Saturday, September 23, 2017

Beware of the Metro Ave ticket trap


From CBS 2:

On Thursday night, CBS2 shared a story about drivers in Queens who felt they were being forced into a ticket trap, with police standing by to write them up for blocking the box.

In the 24 hours since, more drivers have come forward with the same complaint. So CBS2’s Jessica Layton demanded answers from the NYPD.

The corner was empty of the NYPD traffic enforcement officers Friday, which came as a welcome sign for drivers like Angela Taveras, who said for weeks the agents have been pouncing on people who get caught in the chaotic intersection while doing nothing to help traffic move along.

Finally, some good news...



What a difference it makes not having Mary Beth Betts around!

Friday, September 22, 2017

2 construction workers die on the job

From NY1:

A deadly fall brought work at the site of the Manhattan West development to a standstill after two men tumbled out of a bucket lift to the ground below.

Video shows the moments after the accident at the 62-story mixed-use building going up at 9th Avenue and 33rd street.

EMS crews rushed one victim to the hospital with head and body trauma. The other was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victims were both 45 years old. Witnesses say both men appeared to be wearing safety harnesses but may not have had them secured.

It happened just hours after another fatal fall in Lower Manhattan Thursday morning. Police say Juan Chonillo fell through an open hole and dropped 27 stories to his death at a construction site on Maiden Lane. According to relatives, the 43-year-old father of six was supporting family in Ecuador.

Great moments in overdevelopment history

From DNA Info:

More than half of the city’s 1.1 million public school students attend overcrowded schools, according to a new report from the watchdog group Class Size Matters.

Despite the Department of Education’s addition of more seats and new buildings, many families feel the situation is getting worse as existing seats are being chipped away due to lost leases, schools being co-located together, or the elimination of annexes, mini-buildings and trailers housing temporary classrooms, according to the report released Thursday.

As trailers housing temporary classrooms — with nearly 8,000 seats — are expected to be phased out entirely, it may further strain school buildings, the report warns.

Roughly 575,000 students attended schools in 2015-2016 that were at or above 100 percent capacity, the report said, citing Department of Education enrollment data.


From the Queens Chronicle:

School Construction Authority officials on Monday said they have the money ready to alleviate overcrowding in overutilized school districts, such as SD 24 in southwest and western Queens, but a lack of available space remains their main obstacle.

“The hardest job of the SCA is to try and find real estate,” Michael Mirisola, director of External Affairs at the SCA, told members of the Borough Board during the annual update of the agency’s five-year capital plan. “We have brokers in every borough, in every district. We are constantly doing tests to see if a site will hold a school. We go through that exercise many times during the week and some of them just don’t pass muster.”

School District 24 has consistently been one of the most overcrowded in the city — as of February of this year, its average school utilization rate was 115 percent.
Mirisola said the SCA is always open to tips on available space to fit a school, yet many suggested sites are ultimately deemed unfit for an educational facility.

“Generally, the No. 1 reason is size,” he said. “If it’s a funded need and we don’t have a project, it’s because we’re looking for a location.”

Lots suitable for a new school site must be 20,000 square feet, the SCA official said, in addition to “other specifications and other requirements.”


They're all connected

More from Progress Queens:

In Queens, faith in Government institutions was revealed to be severely lacking after New York City Council candidate Paul Graziano filed a civil petition in New York State Supreme Court for Queens County, alleging criminality, such as fraud and forgery, in the ballot petitioning process carried out by incumbent Councilmember Paul Vallone (D-Bayside). On the Queens Crap blog, which attracts some of Queens most formidable civic-minded activists, some of the comments posted by readers to news of the court filing expressed concern that the justices of the Queens County court system would not be able to independently oversee the Court case. To some Government reform activists in Queens, the Graziano Court petition served as a symbolic Rorschach test, providing insight into the public's lack of faith in the Queens County court system. Many comments on the Queens Crap post raised questions about the "allegiance" that justices in the Queens County court system owed to leaders of the Queens Democratic County Committee, expressed concern that Mr. Graziano would not be able to receive a "fair hearing," and invoked the resignation that the "the [Queens] Machine will work to stop this at all costs."

Concerns about possible interference by the Queens Democratic County Committee were rooted in the fact that the County committee supports the reelection of incumbents as a way to earn political allegiance and to create a lockstep on power and authority over local elected officials. The role of money in politics is also a factor, because the County committee can marshal resources to support the reelection of incumbents, leaving primary challengers at a distinct financial disadvantage. Indeed, as reported by Progress Queens, Mr. Graziano ultimately discontinued his Court petition due to the high anticipated costs of having to litigate his case, reaffirming the belief to some Government reform activists that the role of money in politics even extends to being able to successfully petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The allegations made by the Graziano campaign against the Vallone campaign heightened new fears about the integrity of the voting process in Queens. In the 2016 election cycle, it was revealed that the New York City Board of Elections purged large numbers of voters without cause, triggering the filing of a Federal civil rights complaint in Brooklyn Federal Court that was later joined by both the U.S. Attorney's Office, headed at that time then by Mr. Capers, and by the office of the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York). To some Government reform activists, it has appeared that Queens voters have been disenfranchised for two years in a row, first, in 2016, when some voters were purged from the rolls, and, second, this year, when Federal prosecutors did nothing to investigate the allegations of criminality in the Graziano petition against the Vallone campaign, thereby allowing voters to cast their ballots for an incumbent, who may later be investigated for wrong-doing, although there is no indication that Federal prosecutors are presently conducting any such investigation. The press office of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn did not answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens for this report.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The U.S. Attorneys and the Queens Machine

This article is lengthy and covers many topics, so we'll be linking to different segments of it over the next few days...

From Progress Queens:

Compounding the unknowns in the face of rapidly-changing circumstances facing the two, new Acting U.S. Attorneys in New York City are lingering questions about why some political corruption scandals are investigated, but not all. As reported in recent years by Progress Queens, questions have largely remained unanswered about funding received by a nonprofit group affiliated with New York State Senator José Peralta ; about reportedly preferential treatment showed to a campaign consulting company by the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ; and with new allegations that politically-connected lawyers were earning enormous profits from, or wielding considerable influence as a result of, their connections to the Queens Democratic County Committee. The 2017 Municipal election cycle has raised new questions about the role of money in local politics and about public ethics, but there has been no apparent response from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, headed by Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde, who has jurisdiction over Queens.

No agency wants to deal with homeless woman's pile of junk


From NBC 4:

An apparently homeless woman's pile of belongings has residents in Bath Beach concerned about safety. Gus Rosendale reports.

Pols side with Spectrum strikers and not their victims


From CBS 2:

Thousands of union workers rallied in both Downtown Brooklyn and Foley Square in Lower Manhattan in Monday, in support of the striking Spectrum cable workers.

Cuomo and de Blasio are offering fiery rhetoric.

“It’s about respect and fairness,” Cuomo said.

But the residents and businesses on Austin Street in Forest Hills, Queens want fairness and respect too. It is one of many neighborhoods hit by massive outages in their cable, internet and phone services when the workers walked off the job on March 28.

There have been about 100 attacks on the fiber optics system – acts of vandalism that have left thousands and thousands inconvenienced since the strike began.

“I assume there’s some kind of money involved,” said Bareburger manager Adam Bariando. “As a person who campaigned talking about the people; the working class, I would expect him to side with us.”

CB7 wants seat at the Willets Point table

From the Queens Tribune:

The city has been “delinquent” in its discussions with Community Board 7 on the future of the troubled Willets Point development, according to the board’s First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian. And at Monday night’s quarterly meeting with the project’s stakeholders, Apelian put the city and developers on notice.

“I want to be very clear,” Apelian said. “We expect to be involved.”

The future of Willets Point has been uncertain since a June ruling by the Court of Appeals halted a major part of the proposed development, a mega mall known as Willets West, because it was planned for a parcel of land connected to nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Building the mall on public parkland would require approval from the state legislature, the court said.

And while Willets West was only part of a larger development plan that included hundreds of affordable housing units and environmental remediation, the developers maintained that the mall was the “economic engine” that would make the project possible. Now, the developers and city are deciding whether to pursue a long campaign for state approval or make changes to their plan. But changes to the project could concern Community Board 7, which approved the most recent proposal in 2013.

“If the original concept has been now modified, that’s not what this board voted on,” CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty said on Monday.

Nate Bliss, of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said that, regardless, the city plans on being a partner with the community on the process. Apelian expressed hope that this was true. If the parkland was not alienated by the state legislature and Willets West was abandoned, he expects the project could change “dramatically.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How they do things in Brooklyn

From Crains:

In 2008, Daniel Squadron clawed his way into the state Senate with a hard-fought upset in the Democratic primary, earning 12,688 votes to longtime incumbent Martin Connor's 10,757.

This weekend, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh effectively won Squadron's seat with 32 votes to Paul Newell's 66.

Welcome to democracy—Albany style.

Kavanagh won the Democratic nomination to succeed the resigning Squadron by virtue of an obscure, backroom process. He defeated Newell, a Democratic district leader, despite the latter's capturing a majority of the vote Sunday of the Manhattan county committee—the panel of party insiders charged with handpicking the candidate.

The reason: one of Kavanagh's 32 supporters was Kings County Democratic Committee Chairman Frank Seddio. Party bylaws empowered Seddio to back the candidate of his choosing without a vote of the county committee that represents his borough's portion of the Senate district. Seddio's endorsement carried the weight of the Brooklyn contingent as if it had voted unanimously.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cuomo sort of endorses de Blasio


From PIX11:

"The mayor won the Democratic primary. I am a Democrat," Cuomo said while explaining his endorsement. "I support Democrats and I will support Mayor de Blasio in the general (election)."

Large items pickup can be arranged via 311

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Sanitation Department last Thursday announced the launch of a service that allows city residents to schedule pickups for bulky items such as sofas, mattresses and large wooden furniture.

Those looking to have items picked up can do so by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov/bulk.

The service is designed for items larger than 4 by 3 feet that can be lifted by two workers and fit inside a Sanitation truck.

It does not apply to items that require special handling such as air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions or other electronics.

Developers exploit low-income housing loophole

From the Wall Street Journal:

Consider the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, created by the 1986 tax reform. This $9 billion credit masquerades as an antipoverty program, but it mainly subsidizes developers, investors and the financial industry.

To stimulate low-income housing construction, the federal government allots a share of tax credits to the states, which dole them out to selected developers. The credits cover part of the construction costs of multifamily housing projects. The developers must cap rents for a share of the units, so the benefits of the tax credit are meant to flow to tenants in the form of lower rents. Yet the developers usually sell the credits to banks and investors, often using syndication companies as intermediaries. The investors, developers and middlemen—not poor families—end up grabbing most of the benefits.

Monday, September 18, 2017

City unleashes beestorm in Kew Gardens

From DNA Info:

Swarming wasps stung several Kew Gardens residents after city workers cut down a tree housing their nest — with city officials telling concerned locals they won't remove the ornery insects because they are "an important part of nature."

The tree, on Kew Gardens Road near 82nd Road near P.S. 99, was removed by the Parks Department on Sept. 7 "due to poor health," after a resident asked the agency to inspect it, the department said.

The nest was left in the stump, with someone placing a traffic cone there with a sign reading, "Danger Bees Ahead.”

The insects, which experts said are yellow jackets, have become aggressive and started attacking passersby, residents said.

The NYPD referred DNAinfo New York to a city website titled "Bees or Wasps Complaint," which noted that the city "does not accept requests to eliminate bees or wasps from residential, commercial, or public property."

Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, confirmed that regulation and noted that "these creatures are an important part of nature, so the City will not destroy them."

Trailer without a truck

"This was off of Woodhaven Blvd, next to the Home Depot near Metropolitan Ave.
Just the flatbed...no truck cab attached parked at a fire hydrant.
Typical Queens." - anonymous

Willets Point eyed as LGA parking lot

From Queens Chamber of Commerce:

While phases one and two are clearly defined and underway, there is a potential third phase in the works. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated publicly on several occasions his desire for an AirTrain connecting the airport with the 7 subway stop and Long Island Railroad at Willets Point.

[Lysa C.] Scully said there are a number of factors at work with such a project, and all of them are currently being analyzed. Those findings and recommendations could be before the Port Authority board by the end of the year.

“There are a number of factors, if they all come to the right agreement point, that would provide a terrific opportunity,” she said. “There’s a thought about a consolidated rental car facility there and employee parking, things that today are very complicated because we’re so landlocked and we’re very respectful to the community.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

City employee parking abuse down a little

From the Queens Chronicle:

The Chronicle’s Michael Gannon has been investigating illegal parking by city employees — or people passing themselves off as such — for about a year, mostly on the congested streets around Borough Hall in Kew Gardens and neighboring Briarwood.

On Gannon’s last surveys of the area, conducted over the last week, he still found unticketed cars with placards parked illegally: alleged cops in No Standing zones and blocking fire hydrants, for example. Not much improvement there. But what he did not see were the vests, patches and caps that had been used as substitutes. So there’s been a change, but more needs to be done. City employees have enough privileges as it is.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Trump home has illegal conversion inside


From DNA Info:

The city issued a partial vacate order at President Donald Trump’s boyhood home, which has recently been listed on Airbnb, after the owners illegally converted the basement into an apartment, city records show.

The five-bedroom, Tudor-style house, at 85-15 Wareham Place in the affluent Jamaica Estates neighborhood, where Trump lived until he was 4, was sold at an auction in January for $2.14 million. In August, the new owners listed it on Airbnb with a price tag of $725 per night.

But shortly after that, the city received complaints from Community Board 8 and via 311 about the illegal conversion conducted in the basement, officials said.

The basement is not part of the Airbnb listing which advertises the other portions of the house, according to Airbnb.

CB8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said Friday that the board received a number of phone calls and emails with complaints that there are people illegally living in the basement.

“Once we receive complaints, we have to act,” she said.

CB8 then notified the Department of Buildings, which referred the case to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement investigating illegal conversions.

Creedmoor of concern to local citizens


From CBS 2:

A Queens community says it has grown impatient with some patients at a famed mental health facility near their neighborhood.

They say incident involving patients range from scary to downright gross.

Matt Kruger told CBS2’s Jessica Borg the scenes he captured in a cellphone video are the reason he’s moving out of Glen Oaks.

“No one wants to see someone’s pants down to their ankles, in broad daylight, then going to the bathroom in the middle of the street,” he said.

He showed Borg the video – too graphic for TV – that showed a man doing just that right around the corner from his home.

“It’s inappropriate,” he said. “There’s kids, there’s families.”

Aggressive panhandling is also a growing concern for neighbors of a shopping plaza on Union Turnpike.

Friday, September 15, 2017

De Blasio opponent takes on project costs

From AM-NY:

Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis and Democratic incumbent Bill de Blasio appear to have common ground on at least one issue — a proposed change to state law that would allow the city to streamline the process it uses to design and build projects.

Malliotakis, a state assemblywoman from Staten Island, speaking at a news conference in her home borough Thursday, outlined a series of proposals she said would save the city money and speed up long delayed infrastructure projects. The proposals are included in state legislation she co-sponsored this year, that failed to get approved by the legislature.

Under current law, the design phase and the construction phase of projects are contracted separately, which Malliotakis said had led to widespread delays and cost overruns that she argued could be prevented if contractors collaborated at the inception of a project.

“Current state law mandates a less efficient approach,” Malliotakis said.

To highlight the waste, she held her news conference in front of a proposed new city animal shelter that has yet to be completed five years after officials broke ground on the project. The new shelter was initially slated to cost $3.1 million, but has since increased to $8.2 million, Malliotakis said.

Residents protest taxes on co-ops and condos

From the Queens Tribune:

Residents of Bellerose’s Parkwood Estates condominium complex and members of the organization Politics Reborn turned out on Friday to protest city property taxes on condos and co-ops in front of Assemblyman David Weprin’s (D-Fresh Meadows) office.

The protesters accused the assemblyman and city of lagging on a bill aimed at capping co-op and condo assessments.

“He’s the one dragging his feet,” Alice Christy, a Parkwood Estates resident and member of Politics Reborn, said of Weprin.

Christy noted that Weprin is one of the sponsors of bill A00354A, which would cap co-op and condo assessments at 8 percent in any one year and 30 percent in any five years. The bill’s author is Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside). It is identical to a bill in the state Senate sponsored by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing).

“[The bill] just languishes there,” said Christy.

She added that 30 percent is still a big increase, “but it’s better than what we would have. Our community is middle-middle class. We can’t afford homes in the area, yet we have too much money for affordable housing. We need this to pass. The city commissioner of finance is just kicking this down the road. I’m not giving up. I’m a tiger.”

The condominium has a large senior population. Christy, who is a senior, said that with property taxes rising, her fees have risen as well. She added that the funds seniors receive from the city’s STAR program have not increased.

Christy and fellow organizers at Friday’s protest went door to door, persuading residents of the condominium to sign more than 250 letters urging Weprin to push the legislation.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A more fiscally prudent transportation plan

From Crains:

Rather than spend several hundred million dollars to build a light-rail system which could take a decade or more, why not ask the LIRR to resume service on this corridor? It could run a two-car scoot service reconnecting Long Island City, Glendale and Middle Village with other communities including Richmond Hill and other intermediate stops to Jamaica. The LIRR could use existing equipment, which would afford far earlier implementation of service than light rail. This would provide connections east bound to the J/Z and E subway lines, Kennedy Airport via AirTrain and the LIRR's Jamaica Station. Queens residents traveling to jobs and colleges in Nassau and Suffolk counties would have access to all LIRR branches except the Port Washington line. Ditto for those traveling to the Barclay Center and downtown Brooklyn via the LIRR Atlantic Avenue branch. There would also be connections westbound at either the Hunters Point or Long Island City LIRR stations to the 7 subway line.

Last survivor standing no more

From Brownstoner:

A curious survivor, a freestanding Second Empire mansion at 489 Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, will soon vanish, to be replaced by an apartment building. Workers were demolishing the upper floors of the already gutted house before Labor Day weekend, knocking holes in the roof and walls.

The faux-stone sheathing is gone, the stoop demolished, and windows and masonry have been removed from the side facades.

The mansard-roofed house is located just outside the Clinton Hill Historic District, and therefore unprotected. Plans call for conversion of the property into a four-story, 21-unit residential building.

This stretch of Washington Avenue, between Gates and Fulton streets, was once scattered with grand 19th century residences on generous lots. In the 20th century, many of the large homes were transformed into religious, institutional or commercial uses. Today, only a few of the houses remain, interrupted by new condos and 20th century apartments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Park vs. towers in LIC


From LIC Post:

The city’s decision to appoint a for-profit developer to build 1,000 high-rise apartments on public land along the Long Island City waterfront was universally panned by residents at last week’s Community Board 2 meeting.

Earlier this summer, the city—through the Economic Development Corp– announced that it had selected TF Cornerstone, the Manhattan-based real estate firm, to develop a 4.5 acre site near 44th Drive and 5th Street. The project could bring 1,000 apartments, 400,000-square-feet of commercial space, and a school for 600 students at an estimated cost of $925 million. One-quarter of the apartments will be classified as “affordable.”

Residents who spoke at CB2’s monthly meeting in Sunnyside on Thursday said there was little need for more high-end, luxury towers in Hunters Point, especially when they’d be built on city-owned land by a for-profit developer.

Several residents said the site should be converted into a park.

Locals support the Flagship Diner


From DNA Info:

Dozens of Queens residents and several elected officials came together for a rally Tuesday to support a popular diner, which is currently facing a court battle with a new landlord after more than five decades in business.

The owners of The Flagship Diner, at 138-30 Queens Blvd., which has been a community fixture since 1965, said their new landlord — Jamaica-based White Rock Management — began harassing them shortly after White Rockpurchased the site for $6.125 million last year and promptly obtained permits to knock down the restaurant and replace it with a seven-story, mixed-use apartment building containing 64 units.

On Tuesday, patrons holding signs that read “No more buildings — Save the Flagship,” “Stop Unfair Landlord” and “Stop the Harassment White Rock,” said that the diner has been like a “second home.”

The diner's owners — Vincent Pupplo, Jimmy Skartsiaris and Frank Lountzis — said they were initially hoping to keep their business open until their lease expires in October 2019, and then most likely retire.

The landlord proposed to buy them out, offering each of them $100,000, but they turned it down, the owners said.

Since then, they said, the landlord sent them several "notices to cure," requiring them to address a variety of issues within five days if they wanted to avoid eviction, including accusations that their parking lot, sidewalk and back steps are in disrepair and have to be ripped up and replaced immediately.

The owners said that their lawyer was able to obtain a “Yellowstone injunction” for each notice which temporarily suspends the time period during which they must address the issues.

In July, the restaurant owners filed a lawsuit in the Queens County Supreme Court accusing the landlord of harassing them, with the first hearing scheduled for Sept. 19.

When will we learn?

Well folks, I decided last night that I would have a drink for every incumbent that got defeated in the primary. It was a rather sober evening.

The closest race was Vallone-Graziano. Only 500 votes separated them and the final tally was Graziano 45% and Vallone 55%. I guess there are a lot of Democrats in that district who don't like fraud, yet there are even more who are ok with it.

Of the open seats, the machine-backed candidates, Francisco Moya and Adrienne Adams, both won their respective races.

Perhaps if the turnout hadn't been so abysmal things would be different, but here we are once again after the primary with the same tired old "Virginia Joe"-endorsed candidates likely to cruise to victory in November.

God bless America!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LI town has illegal conversion problem


From CBS:

Tucked outside of Stony Brook University, they often stick out like sore thumbs — run down, lawns torn up for parking — and neighbors fed up over an explosion of illegal off campus student housing.

“Weeds where flowers used to grow are no like 4 to 5 feet tall, there is garbage all over the street, and cars, we can’t get out of our driveways,” Diane Sander said.

“The deplorable conditions of the homes. If they would upkeep the houses and keep them neat and clean and trimmed, we wouldn’t even notice them,” Bruce Sander said.

Residents count more than 300 houses owned by absentee landlords who subdivide single family homes and pack in the renters.

“We have five in this house,” one student said.

Brookhaven town law prohibits more than four unrelated people under one roof.

Reform Party has surprise primary

For the first time ever, independent voters (blanks) may vote in a party primary. The Reform Party has a line on the ballot this November, and both voters registered with the Reform Party and independent voters (registered to vote but not with any party) have the opportunity to vote in it. The ballot will look like this:


You may either choose Sal Albanese or write in a candidate of your choice.

Steinway Mansion undergoing extensive restoration


Henry E Steinway Mansion Restoration 2017 from Gabriel Espinosa on Vimeo.

"Wow! What a stroke of good luck I had today! After taking Pilar to the airport I took Logan on a mini-tour of the old neighborhood. One of the sites I wanted to show him was the old Steinway Mansion (of Steinway piano fame) in Astoria. We drove up to it and apparently the old house has a new owner who decided to restore the mansion to it's former glory and then some! The place was buzzing with workers and I asked if I could come in to take some pictures. I was allowed. I went through the entire house from the tiny watch tower at the top where it is said Mr. Henry E. Steinway, the original builder/owner of the mansion and also the founder of the Steinway Piano Company had a scope with which he used to check out what used to be North Beach and is now Astoria Park, all the way down to the basement! What an exhilarating adventure this was! They have kept all the original fixtures, wood, crown moldings, fireplaces, chandeliers, stairwells, etc and are skilfully restoring everything by hand. In these pictures you will see almost every room and close up details of the interior and exterior architecture and decor. The old cars and van in these images were there, exactly as they are now, when I was a kid back in the 70's. Unfortunately the place is shrouded in plastic sheeting because of the work but it is see-thru so you can see just about everything." - Gabriel Espinosa

Monday, September 11, 2017

BDB claims he was not aware of hidden cash

From the Daily News:

Maybe Mayor de Blasio was too busy campaigning to read how a loophole in the city's Campaign Finance Board has allowed a powerful lobbying firm to stay under the radar as one of his fund-raisers.

Constantinople & Vallone steered $60,900 in campaign cash to de Blasio, but was not required to be listed as a fundraiser with the city's finance board, the Daily News reported Sunday.

The mayor said he hadn’t read it.

"I haven't seen that story specifically," he told Rita Cosby on 77 WABC when asked about the News’ story.

Under the city's campaign-finance law, city candidates must detail the names of their fund-raisers and how much they raised to the city's Campaign Finance Board.

But Constantinople & Vallone is not listed online as a de Blasio fund-raiser because the firm was on host committees for campaign-sponsored events. Hosts are not deemed intermediaries or fund-raisers if the campaign covers the event.

The money raised was listed on obscure filings with the City Clerk's Lobbying Bureau.

Video Voter Guide: Democratic Candidates for Public Advocate


Video Voter Guide: Democratic Mayoral Candidates





Vallone "community letter" turns out to be political ad

"Hi Crappy -

I read "Paul vs. Paul getting really amusing" a few days ago and couldn't believe how hypocritical these so-called "community leaders" who support Vallone were in condemning the mailers from Paul Graziano...I remember what happened four years ago with Vallone's mail pieces - they were nasty and people got really turned off, and none of those people said a peep when it happened, but whatever, they want to say their piece now, so be it.

So imagine my surprise when I got a mailer on Saturday with the letter on one side and all of these elected officials on the other. What a crock! That letter was phony - Paid for by We Support Paul Vallone! Classic Queens Democratic Machine BS."

- anonymous in Bayside

So he tricked newspapers into printing a free campaign ad?
That's pretty lame.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Brown's use of witness warrants comes under fire

From the NY Times:

It is one of law enforcement’s most expansive powers: If the authorities believe that someone has knowledge of a crime, they can — under threat of arrest — force the person to testify in court by obtaining what is known as a material witness warrant.

Unlike normal subpoenas, many, if not most, of which are issued to those directly involved in criminal proceedings, material witness warrants are typically handed out to people who are not under suspicion and are merely in possession of information that the police or prosecutors want.

While the warrants are ostensibly meant to seek the truth and quicken the search for justice, court papers recently filed in a federal lawsuit claim that the Queens district attorney’s office misused a warrant while pursuing a prosecution — a practice that, according to the papers, prosecutors in both Brooklyn and Manhattan have also engaged in occasionally in the last several years.

A sort of legal fail-safe, material witness warrants, which must be signed by judges, are designed to be used in extraordinary circumstances — say, when prosecutors are concerned that a witness might flee or resists taking the stand. Strict rules govern their use: material witnesses can be arrested on a warrant only if they first ignore an order to appear in court, and those detained are required to be presented to a judge and provided with a lawyer. Hearings are supposed to be held to determine what these witnesses know and why they are reluctant to reveal it.

But the court papers say that does not always happen and that the mishandling of the warrants has led to dire consequences for the witnesses themselves, some of whom have been unlawfully held in custody for having done no more than attracted the attention of investigators. The court papers also claim that the misuse of the warrants has harmed defendants, as witnesses compelled by them to testify have at times been coerced into offering false accounts in court.

We're now doing photo ops over traffic lights...

From Sunnyside Post:

A new traffic light has gone up at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and 47th Street, in response to complaints about reckless drivers speeding down 43rd Avenue putting pedestrians at risk.

The intersection is just a block away from Little Friends Pre-K, a 56-seat school that small children and their parents walk to. It is also an intersection used by many pedestrians who walk to the 46th Street train station.

To mark the installation, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, representatives of the Department of Transportation and pre-school children turned out to celebrate.


It's a stop light, Jimmy. Relax.

The 4th land grab: LIC

From the Newtown Pentacle:

The fourth land grab in Queens is underway, as you read this.

All of this development has avoided upgrading the municipal infrastructure which the new population would require – cops, fire department, sewerage, hospitals, schools. If you’re walking through one of the glorious new waterfront parks in Hunters Point, and you suddenly grab at your chest, where the FDNY ambulance will take you is either Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, the Mount Sinai hospital on Crescent street in Astoria, or out to Elmhurst hospital. FDNY’s fire fighting apparatus in western Queens was designed for industrial fires, and the 108th precinct is housed in a tiny 19th century building which still has horse stables. The sewer plant servicing this gargantuan residential population was opened by Fiorella LaGuardia in 1936. Our transit needs far outweigh current capability. There are not enough school desks. Don’t get me started on the environmental legacy of all that industry which used to be here. The buildings being erected in the photos in today’s posts are on the site of a former chemical factory in Queens Plaza, for instance.

Simply put, “gentrification” is nothing new in Western Queens and it’s been going on since at least the Civil War. The “G bomb” has already been dropped, and it has gone off. A looming infrastructure crisis is just beginning.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

De Blasio's monuments commission appointed


From CBS 2:

The members of the commission are:

Co-Chairs

Darren Walker President of the Ford Foundation; longtime leader in nonprofit and philanthropic sectors

Tom Finkelpearl Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs

Commission Members

Richard Alba Distinguished Professor at CUNY Graduate Center; former vice president of the American Sociological Association

Michael Arad Architect; designer of the World Trade Center Memorial

Harry Belafonte Singer; songwriter; actor; and civil rights activist

John Calvelli Executive Vice President for Public Affairs of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Vice Chair of International Affairs at the National Italian American Foundation

Mary Schmidt Campbell President of Spelman College; former vice-chair of President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Gonzalo Casals Director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art; adjunct faculty at CUNY Hunter College in arts administration

Teresita Fernandez Visual artist with experience in public art; MacArthur Fellow

Amy Freitag Executive Director of the JM Kaplan Fund; former Executive Director at New York Restoration Project

Catie Marron Editor of books on urban parks and public spaces; chair of the board of Friends of the High Line; trustee of the New York Public Library

Jon Meacham Vanderbilt professor; Pulitzer prize-winning biographer of Jefferson and Jackson

Pepón Osorio Visual artist with experience in public art; MacArthur Fellow

Harriet Senie Public art scholar; author; professor of art history and director of the Art History program and Art Museum Studies at City College of New York

Shahzia Sikander Visual artist with experience in public art; MacArthur Fellow

Audra Simpson Mohawk anthropologist; Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University

John Kuo Wei Tchen Historian of Chinese Americans in New York City; Associate Professor at New York University

Mabel Wilson Architect; scholar of race, memory, and urbanism; Associate Professor at Columbia University

Ex-Officio City Agencies Public Design Commission, Law, Education, and Parks

Hiram's base has lost its polling site

From the Daily News:

Allies of Hiram Monserrate have lost a last-minute bid to have a polling site reestablished for the Democratic primary in LeFrak City in Queens, where the convicted felon enjoys broad support.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Andrea Masley ruled earlier this week that it was too late for her to move a polling site back to LeFrak, where New Yorkers had cast their votes for 50 years.

But she criticized the Board of Elections for moving the voting site from LeFrak to two other locations outside of the housing complex, writing that "moving poll sites is no joke" and that the timing of the change had not yet been properly explained.

"This court is confounded by the BOE's decision to move 6,071 voters to two new voting sites," Masley wrote.

In May, the Board of Elections announced new sites three-quarters of a mile and one-third of a mile away from the LeFrak complex, saying the original site did not meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

Friday, September 8, 2017

South Ozone Park landlord engages in rental scam


From PIX11:

Samintra Boodram from Queens went to see the apartment at 117-20 Lincoln St. in South Ozone Park, Queens.

It’s in a multi-family house. She says a man who identified himself as Tony Bacchus, the landlord, showed her the three-bedroom unit.

It was obvious people were living in the apartment. The landlord told her the tenants lease was nearly up and urged her to put down a $2,000 security deposit. She did. A week later he asked for another $2,000 in cash for the first month’s rent. She paid that, too.

Sumintra says the landlord told her she could move in August 17, after he had fixed up the apartment. But she says he then stopped answering her calls and emails. She went to the house and says she heard voices inside the apartment, but no one would open the door.

“I called the police and the neighbors came out. Everybody was saying how he had been doing this to a lot of people,” says Sumintra.

De Blasio goes full socialist in NY Mag interview

From NY Magazine:

In 2013, you ran on reducing income inequality. Where has it been hardest to make progress? Wages, housing, schools?

What’s been hardest is the way our legal system is structured to favor private property. I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be. I think there’s a socialistic impulse, which I hear every day, in every kind of community, that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. Unfortunately, what stands in the way of that is hundreds of years of history that have elevated property rights and wealth to the point that that’s the reality that calls the tune on a lot of development.

I’ll give you an example. I was down one day on Varick Street, somewhere close to Canal, and there was a big sign out front of a new condo saying, “Units start at $2 million.” And that just drives people stark raving mad in this city, because that kind of development is clearly not for everyday people. It’s almost like it’s being flaunted. Look, if I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed. And there would be very stringent requirements around income levels and rents. That’s a world I’d love to see, and I think what we have, in this city at least, are people who would love to have the New Deal back, on one level. They’d love to have a very, very powerful government, including a federal government, involved in directly addressing their day-to-day reality.

Video Voter Guide: City Council District 34


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Liz Crowley doesn't think she is part of the Queens Machine

From the Times Ledger:

Holden fired off an angry letters to supporters after the Crowley campaign sent out literature questioning his allegiance to the Democratic Party and questioning his values. He called her a do-nothing career politician attempting to discredit him to distract voters from her own ineffective representation and he blamed the Queens Machine for smearing him.

“The mailers came from my campaign, not the Democratic Machine,” Crowley said. “He’s much more aligned with the party of Donald Trump than with the party I identify with. His values are not aligned with our party and he shouldn’t even be running in this primary. He should be running as a conservati­ve.”

Holden has ripped Crowley for years in the pages of the Juniper Berry, along with her cousin, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the head of the Queens Democratic organization.

“I don’t even know what he’s talking about when he talks about the Machine,” the councilwoman said. “I’m proud to be a Democrat. I’m proud of Democratic values. He’s not. He’s not fooling me and I want to make sure that people who don’t know about him get to know how dangerous he is. How he doesn’t have any of the values that the Democratic Party stands for and I’m proud of the party. I identify with its values. It means something.”

Holden has been a registered Democrat for 44 years and a union member for 42 years.


From the Times Ledger:

“What is a good Democrat, one that hates Republicans?” Holden said in an interview with the TimesLedger staffers. “Don’t we have enough of that in this country? I think you work with both parties. I can work with anyone who is pro-community. She’s gone to the extreme left and I’m a moderate Democrat, conservative on some things and progressive on others. I was never a part of a political club being labeled a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a civic guy, a community guy. You have to work with both parties for the good of the community. I know I can do a better job than her, I know it. I work everyday with people who couldn’t get help from Crowley’s office.”

As president of the powerful Juniper Park Civic Association for 25 years, Holden has worked with both parties to accomplish vital projects and deliver services to the community. He has criticized Crowley and the so-called Democratic Machine, for years in the organization’s Juniper Berry quarterly magazine.

“I’ll always say it the way I see it,” Holden said. “I was never afraid of an elected official. They work for us. They’re public servants and I don’t have to kiss their ring. When you do something bad, I’ll turn on you.”

“She opted out of the matching fund program, which means she’s taking big money from special interests, and that’s when they control you,” Holden said. “My allegiance will be to the constituents and not the special interests that funded me.”

Paul vs. Paul getting really amusing



Here are the mailers in question with the 2013 Graziano-on-fire ads.

Paul 2017 by Paul Graziano on Scribd


Graziano Mailers Vallone by Paul Graziano on Scribd

Video Voter Guide: City Council District 32


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Day care site not ideal

From the Queens Chronicle:

To some, the two-story Great Sunshine Day Care building under construction on 67th Avenue and 172nd Street is not a bright idea.

The suburban Flushing intersection is one block from PS 173’s playground and two from the school itself by the western edge of Fresh Meadows. Some in that neighborhood think that the combination of traffic from the school and the day care center, at their worst times, will together be problematic.

Fresh Meadows resident Bill Anello told the Chronicle that traffic from the school causes cars to be “double-parked in the morning and triple-parked all along 67th Avenue.”

Moreover, Anello says that the area already has plenty of day care centers. And he added that there is another one planned at the former Carol School Supply building.

According to Anello, the day care center will serve 290 kids. It is not clear where he heard that — when the Chronicle followed up, he did not immediately respond.

Michael Tang, a lawyer who has discussed the day care plan with community members, did not immediately respond when the Chronicle asked how many people — employees or children — would be at the business.

Construction noise complaints on the rise

From NY1:

Developers are apparently giving New Yorkers headaches, according to a rise in noise complaints filed with the city.

A report from the state comptroller says the number of complaints logged with 311 more than doubled since 2010.

For example, at the Chapin School on the Upper East Side, residents have called and complained more than 100 times about the ongoing construction.

Many of the complaints come before or after normal construction work hours, which are between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Special permits from the buildings department allows work after hours, but the comptroller says those permits are not being given out responsibly.

Sordid petition fraud story comes to its conclusion



I like how Grace Meng is involved in this! Amazingly sloppy.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chronicling the US Open invasion

"Hi Crappie, I was in Flushing Meadow Park and took these photos of all the parking lots that are marked for the US Open.Of the 6 parking areas all are on grass except 4a and 4b which have paved over many years ago for parking.

The electronic sign is directing cars to Citi Field for parking. The two adjacent parking lots by the Queens Museum are used for all the emergency vehicles and there are more police vehicles all throughout the park as every car the enters the park must be inspected at various check points.
Remember the lie put forth by the Wilpon's and Related developers that Citi Field parking lot is not needed? This week on top of hosting the US Open there was two days of concerts by Lady Ga Ga.There was a traffic nightmare and I saw cars going all through the park on the various roads not just the outer roadways and none are well marked and are dangerous to cars,bikes and pedestrians alike.
Yes there are plenty of parking areas in the park and surrounding areas but Citi Field lot is well used too and needed.Add a mall with stores, restaurants, movie theaters on top of the Met's, US Open and large events and concerts is a recipe for disaster and not what a park should be.

The Mayor and our city council wanted a mall so I guess their plan is to use our park as a parking lot for all the stadiums they want to build.
I sure hope the city is making lots of money from the US Open because one can only imagine what it is costing us with all the police,firefighters and other assorted first responders involved each day.I know one thing the money isn't going back into the maintaining the park.I bike from the Promenade along Flushing Bay to around the lake all the time and I see roads not marked and in bad shape, I see homeless camped out on the rocks of the bay, I see lots of garbage washed up on the shore.Yes for the Open they plant lots of flowers and it looks pretty for the people going in but with all the millions of dollars from baseball,tennis and concerts you would think we would have a world class park up there with Central and Prospect Park.
I've been trying for 12 years just to get the city to put in a crosswalk for pedestrians walking and biking to the Marina and they have done nothing.They spend millions on building a promenade not realizing the people are going to want to get to it and this is a very busy road with trailer trucks whizzing by. For years I wrote the Park's Dept. and they said there was no funds available and there is a Master Plan and these things take time. This year I contacted Councilwoman Ferraras's office and they contacted DOT to do a traffic study.
The city is so concerned about putting bike lanes everywhere how about in Flushing Meadow after all it is a park and there is even a bike rental concession .Biking around the park there are no bike lanes or signs informing drivers to share the road and many of these roads drivers treat as extensions of the highway's that surround the park.
The future of the park looks grim, when you think that the Mayor ,the City Council and the Boro President all were in favor of the shopping mall and it was only a small group that opposed the plan that got it stopped for now.Remember the Formula 1 race track that was to race around the lake or the many stadiums that have been proposed?It will only be a matter of time when a plan will come along that can't be refused and the people will be too complacent to care." - Richard

Illegal conversions being taken more seriously


From PIX11:

Illegal home conversions are a key issue in several city council races among the five boroughs.

The New York City Department of Buildings has thousands of open complaints, which is why each week, several marshals investigate the complaints with one goal in mind: keeping New Yorkers safe.

Many doors have been closed on federal agents such as Marshal Ryan Gobin as they investigate homes for the Department of Buildings.

Gobin is part of a team that responds to the thousands of complaints of illegal conversions across the five boroughs.

Many times, it’s unknowing homeowners putting their families at risk. Other times, it’s landlords jeopardizing tenants.

Video Voter Guide: City Council District 30


Monday, September 4, 2017

Anti-landlord harassment bills signed

From AM-NY:

New York City landlords will face up to $5,000 in fines if they are found to be illegally harassing tenants under a package of tenant-protection bills signed into law Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The new set of laws increases the minimum harassment fine levied on landlords from $1,000 to $2,000, and increases the penalty to $5,000 for landlords already cited for tenant harassment in the past five years. The measures also expand the city’s definition of tenant harassment to include calls and visits by the landlord at “unusual hours.”

The bills also look to prevent landlords from prolonging construction and demolition projects in an effort to pressure tenants out of their apartments. The city’s Department of Buildings will issue completion deadlines when landlords seek building permits for projects in occupied buildings, and will increase its inspection of construction and demolition projects in occupied buildings.

Video voter guide: Council District 28


Vallone used Young Dem who's not a Dem to collect signatures

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Trackside hotel coming to Astoria


From DNA Info:

A developer is planning to build a nine-story hotel with 52 rooms on 31st Street, just steps from the 30th Avenue subway station, city records show.

Anton Developers filed plans with the Department of Buildings Monday to construct the 95-foot-high hotel at 30-17 31st St., adjacent to the elevated N/W train tracks, on a lot that's currently home to a two-story house with a driveway and garage.

The hotel would include space for medical offices on its first and second floors, as well as an exercise room in the basement, according to the plans.

Hi-rise residential buildings need PA systems


From NBC:

There's a push for an increased safety measure in New York City high-rise buildings that experts say could save lives. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

Video Voter Guide - City Council District 27


Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz has died

From the Daily News:

Well-regarded State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, a devoted father and longtime public servant, died Saturday after battling an undisclosed illness. He was 45.

The Queens native was first elected to state office in 2011, representing a wide area in the center of his home borough — including his old neighborhood of Forest Hills.

He had previously served for 15 years as chief of staff for Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, and worked for the city Housing Preservation and Development department prior to that job.

Simanowitz was eulogized in The Yeshiva World as “a tremendous voice for the Jewish community,” and Gov. Cuomo issued a statement hailing his colleague.

The Democratic assemblyman “worked every day to make life better for his constituents and I join them and all New Yorkers in mourning his sudden passing,” said Cuomo.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Case for petition fraud getting much stronger

Patrick Jordan - Vallone Field Director and Serial Fraudster - Part 1 by Paul Graziano on Scribd

That's a lot of house...

From Curbed:

It should come as no surprise that the most expensive home for sale in Queens right now—according to StreetEasy, at least—is in the tony enclave of Malba, situated at the foot of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge on the East River waterfront. (One ambitious broker once described’ the neighborhood as “the Hamptons of Queens,” which, sure.)

It should also come as no surprise that the house—listed with Ryan Serhant, and asking a whopping $8.795 million—is an enormous single-family property (with McMansiony qualities) built in the 1990s, as is typical of homes in this price range in this particular part of town.

The 12,000-square-foot space—16,000, if you take its full lot into account—comes with seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a seven-car driveway (and a three-car garage), two family rooms, a temperature-controlled wine cellar, a wood-fired oven in its second kitchen, an outdoor kitchen, and a 40-foot in-ground pool, and really, that’s just scratching the surface.