told Community Board 8 last Wednesday about a “gang of homeless men that have taken over my neighborhood.”

Thompson, who lives near the Grand Central Parkway service roads’ intersections with Parsons Boulevard, says that one of the men approaches her regularly.

“I shouldn’t have to get off the bus and be afraid to go into my home or walk two blocks around just to get to my home,” she said.

The Jamaica Hills resident said that the homeless men leave “bottles of feces” on her neighbor’s yard and “leave their carts on other people’s yards.” She added that the men panhandle and “leave trash all throughout the neighborhood.”

She added that she lives with her 82-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia.

At the same CB 8 meeting, NYPD Assistant Chief David Barrere, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens South, addressed the board. He spoke with Thompson privately at the meeting.

The Jamaica Hills resident told the Chronicle that a few days later last weekend, a sergeant working under Barrere called her about the situation. As a result, a police car went to the area last weekend, according to Thompson. She added that the NYPD has since told her that the department is “working on it.”

Thompson said in an interview that while she is glad the police have responded, a different kind of solution is necessary to solve the problem in the long term.

“If they want to panhandle, they should have to do it 500 feet away from someone’s house,” she said.

Waterfront library's opening pushed back to 2019

From LIC Post:

Construction on the the Hunters Point Library is delayed once more, and is expected to be completed in August 2018 with a possible opening in 2019.

The update on the $40 million project was announced on Dec. 18, when the Department of Design and Construction and the Queens Public Library testified on the progress of several library projects during the City Council Subcommittee on Libraries meeting, chaired by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Long Island City).

“It is a unique design,” Walcott said at the meeting. “When we talk about outfitting a normal library it can be three to four months. With Hunters Point we are saying six months.”

Van Bramer questioned the DDC and the QPL on the series of “horrific” mistakes that have led to the project’s multiple delays, including the fiasco involving the glass used for the library’s windows.

The architect, Steven Holl, insisted that a specific type of glass be used for the building due to its lighting and heat features. The glass chosen was manufactured in Germany, glazed in Spain, and eventually exported to Connecticut before reaching Long Island City. The glass was held up in Spain, however, due to a strike by dock workers at a port.

Only "under two years" of additional delays? It's a Festivus miracle!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Corey Johnson has friends in the real estate industry

From Crains:

Several high-powered real estate firms invested heavily in the political fortunes of Greenwich Village Democrat Corey Johnson, who emerged Wednesday as the apparent next speaker of the City Council.

Officials of the Related Cos., DDG Partners, the Property Markets Group and others gave generously to Johnson's campaign. (Corporate entities cannot contribute directly to candidates.) Johnson secured the support of the majority of his peers by courting the Democratic Party bosses of Queens and the Bronx, and by winning the endorsement of the powerful Hotel Trades Council. The city's legislature wields vast influence over zoning and land-use decisions, and the speaker controls the body's affairs.

To win the necessary backing to lead the council, Johnson donated heavily to his colleagues' campaigns and to the coffers of Bronx and Queens power brokers, and for that purpose he amassed $505,818 this election cycle. Crain's found that more than $63,000 came from real estate interests. Additional funds flowed in from figures in the construction and hotel industry.

NY is really good at making people leave

From the Daily News:

New York over the past year continued to lose more residents to other states than it gained — even as the overall population grew slightly thanks to a continued influx of immigrants, Census data shows.

During the 12-month period ending July 1, the state lost a net 190,508 residents to other states, according to the data. That pushed the net outmigration to over 1 million people since 2010 — the largest of any state, according to a review by the Empire Center, a fiscal watchdog group.

The net loss since 2010 is actually less than the net migration outflow of nearly 1.6 million during the comparable period of 2000-07, the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon said in the review.

“The stories continue to be a lack of economic opportunity upstate ... and downstate it’s just cost,” McMahon said. “The city and downstate can’t hold people because there’s not enough affordable living.”

Shore Towers condo units illegally converted into storage

From NBC 4:

A group of Astoria condominium owners says a cluster of apartments converted into unlawful storage units has turned their building into a fire trap. Chris Glorioso reports.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Construction noise reduction bill introduced

From the Daily News:

Construction done at odd hours will have to turn down the volume under a bill passed by the City Council on Tuesday.

The legislation sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos places stricter limits on construction within 200 feet of a home before 7 a.m. and after 6 p.m. on weekdays, and any time on weekends.

The construction cacophony will be capped at 80 decibels next year, and dropped to 75 in 2020. The current limit is 85 decibels.

The city would also be given the power to shut down pieces of construction equipment that are too loud.

It will also make it easier to do noise complaint inspections because they won’t have to be inside the home of the person who complained.

Islanders moving to Belmont

From Metro:

The state announced on Wednesday that the bid submitted by the Islanders, Sterling Project Development and Oak View Group won the right to build a state-of-the-art arena on the 43 acres of land in Elmont, NY between Hempstead Turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway.

It is a $1 billion investment which is being completely funded by the Islanders, Sterling and OVG. The team is expected to get a 49-year lease and pay $40 million in rent, per Randi Marshall of Newsday.

The 43 acres of developed land will also include a hotel that will allow fans and opposing teams to stay at, 435,000-square feet of retail space and a cultural center.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Appeals court grants homeowners a water tax credit

From the Daily News:

New York’s top court gave its legal blessing Tuesday to Mayor de Blasio’s plan to give homeowners a $183 credit on their water and sewer bills.

In a 5-2 decision, the Court of Appeals overturned two lower court rulings and declared the Water Board can give the credit to a select group of customers.

“It is clear from the governing statutes that water and sewer rates may be determined in accordance with public policy goals and not only economic goals,” Judge Eugene Fahey wrote for the majority.

“The court’s decision clears the way for the Water Board to provide welcome financial relief for more than 664,000 New York homeowners,” de Blasio said.

Cuomo vetoes 2nd MetroCard transfer

From the Daily News:

Gov. Cuomo vetoed legislation late Monday that would have given commuters a second free transfer on pay-per-ride MetroCards.

In his veto message, Cuomo said the bill the Legislature approved had “fiscal, policy and technical flaws.” He said he was ordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to take steps that would make it easier for riders affected by service disruptions to complete their journeys without paying another fare.

The new policies Cuomo ordered include having Transit Authority staff distribute manual tickets for an additional subway or bus trip during unplanned disruptions.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), who sponsored the measure, said he was disappointed by the governor’s veto and that Cuomo’s remedies don’t go far enough.

The legislation, Dinowitz said, was intended to assist commuters who live in underserved areas of the city and not just those struggling with temporary service disruptions.

More Kew Gardens crap in the works

From the Forest Hills Post:

A developer plans to demolish a century-old Kew Gardens home and replace it with a multi-family building.

A demolition permit was filed on Dec. 14 with the Dept. of Buildings to bulldoze 116-17 Grosvenor Lane, a 3-story single family home that was built in 1899.

Steven Li, the owner of Grosvenor Realty Group LLC, said that that he still hasn’t determined what will be built to replace it. No building plans have been filed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

CB7 had something to talk about last night

Public comment from Paul Graziano RE: Waterpointe / Bayrock / Former Grace Property at Community Board 7 Meeting, Monday, December 18th, 2017

Over a decade ago, a carefully crafted agreement was made between the previous owner, government and the community pertaining to the property formerly known as Bayrock/Waterpointe on the Whitestone waterfront.

This agreement, which was negotiated with former Councilmember now-State Senator Tony Avella; Community Board 7; and local residents and civic associations called for 52 single-family detached houses and a waterfront park on what was then a lightly contaminated site. I was personally involved in reviewing the initial proposal, subsequent changes and final submission as an urban planning consultant to then Councilmember Avella.

The site was initially cleaned up correctly. It was then sold and purposefully contaminated with heavily polluted debris, creating the need for a DEC consent order demanding the correct clean-up of the site to proceed with development.

While this was happening, the current owners started to pitch that they wanted/needed to build a much denser development than what was agreed to. There is no question that this is a non-starter with the community, the Community Board and Senator Avella.

However, with the site having been purposely contaminated *again* the idea that the developers are seeking anything less than a full clean up of their property is difficult to believe. It is even more unbelievable that the NY State DEC and other regulatory agencies are considering going against their own regulations which do not allow a Level IV cleanup to occur when the development plans are for single-family detached homes under multiple ownership.

This project must not be allowed to proceed without the full Level I cleanup that is necessary for public safety, not to mention future homeowners who may purchase houses on this site. Anything less than this is clearly irresponsible and should be immediately challenged by the public.

Paul Graziano, Principal
Associated Cultural Resource Consultants

Middle Village residents blocked from their own driveways

From CBS 2:

Viewers called CBS2 with complaints, saying they’re parked in on their own driveways or parked out of their street in Middle Village due to a sewer project going on during the holidays.

Residents say their nerves are frayed.

The city’s Department of Design and Construction gave the green light to a $22 million capital sewer replacement project following decades of flooding on streets build over the landfill there.

The massive dig is taking years and the contractor has been on 74th Street since September.

“It’s major,” homeowner Gemma Cullen said. “You can’t get in the driveway. They block you in, you can’t get out.”

Parking tickets are a whopping $115.

“How can the residents here have company over for the holidays,” homeowner Jane Del Rosa said. “They can’t park anywhere.”

The contractor and the city have asked for patience and say the project is on target. Queens community board five is acting as a watchdog.

Monday, December 18, 2017

How did they ever come up with that?

Headline of the year courtesy of the Queens Chronicle.

The grudge continues

From the Times Ledger:

In late November, Democratic Party leaders sent IDC members an ultimatum calling for reunification of the party through a coalition to claim two seats up for special elections outside of Queens or face primary challenges, which would affect state Sens. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and six other members of the committee.

Comrie claimed a Democratic coalition was unrealistic considering his dealings with Avella, who he said has never tried to work with other Democrats in the state Senate, despite his own efforts to maintain a working relationship.

“I’ve tried to work with him over the years, but he is not interested in working with us in any way, shape or form,” Comrie said. “He is the singular most selfish person that I have ever met... This is beyond his desire to work collectively because I don’t think he’s interested in working collectively with anybody. He sees himself as an independent warrior, as his own soldier to go and rally against the things he feels are unjust and he will do whatever he can to step on whoever he wants to make that happen.”

The Hillcrest Jewish Center where the forum was held is in Avella’s district. Most of the criticism was directed against him.

But Avella struck back in a later statement at the accusations from IDC detractors, saying Empire State Indivisible and similar groups perpetuate the same “distortion” of facts they claim to oppose from the Trump administration.

“Obviously I like to work with people. Otherwise how would I get 49 bills past the Senate?” Avella said. “What I have a problem with are politicians who are working against the public good... If [Comrie] follows the political adage ‘going along to get along’... If he believes in that adage, well then shame on him. I don’t.”

Avella said Comrie had ignited conflict by introducing a bill to allow a Sephardic temple in Fresh Meadows with safety violations, and owned by Avi Dishi who was once on the 100 worst landords list, to file for a tax exemption. Avella declined to back the bill because the people conducting worship did not own the property and there were safety concerns.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Woodhaven's paving problem

From CBS 2:

Officials said the main reason paving over your yard is banned is so residential areas have green space.

Residents said another reason for the zoning change is so there would be proper drainage after a rain fall — preventing water from flowing from a driveway into the street.

A problem because although some of the converted driveways aren’t eliminating curbs, they are limiting parking.

Homeowners posted ‘no parking’ signs so people won’t block their illegal driveways.

Forest Hills empty storefronts are bad news

From CBS 2:

There are many empty storefronts in the main shopping district in Forest Hills, Queens. They stand out like the empty space left when a tooth has been pulled, and business owners say it hurts just as much.

A staggering increase in the number of vacant storefronts is the city’s latest economic crisis, with many wondering why nothing has been done. According to a new report by the City Council, 600,000 people are employed by small retail businesses and restaurants in the city.

This made a City Council hearing on vacant storefronts all the more disheartening, Kramer reported. Members of the De Blasio administration were unable to tell Councilman Dan Garodnick and others what’s going on and what they’re doing about it.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, who represents Forest Hills, says the city has to do something.

“We have to look at each neighborhood to see what is going on, and why is this happening, and also have conversations with the landlords,” she said.

Meanwhile, two state lawmakers are taking action, introducing legislation to create a property tax exemption for landlords who offer mom and pop stores a long-term lease with fair increase to help them stay in business.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

One's out, one's back for another term, both were absent

In debt up to our eyeballs

From the Observer:

New York State has the second-highest debt total in the United States, and it’s expected to grow in the coming years, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

New York’s state-funded debt is expected to reach $63.7 billion at the end of the current fiscal year and increase over the following four years to $71.8 billion, according to a report released by DiNapoli on Thursday morning. New York’s current total state debt is second only to California’s, which is at $87 billion.

The average amount of debt for every man, woman and child in the state is $3,116, three times the median for all states, the report found. And the annual debt service payments — the amount of money needed to reimburse debts over a period of time — are projected to surpass $8.2 billion by the end of state fiscal year 2021-2022.

Friday, December 15, 2017

December CB7 meeting scheduled

From the Queens Chronicle:

A post from last Tuesday on the blog Queens Crap pointed to how even though December is not listed as an exception to the charter rule, Community Board 7 did not have its regular meeting with a public hearing during that month last year or the one before.

Although the agenda for November’s CB 7 full board meeting said the next one would be in January, the advisory council has set up a meeting for Dec. 18.

Board Chairman Gene Kelty told the Chronicle that though the board did not have a full meeting last December or the one before, the members weren’t ignoring any major issues in the district.

“If we didn’t have a meeting then it meant that we really didn’t have anything on our agenda,” he told the Chronicle.

“All I know is we’re in compliance this year and we’ll be in compliance in the future,” the chairman added.

Now you can put the RKO on your agenda.

Development of RKO Keith's not happening anytime soon

From the Real Deal:

When Xinyuan Real Estate paid $54 million for a Williamsburg development site in 2012 with plans to build a luxury condominium, the project was heralded as the first go-it-alone venture by a mainland Chinese firm. Two more deals — including last summer’s $66 million acquisition of the RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing — gave the publicly-traded firm nearly 1 million square feet of New York condo product in its pipeline.

But in recent weeks, the company has dismantled the team running its U.S. development arm, known as XIN Development, several sources told The Real Deal. And following the departure – some were let go, others moved on – of several key executives, XIN has turned over the management of three New York City projects to Kuafu Properties, a four-year-old development firm backed by Chinese private equity.

Precise terms of the deal with Kuafu weren’t disclosed, but Xinyuan said it would retain ownership of the projects.

Sources said that headwinds in the condo market could impact the developer’s other projects — specifically an ambitious plan to redevelop the long-shuttered RKO Keith’s Theater. “The project is stalled and there are landmark issues,” said a broker who has worked with Xinyuan.

After paying $175 per foot for the site in August 2016, plans called for tearing down most of the theater and building a 16-story condominium with 269 luxury units, priced between $1,150 and $1,300 per foot.

But just a few months after announcing the deal, Liang said he saw “danger” in the U.S. real estate market. “With its seven- to eight-year cycle, you get a sense now that it’s peaking,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Questions about Van Bramer's fundraising

From Progress Queens:

For this report, Councilmember Van Bramer's communications director, Sean Butler, did not answer on the record questions submitted in advance by Progress Queens. A request for an interview was also not answered about the top 40 days when donations were clustered. If Councilmember Van Bramer's committee to reelect did not use more intermediaries to raise the $520,000 that was reported to have been directly raised by committee officials, then the coordination that took place was done by the committee. As noted by the activism group Queens Anti-Gentrification Project on a post on the group's blog, more than $100,000 of the money raised by Councilmember Van Bramer during the recent Municipal election cycle came from the real estate industry. Councilmember Van Bramer has not publicly opposed large real estate industry-backed projects -- such as the proposed rezoning of Long Island City, the proposed trolley service that would run through the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, known as the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, and the proposed development of Sunnyside Yards -- that Queens activists say will spread gentrification into the City's second-most populous borough. Activists have charged that Councilmember Van Bramer was "firmly aligned with a real estate industry that shows no regard for the working class." In an editorial published by the nonprofit news Web site City Limits, a member of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project also questioned the direction of Queens under Councilmember Van Bramer's leadership.

For this report, neither Councilmember Van Bramer nor Communications Director Butler disclosed whether Councilmember Van Bramer had formed a dedicated campaign committee for his speakership race or when Councilmember Van Bramer began his Council speaker campaign. A source familiar with the Campaign Finance Board's regulations directed Progress Queens to the list of declared campaign committees when asked whether Councilmember Van Bramer had formed a dedicated campaign committee for the Council speakership. A review of the list showed that Councilmember had not appeared to have formed a dedicated campaign committee for his speakership race that was registered with the Municipal campaign finance regulatory authority. A separate review of State campaign committees registered under Councilmember Van Bramer's last name showed no change from a prior list of registered campaign committees generated online by Progress Queens on or about the time the complaint was filed with the Federal prosecutors' office.

Council member wants to bring back sidewalk clothing bins

From CBS 2:

Sanchez said the Eddie Bauer winter gear was found discarded outside the 5th Avenue store on Sunday night. She wanted to know why the store would ruin the men’s merchandise so it couldn’t be worn when it could have done so much good.

“This is not a singular incident,” councilman Rafael Espinal said.

Espinal is working on a bill to fine companies that deliberately destroy and dump clothing.

“Incentivize the donation of clothing by creating bins to place in front of retail stores,” he said.

Didn't we just spend years trying to get rid of clothing bins on sidewalks?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MetroCard 2nd free transfer coming soon?

From the Daily News:

Transit advocates are urging Gov. Cuomo to sign legislation giving commuters a second free transfer on pay-per-ride MetroCards, the Daily News has learned.

In a letter to Cuomo, advocates argued the measure sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) and Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) would provide much needed assistance to New Yorkers who live in the “transit deserts” of the outer boroughs.

“The lowest income New Yorkers, the people at the furthest reaches of New York City are the ones who would benefit the most from this,” said Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director for the Riders Alliance.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives are also among those urging Cuomo to sign the measure.

MTA seeks contractor for subway’s first platform safety barrier
Currently, commuters using a pay-per-ride MetroCard get one automatic free transfer per fare. The bill would allow two free transfers within two hours of the original fare’s purchase.

Cuomo vetoed a similar measure in 2015, arguing it would cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority millions of dollars.

LIC concerned about L train shutdown

From LIC Post:

L train shutdown woes are spilling over into Long Island City, where local leaders are demanding that the city develop a plan to reduce the impact of the thousands of L train riders expected to take the G up to the Manhattan-connecting Court Square after the L train shuts down in 2019.

The Court Square Civic Association urged MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota to protect Long Island City’s already-crowded Court Square station from the extra riders that would travel there once the L train tunnel connecting Williamsburg to Manhattan closes for Sandy-related repairs in 2019.

The G train, one of four train lines that go through Court Square, will be increasing its capacity by doubling in length to carry would-be L train riders to the station, who will then get on Manhattan-bound 7, E, and M trains, according to the MTA.

The CSCA says the neighborhood is dealing with its own capacity issues after an influx of residential development over the years, with a 25 percent increase in ridership recorded at the station from 2011 to 2016. An MTA-sanctioned plan to divert riders to Long Island City, they say, will disproportionately affect Western Queens.

Wow, so no one saw that strain on the subways when they were cheerleading overdevelopment?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Subway bomber waged a personal war on Christmas

From CBS 2:

The subway was attacked during rush hour by an apparent suicide bomber.

The alleged attacker has been identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah.

Six people, including Ullah, were injured in the blast.

Investigators said the bomb was poorly constructed, and failed to properly detonate.

They have the remnants of the device, which includes some type of Christmas light that may have been used as an electrical component.

Governor Cuomo said security has been boosted at high profile locations statewide, and investigators have been sent to Ullah’s Brooklyn home.

The FBI and NYPD bomb squad were on the scene as early as 8:30 a.m. looking for any information as to what may have motivated him.

The home is on East 48th Street in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn. A quiet, tight-knit community where neighbors said the only problem they ever had with the suspect’s family was over a parking spot.

Neighbors said Ullah lived in the basement of the brick multi-family home near Avenue N for at least the last 5 years. They said his mother, father, and brother — who has his own wife and child – lived in the unit upstairs.

Another basement dweller, eh?

From the NY Times:

Law enforcement officials said the attacker, identified by the police as Akayed Ullah, 27, chose the location because of its Christmas-themed posters, a motive that recalled strikes in Europe, and he told investigators that he set off his bomb in retaliation for United States airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere.

De Blasio thinks this is "creative & bold"

From the NY Times:

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city’s reliance on the cluster sites has grown along with the rise in homelessness, which has arguably been the biggest failure of his tenure.

Now the mayor is taking a large step toward ending that reliance: On Tuesday, Mr. de Blasio is expected to announce a plan to essentially convert many of the homeless apartments into affordable housing, hoping to solve a problem that has worsened over his first term.

Under the plan, the city would use public financing to help nonprofits buy roughly a third of the apartments currently used for the homeless, and then convert the apartments into affordable units, helping the mayor fulfill two goals: lowering homelessness and adding to the city’s affordable housing stock.

If landlords do not cooperate, the city intends to use eminent domain to take the property, officials said.

The planned acquisition involves 800 apartments spread throughout 25 to 30 buildings, mostly in the Bronx, which has the overwhelming majority of cluster apartments in the city. The city targeted buildings where more than 50 percent of the units were occupied by homeless people — a threshold that would guide future acquisitions, the city said.

The planned acquisition could place about 3,000 people into permanent housing; in some cases, homeless families living in the apartments would simply stay put, but would no longer be considered homeless. It was not immediately known how much the program would cost the city.

In other words, we're condemning buildings that already house homeless families in order to turn them over to someone else and then reclassifying the people living in them as "not homeless". This sounds like a plan. A bad one.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Soccer or hockey stadium may be headed to Belmont

From CBS 2:

What does the future hold for the vacant lots at Belmont Park?

More than 200 of its neighbors went to Elmont High School on Sunday to find out what two New York sports teams have in mind. As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, most locals weren’t very happy about what they heard.

“Like it or not, the residents of this area are getting a stadium, and the congestion is going to be mind boggling,” one man said.

“It’s going to be nightmare,” another person added.

The New York City Football Club, partly owned by the New York Yankees, hopes to transform part of the property north of Hempstead Turnpike into a 26,000 seat open-air stadium for its professional soccer team.

Meanwhile, the New York Islanders want to turn that property into a world class sports and entertainment facility, including an 18,000 seat arena for the professional hockey team.

$3/4M taxpayer money blown on worthless race

From the Daily News:

City Public Advocate Letitia James burned through nearly all of the more than $750,000 in taxpayer matching funds in a lopsided race against a poorly funded opponent — spending $500,000 on a single Election Day expenditure, public records show.

James, a Democrat who cruised to reelection over Republican political consultant J.C. Polanco, spent about $1.7 million in total on the race, according to filings with the Campaign Finance Board. She crushed Polanco, her nearest competitor — earning 812,234 votes to his 172,601.

James was widely expected to win her reelection bid — but still filed a statement of need requesting the entire amount of matching funds, citing Polanco as a strong opponent. In doing so, she noted media coverage about the would-be pol — including stories about how little money he had raised.

Candidates are required to return matching funds they do not spend on their race — but James has just $39,018 left in her coffers, meaning the taxpayers will get back little, if anything.

James spent a whopping half-million in one day — Nov. 7, the date of the general election, when she reported the $500,000 payment to Global Strategies Group. Her campaign said the payment was for digital ads that appeared on social media sites, community and ethnic newspaper sites and other news sites — including the Daily News website.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Simply having a wonderful Queens Crap time!

Where has the time gone?

Where have the tweeders gone? (A lot went to prison.)

Brinckerhoff Cemetery pol feud

From the Queens Tribune:

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) have strong disagreements over the future of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows.

On Dec. 1, Avella held a press conference with the “Friends of Brinckerhoff,” an organization assembled by community leaders who are hoping to purchase and maintain the landmarked property, which belonged to several prominent Dutch families, including the Brinckerhoffs, and dates back to the 18th century.

According to Avella, the state provided the Friends of Brinckerhoff with a $180,000 grant to purchase the property from the current owner, Linda’s Cai Trading, and restore and maintain it. But before any deal to sell the property was finalized, Avella alleges, Lancman allotted a higher sum of money for the city’s Parks Department to purchase and maintain the property in the capital budget—around $300,000. Now, Avella accuses Lancman of “political meddling,” undercutting his grant with an unnecessarily higher portion of taxpayer money that tempted the owner to pull out of negotiations with the Friends of Brinckerhoff.

“I’m furious at the city because, meanwhile, the property is in disrepair, overgrown, it’s a health hazard, it’s a safety hazard,” Avella said.

Requests to city agencies to clean up the property have been rebuffed since the city is in negotiations for the site. Avella added that if Lancman wants to use additional taxpayer money in a political move, then the money “should come out of his own damn wallet.”

Yolanda dela Cruz Gallagher, president of the Friends of Brinckerhoff, said that when the group approached the Parks Department about purchasing the property before Avella’s grant, the department appeared uninterested.

Lancman responded to the claims by accusing Avella of living in “a fantasy world.”

Friday, December 8, 2017

Limits on self storage

From Crains:

A City Council committee provided a key approval for legislation to restrict the development of self-storage facilities in industrial business zones Thursday, despite biting criticism of the bill by one of its members.

The measure, which is likely to be approved by the full council Dec. 19, would require a special permit to build self-storage projects in most of the 21 IBZs, which account for around half of the city's manufacturing space. Obtaining this permission would require going through a nearly yearlong public review process that culminates in a council vote.

The new requirement would not apply in two zones in the Bronx and another pair in Staten Island, along with part of a zone in Jamaica, Queens. But self-storage companies would still need to set aside space for industrial square-footage in any project they build, according to the bill. Existing facilities would be grandfathered. (In the IBZs that opted out, self-storage facilities up to 50,000 square feet will be allowed as-of-right. Only buildings above that size will be required to set aside 25% of the space for industrial use.)

The council and Mayor Bill de Blasio have long wanted to restrict the proliferation of certain uses—such as hotels, offices or strip clubs—in areas that are supposed to be home to manufacturing and industrial jobs. Nonindustrial uses, the argument goes, can pay more for rent or land and thus tend to squeeze out manufacturing companies that provide higher-paying jobs.

So you think you have talent? - Speaker edition

It's Friday. The City Council Speaker candidates didn't have a care in the world (except jockeying for position to kiss the king's ring) when they boogied down at Joe Crowley's holiday party. You might hit the eggnog extra hard yourself when you realize what we're in store for over the next 4 years. Go ahead and caption this photo.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Please support a developer's victims

"Kelly Doyle Amen is a single mom and grandma who has lived in her small single family home in Bay Ridge for over twenty years. Last year the house next to her was purchased by a local businessman in order to develop and 'flip' the property for a quick profit. When the funding ran out - the developer flew the coop and left the construction in disarray. Now Kelly's home is in grave danger of fire, rodents and collapse. Please join us as we demand action from our elected officials and irresponsible developers."

Facebook event

Man hunting for package thief

From CBS 2:

A fed-up homeowner tracked down a thief who stole a package left at his Queens home.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the thief looked right into a surveillance camera before snatching a box off the front stoop of Jason Gratz’s house on Beach 139th Street in Belle Harbor on Tuesday morning.

“That’s the worst thing about it – not what’s in the contents of the package. It could have been $1, it could have been $1 million, it didn’t really matter. Just the feeling of being violated like that, it really just burned me,” he told Sanchez.

Surveillance video shows the ponytailed robber pausing to eye his target before turning his black cap, contemplating his getaway, and then grabbing the package.

Gratz walked all over his neighborhood and found a construction crew at a condominium that recognized the suspect as someone who had been working at the site, which is just two blocks from his home.

He said he tracked down where the suspect works and informed police, hoping they make a quick arrest.

Thruway tolling system also screwing drivers

From Eyewitness News:

A local lawmaker is demanding an overhaul of the way tolls are collected along the New York State Thruway.

State Senator David Carlucci hosted a forum Wednesday in Nanuet where drivers told how they unknowingly racked up thousands of dollars in fines.

Most of the complaints stem from the cashless toll system implemented at the Tappan Zee Bridge. Under the system, drivers without EZ Pass are supposed to be billed by mail. But many motorists say they never received the bills but did get letters only after steep fines were imposed for unpaid tolls.

Drivers who do not pay can have their registration suspended.