Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Joel Wiener: Agent of gentrification

From Crains:

In the world of New York housing, where landlord-tenant battles are both routine and brutal, Joel Wiener has plenty of scars.

One of the city’s top 10 rental apartment owners, Wiener’s been sued for overcharges and shoddy repairs, and denounced by politicians for making housing too expensive for the working class.

None of it, though, has slowed his rise. From a disclosed net worth of $124 million in 2001, the 68-year-old Wiener today has a fortune of $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s benefited from soaring property values as gentrification spreads to one city neighborhood after another.

His Pinnacle Group manages about $2 billion worth of property—some 10,000 units, almost all rent-regulated, in every New York borough save Staten Island. The firm has also made millions converting about 25 buildings to condominiums.

Through his lawyer, Ken Fisher, Wiener declined to comment on his net worth.

Kim Powell, who co-founded an anti-Wiener group called Buyers and Renters United to Save Harlem in 2005, says his wealth has come at the expense of tenants.

Powell and other critics say landlords like Wiener are helping to accelerate the demise of affordable housing by snapping up buildings in once undesirable neighborhoods and driving out existing tenants with high rents. Gentrification was a major issue in the recent campaign that saw Mayor Bill de Blasio elected to a second term. He’s pledged to build 300,000 affordable units by 2026.

“The harassment comes dressed up in a pinstripe suit,” Powell said. “This is a family empire that’s mushroomed into a billion-dollar estate.”

Some yeshivas not providing basic education

From CBS 2:

Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted Monday night that some yeshiva students are not being taught the basics.

But how soon Hizzoner will fix the problem remains to be seen. CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer was demanding answers Monday.

“The issue must be resolved,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio was talking about charges of poor education at some yeshivas, and a complaint filed against the city to force the schools to comply with a state law that non-public schools provide education “substantially equivalent” to public schools.

The mayor’s comments were an admission that the problem exists, Kramer reported.

“There’s a full investigation going on,” de Blasio said, “and there’s a series of discussions going on with yeshivas to address that problem. It will be resolved.”

There was no indication when things would change.

Is cashless tolling really a trap?

From CBS 2:

Countless drivers are reporting that ever since cashless tolling took effect at Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridges and tunnels, they have gotten hit with a mountain of fines.

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, cashless tolls have transformed the speed to get through the city’s congested bridges and tunnels. But now, commuters are complaining cashless tolls have caused them countless problems.

Since cashless tolling took effect, surprise fines have been piling up on unsuspecting drivers like never before.

Tom Reilly of Staten Island said at one point, he owed $2,200.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

Reilly did not know his debit card information was not up to date until he got hit with more than a mortgage payment’s worth of violations at the Hugh Carey Tunnel. And in another dilemma, drivers do not know when their account has a low balance – because those convenient indicators are gone with the new gantries.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fresh Meadows hotels to debut after the holidays

From the Queens Chronicle:

With the work fence around the Marriott Courtyard and Fairfield Inn hotels in Fresh Meadows gone, they’ll soon be open to guests.

A spokeswoman for the hotel chain told the Chronicle that they are expected to open in January, although she declined to give a specific date.

The two six-story buildings are on the westbound Horace Harding Expressway between 183rd Street and Booth Memorial Avenue. The total number of combined rooms for the hotels is 218.

New theater coming to giant Sunnyside building

From Sunnyside Post:

Sunnyside will be without a movie theater no more, as Regal Cinemas has signed on to take up part of an ongoing development on Queens Boulevard.

The movie theater chain will be occupying the first two floors of the commercial tower currently under construction at 38-01 Queens Blvd.

Of the 145,000 square-feet planned for the building, developed by Curbcut Urban Partners and dubbed “The Sunnyside”, the Regal Entertainment Group will take up 38,000 square-feet of it to bring a theater to the area, according to Benjamin Malinsky, vice president of Curbcut.

The entertainment group will provide a theater to a neighborhood that hasn’t seen one since the shuttering of Sunnyside Center Cinemas in 2015, which opened in the late 1940s.

BDB knew about the NYCHA mess for quite some time

From the Wall Street Journal:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has known the city’s housing authority wasn’t complying with lead-inspection regulations since last year, his office said Sunday.

In a report issued last week, the city’s Department of Investigation said the New York City Housing Authority submitted false claims to the federal government showing it had conducted lead-paint inspections when the required work hadn’t been done for years.

The mayor was first informed of “the possibility of non-compliance” in March 2016, his office said.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who was re-elected to a second term on Nov. 7, has said “operations executives” were responsible for the lapses.

The housing authority notified City Hall that the agency wasn’t in compliance with local laws in April 2016 and with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rules in July, according to de Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie.

“As part of the agency’s response, NYCHA inspected every apartment with kids under 6 where there may have been lead paint in 2016 and will do so again by the end of 2017,” Ms. Lapeyrolerie said.

Meanwhile, all this is costing us taxpayers a ton of cash.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Van Wyck revamp in the works

From the Queens Chronicle:

Plans call for widening the Van Wyck one lane in each direction. Fink said there is enough space available so that the state can avoid any private property. He did say that in some cases, where there is not enough room on a shoulder, the new lanes might have to run up against retaining walls for the service roads.

Fink said one of the challenges is that there are 20 bridges crossing the Van Wyck in that corridor, including four belonging to the Long Island Rail Road.

“We would have to reach out to them,” he said, as any widening of the roadway almost certainly would require work on railroad trestles. Fink said a federal environmental impact study should be completed by next September, with construction slated to run from August 2019 to the end of 2023.

NYPD crackdown on drones

From CBS 2:

More than 600,000 drones were registered with the Federal Aviation Administration last year alone.

As they grow in popularity, so do the number of accidents involving some of the amateur aircraft.

To see how the NYPD is cracking down on rogue drones, CBS2’s Maurice Dubois took to the sky with the department’s aviation unit.

Although this report states that drones are illegal in NYC except at 5 city parks, in reality there are no local ordinances pertaining to drones. The FAA requires that drone operation happen at least 5 miles away from airports, which prohibits drone operation in most of Queens.

BDB looking to hire Rikers closure consultants

From Metro:

Mayor Bill de Blasio officially began the process of shuttering Rikers Island on Thursday by issuing a request for proposal to develop an action plan to close the controversial jail complex and find alternate solutions.

“We have a moral obligation to close down Rikers Island and transition to a smaller, safer and fairer jail system,” the mayor said. “To make that a reality, we’ll be looking at where we can create more off-island space by expanding existing buildings or finding new sites and maintaining an honest dialogue with communities and elected officials.

“We’re moving aggressively on the long road to closing Rikers Island, and this is a crucial step forward,” he added.

The consultant will work with the city’s goal to operate detention facilities that go beyond confinement by providing behavioral, health, developmental and re-entry support for inmates, as well as offer improved access for service providers, lawyers, visitation and transportation to court.

Proposals will be due in mid-December with the consultant chosen in early January, the mayor’s office said, adding that “there will be robust community consultation workshops and engagement with neighborhood residents.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

What goes on near Creedmoor

From Crains:

Fully 70% of Creedmoor patients are now managed by the various nonprofit organizations operating on the Creedmoor grounds. These nonprofits have been absent from each of the three Creedmoor meetings, although their presence had been requested. They shield themselves from accountability, and tout HIPAA patient confidentiality laws to keep neighboring communities in the dark.

Surprisingly, there is no requirement that wandering patients take their daily medications and there is no behavioral code of conduct protocol conveyed to them. The general lack of accountability by the nonprofits is stunning. Their managers enter the facility gates in the morning and leave at night, rarely stepping foot outside of Creedmoor to see what their patients have wrought on nearby communities.

The aggressive panhandling is rampant. Unsuspecting pedestrians are accosted daily and disheveled individuals often follow them into a Dunkin’ Donuts or wait outside an ATM to demand money. Recently, a woman sitting at McDonald’s in Queens Village was assaulted by a Creedmoor resident. A middle-aged worker in Creedmoor was sucker-punched by a patient as she bent down to pick up a food tray. She is now recuperating with 3 steel rods in her neck.

Public defecation, substance abuse and other quality-of-life infractions are now commonplace in residential communities around Creedmoor. Unfortunately, the police are discouraged from enforcing certain laws now that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have decriminalized some low-level infractions. Creedmoor officials acknowledge that well-meaning individuals should neither give money nor endure menacing shakedowns by patients who live rent-free, receive three meals per day including snacks, plus a weekly monetary stipend paid in part by the very same individuals that are being accosted daily.

Civic leaders who sought to identify why these problems have dramatically worsened over the past year were repeatedly told by Creedmoor administrators that nothing has changed. But recently, writer and former City Council candidate Dennis Saffran, who investigated Creedmoor for another story, revealed some interesting facts. It turns out that much has changed. Governor Andrew Cuomo prioritized deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill and moving them out of wards and into so-called “transitional housing.” To accomplish this, OMH simply rebranded its wards as “transitional housing” and redesignated inpatients as “outpatients” although their living arrangements never changed.

Both sides heard at Queens hearing on monuments

From PIX11:

The future of New York City’s controversial monuments was the topic of conversation Friday at Queens Borough Hall where for the first time, New Yorkers had a chance to give their two cents.

As many as 800 pieces of art across the five boroughs including a statue of Christopher Columbus in Midtown, are at the center of the debate.

Nearly two dozen residents testified before Mayor de Blasio’s advisory commission on city art, monuments and markers.

From residents who warned that erasing history would be dangerous, to others who called Columbus a “terrorist” — the opinions ran the gamut.

Outside all the talk of history, the turnout for the public testimony was noticeably low with members of the media outnumbering residents.

The midday hearing drew ire from some but the Mayor’s office insists holding a hearing like this in the middle of the day on a weekday, is standard procedure.

Legislation introduced to force junk car removal

From Brooklyn Daily:

Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) has penned new legislation that would require the city to haul away cars abandoned without plates within one month of a do-gooder making a complaint, the local pol announced during a Community Board 18 meeting on Oct. 24.

Hundreds of derelict cars have lingered for months on his district’s streets over the years, vexing communities already strapped for parking spaces — so it’s about time the city follow its own rules and tow them away, said Maisel.

“There are a couple of hundred cars that have to be towed, and the city, for whatever reason, has chosen not to take this issue as a priority,” he said. “The legislation is putting the city on the spot to force them to do what they should be doing.”

Currently, once someone files a complaint about an abandoned vehicle without any plates, the Department of Sanitation is supposed to investigate within three days, tag it if it’s a complete wreck, and then remove it within another three days, according to a spokesman for New York’s Strongest. If it looks still in working order, then it’s up to the police department to haul it off, the spokesman said. And the police don’t have a time limit for towing away plateless cars.

The city has fallen short of its duties to address quality-of-life issues such as derelict cars dumped on the street, and it’s leaving locals fed up, said Maisel.

Friday, November 17, 2017

SBS negatively impacting local businesses

Photo from Queens Chronicle
From the Queens Chronicle:

Rose, a manager at the C-Town Supermarket on Cross Bay Blvd. in Ozone Park, is usually busy helping her customers find what they’re looking for.

But lately, she’s been talking about the bus lanes right outside her business rather than what’s on sale.

“I was speaking to a customer just now about it,” said Rose, who didn’t want her last name published. “Nobody knows what to do right now. The customers are getting confused. They don’t know when they can park or when they’re going to get a ticket.”

Not only that, but the curbside bus lanes — installed as part of the Select Bus Service project for Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards — have led to a decline in the number of people shopping at the supermarket, located at 107-66 Cross Bay Blvd.

And that’s impacting the bottom line.

Giant hotel coming to LIC

From the Queens Gazette:

The owner of two lots located at 38-22/38-26 11th Street in Long Island City has filed plans to develop a hotel a the site.

The two properties feature a combined 48,640-square-feet of commercial space for the hotel – 85 rooms that feature direct access to the hotel lobby, reception and business center.

The plans also call for seven parking spaces in an area filled with hotels, near the 21st Street/Queensbridge “F” subway station and the Queens Plaza transportation hub.

The history of often overlooked Blissville

From Brick Underground:

Blissville, a slice of Long Island City bordered by Calvary Cemetery, the Long Island Expressway, and Newtown Creek, is a rough-hewn, mostly forgotten outpost of New York City.

Once a bustling industrial hub, most of Blissville today is occupied by warehouses, auto repair shops, and yes, there are still some factories. There is also a light sprinkling of homes and storefronts, and much of the building stock dates back to the 19th century. Calvary Cemetery looms along the length of Greenpoint Avenue, the main drag of the neighborhood. The walls surrounding the cemetery, and some of the nearby streets, are littered with broken bottles and other trash, giving today's Blissville an unloved look. The gated cemetery is the only swath of green in the neighborhood—there are no parks or playgrounds.

In the neighborhood’s odoriferous glory days in the 19th century, its location on the banks of Newtown Creek is what made Blissville a place to know. By the 1850s, the creek’s banks were lined with glue factories, smelting and fat-rendering plants, refineries, foundries, and other heavy industries, connected to the rest of the country by trains that ran through the area. Now, not coincidentally, the creek is among the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Huge project proposed for Anable Basin

From Curbed:

A longtime Long Island City property owner is seeking a waterfront rezoning that will allow it to bring a 5.8 million gross square foot mixed-use development to the area surrounding Anable Basin, just north of the Hunter’s Point South redevelopment.

Under the proposal by Plaxall Realty, 14.7 acres would be rezoned to accommodate 5,000 condos and rentals, 335,000 square feet of creative production and light manufacturing space, 3.1 acres of public waterfront esplanade, and up to 30,000 square feet of community space. It would also bring a 700-plus seat public school to the neighborhood, outside of the rezoning area.

2 Queens slumlords make PA's top 10 list of bad landlords

From the Queens Tribune:

Public Advocate Letitia James ranked two city landlords with properties in Ridgewood among the city’s 10 worst in her annual Worst Landlords Watchlist, which was released on Tuesday.

James’ list is a database that ranks the worst landlords in the city based on monthly updates of open violations. Silvershore Properties’ Jonathan Cohen—who owns a property at 17-08 Summerfield St. in Ridgewood, which has a total of 116 violations—was ranked as the city’s worst, while Meir Fried—who owns a property at 16-45 Summerfield St. in Ridgewood, which has a total of 28 violations—came in at number eight. Both landlords primarily own buildings in Brooklyn.

Queens properties with the most violations included Hillside House Management Co.’s site at 87-40 165th St. in Jamaica—which ranked first and had 383 violations—and Nada Gracin’s property at 150-15 Sanford Ave. in Flushing, which had 244 violations.

Holden's ballot lead stands

From NY1:

City Councilman Elizabeth Crowley acknowledged Wednesday night that her opponent's margin of victory held during a tally of absentee ballots Wednesday in a very close Queens city council race.

The Board of Elections said it will not certify the result until it certifies all the races, as it does every election.

Sources from Crowley's opponent, Republican Robert Holden, have told NY1 that he has won the race for the 30th city council district.

Holden declared victory on Election Day, even though he was ahead by only 133 votes.

It appears his lead has grown by four votes, although the total has not been confirmed.

Well this is getting very interesting. And check these quotes from Holden in the Times Ledger:
“This mayor wants a one party socialist Marxist regime and anyone who thinks differently than him is the enemy,” Holden said. “He judges people based on labels and that is something he should be against. Instead he bad mouths the Republican Party as no good and that’s the type of approach that put this country in such a divisive mess. Did I run on the Republican line? Yeah. Am I a registered Democrat? Yeah, but the bottom line is I’m apolitical. I’m a civic leader and I’m going to work with anyone that can help my community and my constituen­ts.”

Holden added the mayor was wrong to launch the 14.7 mile Select Bus Service route on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards Monday.

“It’s such a disaster. People are sitting in traffic jams for hours. It’s just another bad policy from this administration, and one of the reasons I got so many votes,” Holden said. “He wants to take away our cars, he doesn’t understand Queens at all. The traffic is crippling all over the borough and all we get is more bike lanes and more SBS lanes. The administration is taking away one of our basic rights — the freedom of movement — you can’t just get in your car and go anymore.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Woodhaven Blvd at a standstill due to new bus lane

From CBS:

A new bus lane on Woodhaven Boulevard is causing a traffic nightmare.

Drivers said their rush hour commutes have nearly doubled since the change.

Cars were backed up for miles on Woodhaven Boulevard on Tuesday night, and drivers say it’s being caused by the select new bus service.

One lane of traffic is now for buses only — no cars allowed.

Trottenberg said the DOT redesigned the pinch points and corridors in the hope of creating three lanes of traffic that move. The problem is in rush hour it doesn’t.

There are people who say it has added an hour to their commute.

DOC commish made personal trips on city time

From the Daily News:

Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann and eight top staffers have reached settlements in the wake of a damning probe that found they used city cars for personal travel.

The city Conflicts of Interest Board revealed the agreements six months after former commissioner Joseph Ponte resigned over his role in the scandal.

Brann paid a $6,000 fine after she was found to have used her city car to make 13 trips to shopping malls and three to Kennedy Airport at a time when she was a deputy commissioner.

"At the time, I erroneously believed that I was allowed to use my DOC (Department of Correction) take-home vehicle for all personal travel in case a DOC emergency required my immediate response and travel to a DOC facility,” she said, according to a disposition released Tuesday.

Brann ran afoul of the Conflicts of Interest Board again when she enlisted a subordinate to help her pay the fine.

The Queens-based Brann complained to an underling that it was difficult for her to obtain a certified check or money order because she didn’t have a New York bank account.

The pair came up with a way around the problem — she would write him a personal check for the amount of the fine, and he would obtain a cashier’s check drawn from his personal account.

But Brann later acknowledged that such an agreement violated a conflicts of interest law prohibiting public servants from using their positions to obtain a personal favor from a subordinate.

NYCHA lied about inspecting for lead paint

From PIX11:

The New York City Housing Authority failed to conduct lead paint safety inspections for four years beginning in 2013, according to a new report by the city’s Department of Investigation. The DOI further alleges NYCHA then lied about the inspections to Federal housing authorities.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

ICE cracking down on DUI offenders

From PIX11:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested more than two dozen undocumented immigrants during an operation cracking down on those with convictions for driving under the influence.

All but one of the 25 arrested in November had a previous DUI-related conviction, officials said. The other individual was arrested for immigration violations.

One of the men arrested, a 35-year-old previously removed Honduran man, also had been convicted of assault. A 40-year-old Salvadoran national has been identified as an alleged MS-13 gang member.

Lancman wants taxpayer-supported journalism

Op=ed by Rory Lancman from the Daily News:

Obviously, the private marketplace hasn’t figured out a way to do local journalism and make money at the same time. Since the rise of the internet, it’s a devilishly difficult code to crack.

Which is why, as taxpayers and citizens, we owe it to ourselves to step in and fund organizations capable of providing this vital civic resource: call it a tote bag in every pot.

Government support for quality journalism is not a new or radical idea. Its role in distributing the mail, providing health care, and offering free book-lending and museums is taken for granted.

We badly need more good local journalism. If the market can’t provide it, taxpayers must step up.

Considering that the local papers are still around and are printing holiday ads and press releases by pols verbatim, it appears we already have taxpayer-funded journalism.

Audit reveals that BOE is a mess

From the Times Ledger:

A report from city Comptroller Scott Stringer exposed massive dysfunction within the Board of Elections in a report which audited its performance over the course of three elections in 2016.

The city, which has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation, has disenfranchised the public through dumped voter rolls and widespread inefficiency at over 53 percent of the poll sites reviewed where state and federal election laws were broken, according to the audit promised by Stringer in April 2016.

The report revealed that out of 156 polling sites, 14 percent had mishandled affidavit ballots for people eligible to vote but who may not on the rolls. One site failed to inform voters of the option to vote via affidavit, a violation of federal law, and thus “disenfranc­hising” individuals.

Up to 10 percent of poll sites showed many voters went unassisted when issues arose. One example given by the report said a scanner had rejected a ballot and the distracted poll site worker did not notice until the person had already left. Staff at the site were forced to void the ballot and the person’s vote was not counted.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Suspension-busting pothole on Northern Blvd next to new bike lane

De Blasio not a developer's dream (but still pretty bad)

From Commercial Observer:

Gone are the grand visions of urban redevelopment that rose Athena-like from the City Hall bullpen under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. De Blasio has retained lofty language to describe his ideas—adding adjectives like “transcendent” and “historic” when presenting proposals. But his attempts to remake swaths of the city in a Bloombergian manner have sputtered.

Sunnyside Yards in Queens, where the mayor hopes to build an 11,000-unit affordable housing complex on top of a platform, is a years-long dream that may never be realized. His transit plans, including a $2.5 billion streetcar project along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront and a new subway line through Utica Avenue, haven’t gotten past preliminary stages. And his administration has equivocated over the future of Willets Point, where the courts blocked plans to build a mall and 2,500 units of housing on the blighted site next to Citi Field.

Instead, de Blasio made affordable housing the centerpiece of his agenda and touted pro-tenant measures, including rent freezes for rent-stabilized units.

“The real estate community, like any other business sector, prefers certainty,” explained Ken Fisher, a Cozen O’Conner attorney and former councilman. “After four years of working with Bill de Blasio and his team, people have a pretty good idea of expectations. He has a strong preference for affordable housing, but the mayor has taken a very clear position that he’s for many different kinds of housing development, not just low-income housing.”

De Blasio made that clear in his 2015 State of the City address when he proclaimed that the other successes of his administration would be at risk if the city and developers didn’t build enough housing for residents of all income levels.

Lefferts Blvd station repairs still incomplete

From Impunity City:

The renovation and modernization of the Lefferts Blvd. Station remains incomplete and nearly 2 years behind schedule. This was supposed to be complete in September 2016.

When I last wrote about this, it was with great relief that the staircase was repaired and accessible again. Also the encrusted vile, unsanitary and health hazardous pigeon shit that piled up on the turnstiles and the partition walls was finally scoured somewhat. I attribute this to an actual televised report way back in late May by CBS New York’s Reena Roy.

Now when I wrote that I would write back in a month, being July, was around the time when Mario’s Son, Governor Andrew Cuomo proclaimed commuting on your city’s subway was in the midst of a summer of hell and ordered a fast tracking of repairs all over our lousy transit system. An encouraging sign appeared at this station promising the station’s completion, including the monstrous elevator which hogs half the sidewalk on the corner by September 16 or the end of the 3rd quarter.

Look how they creatively fixed the date on the sign with the sophistication of a little scamp changing D-'s to A+'s on a report card.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fresh Meadows day care center permit may be revoked

From the Queens Tribune:

The Great Sunshine Daycare, slated for 172-03 67th Ave., will create chaotic traffic patterns and safety issues for the residential community as parents of as many as 282 children rush to drop off their children, residents said at a Nov. 3 press conference with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

“Parents come, they park illegally, they drop off their kids—sometimes they park in somebody’s driveway, sometimes they double-park or they pull into the site,” Avella said. “Imagine 282 parents, 282 cars.

Nobody’s against a daycare center in principle, but the city of New York should be making sure that these types of facilities go in appropriate locations.”

Traffic in the area is already hectic during school dismissal times with PS 173 just a few blocks away, and the new daycare could cut into property values of the surrounding homes, Avella argued.

Currently, the daycare’s future is uncertain. The facility can be legally built at the property under the current zoning for the area, according to the city’s Department of Buildings. A permit was issued on Feb. 3, but an audit of the project led to a notice to revoke the permit on Nov. 1. The agency took issue with the daycare’s planned placement of a driveway and rooftop recreation area, a spokesman said.

Bike lane casualties continue to pile up

From CBS 2:

Drivers in Queens say new bike lanes continue to cause crashes.

CBS2 first covered the problem last month, but no changes have been made the crashes keep happening, Dave Carlin reports.

On Friday night, one driver was left hanging on a concrete barrier to protect the city’s newest bike lanes.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Shady Whitestone spa shut down

From the Queens Tribune:

A Whitestone spa that had sparked concerns among neighbors who suspected it was a front for illicit activity has shut down.

The spa was set up in the basement of a two-story house at 150-53 14th Rd. For months, its only designation that it was a business was a flashing “open” sign. In its final few weeks, there was a sign in the driveway advertising its business as “Kiki Spa.”

Neighbors who spoke to the Queens Tribune feared that the spa was a front for illegal sexual activity, citing a large number of men entering the building at odd hours, the lack of signage, reports of lingerie in the backyard and highly explicit ads that demanded “no law enforcement” posted on Backpage.com.

The Department of Buildings issued two violations for the spa on Oct. 5, claiming that it was operating illegally without permission from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. The violations are now listed as “resolved,” and compliance with the law was first noted on Oct. 26. A DOB spokesman said that compliance was noted after the spa was removed.

Strange choice for historic list

From the Queens Chronicle:

Gov. Cuomo last Friday named the Spear & Co. Factory, located just south of the Woodhaven-Ozone Park border, one of 21 properties he’s suggesting be added to the state and national registers of historic places — but if you ask area historian Ed Wendell about the place, he couldn’t tell you much.

“This is the first I’m hearing anything about the building,” said Wendell, who has studied the history of Woodhaven and some Ozone Park buildings.

The building, located at 94-15 100 St., was once home to Regal Spear Co., which produced hats, and the Columbia Wax Products Co., a national manufacturer of novelty candles.

A report compiled by Gregory Dietrich Preservation Consulting, a group that assists individuals and entities in getting buildings landmarked, states the building’s history and architecture make it eligible for historic status.

Friday, November 10, 2017

East Harlem building evacuated due to enormous crack

From NBC:

Lara Wilson can see through her wall.

That’s because her upper Manhattan apartment building has a gaping crack -- at least a couple centimeters wide -- up an exterior wall that has splintered up from the second floor to the roof. And the crack is growing -- leading fire officials to hastily evacuate Wilson and nearly 30 other tenants while they assess the stability of the structure.

“Today, we looked out it and you could see out to the street,” she said. “So it’s pretty bad.”

Fire officials said it’s unclear what caused the crack at the building on East 96th Street and Second Avenue -- directly over the new Second Avenue subway’s final stop.

Waste transfer station's wall collapse injures 2

From the Times Ledger:

The Fire Department filed a complaint with the city’s Department of Buildings against Royal Waste Services, a waste management facility in Jamaica, where a wall collapsed on two men Saturday, according to the FDNY.

The victims, age 34 and 40, were both taken to Jamaica Hospital after the incident, which occurred at 187-40 Hollis Ave., according to the NYPD. Both victims are expected to survive.

One patient was in critical condition and the other had a serious injury but was in stable condition, according to the FDNY.

The FDNY requested a structural stability inspection from the Department of Buildings later that day, a spokesman for FDNY said.

Two days later the Buildings Department put a partial vacate order on the facility, according to nyc.gov.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Beware of the Bayside bike lane

From PIX11:

Parents in Bayside are concerned a bike line directly in front of their children's' school may be dangerous for their kids.

"What about the safety of the 500 kids who are dropped off and picked up everyday? Buses will have to park in the middle of the street. Someone will get hurt," said Edna Harris, a concerned grandmother of a PS 213 student.

Harris' grandson is one of 60 students living with autism who attend class at the school building.

"It's the only school that would have a bike lane in front of it in the City. It doesn't make sense to anyone," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

The bike lane creates a 12-foot barrier between the bus and curb, said Councilmember Barry Grodenchik.

"That's a big distance for a kid," said Grodenchik.

More from the Queens Tribune.

Jury sides with 5 Pointz

From Curbed:

A jury has concluded that 5 Pointz developer Jerry Wolkoff violated the law when he whitewashed that buildings without warning, erasing graffiti from dozens of artists. The jury’s findings will serve as a recommendation to the lawsuit’s presiding judge, who will then render a final verdict, reports the New York Times.

“The jury sided strongly with the rights of the artists. This is a clear message from the people that the whitewashing of the buildings by its owner was a clear and willful act,” said lawyer Eric Baum, who represents the artists that filed the suit.

The judge will ultimately determine the repercussions of Wolkoff’s actions, which could include making him pay the artists for destroying their artwork.

Whitestone supervisor busted for fake certificates

From the Queens Tribune:

A construction safety supervisor from Whitestone was arrested on Nov. 3 for allegedly possessing fake safety training certificates, the city’s Department of Investigation announced on Monday.

Andreas Tsamos, 49, was in charge of safety for a renovation project at the Fulton Houses Community Center in Manhattan when he was apprehended for the alleged fake documents.

On Nov. 2, DOI investigators discovered that an emergency fire exit door at the Tsamos’ job site was locked from the outside, preventing workers from leaving in the event of a fire. Additionally, there was no fall protection guardrail system installed where work was being done or on a scaffold that was installed at the site.

Following the discovery of the safety issues, investigators returned to the site on Nov. 3 to ask Tsamos, who works for Gem Quality Corporation of Brooklyn, to produce his safety credentials. As a site safety representative at Fulton Houses, Tsamos was required to hold a 30-hour safety certification from a training center approved by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

According to DOI, Tsamos provided two certificates: a 10-hour approved OSHA course and a 30-hour approved OSHA course. The listed training company was “360Training.com,” but when investigators contacted the company, it allegedly confirmed that no individual with the defendant’s name had completed training courses on the date of the certificates. Additionally, the company said that all certificates bear the name of the courses that were taken. Tsamos’ certificates allegedly did not list the name of the courses.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

And the winner is...

So with 100% of precincts reporting per NY1, Robert Holden appears to have defeated 9-year incumbent Elizabeth Crowley in the 30th Council District by 133 votes, provided that it holds up after a recount and adding in absentee ballots.

The rest of the races turned out just as you would expect...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

As you head to the polls today, remember...

Stop re-electing tweeders.

Weiner behind bars

From ABC News:

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner reported to prison Monday to begin a 21-month sentence for sexting with a 15-year-old girl.

Weiner is being held at the Federal Medical Center Devens in Massachusetts, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said.

The facility in Ayer, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Boston, has over 1,000 inmates at the medical center and over 100 more at an adjacent minimum security satellite camp. It's the same prison that once housed Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Weiner was sentenced in September by a judge who said the crime resulted from a "very strong compulsion." At the time, a tearful Weiner said he was undergoing therapy and had been "a very sick man for a very long time."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nicole wants to dump the dope

From CBS:

Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis called on prosecutors to reopen a probe of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration Sunday – a mere two days ahead of the mayoral election.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the state Assemblywoman and Republican mayoral candidate blasted de Blasio with more allegations of running a corrupt City Hall.

“People have a choice on Tuesday,” Malliotakis said. “Do they want to pay millions more in their tax dollars to defend a pay-to-play mayor, or do they want to join me in taking our city in a different direction?”

Last licks in CD19 race

Konstantinos has been delivering doorhangers to area residents:
Graziano put out a comparison mailer:
And Vallone has a PBA endorsement flyer that features Shutterstock photos of non-NYPD officers:
It's all over tomorrow!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Mom & Pops Have No Friends at City Hall, says Korean-American Business Leader

Sung Soo Kim, who endorses Sal Albanese for Mayor, is a leading small business advocate (see below) in Queens for three decades, now accuses the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) a powerful lobby, of “killing our democracy” by “taking control of our city’s Democratic lawmakers and the election process.”

The outspoken Kim charges “When New Yorkers vote shortly, they will be unaware they are really voting for which lobby or union will be empowered to make policy at City Hall, which will impact their lives, economy, jobs, taxes, and their democratic rights.”

In a statement from NYC’s Small Business Congress, an independent small business organization, Kim states, “When it concerns economic policy and jobs, REBNY controls the positions and platforms of all incumbents Democratic candidates through:

• REBNY’s influence with media
• huge campaign funding
• threats of supporting opponents
• rewards with government jobs
• promises of future business for political consultants
• sway with party bosses in the selection of a new Council Speaker
• control of the biggest high salary jobs’ revolving door with bureaucrats
• and most importantly, being viewed as the only pathway for Democratic career politicians to higher offices.”

Kim believes that the above “permits REBNY to dictate the issues and debates of our economy and jobs in the city’s elections. REBNY is the 800-pound gorilla you don’t see or hear of in the election. REBNY’s influence with lawmakers and the Democratic Party has made the topic of our city’s economy and jobs a non-issue in the past two elections.”

He further explains, “In 2009, REBNY created a bogus legal roadblock to stop a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill to stop our small businesses from disappearing by giving rights to commercial tenants. The bill had seemed certain to pass, with all members of Small Business Committee and 32 Council sponsors.”

“But REBNY then apparently managed to get the leading outspoken champions of a populist bill, which gave rights to commercial tenants and regulated landlords, to ‘flip.’ And once flipped, to persuade them to either join in rigging the system to stop any future vote on legislation giving rights to business owners and remain silent on the rigging against mom & pop owners facing a struggle to survive, yet still referring to them as “the backbone of the economy.”

“While powerful lobbies in Washington have the influence to hand pick committee chairs and exert influence within government agencies on regulations and policy, no modern day lobby in the city has the power like REBNY to control the city’s economic policy and hand pick entire committees to assure no challenges to that policy.”

“A walk down any NYC main street shows the outcome of REBNY’s stranglehold on City Hall, with empty storefronts, sometimes for years, where once long established vibrant businesses were. Some landlords demand “cash under the table” from immigrant owners. Tenants are turned into virtual indentured servitude when given only short term leases, sometimes a year or month to month, receiving a notice from their landlord to “vacate in 30 days.”

“The single biggest cause of long established businesses closing are the exorbitant rent increases being demanded in a manipulated, speculative market. The NYC Courts evict on average 500 commercial businesses each month. Over 1,200 businesses close each month and over 8000 jobs every month lost since Mayor DeBlasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito came into office.”

“Once, both were outspoken champions of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, but upon election both abandoned their progressive SBJSA stance in favor of REBNY’s money and political influence. Both, along with other “progressive” lawmakers who apparently sold out to REBNY for their own political careers, “flipped” and joined the rigging to keep the status quo favoring only big real estate.”
SBJSA advocate Kim says there are three things voters can do to “challenge REBNY’s power and influence over our city’s government:

1. Elect candidates running for public office especially against an incumbent who refuse campaign funding from REBNY.
2. Ask for a call for an honest public hearing to find a real solution to end the crisis destroying our small businesses.
3. Hold elected leaders responsible for all the businesses that have been forced to close and jobs lost.

Know that if re-elected these lawmakers who have done nothing to save a single business or job will continue to work to keep the status quo favoring only their campaign contributors, REBNY.

All the incumbents are telling the voters they are proud of their progressive record as landlords are robbing the city’s struggling small business owners of their American Dream. Our Democratic lawmakers have betrayed the principles of Democracy, respect for our city’s entrepreneurs, art community, immigrant families who own the majority of small businesses, all workers, the hard to employ, seniors on fixed incomes, and New Yorkers who love their neighborhoods."

About Sung Soo Kim:
Mr. Kim consulted in the original and all subsequent versions of the SBJSA. He founded the Korean American Small Business Service Center 32 years ago, refusing city funding support. He is creator of the Small Business Bill of Rights, rejecting a Business Improvement District. He has negotiated more than 50,000 commercial leases. Kim served without salary as Chairman of the Small Business Advisory Board, appointed by Mayors Dinkins and Giuliani. Reach him at Small Business Congress, at savenycjobs@gmail.com

Inside the Queens Machine

Very interesting series on WNYC! Worth a read with your Sunday muffin & coffee.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Speaker race campaign finance shenanigans questioned

From Progress Queens:

Because Election Day is four (4) days away, on Tuesday, 07 November, Progress Queens is publicly releasing a civilian crime report filed by the publisher of Progress Queens with the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district.

The complaint outlined how the eight (8) candidates for New York City Council speaker have been making donations to other Councilmembers out of their committees to reëlect to win support for the speakership campaign ; have been having meetings, including with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) ; and have been preparing for debates or holding debates before the November general election. The Council speaker candidates are: Councilmembers Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Brooklyn), Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), Donovan Richards (D-Queens), Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), and Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn).

These speakership campaign activities have been taking place in the apparent absence of dedicated campaign committees for the speakership race. Four years ago, the Municipal campaign finance regulatory authority reportedly provided advice to Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Spanish Harlem) that using a committee to reëlect for the speakership race was prohibited, forcing her to form a separate, dedicated campaign committee for the speakership race.

A review of information about campaign committees tracked online by the New York State Board of Elections did not identify which campaign committees were designated for the speakership race. For this report, attempts were made to reach the Council speaker candidates, or their representatives, but no response was received to a request made late Thursday evening. The Federal complaint alleges that Council speaker candidates, who do not presently have a dedicated campaign committee for the speakership race, are violating campaign finance laws, because the absence of a dedicated Council speakership race campaign committees implies that campaign consultants are working for free, a violation of law.

Vallone a bit testy over non-appearances

From the Queens Tribune:

City Council candidate Paul Graziano, a well-known activist and city planner, bashed Vallone for not attending the event or several other candidates nights in the district, including one with the Bayside Historical Society and another with the Douglaston Civic Association. Vallone attended a candidates night at the Bay Club on Oct. 25, but Graziano argued that the event was not open to the public.

“That should speak volumes to the audience, that Paul Vallone is afraid to actually respond and face his own constituents,” he said.

A spokesman from Vallone’s campaign said he did not attend the We Love Whitestone event due to a medical emergency in his family, and issued a testy response to Graziano’s claims.

“Councilmember Vallone does not attend all candidates nights because he does not feel compelled to debate a career loser running on the Reform party line who he has defeated twice already in elections,” he said.

Candidates nights are a means of letting constituents hear your positions so they can make an informed decision when they go to vote. Depriving them of that opportunity and blaming your opponent for actually showing up isn't really all that smart.

Peralta wants residential parking permits near LGA

From the Queens Chronicle:

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) receives extensive numbers of constituent complaints regarding parking problems in residential neighborhoods near LaGuardia Airport.

The trouble, he said, is largely airport-related. And he has introduced a bill in the Senate that would allow the city to set up a one-year trial period during which 80 percent of the parking spaces on residential streets within two miles of LaGuardia would be reserved for residents with a paid parking sticker.

The sticker, specific to one car, would be applied to the inside of the windshield.

“One of the problems is people working on the construction jobs at the airport, which is going to go on for at least four more years,” he said. “Then you have people using the airport who park, leave their car and come back in a week.”

As for where he would like workers at the airport to park, Peralta said that is not under the scope of his bill.

“That should have been worked out beforehand,” he said. “There are places available.”

Many major cities in the United States, he said, have some form of paid permits for residential parking.

Peralta’s measure, S.6931, also would set aside 20 percent of the spaces for nonresidents. Commercial streets would not come under the program.

He said he is working to find a sponsor for a companion bill in the state Assembly.

The senator said any fee would be a “reasonable” one, but that the amount would have to be worked out in Albany and the City Council.

Friday, November 3, 2017

East Elmhurst's beloved boulder

From the Times Ledger:

Generations of children in East Elmhurst and Corona grew up with a giant boulder as an important part their lives. It’s where they played and fought and had tea parties and picnics. The youngsters used to bury their pets around it because they loved the Giant Rock and in later years they grew concerned for its future in the middle of the rapid development in and around LaGuardia Airport.

In 1980, a Crowne Plaza Hotel was to be built on the site and adults who were once the children who climbed on the boulder rallied around it fearing developers would destroy the big rock with explosives. Attempts were ineffective and the rock still bears scars of the attempted demolition.

Nearly 20 years later they returned to rally around the rock that was threatened by the construction of the Hampton Inn.

The 1,000-ton boulder, left behind by the glacier that created Long Island 12,000 years ago, became a centerpiece of the parking lot of the two hotels but it had a plaque calling it The Ditmars Boulevard Crowne Plaza Pet Rock after employees at the two hotels had a competition to name it.

Nearly half a year ago, the group addressed a letter to both hotels requesting the name be changed back to Giant Rock.

“We didn’t hear back so we put up a petition online,” Drew said. “But before we could tell them about it we got a letter from them saying they wanted to rededicate it.”

Vivian Callendar and Deborah Tyson, two principal founding members of the Corona-East Elmhurst Historical Preservation Society were thrilled with the group’s success.

My Parents moved from Harlem to Corona and it was a very big deal in 1927,” Callendar said. “When you got out of Harlem this was like the country and this is where we all played together, whether you were from Corona or East Elmhurst.”

Allegations of special favors in CD 19 race

From the Queens Chronicle:

A separate matter involving the race — the Vallone campaign’s usage of the Four Twos taxi service — has also been a bone of contention between the hopefuls.

According to a spokeswoman for the Campaign Finance Board, the dates listed for expenditure filings are supposed to be the day that the money was paid on. Vallone’s campaign paid the Four Twos taxi service to provide rides to polling sites for voters on primary day.

But the filings listed for the councilman’s re-election campaign on the website are for Sept. 6 and 15, neither of which was the day of the primary.

The Vallone campaign did not return a request for comment about the filing dates.

According to Graziano — who has submitted a complaint to the CFB about the issue — the service gave “dozens” of rides to voters.

The payments to the taxi company — which also received city funding to give rides for a senior transportation program organized by Vallone’s office earlier this year, and will do so again for a slightly different version of the initiative that will kick off later this month — are only $58.65 and $78.25.

Saying that those payments would not cover the number of rides that he said the company gave to voters, Graziano is claiming that the business gave the councilman a “freebie.”

A manager for Four Twos named Jim — he declined to give the Chronicle his last name — said that the claim was “150 percent false. ... Vallone got nothing for free.”

Keeping with agency policy, the CFB declined to comment on Graziano’s complaint.

Sidewalk shed bill has a hearing

From Crains:

Because it's much costlier to fix a façade than to maintain a shed that devours sidewalk space, blocks sunlight and hurts businesses, and no deadline to remove it, sheds have spread across the city. There are now 8,843—about 200 miles worth—and they pop up any time a building is built or repaired, as Crain's documented in a cover story last year.

Late last year City Councilman Ben Kallos sponsored a bill to stop the scourge and last week a hearing was finally held to discuss it.

His bill would compel landlords to remove sheds—which Kallos called "the house guest that never leaves"—if no work is done on the building for seven days, with exceptions for weather and other issues.

While officials from the de Blasio administration and real estate community agreed at the hearing that sheds are ugly, they insisted Kallos' bill could jeopardize public safety by forcing sheds to come down sooner than they should.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Speaker candidates will be tougher on the mayor

From Crains:

The eight city councilmen running to succeed Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito vowed to further democratize the body—and some said they would be tougher with the mayor.

The speaker candidates—Manhattan Councilmen Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez, Queens Councilmen Donovan Richards and James Van Bramer, Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres and Brooklyn Councilmen Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams—made the remarks at a Crain's forum in Midtown. As speaker, Mark-Viverito has instituted reforms such as distributing discretionary money based on district need, but some members have chafed that she bottles up legislation unless she has negotiated a deal for the mayor's approval.

This has spared Mayor Bill de Blasio, who helped engineer Mark-Viverito's election as speaker in late 2013, from having to veto even a single bill after nearly four years in office. Torres decried as an "embarrassing months-long spectacle" the ill-fated agreement between Mark-Viverito and de Blasio to curtail the horse carriage industry in Central Park.

"Instead of representing the weight of the members, I thought the leadership of the council was effectively doing the bidding of the mayor," said the Bronx lawmaker, viewed generally as an underdog in the speaker's race.

He asserted that bills with a veto-proof "supermajority" of 34 or more sponsors should receive a vote regardless of the mayor's or speaker's feelings, even as he argued the speaker should provide some kind of "quality control."

Several of Torres' colleagues noted that the council bucked both the mayor and the speaker on the carriage deal. Van Bramer, Johnson and Levine praised Mark-Viverito for overcoming the mayor's initial resistance to more NYPD hires, to a new legal defense fund for all undocumented immigrants fighting deportation and to closing the Rikers Island jail complex.

Still, they called for rules changes that would stop a future speaker from continuing Mark-Viverito's tack of blocking bills that she or the mayor dislikes. Johnson suggested new mechanisms that would ensure a hearing on bills with majority support (at least 26 sponsors) and a vote on bills with 34 members signed on.

Rockaway getting a funding boost

From the Daily News:

On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor de Blasio announced plans to spend $145 million on seven park projects to help protect the Rockaways from future floods.

The city will launch the projects – with federal approval – starting with rebuilding Bayswater Park. The work includes installing a berm along the waterfront, plus building sports fields, play areas and a kayaking spot.

The cash comes from $120 million left over from the $480 million the feds earmarked for rebuilding the Rockaway Boardwalk, which Sandy destroyed. The money can be moved to other resiliency projects in the neighborhood.

The city is kicking in another $25 million.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Queens County dynasty freakout, Vallone edition

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Saturday I showed up with a group of volunteers working for Paul Graziano’s city council candidacy. In the recent Democratic primary he lost to the Vallone machine by a small margin. He’s got a real shot to win the General Election Nov 7th. But the tactics of Paul Vallone are thuggish as exemplified Saturday. Vallone and his campaign crew posted up outside of a Stop and Shop supermarket in the Bay Terrace Plaza which is in Bayside. They were first there so when we arrived we respectfully worked the back of the exit line from the supermarket.
Everything was going fine until Paul Vallone himself noticed that many of the shoppers were calling me over and having long conversations with me. He decided that he had had enough of freedom of speech and fair competition. He called the mall police on us who then instructed us that we were standing on private property and were without a permit which Paul Vallone had. I requested to see the permit but I was denied.
Rather than create a big scene since I was well aware that management was a Vallone crony we did the next best thing and marched outside onto the entering street and started to stop cars, talk with passengers and give out Paul Graziano literature. Thankfully the NYPD did not hassle us. Paul Graziano’s crew was working hard and rolled with the many changes that I had to make from our original plan.
This was New York State Reform Party teamwork at its best. We rolled with the adversity and turned it into a great campaign day. Now it’s onward to victory November 7th. (You can see in one of the pictures that Paul Vallone himself is leading the effort to remove us from us in front of the Stop and Shop).

- Curtis Sliwa, Chair of the NYS Reform Party