Sunday, April 30, 2017

Homeless hotels raking in tons of $$


From NBC:

When New York City books a hotel room for a homeless family, the room rate is often higher than the price advertised to tourists and business travelers online, an I-Team investigation has found. Chris Glorioso reports.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Creedmor situation kind of peculiar

"I have attached three pictures of beautiful housing, built by the state on the grounds of Creedmor, for the disabled. Three of the buildings have never been used. They contain brand new furniture.
Right now, only three buildings are occupied and the residents are being farmed out.
In less than 5 years the state built residences that are not being used. This is wasteful and very stressful for the residents and the wonderful people that care for them."

- Linda

1-family rowhomes endangered

"If you walk along 80th Street from Eliot Avenue towards Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, you will see a very disturbing development. Almost all of the houses in Middle Village are modest single-family homes. The building at 61-60 80th St. was recently sold and is being converted to a 2 or 3 family residence. As you can see from the picture, the front entrance has already been converted from a single entrance to two separate ones. There have been complaints filed with the NYC Department of Buildings stating that there may even be an illegal basement apartment.

The neighborhood is up in arms about this type of conversion! Converting one family homes into multiple dwellings puts a strain on the neighborhood’s infrastructure (school overcrowding, inadequate water pressure, sewer drainage, sanitation, policing, street parking, public transportation, potential fire hazard due to overcrowding, etc). It is also completely out of character with the neighborhood. Similar developments as well are happening in the nearby neighborhoods (Elmhurst, Maspeth, Woodside, etc).

As a neighborhood, we need to monitor this activity and report it to the NYC Department of Buildings and Queens Community Board 6. It’s one thing to pass along a home to an owner’s children or relatives or sell to another single family, but it’s absolutely terrible to sell to a developer who is only interested in collecting rent and couldn’t care less about preserving the quality of life in the neighborhood!

People in Middle Village need to take a stance on this now! Spread the word and let’s get ahead of the curve. Contact the our local Community Board 6, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the NYC Planning Division!"

Signed,

Anonymous
(Long Term Middle Village Resident)

Unfortunately, the NYC Department of City Planning has repeatedly rejected a zoning classification for one-family rowhomes. - QC

Friday, April 28, 2017

Kosciuszko Bridge: Out with the old, in with the new


From CBS 2:

The first span of the new Kosciuszko Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens is open to traffic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo marked the opening of the first span Thursday night with a dazzling LED light show synchronized to music.

The governor gave the audience a quick lesson on the correct pronunciation of the bridge’s name, that has long been a tongue twister and a headache for New Yorkers because of its constant traffic backups.

“I spent my childhood going back and forth across the bridge with my family,” Cuomo said. “The first time I heard my father use expletives was on this bridge.”

The new bridge is the first of two spans replacing the old, 78-year-old bridge connecting Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Maspeth, Queens. Traffic will go in both directions until the construction of the second span is complete, expected to be early 2020.

Crowley wants Rikers closed and replaced with community jails

From NY1:

“You cannot count on Elizabeth Crowley that’s the bottom line, “ said Robert Holden.

“In politics there are people who say a lot of things and then there are people who actually get results done,“ responded Crowley.

Crowley, who’s running for her third term, says her record speaks for itself, touting her success in securing funding for 54-hundred new classroom seats, enhanced public safety by hiring more cops, and preserving essential city services such as fire and EMS.

But, it may be Crowley’s support of closing Riker's Island, which draws the most distinction.

“I worry about the people who work there and the inmates there. They are not safe on that island,“ said Crowley.

Holden supports keeping it open because closing it would create more community jails.

“Why would anybody be for community jails have prisoners in the community I mean I don’t get that,“ said Holden.

NYS Pavilion to get $14M renovation

From the Queens Chronicle:

That stately space-age Flushing Meadows monument, the New York State Pavilion, will undergo a $14.25 million redesign project by the city and a team of design consultants. Construction is set to begin next spring and the design is underway now.

“The scope of the project includes structural conservation work on the observation towers, waterproofing of the tower bases, improvements to the electrical infrastructure and architectural lighting of the observation towers and the Tent of Tomorrow,” Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor emailed the Chronicle.

Before the modified monument will be open to the public, Lalor added, “significant” work will need to be done. Work on the pavilion, which is contingent upon a successful bid, is expected to begin next spring and end in fall 2019 after an 18-month process.

BQE bums

From the Queens Chronicle:

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) is looking to improve the situation at an underpass by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Jackson Heights, saying it’s become a hangout for vagrants.

“They’re lighting fires,” Moya said. “They’re smoking marijuana, drinking. It creates a very unsafe area for the residents who are living there.”

The lawmaker personally visited the underpass, by 35th Avenue and 69th Street, after a constituent emailed his office about the problem. They were joined by a community affairs officer from the 115th Precinct.

In addition to homeless people sleeping and loitering there, Moya said the underpass is “very dark, even during the daytime.”

The assemblyman has requested the NYPD temporarily place floodlights at the site and increase patrols in the area.

He’s also looking for the homeless people there to be brought to proper housing and get the services they need.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What's killing the Bowne Park turtles?

From NY1:

NY1 VIDEO: The Parks Department has a mystery on its hands after a number of turtles washed up dead at Bowne Park in Queens. NY1's Ruschell Boone reports.

Quit yer squawkin'!


From DNA Info:

A recently installed alarm which seeks to deter birds from gathering at the Rego Center Mall has confused and annoyed some shoppers as well, locals said.

The alarm, which emits loud sounds of chirping birds, was installed several weeks ago at an atrium near the escalator by Bed, Bath & Beyond to deter pigeons and other birds flocking to the area, mall employees said.

The atrium, featuring several planters and benches, is where customers can rest or wait for their family members shopping around the mall.

But scores of birds also chose the spot to build their nests there, often forcing shoppers to sit among thick layers of pigeon droppings.

And while the deterrents seem to effectively scare the birds off, some shoppers said the sounds emitted by the alarm are “annoying.”

Sound alarms are one of several methods used to deter birds throughout the city. Other deterrents include ultrasonic devices that make sounds that are unbearable to pigeons, but can’t be heard by people, a method sometimes used by the MTA.

Rivington House bill killed by senate committee

From DNA Info:

A bill introduced in the wake of the Rivington House scandal aimed at preventing future nursing home closures has been rejected by the State Senate's Health Committee.

The "Rivington Act," named for the Lower East Side nursing home for HIV/AIDS patients that in 2015 was shuttered and sold to condo developers, would have created a community-driven vetting process to make it more difficult for an operator to close a nursing home.

The bill would have required the Department of Health commissioner to disseminate a report to city and state officials as well as the local community board assessing the impact the closure would have on the community. Community members and elected officials would have then made recommendations to DOH before the agency made a decision on the plan to close.

It was first introduced by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon last year.

But the bill was voted down Tuesday afternoon by the Senate's Health Committee after committee chair State Sen. Kemp Hannon recommended a "No" vote, noting the bill was not "near shape" to become law.

"I don’t think it's in anywhere near shape to possibly become law, so I would recommend a 'No' vote, but if Senator Squadron’s going to pursue — and he’s not a shy one about pursuing — pursue the discussion we may see this bill again," said Hannon at Tuesday's committee hearing.

"It's defeated, but we will see it again," Hannon said after the vote.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Judges skeptical of mall on parkland

From the Daily News:

The state's highest court tossed a curveball to the city and a Queens developer hoping to build a $1 billion mall near Citi Field.

At least four judges on the six-judge panel of the Court of Appeals appeared skeptical of arguments by the city, state and developer, Queens Development Group, that the mall could be built on a parking lot designated as parkland.

“The primary purpose of this activity is a private purpose: to lease space and set up a shopping mall so people will spend money in the context of going to a sports event,” Justice Eugene Fahey said Tuesday. “Aren’t we required . . . that this particular development be approved by the Legislature?”

The oral arguments, which took place in a special session in White Plains, revolved around the 1961 law allowing the construction of Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park. The mall and movie theater, dubbed Willets West, would be built on the 30-acre site where the stadium once stood.

Assistant Solicitor General Anisha Dasgupta argued for the state that the proposed mall does have a public benefit because it will include public spaces and free attractions that go beyond a standard retail center. She noted a rooftop garden would be open to kids.

City attorney Michael Pastor echoed that argument.

“This is a public attraction. . . It’s a large public space. There’s public programming there,” he said.

But those public benefits didn’t override the project’s overall purpose, which seemed to conflict with the law’s original intent to allow a ballpark in the park, Fahey said.

“We can clearly see the economic viability of the project,” he said. "(The law) was aiming to provide a home for the Mets . . . now how far can you go askew of that?”

2 Queens political dynasties challenged by civic leaders

From the Queens Chronicle:

Longtime Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden is running for City Council.

The Middle Village resident exclusively told the Chronicle of his plans on Tuesday, two days ahead of what he says will be his official announcement of a Democratic primary challenge against Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) at Thursday’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting.

The fiery Holden's biggest inspiration to run is simple, he said. District 30 desperately needs new leadership.

"We're at a point where we simply can't have Elizabeth Crowley for four more years," Holden said. "It it wasn't Crowley in charge, maybe I wouldn't run. But it's time the neighborhood had some leadership at City Hall and in the community."

The leader of his civic association for decades, Holden has long been a fierce critic of Crowley — a cousin of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) — claiming she is ineffective and out-of-touch with neighborhood residents.

"I think it's my turn to step up," he said. "I know I'm going against the party machine and it's going to get nasty. But I know how to fight. I've demonstrated that."


And as we know, long time civic advocate Paul Graziano is running against Paul Vallone.

We live in interesting times!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DeBlasio campaign promise: free pre-K for 3-year olds

From PIX11:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to expand his pre-K initiative to include 3-year-olds for fall of 2017. His Pre-K for All program launched in 2014 after state legislators allocated budget funds for 4-year-old children to attend pre-K.

“We are doubling down with free, full-day, high-quality 3-K for all for our three-year-olds,” said Mayor de Blasio. “This extra year of education will provide our children with a level of academic and social development that they cannot get later on.”

De Blasio hopes to launch a pilot this year at a cost of $36 million. That cost will more than quadruple to $177 million by 2021 when the program goes citywide. Meeting that goal will require funding assistance from the state and federal government.

Are property tax assessments done fairly?

From the Daily News:

This year Mayor de Blasio will pay $3,581 in property taxes on each of two row houses he owns in ultra-gentrified Park Slope. The city says his properties are worth about $1.6 million apiece.

Some 14 miles away, in middle-class Laurelton, Queens, Arthur Russell, 66, who retired from computer sales, will pay a property tax bill that, at $4,569, is about 28% higher than the mayor’s — even though the city says his single-family home is worth 75% less than de Blasio’s properties, at $396,000.

If Russell were taxed like the mayor, his bill would fall by roughly $3,500 a year.

“That money could be vacation money,” said Russell, who is African-American. “It’s a substantial amount. My frustration is that it’s blatant abuse. People, if you take a look at this thing, you see disparity.”

Across the five boroughs, the city Department of Finance is subjecting tens of thousands of homeowners to similarly unequal billing — with the winners located primarily in upscale neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and Greenwich Village and the losers located overwhelmingly in working- and middle-class neighborhoods like South Jamaica, East New York and Brownsville.

Often, the brunt falls most heavily on black or Hispanic property owners.

A coalition called Tax Equity Now NY, which includes the NAACP, the Black Institute, several landlords and homeowners, has teamed up with lawyers from the firm Latham & Watkins, including former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann, to file a class-action suit this week charging that the DNA of the city’s property tax system is racially biased and favors the affluent over the working- and middle-class.?

Kosciuszko Bridge will open this week


From NBC 4:

The first span of the project to replace the aging Kosciuszko Bridge is opening to drivers this week, and News 4's Andrew Siff got an exclusive look at the 800-pound original plaque that will mark the new bridge's opening along with Gov. Cuomo. But drivers shouldn't expect a major change in traffic congestion there for a few years -- here's why.

The bridge will open with a light show Thursday night.

Monday, April 24, 2017

LIC residents want park, not another tower

From LIC Post:

A local development company filed plans to build a new 18-story residential and commercial tower in Long Island City yesterday, but a community group is looking to fight the project.

Rockrose Development, a company with several projects in Long Island City, filed plans yesterday to build an 18-story, 123-unit residential tower, with retail space on the first floor at 43-12 Hunter Street. The site is known by residents as ‘The Lot.’

According to the plans filed with the Department of Buildings, the project would have an outdoor terrace and amenity room for residents on the tenth floor, and another terrace and lounge on the 18th floor, as well as an exercise room. There would also be a lobby, laundry room, and mailroom on the bottom floors.

The new building would be 228 feet tall and would have 4,054 square feet of retail space. It would also have 86,562 square feet of residential space, meaning each apartment would average just over 700 square feet.

The Court Square Civic Association is attempting to fight back against the development, as the site has long been used as a public gathering space, despite the fact that it is privately owned.

The group has launched an online petition today calling for elected officials to work with Rockrose to save the property as open space and to generally create more open space and public parks in the area.

Towing company thinks they own public property

"Here is the Runway towing business. Very similar to other areas in Queens with cars parked on the sidewalk, cars parked on city streets with no license plates, their tow trucks parked on the street and sidewalk. It is located at 124-20 South Conduit Ave, South Ozone Park. If you want to Google Map it you will see all the illegal crap going on, but here are some pictures I took." - anonymous

Sunday, April 23, 2017

BDB can't take the heat

From the Daily News:

Mayor de Blasio tangled with callers to his weekly radio segment Friday, pushing back on criticism of his plans for new homeless shelters and to jack up the price of smoking.

Hizzoner treated callers to Brian Lehrer’s show on WNYC a bit like reporters — they were limited to the topic of public health and safety, and he repeatedly challenged the premises of their queries.

The most heated exchange was with a caller who identified herself as Fior, a Crown Heights resident opposed to the building of a homeless shelter who said her area has 1,700 beds already, while the mayor’s Park Slope has just 330.

“I myself have sons and I want the same opportunities that his son Dante had,” the caller said. “And I’m sure the mayor wouldn’t have raised his son around 15 to 19 shelters.”

De Blasio noted there’s a shelter about four blocks from his family home, and that his old neighborhood would get new homeless beds under his plan to house homeless people within their own community board districts.

But communities like Crown Heights have argued they’re already overburdened with social service facilities, and Lehrer asked whether the plan puts more burden on low-income communities with more homelessness.

“If they’re unwanted,” de Blasio said of the shelters, “then that’s a moral question. How can people feel that their very own neighbors and people who grew up and have lived in that community for a long time are quote-unquote unwanted? I reject that.”

The caller argued she’d not seen any data proving the people who’d live in the shelter were from Crown Heights — prompting de Blasio to say she “doesn’t know her facts” and calling the argument, used elsewhere in the city, “a smokescreen.”

The Whitestone Bridge is leaking big time

CRAPPY,

THIS STORY MIGHT INTEREST YOU AND YOUR READERS.

Back in the beginning of April we sent an email to MTABT and DOT regarding a serious flooding issue on the side of the Whitestone Bridge. Ever since they completed construction, the flooding has become much worse.
The DOT referred it to DEP. The MTABT stated that there was no issue and that ONE home along the route has drainage holes (AT LEAST 12 INCHES ABOVE THE GROUND) may be the cause.
So We sent pictures of the water marks and dirt marks from the runoff. NO RESPONSE.
Then this morning with a little rain we took more photos and video of the water runoff and the amount that now falls onto the road. In our opinion this has extremely exasperated the severe flooding issue.
The Whitestone Bridge is a proud representation of our community. To have the managers not take responsibility is an insult to the community. NOT TO MENTION THE LACK OF MAINTENANCE OF THEIR GRASSY AREA AS OF LATE. We take pride in our community and expect our neighbor the MTABT to do the same.
And of course let us not forget the mosquitoes and West Nile issues this brings.
Thank you.

Alfredo Centola
President
Founding Member

Illegal truck parking frustration continues in South Ozone Park

"Hello. This trailer has been sitting here for two weeks, I have done numerous complaints and it seems nothing is being done to address this hazard, maybe when somebody gets into a serious accident because they can not see oncoming traffic something will finally get done , this trailer is located on south conduit ave and 127th street in south ozone park.. this trailer is owned by a place called runway towing located up the block, I will send a separate email about that..." - anonymous


video

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Phony contractors are scamming the elderly


From CBS 2:

Con artists appear to be targeting elderly homeowners in sections of Queens.

The suspects convince people to get roof repairs and pay in cash — only later do residents learn the work is sub-standard.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, police in Middle Village posted signs warning residents of a door-to-door scam.

Police said sometimes, scam artists steal the identities of legitimate roofers, making them difficult to track down. They said they need neighbors to help spread the word and help them stop the scam with tips to avoid getting conned.

The warnings posted on trees and power poles are a heads up for homeowners to ignore anyone knocking on doors offering roof repairs or other fix it jobs.

Tip offs that the workers are not legit include vehicles with out of state plates and demanding cash payments for the work.

Another scam involves awning repairs. Con artists get money up front for the work, but never return.

Organized crime group flooded NYC streets with fake PA license plates

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced criminal charges against a dozen people accused of taking part in a major organized crime ring that fraudulently obtained more than a thousand Pennsylvania license plates and used them to fuel a massive criminal enterprise involving automobiles in multiple states.

By illegally renting the license plates in New York City and other locations, this crime ring profited significantly and allowed those who used the fraudulent plates to avoid paying more than $1 million in parking fines and EZ Pass tolls across several states.

The organized crime ring was headed by Rafael Levi, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y., Attorney General Shapiro said at a news conference today at the Office of Attorney General in Strawberry Square. Charges were also filed today against 14 Pennsylvania businesses involved in the crime ring. The charges followed an extensive investigation by the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section and a statewide investigative grand jury.

“This organized criminal ring used legitimate business tactics – applying for licenses and insurance, car loans and purchases – for completely illegitimate purposes,” Attorney General Shapiro said at today’s news conference. “From fraudulently-obtained license plates to washed car titles to multiple other frauds, they gamed the system to rack up millions of dollars in illegal profits. It’s widespread criminal conduct and today we brought a halt to it.”

According to a grand jury presentment made public today, here are the major elements of the fraudulent schemes perpetrated by the Levi ring:

  • License plates fraudulently obtained : Levi and his associates provided fraudulent documents, to the PA Departments of Transportation and State. As a result, they illegally obtained more than a thousand Pennsylvania license plates. They rented the plates for $400 a month or more. The people who got these plates avoided paying parking fines and EZ Pass tolls totaling $1 million in New York, Pennsylvania and neighborhood states.
  • Fake insurance cards: The Levi ring provided cars and vehicles with fake insurance cards. When accidents would happen involving any of these cars, motorists filed claims with insurance companies – but there was no legitimate policy to pay on.
  • Washed car titles : The ring issued phony letters to PennDOT which enabled them to get clean titles on vehicles. The Levi ring scammed $500,000 owed to financial institutions through this part of the scheme.
  • Fraudulent odometer rollbacks: The ring rolled back odometer readings on 35 cars – enabled them to sell cars for more money than they otherwise would’ve sold for.
  • Drivers’ licenses: The ring obtained Pennsylvania drivers licenses at an address in Pennsylvania that they defendants never lived at – another part of the scheme.

“Rafael Levi and his co-defendants used all these criminal schemes to live in the lap of luxury,” Attorney General Shapiro said, citing a prime example: Luxury autos which the ring obtained through fraud, including a red Ferrari.

Through this fraud, the ring would get one of their interlocking dealerships to “buy” a vehicle in cash. The ring then proceeded to wash the car through another of the Levi organization’s many dealerships. The ring avoiding paying more than $100,000 in PA sales tax in this manner.

Attorney General Shapiro said the investigation was ongoing, and investigators have notified law enforcement in other states of possible criminal conduct involving the Levi ring in other states.

This investigation began after the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section received information from the Pennsylvania State Police. Agents from the Attorney General’s office worked closely with State Police and investigators from the office of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Parks keeps butchering trees at Old Hickory Park

"For the third year in a row the trees that line the edge of Old Hickory Park have been cut back to nothing but trunk. These trees used to provide a barrier between the neighborhood and the tunnel. However the views of the billboards above the tunnel entrance seem to outweigh the value of our park. This horror is going on today and will probably continue into tomorrow. I have photos of the destruction as well as the city permit. This stinks of corruption." - Anonymous

Faulty fire ladder kills firefighter

From PIX11:

Hundreds of New York's bravest stood shoulder to shoulder at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center as the flag draped the body of 42-year-old veteran William Tolley was carried out by members of his ladder company.

Tolley responded to a fire at Putnam Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens around 2:30 p.m. Thursday and worked to put it out. He was on the roof during a routine operation, clearing heat and smoke. As he attempted to enter Tower Ladder 135, it began sway.

An anguished FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro announced the firefighter fell five stories from the roof and perished.

"The circumstances of his fall are under investigation," Nigro said.

Eyewitnesses say they saw the ladder jerking. "It shook so hard that it pushed him down," an onlooker said.

Members of his Engine Company 286 watched in horror as the 14-year veteran lost his foot and plunged to his death.

"There was nothing about the fire that really had anything to do with the accident that occurred," Nigro said. "It was really in the operation that he was performing on the roof, which is a routine operation for us, and, somehow, he fell from the roof."

The routine operation is the subject of an intense investigation by the fire safety unit.

7 train turns 100 today

From LIC Post:

To commemorate the first trip from Grand Central Station in to Queens on April 21, 1917, Access Queens and the New York Transit Museum will hold a commemoration with several speakers, followed by a ride on the 7 train from Grand Central to Corona, on Friday afternoon.

The commemoration ceremony will kick off at 1 p.m. and there will be several speakers who will talk about the impact the train has had on the city and what’s needed in the future. The ceremony will take place on the Flushing-Bound Platform on the lower level at Grand Central.

The centennial ride will leave Grand Central around 2 p.m., which is the exact time that the first 7 train to go in to Queens left Grand Central 100 years ago.


Hopefully service doesn't get suspended as it did earlier this week. That would be pretty embarrassing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Queens March Against Gentrification happens today

From DNA Info:

Queens residents will take to the streets Thursday to protest several of Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposals that they fear will speed up gentrification and displacement in the borough, organizers said.

The "Queens March Against Gentrification" will start at 6 p.m. at the 46th Street 7 train station, where attendees will denounce the mayor's proposed BQX Streetcar, his plan to develop Sunnyside Yards as well as rezone a large portion of Long Island City.

The marchers — organized by the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project and other advocacy groups — argue that these three projects will spur additional development in Western Queens, raising rents and displacing residents.

"Any of these proposals alone would result in displacement and gentrification in Queens," the event's organizers said in a press release. "Together, they represent nothing less than an all-out assault on our neighborhood."

The protest echoes concerns previously expressed by some city residents about each of the targeted projects.

Public places not always public

From AM-NY:

A new audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer found that half of all privately owned public spaces (POPS) restrict access to the public, fail to provide promised amenities, or have commercialized the areas by turning them into restaurants.

Of the 333 POPS surveyed, 275 had not been inspected by the Department of Buildings in at least four years — and 41 of 58 locations that had been inspected within the last four years were not in compliance. Only 18 violations to 10 of those locations were issued, despite widespread non-compliance, according to the audit.

The findings prove what gadflies have long suspected: Developers allowed to build higher and given generous zoning exemptions flagrantly broke the promises they made to provide communities with plazas, atriums, seating and resting areas, bike racks, and water fountains.

Mayor Transparency shrinks from the media


From the NY Times:

Since walking out of a news conference last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio seems to be embracing a new approach of “don’t ask, don’t answer.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pan Am contract request sums up de Blasio's debacle

Samaritan Village Demands More Funding by queenscrapper on Scribd


Well that didn't take long. Check out HRA's proposed contract extension for the Pan Am Hotel. The taxpayer trough is open and Samaritan Village has lined up.
They've been open for 3 years and have only managed to get 91 families to exit? And this should be continued for another 6 years? Also it's a good thing they are providing "recreational activities" but how about job placement?

Homeless costs through the roof

From NY1:

A new report from the City Comptroller's office says the cost to use hotels rooms as homeless shelters is soaring.

Scott Stringer says the city is spending nearly $130,000 more per day to keep the homeless in hotels. The report also finds that the number of homeless people being placed in hotels shot up around 33 percent between October and February.

DeBlasio's bedfellows

From Patch:

A building planned for a controversial conversion into a Crown Heights homeless shelter was used in a scheme to defraud investors out of more than $20 million, according to a lawsuit.

The building at 1173 Bergen St. has been earmarked by Mayor Bill de Blasio to shelter 104 homeless seniors.

In the suit filed in federal court by a group of investors, owners Chaskiel Strulovitch and Yechiel Oberlander of CSN Partners are accused of promising big payouts to backers who funded real estate buys across Brooklyn, including the Bergen Street property.

But instead, they used the funds to develop other properties for their "personal enrichment," the suit claims.

The proposed homeless shelter is already the focus of a separate court fight involving a group of neighbors who want to block the city's plans for the shelter. They will be back in court on Wednesday and have submitted the federal lawsuit as an exhibit aimed at highlighting what they say are shady deals.


Exhibit B Scholenberg v. Strulovitch, by Marc Torrence on Scribd

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Our Lady of Loreto Church faces demolition

From Brownstoner:

The city has issued a demolition permit for Our Lady of Loreto Church at 126 Sackman Street, meaning the beloved Ocean Hill church could be demolished any day. The demolition permit was issued on March 24 to demolition firm Titan Industrial Services Corporation.

The Renaissance style church was completed in 1908 and designed by architect Adriano Armezzani, an Italian immigrant who worked with fellow Italian craftsmen — including a sculptor, painter and builder — to complete the project.

Shuttered by the diocese in 2009, it has been at the center of an ongoing struggle between preservation and demolition ever since. After the closure and abandoning plans for demolition, the diocese leased the land to another Catholic organization, Catholic Charities.

An agreement was signed with the State Historic Preservation Office not to demolish the church, and to build an $18 million development consisting of 64 affordable units on part of the land. The plan to reuse the church as a community center never panned out.

DeBlasio jacks rent for his own properties

From Politico:

Despite calling for rent freezes for the city's roughly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to raise rents on several properties he owns in Park Slope, new figures obtained by POLITICO show.

The mayor and his wife have increased the monthly rent on one of the units in a two-family house they own to $2,850 last year, from $2,400 in 2009. The increases came in $50 and $75 increments annually, according to a City Hall source who would speak only on background. They raised the other unit's rent by $25 to $1,825 in June of 2015.

They charge $4,500 for their primary residence, which they left in 2014 to move into Gracie Mansion. The two row houses, worth a combined $3.7 million according to city assessments, are on 11th Street in Park Slope.

The City Hall source would not explain why the mayor raised his own rents while pushing for a rent freeze from the city's Rent Guidelines Board, which has ruled for two years against increases on one-year leases for rent-stabilized apartments. Several years ago, a previous City Hall spokeswoman said the mayor charged his tenants more when he made home improvements.

The mayor's properties are not part of the state's rent-stabilization program, so he is not subject to the board's decisions and is free to charge whatever he wants.

Monday, April 17, 2017

More proof that landmarking doesn't hurt property value

From the NY Post:

Manhattan’s last intact Gilded Age mansion is up for sale — and it’ll only set you back $50 million.

But you will have to get in line, because there are already six potential buyers champing at the bit to purchase the Fifth Avenue limestone town house, The Post has learned.

There is even a working stove from 1905, the year the home — built by the same architectural firm that designed Grand Central Terminal — was completed for its first owner, R. Livingston Beeckman, a stockbroker and later governor of Rhode Island.

“Everything is virtually intact,” said real-estate agent Tristan Harper, who listed the property on behalf of Douglas Elliman, and gave The Post an exclusive tour last week. “Whoever buys it will own a piece of New York history.”

Harper wouldn’t reveal the identity of the interested parties, except to say they are “all extremely high-net-worth individuals of different backgrounds.” He said they all want to maintain the property as a single-family residence.

Furnishings, as well as the artwork, murals and wall paintings, are all included in the purchase price.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which landmarked the property in 1966, called it a “superb example of the French classic style of Louis XV.”


So there are people out there who will spend tens of millions of dollars to own an historic home and all the old knick-knacks inside it? Amazing!

Homeless camp along bike/jog path

"On one of my early evening bike ride on Joe Michael's mile I saw a homeless "camp" under the 28th Ave overpass. I don't how many people are living there but this is not a good situation. I would like this attached picture to bring attention to this matter."

- The Queens Sentry

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Past briber back at work

From the Daily News:

Back in the day, Ron Lattanzio was accused of throwing cocaine parties in his city Buildings Department office, then later bribing some of the department’s top officials after he was fired.

He sought favors from City Council members and regularly certified projects as safe using a stamp from a retired engineer who never saw the plans. Eventually he got caught, secretly pleaded guilty to bribery and for two years worked as an undercover informant against his former Buildings Department pals.

Lattanzio testified repeatedly before a grand jury and in open court, and in the end corruption charges were filed against 18 people, including the No. 2 official in the department.

Prosecutors recommended he get no jail time and a judge agreed. He then promptly disappeared.

Lattanzio, 59, has quietly returned to again pull levers at the same city Buildings Department he once corrupted every chance he could, a Daily News investigation has found.

Through several companies he runs, he and his employees deal each week with the Buildings Department, obtaining permits and interacting with inspectors for developers of some of the biggest buildings in the city.

He and his executives are also once again writing thousands of dollars of checks to politicians, including Mayor de Blasio and Jumaane Williams, chair of the City Council committee that oversees the Buildings Department.

Edgemere's vision for its future

From Curbed:

As sea levels continue to rise, difficult choices are facing Edgemere and many other communities around New York City, and the outcomes of the strategies used here will only become more relevant in the years to come.

The Resilient Edgemere plan presents a variety of short- and long-term projects for the neighborhood, comprising zoning changes, new residential development, and transportation improvements. Some of the highlights include a $14 million investment into creating an elevated berm along the neighborhood’s unprotected coastline, a $68 million investment into NYCHA’s Beach 41st Street Houses, and the elevation of 41 attached homes above flood risk levels.

The most striking physical changes proposed in the plan are a new rocky shoreline that could replace the existing salt marsh habitat along the coast of Jamaica Bay, and the numerous illustrations showing that the northernmost part of Edgemere’s residential community, on Beach 43rd Street above Norton Avenue, would be replaced by open space and a new park. “As a proposal of de-densifying the area above Norton Avenue, the short-term tool there would be to change the zoning so that new construction of housing would not be possible,” explains Morris. “Over the long term, this area would transition from a housing area to a less-housed area. What that means is maintaining the balance of the population of the community and moving it to a safer space.”

New 421a may not help housing market

From Crains:

Finally a deal has been reached to restore the controversial 421-a tax break (excuse me, it is now known as the Affordable New York Housing Program), and the expectation is that it will ignite a boom in residential construction. Well, maybe.

At first glance the numbers support the idea that developers have been in a holding pattern since the tax break expired in late 2015. As the graph shows, building permits accelerated during the recovery from the financial crisis and then soared in 2015 as builders rushed to get approvals before the tax break lapsed. Last year permits fell by 70%, and so far this year we are on pace to issue about 20,000. The city needs more housing than that.

The common theme seems to be that builders have misjudged the incomes of the millennials who have flooded to big cities for jobs in the so-called creative economy. These young people simply can't afford the rents, and the impact is spreading from New York to other thriving cities. San Francisco rents have dropped 5% in the past nine months. Vacancy rates are rising even in Denver and other booming cities. Because development of an apartment building takes several years, a big jump in supply is coming in New York and around the country—further pressuring rents.

Beyond the immediate crunch, demographers are beginning to question how long millennial commitment to city living will last.

A survey released this year showed that young people still want to move to the suburbs. I know two such people (yes, they are journalists) who each plan eventually to leave Brooklyn for a single-family house in a suburb with good schools. One is staying for now because universal prekindergarten is cheaper than preschool in Westchester, but she's still checking the Westchester houses for sale and saving her money.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

BQX is a bust

From Politico:

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for a streetcar along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront may not pay for itself after all, according to an internal City Hall memo.

A confidential memo sent by the administration’s “BQX Project Team” to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in February says that the “successful implementation” of the $2.5 billion, 16-mile Brooklyn Queens Connector “faces several serious challenges,” including its financing model.

Since de Blasio unveiled the proposal in his February 2016 State of the City address, critics have questioned why the mayor would consider funding a developer-driven streetcar through already gentrified neighborhoods, rather than putting more capital behind another of his ideas, a subway extension into working class neighborhoods along Utica Avenue.

The administration has consistently argued that the BQX project can pay for itself, since the city can capture a piece of the rising property values that would be spurred by the creation of the streetcar. It’s a financing model known as “value capture.”

The February memo acquired by POLITICO New York suggests that the city’s confidence in the streetcar’s ability to pay for itself may be wavering.

Among the “four serious challenges” listed in the memo is the following: “Value Capture not providing sufficient revenue to fund the entire project as originally stated.”

In part, that's because, as the memo also notes, it's really expensive to move and rehabilitate the water, gas and sewer mains that lie along the streetcar’s proposed path between Sunset Park and Astoria.